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.

More thinking…

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

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?

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

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)

Size and scale…

Sketch for January, Weatherland series…mixed media on paper, image 30 x 48 cm. 2020

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…

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

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).

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…

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!