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Musings

So, you may have seen a lot of my work and to where I have travelled, inspiring some of the works on these pages, but what about my thoughts on the subject of art and painting? Well, here's a taste of what it is that drives me to create.

Why make Pictures?

I have done a lot of things in my life.. not so much a career as a bunch of jobs flying in close formation, you might say… but whatever the day job, be it in Whitehall, the City, the Media or running a large Trade Association, I have carried a sketchbook and pencil in my pocket.. and drawn and drawn.. views from windows, officials at conference tables, people on trains, streetscapes from bus stops..

 

..and then came HOLIDAYS.

 

Holidays, usually in remote and exotic places, meant a diverting the stress of work into the self-imposed discipline of filling a sketchbook - usually A5, always 400 gsi cold-pressed paper- with finished coloured drawings. Always I had in mind visions of the unachievable brilliance of Roberts, Lear and Melville.

 

Eventually I was able to retire from the day job and, to no surprise, found myself to be travelling, drawing and painting even more than before.

 

So why the obsession?

 

Partly it is about seeing..Anyone can look at a subject, but nothing is as good as drawing for making you really SEE it.. Observing, analysing, interpreting ambiguities.

 

Then follows real joy in the forms, textures, solids and voids revealed by that observation… everything is sculptural, revealed by the play of light on the form,.. The world becomes its own art gallery.

 

The process of representing those forms in a drawing needs close cooperation between eye and hand .. an exercise by turns joyful and frustrating depending how well they are working together at the moment in question, but always a satisfying challenge in the long run… sometimes the VERY long run!

 

Not the least part of that challenge is one that has faced artists since the Renaissance … how to create the appearance of three dimensions when there are clearly only two. Not just linear perspective but all the other tricks of weight of the mark, atmosphere, and level of detail have to be deployed instinctively.

 

As with any artist or maker, in any medium, there is ineffable pleasure in actually practising the craft of drawing, in doing the work; exercising the “muscle” and using an amalgam of seeing, manual dexterity, experience, experiment and perhaps some innate predilection encouraged by a lifetime of teachers and influencers.

 

And truth to tell there is also, for me, a compulsion to try, however inadequately, to walk in the footsteps of the more talented. I mentioned earlier some great topographical artists of the past; but there are so many more recent and current masters (and mistresses) to admire and whose achievements one might try to emulate, while all the time avoiding imitation and developing ones own style.

 

There is an enormous delight to be had from looking at great work….the human emotional response to a thing great beauty, even when the subject of the picture may not itself be beautiful. The handling and artistry of the execution communicates so strongly, sometimes across centuries.

 

However far one’s own work might fall from those achievements, it seems imperative to keep trying.

 

And those last thoughts do of course bring the audience into the equation. I would probably draw for myself if marooned on a desert island; but to know that one has touched another person with a representation of something that has required your attention and commitment is, it has to be admitted, very nice too. It is pleasing when others respond to your work, especially if they are positive!

 

I love images.. their balance, composition and colour.. and I take a lot of photographs as well as making drawings; but it is in drawing and painting that you are are doing most to extract the essence of a subject.. the essentials , through the filter of your own perception.  In that respect they are very different, for me, from making a photographic image.

 

And touching on painting.. where does drawing stop and painting begin?…however hard I try I can never quite seem to abolish the line; but we all know that hard-edged delineation, as from a pen nib, almost never occurs in life.. rather we respond to a field of coloured and shaded shapes, abutting one another, their hues and  intensity depending to the light that falls on them and the colours of their neighbours.

 

Reflecting that in gouache or watercolour is a challenge fraught with failure, of course.. but it allows you to play with the unique characteristics of those media and carries with it all the joys delivered by drawing and then some.

 

It is also, for me, a better medium than drawing alone for departing from the simply observational and embarking on more imaginative work, creating subjects and compositions from scratch or subverting well known images for fun or perhaps to carry a message.

 

Even a completed picture is never the end of the story… it is a step on the way to…. who knows where?  Finding out the answer to that question is perhaps the most important reason to keep on making pictures.

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