Landscape and Life

For many of us today, it is hard to escape from the often catastrophic impact of mankind : cities teeming with anonymous crowds jostling through brutal architecture. Too many noisy and dirty cars.

Constant reminders of our destruction of the natural world: fires, floods.

Landscape painting can offer a counterpoint that is both a reminder of and an escape from that relentless awfulness, to let the viewer see an alternative and to gain some uplift, a boost to the soul.
The ‘pastoral idyll’ is not meaningless escapism. We are surrounded by and constantly reminded of the ecological destruction caused by mankind’s relentless march of ‘progress’. 
The landscape is the living reflection of the human - environmental relationship, shaped throughout history by the successive interactions between people and their environment. As the numbers of people everywhere continue to grow their impact is becoming ever more obvious. 

Our awareness of this reality is also growing.
Of course ‘the first merit of a painting is to be a feast for the eye’ (Delacroix, c.1894), and for many, the purpose of a painting needs to be no more than that.
Art is at the core of culture. What I paint flows from my personal experiences of the world, my personality, my concerns. And your reaction to a painting is similarly shaped by your understanding of what is going on around you. This is ‘culture’. We live in, move around, and are imbued by what is going on around us, and the landscape is the dynamic setting for all that.
Often the artist’s quest is to capture the light - the nuances of shadow, fleeting changes of clouds. Turner, Constable and so many others took the observation of clouds as a serious step in their artistic training. Today we know that the atmosphere we breathe, the air in which those clouds are formed is not some infinite heavenly pool but is the sink for the waste from our  exhaust pipes, factory chimneys and farm animals. We understand the impact of methane emissions, CfCs, carbon dioxide and all the rest, so when we escape to the hills and enjoy those immense views, the whole sky is actually a huge manifestation of the demand for more food, more goods, more travel from more and more people.
Of course I seek to create paintings that are going to meet the challenge to be a ‘feast for the eye’, and I seriously hope that viewers will enjoy gazing at them. Cezanne sought to present images of the harmony between man and the earth, of people enjoying that ‘rural idyll’. He lived and worked for a large part of his life in the same locality in southern France and painted views over the same areas over and over again across many years. Even then (late 19th century) the relentless spread of the urban sprawl was obvious to him. Many of the paintings of that time could not be recreated today as the pastoral scene has been replaced by buildings. 
In 1953 two men won immortality by being the first to stand on the summit of Everest. Today there are queues. The question that is posed by every landscape painting is “Where is that?” But as that painting is a snapshot of the interaction between mankind and nature at that point in time, maybe the question should be : ”When was that?”
As the impact of our destruction of nature makes it increasingly difficult to find any view that does not include the direct results of economic activity - roads, forestry, sheep, drought - every landscape painting offers something more than is immediatly apparent, it is of its time. Just like the artists are of their time, and the viewers are of theirs.  
Landscape is at the core of culture, where the natural world is fashioned by the economic activity of people - like the inside of our home, bearing the marks of our existence and capable of being uplifted or despoiled by what we do.

Pontsticil 2 - 24” x 18” oil on canvas, and 30” x 20” ’ Man with dog’ (basically the same view).

The rural idyll? - NO! - all of the components of this scene are manifestations of economic activity - sheep farming clears the natural growth on the hills. Forestry plantations create monocultures. Roads carve their way through. Past industries leave their marks. Beef farming is a massive global problem not least because of the impact of methane emissions on the atmosphere. The Reservoirs are created to supply the connurbations (and the water contains micro particles of plastic) …. 

This is an image of the  dynamics of the cultural / economic landscape of Wales. 

Art and Life in a Bleak World

The Arts – not just painted art, but the whole range – music, dance, drama, poetry as well as painting, sculpture, installation, are visible fruits of creativity. Engagement in
collective community groups to stimulate their production or to discuss them
brings about collective involvement, and of course the shared experience
of being an audience to good production is itself uplifting as we are social animals.

If it is the case that the purpose of life should be the pursuit of pleasure and happiness in a world where peace and democracy are supreme, then it is important for this to begin
in a community setting: ‘The creative community’.

And, as we live in the Global Age - that community will be multi-dimensional, to include virtual friends in faraway timezones as well as like-minded people in the village.

I detest the media, and actively avoid what they call ‘The News’ - those stories have been carefully selected by someone whose main aim is to attract a bigger audience and capture more viewers, and understandably, bad news is most effective for that. We can choose what we put our minds to, and while it may be extreme to ignore The News, at least we should all strive to maintain a balance - look at stuff that will be uplifting, get out into the sunshine, enjoy the natural world, talk to happy people…..


                                                    And then - what to buy?
My advice (and others will have other opinions)  - use your own judgement.
Would you listen to music that you didn’t really like just because it is trending? - Maybe once, but then you would seek out something that gave you pleasure.
Same with art, except much more so, because whatever art you buy this year will probably still be with you in ten years time! People change their cars  and sofas much more often than their art - which takes me off along another path - changing fashions ….. None of us want our home to look the same as our granny’s, right? We upgrade the decor, change the carpet, make little alterations to maintain a sense that this is a cared-for place where modern people live …… and yet - those pictures - the same ones that have been there forever!
BUT - if you look carefully at one of the paintings on this site, or on any other arty-site, can you really tell when it was painted?

Is art the only timeless object in your interior decor? You can listen to music and give a pretty good guess about when it was first created, but, maybe with the exception of highly stylised work (Picasso, Matisse, Riley, Warhol and so on) you need to be a bit of an expert to look at a painting and place it within the right decade of it’s origin.

The megabucks are more often spent on works that have been around for a long long time, and any ‘old’ art still has a place among viewers. Indeed one of the attractions of buying an original oil painting is the prospect that one day it could be worth more than you pay for it.

Which means that my friends in the framing business are key - how you present your new artwork on your walls depends on its frame as much or maybe even more than the content of the picture itself! 
Some people argue that the artist’s choice of frame is part of the creation and should be respected - that if you buy a painting, you should keep it in the original frame. And - having bought a painting, who want to then have to spend even more time searching the infinite variety of frames to find one that is most favourable to present that picture in the setting of your choice?

Others cheerfully take on that quest, wanting to curate the look of their home (or office) down to that detail.

My view?
Each to their own.  Both approaches are valid. Making your own statement with your independent choice of frame could easily be best for you if that is how you want to do it, but equally, buying a painting in a frame and keeping the whole creation together often works well.
Some people buy a painting purely and simply because the picture appeals to them, they take it home and find somewhere nice to hang it.
Others are carefully working their interior design and seek a painting of a specific shape, size and theme that will complement its place.
Does your pleasure come from ‘curating’ your look, or from the pleasure of the impulse?

The next, and probably longer lasting pleasure from a painting, comes from chatting about it - when we were children there was a nice landscape painting at home. It now hangs  on my sister’s wall, and only  recently, we were discussing it again at length. How many years later? 

Art as Investment

Stories abound of huge price-tags following great art. The question arises - ‘How do I get some of that?’

So this is a comment on that scenario from the artist’s point of view.

I follow all sorts of sources on news in the art world as I like to see what is going on. I also visit a lot of places where artists are trying to sell their work and I think I am in a reasonable position to compare and contrast - what is ‘it’ that makes this painting worth millions, while that one doesn’t sell at all?

The intrinsic quality of the painting itself is a kind of ‘entry-level’ standard - it must look like the real thing. But there are literally thousands of such paintings available from online galleries, some on eBay for $1, and (as with so much) some that look to be of high quality produced in China, and some that are seriously good available from Art Fairs ….. but it is highly doubtful if any of those will command significant prices at any time in the future.

The artist’s NAME is the ‘brand’.
And some names command big money - Banksy, on a trip to New York, put little sketches up for sale for a few dollars, knowing that the lucky buyers - if they wanted to cash in - could sell them for a lot more.

One of my subjects at university was economics, albeit at the most basic level, but I can recall various graphs which set out the principles of pricing, called  supply and demand curves. As I recall, if you start with a level field of various very similar products, manufactured to similar standards of quality and having similar standards of functionality, why is it that people will pay more for some than for others?

- It is all about consumer confidence in the brand.

The car market is the easiest example today - there are cars made in far-away countries which probably use many of the same component parts as the so-called ‘western’ makes, and which certainly have as many if not more bells and whistles than those competitors, and yet we will only pay a fraction of the price for them ….. because we have more confidence in our chosen brand.

Of course an art investment has an even longer life than a new car - if you sink a load of your money into a painting, when do you expect any kind of return?

But here we have to jump, because cars and paintings are - for most people - entirely different markets, with different factors influencing the buying decision.

Most people buy their art firstly because they like the work and can envisage it decorating their place for years ahead, and so for them, any potential growth in value is almost a bonus …. except (back to the car story) - we like to feel good about the vehicle sitting outside the house / we like to feel good about the painting on the wall.

It’s a funny business keeping up appearances, but we all do it.

And with the art on your wall, you will feel better if you can tell your guests something about it, which will include something about the artist.

But back to the subject of investment in art - there are firms which specialise in providing ‘investment art’. Much of their material is detailed info about the artist, setting out the story as to why this person’s work is likely to grow in value in the years ahead - this is designed to give the buyers those stories to drop in to the folks who admire the piece on the wall.
Many of the examples, the success stories that those organisations use, relate to people who bought a painting (or other artwork) before the artist hit the big time, and show that what was bought for hundreds now sells for thousands.

As an aside here, this is where I show some anger - why do people pay more for a fairly ordinary piece of art because it is painted by someone who once was a famous rock star / football player / ….. ? - and I answer my own question, just because the new owner can say ’ Oh yes, that was painted by …x.’

Another angle - wandering around galleries, I noticed that many include a note of the birth year of any living artist. It took a while, but eventually I realised that this is more about my supply and demand curves - once a person is dead, they will not produce any more art and so it is possible that demand will outstrip supply and hence the price will rise!

My observation on that theory is that it is also possible that the person’s name and brand will die with them, and the painting will be worthless. Just look into junk shops or flea markets and you will always find some art which somebody once paid for.
There are, of course, some likely winners - remember the old story - ‘the rich get richer’?

If you can afford to buy something by someone who is already established as a ‘star’ (painter, not guitarist!), it is likely that their work will appreciate - but - the warning - investments can go down - fashion in this market is just as fickle as any other. Will the ‘cutting edge’ artists of today be more popular in 20 years time?

Works by someone in demand today might not last. Just look at what was top of the pops thirty years ago.
So - two ways to go about it - (1) Go to the absolute limit of what you can afford and buy an original artwork by someone who is clearly in demand, or (2) choose a painting that you really really like and enjoy it while you can.

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