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)
As regular readers know I have a genius for prevarication. I have been planning the Weatherland series since I completed my large Landscape & Memory project some time back. I managed to make sketches for the twelve paintings – one for each month – that will comprise this series (rather than the 54 in the L&M group!) but have been dithering for many months on the size of these canvases. Reviewing the sketches much of my agony revolves around the question of scale. Not least as regards the size of certain marks translating into the body movements required to accomplish them and the relationships between them. The question of scale is often in mind when planning something in advance – one reason I often just get going with a panel or canvas rather than having it plotted out. But I’ve now settled on a metre high by 1.6 wide…not quite exactly the dimensions of the sketches but pretty darn close – and critically just right in the sweep of my hand across the canvas…
So I now need to sort out the dreary business of stretchers, canvas and priming not my favourite pastime. Luckily the Heart Of Rural England project that is trucking on (now on the third part – Melton Borough:Painting The Town Red) has a rigid 30 x 40 cm. format that clarifies matters, not least in utilising shop bought ready made canvases. This group is progressing nicely now; Edmundthorpe is the twelfth completed with the other fifteen on the studio wall (at least four of which are pretty much cooked).
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!
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.
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!
Long time observers know I work on series of pictures. Some are relatively constrained to a few months or a year perhaps. Not so The Heart Of Rural England. Actually this title has only just been chosen as the first part of it started way back in the late 1990’s. Back then I was working on a series of canvas pieces that were mounted on board and based on imagery drawn from villages nearby my home. These were abandoned in favour of the series of canvases that became the project titled From The Earth Wealth shown at the Tarpey Gallery in 2011. During an interview for the Leicester Mercury I jokingly suggested I might go on from that project (featuring a painting by each place featured in the district of NW Leics handbook) to make a series for each of the other districts in the county. This lay fallow until around 2015 when myself and my pal Simon started on the documentation of the Charnwood Borough. In turn the canvases for each place in their handbook began towards the end of the following year.
The first – Loughborough – was completed in February of 2017 (by which time the photography for the next district – Melton – was just starting) but then progress on the paintings stalled. But though the wheels grind slow they do grind fine with the last handful of the Charnwood series (titled from a phrase in their handbook suggesting it is ‘the Playground of the Midlands’!) just drying as i write – so they should be all put to bed by year’s end. I’ve ruefully suggested before now that with the glacial progress to date there’s a good chance the project may out live its progenitor so in order to try and forestall that I’m now pushing on.
This starts with reviewing the images from part three (luckily most of which are already captured) that of Melton (with yet another title from their Handbook of ‘Painting The Town Red’) and ordering the necessary canvases. This will be followed in the new year – COVID restrictions permitting – with recommencement of the photography for part four – Harborough District – that we started on back in February of the current year but then never followed up – I cannot imagine why!
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.