The Joy of Painting.

The Joy of Painting

“All art is erotic.” Gustav Klimt

I should say right from the off that this post is interactive and demands your concentration. When reading the quotes, it will be necessary for you to on occasion, mentally substitute the word “painting” for the word “sex” and then all will become clear. In reconnecting with my graphic past, I re-visited all my old painting heroes including Emile Nolde and Schiele whose works on paper I have much admired. With a view to painting again I sent for two books as inspiration. When the Egon Schiele one arrived I was surprised to find his brilliantly graphic and highly erotic images, not the ones I remembered. At the same time my insatiable paint lust kicked in after a long dormant and what has begun to feel increasingly like (in painting terms) a period of cellibacy.

“The artist’s experience lies so unbelievably close to the sexual, to its pain and its pleasure, that the two phenomena are really just different forms of one and the same longing and bliss.” Rainer Maria Rilke

Buying new paints, and poring over paper samples was painfully exquisite and excitement began to mount at the prospect of painting again. I chose a time when I had the house to myself and laid everything out with military precision. And it really is like riding a bike; you don’t lose such an engrained and loved activity easily. I spent the next seven hours oblivious to everything except my hand holding the brush and the feeling of a cycle, previously broken, knitting up and beginning again.

“Sex is the most profoundly selfish of all acts, an act which they cannot perform for any motive but their own enjoyment.” Anne Rand

These new works were intended to be mark making exercises, process driven but felt more like automatic drawing in paint, where the work seemed to have its own agenda and all I had to do was let it happen.

“Sex is a spiritual experience.” Deepak Chopra

The paintings opposite are a selection of that evening’s work-evidence of my renewed love affair with paint. The works were all constrained by rules in some way like for example the number and length of strokes in batches and the lines having to interconnect and bleed in to each other. However the use of colour was unrestrained random preference.

There’s nothing better than good sex. But bad sex? A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is better than bad sex.” Billy Joel

I used a disciplined approach with the idea that constrained rule based work followed by working with no rules, would enhance freedom of expression. Things didn’t quite work out like that however as the latter pieces (not shown) became chaotic. I still went to bed in the early hours feeling elated and satisfied with a knowing certainty that the flow would come back in its own time.

When people read erotic symbols into my painting, they’re really thinking about their own affairs. Georgia O’keeffe

Today I have a new but very familiar callous that has recently appeared on the second finger of my painting (left) hand, I will make sure that it never goes away again, through lack of contact with pencil or brush.

“When it comes to sex, the most important six inches are the ones between the ears.” Dr Ruth Westheimer


Precious Metal.


There was no trumpet. And looking at the disparate group of five musicians setting up onstage, I thought it unlikely that one would be produced. We had obviously made a mistake, even so I felt childishly disappointed. Looking at the band members it was impossible to match them to a particular musical genre. The audience was made up of twenty-five people standing listlessly about in the too large and rather seedy venue, except for one who was already very, very drunk and busy head butting cushions.

By now two of the performers were taking off their shirts behind the drum kit, in that way that lets you know that they know you are looking. The lead guitarist with swingy Pantene hair and sporting bare legs and cute little worn out boots (with their tongues out) slipped on an elegant shirt and morphed from AC/DC into George Michael. The other guy sauntered slowly to his drums wearing only shorts and tattoos that made a kind of bra pattern on his beautiful chest. He looked about 12.

The bass player looked stereotypically afro caribbean, long boned and laidback with slow graceful movements. I was sure he would sound like Rastamouse

The keyboard player looked exactly how I would imagine the tall one from Kraftwerk might look now (and I’ve checked and he does) holding himself very still, eyes staring straight ahead  a hand poised enigmatically.

And then they started playing…Superstition…in heavy metal style…Genius.

The lead singer appeared to have become separated from his Hell’s Angel Chapter, possessing a massive Saxon head and impressive shoulders that tapered sharply into tiny Max wall legs. The long pointy beard at the end of his chin left his face with too much flesh. Big white letters on his “T” shirt said: ALMOS, which I took to be the name of the band, until he took off his jacket and I realised it actually said: ALMOST HUMAN.

And then they started playing…Superstition… by Stevie Wonder, in heavy metal stylee… Genius.

I was completely blown away by the quality of sound, my first live exposure to heavy/rock/metal. Each performer seemed cocooned in a bubble of musical sureness and at the same time respectful of everyone else’s performance, evident in the politely given physical space as they wove around each other.

And then the very, very, drunk man took over the mike and began an eerie, whale like calling. He was ever so politely and expertly, removed from the stage by the lead singer.

The crowd went wild, well, as wild as a crowd of twenty-four could…

The performance headed towards a crescendo:  The laconic base guy’s fingers were now a blur of speed, the key board player a one-fingered and rapid, minimalist, George Michael was on his knees guitar howling, the Hell’s Angel was dark and sodden with sweat and the drummer hysterical. The sound became a satisfying, mutual hum made from the collaboration of all the elements. A sum of its collective parts.

And then the very, very, drunk man put his head on my husband’s shoulder, suddenly poetic in his drunkenness and cried: “There’s a devil in my soul and something wrong with the controls.”

The crowd went wild, well, as wild as a crowd of twenty-four could and I it was then that I understood that for this band the performance was everything and that they really would give their all for every audience, no matter how small, no matter how drunk.

…heavy metal has shaken me out of my comfort zone.

Which brings me back to Art, where of course the performance/process is also what it is all about. Accidentally finding heavy metal has shaken me out of my comfort zone and the  band’s artistic integrity coupled with wise words from the talk: The A-Z of Surviving as an Artist, with Rosalind Davis and Annabel Tilley, has inspired me to re-evaluate my practice with a focus on drawing. I rather fell out with drawing during a recent and intense period of study favouring three dimensions over two. I need to find a way to reinstate it which feels like going backwards, but at least now I have Highway to Hell, to keep me company.

Drawings coming soon.