The lightness of paper / Pocket camera chase

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

I often drown in ideas and possibilities. I have far more ideas than time to make the works.

Each large painting I produce takes a whole month to complete, and this excludes the planning and preparation time, which can be quite considerable. This means that I only produce a maximum of twelve major works each year, and it is usually far fewer. OK, it’s a consolation that artists like Lucian Freud would happily spend a couple of years on a work. Recently I have found myself doing the same – putting down and pulling out the same work over a period of three years until it is finally finished.

My brain, however, is constantly presenting me with new images. They turn into scratchings in my sketchbook, but relatively few see the light of day. It’s been something I’ve wanted to reconcile, to find a solution to. My problem is that I just can’t manage to make small paintings that satisfy me. Maybe it’s a lack of fine motor control, but it is more likely an inner need to produce work on a grand scale; using my whole body in large arm movements to create heroic characters and narratives, all literally larger than life. It’s about making contemporary history and mythological paintings.

So I end up with a welling up of excess images, like a clogged digestive system, to put it rather coarsely. Stuff wanting to get out, but no escape valve. 

As a result I have re-taken to drawing. Duh! Why didn’t I think of this sooner? I have bought a roll of heavy paper, and have started cutting it up in large sections and stapled it to my studio wall. My images are beginning to flow – I have years of unpainted images, all queued up ready to go. I can still work big, but it is faster than painting. Drawing take days instead of months like paintings.

Voila, the first drawing is complete. I began with coloured gouache and watercolour pencil washes, then layered willow charcoal on top, added more colour with soft pastels, and then finishing with more charcoal – both willow and compressed.

It was a liberating experience – letting the overflow of ideas escape onto paper. I imagine that several of these drawings will eventually also turn into paintings on canvas. Drawing number two is ready to go.

The camera dilemma I spoke about in my last post has been resolved, predictably after WAY too much research. 

If anyone is hunting for succinct advice on pocket cameras I am currently an expert. If not, don’t bother to read any further as I am sure you will be bored with my camera ravings.

Here is the back story, if you are confused – my three year old Panasonic Lumix broke. My partner tried to fix it. It was then in multiple pieces and even more broken than before. I actually think it was just a loose connection.

Anyway, I was wrong saying that there wasn’t much on the market as people were just using their phones.

There is no such thing as the perfect pocket camera. You need to choose between:

 – a great zoom (30x plus) and ‘average/good’ photos

– or a very limited zoom (3-4x) and ‘excellent’ photos.

If all you want to do is look at your images on a screen and make A4 prints the average quality is perfectly fine. This was what I wanted, so I went for a Panasonic Lumix tz70 which has a 30x zoom. It had the best all-round reviews within its category and was the only pocket camera with RAW. I think our expectations of ‘average’ quality have risen dramatically in recent years as the picture quality is actually far superior than my previous Lumix and the build is much sturdier too. 

(The above photo was taken recently in Barcelona with my Canon DSLR.)

If you prefer excellent quality over zoom capabilities (ie you are happy with 24-80 or 100mm) still in a small package, just go for a Sony RX100. There are currently four versions available, from the earliest to the latest, and four prices accordingly, but the picture quality is great in them all. From what I read they are not for beginners as the many controls and settings can be overwhelming.

The so-called ‘bridge’ cameras are usually no lighter, smaller or cheaper than a standard DSLR camera with a kit lens (and are sometimes more expensive), the main advantage being that you get a massive zoom attached and don’t have to change lenses. 

I was in Collioure last weekend and tested it out, so here are a few of the results. The last one is taken with a huge zoom, and shows detail I couldn’t see with the naked eye.

So I promise that this is it for a while on the topic of photos and cameras and I can fully focus on work in my studio now.

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