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 actualit√©, 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.