Monthly Archives: March 2014

Just a New York Conversation

Just a New York Conversation My drawing of Russell King's street art. 263 x 397 mm. March 2014.

Just a New York Conversation
My drawing of Russell King’s street art.
263 x 397 mm. March 2014.

When Matt and I were in New York for a week last August, Matt was going through a busy time with work.  He apologized each morning for having long skype meetings and not being able to come out.  I hope I looked suitably sorry about this.  In reality my thoughts were, “So long Sucker, I’m outta here…” as I dashed out the door each day, camera in hand.  “Call my mobile when you’re done!”  I was delighted to be out with my other companion (my camera).  All I wanted to do was explore the immediate neighbourhood…and I really do get the best photographs when I am by myself.

New York was rather overwhelming and big.  Where was the human scale?  In the street art.  I walked, searching out material by street artists.  A term I dislike is “stable of artists”.  Some galleries claim they have “a stable of artists” (thankfully not the gallery I’m with).  I don’t want to be anyone’s performing pony!  But if there ARE such things as stables of artists, then American street artists are unbroken mustangs out on the range.  They put art where they will.  And some of that art is quite beautiful.

I came across this piece on one of my lone morning walks.  I decided to take a line from Lou Reed for its title – “Just a New York Conversation”.  Who are the speakers?  Artist Russell King started the conversation.  A-trak, ASMA and the decomposing piece of paper piped in.  I, the viewer, am the other participant.  I am having an internal dialogue with the art.  I am thinking about the contrast between King’s work and its banal hard edge surroundings.  His piece celebrates the curvaceous seductive female.  She is a flirt and a tease yet her wistful gaze off to the distance suggests melancholy reflection.  The artist whispers to the passer-by, “pause and look” in the midst of a noisy rushing NY street.

I am not turned off by the other three additions on the receptacle’s surface either.  I am fascinated by their randomness and variety.  I wonder if ASMA is just somebody’s tag OR if the person is meaning asthma and is commenting on the pink smoke?  For if you say out loud “asma” it sounds like “asthma”.

Last week I had a brief written exchange with Russell King.  It was easy to find him on the internet since his name is written within the smoke swirls.  I wrote, “I’m drawing a piece of your street art.  I hope you don’t mind”.  Of course, I wondered what I would do if he replied, “Yes, I bloody well do mind!”  However, being a generous fellow-artist, he replied, “Go for it”.  Wasn’t he kind?!  I found an interview with him at titled “classic on nyc streets – russell king” which I recommend reading.

I don’t generally like going into dealer galleries.  I find them intimidating and sometimes snooty.  The art world can be so up itself.  Conversely, it is an utter joy to come across art in the open air.  It is one of the delights of life.  Thank you, Street Artists, for your daring and dialogue.  You have my attention, appreciation and admiration.

“Did you see what she did to him/did you hear what they said/just a New York conversation/rattling in my head.”

Related page:  Street art

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A Time to Destroy

Two weeks of work destroyed today.

Two weeks of work destroyed today.

Entry from Art Journal: 28th February, “I have begun working on a drawing in which I am not sure, from the very beginning, of the validity of the composition.  It is my “A Time to Reflect”.  I’m unsure but I want to give it a go.  Once more I am at L. de Puybaudet Galerie looking at the plate glass (with reflections).  On the left is a bit of rue de Seine with a guy walking away from the viewer.  I like the abstract balance of shapes but I’m still uncertain whether the eye will know where to look.  Matt says you look straight down the street but I hope that eventually the eye will be pulled toward the light and reflections in the glass.  Some compositions are sure things from the word ‘go’ but not this one.  But one must take risks and even seeing potential pitfalls, go ahead anyway – using one’s skills to avoid them – or – overcome them.  I’ve had a good run since I-don’t-know-when so if this one falls on its face, that is okay.”

Two weeks later and I loved working on “A Time to Reflect”.   I was in my element, happily returning to my drawing board each day to conjure up rue de Seine on my piece of paper.  Isn’t it peculiar how something which can be so enjoyable to produce can end up as a failed piece?   I have approached this type of subject matter so many times; Paris, wet streets, reflections in windows and a solitary figure.  I diligently and calmly worked.  No alarm bells rang.

Only in the past two days did they start to ring; very quietly at first, almost imperceptibly.  But over Saturday and Sunday the bells became shrill and insistent.  The work was at that stage where it had left the drawing board (where I sit) and was up at the easel (where I stand and work from a distance).  It was the ‘pulling together’ stage.   In this case, so much of the drawing seemed to be going as planned but I just couldn’t bring it to a satisfactory conclusion.  The joy of working slowly slid to intense frustration.  I felt that the plate glass window let down the whole composition.  More than that; the drawing was in essence a left side (street) and a right side (building with glass) which would not, under any circumstances, unite.  The work consisted of two unrelated parts instead of a whole…disunity.

Take a look.  The image below is what I was going to post to you this week.  Instead I messed around some more after I took this photo; more adjustments, more rubbing out, more colour added…(it’s turning to mud)  before admitting to myself that it was all over.

A Time to Reflect Coloured pencils on pescia paper. 360 x 406 mm. March 2014.

A Time to Reflect
Coloured pencils on pescia paper. 360 x 406 mm. March 2014.  Your eye doesn’t really know where it is supposed to look.

Actually once I had made up my mind that all was lost and ripped it up, it was a relief.  The nearly-right yet could-never-be-right work would not taunt me any more.

I liked so much of “A Time to Reflect” and yet, and yet…my efforts fell short.  Should I have listened to the warning thoughts which I wrote about on 28th February?  No, I’m glad I tried.   I’m bound to have learned something.   And at least I have the fun of blogging about it!  A time to reflect, a time to destroy…  As The Byrds sang, “I swear it’s not too late”.

Another one bites the dust.
May 2018.

Past articles I have written on this topic are Failures!   Art Hell and Art Hell 2

postscript: 24th April 2014.  Out of the ashes of this drawing a phoenix rose.  It is a drawing of the same area as my ruined drawing.  This drawing (finished yesterday) is testament that nothing is wasted.  Though I ripped up the drawing “A Time to Reflect” I learned from working on it and I put that knowledge into the newest drawing “Rue de l’Echaudé”.    The image below shows the new drawing and its post is here.

Rue de l'Echaude April 2014. A drawing of a Paris street pre-dawn.

Rue de l’Echaude
April 2014. A drawing of a Paris street pre-dawn.

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To You Both

To You Both Photo of a Christmas card displayed in a Covent Garden shop window.

To You Both
Photo of a Christmas card displayed in a Covent Garden shop window.

London.  December 9th 2013.  I stood in front of an old curiosity shop window in a Covent Garden lane.  I was killing time, waiting for London Graphic Centre to open at 10 so I could buy pencils.  The centrepiece of the window display grabbed my attention.

A lone Christmas card “To You Both” stood on a stand which was covered in “Alice in Wonderland” paper.  The card would have been approximately 30 years old.  It was a photograph of Prince Charles, Princess Diana and their new baby, William.  The printed message was “With all Good Wishes for Christmas and the New Year”.  The card was signed by Charles and Diana.  Probably a secretary had hand-written the other five words…”to you both”, “from” and “and”.  Charles and Diana had only to sign their names; both chose to underline them.

Looking at that card made me feel melancholy.  I stared at the youthful royal faces smiling back at me.  Was it all show even then…putting on public faces for a private Christmas card?  How did this private correspondence become public?  I wanted to know the life of the card itself; how to you both became a display for ALL OF US.  What secrets do you keep, Card?

Remember reading about princes and princesses in fairy tales?  Many of them ended with “and they lived happily ever after”.   Many of us thought that Charles and Diana were cast in a fairy tale back then.  Youth, beauty, wealth, royalty, celebrity…they look enchanting to be sure.  History has told a sadder story.  Now we ask – how could we have been so silly?

Just this week I heard that William (the baby in the photo; now grown up), Kate and baby George, are coming to Australasia next month.  They will be visiting Wellington, Sydney and Canberra.  Imagine the magazines, tv channels and newspapers going into overdrive!  They are probably having emergency meetings right now about the impending visit.

William and Kate are a real prince and princess of today; they really ARE a fairy tale.  They are in love and will live happily ever after….  Won’t they?

Below are four photos I took of Charles and Di in 1986 at a polo match, Windsor.  Diana looks haunted now – but that is with the wisdom of hindsight.

Charles on one of his polo ponies. (They were playing Argentina.)

Charles on one of his polo ponies. (They were playing Argentina.)

Diana is led out. Never mind the polo. Everyone just wants to photograph HER, including me.

Diana was led out. Never mind the polo. Everyone just wanted to photograph HER, including me.

A close-up which shows her NOT to be having tons of fun.

A close-up which showed her NOT to be having tons of fun.

Everybody waited for the performance of the royal kiss. Cameras went mad.

Everybody waited for the performance of the royal kiss. Cameras went mad.

When we see the photos and footage of Kate and William next month from Australia and New Zealand, let us hope that they really are enjoying themselves.  To You Both!

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