Every single business book I have read has talked about risk-taking. Encouraging future entrepreneurs to take the leap, to take a risk, to commit yourself to the glory that lies ahead!
Anthony Robbins suggests "If you want to take the island; you've got to burn the boats"
The thing is, contrary to popular belief about artists, I'm square. I'm really square. I pay my taxes on time, I've never been able to cope with a red bill or a sizeable overdraft! I don't take risks, I'm completely risk averse, always have been. Even as a child I never managed to climb to the tallest part of the tree - too much of a risk!
I would not burn the boats, I would carefully moor up the boats and maintain them just in case the island thing didn't work out.
This is not considered an entrepreneurial spirit at all! It's not really an artistic one either. Because most artistic books along with business books also encourage risk-taking. I think I'm a little bit better as an artistic risk taker. I paint on linen with my own secret recipe of clear gesso which many folks have attempted to copy (unsuccessfully)! I use colour in surprising ways, painting beautiful magentas and blues where only browns and greys exist. But this week I've had an opportunity to do even greater risk taking with colour then ever before.
My brother has just returned from a racing drivers' meeting in Venice! No boat burning there!
And he investigated the various art shops around San Marco and Dorsodoro in search of a suitable gift for his sister. He returned with 10 beautiful bright and breezy raw pigments. These raw pigments can be mixed with linseed oil to create fresh oil paints.
I happened to have just completed the underpainting on a couple of cows that I'm currently working on and so yesterday in the bright sunshine I managed to take my work outside and played around with these new colours.
I have already mixed some of the pigments with pure linseed oil to create an oil painting paste and have used them in the usual way. In addition I have applied a layer of glaze medium mixed with linseed oil to the underpainting and sprinkled some of the raw pigment directly on to the glaze. The pigment is now dispersing into the glaze and creating a wonderful effects.
What will happen?
I'm unsure but there you go I'm finally taking a risk.
This is not only an artistic risk but it's a business risk too, as it's very important for any entrepreneur to keep reinventing themselves, to keep creating something entirely unique that will appeal to customers.
How do I feel?
This risk taking thing could really catch on ....
All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small. - this artist loves them all!
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 raison d'être since becoming an artist.
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? I’ve created a few hares over the years, each one different, surrounded by different flowers or crops and in different colours, shapes and sizes.
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 hare 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 shade of blue in the sky has 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 cityscapes 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’ve noticed over the years, when people see my animal paintings they often say hello to the animal! 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 they 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 are of places I live near, or have visited so many times. All of my animals are also animals that I can see right in my back garden, local farms in Wiltshire, Hampshire and Dorset or nearby in the New Forest.
I like being part of the tradition. I like celebrating the British countryside and the variety of creatures that live on our shores.
At the weekend I had the great pleasure of delivering two beautiful paintings to a beautiful home. It was the end of the commission process and I drove away feeling absolutely delighted with a job well done.
The story began a few months ago when my client spotted a painting in an exhibition at Waterstones. She went home and happily told her husband secretly hoping that perhaps he might invest in an original painting for her birthday. Little did she know that her husband also went to Waterstones, checked out the painting that she liked and made a decision to commission me for a bespoke piece.
The next stage of the process was him visiting my studio. He came armed with various photographs of his beautiful White Park cattle. I can't tell you how I felt when I saw those photos; they are such picturesque animals. Blue black ears and noses juxtaposed with their creamy white faces make them an incredible subject matter to paint.
The next stage was very exciting as I arranged to visit the farm meet the cows themselves!
I was shown in to the pen with the bull by the herdsman. My heart lept into my throat when he informed me "If I say run, run. I'm not mucking about"! The bull was actually very placid and calm and not bothered at all by me crawling around on the ground trying to get photos every conceivable angle. However I'm reliably informed that the calm bulls are the ones you have to watch out for, but that day was my lucky day and I escaped completely unharmed!
Next was selecting the most picturesque of the cows. I focused on three or four in particular. The cows were so friendly and curious whilst I was photographing one, another would rest her nose on my shoulder, while a third decided to lick my arm. It didn't bother me at all these are beautiful friendly beasts and besides if you're going to paint animals this is an occupational hazard!
The next stage is quite formal where I draw up a commission agreement. This is really important for both artist and client as it makes sure that absolutely everyone involved knows what's happening. The price quoted is the price paid no hidden extras here. Everything is agreed from the reference photographs to be used, the size of the painting, the frames, the canvas, and the style.
I began with a couple of really rough sketches, sometimes I like to do the sketches in situ in front of the animals. My rough sketches aren't clear enough to act as a true reference but they capture the character of the animal. I enjoyed the stage very much indeed.
The next stage is marking out the underpainting on my beautiful linen canvases. This is very formal and painstaking you have to get it right. With any commission piece I am no longer trying to capture the essence of a breed, I am capturing the beauty of a specific animal.
After this it's a question of balancing style with accuracy. I wanted a glint in the eye, and a beautiful shiny black nose but also to incorporate my characteristic colours. Though on these pieces the colours on not quite as strong as usual as the black-and-white had to be the main focus.
Once completed the paintings were framed and then delivered to a happy client.
I absolutely love these two, they were a joy to paint.
All the colours of nature come to life in spring.
I absolutely love this time of year, how could I not? For an artist it's wonderful!
The view from my studio is spectacular at this time of year, any time of year in fact, but as I move further down the garden I love seeing the bluebells in my orchard and the primroses on the slopes and new blossom in the trees. Nature at its best; playing with the complementary colours of purple and yellow, springing and singing against each other- it's truly inspirational.
I’ve enjoyed seeing on the Internet and indeed on the news, the huge number of the fantastic photographs of bluebell woods in and around the area I live in. Three of the most spectacular bluebell woods in the whole of England are in the New Forest just a few miles from my home in Salisbury. Every year it welcomes thousands of visitors see a carpet of purple bluebells in dappled light. Everyone thoroughly enjoying watching the colours of nature come back to life after the cold dark winter months. The joys of the new forest aren't simply bluebells. Deer, ponies and cattle all seem happy enough to pose for the camera, even if they don't stay still quite long enough for my sketches to be accurate. Even this pheasant seem happy this time of year, sitting on the wall outside my studio, admiring his own reflection.
Springtime in southern England reminds me a lot of when you return from a holiday and see the first glimpses of old Blighty from the air. We suddenly realise why it's called a green and pleasant land! The whole landscape really does become lush and verdant and as an artist I very much enjoy watching it the changing colour and light from the view from my studio. In fact, the intro to my artist’s statement is ‘inspired by the changing colour and light in nature’. And it is at this time of year that that becomes very apparent. The evenings get longer and lighter and a fantastic pink clouds start appearing in the evening. In addition to the strong greens in the landscape as the trees start growing leaves again, and the ground becomes lush there are incredibly strong patches of yellow popping up on all around Wiltshire as the oil seed flowers bloom into life. It's also a very inspiring time of year for me and my animal collection as I get to visit farms or simply go walking in nearby fields and can see newborn lambs springing around in the field ready for me to draw them!
A recent article claimed that all we need to do for a long and happy life was to eat purple foods, go for a walk every day, and draw. Learning to draw is great fun and going for a walk is just marvellous at this time of year, you cannot fail but to find something that will catch your eye.
Simply seeing colour spring into life as an artist all I want to do is dive in and paint it. The winter months belong to my charcoal sketches, or working from photographs or archives of sketchbooks. But once the spring is here I get to go out and about! I get to draw in the open air and paint.
So this weekend, go and enjoy the sunshine, the bluebells and have the eye of an artist - notice the changing colour and light in nature.
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