John Constable

Today I finished reading a biography of the English artist John Constable. As a boy, I remember cycling with my friend Charles to Flatford Mill and looking at Willy Lott’s cottage. On at least one occasion we took a small camping stove with us and made hot baked beans and saussages for our lunch when we got there.

Biographies are often interesting, but I do find them a tad sad in conclusion; they inevitably end in the person’s death. Whereas Turner was an immensely popular artist, Constable had a long and hard job getting any kind of proper appreciation of his work, apparently. A note found amongst his papers after his death says:

My art flatters nobody by imitation, it courts nobody by smoothness, it tickles nobody by petiteness, it is without either fal de lal or fiddle de dee, how then can I hope to be popular?

I don’t think Constable was happy about this; I think it made him sad.

I have often wondered about the lack of popularity for my music and songs. For example, since January 2008 I have played approximately 550 one hour shows live, streamed up to the Second Life community on the internet. Although there are some exceptions, I typically attract very small audiences. I do, however, have a small number of very loyal fans. I jokingly say to my audience that my original compositions are an acquired taste. Be that as it may, I do not wish to go down the path of ‘poor me’ or bewail the lack of a large successful fan base. Rather, the passage from Constable has made me think twice about the strategy I have pursued over the past couple of years or so. Whereas in the past I focussed almost entirely upon my original compositions, I have recently directed a lot more effort into working up covers (and I do these songs on piano). I am now wondering whether I need to re-adjust the balance somewhat.

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