Throughout my early years I had been instructed to look at the big picture and not be “fussy about detail”. Good illustration relies on the simple clear impactful statement. In other words, if you don’t get the full meaning of the image at first glance, then its no good.
In our modern world of instant messaging which allows very short sentences of communication as being acceptable, the danger is normalisation of superficiality, to the point that many of today’s youth can only verbalise in short sentences, and anything that takes time to absorb is “too much hassle”. This abbreviated communication has even impacted on adult conversation, in my opinion, for if you don’t either state your point up front, or get to the point very quickly, the person to whom you are speaking invariably gets irritable or bored or is distracted by the smart phone.
But even in this “time is money” fast world – my most successful illustration work has been that which I give at least the illusion that time was of no concern, that I was somehow able to create an oil painting overnight, or a traditional etching in 6 hours, that contains enough detail to hold the eye – it is all in the detail, or the impression of detail. To this end I use time saving digital techniques using photoshop and painter, or quick drying additives to oil paint.
This approach may be in order for the commercial world of illustration, but I believe the line should be drawn between this approach, and the enduring nature of Fine Art.
Fine Art should be an expression of Nature. It is natural for us to want to express ourselves for we are part of Nature. But there is a catch: in order to understand and appreciate Nature so as to express it we need to slow down, to sublimate ourselves to a receptive state in order to quietly absorb all the detail, the finest grain of sand, the tiny leaf, all kissed by light or shade, to listen calmly and humbly to the smallest Sugarbird, to attempt an awareness of the symbiotic relationship between the fauna and flora, the affect of water and fire and what this means to us. All this is very difficult to do in the context of our noisy, fast paced modern world.
In 2012 when I stood in front of Vermeer’s “The Milkmaid” at the Rijksmuseum, I was transfixed by the attention to detail, the control of light and shade, the careful awareness of focus, the glowing
purity of colour. I felt time slow down. The noises of the gallery faded away. I remember seeing the same painting as a student 30 years ago and all I thought at the time was, ok great Ive seen that one, whats next to see – but now, it appeared not as an old and dead painting from my immature and youthful memory, but a living, glowing jewel that seemed as if it had been painted only yesterday.
I felt profound joy in my heart, I felt that surely then God must exist, for this simple Dutch
painting exuded spirituality in all its calm grace and in its quiet way moved my spirit.
I resolved therefore to attempt to apply a similar awareness and focus to my paintings in the hope that somehow I might create a similar experience, to cast away all my preconceived and
“misinstructed” ideas about technique and “quick” communication, to commit my soul to the
expression of Nature which has proved to be the Fynbos Biome in the Southern Cape of South Africa which is so fragile and unique.