Hold that tiger

Tuesday October 5, 2004

I must have been crazy to think I could pick up my old painting self, dust it off, and use it as the basis for a nice, gentle kitchen-table hobby suitable for a quiet retired gentleman. Something I could set out in the evening after dinner, work at for a couple of hours and then pack neatly away until the next time. Sort of painting by numbers but more original.

Well, it ain’t like that. I have woken a sleeping tiger and it needs more room, more time, more vigour than can be contained on a kitchen-table and confined to a couple of hours a day. If I’m going to paint then I shall have to do more than sit comfortably in the lamplight, sipping mineral water and applying colours dab by dab to a tiny canvas. I shall need to work larger, longer and harder. I shall need to sketch. I shall need to experiment. Most of all, I shall need to learn.

I pulled out some old sketch books, the latest of them from the period in 1995/6 when I turned to painting just after moving from Wales to Somerset. I was hoping to determine how and why I worked, and perhaps even why. I drew in pen and ink then, with watercolour washes applied either on site or in the evening after a sketching expedition. Sometimes I worked from photographs but mostly I scribbled out my drawings of the things about me. Then, discontent, I returned to writing and the sketches reverted to thumbnail scribbles in my notebooks, of no great importance and having no purpose in themselves. The tiger went back to sleep.

So. Where does that leave me now? I’m plodding on with the street scene painting and it’s beginning to come to life in spite of my tremulous incompetence. The hours pass, the clock ticks, and my mind works away in parallel with the brush, remembering art college days, painting days when I was in the RAF and more painting days when I lived in London afterwards. In a corner, still safe in the shadows, my tiger stirs into life. I could let him go back to sleep of course. Damned if I shall, though. Heaven alone knows where he’ll take me when I grasp his tail.

In the meantime, Harry and Dolly and I slip quietly from hour to hour, from meal to meal, from nap to nap. We’re happy enough, waiting for Graham to come home and jolt us out of our daydreams.


Pen and wash; Somerset, Jan,'96
A page from an old sketch book



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