GUEST ARTIST: Art & Poetry

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolour by Tim Cumming - #doodlewash

My name is Tim Cumming. I have lived in London since the 1980s, but I grew up in rural Dorset, and my parents, Peter and Mary Cumming, were both artists, and I learnt a lot from them, directly and by observation. But otherwise I am self taught. Making pictures is a necessity, from early childhood to right now.

I’m a poet as well as a painter. I’ve had seven collections published since the early Nineties, including a tiny book of paintings and poems from Orvieto, Etruscan Miniatures (Pitt Street Poetry, Sydney, 2012) which helped lead to an exhibition of poems and paintings at Slader’s Yard in West Bay, Dorset.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolour by Tim Cumming - #doodlewash

It is this writer’s experience that making artistic images empties the mind while writing images tends to focus the mind down a steep and narrow way. I drew before I could read or write. Most people do, but I was remedial when it came to reading and writing and needed extra help to learn how to turn that undergrowth of black marks into clear signals. I was seven before I could read my first story – Rapunzel, the Ladybird edition with its vivid watercolours. That Well-Loved Tale, the words and the pictures, and those bottomless, endlessly vibrating fairy tales are, to me, the equivalent of the cave art at Chauvet, the source of it all.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolour by Tim Cumming - #doodlewash

Poetry is a portable art – you need no studio, no room, no lights, no crew; just a pen and a sheet of paper. I make pictorial art the same way, but with watercolour and pen. Portable mediums that fit in a shoulder bag, that dry fast and keep their pigments, like the green of that bewitching Rapunzel. Stuff that you can do standing up. Stuff that doesn’t leave you when you’re down.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolour by Tim Cumming - #doodlewash

Skyscapes, landscapes, studies, portraits. The hills of Dorset, the skies of London, the rooftops of Rabat, a grand Budapest hotel, limestone tufas near Orvieto – in the pictures that I have chosen what’s important is that they’re field paintings, not studio bound, not taken from secondary sources, but from direct contact. Contact sheets. They’re made in the field, a field work open to the elements and senses. Not just the eye, but the hairs on the back of the hand and the neck, the smell of the air, the heat in your fingers, the direction of wind. How you came to be here. I’m looking for impact, not representation.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolour by Tim Cumming - #doodlewash

The intention is to pull the feel and atmosphere of a place into the picture, into a poem, so that what you see retains the direct impact of what you saw and how you felt over the time you were there. I’m looking for the viewer to see their own images in real time. They’re not illustrations at all; they’re beings. They work as a kind of transport.

I use half pan Winsor & Newton artists’ watercolours, Winsor & Newton white gouache, Tombow watercolour pens, Pro Arte sable brushes, various kinds of good heavy paper – Waterford 300gsm, Moleskine 200gsm paper, Seawhite 140gsm notebook. A lot of the pictures made in the field don’t make it. These are some of the ones that did.

Tim Cumming


Recommended1 recommendationPublished in Featured Artists
  1. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 6 years ago

    Tim, this is fabulous art. I really enjoyed reading your article as well – you’re a thoughtful person and have a unique vision. A delightful experience seeing this post today, art and words.

  2. tim Cumming 6 years ago

    Thank you so much Sharon. Positive responses are so valuable…. Tim

  3. Erin 6 years ago

    I love the spirit of the countryside the exudes from your work. A wonderful story 🙂

    • Tim Cumming 6 years ago

      Thanks Erin. Grew up in Dorset, and also on Dartmoor, and go back to both often, from London. I’ve done quite a lot of city drawings, but line drawings or pen – no watercolours. Thinking of trying to forge a ‘hierolyphic’ style for London pictures- Londo nhierglyphs, rail, street, building shapes in simplified forms.

  4. SHARON A HASCHALK 6 years ago

    Hi Tim,
    You really have a unique style all your own, I love it! And the words you used in your post were almost poetry themselves. I like the fact, too, that you do your painting outside in the elements. Thank you for sharing your work Tim, it’s wonderful.

  5. Tim Cumming 6 years ago

    Thanks so much Sharon. Yes, being out there is most important. My Dad was very committed to that too – took his students from Bournemouth college of art out into the landscape all the time. NO PAINTING FROM PHOTOS! You can see some of my father’s more casual drawings here, in a piece of mine about Beethoven and his Ninth…

  6. Peter Freeman 6 years ago

    Great stuff mate,I agree you need to be in the midst of this magical world of ours!
    If only I could learn to read poetry, but I’ll try 🤔🤔

  7. Sharon Nolfi 5 years ago

    Lovely landscapes!

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