Lips To Kiss

A half finished painting that sits in my room, ready to be completed some day soon.  I am an amateur artist at best, rarely dedicating time to painting and thus rarely improving.  I do however enjoy the freedom to partake in it when I feel that urge to the push paint across canvas, to see what shapes appear and what ideas formulate before me.  This painting sprang forth one day in the garden whilst I was absently scraped paint and, using a brush, picked out the lines of the lips.  Lips seem, to me, so human in the variety of the ways that we use them.  That simple delicate touch of a kiss, which can be intimate and playful or formal and curt.  That these lips also represent another pair found on the human body is, of course, pure chance but they fit within the theme of love and all of the lust, romance and passion that this involves and entails across a life well lived.

Whatever you are doing today and whatever you are up to tonight, know that you are loved in some way by some one in this beautiful and harsh world of ours.

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Acrylic on canvas, painted by the author. Lips are meant for kissing and for loving. If the photograph is shared please attribute as appropriate.

A Bite of Blogging

I was nervous at first at daring to enter the world of blogging.  What did I have to contribute?  What could I bring to the table?  Why would people look at anything that I produced?  These were a few of the questions that went around my head as I debated internally whether to start a blog or not.  Even if I did how would I decide to go about it and what would it be about, and why?

Of course the very fact that I knew I wanted to start one was propelled by the fact that I thought I had something to add, something to say, something different to put across.  I looked at a few of my favourite blogs, studied their style and format, and decided on the blogging provider that would give me the most freedom to design and host my own writings.  Of course there were little things that I couldn’t change, parts of the blog design that annoyed me at first but has since become more endearing to me.  So I naively entered the blogging world with a site focused on something close and dear to my heart.  I stuck, largely, to my guns and slowly the style of the blog became my own: I ‘discovered’ my voice in the blogging world by taking an active part in it.

Even as I focused my attention on the small ecological niche of the blogging world that I inhabited I couldn’t help but notice that there was a whole different blogging world out there, one that veered wildly from post to post, site to site.  I was, in a way, captivated by what I read and by what I saw.  I liked the daring-ness of it all, the sheer bloody mindedness of the numerous authors in persevering in engaging the audience and by the continuous posting of their work online, free for all the world to see, engage with and to enjoy.  I’ve been extremely impressed by the creativity of each and every blogger that I have come across, whether they have kept to their own chosen artistic medium or whether they have danced between them, twisting and turning between photography, fictional explorations, nonfiction comment, sculpture, fashion design, painting and all things in-between.  In short it has been inspirational, an educational tour de force into the brief glimpses of lives of people who I’ll never likely meet.

Still we, as the audience, can engage the individuals behind the work.  We can leave a message of thanks, we highlight what in particular grabbed us about this or that blog entry, we can help spread the word of their work, of their art forms that have helped us think anew.  What we can do, as bloggers, as writers, as artists, as the audience, is engage on a meaningful level, to swap ideas and views and to make aware that we both appreciate others and ourselves.

So even as I continued blogging at my specialist site I kept seeing these amazing artistic and informative blogs daily on the WordPress reader.  I was inspired, I wanted to be creative again and I wanted the public to see it, even if I was embarrassed by what I had produced.  Nothing is forever and nothing is really ever finished – everything is up for evaluation and interpretation.  As such I wanted to take part in the great online experiment of emotion that I saw spreading daily across the screen.  I knew that the blog I wrote currently had to be kept separate, as I wanted that site to stand by itself in a field that is fairly academic, serious and worthy of reaching a mass audience.  In short it was not the place to put my own doodlings of poetry, photography, music reviews or fictional writings.  Thus this blog was born as an aside to my original blogging self.  I try to keep it active, indeed it is probably more active than my main site but that is due to the differing nature of them both.  I can write freely here.

Blogging isn’t easy but it doesn’t have to be hard either.  It can be time-consuming.  I personally find that it can take many hours writing an individual blog post (perhaps more so on my academic site than here), and that editing your own writing can be quite difficult as you skip over mistakes again and again.  The joy is in the trying though, in the communication, in the differences and the similarities between your views and others.  Blogging is perhaps the greatest creative output currently on the web, a medium in itself that helps to show the best of humanity’s artistic side.  It can be anything and everything that you want, both as a writer of a blog and as a reader of blogs.

It would be hypocritical of me to conclude this post without at least highlighting some of the posts that have both moved me and influenced me.  So without further ado here are 6 blogs that are simply awesome!

Reveal Illusions: A fantastic site by Elin Borg which focuses on her artistic outputs.  This includes her sublime paintings, photography, illustrations and sculptures amongst other strands of art work.

Electric Puppet: A rather delightful site that largely focuses on archaeology, history and literature.  I love, and look forward to, the reviews of the books that the blogger has recently read and the round-up of recent literature purchases.

Markovich Universe: One of the blogs that I first came across is this delightful photograph and short story site where daily life in Russia is often highlighted by Alex Markovich.  A real nice touch is Alex’s Postcards from Russia project, take a look here.

Benjamin Studebaker:  Studebaker’s site is one that always engrosses me and challenges my own thinking on a number of different topics.  This aspiring political philosophical  offers essays on a range of different international topics and whether you agree or disagree with his views, it will force you to think differently on important challenges in the world today.

Retiree Diary: A lovely little photography blog based in Hong Kong.  I particularly love the fact that the photographer is new to blogging, is highlighting daily life in China, and is engaging with his audience.  It just goes to show that retiring means you can start a whole new chapter of your life.

And This Is Why I Will Die Alone Surrounded By Cats: The artwork on this blog is by Sarah Elizabeth Orchard, who has quite clearly defined her own unique style.  The blog posts are worth reading alone for their hilarity, but the artwork is simply fantastic and I am sure she will go on to be an artist of some renown.

The above are just a few examples of some of the blogs that I love (although there is, of course, a WordPress bias), but I heavily recommend you also search out your because you never know what you may find.  And, if you fancy, why not start your own?

B&W

I have not painted for a while as it can get frustrating quickly and, often, the result is not what I had in mind.  Sometimes though I just like to see what happens and see what will come out.  I often have to cover a canvas in a multitude of colours before I am struck with some inspiration for the image that I want to appear on it.  This little fella popped up the other day and I have not yet decided if it is finished or not.  It looks quite joyful, not quite as sinister as I originally intended.  May shade the face a bit more to reflect the anatomy but, for the moment, I like it as it is.  Simple and unrefined.

A recent painting of mine which was partly influenced by the wonderful film Pans labyrinth. Acrylic paint on canvas.

A Brief Relapse

I recently bought some oil paints to try out and to experiment with.  I have to say that although they take forever to dry and are an extremely messy medium to ‘play’ with (I’m not the cleanest person!), I’m quite enjoying painting with them.  I’ve done a few little paintings on board now ranging from the to almost true to life to the abstract, and I quickly painted this ‘self’ portrait on canvas earlier.  It is still drying at the minute, and once it is fully dry I will add another layer of oil paint with a smaller brush for finer detail.  I’ll think you agree that it is looking pretty rough at the minute!

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It would be fair to say I am not a fine artist!

So for anyone looking to experiment with different artistic mediums, I’d say go for it- what is the worst that could happen?  At the end of the day it is all about expression of the self, and the ever challenging quest of trying to find your own artistic voice.  No matter who you admire art wise, or who you seek to emulate, you still have to start somewhere and with something.

Art is all about experimentation, self expression and playfulness, so get going!

Kafka 1915

My parents recently returned from a visit to Prague, in the Czech Republic, and presented me with a gift of Franz Kafka‘s ‘The Metamorphosis’.  It is a beautiful edition of the short novella, wonderfully bound with obvious care taken to present the work in the historical context in which it was wrote.  I have a deep fondness for Central Europe, and hope to travel to the Czech Republic myself one day, but this gift helped highlight the literary scene in the early 20th century, before the rug of peace was well and truly ripped from under Europe in 1914.

As I re-read ‘The Metamorphosis’ it became clear that I had not appreciated the tale on a previous read many years ago.  The disgust of which Gregor Sama’s family feel about him in the weeks and months after his ‘change’ renders the reader uncomfortable as we learn of Gregor’s own views on his new life climbing walls whilst starvation slowly sets in.  Kafka never wanted his ‘vermin’ illustrated and the original edition, published in German in 1915, required careful consideration translation of the language used when it was published in English a few years later.  Having finished ‘The Metamorphosis’, I delved back into my book shelf and read a few more of his short stories and excerpts.  His work often deals with the themes of alienation, family conflict, isolation and psychological suffering.  His substantial works, including ‘The Castle’, ‘The Trial’ and ‘The Judgement’, often deal with the above themes and the roles that are thrust upon the characters.  Frustration is borne out of a maddening bureaucracy in ‘The Castle’, possibly influenced by the domination of Kafka’s own all consuming insurance job, whilst family conflict can be found throughout most of his fictional works.

By chance I’m currently reading Albert Camus‘s ‘The Rebel’, a philosophical essay on the role, meaning and context of rebellions throughout the past 300 years.  It is a heavy going but enlightening read, and builds upon themes discussed in his previous novels, ‘The Plague’ and ‘The Stranger’ (heavily recommended!).  Kafka, it is noted, heavily influenced existentialism, and this is reflected in the works of Camus and his contemporary friend and sparring partner Sartre.  (Although it perhaps should be noted Camus is noted more for his opposition to nihilism and his closer links to the philosophy and debating of absurdism).

Influenced by terrible and sad tale of Gregor Samsa, I began a quick little painting portraying an allusion to the ‘vermin’, and the title and publication date of Kafka’s tale.

'Kafka 1915', an acrylic and gesso painting on stretched canvas.   Available to buy from here on Etsy,

‘Kafka 1915’, an acrylic and gesso painting on stretched canvas by the author.  (Sold! Well given to free to a friend in Belgium).

The tale of Kafka himself is perhaps to throw light onto the dark material that he wrote.  Although publishing little during his lifetime, Kafka gained fame relatively soon after his death.  Before dying of tuberculosis at the age of 40 in 1924, he ordered his friend Max Brod to burn his remaining unpublished body of literature and letters.  Thankfully Brod disobeyed this last demand of his dear friend, and helped publish the short stories, unfinished manuscripts and letters to widespread literary acclaim.  A prolific letter writer during his life, Kafka has left behind a substantial amount of letters describing his lifestyle and demonstrating his writing commitment.  Lauded by the literary establishment and by the public as a true innovative writer of the early 20th century, Kafka would surely be happy with his status.

  • Nightmarish rather than surreal‘, a talk on the works and themes of Kafka by David Foster Wallace.  Well worth a listen, as he explains Kafka’s plain and elegant writing style.

RidiculArt on Etsy

As any subscriber or occasional viewer of this blog will know I sometimes dabble in art, so I have decided to see if I can sell some on Etsy.  Etsy is an e-commerce website that focuses on selling handmade art work, crafts, vintage pieces  and art supplies.  It is particularly popular among its users as a way of making money part time or as a sideline to a main income from a full time job.  The premise is fairly simple in the fact that the seller can set up a shop and quickly start selling items, or you can simply buy items from shops on Etsy for friends and family.  The pieces for sale are often individual and one of a kind, and the site offers a very wide spectrum of gifts and styles.

So I thought I’d give it a go!  I’m currently jobless so I’d welcome some cash in my pocket, especially since I spend most of the time filling out application forms to no avail.  Perhaps ridiculously I’ve called my ‘shop’ (1) after having many a mischievous moment with friends about how ridiculous we all are (in general- it’s the only way to approach life!).

So my shop will largely sell abstract acrylic paintings which are painted on canvas, and should sell at a reasonable price.  I have had a few ideas for future paintings, including some drawings with water colour pencils, so expect to see some more styles added within a few weeks or so.

I’ll be honest, I’m still half decided on this whole venture.  I am by no means a good artist, and I do worry about the quality of my work, and whether any one would want to own some of my art work.  However my faith in myself has been restored slightly by knowing that a clutch of my paintings hang in my friends homes, on walls which are looked at each and every day, and yet still the paintings have not been taken down!  So we shall see what this new venture brings.

Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

(1) Shop has been taken offline as I haven’t made any art for quite some time.

'Three Colours', available to buy via the 'RidiculArt' Etsy shop online.

‘Three Colours’ (50 x 40 x 1.5 cm), available to buy via the ‘RidiculArt’ Etsy shop online.

Representation

A friend asked if I could paint her a quick something to fit her front room, which had a union jack scheme.  So I came up with this, a quick little something.  The photograph is fairly accurate, although I don’t think it shows the background in all its lovely colour and shades, but hey ho.  Yes it is sloppy but I’ve never been a clean painter, and I cannot see that changing.  To my mind, all the colours behind the Union Jack represent the diversity and vibrancy of my beautiful country.

Acrylic paint on canvas (20"x16").

Acrylic paint on canvas (20″x16″).

I quite enjoyed the spread of colours in the background, and I think I’ll explore this further in another painting.  The highlighting of the bold colour splotches, by bordering them with a darker hue, is particularly visually attractive to my mind.  I can imagine other objects holding the centre ground, in splendid isolation against the colour; perhaps a miniature version of Stonehenge or some other megaliths!