What’s in a name (title)?

I did my first ‘Untitled’ painting a few weeks ago. I’m torn between ‘Untitled’ as a naming device. I’ve always considered ‘Untitled’ to be a dog-lazy way of coming up with names for paintings. But by the same token I’ve always felt that the English language (or indeed any language) has nothing whatsoever to do with visual art. I mean why should the name by which a painting is known have anything to do with the actual image itself.

But apparently it does.

Oil painting of Measuring tape on small bit of plywood
Window, 2017, Oil on Birch Ply, 30 cm x 21 cm, 2017

I entered two small paintings of a measuring tape and a clamp into an art competition a few years ago. As a joke, and to give the arty-set something to talk about, I called the painting of the measuring tape (which was quite clearly a picture of a measuring tape) ‘Window’ and called the painting of the clamp (not pictured), ‘Car’. But I wasn’t being profound or thoughtful in any way. I was laughing at them.

And now, while I ponder on the idea of titles, I’m thinking did I only get into that exhibition because the picture of the measuring tape was called ’Window’? Was it necessary for the higher authorities in the Art world to have both picture and words to think about and discuss. Is the image on its own no longer enough?

Well if that’s the case I’m rightly fucked. I was 52 before I managed a painting of something that didn’t look like that particular something (we’ll call it abstract). Is it going to take me another fifty years to get the titles similarly vague and mysterious? It would appear that painting a picture of a dog and calling the painting ‘Dog’ is not acceptable practice.


Over the last few years, my work has become more about the paint and shape and colour, rather than about any figurative or literal concerns. More abstract if you will.

Initially at least, I never knew how to get there. I knew I could never throw some red paint at a canvas and then work with the resultant shapes. That would just seem empty and hollow.

I had been making paintings based on snapshots taken while on holiday. Always the same size. No people. I like making rules for myself. Takes away the awkward question of what to paint. Or at the very least reduces massively the search for an image. Frankly I don’t care about the image, I just want to paint.

Well I say I don’t care, but I must do really. I mean the South of France is supposed to be lovely but I was never there so it means nothing to me but I was in Italy so I have two paintings based on snapshots taken in Italy. Likewise Chicago might be a great city but I was never there. I was however in Florida and consequently have done four Florida paintings.

A Way In

When I started them, these travel paintings looked more or less like the photos upon which they were based. But over the last year, I would start as usual, basing the painting on the carefully chosen photograph but then quite quickly, often after only one or two colours, I would effectively throw the photograph away and just react to the painting in front of me. The snapshot had got me in and now I was just painting my shapes and colours. But I had needed the snapshot to start me off.

I had found my way to be abstract. Without being abstract.

Oil Painting of Stripes of Alizarin Crimson, Greens, Yellow and a Black and White
The Red Car, Oil on Panel, 19.7″ x 23.6″ (50 cm x 60 cm), 2020

The painting above may have ended up as a collection of nicely coloured stripes. But it will always be a painting of the road to the airport to me. The Red Car of the title has already gone (it was too fast. It’s down the road) and the red area in the painting itself is actually the sky. It just happens to look better painted alizarin crimson. (It’s a painting. There are no rules).

Abstract without being abstract. 

This Is Me

‘This is me’ is the name of a somewhat famous song from some musical but to the best of my knowledge it’s not possible to copyright three common words in a given language put together in any particular order so there ya go, ‘This Is Me’ it is.

I had promised myself that I’d do one of these ‘post’ things at least every four weeks but needless to say I’m late. Some day I’ll be late for my own funeral, which will be a pity because I have plans for a very nice tune by Nina Simone to be played at it and I’d like to be there for that bit.

Photo of grumpy looking artist with blue hat, glasses and beard in shed facing directly into camera
Mad Bastard Who Paints

But I digress. Wouldn’t be me if I didn’t. This is me. Yes. The whole ‘This is Me’ thing came about when I took one of those ‘selfies’ in my shed while I was painting and I thought to myself ‘Jesus, I look like ‘the old man down the road who paints’ that the kids on the street might talk about in hushed tones. The mad bastard. Not someone you’d want to meet after dark.

And the thing is, that’s not me at all. Wouldn’t hurt a fly. But I care not for that shaving business and I can often look like a grumpy sullen fucker so that could well be the impression that people get.

Blurry photo of me with bad teeth and a smile taken by my daughter
Me with bad teeth and a smile.

But give me a shave and a haircut, put me out among other people and before you know it you might even get a smile out of me (my daughter took the second shot. Would never have managed a smile on my own).

Judging The Book

You see you can NEVER and SHOULD never judge a book by its cover. If you’re judging the person IN the image; they might and probably will look completely different in the next shot you see of them. If you’re judging the person who CREATED the image, i.e. the artist, one image will never give you the full idea of what they’re all about.

That’s why curators and gallerists want to see at least 5 – 10 images. They’re not going to get a real sense of what the artist is about with anything less. Everyone can fluke that one great gem. It’s coming up with number two, three and four that is the hard part.

Did you ever see an image on one of those general IG accounts like Abstract Art or Figurative Art and you say to yourself ‘oh he’s quite good. I’ll check him out’. And lo. It turns out it was only that one painting that was any good. The rest is derivative heft. Occasionally it has to be said the artist is solid and a genuine find, but sometimes they let you down and it turns out that they are just a one hit wonder.

There are more strings to Dolly Parton’s bow than ‘I Will Always Love You’ and Led Zeppelin have more to them than that turgid ditty ’Stairway To Heaven’. Ultimately you should never judge a book by its cover. The ‘cover’ might of course be all there is to said book. But then again. It might not.

Paint. Paint and Colour and Shape.

Apparently I’m supposed to have some kind of blog going on, what e’er a blog might be in this instance. I don’t know, words I suppose, so that the SEO people can understand what this site is all about. It would appear that computers don’t read images too well and so need words to tell them.

Well it’s about paint of course. What else is there? Paint and colour and shape. That is all ye know and all ye need to know.

Always about the paint. 

Wasn’t always quite so obvious of course. I started off a few years ago when I returned to this painting lark doing portraits of strangers based on images taken from mugshots.com. Then I moved closer to home and painted portraits of family members.

But I am now of the opinion that the portraits were just me re-learning how to paint and so no longer count. 

And last year, I started drawing and painting domestic objects and now this year I’m making small-ish paintings based on family snapshots, the proviso being that none of the snapshots used can have a person in them. First couple sort of did, but that’s before I sorted out my rules.

20″ X 24″ wooden panel check. Family snapshot check. No people check. After that I don’t care. My few rules mean that I can come up with new things to paint easily enough without having to think too hard. I only want to paint. Like I said, Paint and Colour and Shape. Nothing else matters.

This of course could all be a load of bollox. There might be deep and profound reasons why I paint and draw domestic things and family snapshots. If there is, then be that as it may. Someone else can ponder such things.