Sunday, 16 July 2017

The Sandbag Soldier Takes Shape

Making some sort of progress but the whole thing is going to need a long time to dry and cure.  I am thinking of drilling some holes to help the drying process but it is a balance between that and structural integrity.


I don't really want too much anatomical correctness as I think it often detracts from the power of a piece by destroying its enigmatic qualities but once one has reached this stage some things look really odd otherwise.  If I could have halted earlier it might have been more successful but I am having to retrain myself to imagine in 3D and resist the pressure to keep refining.



I will still have to anchor it more firmly to the base and increase the depth of the chest area before adding his tunic.  I am not sure about the helmet - I might make that separately so I can see where it is best placed: on his head or in his left hand.

I must also get some drawings of a SMLE rifle - the forerunner of our No 4 rifle that we used until the SLR (based on the Belgian FN FAN rifle) came in when I was at Sandhurst.  The No 4 was an excellent weapon and so was the SLR.  My myopia did not stop me becoming a marksman but I had to use my own weapon all the time because it was carefully zeroed to match my astigmatism and my glasses.  (I cheated on the entry medical but lots of us did that)


I will give him a rest now and a chance to dry out while I get on with other things.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Do Not Go Gentle

After 15 years of not making sculpture I am returning to it with a piece whose working title is 'Do Not Go Gentle'.

Do not go gentle into that good night
Rage, rage against the dying of the light

Dylan Thomas

The piece is for 'Articles Of War', a show that the Armed Forces Art Society is putting on in the Glasgow Lighthouse in November.  It will be my last one as the Chairman (we don't have presidents) before Eve Montgomerie takes over from me fully.

I thought of the humble sandbag, millions of which were used and are still being used in wars around the globe.  That really is an 'article of war'.  (Of course articles of war are usually thought of as rules or concepts rather than things) Could I use sandbags for an art piece? The poem of course is about death - the'good night' - but also on the Western Front in WW1 a 'good night' was one without barrages, star shells or rain, when the night sky was visible in all its glory and a man could look up in wonder and perhaps forget for a moment the horror of his circumstances.

So I decided on a 'sandbag soldier' looking up into the night sky.  I have cast in plaster polymer before, using top quality materials from Tiranti, but never modelled in it.  This piece is more home-made, using sandbag material and plaster of paris that I am mixing with diluted acrylic gel as the polymerising agent.  It seems to work.  I am also using finer bandage material from First Field Dressings and triangular bandages that come in army medical kits - all 'articles of war'.

The starting point was an armature fixed to a plywood base.  Even the base comes from an old army box!

Armature with baseboard attached
I then started applying the material soaked in the polymer plaster mix.

Starting to add sandbag material and bandages
That is where I am today.  Over the next few days I hope to build on this to provide a WW1 infantryman's body holding a Short Model Lee Enfield rifle.  Then I hope to clothe it, add accoutrements and then add a final layer of pigmented plaster.  These are early days but I am hopeful and will keep posting my progress.  Even if it is a failure I will learn something and perhaps try again.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Portugal April 2017

It is a week since we returned from a wonderful time as the guests of David Bachmann in Portugal, at the Cama da Vaca villa on the Algarve, near Lagos.  It was very productive, hugely enjoyable socially and finally got me back to painting en plein air after months of being stuck indoors for one reason or another.  There were 12 of us altogether.  Coordinating that many plein air painters was quite a challenge for David B but he managed it brilliantly.

I did 26 small paintings over 6 days.  I started the evening we landed because I knew that if I went out and just made a hash of everything on a small panel I would be in much better shape the following day, both in terms of organisation and in how much I had 'tuned in'.  Sure enough, half the kit was jettisoned and from then on I felt more confident and travelled light.

The Starter, Cama da Vaca 6x9

 Our first sortie the next day was to Plaia da Cordoama, where we painted the beach and cliffs from either side of the beach.
Praia da Cordoama 1 10x14
Praia da Cordoama 2  9x12

We then moved South again, to the Sagres area and David Pilgrim, Haidee-Jo Summers and I painted the old fort from a point between Praia do Beliche and the headland on which the fort stands.

Fortaleza de Sagres 6x13
The next day (24 April) we went to Praia Donna Ana and painted the stacks, then journeyed on to Praia do Camillo.  At Ponte do Piedade, later, it was interesting to see 14 sentry boxes each with a Station of the Cross lining the route to the seaside chapel there at which services are held for sailors drowned at sea.

Sea Stacks, Praia Donna Ana 12x9

Arch Below the Cliffs, Praia do Camillo 9x6
Sea Stacks and Ochre Water at Ponte do Piedade 12x9
When we got back to the villa several of us painted the courtyard with the archway.

Courtyard, Cama da Vaca 12x9
ValériePirlot flew in on the 25th and we met her off the Faro-Lagos bus and all painted together in Lagos, Haidee and I choosing the yellow umbrellas.  We then moved to Luz and after a splendid seafood lunch retired to the villa again where I painted from the undeveloped part of the huge garden, looking up at the villa.


Main Street, Old Lagos 6x13
Luz 9x13
The Villa 6x13
The last two full days were very busy.  On the 26th I woke early and went down to the cliffs at the bottom of the villa garden to paint the sunrise.  I was 15 minutes too late!

Sunrise Cama da Vaca 6x9
I went back after breakfast and did another small sketch of the clifftops.

Clifftops, Cama da Vaca 9x6
We then set off on a long but very scenic drive north to Praia da Arrifana.  After a good look round I settles on a view down at the beach, standing just above beach level on the slipway and watched a father and daughter trying to launch her kite..

Flying the Kite, Arrifana 9x12
I staggered back up the hill to find some of the others painting the harbour from above.  I had run out of small panels so Mo Teeuw very kindly gave me one of her 6x8s.  Mike Richardson was painting at the end of the breakwater but appeared so small that you could hardly see him and he is tiny in this painting.

Harbour, Arrifana 6x8
We then headed off to Monte Clerigo where Valérie, David Pilgrim and I painted the beach and hills beyond from a relatively high viewpoint.
Monte Clerigo 14x10
It rained on the 27th, just after I had started a tiny panel on the clifftops, with a lovely agave in the foreground.  I struggled to keep rain off my board and the palette swam in emulsified paint but I managed to finish.
Agave and Clifftops 5x9
The weather cleared for a post-breakfast trip to Lagos, where I tried a 10x14 inch panel of the old fort.  I did not manage to finish it and switched to two very small panels, exh a different version of the port side harbour lead (the starboard one is of course opposite it and painted green and white).

Unfinished Fort and harbour, Lagos 10x14
Port Side Lead 1, Lagos Harbour 9x5

Port Side Lead 2, Lagos Harbour 9x5
After another restaurant lunch, I did a small charcoal sketch that I then worked up from memory the next day as a way of using up paint in the very last hour before leaving for the airport.

Figures in a Lagos Cove 9x5
 Back at the clifftops at Cama da Vaca I was again hit by rain - this time even more seriously and the experience made me think about devising a new way of protecting my boards when using my lightweight kit (which is too flimsy for a clamp-on umbrella).
Clearing Rain, Cama da Vaca 10x13
I then had a final go at the courtyard - protected from the rain by David pilgrim's huge umbrella set up on his tripod before a shower and another fabulous supper cooked by the lovely Elouisa ('Li').

The Courtyard After Rain 9x12
On the 28th we all departed but in stages so that by 6pm only David Pilgrim, Valérie and I were left to do the final locking up and put out the last bits of rubbish.  That day we had longer to paint than anyone and I managed 3 sketches:
Early Light, Cama da Vaca
Sunlit Cliffs, Cama da Vaca
For my last painting I went up to the top cottage and pinted from behind the roof, looking over the main villa.

Cama da Vaca 14x10
By 7pm the three of us were in Francisco's taxi heading for Faro airport and home.