I became fascinated with painting when I was about 5 years old, it was with those awful powdery watercolors and hogshair brushes in those days, but it didn’t stop me from diving right in. I had always liked drawing and gradually drawing became a means to an end, the preamble to painting, a way of seeing and a way to try out ideas. I learned how to mix colors and how to blend them to get form and represent lighting, and by the time I was eight or nine my work was consistently being put up on the wall at school. The other kids thought I was “a flash git”, a show off, but this didn’t stop them from challenging me to draw them a horse with a fish tail monsters, or scathing, satirical portraits of the teachers. When I was about twelve I was turned on to oil painting, I don’t remember who it was that told me about it, one of the teachers I think, but whoever it was could see what I was trying to achieve and working in oils was the only way that I could get that particular look I was trying for.
As well as learning to paint “classically” (I was self taught by the way, never had a lesson in my life) I became interested in painters, their world and what they were all about. I soon found my mentors and my life long favorites, Dali jumped out at me from the beginning although I cooled on him later when I found out what a horrible human being he was. I heard the name Rembrandt and checked him out & this led me in turn to Bosch, Sargeant, Velasquez, Goya, Turner, Blake and the English Pre Raphaelites and later the Impressionists, particularly Monet. The Tate Gallery in London became an art temple to me & I would go to pay homage to my mentors almost every weekend. I got to know where all my favorite paintings were hanging – some pieces still hang in exactly the same place to this day. It was at the Tate that I discovered and became intimate friends with Rene Magritte, the Belgian surrealist. About half a dozen of his paintings were hung in one corner of a gallery in The Tate.
I can’t tell you how many hours I stood in front of those paintings and “communed” with them, soaked up their ideas and the spirit of then man who had painted them. Magritte was not a flashy painter like Dali, he was restrained; a realistic working class painter, technically together but not an overachiever. It was his ideas that resonated with me, here was a man that thought like me. The settings for his paintings were very ordinary, suburban living rooms and gardens (much like where I grew up) painted in a very deadpan, unassuming style, but what went on in those rooms and the sense of irony and surrealistic humor that permeated his images made me smile inwardly with appreciation. Why couldn’t a trombone catch fire? Why was that locomotive coming out of the fireplace suspended in mid air with its smoke trailing off up the chimney? I didn’t matter, all I knew was that I liked the man who had painted them and he inspired me to imagine and to create my own take on the world in which I lived.
Ideas became important to me, and my paintings became my own psychological diary, a way of keeping track of what was going on in my mind. It’s still that way to this day. The strange thing is that over the years I have discovered that very often,simultaneously,an idea that I am making a painting about is being used as an idea for a song, by a musician or songwriter. The idea is, as they say, in the air. I paint on a regular basis, it’s my most personal artistic expression and I find that it is the perfect thing to be doing as I get older. You sit, you think and you paint, but as you get older all the technical stuff is taken for granted, it’s a given, and this liberates you, frees you up, to just imagine and paint.
The paintings in this gallery span many years, I am told that I have “a style” I don’t see that myself, it’s just how I do it. At various times over the last 40 yrs I have lost faith in painting because it has seemed to me to be out of date, an anachronism, old fashioned and pointless, ineffectual compared to MTV and all the electronic media that clamor for our attention. I feel like an old craftsman who makes beautiful hand made chairs but, as we know, these days we buy our chairs from Ikea, (we even follow instructions & put them together ourselves). These feelings soon leave me, however, when I have an idea that can only be expressed by painting it: I sit at my easel and out it all comes, intact, fully realized with very little mental effort, it just takes time and a certain amount of planning.
I just hope that my images cause you think to yourself, “Why couldn’t it be like that?” or “That’s a neat idea”, giving you a glimpse of life - outside of the box. This idea takes hold - you internalize it - and then you find yourself smiling inwardly, just like I did with Magritte all those years ago in the Tate. If this happens, the generational baton has been passed.
Peat Digger's Yantra
"I Am the Sky"