The Good, the Bad and the Never Ugly

What is 'good' art and what is not? What makes a picture worth it, from the buyer's viewpoint? A few years ago a lady commissioned me to paint, I quote, 'a picture of the river Ewe'. I called it 'River Ewe, Calm Day'. I had elected to choose an upstream view. The lady examined it closely before concluding that she didn't like it, therefore would not be accepting it in exchange for her four hundred pounds. I always make it clear that any commission is taken by me on the basis that the buyer does not have to buy when they see the finished article. Not very business-like I'll admit, but I do so detest those 'its not good yes it is good' arguments, when we all know 'good' or 'awful' are entirely in the mind of the beholder. (How would you like a Warhol can of coke stuck up on your wall for several millions of dollars?)

Crestfallen, I returned to the river with my pastels. This time the day was windy; results below - also rejected!
Taking a very deep breath I invited my intended patron to walk with me along the river, show and talk me through her actual expectations. It turned out that she had been in a long time habit of walking along there with her late husband. They had always stopped to sit and look back at at a certain point, and that's what she wanted - that precise downstream view. So on with effort number three. Results on the right. She was delighted. Anyone like an upstream view of the river Ewe? Going cheap (well, £330.00 -cheap for a John Constable.)

Actually I was able, with a lot of help from my lady, to turn disaster into some kind of a triumph, for we have sold hundreds of greetings cards bearing the two upstream river Ewe pastels. Also my booklet, 'An Incomer's Views ON WESTER-ROSS in 24 Paintings, Poems and Narratives' which includes this pair. 4000 copies sold to date.

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