I grew up in an artistic household. My father sitting at a long table correcting proofs for his Golden Cockerell Press books in our William and Mary mansion. Meanwhile my mother conducting her sensuous engravings on wood and copper.
At my prepschool I came to spend more and more time in the art room, my teacher was Maurice (‘Pasture’) Field.
As we worked, sitting on small wooden artists’ horses, he read to us from Van Gogh’s letters. He thought I was phenomenal. He wanted me to go to art school and had a row with my parents about it. He went on to teach at the Slade.
I went on to Eton College. The art master, Wilfrid Blunt (brother of the notorious Anthony), did not share Pasture’s enthusiasm. My hopes of celebrity treatment vanished. What might have been, as opposed to wearing top hats on Sundays and being rogered in the organ loft by the precenter?
So since then painting and drawing have become lost lands to me, as crucial and as gone-for-ever as Hungary’s Transylvania. My land of lost content where I have been before but cannot come again.
I gave up painting and took up music. My housemaster always said it was because the music schools were closer to the house than the art school, but it went deeper than that, as deep as heartbreak.
Now for me drawing and painting is a Mediterranean activity which I do not indulge in in the Gothick North. At first sight of a palm tree or a beach where people frolic in swimming costumes or even naked wholly in God’s image, I reach for paint or crayon or charcoal, but never yet (apart from one trip into surrealistic collage) have I strayed much further than expressionism along the road that leads from representational painting to the world of pop art, abstract expressionism or conceptual art.
Instead of the draughty social skills of Eton, could I have been part of that artistic dawn that included artists like Bratby, Peter, Blake, Graham, Arnold? That, all that, is in the realms of might have been.
Nothing is ever too late but the more linear world of writing and of music has occupied far more of my time. And now increasingly music, whose line of perfect melody is so like the finely graved images done by my mother.
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