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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 me – it’s all about the music
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.
DJ Woody, Colne 2018