Documenting an experiment with paint for the first time in years inspired an account describing a negative history with the medium.
If I had not just returned home from work to find the Internet wasn’t working, perhaps I would have not sat down to write this article. I won’t even pretend that opening Microsoft Word was the first thing I decided to do after realising. I have spent the last hour unplugging and plugging things in, running diagnostic reports and staring at that fucking useless dinosaur.
As my emotions changed from surprise to frustration, desperation to anger, I finally found myself outside, defeated, cigarette in hand, worrying about how addicted I am… to the Internet.
Facing going cold turkey for an undetermined length of time, I felt an offering to the Internet gods was the only logical solution to bring broadband back. If I can’t consume, I must create!
So I put together this video documenting the end of my paint-brush abstinence.
Difficult styles that’ll be for the technology
Complete sights and new heights after I get deep
You don’t have to speak just seek
And peep the technique
I have never considered myself a good painter. I enjoyed art classes in school, but my miserable teacher had such a strict austerity policy on paint consumption that I left school never bothering to pick up a paintbrush again. The rumour at the time was that he was an alcoholic who lived in his car, and although the older I get, the less funny that seems, it paints a picture of the man.
The only other times I was tempted to paint was through graffiti. Blame Style Wars and my second favourite video game (Top1, Top3, Top4, Top5). When I was about 15, my partner-in-crime (Jake) and I spontaneously decided to buy the brightest possible pot of pink paint from BNQ, sneak out at 3am and paint our school’s goalposts, nearby benches and a big question mark in the middle of a roundabout. Our attempt to cause hysteria in a quiet commuter town failed to make the headlines. The question mark was left unanswered.
A few years later, my relationship to paint grew more complicated after I spent the night in a cell for ‘suspicion of criminal damage’. My band was playing a gig at the Haunt in Brighton, and it seemed an undramatic and sensible end to the night would be to jump in a friend’s car and get a lift back home.
It was easy to find the car because a few hours earlier, the driver had been on an enthusiastic and Mandy-endused tagging spree, leaving a trail of red scrawls straight from the venue to his parking spot. As we laughed and admired the number of Hansel and Gretel-esque breadcrumbs that covered objects in every direction, another passenger felt like contributing and decided to run ahead to write…
“FRIENDLY OLD BUM”
As he shook the can and began to hold his finger down on the cap, an undercover police car sped round the corner and grabbed him, literally red handed. As we watched from the distance, we quickly saw our friend taken away to inevitably be accused of a lot more criminal damage than he had committed alone. As myself and the remaining passengers drunkenly speculated as to what would happen to our friend, the driver, being to blame and in control of us getting home, decided we would wait a few hours, drive to the police station and politely ask for our friend to be released. I disagreed with this plan but also had no other options of getting home at this point.
With the sun beginning to peak over the South Downs, we sat outside the police station, engine running, footwells full of used spray cans, driver’s hands covered in red paint, arguing over who was sober enough to knock on the door and inquire about releasing our friend. In the spirit of fairness, the youngest passenger was selected. Reluctantly, he walked inside the station.
A few minutes later he returned, accompanied by 2 policemen. They approached the car and calmly informed us that our friend was not being held at Brighton police station, but in Eastbourne and that we were all under arrest for suspicion of criminal damage. At this point, my suspicion that paint was not a medium for me seemed to be confirmed.
This all changed a few weeks ago when I found it difficult to get rid of an abstract landscape in my head; green hills, blue river, yellow plants. I can’t pinpoint what inspired this image that stuck around for days, but my best guess would be a mix between Gerhard Richter Painting and SAEIO. Both consumed on the Internet of course (still not working by the way).
Needing just blue and yellow (blue+yellow=green) to create this image, my pro-paint girlfriend Sophie accompanied me to Hoopman Art Supply Store, Amsterdam. We came away with 4 brushes (4 for 4€) and two tubes of the cheapest acrylic they had.
Obviously when I took the paints home and put brush to paper, the result looked nothing like what I had in mind. The allure of the mysterious image was gone. In frustration, I decided to try a technique that I always felt comfortable executing as a child; pressing another piece of paper on top and making a squashed print.
I was no longer obsessed with the image on the first page, but the reproduction on the second caught my eye. Now I am a painter.