More gallivanting…

Cormorants (I think?) sunning themselves in the early morning on the Menai Straights with Snowdonia as the backdrop…

It may seem greedy to be off again only a few days after our Hebridean adventure but we were on Anglesey for a few days to give Joan a break from Breadsall (for the first time in nearly two years). Just above Beaumaris and at a place I’d recommend to all. Glorious!

Redmile – Painting The Town Red oil on canvas, 30 x 40 cm. 2021

Back now…to a heatwave at home…but at least it insures the proper drying of yet another canvas in the Painting The Town Red group of my larger on-going Heart Of Rural England project.

Closing In…

Harby (Painting The Town Red), oil on canvas, 30 x 40 cm. 2021

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.

Thinking…

Mighty Knighty, acrylic on panel, 30 x 30 cm. 2021

An interesting week with some diversions – not before time one might think (though its disheartening to note that C19 seems to be on serious manoeuvres again).

But still time to resolve one or two of the group of small panel paintings that follow on from the Very Like Jazz series that started back in 2016.  And in case anyone is puzzled this one is not titled after a 50’s or 60’s tune unless I’ve accidentally stumbled on one…

The ‘Day Job’…

Wymondham (Painting The Town Red), oil on canvas, 30 x 40 cm. 2021

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).

Long Clawson (Painting The Town Red), oil on canvas, 30 x 40 cm. 2021

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.

Enid…

Enid’s Nash, acrylic & ink on board, 30 x 30 cm., Feb. 2021

These panels were carried over from Very Like Jazz…from a few years back. So I’ve dusted them off and worked them up dreaming my dreams of Marx and Nash in NYC – I don’t know if either of them ever visited but no matter…

Enid’s Ticker Tapes, acrylic & ink on board, 30 x 30 cm., Feb. 2021
Enid’s Morning Lake, acrylic & ink on board, 30 x 30 cm., Feb. 2021

And amongst them are one or two from other reveries…

Krazy Keyser Korner Geezer, acrylic on board, 30 x 30 cm., Feb. 2021

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!