The Elemental North Norfolk Coast

boatsoffcromer©dfbarker

Cromer, North Norfolk

No excuses, just thought I’d share again a couple of my past impressions of one of my favourite places.

foam

Titchwell, North Norfolk

If I ever got serious about oil painting and painting in general again, I think I would have to visit more places abroad. Like the south of France where the light is glorious, so I am told!

Of course North Norfolk’s geographical position is almost unique in England, which gives it its particularly quality of light, strong blues; whereas in the Mediterranean, for example, the brighter colours predominate.

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Poem ‘A Tale of Love’

I first fell in love with you in a map,
a sort of pentagon, sacré, teased out
a touch like a stretched piece of dough. Then
it was the names, the easy non-phonetics
conjuring visions and colour through
Fontainebleau and Versailles. But then,
of course, it’s the history that defines me
and you, those first tragic lines etched
large, bold and bloody by le Bâtard, a family
dispute of a single culture cleaved
by hatred and greed, melded by chivalry.
For so long la Manche was not a divide
(and never la différence), more a conduit
of ideas flowing north, longbows sailing
south. Oh, we have divided since; your gift
for re-invention, dispensing with kings, that’s
something I cannot conceive, even though
we did have a go. But I only have to
look at Claude and Edouard, Paul
and Vincent, to get it, to understand— there’s
a love neither can openly express, though
look more closely, you will find it in our eyes

© copyright David F. Barker 2012

Article ‘Why Do I Paint? Cezanne – that’s why’

Why Do I Paint? Cezanne – that’s why

This is the question which I often ask myself. It’s not that I have dedicated my life to painting or art. I have had to hold down jobs, most of which I have not liked. There have been long periods when I haven’t picked up a pencil, let alone a brush.
Some people went to art college, got a degree, forged a career which seems to have had a defined course throughout. That wasn’t my experience. Yes, I went to art college for around a year, but I didn’t like it. I tried to get on to degree courses but such work I had produced was not impressive, I have to admit. Yet, periodically, I knew I wanted to paint. Even as a child, I knew painting or art or writing poems were a part of my make-up, however strange that make-up was.
However, another growing realisation was that I was essentially a loner. Yes, I am married, have a son, but despite all that, aren’t we still alone? The greatest struggle is with ourselves.
Perhaps painting cannot be taught. Looking back, I don’t feel I picked up anything useful from all those years learning about how to paint or draw. They can teach you about techniques, styles, movements, the lives of great painters. Nevertheless, I have always found the latter the most interesting and inspiring.
The great southern French painter Cezanne was always a firm favourite of mine. I remember reading a biography of him when I was doing A-level art. It fascinated me, his character, his mentality, which despite our very differing backgrounds, seemed oddly familiar. I was also intrigued by his friendship with the French writer Emile Zola and their eventual estrangement.
Cezanne, like me, often felt isolated, something which does afflict creatives. Looking at his work from its dark, tentative beginnings, you can see a man struggling with himself, his father, his friends, his contemporaries, seemingly the whole world (although it has to be said that perhaps Van Gogh’s life is the most extreme example of this). For me, it was Cezanne’s life which encapsulated my own artistic experience. We are all alone, all of us, whatever we do, but the creative person, whether he paints or writes, feels this most deeply. It’s almost as if you turn in on yourself — and what I see isn’t always very pretty. Too much self-examination, I have heard it said, is not good for us. For me, the act of creation is the happiest and also the most depressing place to be, where you stare yourself directly in the face, which is sometimes good, sometimes bad. No doubt there are creative people out there who do find it easy to socialise, who are fun to be with, who can interact successfully. Despite my growing interest in the social media environment, which is often engaging and helpful, I am not one of these people. It is a realisation which comes to me time and time again. A truth about facing the fact of who I am.
So, it is only in the last few years, in my middle-age, where I have really taken up the brush with any gusto, or confidence. Yet the doubts persist. Memories of parents saying you can’t earn a living from painting or writing. And of course, their words were true. Then there’s the look in people’s faces when you tell them what you do, or what you intend to do. At such times, like now, I see a picture of myself, alone. It is an image that I have grown accustomed to, yet even after all this time, I am never comfortable with it.
I would never compare myself to any great painter in terms of ability. I can only stand back and admire Cezanne, Monet or Turner. Yet I can identify intimately with their interior struggles.

© article and image copyright dfbarker 2012