Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Do Ojibwa indians count rivets?

I started my professional painting career at the turn of the last century after getting some publishers interested in producing my artwork. This was achieved after a lot of legwork visiting trade shows. Unfortunately, at these shows, publishers are interested in selling rather than buying so anyone turning up on their stand in an anorak, backpack and large portfolio case were swiftly ignored. I found one way around this problem was to dress smartly in a suit and carry examples of my artwork in a briefcase.  Swarms of exhibitor assistants would soon descend on me thinking they had a bite only to be consumed with disappointment when they found out who I was. But at least this tactic got a foot in the door whereas the anoraks would sit around looking disconsolate from being continuously ignored. After a lot of perseverance one of the commissions I attained was producing aviation fine art.  These were large canvases produced over a long period of time for relatively little reward. The only kudos for me was when my publisher sold one to someone famous. Unfortunately, I have so far been unable to purchase food with kudos…
After producing a number of aeroplane paintings over a few years, I came to encounter an anorak wearing species takes great delight in showing you that their expert knowledge of fact is far greater than yours when it comes to depicting actual events in art. These characters are well known in the artist’s community and are christened ‘Rivet counters’ as they take great delight in pointing out that you have added one rivet too many/ too few in your latest painting of Titanic as it sails out of Liverpool harbour. These people’s technical knowledge knows no bounds. An anorak can describe a railway line’s incline to the nearest half a degree by the amount of smoke coming out of the train’s stack or even how heavily laden an aircraft is by the dihedral it’s showing. I’m sure some could tell you the temperature of a glass of water by measuring the radius of the meniscus!  Many a day have I agonised over the colours of the supply parachutes dropped out by German paratroopers or the particular date when the Iron cross on a Fokker dr1 was partially painted out with semi-transparent red dope after German high command issued an edict that from henceforward all aircraft would display the Balkan cross or the exact shape of the British army’s new low level parachute.
As time passed I gained further commissions. One was to spend long hot summers painting Christmas cards for a publisher. Salesmen would go out and gain a card commission after which if I was the selected artist, I would receive a brief. Photographs would arrive taken in the height of summer which I would then defoliate and try to imagine what lay behind, oh, and snow…  One commission I had was just a simple painting of a Kentish church tower and porch. I felt quite proud when I finished it feeling it was one of my better works. A few weeks after sending it off to the publisher, a brown envelope arrived. “Aha! I thought, another commission..” As I ripped open the envelope I found to my dismay that the artwork had been returned having been rejected by the customer. Accompanying the said work were four sides of closely typed A4 paper describing all the elements they were unhappy about, even down to the way I had missed depicting a fine layer of scrunch 8” below the rim of the tower and that the number of diamonds in the stained glass windows were incorrect!
These days although they no longer bother me, I still encounter the counters no matter what I’m doing. I enjoy Twitter, but even there an off the cuff remark is pounced upon by the counters. I think I applied the old saying ‘older than my tongue and younger than my teeth to sheep saying ‘older than my cud and younger than my teeth’ only to be informed straight away that lambs ARE born with teeth! And so to the present, As I continue to work on my book How To Paint Flowers in Acrylics’ to be published by Search Press, I have been called upon by various artgroups to demonstrate how to paint flowers. On one occasion I was painting Blacked Eyed Susans only to be informed by a stern lady in the audience that I was actually painting Rudbeckias and Black Eyed Susans were a totally different plant. Fortunately, I had checked my RHS plant guide beforehand. I corrected her and just for good measure also informed her that it was the  State flower of Maryland after 1918 and the Ojibwa used the roots as a poultice for snakebite..that shut her up!
So never mind David Beckham when you’re vilified for wearing your OBE on the wrong lapel or worse, even at all, those rivet counters are everywhere!!

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