This week’s cover mirrors Toby Haynes’ closeness to nature in his lifestyle as both artist and poet. Haynes divides his time between Cornwall, in South West England, and East Hampton. In Cornwall, sheep and cows graze outside his window—while in East Hampton, he is amongst the trees and rugged dunes. Haynes lets us in on his background and creative inspiration.
How do you divide your time between Cornwall, England and East Hampton?
It’s close to 50-50 between Cornwall and New York Manhattan/East Hampton. I’m in Cornwall today, returning to the States on the 20th of January for a couple of months or so. I first came because I had friends here; now I have a load more of them.
What parts of the natural landscape in East Hampton do you find most inspiring?
Probably the dunes with their twisted, wind-thrown trees—especially at dusk, with the rippling wave-like shadows in the sand. See “Napeague Twilight” on my website.
Having studied German and Philosophy, do you see a connection between your university studies and your painting and writing today?
Perhaps in the sense that I tend to look below the surface of things, even though I love the textures and light—the interface—of the natural world. My sheep drawings are not only character studies but also explorations of pattern and texture. I’ve been told I tend to think too much as well…. To a philosophy student, art and poetry seem to constitute a relatively practical career move.
Did you study art as well?
No formal study, unless you count the bit they teach at grammar school. However, my father was a sign writer, and I grew up surrounded by the smell of paint & turpentine. I have early memories of climbing ladders and scaffolding to help him work on rooftop signs or the paneled sides of heavy-goods vehicles. Health & Safety would have been horrified. Although I went on to read German and philosophy at Oxford, it was probably inevitable that I would end up as a painter.
You’re an environmentalist with Britain’s conservation charity, The National Trust—are you also involved with similar groups here?
Again nothing formal, but I have been known to get down and dirty repairing fences and bulkheads—conservation at the sharp and muddy end.
Is your writing mostly poetry and are your inspirations for painting and poetry similar?
Mostly poetry at present. The two co-exist symbiotically—in some cases a painting sparks a poem or vice versa, but they go their separate ways like dividing cells: they might, for example, share a title but not appear to have anything in common. In its own way, poetry has form, color and texture too. And, as with figurative art, you need to know the rules in order to break them.
Where did this particular cover, “I’m Ready for my Close-up Mr. deMille,” come from?
Most of my Cornish neighbors are cows or sheep, and these guys are no exception. Cattle are wonderfully inquisitive, and their eyes seem to reflect the whole world. This painting won second prize in an online show organized by art-competition.net a couple of weeks ago, so I hope a few people are returning the gaze! The title comes from the end of Sunset Boulevard, and is actually a common misquote: In the film, Gloria Swanson’s character says: “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.” I probably spent too long deciding which version to quote.
Where’s your next show?
I’m represented by a gallery in London online at art-movement.com, but most of my paintings are in the U.S. My next confirmed solo show will be in South Huntington in the summer but I’ll be popping up in other places in the meantime. Anyone who’s interested can always contact me directly for updates or viewings: firstname.lastname@example.org, tobyhaynes.com.