Not selected – and a new story.

Sadly, none of the four submissions to ING Discerning Eye appealed to any of the selectors this year. Each of the six invited experts choose their own selection. I like to think that the standard this year was so high that … . Well, it was enjoyable trying. And I combined the mission to collect the barns with a very enjoyable trip to Tate Britain. Several ideas for artists’ barns prompted by that.

And here is the first of the Story Barns. Entitled Story Barn I: Really? In there? When?, the (hopefully obvious) idea is that the piece might stimulate the viewer into devising a story, or stories, of an event, or events, that might have occurred in such a place, perhaps totally imagined or maybe based on an actual experience.

First barn in a planned series of ‘story barns’ – intended to stimulate ideas.
First barn in a planned series of ‘story barns’ – intended to stimulate ideas.

Happy story-telling!

Barns for 2017 ING Discerning Eye exhibition

Yesterday (Sep 2), Julie and I took four of my artists’ barns (well, strictly three, with the fourth being the first in a new series – story barns) for submission to the 2017 ING Discerning Eye exhibition. I managed to have two included in last year’s exhibition. Sadly, neither sold through the exhibition, although one of them, Hergé’s Barn, was sold early this year. (I should add that I was unsuccessful in getting work into the RA Summer Exhibition this year – not even shortlisted.)

I will know during this coming week if any have been selected but it is enjoyable just submitting. The lady who took in the new entries recalled my work from last year – very gratifying. She thought they had sold and was surprised when I told her they hadn’t.

Barn 34: David Hockney’s Barn
Barn 34: David Hockney’s Barn

David Hockney’s Barn is based entirely on his painting, A Bigger Splash. The roof shows the cloudless California sky, one side wall has the windows and their reflections, while just a hint of the ‘splash’ is on the back.

Barn 34: David Hockney’s Barn (reverse)
Barn 34: David Hockney’s Barn (reverse)

Barn 33: Hokusai’s Barn was inspired by our visit a couple of months ago to the Hokusai exhibition at the British Museum. The barn shape came from studying various buildings in his works. The roof colouring is based on his frequent representation of sky, while through the (painted) windows, aspects of his subject matter are suggested.

Barn 33: Hokusai’s Barn
Barn 33: Hokusai’s Barn (end and side)
Barn 33: Hokusai’s Barn (front and side).
Barn 33: Hokusai’s Barn (front and side).

(The idea is that from one side of the barn, the viewer can see Mount Fuji, and from the other side, the viewer sees the ocean, the barn being on land between the two.)

The third of the artists’ barns is Barn 32: Gustav Klimt’s Barn, based on parts of his famous piece, The Kiss. This took quite a lot of working – and reworking – to get right. Laying gold leaf on the door area was a particular challenge.

Gustav Klimt’s Barn
Gustav Klimt’s Barn

The fourth barn submitted will be featured in a following post.

Into 2017

René Magritte’s Barn
René Magritte’s Barn

One of the two entries submitted to this year’s Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. I had completed it in time for last year’s exhibition but failed to purchase the entry form before they sold out – over a week before entries closed. Lesson learned and entry forms purchased this year as soon as they were available. I won’t know until April if either will make the short list. Initial submission is online with digital images. If short-listed, the artwork is taken to the RA for viewing in May. I only just finished the second submission, Gustav Klimt’s Barn, yesterday after struggling to get gold leaf laid. Very tricky stuff as it is so fine and fragile to work with. Result was fine, I think. The spirals on the roof are done with gold paint – the doors are gold leaf.

Gustav Klimt’s Barn
Gustav Klimt’s Barn

How the barnscapes began

I have been working on the barnscape series for over ten years now, although the initial inspiration began to develop some time before that. Old buildings, particularly ‘functional’ buildings have always caught my attention and have featured in my drawings and paintings. About twenty years ago, my then wife (Sheila) and I acquired a painting by New York artist (and friend) Kyle Gallup. The subject was a brightly painted barn, yellow walls with a near black, half-hipped roof. This was one of a series Kyle had produced, all of which we admired.

Kyle gallup Barn painting

Ten years or so later, while at the Frankfurt Book Fair, I came across a calendar with twelve photographs of work by German artist Udo Mathee. He had roughly fashioned house shapes out of blocks of wood, left these outdoors to ‘weather’, allowing the blocks to twist and split, then painted them in bright colours.

Udo Mathee calendar001

I thought these very attractive and brought back a publicity leaflet which I showed to my children, whereupon daughter Hannah, with a forthcoming birthday, asked if I could make wooden houses for friends to paint at her party. I made sixteen, cutting them from off-cuts of pine. I enjoyed making them – and the party guests enjoyed painting them (still treasured possessions for some, I understand). It then occurred to me that I could make and paint a barn to emulate the one in Kyle Gallup’s painting. In the painting, only two of the walls are visible, so I had to use some imagination to create the non-visible parts. This was the first ‘artist’s barn sculpture’ or ‘barnscape’. (Actually, I am still working on it. I haven’t yet matched the colour of the sidewall, although it is not as far out as appears in the photo in the top strip – that was an earlier iteration). As it seemed to work out quite well, I was inspired to create more. Thus the barnscape project – making and painting barns in the style of a known artist – was born.

Initially, I looked around for other artists’ barns, studying originals in galleries or reproductions of the work of the masters, both for any barns appearing in their work and for style. Cézanne, van Gogh, Turner, Constable and Stubbs all had barns I could work from. Of course, not all artists whose work I admired were landscape painters, and even those who were did not frequently feature barns in their paintings. But why not just paint barns in the style of an artist? So added to the existing list were artists like Rothko, Riley, Pollock, Lichtenstein, Magritte – and even Tracy Emin, and Hergé – an ever lengthening list of inspiration to draw upon.

I have also been ‘collecting’ actual barns for a good number of years – in photographs, or in sketches and descriptive notes. Initially, these were simply to inspire shapes of barns to carve, or for their colourings. But it then occurred to me that some of the more dilapidated barns would perhaps not last as structures. I ought to record some in ‘portraits’ if I could. This required more detailed study, obtaining images of all sides, and more exact representation, both of form and appearance. Fortunately, a long training in producing detailed artwork for illustrations (I owe a great deal to the late Bob Chapman) stood me in very good stead. Nevertheless, ‘brush ruling’ on angled surfaces was a new skill to acquire. It is maybe not surprising to learn that a great deal of time and effort goes into the creation of the barns. More of that in a blog to follow.

Moving forward

Tomorrow (11 Sept) I shall collect the Old Cricket Field Barn from the Royal Academy. I am not disappointed that it has not sold – I’m not sure I want to part with it. I am already planning submissions for next year’s Summer Exhibition. Collecting it will be a delight, in fact, as I shall be visiting the Joseph Cornell exhibition at the RA with old friend (and computer graphic pioneering colleague Stephen Silver). Bridget Riley’s Barn will be collected by its new owners. It was a challenge to create and I hope it will give them much pleasure.

Several new works are being worked on, including Vincent van Gogh’s Barn – a work in progress with still some way to go.

A work in progress with some way to go.
A work in progress with some way to go.

Meanwhile, our back garden is being rearranged (garden shed moved –thanks to George W and Felix B, with help from Julie and me) so that a workshop can be installed allowing me to create more sawdust – and barns. Creative work has taken a back seat lately with the intensity of design work over the summer. Ahead lie several writing workshops and life drawing classes (to attend), two local exhibitions and an invitation to talk about my experiences of graphic design in publishing. Also working on more paper aircraft projects which have interest from a couple of publishers.

RA Summer Exhibition 2015

Monday, 1st June, is Varnishing Day at the 2015 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. Traditionally the day when exhibiting artists could put finishing touches to their displayed work prior to the official opening, these days it is a celebration for the exhibitors. There is a parade along Piccadilly from the RA to St James’ church, a service in the church, and then exhibitors gather for a reception and a first look around the exhibition. Very exciting, being part of a very old tradition – this is the 247th year – and mingling with fellow amateur and professional artists and with esteemed academicians. And most exciting of all is to see one’s work exhibited. Last year I successfully submitted just one piece, Mark Rothko’s Barn. By the time Julie and I attended the preview, it had been sold (see the very gratifying red dot next to the display number). Following Varnishing Day and the press review days, there is Buyer’s Day (which exhibitors may attend) on Thursday. So from that day onwards, artworks for sale may be purchased.

Mark Rothko’s Barn on the special plinth built for it.
Mark Rothko’s Barn on the special plinth built for it. It had sold before the exhibition opened.

This year I have two pieces on display – The Old Cricket Field Barn and Bridget Riley’s Barn. I submitted both this year as sculptures, given that they are shaped from blocks of wood and then painted. Last year, I described the entry as a painting, as more time is spent on this than on the shaping. Difficult to know which they are as they are both sculpted and painted.

I have several series of ‘barns’ under way. The Bridget Riley piece obviously follows Mark Rothko’s Barn in the Artists’ Barns series. I am currently working on several others, amongst them Vincent van Gogh’s Barn, Jackson Pollock’s Barn (based on the actual barn studio where he worked), and Magritte’s Barn. Each is an homage to an artist whose work I admire.

Bridget Riley’s Barn painted in the unmistakeable black and white style.

The Old Cricket Field Barn is a portrait of a ramshackle building on the outskirts of the village where I live and work. It looks as though it might blow down in the next strong wind. It occurred to me some time back that, having admired so many barns (particularly those in dilapidated condition), it would be good to make some sort of record of any that I could, before they do collapse.

The Old Cricket Field Barn.
The Old Cricket Field Barn.

So,  now I am looking forward to sharing in a bit of pageantry and hoopla, to a celebratory glass with fellow local artist, Claire (who also successfully submitted two pieces), and to seeing my work on show. Next weekend, Julie and I will attend one of the previews, and maybe we will find a couple more of those gratifying red dots.

Web site launch

Welcome to my new web site. I hope to use this to display art that I have created. In particular, I have been developing painted ‘barns’ for some time now and have one in this year’s Royal Academy Summer Exhibition – already sold, I’m delighted to report.

The barns you see in the header on this page are all about 15cm long, vary between 9cm and 13 cm depth and are about 10cm or 12cm in height. They are carved from oak or lime wood, sometimes pine, and are painted in artist’s acrylic on a gesso primer.

I also plan to share other projects – art, design and writing – once I get the hang of communicating this way.

On my other web site – – you can get some idea of the design work I have been producing for many years, and am still fully engaged in. And you can see some of the books I have created.