WHY ? Not What!

Isn’t ‘Why’ ? the most annoying question? You only have to ask any parent of a 4 year old. Yet, I have come to realise that it is so annoying because it is the most important question to ask. It should govern all we do, at all times. For me it started with ;

Why paint in oils? Why paint that subject, why use those colours, why make those marks, why that size, why that perspective? … Why be an artist? Etc.

You should be rigorous about your questioning but also your answers! Why, demands a reason, and a good one at that, you can’t just say; because! True conviction needs a follow through. Those who climb the Himalaya don’t just do so: because! Without proper planning, things often end in failure or disaster. Success is often in the detail, the commitment you make to your WHY?

Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance (as they say in the military) and so every day before I start , I ask my Why.

A University tutor once asked me jokingly ‘are you looking for a miracle’ ? half way through a project that I had started without a plan. As we know miracles can happen but not very often ! Success, I was told by the same tutor may happen but as he said about his own practice ‘out of every ten works, maybe one, he felt, was a good painting’.

So that is with a plan, therefore without one, you do have to hope for a miracle! if you don’t know why you started that project sit down now and ask yourself Why?.

In order to commit, follow through, and own your failures and successes.

This painting I consider my one in ten!

Art Trails

“Looking at art is not a comfort blanket. Even if the sensation of looking is pleasurable, satisfying, it should at least have that quality of not being fully available. One should be left with a lingering ache, like unrequited love.”

Ian McKeever RA

Taking part in a local (Open Studio) Art trail.

The quote above is in absolute juxtaposition to the actual experience of letting the public into your studio. In my experience, they seem to be generally hunting for a small landscape, preferably a delicate watercolour and with a price tag that would match a mass produced item. Not to engage or come close to experiencing any kind of ache, let alone one that matches unrequited love!

However, my experience this week has been a revelation. I encountered mainly those who did engage, who were taken aback by what they came out with. The emotions triggered where surprisingly similar and for some quite unexpected.

I have been painting seriously for at least 20 years, dabbled prior to that for at least a decade and studied art at University for 7 years; resulting in a Masters degree in 2010. Therefore I have developed a style and technique that is recognisably mine. This authenticity was something every visitor commented on, sometimes as if it was a revelation. They lingered in the studio at length and sometimes a group would engage with each other and discuss their reaction to my work, their life experiences and their feelings. My paintings evoking similar emotions and memories.

For me this was the biggest reward I could hope for, I am a storyteller after all. One lady came out of my studio saying “I am speechless….You have said all that without using words”.

Some of the words people used this week to describe their ‘seeing’ experience were similar; all that movement, beautiful colours, the subtlety is so seductive, how do you do that? How long does it take, where do you get your inspiration, this is so different to what we have seen, and this one made my smile ; “ you are a proper artist”.

Now all the above sounds very self congratulatory. But most people equate success with hard sales. In fact it is the first thing asked by those who inquire how the Art Trail went.

“ how many did you sell ?” I may have sold, One. May?! Measurements have been taken, photographs made in depth. It may come to something. I may have two commissions and certainly been asked to tutor or hold workshops. So not a ‘success’ if we go down the hard sales route, yet for me as an artist this trail has been priceless. I have engaged with people who have felt something, an emotion that my work priced out of them, a common thread of human experience that made perfect strangers reminisce and share. I would say that is a result beyond price!

‘What inspires you’ ?

I have lived in several different Countries, and you take away more than memories. Inspiration comes from more than sight; it’s sounds, smells and touch too. The difficulty is filtering what and how you use these inputs. Often colours seen abroad, sit incongruously and uncomfortably on UK walls. Paintings using those levels of vibrancy can look garish and you have to be careful how you use your inspiration. We just have been in Sicily and I looked for colour, pattern, different shapes. Now I shall give it time to let the images be and see how they translate into future possibilities.