Since leaving college many many years ago I’ve resisted teaching but about 10 years ago a friend of mine, the wonderful Martin Constable, persuaded me to take over his two courses at Central St Martin’s. I really enjoyed getting out of the studio talking to enthusiastic and talented students. Lots of things have happened during this time culminating in this book. I know a lot of people will be interested in how I’ve managed to get published by two of the most pre-eminent publishers of art books in the world but maybe we can leave this for another time.
Being presented with the opportunity to write a book has enabled me to lay one or two ghosts. I was absolutely hopeless academically at school probably because I was dyslexic but I managed to blag my way into art school at a time when it was necessary to have five O-levels and two A-levels.
The whole process of writing the book has been both creatively and intellectually an eye-opener. As a full-time practising artist is very easy to concentrate on the making of your artwork – And often explanations can get in the way of that making process but many artists fail to take on the challenge of rigorous thinking and there work ultimately suffers. As soon as I started writing about the great works included it was as if my ideas, ideas that I thought was so interesting before now seemed highly suspect. So the battle started – what do you mean by pictorial space? What does it mean to ‘relate’ parts of the image to the whole? The language we use to describe how painting and drawing works is a different language. One language describing another! Tricky and probably always inadequate.
Right from the very beginning I wanted to produce a book that would help people understand the relationship between seeing, feeling and making. When Michelangelo produces a drawing of figures he disrupts your expectation – the leg seems disconnected or exaggerated. Why is that so good when Michelangelo does it but so ridiculous when Joe Bloggs does it? These are the sorts of questions that I have an opinion about and I hope the book go some way to answering.