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.
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.
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.
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.
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.