I had an Artistic Idea, but…

Eureka!  I have an idea (as is my want these days, self billed as I am, the artist).  A strong creative idea replete in originality and interest.  An idea inspired by the timely intervention from arguably my most loyal (though captive) companion.

For the best part of twenty years domestic triumphs and household tragedies have been wistfully monitored by a Bird of Paradise plant (Strelitzia reginae), grown from seed, neglected, attended, sat in a corner.   The plant appears to have experienced better days, even though it never has –  sympathetically frayed at the edges.

Recently this long-suffering house-mate of mine began throwing up its first flower and according to Google, a Bird of Paradise flower is really quite the spectacle, so…

A concept to place a blank canvas behind the impressive bud then time-lapse the opening of this stunning flower against a developing painted background.  A short (Turner Prize winning?) film of an evolving scene intended to reflect both the shape-shifting and ever-changing colours of the opening flower – genius right?

… as you can see from these final frames, after a couple of weeks of up late, up early, no sleep, shackled to the studio – my execution ultimately lacked precision:


Ho hum.  I will try again someday…

With what we know… no finer place to start

The Aber Vaults.

2016 acrylic on canvas 

Putting paintings ‘out there’ does not come naturally to the insecurely precious (the year of Irie’s bland dining-room walls bears some witness to this reticence).  I create for my World I protest, accept output as the clumsy personal corner of my artistic endeavours and once positioned thus, can feel justifiably irked by constructive comment or other than flattering critique.  Well, time to get over my more awkward self.

The Aber Vaults provided heart-breakingly overdue and well-needed practise, refreshes my curiosity in both colour and composition as well as interpreting a significant chapter.  Job done!

The Point to Art – Part 2

Reality check – no Reality!

It’s  been a couple of years since I picked up the paint-brushes.  An early rise, sensational sunrise and pedestrian conclusion to the Grand Prix provided just the opportunity to reacquaint myself with a primary passion.

The project will be Irie’s Bar and Restaurant imagined as unfettered by licensing laws, shifts and economics, maybe traffic and probably the bollards. My dream bar!

Current thinking is that the painting will be in the style of this untitled work representing Aber Prom – but everything might change!


Today’s task was to sketch the composition and lightly wash some tone.  Bear with me, I’m out of practise. Xx


The Point to Art – Part 1

The Arts whisper, ‘ You are not alone…’

I see you sat
Where I was sat
When I wrote this rhyme
I was there
Where you are now
But at another time

Through a lens of hopelessness I appreciate the anguish necessary to assemble this artwork – I see chaos in creation more clearly than the clutter of elements.  I feel that I am no longer alone.

Tracey Emin’s My Bed


Failing the Tebbit Test

‘Not supporting England?’ enquires a cheeky Facebook post.

Not a chance.

The Tebbit Test is a construct of Conservative grandee Norman Tebbit by which those citizens of immigrant stock who do not cheer wholeheartedly for the England cricket team are obviously disloyal and evidently not sufficiently integrated into British culture.  Though born and raised in England, I fail Norman’s test, supporting anyone but England during most sporting contests. I will fail again this weekend when the West Indies challenge and hopefully thrash England in the T20 Cricket World Cup Final.  Let me explain:

English NF March

Growing up in a white family, in a very white region of the UK offers little sense of tradition or cultural belonging for a child of colour.  During the seventies and eighties race is never permitted to be so far from the conversation as to become insignificant and the tone of these discussions is overwhelmingly scathing.  A widespread dialogue concerning John Barnes’s eligibility to play for the England Football team makes for deeply alienating listening.  To hear suggestion that Barnes’s goals should not count, as blacks are not really English, serve to underline our position of interloper.  Jim Davidson’s incessantly insulting impression makes unpleasant the Monday morning bus-rides to school – the national broadcaster granting implicit permission to negatively stereotype and routinely abuse.  Casual racism from insensitive schoolmasters, cruel sixth-formers, police harassment, the riots, the National Front, skinheads, random strangers and even family – hateful and bigoted individuals habitually impacting on a young life to keep a small boy honest to immutable and stinging outsider status.

Prison for strikers,
Bring back the cat,
Kick out the niggers,
How about that?
                  Philip Larkin

Throughout those decades, there is little that feels or appears to be positive or pride-worthy emanating from Afro-Caribbean culture – the exception is the mighty and supremely dominant West Indies cricket team.  Refreshingly, no one questions a black boy’s allegiance to the Windies or his palpable pride in their winning ways – the commitment seems natural and obvious to all.   Even with Tebbit’s interjection, supporting England would feel counter-intuitive and risks ridicule as black people ‘aren’t from here’.  Pushed apart, proxy nationalism for the distant and unknown is the closest to belonging the boy can achieve – he holds on tight – for the rest of his life.

Today, attitudes appear to be more ambivalent towards those of Afro-Caribbean ancestry – luckily, another tradition has come along to all but monopolise the negative narrative of otherness.

But still, those blows cut deep and the memory is long.

The Reality Blind-Spot

As each tax year draws to a close, those authors lucky enough to have books in print receive a royalty statement from their publisher and mine arrived yesterday. The inevitability of this procedure may sound glamorous and to receive such enticing mail is certainly the ambition of those who aspire to write professionally.  Unfortunately the read provides a cold and cruel reality slap, a disappointing reminder to the pitiful return we can expect from our most cherished creations.  Currently, having four books published but three out of print, my royalty income relies solely upon ‘Learn to Play Cricket’, an enlightening and well-structured volume that deserves to grace the kitbag of every improving cricketer.  Last year the lonesome champion to my literary output sold a respectable 1,500 copies but netted this author only £20.44.  This stunningly diminutive sum was then deducted from the original advance and thus no cheque was to be found lurking in the envelope. The reason for the piffling percentage – high discount retailing results in only a handful of copies being sold for anything close to the cover price.  Inspiring, this is not.

Learn to Play Cricket
Last Man Standing – click to preview

Being defeated by retail is not unusual for vocational creatives.  I recall searching for ‘Learn to Play Cricket’ prior to publication in 2010 and being thrilled to find on Amazon promise of the edition  – then suddenly wounded, nay offended stroke outraged to discover that even before the book had been printed, the value of £9.99 placed on those fabulously instructive pages was already aggressively discounted.  A year of effort commercially positioned to have no chance of producing any meaningful return.

So if there remains any doubt to the daunting scale of the task in hand, the task of survival through creativity, a royalty statement provides timely evidence that from now on life will entail an unlikely slog in quest of an improbable dream.  The notion that writing a book or two might sustain even a basic existence should be dismissed.  I must write well and in quantity in order to generate any useful income from the pen.  In addition I will need to conscript into active service a squad of other interests, ideas and skills so they too may contribute towards simple subsistence.  Oh I do enjoy a challenge before the panic sets in.

The Next Purposeful Step

Cardigan Bay by Irie.
Cardigan Bay by Irie. Acrylic on canvas 2013

It’s been many a moon since visiting our beach just to reflect upon the sea. I used to come here each week to contemplate the near for a while, the far for a bit, the near again, then again afar.  I find the experience cathartic and valuable. Much like gazing into starry skies, humbly observing this infinity serves to belittle existence. Beneath these feelings of existential insignificance I mine large chunks of freedom from a harsh but apposite truth – the truth that although others may be interested or entertained by our exploits, may be sincerely concerned for our well-being, only we really care about the direction of our step and the structure of our journey.  Our lives are our own, an adventure bound only (in my case) by a moral compass of sorts, an evolving sense of purpose and the necessity to wrangle the required income to satisfy essential bills (i.e. the tricky bit).  Beyond these constraints only fear and/or habit may hinder us.

It was eight years ago that I follow my purpose towards this quiet valley-side in Ceredigion – finding the space and time to heal a cluster of clichéd middle-aged wounds, to paint, to sculpt and to write. I am content and creative, yet the ever-present struggle with finances creates monthly maudlins of frustration and an accompanying mirage of worthlessness. Eventually I submit to these wearisome emotions and calculate that satisfying Aberystwyth’s desire for rum, Red-stripe and Caribbean cuisine should provide the required increase in income to make life all comfy and worthy again; holidays to Barbados and SKY Sports on which to enjoy the cricket – bliss you’d think.

Unfortunately hospitality is not my purpose, nor a passion.  To further scupper expectations, ‘I came to Aberystwyth to make my fortune’ was said by no-one, ever.  On the contrary, I have been reminded that we who are wise enough to migrate to West Wales largely do so to escape the rush and the grind; for good air and space, inspired by memories or dreams, for natural beauty and drama in the landscape, for learning, to retire, for him or for her, for the health of the children – for Love, for passion, for peace, for the quality of our lives, for a purpose that is never money.  Easy to forget when times get tough.

‘Are you going to start writing again?’ asks Rachel.

‘Yes I am.’

And so we begin.  Another first purposeful step. This time, with lessons duly learned, I embrace more fully the simple struggle to produce good art.

A Poem by Irie.

My Path is stony and scratches across the wilderness.

My path is risky, complicated, and can be distressingly steep.

My path causes me to trip, to fall against jagged rock and onto thorns.

My path offers hindrance into already heavy progress.

Squall and storm batter, test the exposed stretches of my path.

Along my path, trap and invisible crevasse impersonate safe ground, patiently awaiting my step.

My path may give way, then slip into the unknown.

My path splits dangerously, demanding dire decision so regularly as to prevent the adoption of steady or safe gait.

My path is uncharted and characteristically remains hidden and beyond prediction.

My path skirts unimaginable hazard.

My path scares me and is sometimes lonely.

My path can become impossibly difficult.

My path will lead to death.

I dream sometimes to be on a less-demanding path.

Easier.  Pressed green, historic, horizontal right of way traversing a uniform field, the most pleasant of paths through a park, drifting across easy and sun-kissed solidity, a straight line of abundance, an admirable path of tradition, ritual and status.  A path undemanding on feet (humbler perhaps?) and not requiring the donning of painfully stiff boots to pretend defence against hard knock.

My Path is accompanied by idiosyncratic vista and continues to provide evermore dramatic landscape to negotiate. My path demands intense concentration by meandering, without perceivable meaning, between the spectacular, the beautiful, the interesting and the wonderful.

Then, of course, I am reminded that only I plot my path, skilfully and with every intention.

And by experience, I have become certain that there is no other path that I’d be more satisfied to tread, to have touched, or prefer to have followed.

Irie's Path - 2016
Irie’s Path – 2016