A finny story
Winslow Homer- Casting Number Two
Notes from an idle painters diary
As a naval child I grew up with the chilled brine smashing into my face and fresh mackerel on my plate. Later, as a schoolboy I lived by the gently roiling Thames, bothering gudgeon and bleak in the long summer months. I am no fisherman but I know enough about the routine of casting a line to sense the connection with the inner hunter gatherer in us all. Certainly enough to spin a tenuous creative metaphor.
The thing about fish is you cannot see them. You know they are there, sometimes they even ripple the water just to tease you, but you cannot be sure exactly where or at what depth or which bait or lure will be the one to snag them.
Experience teaches us their habits, the languid pools within which they lurk or their taste in wiggly worms or cheese or fly. Ultimately though we cast our bait where we sense they may be, there is always an element of faith and mystery.
As artists we may find this familiar. We can go through the motions: we prepare our surfaces, our colours, our implements; we try a new pen, sketch from a different angle, look and record but essentially we are casting our line into the creative pond, sure there is something there but unsure as to how to snag it. With the honest application of routine, a little time and patience it may be that we get a bite.
When the fisher girl feels the bite it is sometimes the gentlest of tugs, so delicate that she may feel she has imagined it. If she strikes too soon the fish will flee and the commotion will clear the waters for some time. If she judges it right her line snaps taut and she can feel the shimmering vitality of her quarry, she is awake and in the game. The fish must be played, if too eager the line may break, insufficient tension and the fish will gain the upper hand, all of her skill is required to land her prize.
The artist too can learn to sense that first twitch of the rod, they notice a shape or colour or juxtaposition and feel something rising up within them, a sense of possibility, the vitality of creative energy, a clarity of purpose. Gently now, just aware and curious and then with more certainty. When seen there is no doubt, the game is on. Some will get away: we scrape down, crumple and toss; but when we land a big one we learn where and how, we may well return to that glistering pool again.
To land the prize takes skill, that is a craft. To sense where the big fish play, that is art.
Having said that I think metaphors can be stretched a bit far at times as in this delight from beyond the fringe by Alan Bennet.
Happy New Year.