Basic Watercolour: How to paint what you see
By Charles Williams
pub. Robert Hale 2014
Basic Drawing: How to draw what you see
By Charles Williams
pub. Robert Hale 2011
Buy it from Amazon for £9.99 or bookshops for £14.99
A review of 'Short Stories' Atrium Space, Barbican Arts Trust, De Beauvoir Town, London 2012
I know this guy a bit, not well. The paintings look like he has observed real people,
fat hanging over people's trousers, the shape of an opening in a woman's shirt etc.
They are most successful when the observation is amusing or the painting of line and colour hums, rather than ho hums. Compare to Alex Katz which have wider expanses of beauty but can be formulaic.
The backgrounds are boring in Williams. A small show which will give some pleasure.
Jasper Joffe 2012 worldwidereview.com
A review of solo show, Thompson's Gallery, London 2008
I loved your exhibition. The other work in the gallery was so busy (to little effect) and
your paintings shone from the walls. What I liked was their deceptive simplicity when in fact they are meticulously painted. The colours sing, and the flesh tones are masterly, especially where the coloured shadows fall.
Seriously, though, I think they're great. The body language is touching, veering on tragic, and the empty backgrounds are limpid yet somehow lived in. The only problem is it looks easy, which I know it isn't. But as Fred Astaire said, "if it doesn't look easy we haven't worked hard enough"
Laura Gascoigne. A private email. 2008.
Notes to myself on beginning a painting
1. attempt what is not certain. Certainty may or may not come later. It may then be a valuable delusion.
2. The pretty, initial position which falls short of completeness is not to be valued — except as a stimulus for further moves.
3. Do search. But in order to find other than what is searched for.
4. Use and respond to the initial fresh qualities but consider them absolutely expendable.
5. Don't 'discover' a subject of any kind
6. Somehow don't be bored but if you must, use it in action. Use its destructive potential.
7. Mistakes can't be erased but they move you from your present position.
8. Keep thinking about Polyanna.
9. Tolerate chaos.
10. Be careful only in a perverse way.
Richard Diebenkorn c.1993
Why People Love Van Gogh's Letters
Because it embarrasses the arts-graduate community to think that such small, bright paintings of such hackneyed subjects could be worth looking at. They know Van Gogh is important, but how can such things, which don't challenge, are not interesting, transgressive, edgy or anything that they've come to expect from art, be worth looking at? The letters are, in a way, the 'associated texts', and that's why they leap, with relief, to read them.
The word is so highly privileged over the image. Van Gogh's letters are the letters of an articulate, literary, intense man, and contain, as far as I remember, lots of stuff - musings on the Godhead, demands for money and more paint, obsessive descriptions of his own paintings and some others, or perhaps they only seem obsessive to our generation, because we are so used to the telephone. They are remarkable letters, but nowhere near as remarkable as the paintings.
The thing about the paintings is that they are one of the most intense things in art history. The colour, refusing to be muted for the sake of harmony, makes a supreme harmony anyway, laid on, stroke by explicit stroke, with never one wasted or half-felt patch of colour. These paintings are immediate, breathlessly intense, and at the same time immaculate. They are horrible and beautiful.
I don't think Van Gogh's genius was in his madness, I think that was just his tragedy, and his new tragedy is that his squalid, embarrassing mistake has become the subject of what the British art-loving chattering classes truly prefer to any amount of actual art; a detective story.
There is a thing called air sense. It is what divers, trampoliners and other jumpers have. It refers to their ability to remain calm and active while in the unnatural state of flight. Last Summer I spent a week in a villa in Tuscany, as a painting tutor to some ladies, and one hot afternoon I decided to develop my air sense, diving into the pool over and over again. It seemed a long time, but by the time the ladies felt like painting again and I had to towel off, I was still holding my breath and closing my eyes each dive I did.
The Real Reason I Became A Stuckist
Not just because I was asked, and not just because any publicity etc, although those things played their part. Stuckism seemed to stand for something that I believe in.
In his otherwise absolutely rubbish book 'An Intelligent Person's Guide To Modern Art', Stephen Farthing uses a splendid metaphor for the Art World. He compares it to a party on a yacht, in a mediterranean bay. There are the people on the yacht, and there are all the art students and other aspirants on the beach, who want to be on the yacht, too. Some of them stay on the beach sneering at the yacht, some swim out but don't make it on board, and some very few actually clamber on and are welcomed. It's quite apt, in my experience.
The thing about Stuckism was that it tried to make room on the yacht for some people other than the strong swimmers. As the last forty years have gone by, Fine Art has got further away from being a vocation and closer to being a branch of academia. The trouble with Fine Art being purely an academic subject is that material, being 'good with your hands'; the practical manifestations (paintings, dummy!) become less important as critical studies (essays, dummy!) gain more. The precise meaning of the word 'entropy' and the contexts of its prior use are much more important than being able to make something which won't fall apart, visually, physically.
Why is this important? Because people have different ways of learning, and different aptitudes. I teach on a Visual Arts course that has, as one of its 'core values', an adherence to the notion of 'Widening Participation'. My students are encouraged regularly to test for dyslexia. The response to being registered dyslexic is to be 'given support', i.e. free books, someone to help write their essays and extenuating circumstances should they have difficulties.
In other words, people who find reading and writing difficult are encouraged to become academics instead of developing the skills for which their dyslexia probably suits them better - spatial, material, concrete skills. The skills which forty years ago would have made them outstanding Fine Art students.
I met one of my lecturers from my degree course a month or two ago. Twenty years on, Win was still painting, still the same wry presence. He told me that he'd been to junior art college, at fourteen, because he'd been severely dyslexic. All of a sudden, the miserable boy at the bottom of the class was given things he could do, and enjoy learning to do. "They taught me everything" he says, "not through reading, but they were so cultured and intelligent, it all came through the drawing and painting". Why can't visual intelligence be given the same status as verbal?
Selected 'Artist's Statements'
On 'The Love Of Dogs (2008)'
"Any love is good love, so take what you can get, to paraphrase The Bachman Turner Overdrive. I know it's only painting, but I like it."
On 'Three Women Of Varying Enthusiasm (2008)'
"The enthusiasm of women has always been a matter of great importance to me."
13th September 2011
The other day I stood in the doorway to the 'Materials and Gestures' section of tate modern, looking at a Francis Bacon. The painting has been hung in the doorway, with an Anish Kapoor about 5 m away from it. The crowds of people have to walk past the Bacon to get to the rest, and that's what they do. Some stop and read the blurb, which tells you about Bacon's expressive way with paint, although, as that's the reason, according to the label, that he's so great you might have imagined it would be obvious, but most just shoved past me, because, as I said, it's in the doorway. So that's at least £10,000,000 worth of painting that the curators have hung where no one can really see it.
I stood there for about half an hour. I couldn't be bothered to look at the Anish Kapoor. Anyway, some kids were climbing on it.
©2021 Charles Williams