Chris Sutcliff

Artist Man I am

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6th Apr 2010

Bored.

“THE CURE FOR BOREDOM IS CURIOSITY. THERE IS NO CURE FOR CURIOSITY.”

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

2010

by Chris
Posted in Paint | 1 Comment »
18th Mar 2010

I knew you’d say that (Sketch).

Acrylic

8 x 5.5 inches

2010

by Chris
Posted in Paint | 1 Comment »
29th Jan 2010

The Rules Of The Game (volume 1).

Fairly competitive animal, the Human. It’s a trait that’s helped us gain an (albeit unwieldy) evolutionary superiority over pretty much everything on the planet. We are gold medal survivors. But what to do with that burning desire to be a champion, now that we are living side by side in our billions in a non-threatening technological utopia? No bears in Leicester Square. No sharks in the duck pond. Outside of organised sport, where is this need to be a winner manifesting itself? The answer is EVERYWHERE, and I’m not talking about the Times crossword. This is the first of what I hope to be many observations based on the weird and unspoken terms of engagement with which we seek to rise above the bumbling masses on a daily basis.

Some people have a real issue with their bodily functions. Odd really when you consider they are replicated by our entire species, not to mention most other animals. No need to be embarrassed. The benign workings of our organism should bring us together not separate us. More than bring us together. They should be a platform to recognise HEROES.

The Premise.

Ever found yourself in that most awkward of moments? You’re in a restaurant / shopping centre / airport / office / motorway service station and you badly need the toilet. Thankfully you get there to find a row of empty cubicles and you get comfortable and prepare to perform. Suddenly you hear the door open and the footsteps walk unfalteringly to the cubicle next to yours, the door is locked, garments are unravelled and the toilet seat creaks and then there is silence. Without warning and woefully unprepared you have just inadvertently found yourself in a ‘Poo-Off’.

Don’t panic. The uninitiated may be about to slide down the social scale here, but not you, not today. It is important to fully understand the rules of the game. The “Defender” is the person who first went for a poo, in this case it’s you. The “Challenger” is the person who boldly strode into the adjacent cubicle knowing full well you were already there. It is the Challenger that throws down the gauntlet – therefore it is the Challenger who must be made to pay! You will not be usurped from the throne.

Stage 1 – The Cowardly Decline.

The first few seconds, sometimes minutes, are always spent sizing up your opponent. As you can’t see each other this is usually done in polite silence until one of you either begins or leaves. As the Challenger has only just entered the arena, then it is the Defender who usually gives in and makes their withdrawal, often in mid job, appallingly sometimes without having ever started. They fake a wipe, flush what isn’t there and get up and leave, often acting out a hand-wash as well for added realism. In this scenario the Defender has lost the game and respect for themselves and any hope of ever winning another ‘Poo-Off’ as long as they live. Pathetic. The Challenger wins by default. But you are not afraid; you are ready for WAR, so this is not an option. In fact, this is GAME ON.

Stage 2 – Open Combat.

If there is no Cowardly Decline then battle must commence. That said, this is your last chance to be polite if you are not out for blood. A draw may yet be called if you are quiet, quick and dignified. The golden rule here is that you both accomplish the task side by side and one of you leaves before the other so that you never see your rival. But frankly that’s just weird and smacks of denial. You’re not gonna settle for a draw are you? No. Never. You’re a Titan. A merciless wielder of last night’s curry. It’s time for glory.

Stage 3 – Smack Down.

Here’s how to take the Challenger to Chinatown. If you’ve opted for Open Combat you’re gonna have to poo like you never have before. Unleash your arsenal. You need noise, violence, grunting, farting. You have to absolutely destroy anything they throw back at you. Scream. Thrash. Pound your fists against the dividing wall. You’re shitting a double-decker bus, sideways. Satan himself is weeping in Hell and begging you to stop. They have to rue the fucking day they thought they could force you out of YOUR cubicle just by muscling into your territory. The idiots! You need to hope they’re crying and wheezing and praying in there. If you hear them call their Mum to say they love them you know you have them on the ropes, but don’t quit yet. You need to create an atmosphere that would disable a gas mask and make a skunk explode. You must break them. Shatter them. Bury them.

Stage 4 – Extra Points (for the judges).

Why settle for merely winning when you can ensure the Challenger never opposes another quiet, innocent crapper ever again. Extra points are gleaned as follows:

  1. Whilst you have been orchestrating your hurricane, at varying junctures after a particularly angry fart or a splash that sounds like you shat a kitchen table, openly ask the Challenger what they thought of it, or to provide you with a mark out of ten. Inviting criticism is a mark of your bravery and to let the Challenger know that they are being crushed.
  2. Now you’ve got this far and superiority is within your grasp you cannot just sneak out of the toilet and leave – you are about to face your challenger, who now won’t be able to look you in the eye. Wipe and wait, you leave the cubicle the exact same time they do, not a second before or after.
  3. Now you need the parting shot, the spit in the eye, and the slap on the cheek. Follow them to the sinks and wash right next to them. As you look up and face them in the mirror, look straight into their eyes and leave them with your winning one liner. May I suggest the following:-
  • Until next time.
  • You won’t fucking try that one again will you.
  • I am Ahab.
  • I’ve faced worthier Girl-Scouts.
  • I ate my own Dog last night cos I knew you’d be coming.
  • Simply make the “L” for “Loser” sign with your hands on your forehead.

You are a winner and a hero. Tell everyone. The podium of life is yours for the taking.

by Chris
Posted in Words | 1 Comment »
26th Jan 2010

Raw Silk.

Acrylic

16 x 11 inches

2010

by Chris
Posted in Paint | 5 Comments »
21st Jan 2010

Hope Springs Eternal.

It’s normally around this time of year that ‘WE’ the fragile multitudes stare at the tattered, weeping remnants of our New Year’s resolutions and start feeling all shitty and normal again. Nothing is more personally deflating than the knowledge that owning a brand new shiny gym membership card is as close as you’re ever going to get to the actual gym. Now it’s costing you thirty five quid a month to feel fat and hate yourself. Well done. Smoking again as well? Great. How’s that guilt working out for you? Get the vodka out and we’ll just pretend it’s still last year then.

I say this normally happens because 2010 was a little different. Just as we were all poised to dive into our cesspits of despair and self-loathing Haiti went and had an earthquake, killing tens of thousands of people and creating a humanitarian disaster for thousands more. I often find it’s a bit difficult to grumble about lack of exercise when loads of people are dead. Locked to the News we watched aghast as their plight and misery proved so terrible and moving that it reverberated around the world and temporarily mobilised many powerful nations to actually work together and help people. Like we’re all part of one planet or something. I love it when they remember to do that.

Today, however, brought a snippet of joy and hope that I found so immediately heart warming I had to share it with anyone who gets lost on the internet and accidentally wanders onto my site.

A large search and rescue party, comprised of many of New York’s finest firemen, pull an eight year old boy and his ten year old sister out of their flattened home, SEVEN days after the quake. Alive and well after a week under tonnes of pulverised concrete, in the dark with no food and presumably only trickling rain water to drink. As they pull the boy out, he raises his hands in the air like he’s just won the Oscar for the ‘best reaction to being pulled out of the jaws of death’ category – to an enormous cheer from the crowd. What an absolute legend. He looks like he’s going “Ta-Daaaaaa!!! And for my next trick I’ll survive a volcanic eruption!”

I think in truth he spots his Mum in the rescue party and goes for a hug only to be pulled away to safety, but what a moment of outstanding elation in the midst of all that awful desperation. The indomitable human spirit wins through again.

So with that new perspective in mind throw away your gym card and make the only resolution you stick to the one about being alive and happy.

May it be so.

by Chris
Posted in Words | 2 Comments »
11th Jan 2010

Ombromanie (Shadowgraphy).

This is easily the most exciting thing to happen to me all year!

My bedroom light bulb died today (not the exciting bit). It was a misty bulb but I couldn’t find any of those in the shops so I bought clear bulbs instead (also not the exciting bit). When I got home I couldn’t work out how the toggle thing worked to keep the light shade on (Man Fail = minus 100 points) so I took the shade off altogether and left the clear bulb swinging naked from the ceiling (nearly the exciting bit). I just went to the window to draw the curtains for the night and I happened to look at the side of the building across the back street (drum-roll……). With the un-shaded, un-misted light bulb shining behind me like a thousand suns, the shadow of my head was projected twenty feet high onto the entire side of a house. Twenty feet high! Within seconds my left hand was a massive Antelope and my right hand was a giant Snake eating it. The endless possibilities. I could weep with happiness.

For thirty pence and a lack of toggle know-how I have just accidentally re-created the Caveman’s I-MAX. Only instead of re-enacting heroic sagas and tribal tales I am going to get fluffy toys and make their shadows fornicate to upset the neighbours.

Twenty foot tall teddy porn now available on the side of a house near you.

I’ll never be bored again.

by Chris
Posted in Words | 5 Comments »
16th Dec 2009

Wrong.

Since I wrote “Metamorphosis of an Idea” I have been forced to take those words and put them in a sandwich and eat the bastards. Every last spikey one of them. Humble pie was for pudding and then I washed it all down with a nice hot mug of shut the fuck up. In a restaurant known as “Keep your half-baked ideas to yourself”, where funnily enough I was the only diner.

In said blog, I had bleated on for paragraph after paragraph saying that making plans and setting goals was for idiots and, rather crushingly in retrospect, for people who actually wanted to be successful. Yeah. Way to go, Einstein. For some reason I then balanced this woefully inept platitude with a rather sketchy explanation that getting lost and admiring your surroundings was better than getting to where you wanted to be. Honestly, I must’ve been wearing my moron pants. Actually, part of what I said is sort of true only I have now arrived at the more concrete understanding that admiring your surroundings is what days off are for. Ahh, how naive I was back in August.

The truth is that making goals is really hard and sticking to them is impossible when you’re as lazy and easily distracted as I am. I go to extraordinary lengths sometimes just to not get on with stuff I should be doing. For example I am writing this and the cat hasn’t been fed for six days.

Also don’t think for one minute that I was smart enough to work any of this out for myself. Oh no! Help came and found me. Through an acquaintance I met a Life Coach some months back and we had a chat for a few hours which kind of polarised me back into what I needed to do to get any sort of success at all from my artwork. It was also oddly psycho-analytical; I genuinely sat on a couch and talked about my parents. I highly recommend seeing someone like this if you have the means to. If you’re local to me then get in touch with Tina Mayfield at www.theartscounsel.co.uk. She is lovely and makes excellent coffee while she effortlessly puts your life in order.

The next enlightening slap around the chops I got was from a Manager at my work. In a chummy sort of way he shouted at me for two hours for not taking the initiative this year and following my plan to be a real life artist. By the time he’d finished I was belittled to the level of staring at my shoes like a five year old but a bit more determined that next year would be better. Sometimes gentle persuasion is a poor substitute for a well directed kick to the spuds.

Anyway, onwards to the point. From all this I have taken two lessons that have helped me and so I am passing them on to you.

1) Write your goals down. They need to be achievable but stretching and they must have a timescale. Every time you pontificate jam your finger in your eye really hard and then shut up and get on with it and stop wasting everyone’s time. You have to keep checking on them as well, like a needy goldfish. They don’t go away. Look at them, then look at them again, then leave your wife and sleep with them.

2) I have also set up a spreadsheet to monitor how much time I am spending doing my artwork per day, week, month and then year. I know that spreadsheets are something that only wankers do but this has seriously helped me. In November I only did eleven and a quarter hours of painting. Shocking and abysmal. No wonder every piece seems to take about four years – it’s because they actually do. This genuinely annoyed me and so here we are halfway through December and I’ve already done more hours than that. Great tool. You can adapt it to measure how much money you are making as well. I left this bit out because I hate crying.

I have a wager with my Manager about getting a certain amount of canvasses in galleries or shops or cafés by next November. Although the target is probably unrealistic it has had the desired effect of getting me back painting, albeit in an angry ‘I’ll show him’ sort of way. I’m not suggesting that as a third lesson you take up a nice healthy gambling addiction but, you know, get your mates behind you for support. Then win the bet and bleed them dry.

So I got my approach a bit wrong for a while but hopefully this makes amends. It’s all part of stumbling blindly and painfully through this arduous string of nonsensical tasks called life. Looking forward to my next astronomical miscalculation, it’s the only way I seem to learn.

Oh, and I don’t really own any moron pants. I had to steal yours.

by Chris
Posted in Words | 2 Comments »
19th Nov 2009

Our Street Corner.

Acrylic

8 x 5.5 inches

2009

We steal each other’s wheelie-bins. For some reason our street has one less wheelie-bin than it does houses. So every second Thursday, after we’ve left our wheelie-bins on the backstreet all day and the bin men have emptied them, we play the wheelie-bin version of ‘Musical Chairs’. First ones to get home from work and claim their wheelie bin will have it for the next fortnight, the last one home will have nothing, nothing but an empty back street, nothing but an opportunity to get creative with waste management for 2 weeks until they get a chance to steal someone else’s. Our neighbours paint their house numbers on their wheelie-bins as proof of ownership. To deter theft. So what happens when a wheelie-bin is stolen for 14 days? Simple. The thief simply takes a pot of different coloured paint and slaps their house number on instead. I have never seen even one of these paint jobs cover the old number up. Some wheelie bins have several house numbers on them, so that you can easily trace which neighbours have stolen them and in which order. The most amusing thing about all this is that a quick call to the Council would probably result in a new free wheelie-bin, maybe even ten of them. So, as the problem could be remedied very easily, I can only assume that we are all OK with stealing each others wheelie-bins and tattooing temporary proof of fake ownership on them. Maybe we all LIKE this game. Perhaps that is what it means to be a neighbour. To be as tolerant a thief as you can be to those thieves that tolerate you.

by Chris
Posted in Paint | No Comments »
10th Nov 2009

Move Along…

You walk so slowly

Sans haste

And I walk so quickly

Before too long

I am at your back

Surely you can hear me

Chomping at your heels

Unable to get around you

Is it really so hard

To step to one side

And let me get passed

And away

What’s captured your attention so

To belligerently keep your eyes to the sky

And not on the floor

Where you would plainly see

How slowly you are walking

And how close my feet are behind yours

My frustrated foot-falls

Versus your absent shuffle

A match indeed

For a wounded snail

On valium

Thus, with growing irritation

I noisily hurry you along

With my tutting

And my heavy, stunted steps

Wondering all the while

How you came to be so slow

And I so fast

And how on earth

You got into my house

In the first place?

by Chris
Posted in Words | No Comments »