HVA Lecture Series

Another enlightening and well received lecture by Professor Ken Howard, OBE, RA was held on 28 April as Val Girling (Open Studios Area Coordinator - St. Albans) reveals ...

I was eagerly anticipating the talk by Ken Howard who is one of my personal favourites, but I didn’t expect to be thoroughly entertained, informed and inspired by what I heard there.

Having ascertained that at least half the audience had not heard his talk last year he very kindly gave us a brief resume of his life and works, which gave us all an excellent perspective on how he has arrived at this point in his life and career, showing us examples of his work on locations throughout the UK, Europe and the Far East working largely as a war artist. His belief in the importance of drawing shows clearly in his excellent draughtsmanship of buildings, landscapes and figures many executed in less than half an hour in pen and in situ.

He firmly believes that “less is more” when rendering a painting thus allowing the viewer an opportunity to “put in their two-pennorth” as he put it. This was well-evidenced when we saw his selection of paintings of beaches in Sennen, Mousehole, Marazion and Porthcurno where his energetic studies give vivid impressions of the warmth of hazy heat and of sun sparkling on water. I can well understand why children would be encouraged to watch him paint when the Punch and Judy ended-no competition in my opinion!

Ken’s passion for painting, for the daily challenge to capture light shone through his every word. He is no longer a young man but he clearly works long days and loves every minute, whether he is in Cornwall, London or Venice. He has a fascination for Venice and says he could paint there every hour of every day all year round and because of the changes in the light every picture would be different. Studies of the Grand Canal and St Mark’s Square bear this out and inspire me to “have a go” soon myself.

Ken was very generous in sharing really practical tips and technical help from which we could all benefit including mixing colours, strategies for painting on location and how to pack them in a suitcase safely to bring them home! In response to a question he admitted that he also has “off days” when nothing goes right and he wonders what has gone wrong and advised us to work through those periods when we don’t feel particularly inspired which I particularly found comforting.

He believes that artists need two people- one to inspire them and one to take the painting away from them when it is finished before we are tempted to carry on too long and spoil it!  I have no doubt that I have met an awesome artist who has inspired me-I just have to hope that I have learnt enough from his talk to tell me when to stop painting!