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Friday, 23 December 2011

Try again

That didn't work at all; no picture. Try again, fail better....

Christmas Greetings

Festive bunting and frolics to all. This is my Christmas card for 2011. I know it's not reverent or spiritual in any way, but then - other than the worship of rats - I have no religion. This is a watercolour, incidentally - not the loveliest and most limpid specimen of its kind, but I do enjoy painting rats' tails in watercolour; the colours can be allowed to bleed into each other, in a remarkably accurate way.... I offer this tip to the many thousands who really, really wanted to know how to paint rats' tails.

Many thanks to those who have sent me cards and prezzies (including myself: I always feel that giving is so important, and where better to start than with oneself?) and I hope that, although many of you comment on my blog and galleries on Painters Online, more of you will comment here too: it encourages me to keep the blog going.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Towards Sunset

My latest, the first painting I've done for a long time that I completed in just one session. This is an acrylic on a canvas covered board: I've found these not very sympathetic to paint on up to now, but for this one I laid down a base coat of cadmium red plus a little white, allowed that to dry, then painted on top: it seemed to respond much better to the rather thicker base paint than previous pictures have to my usual coloured stain on the board. 30 x 30cm, and because I rather like it the asking price is £100 - Christmas is coming, don't forget! Goose getting fat! But I'm not .....

Thursday, 3 November 2011


Well for better or for worse - here's the repainted picture. It's less bland; it's also less immediately attractive: the first version had the virtue and simultaneous vice of being relatively inoffensive, except to me - whom it offended because it was as exciting as a dish of cold porridge. You could take my mind off it entirely by buying it, of course ..... A snip at £150: acrylic on canvas.... I don't, to be honest, quite know what I think of it yet, but - well, here it is.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Fallow period!

I've been doing bits and pieces for the last couple of months, interspersed with a good many meetings on the NHS, and a fair amount of dithering. I'm good at dithering. However, I have been doing some work as well, and am currently engaged on illustrating a book - the details of which are under wraps for the moment. Not the first book I've done - but the last one (like this one, unfortunately) is a bit of a speculative effort: and it hasn't yet been published. I hope it will be, but the recession is unfortunately still very much with us, and just to really cheer myself up, I fear it's going to get worse.

Anyway: one of the things I've been up to is what I call a re-spray job; taking a painting I really didn't like very much, and working over it to (with any luck) rejuvenate it. This is a bit of a risk with oil paintings - you run the risk of cracking the paint film - but it's possible to overpaint almost anything, even watercolour. Acrylics are "easier", technically if in no other sense, and the one I'm painting again is a beach scene near Fort Victoria, at Freshwater on the Isle of Wight. I'll show it here, as it was, and in a day or two I'll post the new (and improved?) version. The trouble with the first one was really that it was taken from a photograph, and someone else's at that: worked fairly well as a photo, but its lack of focal point and the blandness of the colour, which I unwisely tried to copy, made a very boring painting.

I've also updated my profile photograph: this one is courtesy of Barry Fitzgerald, a professional photographer from Tralee in Ireland, who has been a friend of mine for more years than he cares to remember. Not only did the old photograph make me look as though I were munching on a wasp, but honesty compels me to admit that I've aged a bit since it was taken. Well, don't we all....?

Wednesday, 17 August 2011


I hadn't realized it was quite so long since my last post - I haven't died, well, no more than usual, I've just been taken up with so many different things that I've not really been able to concentrate on any one of them. Anyone interested in my heroic efforts to sort out Mail Merge and address labels for an organization whose newsletter I edit? No? Thought not.

So instead of boring myself even sillier with all that, I shall post, in what I hope will be a sequence of three stages, one of my recent oils - the finished piece has appeared on the Painters Online wesbite ( but I thought the three stages of its completion might be of some interest.

I could have broken this down into more stages than three, but these should give some idea - I just went in with the brush to establish the first shapes, with paint thinned with spirit on a base of burnt sienna with just a very small touch of blue, to grey it a bit. The canvas size is 7" by 9" - fairly small, but that reflects my present financial state, unfortunately...

Incidentally, the Fawley chimney painting posted earlier is no more: I've painted over it. On reflection, I felt it was just pretty awful; we all have ideas which seemed good at the time, and this was one of them. Never mind: as someone said, try again, fail better. Beckett, I think: cheery soul, but one takes his point....

Friday, 20 May 2011

After the Re-Think

Well, I got a bit of painter's block for a week or two there; so troubled was I by my most recent painting at the time that I felt I needed to think about what I was doing. However: having to do a birthday card for one person, and a small painting for another, seems to have cleared through my mental confusion, and thus - we're off once more!
I therefore display a couple of my latest; in the case of the oil (on the right), it was an oil sketch that I fully intended to work up into something more detailed and "finished", but in the event I realized I'd said all I really wanted or needed to say about the subject, and I'm quite pleased I left it at that stage: it's a good deal fresher than it would have been as a result, I think. A limited palette of Indian Red, Raw Sienna, Indian Yellow, Permanent Sap Green, Cerulean Blue, and Prussian Blue, (plus white), on a ground of Burnt Sienna and Flake White. I used a medium this time - which, for those who might not know, does not mean I engaged the services of Madame Arcati; rather, it's a mixture of oil plus something else that helps the paint to flow. In this case, the ingredients were Linseed Oil; Low Odour Thinners (mineral spirits); and Dammar Varnish. An unusual approach for me - normally I don't use medium at all, or just a touch of Liquin - but I think I'll be doing so again. The painting on the left is an acrylic - a path along the River Medina, nr Newport, Isle of Wight; the oil is of a country path leading through those trees to the Blackgang Road, at Niton, Isle of Wight.
I've stopped worrying about what will or won't sell - you just can't tell anyway. So - although all the research suggests that oil-painted landscapes outsell anything else, I'm just painting what I want. And if the occasional oil-painted landscape crops up, it's because I wanted to paint it; but - nearly everything here is for sale, so contact me if interested. These two are not yet on my website, at

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

A major re-think

Every now and then, a plateau is reached, in whatever field of activity in which one is engaged; looking back on the last posting here, I felt - that's just not very good. It's boring; the earlier stages were better than the later ones. It's been fiddled with, and zhooshed up with colour, but actually, let's be honest: that hasn't improved it.
Over the last couple of weeks, I've tried to add to it, but the basic problem is that it's a dull subject, dully executed. I do not seek contradiction - spare me the "oh no, really, it's LOVELY!" - oh; you were going to spare me... Well, you were right. A few days ago, I added a yacht to the foreground; now, they say don't paint boats unless you really know how they work (which I don't). Others disagree, but I must say - I think they were right. So I feel a great big brush of white gesso coming on, to obliterate this image, and the creation of something different (and, one hopes, better!) on the liberated canvas-board.
I can make several excuses: I haven't really got on with this MDF covered with a rather fine weave of canvas; I prefer a lot more texture - and preferably, stretched canvas. Actually, that isn't several excuses; that's only one... maybe the best I can do. I just think the idea behind the painting wasn't up to snuff, basically - Fawley oil refinery could, I think, be translated into a decent painting in oil, and on a much larger scale than this - but in acrylic, on a painting 30cm by 30cm, it was maybe never going to work. In any event, I don't think it has.
Is this a bad thing? Well, no - we all produce the odd dog's breakfast; some of us show them, some of us don't; you learn from all of them, the successes and the failures, and maybe more from the latter than from the former.
In this case, it's stopped me for a while, and made me think about where I'm going - so await the next thrilling instalment while I ponder the next step.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Nearly finished

Here is the more or less completed painting (of Fawley Oil Refinery, from the Solent). I think it's a little skewed - had trouble taking the photograph, and it looks as though the chimneys are leaning slightly leftwards; this is complicated by a rather interesting (I lead a dull life..) optical illusion: the faint beams of light give the impression of an even greater lean, in the photograph, which isn't in fact apparent in the painting.
Anyway - it would have been quicker to say I'm a rubbish photographer, I suppose...
As you can see, this is a combination of glazing in transparent colour over the original underpainting, plus some thicker, opaque paint in places. Once upon a time, most paintings were created this way (in oil; this of course is acrylic); then alla prima came in, where painters tried to create an instant impression by laying down solid blocks of colour. The latter approach tends to lead to a somewhat looser effect; its drawback is a loss of luminosity.
This isn't completely finished yet, just one or two touches to add - but they'll be more obvious to me than anyone else, so - this is about it. Not on my website yet, but there are one or two changes there ( on the Buy page.

Saturday, 22 January 2011


Happy New Year, all... I've been very lazy over Christmas/New Year, but have been (by my standards) hyperactive in the new year. I decided to try another attempt at acrylic underpainting, glazing colour on top. This is the underpainting, I'll post the finished painting in a day or two - what I've done here is to do the painting in very basic colours, in this case burnt sienna, white, and a touch of French Ultramarine.
It's not a bad way to start any painting, especially in acrylic; just lay in the basic drawing and colours, and then add more colour in glazes, ie thin transparent veils of colour over the base. This is how I started, from a basic drawing - took a few minutes, then left to dry. You can do this in oil, it just takes a bit longer to dry.
You can adjust the painting as you go along, so you're not bound by the initial image; but it's helpful and quite satisfying if you can just lay it down, and then float the colour on top. My first drawing/painting was quite fussy, so I simplified it later on.
I shall post the finished painting, plus a snow scene; the usual approach to the latter is that you lay down the white of the snow, then add shadow in shades of (usually) cerulean/coeruleum; however, I first of all laid down an imprimatura (ie, base coat) of Prussian Blue, and indicated the snow on top: I think that tends to work better than laying in the delicate shadows and shapes later. But - you can see what you think in a day or three, when I add the snow painting.
In the meantime - here's my underpainting for the Fawley oil refinery.
I've been painting in oil for a while now, but have taken a diversion into acrylic - whether it's best to stick to one medium or to diversify, I don't really know; but I so enjoy painting in oil, watercolour and acylic that I should hate to choose between them: they all offer something different.
The glazing technique in oil is an ancient one, but strangely it's particularly relevant to the modern medium of acrylic. Try it - paint your first idea in monochrome, then add glazing in colour: your paintings will certainly look different to the 'alla prima' approach, in which thick opaque colour tells the whole story: glazing can add subtlety and a degree of luminescence. It may not be a technique you wish to employ with every painting, but, when skillfully employed, it can impart a stained glass appeal to your paintings.