Saturday, 3 October 2015

Goodbye, Denis

Denis Healey - that was a life well-lived, and you'll be missed: politician, photographer, painter, soldier, and brave man.

A unique combination of intelligence, wit, and sheer guts.  Rest in peace, Denis - you were just about the last of the great figures of the last century, and an inspiration in this one.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Candlestick Tree, Niton Undercliff

This is an 8" by 10" oil, just a sketch of the huge candlestick tree - I think it's a Sycamore - it could hardly be anything else - that has grown into three great boughs of roughly equal girth until they branch out about half way up.

I've had four paintings so far from this one walk down the road, 3 oils and 1 acrylic.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Inside Elephant Hole Cave

Acrylic, 8" by 10"

A quick study from memory, because drawing inside the cave was impossible (not least because I forgot to take a pencil with me....) and so was taking a photograph.  Having got in, the worry was whether I was going to be able to get out again.  The point from which I would have been standing in this one is where a tunnel leads through the cliff to another opening which is almost impossible to see from the outside.  I got through that, but the path was so treacherous that unfortunately I had to turn back the way I came.

Well, I can say I've done it now, anyway: I'm in no hurry to do it again.  I just hope that road works which are likely to be undertaken in the area don't destroy this part of the cliff and its environs forever.

Cripple Path II, and Elephant Hole Cave

A couple of recent oils - the top one is another version of the Cripple Path, from the cliffs down to Undercliff Drive near Ventnor - and I think it's a bit cold: I may add a warm glaze (of transparent oil colour) in places.

The second is of the quite remote Elephant Hole Cave, also off Undercliff Drive.  This, in the appropriate season, is the home for rare bats - there is some concern locally that the road will be diverted all too near to this site, disturbing the bats and destroying a unique bit of landscape which, once gone, can never be replaced.

Sometimes any painter must feel like the Yorkshire artist John McCombs - getting to these places just before the bulldozer.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Cripple Path pastel sketch

I don't do pastel, other than in sketches for paintings, and I don't do it for public consumption because I'm not very good at it.

I had rather resigned myself to this, and to using pastel merely to take colour notes and to help me "read" a scene before painting it.

However, here is one - not a great work, but presentable; it sort of works.... whether I shall experiment further with pastel I don't know, but it does appear that - at last - I might even be getting the hang of it.

This is a path from the top of the cliff down to Undercliff Drive in Niton Undercliff - the broken road between here and Ventnor.  The term Cripple Path is said (by some at least) to derive from water courses rather than disability, but as yet I've been unable to determine the truth of otherwise of that: what I do know is that I could only get half-way up the path before having to turn back - it's just too steep, and too slippery.  This view is of the last part of the path before it meets the road.

I've just painted it in oil, from a somewhat different perspective - it's a work in progress at the moment, though - not sure about it as yet .....

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Acrylic comparison, and a new watercolour (when I said I'd stop..)

Here is a (Chromacolour) acrylic version of the not very good watercolour below - just to show the comparison between the two media, and that acrylic can be used in what Alwyn Crawshaw called a "watercoloury way".

From Headon Warren to Tennyson Down.

I'm not sure this is really finished, frankly - but while it's a bit more topographically accurate than the watercolour version, I got a bit bored with it.  Looking at it in thumbnail proportions prior to posting, I think it could do with darker tone in the greens in the right middle ground: but that would have brought about several more problems in relation to the fence and the purple of the heather, and on the whole - well, I wasn't in the mood to do much about it beyond this point.  So it'll have to stand as is, or go down fighting.

And although I swore I would take a temporary rest from watercolour, I got a tube of Pthalo Blue from Jackson's, and had to try it - from which grew another painting: see below......

By the River.

Quarter imperial watercolour  (ie, 15" by 11").  I hadn't intended to paint this at all, just to try out the Pthalo Blue, but it's such a gorgeous colour, and mixes so well, that it grew under the brush.  For good or ill.....

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Two rather dull paintings - We must move on!

The problem with remaining stuck in a groove is that the quality of one's work doesn't get better through sheer repetition but tends to slide downhill.

These are two that slid.

I don't believe in hiding the duller stuff from people, because with any luck we can all learn something from the ones that didn't come off - possibly rather more than we learn from those that did.  And you never know, somebody may have a higher view of these than I have: if so, don't hesitate to make me a foolishly generous offer for them.  I'll pack them up with devoted care and speed them to  you.  But if these were by anyone else, I'd find them dull - and in both cases, the composition is the big problem.

In this one, for instance - which started out as a watercolour but has had a bit of work done  ( not plastic surgery, but a touch of ink and coloured pencil) - we've got a rather unexciting subject to start with, made worse by that lump of blue sea which just isn't doing anything.  I don't think that composition was ever going to work, and the fact that it looks a bit like a stage-set isn't helping: it looks like scenery, rather than a scene, if that makes any sense.

The second one, which is all watercolour, is perhaps a little better -  the reason I'm disappointed with it, though, is its departure from the actual scene;  the distant downs are nowhere near as prominent, nor as symmetrical, as I've painted them.  It was, to be fair to myself, a test piece on which I tried a brand of watercolours new to me (daveliou: made in China, available on Amazon.  The paints worked fine, once I got used to them - this isn't the place to go any further into that, but you'll find my review on Amazon UK if interested).  It's also a bit on the "tight" side - a freer hand with the brush might have paid off here.   The distant buildings are out of proportion, as well, giving a slightly weird impression of scale: it would have been better to have left them out.  

Thing is - one lives and learns, all the time: if you make a mistake in watercolour it will show because it's very hard to conceal it; certainly, if you make a mistake right at the preliminary drawing stage, you're on a loser with watercolour because there's so little you can do to put it right.  Better to scrap the drawing and start again: the trouble is, one doesn't always notice at that stage.  Which is a good argument for making lots of sketches and studies before you ever get round to pulling the paints out.  

I've taken watercolour about as far as I can at the moment, certainly on this paper (Fabriano 140lb).  Flogging away at it isn't going to help, so I've bought some more Chromacolour acrylic, and will be painting in acrylic, and oil, for a while.  I'll certainly come back to watercolour: but I need a rest from it for a few months.  (Trouble is, it does tempt you back!)

Friday, 7 August 2015

Two More

Idleness being foreign to one's nature - pause for mirth - I have two more watercolours to offer: one being rough and, I think, energetic, the other involving a complete change of palette - I watched one of Charles Evans' demonstrations on YouTube the other day ... I know he's an artist who demonstrates on behalf of Winsor and Newton but I think his comment that you  should only ever use artists' quality paint is right: I've been experimenting with some other brands recently, and next to W & N artists' quality they just don't work.....

You might wonder why not - it's true that a good painter can make use of just about any materials, from student quality paint to tea or coffee used as dilute ink.  But while cheap and cheerful materials are easier on the pocket in the short term, they just make life so much more difficult that it takes a lot of the pleasure out of painting.  Colours aren't intense enough - paint has a sluggish tendency and pronounced unwillingness to spread on the paper - and to cap it all they fade.

Good paint makes good work possible: it doesn't make it inevitable, but at least you're giving yourself a chance - working with inferior materials, be that paint, brushes, paper, canvas, just makes the job so much harder than it need be: and in the end, there's no saving in that.

Use the best you can get.

The Broken Wall I -
ignore the gum strip at the bottom!  Must invest in a few mounts....  This is the rough and energetic one.

The Broken Wall II -
And this is the different palette: principally in terms of the yellows; I've not used Lemon Yellow for some time, but employed it here; and I also used Venetian Red rather than Burnt Sienna as my red-brown.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

I'm working - and so is the new computer

It has been a fraught few weeks, but I now have a new computer - well, pretty new; new to me - with Windows 7 and an option to upgrade to Windows 10.

Settings are all sorted,passwords retrieved or remembered, contacts located, files found.  I even plugged everything into the correct sockets, first time round.   And they said I was old and senile!  Ha!

I did panic though.  Just a bit.....

I am currently working on some more paintings, and drawing again, after at least a week of producing nothing but muck sweats, and despite the fact that cervical spondylosis (arthritis in the neck) is making my arms feel like someone else's.

If you happen to have a cure for CS that you're sitting on, therefore, do not hesitate to share it with me.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

My Annual Computer Crash

Every year, at about this time, my elderly computer crashes, with the loss of files, programmes, and, in the latest one, about 1,000 emails.

So, if you've emailed me in the last week, would you please re-send?  Same address as always.

(And if you could also send me a new computer, that would be very welcome: I shall have to dip into the wallet, I fear - it's taken me nearly two days and a good deal of one night to recover, to the extent I have, and I shall have to accept that the old bucket, and the wretched Vista Home Basic, are trying to tell me something.

Remembering the fire that destroyed Puckaster Close, just yards from here.  

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Niton Undercliff, Isle of Wight

Still working with watercolour at the moment, and trying to get the Fabriano 140lb paper to work for me.  Fact is, I need a heavier weight.  The only way I can make this paper work at all is wet in wet, and stretched with gummed tape to prevent it buckling.

Bockingford paper, in fact most 140lb papers, buckles - but I've never known a paper to turn into corrugations as reliably as this one.

However, just goes to show I should spend more on paper, and hang the electricity bill....

This one is Early Morning, Niton Undercliff.  Threatening clouds, light gleaming through, a couple of yachtsmen about to lose their breakfasts...

(Quarter Imperial size, unframed)

Friday, 26 June 2015

Isle of Wight Open Studios

Well, I fear I can hardly open mine, because I work from my humble flat: and when I say "humble", you can take that as a euphemism for "squalid": also small, pokey, hard to get to...

Nonetheless, it's always more or less open to anyone who happens to be in the Niton Undercliff * area and feels like calling round; and there's usually something to be dug out of storage to delight the connoisseur, punter, customer, or person who's just feeling the urge to spend.  I take cash, cheques - with a bit of proof of identity - and cigars.....

And here's a few of the latest, although three of them have already gone.

From the top - drawing of Dracula's Castle in charcoal, pigment ink pen, and Chinese ink; Watercolour of trees at the roadside, on the old Blackgang Road; Pensive Fox in Chromacolour acrylic, and Dormouse ditto - the bottom two combine opaque and transparent acrylic, plus a bit of texturing in the lower picture - proving that you can use salt with liquid acrylic just as you can with watercolour.

* If you can find St Catherine's Road, along which is situated the Buddle Inn, you'll find Castlehaven Lane branching away from it and taking you, ultimately, to Reeth Bay.  Half way along the lane is Reeth Lodge, behind big stone pillars; wander up the drive, past a cottage on your right, another on your left, until you come to a farm-type gate, with a smaller gate to its side - and beyond that are the delights of Reeth Lodge, myself, and a small border terrier which is tolerably friendly and hardly lethal at all......  

I just don't know how you can resist..  

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Trees on a Misty Hill

I've had a somewhat fallow period since the General Election, on which comment would be painful, so I shan't make one.  Struggled with a few things, including a few watercolours, but the only one I think fit to show is this one - used a bit of salt, which has given it a misty quality I found reasonably appealing.   I've been using Fabriano paper, instead of my usual Bockingford, Arches, or Saunders .... not getting on with it too well at the moment, although it took the salt and water well.

I'm having a bit of trouble with inspiration just now, but trust it will return eventually.   Probably a good thing to have a bit of a rest from painting now and then - it gives you a chance to have a think about what you're doing.

Anyway, here's the one thing I've painted for a week or so....

Friday, 1 May 2015

Watercolour More Difficult than Oils?

Well, not really, no.  Watercolourists might like to think so, but provided the watercolour is planned, and you realize you must work from light to dark, it isn't that hard.

BUT - watercolour can't half go wrong!  (I speak with feeling: mine just did.)  And if it does, there's very little you can do to rescue it - actually even that's a half truth.  You can do a lot by overworking it with pastel, or with opaque acrylic - Chromacolour acrylic is one of the best for this (update that website, Chromacolour .... you said you were going to months ago).  But of course once you do that, you don't really have a watercolour any more.  People may, and often do, pretend that acrylic paintings are really watercolour, because they're painted with water, but we all know that's a little fib.

Or a whopping great lie, depending on preference.

There are water-soluble oils available now: are THEY watercolours too?  Pull the other one.

So if a watercolour turns turtle on you, and you don't want to turn it into a mixed-media work, you've not much choice other than to bin it.  But that's just a feature of the paint and the technique: it doesn't make watercolour painting intrinsically harder than any other medium.  I've sweated more blood over oil paintings than I ever have over watercolour, even given the number of the latter I've torn up into little pieces while using language mother never taught me.

And there again, there are those who insist on "pure watercolour", by which they mean transparent paint with no body colour - white, in other words - mixed with it.  You have to wonder how far they're prepared to take this - there IS body colour in a number of watercolour paints; some are just more opaque than others: eg, Light Red; the Cadmium colours; Turner's Yellow; Naples Yellow; Venetian Red.  Would the "pure" watercolourists argue that these aren't pure watercolours?  When, anyway, did pure watercolour - which I take to be the use of transparent single pigments, really - become a mark of refinement and distinction?  Turner, Constable, Palmer, Cox, Cotman, Girtin, used whatever came their way to achieve their paintings: it's not a method sanctioned by time and custom - it's just that at some point I've been unable to trace, someone decided that the traditional English watercolour was actually nothing like traditional English watercolours, and instead invented a "classic" form of the medium entirely based on transparent washes on white paper.

It would be interesting to find out who it was who began this tradition - I suspect it's very much a 20th century phenomenon.

As it happens, I love a transparent watercolour - clear, clean washes laid over the paper, minimal colour mixing on the palette, colour dropped in to other colours to achieve optical mixing.  But I could do without the hint of snobbishness about the method - as if it's the "right" way to paint in watercolour.  It may be right for you, but don't erect a fence of prissiness around it and look down on other (and actually older) methods, the while assuring everyone how "difficult" it is.  The technique is hit and miss, that's all: that makes it infuriating at times, but no harder than other media - painting is quite hard: if it weren't, no one would waste their time on it.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015 Updated!

Well, there's an error on the Gallery page - images are pixellated - but at last I've managed to upload my new files to the Buy page of   So take a look - and better still, BUY something.

My new 24" monitor helped, because my vision is poor, and I must record my thanks to 3iX web-hosting, and the Serif online web community, for a LOT of help.

And now, flushed with success (but determined to fix the errors later) I'm off to bed - where I shall sleep without that crippling feeling of guilt which my web-funk has been causing me for so long.

And here's a photo of Charlie, my landlord's little Border Terrier, looking tremendously impressed by my cleverness.....