I’m rubbish at finishing up anything…I’m not – as someone once said on one of those awful management profiling sessions – ‘a completer’. Still by my standards the first of this group was only dated back in early 2020 so this is both high productivity and well-honed decision making! And as luck has it the group consists of twenty eight so neatly fitting together in the seven by four grid. This means I’ve now got three of the districts that make up The Heart Of Rural England (that’s the strap line taken from the Leicestershire county boundary sign). It’s taken very nearly a decade to get NW Leics., Charnwood & Melton sorted and with four more to go…plus the city itself its a moot point as to whether this series is ever completed – by me at least! The only plus point being that I seem to be speeding up as I go.
Closing in on the Melton Borough leg of the mammoth Heart Of Rural England project that is titled Painting The Town Red. As often suggested I doubt very much that the good folk of Harby will recognise the place from the picture but as Kurt says “so it goes”. This very day I was plodding about in Foxton – another leg of the project in the Harborough District.
Sometimes it’s difficult to understand what you are trying to do – take for instance the project I’ve mentioned once or twice – the Hinckley and Bosworth leg of my Heart of Rural England series. I went out on the first trip for this leg two weeks back and again this past week. But I was struck by the fact that my enthusiasm for taking the photographs that have previously made up the imagery for the canvases has somewhat waned. Not surprising really given that as I go into this part of the project it gets harder and harder to find arresting and original images that might make up the canvas in question. After all Burbage (trip 1) is really no more than a suburb of Hinckley nowadays and is not so different to several others…The villages of Ratcliffe Culey, the ‘Sheepy’s – Magna & Parva, and Sibson (trip 2) much like many others across the county. Maybe it’s time for rethink?
I mused on this whilst walking across to Burbage Common – a walk that took me away from the ‘town’ and into the Leicestershire Countryside, and again whilst journeying between the latter group, a longer trip of around 7.5 miles. Of course I took plenty of pictures in and between locations that might just be what I’m looking for on this leg of the journey. But it needs mulling over for a bit….more thinking required!
Something that doesn’t need much further thought is the alarming decline of our rivers and streams. The second trip involved criss-crossing Shenton Brook several times and passing the rivers Sence and Tweed. All seemed pretty much as dead as the dodo in regard to wildlife…a sad story if my surmise is correct? Meanwhile two more completed paintings from part three of the Heart Of Rural England (Melton Borough – Painting The Town Red)
I’m getting towards the mid point of my ‘Fifty Year Itch‘ project that sees me posting a painting a day representing each year of practice from 1971 to my 70th birthday in June. But of course these pictures have all been made now. So back to the ‘day job’ that – for me at least – is now just getting on with the various other series of paintings and objects that make up my art practice now. It wasn’t always like this and the ‘Fifty Year itch‘ documents the ways in which earning a living both enhanced and distracted from making art in the past. Luckily all behind me now (though C19 lockdown reminds us all of how social interaction is vital to our sense of wellbeing).
So back to the third part of my project to get round each district of Leicestershire making a painting for each town, village or hamlet (as defined in the district handbooks). ‘Painting The Town Red‘ is the leg that takes in Melton borough and here’s my quixotic take on two more places. Besides this I’m still working on the Paintings Standing Up…with several larger pieces in the process of being resolved (at least to my satisfaction).
The weekend also brought a treat – my copy of Andrew Bracey’s excellent book on his Enough Is Definitely Enough project arrived plus my individually made artwork from him. My contribution to the project is modest enough so I can recommend the book as a whole without seeming too immodest! Congratulations are due to Andrew, not only for the idea, but the exhibition and the publication that are a considerable achievement.
It seems I’ve missed posting anything for well over a month – I guess that’s ‘lockdown’ for you. But I’m still at it, making work and planning projects. One is coming up soon…and monopolising quite a bit of my time at present.
Meanwhile I’m still pushing on with both the Lunar Pulls pictures (though rather occasionally and with a change of focus and approach) and the latest instalment of the ‘mega-project’ that is tracking the whole of Leicestershire through series of paintings for each district. I’m currently on the third leg, the Melton District, that I’m calling Painting The Town Red. This is the painting for Kirby Bellars.
Work continues, and some things are completed. But it gets harder to find motivation during this – seemingly – everlasting lockdown. Not least as the prospects of work ever seeing the light of day seem ever more remote. However I had my first jab a couple days back so as more and more of us are inoculated we can only hope that some kind of partial resolution of our predicament is somewhere up ahead. Meanwhile I’ve polished off another Enid panel…
and I’m also delighted to be able to post the very first of the paintings that will comprise the third series of Leicestershire boroughs – Painting The Town Red – the Melton District series. This one is Welby. I doubt anyone knows the place so my take on it remains an enigma!
Not one of mine sadly…but catching up on Waldy & Bendy I was disappointed to learn that this hadn’t made it into their top five fish paintings. It’s certainly in mine alongside at least one by William Scott who was also ignored in that selection. Arguably even more of a travesty given that Scott painted a hellava lot!
But I digress…for longtime readers will know I’m not much of a finisher. However a glorious winter’s day (at last) gave me no excuse. So I was off to Melton district to polish off the photography for Painting The Town Red and so complete stage one of part three of The Heart Of Rural England. This is the crazy project to visit, document and distil the experience of each of the places featured in the handbooks of each of Leicestershire’s districts. Usually this is done in tandem with my pal Simon but COVID etc. Anyway he’s well ahead of me having already completed his Melton and is patiently awaiting me to catch up (fat chance). Still it was a very nice morning to visit such delights as Frisby On The Wreake!
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.
and there they are…the Marquis of Waterford and his pals up to ‘high jinks’ in the 19th century in the town of Melton Mowbray. Literally painting the town’s buildings (and apparently one of the toll keepers) in red. Yes…following on the heels of From The Earth Wealth a few years back and last years Playground of the Midlands it is onto the Borough of Melton in what has become a grand projet to visit, photograph and produce a painting for every place listed in a guide to each borough or district of Leicestershire. As with Playground I’m being accompanied by my friend Simon and once again I’ll refer you to his posts for the quality photographic images – my excuse for the low grade ‘snaps’ is my focus on using (and abusing) them to make photoshopped collages that serve as the springboard for the canvases. So our first trip out takes us out to Welby (hardly a place at all…the local Manor owner apparently shipped out the locals back in the day!) but the church still exists…although we had a few interesting moments locating it!
Then onto the somewhat larger village of Scalford, that was pleasant enough but lacked much liveliness although as always there were several interesting and novel visual ‘tags’ to take in. Enough at least to enable me to cobble together a collage that can spur on the painting process.
Having strolled around the village (larger than it might appear from the main road that runs through it, as has been the case with quite a few) we decide to move on to the lunch venue. I’ve described before how these are chosen – by zooming in on Google to the relevant area till the first knife & fork symbol appears – but this time I omitted to check that the Rose & Crown in Hose actually opens for lunch and it didn’t!
So we double back into Long Clawson the last of our quests on this first trip out. We spot a fella appearing to enter the Crown & Plough the pub in its centre…so start hot footing towards the entrance – only for said fella to pass us saying it too is closed! Now glum chums we get back in the car grumbling about what is wrong with these inns only to turn the bend and spot the On The Sands cafe & deli. Hooray! lunch is available and very good too. So hardly painting the town red…more the surrounding countryside a delicate light shade of pink…or it might be except its January in England