Some kid walking his dog stopped to take a look and asked me what I found to paint 'in this place'. The way he said it set me thinking. He sounded local, looked like he might have had a rural job. And he was evidently baffled as to why I chose to paint what, to him, looked drab and ordinary.
Except it plainly wasn't. The winter sun glared like a flashbulb going off. That hard light lit up the edge of the wood, but left the depths a rich, dark, velvet brown. Ragged clouds, cream and smoke grey, writhed across a sky of intense blue. The next field's bare turned earth glowed an unlikely salmon pink. It all looked beautiful. The only problem I had with it was how to paint it and do it justice.*
If I divide the world into painters and 'civilians', it's because of encounters like this. I had friends from school who were inept at drawing and painting, mostly because they didn't look at things.
They've all done well for themselves - in some instances, considerably better than me - so looking plainly isn't a requirement for success. But it leaves me feeling sorry for people who don't, won't, or can't, see the world the way a painter does.
I've never had a dull journey. Give me a three hour train ride with a window seat, and I'll happily stare out for the whole way.
Shadows on a landscape, like that Inness painting? There's a real life example, take notes. Sheep on a hillside like ticks on a blanket, as in several Turners? What do you know, they look exactly like that. Dark out? Even better. Artificial lighting, perspective, and window reflections.
I don't get bored. Waiting rooms? Window light on walls and radiators, the stately change in shadow tonal depth. Every view presents a challenge. How would I paint that? What colours would I mix to do it?
In the end, that's what painters do. They look at things so the rest of you can see them better. They show you the world as it really is: intensely beautiful.
* Which I signally failed to do, which is why you see a different picture here.