I have begun two major projects for 2015, so I think it's going to be a more hectic year than last.
One of them involves taking on an apprentice, which is something I thought I would never do, but someone has to do the hard work in my dotage.
The young man who is settling down under my scrawny wing is already a highly skilled stonemason, but I am going to teach him the magic which does not get taught in colleges.
As Cro will vouch, I only ever made anything which could be called 'Fine Art' during the last few months of art school, and even this involved digging a trench. Sadly, this masterpiece no longer exists, because a new wing of the college was built over it a year or so after I left. If it was still there, it could be seen from space, but only with modern technology.
The bulk of my three year sculpture course was spent in learning every technique employed by a sculptor, and this included bronze-casting, a little stone-carving, forge work and metalwork, wood-turning, plaster, clay and a few other things which loosely could fall into this category, including some quite spectacular explosive devices which almost killed a woman out walking with her poodle one day. The noise was heard by some friends taking a walk over three miles away, so it must have deafened the poodle.
For some reason, I once used the painting studio to make a massive, 8 foot square rendition of the Nazi flag in three colours (the usual ones) and as I was putting the finishing touches to it, a Polish painting teacher who had a rough time during the war happened to walk past, and he became apoplectic with rage and horror.
He went straight to the Principal and demanded that I should be expelled immediately, sparking off an internal enquiry where I was represented by one of my sculpture teachers - a young, Northern woman who actually damaged her career by supporting me against the Pole's vehemence. I don't think I was truly grateful to her for that, but I was a bit of a twat at the time, if I am not still (no comments).
The gist of her argument was - aside from me being a bit of a twat - that I did not know what I was doing, but having been born a few years after the War, was fascinated with everything that it entailed and insensitive to, plus ignorant of, the feelings of others who had survived it.
Anyway, I survived that little war and came off undeservedly unscathed.
When everyone was busy setting up their shows for the worthless 'Surrey Diploma' (which, if you were a photographer, was a qualification you did not mention at job interviews) I made my first trip to Scotland, in the company of two 2nd year girls and a friend in Sculpture who had set up his show, but then changed his mind by smashing the lot up with a large axe. He was - and still is - a very mild mannered man, but nobody went near him when he was wielding the axe.
When we got back, everyone was moaning about the grades they had received from the examining board, but this was water off a duck's back to me, having seen the beautiful Highlands for the first time. We had hitch-hiked, and the journey up took three days.
There were only two true painters at this art college - Cro and another chap who remains Cro's friend to this day.
They had given this friend some appallingly low grade which only just scraped through as a pass, and he was justifiably bitter about it. His paintings actually taught me - for the first time - what true painting was all about, which was more than any teacher managed to do in four years.
Art colleges were - and probably still are - a cross between monasteries and mental hospitals. Thank heaven I stuck to techniques and had the foresight that I would never make a true Fine Artist. I am a sculptor, but in the true, old-fashioned sense of the word, and that word has nothing to do with Saachi's preoccupations.
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