I'm always pondering what to do next (and why I should do it). My aim is constantly focussed on making the best fine art I can.
An artist is never satisfied
I'm never satisfied with my art. I'm forever searching for that 'something', never knowing quite what it is I'm searching for.
It sounds like a route to madness. Indeed, this is how the stereotypical artist is portrayed: as a tormented, tragic soul forever plagued by their muse lurking just out of reach.
Unlike this romantic idea of an artist however, I'm not a person who suffers from depression (fortunately) and I don't think I'm anywhere near a nervous breakdown. How do I know I'm sane? I only have to compare myself to the madness that's gripped this country (The UK) in recent times to know.
My quest to improve on my last painting/print, in fact, is a source of great joy and delight. I cannot think of anything that could occupy my time, which I'd find more rewarding. So…
I'm always satisfied by my fine art!
To put it precisely, I'm always satisfied by the activity of making my fine art. It's the figuring‑out part of creating each individual print, or painting, that fills me with contentment. I become completely absorbed by the challenges – the problem solving – involved in my art's production. I live for it. My waking hours are filled with its intricacies. The tantilising possibility I might make something better than the last thing I made is just too exciting to ignore.
Each painting, or print, assists the next
Once my art is completed, the next artwork becomes my world.
My current painting or print is always my most preoccupying interest. Previously completed art is simply a reference for what I've done before and might use again to solve a current artistic challenge.
I'm always reviewing, figuring‑out and pondering how to best my last efforts. Finished paintings or prints are my assistants in each new artistic endeavour.
On a regular basis though, I also step back and look at a lot of my art together, to decide how I'm doing and what I should do next.
I publish the reviews to my home page and other pages on this website. Instead of over‑writing them, I've decided it would be a good idea to collect them here in an archive. As much for my own records, though it would be great if you found them interesting too…
Staying home? Me too. What to do?
Updated: 25 Mar 2020 (Amended 27 Mar).
Well, what about 2020? After the storms, a new reason to stay home.
I've been restricting my contact with others for some weeks already. Not because of exotic travel, but concerns about parents and infectiousness.
Artist's are naturally reclusive
Well, not all artists are given to self-isolation. Artists come in many shades and flavours.
There are more artist's groups, clubs and networks than you can shake a stick at. Most artists I know are a member of at least one. (I'm not)
There's a myth about artists. It's a picture of an artist locked away in their studio obsessed with their current artwork. It's an accurate image of me much of the time, I have to say.
The rest of the time, I'm out sketching in some remote corner of a landscape, by a rock or a tree.
I never have to figure out what to do with myself if I have to stay home. It's a no-brainer: I lock myself in my tower and make more art.
All that suggests the situation presents no problems for a semi-hermit artist. Um, no. You see I had an art project lined‑up for 2020…
My Wolds landscape painting collection
At the end of 2019, I decided I should paint a planned series of landscapes. The East Yorkshire Wolds are perfect for an artistic mission, so this is my art project for 2020.
The key word there was 'planned'.
I've tended to go with the flow when deciding what to paint. Developing some discipline felt like a good idea.
I'm on a quest to be the best artist I can be you see, and a more disciplined approach might make my art better.
So while storms Dennis, Ciara and Jorge raged, I made a plan to sketch a number of locations in the Wolds…
Who'd have imagined six months ago we'd be where we are right now?
A landscape artist needs the landscape
Sketching in the hills is not allowed at the moment with all non essential travel banned.
We're in a serious situation and people are suffering. Doing my bit by staying home is a relatively easy ask.
A landscape artist trying to paint hills without any hills to study has a bit of a problem of course. Nope, photographs are not good enough, even if they're great photographs.
It means my Wolds painting mission might have to be shelved. I'll have to come up with other things to paint. Or maybe not…
Landscape sketches I prepared earlier
A desire to paint the Wolds was developing before the end of 2019. So I've been out sketching in the area for some time before 'lockdowns' started being talked about.
Having a 'project' to do had fired me up even more than usual. So I scampered out between the storms with my sketchbook whenever I could.
I've quite a collection of outside scribbles made while Kites, Buzzards and Kestrels hunted over the gorse dusted slopes.
They're ad‑hoc sketches, helping me get to know the nature of the Wolds. They're the very early stage of making landscape paintings.
I'm thinking of making a video of my sketches which I'll link to here.
A trivial problem, an artistic opportunity
So the problem I have is not knowing whether to shelve my project until 2021. I don't know if I have enough reference material or not, you see.
It's a trivial problem in the scheme of things. If I don't have enough preliminary work, then I'll have to paint something I'd not intended to. Hardly a hardship compared to what others are going through.
Hopefully, the current situation will pass. I wish for everyone's sakes it passes quickly. I hope you and yours stay safe. Please think of the vulnerable if you're not – one day you might walk in those shoes.
I'll let you know if I've decided to shelve my Wolds Landscape Series or not, in my next update.
Updated: 15 Feb 2020
2019 is fast becoming a distant memory. There seems to be a calming down and a rise in positivity – thank goodness. At the end of last year I'd been reflecting on my art and its future in 2020.
As I said in December 2019, I'm motivated to make the best landscape art I can make.
Pretty decorative art in endless colour variations and art to match the sofa holds no interest for me. There's nothing wrong with that kind of art, by the way. It's just a matter of taste.
Instead, I strive to make landscape art that's better than the last art I painted or printed. The possibility I'll improve on my previous best is why I get up in the morning. I can't express how exciting it is!
My 2020 Plan. A quick recap…
I've tried to summarise my plan for 2020. I set it out with a 'smidge' of more detail in December 2019. It's not changed. So, I am…
- Focussing on making my art, setting aside exhibitions and promotions.
- Working in a more coordinated way taking one area of terrain only. In this case, it's the East Yorkshire Wolds. I'm aiming to do a series of Wolds artworks.
- Doubling-down on studio oil paintings and linocuts. I decided I was diluting my efforts to make the best art I can make last year. I'd been creating all sorts of art, instead of concentrating on oils or linocuts.
Making art is like landscape: timeless
At the end of 2019, I felt I'd drifted into the "whirl". I was making art to meet exhibition deadlines and to feed the hungry social media monster. I enjoyed exhibiting and the discipline was great. It wasn't helping me make better art though.
I'm your archetypal artist, in so far as making art is what I live for.
I lock myself away in my artist's garret obsessed with my latest painting or print. Otherwise, I'm outside trying to capture landscapes in sketchbooks or Alla‑prima paintings.
Time is irrelevant, and it takes as long as it takes, like the landscape itself.
So though I'm in danger of appearing inactive as I neglect my website and social media – I don't care. My art needs my attention and that's that.
So where is my landscape art at?
Wind is an artist's worst enemy. There's no chance of an easel staying upright – not a hope. While I've several methods of stopping paper flapping about on my knees, they're of no use in a storm.
I'm resigned to temporarily abandoning plain‑air work till the weather eases‑up. It's a little frustrating.
Progress on a collection of Wolds paintings has been less than hoped for as a result of storm Ciara, and now Dennis.
Despite the lack of outdoor progress, my Wolds series is slowly taking shape. I'm exploring ideas for compositions, researching where to go sketching and reviewing references I've collected so far.
It doesn't feel as productive as getting out into the landscape in a methodical and regular way though. Perhaps I should become a still life painter instead.
Anyway, it's where it's all at. The days continue to lengthen and Spring will soon calm things a little.
Here's hoping 2020 is treating you all well
I sincerely hope you're staying safe, what with storms, floods and virus around. I hope you're managing to think positively, my friends!
Making landscape art in 2020
Updated: 16 Dec 2019
The end of 2019 fast approaches. While the UK reflects (hopefully) on the madness and nasty words spewed – I've been reflecting upon my art and its future in 2020.
My motivation isn't concerned with making pretty decoration art in endless colour variations. As enjoyable as I'm sure that is, my impulse is making the best art I can make.
The reason I get up in the morning is always my current painting or print. This is because it might end up a better painting or print than anything I've painted or printed before. The excitement at that possibility is my addiction.
Magical landscapes, magical art quest
I should point out something. When I say my aim is not to make art to match the sofa, I don't mean I try to make ugly art. The shifting fashions for shock or gritty art have never appealed to me. It's OK to like art that matches your sofa by the way. It's just differences in personal tastes.
It's the magical beauty of our landscape here in the UK I strive to capture. Representing the something photographs miss is my quest.
Accurately identifying and describing what it is that is magical about our landscapes is a struggle. It means failing, reworking and perseverance. That sounds anything but fun. To me, it's essential to making good art. It's just what my quest demands.
Reviewing is the path to better art
To steadily improve, you have to critique your achievements continually. I'd begun a thorough assessment of my landscape art the last time I updated this section. Since then, I've pondered, examined and honestly assessed. My conclusions so far are set out here:
In 2020 I will…
- Concentrate on making my art setting aside exhibitions and promotions. This may mean I'll appear inactive. I'll be locking myself away in my garret painting or making prints. When not in my studio, I'll be out in the landscape painting and sketching. I'll have to overcome some challenges to enjoy the luxury of so much time on my art. T'was ever thus though.
- Work in a more coordinated way. I'm planning a series featuring the East Yorkshire Wolds scenery. I've already begun to explore and study the unusual magical habitat that is the Wolds. Setting out to create a series, a themed art collection as a project is a new thing for me.
- Double-down on studio oil paintings and linocuts. I've developed a view of the wide variety of art I've been making. It has diluted my efforts to make the best art I can make. A powerful way to improve on something is to develop a narrow focus on it, and this is my plan for 2020.
None of the above will be easy. But then, if my art was easy to make, it would hold no fascination for me.
So what does this mean?
It means: have no fear. I am an active artist. I'm working away on my art, being productive despite appearances here and elsewhere.
Google – a worshipper of the Fresh Content god – might make it harder for you to find me again. So consider bookmarking my website.
It should mean my art will develop in intriguing ways. Ideas I've held on to for a while will be explored. Ultimately, my art will become better than it is today. So watch this space, as they say.
Finally, Merry Christmas to you all!
I sincerely wish everyone, regardless of politics or madness, a very Merry Christmas. May 2020 be brighter for all.
My landscapes in September 2019
Updated: 12 Sept 2019
So it seems, Summer is drawing to a close all too soon. It even feels a little premature and a teeny bit depressing, because Autumn doesn't know yet!
It's been a big year, with three exhibitions: Burton Agnes Hall & Gardens near Bridlington, Pyramid Gallery, an impromptu one at Castlegate House (both in York), and…
A (working) holiday at Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland - yes, I'm still trying to find time to update that page on this website, with the paintings I made while there (I know, I know, not good enough).
All of these events have been a fascinating learning experience. Seeing people react to my pictures first hand at the exhibitions was a privilege and it was a delight to chat with them about art, where best to paint, how I make my prints and explaining that all my work on show is by one artist (me). It was a common question that took me by surprise the first time it was asked. It's been good to see what instantly appeals to people and hear them tell their stories about where this or that painting reminds them of. The love people have for linocuts was also a big learning – I had no idea.
This year has been a depressing one with the awful political carry on and never ending uncertainty affecting a lot of business. I fear there will be a round of independent gallery closures soon and the prospect has been a mood dampener. I prefer selling through galleries you see, because it means I get to spend more time in the studio painting and printmaking. If they disappear I'll have less and less avenues to sell my art through and that will make it all the harder.
Though I hadn't intended it, this year has turned out to be a soul searching year.
It's the artist thing. An artist is always questioning what they're doing in their constant quest to be a better artist. I've been questioning my art at a deeper level than before though and thinking about how I develop going forward. Am I giving up my art? Well I thought about it given the depressing situation I've described above. But no, I'm not done. Once I get my accounts submitted, I'll be fulltime on this website adding ordering and paying features, so is it all doom and gloom? Nope.
We've got the glory of Autumn in full swing heading our way, which always makes my heart sing.
Especially on a sunny day with blue skies shining through the oranges and yellows, and that wonderful fluttering that starts to fill the air as the colours fall to earth – always beautiful; often stops me in my tracks.
I finally managed to get up to Whitby, sketching round St Mary's high above the harbour, last week. Dashing off on the spur despite the so-so weather forecast, it was a glorious blue skied day, with swallows zipping along the cliff edge. I sat mesmerised by how lovely it was. Stop painting? Not on your life. I'm hoping there will be an 'Indian Summer' up there (as is predicted) so I can go and paint all day before the year's out. I've a mission to complete a painting that's been nagging at me for… possibly years now.
Update: here's the painting I've made since writing the above.