In the quest to get to grips with how important abstraction is to true expressiveness in my art, I experimented with a painting based on some sketchbook images I made of goldfinches feeding on thistles in my garden on a bright windy Autumn day. In the process, I think I have started to really understand just how brilliantly innovative JMW Turner really was. Not that I am setting myself up as a rival you understand. I have called it “the Charm” after the Victorian collective noun for these birds.
In the summer, I was asked to submit for the above exhibition for Alumni, Staff and Students of the Academy. It is always rewarding to learn when your work attracts some attention, and an impressionistic picture of a trout seems to have found favour with a purchaser. Here is a similar picture I have done recently. I am looking to describe an impression in brilliant sunshine.
I have spent absolutely ages trying to come up with a comprehensive description of what I do as an artist, and why.
Here is the latest effort, for the beginning of my final year’s work:-
I am a figurative artist with a deep interest in why depictive art is an important part of being human, and the way this relates to abstraction. On a practical level, my art seeks to portray how I feel about the world around me, which is usually quite optimistic. I enjoy the natural world, and the people in it, which is why animals, birds and humans in the landscape feature in most of my subject matter.
Representation, for me, goes far deeper than merely creating likeness’. There is an underlying abstract context to all of my work which is sometimes very dominant, and other times is much less apparent, but is the source of most of the struggle. Expression, therefore is a matter of composition, colour harmony, surface quality and a balance between intense precision and much freer elements. Always, I am reaching for something that is deeper, in the quest to create memorable images that connect with the observer.
Jean is my wife. We decided to get married after we had known each other for a week in 1976. I hope this picture conveys her dignity and poise, and the significance of her being “interested” whilst sitting in our small local church talking to Mary ( Churchwarden). For me, just painting a person is never going to be enough. I want to paint the person “being the person.
Just to make the point that I haven’t sold out totally to portraiture (at least, conventional portraiture) I return to animals and birds for a moment. This is a portrait of an otter, as its character is an essential part of what I wish to convey. Interestingly, the biggest challenge was to paint it into the environment on the river Tyne in which it was observed. The River Tyne is much more than shipyards at its mouth. It is a beautiful river of ther purest quality, known as the best Salmon river in England by some. Lots of it is in deep woody gorges with thick vegetation. The water is dark and peaty. Glimpses of Otters are usually fleeting, as they are very wary.
Doing a really good picture is much more that an accurate portrayal of the individual. There is an abstract quality to the overall design that has to work too. Last term at the academy was spent on developing compositional awarenes both in figure painting and also doing pure abstract work. More on abstraction later. Here is a traditional painting of Jean in her lounge, awaiting the arrival of her grandson.
The next effort was to paint a friend who runs a swing band. This was made with oil paint, a different challenge. The overall composition didn’t work very well, but here is a detail.
Being surrounded by teachers who are formidably good at portrait and figure painting has inspired me to have a go.
So last year I tried out with a water colour portrait of my brother. Robin is a character, and a well known Salmon fisherman on the river Wye, as well as being one of a dying breed of Master Saddle Makers.