A rough and racy wench (revised from Jan 2011)

There lived a fine practitioner of painting in Cornwall. His name was Frank McNichol.  He has now sadly passed on but he left behind a phrase that rings with me still: “Craftsmanship, my boy, craftsmanship.”  There is no doubt that Frank was a fine craftsman, and I believe him, of course I do.  But did he mean the kind of craft learnt at the feet of a master, or that which one teaches oneself by studying them?  Perhaps both.My take on craft is that while it is indispensable and, indeed, the measure of art, even though I doubt many looking at my work would believe me.  But then what do they know!?  Laying paint on canvas, even when done with meticulous care does not necessarily mean over-fussy or prissy.  There must be that magical frisson of transfusion: The Moment in the act of painting which metamorphosises subject into object.  It can take infinite number of forms.What directs it is the ‘artist’.  What executes it is the craftsman.  Finding symbiosis is key.Sickert said, “Painting is a rough and racy wench.  Flourishing in the scullery, kitchen or dunghill but fading at the breath of the Drawing room.”

Image

Walter Sickert, Seated Nude, (Private collection)

Landscape, Figure and Natural Beauty (from March 2011)

Vincent van Gogh is best known for the fabulous brutal landscapes but he said in a letter to his faithful brother Theo in 1882, “Much as I love landscape, I love figures even more.”  This interests me because I also began besotted by landscape and nature and thought it was down to a past life embroiled in wildlife conservation that always kept at bay the human figure.  Eventually though they came to merge in my ‘Figurescape’ series.  And by and by this became more central.  Perhaps an example of the evolution necessary to progress.

T-figscape, Oil on hardboard 60.5 x 75.5cms

T-figscape, Oil on hardboard 60.5×75.5cm

I can see more clearly now how Cezanne ended up painting his strange huge Bathers.

Today, in a curious coming together of disparate things (not so curious really because it happens all the time, we just don’t always notice), reading the always excellent Paul Evans’ Country Diary in The Guardian, I came across this throwaway sentence, “Natural beauty lies in the unexpected relationship between things.”  That could be one definition of Ecology, it is certainly a definition of how I regard the creation of Art.  So here in a small nutshell is a good working stab at the meaning of life.

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