My Son Mark has been training for the Christian ministry in Australia since 2013. As he approached the end of his training he asked me to paint him a picture on a theme which we had talked about many times. I painted it in 2014 and sent it to him last year at the beginning of his first job, as an Assistant pastor.
“If you have raced with men on foot, and they have worn you out, how will you fare if you run with Horses? Jeremiah 12:5.
It is about integrity!
It is about people being called to positions of power who have to learn to cope with tremendously fierce opposition!
So this is it. it is big (about 1.5m x 1m.
He was ordained in Gymea baptist church in Sydney in April, and Jean and I went out to visit.
I wrote a rambling dissertation last year about the place of nature based art in the so called “Art World”. In it I posed the question “Was cave art the precursor of modern sketchbook art”. I think there is a link and that the “Cave Art”exhibition at the British Museum last year presented some new insights.
In my final year show, my sketchbooks were the bit that was assessed as really good art, which surprised me quite a bit. I was encouraged to do more watercolour work and to try to build a style from my direct observations of the world around me. So I have had my head down for about 6months.
In the Autumn last year, I visited my Son in Australia and we went to a coral cay in the Great barrier reef for a holiday. It was a spectacular place and I did loads of sketches as well as writing an article for the Travel Agent who arranged the trip.
Here are some examples of the work I did out there, and the development process.
My friend Brian rears English Grey Partridges in the hope that they may be released into the wild. These birds have become very scarce as a result of changes to agricultural pratice. I have done several paintings of them. here is the most recent one.
The search for an underlying abstract quality to my work is coming easier for nature based paintings, based on years of sketchbooks, than portraiture, where I am very dominated by the need to get it right.
So it is quite therapeutic (for a neurotic artist that is) to do both in tandem.
So this week I took up an old painting idea based on blackbirds feasitng in a crab apple tree, to try to express the frenzy, and the atomosphere of a windy, and sunny autumn day.
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.
A great artist who inspired me to do better wildlife based art is called John Busby, who is an Academician of the Scottish Royal Academy. I, along with a large number of other artists, have benefitted from his courses in Scotland where support has been available from several of the people he has mentored over about 30 years. Here is one piece of work which i did last year as a result of one of the visits he organised to the Bass Rock in the Firth of the Forth.
The Academy has asked me to do all sorts of things I would never have done before. An example is this drawing, about 2meters square, titled “Monumentality”. The teacher was looking for a sense of scale and mass; and an overwhelming presence. It was done from a series of smaller drawings I made in the Egyptology department of the British Museum.
Spearywell wood is a piece of ancient woodland, not far from my home. Here is a poem I wrote one hot July day when the wood was full of Silver-washed Fritillary and White Admiral butterflies:-
What mysteries reside within the lives of a million buzzing insects
An orchestra of tiny sounds
The soundtrack to a drama in the deepest quiet woodland glade.
Only when these notes are heard can one begin
To hear the gentle breeze
To feel the silent presence of an ancient oak
Or hear the call of some small bird
And imagine yet another drama played upon this stage
With distant calling pigeon way beyond.
But over all, the stillness and the silence, and the power of peace that soothes the soul,
And corrects the self absorbed preoccupations of a human life so easily ensnared by cares
And then..and only then…the still small voice