Staithes

Staithes. My favourite place to draw. Little Morandi clusters meet drunken cubists with the sea thrown in as a bonus.

Its probably one of the most over-painted places in the country, but I’ve not come across any painters I’m particularly interested in that have painted it how I see it, so there’s plenty of room. In fact it seems to attract the exact type of painter that I don’t like. I go with my family once a year but could do with spending a lot more time there to allow things to develop. So far I’ve been feeding off of scraps. I draw a lot when I’m there and then paint from those drawings when I get home, although I find that the contact is lost after 6 months or so – then I’m just making pictures, and I stop. Photographs are no use as I just don’t get excited by them. They work for some people but they don’t link me to the experience of being there, looking, in the way a drawing does, and so I’d, again, just end up making pictures, and I don’t need any more of those. What’s the difference? The kind of image I’m trying to make is unpredictable but completely tied to the place I’m painting. I want it specific but not topographical. I want an imaginative contact but not one that’s fanciful. If its all too open and up for grabs it won’t have that impact of special subject on nervous system. If I rely too much on analysis, on what I’ve learned, on what worked last time, it won’t surprise me and it won’t have a reason for being. If it’s all too open and too much about paint it won’t contain that impulse that made me attempt the painting in the first place; it will only say something banal like “I like painting.” How do you avoid it getting arty or merely fashionably abstract? Cezanne said “being direct” is the best thing, but in a Post Modern world there are so many different things to paint about and an infinite number of ways a painting can go in that the question arises; what is one to be direct about? It’s the love of a subject I suppose that I’m trying to paint which perhaps suggests “fidelity,” but which aspect of the subject? Which aspect of paint? What about the original love – the love of painting in itself? It appears to be yet another spectrum for us to find our places on. Focus on the atmosphere, you lose the solidity of the forms. Too solid forms – you lose the sense of picture surface which you want to somehow echo your visual field, how your gaze moves around the space. Other painter’s, living or dead, poke their noses in when they really should be minding their own business (occasionally one helps). Occasionally the painting’s development tells you how to look at the subject in a more focussed and useful way; this is when a painting can really get going, but its also the point at which many other possibilities will be left behind. There’s no such thing as painting the truth, only a truthful idea that’s based on it. Each painting (if its not to be just another picture) is an experiment in barely controlled conditions in which all these balances are played against one another. Balancing them how you want them is what makes one artist’s painting of Staithes different from another’s, regardless of how hard each tried to be faithful. We probably all see it more or less the same; (although there are aspects of how we see it that can depend on how much art we have absorbed – this can be both a good thing and a bad thing) but its the decisions the painter makes that lead to a painting we’re either interested in or not.

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