TAKE MY ADVICE by Russell Lumb
I have been learning to paint with Tom for the past twelve months and have absorbed numerous useful and often essential lessons; many small skills, tricks and procedures, materials, sources, good habits and references. But the detail has been underpinned by a small number of guiding principles which, if respected, will deliver competence at the least.
One of these principles was reprised at Thursday afternoon’s tutorial; the beneficial effect of repeated building and destroying, to find the most meaningful expression, demonstrate that search and to achieve the richness of surface which will engage the viewer’s interest time after time. This is not a procedure which everyone chooses to show in their work – I think immediately of Tony and Ivan’s clean and precise drawings which distil the image to its essence, apparently without the sweaty business of getting there. But they have been through the same routine, albeit faintly, so that the evidence may be removed as work proceeds.
I tell you this, not because I feel that I have already achieved this particular level of understanding, but because I continue to ignore Tom’s , and now my own advice, based upon the past twelve month’s experience. I think that I can relate all of my significant improvements to this process of searching for the image amongst the rubble of previous, failed attempts, and have reached a stage whereby I think that I can judge the amount of destruction which will be required to reveal the objective. It is this naïve over-confidence which continues to limit progress. Without Tom insisting that more destruction and rebuilding is necessary, I take the shortcut to mediocrity whilst others, Sandra for instance, are still out on the mountain, not even thinking about home. Yesterday was a harsh reminder of this basic truth.
In the afternoon, Tom toured the studio, urging me on each visit to add more layers of activity to my painting before allowing the image, which we both could see coming, to materialise. I followed the advice and was rewarded with an almost finished piece which I think demonstrates further progress. You would imagine that this experience would set me up nicely for the evening life session - I had even referred Tom to Jane Hansford, a new-to-me artist with a website full of enviably loose life drawings and paintings – but how quickly do we forget the basis of our successes, and I really struggled to salvage anything worthwhile from a very poor first half effort. The best I can say is that I recognised the error of approach but did not take my own advice soon enough. I seem to have written this same blog on more than one occasion; perhaps this signifies the crucial importance, for me, of compliance with this particular advice.
Around me, many were working their particular seam of interest and producing another trademark image for the album, and there is no shame in refusing to wrestle the demons on a sweltering Thursday evening, but there was also evidence of Tom’s advice receiving attention, with spectacular results. Most obviously, the oil painting courses seem to have brought colour to the fore, although Patrick, an old boy of the afternoon school, produced a stunning, sculptural charcoal image where every mark counted. Sandra brought together weeks of enquiry into pattern and texture with a simple profile to create a very satisfying image, although I think her use of the Olympic rings stencil should have been disallowed. Still, there is no point being the teacher’s favourite if you cannot enjoy the occasional advantage.
Sue made a very good job of a difficult position to turn adversity into a richly coloured triumph, and Dick, more than anyone, illustrated the benefit of paying attention in class; the latest recruit to the combination of abstract ground and life study showed just how much can be achieved from a standing start at 2.00pm. Take my advice, Dick, and remember this day every time you pick up a brush.
I don’t know a number of last evening’s artists, but I do know that with Tom, Tony, the two Rogers, Steven, Sandra and Teresa, you have inspiring exponents of most media. Stay involved, learn from each other and , most importantly, heed your own advice.
Paintings and drawings by Barry, Ben, Cathy, Claire, Dick, Haydn, Ian, Merry, Patrick, Roger H, Roger S, Russell, Sandra, Steven, Sue, Teresa, Tom and Tony.