Friday, July 22, 2011

Teaching’s end!

Last night I had a dream. Many dreams are very confused and it is difficult to read them in a meaningful way, but this was different and it appears to me to have had a clear message for me!

I was an art teacher for 26 years. On the whole, I loved teaching. Sometimes pupils, and even whole classes, could be difficult and this created problems to be overcome. But it was a wonderful feeling when you felt that pupils were actually learning – particularly if they were not promising material and you had had to overcome their own lack of self-belief. But the last few years were difficult for me and I was suffering from a great deal of stress, which eventually forced me to retire on the grounds of ill-health. Nevertheless, a part of me was always very reluctant to let go of being a teacher.

In the dream, although still employed as a teacher in my old school, I was being offered a new post as art teacher in the school in which I had been educated myself. The school was an extremely good one and had an excellent Art Department, which I would have been very keen to work within. But, in the end, I found myself going to the Principal and apologising for wasting his time. I explained that I had been suffering from stress and that I now realised that I would be unable to fulfil the post in the way that I would have wished and would have been required.

Since I retired, I have occasionally had nightmares about teaching, but I always knew that I had to put this part of my life behind me and concentrate on making a new one for myself as an artist. As part of this process I even created a painting, which I called, "An Art Teacher’s Memento Mori", which was intended to sum up my experience as an art teacher, both the good and bad. I think that the dream was telling me that it is now time to let go of the last vestiges of myself as teacher, that this part of my life is finally over!
"An Art Teacher’s Memento Mori", February-May 2008.
Oils on canvas, 70 cm x 50 cm.

This painting and much of the rest of my art work is on display in my web site at

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Fauvist leanings

This is an early painting of mine, from 1974 when I was in my first year of my B.A. course at Art College. At the time I was having considerable difficulties with the head tutor of the first year students, who did not like my work and seemed incapable of understanding three-point perspective (where the picture plane is tilted either downwards or upwards). My interest in this painting was primarily in investigating how the diverging vertical lines created the sensation of looking downwards into the painting. I deliberately shaped the edges of the canvas to match the perspective (although in later work I found that slanting the edges in the opposite way actually enhanced the perspective effects more).

However, a secondary interest was in the use of colour, the colours becoming naturally exaggerated as I concentrated on noticing the minor variations of shades. What I did not realise at the time, pre-occupied as I was with the perspective and my tutor difficulties, was that there is a strong connection with what I was doing and some Fauvist work. For example, several of AndrĂ© Derain's paintings, notably London Bridge, winter 1906, incorporate a wide angle of view, including some perspective effects created by the spectator looking downwards. However, the colouring of the French Fauvist work is generally so extreme that I think that was what prevented me from making the connection at the time. More recently, I encountered the work of some of the Belgian Fauvists, such as that by Willem Paerels and Rik Wouters, where the control of colour is much closer to that which would interest me.

I do not believe that it would be correct to say that my concept of Experiential Realism was influenced by Fauvism. It is more that I recognise some common concerns, for example, recording perspective as experienced, rather than as required by formal rules. Also that my colour, whilst not as intense as that of the Fauvists, nevertheless becomes intensified through the process of concentrated observation.