People are normally charmed when they watch an artist paint. Unfamiliar with the painting process, most observers are surprised as a painting grows. There is always some comedian who asks where the numbers are. I explain that the numbers are on the lens of my glasses, because if they were on the canvas, everyone could paint. Occasionally, however, there are spectators who are not pleasantly taken by the process.
It is ironic that, even though I am non-religious, I am enchanted by small British churches. These sometimes tiny buildings, that are often constructed of stone, speak strongly of their past with a mix of styles, as later additions tell of the popular style of architecture of their day. Lych-gates and porches add to the history of the gravestones that encircle these buildings. Filled with plaques, statuary and stained glass, these quiet country worship places tell the visitor all about the history and indeed the geography of the parish.
My bride, Marilyn, has a great affection for women writers, in particular Virginia Woolf, whose ground-breaking approach started a new school of writing in the English-speaking world. Our joint interest in things English has led her to infect me with “Bloomsburyism”. Not only the literature produced by this between-classes group but also their houses and gardens have become most attractive.
In 1994, Marilyn and I spent a romantic week in a rental cottage in Clare (meaning clear or bright referring to the waters of the Upper Stour so loved by Constable), a small Suffolk town just south east of Cambridge. We were unaware that our visit was to coincide with a grand concert weekend in The Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, just one block from our house with its timbered walls and low-beamed ceilings.
Most of the paintings featured in this travel series and its effect on me are sketchescolour notes made on the spot or brief reactions to my photos when I return home. This piece set near Sneem in the southwest of Ireland is however a different type of item. This painting is a full blown synthesis of southern Ireland. My aim in this painting, as in all my extended work, is to distill many pieces of information into one statement that will deliver the feeling of this singular country. Few people who visit Ireland manage to avoid being touched by a country whose biggest export is people.
We had the opportunity to live in the Cotswold village of Blockley for a week in June, 2001. This was the view from outside the local, The Crown Inn (established in 1755), which occupied the select position on the main street. We passed this patinated hostelry on the way to our digs that resembled a doll house in its size and beauty. I found this small village, on a dead-end road, delightful and the neighbourhood enchanting.
This crenellated, fortified house goes back to the 1300’s. At that point, raids were being made by the French across the Channel on Kent and Sussex. In the 1500’s, this now tranquil moated stone building was the site for a Catholic-Protestant skirmish and suffered much damage. In the 1600’s, an Inigo Jones style addition was added to the now dwarfed Elizabethan and Medieval parts. This destruction/construction story accounts for the rather oddly-shaped, but romantic, house.
One of the few remaining wind-powered mills in Kent, this wooden structure was close to a pub that I frequented during an extended holiday in Britain in 1998. How pleasant to sit in the front garden of the Six Bells with this mill sticking its head up above the massive oaks that only partially screened our view. This sight echoed in my memory of mills here with their link to our pioneer past.
We had the amusing pleasure of being the guests of a dentist in County Kerry. This widely-travelled woman who was originally from Dublin was somewhat dismayed to find herself back in Ireland many years later. “Yes,” she said, “who would have thought that I would end my days looking down the mouths of Kerry men?” She may not have been looking at the stunning scenery around her here on the Kerry coastline. Although I have painted in Ireland several times, I don’t feel that I have yet had all my innings with the Emerald Isle.
This sketch which hangs in my home depicts a view just down the River Thames from the Parliament Buildings in London, England. Directly across the river, the London Eye, that huge Ferris wheel, rotates with its cargo of tourists. When I painted this piece in 1996, that feature was not yet built.