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Cut and Clag

When I was at high school in the north-east of England, our form teacher (the teacher who marked us as 'present' or 'absent' each morning) would joke about our art classes by calling them "cut and clag". Clag=north-east English slang for glueing, or collage. Well, I've just spent a week doing classes in "cut and clag" at the Interlochen Center for Creative Arts.

Here are some of the 3" x 5" collages that I ask people to make as a warm-up:

Here is a nice one done after I led people through a writing activity that led them to explore personal memories (grandmother's knitting, in this case):

And here's one created by tearing two different magazine pages into strips and then recombining them:

Good clagging!
Recent posts

Winslow Homer in Cullercoats

This story about a recent exhibition of Winslow Homer’s paintings and drawings at the Milwaukee Art Museum begins with some personal details. I was born and raised in the north-east of England, in an area of farms and coal mines lying between Newcastle-upon-Tyne and a small coastal village called Cullercoats. England may be a small country, but in the British context the north-east is considered remote from ‘the center’ (i.e., London). This was even more true in the nineteenth century, when Cullercoats was a tiny dot on the map, just one of thousands of little bays on the coasts where close-knit communities of tough men and women made a dangerous living from the sea. How extraordinary it is, then, to discover that American artist Winslow Homer lived and worked in Cullercoats, England, for close to two years beginning in May 1881.

Biographers are unsure as to why Homer chose such an obscure place for this extended stay. Nevertheless, it fits into a pattern of nineteenth century artist…

Open Studio Report

Last week I wrote about an imminent open studio night in my studio building. I can report that it went well, with the highest sales for me in several years. In fact, two of the pieces I illustrated in that last post were among the ones that went to new homes.

I think part of why things went well (apart from the quality of the work, I hope) is the extra effort I made to make the studio presentable. This included framing a selection of prints:


And placing a bunch of beautiful white tulips in a central position:


The flowers have since died, alas. But my art lives on!

Open Studio Today

The building where I have my studio hosts three open studio nights per year. Most of the time I don't participate, for various reasons, but today I am.

This is because I've produced a group of oil paintings since I got back from Paris in February that I am reasonably satisfied with, and I want to see what responses I get. Like the short films and installations I've done in the last five years, they are based on memories of my childhood in an English coal mining town. But the content is more filtered through the subconscious:



I've also printed and framed some collagraphs that have a similar content and execution to the paintings (and that's also a difference this time, because often my prints and paintings look like they were made by completely different people):

So everything is nearly ready to go in my studio. I will post photos and reactions from the event next week.

Gertrude Stein Hated This Painting. And Yet...

A painting by Picasso from 1905 has just sold at auction for one hundred and fifteen million dollars -- what ArtNews calls "a rare nine figure purchase." The painting, from Picasso's so-called Rose period, is "Girl with Basket of Flowers":

I am in the camp that thinks the reasons why Picasso's Rose period work sells for more than his Cubist work are precisely the reasons why I don't like the paintings that much. That is, they are anachronistic pastiches of late nineteenth century Symbolist painting, their mythological content replaced instead with sentimental idealisations of family pastoral. However, there's no questioning the skill and sensitivity of Picasso's brushwork, particularly in the face of this girl.

The first owners of the painting were Gertrude and Leo Stein, the rich Americans who moved to Paris in the early 1900s and set themselves up as patrons to the avant garde (though their taste didn't extend to Picasso's Cubist work…

Dessins de Paris: 7

On the metro again, a woman sitting diagonally opposite from me. Time of day: evening rush hour. Crowded train. Her face wasn't this colour, I just chose this crayon because it matched the fact that there was something surprising about her face. She really did have such a long nose and jawbone, and her eyes were sunken and tired as if she had been awake for days. She didn't seem that old, but her skin had a sallow, waxy, deathly pallor. She looked like she was carrying a lot of anxiety and troubles. Her hair was long at the sides, and rolled back onto the top of her head in the style of women from the Edwardian era.

Blogs I Helped Get Started

Occasionally I teach classes to artists and writers about creating and maintaining a blog. I just checked in on a few blogs created by people who took one of these classes, to see how they are progressing. The answer is: very well! Here is an entry from Jessica Baldanzi's Commons Comics, dedicated to reviewing graphic novels. In the post I link to, Jessica talks about Fatherland, which seems to be a serious exploration in graphic form of a person's family roots in the former Yugoslavia. Jessica's writing is extremely clear and engaging.


On Common Pages, the writer talks about something close to my heart -- music -- in a blog post reviewing a book about the history of the Cleveland Orchestra.

And on The Barefoot Norwegian, Connie Geissel has a blog post with the title Almost Eaten by a Bear. Which gets full marks for grabbing your attention and forcing you to read it.

Nice work, everyone!