Saturday, April 15, 2017

Tools of the Trade and a Quick Tour

-By Paul Bonner

I'll have to base these writings on a couple of assumptions.

The first is that it's not very likely that in the near future -or ever - I am going to be conducting brisk and informative tours of my at-home studio.

The second assumption, and a possibly even more far fetched one, is that there are actually people out there who would willingly partake in such a bold enterprise.

So, throwing caution to the wind, and going along with the second assumption - I will try and give a little tour of the tools of my trade, the place where they gather and the part they play in my actually getting anything done.

This little jaunt is only available because not much else is. I am embarked on a couple of creative voyages that forbid me to show anything, and to speak of which, would spell some awful kind of doom. At least for me.

So, cup of tea in hand, I make my way down to the cellar where my world sits waiting. Trying to be a little bit chronological, it is my brain that kicks off the process. The same for most of us I suspect. Those flashes of inspiration and tantalising flashes of what might be. So - paper, before they fade. Assuming that I have filled pages of layout pad with scribbles, and progressed on to things that could be called sketches, and then managed to nail the sketches down as something that I would love to paint - it is over to my light table.

It is an ancient, metal monster that bares the brunt of my struggles to make sense of all the scribbles, squiggles and occasional sketches. Once the hard part of defining and drawing the characters is done, I enjoy physically juggling and jigsawing them into place. Suddenly I can see the relationship they have with each other and have a clear mental image of how they will relate to the background. Being the Creator, in my own world, I can toy with my subjects and play with their sizes. The pretty ordinary copy machine that I have is about as hi-tech as I get in my quest for beauty. When dealing with a gaggle of goblins, being quickly able to up and down their individual sizes a few percent to gently push the composition along is invaluable. Not so hi-tech are books. Pride and joy for many of us. And so necessary, for both sparking ideas and checking that a horses' back leg actually looks like you thought it did.

Risky, though, spending too long looking. Too many ideas, and you can visually short circuit, getting lost in a tar-pit of seductive images.Too much relaxed flicking of pages and it,s suddenly lunchtime (no bad thing). It,s best to do short raids. Know what you want. Get in there. And get out again.

The final jigsaw of characters is then drawn up onto my water colour paper using the light table again - and then it is left alone to dream of whatever it is that light tables dream of, until it,s services are required again.

Stretching the paper requires water from the tap next door - not the neighbours - the room next door. They have big cellars in Denmark. I know there are a lot of assumptions being thrown out here, but I feel relatively safe in assuming that you all know what a tap looks like, so no photo.

However - here is a photo of that little area where, I suspect, like many of us, we spend most of our time - in spite of persistent requests to pay attention to things that need dealing with in the other world outside these walls.

Again, like I suspect many of us, my walls and shelves are covered, some might say cluttered, with all sorts of visual stimulus and emotional supplements, to help oil the wheels, and occasionally push the creative juggernaut I,m trying to steer. It,s all stuff I love.Some things go back years, without having lost any of their appeal - visually or emotionally.

This huge Conan poster, I pleaded with the staff at Londons Forbidden Planet to give me. They had it folded up under the counter, and were happy to get rid of it - for free! More than 30 years ago. It,s seen a lot of things, in a lots of different places over the years, hanging on different walls!

The Siberian tiger is a more recent arrival. Helps remind me that a big part of my own artistic quest is simply trying to make something beautiful. His beauty helps put on hold depressing thoughts about all the crap going on in the world. The sheer aesthetic perfection of a full grown Siberian tiger very quickly puts mankind's stupid and arrogant fumblings on a back-burner - even though, sadly it is those consistent fumblings that threaten such beauty and conspires to make it even more poignant. Don,t get me started……..

 Unless you are one of theses digital folks, it's the same stuff  going on in my play area as there is in yours. Pots of brushes. Tubes of paint. And from that tap next door - water.

The paints just live communally in an old box - the warmer colours at one end - the colder ones at the other, though the front lines can get a bit muddled sometimes.

The brushes, of which I have far too many (because you never know - do you?), are sorted vaguely in sizes. They are on constant rotation, as it is quite a job targeting one that will behave and do exactly what I want it to do. At the moment I am stuck in a kind of vicious, hogs-hair no-mans land. The brushes, that through time and use, have evolved into the perfect partner, have recently reached a collective point where they have simply given up. Instead of a willing and eager tool, a rather alarming number of them have seemingly reached a point where they thought it would be better to turn into something that even a dwarf wouldn't use to clean his chimney. So, my entire A-Team of front rank brushes, have opted for career changes, and my all too new recruits are simply not up to the task.

Even the ones on the left had a perfect leaf shape once  - many paintings ago. But they are still more useful than the ones on the right!

So - a lot of time is spent picking upon brush after the other, trying to find one that can be bent to it's masters will. Brush-rage. You heard it here first. Not a nice state of mind when you were enjoying yourself and things were coasting along.

I make light of this, but it is a problem. New brushes, in spite of their seductive bodies and fine heads of hair - are rarely up to the job, and I,m not ruthless enough in retiring the old guard, convinced their loyalty will help me though just on more painting. Interestingly enough, the new recruits have forced me to work a lot more broadly in the early stages, getting stuff done quicker, and blocking in larger ares with more confidence. I will, however, be glad when they pass basic training and begin to justify their places in my paint pots.

Perched behind me, we can see some anatomic sculptures. Another invaluable aid to quickly checking that the nuts and bolts are understood in that consistently challenging subject of the human body. The skulls are a camel (I found it in the desert and brought all the way in a suitcase from Dubai when my parents lived there. Bet I couldn't do that these days!),and a female elk - or moose, to our American chums.

Music, of course, being another essential to the creative process - and of course, simply as something to be enjoyed in it,s own right. I won't bore you with what I have - but of course - it is an eclectic collection of breathtakingly good taste. Enough said.

The more observant amongst you (and I think I can safely assume that observance is a trait that all of us arty types are somewhat known for), may have spotted the big plastic container under the table. The last 25 litres of 75 litres of cider that is almost ready to bottle. Not strictly anything to do with my daily creative routine. Just needed the radiators warmth back in November when it was fermenting. Having said that, though, it,s very comforting hearing the gentle release of bubbles as the natural sugars turn to alcohol.

I find myself digressing.

"Recreational"creativity. Making things for orks to run around in. My excuse is father/son stuff……….

Not much more to see really. Got some drawers full of half baked ideas, finished works and things I should have thrown out years ago.

A big mirror is invaluable for quick poses. Folds in clothing. Taking quick photos for reference, especially hands - that,s why they all look the same in my paintings, and checking my hair. The goblin is optional.

Plants - you have to have plants. Of course you do - and not just for giving you fresh oxygen - though that,s a good reason, especially if you are a brave soul who dabbles in oil paints.

Lastly, moving down to floor level we come to my exercise machine. He's called Baldur, and is the latest, top of the range "get the artist off his bum and out of the door" model. And Baldur is the only one who can watch me paint, talk to myself, sing, play air guitar, and occasionally curse - with out getting bored (as far as I can tell). I guess we all lead very sedentary lives' perched on our gluteus maximus all day, so anything that causes us to move is a good thing - and a Baldur is about as good as it gets.

So, I reckon that,s it really. Just a quick little tour. Nothing earth-shattering. No secret techniques - I,ll try and rustle some up for next time. Hope you enjoyed the little tour. If you did, feel free to leave something in the tip-jar on the way out.


  1. Wonderful. I would totally take a tour. Art, books, music, Warhammer AND alcohol. Not bad, not bad at all.

    1. Thanks Phiq. Glad you approve…….can make for a heady mix sometimes - but that's why we do it!

    2. I too was glad to see the little ork perched atop the weathered battlements. Great studio, great art, great models, I hope someday to have something even half as good.

  2. Very nice space, thanks for sharing!

    The photo of Baldur almost suggests he demands tribute. A lot of tribute! :-D

    1. Cheers Nicolay. Tribute is demanded - and received. Usually it's just attention. He hasn't moved on to gold or blood sacrifice…..yet.

  3. I enjoy it when artists post pictures of their studios. Thanks!

    1. your'e welcome Billy. Glad you enjoyed it. Don't forget the tip jar.

  4. Thank you for the glimpse into your studio. I am a big fan of your work and have your art book in my studio library to inspire the creative juices. I look forward to seeing more post from you.

    1. Thanks Kevin - and for getting my book. Books can be the gold dust in our creative digging around.
      I,ll try and think of something for my next post.

  5. Someday, if all my wildest dreams come true, I will have a studio space one tenth that awesome. Do you mostly use Windsor and Newtons paint, or are there other favored brands buried in your box?

    Tip: Don't fly United. We need you to make it to SFAL in one piece.

  6. Thanks Anthony. It's pretty much Winsor and Newton. I think there some rogue Rowney, Schmincke - but W&N works just fine. If I get through O,Hare in Chicago I have a United flight to Kansas. I,ll just blend in and not get noticed………..

  7. Paul Bonner, you have got to be the coolest individual on the planet. Loved this.

  8. Not sure about that at all M.B - but it,s rather nice to think that at least one person thinks so. Cheers!

  9. great
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  10. Well I think you may be the second coolest individual on the planet. Here's your tip: Stand next to me at the bar for a free drink.

    1. That's okay Bill, the more pragmatic ones amongst us, got used to the idea a long time ago, that we would always be living in the cool shade cast by your shadow. I,ll take that drink though…….

  11. Thanks for the tour, very fun to see! And it's definitely the nicer kind of basement, with daylight coming in and all!
    One year I'll make it to Kansas, shame there's nothing similar on this side of the Atlantic :(

  12. Eurgh...that's given me a longing for working in my home art room again rather than GW's sterile office... I mean 'studio'...

    Cool stuff Paul, that's one hell of a dog bed!

  13. Thanks Staffan. I couldn't be down there if there wasn't some kind of natural light to sustain me! Iv,e been in lots of different places over the years - some of which, don,t bear thinking about now! And you are right, it would be great to have a kind of European Spectrum. Because of the costs, hardly anyone can get out to the States with all their stuff, and lets face it - we have some unique and brilliant artists here. It would be fantastic to get some of them together in the same place. It,s great feeling when it happens - which is why Cathy and Arnie started Spectrum in the first place. We need one over here!


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