Friday, August 24, 2007

Coney Island, Van Morrison and Art

This week I received a number of responses to an email I sent to Robert Genn in regard to 'Bonus Creativity'. Robert's compatriots used an old image of mine 'Coney Island' as an illustration of my work. One person who responded with an email, John McLean, particularly stood out for me. With his permission I have included his letter and the subsequent replies below.

Dear Mr Miles,
While perusing the 'clickbacks' of Robert Genn's latest newsletter I was surprised and delighted to come across your painting 'Coney Island' which I recognized as the place where I had spent all of my summer vacations as a child (about eight weeks) for the ten years or so between the early 1940's and the early 1950's. I grew up in Belfast and my grandparents had a summer house at Coney Island. Those were halcyon days of leisure, swimming, fishing, lobstering, and playing cricket on the beach when the tide was out. What fun to have them suddenly brought to mind again! I was back in Northern Ireland a couple of years ago, visiting my sister, and went to Coney Island to see some old friends who now reside there year round. The place hadn't changed much - some more and newer houses but the same quiet, peaceful atmosphere. When did you do this painting? I remember very well the house with the added-on front porch. I have some old photos which I have thought of using as material for watercolors, but haven't gotten round to that yet.
Anyway, thank you for sharing this painting, and I hope I haven't taken up too much of your time with my reminiscences.
John McLean, Trenton, Georgia, USA

Hello John
Many thanks for your kind comments! It's so nice to receive feedback on my work, and wonderful to hear your reminiscences about your halcyon days. My brother lives near that area and I painted that particular picture what must be 5 or 6 years ago when I had only been a professional artist for a year or two. I have moved on somewhat in slightly different directions with my art since then, especially since I came to live in Spain. Although I will be in the area again in 2 weeks time with my next batch of paintings for my representative galleries around Ireland. Maybe I should take a look at the area myself and see if it has changed even more in the last few years. It's interesting to hear your comments about the fishing, swimming and lobstering etc. and it brought to mind a song by another Belfast boy - Van Morrison. Not everyone's cup of tea perhaps, but I do feel a sway towards his music, particularly since leaving the country. Your words made me think of the song's lyrics, and just in case your not aware of the piece I have copied it below so you can read it. It sounds just like your memories. If you don't have a copy of the song, you should try to get yourself one. Then get the paints out John - and start painting that scene with the music as inspiration!
Thanks again John for your time, and good painting.
With kindest regards

CONEY ISLAND - Van Morrison
Coming down from downpatrick
Stopping off at st. johns point
Out all day birdwatching
And the craic was good
Stopped off at strangford lough
Early in the morning
Drove through shrigley taking pictures
And on to killyleagh
Stopped off for sunday papers at the
Lecale district, just before coney island
On and on, over the hill to ardglass
In the jamjar, autumn sunshine, magnificent
And all shining through
Stop off at ardglass for a couple of jars of
Mussels and some potted herrings in case
We get famished before dinner
On and on, over the hill and the craic is good
Heading towards coney island
I look at the side of your face as the sunlight comes
Streaming through the window in the autumn sunshine
And all the time going to coney island
Im thinking,Wouldnt it be great if it was like this all the time.

Hi TJ,
I enjoyed hearing from you and thank you for sending the lyrics of Coney Island. As I read through it more and more memories came back to me - I guess at my age (73) I'm starting to live more in memories! The list was so inclusive of the part of the country that I knew so well -Downpatrick, St. John's Point with it's horn that blew so dolefully through the summer fogs, Strangford Lough where I raced a small sailboat out of Whiterock for a few years before emigrating in 1960 to North America, Killyleagh where there was a fleet of Lightenings that the locals had built themselves, and of course Ardglass which we walked to for shopping and where I loved to go and watch the herring fleet come in on mornings that were windy and rough. Soooo... many memories that the song elicited. I had not ever heard of Van Morrison so went to the internet and saw that he had made a lot of recordings. I will try to hear some of his music. I looked for a CD that might have 'Coney Island' on it, but so far have been unsuccessful. I'll search more when I have more time.I looked at your website and see that you have a wide variety of paintings; I looked mostly at the landscapes, which is what I tend to paint, and enjoyed all of them, though I especially liked Coney Island. How is living and painting in Spain? And, how is painting for a living? In my case I don't think I would be eating too well if I was depending on my art to support me!! I admire you being able to do that.
After sending yesterday's e-mail I was trying to tidy my "studio" (I don't know how it gets in such a mess so fast!) and in the process came across a copy of a clickback you had sent to Genn regarding a critic's comments on your boat paintings. I think I had kept it because the address was Belfast, and because you obviously were an enthusiastic, confident sailor who was willing to undertake the delivery of other people's vessels. I've been an enthusiastic sailor all my life and though I've done some ocean passages, I've never been in command; I don't think I have the confidence for that. So I admire you for that!
Well I've rambled on enough for now, I guess. Don't you enjoy Genn's newsletter and the opportunities it provides to interact with artists all over the world?
With my best wishes for wonderful paintings,

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