Sunday, April 21, 2019

To print or not to print?

To print or not to print, that is a question.

20 years ago I made the mistake of allowing my art to be used on a calendar to raise money for a millennium project in Central Finistere. The project was a great success but while the calendars sold well and I became a well-known name locally I discovered that many potential customers had cut the images out and framed them. In this way they believed they were supporting me as an artist perhaps falsely assuming that I had already been paid for the use of those images. It took me fifteen years to sell nine of the originals and I still have the remaining three, but since that time my sales fell dramatically and for several years I held no exhibitions and sold nothing. Far from doing nothing I continued to paint through a period that I like to call my stock piling years. After 30 years of painting I know of no other professional artist who is selling his work for the same price and often for no more than a ghastly mass produced photo on canvas. Maybe it is time for me to add some initials of royalty to my signature and add another zero to my prices. Or should I start producing more calendars, prints, key rings, jigsaw puzzles, fridge magnets, cards, book markers and place mats to be considered a success? No. Consumers the world over have enough rubbish to choose from without me adding to it. The millennium project was a success in my eyes even if there was no official word of thanks from the local community. The statues can are displayed permanently in the Chapel of St Salomon in the commune of Plouye in Central Finistere. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Back on the Isle of Lewis.

Passengers raised their mobile phones to record our arrival and who could blame them for wanting to capture an apparently perfect summer sunset as the evening ferry from Ullapool sailed into Stornoway harbour. An oversized orange orb seen through the sullen heat haze of spring or was it something else smokier, more sinister.
Driving through the town I caught site of a familiar face and waved but Michael in a daze standing at the kerbside outside the supermarket showed no sign of recognition. It was only then that it dawned on me that there were no street lights at dusk and that no sign of life emanated from any home. That could only mean one thing, a power cut. As I drove north through the villages to Tolsta I was surprised to see people still outside, the old walking dogs while the youngsters just hung out driven outside by lack of power to capture what remained of the evening light. I was glad to have candles readily available on my arrival but hadn’t counted on the matches being damp. The following day I learnt that there had been a serious heath fire down on Harris close to the power lines and so the entire island had been shut down. That morning I had questioned why the power cut remained until it dawned on me that the electric in the house was still turned off. Time to trip the switches, light the fires and air the place through. The swollen back doors of both house and barn would remain jammed shut for a while yet.
I return to an island dominated by the Vandyke brown and Burnt Umbers of winter’s heath. The dead wind-blown ochre grasses hug the landscape, sponge soft mounds of bleached moss interlace with pale green lichen and although the fresh growth of grass is showing on the crofts the lush greens of spring are yet to surface. Even within the relative shelter of Stornoway those tree buds although swollen with potential remain firmly enclosed. April will however bring with it miraculous changes as the earth seems to slow to allow the sun to linger longer and higher on its daily arch. Hibernation is well and truly over and lambing is in full swing. There is soil to turn, seed potatoes to plant, and while a bitter east winds bring a dry spell there is a spades depth of turf to remove before the peat cutting can start.