Although I went through art school between 1981 and 1985, I don’t consider anything I made before this painting to be really “me”. Art school was great, don’t get me wrong. It was four years of hanging out with other folks and making art. And drinking beer. What’s not to like?
The thing is, the art I was making seemed more for the benefit of the tutors and aimed towards getting a degree than it was something that came from the heart. I don’t regret a moment of art school, but it took me a few years to work all that art school cleverness out of my system.
Made in 1992, the painting above is what I consider to be my first honest painting. I have always been a walker; as a means of transport, as a means of connection to the environment, and as a means of connection to myself. It was a wee bit bonkers not to have some element of this in my art making. This was where it finally came together.
I had been in bed with pneumonia for a few weeks in the last months of winter and, as a recuperation, my partner and I went to the Lake District in England for a couple of days gentle strolling. Whether it was the first spring warmth, or the fact that I was outdoors for the first time in weeks, but walking through the stands of oaks on that day was an intense sensory experience and one that I felt bound to share.
I had no idea what I was doing really. I didn’t stop to think. I made instinctive colour choices, I abandoned careful composition, I stopped worrying about what anyone else would think. It’s a method that still serves me well today.