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Tuesday, 8 September 2020

Happy Birthday, Blog.....

 Just realized this blog was ten years old, back in June.

It's never been highly interactive - I know precious few follow it, though some do when I say something controversial, e.g. in criticism of poor old Bob Ross - who is as sacred to some as Jeremy Corbyn is to some in the Labour Party: beyond criticism, or one's being very unfair, and in league with the 'haters' and detractors if one does.

To them, I do have to say (no I don't: but I will) grow up...... we all have feet of clay, including your idols. 

Both are very nice men - but Bob Ross wasn't a great, or even very good, artist; and Jeremy Corbyn wasn't a great, or even very good, party leader.  Wasn't their fault: they tried, they contributed, they made an honest stab at what they wanted to do.  But let us  not elevate ordinary people to sainthood, because no one can meet that test. 

And so here we are, ten years on - years in which I've lost people dear to me; managed to hang on to some despite the ravages of illness and time; gone back to a job I gave up long ago, because a) there was a vacancy, b) I trust no one else to do it.  I've concentrated on watercolour, acrylic, and oil painting. I have dabbled in gouache (please, don't call it 'gauche': it isn't 'gauche' - that means either left, in yer actual French, or clumsy: and you do try not be gauche with gouache), I've written an e-book (which needs updating), I've found a source of lead white paint, which is so important for anyone serious about painting in oil, I've discovered the real Bible of oil painting in Virgil Elliott's "Traditional Oil Painting", and I've become a member of the National Association of Painters in Acrylic.  

And I shall shortly turn - if spared! - 70.   Just a pity that there's a 16 year old in my head, who keeps wondering what happened to his body.  I have not made my fortune.  I don't really care about that.  I have become an old age pensioner, and I don't really care about that, either.  In fact, I've stopped bothering about trivial things.   I paint because I enjoy painting,and discovering new things: and there's always something new to be discovered, not because I wish for fame or fortune (and just as well: neither seem within reach), but because I just see things I want to represent, while there's still time.  

We now have Brexit, and Covid-19 - these are not trivial; both are self-inflicted.   We didn't have them ten years ago.  But ten years hence, we shan't have them, either.  We'll have other crises.  The one that bothers me most is the threat to the global environment; not the threat to human existence - I'd like to think that my great niece and great nephew have a future, but think the human species has inflicted so much cruel damage on the world in its relentless search for advantage that our disappearance as a species would be no tragedy; perhaps my descendants will survive when others won't, and re-shape the world.  Someone has to, though it's a harsh responsibility with which to burden them.  

I wonder if this blog will still be here in another ten years' time, or - on which that's rather contingent - whether I shall still be here either.  Well, who knows?  If nothing really dies on the internet, I shan't die either.  Now - isn't that a comfort?  Isn't it?  Well of course it is!  You know it is!

Friday, 4 September 2020

New oil, on panel

 This is an oil on birchwood panel of Thorness Bay on the Isle of Wight, loosely translated from a friend's photograph and kept simple - or as simple as I could.

I've rarely painted on wood - by comparison with paintings on canvas board, canvas, MDF, hardboard - and it was an interesting experience at this scale; because when I have painted on wood, it was usually on cigar-box lids, at around a quarter the size of this one. 

I have a few more, and will see if I get on with them.  On the whole, my favourite oil painting surface at the moment is the Ampersand panel - of which I do not have a supply just now....  On my Next Purchase list, though.

Thorness Bay, IW, ca. 17" x 12"

Thursday, 16 July 2020

The Dead Sycamore in the garden

This one in memory of my mother, Nellie Elizabeth Jones, always known as "Dean", who died a few days ago in Southampton Hospital, at the age of 94.

It's small oil on wooden panel, 6" by 6".

Colours, for those interested: Lead white; Quinacridone Violet; Burnt Umber; Yellow Ochre; Cadmium Yellow Light; Ultramarine Blue.

Thursday, 18 June 2020

New painting, and a drawing In Memoriam

Unusual format for me, but here's a 20" by 8" acrylic painting of a dead tree in the garden, which has all sorts of further possibilities to explore - I'm anticipating a series.   And, on a less happy note, a drawing in conté crayon of the marker - an old tree stump - of my landlady's grave.

Pat Mann was born in 1930, as Patricia Morris.  Educated by nuns in Doncaster, and later at art college, when she remembered demonstrating against Sir Alfred Munnings, RA, when he made disparaging remarks about modern painters, including Picasso, some while after the end of the Second World War - a policeman told her to "Move on, and stop being a silly girl".  She didn't mention her reply, so I assume she decided to let reason be the better part of valour. 

She was an artist, mother, grandmother; a restorer of antique furniture; she ran with a group of Hash Harriers into her late 70s, earning the name Tanglefoot, since if there were a tree root, or a tangle of briar, she would reliably trip over it every time.

Pat died on June 8th this year, from a final stroke - her funeral was held privately, in the grounds of the house - and she was buried here. 

Sunday, 31 May 2020

Elephant Hole Cave, the Undercliff, Ventnor, Isle of Wight

This 20" by 16" oil on board is a revamp - as the painting dried out, it also became duller, and mere varnish wouldn't have fixed the problem.

So I've .... well, zhooshed it up a bit would be the technical term.

It was always going to be a dark painting - it's a dark place usually - but I'm happier with it now.  The Elephant Hole Cave is partly a natural formation in the rock, and partly excavated by man - quite when, and for what purpose, I've yet to be able to ascertain. 

Saturday, 30 May 2020

First one for a long time - more to follow.

And see my Facebook arty page -

Getting back into painting required a limbering-up exercise: it's been over a year since I painted anything other than the occasional birthday card; took up a Labour Party job .... too much for a kid of my age to manage on top of sustaining a painting output: something had to give - and painting did.

Lockdown, therefore, has had its benefits.  Retirement from bureaucratic entanglements would have more....

This is a painting in oil, 16" by 12" (we don't do metric..) which I did to refresh my painting skills - I say nothing at all for it as a painting in its own right: it's too fussy, and has other faults.  But the figure within is myself - and what COULD be lovelier?

Kindly don't answer that.

Saturday, 28 December 2019

2020 not at all sure he wants ANY part of this.

But if you can face it, Happy New Year. 

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

First new one for a long time...

Back to oil painting, after months of being occupied with other things - this is a study employed to get my hand in again, and for those who find these things interesting, the colours used are Lead white, a little Titanium White, Mars Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Burnt Sienna, Viridian (for the underpainting), and Prussian Blue.

There are one or two bits to tidy up on it as yet, but it won't look so very different when it's done - just a bit less clumsy in places!

Monday, 6 May 2019

New Website on its way

For a variety of reasons - principally that the system by which my old website was built is no longer supported, and was in any event very difficult to use (well - difficult for ME to use, anyway) I'm having a new one built for me, using WordPress.

It is very much in the early stages of development at the moment, but I will post details here when it's fit to be seen. 

In the meantime, I'll be putting newer work on my Facebook page.  Go to:

Robert Jones Isle of Wight Landscapes - where you can also leave comments, of course. 


Sunday, 21 April 2019

Still Alive!

Yup, I'm still to be numbered among the Quick rather than the Dead.

More posts and paintings ARE on their way.  It's just that a hiatus has ensued - too much to do, too little time.  But - keep gazing on this space.  More is to come!  Once I wake up.....

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

The Long Delay - The Fallow Months....

In November last year - I think it was only in November, I seem to have entered a breach in the space-time continuum - I agreed to take on the job of Secretary/Agent of the Isle of Wight Labour Party; a position I last occupied from 1975 to 1992

Since then, the only thing I've painted has been a birthday card for my mum's 93rd birthday.  Either I had minutes to type, or letters to write, or rules, standing orders and more to read, or I was just too tired to pick up a paint-brush.

This must end!  I will paint something this week if I have to go on strike to do it.

In the meantime, my old website is now defunct, and a new one is in the process of creation - with a bit of help from my friends.  So I shall have to paint something new in order to populate it. 

Watch this space, if you would - announcements will be made shortly..........  I sense your mounting excitement.....

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Christmas Greetings

It's been a looooong time - not at all sure why or where the time has gone: but let us hope that my Christmas card creation leads me to keep the paint and brushes out and get on with something new in the new year.

So here is Oswald, inviting you all to pucker up.   He knows he should be hibernating by now, but the excitement got too much for him.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Too busy - but more to the point, computer problems (ie, my old bucket really isn't up to much any more).

My website is in abeyance but when I paint something new, I'll post it here, or on my Facebook page, for the time being. 

I'm too bloody old for technological advance, and so is my superannuated computer.

But keep an eye on here, or wherever you can find me should you be inclined to look, of course: I shall sort myself out eventually - er, perhaps.

And if there's anyone out there who can sort out a website on Serif (which doesn't work anymore on any platform) for Linux - well now don't you even begin to hold back!  Help, already ....... I'm far too old for this!  Beautifully marked, mind!  Oh yes.   A shining example to all - just hopelessly technologically clueless.

Monday, 16 July 2018

The Long View - First new one for a while

Acrylic on stretched canvas, 20" by 8". 

Not quite sure where June went ... but there wasn't much painting going on.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

In Praise of "Fiddling"

I submitted an article to Leisure Painter last year, which was eventually rejected as the magazine editor didn't think the illustrations would have shown up well on the printed page - and she was probably right.

However, I think it will work here: and feel it needs to be said: so I'm publishing it myself.   Comments appreciated.


"Don't fiddle", they say; "less is more". And I suspect this is why I'm seeing more and more paintings in exhibitions which just aren't finished at all. The advice has been taken so literally that oil and acrylic paintings are left thin and scratchy, looking like nothing so much as a paint-by-numbers effort (where the paint is thin because they give you too little of it, and most p-b-n'ers stick rigidly to the lines).

Thing is, this is good advice for watercolourists, on the whole. Once you've applied a wash, the best thing to do with it is often to leave it alone - fiddle with it and you get back-runs and mud.

But there are reasons for this. Watercolour is a medium which relies on its transparency and purity of colour. There are opaque colours in watercolour, but many of us avoid them because they can quickly ruin the light, evanescent appeal of a watercolour painting.

Oil and acrylic, save in special circumstances (glazing, particularly) are not primarily employed for their translucent qualities. They can certainly be used as such, but the usual approach with both is layering of one colour over another, or one tone over another to achieve depth and form.

So it should go without saying - but it doesn't - that you aren't going to get the best out of these opaque, layering pigments if you don't actually layer them: this doesn't mean you have to add finicky, nit-picking detail - that is true "fiddling"; but it does mean that the subtlety of oil and acrylic is best exploited by a process of addition; a painting may actually accrete layers - we can work them up in stage after stage, each one strengthening the image, establishing form, shape, tone, shadow, light.

Oils and acrylics are, in short, USUALLY additive rather than subtractive media - whereas in watercolour you might, as a matter of your usual technique, take something out, in oil and acrylic you're generally going to be doing the reverse. Yes, you'll sometimes find you have to take the sponge, cloth or knife to the paint, to remove a claggy mess of mud: but this isn't something you'll actually be planning or hoping to do. It may form part of your technique, but only because you haven't yet mastered it.

There are of course those of the plein-air persuasion, who very reasonably point out that there's no way they can apply careful layering in oil, because it just doesn't dry fast enough out there in the field - in fact, it IS possible, but only with a delicate and at the same time sure touch. Even so, one takes the point - yes you can work over several days; or finish off your plein-air study in the studio; or of course use the plein-air sketch as the basis for a larger painting to be tackled indoors. But the typical plein-air work requires mixing the right colours to start with, and getting them down in relatively quick, unrehearsed, and unfussed strokes of paint. Such paintings have great immediacy - they might however sacrifice subtlety. Many of us, perhaps most of us, sketch en plein air, and either finish the painting in the studio, or start a new, larger one, using the sketch as our guide.

One of my recurring nightmares is that I drop dead in the middle of a painting - because most of my opaque work reaches a stage that might generously be described as god-awful: a stage at which you could only think the poor old chap's lost his touch; to think it should have come to this, etc.... But then, it's a work in progress - true, if a watercolour starts to look as though something horrible has happened, it probably has. But oils and acrylics - mine, anyway - nearly always go through the "oh dear, surely he can't have meant to do that?" stage, and by way of illustration I offer an acrylic painting of mine that did, in the end, represent what I had in mind, but had rather painful birth pangs before it got there.

Here's the sketch – the tones are broadly indicated, plus as much of the detail as I felt necessary:

Figure 1
I toned my board with a mixture of Burnt Sienna and a touch of red, to produce a map of the tones; no detail – just putting the big shapes in. And I roughed in the sky with ultramarine and white. I decided at this point that I didn't want a complicated land-mass and a busy sky – if I do this again, I think I might make the sky more interesting, since it occupies quite a large area of the painting.

Figure 2

At this stage, it doesn't look too bad at all: the profiles of the cliff are about right; I've mixed ultramarine and burnt sienna for my darks, just placing the foliage areas. In fact, if I'd been a bit more careful with these shapes and darks, I could even have glazed over the top to finish the painting in half the time (in theory at least).

Fig 3

Had I been going to pursue that route, this is the stage on which I'd have based it: just firming up the darks, lightening the lights, and refining the drawing, then adding transparent glazes. However, that wasn't what I was after: I wanted a rather more rugged look than that approach would have given. So rather than refine shapes, I built the painting up from the broad shapes I'd already established – remember, I had my sketch to show me those details I was about to cover with opaque white, mixed at this stage with varying amounts of ultramarine, burnt sienna, and yellow ochre.
This is the stage at which I would not have wanted to drop dead (any other time, fine: but not just now). Because it looks … well, vile, don't you think? But – I've got the big shapes; I've got the build-up of opaque paint which will give me my textures, especially in the near cliff. What have I got to do now? Well – this was perhaps the most important stage of the painting. It doesn't look it, maybe. But all I've really got to do now is – fiddle. Take a good, chisel-edged flat, and a fairly large rigger, and turn these blocky shapes into convincing rocks and trees.

And this, completed in one stage, is it. I've removed the fence from the bottom left (without which I would never have stood on that bit of cliff, but it wasn't needed in the picture). I've added a little chunk of cliff beyond the first promontory, which isn't there in reality, but the composition needed it. And using no more extra colours than viridian, a little Naples yellow, and a touch of prism violet, I've just built up detail by, well, fiddling. The hard work was done at Stage 4 – you've GOT to get those basics down, however awful they look, before you can put clothes on them.

There are things I would do differently if – when – I tackle this again: a bigger canvas (this one is 30 by 40cm); a livelier sky; and next time I might actually try getting to Figure 3, establishing some lighter lights, and apply transparent glazes. And I might do a version in oil, which lends itself better to the textured approach (especially if you're using only paint, and not any kind of texture paste). But without a bit of fiddling with detail, I'd have had a different picture. So long as you remember that the time comes when the fiddling has to stop.