Category Archives: Blog

Return to the Fishermans Shack

Artists statement:
Return to.the fishermans shack.
When i was at Banyo High school my mate David would drag me at weekends to Stradbroke Island to fish for tailor. There was a fishermans shack. In it there was a box of photogravure magazines with reproductions of paintings by Lord Leighton,Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema,Jean Leon Gerome. Solomon Joseph Solomon,.They had names like rock singers .I wished i had a cool name like that.
And i wished i could paint like that.

Back at school we studied art. At least we thought we did. The latest trends and modern artists right through secondary school.
But i had struck a problem.Picasso and Pollock had cool names ,but it was clear to me that they didnt paint like my mates from the fishermans shack.
If you could,why wouldnt you?and why wouldnt anyone show me how.?
So i studied to become an art teacher.I raised the problem of the artists from the fishermans shack again.
What was more troubling was the silence or even hostility their names evoked . Starting with the older art lecturers the venom spread to younger students
So for half my life i have lived in a very confused state thinking i was the problem. It was my fault i couldnt paint like that  Not so now.I have learned many secrets from the shack.

An artist friend asked one day ” what are you trying to do?”
I said”paint one decent nude before i die”
He muttered.” You wont live long enough”
I muttered ” i. Think i already have”
Brian E Deagon

Cubism still

    There is no such thing as Cubism. Not according to the unreliable Picasso. Nonetheless,something happened, and one name is as good as another.
    The rectangular transparent mark of Cezannes square flat hog hair brush occasioned the description “little cubes”. It resonated and stuck. We are stuck with Cubism.imagen
    image image image TT


If we draw a square, it could just as easily represent one of Cezannes brushmarks,the frame of a painting, a plan or elevation of a cube. All would be true. Should we wish to show all six sides,we open it out and flatten it,in one of a finite number of configurations,like a cardboard cube in the cereal box with little flaps ready to glue.

This flattening means the cube occupies more space in the picture frame,so if we draw many cubes ,overlapping is almost inevitable Overlapping was in the air. Photographic double exposures,xrays,and new huge shop windows that showed not only the merchandise in the window but also the artists reflection and what lay behind him in the street. According to the reliable Braque,speculation about the Fourth dimension had nothing to do with it. Cezanne had overlapped his brushmarks while looking for an edge wavering between binocular and monocular vision.That was enough. Bargue had emphasised all drawing began with line,and straight ones at that.The horse had bolted,and Einstein was not in the saddle.

For anyone searching for alternative visual language,empire building provided access to an array of indigenous art via anthropology, and protoclassical art via archeology. You didnt find tribal artifacts in the ” Art” gallery,but when found, distortion,frontality.simplification, suggested formal possibilities unimagined by the Salon.

Lets examine our “little cube” more closely. Lets assume we draw it, and as we roll it between thumb and forefinger a remarkable fact emerges. Sometimes we see only the square side plane. All the rest is hidden.
Then we are presented with two planes which recede from the line where the planes meet. The parallei to the picture plane.
Finally in three point perspective a corner reveals three planes receding,and all visible. Up to this point all is tradition.

BUT, i want more….More sides,and i have two choices. I can flatten my cube as before..or i can present the cube as a skeletal linear structure so i can see the hidden planes behind. In orthographic perspective any competent engineer or architect would understand..Remember,the cubists tried to explain their goals tO the public.They expected comprehension.

I now have two strategies for revealing the planes,lines ,and corners including those hidden in traditional perspective. But which to use? How far do we dissemble our cube in order to reassemble it? It is important to realise these choices or options are arbitrary but not random.

For example,can we keep the transparency and .”fill in ” some planes.? ..”paysage ” was the response. Translated, it means to walk through the landscape. Technically it meant breaking the” asterisks” created when lines intersect, typically a divisionist brush did the walking

Once paysage is introduced then light becomes an issue. Unshackled from perspective,it forms a continuous counterchange of chiaroscuro ,building toward the focus point.,not unlike the “cone of liight” of traditional drawing but conceived not just percieved. Most facets display an internal gradual transition of tone.

This brings us to composition,and the differences between primitive,analytic and synthetic cubism.
Simply,Primitive Cubism remained three dimensional and simplified forms into broad planes of cylinders,cubes,cones.
Analytic cubism dissected forms further,introduced transparency,but kept an overall traditional ” elevation” view
.Synthetic cubism introduced arbitrary forms and colour.
I am concerned in this essay with analytical cubism.

Once the form is broken down into the facets of our cubes,flattened and made trensparent, we will have lost the figure we had in the first place. How to restore it? Emblematic signs( a hat,moustache,guitar).lettering, faux textures,collage were all responses Also the distinction between form and space is blurred (faceted). One technique for reassembling the image was to find and emphasise lines which could be found running continuous through the image. By using tone, these could be made to imply large planes,running above and below each other parallel to the picture plane and frequently casting shadows on each other. There is no difference between these shapes and the “envelope.” used in traditional academic drawing, even when later it was collaged first then faceted..It has become clear that these long lines defining large planes must be part of the faceting process and derive often from the “spine” or envelope of the figure. It is here the blurring of space and form begins.

Incidentally, light and colour present real difficulty that the cubists themselves avoided. Even if I change my viewpoint,the light still comes from the same direction .what is in full light is in full shadow 180 degrees around. And what light shines on the inside plane?

Finally,one aspect of modernism in general is the degree of ” finish”. It became part of the aesthetic to leave the periphery underdone,implying that the process of analysis and reassembly is never complete. For me, analytical cubism itself is not complete,and remains to be explored,particularly in relation to landscape

Brian E Deagon
17 sep .2014

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Kitsch me if you can

imageimageWhen Dave and i went fishing we were after tailor. In a fishermans shack i found a box of art books  .I was learning .”art” at high school or zqqzso i thought .As it turned out,I was being propagandised  to accept modern art. My box of art books didnt. These guys could  paint and draw! when i mentioned Alma  Tadema and Lord Leighton ,Solomon , Millais :you would think i had consorted with the devil..Not so,it was a casual encounter at the beach,
I did not realize it would take a lifetime to  decipher what had happened to me,to undo the conflict in me.

On one hand, Modernism  On the other, Academism.  Presented as a clear cut choice,one or the other.    It rapidly became a matter of trying to reconcile opposites. After years of study i know that dichotomy was and is false.

Brian E Deagon

Being young i couldnt see the trap that had been sprung. Study of art came equal to teaching it.but in retrospect,our teachers at college were mediocre artists, and left us to our own devices.  So long as Cezanne got a nod so did your career. There was no academic drawing class.

Bourgeous Realism is an unfortunate descriptor. Because it needs to cover many styles of realism. It also fails to see that these  realistic styles( including Surrealism were adapted at  need,modified  to suit a particular  narrative. Style was not an outcome but an expressive device.

Henceforth  it was a matter of conscious choice of styles,not merely mastery  of one.

if we ever realised there was a problem,we had to solve it. My nose had detected something rotten in .modern art,and noteably the art market.which looked like an army of gender challenged shop assistants. image

somehow i persisted,finding my.own way down the Pollock road. Till one night i saw clearly, “Brian,you cant draw”    An_Audience_at_Agrippas

at that, Alma Tadema and Lord Leighton came to my recue.


Now I enter what Ingres called the ” probity” of art. Having suggested to a friend that they treat edges with more consideration i did a little drawing. Of a mandarin.

The outline silhouette is a beginning. Then we consider the difference between surfaces that turn away rapidly or slowly. Do we render this by blurring the slow and sharpening the rapid? Or do we darken the sharp and lighten the gentle? The temptation is to do both,but if you use a tonal signifier this will invariably run counter to any rendering of light. Continue reading Edge

Wendy Artin

Just painted a nude i am pleased about. Why? Because the musculature is caught by a kind of calligraphic brushstroke. Best example is Sargents Thomas which i consider a masterpiece. Its obvious the muscle must be painted using brushstrokes. This is more. The stroke follows the fibre of the muscle,so it is as if by alchemy that the muscle is created by the paint.but this goes deeper than colour,texture and tone. Thats the surface reality,rendering an illusion of light. That varies, the muscle form does not. It changes shape as it moves but constrained by attachment and insertion its forms remain constant.
It is though the muscle is replaced by paint,flexing and flowing.Mine is a very bad painting,and a bloody good idea.
Looking at Ryans Daffurns painting of her knees was to follow stroke by drag,push by pull,layer by scrape,and to witness the how rather than the what.
And now 06/05/15 i rediscover Wendy Artin’s watercolour nudes i saw them in Boston in 2009?. She has really done nothing more than eliminate preliminary linework. In doing so, light areas on the body are undifferentiated from the paper background. The light glows off the body. She paints in earths (umber) which can be very dark, or ranging to very subtle, but the middle tones seem to be treated first.
Of all subjects, the nude responds to the most abstract treatment. For tone shapes are her building blocks. These reveal a deep understanding of anatomy, heightened by  “lost and found.” Edges.abrupt transitions indicating sudden plane shifts, more gradual modulations revealing soft changes in the angle of incidence of the light.
Make no mistake, light,anatomy,perspective and watercolour technique are all profoundly present. Academic training is at the centre, but Artins simple refusal to go the easy way and outline first results in fresh,spontaneous,daring work.
To her advances? I can see a way for me to build figure compositions from memory and imagination,taking the odd one into oil paint, yet maintaining the brushwork at the heart of it.

Inside Outside

Imagine drawing an apple. With a small hog fitch or flat square. Now we cannot escape the thickness of the line,but thousands of drawings ignore it. For most, the”real” edge lies somewhere obscured within the thickness. The thing is, to be conscious of its function, to decide if you are drawing inside or outside the apple. The indecision creates inaccuracies.I know.

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It looks just like a photo

It looks just like a photograph!
After a period, say four weeks, drawing every day for a morning session of 3hours, you might expect verisimilitude.  Thats 15hours per week.  When someone claims “it took a month” they mean 60 hours at an easle. At Salisbury we have the model pose for 5 hours for 5 weeks. A maximum of 25 hours. Is it enough?
Doing what.? And i have a serious case of the”why bother”s
There is no doubt that i have not pushed my drawing far enough. I have stopped before the hand had veins and dirty fingernails. Or.. Before the light on her foot was knocked back a quarter tone so the ” cone of light” had the correct drop off from head to foot. Its not always more detail. It is often about relative balance and relationships. Its about fine distinctions between form shadow and cast shadow in the folds of his belly. About planar structure and the consistent angle of incidence of the light, then the “lifting out” of the most subtle bounced light in the deepest shadow.
I simply did not know enough. Or didnt apply what i did know. And time really is of the essence. Because the knowledge ,attitude and skills you bring to a 60 second sketch are not the same that informs a 5 minute sketch. Or a 15 minute or an hour drawing. And when does a sketch become a drawing? The fact is, these are all different events. And, like an athlete, we need to prepare and practice for each event in which we hope to succed.
Few are marathon runners. Yet anyone can go the distance. I have seen many spend days scratching at the same drawing to no effect. Other than perseverance no other virtue was displayed beyond a rudimentary exactitude of tone, concieved and executed as a Photoshop jigsaw puzzle.
The true marathon drawing  exhibits knowledge,skills and attitude of an extraordinary degree. And it is all executed to plan. After a while, the graphite begins to feel different. Then you realise the drawing is in layers, and where the poor draughtsman obscures them, the good leaves them still operating in a surface that has depths mimicing human skin. Then you realise that from the first mark ,the final result is in mind. Each layer of drawing doesnt simply restate, but deals with another issue. This is why Vavagiakis draws “in a circle” around his drawing never staying in one place, its still developing, how dark should it be?” I dont know yet”
Gadually the drawing emerges from the successive layers of knowledge. Vavagiakis likens the use of graphite and conte to glazing and scumbling.
Truth is, I had become adept at the 5 minute sketch. No mean feat ,and every reason to be proud of them. But i simply did not know enough to do a  competent 4 hour drawing, never mind a 20 hour one. And this leaves aside the issue of taking an hour to do a 5 minute sketch!
So I return, not triumphant, but stimulated. It might be the coffee. But i do want to pusue the long drawing. Now i know what to put in one
Brian Deagon 21/02/2014

Related Images:

Preserve the light

By an odd paradox we draw with black to create the light. Seems contradictory when you think about it. So we will. Think about it.
Keep the shadows simple. Good advice. Its why the raw umber block in is used. The lights are where the complexity is. Starting from the form shadow, transition into the half lights, then full lights, reflections and highlights. And they wont work without that simplified base.
Now, when drawing, we use graphite, ink, charcoal to define our forms. Black. And the more we define the forms, the blacker our drawing gets. If we define to illogical extremes, we end up with a black sheet of paper.
And all the light is gone.
And unless we define the forms, we wont have surfaces to take the light. Remember , its in the light that complexity lies. A lot of form drawing is required. We simply cannot generate enough tones to distinguish this from that.
 (twenty or so seems the limit )
So, what do you do?
Clearly,  there is a point of balance between defining form in black (and covering it in scribble)and releasing light from the paper( and leaving it blank)
I just created a conceptual drawing called ” All or Nothing” and it is copyright.
Costa uses black and white on toned paper. QED
Whats your response? Its one we all have to solve
Having done as i was told and massed my darks, I made them too dark so they didnt read tonally. Costa noticed and advised breaking up the “blackhole” sucking attention away from the figure. I objected, saying this was contradictory. His explanation was a gem.
If on the turn into shadow, we darken to create the” core,terminator,crescent” shadow, then work subtle transitions into the light, the eye will transition to the light, not the shadow. This we knew.  The next was news.  If the darkness of the core shadow is the darkest tone in the drawing,the tonal key will be best from a design or composition standpoint.
It seemed to work, but i will need to experiment more.
Brian Deagon

Drawing with Michael

Drawing with Michael Grimaldi
The Art Students League of New York has a long and distinguished history. It has been remarkable for the range of viewpoint and the depth of tuition over its long life.
The atelier system is centre. The instructor visits the studio twice a week. For the rest of the time, monitors look after the class, the models,the paperwork.
In general, students help each other, but the instructors influence is pervasive, and idiosyncratic. As it should be. In true American style those instructors survive who attract students. No tenure here! And no guidance from a bureaucracy as to how things should be done.
Legendary teachers have included George Bridgeman. Robert Beverly Hale, Nicolaides,   William Merrit Chase, Arthur Wesley Dow.   Students who have become instructors include..George Bellows, Thomas Hart Benton, Alexander Calder, Helen Frankenthaler, Georgia O’Keeffe, Barnett Newman, Norman Rockwell, Winslow Homer, Man Ray, Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, Louise Nevelson, Reginald Marsh, Romare Bearden, Red Grooms, Donald Judd, Roy Lichtenstein, Mark Rothko, Ben Shahn and Cy Twombly. – See more at:
Michael Grimaldi has a reputation which is richly deserved. In fact, he has two of them. It seems that in his case, there are two categories of student. Those who need his assistance and those who dont. Apparently,I fell into the ” dont need help ” category.
At first i found this studied silence disconcerting. Having paid for tuition i had a right to expect it. I didnt recognise the form in which it would come.Keeping one eye on the other students, one eye on the model, and one eye on my drawing induced a state of paranoia and confusion and i began to doubt my abilities. I began to wish for the intervention that the instructor could bring.
It then became necessary to use a fourth eye to observe the teacher, his proximity,length of time in the room, who he decided to help. His behaviour in avoiding me was deliberate. Eye contact was studiously directed away from me, but that could be shyness.From my initial surmise that i was simply inadvertantly overlooked, i had realised this exclusion was a conscious strategy.To what end?
Why had i been singled out? I began to probe. Very quickly i realised i was not alone. There was a category of students who had had the same experience. Some were no longer Michaels students. They had moved on.The more i asked,the more i found.,
Then it hit me . From the Zen Master -a slap in the face. Enlightenment! The lesson was that we did not need the master. He had nothing we could not conjure from our own experience. Possibly he felt inadequate beyond mere demonstration.Useless surmise.
This realization was humbling. I admit to feeling from then on, a little smug looking at those students who were so dependant they had to be painstakingly corrected every session .The temptation to give pointless faint but useless praise to those like myself .(clearly a master of our craft.,)must be huge .Michael resisted.
In 3 months Michael has not so much as spoken to me. I am indebted to his unswerving dedication that I should grasp the reality of my own destiny.  In his own mind, he is clearly deserving of both his reputations.
In my Silence  induced euphoria,I see that reputations dont matter,and neither does Michael Grimaldi.
It had to happen. Michael introduced himself on my last day in New York. He was not to know that.He spoke about transition tones from the crescent shadow revealing the plane structure at the same time, and where two planes intersected in the same tone informing us of the angle of incidence of the light. He discussed the . ” drop off .” of light and the simultaneous contrasts of lights and darks.Clearly Michael was at pains to show my ignorance,and his knowledge. I explained the simplification of forms of old painters was due to arthritis and blindness. He added free will. I now suspect he has a psychological problem. A pity.
And here from the Masters own Voice  is all that is needed to compare what  is said, and done.
Artist’s Statement by Michael Grimaldi.
After searching in vain for a classical teacher of painting and drawing, I was fortunate to find some instructors that could not only paint and draw but also could verbalize and demonstrate their ideas and skills. These giving professors opened my eyes to a whole new world, encouraging me while teaching me the fundamentals that will remain with me throughout my lifetime. I feel that the early education an artist receives is imperative to his or her underlying skill and work ethic. Being convinced that many of my progressive steps in drawing and painting are the result of my training, I feel it is only fair to pass on what I have learned.

I teach because I believe that everyone must be given the chance to see, to develop, to learn the basics, which will serve to translate the vision into reality. Also, since the learning process never ends, I, too, learn from my teaching experiences. If I am able to help someone of the difficult path of creating, I feel that I am passing on an invaluable service that has been passed on to me. If I can convey my analytical work process to others – adding my own collective views and ideas to those which I’ve been taught – I feel that I will make an important contribution to that which is essential to the continuance and progression of classical/realist art in the next century.

AH Michael …….”between word and act……….”