I read somewhere that when the English painter Ken Howard hears himself described as “old-fashioned” he takes it as a compliment. I would probably do the same. Not because I think that I am old-fashioned but I certainly hold to the values that seem now to have passed to an older generation. I have never been involved in the mad dash toward novelty in the mistaken belief that there, and there only, lies originality. But it has been slow to dawn on me that originality can lie within one’s self, one’s individuality and an individual approach to one’s art.
Perhaps for that reason I have settled into a range of styles and subjects that are in no way new but lend themselves to the expression of an individual vision, an opportunity to portray the timeless qualities of the world around me that the viewer will hopefully find accessible and uplifting.
It is no accident then that I find inspiration where generations of artists have found inspiration before me; in still life, in landscape and in figure painting. But in all of these I feel no compulsion to find a “new angle”, just an opportunity to express an individual point of view and share it.
So it is that I have found myself on the well worn artistic path between Scotland and the south of France and Venice, immediately attracted to the timeless vistas almost unchanged by the relentless march of the modern world. Venice in particular with it absence of cars and vans - even its vaporetti date back over 100 years - makes an irresistible subject. In France I find myself editing out the modern intrusions to arrive at a more serene balance of the built environment and landscape, a calmness but hopefully without cliché. I always prefer the harbour scene without the white plastic boats, which I noticed after painting it is almost the only change to Cassis harbour since Cadell painted it over a century ago.
In the studio I am attracted by the same challenges of portraying light and shade, texture and colour to create a balance in which I hope to attract and captivate the viewer both in still life and figure work. The flower petal, the silver, the glass all represent an opportunity for an economy of brushwork to create an illusion of presence. The pose and the elegance of form are the essential qualities that help make the composition connect with the viewer in figure work.
Through the time spent working with Roy McGregor on the recent biography, I have had the chance to look back on my work to date and see if there has been a recurring theme. The questions artists have asked themselves standing in front of the canvas have been the same for hundreds of years. Whilst my answers may not be new they are at least different - original even - because they are at the very least my answers. They are now, and I hope will continue to be, timeless.