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Writing from life

by rogerburnett , August 25, 2014—12:00 AM

Topics: Caribbean, Passion Love, life, nude, poetry, sketches

Just as I paint from life in order to capture the transient moments of life, I find that poetry is most effective when scribbled down in the heat of the moment. The following lines refer to an emotional reunion. They were text to me, rather than scribbled, by Jessica Bellevue, my model and poetic muse. With poetry, as with painting, the simpler and more immediate the statement, the more profound. Seriously I cried and well he held me, But d more I cried. Today's painting is from the series I made of Jessica deep in poetic composition… Continue reading… 1 comment

If only...

by rogerburnett , June 5, 2014—08:44 PM

Topics: Caribbean, Passion Love, bathing, life, models, nude, painting, sketches

Today's painting dates from earlier in the year: a languid afternoon and a painting of Jessica sleeping. If only we could return for a while to those halcyon days of painting and bathing. But with an exhibition looming ahead there is no longer time. Our days are spent frantically framing and sending out invitations for the opening. A dear friend, who over the years has fought against every vicissitude that a small tropical island can possibly throw at her, once told me: that if things can go wrong, they will go wrong, and at the worst possible moment. My digital camera finally gave up the ghost a couple of weeks ago. Tomorrow, I will spend my last cent on buying a new one… Continue reading… 0 comments

Titian painted his "Venus of Urbino" in 1538 and I painted my "Venus of Dominica" the day before yesterday. There have been many changes in the course of five hundred years but the beauty of the nude remains. Out of all the possible ways of depicting the female nude, the reclining nude is my favorite. And the same goes for my models, for what better way is there for day-dreaming through a sultry afternoon… Continue reading… 0 comments

Painterly passions

by rogerburnett , April 26, 2014—08:52 PM

Topics: Caribbean, Passion Love, bathing, life, painting, sketches

My idea of an idyllic beach is a deserted beach. I'm told that, ever since being a child, I've always wanted the sands to myself. Dominica's popular Mero Beach is never deserted and it was especially crowded on Easter Monday. But diametrical opposites attract and it was the blaring music and multitude of revelers that aroused my painterly passion. The only quite tone was my five-year old autistic companion for the day. Like me, she silently looked on in wonder… Continue reading… 0 comments

As a painter I have spent a lifetime trying to capture colour. In particular, I have endeavored to define the colours that are to be found in the skin tones of my models. My struggles with paint are equaled with my struggles in verse. If you dip back into the archives of my diary pages to August 11th 2011, you will find my poem "The Colour Black". I wrote the poem in homage to Denise, my wife and model. It contains the verse: From the dark areola of her breast, Brown madder and yellow ochre merge. While sienna reds and blues subdued In deep purple shadows converge. More recently, a poem dedicated to Jessica, my current model, begins: In mellow tones my muse awakes, With subtle shades of amber glow..… Continue reading… 0 comments

To my mind, water colours are best when thrown down in the heat of the moment. A painting that takes longer than thirty minutes is invariably a failure. Let me clarify that statement by saying that it has taken me seventy years to say what I have to say in less than thirty minutes. On occasions, I still make the mistake of laboring too long. But then, as I throw aside my failed painting, my model heaves a sigh of relief and stretches like she's never stretched before. It is then that I grab the nearest sheet of paper at yell: "Hold it there...please...just for a couple of minutes!" In today's painting you have forever that rare couple of minutes… Continue reading… 0 comments

At the time when Columbus discovered these islands, it was rumored that there was a river, spring or fountain where the waters had such miraculous curative powers that any person who bathed in them would be blessed with everlasting youth. Jessica, my model and assistant, claims that the river that flows around the boundary of our land has these magical properties. Hence she has named it, "The Fountain of Youth". At the end of each working day, we put the waters to the test and bathe. This ritual serves not only as our Elixir of Life but it gives me practice in sketching the fleeting figure. These sketches are my most recent catch of bathing figures… Continue reading… 0 comments

The painter and the poet

by rogerburnett , March 15, 2014—12:00 AM

Topics: Passion Love, life, nude, painting, poetry, sketches

If the requirement of an artist's model is an ability to sit still, Jessica would fail miserably. On the other hand, if a model's fundamental task is to inspire, she wins hands down I have found a way of keeping her almost still by encouraging her to indulge in her passion for writing poetry while I paint. Not only did this ploy enable today's painting, it also produced a poem, the title of which I have used for today's post. Although still a work in progress it begins: When the painter and poet combine, Each searching for that illusive line, Which only a true lover can define. 'tis then, they find their hearts entwine… Continue reading… 0 comments

"I can only work from a model. The sight of human forms feeds and comforts me." Auguste Rodin. I share Rodin's basic need. Without a model my mind and paper is blank. With the model at hand, colours fall on the page with a life of their own. Wherever the model leads, I follow. Today's painting came about from my model's request for something to read while I paint. The book incidentally, is Van Gogh's letters to his brother Theo… Continue reading… 0 comments

The Agony and the Ecstasy

by rogerburnett , February 20, 2014—12:00 AM

Topics: Caribbean, Passion Love, life, models, nude, painting

I have stolen the title for today's post from Irvin Stone's 1962 biographic novel on the life of Michelangelo. I look forward, in the next world, to sharing a glass of wine with Michelangelo, and a host of other artists, who have lived and painted with a passion. I can feel their presence as I struggle with a new collection of figurative watercolour paintings. Giving birth to a painting, involves an agonizing struggle against the odds. At best, a watercolour is an accident waiting to happen. Add to that, the difficulties of working from life; for only rarely can an artist find a muse and model that is able to inspire beyond the dreary norm… Continue reading… 0 comments

This is my most recent painting and you can learn more about it by accessing my latest blog entry, titled "He made a mess of dat". It represents one of those rare occasions when a water colour, through the very love of life, comes as close as possible to that miraculous accident. To give thanks, the proceeds of this sale will go towards helping a gifted five-year old little girl from my island of Dominica who suffers from autism. Hence, the bargain price of US$650 is there to bring forth another miracle and tempt a guardian angel to come to her rescue… Continue reading… 0 comments

He made a mess of that

by rogerburnett , February 6, 2014—12:00 AM

Topics: life, painting, sketches

Forty years ago, I sat sketching the fishermen off-loading their catch on the beach that bordered the Bay Front at Roseau, Dominica. Yesterday I sat sketching on the same spot. But forty years on, where there was once a beach, there is now a berth for cruise ships and the Bay Front is now a restricted boulevard for tourists. After pleading permission from the on-duty police patrolling the area, I was allowed to set up my sketching stool and easel. By turning my gaze towards the Old Market Square, and turning a blind eye to the knick-knacks that littered the stalls, I was able to rekindle the spark of old times. In addition to the sketch I was able to pick up one gem of a comment from an onlooker… Continue reading… 0 comments

By some strange quirk in the makeup of artists, and contrary to expectations, creativity does not fare well in the comfort zone. If given luxury and financial security we procrastinate: put every obstacle in our way and we produce our best work. Thus, my present creative zeal owes its origin to the trials and tribulations that are doing their best to thwart me. The New Year heralded the breakdown of every device we possess. But despite no electricity supply (the final straw) and three weeks of tropical downpours, the creative urge lives on with vengeance. Today's picture shows work in progress on the torso of my life-size bathing figure… Continue reading… 0 comments

In labour

by rogerburnett , December 29, 2013—12:00 AM

Topics: Passion Love, bathing, life, maquette, models, sculpture

My diary entries for August 2nd (A haunting vision from long ago) and August 11th (Oh what a pity) tell about the conception of the life-size figure that is presently my work in progress. As in real life, conception is pleasant and painless, whereas giving birth can be agonizing. Although delivering the final bronze cast can drag on for many years, the completion of the work in clay represents the true birth. As you can see in today's picture, after a score of sessions with my model and many sleepless nights, the figure is beginning to take shape… Continue reading… 0 comments

Work in progress, Part 2

by rogerburnett , December 21, 2013—12:00 AM

Topics: Passion Love, life, models, sculpture

Today's picture shows the progress we've made on the portrait bust over the last couple of weeks. Once again I stress "we", for without a model there can be no portrait. My model solved my dilemma with her straightened hair by arriving one day wearing a traditional Creole head-tie. The madras "headkerchief" can be tied so that the corners make one, two three or four points. The number of points carry a message to would be suitors. One point means, my heart is free. Two points, my heart is engaged but you can take a chance. Three points, my heart is already taken. Four points, I have a place for whoever desires… Continue reading… 0 comments

Work in progress

by rogerburnett , December 8, 2013—12:00 AM

Topics: life, models, sculpture

I hate the finality of finish but favor work in progress. The portrait bust shown in today's picture was started just over a week ago. As a work in progress, it will continue to evolve over the next couple of weeks. The day will then arrive when the end result has to be cast, once and for all time. I found my model, not in some halcyon Athenian bower, but selling mangoes by the road side. Had I have grabbed her there and then, she'd have come with her hair plaited in cane-rows. Alas, by the time I arranged for her to sit for me she had straightened out her God-given hair… Continue reading… 0 comments

Being cast away on a tropical island has its disadvantages. Other than local fare, the world of concerts, plays and exhibitions is thousands of miles away. It is difficult to keep pace with developments in the arts and until the advent of the internet, well-nigh impossible. These days, thanks to the world-wide-web, I can make the virtual best of it. When I sketched the Northern and English Ballet fifteen years ago, the inspirational Ballet Black didn't exist. My next visit to the UK will be timed to tie in with one of their performances. In similar vein, nowhere in my fifty-year old collection of LP's will you find recordings of the virtuoso jazz violinist Regina Carter. In those days, she didn't exist… Continue reading… 0 comments

When I am finally called to embellish the gates of heaven with angels, kindly remember to chip on my grave stone: "He died from too much living". In the hereafter, rather than resting in peace, I hope to be up to as many tricks as I have been in this world. One of my daughters once screamed at me to, "Get a life!" Well, if I haven't had a life, I don't know who has. Set against your average eighteen year old, I'm living life to the hilt. It is therefore refreshing to occasionally meet an eighteen year old who is likewise bubbling with life like crazy. Such was my good fortune when I was recently booked to give a talk to students at the Dominica State College. Regardless of the arrangements made beforehand, there was no one to meet me or set up the auditorium… Continue reading… 1 comment

The miraculous thing about miracles

by rogerburnett , October 19, 2013—12:00 AM

Topics: life, models, painting, sketches

G. K. Chesterton said, "The miraculous thing about miracles is that they do sometimes happen". If my struggles as an artist were to be put on a graph, the resulting line would show a succession of peaks and troughs linked with dead-level plateaus. Only rarely am I able to get down on paper what I see in my mind's eye. Last week, you saw my first hesitant attempt to capture my latest model. Towards the end of a second session and after many false starts, the miracle happened! Sometimes, when I throw down washes in desperation, fate takes a hand. My muse awakens and with the final flick of a No 12 sable brush, my daring vision becomes reality… Continue reading… 1 comment

First impressions

by rogerburnett , October 12, 2013—12:00 AM

Topics: life, models, sketches

The first session with a new model is thwarted with nervous tension for both artist and model. Arrangements are made and a mutually convenient time is agreed upon. I set out my materials and anxiously watch the hands on the clock, having stressed the importance of arriving on time. A couple of days ago the appointed time came and went but no sign of my model. Just when I was about to give up on her I picked up a frantic text message: "Sir, I'm lost!" I'm always losing things, but this is the first time I'??ve lost a model, or rather, that a model has lost me. As I was about to drive off in search (a difficult one to put to passers by, "Excuse me, have you by any chance seen an artist'??s model?") she showed up exhausted… Continue reading… 0 comments

When my sister-in-law was a medical student, my brother would help her memory retention for anatomy by singing, Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones. I do a similar visual lesson for my life class students. To illustrate the importance of working from the nude, I begin with the model fully clothed. As such, everything below the neck and above the knee is guesswork. The all-important linkages to the torso are hidden from view. As the model removes her garments, the beautiful construction of the human form is realised. The spine traces an invaluable line from head to thighs, the navel can be seen as a central reference point and the breasts, no longer constricted, reveal their masterly rhythmic curvature… Continue reading… 0 comments

Painting the Nude

by rogerburnett , September 30, 2013—12:00 AM

Topics: Passion Love, life, models, painting, sculpture, workshops

The ink is still wet on this poster. It announces my 10 day workshop on painting and sculpting the nude. The workshop runs from the 25th November to the 4th December. In addition to learning about the techniques that I have acquired over a life-time of sketching, painting and sculpting the nude, participants take home a Roger Burnett painting (either portrait or, if brave enough, figure)of themselves. Follow the following links for further details: http://workingfromlife.blogspot 0 comments

You can't beat an Old Master

by rogerburnett , September 18, 2013—12:00 AM

Topics: life, sketches

Sandy Wilson's score for of "The Boy Friend", includes the following verse from "It's Never Too Late to Fall In Love": The modern artists of today May paint their picture faster, But when it comes to skill, I say You can't beat an Old Master. Actually, when it comes to speed, the Old Masters could give modern artists a run for their money, any day of the week. Eric Hebborn, master forger and author of "Drawn to Trouble" and "False Impressions", reveals how he divined the speed at which the Old Master draughtsmen worked. He then practised so that he could achieve the same seemingly unerring whip of the hand. It is that which makes true Old Masters so convincing. This brings me back to the benefit of working from life… Continue reading… 0 comments

Backstage with Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec.

by rogerburnett , September 1, 2013—12:00 AM

Topics: dance, life, sketches

Over the last forty-five years, at rehearsals, or during an actual performance, I have spent many hours sketching symphony orchestras, jazz musicians and dance companies from the wings of the stage. When doing so I can feel the spirits of Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec looking over my shoulder and egging me on. A couple of weeks ago found me in the wings of the stage of Dominica's one and only theatre, sketching competitors at a showcase of talent titled, "Dominica Can Dance". Between getting tangled in microphone cables and dodging the ropes that raise the curtain, I had to work at lightening speed in semi darkness… Continue reading… 0 comments

Making art, like making love, is 99% passion. Tie it down to a set formula and you screw up. I was reminded of this today when reading an art syllabus for college students. Heavily couched in the language of academia, it read like a gobbledegook script for the comedian Professor Stanley Unwin. When it comes to talking gibberish, many art writers and elite art institutions can leave the rest standing. A recently launched magazine is focused towards "a converging nexus of artists" and offers "the articulation of a contemporary space, and of a place that lies within coordinates that have become scattered and nebulous, without bouderies". Eh? In simpler terms, here are two quotes that speak of the similarities between love and art… Continue reading… 2 comments

A subject that I saw at a glance twenty-three years ago, has haunted my memory ever since. The place is a secluded riverside on the island of Grenada and the subject is women washing and bathing. I alluded to the scene in my book "Caribbean Sketches" and noted that I have learnt more about drawing the figure at the riverside than I have before the artificially posed model in a life class. To sketch the figure in real life, be it at the market place or the riverside, one has to take time to become familiar with the subject and accept ribald comments with good humour. The befriending stage can take days or weeks, but finally the subject relaxes and accepts the artist as part of the natural scheme of things… Continue reading… 0 comments

In a fleeting glance, I saw the pose I wanted and picked up the first scrap of paper that came to hand - a white cartridge that is sold in the local supermarket at less than one EC$ for a A1 size sheet. The six-inch square I used cannot have cost more than five cents. A sheet of expensive watercolour paper scares me, whereas with this scrap I had nothing to loose. Ah, you might say, it buckles under a wash and has no texture. Well, so be it. I landed my catch! And if you have difficulty reading between my lines and washes, I side with Van Gogh when he wrote: " learn to make those very incorrectnesses, those deviations, remodelings, changes in reality, so that they become, yes, lies if you like - but truer than the literal truth..… Continue reading… 0 comments

Confronting the real thing...

by rogerburnett , April 16, 2013—12:00 AM

Topics: Working, from, life

A few weeks ago, I visited an exhibition that featured the work of regional students who had over the years, won top marks in the Caribbean Examination Council Visual Arts Examination. Many of the works were portraits in meticulous detail. A representative of the Council confirmed my suspicion that they had copied from photographs. Furthermore, it seems that students are encouraged to work from photographic references, whether it is a portrait, landscape or market scene. As a staunch advocate for working from life, this approach to teaching the next generation of artists, beggars belief. There have been occasions when I have sourced technical detail from photographs to ensure accuracy. The Caribbean postage stamps that I designed in the 1980's are a case in point… Continue reading… 0 comments