Dear Cleo 17 07 14

Dear Cleo

I hope you are well and I am looking forward to catching up with you in the morning. I have a new favourite painting, The reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks and here are a few of my thoughts on it and its detractors.

I am asked to respond to the quotation by Clement Greenberg “Picasso paints cause, Repin paints effect” and relate this quotation to Jackson Pollock.

The quotation needs a sense of context, Greenberg was writing in the Partisan Review that was anti Russian and financed by the CIA. While Picasso was still very much alive at the time of the Greenberg’s article Repin had died 9 years previously but was championed by the Soviet Communist Government as a realist painter.

Greenberg who frequented the same drinking dens as the future Abstract Expressionists was perhaps lobbying the United States Government to get behind the American Art and promote it to the world. The CIA may not have been on the right page in 1939, but it was right up there with the KGB in the cold war years of the 1950’s in promoting Abstract Expressionism, painted mostly by left wing minded painters, as a true product of the land of the free.

Everybody knows who Picasso was but Repin is slightly off the radar if you are only familiar with Western European Art. Repin exhibited at the Paris Salon between 1974 and 1876 thus being one of the artists that kept the Impressionists out of the Salon and thereby giving birth to Impressionism. Repin greatest work is, in my opinion, the magnificent 3500 x 2000 meter Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks (if you read the attached article you will understand what it is that the Cossacks find so amusing) that took him eleven years to paint he also painted a second version that was never completed. It is said that Repin made as many as 100 sketches for each finished work, his drawings are breathtaking, on a par with Raphael, who Greenberg is also quite dismissive of in his article.

To class Repin as kitsch is akin to saying Leonardo is an idiot or ”only with Rembrandt do “lonely” artists begin to appear, lonely in their art” Greenberg actually states that in the same article, at least Ruskin could draw.

With regard to “inflections of the personal”, as an artist, I consider that anything I create is full of my personality, whether what I produce is abstract or realist. Kitsch is not created by artists it is created by museum gift shops, booksellers, chocolate box manufacturers and Governments. Superior culture is one of the most artificial of all human creations (Greenberg 18) this is the KGB with their realist painters, the CIA with their abstract expressionists, the Catholic Church with its Renaissance or the French with the impressionists you chose, Greenberg chose the CIA.

Greenberg was of the vanguard that promoted abstract expressionism to the level of kirsch, champion and protector of the Abstract Expressionists but his first review of Jackson Pollock in The Nation Magazine in 1943 is as follows;

“There is both surprise and fulfilment in Jackson Pollock’s not so abstract abstractions. He is the first painter I know of to have got something positive from the muddiness of colour that so profoundly characterizes a great deal of American painting.” While he critiqued Pollock’s larger paintings as the artist taking “orders he can’t fill,” Greenberg did find the smaller work “much more conclusive… among the strongest abstract paintings I have yet seen by an American”

In an article on Artspace Greenberg is quoted as saying “I would not deny being one of those critics who educate themselves in public.”  In the language of the proletariat this means he was making it up as he went along, like a good politician.

It is nice, however, that in the footnote to the article, when it was re-published in 1965, Greenberg had decided that Repin was not Kitsch, it was just that at the time of writing Greenberg did not know who Repin was or what he painted

All that having been said I think that maybe the main thrust of the question is, are Pollock’s paintings about painting from his emotions not illustrating them, which of course, is a rhetorical question and I pay homage in the way I know best, imitation being the greatest form of flattery.

Figure 1 (17 07 14) Greenberg contradictions I, tempera, acrylic and enamel on A3 canvas

Well darling, that was a lot of reading, one day I will go to Russia to see the Cossacks and with luck you may get to come with me. See you tomorrow.

Love as always

Mickos x


Greenberg C. Art and Culture Critical Essays 1965 Boston ,Mass Beacon Press


Dear Cleo 17 07 10

Dearest Cleo

I hope your first day at school this week went well, It can’t be far off your Summer Holidays, I don’t know when your term ends so let me know when you get a chance so we can make some arrangements  for the holidays.

I am still carrying on with the blind drawings and funnily enough still being interested by it. Today I have abandoned the realistic, I’d like teach the blind to draw (Abba) and gone for the more expressionist feel for the task.

Figure 1 (17 07 10 01) Blind drawing 3 Sharpie on A3 pastel paper

I think they all look like glasses and that they have a distinct lively feel to them, almost like they should have a a bit part and a singing line in a Disney movie, having said that they are very anthropomorphic, almost  as if the skull life resemblance is a warning from the original Renaisance Venetian designer of the glass.

Even blindfold, I am bound by memory and what a glass should look like if you were looking at it in real life. I tried again this time with a different tool.

Figure 2 (17 07 10 02) Blind drawing 4 Black chalk on A3 pastel paper

Still the memory lingers in the blinded eyes.

Figure 3 (17 07 10 03) Blind drawing 5 ink on A3 pastel paper

I picked out the best outline on the top one when I had a look at it.

Forgetting the memorised perspective and using the spare hand to gauge measurements produced this, I tried to draw just the shapes I was feeling.

Figure 4 (17 07 10 04) Blind drawing 6 Sharpie on A3 pastel paper

In the end I was becoming confused between remembered and felt so I removed all the blindfolds and glasses from the room and then drew this from my mind’s eye, does my mind’s eye see in a past tense or does it remember.

Figure 5 (17 07 10 05) Blind drawing 7 Black chalk on A3 pastel paper

In the reading I did from Kennedy it would appear that the later blind do indeed have a mind’s eye. Degas could draw well from memory and as he became blinder he concentrated more on his tactile sculptures which are a joy to behold.

Looking forward to seeing you at the weekend

All my love as always

Mickos x

Dear Cleo 17 07 09

It was good to see you and Auby today especially as you won the silver medal for maths you are a very clever girl you just keep trying hard at stuff and you will win more medals and more prizes.

Figure 1 (17 07 09 01) Blind drawings 1 Ink on A4 cartridge

I have been doing blind drawings I did these in my sketchbook the other day and have spent the last couple of days wondering if it would be possible to learn to draw blind.

I thought hard about how I draw, when I draw I use my spare hand as a measuring tool for angles distances and proportions transferring these to the drawing as necessary. My spare hand spare hand can touch and measure the glass but I have no way of transferring this information to the drawing. I remembered that Cornelia Parker introduced texture into her drawings by using correction fluid and reasoned that if the drawings had texture my drawing hand could with practice orient itself around the page.

My first experiments were quite successful I would first draw the glass blind put it to one side to dry then overdraw blind when the first drawing had dried. At my second attempt I had produced a fairly creditable glass working this way and I am sure with more practice I would only get better. I understood that there are nine key points in the drawing of the glass so I drew the glass while I was looking at it this time in heavier texture so it would be easier and brought my spare hand into play and transferred the measurements and joined the dots. There is a blind girl in Italy called Gaia who leaned to draw probably using techniques similar to this.

Figure 2 (17 07 09 02) Blind drawings 2 correction fluid on A3 pastel paper

Professor John Kennedy in probably the world’s leading expert in this field and by following his link you will get a fascinating insight into his work and studies, and definitely not to missed is Tommy Edison on Youtube.

I hope darling that you learned as much as I did by reading this

My love as always


Dear Bryan 17 08 07

Dear Bryan

It was good to speak to you yesterday following my the completion of the second part of the course, you like me, gave me the break for the tough time that I have been through, but just like you, I was a bit shocked how few drawings were in the portfolio, the sketchbooks though were full to bursting, and quantity wise were enough to save the day.

This is the second submission that has been made digitally, the next submission needs to be an analogue one so I  will avoid the use of pastels and chalks, so that this may be so and the works submitted will stand up to the rigours of the post office.

You suggested that perhaps more thumbnails would be helpful or more in progress views on the blog or even manipulating the photographs in photo shop. I think that I will need to revise my working process process to illustrate my thinking, and on reflection I did this much better in part 1. My current process is to go into deep thinking mode that may last as long as 2 weeks before putting pencil to paper in a flurry of activity to solve the problem posed. During the two weeks I do sketches that are mainly totally unrelated to the problem at hand, almost as a distraction from the problem at hand and although I am resolving the problem quite well, I am not providing the overflow around the problem, in that solving the problem is enough to do the course, but not allowing the voice to emerge and free flow around the course,

You were pleased with the final drawing in project 1 and how the mark making had developed and grown more confident and expressive over the course of the project. Whilst I was pleased with your comments, I was less than happy with the end result because it still had the sense of tightness from which I am trying to escape.

The first exercise in project 2 was inspired by Renaissance drawings which often combined pen and in the same the two media, now that you pointed it out, it would have been better not to use the pen as a shading tool.  The most important part of project 2 was that it all grew out of my sketchbook work, I have been struggling to incorporate my sketch book work, it was beginning to feel like a separate part of the course but now it is all coming together. I really liked the idea of “less is more” and your praise for the background figures in Girls at the bar 1. I am experimenting with space in particular how the lack of detail draws attention to the distance and the mark making techniques. The second part of the project with the scratching was again from the sketchbook and has retained the liveliness of the original sketches, you thought they were a good starting point for a full painting but I prefer them as they are.

We discussed at great length the subject of collaboration with reference to me and Freya the cat and me and Auburn in the parallel project and we talked about unwitting collaboration of the cat and Auburn and the pool players in the assignment piece, and how this was an avenue that I could develop and take further, and remember how, as the director of the unwitting collaborator, I am the author of the final piece. I am ,however, conscious of our own collaboration in this and was surprised to find that I referred obliquely to it in the first paragraph of my previous letter to you.

I have quite a collection of Auburns drawings now for the parallel project but I am struggling to find a theme to string them together, I will think hard about the unwitting collaboration aspect and get back to you on this.

You were quite critical of my essay on Cornelia Parker in that it could be off putting to an assessor who was a fan. For my own part I thought that the essay was a positive criticism of Cornelia’s intentions with the 2010 pieces, but I will drop the cheap Alsatian quotes from academic essays. What annoyed me more than anything was that there are several pieces with the title Poison and Antidote 2010.

The Dear Cleo thing seems to be settling down for both of us but I think this may in part be as a result of Cleo’s more witting collaboration, in that she is now an avid  follower of the blog.

I was really disappointed that through my stupidity in labelling the blog that we didn’t get to discuss in full the assignment piece, as I felt it was my sine qua non of my creativity to date, never before have I let such a raw piece out of the stable, I love the way the balls hover over the trajectory marks and the net like feeling of the whole piece.

Going forward I need to expand my refection to established contemporary artists and compare my drawings to those and I need to explore further the tension between the subject and the background.

All the best


Dear Cleo 17 07 04

Dearest Cleo

Well there has been a lot of writing in the last week or so now sit back and chill out with some sketches.

Figure 1 (SK 02 09) graphite and ink on A5 cartridge

Figure 2 (SK 01 74) graphite on A6 cartridge

Figure 3 (SK 01 75)  ink on A6 cartridge

Figure 4 (SK 01 76)  ink on A6 cartridge

Figure 5 (SK 03 01)  ink on A6 cartridge

Figure 6 (SK 03 02)  ink on A6 cartridge

Figure 7 (SK 03 03)  ink on A6 cartridge

Figure 8 (SK 03 04)  ink on A6 cartridge

Figure 9 (SK 03 05)  ink on A6 cartridge

Figure 10 (SK 03 06)  ink on A6 cartridge

Figure 11 (SK 03 07)  ink on A6 cartridge

Figure 12 (SK 03 08)  ink on A5 cartridge

Figure 13 (SK 03 09)  ink on A6 cartridge

Figure 14 (SK 03 10)  ink on A5 cartridge

Figure 15 (SK 03 11)  ink on A5 cartridge

Figure 16 (SK 03 12)  blak chalk on A6 cartridge

Figure 17 (SK 03 13)  graphite on A6 cartridge

Figure 18 (SK 04 01)  Charcoal on A3 cartridge

Hope you liked them, see you at the weekend.

Love Mickos xx

Dear Cleo 17 07 03

Dear Cleo

I missed you this morning, you were still asleep when I called to drive Auburn to his Nana’s, no problem, I will catch up with you at the weekend. I have finished part 2 of the course and this is how I think it went.

Demonstration of visual and technical skills

Again Mickos has used a wide range of materials, his visual skills are increasing and it was good to see the development of his sketches into fully worked pieces and great that he managed to retain the immediacy of his sketches in the worked up pieces. He needs to concentrate more on transferring his memories allied with his sketches to make believable three dimensional spaces and figures perhaps using models to fill in the gaps in his memory. Over this part of the course he has loosened up in his final pieces, striving less for realism and more for atmosphere. The portrait piece was a little tight, which is only to be accepted when striving to achieve a likeness, but there was still an exciting range of mark making techniques in the piece. He is starting to master the techniques of Charcoal and chalk and it is about time he begins to try ink to see if he can carry his developing expressiveness across into this medium. He has not forgotten the compositional skills he learned at part1 but maybe the assignment piece could have benefitted from the edge on the pool table I suspect the mount to perform this function. (30%)

Quality of outcome

Mickos is growing into the Dear Cleo format of his blog which remains easy to navigate and well written. There is also signs of discernment beginning to appear I think this may be due to Mickos being less afraid to show his thinking process and his faltering steps that add depth to the final resolution. He is beginning to feel original in his work and is slowly developing a voice that whilst still firmly based on a continuum is worthy but still needs more exercise in a Karaoke forum to help it develop. (11%)

Demonstration of creativity

I am pleased with the creativity that Mickos has shown in the assignment piece, he has shown that he fully understands the creativity of Cornelia Parker and has transferred it to his own work with ease, showing that he understands many of the concepts of what a drawing is or can be. There is a slight experimentation with collage in the assignment that I feel needs to be fostered and allowed to bloom to bring on Mickos’ efforts going forward. I was a little disappointed in the quantity of his work for this part of the course but I have a distinct feeling this is a temporary blip (12%)


Mickos’ reading of twentieth century texts is increasing his ability to follow the progression of art history into contemporary art, he appears to be taking his time with this, which in the long term can only be beneficial and deepen his understanding. Mickos has gone through a tough few months but he has harnessed his emotions and is beginning to release them in his artwork. His new found interest in the futility of politics will hopefully bear fruit in the future.(12%)




Mickos’ overall score is well down at 65% on his previous best of 81% and apart from the distraction he has been through, I tend to feel he is laying solid foundations for the course going forward. With more regular practice and maybe slightly less theory he may realise the promise he is beginning to show.

Well Cleo, Mickos has overcome the trials and tribulations of part two of the course by the skin of his teeth, but I am back on the horse now, and relishing the challenge again.

My love as always,

Mickos xx

Dear Cleo 17 07 02

Dearest Cleo

How are you, I have a surprise for you at the weekend to make up for me missing your quarter day, I am sorry I missed it, but things have been a little hectic lately, but I am sure the surprise will make up for my missing it.

Assignment 2

Well although this is the day 1 post for assignment 2, it is not the day one of thinking about it nor even the day 1 of doing it, but it is the day 1 of writing about it. After much thinking I decided the subject would be pool and the drawing would be done with my pool cue. I taped a piece of XL charcoal to the end of my pool cue and drew this;

Figure 1 (17 07 03 01) Pool 1 XL charcoal on A2 grey sugar paper

The drawing bit was not so hard as I thought it would be, I am quite used to the balance of my pool cue and as an aerobic exercise I often do Jedi training with my light sabre so I am a bit used to the cut and thrust of a weapon and I was able to brandish the pool cue with ease, even if it was a little longer than my light sabre.

For my second attempt I zoomed out and got the whole pool table in;

Figure 2 (17 07 03 02) Pool 2 XL charcoal on A2 newspaper

I had included some of the tracks of the balls in this attempt and I decided that this introduced a bit of movement so I tried again to depict the energy of making the break at pool;

Figure 3 (17 07 03 03) Pool 4 XL charcoal on A2 grey sugar paper

Over lunch I decided that it would be better if I could depict a whole pool match in my work. I opened a bottle of Chardonnay, found a suitable pool match on YouTube and proceeded to watch it several times in slow motion so that i could watch the movements of the balls and plot them with a set of ten different coloured Inktense pencils onto a sheet of graph paper. Mapping the break was the hardest, after that it became easier

Figure 4 (17 07 03 04) Inktense pencils on A3 graph paper

I was on more familiar territory now I had a sketch to work with and a modicum of experience with my tools and was able to produce this;

Figure 5 (17 07 03 05) For those of you watching in charcoal and chalk, the green is behind the blue XL charcoal and chalk on A2 grey sugar paper

The final piece works well on several levels, firstly it works as a diagram of a game of pool, secondly it records the passage of time while the game was taking place, thirdly it performs as a history painting recording a great event in the world of pool, fourthly it works as a map, fifthly it has a definate sense of movent to it for the eye to discern and follow a sequence and finally it was drawn with a pool cue and chalk to intensify the feel of the piece, using the materials of the piece to draw with.

I hope you like my drawings and I will see you at the weekend.

My love as always

Mickos xx