- Oli on canvas, 36” x 40″ (still being worked on)
This painting began a few months ago and I was happy enough with the initial strokes and composition to leave it, wondering if it was one of those rare paintings that practically had painted itself and so was done. I got on with other work and hadn’t really looked at in months. Then earlier this week something made me take it down off the wall (tucked away in a corner it was) and paint again, this time with more abandon than before… the freeness is EXACTLY what I want to achieve; to paint without being precious, and to allow the paint to lead the way. It is quite wet at the moment so I’ve left it for a few days, but I think its not needing much more before its done. I’m beginning to see more clearly, to paint with more lightness and enjoyment. Its feels good. Hope I can finish it without getting finicky….
24” x 36” Oil on canvas
This year, 2013, I worked on a series of Pouie tree paintings, beginning in the Spring when they were in full bloom, and continuing over the summer, working from sketches and photographs, and of course the feeling from the memories.
Each tree doesn’t last longer than about 3 days, and they always signal rain, so the pale delicate yellow of their blossoms are usually seen against dark thundery clouds. The drama of shafting light through the bruising and ominous clouds illuminates the petals and the thin dark branches against a backdrop of gorgeous greys. Sitting in a carpet of pale fallen flowers beneath these trees and gazing up is a favorite activity; the petals fall gently all the time, so one has yellow beneath, above and all around, and one is compelled to lie back and look up, resulting in total immersion. Knowing that the afternoon’s storm is likely to beat all the blossoms off and leave the branches quite bare heightens the treat that it is. Luckily plenty of Pouie trees grow all over the city, and when one has been stripped of its golden cloak, another tree nearby will tremble and be resplendent the following day, and so it continues until Pouie tree time has passed, and so passes another Spring.
This piece is going into the HiQo exhibition on November 27th. Another two of this series have sold already – I will post photographs of them soon.
There’s a most magnificent vine that grows in the tropics. Commonly called the Jade Vine because of the color it usually is, it also grows in red. I think the jade version has a fuller flower than the red one, but either way its one extraordinary landing pad for insects. It looks like a mobile of the most exquisitely carved dinosaur teeth, or dragon claws, or finely tooled pendants worn only by the ruling monarchs of a magical kingdom in another land…
My mother-in-law had one growing outside her bedroom, and that was my first encounter with said vine. Since moving to Kingston I occasionally visit the breath-taking Strawberry Hill Hotel on the way to the Blue Mountains, and have brunch beneath theirs, wound as it is over a strong metal frame so it can hang its flowers just over the tables beneath. The above photo is my daughter AmberDia making a necklace with the claws with the view of Kingston behind her.
I decided I would try to paint it. Turned out to be a very difficult undertaking, and it will take more focus to get it right. Good thing its so inspirational or I’d give up…
The first sketches developed into larger watercolors….
I also have tried to render it in oils, one of which has been abandoned;
and the other that took many weeks but ended up with only a few small sections that I like;
Yet another task: paint a good jade vine that speaks of its delicacy and design with sensitivity…..
This one was painted in about 2011 I think…. It came about because I went walking in Hope Gardens in Kingston, Jamaica one morning before the sun was too high. It was still hot and humid, and there were very few people around. I walked to where no buildings were in sight and tall trees flanked an open grassy area. There was a row of trees in the centre of this empty meadow, old knotted black-trunked trees, all bursting with waxy red blossoms, and the grass beneath them was thick with a rotting carpet of red.
In the air hung a heady sweet smell, and the heavy drone of bees enshrouded the trees, filling the morning with a mesmerizing spell of sound. It was compelling, something ancient and of another world. The world of bees pollinating flowers, an everyday occurrence perhaps, but here in such a primal fertile way; the flowers dripped with a sticky sap which glistened on the wizened wood, and each lipped waxy blossom oozed orange tendril spikes from their centers, intoxicating the bees and leading them into an obsessed manic crawl. I sat beneath and witnessed it. Thousands of bees…. on the branches, in the flowers, hovering in the air, and crawling over the rotten petals on the ground. I don’t think these trees bloom more than once a decade or so; when they do they writhe with sensuous invitation. The bees as salivating slaves to Great Mother; the flowered trees a manifestation of the passionate throng of Life itself.
Needless to say, this painting does not even go near to doing justice to the show put on (perhaps I will try again.) The painting took on its own life and ended up being in a misty place, far from the hot Kingston plains. The surface is thick with paint though; that’s as close as I got to the fecundity.
I did try again, come to think of it, but still I need to revisit.
There’s so much more energy when I don’t overwork. Areas where there is a true response to the experience, but then I get too involved in the painting of it and the energy is ‘prettified’ and then it’s lost. This detail below is what I’m trying to FINISH with, not start with and then lose…
Map of Jamaica
A friend in real estate needed to show prospective clients where the most important spots in Jamaica are, like good coffee, golf, and high-end resorts. Now the map is used by Golden Eye, once the home to someone famous…. now the property of someone else famous. Nice place. Visitors probably don’t leave, but if they do they have a map with all the important details…
I love using a calligraphic pen – a dip pen and a pot of ink – can’t go wrong as a drawing tool. I like the irregular lines and blots it makes. And with waterproof ink you can give the whole thing a wash of light color when you’re done…
Summer 2012 During the hot summer of 2012, while my two daughters ran an art camp on the veranda for a dozen kids a week, I sat at the dining room table and worked on illustrating a children’s book. It killed quite a few birds with one stone: I could keep an eye on the antics outside and be available if a near-fatal accident demanded driving to the Emergency Room with an ailing child; the noise of the kids didn’t bother me as I was lost in the world of drawing; I got a chance to revisit the world of my childhood, which was full of beautifully illustrated children’s books (Dr Seuss an all-time favorite); and I got a chance join forces with a survivor of World War 2 in a creative endeavor. Maurice was sent out of London, as so many children were, during the Blitz of 1940. He was only nine at the time, and before the war was over both his parents had been killed when his neighbourhood and everyone in it was destroyed by German bombers. He somehow became a quantity surveyor and came to Jamaica as a young man to work on a project, but he never left, marrying and settling down and becoming a part of the Jamaican community. I met him as he’s a family member of a close friend of mine, and in a veranda conversation he told me about a book he had written for children, one that had come about when his kids were little. He would tell them stories at bedtime, using their names, and they involved a talking mouse who had many adventures…. One thing led to another, and the one drawing he asked me to do became a fully illustrated book. It has received some positive interest, but the economy in Jamaica is very slow and the population very small. We think that it would be a big hit with the Jamaican diaspora. Now to find a publisher. Any ideas?
This was really fun! My first time working with the amazing artist Bruce Donaldson – we’ve since become a team and have worked on a number of projects we both really enjoy. As an artist one tends to be working alone, and I had assumed that that’s the way it is. Not lonely, but alone. This project revealed how stimulating it is to team up – it actually accentuates the creative process and gives birth to a multitude of directions, possibilities and solutions.
It came about because a friend of ours, Chris Browne, was making this movie, Ghett’a Life, and asked us for feedback on the posters he had. I didn’t like any of them, and offered to give it a shot, ‘though I’d never done anything like this before… That’s where Bruce came in, as the film had to be watched and key scenes selected for the right shots so the characters and the essence of the movie would be portrayed in the poster. This is all in digital media, so someone with technical computer know-how was key. Then there was the subject matter of the movie; the links between the police and the criminals in downtown Kingston, which is often reported in the papers, so I went through a stack of Gleaners to select the right articles in order to collage them into the drawing of the main character.
Bruce was a patient teacher, showing me how to draw with a stylus, making magic with filters of all kinds, and creating dozens of layers in Photoshop – it was such an education to see how a graphic programme works in the hands of a master, and a wonderful opportunity to witness an idea become a professional-looking piece of work. Had it been left to me it would never have amounted to more than a few line drawings and a lot of frustration, but the combination of painter and graphics artist is a winning one, in my mind at least, and certainly romantically!!
The poster was not chosen to promote the film in the end, but it was printed on hundreds of t-shirts and distributed to the Kingston crowd on opening night, and put on the invitation to the event. It was quite the thrill to contribute to contemporary Jamaican film in our way, and maybe sometime we’l get a chance to do it again. I hear the movie is doing well internationally – watch it if you get a chance…