Chris Sutcliff

Artist Man I am

Archive for April, 2010

20th Apr 2010

Song Of The Sleepless.

The night is still as a mill pond and I suspect it harbours the same forlorn depths. I’m staring through the window at the firmly shut doors of all the sleeping neighbours I have never spoken to on the other side of my street, lit with the lurid orange-grey pallor of what passes for a street light. Doors locked and bolted in pure metaphor. There is a deathly weight to things and as it stales the air I am resigned to the fact that tonight I will not sleep. Details are lost and forms are ill defined on either side of the window pane, blurred into a background that is both miles and inches away at the same time. The street an under water version of its day time self. I try to feel the same way.

For a large portion of my twenties I was stricken by fanciful ideas about faking my own death. Not constantly, it happened in waves. I was unhappy with my job and probably at the end of some wilting toy-romance that I no longer had the energy to terminate and the cyclic misery was sapping my spirit. The point to the plot, of course, was not the dying but the living, starting anew elsewhere as somebody else and leaving my entire tedious life behind me. Tabula rasa.

I would park my car up; abandon it off some lonely desolate country road, a deliberate illustration so the bereaved could really grasp my state of mind. Door flung open as though my exit were hurried and careless, money and documents blowing in the wind, a lost suicide with no note. I’d have headed north. I fantasised about working on a farm in Scotland. Something about the supposed simplicity of the land. The lack of responsibility in the face of the elements. I don’t know why it was Scotland in particular; it wasn’t anywhere I’d actually been. Maybe it didn’t even matter. When I finally died for real I wanted it to be on a mountain in India with no one around. The “no one around” was especially important. The snag being that I would’ve been there. I never go away.

There is a void in people that cannot be filled and the futility of our attempts is comedic when viewed from the correct angle. Tragic when lived from the wrong angle. I seldom meet anyone who acknowledges this. Even less those who know they are running, never those that know what they’re running from.

I see now that there was a part of me in those days that did not want to be me at all. An odd thing to imagine I suppose, this mini version of you in your head that is constantly annoyed at everything you do and wants out but cannot leave. Who is that? What am I doing to drive us apart? If I only knew how to listen to him. You see I don’t want to die or to run anymore, I want to hear. But he communicates only in sensations and that is a language that I have forgotten how to speak. What I can say for sure, is those sensations that were once borne of adolescent frustration and fear now manifest as the quiet mature introspections of an insomniac. Age has forged a cosy familiarity between us through all these long dark hours, some sort of intimacy, albeit back to back. A tacit coercion at best. I use our time together to quell the motion in my mind, to stem the tide, to mutely measure our comings and goings against the stoicism of the stars. Waiting for a hint of understanding. Wanting to work it all out for myself. To stop running. To fill the void. To start again.

The night is still as a mill pond and I suspect it harbours the same forlorn depths.

by Chris
Posted in Words | No Comments »
6th Apr 2010



Dorothy Parker (attributed)

1893 – 1967.

Progress has been frustratingly sluggish of late. I procrastinate. I laze. I ponder. My absence is tangible.

It is a difficult truth to grasp that your passions are a double edged blade. Or at least they CAN be when you mismanage them. They are that which you most love and that which you most hate, and sometimes I hate to have to paint. I find these non-active periods anxious and disorienting and they have been known to last for months at a time. Is there a cure? Perhaps. Recently I have glimpsed a probable root cause of these deteriorations. Boredom.

I’ve bored myself with the work I’ve been doing. An overwhelming sense of ‘same old, same old.’ And it follows that if I’m bored with it then you probably are too. This was not my original intention. So let’s rewind.

A while ago I decided to paint a nude and a landscape. Two established disciplines that I have rarely done before and am in no such rush to do again. Actually, “decided” is a slightly misleading explanation of what I did – I felt I HAD to do them and so talked myself into believing it was a brilliant tactical manoeuvre. In reality it was a cretinous manoeuvre, with all the tactics of an exceptionally stupid worm. You see, all the art on my site is of a level of competence that I thought may bewilder some of the viewers. The notion struck me that it may be hard for people to work out if I was any good or just a scribbler of no consequence. My ego didn’t sleep for a week. It was a question I wanted answering as well.

I thought it would be useful to have an anchor point, something for people to easily identify and therefore judge the workmanship appropriately. Hence the nude and the landscape. I remember it making more sense at the time. Maybe I’d even learn something.

Well, I did learn something. I learned that the difference between Joy and Disappointment is all in the picture you think other people will like. I learned to drag my feet when I’m painting things that don’t really interest me. I learned how important Haagen Dazs is for combating depression. Not that there’s anything wrong with the paintings. I actually quite like them and did manage to refine my techniques a little while working on them. But they took too long to do because I wasn’t doing anything new and inventive, I was copying set forms from a photographic source and I felt a bit like I’d gone backwards. I do not believe the world has benefited from one more painted nude and a tree and I had lost all curiosity in either.

Mostly I hated the entire process.

So here’s the lesson and the point of this entry. People are smarter than you think. Certainly they are smart enough to look at an image and work out whether or not they like it. You don’t need to paint a chair better than Van Gogh or a sunset better than Turner or a woman with facial feature displacement better than Picasso. Just be good at what you are doing and people will get it. So get on with something interesting. Something that’s never been seen before. Don’t waste your time pandering to taste. Also, for me, I now know I want to learn to work much more quickly in order to retain interest and enthusiasm and not get traumatised by perfecting the tiniest detail that no one really sees anyway.

This year I want to start selling prints through the site. This requires a very different way for me to work due to the constraints around scanning the finished image and also in terms of content as I am hoping to appeal to a slightly wider audience than I have to date. In short, my future work has to comprise of more arresting ideas and visual play with a higher quality of finish. I’ll probably muck both of those up.

Finally a note on time management.

I have previously harped on about tracking my painting hours in a spreadsheet and what a wonderful thing it all was. Sound anal? Well, that’s because it is, and I’m pleased to inform you that I’ve stopped doing it again. It was starting to feel like logging the time was more important than the quality of work and the experience of doing it. I hated that. It no doubt contributed to the feeling of overall boredom and soul-death. I don’t need a spreadsheet to tell me when I’ve had a good day or a bad day, I know it instinctively. I work now when the motivation is there to do it and I enjoy that a lot more than forcing the painting because I want to do more hours this month than I did in February. It turns your creativity into a job, and it’s not a job it’s my life. I can reliably advise you not to do anything so reductive as tracking every second you spend in your labours – it absolutely takes all the magic out of it. And whatever you do that has no magic is the only true waste of your time. I have an empty spreadsheet to prove it.

by Chris
Posted in Words | 2 Comments »
6th Apr 2010

Tree At Malham.

Acrylic on canvas

36 x 24 inches


by Chris
Posted in Paint | 1 Comment »