New material: Wing mirror

So useful, I wish I’d got one sooner! A car’s wing mirror, slightly convex. It allows you to view paintings in reverse, which helps making compositional decisions. It’s also like seeing the image with fresh eyes.

This is the first time I’ve used one and already it feels indispensable. I never would have got through this crowded composition without the mirror. I checked it every time I added a new figure.


170119 Crowd (2017) oil on canvas 25 x 28cm

This was another exercise in my effort to learn how to “barrel through densely packed scenes efficiently, using a big brush, and not getting caught up in illustrational details“, as Salle put it. As it is, the picture went further than I wanted into a kind of cartoonishness, but it was an interesting process.

I invented the content as I went along, with nothing particular in mind and no source images. I’m surprised that a lot of the content now appears to me to be a comment on the inauguration of Donald Trump as president of the US, which is happening today.

The nazi salutes, and the raised arm on the right turning into a tree branch with a rope tied to it, seem to refer to fascism and the US’s history with race. Some of the figures even seem to me to resemble real people with connections to this inauguration: Donald Trump, Paul Ryan, Elizabeth Warren, Don King, Barack Obama. This was all unintentional. The rope was only added to solve a compositional problem. This reminds me that painting content without giving it thought is always likely to produce unintended implications that appear to be intended.

It was impossible to paint this crowd without remembering other painted crowds. The main difference between these paintings and mine is scale. They’re all at least four times the size of mine. The Schutz is thirteen times the size. Here they are in chronological order:


James Ensor Ensor aux masques [Self-Portrait with Masks] (1899) oil on canvas 80 x 120cm


Philip Guston If This Be Not I (1945) oil on canvas 107 x 140cm


Dana Schutz Fanatics (2005) oil on canvas 228.6 x 243.8cm


Nicole Eisenman Biergarten with Ashe (2009) oil on canvas 165 x 208cm


George Condo We Are Who You Think We Are (2010) oil on linen 177.8 x 152.4cm


Antonio Ballester Moreno Untitled (Expect Anything) (2011) acrylic on canvas 200 x 250cm


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