There’s a surprising number of people who, having completed a successful career in a completely different field, decide to devote their retirement years to painting. Actually, no, there’s nothing surprising about that: it’s a fulfilling activity that anyone with even a modicum of talent can develop and work at for their own amusement and even become quite proficient at. This is the reason why there are so many practical art books published and why we set this review site up.
No, what’s really surprising is the number of artists who do the retirement thing and become successful professional artists. I think it goes without saying (or it should) that these people didn’t start painting in their 60’s; they must have been doing some work throughout their lives and have developed considerable proficiency when they were ready to go at it full time.
Alan Ingham retired as a naval officer in the 1970’s and started to paint mostly landscapes. These are good solid representational paintings – you wouldn’t come here for anything experimental or avant garde. Alan’s work has been exhibited in local galleries (the text of this book doesn’t specify where) and then at the Mall Galleries in London under the auspices of the RI and the RBA and at the Granby Gallery in Bakewell in Derbyshire. His work has also been also reproduced by Royle’s as cards, calendars and prints. It’s worth including this information in a little detail as it makes clear that Alan’s work has been accepted by both his peers and by the general public. He’s a good painter whose work is popular.
I believe that it’s worth including a certain number of books about artists on what’s ostensibly a practical art site because of what the aspiring painter can learn from them. I tend to divide this sort of thing into the aspirational style: if someone waved a magic wand, that’s how I’d like to paint, and the achievable – if I developed a bit, I could get there eventually. Alan Ingham’s work falls into the latter category.
As I hinted before, this isn’t groundbreaking art. The viewer isn’t going to feel challenged and will always recognise immediately what any of these paintings is about. They’re about what they portray, to put it simply and this is the chief reason why Alan’s work has been popular. If what you want to do is create a record of what’s in front of you, then a study of the pictures in this book will give you a pretty good idea of what you should be aiming at. This is not, it should be said, an instructional book in any way. There are no explanations of how Alan paints, or of any of his working methods, but you should take note of the compositions, the way in which subjects are kept simple and to the point, how foregrounds are populated and how the eye is led about the scene. I said that these are representational paintings, but the point is that they are paintings and not photographs. None of them is an exact record of what was there, they’ve been tidied up by the artist in just the way that a good landscape painter should because that’s just what painting allows you to do that photography doesn’t.
As an added bonus, if you just like pictures of mostly English landscapes, the book’s a visual treat. I only have one very small reservation: some of the pictures look as though they may have been reproduced from transparencies. It’s a problem when artists sell their work and can’t easily get it back for reproduction, but some of the pictures here look as though they’re missing a few details that would have just sharpened them up and given them more bite. It’s a minor niggle and only the most successful of professional painters can afford studio photography, so we just have to put up with it occasionally. At just under £25, it’s excellent value, though.
Year published: 2005
List price: £24.99