Thursday February 17, 2005

Rooting through a box in the garage, sorting out stuff to sell on eBay from the mountain of clutter we intend to give to the charity shop, or junk, I have come across a pack of the watercolour paintings and sketches I made during the two-or-three-year period I when I attended art classes in Somerset in the 1990s. Most of them are spoiled and all are slightly condensation-damp so I’m carefully drying those I wish to keep. No great loss to me, working from the position of a brightly cheerful “Oh, I can always do another one.” And certainly no great loss to the world of art. Not even the World of Art, as some are wont to say it.

The moral is clear, of course. If you’re going to store watercolour paintings, interleave them with archival tissue and wrap the bundles tightly in non-permeable opaque plastic, between stiff boards.

The exercise has brought back happy memories, though. Sometimes the tutor would come in with an armful of art books, drop them on his desk, and say: “Select one you like, work out why you like it, how the artist did it, and then make a copy.”

A darn good way to learn, going right back to the classic methods. Perhaps a little free and easy on copyright, though, particularly since he didn’t caution us to write the provenance on our results. I remember being particularly taken with the work of a guy named John Lidzey, and I think this was copied from one of his. I was struggling to learn the way to lay successive watercolour glazes one over the other without getting a muddy result, and Lidzey is, or was, supremely expert at this.

So, as my studies dry out, I’m scanning them and printing them up on a clean watercolour paper base. Didn’t have that kind of technology back then. Some of them are very pretty, and I shall show a few of the nicest ones here, under the clear caveat that few of them can be described as originals in the strict sense of the word.


Art class study, 1997: lamp on dresser, after Lidzey
watercolour on Langford paper


There’s something uniquely satisfying and stimulating in attending a good art class and I hope I shall be able to find a place in one when we move to London. Used to be the old art schools would allow quiet, well-mannered old geezers to slip into the back of classes and work alongside the ‘real’ students. I wonder if they still do that? Not that I’ve any great desire to learn how to slice up cows and suspend them in glass tanks filled with formaldehyde. No great desire at all. I think I’ll give the production of that kind of art a respectful and stricly non-participative distance, thank you very much.



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