Thursday, November 29, 2012


It has been said that paintings in exhibitions hear more ridiculous opinions than anything else. Including "Call that art?  Bottom of a parrot cage, more like!" Mind you, if elephants and monkeys can be roped in to produce daubs that sell for thousands, parrots can't be far behind.  

Years ago, when I first started painting, a neighbour who was a keen gardener gave me a sheaf of arum lilies, complete with bulbs.  I planted the bulbs and painted a picture of the flowers, using a bold, free, extravagant treatment and lashings of paint. When shown the result, the woman gazed for a long moment. "Those lilies were certainly past their best, weren't they?" she said. "Never mind, I'll find you some better ones."

That didn't stop me, although it took time to understand that in all the arts the first person you should please is yourself. It takes a thick skin to paint what you want and damn the consequences. It is very liberating, splashing about in a kindergarten, who-cares way and it is a relief from our everyday, practical selves. While we are painting we are not mowing the lawn or hanging out the laundry, and people are not pestering us for lunch, cups of coffee or demands that we hold the ladder while they get on with some important job like clearing out the gutters.

One of the difficulties faced by those who paint for fun but aspire to higher things is graduating from the chocolate box school of art. We don’t want to churn out pretty landscapes to please other people, we want to make Art with a capital A. However, we crave appreciation. Say something, dammit. We would prefer honest praise, but lie if you must, gracefully and convincingly. Warning: paintings are often like kittens, free to a good home, so too much enthusiasm and you could find yourself lugging one home and having to decide whether to hang it on the living room wall or behind the garage door.

These days the house is full of paintings, several others have been sold, and now that the weather is warming up I am looking forward to moving the easel out to the garage where I can work without bothering about making a mess. All those elephants, monkeys and parrots had better move aside, I'm on my way.

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