Thanks for visiting. This year marks 25 years since I graduated from Loughborough College of Art and Design. Most of that time I have been shut away in the studio trying to improve my skills. It is a slow process, I have made hundreds of pictures, many of which never get seen, even more never find a buyer. Yet just enough do to make it sustainable, enabling me to maintain a necessary critical distance from the mainstream.
The process is not one of obvious progression either. My latest works are made with experience and knowledge but there is still much that is beyond my control, chance plays a part, some paintings hit a sweet spot by accident. I think that has much to do with the complex nature of paint itself. I always try to use as much of the texture and splash of it as I can, it parallels the way landscape is created. The goal is to finish a painting with a big brush on the first pass but in practise this never happens.
Well that is one approach. The reality is less dramatic, more a kitchen than a theatre. I usually explain my method as being like a recipe with a careful sequence of stages and waiting times. Ingredients are prepared, brushes sharpened, complimentary flavours balanced, underpainting glazed, residue scraped. You get the idea.
One graduates from college with some momentum, a feeling of having arrived. For me this fell away within months. I awakened to the fact that hitherto my painting had all taken place in a highly supportive social environment. Keeping going alone in a midlands winter bedsit was very different. I still had college contacts, still do, but my background was not especially helpful. No Cheall had ever gone away to college or university. I did not know what to make of it. I did have an uncle, John Carter who was a painter and respected art teacher. He was very declarative in conversation and I listened with interest on the occasions I was back in the North. He secured me a guest-exhibitor slot at the famous Fylingdales Group exhibition in Whitby – to their embarrassment my painting was stolen. My later guest slot was refused as I was no longer resident in Yorkshire although I continued to paint it. I must now admire their adherence to the rules, art should not just be about who you know. Bravo.
I had an early solo exhibition at the Ferrers Gallery who liked my degree show. But I maybe over-reached myself; ambitiously trying to fill a space in a short time, making my own frames, desperate for a profit. My ‘Motorway’ painting probably being the most memorable from that era – I finally sold it some 20 years later. It was almost like beginning all over again with no qualifications. What I had done made little impression. The Ba. certificate in Fine Art which I had spent 6 years working towards and handed to me with such a flourish in the LCAD car park was of small value. No degree ceremony or cap and gown capers for us. Probably it is different now that my old college has been absorbed into the university and deterrent fees are charged.
However my stubbornness carried me through and two more galleries, the Look in Helmsley and the Byard in Nottingham showed interest and there was a period in the 90s where I was being represented in London fairs and selling to hospitals and supermarkets. The Byard eventually moved to Cambridge and the new staff didn’t know me so that faded. The Look Gallery in Helmsley displays my paintings to this day. (Thank you Hilary and Tabitha. And Nicholas. Whilst I am here, thanks too to Keith and Gill for my more recent opportunities and successes at Gallerytop in Derbyshire.)
Then, as anticipated by many bedsit sci-fi readers, along came the internet; potentially my own international cyber-gallery with a viewership of billions! Suddenly there was a way to make my art into a living plus a new social environment oriented around screens and visual images. All I had to do now was sit back and count the cash. A shame that nobody prepared us for such technology (or commerce) at college, maybe I missed it, but I shall talk more about that later.
I admit that in my small-town maths-based teenage years I had programmed ZX computers for amusement so making web-pages wasn’t too daunting. Dial-up modems meant tiny images and SEO was beyond imagination so nothing much happened but the site did harness enough commissions to keep me going. Again it was slow progress and all is now overtaken by social media with all its hilarious photos of people I used to see. My site slowly fell into drift and a decade passed during which time we had children.
Now that most people use smartphones to browse the web my old site has become sprawling and obsolete. I prefer not to look at it, many of the pictures seem to me like they were painted by someone else with different concerns so it has been properly vaulted in the archive.
So what now are my concerns? I have become increasingly conscious that many thousands of artists are trying to make similar landscape paintings. I can spot the cliches and must face their existence in my own past output.
Landscapes that were wilderness to me as a child I now see as private land, there is no getting around the political component. What is presented to us as traditional or ancient is more usually a modern construct. My beautiful empty vista is somebody else’s former homeland. Enclosed land, sheep monoculture and grouse shooting estates have all worn a bit thin as subject matter. Motorways too. My solution at present is to play ‘God’ and build my own landscapes, I am getting quite good at fjords. There is a more detailed explanation of this on my recent work page. The resulting paintings are only just starting to emerge in these last two years but I am quite excited by them. Especially having sold two to the Duke of Devonshire at Chatsworth and a third to Derby University. Forgive me for blowing my trumpet again on this, nobody else has got their cheeks inflated and isn’t that what websites are for?
bye for now,
‘My childhood and youth were spent on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors. I became accustomed to being able to reach the high moor within only minutes of leaving my door. A powerful and noble solitude was mine whenever I chose, huge vistas stretched in all directions, the towns below diminished to manageable scale, suddenly insignificant. It was here that I began landscape painting in the mid 1980’s, seeking to bring a piece of that exhilaration and clarity back to my room.
My paintings are inspired by nature, I merely seek to paint things as I honestly see them. To this end I use the camera as a tool for recording scenes and then back in the studio I work from great numbers of photographs. The camera is unsurpassed as a device for recording topographical and lighting information. It has been a tool of artists since the renaissance. The paintings take so long to complete that it is not always possible to execute them en plein air. Though I have worked directly from nature I do not consider any advantage to be gained thereby. The amount of detail I require often necessitates long hours with a small brush under controlled lighting conditions. However I do not consider my works as copies of photographs for the following reasons; the range and intensity of the hues of paints exceeds those of the photograph, the texture and resolution of paint is of a higher order, closer to nature. In addition, the tactile qualities of paint and the range of possible application techniques in the translation of the raw paint into form, closely parallel the forms and processes of nature. The finished painting will, especially when viewed ‘in the flesh’ elevate any subject well beyond a level attainable with commonplace photography and thus demand a longer engagement. Some interpretation of the photographic source does occur of course if it results in a stronger picture, for example I will often only use the topography and improvise the lighting effects or I will collage elements from several photographs to make an image. The development of hi quality digital photography and manipulation means that I can now be at the easel working from large numbers of photographs taken that same day while the landscape experience is still fresh in my mind.
I consider the language of the actual ‘photographic’ appearance of things to be universal. It does not require special education to understand or depend upon supportive or explanative text. Painting is a communicative medium and as such should be able to deliver it’s content directly to the viewer without resort to other media. Using this language of appearance I am trying to paint pictures distilled from my notions and musings upon the tension between the natural world and the onslaught of humankind. To this end I paint a range of subjects from the hard core urban through the pastoral to the sublime solitude of mountain summits though in recent years I have tended towards the latter, largely for my sanity and my own walls! It is more important now for me to celebrate the numinous in nature rather than its absence in the cities.’
|Born||Adelaide, South Australia. 1965|
Guisborough, Cleveland, England.1968-87
Laurence Jackson Secondary
Prior Pursglove 6th Form College
Redcar Technical College
Foundation Course, Cleveland College of Art, Middlesbrough. 1985-87
Ba (hons) Fine Art, Painting. Loughborough College of Art and Design, Leicestershire.1987-1990
Living now in Nottingham, England