and what a grand day to be doing so…hard to believe it’s still early February. But we (being my pal Simon and myself) got stuck into the latest instalment of the seemingly endless task of visiting every place listed in the various District guides for the county of Leicestershire. As it happens we haven’t yet completed Melton but a new year gets us out into Harborough (we polished off Charnwood some time back and I did NWLeics years ago). The point of the exercise for me is to assemble a collection of small (40 x 50 cms.) paintings each representing, albeit very abstractly, every location visited. For Simon it’s the photographs themselves and, as I’ve said here before, if you want top quality images his blog is where you should head off to!
The paintings are invariably derived, very loosely, from crude collages of images taken on the journey. So here we have one such…using two snaps made in Thorpe Langton, one of the Langton’s (there are five in all) in the Welland Valley. Actually the Harborough project is a rather tricky blighter…the previous three guides elided the places on the map contained within the guide and the ‘biogs’ of places therein. But this one doesn’t – some places are on the map but not discussed and vice versa. What to do? choose one or the other or do the lot? A question that won’t need resolution until I get around to the paintings stage and that will be a ways off as Charnwood still has 18 canvases awaiting completion whilst Melton still hasn’t got its full set of collages.
Meanwhile other picture making continues apace…another canvas from a newer series that has a putative title to be announced here soon… This one is The Approach, acrylic on canvas, 80 x 55 cms.
Well time to stick our fingers in our ears…and hope the news (wherever its coming from it seems) goes away… I’m picking out pieces from projects that really need pushing on…like Playground Of The Midlands… So I give you South Croxton.
Doubt anyone out there will recognise it..though the last time I said that (about Quorn I recall) someone knew exactly where I picked up the imagery. So you never know. I wonder how many remainers there were out in South Croxton – you would likely only need one hand!
it’s often in the detail that you get a proper idea of what something is about. I was re-reading my friend Andrew Bracey‘s excellent catalogue for his detail exhibition where he quotes the painter Malcolm Morley saying that it was in the detail, very close detail indeed that the energy of the painting resided. Maybe its so…I just started out on the Rock sub set of my Landscape & Memory series…and thought it would be interesting – at the early stage of each of the eighteen works – to take a detail from each. What it tells me who knows…but anyway I’m studying them nonetheless.
Besides getting on with this project – I’ve set myself a deadline of Christmas to have the lot completed – I’m also setting a harder deadline for the Playground Of The Midlands sub project (the Charnwood leg of the Leicestershire set that began years back with the From The Earth Wealth (aka North West Leics) group. The third leg of this one – Painting The Town Red, the Melton district – got started at a lick last Spring and then fizzled out towards the end of May. So yesterday myself and my partner in crime Simon rebooted and got over to Bottesford, the most northerly outpost, to begin the task of completing the set. It has to be admitted that as we plough through what will end up being over two hundred plus settlements across the county it gets harder to find distinctive features in the many sleepy small villages we encounter! As often mentioned before head over to Simon’s blog for the decent photos – me I settle for tatty aide memoires for what will become the paintings. So above is a photo from Bottesford…and below the painting that resulted from a trip, quite a long time back now, to Hathern.
after all it’s The Playground of the Midlands project. But sometimes its quite difficult to imagine who came up with this tagline for the Charnwood borough! Not that Quorn, Barrow, Sileby & Cossington don’t have their charms…after all my pal found love today in the public carpark in Cossington!
So it’s back to this project now. Three canvases are underway and now we have the visits to more than two thirds of the places listed in the guide under our belt. As the autumn weather sets in I’ll probably feel more inclined to work up the painting ideas for more of the pictures…and to get on with making them. Though given that my original deadline was the end of the year for completion of this enterprise I think some revision of the target may be necessary!
I only realised how long it is since I last posted here when I came to write this…one of the biggest longueurs in the time I’ve been doing it. Whether this is fatigue or just the pressures of other activities or simply that I’ve nothing to say…well who can say? Certainly I cannot. I’m working quite hard on the group of paintings of which the above is just one and that eats up the hours. Nor actually doing it but pondering what to do really sees time slip away. As for the one here it has been proving tough to crack…and plainly it still needs some serious surgery.
Meanwhile in another part of the forest (a good metaphor for my head full of dense wood) I’ve just acquired another Leicestershire District Gazetteer – this time for Melton. Now there’s a severe danger I shall get ahead of myself, after all I’m only a quarter of the way into Charnwood – ‘Playground of the Midlands’ project. But I’m amused with the opening sentence in this one – ‘Painting the Town Red’- of which more (much too much more) in the future!
Yep its all happening on Main Street in Ratcliffe on the Wreake… just one of our four destinations today on our second expedition as part of the Playground of the Midlands project – aka Charnwood Borough. My pal Simon gave a little guidance to this trip by weaving Thrussington into the itinerary I’d devised. His local knowledge put these two locations together with Rearsby and East Goscote so that we were able to take in pretty much the whole Wreake Valley area of Charnwood. Its been as good a day weatherwise as we have any right to expect in England in February and as we walked towards Thrussington the bright blue skies and the sunshine put a spring in our step.
This village is healthy and wealthy with a really delightful deli come cafe in the centre (and two pubs still functioning). Its already apparent that in parts at least some of this borough is operating more effectively than quite a few of the villages in NWLeics. where my last project, several years back, revealed many hamlets with boarded up boozers. On our return from Thrussington into Rearsby we do lunch at The Horse & Groom a very friendly local that does a decent reasonably priced pub grub lunch. After which onto East Goscote…that I’d been warned not to expect too much from! (my companion in a previous life trod these streets on a regular basis!). But curiously as we made our way into the centre it suggests an oddity being a village pretty much created from scratch in the 1970’s. Of course much of it is pure suburban ‘ordinariness’ (at least from the outside)…
but the ‘civic space at its centre is a very eclectic mix of scandinavian and ‘new town’ architecture that contains a very dreary selection of retail outlets (one of which those of us in the know will recognise as run by Michael Portillo)…
But what will I take from the trip in terms of making a picture? As always finding details and/or points of interest to stimulate the painting process can be hard but here’s a panel that may kickstart a canvas somewhere down the line…
Its over five years on since I embarked on my project entitled From The Earth Wealth. This comprised very nearly a year of visits to every place identified in the 1977 handbook of the District I live in followed by a series of paintings loosely based on these. The whole exhibited at the Tarpey Gallery in 2011 and the whole thing chronicled on this blog. At the time I jokingly suggested to an enquiring reporter that I might go onto each of the other districts in Leicestershire and complete the set.
Well here I am at the end of January setting out for Loughborough and beginning the exploration of Charnwood, the closest of those other authorities, with a view to doing it all over again. My guide this time is an old copy of their official guide, sadly undated, but I suspect published around the beginnings of the 1980’s. I’ve grouped the smaller villages in the guide together and with Loughborough and Shepshed have come up with twelve trips, roughly one a month, to complete this exploration. My pal Simon has foolishly agreed to come along this time and it is he who – confronted with twelve numbers – made the random selection of Loughborough itself (the biggest place by far and the administrative centre of the borough) as our first mission.
Why the ‘playground of the Midlands title? Well From The Earth Wealth is a translation of the NWLeics motto Ex Terra Opes but try as I may I’ve not found one for Charnwood…so I’ve plundered the opening paragraph of the guidebook where someone dubbed Charnwood thus.