I HAVE resumed my flirtations with not-so-fine art – an interest I suspended temporarily in 1973 when faced with a future in shipbuilding rather than a preferred path to art college and enlightenment. Enforced retirement has provided opportunities to grab the frayed strands of former pastimes, and to tug them gently to see where they lead – if anywhere. Though I daresay my place at Preston art college has long been filled by someone else with a bad haircut . . .
Forty-three years after laying down my pencil I’m still chewing over events with residual anger. Would LS Lowry or David Hockney have walked so meekly through those shipyard gates to embrace the inevitability of caustic welding fumes and thundering caulking hammers without rebelling? I don’t suppose so.
But things were different back in the summer of 1973 – the certainty of full-time employment; British industry at the forefront; pride in a trade; jobs for life; a fertile country where kitchen-sink filmmakers, poets, novelists, journalists, politicians, commentators, artists and pop stars sprouted organically from the earth and the cracks in pavements. Britain was brave and brash.
Strange how life hands out the coloured crayons. Forty-three years later and I’m back at the start, drawing pictures of leaves and flowers. Is this progression or a disturbing lack of it? Did those Mesolithic cave painters take forty-three years to develop their stylised bison and antelope? Probably not.
So, tugging at those frayed strands I end up at an art class in Orgiva run by a lady from Bentham called Pernilla. The classes are great because we all get filthy with paint and ink and have a really good time. It’s like being back at junior school, only without the sago pudding and blood oranges.
But the best bit about this long-belated journey of rediscovery is spending happy half hours rummaging through the shelves of the Chinese and Moroccan bazaars found on every high street in this part of Spain, because they all stock a varied and fantastically inexpensive selection of artists’ materials.
I intend to paint some remembered images, like those pitmen painters from Ashington and Spennymoor painted back in the 1930s and 1940s – glum wet streets, steamy chip shops, whippet races, stark pit heaps and dark men shuffling through tunnels. Might paint some Spanish mountains. Might get into hypnotic regression and paint some Mesolithic bison. Just so long as the cycle doesn’t start again and I end up back in that bloody shipyard.