Sunday, 27 January 2013

Letter to Monty on learning to fail

Dear Monty,

It is an odd thing that it takes so long to accept that failure is a good thing when making something, it is part of the gift of learning. Today I have been litter picking with at Langland Bay, and taking poor photographs, but what a beautiful way to learn.

Life can be beautiful, even when removing plastic from our shoreline.

I am still trying to look at the world with an artists eye. I have started a portrait in watercolour without any under drawing. Painting without trying to make the portrait as a likeness, rather just looking at form and tones is supremely hard to do, I want to make a likeness, but the struggle makes me feel alive.


There is always more work to be done, I thank God for having eyes to see what we have around us.


Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Letter to Monty, living the life of a dog

Dear Monty,

I dip in to your Tweets from time to time, and I realise now that you see like a painter and that your garden and words are your paint. I have come to this conclusion because I have just finished reading 'Cezanne a life' by Alex Danchev.

Cezanne spent a lifetime searching, crafting and sculpting with paint. In comparison with him I am a dog !
I look for crumbs from the masters' table, the smallest of crumbs will do.

I am probably best when left to unthinking monotony - to the just get on with it that work provides - no time to think, by work I mean the salaried job.

 Drawing, painting and gardening all require reflection. Strange to call making art 'work' - it is toil, but delicious toil.

Cezanne could see something beyond the surface of life. There are two parts to man, the material and the spiritual.

It seems Prof Brian Cox can too :

"There is something special about life - something else, like an animating force or a soul or whatever you want to call it."

Cezanne had insight .."Today our sight is a little tired - abused by the memory of a thousand images.... we no longer see nature ; we see paintings over and over again. To see the work of God  ! That is what I apply myself to . "

I work and rework drawings and paintings, it used to be about forms and balance of forms, I struggle to recapture what I once could see with a clarity of vision. Perhaps this drawing of Toff the whippet is somewhere close to where I used to be.

This landscape is over done in comparison .

Back to the drawing board Monty.


Saturday, 19 January 2013

Letter to Monty on Still Life

Dear Monty,

Life among the dry things became the title of our evening around shells and stones.

There are many dry things in our lives - dry bones - the shells of past experiences, love, passion and playfulness all turned to stone. But there in the midst of all the dryness is a bulb bursting into life - with curve and curl of green.

Even the dry quartz pebble riddled with iron veins comes to life like flesh when moistened.

Here is a metaphor for our own existence - in a simple gathering of artists. We came to this still life dry, but were revived by water, word and laughter.

The simple and beautiful things are often the most valuable. I think that Andrew Graham-Dixon's summing up of Lombardy on BBC2 last night was incorrect - in the sense that the riches of the region are not found in Gucci or even the amazing architecture and modernity, but in the polenta and the rustic casserole. The greatness was in the produce, and the pearl of great price is the simplicity and love of good honest things.

Monty, I loved the photograph of Longmeadow in snow, here is my snowy oasis, the first a Ivon Hitchens - like view from the kitchen. Snow brings a monochrome view of the garden which helps accentuate the structure and gives a clearer idea of how well or otherwise the sculpting is working out.

Here is to the Spring.


Sunday, 13 January 2013

Letter to Monty on pictorial harmony

Dear Monty,

I have started a 'painting' - really it is mixed media, drawing, fresco and sculptural relief. Anyway, a waterfall, or the memory of a waterfall. Some of the elements I am happy with, others not. I turn it on its side - and in so doing I see the force of the water more acutely than when vertical.

Writing about this striving for pictorial harmony, Pissaro is quoted in 'Cezanne a life' by Alex Danchev -

" When I start a painting, the first thing I strive to catch is its harmonic form. Between this sky, this ground and this water is necessarily a link. It can only be a set of harmonies, and that is the ultimate test of painting...The big problem to solve is to bring everything, even the smallest details of the painting, to an integral whole, that is to say harmony."

Cezanne is quoted as saying - "Art is a harmony parallel to nature"

The above quotes are the best descriptions I have read describing the internal struggle of creating harmony when making a painting or for that matter making the garden. For me creating a pleasing harmony to the point where accuracy of depiction is surpassed by the need to create a balance of forms is such a thrilling thing to do.

I still strive for it in my paintings. Each one carries the struggle forward - trying to loosen up here - define there - achieve this elusive harmony that some artists seem to achieve with ease.

I believe that making a garden uses a similar co-ordination of hand and eye - it is like a musical composition or a poem. I felt this poetic element when visiting The

The term 'tone poem' used in music could be equally applied to gardens and paintings.

So my latest anguished and modest attempt at harmony and balance of forms is to be called a waterfall tone poem.

I have also recently drawn feet, even in feet there is a harmony to be had.  This foot has walked on mountains and trod the Holy Land. The harmony was found through colour and composition, through the curves and curl of flesh over bone, of rude health in pink and red and orange and blue. All in a foot - something we hardly notice.

Finally for my 52nd birthday yesterday I bought two Ilex x aquifolium 'J.C.van Tol' in order to balance the composition of my garden, it will take a few years for them to develop, and I hope I will have the joy of seeing them take shape. (Thank you Mum and Dad in-law)

Here is to harmonic form,

Cheers Monty,


Saturday, 5 January 2013

Letter to Monty on reflections and fireworks

Dear Monty,

I look out at the garden having been out there on this mild dank day. There are signs of new life even before the old has passed.

I look out and reflect, and see a design - I see an arch, I see punctuation and I see meeting trees. I see a palette, I see a picture which has a kind of pleasing balance for me. I look out and look in.

I read about the life of Cezanne and seeing him stare out from the dust jacket of Danchev's book - makes my heart leap - and exercises my mind and spirit. His gaze is a gaze of a man questioning himself.

'Let a man examine himself.'

Emile Zola writing to Paul Cezanne and quoted in 'Cezanne a life' by Alex Danchev (which I think you have read) says this : 'it's only rocks that don't change, that never depart from their rock nature. But man is a whole world; anyone who wished to analyse one individual for one day would be overcome by the work.' !

Another Paul said this : ' I do not even judge myself - my conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent.'

There are thousands upon thousands of voices now - there have always been opinions and judgements - but never so many seen and heard (and maybe forgotten) so quickly. History now is yesterday - a week ago. The future is today and maybe tomorrow. My voice adds little.
The world is contracting - a 'global village '?
Fireworks welcome the year and I have forgotten how to paint.
Painting is about the process of trying to understand the world in which we live. Forgive me I am only an artist.

I was asked to reflect on words, one of which was the term Agnostic. I looked it up and it means someone who can neither rule in or rule out the existence of God - for lack of evidence. (of which we are so fond)
I cannot create that evidence. God for me speaks loudly in the living earth, in nature and the seasons - but also whispers in the heart of man. It is those whispers that I heard. Why Christ ? Because of his humility and his offer to take my imperfect life into death with him and out the other side into the glory of something I don't yet fully know - but have glimpses of in the beauty of this planet and of the starry host, in the change from winter to spring, and in the 'good' I see in so many people, despite so much that is 'bad' about us, about me.

I have been lifted so many times by other peoples goodness.

How much more rambling is in me I am not sure, perhaps I need to paint again Monty.


Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Letter to Monty, just a brief gilmpse of light.

Dear Monty,

I feel the need to celebrate light, just like many others today.  Nature is transfigured by light, and this is refelected in my spirit.

I, like many of us had to get out there and breathe it.