Tuesday, 7 May 2013


It is of no use to compare oneself with the giants of visual art, or literature or, for that matter, one's parents, peers and siblings.  To do so invites despair at one's  shortcomings. I shall never be able to paint like J M W Turner, draw like Louise Bourgouise or Vija Celmins, still less write like Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf or WG Sebald. Neither shall I ever be as selfless as my father, as sensitively imaginative as my mother, nor as intelligent and articulate as my sisters.

However, I am beginning to recognise my own voice now, in the words that I commit to paper or screen; a modest, rather homely voice, narrow in compass, devoted to the personal, not given to brilliance or greatness, nor yet to exquisite lyricism, but possessed, at times, of a distinctively succinct turn of phrase. I would that I were, in the words of William Styron,"splendidly creative", but have come to understand that I shall never be described in those terms, I simply do not possess that level of ability, nor shall I ever, which realisation causes me considerable pain.

As far as drawing is concerned, I have yet to establish a consistent self. Over the last nine years I have produced  two distinct bodies of drawings, that of the cloud formation drawings, and the later drawings of tree, mountain and rainbow, which I group together because they sprang from the same imperative, and marked a departure from the drawings of clouds. I find it difficult to reconcile the two, and, for the present, impossible to move forward from the latter group; I find too, that I do need after all, to travel backwards in order to rediscover the forward path.

At present, although I had forsworn to indulge my habit of removing early drawings from the boxes in which they are stored in order to look upon them, I have extricated a drawing of a cloud formation  made in 2004, one of my earliest drawings of clouds, and at present the drawing lies on the floor of the back bedroom, where I can study it daily. Instead of becoming mired in fruitless retrospection, I find the exercise helpful; it can be useful and instructive to engage thus with an earlier work. It is reassuring, affirms that which I am unable to affirm myself; I could draw, and perhaps I shall be able to again.

The drawing is by no means equal in execution, concept or stature to a work by the consummate painters of clouds written of in a previous post, but it is quietly proficient; I feel no shame on regarding it, have no desire to destroy it, rather I seek to absorb the lessons it offers in the hope that I may be able to approach the making of cloud formation drawings once more.

Monday, 6 May 2013

opening night

I am successful in submitting a drawing to the local art centre's annual open submission exhibition, and find myself in a state of nervous anticipation regarding my attendance of the opening night, where I shall encounter the drawing in public for the first time, in the company of other artists,  invited guests, and amongst other works.

The drawing is of a cloud formation entitled two clouds almost the same. It is now eight years old, made whilst living in very different circumstances, facts I did not disclose to the selection committee, and of the three entries that I submitted, was the only one to have been selected.

I am anxious as to how it will appear, and both dread, and look forward to seeing it. I had delivered it to the gallery in a portfolio, as it is as yet unframed, accompanied by two clips by which to suspend it, and a pair of white cotton gloves to be worn whilst handling it, together with an explanation of how I envisaged it to be hung. I need not have worried. The drawing hangs against the white wall, above an austere, darkly coloured abstract painting, and, as far as the somewhat crowded conditions allow, appears to have been hung sensitively enough.

Seeing it in the context of a group show is instructive. It looks succinct, conveys an air of stillness, reassures me that I am correct in judging it to be among my better drawings. I wish that I had been able to afford the expense of having it framed, which in my eyes would have conferred a sense of wholeness upon it, allowed it breathing space within the frame whilst quietly containing it, provided a critical distance from the viewer and the surrounding wall,  finished it, so to speak. In conversation with another artist present, I find that he does not share my view, giving instead  a refreshing and unexpected insight, although I remain unwilling to agree with him. We compare notes; I enquire about his painting, and we speak of the joy and pain in making art. I explain in brief terms my current inability to draw, confiding the age of the submitted drawing, and he offers me a solution, one which I had indeed thought of, written about, and almost determined to put into practise, a solution that I had employed once before in order to overcome a hiatus in my work, to wit, the drawing of clouds.

We move on, talk of other things, say our goodbyes, and I am left with a feeling of having had my previous intention endorsed, and, more importantly, with a sense of hope that I may be able to return to the drawing of cloud formations, my present fear of failure notwithstanding, secure in the knowledge that it is a fit subject for attention within the context of contemporary practices, even though I shall remain forever unable to produce works on a par with Constable's cloud studies, or Gerhard Richter's masterly paintings.


I cannot proclaim, "I am an artist", or, "I am a writer", becuase I do not believe myself justified in so doing. I write a little,  draw a little, but pursue neither discipline with the dedication or level of ability of the true artist. Perhaps the affirmation mooted in the previous post is inappropriate also. Can I write? Can  I draw?