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Sunday, 28 December 2014

The Rose Report on the NHS - not an arty subject, but then, there are other things in life.


    Publish it now.
    The NHS - and I'm intimately familiar with only a relatively small corner of it, while having a longstanding wider involvement - is crippled by its management structures, imposed by the last two governments.
    The separation of commissioning and provision - introduced, apparently, to satisfy the EU's competition legislation - is a flagrant absurdity, leading to two levels of bureaucracy within every NHS region where one would be far more efficient. There is little or no cooperation between the training and provision element - so that we have severe shortages of qualified staff in whole areas of expertise (particularly haematology) and no means of directing medical students into the needed disciplines - we don't have enough nurses, so are forced to recruit from the Phillipines, and insist on degree-level training for basic carers. And we have a dog's breakfast of scrutiny systems - one at local authority level; another, allegedly independent, in Healthwatch; another, with the Care Quality Commission; yet another, with Monitor, whose function seems to be to enhance the march towards privatization.
    We have Foundation Trusts, with a membership system which is expensive to maintain and offers absolutely no measure of public involvement in running the NHS, although that's its ostensible purpose. Each of these Trusts is responsible for establishing its own governance arrangements and - subject to the scrutiny of these outside bodies - clinical standards. We have a proliferation of such Trusts, some responsible for specific hospitals, some for mental health within a region, some with no very obvious purpose at all, and a gap between all of them, demonstrated by a lack of common standards: except that occasionally they realize they don't have a policy on which they're likely to be examined, so speedily rush to establish one under the heading of 'sharing the learning'.
    You wouldn't run a sweet-shop, a springs factory, a Glee Club like this - you wouldn't scrutinize such a complex system as this - in this way.
    The NHS management structure is a shambles - one disaster built upon another largely as a result of cack-handed government reforms, the worst of which were kicked off by that utter, dangerous, incompetent fool Alan Milburn, and built on by a succession of lamentably stupid Secretaries of State and a dysfunctional and generally lick-spittle Department of Health ever since.
    Not only that, but they LIE about it! They pretend that the intention all along has been to strengthen the voice of the patient, the GP, those who work in the NHS - all of whom have been the passive victims of this incompetence because none of us were ever consulted!
    We're told that Andy Burnham is going to scrap the Health and Social Care Act. Good. But then what? Are we to revert to the Milburn/Reid shambles? Are we still to be lumbered with the Foundation Trust model, the separation of commissioning from provision, the ever-open invitation to the private sector to suck whatever meat remains on the bones? Is there going to be investment in the service and a serious, severe rationalization of management? I don't know, and I wish to God I could believe that Andy Burnham does, but nothing he has said, or been allowed to say, so far gives me even a hint of confidence that the Labour Party will take on this crisis of unwieldy, unmanageable management.
    The NHS still manages to be efficient, whatever its numerous critics claim; it still manages to keep its head above water in international comparisons. How it does this, I don't begin to understand, given the hobbles around its ankles placed there by this government and the last one. It can't be expected to meet the challenges of the future for so long as its entire management structure, from the Department of Health downwards and including its fantastically incompetent 'watchdogs' and regulators. remains in place. It doesn't work. The service functions despite the systems within which it's required to operate. It is crippled, in so many areas, by PFI debt, and dependent upon the fairweather 'support' of the private sector, whose interests have nothing in common with maintaining a national health service free at the point of provision.
    Publish the bloody report, and while there's still time to save the NHS, let's start a real conversation to determine how the blunders of the last 20 years can be reversed.

    Saturday, 20 December 2014

    Lord Fisher of Lambeth, Archbishop of Canterbury - flogger or not?

    Mentioning Geoffrey Fisher, the Archbishop of Canterbury when I were a lad, as I did below, reminds me of a conversation I had with Edward Upward about Repton School, where Fisher was Headmaster and Upward, and Christopher Isherwood, pupils.

    Fisher gained a reputation, largely through the memoirs of Roald Dahl, as a sadistic flogger of small boys.  Edward, however - no great friend of public (i.e. private) schools, nor yet of the clergy -  felt that Fisher had been "badly traduced"; he was not the Headmaster of Repton when the beating to which Dahl referred took place, nor any great wielder of the cane.

    Public schools could be foul places in those days - before the First World War and in the 50 years or so thereafter, but Fisher was far from being the worst sort of flogging Headmaster, who could lecture you about sin at the same time as thrashing your bare buttocks - a classic case of adding insult to injury.

    There was a Bishop - possibly an Archbishop - who HAD been a flogger, of a particularly repellent type; Edward told me his name, but I've forgotten which of them it was; I had best not repeat Dahl's libellous habits by speculating on the culprit, and they're all interred in the hungry grave now anyway, as are many of their victims.  It always impressed me though that Edward Upward, a Marxist and atheist, should have cared about the reputation of a man with whom he can have had little in common - injustice, however, was something he couldn't tolerate.

    Wednesday, 17 December 2014


    Well, the EU has proved that it can see sense after all.  The proposal to ban cadmium in artists' paint has been rejected, because the evidence in support of it is negligible.

    Good: I'm glad I neither stockpiled vast quantities of Cadmium Yellow, Lemon and Red, which I'd probably never have got round to using, nor now need to consider voting for UKIP.  Not that I ever would have done: I do have some standards.  Low ones, but not that low.

    In celebration, I shall post this year's two Christmas cards!  Happy Christmas to all, and congratulations to the EU for examining actual evidence.  Not everybody does.....

    Foxy, in confident anticipation of Christmas dinner.   Watercolour.

    Bishop O'Booze celebrates the true meaning of Chrishmash ... (Acrylic) - with apologies to those of a religious disposition, but clergy haven't dressed like this for many years now, so he's gone to his reward or punishment by now.  When I were a lad, senior clergymen did dress in frock coats, apron, gaiters, and some still wore the top hat with cords, or with a bit of crepe tied around it.  Times have changed: can anyone imagine the late Archbishop Fisher helping at a foodbank?  Actually, yes, I can - but he'd still have worn his gaiters......

    Saturday, 13 December 2014

    Cadmium Yellow, Red, Orange - . Nearer and nearer draws the time ....

    Very soon now, the European Union's decision on whether or not to ban Cadmium in artists' paints will be known.   I'll save any vituperation until they pronounce - but if they do ban cadmium based paints, they'll be stealing one of the greatest advances in colour in the last 100 years from artists everywhere.

    It's interesting that some of the critics - possibly even all of them - on the national newspapers haven't grasped how important this is, reinforcing my view that 99% of them know absolutely nothing about the process and practice of painting.   Does it matter that they don't - is it necessary to know the boring technical details provided you have a degree in art history - or at least a diploma from an ex-Polytechnic posing as the real thing - and have read Clement Greenberg (you could look him up: I'm not sure I'd necessarily recommend that you do)?

    Yes, it does.  A critic who knows nothing about the way in which paintings are made just doesn't know anything like enough to be worth listening to.   All too many of them know about is auction prices, market value, saleability.  Some of them wouldn't know a Bright from a Filbert, or a tube of Buff Titanium from a tube of Colgate plaque-removing toothpaste.

    If there's one thing I can't stand (honest observation here: there are MILLIONS of things I can't stand) it's critics who trade on the public's ignorance to shield their own.   Any critic or art "expert" who has failed to express concern about the possible banning of cadmium pigments in the EU is either an idiot, whose opinion on art is worth about as much as mine on Crown Bowls (trust me on this, don't trust me on this - I know zilch on toast) or so remarkably complacent about a real danger I wonder what could possibly awaken them to a threat.  Nuclear war, possibly.

    Saturday, 6 December 2014

    Hatchet job posing as Review

    Artists, perhaps particularly those who make a bob or two out of their efforts, must expect - and will certainly get - criticism.  Sometimes that criticism will be fairly extreme - the so-called Young British Artists have discovered that; in general, I don't value their work any more than I'm impressed by the majority of the "Stuckists" who purport to oppose them.  I  also don't feel any compulsion at all to vilify them - whether I like or value  their work is quite irrelevant to its quality and ultimate aesthetic value.

    Criticism from the public is one  thing; of course people aren't going to like or understand certain things, but whether that's their fault, or the fault of the artists who haven't got their point across, or actually nobody's real fault at all, is usually a wide-open question.

    The professional art critic may take a more robust view - John Ruskin certainly did, accusing Whistler of being a 'Cockney coxcomb" who threw a pot of paint in the public's face (Whistler was a great draughtsman, and an awful snob).  Robust it may be, but we're entitled to expect that it won't be hysterical and personally offensive.

    But then we have the Guardian's Jonathan Jones - I'm aware that he's a passionate man, with very strong views about painting (and much else).  He is a former admirer of Damien Hirst - or at least of Hirst's early work - who rarely has a good word for him these days.  He is generally supportive of Tracey Emin, she and Hirst being the enfants terribles of modern art, and the collective epitome of all that many people hate about it.

    I don't have a view about any of that - I really intensely dislike Hirst's sculptural work, and am indifferent to his paintings.  I simply don't understand what Tracey Emin does, so don't express an opinion on her work if I can avoid it.  I do not seek to demonize them, however, and I think they're trotted out far too often by those who ALWAYS come up with the tired old "Emperor's new clothes" cliché, when all they really mean is "I don't get it so it must be crap".

    Generally speaking, the passage of time will sort out whether anyone's any good or not, and I'm happy to leave it to do so.

    But what to make of a critic who calls an artist's work "loathsome"?  Who tells us it isn't even sincere; who refers to her "daft daubs"?  Because this is what Jonathan Jones had to say about Maggi Hambling's latest exhibition - all that, and worse.  Is t his actually criticism at all?  Is it a review?  I think not - I think it's vulgar, splenetic, personal abuse; just about the most disgraceful thing I've seen a critic write.  The Guardian referred to it as "biting criticism", but of course it isn't: it isn't criticism at all; critics examine work and analyse it. offer a view of it, dissect it if they feel it requires it.  What they don't do is use emotionally-laden language approaching hate-speech - language that reminded me of Dr Joseph Goebbels' comments on the Entartete Kunst (decadent art) exhibition which the Nazis staged to demonstrate how modern art was all anti-social, rubbish, Jewish-dominated subversion.

    That exhibition backfired on Goebbels - it attracted huge, and generally appreciative, crowds; whereas his approved art exhibition flopped.  I hope Jonathan's words backfire on him - his standing is not, frankly, high with those who know anything or write about art: after this vicious tirade it's likely to plummet, and it deserves to.   Go to the Guardian's website and read it, if you can stomach it.

    Monday, 1 December 2014

    Robert, what HAVE you been doing lately?

    Well, I'm so glad you asked.

    Drawing, mostly - and as the drawings are by and large Christmas-related, I can't as yet reveal them.

    However, suffice it to say that I am rediscovering my interest in pen and ink - I've been looking at Victorian magazine and newspaper illustrations, and observing the hatching techniques pen and ink artists employed.  Some just stuck to vertical ink lines on basic drawings; others used cross-hatching - lines that might come from any direction but were primarily against each other, to indicate depth and darkness; and some combined those techniques with "bracelet" shading, ink lines which follow the contours of an object in order to show its volume.

    I've always used "real" ink and nibs before - i.e. dip pens and Indian ink; and this is still my preferred approach.  But it does seem just a bit like cutting off your nose to spite your face to avoid all the many lightfast disposable and refillable pens that are now available: so I'm going to get a few.

    Oh, and Christmas is coming, don't forget .... a nice little box of pens would go down very well.... Faber Castell, pigment ink, that sort of thing.   I leave it with you.  No pressure.....

    And, while waffling, I was reminded the other day that I have a page on Free Index - reminded because the site owners told me if I didn't log in and make use of it now and then, which I hadn't done since 2011, they'd take it away.....  So I've updated it, and there are several pieces of work on there, with contact details.

    Take a look at - 

    Also, I've just taken delivery of a marvellous book of bird paintings by the Indian artist Pratim Das.  If you have any interest in birds, and watercolour, Pratim's book should be on your shelves.  It's available directly from him, email him at:, or look him up on Facebook - the page you want for the book is Birds the real buddy.  

    Friday, 14 November 2014

    Autumn on the River

    A 30 by 40cm oil on canvas-covered board - I've done several versions of this.... difficult to get a good picture of it, ie one that looks as good as the painting (honest).......

    Find the rat - shouldn't be too difficult.

    This one unframed would lighten your bank balance and fatten mine to the tune of £300.  Apply within......

    Thursday, 30 October 2014

    New oil, Autumn on the Undercliff

    What with arthritis in my lower back, joining up with arthritis in my neck and shoulders, I haven't felt up to painting for a while - but the snag is, it's so easy to lose your momentum, and your touch (so far as I have one: self-deprecation being my middle names).  So on the whole, it's better to plough on through pain and discomfort and get on with it.

    This is a bit of a moody one, I suppose.  Rat present and correct, if you should choose to look for him.  Used the Cadmiums in this one - Yellow, and Red Deep: quite how I'm going to replace them if the bloody EU bans them, I don't yet know; maybe the Cad.  Red Deep could be substituted with Winsor Red Deep, which is basically Pyrrole Red; although it doesn't have the plumminess.  But the Yellow - much more difficult: there are very, very few strong, opaque yellows.

    A decision is due on Cadmium in paints in December: I suppose I could stock up on them, but as these are some of the most expensive colours you can get, I'm a bit limited in how many I could afford in one go.

    I dunno - life gets tedious, dunnit?

    Friday, 3 October 2014

    Hiatus, and Cervical Collars..... (Neck supports)

    Very little work done lately, so nothing to show; I finished 3 postcard-size acrylics for the Art for Youth auction, which will held in London later this month, but given it's an anonymous auction I can't show them here until it's over - and incidentally, I do find painting that small a real challenge.

    The reason for the inactivity otherwise has much to do with cervical spondylosis - arthritis of the neck vertebrae, basically.  And as I have no work to show, I shall ride a hobby-horse into town for a moment.

    If you suffer from neck pain - which tends to come and go - you will know that when it's at its worst nothing will shift it: you can't stand, sit or lie in any comfortable position.  Sleep is difficult, and when you do get off, you tend to wake at odd intervals and so don't get a restful night - now, many of us deal with this with painkillers, but even the strongest aren't much use without immobilizing, or at least limiting the mobility of, the neck.

    Here is where support collars come in.  I have one which I wear at night when the pain is severe.  If you look online, and in text-books, including the know-it-all Wikipedia, you will see that support collars have little proven effectiveness; physios tend to advise against them, or at least the more dogmatic ones do.  It is claimed that they can even do harm, as they weaken the muscles of the neck.

    These claims are drivel.  For one thing, if you wore a collar every hour of every day and night, yes, your neck muscles might well atrophy; but few of us would, and very few need to.  This claim by the way is made at the same time as the (accurate) observation that a collar doesn't actually immobilize the neck at all: it just makes you aware of limitations to movement, tends to make you hold the neck still, even in sleep, and it warms the muscles.  So while on the one hand it weakens the muscles, on the other hand it doesn't actually affect them sufficiently to do any good ..... crap.  Both points can't be right.

    I have tried everything for neck pain, exercises, drugs, even "cracking" the neck manually.  The only thing that works, and it won't do so immediately, is a combination of painkiller and a firm support collar.  If you've been discouraged from using them and told they don't work by some fathead physio who's never had spondylosis him or herself, smile sweetly at them - or don't, it's entirely up to you.  Either insist they provide you with a collar so you can find out for yourself, or pretend you've listened to them and go out and buy one.  Try it and see, and if it doesn't work for you you can always send it to me........

    There is so very little that the medics can do for osteo-arthritis (they can do a bit more for rheumatoid arthritis, a desperately unpleasant condition for those unfortunate enough to have it) other than drug it, or prescribe generally useless exercises plus the TENS machine, which they prefer because they think it's "scientific".  The one thing that does bring relief is the one thing of which they're most suspicious.  Probably they think it's too easy - that treatment should involve effort, stretching, deep breaths and pure thoughts; the sort of thinking that used to lie behind the idea that medicine would be better for you if it tasted like swamp water a camel had died in.   Ignore all that.  Get a collar.

    Tuesday, 19 August 2014

    The Work In Progress Progressed - I hope

    Here is the former WIP, with a bit of glazing and some sharper details.

    Again, I think I shall avoid tube greens next time - on the whole at least; and certainly avoid Pthalo Green.... I am not a devotee.

    Friday, 15 August 2014

    Work in Progress

    Another WIP - love that word - a fairly large oil (40 by 50cm) on rough linen on board.  This is based on Afton Down, at Freshwater on the Isle of Wight: I say based, because I don't see any point in producing very accurate landscapes: a photograph is better at that - but this is somewhat more accurate than I actually like to paint....  I tried to veer away from the actualité, but found myself drifting back to it.

    Lots of glazing to be done, plus the fiddly bits - for those into painting in oils, I used Pthalo Green, because I was lazy: better to mix your greens, and I wish I had, because the wretched stuff permeates everything.  I OUGHT to  throw the tube away and never buy another, but on the one hand it does have its uses (makes an excellent black, mixed with red, and cool greys if you add white)  and on the other I'm as mean as sin: so until the tube is exhausted I know I shall keep using it.

    There's nothing wrong with a ready-made green, in certain circumstances - a permanent Sap Green (they aren't ALL permanent: check the rating) can be pleasant, mixed with yellows, reds or even blue, and Viridian, though more expensive than Pthalo Green if it's the real thing, while hideous on its own and suitable, as someone said, only for painting park benches, is softer than Pthalo and mixes more satisfactorily.  Terre Verte, which has very low tinting strength, also has its place, as does the rather expensive Cobalt Green.

    I suggest you avoid most of the others you're likely to encounter, at least if trying to paint in Britain and Europe - Emerald Green, Cadmium Green, Prussian, Chrome, and Alizarin Green (the last three quite difficult to find, in any case) are more suited to tropical vegetation.  And although I know a lot of people use Olive Green, I find it a colour of peculiar hideousness - there are many different types, it's a nondescript colour based on mixes particular to each manufacturer, but so far as I'm concerned all of them are vile.

    And I can mix Vile myself, without actually buying it .....

    Wednesday, 30 July 2014

    Too Pooped to Paint

    Far too hot, and I've had one or two health issues, to paint in the last few weeks: beginning to get cooler, and I'm beginning to feel better, so back to the fray very soon.  Today was the last day of the Alfred 'Paddy' Kerr Art Group's exhibition at Ventnor Botanic Gardens: I go back tomorrow to either pick up my unsold paintings, or a bag of cash ..... guess which it'll be...

    Beginning to think that exhibitions are an exercise in ever diminishing returns: it's either the wrong time of year, or the venue isn't what it used to be, or the recession is still in full flood, whatever the government claims, or a mix of all these things.  In the case of the Botanic Gardens, the loss of the through-road hasn't exactly helped - where once people would drive by, notice it, and stop, or plan a visit and find a direct route, now the main road has gone over the cliff; there is no passing traffic, and the place is that much harder to get to.

    Not only that, but the last Tory council, defeated all too late, sold the Gardens to a private owner - people didn't like that, and they certainly don't like to have to pay to park their cars and pay AGAIN to actually get into the Gardens.  One of the many things I hate about the Tories: if it isn't nailed down, they'll flog it.........

    This is probably my last exhibition this year; I don't enjoy them very much, and coinciding with blood pressure/oedema problems I haven't exactly been a-float on a bubble of enthusiasm.  Stick to selling on the web, I think - it's a lot less labour-intensive.

    Or a gallery to represent me would be good - apply within!

    Thursday, 17 July 2014

    Link to E-book on Amazon Kindle Store

    This is the link to the e-book Oil Paint Basics on the Amazon Kindle Store which I should have posted before.......

    Thursday, 26 June 2014

    E-book Still Available on Amazon Kindle Store

    For beginners, improvers, and experienced painters who just want to remind themselves of a few basic things.

    Go to the Amazon Kindle Store, and download it there - although I can also provide it as a DVD (in pdf format) if required (but at higher cost - £7.50 including p & p).

    My email address is

    Saturday, 21 June 2014

    Along the Path to Niton Village

    This one is an oil, of a difficult subject - the path itself is usually fairly dark at this point, but I wanted to get a bit of light into it.

    Dimensions around 30 by 40cm.

    Thursday, 12 June 2014

    New Acrylic

    Back to my Cryla and Chromacolour acrylics for this one - a change being as good as a rest.  I've had the sketch waiting to be painted for over a year - what attracted me to this subject was the sycamore leaves, which were out before anything else - a flash of quite pale green at that time of year, against the browns, blacks, reds and greys of the other trees.

    Down from the Downs is the title, 30cm by 40cm, cloth on board.  £150, for anyone interested.

    Wednesday, 11 June 2014

    Green and Red

    One of our colleagues on Painters Online (web pages of The Artist and Leisure Painter magazines) painted a picture in a range of greens.  In admiring her (Louise Naimian's) work, I remarked that the late F C Johnston, ex-editor of Leisure Painter and the author of a book on oil painting technique, recommended painting studies in Viridian (Green) and Alizarin Crimson, as a lesson in tone rather than pure colour.

    Louise is one of those people who, faced with an idea, has to accept it as a challenge.  You can see her watercolour using red and green on POL now (just type in her name to find her gallery).  I also, unwisely, mentioned I'd painted a few studies in Viridian and Alizarin - without mentioning I did them 30 years ago, and Louise wanted to see them.  

    Well, they could be anywhere now - they're probably here in a file somewhere.  Anyway - rather than disappoint or brand myself a liar, I thought I'd do a new one.  It's only a very quick effort, in acrylic on Daler Rowney System 3 acrylic paper (which I don't like very much, in sharp distinction to nearly all other D-R products) and  yes, I know the chimney pot is wonky: the point of doing this sort of thing is to explore tone, light and dark and the bits in between, and Viridian and Crimson produces a very strong range of colours.

    Except ....... it ain't Viridian; I've run out.  So it's Hookers Green, plus Alizarin Crimson; and being acrylic, it has to have a bit of white with it, which watercolour wouldn't need (but oil would, obviously).  Always useful to have a go at this sort of thing, if you haven't already: I wouldn't argue the results are especially pretty, but that's not the point.

    Thursday, 29 May 2014

    Finished? Don't Know - Plus Another One....

    I think I've finished my painting of the Undercliff landslip - I could only really fiddle with it beyond this point, because I can't go back there and try working from the same place .... a) things have changed, b) it's a touch hazardous....

    While thinking about that one, I did another - a scene to which I've returned, from various different standpoints, three or four times.  The interesting thing about this one - well, from my point of view - is that it was painted in one sitting (almost - apart from a bit of defining when it had dried).  The board on which it's painted had been the base for a scene that just wasn't working; so I scraped the old paint off, washed it down with White Spirit, let it dry, applied a very thin coat of Winsor and Newton Oil Painting Medium, and painted on top of that.

    Both of these are oils, 30 by 40cm.

    Monday, 19 May 2014

    Oil Paint Basics E-book - Special Offer

    Price cut by 78% from May 21st to May 28th.

    Sunday, 18 May 2014

    Oil Paint Basics - E-book on Amazon Kindle!

    Oil Paint Basics contains information on techniques, equipment, colours, and a glossary of artistic terms plus suggested colour mixes. 

    Suitable for the beginner, the improver, and the experienced artist who wants to go back to basics (as, now and then, most of us do).  

    Available on the Amazon Kindle Store for a low price for a limited time only, or on CD by direct application to the author at

    Work in Progress, oil

    The landslip on Undercliff Drive, between Niton and Ventnor on the Isle of Wight, has closed a major artery of communication and a major tourist route.   I walked as far as I could in order to see the disaster at first hand, but couldn't get beyond the road-closed signs: not entirely unreasonably, the Council has tried to shut the road so that no one can gain access to the abandoned properties along its length.

    Very sad - people have lost all they had, and this follows on from the disastrous fire at Puckaster Close, just a mile or so away from the slip.

    I've been trying to paint the landslip so far as I can see it - but am having to imagine it as best I can.  This (always assuming I can locate my pictures from my increasingly complicated hard-drive!) is the first stage of my attempt to paint it.

    Wednesday, 7 May 2014

    Threat to Cadmium Pigments

    Urgent - the European Union is considering banning Cadmium in artists' paint, whether watercolour, acrylic or oil.

    Cadmium is widely used by artists, professional and amateur, and as yet there are no good alternatives to it.  The danger is said to come from its being washed into the water supply, especially by those using watercolour, acrylic with water, or water-soluble oils.

    The paintings of the Impressionists would, on the whole, have been impossible without Cadmium Yellow and Cadmium Red.  These paints have a strength, density, opacity, and longevity which nothing else can equal.

    The evidence that Cadmium, in the quantities in which artists are likely to use it, is making any significant contribution to the pollution of water is very thin indeed - can't go into that here, but look it up online.

    And please go to a) the European Union website, b) your MEP, to stop this potential disaster from befalling artists throughout the world.  Quite simply, modern painting methods would not be possible without the Cadmiums - visit the link below (copy and paste if it's not live) and comment if you believe this matters.

    Monday, 21 April 2014

    Castlehaven (Reeth Bay), Evening

    I painted this a while ago - few weeks, that is - but followed it up with the small sketch of the same subject but in daylight.  I posted the little 'un, but had camera issues and couldn't show the bigger.  It's fairly fussy, really - I was experimenting with various kinds of oil paint.  I don't honestly know what I think of it, but anyway - here it is, for better or for worse.

    This one is 30 by 40 cm, on canvas-covered MDF board.  And - probably obviously - it's an oil.

    Thursday, 10 April 2014

    A "dirty picture", plus a bleak one

    A couple of watercolours today - Bleak Coast (and believe me, it was) and Dark Corner: the dark one, "dirty" because there's a lot of dark paint in it, Payne's Grey mixed with various blues and reds and spattered with salt, didn't turn out as I'd intended but I let it go because I was interested to see what it would do more or less left to its own devices - it has a je ne sais quoi; or at least I think it has.  Can't speak for anyone else, of course.........

    There are those who like very precise paintings, lots of detail, everything drawn with the brush to resemble as closely as possible realistic forms.  I don't do a lot of that - there may be a fair amount of detail, sometimes too much: but it's more in the nature of random brush strokes than very careful drawing.  This is because the paper I use for watercolour is invariably either Rough or NOT (cold-pressed) - if you're after fine detail and limpid washes, the paper to use is Hot Pressed: a smooth paper, with little texture.  I admire paintings like that, but have no desire to paint them myself.

    Anyway: these are both around 10 by 7 inches, on 140lb paper (The Langton NOT).

    Bleak Coast

    Dark Corner

    Friday, 28 March 2014

    At Knowles Farm

    Departing from my usual practice of building up an oil painting on a coloured ground - or Imprimatura, if you'd like the arty word - I painted this one straight onto a white canvas board; alla prima, to use another couple of arty words, i.e. in one go rather than building it up in many layers.

    Which isn't to say I finished it in one sitting, but it was done without any great deal of faffing about, over a week of working fairly intermittently.  I know it's not everyone's draught of poison, but I think I rather like it - it's not been fiddled with or fussed over.  It could probably do with rather greater aerial perspective, but that's for another day.

    30 by 40 cm, framed.

    Tuesday, 11 March 2014

    Vectis Artisans - back at Quarr Abbey for Spring Show

    Vectis Artisans, or at least many of us in the group - some can't make it this time round - are having their third exhibition, the second at Quarr Abbey, between Fishbourne and Binstead, Ryde Isle of Wight, on Thursday March 20th to Tuesday March 25th.

    Paintings, sculptures, some cards, some photographs - should be something for anyone interested in collecting art, or just coming along to take a look.

    Hours are 10am to 4pm - entrance is free.

    Wednesday, 5 March 2014

    Neighbour's House Destroyed

    An "exciting" night, for all the wrong reasons.  Puckaster Lodge, a substantial house not far from here and clearly visible from Reeth, was burnt to a shell last night - the house was occupied, adjoining smaller properties were tenanted - the fire seems to have wiped out the lot; people are homeless, their possessions gone, but fortunately no one was hurt.

    What with landslips thanks to the unprecedented rainfall, and the collapse of the road into Ventnor for much the same reason, this has not been a great year so far for Niton Undercliff.

    Sunday, 23 February 2014

    A month of NOTHING

    Other than bits and pieces, I've painted nothing at all since the last posting; slumped into a period of masterly inactivity.  Why?  I don't know - (isn't that helpful?)

    I get these periods though, and I think many of us do; there are some painters possessed of such joie de vivre that they can paint a new picture every other day.  I've never been a bit like that...  Every now and then, despite having sketchbooks a-plenty with ideas for paintings, I just can't think what to paint next; or whether I should even bother to paint at all.

    This is highly unprofessional, of course - but if this is the way your mind works, I don't know what you're supposed to do about it.  I suppose I could churn out pot-boilers - the sort of painting that you can do in your sleep, requiring you to learn and do nothing new - but even if I were selling more often than I am at present, I wouldn't want to do that.

    Just in case you have the same problem, I can only suggest you don't beat yourself over the head about it: you're not alone, and I don't think it's helpful to try to force yourself to paint - you'd be able to do it if people were banging on your door with commissions, but if they're not, it really doesn't matter if you fail to add another painting to your canon for a month or two.  The more pressure you put on yourself, the more you worry and fret and blame yourself for your laziness, the less you'll feel you want to get the paints out again.

    You're allowed to have a rest sometimes.  So just stop, and do something else.

    And I HAVE just started a new oil painting - in that I've laid on the Imprimatura in thin Scarlet Lake, and painted in the basic drawing with a turpsy wash of Burnt Umber - it's gone no further than this as I sit here pretending not to notice it, but it will.  And I feel much happier in consequence, because something is actually happening.

    Joint exhibition with friends from the Vectis Artisans painting group in Quarr Abbey, near Ryde, from March 19th - will this one be ready in time?  I don't know, but I'm not going to pressure myself into finishing it, even though I've got all this time to do so: can't handle this sort of urgency any more....   Am I getting old?

    Of course you are, you senile old fool.

    I may post the preliminary drawing in a bit, so you can see the task I'm lumbered myself with.

    Tuesday, 21 January 2014

    Oil sketch, Reeth Bay

    Did this little one, on a cigar box lid, as a study for a bigger painting - in the event, I like it a lot more than the bigger painting, in which I changed the colour and, as I sometimes do, tightened up a bit too much.

    Monday, 13 January 2014

    Bob Ross strikes back ....

    Well, not Bob himself - sadly no longer with us - but one of his admirers, or at least someone who doesn't share my hostility to the Bob Ross method, has replied to a blog post of mine back in August 2012.  I had more comments on that post - a mix of views - than on any other I've put on here.  I imagine that's simply because people Google Bob's name, and this blog post crops up eventually.

    Let's get it right, though.  Bob Ross did what Bob Ross did - and I don't have any trouble with that; I even liked one of his paintings; sadly it was just the one - he seemed less concerned with painting a 'scene' in the one I liked; a study of trees and shrubbery: it's the big landscapes, the repetitive nature of which I find dark, on the one hand, and unconvincing on the other, that put me off.

    I've answered the comment, for anyone who'd like to trawl back to August 2010 to take a look, making the point that it's not the man but the school of painting that has flowed from his tv series back in the 80s that's the trouble.

    There are Certified Bob Ross Instructors out there who seem oblivious to the actual world around them, and teach an unvarying method, which produces dingy, dark paintings of the sort you might see on the wall in gilt frames in the darker corners of rather old-fashioned hotels.  They're dingy because of the method of their construction - and there is a strictly limited range of subjects, consisting invariably of  mountains, lakes, forests, culled from the master's own works.  It's a sealed, closed world, of same-y subjects.

    My commenter/correspondent says that painting is an enjoyable hobby, and by extension I take it he or she thinks that it need have no link to anything real; it can be just what you enjoy doing...  I can understand that, and this is why painting-by-numbers was popular once upon a time (still is, for all I know).  But make it your world, not someone else's, if that's what painting means to you.  The Bob Ross school teaches nothing but a method - 'anyone can paint', they say (not that they're alone in that).  And true, anyone can.  But a) I don't quite grasp why you'd want your paintings to look like someone else's, right down to the way the sea hits a beach, and b) I'm not a hobby painter - I don't do it because it's enjoyable, though probably wouldn't do it if it wasn't: I do it to learn more about painting.  And I'm not going to learn that from the Bob Ross school - unless there are tutors out there who are very much better than the majority and allow their students to do something original rather than copy a pattern.  

    I shall take another long holiday from Bob Ross now, and get back to other matters - whenever the light is good enough for me to take a decent photograph of what I've been painting.

    In the meantime, have a hedgehog, and a Happy New Year.