Tuesday, October 15, 2019


I like writing to the sound of golf on TV.
The hushed commentary and quiet applause provide a presence without distracting. 

And there’s all that soothing green grass when you do look up.  

Tennis is good too; 
I like the soft “pocks” and the relatively gentle commentary 
in the background which let me think without feeling totally cut off from the world. 
Although tennis can be very distracting when Roger and Rafa play, not only for the 
excellence of their game but for the beauty of their extreme stretches and 
follow-through, too gorgeous for an artist to ignore.
Roger Federer In Action Against Tomas Berdych - Photo the Guardian

The BBC radio 4 on low volume is also a good accompanying drone.

Music is just too distracting; it always sweeps me up and makes me listen 

exclusively to it, drowning out the plot points and dialogue etc. I'm trying 
to focus on.

On the other hand, total silence freezes my brain. I just can't to write in 
the thundering quiet of the country. It's great to relax in and paint in,
but not to write in. Not for me, anyway. And a soundproof room makes me 
want to keep rushing out to see if the world is still there. I need to hear signs 
of life: children’s voicesducks quacking, dishwasher running, pots clattering, 
birds chirpingthe dull roar of city traffic with an occasional siren. 
Companionable, reassuring and soothing.
Inspiring, even.

First published July 20, 2009



Thursday, October 3, 2019


There's no Nobel prize for art but there should be.     
Its role in life is no less vital than chemistry, physics, economics, medicine, literature and peace. Would all those Nobel winners have won if they hadn't unwound and enriched themselves with visits to the Louvre, the Met, the Prado, the Uffizi, the Tate, the local Odeon, even the TV? If they hadn't filled their eyes and mind with Guernica, the Vitruvian Man, Buzz Lightyear, the Lascaux cave paintings, Bacon, the Night Watch, Arcimboldo's wonderful food portraits or the Simpsons? 

Great Minds (and not so great ones) get stale and fuzzy from too much concentration, we lose objectivity and confusion takes over. All minds need a rest now and then and that’s where art comes in to sweep out the cobwebs, mop up the worries, overwhelm with beauty, amuse, encourage and even inspire. All we need to do is look up from our our mental exertions to to be stimulated, soothed or bewitched by a color, shape or composition in the art which surrounds us at all times, in posters, ads and banners, in the  angles of a passing Lamborghini, the graceful lines of a park bench, under your hand right now with an Apple on it. Art is the silent partner of the Great Minds of the world. 
Many think music soothes and inspires more than art does. Perhaps, but just because art can't be heard its silent power shouldn't be underestimated. And with the plethora of visual media around, who knows what a passing glance can do? Art works quietly in the quotidian background of life, inspiring in glimpses, glances, peeps and stares. Art helps all of us through life, with a little beauty here, a cartoon there, an unexpected color or point of view to distract and please us and sometimes make us smile. 

Art can also heal. At Cedar-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles art is used throughout the facilty because a patient coming out of a coma once recognised a Pollock before recognising his wife. Cedars now has a magnificent collection of 4,000 paintings (including Miro, Picasso, Hockney), sculptures, drawings and prints making patients and medical staff feel better for more than 50 years.


How many Nobel Prize winners have been inspired by art? At least two: 
NIELS BOHR was inspired by cubism when working on the theory of complimentarity in quantum theory which says that something can be a particle and a wave at the same time; Nobel Prize in Physics 1922. (Thanks to Clare Dudman for this link.)
HARRY KROTO used his first love of graphic design to construct a three-dimensional image from two-dimensional data to discover buckninsterfullerene, the large carbon-60 molecule; Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1996.


So, even though you may not be aiming for a Nobel Prize, why not avail yourself of the many benefits of the art beaming at your from screens, pages and canvases? Art is not just an investment for future capital gains, it’s an investment in daily pleasure, beauty, inspiration and grace. 

Art is sustenance for the soul, a Nobel Prize for the eyes and 
nobody can get through COVID without it. 

Art credits: Arcimboldo, Bacon, Picasso, Pollock, Picasso, Kroto,  


Originally published October 11, 2009