Monday, October 10, 2016

Meandering to the Front Lines

-By Paul Bonner

You will have bare with me on this one, as I'm must confess to being not entirely sure what I'm writing about. Originally it had started with pondering the attraction of painting dwarves and goblins - veered off onto a heart felt moan about the frustrations of favorite paint brushes having to be retired (sometimes after years of stalwart service) - and then the nightmare of new ones having to be broken in. And it seems to me that they tend to find solace in banding together with some of their chums before they decide to give up the ghost, so that I find I have to try and break in a few at once. Sometimes they take weeks before behaving as I want them to.

Sensing that this could require an article in itself, I again veered off onto musing upon the oft asked question of whether size is important. In our creative endeavours. So, using this as a starting point, my thoughts ping-ponged onto painting purely for pleasure, physical expression, really big brushes and the simple need to create.

Whilst making a necessary attempt to clean up my studio, I found some large, rolled up tubes of textured wallpaper that I had used in an attempt to utilise those four thoughts and make something tangible with them. They hark back to a way distant past, back in England, out of art college, when I wasn't so busy, had a pretty relaxed life and, because I had the time - just made things for the fun of it. I think they came after a trip to the south of France where I saw some of the rather awe inspiring cave paintings that seemed to proliferate in that area.

They were done quite quickly. soaking some taped together pieces of wallpaper; splattering a "rock face" background onto them, and then using oil pastels smeared on. Very basic and great fun.

I'm not complaining about a lack of fun in my present artistic endeavours . Far from it. I'm more than happy at having painted my self into a corner where I'm only rubbing shoulders with goblins, dwarves and trolls, but along the way I have had to do jobs that I hated or ended up hating. Luckily, not too many, but rent and bills had to be paid, so like most of us out here in Artland - we have no choice. I know we are often told or we hear that the bullet must be bitten and accept every job that comes our way. I know, as a life long freelancer that saying "No" to work is a frightening and difficult habit to break. And I know that "exposure" is often touted as being constantly invaluable. Well - I'm here to tell you that it didn't too take many of those apparently "necessary" jobs, before I got into the much healthier habit of a polite "No - thank you". If the rent was paid and there was something on a shelf in the fridge, I'd rather have the time thank you. Why would I want exposure in areas that I didn't really want to be exposed to?

Much better using my time to do stuff that I actually wanted and needed to do. That's what got us all started when we were kids. That's where the passion, craftsmanship and need were planted. All these years later those needs are still there and still need to be nurtured. Otherwise -what's the point?
 Now I seem to have gone off on a tangent again into areas easily speculated over. Another time.

So - here were these big things and done and as soon as I had dusted them off - I remembered the sparkle of contentment that I had whilst doing them. Usually I am hunched up over my drawing board, breath held, trying to control the focusing of my eyes as I zero in on some probably unnecessary detail (another essay there) and then desperately rummaging through my pots of paint brushes to find one that will behave it self. As a relief from all this self-inflicted stress - it strikes me as interesting, that when time permitted I would throw myself into making something that could be seen from the bottom of the garden, rather than by squinting through a magnifying glass. Maybe it's a natural expression of a kind of physical freedom and relaxed concentration that makes it so enjoyable. I do also enjoy my usual "hold my breath and squint" technique - but I suspect that it has more to do with sheer relief, tinged with a feeling of accomplishment - rather than a relaxed joyfulness.

(I know he should almost definitely have feathers - but this must be 20 years old - before it was known - ok?)

Of course - doing something for yourself is about the biggest plus you can get as well. I like to think that in those days they were a bit like a holiday. A few days to recharge the batteries before being sent up to the front-lines again. And let's face it - the "front-lines" is exactly what it is, when confronted with a job you wish you did not have to take and an -oh so white, empty piece of paper in front of you. Another essay there.

The size thing! As I've got older my paintings have slowly got bigger. Not by much - but I can feel the need each time I come to draw up a new painting. Bigger! Bigger! A little bit at a time. After all - sadly no one will pay me to stand in front of one painting for 4 or 5 months.

It's the same with 3 dimensional stuff. A very welcome break from the arduous business of making two dimensional stuff look like it might actually have three dimensions. The freedom of building something up physically and trying to imbue it with life. A connection from childhood years playing with plasticise, clay and paper mache. No briefs or deadlines just the need and the fun.

You have to be able to keep the fun and the need present in what ever artistic endeavours you are involved in. Even if you stuck in some of those jobs that you really wished you had said "No" to. Sometimes they are a nightmare of slowed down time with no end in sight. So - find one little corner. One little part of it that you can put your heart and soul into. Even if the rest ends up being something you kind of forgot to put your signature on, that one little part of it will be the saving grace that you can take along with you on your next call up to the front lines.

Any free time I have these days seems to have converged nicely with what I'm supposed to do and with what I'm paid to do. The subject matter is pretty much the same. Same since when I was a boy. Suits me fine, but how I wish that sometimes I could get my hands on a 12ft x 12ft piece of good paper or canvas, forget about my worldly responsibilities and paint something epic. Really epic. Just for me. For the sheer joy of it. Get out some big brushes, and standing at arms length - just start daubing. Of course, the reality is that as the weeks progressed, the brushes would be regularly exchanged for increasingly smaller brushes until I found myself with my nose up against the canvas, seeing how long I could go without breathing before I collapsed into my paint pots. Then I'd be right back on the front-lines again. But at least I would have volunteered.


  1. Wonderful post, Paul! And...the dinosaur heads: wow!

    1. Thanks Arnie. Wish I had time to do another one…….

  2. Very cool writing style, once again!

    Those 'cave paintings' look like they were a lot of fun to make. Hope you will find the chance to do that epic personal piece one day. Maybe try and 'book' the time for it? Treat it like a regular job?

    Would make for a great step-by-step demonstration for MuddyColors ;-)

    1. Thanks Nicolay. They were. Took some weeks before I got all the pastel stains of my fingers! As for the epic one - maybe I should just start it. Though if it was so big, it would need an overly long post with lots of photos - if I remembered to take them!

  3. “A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.”

    I think that quote from Bob Dylan fits you Paul. Your finally at a place where you can do what you want and say no when you want. If we could all be so lucky! Cheers-

    1. Thanks Michael. Wish I could call it "lucky" ! But I guess I know what you mean! And bills still have to be paid - otherwise I'd start that epic one tomorrow!

  4. Genial Paul I almost did not write on the blog
    But what the heck if one of my favorite posts something artists have to write
    I love his work is brutal and inspiring
    Textures expressions, clothing, compositions I love
    I hope to see more of his work, materials inspired pieces, photos
    favorite artists etc.
    And much much of his art as it does :)
    As I say it's great
    Atte. Ricardo Carbajal

    1. Hello Ricardo. I,m glad you did bother to write. It means a lot to know that what I do gets out to people and affects them……hopefully positively! So - I don't take it for granted. Thanks again.

    2. thank you and continue creating art :)

    3. Thanks El Hibrido - I'll do my best!


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