The first group in the morning I don’t show them my examples and I don’t stand and do a painting or anything. I show them the Clemente slide show and set them off to make a Clemente-style expressive self-portrait. The results are alright. More space than when I do them and the things in the portraits are not so bold and are more cliched. I wander round the room, pottering, but don’t pick up a brush. What to do with myself? I make my usual ‘helpful’ comments and try to stop a few from obliterating their work. In the end I crack and do a self-portrait.

Another change is that I have mixed up a batch of sienna with black and a purple and a bit of glue and water to make a smoother paint. I had felt that the black we used yesterday had been a bit claggy and just a bit stark. I tried out the paint with one picture earlier in the day when I had a bit of time. So that was two pictures by lunchtime.

I showed the children the examples at the end of the lesson and asked them if it would have made any difference if they had seen these at the beginning of the lesson. A couple said yes, they would have had more ideas about what to do and that they would have had more ideas about how to do it. I tired to ask them if they thought my things had anything to do with Clemente. They ssid yes but we didn’t get very far with that so I left it.

In the afternoon I showed them the slide show and the examples hanging from the drying racks. They made their paintings and you could tell that they were picking up on what was in mine. The simplification and the way I put together the image. I aksed them at the end if the examples made a difference. Some said yes, that the pictures on the slide show had been done whenever and those had been done now so they were more modern and more immediate, I think she meant. Others said that you could see how they were made and you couldn’t see that so well on the slide show. I asked the teaching assistant who had been in there and she said that she hadn’t got much out of the slides and it had made more sense when I had explained it and showed them.

I could see that what I was bringing to the images I was making some of Clemente but a load of other things too. I was bringing in all of the Clementes I had seen, not just the ones on the slide show. I was also bringing in bits of Ken Kiff and Eileen Cooper and Baselitz and Bruce Mclean and so on. And I was having quite an intense little art school time with these things as they unraveled before me. Or raveled before me.

It was all coming back to me now. I remembered what I had liked about this sort of painting and what I had liked about my painting in this manner. I liked the apparent ease, the simplicity and the skill. The line. The not hard-won image. The relationship to Indian and Chinese and Japanese art in the brush work. And I liked the fecundity of it, the out pouringness of it, the riffing, the endless productivity of Clemente et al. Have an idea and make an image and have another idea and see something and have another idea.

Combined with, now, quite a strong distaste for second rate copies of the manner. All the things wrong with it. No real progress, the same thing over and over, why be interested in your emotional life? Etcetera. You have to be good to sustain it and keep it going. It can be appealing to people to do because it is kind of easy. It requires a certain confidence to do it well.

Tomorrow I will try one without Clemente and see if you can see the difference. Just based on my examples of Clemente. And one session with me and him. What would he think if he knew?

The turtles come from watching ‘Last Chance to See‘ on Sunday night. The little turtles going weightless and switching into rapid swimming mode. Wonderful.