What has Health and Safety got to do with creating a painting? Well it’s usually a pretty safe endeavour to undertake but apparently not so if you follow the official guidelines of H & S (short for hair and splitting, probably another perilous task!)
This week I had the desire to join two used canvases together so that they could be re-born in the form of a long narrow format and to do this I simply needed two strips of wood about 30 inches each. However on my visit to Wickes I discovered that the strips were about eight feet long and not likely to fit into my car. I naively presumed some obliging assistant would be only too pleased to saw them in half for me like ironmongers shops always used to do before H &S was discovered. Well of course the world has progressed since those days of yore and, due to ‘Health and Safety’, workers are not allowed to saw wood they are only allowed to sell it, even if you can’t get it into your car. What if you were travelling by bus? Imagine!
However they do allow you to carry this unwieldy, long strip of wood around the shop, narrowly missing poking out other customers’ eyes and knocking over shop displays like a Frank Spencer re play.
Being of a creative nature I solved the problem by purchasing from them a very cheap small saw then I sallied out of the shop wishing I dare sport my wood in a javelin throwers stance and hurl it across the car park to land inches away from my car. Thinking this might be an overreaction I reined in this response and proceeded to hunker down on the pavement knee on wood saw in hand and I cut the thing in half. Simple!
Problem solved, that is until I later fastened the canvases together, quite a neat job I thought, no problem there. Then I became a little more ambitious and decided that three canvases would be more appealing and meaningful than two and the wood was not really fit for purpose, it needed to be thicker and more robust. With this in mind I am planning a visit to Howarth timber within the next few days to see whether they are prepared to live life dangerously on the edge and cut me some appropriate pieces of wood. In the meantime my little saw remains in the car boot if needed along with my wellies, a garden spade, chicken manure, and other miscellaneous objects on which a risk assessment should probably be carried out.
All this has almost made me cautious, I even had to think twice before sharpening my pencils for life drawing last night, but then, I reasoned to myself, I cannot do with living my life by artificial rules which steer us on tram tracks towards a set goal with no divergence and no danger. That so applies to art as well as to life. If we curtail our actions by what an artificial rule says we can or cannot do then we sweep up spontaneity, cut off intuition, close down imagination and pour away possibilities.
In life and art some rules are made to be broken, we can ignore convention and safety; go for the bold, adventurous, yes and even dangerous. We are wielding a paint brush or a palette knife not a sharp tooth edged saw. How unhealthy and unsafe can it be, we can’t lose a pint of blood or a limb doing it, unless of course we decide to flout our brushes swinging from the rafters or something? Ooooerr that’s an idea could make for some very interesting marks!
After saying all this I think mine was probably one of the safest, most conventional drawings last night and everyone else was ten times more adventurous than I. Well done you all and many thanks to Justin who always makes a most interesting subject.
by Sandra Cowper
Paintings and drawings by Cathy, Chris, Dick, Ian, Jane, Janet, Patrick, Roger, Sandra, Steven, Sue, Tom and Tony.