Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Visit to the National Gallery, London

Canaletto: A Regatta on the Grand Canal

While I have been to many local art exhibitions and seen some fabulous paintings, it had been playing on my mind recently that I really ought to visit one of the art galleries in London. This in mind, I booked a couple of train tickets for my wife and I earlier last month. The extraordinary thing about train travel is, though fairly expensive, if you can book your journey off peak, a month or so ahead, you travel for peanuts in comparison. Our tickets from Market Harborough to London cost £17 each – the same journey bought on the same day as travel would have been near £90 each!

Regatta: (detail)
 Although it was October, the weather proved outstanding, with a lovely warm sunny day where we were all walking around in our summer clothes, but unlike summer, it wasn’t too hot and we weren’t looking around for somewhere shady to be comfortable. The great thing about London is that there is so much to see, and like Paris, much of which on a grand scale. Our chosen venue was the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square, a huge building with the most impressive portico elevated from the north side of the Square.  From this portico, the view across the Square was brilliant, dominated by Nelson’s column and those huge lions at the four corners of the statue, this set amongst the fountains, all rounded off nicely with Big Ben clock tower in the distance.

I learned later that the National Gallery houses well over 2000 of some of the world’s greatest paintings! More amazing though is the fact that entry to view these marvellous works is absolutely FREE! Having said that though, there is a large donation box as you go in, and as soon as I stepped inside the first hall and saw the magnificence of the work that greeted me, I realised that the note I dropped into that box was the best value for money I’ve had for a long time!

OK, I’ve seen some really old paintings at various historical houses we’ve visited over the years, but nothing could have prepared me for this. I was absolutely in awe of some of the works on display. So much so, that the amount of time it took me to take in various paintings left me way behind my wife in the viewing stakes! I was glad that we took advantage of the audio commentary, where we wore headphones, and just tapped in the painting number to hear the info on work and artist.

National Gallery, London (C)(Frank Bingley)
Some of the paintings were incredibly large, some taking up almost entire walls in these halls, which in themselves are huge affairs with sky high ceilings! This in itself had dramatic impact, but even more so was to see work by the likes of Monet, Renoir, Degas etc. close up and REAL – the actual work right before my very eyes. It is difficult to describe the effect of seeing a well-known painting in front of you rather than in a book or on the computer screen – just amazing!

A blogger friend of mine, Sandra, recently blogged of her visit to this place, where she was so taken by the works of Van Gogh. Well, I never got to see his work as it soon became very apparent to me that it would take considerably more than one day to see and appreciate everything on show in the National Gallery. I am very much a fan of Renoir, and I did get to see a number of his best known works, but the artist that I was so taken by was Canaletto. His huge works – vistas of Venice on a grand scale, were a marvel to behold indeed. His portrayal of all the buildings, canals and hundreds of people throughout his works was astonishing, and in such detail too. It must have taken him months, no years to paint these scenes. Incredible!

After we could no longer stand on our legs, a cup of coffee in one of the bars was a welcome respite. Here, there were lots of computer terminals where you could look up all the details and location of works on show. Again, free access – all the information readily to hand. Afterwards,  there were the (inevitable) gift shops, where one couldn’t resist coming away with a little souvenir of our day at the National Gallery, London.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Am I a Rubbish Artist?

Well, another of our Annual Exhibitions has come and gone. I say another, but for me, this was the first time of displaying my work in this way. Unfortunately, like a number of us, I didn't sell any paintings.

"It's not a very good economic climate just now" I've heard said, but wait a minute, one or two paintings did sell, so someone out there is buying. This leads me to believe that my work isn't good enough. That said, should I just accept that I am a mediocre artist? Should I lay down my brushes and take up gardening or something like that instead? Or, should this strengthen my resolve to practice more, experiment more and to swat up on techniques, subject matter, presentation etc.?

Of course, it has to be the latter. I am not going to give up that easily! So, from today onwards, let me draw every day, paint whenever I can, read those painting books which are gathering dust on the shelf, study other artist's work (especially successful artists), resolve not to sit in front of the TV or computer so much and not loose sight of my goal - to be a better artist!