Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Collections 4 - Postcards

Breakwater - Fishguard Harbour

This is not your ordinary collection of postcards; it is also a collection that is shrinking, as I'm gradually giving it away.

In the days before digital cameras I used to carry a stock of postcard sized watercolour boards. I kept them in the back of my sketchbook and would try to paint one card a day when we went on holiday or took trips out. Over time I amassed a large collection of pictures.

What I liked about the cards was their 'throwaway' quality. Sure, they were more than a sketch, but if a particular one turned out badly - I'd chuck it in the bin. There was an anti-preciousness about the very idea of a postcard which allowed me to try new ideas - and whilst many hit the bin, others I like more than paintings which have taken months to complete.

In a way, they were an antidote to more serious paintings; driven by my tutor these were often intense affairs - and usually very large. The card's miniature scale made them popular gifts too - friends would often ask if they could take one or two home? Later, I'd see them framed on their walls. Once, a stranger asked me if they could buy one as I was painting it; I gave it to her.

Perhaps I shouldn't have. A few years later a gallery in Fishguard held an exhibition of the remaining cards. One sold for £200 - the one above in fact.  There's an irony in that painting too; the gallery used it to promote the exhibition, printing hundreds of 'real' postcard replicas of the original.  I've got three hundred spares which I use as notelets - if anybody wants one, send me an email.

In most cases, the cards were painted from memory, late in the evening with a glass of wine in one hand and brushes in another - a stick of charcoal behind my ear.  I liked this too - they are memories and ideas, not attempts to copy something.  A few are comical, others serious; some abstract, some traditional. 

The different styles are popular with different groups.  My favourites are the crude, almost childlike, ones.  Jane likes the seascapes and regularly steals one as a thank you for a friend.  The best ones have nearly all gone - but hopefully someone has enjoyed them. 

I was thinking I should do some more. Perhaps if I stopped blogging in the evenings I'd have the time. 

P.S. There are more paintings, including postcards, in this link here and on my other blog - some rediscovered drawings too. 


  1. I would absolutely love one!!!

    I think your postcards are an amazing idea...I always find it really difficult to just play with ideas. I usually start a drawing with a rough idea of what it's going to be and I very rarely change from the original concept. Were you trained professionally?

    C x

  2. If you email me your address I will send a card or two in the post.

    My approach to painting (and writing) is almost the opposite of yours. I start with a vague idea and an inner sense of 'what I want to say' - a notion, if you like. That invariably changes as I paint or write, so something different emerges - often radically so.

    I do not have a fine art degree, but I have semi-formal training. I studied art at school and my mother was an art teacher, so painting was always around. Later I did a brief foundation course and then studied life drawing at various colleges and studios. But my most significant professional training was to be tutored by John Skinner. For eight years I attended his classes , eventually joining a master class group under his tutorship; we would meet six times a year for long weekends, plus summer school, one off courses. It was very intense period - most of the group were professional contemporary painters or post graduate students. the years it amounted to a lot of training.

    John's work can be seen at

    My friend Emily Ball has recently written a book which draws largely on John's ideas (it is dedicated to him)- I'd recommend it as very different approach to painting and drawing.Available on Amazon.

  3. I can't get your e-mail link to work so thought I would give you mine. It's carol followed by a _ then burns at hotmail followed by a dot co dot uk (Sorry to have to write it like that...if I do it normally I'll end up getting loads of spam)

    I've only ever tried doing something like that once. I attended an afternoon course in Thailand called Calagraphic abstractions...I really enjoyed it. You can read about it and see the end result

    I had a look at John's website...I really like them!! They make me think of some of Yann Arthus-Bertrand's Earth from Above photographs.

    That book looks great....I think I shall speak nicely to Chris :-)

    C x