a distillation - 2017
I’ve often wondered if a space can call out, have a voice… Sure, I know, a bit of nonsense on my part, but I feel that this space, my studio, has that spirit. Whenever I turn the key and slowly push open the heavy old oak door, after a time away, it seems to whisper to me "Hey, where’ve you been? Oh never mind, what are we doing today?"
While I’m away, I sense it’s waiting for me and I’m always anxious…. to start working again as soon as I return and quickly get myself into that zone of quiet, of something akin to meditation, enabled by solitude and necessary psychological space.
The Minch can be easing itself through a storm, the world will be agonising about its latest crisis, and my greatest worldly concern is, for that treasured time, how many hours of good light are left for work that day.
I feel safe here and the task is as simple or as complicated as it needs to be. My eye seems to be drawn constantly to the horizon across the Inner Sound and The Minch, through my windows and back again to the canvas, regardless of what I’m currently working on. The endless dance of light out there and the energy and tension at play around the line where sea and sky, fabric and fold meet, informs so much of what I do.
The line. That line. Always a line. It defines, delineates, divides, connects, flows, reaches, ties, energises.
A preoccupation which all art demands, and which all artists recognise: getting lost in the making, and being present throughout every mark. A mindful, focused burning of the hours we’re allotted here on this spinning globe. The light will fade and the day will draw to a close. The marks I’ve made will hopefully whisper something to me, but not always. It’s usually a struggle, but I’m always aware that this focus is a privilege. Every day is a battle to find meaning in the line and the light. Always, always hoping to capture some ‘essence’ or other, to create something which might resonate or sing, even.
And when I’m done, and the fire in the wood stove has burnt low, I look up and think about the other things I should be worrying about. A good day is one spent from end to end in my studio.
Work, for me, is a distillation, a long maturing; the tangible product of a journey. In this culture which now only seems to value the instant, these values of training, crafting, honing one’s skills and vision, of experience, “earning your stripes”, to quote a fine painter friend, seem old-fashioned. Our world today demands that everything is accessible and assumes that there are instant answers, skills and solutions, not to mention shortcuts. There ARE no shortcuts to content, to quality or thought worthy of holding our attention for more than 2 minutes.
The professional artist's life is not for the faint-hearted and isn’t a road that many want to travel. Being a creative is a strange life of extremes - either high or low, ebb or flow, feast or famine, and a solitary life, for me, at least.
Being judged by some, in the context of the commercial sale of your work is maybe an inevitable part of the process - it ‘goes with the territory’ as some say, but this is the last thing an artist seeks. Engagement and involvement is what we hope for. Buying art is often open only to the few, and as artists we have to recognise that while there may be many who admire our work and connect with what we do, there is a much smaller community who have the means to acquire what they like.
We may paint to live, but we live to paint.
A few of the small oils exhibited at the Gullane Art Gallery from 8th July in their summer show 2017.
A small group of watercolours from the Inner Sound Series is included in the Strathearn Gallery's summer show in Crieff, until 17th September.