The OATMEAL series

OATMEAL stands for Original Artistic Talent Musical Excellence All Legends. It’s a visual homage to those practitioners within the UK black musical culture who’ve kept going, come what may, to promote their sounds and their ethos.

Basil Clarke
Basil Clarke (Yargo). Acrylic on plywood. Based on my photo taken in Manchester, 2018. A more sensitive and thoughtful man than this painting suggests, but Basil is a survivor (something I tried to capture) and a very interesting character. It was a very sunny day when we met and the shade was essential.

The name of the series came from me was reading about 20th century African-Americans trying to survive when they had little in the way of money. Oatmeal or porridge (on this side of the Atlantic) was an un-glamorous though filling foodstuff, often overlooked but a vital part of survival. Similarly, those folk depicted here in paint and ink have sometimes flown under the radar – perhaps even off the map – when it comes to eulogies and praise.

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Steve Barker. Digital editing of my photo. Steve continues to be a pioneering force for new and unusual music with his On The Wire programme. Erudite and friendly, we met at a music conference in November 2018. Just for turning me on to Tackhead, Mark Stewart and the rest of On U Sound, I owe him.

The purpose of the OATMEAL series was to try to crate a great painting primarily, but I also wanted to directly shine a light on those who I feel have either been left out of the conventional narrative of 20th and 21st century music and/or not given their proper dues in my opinion.

Donald Johnson (A Certain Ratio). Acrylic on plywood.
Donald Johnson (A Certain Ratio). Acrylic on plywood. Based on my photo from Trades Club, Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire. After his band had delivered a barnstorming gig in conjunction with Andy Weatherall, I managed five minutes with the ever-professional Mr. Johnson backstage.  The quotation seemed to tie in and I couldn’t not include his Sambas… important as they are on stage and on everyone of ACR‘s songs.

My initial idea at the start was to paint three specific individuals from the North-west of England whose contributions to the spread of music world-wide have been important in my opinion; I’ve only managed to meet, photograph and paint one of that trio, Basil Clarke. The other two? I’m still waiting in hope.

Mikey DON (Krispy 3). Acrylic, lino print, ink.
Mikey DON (Krispy 3). Acrylic, lino print, arabic, ink. Based on photo taken by myself in Manchester. From our brief but memorable meeting, I spent ages on trying to decide how to capture Mikey. His tweets online are always memorable and passionate so I focused on emojis, thumb-prints and the facial feature that produced some quality rhymes and a great smile  

With the help of DJs Greg Wilson [someone who deserves his own series, such is the effort and time he’s spent in extolling and promoting UK black music] and Mr. Scruff, I managed to meet and photograph others whose own odysseys tied in with that of OATMEAL.  All of the ‘sitters’ were generous with their time and attention, which added to my sense of pleasure and increased the need to them justice in some way.

Graham Massey (808 State). Ink, acrylic and mixed media on cartridge.
Graham Massey (808 State). Ink, acrylic, tracing paper on cartridge. Based on photo taken by myself at Granada Studios, Manchester. Shortly before he moved studios, Graham kindly gave up some of his time for a chat in what was one of Granada television production rooms, surrounded by vintage synths and keyboards and numerous dead television monitor screens.
It took me back to attending a filming of Pennis Plays Pop, a pilot of a TV music series hosted by Dennis Pennis in the 90s, with sets from Buzzcocks, Freakpower and Dreadzone. My brother, who was with me, spent his time ogling Corrie’s Alec Duckworth’s daughter.

I didn’t set out with a particular style or method for any of these portraits. I’m an amateur, an ‘outsider’ artist who took art for two years at secondary school. With each portrait, I think I learnt a little more about these various disciplines and also about each of my subjects.

Mr. Scruff. Acrylics, spray paint, stencil and Dremel.
Mr. Scruff. Acrylics, spray paint, stencil, Dremel on plywood. Photo taken in Manchester. Affable and hospitable, Andy is a gent who looks nothing like his portrait i.e. stern, ancient. He did however release ‘Chicken In A Box’ and a track about whales. And he uses a gorgeous valve mixer. Tasty tunes, unreal music, lovely chap. 

The six months I spent in Accra in Ghana in 2005, working as a volunteer teacher, rubbed off on me regarding the art I saw around me advertising barbershops, bars, hairdressers and seamstresses. I doubt anyone had formal training, but their funky attempts encourage me still.

Hewan Clarke
Hewan Clarke (2018). Digital editing of my own photo.

 

My confidence in my abilities has grown a little and I’ve tried new means of creation as I’ve gone on. Five Three Two portraits await completion – or commencement! – but here are the first five six seven eight nine OATMEAL portraits. I’m also re-working some of these portraits as I try new techniques.

If the art or likeness is not to your taste, I’ll be content if any of these works have turned you on to someone or something new. It’s not about meit’s all about the music

Pat Mellow

Rama Lama Lama
Denise Johnson (Primal Scream, A Certain Ratio). Acrylics and mixed media on plywood. Based on original photo taken by myself at Trades Club, Hebden Bridge. As with Donald, Denise kindly posed for some pictures for me after her gig. I spent so long on trying and failing to capture her amazing eyes, and eventually decided to depict her as a superhero by using Primal Scream‘s Screamadelica logo as her ‘disguise’. She’s nothing like him, I think, but Bootsy Collins was the idea behind this over-the-top portrayal.

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