I bet Anthony Gormley doesn’t do this!

August 30, 2016

This morning I woke at a couple of minutes to six, again. Arms and legs like lead, side effects of the heart medication I have to take. By an hour later I was stumbling around my flat in my pyjama bottoms, wrestling my prints to sell for the show from their shelf in the hallway, being savaged by the pedals of my bike as I played twister with it and several hundred quids worth of giclee printing in my hands. As I took another lump out of my shin from my bike rather than risk damaging my merchandise, a much repeated mantra pops into my head “I bet Anthony Gormley doesn’t do this”. It doesn’t have to be Gormley, it could be anyone of that ilk, Tracey Emin, Ai Wei Wei, Damian Hirst… But what I desire is the ability to focus on actually making art rather than all the minutiae. Getting everything done by a team of minions.
Yesterday I sat in front of the telly wading through box sets on Netflix turning sheets of thick card into display stands for merchandise using a craft knife and a sharpie pen, before that I was hand drawing the backing to a3 prints before sticking them in cellophane bags, before that I was screwing d rings into picture frames and before that… Well, you get the picture. I am quite sure that Anthony Gormley hasn’t done any of those fiddly little jobs for a while. I quite sure Gormley would not be transporting the last six months of his life wrought on paper and canvas in laundry bags and his mates two door saloon car, I expect they each have individually made crates like the ones in the big government storage room at the end of Raiders of the lost ark.

Today’s last minute comedy disaster was this… The ink for my purple tea towels wouldn’t adhere to the surface properly. I had spent a long while designing hang tags based of chemical formulas for various poisons and now deadly nightshade was off the menu. After a panicked discussion with my screen printer we went for a foxglove pink, representing the heart drug dioxin, what used to be known as digitalis. A mad flurry followed, during which I found the chemical formula, wrote some blurb, printed a master copy which I then walked the best part of a mile downhill to the printers for the second time today and then back up the hill again and have since been cutting, folding, hole punching , ring reinforcing, stringing and bagging up my new colour altered labels. And nope, Gormley certainly doesn’t do that! 

Now I do get some help, I’d be lying if I didn’t but it is all offered freely and I really don’t want to take the piss. To those lovely people I am eternally greatful but it is only in the areas I have no chance of getting it done myself. So hopefully, if you come along to the show at the love cafe from the first of September and, if you are kind, you buy something there. That bagged up card in the fish shaped stand, that tea towel held in place by a clothes peg painted to look  like me with a label that tells the reasoning behind the colour I chose. Be it the print carefully wrapped or the drawing that took three days to do, just remember…. Chris Hoggins did that! 

And the value of nothing.

August 20, 2016

How do you value a work of art? There are so many different schools of thought. So many variables…

I have spent the last couple of days pricing up paintings and drawings for my coastal currents show. In the past I have often priced artwork intentionally high, knowing that it won’t sell. The theory being this… If you put your artwork up for sale and no one buys any of it then it is incredibly demoralising. Particularly if you have put your heart and soul into those pieces. If you put ridiculously high (well for a poverty stricken seaside town in the middle of a recession) prices on them, you can say that the reason they didn’t sell is because no one can afford your wares and not because the potential buyers find the work aesthetically wanting in some way. 

It’s a scary thing putting yourself out there, especially if your work has a meaning and a story behind it. It soon becomes a personal rejection of you as a human being if you don’t find ways to distance yourself from, well… let’s face it, your children. Art is an act of creation and you put so much of yourself into your work, or you should do, that it is hard judge the value of art you have made. Why should this one be more than that? Because it’s bigger? Because it’s prettier? Because it took longer? Because the materials were more expensive? Should we judge our own family by those standards? I do hope not. 

But for the last couple of days I have been doing just that, weighing up banal factors such as, if a painting goes past a certain size, say that of the average flat screen tv, the amount of people with the space to hang it drops severely as does the price. Also, you may labour for days on a technically accomplished piece of work but if it doesn’t go well against the current fad of wallpaper, paint colour or whatever, then it has no value. If you are a known artist with an established name, then a work of a deeply personal value has more worth but if you are someone that people simply don’t get then your work has merely a value as decoration. 

For this show, I am pricing to sell, it’s a little on the high side for local trade but as there is a strong story to it all (the matter of my near brush will death) I am hoping that will shine through. I am taking a leap of faith… I just hope it isn’t straight off a cliff.

The strange thing is, I just added it all up. A total of forty works of art, all produced since the beginning of April, all telling the story in some way of my experience as a frail, fragile and all too mortal human being. I added them all up and it came to somewhere around £9000, to me that is a king’s ransom, a life changing amount of money. To others that is less that half a year’s wages and to the likes of a few coked up celebrities, bloated bankers and pea brained footballers that is a week’s spending money. It takes my breath away thinking of that, knowing that I will be lucky to sell one, let alone many. 

So I’m going to take a deep breath, stand back and hope the world is kind to me. All I can do is to wait and see what happens.

The small and secret show

August 20, 2016

Ooh I do like to do the odd thing on the hush hush.  Last year I did something quite spectacularly covert and bonkers around this time. I’m not putting down in writing what it was but it clearly had a few positive effects and did exactly what I intended it to do, but to quote the wonderful film Spinal Tap “there is a fine line between stupid and clever” so fine sometimes that I’m not actually sure where it is and what side of it I am. I am in that position right now on a number of levels. 

One particular example of me trying to be clever that turned out to be stupid was  my genius idea of doing tea towels instead of t shirts as printed merchandise this year for coastal currents arts festival. I love t shirts (we will come back to that later) but the problem with printing them is the size issue. You can’t just order one, you have to order a full spread of sizes from extra small if you want to deal with Asia through to xxxl. Plus there are women’s cut t shirts and children’s, and then a range of colourways to consider. Things suddenly get into serious outlay and organisation territory. So I thought I’d do tea towels. I mean, everyone does the washing up, or almost everyone. So no issues with sizing or any of that, just one thing to print. Sorted! 

Erm, wrong! There definitely was a size issue, a glaringly obvious one. Although I didn’t realise it until I got a seemingly innocuous  email back from my screen printer, “this is to size right?” It took my woolly head a few minutes to work out what exactly he was getting at. I design my t shirt images on a3 paper, I may clean them up slightly later in Photoshop but I love things to retain that hand drawn feeling rather than something cold and sterile that could have been bashed out in an hour or so. So the design I sent him was done to this size. I scratched my head for a moment and then went rooting about for a tea towel from the kitchen draw and held it up to myself…. Oh! It was a lot bigger about twice the size in fact. So up goes the screen making costs and up goes the cost per unit. Whoops!

I was particularly pissed off with myself because I thought I was being doubly sorted because I even checked that the cafe where I shall be displaying this work, and the now Terry Gilliam level over budget tea towels, because they would have the phrase “pure poison” plastered all over them and their cafe in return. Fortunately they got the joke and even suggested that we hang them up on clothes lines across the ceiling. Now this is where my next genius idea came in. “I will need to buy some clothes pegs” I thought to myself. “clothes pegs, hmm? Old fashioned wooden ones… I know what! I can paint little people on them! No! Wait! I can paint little me’s on each one. Yes! Little versions of me, each with a different outfit on. Brilliant!” Except… Well, have you ever tried doing a hundred of a thing and make each one different? No? Well neither have I. 

The logistics of getting everything to dry without sticking to each other was hard enough to figure out on its own but the real problem came with the t shirts (see! I told you!) you see I do have rather a lot of t shirts, if Emelda Marcos were into t shirts instead of shoes I would be her. It all seemed simple at first, just work through the dolly pegs, ten at a time, adding designs from my extensive wardrobe. After a while though they all start to blur in to one and once you get past the fifty mark it’s a question of constantly referring back through the shirts that I had already painted so as to not duplicate anything . The nicest aspect for me was the ability to recreate some of my old t shirts, including some of the cyberpunk stuff from my twenties that I can’t carry off any more and all the Westwood ones that went on eBay in the end as I was too fat to wear them anymore. 

I finally finished the last batch yesterday and I must admit that I’m not sorry. So now I effectively have an exhibition of one hundred little me’s that I will use to hang up my tea towels. They will be on sale for a few quid each but  I won’t be making a song and dance about what I have done. I like leaving little surprises for the observant as so few people are nowadays. So many people seem to drift through life in a haze, doing what they are told to do, liking what they are told to like and buying what they are told to buy. Whilst it’s true that I shall never get rich doing the things I do at least it rewards the quietly observant, so much of the world is tailored to the brash, the egotistical, the controlling and the show offs. It’s nice to give something back to the quiet people. 

The secret peg portrait show can be seen at the love cafe, Norman road, st leonards on sea, throughout September. 

Logistical nightmares 

July 24, 2016

I was told a story many years ago about a musician who was big in the sixties. When I say big I mean BIG as in HUGE!!! His family and his staff had one major goal at the time I was told this and that was to side track this person from making new music and going on tour. The world had moved on, their work while still wonderful in its own way was no longer relevant and everything they put out would lose them money when all they really had to do was sit back and let the revenues from all the film, tv and commercials that use their work and the still constant radio plays around the world, fill up their bank account.  This person although still vastly creative was much better off by not being so. The thing is, there is no off button to ideas. Well, if there is, I haven’t found it yet and I’ve had a bloody good look for my own personal one.

I was reminded by this yesterday, I met a world famous rapper, of course I didn’t have a clue who he was and had to look him up when I got home. A freind of mind is this person’s p.a. I recognised something very familiar with them, they were in their own little world, their focus darting about all the time and they shot off and came back again numerous times both physically and mentally in the length of time it took to drink a cup of coffee. I recognise it because I can be guilty of it myself, hopefully to a lesser degree, orbiting others in your own world of ideas and imagination so fast that you only come into contact with everyone else every now and again because the flood of thought sends you racing off again. If you make it to a certain extent (whatever “it” is) you can afford people to buffer you from the world, if you don’t or if your path to get to be doing what you need to do to stay sane is a long one, you are seen as being mad. People make allowances for ‘creative types’ if they are making people money. If not, you tend to be avoided and that is the best case scenario. I used to pop in and visit a freind of mine at work whenever I went shopping in London, he worked in computer animation and the post production unit that was his base of operation was just off Covent Garden. One person who used to turn up a lot was well known for making videos for Bjork amongst others. The guy was rail thin and stank but his work was amazing, truly mind blowing but he had blown his own mind in the process. He was a lovely chap, but without employing a minder he would be a shut in somewhere or, worse still, on the streets. The world is not kind to people who think too much.

So here’s the problem. I have a show in September, I am also running a few workshops at a local gallery / museum that run at the same time. I need to get public liability insurance and a criminal record check done both of which are time and a faff and need to prepare merchandise to go with the show, little things people can afford such as cards badges and the like. I’d like to have a new silk screen made up at the printers and get some t shirts made and also some tea towels and then there is the framing…

The theme of the show is “Dweeblings in love (and other matters of the heart)” I have taken my main inspiration from the heart procedure, the lead up to it and my slow recovery. I have gone on a journey, both psychically and mentally, trying to wrap my head around how narrowly I avoided death earlier this year and the modern miracle that is non invasive surgery and my mixed feelings of discomfort and wonder at what was done to me and the medication I had to take. My mind has been following many paths through the Japanese art of repairing precious ceramics with gold, through catholic sacred heart iconography and am currently pondering the chemical similarity between anti blood clot drugs and rat poison. As usual, all the while I am doing all this, I politely tolerate being patronised and patted on the head by people who look at the seemingly overly simplistic nature of my painting style and see it only at face value because the grand theme that has run though everything I have done for decades now is this, the art world is a bit of a racket and very few people understand it beyond what they are told to like or pick up anything more than the very surface of what they see. It is as much a business and as fickle in nature as fashion and while there is plenty of genuine talent, there are also some right wankers about.  As usual I am merrily pointing out where the Emperor’s stubby todger is as he is not actually wearing any clothes. As is my nature, I am currently shooting myself in the foot so often that I am rapidly running out of toes. The tea towel I want to produce and sell in the restaraunt / cafe is based on old Victorian poison bottle labels, probably not the best thing to have around while trying to get someone to order food. Then there are all the drawings of hearts which jolly as they are are probably way too graphic for food consumption.

 The worst problem though is the framing, I have been working mainly on paper for the last few months and they all need framing and every frame costs money. Plus to make matters worse I’m still doing them. I can’t stop!!! I can’t stop having ideas, I can’t stop making links I have ideas for a few more paintings every time I am sitting down working on the current one. Even now, I have just idly scratched my arm and the thiness of my blood and skin has caused a small trail of blood to run down my arm and I’m thinking of rivers and river courses and maps and how that would link up to images of veins in anatomy drawings and how I could find maps with amusing road names and overlay them in blood and gold. Aaaaaaargh! It just doesn’t stop. But it must stop, or at least for long enough to catch up with the admin for what I have done already. I have no minions to mumble at to make these problems go away or to explain things to people who can’t speak fluent Chris. I just have to take a deep breath and stop for a while and hope my brain doesn’t explode with the backlog. So if you are passing through St Leonards in the next couple of months and you should happen to see a red smear on the wall and bits of brain and skull dotted about, you will know what has happened. Chris had one idea too many. 

Say it with flowers

July 22, 2015

Photo 21-07-2015 14 26 13I must admit, I think I was guilty of a slight case of mission drift here. Not quite quite on the level of “whoops! I’ve just carpet bombed a wedding.” but I did lose my way briefly. A while back I was driven to try and rescue a painting that had been scrawled over by a guy whose “art” seems to consist of drawing on top of paintings by amateur artists, old prints and photographs. I was annoyed by the lack of original ideas in his art practices and how his being independently wealthy has given him more opportunities to get publicity through being able to hire high profile exhibition space and get more attention than his low levels of talent and original thinking would normally allow. You can read about what I got up to here and since that time I have heard of others who have done the same. There is now a facebook page devoted to Putting The Love Back, inspired by, amongst other things, this series of events. You can even get involved if you fancy, so long as you do whatever you do without any cynicism. This is where this particular painting is on shaky ground. I was relieved when the last of the “He who shall not be named and is not Voldemort”’s paintings departed from the charity shop on Kings Road St Leonards. It was interesting the order in which they disappeared. The larger the percentage of said bloke’s artistry that covered the surface, the longer it took to disappear from the shop.

The Original Painting Prior to my Karmic reworking.

The Original Painting Prior to my Karmic reworking.

The new batch of glum paintings appeared in the same charity shop at  the same time I discovered that this year’s Coastal Currents (the local art festival) would feature not one, but four shows by said glum artist. It’s amazing what you can achieve with money and less amazing just what an uphill struggle things can be without and I must admit I was a bit miffed and felt the urge to add a bit of love to another one of his works. By the time I finally had a spare few quid, however, all the one’s of his that were painted over other people’s art had all gone and all that were left were a pile of what I could only assume were his rejects. I assume this because they were not signed and that they were all priced at around  the £15 mark, proportionally cheaper than his usual, Erm, masterpieces. I picked up a couple, one for me and one for my girlfriend (who wants a go) but I started to feel that I had drifted somewhat from my moral high ground, a feeling heightened when said girlfriend saw the rough cut of the video diary for this painting and suggested that I came off as a massive bitch (i’m paraphrasing here). The worst possible scenario here being that people might actually started feeling sorry for this chap, although judging from the conversations I have had with numerous locals ‘round here, he seems to be disliked by pretty much anyone outside the Kings Road / Norman Road, st leonards bubble.

Work in progress, there is still something grim lurking in the background

Work in progress, there is still something grim lurking in the background

My petty envies aside and seeing as I got in the Towner and he didn’t (so ne ne ne ne neh! 😉 )I must be doing alright regardless of my lack of money to throw at a situation to create the impression of success. The thought that my cock ups, prep drawings, failed experiments or however you would describe the pile of unsigned canvas’ and board that have unceremoniously been dropped off for charity, says something about the size of the guy’s ego. Around my flat somewhere I have a box with I’d say five or six hundred

Some on my many hundreds of working drawings.

Some on my many hundreds of working drawings.

assorted a4 prep sketches for various paintings and drawings in, I give some away sometimes, tucked away in books or prints as a bonus gesture, but I never would I be vain enough to donate them to charity, I am not Leonardo and I do not see everything that flows from my hand as having monetary value.

So why did I paint over a painting of this guy’s that was not already painted over someone else’s work? Seeing as I’m not rescuing anything. In a word, Karma. I feel that somehow, somewhere, my doing to him what he has done countless times to others evens the score a little. Well that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. So neh! If you hurry (or if no one else can be bothered) you can buy the painting here. Maybe whatisface will buy it and paint over one of mine…. Although I would get the money, which would be nice.

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