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.”

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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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Models & muses (from Dec 2010)

I have had some lovely good models… very good.  They’ve had an interest in Art and have gracefully given of their time for very little return.  I can’t afford to pay much and so promise them commission on any works sold with which they collaborated.  Not that they’re going to get rich on that.  But then a time comes when they discover domestic bliss and suddenly some other man takes their time and can offer much more.  Offer more in the sense of an attractive place to be and an attractive person to be with.  If I was a Lucian Freud with that sort of clout (and money) perhaps I’d be more assertive more attractive, but I’m not.  So I get a good model, keep them for a year o

r two, then lose them to domesticity.  The allure of a working studio with no running water, of getting there, and of dressing up (or down) and talking about projects and poses palls, and the steam and the whisky and the cigarettes (or whatever) no longer attract and they drift away to new experiences.  I can’t blame them. 

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Portrait of Shan, Oil on board 45.5×30.5cm

So with the exception of the mercurial Shan, who remains wonderfully faithful, I’m currently searching for some engaging woman with time, interest and a passion for getting beneath the skin of the human condition and turning this quest into paint and canvas with a life of its own.  Yes, it’s just like being a parent: the whole of the process of conceiving a work of art, giving birth to it with all its pangs and labour and hopefully rearing it through to maturity – all this compressed from 2 decades into 2 weeks. One helluva thing. Is that why we paint landscapes and still lifes too?  Because they’re there and don’t up and disappear just when you’re getting to know them and getting somewhere

See also http://www.meyergallery.co.uk