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Contemplating life with a clay pipe

ALL artists, and dabblers like me, are influenced by our elders and betters.

The great British potter Bernard Peach picked up techniques and ideas from the Japanese. A whole generation of potters owe a lot to Leach himself.

Surrealists owe a debt to Salvador Dali. Lowryesque painters are all over the place. Even Francis Bacon had his imitators and disciples.

So I'm happy to admit that this picture, called Clay Pipe Smokers, was influenced by a painting I caught a glimpse of as I flicked through a modern art magazine. It emerged with a few strokes of marker pens, but all it has in common with the original is that it features clay pipes, once a source of solace and contemplation for entire generations of English countrymen.

In the 1970s, I dug foundations for an extension to my 17th century thatched cottage in Buckinghamshire. About two feet down, I came upon dozens of broken clay pipes, presumably tossed aside by previous occupants after pondering the state of the world from their tiny parlour. I make no great claims for this simple work, but I like it. And that's enough for me to expose it to the wider world.

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