Interviews

Living the Land Interviews

James Hawkins in conversation with Anne Douglas and Flick Hawkins Ullapool Wester Ross 19 February 2001

Anne Douglas: We have got a set of questions that we are asking all the artists, we might stick to the questions or we might stray. They are meant to be quite flexible. The first question is who are you.

James Hawkins: I am James Hawkins.

AD: Where are you from?

JH: I am from Oxford, originally. I moved up here 23 years ago.

AD: Could you give us some idea of why you moved up and why you stayed?

JH: That is such a big question. I read a biography recently, of Gavin Maxwell, who kept the otters. I read those books when I was a kid and it wasnít until I read the biography that I realised quite how influential they had been on me. I really related to the fact that he made all this furniture out of driftwood that he found on the beach. They didnít have to go to work as such. They had lots of things that they had to do, but it wasnít a nine to five job. When I was a teenager, I was quite interested in the notion of self-sufficiency and John Seymourís idea of going back to the land. These things compounded in my mind so that by the time I had left art school, my ambition was to go and live somewhere rural, away from the city. Scotland was a place that I had visited as a kid and really liked, so that was one of the reasons for making the choice to come here to Scotland.

AD: Can I pick up on something that you talked about, having lots to do but it not being a job as such. Is that how you see what an artist does?

JH: Yes. Being an artist is a job obviously, but the nice thing is that instead of having structures imposed on you, youíre creating your own structures and your own method of working. You can change that at any time if it doesnít suit. It is a slightly more holistic approach to going to work that satisfies me better.

AD: You live in a community here so how would you describe what an artist does in a community?

JH: I donít actually see my contribution to this community as being particularly about whether I am an artist or not. I just try to be involved and participate as a human being. The things that I have done that are useful for my neighbours are probably far more to do with mundane things like plumbing and mending fences, things that donít necessarily have much to do with being an artist. It is just something that I happen to be able to do. Itís useful if I can do that.

AD: Do you think that your artistic activity impacts on this community?

JH: I think it does in a way. People quite like the idea that there is an artist living here, especially as I go away and I do more and more exciting things. Although I am not from here, they are as proud of me sometimes as if I was one of the children from the community. It is as if the little community of Rhue has gone out and achieved something. There is another guy, who lives out in Canada now, who has done a lot of collecting of Scottish songs. He produced a CD and even wrote a song about Rhue. The community was absolutely delighted about that as well. They are happy to celebrate anyoneís achievement whatever is. If Jack got a prize for a prize tub at a sale, which he did a few years ago, about £800, everyone was delighted for him. If I have a successful exhibition in London, everyone is delighted for me.

There is a sense it is a credit for all of us not just the individual. They all take a bit of pride that someoneís kids got into university or whatever.

AD: There is also another dimension to your living here. We are surrounded by landscape, by specific references. Can you expand on these?

JH: You have to live here to make the paintings I make. Naively, when I first started doing landscape painting, I thought in a sense it was a passport to travel the world. You go to Sri Lanka for three weeks, paint a few pictures, sell them, pay your hotel bill, and go to the next place. That is obviously ridiculous. In fact the longer I live here and stay in one place the more I realise that the business of painting the landscape isnít separate from life. Things that are informing the paintings might well be the fact that I had to go and pull someoneís car out of the ditch in a snowstorm at 3 oíclock in the morning. It is the whole business about living in this place and putting up with the bad weather and the good weather, the fact that the road is closed because the sheep lorries come down. Things like that are all part of learning about this landscape and what makes up this landscape. There is a whole historical dimension as well, such as looking at the remnants of buildings and how the farming patterns have changed. There is a lot more to it than just sitting in the landscape and carefully annotating the ridge of a mountain.

AD: In what way does living in a remote location impact on you as a person and on your work?

JH: There are logistical things that you have to come to terms with. You can't run out of Ďtitanium whiteí. It is a disaster because you probably can't get any for another four weeks. So a certain amount of planning is necessary. As with the best-laid plans, the vagaries of the place catch you out. You suddenly find the way you had intended to do something one day, you simply can't. On a more positive note, I actually like the calm slowness of life. I like the tranquillity. I particularly like the short periods of time at the croft by myself. It is almost like being given a big friendly hug by a nanny when you were a kid. It just nurtures you. It puts its arms around you and tells you that you are safe and secure, to be still and be calm and relax. That is fantastic. You donít get that in the middle of a city.

AD: You donít think it is possible there?

JH: I donít think you can hear that silence. There is so much activity and disturbance.

I think that different people engage with place and the art-world in different ways. I had never been one who was going to go to all the openings and get invited to as many parties as possible. One of the things I found when I was at art school was that you get an overload of information. There is so much stuff coming in, that it is difficult to actually assess it all and understand. I quite like the slow pace of evolution, living up here. I might reinvent the wheel, but at least it is my wheel and I have understood how itís made and where it has come from.

The process of painting for me is that you start with an idea and you try to progress it and sooner or later you hit some kind of problem. It is not quite going how you anticipated it. You stick that into the filing cabinet of your mind and try to work out what to do next, how to progress it, and some answer pops up after a while and you try that. You get a bit further and a bit further then you hit another wall and repeat the process.

The thing about being in the art school environment or the big social environment with lots of artists and lots of activities going on around you is that the notions that are popping out of your subconscious that answers these problems arenít necessarily yours. They are possibly half-understood ideas from someone else. That means that when you try, at a later date, to unravel the thread backwards, it is quite difficult to do so because there is a point at which you have gone off at a tangent that was maybe someone elseís notion. You thought that it was appropriate at the time but not quite yours. When you try and retrace your steps at that point it is very difficult because you didnít actually know what you were doing. If ideas have always come from your own mind, it might be slower and more plodding when you try and unravel them backwards and comprehend why you did something the way that you did, but they are your ideas. You can follow the tenuous thread back. That seems very important. It is better to do so when it is quiet and I can hear my own voice. It is terribly easy for me to just sort of get terribly excited about the latest idea that someone has given me, and lose myself.

AD: What kind of an artist are you?

JH: I am a landscape painter in a relatively traditional sense of the word. I see myself as part of that tradition. I would look to artists like Friederich, the Impressionists and then someone like Kieffer. Basically I see that as a lineage without wanting to be too presumptuous. I see myself working in the same general area.

AD: What qualities of the landscape are you hoping to convey?

JH: I think a lot of us in different ways go to the landscape to discover some notion of peace, or even a sense of scale. The great thing that happens when you spend a day or longer in the wilderness is that you come back subtly altered for a short period of time at least, with a different sense of proportion. Suddenly the whole world isnít revolving around your little sphere of activity. You suddenly have a greater humility. A lot of people seem to value that on different levels. I would like someone to metaphorically go for a walk in one of my paintings and to be able to sometimes contemplate on the grandeur and awesome massiveness of nature and at others, the detail of some beautiful little microcosm. Hopefully they would get some of feelings that they might experience from being in wilderness

Flick Hawkins: We get lots of people coming into the studio and this thing about going into the wilderness is the most relevant to them.

JH: Do you know about Monroe bagging, when you climb all the mountains over 3,000 feet? On several occasions when someone has come in here after having been to the studio on previous occasions, they come and buy one of my paintings to celebrate climbing their last Monroe. That is a tremendous compliment to me because they have been out there in all sort of conditions and seen all sorts of things about being on these mountains. The painting rings true to them.

AD: Would they buy a painting because they recognise the Monroe? Do you actually paint Munros?

JH: Not necessarily. It just has to have the right feel, of being on a Scottish mountain. It has to have a notion of rock, wind, and weather and of being in an exposed place on a mountain.

AD: So itís the quality of the experience rather than the representation of a place.

JH: Definitely. I would hope that although my work figurative, it is not representative in the traditional sense. I am trying to put across the feeling of the wind or the relentlessness of the rock, or the outrageous colours of foliage. I wouldnít necessarily do that in an obviously pictorial way. I would do it in a painterly way that had visual references to reality but wasnít a slavish imitation of it. Actually it is a suggestion of something being somehow incomplete, so that you have to bring a bit of your own interpretation and memory to it. This actually makes the experience of the work stronger for a lot of people. If you give them the whole story, if you give them something as clear as crystal, it looks great to start with but it gets quite boring after a while. Whereas if it has got ambiguity, things that arenít quite resolved. It is much more fun because you can read the work in different ways.

AD: So the viewer also becomes partially a creator?

JH: Yes, I think that is really important. Flick's Great Uncle used to write very good short stories. He gave me a fantastic piece of advice- never tell the whole story, just leave a bit out. Everybody brings baggage of experience to looking at visual images and you donít know what that baggage is. Weíve all got different baggage. Flick was telling you a moment ago about being scared climbing the Cuillins. If you have had that kind of experience and you look at a painting of a very exposed rocky place on a mountain, you are going to have a particular reaction and association with that. Whereas if you were flown in by helicopter on a really nice sunny day, you stayed there for a bit, and then you got flown away again, your reaction would be completely different. Your memories and associations would be completely different. The artist canít anticipate what different individuals will bring as associations. So rather than try to pre-empt those and override them, which I think is ultimately impossible, I would take the opposite view and say everyone is going to bring something slightly different. You can put an image up there thatís 95% complete and everyone will fill in the gaps slightly differently to their own satisfaction. I suppose that by drawing them in and involving them in the creative process, you are immediately engaging them. It then becomes a dialogue, rather than just a passive response to something.

AD: I know that you are interested in music and you can draw an analogy between the way you might set up a situation with an audience with music. A musical audience is a participant as well.

JH: I would always encourage someone to mess around with a musical instrument, even if they have never had any skill at it, just so they had some understanding of what it means to actually make that music and play it. It you look at a virtuoso guitar player, you can say that is pretty impressive. If you mucked about on a guitar yourself and realise just how fast they are moving their fingers, you will then understand that what they are doing is incredible. You have a better understanding of it.

AD: Would you take that back into painting?

JH: Everyone should have a go with a paintbrush. I would love a pound for every time someone said ĎMe, I cant draw a straight lineí, the notion being that at some stage in their education they were made to feel inadequate in the art department. Basically from then on in they chose not to engage any more with that. I think that is really sad. I hate that. I get quite angry when people have had that experience. Whatever educational experience caused it, you should think about altering it for the future. We should think carefully about how we let people engage with painting for sure.

AD: Could you take us through the way in which you construct a painting- the stages, the preparation and execution?

JH: I can talk about it but it is not set in stone. It is a great idea to make methodologies and rules as long as you can accept that they can evolve, change and develop. At present, depending slightly on what I was doing, if I were working on a particular project I would first of all go and walk in the area. I have been to the Cuillins recently, so the first day we approached them from the South, the second day we approached them from the North, the third day we approached them from the West and the fourth day from the East. A couple of days we climbed as high as we could in the weather. It was bad time of year and quite extreme.

I have recently started using a camera again, which is something I didnít do for about 20 years, for fear of making images that were photographically based. Nowadays I feel that I havenít got that problem and I feel is just a good reference tool. When I come home, I would stick my photos together. I tend to do panoramic photos by joining lots of images together to make a big wide panorama. I would make some pencil drawings of possible compositions and then I would make some A3 colour sketches; studies of places, bits of material, the surface or rock, skies or reflections across water. What tends to happen is that a slightly different language of mark making tends to evolve as a response to a particular location. So when I went to Cape Wrath, I came up with a different set of colours and a different set of gestures for applying paint to the canvas than when I went to the Cuillins.

Each time I do a trip I learn a slightly different set of marks, and if it is appropriate to transfer some of those from an earlier trip into the application you are trying to achieve, then do, or maybe I progress a mark I made earlier.

FH: You talk about your rural Tai Chi, as an aid to memory.

JH: Before I used the camera, and still now, if you are out for eight hours on the hill maybe for or five times during the day, I would stop as if there was an imaginary canvas in front me and I would actually mime painting. I would go through the process of pretending to paint the outline of the hill and the composition of the structure of how the hills and the valley all work together. I would actually make a gesture with my arm that was the side of the hill, and I would repeat it many times, so I could then come back to the studio. I could just make that arm gesture. That is something I would then use to make the initial lines of construction in the painting.

AD: That ties up very closely with your distinction between representation and reconstructing a feeling of something. You are almost talking about a kind of choreography, a spatial choreography rather than visual imitation, or representation of an image. That is really evident in the paintings, a real spatial involvement.

JH: Your visual memory is something that you can train.

I go for a walk on a Sunday and maybe I see something that interests me. I think I could make some painting about that in the following week. I have a good look, and through rural tai chi, try to memorise as much as you can. I come back to the studio and start to lay the image down. I soon realise that what I looked at was fine and what I glanced over, thinking I had looked at, but I had not taken in properly. So the next Sunday when I go out, I pay particular attention to the bit that wasn't so good the week before. If you extrapolate that argument into months and years, pretty soon you are able to make sure that when you are trying to make this mental photograph to take back to the studio, you observe and look very carefully and clearly indeed. I donít have to remember the colour of heather when I am out on a hill because I can look out of my studio window and see it. So there are some things that I donít have to worry about, but there are other things that I do.

I live in an area of Torridon. Sandstone and all the rocks and all the geology in this particular area is, as a consequence, a scree slope which will form at a certain angle and be composed of a certain size pieces of rock. This is because it is the sandstone of Torridon. If I go to another place and it is different rock, granite etc, it behaves in a completely different way. It might have sheer cliffs in it, fractures. That is what you might have to pay attention to, rather than the colour of the heather, which is the same. Having said that, the rock type will quite often influence soil type and soil type will quite often influence vegetation. So for example down in Kintail or further south in Glenshiel the foliage on the top of the hill was noticeably different from around here. It was actually grass on the top of the hill. So they was yellow and green in the winter, whereas on top of the hills here it is heather. So it is dark green and a completely different set of colours as a consequence of the geology of the area.

AD: That would determine the palette for the painting?

JH: Absolutely. One of the things I would look at almost before I went to the place is to read about the geology. I would find out what had happened in this particular place because geology is a significant thing.

AD: Do you have a particular Scottish theme so that if you were, for example, in Sri Lanka the kinds of elements that you choose to key into the painting might be different?

JH: I canít imagine what it would be like to go and paint in a different place now. I would obviously start by using the same methods as I would if I was approaching this landscape, or a piece of landscape I havenít visited before. I am fairly certain that they would need to evolve and adapt quite quickly to take on different areas and different aspects of a different place. The principals might be the same, as least that is where I would start, but I donít know what would happen.

AD: How do you determine the scale of the final painting?

JH: I tend to generally start small and get bigger as I become more confident with the mark making process that evolved through a particular project, the group of colours that I am working with.

FH: You touched on the mark making process, and I know that is very important to you, the way you produce your pieces. Can we talk about the mark making?

JH: Mark making and tool making. Tool making is for me a huge part of being a painter. It is about how you actually physically get the paint onto the canvas or the page or whatever you are painting. Brushes for me tend to have what I call a dedicated footprint. If I wanted to have a stipple effect for sphagnum moss, depending on what scale I was working on, there are half a dozen brushes I would choose from. There are a hundred brushes I wouldnít look at because I know they would be totally inappropriate for that effect.

Then I would have another set of brushes that were always used for putting the background colour field. I am doing an awful lot of stuff where I am actually dragging paint with a palette knife, except it is not a palette knife. It could be a piece of mounting card or a piece or hard board or plywood.

I have made lots of tools. The viscosity of the paint is very important. If it is too watery, obviously it will behave differently as well as if it is too thick. If you are dragging several colours at once, with the notion that one will smear into another, clearly if the viscosity of pigment is different things will have particular effects. So there are lots of elements of technical control that are important in mark making. There are two things; a kind of spontaneous experimental thing where I will just slam some paint on without necessarily knowing what is going to happen. Then I will observe the results and decide Was I successful? Did I achieve the kind of mark or texture that I was trying to achieve or not? You make progress through fortuitous accidents. The wiggly water that I do, reflections across water, actually came as a result of total frustration at the end of an afternoon of painting. I had been struggling to get the surface of the light coming across the water and I was really cheesed off. I realised I was going to get nowhere until I actually took all the existing layers of paint I had on the surface off, before I put any more on. For some reason, as I dragged that paint off, I thought I wonder what happens if I do this? It was one of those kind of eureka moments where you think, I couldnít have done that if Iíd tried. You look at it and you deconstruct it and think, perhaps if I do this or that. Then eventually you learn how to do it. Mark making is really fantastic. It really evolves like that. What I can semi-guarantee to achieve now is much more elaborate than maybe five years ago, when it would have been relatively hit and miss. There are still things that are hit and miss, but they are more elaborate. I am learning a lot, and that is great because it is a continual evolution of mark making. It is really exciting because you never know quite what you are going to come up with, what the paint is going to show next.

AD: I was going to ask you whether your process ever you gave you surprises?

JH: Yes, loads. I love paint. How long have I been working with paint, I donít know? I know that every day it can still fling up a surprise and that is fantastic. The fact that it will show you something it hasnít before, you have got to have your eyes open. You mustnít prejudge or pre-empt what you think you can achieve. If you do that, you will become very technically proficient at what you know, but you will never learn anything new. If you take the attitude that paint is just a huge exponential explosion that is going to show you lots and lots of things for ever more, then it will. It will never let you down.

AD: But then that presupposes an element of control.

JH: It is a kind of schizophrenic thing. Fortuitous accidents happen. If you like it, then you re-achieve it in a very controlled way and learn it. So it is a kind of continuing research process where you take some chances, muck about a bit, and do some deliberate things. It is good fun.

AD: It seems that there are two highly experiential elements to your methodology. One is the actual walking and the actual experience of the subject. The other is the reliving of that experience through paint, which is a very different medium from anything that is going on out there in the landscape.

JH: There are two juxtaposed complimentary processes. Two areas of research. Visual research, where you go and look and experience the landscape and the painting research, where you continually try to experiment with materials and come up with things that have good resonance to what you have actually seen out in the landscape, a correspondence with your visual research.

AD: Is there any point when you are developing the canvasses, where you imagine where these canvasses will eventually be? The scale you work to is an architectural scale, particularly the bigger pieces. Are you anticipating where they might finally end up and what the relationship with them might be?

JH: Not often. Sometimes if it is a commission for a particular piece then you have got a more sensible notion, but no a lot of it is purely speculative. I am fortunate that most of them seem to get placed sooner or later. I have been surprised. There is a customer of mine on the East Coast of Scotland who has a lot of dark Victorian portraits in huge great gilt frames in their dining room and then one of my paintings. You couldnít have a more contrasting painting language and you think it would be a disaster but actually it is quite good. Both seem to be invigorated by the contrast.

AD: Do you think your customers ever see it as continuity?

JH: I think they probably do see it as continuity. Presumably the reason their forbears had these portraits done was that business of artefacts in their home, recording their own personal dynasty. The present incumbents take photographs; they are not worried about those big portraits showing how big and important they are, but they do like having visual stuff in their home so they are going for a slightly different one. I donít know if it is continuity or not.

AD: Could you talk a bit about the business side of things and where the work goes, and who acquires it?

JH: All sorts of people acquire it. It is a huge honour when you have a first time buyer, someone who has never bought a piece of art in their life before. That is always really exciting and I always choose to be as sensitive, as subtle, and as kind as I possibly can be in that situation. It is a really big step for some to take.

AD: Do you sell a lot of your own work directly from the studio?

JH: Yes I do, I interface with the people who buy my work, which suits me very nicely. It was harder to start with when I wasnít particularly well established. It wasnít particularly clear whether I was anything other than a rank amateur just having a punt. It is a lot easier now, the space looks professional, and the paintings look big and valuable, whether you like them or not they look like the real thing. When I was young they didnít necessarily look like the real thing and people would come in and send me up. I was terribly vulnerable and upset by that. I would be absolutely devastated by negative remarks, absolutely gutted even though I knew it was a completely throw away remark and they didnít know what they were talking about. I still find it difficult to survive that kind of stuff. Fortunately I donít have that any more, but I do like hearing what people have to say. If they feel I have got a particular aspect well or if they feel I havenít, then I will always listen to see what they say.

AD: I just wondered if you felt there was a balanced relationship between the way the artist develops the artwork and the viewer interacts with it. The viewer also needs to refine their eye, needs to understand, to start to almost reconstruct the process.

JH: The best case scenario is that I would have a dialogue with that person and have a conversation like this with them, if they were interested. It would be a process of sharing my knowledge, which is a specialist area, as much as they wanted to know about it. I would tell them anything they wanted to know about it, how you mix paint, the primary colour theory or all that stuff, if theyíre interested. That is one of the things I have with the open studio, dealing with people coming in. I do think it is quite important to be an ambassador for art. I am quite happy to talk about art to people and hopefully galvanise their interest or enable them to make a little bit more progress in understanding what they are looking at, enjoying it and engaging with it. I see that as part of what I do.

AD: How do people know to come to the studio?

JH: Advertising is something we have obviously done over the years, flyers in tourist offices and hotels. There is a huge amount of word and mouth now, a huge amount of momentum.

You were talking about who buys the paintings. Another delightful thing that has happened is that kids that came in here with their parents on holiday 15 years ago, who have now grown up and got jobs and money themselves, remember that really wacky studio that they visited with mum and dad on the West Coast all those years ago, and come back and buy a painting

FH: A lot of people have got a lot of paintings. For some people it is their annual trip, to buy a painting.

JH: Part of that holiday experience, will be to come up here for two weeks. It is one of the high spots to visit the studio.

FH: They might not want to buy, but they will want to see how your work is progressing. It is almost like a sense of ownership.

JH: I remember one client, R, saying that it wasnít until he saw my paintings that he was able to see the landscape. I gave him a visual key so that he could actually then look at and comprehend this landscape. I thought that was a nice compliment.

AD: Do you think that is one of the roles that an artist might have? Going back to that idea of how the artist works within a community or within a culture.

JH: I guess it might be, yes.

AD: if you can actually animate, punctuate, or extendÖ.

JH: Help people how to see, yes. We talk about musicians, they help you how to listen. Maybe visual artists can help you how to see. Conceptual artists could help you how to think about things, to reconsider our system of values. I think an artist can do that.

AD: One of the questions we wanted to ask people was what new challenge you would like to see for yourself and also in relationship to the community? What new development would you like to see?

JH: I would really like to make a diorama. I would like to make a big circular painted environment that the viewer could stand in the middle of and have an all encompassing sense of being in a landscape.

AD: Where would this be?

JH: I have no idea, and I donít know how to fund it and I donít know how to make it work.

AD: Let's say ideally.

JD : Well, I have thought about it. Obviously I would need somewhere to make it, and the place I would choose to make it would be here. So it would have a scale that was relative to this room, that would make it quite big and satisfactory. Then it would be nice if it could tour, and you would need to think about appropriate venues and we have talked about some notional scaffolding rig that could be easily dismantled and transported. The rig would support a circle of panels and a place where you could enter this circle of panels. I have mad grandiose ideas where maybe the floor is actually mirror, so you are almost suspended in this landscape.

I did some work with the theatre a few years ago where I mucked about with shining coloured light and paint. You can do this thing where you set up two different lighting states and you tell the computer that drives the lighting rig to migrate from one state to the other over a period of time. If you choose the right colours and the right things to project at you can actually turn a forest from spring to autumn. You can change the weather. So notions like this are something that when I get the time and the right opportunities I hope to be able to do some of these experiments.

I am about to do some animation, I hope, which is a tangent of the same idea where someone will come with a video camera and I will make a mark and they will take a photograph. I make a mark and they take another photograph. So you will be able to watch a painting evolve and disappear. We are going to play on some permutations of that.

AD: It suggests that that could become a collaboration, where you have somebody with the kind of technical background in aspects of projection and lighting, but where you are putting in the content. Would you see this happening here? Would it be a travelling spectacle?

JH: I would want to create it here, just from practical purposes. It is going to take me some time. That studio is like a tool box if you like and if I am going to do my job I need all the tools in my tool box, so if I was going to work somewhere else we would have to take all that with us, the whole lot. So just from a practical point of view, I would start to make the work here but then where it went I donít know, the sky is the limit.

AD: There was a project for the Roundhouse, that was last year, that was done by an organisation called ELIA, an organisation of European arts schools. It was an educational project. They got young students from these different art schools throughout Europe to come to the Roundhouse, to work in teams to develop the biggest digital image that has ever been produced, out of collaborative teams of young artists under supervision. In the end they printed it instead of projecting it. It is interesting that these huge, kind of celebratory projects are becoming quite feasible.

JH: I think when the time is right, it will hopefully happen.

AD: I suppose on a more pragmatic level, what development would you like to see within the arts infrastructure? What better way do you feel you need to be supported?

JH: I think I am very lucky now. It would be nice to get more international exposure. My London dealers can't really afford to do it and there doesnít seem to be a public body that is doing it for artists of my level really.

One of the things I feel about living and working here is that really I am just getting warmed up now. It has taken me 25 years. The system for actually selling work, the system for managing how I create it is as sorted now as it has ever been in my life. I have a good team of people around me and I am really fortunate. It would have been easier if it had been like this from the word go but you can't just walk into something like that. I couldnít do what I do, if it wasnít for Flick.

Every artist needs someone to do the management of the letters, the applications, all that stuff so that I am freed up to actual do what I am best at. I am useless at writing letters, I am only interested in pushing paint around. I like dealing with people and I wouldnít stop that in a hurry, but I am glad I donít have to frame pictures any more. Craig (MacKay) was saying he doesnít have to develop film any more and I said, yes, I have been there and done that, I know how to do it but I know how to delegate it. It is very important to have done it, so you know you are not asking the impossible of someone or being unreasonable in your thinking.

FH: Your relationship with other artists, particularly here, do you feel you would like to interact more or you quite happy?

JD: I wouldnít mind interacting more. I am looking forward to meeting Steve Dilworth. One of the effects of the work that that Cathy Shanklin has been doing for the region is that I do feel that we have got to know each other better. It is nice knowing Craig Mackay and Peter Goodfellow. It is nice knowing Helen Denerley. You donít always have to heavy duty conversations about the notion of creativity you can just talk about fixing roofs and cars or whatever, you are just sharing an approach maybe, sharing an understanding. That is good.