Anything new is a shock and digital art is not welcomed by many. They see it as not being art, but technical manipulation, which is what the cave and wall artists might have felt when canvas was first used. John Blockley, the great watercolour painter, once told me, “It doesn’t matter what method is employed, the resulting art is what is important.”
Feedback from the January exhibition shows that the majority of people locally preferred my older watercolour paintings and do not warm to my new work. At the award ceremony some months ago, somebody scoffed, “Rubbish stuff, I could do that!”
“Go on,” retorted an art lecturer with twenty years experience who has recently come down from one of the London art colleges. “I’d love to see you try. Attaining this balance requires a comprehension of the rules of art.”
Being the year’s winner, in the months leading up to January’s exhibition, the pressure to present my best was huge. And it grew worse. However much I tried, my brain inhibited my ability to successfully transmit what I felt on to paper. The pressure mounted, time was running short. Eventually, I realised I was going to fail, unless I rethought things.
“Why not tell your story,” the exhibition organiser suggested.
So I tried that, and even that wasn’t working. My paint brushes simply couldn’t do what I asked them to do. The colours I mixed looked awful. I fretted over the problem for weeks and just got nowhere. My solution was to show the paintings I could once do without thought along side the digital work I currently do, (and which take me ages to complete in anywise). I added an explanation to lead people from one lot to the other. It seemed to strike a note, though not in the way I had expected.
“Your story has attracted lots of attention,” custodians told me.
“People have said your finding a new way forwards has given them hope,” one of them said.
Another assured me, “A deeply frustrated painter with a history reflecting yours now is going to try and find a way to express her creativity.”
As I was collecting my work, another of these volunteer helpers said, “A dear friend wanted to buy this painting, but hasn’t the money. It captivated her every time she came here. She kept talking about it.”
I said that she should asked how much her friend could afford and that, if it covered my costs, I would be open to discussion.
The visitors’ comments book which I looked through on that last day, also showed that my work wasn’t that popular. This hasn’t bothered me because most artists, people involved in the art world and gallery owners, have like it. Europeans prefer abstract work, we in England tend not to, though we are warming to semi-abstracts.
One of the volunteers had said, “My daughter, at art college in London, talked a lot about your work, so I could tell the many who really loved your old watercolours but disliked your new style, what your current aims are.”
Rather too pompously, I replied, “The works use colour and graphic shapes to draw the viewer in to the present moment. They invite us to be alerted to our sense of sight and to feel how this affects our emotions.” Feeling a little aggrieved by my abrupt philosophising, I laughed, “They are simply meditations in a frame.”
“I get it!” Smiled an onlooker.
“Phee,” I said.
Another artist play punched me, “Mine are exactly that too!” “But yours are more liked,” I replied.
“Because they are semi-abstract. People can see a way in.”
“Mine are perhaps too raw.”
“Art is raw,” said an onlooker. “Raw is direct.”
After collecting my paintings, I set the old ones back on the walls upstairs, for I prefer to adorn downstairs with other artists’ work. A painting which The Royal Academy commended many years ago for presenting a new technique in watercolour is now fading, what a shame, the sun in Southern France was too intense all year round. Back here in England, there’s less danger of that happening, still, I will put it in a room with northern light.