EXERCISE: KNOW YOUR HISTORY

john minton carnations

It’s all about subtext. Here “Lord Gratton’s” coveting of his neighbours carnations whilst his wife’s back is turned is a metaphor for John Minton’s suppressed sexuality, masked in trivially polite small talk. Or perhaps he really does covet his neighbours carnations. It depends how you want to read the image.

In Minton’s own words, ‘Every living person has certain feelings about the world around him. It is these feelings, common to all men, which are the raw materials of the artist’s inspiration. This he must ‘translate’, into the structure of an art form, whether music, poetry or painting. The problem of the painter is this ‘translation’; that is, he has to create some arrangement of shape, line and colour which convey the idea or the emotion which moved him to paint this particular picture.’

[Minton, John. “Seven Artists Tell why they Paint”, Picture Post, 12 March 1949. p. 13]

In essence, an inescapable truth of Art is that in every artist’s work there is, to a certain degree, a part of themselves. Whether it be their childhood, sense of humour, their cultural surroundings or political views. Thus, the cultural, political and social climate that the work is made in also has a huge influence on what comes out on the page.

In John Minton’s case, the style and content of his work can be attributed to following factors:

John Minton’s Personal Life                                                                                                           “Francis John Minton (25 December 1917 – 20 January 1957) was an English painter, illustrator, stage designer and teacher. After studying in France, he became a teacher in London, and at the same time maintained a consistently large output of works. In addition to landscapes, portraits and other paintings, some of them on an unusually large scale, he built up a reputation as an illustrator of books.”  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Minton_(artist)#cite_ref-9

John Minton was a prolific and successful artist, but ultimately, a sad man; committing suicide at age 40, after years of living as a high functioning alcoholic. He was rumoured to be homosexual. A conscious objector during WW2.

Social/ Cultural/ Political Climate                                                                                                           Most notably, homosexuality was illegal in the UK up until 1967 (sexual offences act amended 1967…  https://www.theguardian.com/society/2007/jun/24/communities.gayrights) making Minton’s preferred subject matter, young males in emotionally charged settings (at the time) a very controversial subject. This particular subject matter could not to be openly discussed for fear of persecution. After WW2, Minton’s work took on a more frivolous tone, choosing to paint nature and natural oasis’ of calm over young males in emotionally charged settings. He became more involved in the Theatre, designing and painting sets and murals. All as a (perhaps subconscious) reaction to the seriousness of war and the fragility of life, he chose to pursue more enjoyable subjects with less emotional weight, and more un-tethered creative opportunities.

Artistic Trends of the 1930s & 40s                                                                                           Abstract expressionism was becoming increasingly popular and Minton felt sidelined by this. His style was very traditional and anchored in penmanship, however his work did not fall neatly into the category of abstract or modernist, and so he threw himself into teaching, and later Theatre work, where his murals and less detailed large scale work was much better suited to the stage. Alas, he never fully found his feet, and although he is a highly regarded Artist, he is not considered a master of his trade by any means.

What was available (changes in technology)                                                                        Minton was born in an era pre-internet (gasp!) so no digital prints, all hand drawn, etched, printed, with inks, oils and washes. His style therefore has a sense of urgency and drama to it. Partial to heavy use of line work.

Warming up, I copied one of Minton’s artworks, to get a feel for his style.

minton-on-the-quay

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Then, inspired by this piece  – a sense of exotic calm/ oasis

p25-ajaccio-cactus-and-sea

I sketched a frozen Lake Minnewanka in Alberta, Canada, in the style of John Minton.

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Clearly mine is a bit more heavy handed and slap dash than Minton’s. I could have used  finer pen/ brush to get the sharper lines and more detail, like he did, but I didn’t have anything suitable to hand at the time.

The contemporary Artist I chose to compare against was Angela Dalinger.

Angela Dalinger’s Personal Life

Born as Sandra Angela Wichmann 6.2.1984 in Cloppenburg, Germany. Studied Illustration at the HAW Hamburg from 2008 to 2011. Resident in Neetzendorf, a small village in the south of Hamburg. Working under the artist name “Angela Dalinger” since 2011. Relatively little is known about Dalinger’s personal life.  https://angela-dalinger.jimdo.com/about-cv/

Social/ Cultural/ Political Climate

Germany is notably, very aware of its Political past. In fact, WW2 had such an effect on them as a nation that after the war, their whole educational system (particularly the Art Education system, think Bauhaus) was systematically redefined, built around the values of freedom and tolerance. It enabled and actively encouraged their younger generations to question the status quo. Therefore many of the Artists that are coming out of Germany are recognizably pushing the boundaries of what is and isn’t acceptable to display. Dalinger’s art work is incredibly visceral, visually naive (often with child-like qualities) and instantly recognisable, often including narrative elements of debauchery, violence, sex, defecation all in fairly mundane or everyday settings.It is often humorous rather than tragic, with tropes similar to that you would see in a horror film or something out of a Todd Solonz film.

Recent Artistic Trends

In this digital era, many Illustrators and Artists are intentionally returning to a hand-made aesthetic, as a way of being part of a counter culture movement, to give a more human quality to their work, or simply to stand out in a swathe of digital imagery. This hand-drawn (faux) naive style remains very popular in contemporary illustration. For Dalinger, her trademark acrylic paintings in her signature moody colour palette could be seen as comment on society, that all the scandalous and gross stuff that people do is actually pretty mundane and often bleak and/or humorous; that their actions and intentions are childlike (reflected by the visual style of painting) and this is just the way it is… nothing to see here, but in their own way, strangely tantalizing.

What technology is available (changes in technology)

Nowadays, you can become an internationally acclaimed artist/ Illustrator from the comfort of your own home. All you need is a computer, access to the internet, a scanner or camera and your artistic materials of choice. You can find your own clients, sell things online in your own online shop, cultivate a following on social media. Its incredibly possible to be a self sufficient artist or maker now, unlike in the 1940s. (It’s still hard work though…)

What makes this interesting though is that your market can be far more niche than previous possible, due to the wide reach of your audience (essentially, anyone in the world with internet access) and so artist are able to express themselves in a way that was not before possible, as they are free to make and do as they please – working on “passion projects” and “self initiated briefs” in the hope that is will simply find it’s audience, rather than creating work for a specific audience or client. Another example of how easy it is to create an image of something relatively foreign to oneself, for example, is If you want to make a drawing of some wild animals in the Savannah, all you need to do is ‘Google’ the image, you don’t actually need charter a plane and visit the Savannah and make sketches from life and put yourself in real danger of being eaten by wild animals. Things are a lot easier for us now, for better or for worse.

 

My pastiche was influence heavily by my middle class Canadian suburban surroundings.

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My final artwork can be seen here:

scan011

 

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