I like books with pictures in. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy reading, but do I prefer books with something to stimulate me visually too. I just read that back and realised it sounded like a thinly veiled hint towards something pornographic, but it’s not.
No, I just like big glossy books with classy pictures – design, architecture, photography and art books are all great. Until now I hadn’t owned a book with any paintings in it so I bought one named ‘1001 Paintings You Must See Before You Die’. I have now seen them all. My life doesn’t quite feel complete but I do feel inspired. One of my favourite pictures is in there, it is apparently America’s most recognised painting – ‘Nighthawks’ by Edward Hopper (1942). Some people might recognise it simply because it comes installed as one of the default wallpapers on a Mac; if Apple like it then it must be good!
A new one to me was ‘The Strand by Night’ by Christopher Nevinson (1937). Twentieth-century paintings of scenes illuminated by artificial light seem to please me the most.
Anyway, the book reminded me that I used to get quite a lot of enjoyment from painting. I was hugely inspired by the legendary Tony Hart and by my grandmother, she always had an easel in the dining room with some piece in progress. The man from the picture framing shop practically became a family friend, I have no doubt she was his best customer. By coincidence my form room at school was one of the art studios. I spent much of my time at high school sitting surrounded by canvases and easels.
I got an A+ at GCSE art, as I recall it was the only A-grade I received. That was fifteen years ago, and I think it was the last time I physically painted something (other than a wall) without the aid of a mouse and Adobe Photoshop. So, I’ve resolved to buy some oil paints, new brushes and a canvas to see if I’ve still got it. Assuming I had it in the first place. I doubt that the judges of The Turner Prize were earning a bit on the side as GCSE art examiners.