Monday, October 29, 2012


The panel finally assembled. I'll try to post some details later.

........ more detail

Friday, October 26, 2012

Towards Bath, From Redhorn Hill

One of those amazing clouds (with a silver lining), the sun just behind it. on a very still evening in the summer, I just had time to paint it before it changed too much.
(9" x7" oil on gesso panel)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Bristol Plein Air Meet -


Above Wayne AttwoodTom Hughes and Valerie Pirlot at work. It was  a stunning view working against the light.
Several of us met 'under the PAS Umbrella', in Bristol for the day on Saturday 29th Sept. (Thanks for reminding me Valerie)
I'd been very busy but decided to make the day out. It was a bright sunny day and perfect for the occasion. I arrived about  noon, a little late, just as people were putting finishing touches on their paintings of the Supension Bridge.
I did a rushed piece of the bridge view, but that needs a little more attention before I decide to post it. Sometimes rushed pieces are great, but this one perhaps not. In the afternoon we worked facing the North view.

It was  a great day, good company and cameraderie,  exchanging valuable painting and equipment tips  .......
i.e. Valerie's versatile adjustable painting transporter, and Tom's credit card paint scraper - ingenious. We ended up in a nearby pub in Clifton Village (having missed the last coffee shop) to discuss the day and agreed we should it again before too long.
Will try to add more photos later ....................

Painting after Titian

The White Horse Opera set painting project has come to an end and the show, La Traviata  (set in Paris 1910) started last night.   In addition to the 12 post impressionist paintings used to set the atmosphere of the scenes in the opera, I copied a Titain, "The Entombment, to hang in the lasts act as Violetta dies from consumption (happy stuff some operas, but fab music!).  In this final scene all the paintings are turned to the wall as her apartment is being closed due to her declining health and fortune. But this one painting can still be seen hanging.
The director had asked for a religious painting and I chose this, partly because I'd made a tiny copy of it years ago (about 6"x 8") and because it sets a suitable solemn and compassionate mood.

Titian's wonderful work, squared up for copying.

Initial drawing on  a rather blotchy overpainted ground. 
94cm x 64cm
 I had initially started painting very loosely recalling Ruben's method of putting in white impasto highlights early on, loosely applied. I went  a bit over the top, but was just experimenting and couldn't stop myself. It was  a mix of  home made Titanium white, some varnish binder (dammar maybe) in egg tempera mixture, which I'd  had in the freezer for years.

Starting the colour using oils. It was a pretty rough start causing a bit of difficulty later in taming it down.

So I  had to back pedal and wrestle with it a bit to bring in a bit more accuracy.
My more or less finished copy below, I can see lots still needs doing, but out of time but it and it does the job.

 I've always looked long and hard at Titian's work (and others) and  now realize I have been actually absorbing something and could begin to usefully use some of his methods from memory.  Being restricted by time, and not wanting  slavish copy but more capture a feeling of his style, perfect accuracy wasn't the goal.
To sum up .....One rarely gets a chance to copy an old master painting. After starting working from a book reproduction, I went to the National Gallery to look closely at the Titians and realized that it was essential to see how he built up the drawing and laid the paint on in various ways, scumbled layers and glazes etc. So when I returned I could see where I'd been going wrong, drawing rather dark hard lines instead of building up the drawing with softer siennas, particularly noticeable with his depiction of hands. The Madonna below is one of my most favourite paintings. Everything is so softly even blurrily painted, and the glazing like nothing else I've seen, so many thin colours blending and picking up the  canvas texture, particularly over the blue gown. Most of the shadow in the gown was added later in multiple glazes.
Virgin with Child (National Gallery)

 Some of Titian's later work can be  incredibly loose. ie "The Death of Actaeon" (National Gallery)

 But his earlier work is more precise combining a confident looseness juxtaposed with incredible delicacy, particularly in the drapery of the figures. One of the finest bits of painting is in the Bacchus and Ariadne painting (National Gallery) - in the lower LH corner is  a crumpled yellowish cloth with an urn tipped on it's side, engraved with his name. If you  can get there to see it take a look at the way that cloth is painted. No photos can really show that but here is the  detail to show one what to look for. One needs  to get up close as possible to see it, but stay behind the rope security!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

I entered 2 paintings for the Bath Prize and this one below  won the 'Purchase Prize'. In this case the owners of the cafe in the Market had offered to buy the painting they liked best. Several people took on the challenge, and it was actually my stipulated place to paint so I had no option (in the competition, they assign each artist to a particular place, selected from about 35 locations around The City of Bath).

At the start I felt  a bit out of my element as I like painting in the open, but persevered, trying to capture something of the diffused but sometimes strong light in the  space, as the intensity of the sun waxed and waned through the day. This was done over two sessions, with the help of two double cappucion's kindly donated by Mike and Wendy.  (the injection of caffeine may have given me an unfair advantage - thankfully, there was  no caffeine test!:)
A view of the market below ....

 and many people enjoyed being photographed with the Queen :-)
Someone said  that if one patted the pig's nose, it brought luck. So I did later, quickly, feeling silly - but I won the prize so there you  go! Should have more faith

My other painting was done from Parade Gardens, below Poultney Bridge. Here is the first study under way, after starting I realized I needed  a wider format

The final painting below  felt a bit forced and I think the study had more life.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

At present I am involved in set design of  WHITE HORSE OPERA'S 2012 production of "La Traviata".
The director has set the time Circa 1910 Paris, and  a number of paintings, by well known Post Impressionist painters of the time, are being used to set the stage and mood of each scene.
Here's a little website made to keep track of our progress.
(You don't have to buy prints, it is just a good free site for displaying  images).

 The painting gang. Some are trained some are apprentice trainees. All have done very well and I'm proud of their progress, and ability.
Wylany and her mum Candi, Deavin, Nicole, Julia, Sophie and Dan.

Julia painting "The Kiss" by Gustav Klimt.

Katie and Simon painting "Hungerford Bridge" by Andre Derain

Nicole and Deavin, starting Van Gough's "Flower Garden with path"

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Working on a privatly commissioned panel at the moment , to convey something of the Spirit of "Wiltshire Landscape".    These clumps of trees are typical seen atop and around the Wiltshire Downs they are usually on ancient Bronze Age sites. I've added some standing stones, burial mounds, often seen in the landscape. 
(This is still unfired paint and the coloured glass is stuck up with beeswax, on a flat glass easel , for painting against the sky ). Black lines are painted behind the easel glass to simulate the lead between each piece.

 Close-up detail at lower part of the panel  with wheat, flora, water.
There's the remains of a Viking helmet under the water, reference to King Alfred beating the Viking Danes at Edington.
Some silver stain will add touches of gold and enhance the richness of the glass. i.e. fruit, helmet, wheat, primrose (might have all 4 seasons in this one) - Stain still to be fired on.

There might be  a few insects in the undergrowth if you look carefully :-) or are they in the other bit?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Harvest Time, from Strawbery Hill

(Above) Just After Harvest
(Below) Early evening before Harvest
(below) Looking North Towards Devizes and Roundway Hills

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Apple Blossom, Great Chalfield.

Just updating this image.
Another view looking back at the house in May .....

..... and catching the last of the Apple Blossom. Also showing Climbing Roses and Wisteria on the left.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

I'll be exhibiting with the MARLBOROUGH OPEN STUDIOS  soon, sharing a studio with portrait artist Yvonne Cunnane. The  event runs over four weekends from Sat 23rd June to Sun 24th July.

I'll be there for three weekends but on the 29th June - 2nd July I'm exhibiting in Bradford on Avon  -   with two friends ValĂ©rie Pirlot and Bob Childs, we're calling our exhibition  THREE WESSEX SKETCHERS.
All welcome to drop by these events if you can.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Apple Blossom at Great Chalfield

I was asked to paint an apple tree at Great Chalfield Manor  

There was quite a delay before I could get there but I think I made it just in time and found the trees with flowering blossom. This little tree caught my eye and appropriately it is seen against a backdrop of the Apple Store, building on the left, and some of the cottages on the Estate. Amazingly it was a beautiful fresh day after the dire wet cold month we've been  having ( yes I know the rain is much needed) so I really enjoyed the sun on my back, getting quite hot at times.

 Bach's Chaconne for solo Violin played Hilary Hahn.1/2
(good music to paint to) 

Joshua Bell playing the Chaconne in Washington Metro subway

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Painting the Rapeseed, near Marden.

It's odd how subjects select you. I was going to paint an adjacent row of trees, see in the video,  but this field in bloom insisted I painted it; so,  how to use a half a tube of yellow without really trying.(I got a dose of nasty spring hayfever too!:(

Learning some basic editing ....  three takes in a 3min video, at a 'blocking in' stage: quickly working at blank areas, of the painting. It can be interesting watching other painters at work but  actually quite alarming to see oneself painting - normally the brain is in freeflow and one is oblivious of much else and  has little sense of time.   

Captured without looking through the viewfinder, so not seeing the framing hence dipping to the mixing palette, camera in my right hand. This is  in real time though I did discard a few seconds of  mixing on the palette and another short clip in the sequence which was badly framed. Also I should have set camera to a wider image format.

Music: Var. no.2 of The Goldberg Variations, JS Bach courtesy of  a great facility I discovered recently- - I thought that better than adding dialogue here.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Hooray! I just sold three of these late evening sky paintings, they'll be framed together and hung one above the other.
Just looking at this batch of 8 I did almost a year ago. I'm trying to devise  a catalog system, an inventory to  keep track of my paintings so each is numbered and  named. i.e. these are "Lavington skies with Jet Trails" (no's 1- 8) but 81-88 in the  main list. Does anyone recommend a good system of cataloging?

And it was whilst doing this series , some differ slightly in size, that I realized I had to make a better effort at standardizing sizes so bought  a big batch of ready cut board, all primed now and ready to go.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Plein Air Painting at Urchfont Manor

I'm doing a Plein Air teaching day on Saturday 14th April  at Urchfont Manor, in Wiltshire.

 Some experience with oils is helpful but not essential. Starting with a short introduction and discussion on methods, the idea is to work outside in the garden, painting en plein air, where spontaneity often produces surprising and rewarding results.  Hopefully the weather will be kind.

 Emphasis will be on working quickly to produce several pieces.  A short equipment list will be available to applicants, but bring any of your own equipment as well.

  Limited places left (last time I checked) so  book soon so not to be disappointed. If they are fully booked you can contact me via my website as I'll be organizing more painting days in the summer .

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Making Sun-Thickened Linseed Oil.

Spring is here, time to make a new  batch of sun thickened oil - a very useful medium for plein air painting - when used in small amounts in painting media acts as a siccative drier.
Using a purified cold pressed, linseed oil, pour the oil into a shallow plate (about 5mm deep),  then this needs to be covered with a sheet of glass to keep dust out . The process works by oxidation  so the glass needs to be raised somehow to allow air in. Put on  a sunny windowsill, the more sun it gets the better. Air on the surface of the oil  and ultraviolet rays from the sun start a slow drying and thickening process. It is important to remember to stir the oil every day to prevent  a skin forming. After two or three weeks  the oil will be thicker and more viscous. Decant into  an appropriate air tight storage bottle This is  a great medium for plein air painting as it is half oxidized so dries quickly allowing  the painting to be worked on in thicker layers without it getting too oily and slippery. The oil yellows slightly in the process and dries with some shine. As with all new medium, it  needs  a little  practice to understand its  properties, and the viscous flow should  be adjusted by adding turpentine,  (or Zest-it!) to suit your painting process. ( a recipe from  "The Materials of the Artist" by Max Doerner.  - quote: Cennini calls it the best of all oils "I could not give you anything better")

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Stourhead revisited

I need to go back once more to do minor finishing touches to this. It has been a struggle getting the right light. Despite favorable weather reports, I got rained, sleeted and hailed off at least twice (almost like a rogue weather system was waiting for me to arrive). There were some nice fat sheep, steadily  munching their way into the scene from the right on the last visit, Probably too late to add them, maybe they'll be there for the final sitting.

This one looks  a little staged in it's composition. The lake was half frozen on the left side that day, but  a brilliant sunny day and I became fascinated by the light catching every branch and twig of the tree on the island.

Sketchbook drawings of the Apollo Temple on the hill.
Exploring the subject by making a pale water colour image, then scribble over it with a  water soluble  drawing stick. An enjoyable technique somewhat aided by bad weather and enhanced by the accidental effects.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


My latest project for the New Year has been to start some painting at Stourhead House and Gardens...... I was really wowed at the scale of the place, the lake, temples, grottos and wonderful woods etc.  The first day was fabulously sunny, then three subsequent days I got rained/hailed/snowed off. It is  a bit of a battle with the weather, trying not to make it personal!

  ABOVE  A rather 'zoomed in' view of the Pantheon Temple, catching the afternoon sun, I was painting from the steps of the Apollo Temple, then got rained off. There is a great view of the lake from the heights.

.... painting of the house ...... unfinished  ..... after two cold cloudy sessions. I'm just waiting for the sun to arrive again so I can introduce shadows and highlights to add interest to what could be  a flat looking winter scene. 
unfinished  ......  still in progress .... some sun please

View from behind the easel  - just trying to build a base of paint for when better light arrives  - will it work?

A quick sketch with a bright sun casting shadows on a very frosty beautiful  Monday morning.

Painted on the way home after being soaked by a heavy shower 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A painting of Great Chalfield Manor, capturing the winter afternoon light from the south lower moat - painted in preparation for having a stall at their Christmas Fair. . (The fair was a nice experience, in the Great Hall hung with 18th tapestries and the adjacent panelled room where I was designated a heavy old carved oak table to display my wares.)

The little C15th church can be seen on the RH side, and a glimpse of the Tropnell Chapel Window mullions, for which I made  a stained glass window "The Seed and the Sower"  (2nd row, 1st on left). The choice of subject was  good reason to  put in a lot of  the Estate's 'Flora and fauna' .The interpretation arose from suggestions of a member of the donor family, his ideas as a farmer/land manager and conservationist. The window reflects his love of the natural world and countryside around his home, where the family have lived for two  generations. His father was also a keen naturalist and the founder of the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust in the early1960's

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

UK Plein Air Society meet in Salisbury

WE were blessed with a fantastic sunny day when the UK Plein Air Society met in Salisbury  on 27th Nov. The group is the brain-child of Anthony Bridge, the idea being we meet up on the last Sunday of the Month in a prearranged town/city. If anyone would like to know future venues and dates don't hesitate to ask.
Moonlighting ---- instead of settling down to paint like everyone else, for a while I was captivated by the river in Salisbury meadows behind the Cathedral, shallow clear running water; so took a few snippets of video of  leaves coursing along in the current. Eventually I did a quick painting of a tree reflecting in the river.

 Video: The secret Lives of Leaves