Adventures in a Perilous Realm Exhibition

Cockenzie House, 22 Edinburgh Road, Cockenzie EH32 0SZ

1st March 2024 – 4th April 2024 (10am-4pm) 



Martin Coventry


 I have always drawn or painted, not least because my parents met at art school and were both art teachers. 

The results, however, were always mixed. My drawing was adequate, only occasionally good; my painting clumsy. I had (and have) a tendency to rework, perhaps overwork. With pencil this leads to the paper being worn through from over use of the rubber and in painting just a spreading messy brown disaster. Art was frustrating.

So, though I strived and, especially when young, had time to work at my art, nothing much of quality resulted except a few decent drawings, only a couple of which were worthy enough to make it into a frame and onto a wall.

And, of course, paying work and relationships and life intervened.

Many, many years passed…

The first inkling of what may be to come was a humble painting in poster paints of Tantallon Castle, made one afternoon with Rachel, my favourite great niece. 

I was surprised that my effort looked like Tantallon Castle, was even a bit good, and a simple technique dawned for constructing a painting.

Then, before that could be explored, along came the menace of Covid, those strange, disquieting, frightening and confining months and eventually years.

At first soothing Bob Ross was only an aid to slumber, as he appeared on late-night tele, brushes in hand while gently, merrily, quietly daubing away at his 18"x24" canvas with his happy little accidents and big trees and too many squint cabins.

But sleep often eluded me and I began to watch his shows.

And his technique and advice and experience began to sink in. A clear method for painting landscapes, for creating skies and mountains and trees and water that looked like skies and mountains and trees and water.

I wanted to try that. My mother had instructed me how to draw and paint but either I was not listening, had not understood or her instruction was not right (for me). I have to admit I usually came away disheartened from our critical sessions. Now I had a technique I could understand and replicate.

What was (and is) great about Bob is his methodology, his joy of painting: not to fear the process or the outcome.

I was not very good at the beginning, far from it, but I could paint a scene that looked like a landscape, albeit lacking subtlety and with heaped rutted paint seemingly inches deep.

So I painted, repeatedly. And (hopefully) improved. And one of the great things about oil paints is that areas can be entirely reworked and even completely obliterated by being scraped off. This so suited me. The power to move mountains and even flatten them.

Since I was a teenager, after consuming books from Lord of the Rings to Conan the Barbarian, I have also written fantasy stories and then novels (I am still hoping to get my thunderous quintology, called the The Sisterhoods, published. Have a look if you have a notion though gore and lust abound). 

Art and writing blended. I pictured all those scenic places in my tales and then manifested them in paint. Places I wanted to see and even visit. And I lost myself.

It's now two years since I got my first canvas and tubes of prussian blue and vandyke brown and sap green and that most excellent of inventions a tube squidger to get the last drop of paint out.

The results are my first exhibition, Adventures in a Perilous Realm

Perilous for  two reasons: I could and do spend hours and even days in that world alone with brushes and palette and the odd stray cat that would pass in the early hours of the morning. Although creative and productive, painting was also engrossing to the neglect of proper nutrition, sleep, exercise and much else, heady as I often was from the linseed oil, half blind from staring at the canvas, fingers and toes frozen, and splattering yet another garment with oil paint.

And perilous because the world I portray is a dangerous place of looming mountains and pathless forests and cascading rivers, and I was never sure what new wonder I would encounter. Not in truth as perilous or hazardous or hideous as the real world. But nevertheless a realm of magic, mystery and beauty where wood elfs still roam and the sea sighs on the sundering shores of Middle Earth.

Martin Coventry

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