Every time I set myself up to paint a live performance I am hit by last minute nerves. I cover the floor in plastic sheeting, lay out my paints and brushes, clip the battery lights to my easel, and then, as I wait for the night to begin, I want to run away. I never know if I'll be able to do anything, let alone do it well. And it's all so darned public.
After the first effort, which often misfires, I usually forget to worry and just get on with it. I have to work quickly to get the basic shapes and movement, but the time seems to pass really slowly. I find myself watching things appear on the paper or canvas. I am drawing with paint. I try to capture the essence of whatever catches my attention and work on it until something else comes up, which is when I start another. The faster I work the less I think and censor what is happening. In some ways it's much easier than working slowly with a static scene, when there's too much time to second-guess and 'fix' the picture.
I am often asked how long paintings take, as if the length of time is a reflection on its value or quality. I can only say that each one takes me all my life. I have studied nude models in life classes, sketching people and making studies for years to be able to do what I do. Not many artists would even attempt this way of working. I often ask myself why I find it so fascinating!
After the event I just want to pack up and go home and let the paintings dry. I haven't really seen the pictures as I paint them; there is no time to focus on them individually. Next morning they always surprise me. Colours are distorted by the artificial lights, and also by my limited palette.
I just sit and look at them for a while, until I see what they need. I sort them into three piles; one to throw away, one to work on a little and one that needs a lot of adjusting. Some get overworked or just messed up while I'm working on them. Some just sing right from the start.
All I know is that I like to work with figures in motion, usually dancers and jazz musicians. The paintings seem to come from a deep and connected place that I cannot access in any other way.
To see the rest of the collection 'Quintessence by Renzo Spiteri" please click HERE
Please leave your comments below - I'd really like to hear what you think of these paintings.
I love to draw with paint at live events, dance and music performances. I usually use acrylic paint on dark backgrounds at night time events. Sometimes I will use pastels or ink.
It takes a huge amount of focus and energy, but the buzz I get from it is, I have realised, addictive.
Looking through my old sketchbooks the other day I found pages and pages of tiny moving figures, and I remembered doing them over 40 years ago. I was working on a college project at the time which featured clowns in strange positions. I had to draw them without models because the poses were impossible, but I wanted the contortions to look as realistic as I could. I had the brainwave of drawing footballers on the TV. This proved to be a fantastic training for drawing moving figures . I learned to capture a mental snapshot and then draw as quickly as possible before the image faded..
I have filled the pages of many books with quick sketches of people ever since.
People usually spend much more time looking at their pencil/pen than the subject. In effect they are always drawing from memory. They get so fascinated with their hand drawing they forget to look properly at the subject at all. One of the exercises I give to my students is to use ‘blind contour drawing’. They have to cover their hand so that they can’t see what it is doing, and draw a three dimensional subject as carefully as they can. At first this feels unbearable, and seems impossible. Even the crazy abstract lines that happen at first have a strange beauty about them though. They are lines of pure seeing – total connection between the eye and hand. The brain can’t interfere and process anything. This is what we are ultimately aiming for in our drawings- pure honest lines that describe what we are seeing.
I have been really busy this last week taking down one exhibition and putting up another....... before I go on holiday.
All the details of the next exhibition are here
please pop along to the opening if you can. If not, the paintings will be at the Palazzo de Piro all summer. If you are in Malta they'd love to see you :-)
Immediately after the opening, I am off to London for a few days and then I'm going on an Adventure - my first trip to the USA. I will be visiting my great friend the artist Bruce Bingham, in Austin, Texas. I am very excited and really looking forward to being somewhere so different. The art scene will be the most interesting of all. Malta is tiny, 316 km2 (122 square miles). Every other person seems to be an artist, but we all know each other. Exposure to new and inspiring art is generally limited to the internet. Much as I love to browse foreign artist's work online, there's no comparison to seeing the real thing. I know that with my own work - it's hard to see the difference between a tiny picture and a huge one when they are all as big as your screen. And the colours - however hard you try to compensate - are changed by the processes of photography and individual screens. Texture and surface are hard to see on a screen too. There's something visceral about standing in front of a piece of art that really speaks to your soul.
Drawing is......... Mindless!
After all the left and right brain theory about the opposing effects of logic and creativity (see my last blog post) have gone over your head :-), here is what I have concluded; that drawing is actually better if you can do it using no brain at all!!
This takes a bit of practice, because the only way to draw without processing is to have complete confidence in your technique and total disregard for the end result. It’s only paper, after all.
When I was at college I wanted to draw figures in contorted positions as part of a project I was doing. It was to be a mobile hanging and I needed them to have their arms and legs arranged so that I could cut out the figures and then hook them onto each other. My friends weren’t that accommodating (or flexible) ...... I came up with the idea of drawing moving figures very quickly, and then using them as the basis for my drawings. I had the brilliant idea of drawing footballers on the TV, and spent hours doing just that.
Along with the anatomy classes at college and my continuing love for working from live models, I now find that I can work really quickly as long as I manage to switch off and just let it happen. The trick is to watch the figure for a while until you have a feeling for the way they are moving – sometimes I really feel that I am dancing the flamenco, or playing the guitar (I can’t do either) – and so the drawing kind of comes from the inside out. Once I have that connection, I can take a mental snapshot and then draw it out before it fades, not looking back until I have finished.
I am very lucky to be allowed to draw and paint at all sorts of wonderful events and venues in Malta. Every year I set up my easel at the Malta Jazz Festival in mid-July and just paint non-stop for three evenings. I can also go along to the Malta Arts Festival dance, music and folk-singing shows. The weather is perfect for outdoor performances and the settings are spectacular.
Last week I was asked if I would like to paint a lovely performance “Mu-Danzas Boleras” at the prestigious Manoel Theatre in Valletta. Would I! I was given a box next to the stage – which I covered in plastic sheeting and had some real fun drawing with watercolour and ink.
I am asked sometimes why I don’t make life easier for myself and just draw from photographs – but where would the challenge or fun be in that? The end results might be more realistic perhaps, but they would not have the sense of movement and energy that I revel in. All I have to remember to do is disengage my brain (it’s getting easier with age) because otherwise I get in my own way and can’t draw a thing. And then afterwards I have to stop myself from trying to ‘correct’ them, as that tends to deflate them, and me, too.
I have to admit that sometimes I have a passing fit of nerves as I stand, brush in hand, thinking “you’ve done it again, set yourself up for a really public embarrassment”.
But I take a deep breath and remind myself of the Buddhist teaching “If you never get to know the nature of fear, you will never know fearlessness”
and Albert Einstein’s “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new”
I am happy to offer you a half-price SALE on all my prints!
They are all printed using the best digital technology and show every detail of texture and brushstroke as clearly as the original. Each image is approximately 42 x 30 cms. Top quality inks and acid free 250gsm hammered card
make each one a very special record of the original painting.
I have several different collections of prints, this first one consists of eight of my paintings created on-site at the Malta Jazz Festival every year. I use acylics on gesso tinted paper and paint on the spot to capture the atmosphere and excitement of this great annual event under the stars.
This one, "Aviahai Cohen Trio" was painted at the 2011 Jazz festival. To see the rest of the series please click HERE
For my last solo exhibition in May 2013 I created a set of six prints of local Maltese landscapes. Most of the paintings feature the 'Girna' , or small stone farmer's huts, which dot the landscape in the North of Malta.
This one is called "Girna, Kennedy Grove" and the original was painted in watercolours.
To see all six, please click HERE
I also have a lovely range of prints made from paintings I painted on site at various of the famous prehistoric Temples in Malta. Some were created in the Hypogeum, the unique underground Temple, and others are of curled naked women, following the legends of sleeping oracles who spent nights down there to have visionary dreams.
To see the range of prints please click HERE
This one is called "Portal" and was painted in Ta'Hagrat Temple in Mgarr.
I hope that you find at least one that you like and make the most of this offer!
Meanwhile, here's to 2014, may all our dreams come true!
Best wishes, Jeni :-)
Blue Sky Thinking
... so here I am, all fattened up after spending Christmas and New Year in the UK with my family. It's been great, doing nothing much but being with the Ones I Love.
I did spend a day wandering around London seeing as many exhibitions and galleries as I possibly could, trying to take mental snapshots and store all the images for future reference. I find that's better than taking actual photos sometimes (I had forgotten to pack my camera anyway!) - memories are often better to paint from, and you can't be accused of copying! Having said that, I am reading a brilliant little book called "Steal Like An Artist" which says that we should all be 'stealing' (i.e. keeping a record of) everything that appeals to us, so that we can feed it into our own work later. We should keep a 'Swipe File' in a scrapbook or on our pc's to refer to whenever we need a bit of inspiration.This isn't about copying images, but the ideas and thoughts behind them, so our own images are original creations based on whatever we have experienced along the way. I'll be bringing this idea to my students in future!
Which reminds me of all the things I have to do when I get home to Malta tomorrow - start organising my next First Friday Gallery (Feb 1st), advertise the Japanese Drawing workshop in my studio (Feb 3rd), think about having a Birthday Party (hoorah!), set up some new painting and drawing courses, confirm the dates of my landscape exhibition, which has been postponed because of the election in March, chase somebody that owes me some money :-), cuddle my cats until they squeak (yes I'll do that first!) and then see how my studio has fared without me..... oh, and try to lose some of this weight!
So tomorrow it will be farewell to the grey skies of London and HELLO!! to the blue skies of Malta.
From home to home.....
I love to paint - and draw - and help others to discover their creative side too.....
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