Such a subjective thing, art; I guess most of us go through life without paying a lot of conscious attention to it although it is everywhere. I was the same once but then my interest got spiked: what’s it all about? Why do people sit for hours looking at a painting? Then, one day, I got it. I was actually in a Van Gogh museum and looking at a bunch of sunflowers in a vase. I thought “it’s a bunch of flowers in a vase”, big deal. But then I started to notice a few things and I realized it was more than just a boring picture, not just an exact replication of a subject, someone had put his heart and soul into it. It’s not something you can define or explain and I guess that is what raises the ‘ordinary’ to a different level. Some art just touches those parts of your being that we are barely aware of. It can be a piece of music, a film sequence or just a plain picture, but then something indefinable happens and it endures, becomes great, famous and often very valuable.
Take the Mona Lisa, a drab-looking lady well covered up in brown, but then you notice the eyes and the smile and you realize something very different has been captured on a piece of canvas although, to be honest I am not a fan. I can, though, appreciate its appeal for some people. Are these pieces of art worth millions? Debatable. A pile of bricks or a smelly old bed in the Tate Modern? Not very debatable, but I suppose it depends on how much you might want to sleep with a pile of bricks in an old smelly bed! Each to their own.
However, I came to admire the work of the wildlife artist, in particular that of Archibald Thornburn, a Victorian painter of birds mainly, some think the best ever and I think they could be right. I spotted an old damaged print in a junk shop one day; it was actually a page from one of those old Victorian books but the exquisite images just caught my eye and I bought it for £10. After investigation I discovered his originals sell for thousands of pounds; alas, my print was worth less than the ten quid I paid for it. Hey ho, I still love it, damage and all. It’s just the quality, it’s unmistakable.
So what about angling art? Birds and other fluffy creatures are extremely popular, but fish? Well, apart from perfect depictions for educational books, they don’t get much time. Can anyone name a famous fish artist or a famous painting of a fish? Where’s the fish character in “Wind in the Willows”? Where’s “The Adventures of Tarka the Pike”? I suppose it just doesn’t work, so the poor old fish doesn’t get recognized in popular art – apart from Jaws and Captain Nemo possibly. Here is one little print I acquired
It’s a fabulous little picture, I think, one that conveys all the pleasure of having a nice little catch at the end of the day. It just sings it out,! It’s always the human element behind the picture that makes them work.
So why this article? I recently came across a book by an artist I hadn’t heard of. I was blown away with the pictures and felt some of you might enjoy them too. Why I had never heard of this artist is quite odd because I walked into a tackle shop and showed the owner a couple of the pictures. He immediately identified the artist as Rodger McPhail and the book as “Open Season – An Artists Sporting Year”. After looking up some details of the artist I discovered his paintings sell for thousands. What I love about these pictures is the way they show several aspects of the subject as a montage. Anyway, here are a few pictures from the book; they will do the talking far better than I can although I can only do them scant justice with a mobile phone. I am sorry they are not better quality but I’m hoping the quality of the artist will shine through. I hope this article has been a slight diversion, a slight soothingafter so much in – out controversey. Enjoy some great pictures: