This kind of painting is not really my sort of thing (it has a sky in it). Though as it was sunny and I was ‘between paintings’ so to speak I decided to pop over to the village of Cookham in Berkshire to do some traditional outdoor (plein-air) work.
I got to Cookham at about 8.30am and climbed on my fold- up bike with my cumbersome half- box easel over my shoulder and creaked off to find a decent spot. Eventually I came across a small meadow with a crumbling railway box car at one end. The grass in front was pretty well munched, and in the boxcar/stable there were odd bits of tack hanging up. Clearly there would normally be horses in this field though on this day (thank ) it was empty so I wouldn’t be painting them. I looked about the place and there was nothing, nothing about at all. I peered down a lane. About 200 meters further down or so just above the trees I could just see the peaks of gables which I took to be a Victorian country hotel. It then crossed my mind that the last time painted outdoors was in Havana, Cuba a few weeks prior. This could not have been more different.
I began work. I placed in the rudiments of the sky first then the basic dark tones and such like, just as the Ken Howard DVD had told me to do on the previous evening. Now I just needed to pull it all together before the light changed too much.
It was about at this point I heard a pat, pat of running. Turning around I saw, sprinting out from the lane was a small boy of about 9 or 10. He was yelling ‘I’m and artist too! I’ve come to see you paint!’. Halting in front of me he calmed himself and asked. ‘May I watch you paint please?’
It transpired the child’s mother had seen me at work on her way home (this being the building I thought to be a hotel) she told him that an artist had turned up at the bottom of the garden. He dashed out right away in case the artist disappeared and here I was, his new companion.
he stared at my picture very closely, nose to paint unaware he was getting in my way. It would be easy to mistake this for impertinence. He wasn’t being impertinent; he was just very curious and forgot himself. He reminded me of the children in Cuba, they did this too. A world away though in many ways the very same.
He spoke about how he liked drawing the best and enjoyed painting though he found trees very difficult ‘especially when I was seven’. And he loved living in Cookham as ‘I can go exploring in the fields’.
He went on. He thought my painting was ‘great’, my easel was ‘curious’ my Steadler Mars pencil was ‘most unusual’ my crisps I planned for my lunch ‘are not that good for me’ and my bike ‘looks a bit like my mum’s’.
It seemed to me that this boy had not only dashed out of the lane but he had also dashed out of the pages of an Enid Blyton novel. I mused whether he did his paintings in between collaring international dog smuggling criminals or some such. He possessed that bygone, boundless enthusiasm only found in that foreign country which is the past. A fine fella, I thought.
He had talent too. We discussed the colours around us and he confidently picked out the subtleties of the trees, the blue tones of the far distance and most impressive of all the hint of crimson in the mud in front of us. This challenge he found thrilling. Excited enthusiasm is I suppose how most artists start out. I certainly did. I hope he keeps it up.