Charcoal Poems still-in-progress

Whew, this is a much better image of my painting. Still not quite there, but I'm working on it.

Charcoal Poems, work-in-progress, 2012, 5' x 5', charcoal and oils. 

I think this was shot at 40mm on my niece's macro lens with f-stop 3.5, some cloudy daylight coming in from a window on the right and daylight bulbs on clamp lamps with paper towels clipped to them to light the painting - and it looks like the top wasn't lit too well. The colour seems quite good - and you can well see here why I need to downplay that lilac by painting over it in whatever ways work to my eye (a beautiful colour but it does not fit the palette of this painting) - the upper part, what was left after I rubbed off all the purple paint, and the two lower sections had white scrubbed into them to dim the lilac.


'Charcoal Poems' painting-in-progress

Charcoal Poems, in-process, 2012, 5' x 5', willow charcoal, oils on double primed canvas.

These paintings are like writing. In the way that characters come to an author, I find myself getting to know the figures who have emerged and understanding what they are doing, what they are conveying, and how they are part of the visual imagination.

Written in the painting, The Charcoal Poems, which runs through the blue man who is floating, and by the ferris wheels, MAMA TOTO, and DISH in the STARS.

In the painting, to the right of the woman, some lines from Paul Celan's, 'In Prague':

The half death,
suckled plump on our life,
lay ash-image-true all around us -

we too
went on drinking, soul-crossed, two daggers,
sewn onto heavenstones, wornblood-born

My mother died in the middle of September this year, and I began this painting a few weeks later. There are references, I think. See the little woman the larger woman is attached by a red chord to? Like a mini-version, an inner child perhaps. I don't fully know what all the images are about, though, like remembering a dream, I am understanding them.

This painting is like working in a dream. Nothing at all like my usual process. I think it's almost finished, except for working on the white areas, which I'm thinking to paint with tinted pastel whites from the palette here.

Assaad Chehade, a masterful Surrealist painter who lives in France, wrote, in a comment of an earlier stage of this painting:
I don’t see - there - Marc Chagall or Frida Kahlo or Jean-Michel Basquiat.
I clearly see Brenda Clews with its artistic preoccupations (colors, Charcoal, canvas, and other elements) and its concern language, and even its musical relationships. A set (colors, words, music) can be influenced at a time - As they say the apostles of art.- but it has - already - exceeds any influence. Even if idolatry was introduced with writing, I don’t see any aspect of "icon" in your work. But I will go - without hesitation - to the narrative form. Which we call a sense, and not defend sense. Something that belongs to all visual cultures of the world.
Brenda, you are in the process of promoting the spirit of intellectual vision of the idea. You are currently working on a wonderful thing, it is not internal to the painted surface, but between the canvas and the viewer. Good continuations.
An update on Sunday, Nov 11th:

Worked on this all day yesterday, thought it was essentially finished. I was rather shocked this morning - the purple is not so bright under daylight bulbs at night. Not a great pic, but I don't have access to a better camera today. When it dries a bit, I'll apply a grey wash over the purple to tone it down somewhat - adding some Payne's Grey to the Dioxazine Purple wouldn't have worked, I don't think. A later wash will be better, but, with oils, you have to wait, and wait, and wait.....

(Although I have had the bright idea to put some fans in front of it and to leave them running all night - since I use water-soluble oil paints, which dry faster than traditional oils (at least for working, they still need 6  months to fully set), I may be able to finish this painting tomorrow. Fingers crossed. I'd like to start a new one - having discovered that my favourite size is 5' x 5, it will also be large.)

My last three paintings

My latest paintings. Mandate: sit, paint. Without preconception, or any idea of what I will paint. It has to be fast, because that is how these paintings are. Not overworked, this so very important. Fresh, the brush of inspiration.

"Untitled", 2012, Brenda Clews, 18" x 24", oils, India and acrylic inks on triple-primed cotton canvas sheet.

"A Palmistry, a Psalm", 2012, Brenda Clews, 18" x 24", charcoal, oils, oil pastels, oil sticks on triple-primed cotton canvas sheet. I am working on a videopoem of this poem and painting.

She Rests on Pillows in the Grass, 2012, Brenda Clews, 24" x 18", 60cm x 45cm, oil paint on 90lb archival paper.


An untitled painting of a man

Untitled, as of yet. I just painted this. An iPhone photo taken with a daylight bulb. 18" x 24", oil on canvas sheet.

I have been deeply troubled, as ever, by Syria, the refugee camps, the deaths, the conflagrations. And the miners in South Africa, their horrendous treatment, not just the shooting deaths, but the survivors being charged with murder (withdrawn as of today, but it influences). This is a -just-sit-down-and-paint-woman-whatever-fucking-emerges-let-it-be- painting. From the inner self, where the cauldron burns.


A Palmistry (in process)

Finally working on a new painting.

A hand, yes. My current 'hand crisis' is what I think I was doing, but then the disembodied quality of the hand made me think of a nightmare long ago, of the strangenesses of our lives, which are like intersecting arcs.

These paintings are becoming a style, I guess. I work from the imagination. When I sit down I have no idea what will emerge. It's scary! Let it be messy. Yikes! Don't over-work and the way to do this is to be fast. Shivers! Just dive in. Though there is a sort of representation of my hand because it's very much a focus now. So is a psychic I saw around the time of the nightmare - a Wiccan witch from Northern Ireland who really was the real deal - who read palms.

Because of the the complex cluster of images that this painting is drawing about itself, I decided to call it, A Palmistry.

Palmistry is a way of reading the life of the person whose palm it is.

The dream, dated June 2, 1980, was quite long, and went on to become much more scary than the beginning, the part about the hand (which is all I'll relate):
There was a darkness outside, pushing in. 'S' was here, and entertaining as always, but aware of the ominousness. He went to the bathroom and when he came out he said that there was a hand on the windowsill with a note beside it (he told me what it said but I can't remember now). I shucked it off, asked if it was an effigy and he said no, it was a real hand. I knew it was a child's hand and had been deliberately severed. I could not go and look at it directly but could only think what poor child in this dear world had been sacrificed. I thought it the work of a demonic cult, and that, like marks on houses, of the first-born to be killed by Pontious Pilate in the Roman era, or the Jews during Nazi Germany, this was a mark that was a warning. I could not consider it a symbol, for it was a real hand from a real child. I saw it clearly in my mind's eye throughout the dream. I could not step into that room, however, and see the hand in flesh and blood as a sign in the window. I could not have borne it - a child of maybe 4 - unbearable. Perhaps it was my own hand.
....The sign of the hand - I was already becoming disoriented and couldn't perceive the situation clearly. I tried to calm 'S' as best I could in my state - my senses were being scattered and broken up....The blackness all around us was growing. The atmospheric temperature was dead still, enclosing, pressing against my home. I tried to stand. All I could see were sections of the visual world - a plane of darkly embroidered fabric in the air, and nothing else. Or a distortion of furniture. Memory told me where to stand for my senses were turning the world into a 3-dimensional Cubist picture that did not have coherence. The world of time and space and the way the senses order it was shot to hell. I could barely negotiate my way around and could not think with any clarity....It was like seeing the world through a crystal prism, darkly....Other dimensions could enter.
My intention had been to write some of the text of the original dream onto the canvas, but... I'll see. It is most strange that with my SLAC wrist and the recommended removal of the scaphoid bone and the fusing of the other bones in the hand with bone taken from elsewhere in the body that I find this old dream re-surfacing.

Can my painting move beyond my immediate concerns to connect with the strangeness of hands, all hands? Look, those red dredges of oil pastel running from her neck and down are not blood, but were meant to represent a red striped top. Lol.

"A Palmistry (in process)", 2012, Brenda Clews,18" x 24", charcoal, oils, oil pastels, oil sticks on triple-primed cotton canvas sheet.

 on the easel

 earlier stage
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Blake Man briefly became The Homeless Man, but now he's PRIMAL MAN

Primal Man, Brenda Clews, 2012, 24" x 18", 60cm x 45cm, charcoal, acrylic ink, oil paint on 90lb archival paper.

Now that I understand how important 'Optimism' is (I listened to a PODCAST), I understand I must shelve this drawing's original meaning...

Bye, bye the desperations in what I originally wrote:

I want it to be quite painful to look at, to get at feeling this... vulnerability, desperation, a hostile world internally and externally, loss ...perhaps a veteran suffering from PTSD, perhaps this is his nightmare. ...And yet. there is blue sky, patches of green grass in the dry yellow. While he seems almost praying or acknowledging the difficulties of the forces about him in a bowed position, and even insurmountably crawling forward, he also connects deeply to the ground on 'all fours.' In my sense of it, he draws energy for existence itself from the earth.

He is homeless; he has nothing, shorn of all trappings; he is still human. He maintains his dignity.

Hello another, more 'positive' meaning. Primal Man, meaning I leave it up to you, the viewer, to figure it out if you are at all so inclined.

I'm not sure about the tree above his head - though I had planned this evergreen tree from the moment I conceived him, and it's exactly as I imagined it would be in paint, a bit crude and child-like, not too neat, a little Emily Carr but not too much, sharing with the colour of the Canadian Mounties, no less.

Okay, never mind what I say. Since when is the artist the best person to talk about a painting?

See yesterday's sketch for an earlier description of what was in my mind with this painting.

She Rests on Pillows in the Grass

It's not that I am deliberately moving into 'drip paintings,' no, that's not it. I've always inclined towards a wet-on-wet style, only now the paper or canvas is upright rather than on the floor, and so the paint does not pool in lakes but runs in one direction: down.

This figure is a strange amalgam of women who do not own themselves. Painting it, I thought of a distressed street woman that I see on Bloor St  who is quite anorexic and clearly an addict, and who I sometimes see sitting on the grass in parks in the area with her alcoholic boyfriend, and then, I guess somewhat contrastingly, I thought of the buxom models of artists who sometimes bear the children of the painters (think Picasso and his women, or Klimt, who apparently always had a few naked models lounging around in his studio and apparently fathered a dozen or so children), of the sensuality of a Fragonard and the cutting of razor sharp blue paint as it slides in rivulets down the prepared paper.

She Rests on Pillows in the Grass, 2012, Brenda Clews24" x 18", 60cm x 45cm, oil paint on 90lb archival paper.

Butter Breeds Content

Speaking of 'super kitten'...

Sunlight shining in the window, catching my latest painting with a luminescence the iPhone4 couldn't quite capture, but it did my kitten who at that moment leapt to the window sill to chase a tiny fly.

See her shadow.

Spring God, 24" x 30", 61cm x 76.2cm, oils on canvas.

And here are my two furry babies! Keesha, my Springer Spaniel who will turn 13 on August 25th, and Songa, my 3 month old kitten of Russian Black, Siamese and Tabby lineage. Aren't they sweet!

Shall I tell you about the butter solution to cat and dog problems?

A friend told me about a friend who had a dog and a kitten. She slathered the kitten in butter and the dog would lick it off. After about a week of this daily buttering, the dog and cat were sleeping together.

Our little kitten, all 6oz of her, arrived as a hissing, clawing ball of frightened bravado. She had a special technique where she could aim projectile spit straight into the eye of the dog. My dog barked at her, but would turn her head when close; she wouldn't look at her due to the 'hiss-spit.'

Enter butter. On my finger.

I wasn't into a fully buttered kitten, only a dab or two. So I tried it, and had to hold the little kitten in my hands offering the spots of butter to the dog at the dog's mouth level. It was quite strange to be doing this on the floor of my kitchen.

The first buttering went well. Songa purred like a little tractor when she was being licked by Keesha. Soon afterwards, they were stopping to touch noses on their way through the small apartment.

Then Songa began purring underneath Keesha when she was waiting on the stairs for her treat after having gone out for a whizz.

After only a few days of tiny dabs of butter, I found them sleeping together. And I took the photograph you see here with my handy iPhone.

The other morning the kitten spent quite a long time washing the dog - underneath where her teats are.

After the dab and lick today, and after Songa had torn the place apart, you know, tearing up the hemp room divider via the Chinese satin cloth slung over it, running across the antique silk sari that is draped over another room divider, attacking my iPhone cord, the usual, when she tired, she slipped over to sleep close to Keesha, and curled herself enwrapped in the dogs paws. Her trust of the dog is entirely the opposite to when she arrived. Butter breeds content.

Among my favourite books to read my children when they were little were the stories of Krishna, the Butter Thief in a small book of Hindu tales for children.

It always delighted me because I, too, am a butter freak. All my life people have laughingly asked if I was having a little bread with my butter, the latter being spread so thickly it seems it should be illegal.

And see, now I can say, butter is good for many things, including creating bonds between dogs and cats.

Spring God gets more paint

Today I worked on this painting. While I can't say for certain, likely it is finished.

He's on my bedroom wall, where the light hits the paint just right, and finally I like this painting. So that's a relief. :) He has more substance now, and looks like he could stand up and shake the rain clouds loose.

Spring God, 24" x 30", 61cm x 76.2cm, oils on stretched canvas.

Below, earlier versions. I began this painting on March 30th, 2012, at a Toronto School of Art friday night drop-in non-instructional life painting session. The model was working on a B.A. in English Literature at York University, I recall. The one to the far right is what I did that night.


Solar Eclipse

Solar Eclipse, 2012, Brenda Clews, 28" x 22", 71cm x 56cm, oil on canvas. 

I just took the photo in bright sun and the upper left corner is too shiny, bright (someday I will get a better camera to take photos of these paintings I promise). Overall, the colours are quite good. If you've been following these posts, you might notice that I've corrected the arm - the model had it over a pillow but I didn't paint it that way so it seemed too large - I've shortened it so that it is now in better proportion and also painted in more indication of the hand. Later on I may add a few more colours to the bottom of her sarong, which seems to enclose her as a fitted cocoon-like sleeping bag somehow, to make it more 'landscape,' or that a nightscape river is flowing through her. 

The whole painting is Surreal, figures in a psychic landscape of the dreaming imagination.

A painting with a textual history, meaning a history of texture. It was another painting before. On my wall for half a year, and I couldn't look at it anymore. (See album of earlier painting here: ( Deciding not to sand the canvas, or even prime it, I began painting over the original painting on Saturday afternoon. 

At this point, I do like it. So it may be done, not sure. Back up on the wall it goes. The true test is how liveable is it?

Solar Eclipse

Solar Eclipse, 2012, Brenda Clews, 28" x 22", 71cm x 56cm, oil on canvas. 

A painting with a textual history, meaning a history of texture. It was another painting before. On my wall for half a year, and I couldn't look at it anymore. (See album of earlier painting here: ( Deciding not to sand the canvas, or even prime it, I began painting over the original painting yesterday afternoon. 

At this point, I do like it. So it may be done, not sure. Back up on the wall it goes. The true test is how liveable is it?

Midnight Sun (a new figurative painting)

Midnight Sun, in-process, 2012, Brenda Clews, 28" x 22", 71cm x 56cm, oil on canvas.

A painting with a textual history, meaning a history of texture. It was another painting before. On my wall for half a year, and I couldn't look at it anymore. Deciding not to sand the canvas, or even prime it, I began painting over the original painting this afternoon (see the album of what is underneath here: Midnight Sun). It may be done, not sure. The true test is, how liveable is it?

(The colours are pretty good, but the main figure has pink in her body and that is not appearing.)

Tulips and Daffodils

Tulips and Daffodils, 2012, 16" x 20", oil on canvas.

Yesterday I was given fresh flowers, and so I dashed over to the art store and bought a canvas and came home, set up my dining room table, and painted them.

My son really likes these flowers as they are, and so, despite the leaves losing that white scraped line from a distance, I am considering it finished. It is a painting for a small space, a kitchen or hall, meant to be looked at up close.

For me, the painting is about the two extravant, opulent tulips, each offering to bloom outside the canvas.

When I finish my current Moleskine Sketchbook, my intention is to purchase (somehow) 30 canvases and proceed to paint them.

Other than my self-portrait, these two aims (the Mole and the canvases) are my art projects for the year.

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