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Monday, 27 June 2011


Through K Howell 2011 Pastel on Paper 21 cm x 14 cm
      Summer is here. Vegetation is rich and luxuriant. There are midges. Humans accustomed to several layers of clothing throw caution to the wind and expose their torsos and legs to the briefly magnificent sun. This is all very distracting. Disturbing. Sometimes frightening.
     A good time to retreat to the trees.
     Looking at this quirky beech, contemplating obstacles, I remember Robert Frost. The best way out is always through. While patience and persistence are very admirable, they're not terribly exciting qualities to cultivate. But three seasons later, I'm still rewriting. Is this wise? I've no idea, but certainly it's an education. The earlier draft is a bit bloated, dizzy with sun, running naked in several directions. Oblivious to the aesthetic implications of its activity. Sigh.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

What the Cat Said

Where Birds Belong K Howell 2011 Pastel on Paper
      I'm slaving away over my artist's statement in the brief window of time available, marveling at just how ridiculous it looks in black and white, wondering if I need to start again, when Distraction strikes. A cat has materialised and seems to be in difficulty. I move my feet. He looks offended, and offers up a self contained pile of recently ingested organism.

"Must you?" I ask.
The cat narrows his eyes.
Do I detect a judgmental tone? (cats speak in italics in my world.)
"I hate it when you do that. It's such a waste."
Philistine, says the cat. I am exploring the nature of birds. I am examining them from many angles, observing their behaviour.
Whatever works. The cat lifts its paw, and licks it.
Then I play with my material. Expand the possibilities. Toss it about. I separate out the bits you'll find most interesting, that's skill, that is. And I leave them where you will be sure to appreciate their qualities.
"The livers camouflaged against the carpet by the window?"
You noticed! That's a Duchampian triumph of Context over Content!
"It's quite off-putting."
You might want to watch your step in the kitchen...
"Why don't you do something useful with your life?" I ask.
The cat blinks. Looks down at its offering.
I've done my bit, mate. I've remade this material into something new.  Make an effort yourself.
"And what about beauty, you murdering wastrel?"
Axiomatic. The cat flicks its tail and walks off.
Artist's statement? What the cat said.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

A Pigment to Dye For

 A Peeling Tree K Howell 2011  Pastel on Paper 14 cm x 21 cm
      Outside it smells of sun and elderflowers. To be honest, I'm avoiding updating my artist's statement and find I'd much rather contemplate the etymology of cyanide.
     Deep blue is a good place to begin. I tend to substructure studies with blue. This elder tree is typical.
      Elder trees are the source of so many good things. As we all know from our diligent study of the Harry Potter text, the easily hollowed elder branch makes a fine and powerful wand. Fragrant elderflowers are followed by richly purple berries, both of which can be made into Very Nice drinks. Drinking the essence of tree has benefits. Elder syrups can be effective treatments for colds and flu. But obviously you want to make sure the seeds and stalks are removed, as they contain cyanide-producing glycosides. A more conclusive cure.
     The body is perfectly capable of detoxifying small amounts of naturally occurring cyanide. The idea is to avoid ingesting quantities. I try to remind child number three of this guideline, as when there are pears in the house she tends to eat them in their entirety and look at me blankly when I ask what she did with the core.
     When Prussian blue pigment was accidentally maufactured around three hundred years ago, the name ferrocyanide was also invented for the 'blue substance with iron' produced as components of the dye. Prussian blue pigment was used for blueprints. A working plan in blue.

     Back to the beginning, it seems. This means I have to write a statement now. Curses.   

Sunday, 5 June 2011


Extremitree K Howell Pastel on Paper 21 cm x 14 cm
     Passing this tree in extremity was an assault on the senses.
     Extremity is a word one can imagine a line of wizened men chanting whilst they relentlessly dock the tails of dobermans. Its rhythm is even and soothing, but it means the End of something or distressingly adverse conditions. 
     Moderation is something we are encouraged toward. It beckons like a scrolling supermarket conveyor belt or a moving sidewalk. Such steadiness is sinister. 
     Extremes are dangerous, cliff-edge and unpredictable. Always interesting. 
     Take Grayson Perry. I used to appreciate his work, but having spent time with his Pot and Print in Manchester City Galleries, adoration becomes an understatement. His careful blend of craft and whimsy, the mundane with the outrageous in life and art is so very admirable. Long may he continue.
     Julian Schnabel says some people must go to extremes to get the world in balance for themselves. Any thoughts?