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The Flying Scotsman and “a brutal critique yes,” from Mike Jeffries

The Flying Scotsman has as a result of Mike Jeffries comments had a  a re appraisal of the painting and some re working, specific replies to points raised listed below and may be of wider interest to artists.Flying_Scot__11.05.10_IMG_7451_bd.jpg
The remarks have also underlined a serious problem I have here at Itzac; the studio space is tooooo small for paintings over 16” x 20”.
I need a larger studio ASAP but where, anyone want an artist in residence?

The Flying Scotsman and other larger paintings and Itzac in the Tarn:
In this instance as a direct result of Mike Jeffries entries on this blog.
I have addressed and refined some of the issues of this painting of the Flying Scotsman and am still reviewing others.
Here we have an excellent example of 2 modern artists working on “hyperspace frontiers” and developing a dialogue which may well help other artists.

Producing fine art at Itzac, as with most places has its pluses and minuses.

The light here is fantastic which suits my type of eye sight and styles of painting, the Tarn is allegedly one of the least expensive places in France to live although watching prices rising I some times wonder, for example petrol has gone in 3 years from less than a Euro a litre to 1.38 at supermarkets and more at most other outlets.
My 3 biggest problems here are no landline (phone), a poor Internet link and considerable difficulty working from and checking my work from viewing distances of more than 3 meters.
A related issue is I have found finding some where more suitable in France to rent is thanks to French law, not as easy as it is in England.
This latter point is more serious than I had previously appreciated.

The issue of viewing distances has wasted a lot of my time over the past 9 months while I have worked on larger than 16 x 20 paintings.
It does explain why for example, my newest marine painting “Plymouth Cattewater” has taken me as longer than expected, maybe 25% longer.
Now I am fully aware I have this as a problem it is easier to cope with however, a larger viewing area remains the desired solution.

In it’s simplest form, the problem is that art work which looks fine created and  viewed at 1 or 2 meters falls often apart when viewed at 8 ten or 20 meters.
Viewing pictures on a PC without using a zoom tends to give depending on the size of the original painting, the equivalent of a viewing distance of about 8 meters.
That can be helpful and I use a computer with a 22” screen to check the progress of my work.
Unfortunately and you can check this for yourself, that is still not a fully satisfactory substitute for viewing the original painting in real time and space.

Mike, your second blog entry was far more helpful, thank you although it would appear you have only looked at the pictures and not read the texts of the blog.
Several of the general points you raise are covered in the texts.

While dealing with all the usual problems of life I have been thinking over what you wrote in your second critic.
Your remarks lack the finesse of modern teaching methods however they have the attraction of being useful and debatable thus I thank you for them.

As we work in such very different styles I have edited out what I hope you agree are the key points you raised and placed a comment against each some of which you may consider a worth while issue to discuss further, maybe over a beer when I am in England later this month and in June?
Others will give you the satisfaction of knowing I am paying some attention and respect to your remarks.

Better, I have addressed and refined some of the issues of this painting of the Flying Scotsman.
Mike, you wrote – and I have responded:Flying_Scot__11.05.10_IMG_7452_d.jpg
•    Please feel free to tear my efforts apart if you find the time, God knows you’re entitled to after my assault on your work ~ some thing I learnt from the best teachers around Plymouth, I try hard not to give negative critics, I learnt this while training to be an RYA sail and race training coach. Thus while I could criticize much about your work if that is what you wanted, I doubt that is really what you want. My guess is you would rather talk about your work and if we were to do this I’d treat the time as a sort of de briefing where you discover for yourself what is my meaningful for you in my remarks.
•    Our work is different of course and shouldn’t be compared, you paint with a certain verve that I lack, but I HAVE to paint with more control ~ excuse me but I suggest you choose to paint that way because it reflects your character and attitudes to life. It is entirely possible for you to paint in other styles if you are sufficiently motivated. No one but yourself is “forcing you” to paint as you do so why do you paint like that?
•   Some railway artists put in every rivet ~ that is because they don’t know what to leave out. They are like people who enthusiastically try to tell immensely detailed stories. Their problem is over detailing only stimulates our imaginations and emotions at a simple basic level.
•    Certain knowledge is desirable with most subjects – the anatomy of the steam locomotive ~ very true, the trap though is to paint what we know not what we see. Example, I used to have a wonderful friend and supporter in Alex Hurst. Alex was the publisher of Terado Books, very knowledgeable about marine art and in his youth was one of the last Englishmen to sail in square rigg on the last grain races from Australia. Alex said, most marine pictures of ships in storms while pleasing paintings are quite unreal, why, because in heavy weather ( and this is a man who rounded Cape Horn and sailed through hurricanes) as in many other circumstances you don’t see what you know to be there, mist for example, there is in a severe storm so much scud flying that even from half way up the mast you can’t see the surface of the water. Alex Hurst told me many other tales like sighting what looked like a big grey block of flats in the middle of the North Sea but when they got closer turned out to be the huge Russian square rigger “Sedov”.  I still have many of the letters Alex wrote me. Alex’s point was, and this same point was rammed further home by the extraordinary experience of The Painting School of Montmiral, really look. Things are often not what you think or “know”  they are, not what you have learned they are, things are what THEY are. One simply does not see every rivet when you look at a steam engine, human vision automatically generalises, so why are these people painting every rivet and do you need to paint every rivet? What does one see?
•    A word from my wife – err, yes very thin ice, well the last word I had from my wife via her solicitor was “you have not done a days work in 17 years”. What did she mean? I guess she meant I’d not made as much money as she wanted!
•    Flying Scotsman has never crossed from Cornwall ~ read the text of my blog please and all is revealed.
•    The composition itself can’t be faulted ~ thank you, I thrive on positive vibes and that includes flattery! Seriously I deliberated long on the composition because I wanted some thing as unlike most railway paintings as possible.
•    No shortcut to representing rails – Yes and no, mine do need more work though and will get same.
•    The experts like yourself. ~ I simply set myself the task of being the best artist I can be, I make no claim to be an expert or authority, if others wish to say I am that, I thank them for their kind endorsement,  I do though have a very considerable experience, my own and that learned from others, which is maybe helpful to others and is certainly reflected in my art work.
•    The front bogie ~ yes, that has bothered me for ages, now improved but still not quite “right”.
•    The overall shape ~ the drawing is not bad but the shape could be better delineated so I have worked on this. The easiest change to notice is I have made the face of the boiler darker, I have also corrected some minor perspective errors all of which has had a startling effect on how solid the engine appears.
•    The buffers are too large ~ you are right again, now smaller and toned down
•    Steel not wool ~ you are right again, I have chosen soft light however making the engine look more solid has not spoilt, rather improved the painting.
•    A taper towards the crown of the firebox ~ it was there and now better delineated.
•    The cab-side would appear narrower from this angle and the tender longer ~ I’ll think about this
•    Tender has eight wheels not ten ~ I’ll think about this


I’m still evolving and striving towards a more painterly “style”, the painterlyness you already have in your work which, incidentally, I envy
. ~ I have worked very hard not to be too précise, painting every rivet I think destroys the sense of painterlyness.

This is a big subject so I’ll go no further into it here except to close by quoting one of the artists whose much sort after work fetches the highest of prices; “I am known for my lack of detail” – J M W Turner.

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