Art for Art’s Sake, Money for F*ck’s Sake

So sang the great 10cc.

I thought I’d do some art tonight and leave the incessant book promotion stuff for a while Stop laughing at the back there!)

My missus is out of town so tonight was pasta a la Jambo and Merlot, drunk a la Espagnol in a small tumbler. As I cooked I listened to Bocelli with some Bruch to counterpoint the lush voice of Andrea. Bruch’s Violin Cencerto No. 1 Adagio, it could bring a tear to a glass eye.

Have a listen to Joshua Bell give it a spanking here. I could have played violin like this but I’ve got one leg shorter than the other.

Anyhoo, I was in intellectual mode and after eating I wandered round my house and took some pictures of my artwork (as in stuff wot I painted). I don’t have much, I give most of it away or sell it for charity. Mostly portraits.

It was quite difficult to photograph the pieces because there was either a reflection on the glass or a flash spot from the camera – and I wasn’t in the mood to unmount them. Last time I did that I cracked the glass and that’s not a cheap replacement in Dubai. I hit on the idea of putting all the lights out and taking flash shots – surprisingly it worked OK, a few flash spots but what the hell. After a bottle of Merlot I’m lucky just to work the camera.

So, on with the art tour chez Jambo. It’s all upstairs, mainly in the upper living room.

Vase of Flowers

Orange Flower Vase

This is an acrylic on canvas – an exercise in art class that turned into  a small project. Total painting time 3 hours (I’m a fast worker).

Next is a work on a statue – I spotted this guy in a museum in Sri Lanka – it was more the way the light cut across it diagonally that caught my eye than anything. It’s oil pastel on self-coloured cardboard

Taken sideways to avert the flash

10 Minute God

It’s called 10Minute God because that’s how long it took. The trick is just to paint the lighted parts on a dark background. There’s hardly any paint on that surface.

A Murial

La Rubio in 4 Colours (sorry Andy)

Next up a large mural (what Glaswegians call a ‘murial’) that has four paintings of ‘La Rubio’ or my missus as she’s better known. It’s not quite a Warhol but it’s getting there (yes you at the back I know what bloody derivative means!)

So moving onto another derivative piece – La Rubio again but a la Lichtenstein. If the house was on fire this is what I’d grab on the way out. Acrylic on canvas

La Rubio

La Rubio – Homage to Lichtenstein

Jambo self=portrait

Artist as a Young Loon

Another quick shot – the artist as a young loon. Oil pastel on paper

German Bollocking Fodder

The primary colours on one brush



Last but not least a exercise in painting with 3 primary colours on the brush – and you had 20 minutes to nail it or the German painter gave you a good bollocking in German.





And – back to another bottle of merlot, no wait, there’s a six pack of Corona in the fridge.

That’s enuff of that intelekashul stuff for one night.

A Book’s First Chapter

When I started writing my book I envisioned a flash-bang-wallop start that shook the reader up. You know, throw the reader into the middle of noisy mayhem. (and I still like the idea of doing that).

All the advice given to writers is to grab the reader by the lapels on the first page. But as I redrafted the book and reworked and reworked the first chapters I decided to wind the readers in to the story by slightly devious means. In the finished version, the story starts with a retired German policeman watching a group of people in a coffee shop. They’re a weird looking crew and he worries in case they’ll cause trouble for the cafe and its owner. He’s quietly in love with Elise, the owner, but she’s been playing it cool. The way women do.

The story opens in Munich in Germany. In a cafe styled like a Starbucks, because the owner likes to keep up with current trends. The windows stream with rain and Max, the policeman, is in his favourite chair keeping an eye on things. He knows from experience what people will do next. Usually.

I read the chapter over recently while I sorted the book out for upload to CreateSpace. Every time I do an edit or look at the book for any reason I get engrossed in the story and a part of me wonders what will come next. Which strikes me as an odd thing for the writer of the book to think.

So, reading it again I was struck by how the chapter had changed since its first outing. As it was rewritten again and again the basic structure stayed the same but more and more detail crept in. Text was layered on text but the chapter never increased in size, its still one and a half pages long. But the slight touches to the descriptions and some nuances to the sentences have created (pardon me saying this since I’m the author) a depth that the reader can wander through.

At one point Elise finds that Max is carrying a gun and she flashes with anger touched with concern.The sentence also embeds a memory in the readers’ minds for a significant event in the next chapter. The gun is there to tell the reader that it’s not a lightweight story, there’s violence to come. The trick was to show all of that to the reader in one short burst using as few words as possible.

Reading it struck me that I’d fallen upon one of the secrets of writing, to rewrite and keep adding to the story but to use the same number of words or thereabouts. To keep enriching the experience of the reader with touches that they might not consciously see, until they feel as if they were sitting beside the retired policeman watching the scene. But without making the prose dense or confusing.

I also paint (portraits mainly) and the analogy of starting with the basic outline then working and working at a face to put layers and layers on the canvas to give the image depth, is the same process as writing. The reader doesn’t realise that they’re looking at the work of days and nights to make every small detail just the way the writer intended. But they enjoy the experience even though they may not understand why.

And it doesn’t matter, because they should be concerned with what happens to the characters next and not about how the writer transported them to that place and time.