Dear Cleo


Dearest Cleo

It was good to catch up on Saturday morning the ice cream was excellent and we are slowly teaching Auburn to eat ice cream and walk at the same time, it is a very important Life lesson to learn but it is such fun watching his attempts to master the technique.

After I dropped you and Auburn off I went to the Ben Uri Museum to look at their current Bomberg exhibition I carried out some research on Frank Auerbach for the fifth part of the course and Bomberg was one of Auerbach’s Tutors so I was interested to examine the connection. I was not disappointed Bomberg’s late works were similar in style to Auerbach’s and both echo Bomberg’s mantra “to respect the spirit of the mass” One of Bomberg’s tutors was Sickert and it is easy to see this connection looking at Bomberg’s work.

The poster work for the exhibition features a magnificent self-portrait that is probably a meter and a half square and is but my favorite was a portrait of Bomberg’s wife Lillian entitled The Red Hat. The layering of the oil paint in this is truly magnificent.

If you like the paintings in the links I could take you to see them, it isnt far from your house.

My love as always

Mickos xx

Dear Cleo 18 06 19

Dearest Cleo

Well I suppose first and foremost congraulations are in order on the imminent arrival of your new brother or sister, I know it will be a while yet but it is nice to have something good to look forward to. Me , I have almost ended my labours on this part of the course and am just filling in the bit I was not enthused with first time around, so here goes;

Reflection on time spent by the viewer and how it relates to what you do as an artist.

In the Modern era with the constant surge of images that bombard our vision and the speed of modern life it is difficult for a viewer to invest time in a particular work.

In past times when images were much rarer in comparison they were used as devotional aids and were placed in contemplational places such as cathedrals and churches and monasteries where time naturally moves as a slower pace. Still today such places maintain a reverential timeless quality and it is much more fulfilling to view an altar piece in its natural setting than in a gallery, it seems to gain something from the leisurely pace of the atmosphere of the building. I have particularly enjoyed my trips to Venice and Florence in this regard and would recommend rising early avoiding the more crowded parts of the day.

The gallery is a different kettle of fish, the blockbuster exhibitions with their timed entry and exits are not conducive to spending time contemplation the work on show. I deal with this in several ways, before visiting I have a copy of the exhibition catalogue delivered by Amazon. With a little pre-study you save the time spent reading the walls of the museum and can concentrate more on the artwork. Another excellent strategy I have found is to become a member of the gallery. Living close to London this works well for me as I can visit at off peak times or make several trips to the same exhibition spending more time in front of what I find most interesting. The one thing that that never ceases to amaze me is that you can be standing in a room with untold millions of pounds worth of images on the walls and the one that gets the most attention is the stencilled words by the door that was done by a painter and decorator.

I find that because the galleries are quite local, a better way to deal with them is to browse their permanent collection and just wander and stop as you will in time you will get to know more artworks intimately and if you need to read, read a book or the internet not walls.

Another thing about time and the viewer is that no viewer ever spends as long as the artist looking at a work so an artist needs to distil all his looking into a wham factor that can impress in 45 seconds, the average viewing time of a work of art.

A further factor in the viewer spending time looking at a work of art is the commission. In olden times most artworks were commissioned and thus the commissioner would hang the piece in his home or chapel where he could grow accustomed to it over a number of years. Artists began painting what took their fancy around the time of Turner or Constable and about this time it became possible to buy viewing time with money but this of course gave rise to the artist as superstar. Once you are established as a star people will hang all sorts of your rubbish on their wall just for your name’s sake.

In my limited experience of selling paintings, people buy a painting because they are interested in the subject so a tiger which you could knock off in a day is worth more to a tiger lover who will look at it more often over the years than you masterwork next to it that took over year to complete and that you are still enjoying.

If someone feels the need to hang one of my works on their wall, I am pleased but I realise my influence is limited in determining the amount of time any specific viewer invests in my work. I enjoy the time spent doing, the process, the viewing of the record of the process and the length of that viewing is the prerogative of others over which I have little influence. However, if someone takes the time to like or comment on one of my works on the internet, I tend to be proud and think that the viewing lasted longer than a click and a millisecond.

When I see you at the weekend I want to talk to you a bit about knitting, I never knitted any thing for you or Auburn so maybe this is my chance to make good.

My love as allways

Mickos xx


Dear Cleo 18 05 13

Dearest Cleo

I suppose you are looking forward to being seven and a half at the weekend, it is a big milestone in your young life so make the most of it,  I remember being seven and a half myself and it doesn’t seem so long ago,at least not to me.

Today the Unseen University have tasked me with unearthing some details about Frank Auerbach, if you need to see the pctures you will need to click on the links in the bibligraphy.

Frank Auerbach’s process involves putting paint on and scraping it back off again until he feels that the image has a solidity, a weight and a reality. He work in a similar process with his charcoal portraits putting charcoal on and rubbing it off so many times that it is not unusual for him to rub away the support and have to include a patch in the paper where it is worn away.

Over the years Auerbach has used a limited number of sitters who sat for two hours a week over a long number of years, with each portrait taking up to thirty or even forty sittings he therefore knows his subjects well. At the end of a series of sittings, the paint is again scraped off and the portrait is completed in a single sitting. This makes the final painting very fresh in appearance and because of the extended sitting Auerbach easily captures a likeness as he has practiced the likeness many times. While researching this essay I came across some Polaroids that Frank had taken of his sitters and the likenesses are uncanny. Auerbach said that the end result of his process is always a surprise (Lampert 163) so the likeness is double uncanny.

Auerbach portraits have a vivid three dimensionality with a sense of air and space around them and the weight of the image is also very important to Auerbach. He achieved this in his landscapes and cityscapes but especially so in his portraits. His heads combine seamlessly with the background to form a complete image across the picture plane.

Over thirty or forty sittings Auerbach would get to see many moods of his sitters, and some of his sitters have sat for twenty or more years, this amongst other things and together with the cramped spaces in which the portraits were made , gives Auerbach an intimate knowledge of his sitters which he exploits to portray a great sense of reality and humanity in his portraits.

There is currently an exhibition of five paintings in the National Portrait gallery in Room 32 on the first floor, the portraits are by Ingres Degas Sickert, Bomberg and Auerbach. The exhibition is titled One Unbroken Stream from a quote by Sickert. Auerbach is the last of the artists in the stream each of whom was taught their predecessor. By googling portraits by these particular artists, the stream running through them is very evident, widening and progressive even though Auerbach prefers to distance himself from Sickert (Lampert 182)

Auerbach’s love of process and material has served to make him ome of the greatest painters of the twentieth century


Lampert C.: Frank Auerbach Speaking and Painting. 2015 London, Thames and Hudson

Clark C. J. & Lampert C.; Feank Auerbach 2015 London Tate Publishing Ltd

Http// auerbach-676

I hope you enjoyed my investigation of Auerbach, and sadly I will not see you this weekend as I am going to Liverpool so have a happy half birthday and don’t worry, I gave your present to Aunty Loz to deliver to you, I hope you like it.

My love as always



Dear Cleo 18 06 12

Dearest Cleo

I trust you are well and have enjoyed your half term holiday. After many long weeks I have emerged from the Monastery having completed my appocolyptian task. I will write more tomorrow about that, in the meantime the Unseen University have asked me to consider how working from life differs from working from a photograph in terms of the way we experience the time spent. It is a difficult aspect to consider without considering working from photographs as a whole, so I will consider this, and hopefully my conclusion will bring out the aspect of time spent.

Working from life involves intense slow looking at the model and the model is three dimensional which gives practice in working between the three dimensions of the model and the two dimensions of the picture plane. Following much practice and study, this later enables the artist to create fully realistic two dimensional images of things that he imagines because he fully understands the use of space in its truest sense. From my studies in life class, I am beginning to get fairly realistic human forms with a sense of space around them without the use of a model or photographs. Part of the essence of being an artist is the ability to emphasise parts of the image that attract the eye more as Auerbach does in his paintings of the building site in the Earls Court Road, a photograph gives equal edges, prominence and weighting to everything within it.

One of the things that gives a true sense of three dimensionality is tone which is extremely hard to judge when working from photographs, either coloured or black and white, as photographs tend to average out tonal differences and give very dark darks in the shadows or the use of flash on the camera bleaches out the tones.

Working from photographs is using an image where the actual looking is a fraction of a second, while I appreciate that a professional photo shoot can take many hours or days to set up and therefore can appreciate why they look so much better than your average photograph, the act of looking is still a fraction of a second. Transferring an image from two dimensions to two dimensions collapses any aerial perspective, you can check this by taking a photograph on your mobile phone and comparing it to what you are looking at.

Artists known to have used Photographs include almost every artist who has been alive since the invention of photography, artistically it is probably best used as a reference by artists such as Degas and VanGogh who were able to draw from memory and use photographs to judge pose or movement.

I have been toying with the idea of buying a camera lucida, after all they are only $130 each. This is not a photograph in the strictest sense of the word and after all Caravaggio and Vermeer cannot really be classed as bad artists it is however reputed to speed up the drawing process.

Speed is not the object of art just, like football is not about money. Art is about slow looking and consideration and deep thought to produce something that can be appreciated over time by an audience that were not yet born at the moment of creation. You cannot do this with a flash in the pan or the camera unless you are lucky enough to be in the right place at the right millisecond and a true photographic wizard.

I hope you are settling back down at school after the half term and congratulations on getting 100% in maths, sometimes I wish art was like maths and there was a right answer.

My love as always

Mickos xx