Saturday, January 30, 2010


Acme art is really a group of friends, artist who over a number of years have shared experiences in the making of art.
May 6 - 12 will see the second exhibition of work at the East Grinstead Art Centre, a show that has the working title of 'album'. This morning was stimulating as we talked all morning about what we planned to work on for this forthcoming show - along with double coffee and buns.
I intend to complete the 'five actions' series in readiness for this show.

The afternoon involved a secondhand bookshop, me buying an excellent book on the development of Anthony Caro's work and Ruth buying fresh sardines and crusty bread for tea.

Friday, January 29, 2010

keeping fresh

To grow is a challenge.
So easy to remain in a comfort zone, so easy to do wild and stupid things.
As a precursor to my five 'action' paintings I continue my mini collage experiments through the remaining three subjects. (see yesterdays swimming series) At the final count they are reduced to working, swimming, walking, fighting and playing.

The small 15 cm coloured thumbnails are an exercise in diversity. Done at speed with salvaged materials they can throw up new combinations and styles that on careful consideration may prove very useful later.

From these forty sketches perhaps one or two will set the style for the series, this is a combination of planning and random testing that has borne fruit for me before.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

testing the water


Today I moved on to the 'swimmer' studies.
This is a sort of brainstorming in order to make new.
To make the sketches I Look around for 'stuff'.
I select an old catalogue, a rejected etching, coloured paper, pencils paint and indian ink and when all is ready, allow about 15 mins a shot.
I cut, paint, draw and stick.

I listen to Perotin.
Refusing to repeat myself, avoiding the predictable.
It is exhausting.

This is part of a series on 5 actions,
of which swimming is one,
with a clear day tomorrow and with the after-burners full on,
something else may happen.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

new actions

today I start a new series,
five works that relate to five basic human actions,
working, swimming, walking, waiting and playing.
Above is an initial sketch about swimming and I will have to develop ideas for all the pieces.
first a mass of thumbnails to hone concepts
then a progression in gouache to involve colour.
As they will hang in a pre-arranged order I can co-ordinate a flow of colour.
This creative progression is something I plan to feature in a one day teaching session later in the spring.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

five, six

Every gardener needs sticks.
..and art is not just about pictures, it demands a wider place to be.
I recall in the mid sixties doing some winter coppicing, clearing chestnut and hazel for bean sticks and stakes.
I knew a man then called George Rhodes from Blindley Heath who was an old school woodman, not a man who suffered fools gladly. I learnt much from him as well as my Father who I worked with at the time.

I have been on the look out for some saplings, and this morning I moved from thinking to doing. An ash sapling was selected to test my neglected skills
My billhook, used by woodmen and hedge-layers is a Kent pattern, and like waggons they varied from county to county.
I could not remember George ever carrying a saw, only axes, so I took my sapling down with the newly sharpened billhook.
I trimmed it out with very little waste, splitting the larger sections to form cleft stakes. This I found difficult, and my stakes became a little shorter than I intended!
A little January sun came out and cheered me, in what was a pleasant exercise. But I do need some more, Hazel for beans and birch for my Mange tout later and now is the time to do it.

Monday, January 25, 2010

graphic design

With four weeks now until the next open day I have to focus on publicity.
Design is an enjoyable sideline for me.
I work all day, using Adobe Illustrator CS3, testing various layouts, colours and images before I am satisfied.
This image (and a reverse side) is for use on an oversize gloss finish postcard for general distribution.
The illustrator files are uploaded to the internet printer who deliver to my door within seven days.

next an update for the website to carry the same information:
If only painting were so straight forward!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

drawing the nude

I attend a day of life drawing, five hours of heavy concentration.
Life drawing is very curious.
This academic study of the nude.
Meaning to be natural, it is very unnatural.
We are willingly locked in our chosen positions for an hour,
this only happens in 'life' drawing.
But this way I get to see some structure, and time is frozen to allow me the opportunity to comprehend the figure in all it's complexity.
How to translate this 'life' to real life is the job in hand.
I suspect this translation work may take me some time.

Friday, January 22, 2010

janus - january

From Roman Mythology we get Janus, depicted with two heads facing in opposite directions and thus January.
He was beginning and ending, the turn of the year.
I feel like Janus with this head(s). This rendering is rooted in my past, and it is impossible to shake off history.
I fear for these heads, they are likely to roll soon.
Contaminated with a viral prettiness that I cannot eradicate.
Good bye to the old sugar coated - bring on reality.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

talk the talk

During the evening of February 8th I am scheduled to deliver the first of three lectures on watercolour at Park Road, I am busy writing up a way of communicating the delicate path between thinking and painting.
This is a new venture for me but encouraged by the response to my book 'gap in the fence' by those who bought it I ventured on to these three illustrated talks. Looking again at my watercolours over the last 20 years I well remember the difficulties encountered. Who knows, perhaps I can help others with this peculiar activity we call painting.
There are still one or two places available for these evenings, email or telephone for details or go to

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

all together now

After a final tonal wash to the frame and minor adjustments to picture they seem to fit together.
It is not a run of the mill piece of art so one takes a minute or two to appreciate it.
The title in my mind is La Cabane, because my French grandchildren are always making 'camps' and the temporary nature of this shelter is a similar idea.
It is now signed and put to one side to dry before I seal and polish the frame.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

the effect of colour

These three heads look at me every day.
What more should be done?
There is a moment when things are clear.
An injection of colour seemed obvious yesterday, but only yesterday.
Today the colour was applied.
Which colours were also obvious, they sort of fell together.
The faces will more need work when the colour has dried, and the edges can be adjusted easier.
Looking at them now they look more theatrical and rather less like asylum staff.
It's a slow business this painting . . . .

Monday, January 18, 2010


Most of today has been dedicated to the carved frame.
Five days now have been dominated by this frame.
The question is, is it right?
It is wild, but is right?
The frame has overtaken the picture and now there is more work to do on the picture!
They vie for attention.
It must be lifted to balance the frame out.
It powers the work, or who knows
as the stakes increase, both crash and burn.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

power loss

The busy day did not go as planned.
An electricity sub station failed and has left Park Road without power all day.
My frame was to have rebates today.
Instead of machines I found the trusty Record No 078, sharpened the iron and revived the pleasure of hand rebating.
All aromatics and curly shavings.
The frame is now fitted together and waiting for finish and colour.
As the day closed we lit candles and opened wine with supper.
Then laid detailed plans for next years vegetable garden.

Friday, January 15, 2010

chip chop

This is traditional chip carving.
A shallow decorated pattern for the common man.
The wood was carefully selected, finding the pieces that were knot free and those sawn from the tree centre as they are less prone to dish as they dry out.
My pattern looks good, my desire is that it complements the painting,
if both are by the same hand there is hope.
The four square corner roses are nearly done,
tomorrow will need rebates, a little scratch moulding for the inside edge and then glued together to dry over Sunday.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

long odds

The new frame
Having researched folk and tribal patterns without finding exactly the thing, I worked with pen and graph paper on my own ideas, converted it in illustrator to this design.
The question is will I like it?
It will be coloured as are many tribal pieces.

Next it was transferred to the prepared frame sections.
Then selecting various suitable gouges I cut a test piece to see how it works.
This took some time - about 90mins.
The next will be quicker as the rhythm develops
Softwood maybe easy to cut but it is more difficult to keep the edges sharp.
Hard on the back so it may be done over more than one session.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

a private passion

second to books, I love chisels,
with different handles and old fine steel that holds an edge.
tools that I can work with.

Last week at the framers in Lingfield,we looked at one of my recent oils.
He said 'it needs a carved frame, sort of Indonesian'
Of course he did not have any Indonesian folk frames to hand that would fit,
so he said it was down to me to make it.
This is why I braved the cold,
sorted my bench out and unpacked my carving chisels.
Tomorrow is Indonesian folk carving day.

for great framing go to -

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

never lose faith

These two have come a long way.
Today I looked at them and they were just wrong.
After extended coffee and looking at the masters I was no wiser.
In the end I decided to remove all background realism and all yellow.
With a cream/gray white I removed things,
careful to leave traces and semi halo's of the departing colours.
Arms, legs and heads were revised, along with the addition of a few bright colour spots.
It will still need a few details.

Monday, January 11, 2010

hot beach

Only by starting can I understand what is required.
Putting colours out and preparing them helps make decisions,
a dark oxide red, bright red, yellow/orange and light ochre, then blue takes me forwards.
Choose brushes and begin.
At 1.2M it is a nice scale to work on, I am absorbed in the work.
about 5.30 I leave it - then more adjustments after supper.
It is roughly painted, nice and rough.
Holding a measure of realism is a balancing act.
At 7.30, I walk away - able to leave it alone for now.
(see Dec 2009 - 'after hours' for previous state)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

new newcomers

At two o clock this afternoon I went to the studio,
took rag and turps to yesterday's heads.

They're gone.

These are the next three heads.
More conte and oil wash on the same gesso panels.
At the moment - I like them better than the previous three.
I had no preparation, I just began, drew, altered, drew and so on. Just like yesterday.

I wanted more.
The clothes and headpieces are from my imagination and a variety were tried in order to find a suitable arrangement. Hair was tried as well but just did not work.
The oil wash was two in dishes, one Alizarin Crimson and the other Transparent Oxide Yellow.

Who knows what Monday will bring.

Friday, January 8, 2010


Who are these people?
they appeared on my panels this afternoon while I was there.
sort of uninvited,
shall I let them stay?

They are in a thin oil wash with charcoal drawing.
alterations will be problematic.

Perhaps we will be friends after a day or two.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

serious fun

I have always wanted a Henry Moore in the garden.
today turned out to be as close as it is going to get.

Monday, January 4, 2010

holiday painting

A lot with a little.
While working on a restoration project in France during the new year we were faced with two blank walls in a kitchen that needed a bit of magic.
We selected two 6 x 2 foot panels from the Bricomarche and then turned out the shed for old emulsion paints. Finding summer blue, daffodil and dewberry, I opened the old tins and stirred.
Over the usual three course lunch I scribbled thumbnail sketches to find an acceptable idea, then as I needed one for each side of the room, I reversed the design for the second piece.
With my 'palete laid out in front of a hot woodburning stove I entered in to the spirit of the moment. An hour later - we had two summer pictures.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

a head start

one of three
Here is another
instance of an idea germinating
some think art a matter of planning.
Not often so.
Perhaps more an exploration of desire.
Here I apply liquid oil on to a gesso base and 'mop' it with newspaper
the colour and distribution please me
that is all at this point
development into a 'head' will follow.
according to how it pleases me, step by step.

Friday, January 1, 2010

working on ideas

Ideas are mysterious, there is no pattern.
When I saw the large automotive part (see Dec, 'found art') in the roadside snow it was worth stopping for.
Against the wall in the studio it seemed a raw source of opportunity.
To visualise ideas as a procession in the imagination is not always to be trusted because some are jettisoned too easily as worthless.
My mind is lazy and will repeat 'ideas' that have worked before but are now stale.
Radical germ ideas require nurture.
The automotive part beckons me on.
I open a new file in photoshop and create the two suggestions reproduced.
While they were worth saving, the do not inspire a beginning.
They are rather obvious and retrospective.
To make a start these must first be cleared out of my thinking.
They are a neccesary part of the process.