NYNY WTC remembered

Manhattan skyline in 1976

Manhattan skyline in 1976

Its ironic that having put in new lighting into the studio I have only been able to spend one afternoon in there. I went on a road trip to look at hotels for www.hoteldesigns.net  which helps to pay the bills for all the renovation and new lighting. Unfortunately I displayed some symptoms which the docs though might be cancer before I started out, but went anyway. On my return I was delighted the tests showed they were wrong, but my leap of delight turned into agony when I twisted my back. So I am lying around trying sporadicly to work whilst under the influence of strong painkillers and anti-inflammatories, a situation that I’m told could last another month!

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The slides are nearly 40 years old , all scanned and as originally photographed in 1976

I have taken the opportunity to start sorting through my enormous library of old photographs, many of them reflecting travels when I was teaching art college. In 1976 I took advantage of Laker Skytrain to fly to the USA to see the celebrations of the bicentenary of their independence. New York was the destination and for three weeks I walked the city with a camera photographing anything that caught my eye, predominantly architecture and sculpture. Of course I went to all the galleries too, even took slides of my paintings with me, although without succeeding a getting show (London first they said).


One of the twin towers

One of the new buildings that drew me like a magnet was the World Trade Centre. I took some photographs of the interior as well as the outside. It dominated the city skyline, and stood almost right on the waterfront, adjacent to an area being reclaimed from the river. It was a glorious piece of architecture, from the top of which(it was said) you could see nearly 200 miles on a clear day. As architecture it was peerless, much more interesting than many more modern buildings, certainly better than some of the preposterous offerings we are inflicted with some 40 years later.

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I offer these images not just to be enjoyed as a great piece of architecture, or as a testament to the vandalism of the heathens that destroyed them, but also as a memorial to those who died in them.  As well as the people, remember the buildings too, a testament to American creativity

All images are ©Copyright Patrick Goff

Weaveing Lobby World Trade Centre

The wall hanging in the lobby. I was impressed by the scale of the art in American buildings – was huge (see the same hanging in the lobby image above)

Snow white?

When a student in the 60’s I had a series of lectures on colour and perception. One in particular sticks in my mind. A series of panels of white paint were placed under the light from a slide projector, in front of a black background. As each panel was added it made the previous panel look grey. The simultaneous contrast with the black had made the first look white but 8 panels later it was clearly a grey. (see my experiments with colour in the 60’s at  Use and abuse of colour )

The old lighting was flush with the ceiling but crap

The old lighting was flush with the ceiling but crap

Most galleries show work under artificial light, and the constancy of electric light compared to daylight has made me try to create controlled white light in studios I have worked in over the years. This has meant trying daylight adjusted neon tubes (work in the blue spectrum), photofloods (expensive, throw out too much heat, and yellow) and halogen lights.

It lit the canvases very unevenly and colour rendition was pretty awful - as well as cooking my head

It lit the canvases very unevenly and colour rendition was pretty awful – as well as cooking my head

When my new studio was built at the bottom of the garden the lights were halogen. Because planning restricts height, the internal ceiling at 6,200 was pretty low, and the lighting was pretty crap as well as cooking the top of my head whilst I worked. I remember a conversation with an hotel chain about energy use at which they revealed they had been working with Philips to create lighting that was both energy efficient, and whose output could be colour tuned for different areas of the hotel. Their lighting was LED.

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When we had the house rewired (an ongoing process) we had LED down lighters added. Their light was warm (slightly yellow I think) but a good white and not only energy efficient (less than 205 of normal energy consumption) but cool too.  So I went to a couple of local electrical installers and asked advice. Given a couple of options I have had flat panels LED’s fitted. They reduce head height under the fitting itself slightly but they emit no noticeable heat and the light is brilliant.

New lighting much more even, and will be far better for working under. Brighter and whiter

New lighting much more even, and will be far better for working under. Brighter and whiter

The results are stunning. Not only do they consume far less energy but the output gives almost a flat lighting across the whole area of the studio, and it appears to be a good flat white. I found under previous lighting (admittedly poorly designed, I had to accept what was in the building package) I could not see properly where I was priming the canvas. Now everywhere is lit. Colour rendering looks brutally honest. It is a delight to work under.

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I think I’ll be able to dispense with the desk lamp too

If only the winter flu jab hadn’t laid me up for a couple for days I would be by now able to give results of experience in working in this lighting – but next time. Meanwhile I give you these images and from experience so far, unreservedly recommend that you consider these panels for you own studio lighting

Cyprus Notes

The holiday makers lie broiling in the Mediterranean sun. Bronzed bald headed muscle men stride past mounds of bright reddening flabby granddads; slender brown bikini clad beauties strut their flat stomachs past roly-poly grandmas sunbathing topless like obscene beached whales; jolly families initiate their children in the  delights of  swimming pools a brilliant turquoise in contrast with the greyer blue of the warm sea. Around them the smiling staffs of the four and five star hotels fronting the beaches serve endless gallons of drink and mountains of fine food.

Sun worshippers, sea bathers, Cyprus is a Mediterranean crossroads and mixing pot

Sun worshippers, sea bathers, Cyprus is a Mediterranean crossroads and mixing pot

Behind this frontage of Gerald Scarfianesque indulgence lie cheery shops selling sun cream and car hire, holiday homes and retirement villages. They are but a mask for the malls behind are empty, shops littered with sun-bleached ageing pictures of unsold dreams, façades over empty windows advertising gold for sale, speciality leather ware and unwanted digital cameras.

At night the cafes are busy and families stroll along the front, but the dark windows of the newly built apartments reveal unlet and empty properties. A drive into the surrounding landscape, rapidly becoming an urban sprawl, reveals handwritten for sale signs, half-finished buildings with the dust of ages forming on their uncovered skeletons. Weeds grow around bleached signs advertising retirement villas that may never now be built.

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The walk along the shore is lit as people stroll enjoying the balmy nights

Many development signs are in Chinese, as the island, desperate for investors to bail out its largely bankrupt construction sector, offers any Chinese moneyman with half a million Euros to blow, Cyprus citizenship if he buys a villa. Is this perhaps an entree into a Euro passport?

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Empty shops and apartments for sale…

Some hotel groups, perhaps more cautiously run in the past, are growing and investing, but development sites right on the seafront are surrounded by forlorn decaying hoardings carrying sun faded  images of turquoise pools, advertisements for never to be built spas whilst some hotels operate with loans that can never now be serviced. The television is filled with solemn faces talking about new insolvency laws as Eurocrats dictate terms for the slow crisis recovery the island struggles to achieve.

For many in the hinterland life continues as before, rooted in the land and self-contained. Newcomers fleeing crisis in Greece do not find unequivocal welcome and I hear of Greek incomers being victimised – a far cry from the post-independence ENOSIS (Union with Greece) politics that perhaps contributed to the destructive Turkish invasion and the continuing illegal occupation of the northern half of this partitioned island jewel.

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Broken dreams

I was in part brought up on the island and my return was a holiday my partner insisted I take. She has watched me working away without a real holiday, and saw taking me back down memory lane as a way of forcing a pause in my working life. So for a week I have watched the package tourists in this popular destination, meals and entertainment included, as in a close encounter with aliens. Despite staying in over 200 hotels in the last ten years I have never been a packaged guest before and the days I have enjoyed have been those driving away into the mountains, and indeed seeking my own past.

Cyprus has all the ingredients that could make it a jewel holiday destination. Invaders have left their marks – Phoenicians, Hellenes, Romans, Crusaders all left castles and colonnades, tombs and tessatiles whilst a kind nature has given grapes and bananas, melons and honey, warm seas and sandy beaches. Man is the corrupting influence, one religion against another (with the same god too perhaps?), greed and selfishness overcoming and destroying community, dividing  perhaps irreparably, what once was an island that inspired poets and writers, film makers and dreamers.

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The lights of bars and cafes light up the Paphos seafront

I didn’t find much of my past. Changed and ‘developed’ away, only a few indicators remain of my childhood images, crumbling into dust. Later today I will fly home to a UK that seems slowly to be breaking apart riven by fools and conmen, where guilty men live wealthy lives unpunished for the pain they have inflicted on many. Cyprus may be a sad remnant of my own remembered past, but I gain no joy of my own country as I look forward to its continuing decline at the hands of unworthy men and women.

Perhaps I shouldn’t take holidays…

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Sunset at days end


Impatience is a real problem for me. I ordered the stretcher pieces and a roll of canvas ready for the next painting before I had finished the drawings. The canvas is fine, but I think I may have ordered a stretcher that is going to be too small….


Original drawing

Original drawing


The drawings progress though, and working in part from drawings made in the garden in the hot months of May/June and in part from photographs, the ideas are getting sorted. I am exploring the colour contrasts and transitions I can make across an image, breaking it down so that colour and the canvas space are at odds with the image itself and trying to make a more thorough job than I did on the last painting. It doesn’t pay to cut the mythmaking short, neither for the colour transitions nor for the line drawings.

Looking at the grass, light and shade

Looking at the grass, light and shade

In the California Poppy painting there were a couple of basic mistakes. I did not explore the drawing enough relying on mark making on the canvas, which proved not to work terribly well, and I think I also got the scale of the canvas wrong. This meant the square I used was too small and it made the mark making too tight, not allowing the colour to flow freely.


Looking at the series of drawings I am making using oil pastel I think the scale of the mark in relation to the area of canvas it is covering is too tight in the paintings. I need to use a larger square to allow the brushstroke to sing more. The pastel drawings are over a yard square (about 950 if you are metric) and this leaves room for the mark to ‘breath’. The small square I did on the last canvas I think compressed this and throttles the mark.

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Unfortunately I have ordered a stretcher on the basis of the earlier square size, but I think I can extend the drawing to make it work with a larger drawing , so a little more mythmaking yet I think. This is the sixth of these large oil drawings I have done, and I am really happy with them. I need to pull some of the qualities into the paintings.

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36 inches square, oil pastel on paper

I want to retain the autographic quality of the mark, and to play with the relationship between colour and edge, using colour to create space but fragmented and without the visual clues that come from a drawn edge. Colour is space but an image can also define space without colour and I like to conflict between the two. It plays with the language of art, plays with the concepts of paintings as 2d illusions of the 3d world.

In the flower paintings from the earlier years I achieved this but I am groping to take things a step further. As Madness sang ‘One step beyond….’

Putting The Pain in Painting

In to Paint is to Love Again I showed the start of the painting. I started with high ambition that it will work well but I end with a self-critical kicking as I see where it is failing. I am somewhat embarrassed that, this time, it is entirely because of my monomaniac focus on colour and not enough on the preparatory drawing that is the cause.

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Drawing #5 California Poppy. Oil Pastel on paper 1 metre square

Oh there were plenty of drawings in both sketch book and on paper. There were photographs too. The large format oil pastels drawing culminated in one exploring the colour of the California Poppy, drawing no. 5 in this metre square series. I thoroughly enjoyed making the drawing and I think they were all very successful. All the drawings have worked for me so I started the painting optimistic that I had sorted everything. Alas I hadn’t.


Detail of drawing #5

Someone once explained that line is a locus of a point moving through space. A surface is the locus of a line moving through space, and a solid is the locus of a surface moving through space. With me the image is dislocated from the colour showing how the colour in painting defines the space and using the dislocation to play with the traditional idea of painting as an illusion of objects, a 2d representation of 3d or 4d space.

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Detail of Drawing #5 California Poppy

Unfortunately whilst all the drawing was strong in working out a great deal about the colour relationships I forgot a fundamental that colour has edge. In previous paintings I have made the drawing strong so that the edge of the colour played with the edge of the image. Here I allowed my self-indulgence with the colour to create edges I didn’t mean. Add this to the weak drawing and whilst bits of the painting work, overall the result lacks the clarity and simplicity that I think the image needs to carry the ambiguities of colour and space in a coherent visual framework.

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California Poppy. Acrylic on cavas. 3250mm square

Here the ambiguity of the drawing multiplies the ambiguity of the colour. I have allowed the original image to slip away, to escape the processing. Needing time and application to draw effectively, I backed away from the tough drawing I needed to do, indulged my desire, my impatience, to begin painting. I need to step back on the next painting to make sure I go forward purposefully. One step back for two forwards.

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Deatail of painting California Poppy

Drawing #6 will explore the colour – that thread stays intact, but the hard discipline of line drawing needs to be faced full on to distil the image I want of the painting, and to make sure it holds the colour in balance. This may also allow me to get the scale right too as in this painting I think the scale is also wrong, perhaps too small. There are bits that work though, and the finished piece does carry some of the feel of the original photograph. Yet it falls short of where I wanted to be.

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Plenty of material here in the garden for more colour exploration

Halfway through I think I knew all this. I paused and wrote  He Who Hesitates is Lost the black clouds were a good representation of how I felt/feel. I need to crack on past this point. I have to move forward once more, away from this place that puts the pain into painting

He who hesitates is lost?

It’s just over two weeks since I last blogged. I did set myself the target of blogging about once a week, so the reasons for not doing it have been difficult for me to get to grips with. I think part of the reason is physical. I have an old shoulder injury that has always bothered me when working at an easel. After finally being referred for an MRI scan I had high hopes that the NHS would find a cure to free me from pain.

It is possible to think into a dark place, light hidden in clouds, a battle to move forward

It is possible to think into a dark place, light hidden in clouds, a battle to move forward

However the consultant who saw me had not been sent the scan by my doctor and so after a lot of toing and froing I have now to wait until late September before having another consultancy. I think this has caused some depression and made it difficult to focus on working, especially when the painting has reached a difficult transition point. Short-hand I suppose for maybe it’s not working!

A glimmer of light can be just enough to follow to find a way back

A glimmer of light can be just enough to follow to find a way back

I also finally set up my second ‘print’ studio with a large printer, and then realised all sorts of problems within my photography. Because I have been taking images for the web, they are not manipulable nor as sharp as a professional’s photographs would be. Also I have never really thought of my photographs as art in their own right, any more than I think a page from my sketchbook is. I have seen the camera as a tool and only now am I beginning to think of them as possible art forms – but even then in my mind divorcing the imagery from the tool itself. Now I realise that is not how I really see photography for me, so I don’t want to go down that path.

Light breaks over the horizon

Light breaks over the horizon

So the clouds have gathered in my work, much as the clouds have gathered over Seaford as the end of hurricane Bertha has tromped its way along the coast. With 18 foot waves, and thunderstorms it has taken over a week for Bertha to clear off, and it is taking some time for me to sort out what I am doing both in the painting and the printing.  I have realised that whilst I have taken a large number of nice images, as art they need approaching in a different way, and I am now going to step down that path, into the unknown.

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Over the horizon lies the goal. But doesn’t it always?

So now I have taken steps to resolve issues and get back to work. I have taken on the challenge of calibrating the screen and the printer together, in itself and intellectual and technical challenge  (Don’t you hate it when instructions start off with defining colour as electronic colour not light? Hence the nonsense that green is a primary …) I have booked some lessons on how to use my software properly to achieve what I currently create mechanically.

I have also decided the painting will work.

Hesitation is not prevarication. I think therefore I am. The clouds are lifting.

Castles in the Air, Dreams Earthbound

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The last week has been a major disappointment. It started with a trek to Eastbourne to see a consultant about the worsening of a nagging pain in my shoulder, a relatively minor ailment for years morphing into something more serious as ageing sets in. Our wonderful NHS managed to X-ray the wrong area whilst also losing my MRI scan so the consultant was forced to deduction and injection. The result was a ban on working in the studio for a week, nor was I to do anything that might put strain on the shoulder.

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These pines gradually making way for new broadleaf woodland

Fortunately I had an invitation to Yorkshire – a weekend with my brother followed by a stay in an hotel. Alright so the hotel was work, but at least the trip would take me out of myself and into a different landscape.

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Painted Lady butterfly making a picture

Indeed the whole trip was a reminder of what a cobblers our government has made of our road system whilst reminding me of just how beautiful England is. I must say England now  as the break up of the UK seems inevitable as the Scots make their desire for independence evident (whilst denying the 800,000 Scots working in England the right to have a say).

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Sunrise looking towards the Yorkshire Moors

Yorkshire looked lovely, still showing signs of having been used for some cycle race or other. The villages in their local stone showed local produce, better cheese than anything from France. You haven’t lived until you have tried a Yorkshire tea. Not cream and scones, that’s a Devon tea, but rich fruit cake and Wensleydale cheese together, reet gradely.

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The fairy castle that is the Swinton Park hotel – fantastic food, local produce, local beers

The views we had at dawn were wonderful, but seeing weasels hunting a field of cut hay was fascinating and the proliferation of butterflies and birds to was wondrous to behold as were the albino deer in the Swinton Park, a revisualised Victorian country house that was our magical enchanted castle to stay in.

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Bit like our aristocracy, the deer herd needs fresh blood,its albino quality being due to inbreeding apparently

Am I refreshed and ready to go in the studio, shoulder cured? Nope, of course not. Tired after driving 650 miles, but yes, back in the studio later, shoulder no different. Isn’t our NHS wonderful? Seemingly condemned to increasing pain as I get older, not a great prospect, and so much still to achieve…

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The selfie shows I can at least still hold a camera