After reading that title; if you've tuned in to read a blog about the EU referendum, you're in the wrong place, this is all about art!
Whenever I’m asked "So what kind of art is it that you do" I always say “Beautiful oil paintings inspired by nature”. That has been my
The countryside and coast have been my inspiration from the start.
Most recently my animals have been a real hit; newly exhibited this year.
I have just returned from Reading Art fair and the first three original paintings to fly off the walls were all animals, the first three prints were animals too. Just as I began to think that a pattern was emerging, the next three where landscapes and seascapes so who knows?
The simple idea that nature is beautiful and artists want to capture it is as old as art itself. The cave paintings at Lascaux in France demonstrate art's purpose was not only showing the importance of the hunt and recording an event, but also the animals that were stalked or chased during the hunt. I remember very clearly the first time I opened Gombrich’s “The story of art” to see Albrecht Durer’s portrait of a hare and thinking how can it be possible that someone can create something so lifelike simply with a pencil? My hare is a different take on that beautiful and very popular animal. This hare was the second painting to sell at Reading at the weekend and I love him, I will be painting another hare but it will be different to this one: a different size, different canvas, a different background, a different expression but it will still be a much loved beautiful hare.
Various people looking closely at my work commented on how I had captured the essence of the animal with out being too realistic. I was delighted to hear this as that was the plan!
One of the big challenges for a painter (landscape, animal, anything really), is to work out what to keep in and what to leave out. What we leave out is just as important as what we put in. Most people tend to notice my vibrant use of colour in my animal paintings. A Stag does not have blue and turquoise in it, a hair doesn't have a blue nose or purple ears. I think I'm a natural colourist, I like adding colour. I'm a painter! I have to bring something to the party that is different to a photographer.
Interestingly I think my use of colour in animals has stemmed from so many years of landscape and seascape painting. Trying to capture that particular pink cloud in the sky can be a real challenge and it's led me to be able to use colour in really exciting ways even when I'm painting something that is essentially a series of browns and greys. I can add bright colours that really bring the animal to life.
I believe that artists can give the viewer a clearer sense of what they might be looking at in nature. The very selection of colour life and personality in each of my works is communicating something different to the viewer other than what I saw in the first place. It is the fine line between recording the event or the place or the person or the animal and bringing a story to any of those elements so that the painter provides the viewer with something more.
With each of my landscapes and seascapes I have always considered them to be your personal window on the world, the view that we wish we had from our kitchen, we have a painting to reminder us of that beautiful place we once visited. However with my animal paintings I think I'm bringing a different kind of joy to your living room.
Something I noticed this weekend at Reading, when people visited my stand was how many people put on a funny voice when looking at one of my animal paintings. Anyone my age will remember Johnny Morris and Animal magic and perhaps it’s inherent in us to put on silly voices when we think of animals; that level of anthropomorphism is very strong in the British psyche. I have heard so many young people making moo noises at my cow and squealing with delight when I saw a happy muddy piggy.
So what does all this tell us?
It tells me very clearly that I'm part of a long tradition of artists who have always been inspired by nature and inspired by what they see around them.
All of my landscapes (with perhaps the exception of the old picture of Venice or Paris) are of places I live near. All of my animals are also animals that I can see in Wiltshire, Dorset or the New Forest.
I like being part of the tradition. I like celebrating the British countryside and coast and the variety of creatures that live on our shores.
Why Art is so good for you.
Looking at it, owning it and creating it.
It is good for you.
Grayson Perry has most recently described art as therapy. He commented that whatever is bubbling under the in the artist’s subconscious will come through in their artwork, and in turn will speak to the viewer’s subconscious. Art has an immediacy in its language all of its own, that kind of therapy simply can't be bought! And I’ve begun to wonder whether or not I, and other artists take it for granted.
I think there is something wonderful about wandering round a gallery and simply becoming absorbed in the art work that I'm looking at. Sometimes I might know the artwork well, it might be incredibly famous, or something that I have studied before. As often than not, as I get older, I become more and more drawn to things that I have never seriously looked at before! I am drawn to artists that I hadn't previously studied. Grayson Perry is right, art can communicate from creator to viewer in an immediate way. It's good for us to see and “feel” art.
Alain de Botton has even written and entire book entitled “Art as therapy”. It's brilliant and I heartily recommend it.
He refers to the idea that art helps us recall, remember and make safe our memories. The wonderful piece by Jean Baptist Regnault pondering the start of painting; depicting a young couple in love. The woman, so afraid she will forget her lover's face, traced his shadow with a pieces of charcoal. It's beautiful and touching, (regardless of its accuracy) it makes me think of how we often wish to make mental pictures and artists used to be the only people that could truly help with that!
One thing that really strikes us when we look at art is the view. The creation of a window on the world. In Britain especially we are drawn to enormous skies and seascapes; is this because we are an island race? a nation of sailors? who knows, but seascapes appear to be the paintings speaking to us when we visit galleries.
Most recently I have been working on a series of animals and these seem to speak to people even more than my landscapes and views. Again we are nation of animal lovers, we can't get enough of them. People seem to become very attached to paintings of animals very quickly they start saying “I love him” or “look at her she's so sweet” when looking at one of my cows, sheep or ducks. I think it is interesting how quickly we can engage in work of art, albeit a beautiful one, simply because it is speaking to us on a different level.
I also think the art helps us in our daily lives because it can raise our own sense of self and self esteem. This isn't simply about status and showing off at a dinner party, though a large oil painting in our lounge can well do that! But it raises our esteem by making us smile. Every time we walk past our painting we feel a little bit of warmth inside us, we might remember the place the work depicts or the lovely day we bought the work of art. Or maybe it's our own self conscious filling in the gaps and sending us somewhere else.
There is new trend in adult colouring books now, supposedly as a kind of art therapy or a kind of arty mindfulness. I don't mind adult colouring in at all in fact I think it's a lovely little hobby and can be calming. But creating art, or learning to draw is even better for you than colouring in. Last night there was a program on TV called “How to stay young” , they made reference to going to life drawing in order to help your brain stay young. Life drawing is an extraordinary activity and unlike constantly doing sudoko puzzles for instance, life drawing presents a completely different challenge every time you sit down to draw.
I regularly go to life drawing even though very little of my professional works are are figures, but life drawing keeps me fresh, there's always something to learn and is an artist it contributes to your skill. As a non-artist, if you attend life drawing classes incredible things will happen to your brain as both sides of the brain engage in the activity and create electrical impulses all across your brain. Even if there isn’t a life drawing class or art workshop near you, you can reap the benefits by drawing anything from direct observation. It’s best that you're not copying a photograph because the problem has already been solved - a 2D photo into a 2-D drawing. However sitting down and drawing one of the dining room chairs, or drawing the view through the door from one room can create an incredible exercise for your brain. You'll also find it wonderfully relaxing as well it's something you can do every day if you want to.
So I urge you this week, try to get some art in your life
Go and have a look at some art work in a gallery, even a small local gallery or pay attention to the art work you might see in a local coffee shop or restaurant and let some art in your life.
Draw. Just do a little drawing, don't worry about showing it to anyone. But do draw.
Because art is good for you.
It really is.
Oil paint - the breakfast of champions!
Or why I’m still an oil painter!
There’s no getting around it; oil paint is expensive.
It’s also a "dark art" with all those potions and bottles marked with “toxic”, all just for getting the paint onto the canvas and off of the brush!
And it’s smelly.
My most recent art supplies order contained a (small tube) of paint for £17.50. It’s acrylic equivalent would have been less than four quid! And the acrylic would be diluted with plain old water, and and brushes would cleaned with water too. Whereas my favoured solvent costs more than a tenner for just 250ml, and I buy it by the gallon!
No wonder many professional artists have left the favourite medium of the old masters behind them.
But not me.
I love love love oil paint.
I’m an oil painter and I’m proud. Here's why:
3. Control. Power is nothing without control. Oil paint is diluted with turpentine. Which dries pretty quickly. As you build up layers you mix the turps with linseed oil (which dries really slowly). You learn to have balance between turps and oil through the process. Like many oil painters these days, I have eschewed turps in favour of a citrusy version called Zest-it. It’s less toxic and smells lovely. Zest it makes its own oils too. Over the years I have learnt to understand the chemistry of zest-it solvent, oil and my paints, different pigments have different drying times too! It’s very hard to learn (which is one reason why it’s not favoured by hobby painters) but once learned, it gives me incredible control over how I paint.
4. Oil paint has so many techniques to its name. You can paint all in one go, known as alla prima, you can build up layers thick over thin and light over dark, you can add huge globs of it - impasto, you can blend layers that are semi-dry…
5.And that’s another reason why I’m an oil painter over acrylic - I’m all about the blend. Acrylic drys fast and is therefore great for crisp clean lines. But my skies need to be blended.
The variety of solvents and oil mediums means as your style develops you can manipulate paint accordingly. Fast drying mediums don't make oil behave like acrylic; it still takes a good while to dry, but you have control. There is an art itself to start understanding drying times. I can blend in a cloud when the underpainting of the sky is drying, but not completely dry. If I do it wet and I’ll end up pushing mud around the painting as all the layers merge together. If I do it complexly dry I’ll end up with a hard edge. Sometimes that’s just what you want, but for sky - I’m all about the blend!
6. Any colour under the sun. Oil paints have been going for so long, there isn’t a pigment you can’t buy…if you’ve got the cash!
7. Light fastness - actually not really a good reason anymore as top quality acrylic paint has good lightfastness too!
8. Go with the flow, I often use watercolour for sketching and in my workshops. I find myself saying thing like “let the water do the work”. In oil painting I can’t exactly say “let the oil do the work”, but I do try to go with the medium rather than fighting it.
And that’s really the key for any artist, finding the medium that works the same way you do, and you’ll start to produce better art. Fight and you’ll never truly be in flow with your work.
Will I ever change? Possibly, I use waterbased media for a lot of my sketching and planning, but when the final work begins- oil paint is the only thing between the brush and the canvas.
Do you share your life with a creative?
Or have a son/daughter pursuing the arts?
Maybe your best friend has just jacked in her job to finally lead a truly creative life?
Can they be a right royal pain in the backside at times? Don't worry, you can make them happy very easily with my top tips - I guarantee they'll appreciate your efforts.
1. Creatives can be sensitive!
That doesn't mean shower them with false praise! But try to be gentle if criticising their work; it can be tough. However, in my experience creatives are very able to take criticism about other aspects of their business, so if you know a better printer, courier service or accountant, tell them - they'll want to know!
2. They're doing lots of things you can't see.
Creatives are often "one man bands" and do everything. I'd love it if every day was pure painting! But whatever it takes to keep business going, that's what they're doing. So if you feel you can't really talk about their art/photography/papiermache hats then talk about their business. They'll love it and again you might have some useful insight that they'd really appreciate.
3. Online is good, bad and everything in between. And it takes up time.
Creatives need to be online, and sell online, and know what their competitors are up to too. We need to have a presence online - and here's where you can really help the creative in your life:
Like, share, heart, retweet whenever you can!
Facebook business pages don't have the same reach personal profiles. So
everytime you click 'like' on my business page, it tells Facebook that my post is good and groovy and it extends the post reach to others.
Everytime you share or comment, it pushes it even further. All for free. And boy do I appreciate it. I really do. It's the same for retweeting on twitter, putting a heart by an instagram photo and re-pinning a picture on pinterest. And yes, most creatives are trying to manage all of these platforms because they're good for business.
4. Give them a testimonial.
Pop them an email with a nice quotable sentence.
I really appreciate the friends who have, over the years, bought work from me, attended my workshops, seen my exhibitions and visited my studio. And indeed, the new friends I've made by selling work or doing workshops. When they've written a little email with how much they enjoyed it, or how much they learnt, or how much they love my painting - it's worth its weight in gold. It not only helps me through the tough days ( and that alone is great) but it helps fill a folder of testimonials, that help other customers develop trust in me, my work and my business..
From the bottom of my heart, thank you for supporting me!
My first visit to Reading art fair was last year and what a great fair it is. I sold well, met some great people and spent the whole weekend talking about art. It was great and I'd recommend it to anyone
Let me fill you in on what you can expect.
The Fair begins on Friday 22nd April for the Private view evening, and continues through the weekend 23rd and 24th April.
I have some Private view tickets available for you, and I have 2 for 1 tickets for the rest of the weekend, simply email me, if you'd like to come.
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