These are digital files intended as sketches for large black and white paintings. Hopefully the detail and composition indicate something of the scale. The paintings would probably simplify a lot of the detail; give the compositions a bit more fluency. That’s the challenge. They were done between April and June. Landscape or square-formatted pictures would ideally be about 215 X 350cm or 215 X 215cm, portrait or vertical formats, around about 215 X 168cm.  I would love to work on that scale again. The work deserves it. Unfortunately I have little prospect of realizing them, but I present them here as another virtual exhibition. I haven’t formatted them as digital prints, most of the files are only about 25cm high, so they’re pretty small actually. I’d have to talk to a proper printer to find out the settings needed for a sizeable hard copy. For now I’m content just to sketch in Photoshop and let them live on the screen.

There’s quite a lot of them because working in Photoshop tends to generate options and variations, as they did for the Cityicity 2 series. You can put new backgrounds to figures or new figures to backgrounds, pretty much effortlessly, compulsively. Although that doesn’t mean they always work, of course. The idea of reusing components differently is of course integral to my approach, so it’s another way of amplifying that. I’ll say more about the theme and technical matters at the bottom of the page.


The Golden Age


The Old Man’s House


Up On The Roof


Safe House

In Your Place3

In Your Place




Courtyard 2


Night House


Europa Stockade 1


Europa Stockade 3


No Fixed Address


Debt From Above


Tax Heaven


Compound Fracture 2




Woodland Workers




Chalet Maiden


Failing Man

Extreme Rendition

Extreme Rendition




Mountain Biker


Two Trains Running




Root and Branch


The Large Ask


The Little Ask


Main Street


Flying Girl 1


Flying Girl 3 (Wraith)


Flying Girl 4


On The Way Out




Night Suburb


Town Square Guard


Victorian Distress


Air Guitar


Black Ops





The theme of Decline really grows out of the Crusade Culture series from 2010, with its creeping militancy, corruption and decay. Again, the pictures hopefully embody this debased, crumbling quality. Again, the works seesaw between scenes of calamity and distant luxury and recreation, between outsiders and insiders, renegades and robots. Importantly, the title also carries two meanings, as downturn or refusal. There are works titled Extreme Rendition and Black Ops and these would also have made a good series title. The motif of the derelict or unfinished mansion grew out of last year’s drawings and was the springboard for this year’s work, so works featuring such edifices are placed on the top of the list here. But after my experiences with drawing last year, where things got a little too linear to really paint from, I decided to just work in Photoshop for my sketches and risk a heavier debt to photography. Let the paintings handle that problem. The decision to work in just black and white – even for the paintings – stems from the same process, but the starkness and predominant blackness add to the mood.

 A longstanding complaint about my work is that it’s ‘just’ collage-based; as if the resultant painting did no more than enlarge and transpose a photo-collage. As I’ve explained, even if the sources are strictly photography, Photoshop allows a myriad of ways to shape and assemble them, just as drawing did. ‘Collage’ hardly does justice to the process – in digital terms it’s by no means just compositing. Basically I’m interested in re-construing material, in seeing something different in standard forms or content and this has generally involved isolating and reshuffling hundreds of cuttings (and drawings) and waiting for something to strike me across the chaos and set me drawing. I used to spread material over the walls and floor of my studio. Having the space to walk around it was part of finding new aspects to it. It stayed there for months, sometimes years. Doing this in Photoshop involves a number of frankly tedious stages. I won’t go into details, but I wouldn’t say it’s any faster or more reliable. It does however offer greater flexibility and precision. It’s tidier. And it’s taken me a while to adapt.

Inevitably, it wasn’t enough just to do what I’d been doing. Photoshop has broadened my scope, made me revise my project, so that some of these works drift much closer to realism than I’d previously allowed myself, while others reclaim more abstract or stylized territory. Even my framework is starting to fray a little. The photo-collage element is definitely present, but now accompanied by an array of other structures and techniques. In this respect the works have much more of an irrealist aesthetic now, although I’ve been reluctant to acknowledge this. I thought I was already doing that. Previously I’ve tried to keep a series much more consistent, stylistically and thematically. Here the series expands or unravels and leaves me worrying and scrutinizing, reworking them for weeks, months. They are the most complex pictures I’ve done for a long time. You don’t mind trying these things in sketches because there’s no great weight attached to them. But once I decided to publish them here I have become more apprehensive. I know as a digital artist I’m pretty rough and ready. I get excited and don’t have the patience for all the finessing available. I did do a course in digital graphics, I know the basics, at least. But once I can see an idea for a painting in a digital sketch I usually leave it at that. The rest is for painting. But since these ‘sketches’ are going on display I’ve become a bit more self-conscious and gone back and cleaned them up as best I can. Although I think digital artists (mostly illustrators) – should they see them – will still find them laughable.

All in all I’m pleased with the work.


Five more files I worked on October 2013 > February 2014.


Let It Slide




Winter Redevelopment

The Free Gig

The Free Gig

The Benefit

The Benefit

Posted 26/06/2013 by gerrybellart

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