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- Diane

Why making mistakes is great therapy for John

Why making mistakes is great therapy for John


I came across 70 year old John's glorious home and garden when I was wandering round Hay before heading home from the festival (check out my Hay highlights here and find out who has shot to the top of my dream dinner party guest list). It turns out it's also the place where he creates and shows the wonderfully colourful paintings he does.  I'm not sure what was more fascinating, the way he 'finds' (his description) each painting, or what he had to say about why painting is such good therapy. See what you think.

"When I start a painting, typically I put a wash on the canvas, then I see something in the pattern of the wash which makes me think of a tree, or a woman, or a car, or whatever. So I see what happens when that develops. And then I think, no this isn’t working and I wipe it off and in the swipe of the wipe, something else appears and I think, ah, that’s interesting. 

Really paintings come about, as Francis Bacon said, as a result of mistakes. Always trust your mistakes, because they’ll be interesting. You sometimes get to the end of the day in a studio and think, ‘that’s it, I’ve cracked it, that’s a brilliant painting’. And that’s always a bad sign! Because the next day you come in and realise it’s no good. So always trust a painting that looks wrong, or there’s something not quite right in it. 

Painting is the only thing that stops me from going mad

I don’t finish my paintings. I don’t like perfection. I know a painting is finished when somebody buys it! Until then I might go back to it at any time and paint over something, or take something out. Usually you improve a painting by removing something from it.

Painting is the only thing that stops me from going mad. Painting is very very good for you because you stop thinking, you stop criticising yourself, you stop being anxious about what’s going to happen, you’re just in the moment of painting. It’s the best therapy."

Here are some more of John's terrific paintings, and below them, a couple of pics of his idyllic, garden, complete with sculptures by his equally artistic nephew, and the beautiful home where he has his studio and gallery.


For my top ten Hay Festival highlights, and to find out who my new all-time dream dinner party guest is, click here 

Jill's 70th birthday challenge

Jill's 70th birthday challenge

Kate & Candy on their Hay days

Kate & Candy on their Hay days