2017

Amsterdam's best Coffeeshop \ Abraxas

I lived in Amsterdam for two years of my drawing adventure and the place was nothing but good to me. Amongst the drawings and eventually paintings I made, great friendships were forged, stories were shared, projects created and some of the greatest of those moments happened in one of my favourite coffeeshops in Amsterdam. The Abraxas lies in the heart of the city in a tiny alley way under the shadow of the grand palace. The atmosphere is more than cosy with the organic wooden seating and mosaic designs that cover the floors. There's a social vibe here rarely found in coffeeshops around the city. The staff are friendly and the coffee is great, what more could you ask for? In the beginning of my time in Amsterdam, a few events and "small world" stories occurred around the shop which lead to some of my most treasured experiences in life and of Amsterdam..

Firstly, in my search for a job and asking in the Abraxas I became acquainted with another customer, a lively 19 year old Dutchman who shared a passion for great coffee and just so happened to be opening a lunch room restaurant with his family. What followed was too surreal for words. I had my first job as an artist painting the tables for the terrace of the cafe, which lead to me working in the cafe itself, working the food, drinks and service, and eventually being semi-(no paperwork)-adopted by the most beautiful of families. I cannot put a value on the 18 months of living with 'The Kroons", They taught me more of life's worth than I knew possible. The mother and father are embassadors of the purest love I have ever encountered. Life's truly awe inspiring people who I can admire as peers and role models, for if I gain a fraction of what they have created, I will be naught but a happy man. The 4 Brothers too, unmistakable of the same kin, yet icredibly unique and individual characters in their own right. I have no doubt in my mind that they will all follow in there parents foot steps and make great things in all aspects of life.

Another time, in the exact same spot where I encountered Jesse (my now dutch brother) did I meet a middle aged bearded Norwegian, coming from Berlin to find an apartment in Amsterdam. After small smoke on a magic dragon, I find out the guy is a painter and we spent the rest of the day hanging out. After this day I did not hear from or speak to Lasse for some months, until one very normal day I was enjoying a lunch with a regular customer of the family cafe when suddenly she had to dash. Over an hour she left her brother and I talking and eating her delicious burger. Upon here return she was so happy and buoyant, she had just sold her apartment and all the things inside! You'll never guess who bought the apartment, yep, Lasse, the Norwegian Painter I met that one day. The world is too small. We got back in touch once he made his move, and what followed was the making of a gallery. Everything Is Fucking Art, Lasse's brainchild of a gallery space to exhibit his paintings in Amsterdam. We dicussed our ideas of what a gallery should be, and from this he asked me to get on board and help me make his. 

There was another chance encounter related to the coffeeshop, however this took place on the terrace of the family cafe where I served a kindred spirit and after some chatting she agreed to let me make her portrait. All normal so far I hear you say. Well, the portrait went smoothly, I caught the girl reading on her sofa in the living room of her apartment. After the portrait we continue talking, at some point the girl mentioned that she was in the area a lot because of the Abraxas, which I thought was quite funny as the girl, to my knowledge, did not smoke. I mentioned that it was my favourite coffee shop, she followed with the words "I Know". At this point, I'm a little stunned, how did this girl know this, was she psychic? (it wouldn't have surprised me), I had just that day met this girl, how did she know this. She continued with, "you're the kid that draws.". Now I'm really freaked out. Turns out there was no mental telepathy going on here, but the girl, just so happened to be the daughter of the owner of the Abraxas. Apparently word went around the top that there was a new kid in town and he comes armed with a pencil!

The girl and I became good friends and it was no long before we were talking Abraxas design ideas for the Souvenir shop. So here are he drawings I've made in the name of my favourite Coffeeshop. I highly recommend you check it out if you ever find yourself in the beautiful city of Amsterdam. 

www.abraxas.tv

Faces of Fiction \ The Ice Queen

Anybody who knows me knows I love to draw portraits. Most of the time those drawings/paintings are from life and sometimes the drawing from the memory of characters I encounter in life and some completely ficticious faces constructed by my mind and the moment in which I find myself. 

Well here we have one of my semi fictitious characters. The Ice Queen, conceived in my mind over two years back now, is a subject based on certain qualities of an individual that you could say I know very well, or at least I thought I knew very well, mixed with my ideas and visions of what a true Ice Queen really is. Obviously elements such as coldness, or 'lack of' warmth come to mind. Blues, icy blues, hard edges and strong contrasts alongside some implied character traits suggested in amongst the distorted facial features. I was liberal with the oils and richness of the blues whilst refining the lines with charcoal as I went, what you see below is the outcome of about 5 hours painting, enjoy the ice queens but be warned, don't get too close, frost can bite, hard.. 

My idea of Heaven \ Portrait

I cannot say I am a huge believer in love at first sight. This being said, I feel I’ve gotten as close as I’m ever gonna get. Only a handful of times in life have I, for the first time, laid eyes on a member of the opposite sex and been sucked into suspended animation. The world dissolved around me, I would be reduced to a rabbit caught in headlights. In this transfixed state I would try my hardest to recoil my grounded jaw, replace my eyes balls into their sockets and find some resemblance of a functioning human being within myself once again. Id say it is these moments in life that I would most resemble to this notion of “love upon first sight”.

I remember these few occasions vividly, as if all could have happened yesterday. Even the first, I was just 15 in a new city and a new school. It appeared to be as normal as any day could be for a fairly new student, from a distant land speaking a respectively foreign English. As I made my prescheduled commute between class with a couple of friends, it happened. The double doors that created regular intervals along the absurdly long corridors of the school, flew open ahead of us. What followed were 3 girls heading our way, chatting amongst themselves, laughing and giggling somewhat shyly. None of this really registered in my brain at the time, stunned and infatuated, Amelia Heaven “first love” a “firs sight”. What came to be is another story entirely, for now, heres a pretty picture. My idea of Heaven.

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In terms of my process, I worked from a photo using a pencil to lay down the basic structure, from then on, it was all pen Bebe.  

Naked Chaos \ Vad art kiállítás

I was lucky enough, as an artist who adores drawing nudes, to recently have six girls pose naked for me in one sitting. The space was small and alcohol had been consumed, as you can imagine the scene was a little chaotic and the chances of keeping anybody still for the amount of time to capture an accurate representation of the scene before me were slim to naught. 

However an opportunity to represent the scenario arose in the form of a bubbly and determined Irish girl who goes by the name of Dervla who happened to be hosting what she called a 'Wild Art" Exhibition. Somehow, Dervla had managed to get her hands on a fairly large apartment and permission to paint on alllllll of the walls and she was recruiting artists to fill the space with both paintings and unique, temporary art. Naturally the Painters Palace was a solid point of call and a few of us got together and took over one room of the apartment. We each took our own section of wall and started painting a few days before the exhibition. I had the idea in mind of what style I wanted to implement to show the chaos, the movement, the intertwining limbs from that night with the English girls. I did not do any preliminary sketches, other than the drawings from the 90 minute session. Working in this style is a very impulsive and intuitive process, I find that trying to build the picture before you meet the canvas can intrude on an organic and spontaneous outcome. Therefore I dwell on the idea of the scenario/memory, what I found interesting, the conversations between the subjects (which were extremely fascinating), less on the real form or identities of the girls themselves but most importantly, thinking about the actual process of the painting, down to the brush strokes, in forms of movements that translate into marks that make the picture. Little moments of memory come to me as I create, like the side of a thigh running into the curve of the calf, the expression or tilt on ones face and it seems the as the moments come to me, I have to realise and compose them on the wall. As the exhibition was only intended to be one night I held back on refining every detail of the painting and rather looked for an overall harmony in the piece which ended up being roughly 4m wide and 2.4m tall.

Big Thanks to Dervla and everybody that was involved with the event. It was a huge success with attendance around 700 over the space of 5 hours, which in my book is pretty funking incredible for a first time event! For more info on the exhibition, the artists and works involved plus upcoming events > check here.

Below you can see the finished result, followed by the piece in context of the other works in the space, and then some shots of the process. As always, Enjoy.                                    

Final Piece.

Final Piece.

In context.

In context.

The process.

Painters Palace \ At its best.

The Painters Palace has been a hive of activity over this festival period Budapest. It's buzzing with the creativity of artists and musicians. Over the 2 days we've had a visiting Italian artist Lou Rido stay with us. He's travelling with his chalks and laying his swirls where he can, incredible drawings. For some reason there seemed to be an overwhelming amount of French people with two large groups passing through. We've had numerous noise complaints, even the police called once for just one guy on guitar at 5:30 in the afternoon. The music in general consisted of violin, flute, dijurido, saxophone, guitar, Cajon and guitar along with many 'un'classical instruments, beer cans, wine bottles etc. Sewn into the life music we had some improvised life drawing session, mixing up the models and times of poses as we went.

For me this is the palace at its best. People drawing and painting (creating in general) good live music (most often improvised by spontaneous meetings of musicians) casual nudity (its a must, it works so well with life drawing and pushing peoples concept of a 'normal/steriotypical' scenario or social situation) New people, when the palace has just over a few people inside it becomes a even bigger magnet for even more people. Its great to see so many faces in such a short amount of time come through the doors and experience a new type of space, it's even more exciting to see so many happy faces. The palace has been humming with good vibes and its been getting people to hum in tune. What more could one wish for?

Here's some of my drawings from these days, as always, enjoy.

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Portrait \ Audy a.k.a. Cumi Laut

Arriving home from a spontaneous night in one of Budapest seedy club areas Audy agreed to sit, or in this case lie, for a portrait. I was really in the mood for painting and tired of drawing myself in the mirror plus Audy's technicolored hairdo gets me excited! Here are the results.

Oil on Canvas Board, 30x20cm.

Taka Tuka 2017 \ Drawings speak louder than words.

When it comes to describing Taka Tuka Festival in words things become a little tricky, its somewhat the same as trying to render the idea of enlightenment into written or spoken language, you fundamentally just cannot and actually, the more you try, the further you get from explaining it. Thats because its a feeling, and feelings must be felt, not understood. 

The best way I can describe Taka Tuka however, would be to imagine the period surrounding Christmas, when you know Christmas is just going to be the best Christmas ever, your extended family is complete with around 350 beautiful people with lots of energy and special musical/artistic skills. Put all this festivity onto a small island on the Danube with a limited supply of electricity yet unlimited supply of alcohol, food and music, pepper that with casual nudity and glorious sunny weather and you have the recipe for a great festival.

Compared to last year everything was 100x better not only from the weather, the fact that there was a well and access to abundant clean drinking water, but also the construction and basic infrastructure were massively improved. Previously the bar and kitchen in the main area were basically built from oversized twigs, however this year, tree trunks set a solid foundation for the structures to live on for years to come. Even better is that no trees were cut down to build the structures but the trees had been fell by beavers and reclaimed by the gang to build. The dance floor went from flooded muddy swap land to smooth beach stones centred with an all new DJ booth which took the form of a pirate ship extending from the base of a dead tree. The ship was complete with its own sails and mast, which you could really climb! The tree house was also more solid and better established with ropes, rings and things to play on. A new addition was the hate bar, here you could release your inner demons and let it 'all' out. What was the chill/jam stage last year was only a seating platform for the new Esperanto stage. A medium sized tensile structure over a solid, surprisingly flat, stage and this year there was a much needed bar in this area too. There was also a new area, probably my favourite addition, the Garden of Eden. This area was located a short walk down the island, separated from the music, it was a paradise in its own right. Even though there was no stage so to speak, here I heard some of the best music of the festival as musicians would rock up with their instruments and go acoustic and jam together. Best of all were the dijurido and the flute, both sounds sent from above!

My personal experience of the festival was one of much drawing and a lot dancing, I held an Adam and Eve themed Life Drawing session in the Garden of Eden then became horrendously ill with flu and other things... The sickness stopped me for 16 hours but not for longer, I continued to draw and dance and see out the rest of the festival in good spirits. I drew so much that in 5 days I filled an entire sketchbook (roughly 150 pages) with pen drawings of various moments I found myself in.

Here is a selection of the best drawings. Please bare in mind that a lot of the drawings were made with in extremely low light conditions which makes legible drawing a challenge.

A few more...

I hope you enjoy these drawings, whether you were able to make it to Take Tuka or not, I hope they give you an insight (or my insight) into the island and the people that inhabited it for this small period of time. Maybe you recognise some of the faces in the scribbled lines, possibly even see yourself. I cannot thank the Taka Tuka crew enough, the Brothers, their lovers and everyone who pitched in big or small, you made the best festival I've ever been to, with that you get all my love and respect & my attendance next year! 

GALLERIES ARE DEAD \ Long live the Painters Palace.

  I set off on an adventure to travel and draw, I had a dream of opening studios. Studios to accommodate drawing and painting but most importantly studios with open doors and public participation. All in the aim of supporting and connecting travelling or local artists on their journeys but most importantly, studios that support and to every extent encourage, the creation of art itself, by anybody who feels that desire to create.

The magic of art is lost in galleries. And the connection between audience and artist severed. They are dead spaces with (not often enough) some nice "art" on the walls. My studios would be tactile and approachable, inviting not only the artists inside to work but the laymen, the public, the people who normally would not have the connection to art, artist or 'the process'. There is a little bit of artist in all of us and I want my spaces to nourish that character.

Im writing this post as it so happens to be the one year anniversary of the first major step towards my dream. I came to Budapest little over a year ago to open my first studio, I arrived with my Dutch brother Jesse, who wanted to help build something special. Armed with big ideas and a crumbling basement we set upon opening the Painters Palace. An open studio space in the centre of Budapest where people could feel free to be themselves, create their art and connect with others along the way. 

It's been a truly great year, most days we have welcomed people from all over world through our doors. (This is great because if I'm not travelling go its nice having the world to come to me instead.) During the first year establishing a core group of artists was key to keep the paint of the palace flowing, thanks to this core group the studio has hosted a multitude of events beyond the realm of drawing/painting sessions and workshops. From concerts, jams and recordings, markets, parties (may we not forget Indian New Year...). From all this the Painters Palace has inspired life and art in people, it has brought them together and forged tight friendships. Encouraging all to be and express themselves. 

Don't get me wrong, it has by no means been a breeze. Reality is that 99% of the big ideas you have at the beginning of a process do not come to fruition in the first year of operation or in other cases tested and proven to be a sour tact. But that's just life, you win some and you lose some. For now my aim is to keep the palace rocking the best I can, we will see what comes of it.  

So Happy Birthday to my studio, may the Painters Palace live forever! 

Sneak peak from the party:

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It was a great party to celebrate, we had food, drinks, life drawings, portraits and Palinka Republic took the rook of the place with their epic upbeat tunes which eventually lead to the police being called and party time capped! Thankyou to all those who came down, and to all those that have made the palace what it is, no matter how big or how small your contribution, it is invaluable! 

Style Test \ Nick Drake

I've found this new style I want to experiment further with. Using ink and brush I go over an initial sketch with a continuous and directionless line to build up tonal regions. (original photo by Keith Morris)

My initial idea was to actually build up the tones in greys, however when it came to use the ink I was so excited that I forgot to dilute it down, therefore had to continue with pure black. Still a satisfying outcome, however many improvements to be made. I want to use this technique to portray characters and people that have influenced/inspired my life to this point. 

Watch this space, more too come.

 

Trip to Taka Tuka

This week I visited one of my favourite places on this planet!

Taka Tuka is an island on the river Danube in Kimle (Hungary). It is owned by friends of mine who host a festival there every year for the last 2 years. Prior to the festival there is a period of build up, as there is no infrastructure on the island (water, electricity etc.) so everything needs building.

This year there has been a huge improvement, with a more permanent bar and kitchen area built up, improvements have been made to the toilets and tree house, new paths have been forged from the reeds and now, for the first time, there is running water thanks to a well that the boys installed! 

Of corse I helped as much as a I could, but it was no secret that I wanted to paint. I got my chance, from one of my favourite views of the island, seen from the beach looking upstream. Its a view that if you've seen once, you will never forget it.

Session 1: I spent about 2 hours on location working gout the composition and general colours.

Session 2/3: After bringing the painting home I worked more into the brush and directional marks. whilst building contrast and definition into the trees. 

 

 

Inspired by Impressionists \ Painting the Museum Garden.

After indulging myself in a 3part/hour documentary of the impressionist movement, I got a inner burning to take my easel outdoors again and paint like the pioneers of this colourful style. 

The documentary focussed mainly around Monet as he is considered the father of impressionism, but also includes the stories of Degar, Manet, Cezanne and a few other characters central to this artistic revolution.

I decided I wanted to use a limited palette today, and build the numerous colours from a stable base of primaries. The colours I had on my board were.....!!!!  I began the painting at 3 o'clock in the afternoon and could only paint until 5pm before the light had changed too much. So I went back the next day.

unfortunately I did not take a photo of day two progression.   

A week later after being away I managed to get back to the museum to continue.  

Its amazing how in just a week the scene had changed. the foliage on the trees had become less dense, he yellow/orange I was seeing burn through the Center tree had diminished significantly. Alas, I continued. 

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day 3 (total time painting 5/6 hours) 

drawings spotted in the wild /

I just visited Amsterdam and found a few of my drawings lying around the place.