Planning…

The Fiddler, 2017

I like to start the year with a bit of a plan. It’s a ‘bit of’ because I’m a fiddler at heart and can’t help hopping around the studio dealing with this and that. And, as always, there are (as it is disputed that Harold Macmillan may have or not said) “events, (my) dear boy, events”. This year of course we have the on-going saga of COVID to contend with but equally smaller things come up from time to time including the possibility of invitations to participate in shows that may (or may not!) happen.

So it is that I’m currently rethinking my plan to start a series of large canvases immediately and focus instead on the third part of The Heart Of Rural England (Painting The Town Red) [scroll back to Dec 3rd and 15th entries and more] and another previously abandoned project…I arrived at Art School ‘proper’ (my Diploma course at Falmouth) in the autumn of 1970 so 71 was my first year of being a ‘proper’ tyro artist.  Reaching 70 (as I shall do this summer) brings a full fifty years of practice around.  Back in 2012 I began a series of 1 foot square canvases to represent each year of painting that – at that time – I intended to be a set of 45 to culminate on my ’official’ retirement date.  Moving studio kyboshed that and those to date in 2013 remained boxed up in my studio back at the Chapel till now.  However with the impending date of my 70th it seems a good time to push on – as Primo Levi said “if not now, when” – so the project – now titled Fifty Year Itch – is underway again with the ambition to post an image of each in turn from April 17th through to June 6th.  I thought a short commentary would be an idea for each picture so that will be posted on my blog through the same two months. Watch this space as they say.

A first one for 1970…not to be included in the final fifty…

Last Rites…

Days Like These 5, mixed media on paper, 54 x 216 cms., 2020

The year draws to a close.  2020 is getting a bit of a kicking it seems but that’s hardly fair…it never asked for the pandemic that has dominated it nor for the incompetent and dithering administration here in the UK that has made it even more damaging than it would have been otherwise (no need to worry just wash yer hands, crony track & trace/PPE fiascos, ‘eat out to spread out’ etc. etc.).  However being restricted to barracks for the most part meant (for those of us lucky to have the requisite resources on hand) work continued.  My current predominant series – the Lunar Pulls canvases and the Days Like These composite paper works are proceeding apace…and the last two completions of 2020 are here.

Honesty, acrylic on canvas, 100 x 80 cms., 2020 The text here is taken from Penelope Shuttle’s poem of the same name that can be found in her collection, The Orchard Upstairs, 1980

In the course of digging up material for a post to come in the New Year (you lucky people) I also came across an artist that has always intrigued me – Tony (Newton Haydn) Stubbing.  He appears at the very end of my copy of Herbert Read’s book that I bought for 21 shillings in 1967 and that, dog eared, mouldy, and falling to bits, is still with me today.  The marvellous blog entry above gave me more information and pointers on this artist and alerted me to the fact that the Tate own five works…I wonder when last any were on display?

You can see that he was in good company but unlike Sandra Blow, Hartung or Baziotes is pretty much forgotten today (I’m pretty sure Kotik and Gischia are also relatively unknown here in the UK by me at least…Schumacher I’ve seen very occasionally).  The reason, I’d suggest, is much to do with his life being lived mainly outside the UK (in France/Italy and then the States).  He shares this liminality with an artist I’ve previously researched and written about – the American Charles Houghton Howard – although their work is pretty much chalk and cheese.  But both I’d suggest worth another look.  In fact were I a curator with some clout I’d put the two of them together in a show – but that kind of interesting quality painting show is rarely evidenced in today’s UK art scene, not that currently we have much of one! It will get easier though and I wish you all the best for 2021.

Fish and finishing…

The Goldfish, 1912 Henri Matisse

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!

Two Scott fish pictures, one from 1949 (left) and t’other from 1981

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!

Tidy…

Whenever I am close to completing something, or when something is hard to resolve I am tempted to do some tidying. Avoidance strategy ‘par excellence‘. So find something languishing in a plan chest and dust it off, find a frame knocking about the cellar and sort it out. This one is from the 1980’s though I can’t date it for certain it’s probably 1985. It resembles another work called Landscape Incident so it finally gets a title after thirty five years!

Another Incident, Oil pastel on paper, 51 x 70 cm. 1985

A few more towards ‘topping out’…

My last post suggested we were nearing completion…well if 27 of 35 is getting close then four more is closer still. Above we have (my vision !) of Mountsorrel, Rothley, Barrow upon Soar & Beeby. Luckily very few – maybe only one – of my regular observers will know any of these places!

Playground nears completion…

Cossington, 30 x 40 cm. Oil on canvas, Nov. 2020

I started Playground Of The Midlands rather a long time back*. Nothing that unusual as anyone who has followed this for some time will testify. But with these two this part of the larger project really is coming to a close. Of course there are some seven boroughs plus the city so, even with two completed, there are six to go…phew – will I get there? Who knows? But at the current rate of completions you’d be brave to predict success!

Queniborough, 30 x 40 cm. Oil on canvas, Nov. 2020
  • I just checked and the first From The Earth Wealth canvas was completed back in 2011.

Red Letter…& Bobby Moore…

Wonky Geometry No. 180, 27 x 27 cm. Ink & acrylic on decent paper, Oct. 2020

Goodness I hate this ‘new improved’ WordPress! How do you make something simple and straightforward so much more of a faf? Get Bojo’s Government in I guess… But I digress. It’s truly a ‘red letter day’ for me as I’ve finished my Wonky Geometry box set. Four boxes, 45 in each…180 in total.

Now here’s an idea. I’ve passed by the Artists Support Pledge idea for several reasons, not least that I’d likely not sell much or anything! But I’m now thinking I could donate a little more directly. So if anyone was interested they could message me and have one for £40…a Bobby Moore (score) for me and one for the pot (its possible to do that through their website). Somewhere on this site I’ve put up several of the series already…but I’ll add more this weekend.

The Storm

Along the sea-wall, a steady sloshing of the swell,

The waves not yet high, but even,

Coming closer and closer upon each other;

A fine fume of rain driving in from the sea,

Riddling the sand, like a wide spray of buckshot,

The wind from the sea and the wind from the mountain contending,

Flicking the foam from the whitecaps straight upward into the darkness

Thinking this one may have a metaphorical content at present.

Quote from Roethke poem of the same title…

Shameless additional plug…

I just donated my piece in this show to the cause…to get a book of the contributions made….and at the last time of looking it seems (with a little over a week to go) that it has only 22% left to raise. So why not head over to Kickstarter and pledge? There’s a range of goodies on offer and the book itself will be really interesting. This initiative from Andrew Bracey has already been a terrific success so please consider capping it with a contribution.

Anyone who has followed this blog for a while will know how I made my contribution…luckily well ahead of C19! But besides my work there’s plenty of others to tempt you!

Meanwhile back at my ‘day job’ I’m pushing on with part two of my epic journey around Leicestershire…the Charnwood Borough (with its strap line of Playground Of The Midlands…). Today I’ve signed off on Wymeswold (above) & Walton (below).