Monday, January 30, 2012

Tranquility broken

Not surprisingly, the creative path for a pictures is often far from straight and on occasions ends abruptly without warning. Such was the case for the badly conceived and badly named 'Tranquility' which after serious doubts and a violent attempt at a re-working, has now been scrubbed back with turps and thoroughly erased - and we are all feeling a lot better for that!
It is unsettling to find yourself engaged in such ill judged ventures but the sooner we see that its a failure the better and then to act accordingly. Gone, move on.
Working to set patterns for work does reduce such failures but such calculations make for dull pictures  - when risk is so much more exciting!

Thursday, January 26, 2012


How to paint is a great mystery.

How rough can it be? There is a beautiful rough, a sort of lightness that is very pleasing. Looking back to earlier blogs that reference this piece, I see I spoke about 'transcribing the energy of the drawing' which probably what has happened as I try to combine ancient and modern.
At this point I will leave off painting. There may or may not be more to do, but that will be clear to me after a few days have passed when I will examine it again - for now it rests against the wall.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The procession of time

The room dedicated to Prints and Drawings in the British Museum is an old haunt of mine. Always quiet, free of queues and razzmatazz. Always full of amazing things, things in displays furnished with a shelf in front on which to place a sketch book - such a grown up place.
This drawing was made there some years ago, its a vigorous rendering that carries the spirit of procession, I would have been attracted to the lovely arrangement of figures with pipes and drums (did you notice the drum?) and no doubt, could not help but make a copy with my book on that shelf so thoughtfully provided by an earlier generation.
The reason this line drawing comes to light is in the shape of a piece canvas covered plywood, ready primed that I found alongside the plan-chest in the studio. Who knows, it was probably made about the same time as the procession drawing! I know they are made for each other. Last thing yesterday with the remaining pigment of the day I dashed in some Tiepolo colours to kill the white primer. All is set - let the music begin. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

A warm evening


That's it, this picture has engaged me for quite a while. I have taken it to a point where I can bear it - its power and subtlety are tuned as far as I can manage.

Like any offspring - I can only only release it and let it make its own way in the world.

Friday, January 20, 2012


Harmonic sounds

This painting was completed yesterday. It is satisfying to bring a piece to a state that I feel is conclusion. It has been slowly developed over a month or so from a neglected charcoal drawing that came to light while I searched for something else. The painting is oil on canvas and slightly bigger than A3.
Troubadours were French wandering minstrels from the 11th - 13thC, singer songwriters of a past age who wrote complex pieces of courtly love. The three figures here, while rustic in a way, show a formal quality in their stance.
This gentle harmony of colour and composition is pleasing, it carries a sense of contentment, that is in itself attractive to me.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Movements of the spirit

A first stage detail from 'interior'

OK, its 9.16am. Ruth is making marmalade in the kitchen and I must scribble a few words about the day.
I am very aware of my need to engage with work a pattern, so many 'important' interuptions prevent time alone to concentrate on the work in hand. A week or so ago I dashed this high keyed oil base image on a canvas. I liked the colour resister and the rough composition, to me it seems worth spending time more time on.
The arrangement is a well worn path for me,  namely a central section with figures and two 'wings' containing in this instance some abstract structure/garden suggestions.  The brown walking figure calls for revision and will be the first area to adjust, that in turn will guide me forwards.
This analysis of the work  along with consequent action is the essence of painting, consciousness of these movements of the spirit are at times clearer than at other times. As I will no doubt sit and review the progress, its value will then be apparent.
Next up : some fresh coffee

Monday, January 16, 2012

Isadora comes to me again

Isadora Duncan

I am sometimes amazed by the past.
This charcoal of Isadora Duncan came with its owner to visit me on Saturday. There was mild concern about the surface of the charcoal as it seems to be peeling. It is nothing serious.

When I saw it I had no recollection of it, or drawing it - but I had signed it and it is definitely by my hand.
It is a wonderful piece of drawing, and I can say that because of a sense of removal and distance. The paper, cheap soft paper, has an abandoned drawing on the back, it is liberally washed with water over the charcoal and then more charcoal added with such passion the surface has suffered considerably.
For all that it looks effortless and I am amazed.
It is a lesson for me, a message from the past - an encouragement to feel, to go on and not be frightened.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Not hampered by habit

'Artists would paint better if their wrists were broken' Picasso

As I remember, that is what he said in the context of habitual dexterity. Growth and creativity are hampered by habit.
I have a damaged tendon in my right arm and told complete rest! This is when I recalled the words of Picasso.
After only one days rest I need to move on.
Tying my drawing arm into an improvised sling I test the theory to see is I can paint better.
I return to Psalm drawing #033 and try a coloured mixed media painting. (shown above)
I am surprised.
With oil sticks, Indian ink and some rough gouache I persuade the colours into this shape with my left hand, one that reflects the sense of #033.
The experiment was worthwhile. Somehow, the energy is concentrated and more vigorous; a plus for this sort of work.
Even after such a tricksy art game, I would prefer my arm back!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Russell and Chappel

New year decisions

Every few years I buy a roll of canvas, a roll of 50M is quite an investment! The first roll was cotton duck, bought a long time ago when I called into the old Russell and Chappel shop in Monmouth Road that is now sadly closed. The old shop was amazing, unchanged for decades with wooden floors, rolls, racks and sacks of everything under the sun. It smelt of various glues and fabrics supplying the theatre and artist, it was just a wonderful place as I remember it.
My last two rolls have been linen and looking on the website I see Russell & Chappel stock 15 types of canvas I am rather keen to re-order the same type, after all 50M x six feet wide of the wrong type would be very annoying. So it looks like a trip to the new shop in Drury lane to choose linen that will match my sample plus any other treasures that take my eye. It is so good that these old trade suppliers are there where one can see and feel the goods - long may they last.

Monday, January 9, 2012

No rush


Some may recall an earlier blog about this image called aiming at the moon. I can report no progress!
This is an A4 size gouache sketch that has been propped up in the corner of my studio for about six weeks now. Having revisited Poussin in the Twombly exhibition last year at The Dulwich Picture Gallery that in turn had reminded me of Cezanne's large bathers being his attempt at 'a Poussin in nature' made me wonder what I could do.
In my mind is more space given to trees and I seek the power of the figure group to have a real presence below. It must draw from Poussin yet be clearly 2012.
I have a canvas ready, 1.2M high and opportunity this week but am at a loss as how to proceed. It seems that the weeks have not magically informed me of the way forward, neither has the compulsion to proceed abated - therefore - deep breaths, confidence building conversations with myself and suitable music are required!
Watch this space.

Friday, January 6, 2012

How to paint

Art teaching for Spring 2012  NOW SOLD OUT 

Following a number of requests I have devised some new art teaching days for March 2012.
I find teaching art  beset with problems, for the artist is easily swamped with quick ideas and other peoples solutions and consequently finding an authentic way forward that is valid takes us longer than we realize.
With this in mind I offer three sessions, these one day workshops address colour, creativity and figures. These modules will attempt to draw out the creative spirit in the individual as we engage in these universal subjects.

These one day sessions will be 9.00 - 4.30 at the village hall in Crowhurst Surrey and each at the cost of £40.00 a day payable by cheque when booking.
Bring a packed lunch with you (there are no shops nearby)  and note there will be tea and coffee available free during the day.

Some previous experience will be needed for these lessons, but enthusiasm will make up for some lack in ability in many cases! Do email me about suitability and expectations if there are any doubts.   ( ,

SHIFT 01 NOW SOLD OUT                        friday  March 2:2012
Primary Colours remixed   Colour for the thinking romantic
Think about a new colour pathway and redefine the word favourite. Ditch old Colouristic habits and think fresh thoughts on colour composition that will shape picture content.

SHIFT 02    NOW SOLD OUT                     friday  March 16:2012
Old Masters recycled     Plunder the past - borrow the best
What did Henry Moore take from the Mayans and Picasso from the Iberians, see how follow their creative paths and borrow from the ancients as well. See an infusion of past genius appear in your work.

SHIFT 03 NOW SOLD OUT                       friday  March 30:2012
Figure Painting re-configured     A new graphic language for figures
Creating a distinctive style is as hard as drawing the figure. Time here to re-establish what is natural to us when representing our fellow beings in our work. Fiendishly hard – hugely rewarding – worth a try.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Unfamiliar Rhythms

Gentle Music

My inclinations for these players are soft colour combinations on a background of pigeon grays. Such gentle shades invoke the beautiful sounds of Early Music like that of Guillaume de Machaut or Perotin. I play it now and then for its simple grandeur that can in turn elevate my spirits.
The painting is taken from an archived drawing set that featured players in small groups, drawings that were flights of imagination and journeys to another place of musical experience.
Look at them for a moment, hear the strains of unfamiliar rhythms that draw you in - are they sacred sounds or those of a Transylvanian gypsy wedding?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Matters of the heart

This is a small painting, about A4 in size and not shown on this blog until today. It has been at this stage for a week or so and left for me to review. When to leave a painting is difficult - yet as soon as I say difficult - that makes it a matter for the intellect and I question such a statement when one paints from the heart. The question I pose to my mind (intellect) as I analyse the painting is 'is this image true to the sensation of my heart?'
From experience I find my mind is more tuned to public opinion, reason and reputation while the heart is a little on the wild side. The mind is not best placed to judge the work and therein is the difficulty for one is so easily ruined by the heart!
The older I get painting becomes simultaneously easier and difficult. Thinking less makes painting easy, thinking can cloud the issue so maybe wisdom is a friend who will judge the work of my heart.