Making a painting & comparing paintings over time

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Here an unusual pallet that I have found several years ago with a collaboration in mind: painting to music. Following an introduction to the American musician Michael Mc Evoy, we discussed making a collaboration, my responsive painting and his responsive music piece inspired by his Terra Cognita album composition, the multi watercolour pallet seemed ideal for the trial run, initially intended in a church in Hampstead. The fuller plan included suggestion to visit Antarctica and make a fuller collaborative piece there, relating to the global concern about the melting of the ice caps, that is directly referred to in his Terra- Cognita album composition and sound track,  . A project that has yet to be realised.

The pallet allows me to work quickly with watercolour, giving a good measure of premixed colour and spontaneity for the response to music.


Now with a large enough studio space, it seems using the pallet is possible, although my initial response is only to the sense of time, although a dimly audible accordion player was audible rising up from the street below.

I have recorded photos of some of the stages to the piece from the oyster pallet. After several layers and finishing, I found the colour too high, and was compelled to try toning over, but the particular technique I used gave a shadow effect, rather than the modulation of colour that I preferred.




Almost telling I completed the piece on the twenty fourth of June, using acrylic paints over some of the watercolour. Saying that…….does not explain the complex and difficult process to completion, or explain the number of times the painting was nearly lost…. At this historic time perhaps it is interesting to look back to an earlier work and compare.

painting 1 7 16 a4painting 6 2 95 a4_edited-1








I chose this painting piece from 1995, because it is nearby, it sits next to my bed and sits on top of a 4” deep Daler Rowney cardboard box about the same size as the painting. (This useful box given to me by Coventry Art Supplies then of Spon St.) The painting is one of perhaps fifty that I made of that time, it is one of the largest of the sequence, ….the rest are very small oil paintings; thirty are packed inside the Daler Rowney box.

Looking at the back lit j peg on the web you cannot see the surface quality or realise the image. The oil painting is as much an object and thing as well as an image, and the sense of materials are very important to the appreciation of the piece.

The surface of the paint is smooth, colour vibrates and rhythms give a space of the imagination, one that you can look into and find the limitlessness of time and space.

The character of the piece is one of my favourites, warm and encouraging, with confidence and understanding of possibility. Perhaps the sense of release from the small paintings gave a freedom to it.

The small paintings are perhaps of interest at this time, so I will return to mention of them.  A performance artist visiting my painting room then (mid-nineties) and looking at my largest painting commented that they liked the small figure painting with in it, and thought these more successful. I do not always respond to feedback however the appeal was made emotionally, and seemed to catch my interest, prompting me to take on a challenge to make a sequence of small painting, with an interest in making a subsequent collaboration with performance art.

I devised a short document that went a little poetic to outline the idea of a painting and performance tour. To travel around the coast showing the small paintings & performing art. Being as there was no real reason to decide where the tour should stop I devised the exhibition to travel around the outline of the UK coast and then the European coast, perhaps further. Which leads to our current interests.

A difficult time followed, a fire in the adjacent house led to water damage from the fire hoses, followed by a break-in at a house where I was using a computer to devise the exhibition details, led to the loss of the computer documents and details. Then the attempted move to a new flat led to many years of wasted time trying to respond to endless nuisances caused by a seriously deliberate problem neighbour. Delays.

The paintings are still mostly intact, and soon exhibitions at   will be taken down  whilst the small works are gradually developed into its new gallery spaces, and these will be showing  soon.

So comparing these two pieces – twenty one years apart nearly, may show something about abstraction painting, time, space & place?


  • Some related album pieces by Michael J Mc Evoy from his Terra Cognita Album listen to a track from of the same title.






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A little about my art pieces so far

This year began with a call out from Hull – a Moth For Amy, I made a small concept sketch for this and noted that Amy Johnson landed in Aleppo to refuel on her famous flight to Australia, In this light I planned to paint within the round discs of the moth eyes, images of Aleppo then 1934 and now. The theme was for artists to paint 2 m long pre made  sculpture pieces.

Mark Stammers_Amy Johnson moth_edited-1


I was invited by Arts Trail Leamington  to use a new studio space in the City centre of Coventry, some views from the heights of the tower block are below.

view-from-studio-CP-e Mark Stammers art

sky-view-2-CP-e Mark Stammers art

view-3--from-CP-e Mark Stammers art

A view from my studio


I have made abstract painting since a very long time, however painting I showed in 2012,


in the title Plateaux IV have allowed me to develop some figurative cartoon drawings, that give me the opportunity to directly address the issues that arise from the dictatorship personalities, previously distressing my activity and this led to the tiny exhibition Privately & Confidentially shown at AE Contemporary Art, Warwick 2015 this 4 second video gives a sense of the imagery, working with printers and developing the character of the original paintings to form the heightened quality of colour to the prints, something like satire:

With this temporary release to the figure, the Amy project led to some research for Aleppo, a drone video of Homs left a deathly silence on the image, and this led to some of my current figure pieces indicated below with some photos of my painting space at one end of the studio, plenty of room for sculpture, but just getting set up:


view-of-the-studio-space-at-CP-e Mark Stammers art

Work-2-in-progress-CP-e Mark Stammers art

A commission to use some earth pigments led to a cartoon to follow this development, however the drawing developed into a pencil drawing, and now seems held their unless I can find how to colour the piece:

cartoon-1-a3-e Mark Stammers art

A retired Journalist request.






Not wholly sure if it works, but so far only a pencil drawing. other painting is moving forward and should be ready to show in the summer.

Some small painting;


In the background 


On the back Burner is still a collaboration with Gerry to make a photo and painting piece about Jepherson Gardens, I have made all of the imagery, photos and two paintings that relate to the place, the piece is to be quite large so bringing all of the different components together ready for printing is taking some time, some proof prints Gerry has made so far bring out a magical sense of place, that everyone will recognise from their own feelings about the park.  I am still considering a new photo image to add to the piece.

Sculpture & public art

Slowly slowly, a large sculpture I have designed previously is reaching a modelling stage, time is short with new work being sought to fund the initial design stages so the development is moving slow, but the costing and fabrication is all prepared in plan.

A visit to the River Thames near the Motional Figure, found the water unusually calm:





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PRESS & publicity for the Motional Figure

Some of the news and press publicity:

An informative and nicely worded plaque has been placed next to the sculpture:


For the opening event I prepared a pamphlet on the making process and people that worked with me in the making & fabrication process. Thanks and credit are due to others in the Council at Elmbridge that made the programme run smoothly: David Burrows, Maggs Latter, Lisa Wyn, Liz Taylor, all of the enthusiastic supporters at the X cell complex and the surveyors that assisted at different times.

Press Photographers pics:


A rough cut video from the inauguration day of the sculpture with the Elmbridge Mayor and Mayoress:

A video from installation of the sculpture to the despatch from the workshops, the unusual metallic sound effects are from the wind… perhaps time to add some music.


I have been meeting with a few writers and curators since the installation, Crista Cloutier is one and there is a slow development of a book about  art, sport and the sculpture the Motional Figure.  This is likely to include in depth photography that brings the surface, light and environmental interaction forward, with some stories about people and the effects of art and sport on their lives.

– It is interesting to note that Mo Farah lives not far across the river from the sculpture and more than a dozen sports competitors contended the Olympics in 2012 from near the locality.


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The sculpture was loaded onto the trailer; we had bolted wheels to it to make it easy to move around. Driving from Chawston to Elmbridge took about 2 hours,


The Motional Figure arriving at the X-cell Complex, With the Borough Surveyor Richard Walters and Liz Taylor the Arts Development Officer attending along with the ground work contractors to make the surface finishes the next day. Julian and I installed the sculpture, removing the wheels and using a jack lowering it onto the bolts, adjusting the level and bolting it down tight. the sculpture was then installed. The ground work shape was not quite as we had expected, and the contractors had invented their own version of the ground covering outline, not quite the oval that was previously understood to be the intention.


The next day I made some finishing touches ready for the public art opening:

The opening and inauguration of the Motional Figure on the 5th March 2012

See this video link



The Mayor and Mayoress arrive




Local press photographers arrive


Waiting for the inauguration



A photo shoot with the Mayor of Elmbridge and the sculpture


Watching the inauguration



Capturing the motion


ImageThe artist, friends and some family.

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The finishing pieces to the Motional Figure

With the side loop completed and attached the finishing pieces were fabricated just before delivery, these were the spiral piece:

ImageThe hemispheres made by Sapphire Spinners

Imagespeed brackets welded

ImageAnd polished

ImageAnd tested on the spiral

ImageThe Spiral being welded into place by Mark

And all is complete ready for delivery.



And all wrapped up for delivery – Mark Watson the lead engineer who did most of the welding standing with the Motional Figure at the workshops.

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looking back at the conceptual development and model making to the Motional Figure

At some point it had been apparent that we wanted to install the piece ready for the London Olympics, sport had always been a major part of the piece’s creation. In order to be ready for this the sculpture was put into storage for some months.

Making a good moment to reflect and look back over the development stages, some of the models and maquettes.

Initially I made a simple paper model,   drawing out all of the near exact cutting lines for the four sides on a sheet of A3 paper with a pencil, I more or less got this guess right straight off, so cut this out and fixed it together with tabs and glue, to make a 200mm high model.





Taking copies of the initial drawing outlines to my old college friend, Julian, to discuss making the piece together. Simply by enlarging photocopies of my initial freehand drawings we were fairly quickly able to glue these to a sheet of steel 1mm thick, and cut around the edges with tin snips. Holding the pieces together while Julian tack welded we soon had the three main parts defined and assembled about 300mm high; Julian welded all along the edges and I shaped and ground out the weld to bring in the sculptural finish. I had some thin brass sheet; the enlarged photo copies were stuck to this and snipped out the side loop I positioned while Julian soldered the joints with a mini blow torch, then soldering it to the main figure. This formed well, though some of the shape simplified. I then finished it at my workshop in Birmingham grinding the corners and setting the radius to complete.



This is the process:

From drawings:

Initial concept paper 3 D model 200 mm model  —— › 300 mm steel model prototype

I took these to the initial assessment meeting with Elmbridge Borough Council, meeting the Director of Culture and leisure Ian Burrows, Maggs Latter Arts development Officer, Borough Surveyor, Liz Taylor and a representative for the X cell Leisure Complex. A risk assessment, and review of the piece using the model took place during the discussion. This led to a small concern about the rear leg being used to slide along, dismissible if the width of section was @ 190mm. insurance value was discussed and other matters. A revised design was evidently needed to address the concern that it may be possible to slide down the rear leg.

I consulted some sculptor friends, and other public artists including George Wagstaff , who suggested putting points along it (as is now done to stop skate boarders in Coventry) However after some reflection going back to the initial drawings I realised I only need rotate the rear leg by 45 degrees to put a corner on the top edge, thus preventing any sliding down, and making climbing difficult.  I met at the X cell with Maggs & a new Borough Surveyor, and steel model I stated my proposal and we discussed it, it was accepted and a revised model was agreed to be made. There was no doubt that the new curves for the rotated top surface would be complex.  To make things more difficult I had a preference for following the entire process from freehand drawing, and did not want to produce the adaption using a geometrical template to exactly calculate the turns, but made these from the process of constructing the model, recording carefully the shapes whilst going along in the making process. This led to a gesso model @ 300mm high with a circular base. The photos of this were in elevation plan and side, and 3-D it was approved and the project moved forward.


300 mm high steel model prototype —— › amended design 300mm high gesso model/Approved

Working from sheet metal I was conscious of the limitations of the material so rather than presenting a 300 mm high model for fabrication to Julian at yolk design I decided to make a lager 1m high model using 2 mm MDF  and thin ply to test the curvature properties of sheet metal by analogy. An idea suggested by Colin Davies from Rugby the structural engineer who I had consulted to test my fabrication ideas with and who advised on the method of securing the piece to the ground, designing the base plates, bolts and foundations, discussing and agreeing the inner structure to take the loadings.  A third process had emerged:   
Amended design 300mm high gesso model/approved —— › larger 1m high model in this sheet mdf


Back in the Ledsam workshop, Birmingham I drew out the shapes for the side sections and cut these out with a jigsaw cutter from plain sheet MDF 2/3mm. The sheet material for the rear leg piece needed to flex in 3 directions, and could be difficult to work. I had seen a coracle made by using steam to bend the wood frame. So using a wall paper steamer I was able to give the wood sheet material sufficient flexion to make the amended shapes for the rear leg piece. Keeping track of which new leg curves were the right ones as it had taken three attempts to obtain the right set of curves, where all the edges met up with no gaps. This 3-D curve was difficult to work out other than by drawing & making.


The 1 metre high model

Once the 1m model was made I posted photos to the Council and Maggs, and took the model to Julian at Yolk Design near Huntingdon to fabricate the piece at his metal work workshop.  Whilst I had the outline drawing for all the complex curves and piece, I was by no means certain that in scaling these up by x 2.5 + they would be accurate enough. A gap of 1 or 2mm might disappear but if 3 or 4 mm it could ruin the shape. This would only need to be .75 or 1 mm on the 1 m model. Discussing this with Julian who was working with me to fabricate the piece, I decided it was necessary to make a full scale model of the rear leg using 3mm MDF so that any errors could be corrected before going ahead with  cutting the costly stainless steel sheet metal, these would be costly to remake.

A fourth process:

› Larger 1m high model in this sheet mdf —— › Full size model in MDF accurate test of curves

I scaled up my 1m drawings to full size and drew these onto paper copying these onto the MDF sheets by using blue carbon paper under the drawings to make blue line drawings on the boards. Then I followed these outlines to cut around the shapes with a jigsaw cutter.  Making square frames using 25 x 25 mm wood laths sized to fit inside the square section sculpture parts I assembled the flat sections into 3- D pieces, gluing and stapling together. The front leg piece and arch to were made fairly easily. To test the rear leg sections the piece needed standing upright as in situ mode and the rear leg top attached to the lower arch  and the base to the ground. With a shortage of height in the workshop at Julian’s we decided to use the main hall to assemble the pieces. This worked out well with plenty of space to test sight lines and correct any discrepancies in the description of the lines. Using coloured tape to fix new adjustments to the lines on the full scale model.





Measuring these from known points on the full scale model enabled the corrections to be applied to my drawings I had copied onto CAD, where I had enlarged these x 2.5@ from the 1 m model. Using fixed points on the full scale model that were also on my CAD drawings enabled corrections to the curves. There is also the condition of perspective and scale to consider.

Another process:

Full size model MDF curves adjusted —— › full size metal cutting templates and metal pieces.

I had initially found stainless suppliers in Birmingham  but looking nationally for a workshop that could cut larger than 2.5 m length I was directed to Watson & Brookman engineers of Chawston nr Bedford. Who are experts in working with the metal, fortunately they were very kind enough to offer to give Julian training in stainless welding, showing how to work the temperature, fame and flow of weld.  
I am tempted to get on and do welding too but in all I felt it better to keep some distance and clarity of roles in the fabrication process, it was Julian’s workshop and he more normally did welding. So this is how it shaped up. W & B supplied the metal cut to my drawing templates; this was delivered in flat sheets to Julian’s workshop nr Huntingdon, where we assembled the parts together to form the 3-D sections, working along each section tacking the corners and then Julian welding along these four edges all around the pieces. I then ground down the rough weld to form shape the radius curves, sculpting along the edges, the polishing up to mirror finish.


Metal prices had shot up since the start of the commission, the initial plan was burnished metal with some mirror finish at the top but as I worked the piece I soon realised it needed to get much closer to mirror finish all around, lifting the quality up quite to the best. All this took some time the stainless was mill finish known as 2B – as it rolls out of the foundry. So a basic flat finish. Getting the surface down and polishing up to mirror was fairly time consuming but wholly worth it as this gave a truly sculptural feel to working the piece, knowing this had been derived directly from the original inspiration.


I prepared a workshop and process flow chart to plan the timing, cost, materials and days assembling and welding as a guide to our working together, and gave a copy to Julian to discuss; this more or less was the way the project went forward. Except that W & B welded the side loop and spiral with me as Julian went abroad for a while, and the delivery was put on hold while readying for the London Olympics in 2012.

Colin Davies (Rugby) advised me on any structural issues and certificated the structural integrity as required by Elmbridge Borough Council.

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SOme more making of the Motional Figure

Lets look at the progress so far: all main pieces are fitted:



Moving on from the main figure construction to the side loop pieces. These  were cut and assembled at the Watson & Brookman workshops, Chawston near Bedford. They recommended the’ edge to edge’ technique, fitting edges to each other and following along these tacking & welding, which we used to make the piece.

– Although my original technique was to clamp front and side to full scale model piece and tack these. Remove and clamp tack the remaining half side and back to the full size model, then tack, remove, fit the two halves together and tack then weld. This would allow the setting of extra curvature to the shape


Though perhaps not entirely practical here with ‘setting up’ and time – perhaps the difference was fairly slight – Clive, me, Mark (Watson) and Pete with others set about fitting the edges adjacent and Mark tacking very fine weld points. The pieces pulled together very nicely.

The bronze/gold mirror finish surface needed great care, I had made leatherette padded carriers for standing and clamping the pieces in construction, these had proved highly effective, keeping the surface safe. As the shape tightened up with continuous weld going around the form, the two matching edges needed to be highly accurate, 0 or 1 mm no more, eventually we, 3- 4 people holding the edges in place initially, got enough tacks to hold the entire shape, Mark’s welding was really spot on and very neat, making very fine welding, amazingly pulling up the gold tone weld most of the way around the loop.

Once the weld was complete I took the loop back to Julian’s workshop nr Huntingdon, where I masked the edges, pulling back the protective film and prepared it for grinding and polishing to bring out the sculpture. This was not easily carried forward, and several weeks went by whilst I considered the issues, the weld was gold coloured, fairly fantastic welding, neat and certainly a bit of a shame to lose it.

Heating Stainless will cause it to adopt several colours depending on temperature, the weld will be a gold colour when exactly right, and that is how it appeared most of the way around the loop. But where the bronze/gold surface finish was heated a black sintered edge traced itself around the weld edge, almost it could be left. The issue was discussed and resulting, ultimately I decided that this distracted from the whole piece and drawing of the shape, so I went on to grind and sculpt the edges, with the greatest of respect for the quality that was disappearing beneath, inspiring the new surface.

Once I’d started to shape the edges, it became obvious that it was the right thing to do, and soon this was finished to as near mirror as I could get, the metal was only 1.5mm thickness.

With the side loop complete I was more or less ready to deliver and install so arranged to meet the council to decide on the exact location. I went to a  meeting at the X cell complex, The Elmbridge Arts development officer Liz Taylor, Surveyor Richard Walters, the two ground work contractors, the bolt template was brought out, and I brought the 1m model so we could try out  the position of the sculpture outside the front of the building.  When the position was resolved the ground work contractors sprayed painted points on the tarmac for returning to when installing. We discussed the ground cover and shape, being near a path would have to be oval as opposed to the full circle intended.



The !m model at the Elmbridge X cell Leisure Complex.




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More making the Motional Figure

Just to update the progress:

 Some interesting photos of welding the arch: 

Julian & Mark working the arch

Julian & Mark working the arch

 The unique complex 3-D curves to the rear leg piece needed very accurate cutting, I decided this required a full size template test, leading to a full size model in thin 3mm MDF, allowing the drawings to be fully verified as accurate before cutting the metal.

Full size MDF rear leg piece by Mark Stammers

Full size MDF rear leg piece by Mark Stammers

Some photos of the assembly of the model: 

Julian with  the full size model working how we assemble it

Julian with the full size model working how we assemble it

More drawings of the curves:

my rear leg piece drawings for cutting the metal

My rear leg piece drawings for cutting the metal

 It is worthwhile looking back at some of the model making:    Mark & 1/3rd scale model at the Ledsam St Studio Birmingham

      A day at the ledsam St Studio Birmingham





1/3rd scale model at Ledsam

1/3rd scale model at Ledsam

       There is also the side loop to make, this has gradually become more taught and like my original drawing at each stage of working the models, the full size piece in MDF was a good test of the workability of the material and limits of flexion that could be expected without hammering the mirror finished surfaces.

1/3rd scale model of the side loop made at Ledsam studio

1/3rd scale model of the side loop made at Ledsam studio

Full size MDFmodel  side loop

Full size MDFmodel side loop

With the rear leg piece complete its time to test all the pieces: 

Mark Stammers with finished rear leg piece

Mark Stammers with finished rear leg piece


Mark Stammers & Julian Reichman with the  Motional Figure at YD

Mark Stammers & Julian Reichman with the Motional Figure at YD

 Mark making & checking Ful size model arch


 Checking out the side loop and with all the main pieces ready its time to move the sculpture to the engineers for final assembling and finishing.