Each month the Renderosity community votes on The Renderosity Artist Of The Month [AOM] ... October's AOM is Michael Graeme Coxe [meico] from the Writers Gallery. We congratulate meico for his outstanding collection of written works!
Who is "meico"?
This is a difficult question for a retiree, since what we are is so often defined by the way we ‘earn a crust’. For forty years I was a teacher, the last twenty-seven of which I was Headmaster of a school for children with specific learning disabilities and social/emotional problems. All my energy and creativity was absorbed by my work, leaving little or no time for personal development. Now … well, I write a little, make a few pictures, potter in the garden – usually on a chair with a long cold vodkatini – watch the world go by [and consult my memories] a great deal. I am also frequently dragooned into serious ‘grampsing’. Before my first grandchild was born some 17 years ago I did state categorically that “I don’t do babies!” The babies, however, didn’t agree.
My early years were spent in the Valleys of South Wales – a schizophrenic environment when the landscape of miners’ terraced houses clinging to the hillside segues seamlessly into crags and fern-garnished mountainsides, vigorous brooks and secluded woodland. Musicality, lyricism and a love of spoken language are all part of my Welsh heritage and I think they are all discernable in my written and graphic work. Wales was – and remains – the place I call home, though we only visited there each year until my mid-teens each summer holiday.
Apart from those early years and visits, a further two years living semi-rough on the resort coast of North Wales, three years at College in Chester, and a single year working in the Fenlands of East Anglia, I have lived and worked in Manchester. The earthy and grounded tones in my work are directly attributable to my childhood and adolescence in the back streets of this soot-stained, grimy industrial city.
How long have you been writing?
The earliest poem I can find, written in a school exercise book aged 15/16, is a love poem – or, rather, an elaborate chat-up line – designed to impress a girl. It didn’t. I was dumped for someone with more spending power:
I sing an old song, earth song,
I wrote sporadically up to and through College, having a few published in college magazines and such, and also during my early years in teaching when I augmented my meagre income by tutoring non-vocational evening classes in Creative Writing. I was much more involved with traditional visual art at the time, and writing came a poor second. Later, increased responsibilities meant that almost all of my writing was job-related – research articles, lectures etc about my educational specialism – children with special educational needs. A couple of examples [We Don’t Offer Miracles, Dislexya and Stuff] can be found in my gallery. It took a tragedy – my late son’s suicide five years ago - to jolt me into writing seriously. The whole story can be found in Four Years. If you don’t read anything else of mine, please read this. It is why I’m here online.
"GATES OF GRASS"
I see from your homepage that you have some traditional art experience in oil painting. Do you still paint often?
Funny you should ask that! My daughter bought me oil paints, brushes and blank canvasses for my recent 65th birthday to start me off again – I haven’t painted in oils for thirty years. I’d forgotten the sheer terror that a pristine white canvas can produce – but I shall persevere. Watch this space!
What are you currently working on?
I’m working on Rich Kids and Us, Part 2. I’ve already posted Part 1, which was reasonably well-received. I feel the need to chronicle those simpler times of my childhood – the past can sometimes offer pointers for the future. Another project in the planning stage is ‘Starting Out’ contrasting the very different expectations of newly weds now and when I first got married. Poems aren’t usually formally planned, they just pop up when they’re ready. Lastly, I’m updating some of my images and tacking on an appropriate poem where I have one.
What software/equipment do you use and why?
I use MS Word for all my written material. My images are mostly based on scans of existing traditional art drawings, monoprints, paintings and wax-resist … enhanced by postwork using MS Picture It [which was pre-installed on my PC] and PhotoImpact [found on a ‘freebie’ disc attached to a PC Magazine]. Both are comparatively low-tech specific photo-editing programs, though I confess that I’ve used them far beyond the levels and functions for which they were designed.
What do you think your best piece of work is and why?
I think ‘Webmaker and Friends’ [which is posted separately and as part of ‘Four Years’] is the one I’d select because it says just what I wanted and in the way I wanted to say it.
"RITES OF PASSAGE"
Who/what inspires you?
I could be ridiculously trite and say “life” and given that I’ve lived more than sixty reasonably eventful years, there’d be more than a modicum of truth in that. But I presume you’re asking about artistic and literary influences, so here goes:
I’ve always been a voracious and woefully indiscriminate reader, although until I was in my late teens my reading was almost exclusively non-fiction. I was a typical back-street philistine late-fifties teenager interested in birds, booze and Buddy Holly – in that order. It wasn’t until I reached my late teens that I began to read anything of interest, but when I did I devoured everything – Satre, Camus, Kerouac, Dostoievsky, Neitzsche. Poets included the beat poets Ferlinghetti et al, Blake, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Baudelaire, Rilke, Lorca, Cummings and a selection of contemporary British poets, Dylan Thomas, T S Elliott, Christopher Logue, Ted Hughes and [ironically] Sylvia Plath. Of these, I think only G M Hopkins and Dylan Thomas had any stylistic impact on my work – and then not deliberately.
My visual artwork treads the borderline between ‘pure’ and decorative art, and I’m happy with this – I don’t subscribe to the current obsession with novelty at all costs. I abhor the overuse of the word cliché. Frankly, I don’t care if the subject I choose is considered banal or too pretty. For me, line, colour and composition are the most important elements in my pictures – I give little emphasis to form. My pictures are unashamedly 2D and any depiction of perspective is merely hinted at or idiosyncratically contrived. The influence of art nouveau and art deco is obvious – though I don’t attempt to copy either subject or detailed style. Artists of the Austrian Secession and Der Blau Reiter movement have also had some impact on my early work.
How has this online community (Renderosity) enhanced your work, relationships, and learning?
I arrived here purely by accident whilst searching for images for school documentation, though I didn’t join the community until a year later following a promise made to my late son. I joined initially to post scans of my artwork and was delighted to find that I could post writing as well. The first comments on my poems were typically direct [and wholly justified] criticism with just sufficient encouragement for me to take a scalpel for much needed nip and tuck – and subsequently write new stuff. The quality of some of the art and writing – and, above all, the intelligent, kind and supportive people - I found here was astounding and Renderosity seemed the perfect platform to make good my promise.
Do you have any comments or advice for other writers/artists?
Renderosity provides a rich and varied diet, but like all diets sensible management is recommended:
There is so much to take in, so be selective for the most part and choose carefully. However, don’t be too rigid … allow yourself to sample other goodies just for a change.
Read and digest comments thoroughly. If people have taken time to comment – however briefly – do them the courtesy of taking notice and trying to understand their advice and suggestions. Some comments are, of course, simply unpalatable. Just spit ‘em out.
Take time to implement suggestions, don’t rush off instantly to revise your work, even if the advice is sound. Allow yourself to assimilate the advice so that the idea is properly integrated and has become your voice or your vision, and not some hybrid collaboration.
Above all be yourself. Admire other writers by all means, but don’t ape them or follow trends. Develop your own voice in your own way, whether you write form poetry or free verse. Treat general advice from successful writers with a large dose of caution. Comments such as ‘one verb is worth seven adjectives’ or ‘show, not tell’ are simply someone’s opinion, not Holy Writ. They are fashionable ‘buzz phrases’ and fashions notoriously change.
copied, printed, or reproduced in any manner without written permission from the artist.
Artist of the Month is highlighting a talented Renderosity artist that has been nominated by mods and admins, and voted by the community. Recognition is given to this member for their collection of works for that year.
Since we only select one AOM per month, it is not about their works for that particular month. Instead, it is about highlighting a talented artist's works for that year, and they are recognized during that month.
To learn more about Renderosity's Artist Of The Month [AOM] award, and to view our past AOM's, please visit the AOM 2006 page, which can also be found on the sidebar under Highlights.