In Working landscape, mid Cornwall ( https://www.hendersonsmith.co.uk/product/working-landscape-mid-cornwall/ ) Tom aimed to be quite systematic in his exploration of colour, pattern and shape. Here the working out of these pictorial elements became his equivalent for working processes on the land. The baling of hay, the ploughing up of stubble, operating within boundaries of fields and woods; these are the activities of people whose barns and houses provide angular forms that complement the flowing rhythms all around them.
Autumn lane ( https://www.hendersonsmith.co.uk/product/autumn-lane/ ) was the first of two new pictures that came from Tom’s enjoyment of various aspects of this season of constant change. Here it was the autumnal colour variations of trees, lane, half hidden cottage and distant woods that provided themes to interpret in paint. In handling them Tom’s reference to a specific location became a pretext for that manipulation of materials that was for him the true life of such a painting.
Upcountry from Redruth (
https://www.hendersonsmith.co.uk/product/upcountry-from-redruth/ ). Layers of landscape intrigued Tom. It was something about the counterpoint of shapes they provide. Clustered houses here climb the foreground hill; wind-turbines lie beyond, something a little unexpected in a landscape painting, signs of change. There are distant blue hills. Upward progression becomes movement into space, an invitation to enjoy that magic of painting whereby surface interaction and exploration into depth occur together.
The fairly intense period of work on Tom’s 2015 Lafrowda Festival painting, ‘We all live in a yellow submarine’, had finally led to its completion in mid September.
Work on the canvas itself, following a period of playing around with the images on his PC after the mid July festival in St Just, had begun in earnest around the time of our Open Studio Week here at the Lanherne Studio early in August that year. First came the need to carefully plot out the composition with charcoal outlines. That was an ideal job to do in-between studio visitors because its complexity demanded interruption now and again to take a wider view. After fixing the drawing and applying a transparent matt acrylic layer he decided on a deep yellow see-through ground over which he began blocking in the main shapes. This in turn became so complex that, in order to see it clearly in terms of colour and shape and not be distracted by ‘getting it right’ Tom decided to work with the picture and reference material upside-down for at least a week’s worth of painting sessions. Surprisingly, this method can really help with more rapid and accurate shape and colour-hue recognition. He understood that it’s something to do with the different hemisphere’s of the brain working together in a less self-conscious way. “I see you’re in Australia again” was his wife Gabrielle’s comment when she joined him in the studio one day.
Once things were right-way-up again it seemed Tom was on the home straight to resolving it all. Something wouldn’t quite gel however. It was only when he tried the picture on another wall back in the house, glancing across at it as he did the washing-up, that it became clear that the right hand side of the street in the picture needed a scumble of translucent and very light violet. Glazes of various yellows were also needed to pull together the form of the submarine itself. This clinched it!
Such was the curious process of painting this complex piece. Another fascinating aspect was the way that the theme of the yellow submarine, which of course refers to the famous Beatles number and the 1968 animated film, had attracted such a lot of speculation as to its symbolism. That, and his memories of the time when he saw the film as a student are the subject of another blog posting at https://www.hendersonsmith.co.uk/yellow-submarine-memories/.
Patchwork hillside and mackeral sky ( https://www.hendersonsmith.co.uk/product/patchwork-hillside-mackerel-sky/ ) is a canvas that uses the near and far principle as in Near and far, Mawgan Porth and Village evening among others. In this case you could say that above and below, the cloud forms and the dark field boundaries, replace the correspondence of near and far.
In Village evening ( https://www.hendersonsmith.co.uk/product/village-evening/ ) the identity of shapes as rooftops, especially those characteristic gable ends, link foreground and background. On the other hand warmer foreground and cooler background colours highlight differences between the two areas. Such a push and pull is so necessary for the sense of energy that Tom wanted to create even amidst the tranquillity of a village evening.
A spell of fine weather in April 2015 led Tom to create Near and far, Mawgan Porth ( https://www.hendersonsmith.co.uk/product/near-far-mawgan-porth/ ). It was of course the resonating patterns of sand and sky, near and far, that gave him his theme here. The mackerel sky phenomenon that tends to happen when the settled air of a high pressure system is not far away echoed the ripples in the sand, inviting comparison. On the other hand the warm – cool colour relationships of foreground and background emphasised distance. In this way identity and difference could both play their part.
One of the features of springtime weather here in Cornwall is that now and then the so called Azores High edges a little closer. Then we sometimes have those balmy spring days that we all love.
An example of this in March 2015 led to Tom’s painting Cherry Blossom, St Columb ( https://www.hendersonsmith.co.uk/product/blossom-time-st-columb/l ). Here it was the juxtaposition of an exuberant flowering tree and the gable-end beyond it that drew his eye. Spring greenery provided a foil for the pink blossoms and a patch of blue sky for the splash of sunshine on the house.
Mackeral sky over Lands End typified one of the cloud types that Tom found most inspiring, no doubt because of the possibilities of visual rhythm and pattern that such skies afford. Cirrocumulus Stratiformis, to give it the correct Latin term, forms “when moist air at high … altitude reaches saturation, creating ice crystals.” (Wikipedia) About this drawing Tom wrote: ‘What is so wonderful for a landscape artist is that with such conditions one can bring out as much visual interest in the sky as on the land or sea beneath, something I relished in working on this charcoal.’ drawing.
“The heart of Cornwall is not a place” a friend told Tom when he was planning his Heart of Cornwall Paintings collection for the Bodmin Shire Hall exhibition in March 2015. Even though he’d moved to a central location in the Duchy eighteen months previously he found himself agreeing with his statement. The show then became Tom’s pursuit of an in depth view of the heart of Cornwall. An aspect that he knew had to be celebrated was Cornwall’s industrial heartland.
A bright winter morning walk up Carn Brea hill provided all the inspiration Tom needed to help him see this industrial heritage as an ongoing and living part of our culture and to aim to express that in a painting. The characteristic engine house and winding gear that he could see from there were not features of romantic ruin like so many that appear in Cornish landscapes but in working order, surrounded by other industrial installations and power lines. He could see that Cornwall’s industrial heart, a cleaner, healthier heart than existed in the past, was beating still.