Thank you Daddy…

Understandably in some respects, this painting still resides in my studio.

Thank you Daddy
As far as I can remember it only had one outing exhibition-wise, and that was at the local arts centre seven years ago, and displayed as part of their annual summer exhibition.

I would like to say it nestled happily alongside the more accessible and frankly more saleable works on display, but that sadly was not the case. When the hanging process was being undertaken and the placing of the works was being decided upon, it was felt that ‘Marvo and Boy (Thank you Daddy)’ as the work is titled, would be much happier hung alone on a central pillar between two large Victorian windows.

I was involved in helping the setting out and selection process of said show, and to be honest the lonely position allocated to the piece really was the only option. It’s an awkward painting in truth, and appeared even more so when placed beside any of the two hundred or so other works being exhibited, many of which were delicate and beautiful water-colours, well executed figurative works or engaging still-life studies.

I was surprised then, when during the run of the exhibition, visitors were quite kind about the solitary piece, depicting as it does, the tiara-wearing ventriloquist ‘priest’ figure, Marvo (or Daddy) and his Dummy (Boy), complete with tattoo and perky genitals.

The work was not for sale in the show, partly because I was (and am) realistic about the lack of potential in selling pieces like this, but also because I had become fond of the duo, and wasn’t at all sure about saying goodbye to them.

Some pieces are like that you see, and you get used to having them around… like kids, or a particularly charming dog. One would have to possess a degree of sangfroid to casually offload them to a complete stranger.

So on the studio wall they stay, mutely caring for each other, and watching over me…

For the Thrill of it….

Alongside presenting current works I would like on occasion to take a look back at older archived pieces, and I hope you will indulge me in this.

Such is the case with the painting I’m showing here entitled ‘Thrills’, completed some five years ago.

‘Thrills’ is a clown, and clowns are a re-occurring motif in my work over the years, in common many other artists such as Picasso and Chagall for example. The works shown here are fine examples of both of those artist’s clown portraits, Mark Chagall’s (to the left) being a painting, whilst Pablo Picasso was using a lithographic process. Coincidentally the pieces are from about the same period, although they both returned to the same subject many times throughout their long careers.

                   Chagall-Clown                  Picasso-Clown for Leiris

Why artists are drawn so often to clown imagery is difficult to say, but certainly an element of Coulrophobia (clown phobia) could be at play here. Many times my own works are met with a shudder, so I know this is a common fear, and possibly amongst creatives a heightened visual awareness magnifies a propensity to such fears…

Fortunately, for my own part I don’t really have a fear of clowns, pierrots, harlequins etc. but I am strangely fascinated by them, and have often dreamed of them.

The fellow depicted my ‘Thrills’ painting I first came across as an illustration in a book titled ‘1000 Clowns… More or Less..’ by H. Thomas Steele, and published by Tachen, and a fine book it is too (unless of course one is actually Couraphobic, in which case its a bit of a no-no, to be honest)

There are many wonderful depictions of clowns and clowning in the book, but one that particularly appealed to me was in the form of a decal used for The Coney Island Amusement Park. My interpretation of the 1950’s original ‘clean’ graphic design is quite different in its execution, but from the off I was very taken with the idea of using the clowns ‘teeth’ to show his name. Splendid.

Thrills (painting)

What is odd though is that since I first completed the work I can’t count the amount of people, that when viewing it have said, ‘’Oh, that’s the Marmite clown…’’.

By ‘Marmite’, they are of course referring to the dark-brown, yeast based spread, much favoured throughout the Empire on ones toast at breakfast, or used as a restorative given to the sickly to return them to robust health in just a jiffy.

Anyway, it’s a strange situation that so many have said the same thing on first viewing the painting as, to my knowledge, neither Unilever Inc, nor the original inventors of said product (Sir Thomas Marmite?… The Honorable Hamish MacMarmite?.. who knows) ever used a clown image as a promotional device… It’s weird that.

What I will say though is that, as you may know, there is a common saying in this part of the world, along the lines of…
‘’This, that that or the other is.. like Marmite!’’… Meaning that something is polarising in peoples opinions of it.

If something is considered to be ‘Marmite’ it will be resolutely either loved or hated, and people are sure in their positions in that respect.

Well, that has certainly been true of poor old ‘Thrills’. Ever since the final brushstroke was laid down, folk have been most forthcoming in their divided opinions of it, and quite vocal in their views they have been too. It has to be said that many take an instant, and unshakable dislike to it.

I have often speculated dear reader, that should the piece ever fall under the steely gaze of the beleaguered art critic, that is a both yeast intolerant and a coulrapobic, then I am truly fucked.

Ho-hum, best not to worry I suppose… better divided opinions than none at all.

ps. Oh, and in case you were wondering, I’m definitely in the ‘lovin’ the Marmite’ camp by the way… yum yum….

On rather liking Mondays…


Unlike Bob Geldof’s 80’s muse, Brenda Ann Spencer, I rather like Mondays.

This is because unlike the young Miss Spencer, rather than trying to dispel the ‘Monday blues’ by simply taking pot-shots at the staff and pupils of local elementary schools, I tend to spend my Mondays fruitfully working in my studio. This Monday was no exception, with little or no gun-play and plenty of painting going on instead.

I have embarked on a new series of works, in part taking as its central theme, period costume (mostly 15th and 16th century European). My research into the extravagant aristocratic stylings of those periods was much aided by wikiart*, a wonderful free resource that I would thoroughly recommend.

Using negative-space painting, combined with a misplaced and bizarre sense of resentment at long dead toffs, I am attempting to recall something of the silk and lace extravagance of that age whilst also subverting the aesthetics of the original sitter’s costumes. Something like this.

For some while now I have been avoiding having the faces as the obvious focal point of my portraits by removing them, or at least replacing them with plain masks. The reason for this is not entirely clear to me as yet, and I don’t like to over analyse the reasons for changes, or new elements entering the works. I will run with it for a while, as there is an anonymity involved that characters in the paintings seem to prefer.

No Face2
I enjoy visual awkwardness in my compositions, and these pieces are no exception it would seem. Figures are variously posed with legs akimbo, perched on one foot or holding a ballet pose. Despite the possible physical discomfort the cast seem at their ease, and contrary to some past works the sitters seem calm, serene even.

I shan’t question it though, as I have no wish to beak their spell or disturb their reverie. For now, if they are ok then so am I……

     No Face3        No Face5 detail      



N.B. You will have noticed that the images used are of poor quality, and this is a result of my having snapped them on my trustworthy, yet battered Samsung phone, and then shrinking them for web-use on here. They are only for illustrative purposes at this stage, and I will replace them asap on a gallery page, promise.