Month: May 2019

The Hundred Day Project Day 47: Sideways Promotion for a Tablecloth

I’m hoping for a long hot summer spent sitting in the garden painting boats. The table is a very pretty metal one with a trellis-work top, somehow designed exactly so that pencils, pens and especially paintbrushes fall through the gaps.

My old and extremely faded tablecloth has been made into the ‘painting tablecloth’. I see this as giving it a new lease of life rather than a demotion; I like its fadedness and I hope that a few splatters of paint will give it an interesting character.

The new one is nearly finished, just the final edging triangles and the backing to do.


The Hundred Day Project Day 46: Tiny Quilts

I have fallen in love with the little squares which join everything together. They are 1inch square and I now want to make a quilt of tiny squares or, perhaps, miniature hexagons, dainty diamonds or little random shapes; the list is endless. Ann Wood has been making tiny quilts for the Sock’s family home in Lake Woebegone Pines (if you look at her website all this will become clear). I don’t know a similar family to sew for but I might make a series of little quilts that could eventually be pieced together into a larger one. This has the disadvantage of being yet another quilt-in-progress (looking back to the start of this project, I see I wrote that I have three half-made quilts. This is a blatant lie; there are at least seven) but would be a useful way of using up all the tiny scraps of fabric I have that are too small to use for anything but too nice to throw away.


The Hundred Day Project Day 45: Feline Approval?

I am patchworking at the same time as constructing boats and castles as the weather is warming up and I may soon want to sit in the garden on the beautiful but incredibly uncomfortable bench. I have nearly finished the main squares and now just need to make the little infilling squares and finish the border. I am not sure how impressed Matilda is with my choice of fabric.

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Andy Barker at Zuleika Gallery

Lizzie Collins of Zuleika Gallery (, located at 6 Mason’s Yard, specialises in good emerging and contemporary art and is a discovery. Occupying one room at the top of quite a few flights of stairs, it’s well worth the climb. The name incidentally comes from Max Beerbohm’s Zuleika Dobson: For people who like that kind of thing, that is the kind of thing they like. 

It is currently showing the works of Andy Barker, who for 22 years was Howard Hodgkin’s studio assistant and was there last night for the private view, when we had a quick talk. He is courteous and friendly, slightly reserved but not shy and quite cerebral without being drily academic. He described working for Hodgkin as the best job in the whole world, when I only didn’t come in for perhaps two or three days during the entire period. Clearly possessed of considerable energy and focus, he got up at five o’clock most mornings in order to produce his own work before getting on with the day job. By mutual consent they never discussed each other’s paintings, although Hodgkin was obviously supportive of what he was doing and held it in high regard. 

The paintings are in every sense very “layered” and full of associations and connections as well as containing multiple images and evoking quite a range of sensations. Their titles are frequently of Indian and South American subjects and the opportunity to travel with Hodgkin for several months of the year obviously provided initial subject matter and input for the works. They are largely constructed using oil paint and collage on wood but apart from the superficial similarity of being quite bright, are actually very different from Hodgkin’s work, which despite its apparently abstract appearance was in fact focused on the recall, at an emotional and sensory level, of very specific events in time and place. 

Andy’s stated interests include the whole treatment of the picture plane and the influence of early Italian art, especially Boticelli, Simone Martini, and Ambrogio and Paolo Loronzetti. We talked about the way in which these artists constructed space and perspective on the picture plane and moving towards articulating it in a way where objects could exist in separate groupings, more linked by rhythm than a single coherent space – think for example of Boticelli’s Primavera. This is not well expressed but the image below gives you some idea of how they are.

Digital images don’t really fully convey what these pictures are like. Much better to go along if you’re in London and make your own mind up. The gallery is friendly and unpressured. You should obviously never buy anything unless you really want it, have a space for it and can afford it. However, these are priced between the mid thousands to lower tens of thousands of pounds,  in a way that reflects the previously very low profile of the artist rather than the inherent quality of the work. While buying for investment is a complete mug’s game I suspect these prices may turn out to seem cheap in a few years’ time. 


In Paraná, It All Happened Too Fast!, 2007, oil and collage on wood


The Hundred Day Project Day 43: Building Materials

Today was a day of sourcing materials:

Three years ago I decided to move house. The plan was to move to a much larger house, near the seaside, on what I later realised was the most inefficient railway line in the country. I somehow assumed that a 2+ hour commute would leave me with more time than my present thirty-five minute bike ride. Luckily the whole thing fell through but, in order to try to sell the house, I had to clear away a lot of the clutter. 54 boxes of books went into the attic. When I decided to stay put I cleared the attic and recluttered the house but kept the cardboard boxes – on the assumption that ‘one day they’d come in handy’. And they have. There are enough boxes to make a ……..

Shockingly there doesn’t seem to be a collective noun for castles. I sent a ‘please help’ email to Chris, who is more inspired in these matters than I am. First he considered castles in their historic role of claiming and holding territory – to form and defend borders and shores, as part of a communications and logistics network, and a means to control and suppress population – often of recently conquered peoples or rebellious citizenry. Amongst others, he came up with a threat, an overlooking, a watchfulness, a menace, a terror and a fearfulness. Looking at my planned castle, with its friendly rose clambering up one wall and windows affording glimpses of a warmly-lit interior I realised I probably wasn’t building it for a display of power.

His second collection of words, looking at the symbolic role of castles seemed much more suitable. Here an antiquity, a romance and an imagination were all possibilities but in the end I decided on a pageantry. So here, for the first time, we can disclose a new collective noun: a pageantry of castles. I suppose I shall now have to make more than one.


The Hundred Day Project Day 42: As Far As I Can For Now.

I’d intended to finish off the elephant and the sunrise paintings but hit a problem. Although they’re touch dry, when new paint is applied to the layer underneath an undesirable mixing and bleeding occurs. They’ll just need longer, and it’s really worth waiting to improve them. 

Accordingly today’s post is now of something I did sometime back. It’s a very rough copy of an early Sisley snow scene of a river and its banks with clouds lit by the rising sun. Just as well I have kept a few of the earlier efforts, however poor they were. It’s like saving Kit-Kats for a picnic: useful even if not exciting.



The Hundred Day Project Day 41: Sunrise Over The Thames

This is one of those subjects that everyone paints at some stage and there are numerous good vantage points on the South Bank from which to capture an image. This has currently been through two versions with the more developed one below.

It’s still far from right both in terms of detail (the shape of the dome of St Paul’s for example) and in terms of tonal and colour balance, with the second version being too flat and too orange in the sky.

Unlike the bronzes in yesterday’s post, this still has the potential to get better. Accordingly, I’m going to work up both this and the elephant picture up for the remainder of my week and see how much improvement can be made.

One advantage of doing this project is that you can’t simply set things aside with the intention of mending them later. Within the week you’re putting up posts you have to make enough effort to get things as developed as they can be. Very character-forming, even if not very easy!




The Hundred Day Project Day 40: Strange Shapes

The Hepworth inspired shapes have been getting themselves onto canvas. They don’t look anything like Hepworth bronzes, but have been compared to various other things. Jane for example rather meanly suggested that the original charcoal was of a new species of owl. Even in its latest version, at the bottom of the post, the most flattering comment was that they were probably masks. 

The truth is I lack the skill to do a good painting of bronzes, which is technically difficult. At the same time I’ve simply seen an image of the originals in a newspaper and so it is harder to provide an adequate response to the qualities they so manifestly possess: grace, mass, rhythm and menace amongst others.

At this stage I feel these need to dry for some time and when that’s happened it will be time to have a think about whether there’s any point in doing more work on them or whether this painting is one for the bonfire.