Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Merry Christmas!

One final effort for 2013. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!! May you know joy, peace and love. This is also a good time to say a huge "THANK YOU" to everyone for visiting my blog and for all your kind words of encouragement and appreciation, they have all meant so very much to me. After all the festive celebrations we can look forward to a brand New Year. I sincerely hope it is a year of open doors, good fortune and renewal for eveyone of you.  Bright Blessings. 

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Poppies in Watercolour.

I do hope I will be forgiven for repetition when I have explained my situation. The health issues previously mentioned, far from going away, have taken a decided turn for the worst. The fact is, they are beating me at the moment and, for the past few weeks have prevented me from doing anything at all. This picture was completed not long after the two previous ones. I've done nothing since. I was slightly unhappy with the last two as I felt that the actual poppies lacked a little definition considering they were the title source for the paintings and I've tried to rectify that issue here. It was the last time I meaningfully took up a brush. I have no more inspiration or creative energy and because of this I am taking a blog break in the hope that coming events will give me a chance to recover. I go back into hospital in a few days so that they can reverse a procedure carried out in the summer which, far from helping, has made things much worse. It's true I was feeling some dis-comfort back in the spring ( "dis-comfort" is a much loved term among health specialists and is used when they want to lie about how much pain you are going to experience), but no one could have foretold my situation as it stands today. Equally, it is impossible to foretell how I will be afterwards. Having said this, I will be back. I love blogging. I love sharing my work and, even more, appreciating other people's work. I am disappointed, frustrated. Furious.   Returning to the poppies, I felt that maybe it would be appropriate to post another tribute to these iconic flowers of the battlefield after all. Not far away, a war continues to rage. The forces of good and evil, oppression and freedom, discrimination and justice, clash and wrestle for ascendancy. One man has tipped the balance in favour of humanity's more positive side. Now, finally, he rests, having endured more than one human being should ever have to endure, having achieved more than one human being should ever be asked to do. You have earned your rest and set a standard for all other so called world leaders.   Sleep well Nelson Mandela.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Happy Halloween!

I don't expect these to be to everyone's taste but there, Halloween is what it is. The graveyard scene was done a fair while ago now, it's one of those from a pile which normally would stay firmly put away, I've re-touched it here and there and posted it purely due to the season. The pen and wash picture is the result of another sleepless night and is inspired by that brilliant short story "Oh, Whistle and I'll Come to You My Lad", by the incomparable M.R.James. Both pictures are from my dark and dusty  imagination. I had a terrible tussle with the figure in "Whistle" and I'm shocked at how rusty my drawing skills are at the moment. More practise required!!  It's been a strange few days. Due to lots of encouragement from my better half, I took some work to a new gallery in town in the hope that, if I caught them on a good day, I could maybe sneak one or two pictures onto their walls. They wanted NINE!!!! Elated as I was, reality soon reared it's pumpkin head. The deadline is very near and none of them are even mounted let alone framed. Then there is the fact that I've done nothing so sensible as to paint pictures which will fit into "off the shelf" mounts. Oh no, not little me.  Literally hours after arriving home I went down with a ghoulish viral infection. I am now in the process of cutting mounts and finding frames to fit.  And the clock face lears and clicks it's teeth, tick tock tick.......  A frantic but happy Halloween this is turning out to be and, as is usual where life is concerned, not without it's witches brew of irony. Wishing you all a real scream of a season!!!

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Poppies in Watercolour.

The other day, I arrived home with a tube of watercolour and noticed that the lid of the tin in which my colours reside barely fits anymore. I wondered how I had managed to amass such a number of tubes when, if you read almost any book on watercolour painting, you will be advised on the merits of a limited palette. Perhaps it is the element of mystery they hold. By this I mean that watercolour can be, as we all know, very unpredictable. Sometimes it can seem to have a life all of it's own when released onto the page and, whenever I pick up a tube, I wonder if I wouldn't be overly surprised to feel a faint and quickening pulse. But then of course, that pulse is in my eager finger tips - isn't it? My recent attempt with acrylics only emphasises this further. Acrylics do what they are supposed to do on the surface, they don't move from where they are put, they don't blend or bleed before your eyes against your very will, they don't thwart your carefully laid out plans and transform a picture from promise to failure in a split second and, they don't indulge in 2D gymnastics such as back-runs etc.  Ah, but despite their willfulness, watercolours are old, established friends. Real friends, with whom life is not always easy, with whom there will always be dis-agreements, arguments, even short periods of quiet distance. But they are friends nonetheless, who will always be there and, what's more, will always be treasured.  Ultramarine, a deep, warm blue which granulates on the paper providing texture as well as the colour of a Mediterranean sky. Cobalt, a kind of all purpose blue, a bit cooler than Ultramarine and ideal for more northern skies. Mixed with Alizarin Crimson it yields a useful shadow hue. Cerulean Blue is cooler still, the delicate shell of a Song Thrush egg or a wintry evening sky - one of my favourites.  Let's get down to earth. Raw and Burnt Sienna, rich and autumnal and don't forget that warm, ancient brickwork on farmhouses and village streets. Raw Sienna is so versatile it will even provide a warm backdrop for a summer sky. Burnt Sienna with Ultramarine summons a rich, warm dark for that open doorway.  The sun is shining through the window as I write this. Lemon Yellow, acidic, juicy and strangely cool for a colour that depicts sunlight so well. Then there are the Cadmiums, both Red and Yellow. Cadmium is a nasty, highly toxic metal (Cd. on the Periodic Table). Manufacturers have found substitutes to enable us to enjoy these colours safely. Uncompromising and opaque, they need care when applying. Just a few well-placed spots and Cadmium Red can lift a whole picture single-handedly. All the colours mentioned so far are what would be termed traditional, there are others, more modern with exotic names. I don't own any Perylenes or Indantherines but I do own some Quinacridones. Quinacridone Red is a pure, transparent and unbiased red. In diluted washes it gives a lovely, dusty pink, I've found it's also ideal for toning down greens. Quinacridone Gold, a potent, molten yellow. Apply it to wet paper and watch as it overpowers the white, almost scorching the surface. One of my all-time favourites is Green Gold. Transparent and intense, as it's name suggests it is somewhere between green and yellow but it is deliciously rich and evocative. Whenever I see it on a palette I smell turning Autumn leaves and the damp fragrance of Sphagnum Moss. I could go on and on ("No, please no"! I hear you cry.), Like what a curious thing Neutral Tint is. Hardly a colour at all, more like a mood, or a statement of intent. How on earth did they get that in a tube?  I haven't come close to covering all the colours I own but I think I've rambled enough. All the above consists of my own opinions and you, dear friend, may have good reason to disagree with some, or all of it. The whole point of this was to try to apply reason to the burgeoning content of my paint box. My wife has never questioned this but what if, one day, she did? She would be entitled to an answer. Or maybe (and this is highly likely), she already knows and simply indulges this 51 year old child his little bolt hole from the world. She has, after all, always known how to sustain my happiness.  Monday I go into hospital again. They are going to try again. My wife will come and fetch me home when they have finished with me. If I'm well enough I'm thinking of asking if maybe we could stop by an art store. Just to have a look around....  Watercolour on Saunders Waterford 140lb ROUGH.       

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Poppies in Acrylic

A while ago I came across some long forgotten tubes of acrylic in one of my drawers. Although they were well over 20 years old, amazingly, they yielded to a gentle squeeze and I resolved to give them a try. They are Winsor & Newton Artist Quality, I remember someone giving them to me claiming that they were "horrible" to use. Had I known at the time that thinning them with turps was not a good idea, I would have told him!!  I recently broadened my palette range with some much cheaper Daler System 3 colours which seem to inter-mix with no problems and, fuelled by some encouragement from Christiane Kingsley (do visit her blog if you haven't already), I dived in. This took about 4 hours in total, that's from making the canvas board to signing it as finished. I enjoyed working with solid colour and slapping it on in places and I will do some more but, it wont replace my watercolours, I'm far too much in love with that particular medium!! This is all I've managed to produce over a difficult few weeks, it's a first attempt and, as with any new medium, there is a lot to learn.  I'm going into hospital tomorrow and will be"off line" for a short time. I'm saying this because I really appreciate people visiting my blog and am very, very grateful for any comments, so much so that I always acknowledge them as soon as I can. It wont be possible for me to do so as quickly after tomorrow but I will catch up I promise!! Likewise, I will be doing a lot of visiting when I get home!!  Acrylic on MDF board covered with butter muslin. 

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

On The Beach.

The dull mornings following cold, clear nights, the almost daily visitations of rain and the changing colour of wind-blown leaves. All this almost certainly signals the end of summer. Warm days on the beach are already a receding memory. I couldn't resist one final visit to those times before we grudgingly switch on the central heating. And don't listen to members of my household, this never actually happened and these are most certainly not self portraits!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Crab Apples.

The reason for doing this picture was to test some new paper. This is the first time I have used 100% cotton paper as opposed to wood pulp and it was really refreshing to just slap paint on without worrying too much about the result. I didn't really know what to expect from the paper, probably not a lot but i have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. Washes seemed to be slightly easier to control but the main difference was the paper's resilience when lifting colour. Wow it's so tough!! I watched Hazel Soan do a picture of apples like this which is what inspired me to have a go. I love her watercolour style and will admit I tried to copy it a bit. Mental note to self, "Admire other artists by all means but don't imitate - it doesn't work"!!! I'm very pleased with this paper and the results and will probably try a landscape with it soon. Watercolour on Saunders Waterford 140lb Rough. 

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Cornish Cliffs

From a photograph taken somewhere in Cornwall, this is my best effort yet in terms of using an image for information as opposed to being enslaved by it. More and more I've come to believe that simplifying and selecting source material is a technical skill in it's own right, one that requires hard work and determination if it is to be mastered, unless of course it comes naturally. With me it certainly doesn't!! In terms of tone, I lost my way a little at times, there were some frenetic and at times, desperate running repairs going on at certain points. It's a strange thing this confidence factor, enabling an artist to surprise even himself one moment, evaporating like a ghost the very next. I use the word "ghost" deliberately, a loss of confidence can haunt you for a very long time. Well, as you can see, the struggle ended eventually. My desk at the finish was piled high with colour-stained kitchen roll, paint tubes and brushes languished forlornly in puddles of murky water an I, breathing hard, finally recovered from my nervous breakdown. I reflected on how something which is supposed to be such a pleasure can, at times, be so damned stressful! The whole event must have been very entertaining to watch though. Time to relax with some doodling.....  Watercolour and gouache on Langton 140lb NOT. 

Monday, 19 August 2013

Poppies 1.2.3.

I haven't been well again, hence the rather low level of activity on here, it's either crippling pain or thought-stopping morphine. I've now mentioned this twice on what is supposed to be an art blog, not a health blog, so I promise not to labour the point again. These three are the result of a completely sleepless night when, for want of anything better to do, I squeezed some colours onto a palette with a view to doing some unambitious doodling. They are only about 5"x 7" and are purely from my imagination - no photographs or any references from books etc. I set out with one piece in mind and before I knew it, I was completing the third one, what a strange thing this hobby is!!! Watercolour on Langton 140lb Rough.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Cornwall montage.

This is something I've had going on for months, I do a bit, then leave it, then return again. It's another picture for my wife who is my most important (and only) patron and, if my output allowed, would have our home filled with this sort of thing. I must admit doing projects like the one here is a lot of fun, mixing cartoon style stuff with more representational images and adding a bit of humour. It was also nice to add a personal touch with our two kids running into the sea. The mount, if you haven't already guessed, is a photo mount which can be picked up very cheaply together with the frame, in a lot of hardware stores. My wife and (only) patron is very pleased with her latest order ! Watercolour with pen and ink on any old paper to hand.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Here comes the rain! Nr Widemouth Bay.

I have to admit I have had a tendency to "bottle it" when it comes to skies in watercolour in the past. To me, they require a good, confident technique and a degree of courage, I find it very easy to stay in my comfort zone, limiting the space in the composition for a sky and therefore, getting away with a safe, simple wash of Ultramarine or Cobalt. This can become a problem if you wish to paint atmospheric landscapes, as the sky dictates the whole tone, colour and mood of the picture. Also, if it goes wrong, the picture fails before it's hardly begun. So here I am, freshly delivered from safety, into the zone of the bold, or even chaos!! I had a devil of a job with this and more than once I was tempted to introduce it to the bin. The photograph was taken from a raised vantage point, pushing the horizon up to that dreaded halfway line, so I had to compress the rocks, sea and beach into a smaller space. Just to make things even harder for myself, I used an unfamiliar palette, namely Windsor blue, Burnt Umber, Cadmium Yellow, Paynes Grey, White Gouache and Alizarin Crimson. I found the blue very powerful and particularily hard to handle compared to Ultramarine or Cobalt Blue. The picture has been cropped a fair bit due to another bit of old Langton 140lb NOT (the same pad as for the previous picture, thankfully that's the last of it), which had a problem with the sizing. Once again, I've learned a lot and I'm really glad I stuck with it!!!

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Port Isaac Street.

This blog has been a bit quiet lately. The fact is I've been rather unwell. A persistant kidney problem has really set in and knocked me flat. Staggering pain is not the ideal condition in which to make pictures, nor is a mind-blocking cocktail of tramadol and morphine. Then there is a living to be earned and all my energy has gone into that, I work with very vulnerable people, letting them down is not an option, regardless of how I feel. Despite all this, out of sheer stubborness, I did this on one of my better days. I didn't expect much when I started it, it was intended to be more of an exercise. In the photograph the sun is overhead and slightly to the left, putting all the buildings in shade. To add interest, I put the light source lower in the sky and to the right, hence all the shadows are as I have imagined them. I really went for it here and have never punched in shadows so boldly before. As I've said, I wasn't too bothered about the end result, but I enjoyed the technical challenge and learned a lot. It was done on a bit of ancient Langton 140lb NOT which had suffered from damp at some point and I didn't even bother to stretch it. It could do with some figures to add life and I may re-visit the subject with this in mind.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Strumble Head.

A very hastily sketched view in ink from long ago. Grabbing a few minutes recently, I threw some washes on it. It's strange how, after all this time, I can still clearly remember that great thunderhead speeding towards me as I frantically scribbled!! Strange also, looking back, how unaware I was that life for me was going to change, that it was going to fall apart, to shatter, and for a time I would wander under a sky too dark to paint. But the clouds blew away as they always do. It rains now and then, but now I live in warmth and light.   Ink and watercolour on cartridge paper.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Port Isaac.

Another picture from a photograph taken on a dull, colourless day. Originally, I set out to just do an ink drawing but I couldn't resist putting some washes on it. I then, as is so often the case, started to fuss over some of the washes. To me the result is a picture which isn't really sure what it's supposed to be. What I was pleased about was the light in the picture, as I said, the photograph is dull and overcast, I tried to brighten the scene and freshen it up and, to a point, I succeeded. As I type this the rain is lashing down outside and gusts of wind drive it against the window. Another cold, miserable, drab day. There seems to be no end to this disgusting weather, it's all the more frustrating as I determined to try doing most of my work "plein air" this year. Ah well, time to look through the photographs again!!!

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Our Lottie.

Monday the 6th broke with tradition in that we had brilliant sunshine. In fact, it was so hot I got burned. We are way behind with our allotment because of all the previous bad weather, so, off we went to get things done. Tradition was broken a second time in that I took time out to do this sketch while my wife did all the planting. It was a novel if slightly guilty experience to sit and draw while Helen established runner beans and peas etc and is not, I hasten to add, how I would normally spend time there. She likes this picture but I'm not sure how many more times I will get away with such a leisurely morning!! Waterproof and water-soluble ink and watercolour on Daler 90lb NOT.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

New forest.


My attempt at a monochrome watercolour from the past. "Well", I thought, "Green should be easy as it's so common in nature". Hmmmm, how wrong. Seen a green deer on your travels anyone? I was really struggling with the medium at the time, (even more than I do now) and it shows in places.
Nevertheless, I was very happy with this at the time. The photograph has washed out some of the colour which, ironically, has unified the image and lifted it. 
Watercolour on Bockingford 140lb.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013


This is from a few years ago now. It was done at a life- drawing evening class but was not influenced purely by the model. It's also derived from a dream I had when I was very ill in hospital some time earlier, the impression of which has stayed with me to this day. It is also influenced by the scientific theory that everything in the universe, including our own bodies, is constructed from stardust, ie basic elements. That all sounds a bit deep but I had a lot of fun doing it!! 
Watercolour and wax crayon.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Edgewick Farm.

Work is still very demanding at the moment and I'm having to snatch a few minutes here and there. This is a picture I did earlier this year and is the last of the snow scenes. I tried to get a bit more colour going here and that's something I want to continue to develop. Watercolour on Langton 140lb.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Pen and Wash

Work is crazy at the moment. What little time I have off finds me tired and completely devoid of inspiration. At times like this I can stare at a blank piece of paper for hours without moving, totally powerless. However, rather than wasting precious hours, I've spent the odd 15 mins or so here and there putting watercolour washes over some old ink sketches. One of them shown here is a sketch from earlier in this blog. I've really enjoyed doing this as the guidelines are already in place, as is some of the tone, it's just a matter of colour selection. Ideal for an addled old brain. I also quite like the way washes behave on cartridge paper. I'm definitely going to do more work like this when time is short and energy is low.

St Ives

This is the "twin" of the St Ives painting which I posted at the start of my blog. Again it was done for my wife and I had the countless hours these things take to hand because I was off work with an injury at the time. I claim absolutely no credit for the style and would like to acknowledge Polly Gardiner as a major influence. I had so much fun doing this, I found it so liberating being able to disregard perspective rules and realism, as well as playing with pretty colours. It also transported me back to happy holiday times and sunshine. Watercolour on Langton 140lb NOT.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Edgewick Farm.

I'm itching to get out and sketch but it's cold enough to freeze the ink in a pen!!! Oh and just in case, like me, you are sick of snow, snow and more snow...... Here is a snow scene!!!
Watercolour on Langton 140lb NOT.


No pencils here, just straight in with a pen. You leave your holiday cottage at 5am and drive down to the harbour. It slumbers peacefully, the fishermen and tourists are still dreaming of the day to come. The only sound is the haunting cry of seagulls. Later, they will tolerate the noisy hundreds but for now, the harbour belongs to them. As you walk back to the car with everything put away, you see your footprints in the sand. Your presence here for that half hour has, in a tiny and subtle way, changed the landscape. It will never be quite the same again and, because you are so privileged as to be able to create something out of nothing, neither will you.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

When it all goes wrong.

Wife does some internet trawling and gets family a cheap holiday in Cornwall. Husband packs a small digital camera and drives south - in October. A lovely time is had by all, despite a bit of rain and husband, fool that he is, comes back with about 70 grey, dull, toneless snaps of fishing villages etc. The result is this horror which I'm glad to post as a kind of confession of my folly. I learned from it though, I suppose that's something!!

Willen Church.

There is nothing like getting out and working from life. A few years ago I went through a short phase of trying to draw churches. This was intended as a quick sketch of only a few minutes, as so often happens with me though, I got totally immersed in what I was doing. I was still in the same spot after an hour and my pencil eraser was half the size.

Friday, 15 March 2013

In the woods. Edgewick farm.

Watercolour on Langton 140lb NOT. Edgwick farm is a popular place for us to walk the dog and generally have a good ramble. It's also one of the many places where we've tried to tire out the kids.
Without success. This is from a photo taken on a gloomy afternoon and I made a concious effort to impose my own ideas concerning light values. I also used artistic licence to make the path lead the eye into the focal point in the top right. It takes confidence to make changes to an image, something I'm not overly endowed with, but I'm generally pleased with this one and it gave me a boost.

Loch Lomond, Scotland.

Watercolour on Langton 140lb NOT. This started out as a doodle in order to explore the "dry brush" technique. Before I knew it, I was carried along by the process and ended up with this unplanned finished painting!  It's based on a photo in a reference book. I've never been to Scotland but would love to go with a sketchbook in hand. And also tour the distilliaries!!

Nags Head.

This is a view of "The Nag's Head" Pub in Great Linford one winter's evening. I'm not terribly happy with it. It's all too typical of me slavishly copying a photo instead of drawing inspiration from it. The figures are too dark, the camera struggling with the light/dark contrast of the scene. This was done a while ago now and, although I've made progress, I still find myself getting too drawn in to a photo image quite frequently. Watercolour on Langton 140lb. NOT.

Newport, Wales

In my experience, going on holiday and painting just don't mix. One can become very engrossed in a subject which can make others feel (understandably) excluded and ignored. So, a small cartridge pad, a few ink drawing pens and about 15 minutes while they search for ice cream and just dive in!!
I really enjoy doing ink sketches from life with no preliminary pencil drawing. When I first started it scared me, no way of rectifying...... What if I mess it up? Well, it's a bit of paper, that's all!!

St Ives 1

This is a view of St Ives, a family favourite holiday destination. It's not typical of the sort of work I do but my wife absolutely loves this style and wants to fill our house with it! Watercolour with accents in black ink, it is heavily influenced by local professional artists and is often sold in postcard form in the tourist shops. The main influence and inspiration though was Helen herself. There is nothing like making something for someone you love.


Hello and a very warm welcome to my new art blog. Thankyou for taking the time to visit.
Firstly, thankyou to my wife for setting this up and dragging a 50 year old techno dinosaur into our modern world.
I am an amatuer artist and have had no formal training, I've just gained experience (slowly), and absorbed various influences along the way.
My chosen mediums are pencil, ink and watercolour, mainly it has to be said, due to work space and a water-tight budget. I hope you will pardon the pun.
I have put a mixture of old and more recent work on here and intend to add to it on a fairly regular basis. This is of course influenced by having a busy family life and a demanding job.
My ambition is simply to improve, improve, improve and, above all, to enjoy what I do.
I will also be submitting various thoughts and musings on what I do occasionally, both art and life related. It's going to be very informal and, if it reflects my character, rather haphazard at times!!!  
I'm more than aware of my limitations and my wife tells me that I am my harshest judge. She has witnessed firsthand my bouts of frustration and self criticism!
I would really welcome any comments or feedback from you if you can take the time to do so and I hope my ramblings and scribbles provide a little distraction in this, the most busy of worlds.
This year, I've decided to knuckle down and work hard on my art. I've realised that I cant be complaining that this or that never goes right if I haven't put the effort in.
I want this journey to finally gather speed and intent. I sincerely hope you will drop in now and again to see what I'm doing.
And if like me, you find that sometimes there is so little time, there is no money, inspiration has left you, I dare to hope that it helps to know that yep, I'm right where you are!!