Friday, December 31, 2010

spreading colour

Following this weeks progress the oil canvas underpainting (below) looks a little left behind!
This suits me, for by applying a generous quantity of paint here I can really get into the spirit of the thing. Nothing like the spreading of juicy colours around to get the adrenalin moving.
While reviewing the gouache sketches I mix paint, paint that will work to support the later application, and that will be tuned for the final juxtaposition of colours. 
This stage must be kept simple, zones of colour parked in the general area required with a few bold lines to boot.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Radical moves

Here the skittle idea gets the makeover. New colours new look.
By painting at speed with complete focus and holding the idea/purpose in my mind, these radical changes were achieved.

Notable alterations are the removal of the extreme right hand woman and the couple on the steps have changed pose. The simple cross as a compositional device works for me and the level of drama/narrative pleases me.

Watch this space.

Monday, December 27, 2010

zippy do dah

Here they are, two of four new studies just completed in order to break away from those 'charming' watercolours. They are painted with gouache on card and measure about 8cm square.

One main task was to 'bunch up' the figures, more overlap, more image cropping and this has, along with a dramatic change in colours and key made the desired leap forwards.

All the old elements are there, just more so. 

Friday, December 24, 2010


'The Magi' by John Scarland

Like a recent post where I spoke about following the masters as I copied JMW Turner, here I do a work in the style of 14C masters. I just love those rocks and whacky landscapes. 

As I am included in a lot of talks and graphics for my church over Christmas I also identify with this little watercolour. I admit that it was not painted this year, but the thoughts and gladness that flow from the truth of this narrative last from year to year.

A happy Christmas to you.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Testing another watercolour

'skittles' a watercolour by John Scarland

Here is the watercolour variation on the 'skittles theme!  I always find that shifts in medium and size generates movement in my thinking. The previous post on the 'chequers' theme proved that point. This has lifted the idea to much grander event with gender swaps and revised lighting. I have no notion of the nationality, the period or the occasion, they are just interacting a thoroughly human sort of way.
My love affair with watercolour continues. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

testing the water(colour)

'chequers' a watercolour by John Scarland

The work on this idea continues. I need to know the people so I paint them again, this time in watercolour. This repetition is productive, it makes the image more ingrained, more part of myself. This has a sort of circus feel, an alternative spin on the idea - much less of that previous allotment shed connotation. 
This is paving the way for the next revision

Friday, December 17, 2010

The waking mind

the waking mind slides gently into place, 
a distant ante room - shows one arrived
who hands to me a tray of half made thoughts
that nestle close with velvet shells.
Slow awareness forms a shape 
as birdsong drifts on half-lit air.

the sense of bed will enter low,
for warmth and comfort permeate
my fuddled thinking, making ranks
of proper things, that uninvited to my head; inflate.
Another  murmmers close beside  'can you see, 
is that a cobweb or a play of morning light?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Learning from the Masters

To copy the Masters is always a valuable exercise. I like to make changes in order to make my mark and to make the work more interesting, for instance I remember painting that all time great 'The Hay Wain' in the snow! 
Here I have worked on Turners 'Isleworth' on the Thames but wanted to add a modern picnic. The gouache sketch above is to test the layout, how in abstract values will the changes look. and then with this done I can proceed with my revised Turner.
To replicate his colours and tonal patterns is demanding and to stitch my picnic extension in, calls for an understanding of the original gained by just this sort of exercise.
Below is my study piece and I am a little wiser! 

Monday, December 13, 2010


With the drawings complete I make up two canvases about 80cm square, primed Irish Linen and laid on a 6mm ply base in the way I have always done it. This feels good, the preparation of a proper ground in itself gives me confidence in the work.
I continue to make changes, with the chequers above gaining a standing figure behind to widen interest in the group and lift the back to a more diamond shape formed by the figures.
The drawing was indian ink on the white canvas, then transparent oil colours adding a tonal effusion of light and space. 
This work shows me the way ahead. While this paint dries I will revert to more studies in order to 'compress' the composition, to drive up those people I am beginning to be familiar with. By 'drive up' I mean the alter them in a way that may lift our awareness of the human dynamics while stepping away from the level of realism present.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Skittles development

As with the previous post I develop the idea using vigorous drawings with compressed charcoal and water. Below is the earlier and inferior attempt that was overpainted using white emulsion to alter the darks. A general improvement is seen with what is now seven figures.
The drawings are about 40cm square and are devised for the fluid improvement of the scheme

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Chequers development

I worked on a sheet of paper for some time - standing by the fire drawing and re-drawing this composition. Thinking and designing is no way forward! I change tack.
A new sheet of 'nice' paper (plus another for the skittles) is pulled from store. Working upright at arms length I dash in the general layout, apply some darks and wash liberally with water. The girl gets a stool and her legs re-arranged - the floor has some 12C perspective and the man on the left becomes bored and stares out of the picture.
The space is still neither in nor out and is now constructed from an abstract arrangement of forms that rather suggest an allotment shed.
An OK stage, more is needed.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

skittle start

charcoal sketch 60cm x 60cm

I had it in mind to work on a medium size group for this, the second pub game picture. Using the Giotto open building room with steps I made this early drawing with five figures. with mast of the skittles almost dead centre there is a strong isometric triangulation. Behind its loose appearance is a very formal composition.
That the man in the centre is wearing what seems to be a dress is probably me overdosing on Giotto  rather than anything else. The animation and layout looks promising enough to me to stick this on the wall to observe and consider the way ahead.
With the chequers also at this stage I am ready to move on. 

Friday, December 3, 2010

First thoughts

figure study with chequers . charcoal . 60cm x 60cm

To counter a creative dead end I turn to a natural model for me; figures in an interior.
I had recently drawn on a lost scrap of paper two men playing bar skittles and it had amused me.
Remembering this while comparing Kitaj and Giotto (as you do) along with some other low relief carvings from the 11thC I saw in the Wallace Collection (below) that took my eye I took up a piece of charcoal. This is one of a few studies I did early this evening in an effort to 'place' the figures in an interesting and meaningful way. These figures are freely drawn from my imagination and undergo continuous revision.
I am at the moment running with two ideas, this one of three figures and Chequers the other with five/six figures and bar skittles.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Lewes Castle 2008

Today has been minor jobs and cleaning up
but here is and etching and a few words about Lewes Castle

(thoughts on visiting Lewes castle)

Up tar-macadam ramps, and over granite sets
through little squares with ancient trees in gentle iron-work.
Polished flints by chalky whites 
contained in leaning quoins lead up and on.
here Hellebores are freshly mulched
instead of hallebardes, 
that clash,
are thinly painted on the wall, in lofty chambers
up the mended stair.
The yellow sun slips in a narrow pane, illuminates 
the deep reveals. 
The watery light is now absorbed by soft distemper resting
on the wall. The gates 
will close at twilight, said the sign.
The mound, together with the distant downs 
will see the evening star.   

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Stripping back

#13, galvanized steel and copper  h.22cm

Late morning and I was back re-drawing #13 again and again.
My initial ink study 01 (bottom) has the core rectangle supported at an angle, and this 'support' is something of a bear hug, too locked, too trapped.
Yesterday's late removal of the triangle was a greater breakthrough than I had realized, leaving me with fewer pieces in a vertical 'bunch' 
Many small exploratory drawings later I managed this biro sketch in the margin (below) that seemed to suggest movement & support.  From this I made the model above from sheet galvanized steel and copper rod (lengths and hole positions need revision) with some success.
Now with just two pieces the work has a greater clarity and with less of that deconstruction chaos.

#13 biro thumbnail sketch

#13 initial ink study 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Back to #13

Last Monday I worked on this idea and made a good start
on reflection I considered it too open and horizontal in appearance
The early ink drawing suggested a tighter, upright form.
I worked through 40-50 drawings to re-work the idea to very little avail, hence my rather unproductive day yesterday.

I made this revision today, late afternoon after reducing the idea to 4 pieces.
It still remains wrong, just wrong.

I took a knife and cut away the triangle reducing it to 3 pieces, and with a pencil scribbled another 5 extensions to the problem, one of which is reproduced below.

On reflection I have serious reservations about the suggestion of arms and a bowed figure, but the reduction as a general idea pleases me.
More drawings, another model and a colour revision is tomorrows task  

I must revisit the text (Psalms) to imbibe the sense, to fill up with a feeling that can be poured out in form.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Czech beer and red cabbage

Here is an ink drawing of a workbench
it sums up the idea of tools and a work station.
I like it very much.

I remind myself of the little drawing to cheer my spirits for the day has yielded very little of any worth.
All wrong headed and fruitless efforts.
My bench can rest quiet tonight as the temperature drops with the fading light.

Pete is coming for supper . . . .
Ruth is cooking beef casserole and Red Cabbage with onions and garlic.
Pete will bring rations of Czech beer in his haversack and we will talk about everything.
So the day is not so bad and tomorrow is another day.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

e-bay opportunity

'Stars on Canvas' is a charity effort for the Willow Foundation,
It is on e-bay waiting for your bids! 
With lots of others to browse through you can choose from Richard Long
to Stephen Fry with loads in between.
Mine is 'Come away" as shown above and is worth lots and lots!
so go check out John Scarland on ebay for a bargain piece

Friday, November 26, 2010

Drawing 43

Drawing #43

The later drawing were more and more abstract.

How to translate them into form presented some difficulties, but the idea of inserting material into a vitrine could be the answer.

Some years ago I was commissioned to make a glass door with painted glass. By fitting the glass with two sheets of glass, I was able to paint half the image on each sheet, then as one moved the images also moved in relation to each other with interesting effects.

Here I will use a similar ploy, painting on the glass front and back and this time inserting items suspended in the vitrine as the rough and ready movie tries to show.

These models I have made this week are to help me to make assessments before committing to a larger and more finished work. The question of size and material is at present unresolved.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Here is Psalm drawing #16.
It was the last drawing in the first session and I remember it as promising.
I have spent a long time drawing and re-drawing this one. The issue was the striped band that connects the two upper forms and the rather phallic top on the right hand upright that was so dominant. 

In the today's wooden model (two views below) the connecting strip has been removed and the upright form has been modified to a sort of half-tulip that works better. I have not coloured them as I need to appreciate the form in its simple state. 

I see the forms in conversation, an intimate dialogue.
The rather 'Bilbo Baggins' feel of the wooden model needs to be changed, bringing it closer to the more futuristic look seen in the ink drawing.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

wobbly vulnerability

#3 the psalm project

This, the third of 45 drawings that were made to launch the project gives me a number of messages.
A smallness and wobbly vulnerability resonated with my own sense of being. The simple decorated top could read as a shield and/or a reflection, both references would work for me and my reading of the psalms.

The wire and card model below followed a series of small development drawings. The legs to be in iron rod with riveted joints and the top, perhaps wood with enamel colours.

The change in proportions is unsatisfactory, there is more work to do, any possible likeness to an ironing board must be eradicated!
Its anthropomorphic reference is intended and acceptable.

psalm model #3. galvanized wire and painted card

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Response #22

This is an Indian ink drawing #22 from the Psalm response idea book
The initial wooden model below shows up the missing black, this may or may not be an issue.

I see the two plinths in stone and the horse like form in black iron (two pieces and riveted at the neck) 
Iron and stone (granite) will work much better than wood because I am feeling a sense of strength from the drawing that is lost in the model.

The simple form has an ancient Etruscan feel.
Some Psalms carry a gathered strength, a robust belief that the ancients communicated.
I think I want this piece to exhale some of that sense.

#22 wooden model

Monday, November 22, 2010

Psalm response

This is drawing #13 from the idea book
one of five I have selected to work from
It has that curving ascendancy that I like.
A suggestion of dynamic forms that look promising.
I make some working drawings

Here with a certain amount of liberty I revise with the possibilities of construction in mind. It is now an assembled construction as apposed to a carved form, but its subsequent lightness is acceptable.
Size and colour unresolved I move on to make a model.

Using wood, card and a glue gun I assemble a small prototype so I can view it in the round. 
My assessment must compare the model with my original response to the Psalm and judge its success in that context rather than being carried away with its latest form.
My first thoughts are positive, but I will put it to one side while I develop the next four to this stage and judge the group together.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Window Shopping

Things warm up before the Redleaf show!
There is some excellent work by many artists here for Nicholas Hills fine Christmas show.
but . . I actually get my work in the window - exciting stuff.

Here the warmth of Conil Beach cheers a November day in Tunbridge Wells.
 . . . and the enormous 'swimming' is awash inside, I just hope the folks at the preview next Friday like them and the other eight on display.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Eating the profits

On the first floor of this building in Tunbridge Wells is a restaurant, I have observed it for some time and wondered what happened beyond those ornate windows.

Having sold a picture last week I decided we needed to experiment with this fine traditional Italian establishment called Signor Franco.

We climbed the stairs at lunchtime today, and when ushered to the window table, basked in the afternoon and enjoyed and excellent and very expensive lunch! Now and again one needs a good lunch, it make you feel again.

So, eating the profits? Sure, but we will remember the watercolour I sold and we will remember the day we ate at Signor Franco.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Creative moments

The development of a new thread in work is not straightforward.
Having a clear idea about 'will to work' is one thing - making proper work from the will is another. This watercolour was painted last night in a creative moment and may possibly work as a visualization of a concept within the grand scheme.

Openness to the new needs a level of alignment to the vision, while repetition of the old is unable to carry the work forward. Progress is uneven and judging the worth of new production must be intuitive.  

Creative moments are elusive, they are not available on demand but must be nurtured. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Me and Panofsky

Erwin Panofsky

This man is a serious writer. I have had a copy of his 'Perspective as a Symbolic Form' for a few years without reading it.

As a stimulus and a stirring of the grey matter I decided to master it.
He draws on a mass of learning that I find bewildering, but with a few reference books to hand I stick with it.

It is about  the intellectual and perceptual understanding of the ages as read from the art of the time. Because the referencing of the emotional aspect of art will vary so much person to person he chooses a study of perspective because it is a science with a more rational and consistent response. 

Much is discussed about 'will to art' - that transfer from the artist's sense to his work, The connection that guides his method and subject to his person and context. 

Working through the great ages of art he concludes with a summing up that contains this sentence, 'It is thus no accident if this perspectival view of space has already succeeded twice in the course of the evolution of art: the first time as the sign of an ending, when antique theocracy crumbled; the second time as the sign of a beginning, when modern "anthropocracy" first reared itself'

Now this poses some problems for me having just toured the anthropocratic galleries of the Saatchi foundation seeing their vigourous and unrestrained promotion of the cause. With my centre of gravity firmly in the theocratic camp and my setting out on a new project 'Psalm' just how am I to project my 'antique' concepts on to modern anthropocracy with any success?

Referring back to Reigl's 'will to art' that was a cradle for Panofsky's work I must conclude, by the same token,  that my belief and context, when held together must generate art that will authentically reference my position. To what degree I can convince the tidal wave of modern anthropocracy that the antique theocratic cause is still valid remains to be seen. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Christmas Show invitation

'Walking together' oil by John Scarland

I was pleased that this oil painting was featured on the back of the Redleaf Gallery 2010 Christmas Exhibition. Situated in Castle street off the High Street in Tunbridge Wells this Fine Art Gallery has shown my work for some time with a very positive response.

I was even more pleased when Redleaf called me today telling me this piece has now been reserved and can I give the client a sight of the real thing later this week. Rest assured, this and other works are all ready wrapped and waiting to be delivered and perhaps lunch out would not go amiss.

Why not join us at the opening . . . .

1 Castle Street
Tunbridge Wells

Private view
Friday 26 November at 6.00pm

Gallery open
Tues - Fri 10.30 - 5.00pm
Sat 10.00 - 5.00pm

Monday, November 15, 2010

Saatchi Gallery

Great perfected being (detail)  Peter Linde Busk

Art Now

A visit to the Saatchi Gallery has been on my list for some time, today it happened.
A serious top end space and free entry

The work on show is very new.
It is powerful, original and striking. I was impressed by the art on show and the way it was presented. 

New generation thinking is abundant - Leaving Tate Modern behind.
It is current - continuing seamlessly from the newspaper I read on the train.

Context is now. 
Content is pomo 

This cannot be faked
It is a genuine response to the day that demands an emotional response.

Can I be authentic?
Can I deliver it now?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Fire and Iron

I took time out to revisit friends at Fire & Iron
Fire and Iron is a fantastic gallery in Leatherhead that shows iron work at its very best. Lucy Quinnel runs a brilliant place that showcases some very special artists, I love the place. 
I am privaliged to show a few pieces there, (seated woman in painted copper shown above is one) along with a few pictures.
Should you Pass Leatherhead on the M25 it would be a mistake not to visit, only 3 minutes from Junction 9.

Friday, November 12, 2010


Now - my favourite oil paint is is by Michael Harding  
My favourite colour is Cerulean Blue.
It is expensive.
Can you believe it!
Here it is on E-bay!
It seems everything is on e-bay
my measly bid of £6.50 failed
shall I bid more? 
It suggests £7.00 + £3 delivery

I am going to do a search for Georges Braque Lithographs now.
wish me luck

Thursday, November 11, 2010

embryonic drawing

psalm : drawing #43

Following on from yesterdays work on the new psalm project
I go to work on completing the book of ideas.

A wild and wet morning blows around the studio
Keith Jarrett plays Bach, I light the incense and decant some Indian ink.

With a view to sculpture, I still hold on to a conceptual approach with the work in hand leaving the translation into an object until later. 

The making of new is easily spoiled by looking sideways at solutions other artists have found. Although I have referred to David Smith and Anthony Caro this morning, but I kept my embryonic drawing flowing from within.

I read more of the text and tried in to overlay its sense with my sense and then continue work believing that consciousness to be enough to guide my hand. 

I now have 45 visual thoughts to consider over the coming days.
some will prove more useful than others.    

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The book of Psalms

Traveling towards me from France in a white transit van is a quantity of seasoned oak in the form of a huge black sideboard. It will be dismantled.
 I have in mind to make five (or so) wooden forms.

Each of these wooden forms will represent the essence of a Psalm
A Psalm is a poetic dialogue between a poet and his maker/protector.

They are charged with a variety of passions
fear, contrition, love, sorrow, joy etc.

As a starting point in the generation of these forms I take an empty drawing book.
With Indian ink I catch a succession of ideas on the empty pages.

Reproduced above is #22 from the 25 I have done so far.
The book has fifty pages.

I began with drawings three dimensional things
but moved on to a more conceptual flavour.

Keeping to the brief is all.
At present, how they will look is unknown

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Zennor in colour

Watercolour and pastel

I am becoming accustomed to this work
It attempts a hybrid position,
describing space in conventional terms while the colour and application are more adventurous.
The result is rather restless - it flickers before the eyes. At the same time I can journey round the picture endlessly, being surprised and entertained.

I suspect it is not quite finished. To be finished, not by crushing its spirit, but by understanding and confirming it.