Cornwall, England, may seem like a faraway place for some people, but to cover artist Toby Haynes, it’s home. Similarly, the Hamptons may seem like an equally distant setting for other individuals, but again, for Haynes it’s home. While Haynes is English, dividing his time between the East End and a small village, Launceston, in northern Cornwall, he gets inspiration from both environments. He also finds a connection between the two areas: both are dominated by the sea where the lighting is formable, although Cornwall’s ambience is “softer” and evokes a green/brown color that meets in the middle. Conversely, the Hampton sky favors a yellow/blue tint.
The cover image, “Electric Dusk,” recreates the South Fork at sunset, juxtaposing manmade electric poles with the natural sky. The contrast is striking as are many of Haynes’ works where the mood is simultaneously mysterious and mythic. Whatever the medium he uses (oil, watercolor or pastel), there’s a sense of discovery for the artist and viewer alike. And a sense of timelessness and universality. For example, while we realize that Haynes’ sheep were drawn in Cornwall, we can imagine they might be living any place, even the Hamptons.
Q: Cornwall is one of my most favorite places on the planet, maybe because a group of abstract artists lived and worked there in the 1940s like here in East Hampton. Dame Barbara Hepworth, for example. But the landscape is extraordinary, too. What does Cornwall mean to you?
A: Cornwall is a Celtic stronghold, separated from England. It has a lot of strangeness. I am English living in Cornwall, but I’m not Cornish. It’s a pleasure living here, like residing in a foreign country.
Q: Describe your living conditions in Cornwall.
A: I live in a little cottage, and I built a studio three years ago. Most of my neighbors are sheep, and the towns are 10 miles away.
Q: How about the grocery story?
A: Two miles away.
Q: That’s not bad. I travel two miles to the store. Pardon the question, but do you have a television?
A: I used to look after a disabled lady, and TV was central to her life. But after she passed away, I threw the TV out.
Q: I can understand that. How do you find New York? Was it difficult for you to adjust because it’s so different from Cornwall?
A: I was surprised I adjusted so well. New York is such an energetic place; the museums and galleries are obviously wonderful. I get there and to the Hamptons six months a year. It’s a nice mixture.
Q: Are you planning on using New York as a subject for your work?
A: I imagine New York will be part of my work: buildings that are gilded by the sun, Central Park. I tend to work in series which now don’t include New York. Artists don’t like to worry about their next piece or subject so that’s why they do series.
Q: What’s the series that you are presently working on?
A: I am doing charcoal drawings of sheep, concentrating on texture.
Q: Why sheep besides the fact that they are all around you in Cornwall?
A: I like them for their abstract, striated patterns when they are shorn. The longer you look, the more you see the design.
Q: It sounds as though you have a strong art background. Or one dealing with nature.
A: My father was a sign painter, a commercial artist you might say. I grew up with the smell of paint. Every Christmas my brother and I would get a box of watercolors.
Q: Did you major in art?
A: No, I went to Oxford University and studied German and philosophy.
Q: That’s really impressive. How about being involved with nature?
A: After the University, I worked for the National Trust in North Cornwall moving sections of the coastal footpath.
Q: That’s impressive, too. I have walked on part of that footpath. But what really attracted you to art besides perhaps your father’s profession?
A: It came instinctively. I was far more interested in something I could create. Philosophy isn’t tangible like art. You know the saying, “ Philosophy is a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat.”
Toby Haynes’ work may be seen on his website: www.tobyhaynes.com.