Easter Friday and my family and I hopped onto a train and headed into Sydney. Yes, the sky looked decidedly miserable and treated us to not a few drops, but we were happy enough. Good old Sydney rain at Easter! Today we visited my mum. Mum lives alone in a unit (flat or apartment according to which variation of English you use). She likes living close to a city; above a bustling street and overtop shops. Very European cosmopolitan in her opinion. Not me, but that is another story.
As mum chatted away I wandered into my old bedroom, now more a junk room. I indulged in some nostalgia and sometime later went to leave. It was then I noticed the old canvases and cardboard stacked behind the door. Some of my old art! Pictures created when I was a mere teenager.
A couple of these – those I am not overly ashamed of – already are on display on my Facebook page. The rest are incredibly bad. I have decided now to show them here to you all. Why? Encouragement. Hopefully those of you who cannot paint and cannot draw will look at these and see that I started off pretty poorly and persistence won out. I guess that you will also see a bit of my teenage obsession with the nude. I justify this with “I was a teenage boy – what do you expect?”
By the way, my source material back in the late 1970s and early 1980s was magazines, travel brochures and library books. As I have mentioned before, I have Keratoconus and so painting from real life is pretty much an impossibility. (This said, I am now used to taking photos and painting from these instead.) All paintings used oil paints, though the Egyptian one was an attempt at using oil paints in light glazes over an ink sketch on paper. Did not really work. I have tried to display them in the order that I think I painted them.
Outback was painted when I was about 15. I used no reference material and it shows. My first galleon picture was taken from an old etching in a local library book – also when I was about 15. Three years later I did Galleon 2 because I really disliked the first painting. It is also based on an etching in a book. And Fantasy Plymouth also comes from a photograph in that book but with strange trees and rocks added. Waterfall was another painting straight from my imagination at about 16 as is sunset. Country house was based on a photo in one of mum’s magazines. Now one influential travel guide that mum owns is a 1950s guide to the Lake District in England. The church painting came straight from that. I did ask mum what the colours of the Lake District were like but I don’t think I got a satisfactory answer and so made them up. My two later Lake District paintings were inspired by the same book when I was 18. The painting of horses was inspired by a tourist guide to Hampshire! That was the first painting where I started to understanding the blocking of discrete elements of colour.
Ah! The Egyptian nude. I think the girl is based on a photo I sneakily cut out from one of mum’s Cosmopolitans before she chucked the magazine in the bin. I think I was in my second last year of school and kept on feeling really guilty that I was painting things like this. What would the girls at school think if they found out!!! I am so glad that I have got way past all that stupid teenage angst!
Knight was painted when I was 17 and I think I used an old library book as a reference. Fantasy Cliffs is perhaps my favourite of my teenage works. I took an Italian chapel that I found in a book on architecture and painted it above cliffs found in a tourist guide to South Australia. It is also the first painting where I started to really think about the placement of elements on the canvas instead of just chucking them down.
The last two pictures are nudes done at 18 and 19. I bought a Playboy just so that I had a source to paint from. I can laugh, still remembering the embarrassment as I walked into the newsagents to buy this. You are probably reading this and thinking “What a twit!” but I was shy and always wanted people to think the best of me. So different from today! The very last painting sits on my mother’s wall and she is quite proud of it. Nicole (my wife) just says “No one has breasts like that!”
Anyway, the point of the story is that if you want to become an artist, just try and try and try. Eventually you will learn things.