Sunday, 8 September 2019

The thrill of a portrait


Share the thrill of a lively 
watercolour portrait of yourself

Who are you? Who do want to be? I love sharing the thrill and challenges in the search for the personality and inner energy, as I work intuitively to figure out how to bring out the best in everyone who entrusts me with their image. You don't have to sit for long. While I make sketches and do a photo-shoot, we enjoy an relaxing afternoon of enjoyment and discovery. It always turns out to be a creative collaboration. My portraits are more than just a likeness. The moment of unveiling will give you a surprising sense of recognition and can be quite a moving, self-affirming experience.
Here are a few examples of watercolours painted roughly life-size. Standard measurements are approximately 65 x 45cm (26 x 18 inches), without mount or frame. I use Winsor & Newton watercolour on Arches satiné paper, all museum-quality materials, so there is no risk of colour deterioration.



           

I live and work in Amsterdam and have a life-time's experience of portrait painting. I must have painted well over a hundred. Many people are familiar with my portraits of famous musicians like Luciano Pavarotti and Yehudi Menuhin in action, but I've also painted very many lovely people with no claims to fame. More details and images can be found on my website at www.normanperryman.com. 
If you want to discuss a commission, just email me at normanperryman@gmail.com or phone me: +31.650294233. 
If you can't come to my Amsterdam studio,  I can travel  to anywhere in Europe. 

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Wednesday, 28 August 2019

The fulfilment of creative work


The fulfilment of creative work

As a senior citizen of 86, I seem to be bucking the trend. Even people twenty-five years younger are dying to retire, to stop working and receive a pension, as though that is the purpose of life. I know very well that many people have good reasons to "take it easy", those in poor health, or with work-related injuries. More and more are burned out. But the widespread idea that work is by definition a penance, a boring chore and that we shall all be happier if we work less is a sad misconception. 

A recent national Dutch television series on Nieuwsuur featured me briefly in their discussion of the predicaments and risks of those facing the age of retirement, those forced to retire against their wishes and those who have to keep working to make ends meet. For Dutch speakers, here's the link:
https://www.npostart.nl/nieuwsuur/10-08-2019/VPWON_1303220. I appear at 17.00 mins and 29.04 mins.
  Standing in my projected images. Photo: Marijn Duintjer-Tebbens
Typically, artists don't know what "retirement" means. Their creative work springs from a lifelong inner necessity, a spiritual and emotional need. Even though my own so-called "work" is actually quite demanding, it's also my therapy, my inspiration, my passion, my fulfilment. So why should I stop doing what I love? I would miss my studio terribly, full of the vibes of so many projects. Usually inspired by music, the surprising beauty of what comes from my paintbrush delights and nurtures me and when I'm in the state of creative Flow (see the link to this concept ) I lose all sense of time
  
I hope that in my recent three and a half minutes of screen time I've been able to pass on just a hint of the therapeutic benefits of creative work "flow" to some of the 628.000 viewers and to inspire and convince more pensioners of our need to stay active. It does us all so much good in mind and body.

Having said all that, I must confess that there's another motivation for me to go on producing and hopefully selling my work. It's simply that, with only a modest pension, I still need to earn a living. Then comes the tricky question: "So when you win the lottery, of course you won't need to work any more, will you?" Aaah ...... wait a minute!


                                     An short improvisation for the camera
Admittedly, it would be great to rent a larger studio without worrying about the costs; I could also rent an apartment with a lift, although I would miss the daily climb of sixty-one steps to my fourth floor that keeps me fit; I could travel a little more, not without a sketchbook in hand for creative jottings.

But to answer your question: No, I just can't imagine life without the inner drive to create and to share. For me, work is a basic need.

Projection of a kinetic painting from a performance of Shostakovich' Hamlet Suite




Sunday, 7 July 2019

My old tree as a self-portrait

My old tree as a self-portrait

The Amsterdam house of which I rent the fourth floor apartment (no lift) was built in 1913, exactly twenty years before I was born. Probably the plane trees lining my street were planted about the same time, then cut down during the German occupation (1940-45) and re-planted after the war. So even though the one outside my balcony is a bit younger than me, as I watch him grow older we have become good friends and I like to talk to him. With the colours of the season he marks time for me. He has weathered many storms, not to mention the assaults of radical pruners. It's touching to see how he leans over toward his companions that line the street, almost arm in arm, as they share support for each other. He inspires me too, so before I do my morning exercises I open the so-called "French" windows and chat with him, reaching out over the balcony to admire his stamina and flexibility.
I'm still painting portraits, and it suddenly occurred to me that I should portray my dear friend. But during the making of this watercolour (58 x 41cm) he and I got into quite a discussion. My art teachers used to urge me to "be" the tree, if you want a convincing image of it. I said the same to my own students and now to myself. Working through sketches and studies I realised that it would be pointless just to make an exact likeness. My painting had to somehow take on a life of its own through my signature style. Although I was painting a tree, in my mind it gradually became something of a self-portrait - a symbol of my ageing self, scars and all. He is my example, still finding the energy to reach for the sky, still flexible and communicative, still standing firm and tall, still catching light and providing shade after so many years. So each brushstroke became a gesture of gratitude for a shared life. And we haven't finished painting yet.
My street in the autumn

What music do you hear in this gorgeous cathedral of colour? It'll change with the seasons of course.



Wednesday, 19 June 2019

The end of an era: Bernard Haitink retires at 90


The end of an era:
Bernard Haitink retires at 90

On Saturday a deep nostalgia came over me as I watched the televised recording of the last time that the great Bernard Haitink would conduct in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, before his retirement in August. The end of an era. It was 1965 when I was introduced to him and was allowed to sit in at his rehearsals with the Concertgebouw Orchestra, to make sketches for what was to develop into a whole series. He was 36 and I was 32 - looking for ways to give form to my paintings of music. I sat nervously behind this Rolls-Royce of an orchestra, totally fascinated with the unity of their sound and somewhat intimidated by their proximity.  


I was still very much a figurative painter in oils and interested in the arrangement of shapes in the composition, setting up an abstract rhythm with the music-stands (above). But next time, venturing up into the balcony, I discovered an undulating silhouette of the cellos and bass group, a diagonal motif that was to become my signature in many works. Here's the link to my 2014 blog on this characteristic:

Haitink with the Concertgebouw Orchestra II, oil on canvas, 1966.
Collection of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
                
It took courage to paint out the rest of the orchestra, but I wanted to emphasise and celebrate that compositional discovery. Haitink was hunched over to urge the orchestra on, as he did a lot in those early days. You can still recognise the fabulous solo cellist Anner Bijlsma, then higher up in the last row the blond hair of cellist Edith Neuman, at 24 a recent addition to the orchestra who liked my work and introduced me to Bernard. I'm still indebted to my dear friend. I feel so sad that everybody in the orchestra that I painted in the sixties has either retired or passed away.


Haitink conducting Stravinsky's "Le Sacre du Printemps"

Gradually the urge to express the vibes of this surging mass of music took over from the need to illustrate. The abstraction of the rhythms and the colours of the sound became my obsession. Music has to move and I had to show that!

Within one decade, something else was happening. The brush strokes became freer, moving with the sound. And, compared to those early, rather heavily painted oils, the paint was gaining transparency. I was moving towards luminous watercolour as my main medium and discovering ways to express my joy with music.

Haitink conducting Stravinsky's "Firebird" with the Concertgebouw Orchestra, 
oil on canvas, 100 x 65 cm. 1977, Prof. Cees Hamelink Collection

A unique commission from Director Andrew Jowett of Birmingham's Symphony Hall to paint a series of "action-portraits" of many of the great musicians he had programmed would obviously include Bernard Haitink. He is conducting Mahler and I wanted to show him fondly immersed in the colours and zigzagging shapes of that ethereal music, his face in shadow to tone in with the background colours, eyes closed, listening intensely. There just a suggestion of a smile of appreciation, or perhaps wistfulness, as his left hand, shaping the phrase, is saying: But please, the winds, sempre piano here, while his right hand maintains that crisp beat, firm, authoritative.
Bernard Haitink, watercolour 84 x56 cm. 1994. Birmingham Symphony Hall Collection.

One of a Collection of thirty-one watercolours, this was painted with respect, gratitude and affection for the conductor who has provided me with years of inspiration and indirectly had a significant influence in my life's work.