Why I gave up a great career to become a successful contemporary painter
I was at the Sainsbury Centre in Norwich the other week to see 'Young Picasso' - the subject of which I'll take a leap of faith on that we can all visualise.
Anyway - at the age of 13 Picasso was knocking out classical observational drawings with the facility of an atelier student in their twenties with a few years of classical practice under the belt. Not just drawings, but oils too - good oils as good as anything I've seen from the Hague School with all the usual refinements- great edges, great composition , great value structure and so forth.
But, there must have been something on his shoulder, that voice that whispers 'so what?' The truth is that while painting as he did, was utterly remarkable for a boy of 13, the only trajectory was down.
Notable at 20? possibly, remarkable at 25 or 30 years of age? Absolutely not. The only way to stand out from the crowd is not to march in step with them. If you're a child prodigy, die young or change because what's newsworthy then is because it was then.
If I could meet my younger self and have my time again I would have voiced the above and got the hell out of classical painting ten years before I did. Not that I was a child prodigy you understand, just diligent and fortunate enough to have a partner whose career allowed me to spend endless hours in the studio.
All of those hours turned inexorably into success - because if I can lay claim to any virtue, it's a willingness to put the hours in. By 2005 I was featured worldwide in magazines, had a painting school, and was contributing articles on how to do it to all of the big art magazines.... but.
But I knew in my heart of hearts I'd got it wrong, because I wanted to make art about my version of events, about my places, my time and my world, not elegant facsimiles of great art from the past. We are all taught as children not to be selfish - but artists have to be self obsessed, after all our own unique selves are the only thing that makes us different to anybody and everybody else.
If you're new to my blogs you may be unaware that along the way I had a massive and life changing stroke - caused it seems by a congenital heart defect - which left me both hemiplegic and wondering what this thing we call life is all about.
I don't define myself by that illness - but I would say that it certainly provided the epiphany I needed to get on with it own my terms. The result of this was my first contemporary show The Painted Garden, which without spoiling the surprise I can reveal was about coming to terms with whom we are and what we have become. You can see it on my newly designed and spruced up website here
To my surprise, the horror of lovers of my classical painting, and the uneasy dismay of the magazines who took my many articles on classical technique it all went down very well. More than that it allowed me to think in entirely new terms about what I had achieved and what I wanted to do going forward - and if that all sounds a bit introspective and dull I'm afraid that dull introspection it seems is the foundational rock of better artistic practice as the Salon medal and shows I was to get from this radical change of direction attest - but that's a story for another post.