• Amber


I was going to do this post about Paris which I promised yesterday but unfortunately my laptop still won't acknowledge my phone exists and I'm so frustrated with both these delightful Apple products that I want to smush them into each other and hope they can exchange the information through osmosis!

It frustrates me deeply that Apple's products are so beautiful and yet so totally useless.

In lieu of any Paris pictures I suppose I shall have to share instead some thoughts on London. It's strange seeing the city up close coming out of its lockdown. The world has changed a lot, though I wouldn't say London is unrecognisable, but certainly, it is different.

I think when I was in Paris I found that more people seemed to wear masks than in London - in terms of their day-to-day life - perhaps with the new mask rule, where they are now compulsory in shops, we might see a shift in this again.

I'm realising this is not an especially exciting train of thought so might talk about some of the artworks I've been working on recently instead. I'm still getting there with the writing although it's very slow progress so doubt there'll be anything much to show for that in the future...

This is a tree painting I started working on maybe in 2017 - I think after I left school when I was looking to get back into the tree paintings I did there. I kind of abandoned it after that and lost interest, this is something that happens to me very often with both art and writing - I think I get caught up in the frenzy of a new idea and then lose interest in its actual execution. I'm trying to work on this and I suppose meditation, though that's for my anxiety rather than anything else, will hopefully improve my patience and concentration. I think it's more than laziness though, I find something indulgent and energising about an unfinished painting. It's scary and thrilling because you know you can continue working on it but that continuing might ruin what you've already done. Because (can't believe I just started a sentence with 'because') I work in a slightly abstracted way I think the rules in terms of what constitutes an actually "finished" piece are even more blurred as sometimes a piece can be finished in its intentionally unfinishedness.

As you can see from the above photos I'm currently working on an interpretation of Lucian Freud's Girl with Kitten in which I've cast myself as the girl with my kitten (or cat, Coco). I'm working from two different reference photos because Coco wasn't really keen on posing for this picture and I didn't quite capture the right look of her that I wanted to paint. The third photograph in which she looks incredibly stupid and dopey is the image which I'm referencing for painting her. She is sitting on my knee as I write this, oblivious to the fact I'm sharing her embarrassing moment of surprise on the internet. I find it strange, with both young children and pets, how you can immortalise them on a platform they have no ability to comprehend whatsoever. The painting is very much a work in progress at the moment and it's a bit of a mess to be totally honest. I'm not loving it but I do think it's getting there; I would have got further but unfortunately the weather has been too nice to do anything but read Les Liaisons Dangereuses in my garden luxuriously while I sunbathe self-indulgently. Anyway, watch this space and maybe the finished portrait will arrive one day soon!

I'd like to apologise at this point for the fact I'm realising these aren't the best quality photos but that the light is somewhat temperamental in my room. This is again quite an old piece which is still in progress. I painted over this canvas photograph we had of a tulip in our hall before we re-did the house. I realise 'hall' makes it sound like we live in a palace which is definitely not true, it's literally just like the tiny corridor between the front-door and the sitting room. I think I originally wanted to do some kind of abstract painting but as you can see from the tiny black felt tip mark near that heart-shaped splodge I was planning on drawing on top of the paint a nude female form. I'm not very good at life-drawing but the human nude form is something I find really fascinating, I think partly because when you spend three hours in life-drawing class staring it at it stops being sexual whatsoever. I think everyone should do life-drawing because it forces you to look differently at the body and see it, really see it, for the strange organ of life that it is.

The above photographs are references for a painting I'm completing which you should be able to see if you scroll along. I originally began the painting in December 2017 when I wanted to submit it for the National Portrait Gallery BP award although as you can see didn't finish it in time and submitted something else instead (disclaimer: I did not win anything!). My intention with this painting was to create the effect of a split-self in which the individual was looking out at their own reflection whilst also offering a narrative on the ways in which we try and please so many people than we end up literally splitting under the pressure to do so. The photograph I'm working on is a photo of me when I'm 15 or 16 and I now find myself enjoying its self-conscious posturing. I'm enjoying getting back into this painting and it's quite refreshing painting a portrait of myself where I don't have a fringe!!

Most of you will probably quickly recognise Normal People's Marianne and Connell, I was also a fan of the book and the BBC show. I found the book very exciting and it genuinely felt very fresh. I might talk about the book in more detail at another time but for now I want to focus upon another art project I've started based on stills from the TV show. I'm not very good at painting skin and it's something I want to practice more for another painting I'm doing so I thought it might be a good idea to use these as a test-run for that. I love the idea of a series of these altogether because I think they look so beautiful alongside one another. I think these are somewhat more erotically charged than if they were actually kissing because it's the experience of sex outside of actually fucking - it's the moments before and after you kiss someone. I think Normal People also very effectively conveys the experience being really intimate with a relative stranger and both the fumbling awkwardness and instant connection which arises from that shared act.

I'm also working on a slightly different version of my Up tree-painting series where I wanted to focus in more detail on the trunk as the centre of the tree's gravity and do a painting of this aspect. I'm finding this new painting much more challenging than the others as it's a different technique painting it where I'm struggling to figure out how to do the trunk and in which order to start painting the branches. This is on that fancy Italian paper I use for printing and is just over A1 so pretty big - it's also a bit of a nightmare to work with just because I have to do it at the kitchen table and I find I'm often disturbed - either by my parents or the cat.

This is the last piece I'm talk about promise! Though it isn't actually the last piece I'm working on... I have always wanted to paint on a circular canvas so finally bit the bullet and bought one maybe a month ago now and started this study of Venus's head in Botticelli's painting The Birth of Venus. The colours are somewhat more intensified on my and again I'm struggling a little to find the perfect skin tone. I've just realised that in the photo I've taken of my painting thus far I haven't correctly angled it so Venus so tipping towards the right. Looking forward to working on this more and maybe doing a study of the full painting at some point too! I think studies are such a fantastic way to refresh old and learn new techniques and I'm enjoying this experiences with the Lucian Freud painting too.

Having rambled on for ages now I think I'll stop.

I'm also considering maybe posting some of the poems I've been working on recently but maybe that's too painfully self-gratuitous!


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