Me and alex both lived in a hostel together last year in Hove. We both eventually left there, but stayed in contact. I'd wanted to do a painting of Alex for a while. He's a good friend and an interesting character – his tales a strange one and weaves all about, in and out of pavement cracks, public library's, & soggy-mattresses pull'd in park hedgerows. We struck up a real bond based on the books we both read, things we both felt about the world, and just laughing together at life in all it's sillyness & madness.
I got a call from Alex a couple of months ago saying 'Hey Tom! I'm over at Pauls.. I leave tomorrow, come around!” so I did. We had a few beers and laughed and listened to old C.D's. Then I said 'Oh Hey! Lets get that picture before you go!'. So he sat back against the wall, someone angled the hanging bulb in his direction, and I snapped a few on my shoddy phone camera. Means must n all that. I thought they may not come out any good. but they surprised me..! I took a bunch, and I couldn't decided which I liked best.
Originally I'd wanted to do a take on Manet's Absynthe drinker for Alex. I was thinking of posing it, but in the end, I dug the freshness of the photos we took moreso than if we'd tried to arrange the shot. It just wasn't the time, or the place. It was a time to snap & capture what was there. To arrange anythin' woulda felt like a fraud.. woulda drain'd the originality right outta the occasion.
Suprisingly, all the pictures came out good, and I couldn't decide which one to use. The work paused there for a week or two..
A couple of weeks later I was up in London, roamin round the galleries, when I found the Turner wing at the Tate. There, there is a plaque on the wall, which states that Turner sometimes would paint several works at once, hanging them all around him and moving between the canvases. I was in-spir'd...
I arrived back from London n got going the next day. It was a big change doing a series of paintings at once rather than just one by itself.. Having 6 going at once is very interesting on the brain..
when I paint I always laugh at myself for what I call the 'Lily Briscoe Blues..'. In the book To The Lighthouse, there is a character called Lily Briscoe. A young painter who, when the story pulls into her focus, is always caught up with the work at hand – either damning herself, or praising herself and getting caught up in wander. Well ain't that just the way? Our ego's do this all the time when creating – either dreaming about how good it is and how it is going to be and how bla bla bla, or damning us – 'christ, youre so bad at this, why don't you just give up? Etc etc etc..'
So the Lily Briscoe Blues, when confronted with 6 paintings? Well, it just makes a mockery of the whole concept! You realise that one painting may be going bad, and one may be going well, but that's ok – it doesnt reflect in any detremental way on your ability – its just where that painting happens to be at. I've always kinda succumb to the idea of acting creatively when your mojo's goin – but we think our mojo is going when the painting is going well – but sometimes the painting isn't 'going well' (because your crossin thru the muddy beginnings before you get up the hill) so it can knock you out of stride.. So thus, painting like this, many at once, makes a mockery of the 'sensitivity' you sometimes find yourself fallin' prey to as an artist..
When painting 6, one may be going great, another, not so. But that's fine! It becomes fun – like spinnin' plates. Workin them all to a state of happy-ness.
Having 6 different canvases goin' at the same time, I had six different avenues to go down. All the time whilst your paintin' your confronted with 'which turn to take?', each brush stroke can be a decision as to which direction forward you're taking. Having 6 allowed me to much more gently take my course, and not get hung up atall mentally about which course I should take. I suprised myself too with how quick it is to paint 6 together - because you're using the same paint largely, it cuts out mixing time, so you get 'em done reletivaly fast!
What I like most about the finished images together is it gives a chance to show the different sides to someones character, different shades. Reverting back to my animation-know-how - the person ain't this drawing, or this one, or that one, or that one... the person is what comes between all those! There's a narrative we can read between the frames.. draw an outline of the soul we can begin to flesh out..
I like too that it simillarily carried the energy of my friend. He wasn't often sittin' still. Hurried hand gestures, flurries of activity, of shoutin across the room, of tilting heads back n debating. He moved alot. And no doubt he moved alot when I took the picture too! Means must, n i'm glad they did on this occasion for sure.
See the full images here. NOTE - I only took a crappy photo of these unfortunately http://tomgameson.co.uk/images/pictures/alex.jpg