Strange. This is the first time I’ve been tempted to paint a same subject twice in less than a year. It’s also my first still life. And my first red painting. “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working”. Makes sense, like often with Picasso. Nothing in my usual work would lead me to painting this. Those mackerels made it to my easel quite by chance, thanks to my exodus sketchbook and regular drawing routine. I was actually surprised how much I enjoy painting them and I wanted to check if it would repeat. It did actually.
In order to make it more interesting in this second version, I chose to paint the first one on the right in a negative image of it, using the background red for the dark stripes. I realized that this skin design was working exactly the same in negative, which shows how great a design it is : patterns are always a bit different but always look alike. And if you reverse dark and light, they work the same.
It’s also a “strange” experience (“strange” being the root of the “stranger” word). As I was trying to reverse the image values, I’m actually getting to some sort of an albinos mackerel. It becomes the stranger in the team. Fear of difference is a topic i’ve been passionate about lately. That painting made an interesting connection. Main reason why man is scared by difference is that stranger actually looks much alike him, and reminds a part of him that he is not comfortable with. For those who are interested and speak good French, here is a great reading on the topic.
There are 3 moments of extraordinary lightness when one dives. First the impulse to rise in the air. Then this micro second when we don’t go up anymore, but don’t go down yet. This moment when the gravity hypothesis could be questioned. This precise instant when we fly which so fascinates the painter and brilliant dancer Darvish Fakhr.
Then comes the encounter with the surface. The transition form gas to liquid. The slap of freshness. An immersion reflex sets in immediately. It’s called “The master switch of life” by scientists. The moment our face comes into contact with water, the metamorphosis begins. The blood goes back to hands and feet, the heartbeat slows down by 25% compared to normal. We are simply preparing to become a little more of an aquatic animal and a little less terrestrial.
Finally, we are below. The opaque silence after the big splash. All the noises in the world are canceled … In total lightness. We fly in zero gravity. The longer we stay, the more our mind enters a state of meditation. I feel so good underwater that when I was a child, I dreamed of finding a way to breathe naturally there. Stay there indefinitely. There is so much to observe in complete tranquility. It is so relaxing.
The process of building up this painting actually looked like an entry into meditation. I plunged into it with a first coat of orange monochrome brush drawing. Then I coated blue in several thin layers. Finally I spent hours sculpting the bluish shapes of these clouds of underwater foam. And it was at this stage that I myself entered into meditation. There was something quite hypnotic about it: add a little pink, come back with a slight hint of gray, intensify with blue, make the light pop with pure white. Each brushstroke changed the shape and lightness of the cloud. I loved it !
Inspiration came from two women artists I have been following for a while. Two island artists in a way: A painter from Brooklyn, NYC (Long Island) and a photographer from the Canary Islands.
Let’s start with the painter. Alyssa Monks is a famous American figurative artist. Many consider her one of the most influential living women artists. She started to get press coverage through her series oil and waters where water is everywhere. That’s exactly what connected us in the article “water everywhere” in “Everywhere Art” magazine. An amazing critic work for art lovers interested in the water theme. It was published two years after my first show and that’s when I heard about Alyssa’s work. A few other artists are featured in it like the Swedish Linnea Strid, the German drawer Dirk Dzimirsky, and the American Samantha French . Alyssa’s main theme is actually human fragility. She kept on exploring it through layering of portraits with other visual effects. Water was first. Then came nature, trees,… And this is from this series of Landscape-portraits that the idea of my new piece started to germinate.
The photographer next. I can’t remember how I found out about Raquel Chicheri‘s work but I can tell what I felt. Fresh, spontaneous, playful, tenderness. An amazing creativity in the way she frames and structures the image. I’m trying my best to paint the invincible summer. I don’t know of a better artist when it comes to photographing it.
Then she touched me with a portrait. The model is Nicole Blanc. A natural beauty from Catalunia, and a very talented drawer. Rachel is from Galicia. They both moved South West and live each on a separate island in the Canary islands.
And a portrait overlay
Inspired by Raquel’s and Alyssa’s work, I decided to create a quite complex piece. I got started in April 2019 with the overlaying of a black&white portrait of Nicole and a color photograph of a palm tree from my Amsterdam rooftop. Many months later, at last, I found a satisfying balance between this mesmerizing gaze and the surrounding palms. January 2021.
Two out of the three global best-sellers of all times have this woman in common. Did you know that? In the beginning was this weird story involving a man, a woman, a snake and an apple. In spite of this inconsistent introduction, the Bible and the Coran did really well. Far better than Harry Potter (#5) or the Little prince (#6). I thought the first woman of humanity in a red bikini could make an interesting subject. In bikini of course because of censorship. Et voilà!
Don’t ask me why this idea of painting it on a polyptych. I just realized the origin of that word comes from those multi-panels paintings used as retables in the Middle Age. I swear that’s unrelated. What I remember though is that the format made the job significantly more challenging. I’m happy with the end result as you can see it above, being shot in fresh East winds. Every time I look at this piece, I wonder if Eve will end up biting into it or if she will keep on playing. What do you think?
It all started with the first confinement and Matthew Burrows‘ idea. Of course I had noticed something about The Artist Support Pledge along the year but I didn’t really pay attention. Until a friend from NYC sent me this article of the New York Times and asked me what the hell I could well be waiting for. That’s when i realized it had gone big and global. And I understood why. Winston Churchill said “Never let a good crisis go to waste”. Exactly what Matthew did. He launched a project that cannot work in normal times. Art market was sinking, all galleries closed, thousands of artists in really severe situation. Matthieu decided to act. Fast. Big. He launched “The Artist Support Pledge”with this simple little post, on march 15th 2020.
A simple idea based on trust and generosity. Just brilliant
Artists have to post a piece on Instagram at the maximum price of 200£ (or 200€, $200). Well below the normal average price of an original piece.They add the hashtag #artistsupportpledge . It makes them visible for art lovers who browse through that huge virtual catalog . More than half a million pieces to date! If someone wants to purchase a work, the buyer messages the artist directly. And the artists all pledge to spend £200 (or dollars or euros) on other works once they sell £1,000 of their own, to support fellow participants. Images of the artworks are posted for free, there is no selection process and no commission is charged on sales. So simple… which is why that went so big so fast.
I created the series “Dancing beneath the surface”
5 small paintings on paper 30x40cm. Inspired by an underwater video capture of my daughter which I cut in 5 consecutive shots, each following the previous one by half a second. Light and fluid as a dance move. I announced the project while posting the first painting of the series. The five sold out in 24h!!! Ok, Price tag was half of market value… but still!? I got messages from followers all over the world, so excited to be able to afford an original for the first time. The 5 little ones went to France, Greece, Australia and New-Zealand. But painting and selling them was just the first part of the game…
Then I followed through on the pledge I made
I actually didn’t do things quite sequentially. I couldn’t wait. I had chosen the artist and the piece I would buy even before finishing the series: Brigitte Yoshiko Pruchnow . An artist colleague at Saatchiart gallery. She is German-Japanese, based in Munich. She’s got a unique touch for kids, pools and pies. We’ve been following each other for years. I now have an original piece of hers in my studio. Thank you Matthew!
The Heart Research UK organization indeed based that great auction project on a singular idea: to select a bunch of contemporary artists and ask them to create an anonymous piece on a small format card (20x30cm). This is how The anonymous heART project auction managed to generated 52.000£ to fund more research projects. They unveiled the artists names only after the auction closure.
I’m glad I could contribute. Thank you Rachel Brooke for inviting me.
You may have noticed: my daughter is one of my favorite muses. So yeah, indeed, she happens to be the child of mines who is most visible in my work. I’m fond of the 2 boys of course. I just prefer to paint the feminine figure. My son Alfred, in spite of being already kindly nicknamed “Adonis” in the family, felt like he needed some more love… and painted with a brush please.
I’m actually grateful he complained. This painting has been a joy to execute. Drawing the smiling face of someone you love is of course a pleasant thing to do. Here he is, enjoying the sunset view from a jacuzzi in Oia , Santorini. Right in front of his girlfriend who by the way inspired another painting Tiana Kameni. While working on this Adonis with ball pen and acrylic, I have tried and explored new lines and colors approaches.
I actually love the final result. May be he’ll manage to make his sister jealous with that?
He could have made another muse of mines resentful. The beautiful Jesi Le Rae. Model at L.A.MODELS, she inspired a the “Jesi’s hat” painting, not long before she’d make the cover of the famous Playboy 2019 Spring “Speech issue” . Well, it happens that her sexy silhouette was painted on this little canvas I had to use for this Adonis… a week-end of June when I was out of canvas stock (see below video). Jesi (who is truly a lovely person) didn’t mind at all and reacted with humor as you will judge from her comments on my Instagram.
It is both calming and impressive. May be that’s why it’s so attractive and inspiring. Then there is this original connection with water. 71% of the globe surface is made of oceans. 60% of a human body is made up of water. There are few experiences as relaxing as swimming in the ocean. Immersing your body in water triggers an incredible amount of positive physiological effects.
“Man and ocean” will be the theme of the next semaine de la science on the island of Noirmoutier. I’m honored that they asked me to create the poster for this fall event. This was such a natural theme for me that I did the painting in one shot. Which is very rare for me.
For the first time, I started with a colored undercoat. The natural imperfections worked just great. I managed to abandon the work after the first stage… which happens to me even more rarely. The ocean effect.
The design of their skin is a fascinating one. It could have been created by Keith Haring (another fish name by the way). Always the same pattern. No two are alike. I’ve been fishing and grilling them for decades but never really noticed their mesmerizing beauty. I sketched their stripes for the first time thanks to an imposed themes in a sketching group I joined during the lockdown.
I enjoyed the design so much that I felt like exploring it in painting. The same 4 mackerels. Just one of them shining a bit more than his colleagues. I would not be surprised if some more of those beautiful fishes come back on my easel soon.
You’ve probably lived a situation like this when you happen to find yourself in one specific place at one specific moment… and life suddenly takes an unexpected turn.
A few days before the French lockdown, I was traveling by train from Amsterdam to deliver a painting in Paris. I would meet friends and enjoy my usual tour of favorite galleries. On the Saturday night, signs of an upcoming lockdown start to amplify. Rather than going back to Amsterdam, I decide to head south with my week end bag and settle on my beloved island for a few days. As I leave Paris, I get started with a sketchbook which I title “exodus sketchbook”. I thought I would be traveling for a few days and that would make a nice distraction. 3 months and 90 sketches later, I was actually still on the island.
My sister Clémence had set up a Facebook group. It became the daily rendez-vous for 100 sketchers from all places, ages and levels. A theme – a sketch – a day. A wonderful routine that built great bond between all those happy artists during 90 days. The nice thing about this unusual practice (create on an imposed theme every day): it leads to unexplored areas… like trees and mackerels. Here are my favorite 15. The 75 others are there.