Things I have learned about running.
1. It is a physical activity second and a mental one first. Running is not difficult it is a perfectly normal activity for children and any human (who doesn’t have a specific disability which precludes it) who wants to do it. It does seem a bit daunting at first though. However, once you realise that it is a psychological activity rather than a physical one it does get a bit easier. The most important thing is not as some would say to “believe in yourself and your ability to do it” you need to go a little bit further than that and “know” that you can do it. Knowing you can do something is a lot more powerful that thinking you might be able to do something. It is certain not contingent. Once I had run continuously for six miles I knew I could run that far but I also knew that I had trained myself to regularly increase my mileage and time on my feet to get to that point. So I knew I could train myself to do something and succeed at it. It followed then that if I reset my starting point to six miles I could train myself to go further and longer than that. So I did. I now know that I can run a half marathon if I want to and I also know I can run (and possibly stumble a bit) a marathon because I have run three marathons and at least fifteen half marathons. If you consider that I didn’t run a step until I was 47 and at that point I had just stopped smoking at a rate of thirty a day which I had been doing for over thirty years then on the face of it it was a bit of an ask. But within eighteen months I had run the great north run and the following year I did the London marathon. I was able to do this not because I am special in any way but because anyone can if they want to and accept that they can do it. I do mean anyone. In my first marathon I was beaten by a womble and by a guy carrying a kayak (WTF is that about?) but I still finished and on the face of it achieved the same thing as them I ran a marathon. It was worth it just for the awesome sense of achievement as I fell across the line. Falling is a better description at that point than running because running is when you sort of hop from one foot to another in a controlled way. At that point 26.1 miles down the road I was putting one foot in front of the other to stop myself falling on my face and managed to maintain the right direction in that struggle to take me over the line. However, I always knew I was going to do it because I had come very close to it in my training. So knowing that you can run and keep increasing your running to the point you want to be at and that goal is possible for you is key.
2. Free (and legal) drugs. When we run our brains stimulate the manufacture of drugs I don’t know the science of it and I frankly don’t care because they are awesome. The best way I can explain this is to relate what happened to me some years ago when I was out running in preparation for the marathon mentioned above. I was out running and pretty burned out. I was in the process of increasing my mileage and had already run fifteen miles and was running up a pretty steep hill with the intention, as I kept telling myself (psychology) that I would take it up to eighteen miles and then call it a day when I felt the top of my head go really cool not cold just cool, then the feeling travelled down through my whole body all the way to my feet. It was likebeing in some sort of scanner with a sense of coolness passing through me. Maybe thats what people who think they’ve been abducted by aliens feel and they just don’t get that it can be a normal thing? Anyway after this happened I felt great and refreshed enough to run beyond eighteen miles and actually did twenty two. These are the drugs that we get from running. That experience was extreme and pretty rare but drugs like these are pumping through us when we run and they are manufactured by us for free. Some of these free drugs are anti-depressants which is why running is good for anyone who has depression if they can manage it. In short you don’t feel good at the end of the run because you have a sense of achievement its because you are high on free and natural drugs!
To be continued….
I had a go at a night painting. I think it worked ok. Its the valley bridge in Scarborough.
This post is essentially a follow up to the post I did about the short course I attended at newlyn School of Art in January which was led by Neil Pinkett. The measure I suppose of the value of a workshop or course is what you do afterwards, how you learn from the experience and apply what was learned. In my case I came back to the North East and started trying out the palette that Neil Pinkett uses. It is a very limited palette with just a red, a yellow, two blues and white. This palette is great for painting in the Cornish sunshine (it was 10 degrees or more most days even in January!) bright sunshine in North Yorkshire means you had better wear a fleece because it is going to be cold. So I was looking to see what difference location makes and how Neil’s palette would cope with it. I should say that I normally use a limited palette anyway but I would include an earth yellow which Neil doesn’t as he prefers cadmium yellow and where I would normally use ultramarine blue Neil uses cobalt.
I did this sketch of the south pier at whitby using Neils palette. It’s on a ten by twelve stretched canvas and wasn’t done on site because it was very cold. I sketched it and took a couple of photographs and did the resulting painting at home in about an hour. I have to say that I am very pleased with the result.
One important thing that I noticed while doing this is the colour of the sea. I am happy with it as it is but using this palette the result is much brighter than a northern sea would be. The main reasons for this I think are that the waters in the North east are denser and the geology under it means that it is rarely anything other than grey and mostly gunmetal grey at that. On rare occasions it does go blue but only a very pale blue. Cornish seas are much more colourful and I seem to have by using Neil’s palette, added a Cornish sea to a North Yorkshire scene. But I like it like that and may well continue to do it. The Cornish sea I now appreciate has a geology which allows the light to shine through it more and allows the colours to be reflected through from the seabed and from the contents of the sea itself. So it seems to me that the Cornish waters must be less dense and cleaner with lots of yellows and blues in the seabed geology while the northern seas are denser and with darker seabed geology.
So it looks like Neil’s palette lends itself to the painting of Cornish seas. I could probably get it to do better approximations of the slate grey North Eastern seas but I don’t think it would give as satisfying a result..
This is a painting that was started on the last day of the Newlyn course. I was going to scrape it back completely and start again but Neil persuaded me not to. When I got home I decided to give it another go and moved it on quite a bit. I am not entirely happy with it but it is much better than it was.
I used the Pthalo in the mix to get the wall darker and to strengthen the shadow on the window bars and straightened them up. That made it much easier to get the lights in the right place. On reflection I think the table is too yellow. It ought to be a paler tone. Having said that it isn’t actually as yellow as it seems here because the camera seems to have made it more yellow. Camera images really are poor compared to reality! That can be fixed at some point though. I also tried to get the redness of the floor which is sort of ok but i think I need to let it dry a bit as the highlights on the floor keep going too pink because they are picking up the floor colour. It is much better than it was though.
This may turn out to be a bit long but here goes:
So what did I learn while down in Newlyn? I’ll come to that but first some context. I went down to newlyn with Mrs Cynical to do a course at the Newlyn School of Art which was set up by Henry Garfit. The course was over three days but I decided to stay for a week and found the very nice An Treveth apartment which is right in the heart of Newlyn and handy for the Art School. We could have stayed at the Ashton Guest House run by Stewart and June Kent which has a studio too, but we decided to plump for the apartment because it was also handy for the fish! One of the great things about Newlyn is that it is a working fishing port and that means really, really fresh fish. There is even a place that just does shellfish! It was great. Really fresh fish is so good that you can just buy the cheapest thing and it will taste excellent. We bought some mackerel fillets for example from Trelawney fish and the guy not only filleted them for us but also removed all the bones. They tasted really sweet. Not at all like the usual mackerel which is probably a couple of days old. It would be fine going to Newlyn just for the fish but the reason to be there was the oil painting course with Neil Pinkett.
One of the first things I noticed when we arrived apart from the obvious temperature difference (four degrees higher than here in the North East) was the difference in the light. In january everything is grey in the North East and the sea rarely seems to have any colour in it. In Cornwall the difference is immediately apparent. Even on overcast days it is much brighter. I have noticed the difference in the summer but this is the first time I have been in the winter and it is clearly the same year round.
I’ve admired the work of Neil Pinkett for a few years now and have a book and DVD that he did but there is nothing like seeing the real thing so when I found out about the newlyn school and discovered that there was a course run by Neil it was a no brainer really. There is always the possibility with these things that they don’t live up to ones expectations but any fears on that score were unfounded. It was really good. I have always felt, and as a learning and teaching consultant I should know, that a good learning experience should be fun and it was certainly that. There was a lot of laughter and a very relaxed atmosphere throughout the three days. Neil is a really nice guy with an easy manner and a good sense of humour. He is also an amazing painter.
So what did I learn from the experience? Well first I suppose I learned a lot about using a limited palette. Neil uses a very limited palette of blue, red, green, and white. He also uses a lot of paint because he uses a fairly large palette knife a lot of the time. So we spent the first day really getting used to painting with a knife. The second day was more about looking at drawing in a different way which was really interesting because Neil draws (pardon the pun) on his experience of being a design visualiser which involved doing lots of very quick tonal sketches. Using this slightly different approach to drawing is interesting in that it helps to identify the tones and unify the whole image more than doing conventional line drawing does. I intend to do a lot more of it to try and develop that skill because it will be so useful. When you put together the tonal drawing and the limited palette you get a very tight unity in the image despite the fact that the knife as a tool makes the whole thing look loosely constructed. It is difficult to explain how it all comes together but it does and it is a really interesting way of working. To get to grips with it properly you really do need to do the course and have the fun.
I felt tired at the end of each day but that was because it is very practical. You get to watch Neil painting a lot but while you are painting alongside him which is good and he is careful to explain clearly what he is doing all of the time. He also gave us some insights into the life of an artist and what is involved which was interesting.
The other main thing I think I learned from Neil is how much most of us don’t see. We spent a fair amount of time staring at shadows and analysing them to identify the colours in the shadows such that it seemed that none of them were grey. Neil can see colour very acutely but then he has been looking intently for decades so a bit of practice will be required to get to that place but it will be worth the journey I am sure.
Overall I really enjoyed the course and learned a lot from it that I will hopefully build on in the coming months. It was tiring at times and it stretched me but I am really glad I did it. Thanks a lot Neil and thanks to Henry for making it possible.