My career as an artist was relatively brief by modern standards: it started yesterday tea-time and ended this morning at about ten o’ clock. The body of my work is equally elusive, comprising as it does of just the one picture, illustrated above. Whilst some take to the charcoal stick and paint brush, driven by a need to find their soul or explore the very nature of being, my motive was somewhat less prosaic – I was in search of the perfect white balance.
My brother – whose career as a real artist has spanned six decades – emailed me with a technical problem yesterday, concerning the best way to photograph his watercolour sketches without getting a blue background tint resulting from incorrect white balance in the photographic process itself. “Try sketching a few lines on a white sheet of paper and find out what setting you find works best”, he wrote. I should have pointed out to him that was a little like asking Harry Houdini’s second cousin to wrap himself in chains and jump in an alligator swamp; but no, I kept my counsel, took a piece of white paper and started “sketching a few lines“. It would be nice to say that I took to it like a duck to water, but it is more accurate to say that I took to it like Harry Houdini’s second cousin wrapped in chains takes to the Everglades swamp.
I left things overnight in the hope that inspiration (and skill and technique) would come with the dawn, but it didn’t. My last hope of redemption was to use my technical skills and solve the white balance problem – but as the sample sheet I came up with proves, I couldn’t even do that.
I have therefore decided to retire as an artist with immediate effect. After all, in the words of the great prophet, “why keep a dog and bark yourself“. Over to you, Roger.
A couple of weeks ago I met up with my brother, Roger, for the first time in nine years. I had to travel halfway across the world to find him on the Caribbean island of Dominica, but once we were together our conversation soon turned to Halifax, the place we both call home. We also talked about the various project we were both involved with at the moment, and I happened to mention that I had been rescanning many of the photographs of Halifax I took some fifty years ago. By coincidence, Roger – who is a very successful artist and sculptor – had also been thinking about the Halifax of our youth, and was working on a book of his drawings, sketches and paintings from that period which he plans to call Townscapes. He has kindly allowed me to reproduce one of the sketches of Dean Clough and North Bridge that will feature in the book.
His sketch sent me searching through my negative archives and I discovered a photograph I must have taken forty or so years ago of the same bridges and the same buildings. Perhaps I should work on a companion volume to Townscapes!
My brother Roger and I have been discussing book publishing recently. He is about to publish a book he wrote nearly fifty years ago and, for one reason and another, never got published. The book tells the story of a voyage through the canal system of Ireland at a time when “old Ireland” was fast vanishing. He describes the background to the book in a recent post on HIS BLOG.
By complete coincidence I was attempting to clear out our garage the other day and I came across a pictorial map of the Calder and Hebble Navigation, my brother published back in 1967. If it is time to take a nostalgic return to the canals of Ireland, a revisit to the local canal system fifty years on is even more appropriate. So I have rescanned the map and got rid of as much staining and ageing as I can. Over to you, Roger.