Monday, 10 March 2014

Spring Has Sprung!

What a fantastic day today was! It truly was the first real day of Spring. I was moving studios - from my conservatory to my custom-built one at the top of the garden - and whilst traipsing up and down the winding path lugging all my gear, there were lots of butterflies flitting about, sipping nectar from the few flowers in bloom and taking their first flights after their long hibernation in garden sheds and woodpiles. I saw four different species (these are all my photos, apart from the Brimstone and the bees, taken last year):
Commas, above
and here's the underside, showing the distinctive white punctuation,
Small tortoiseshells,
and male Brimstones, the males a particularly bright lemon yellow.
Queen Buff and Red-Tailed Bumble Bees too were stumbling and buzzing about, looking for suitable nesting sites. And of course, the real harbinger of Spring, the Ice Cream Van was in full voice in the village! Here's my tribute to him in a painting I did last year:
I love Winter, but when the first signs of new life, or at least awoken life show themselves, it really is a special time, a glimpse of things to come, like the greenery and Cow Parsley in my painting.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Summer Clouds

Oil on Board, 9 x 12 inches

This painting was a demonstration piece I did for the Grafham Art group today. Here it is, untouched after the two hours  demo. 

A simple composition, with the big tree to the right of centre and distant trees appearing bluish on the horizon - so typical of a hazy summer's day.  I used old warn brushes to scrub in the drawing and the dark tones, then hog brushes for the sky and distant fields, then the 1" household brush for the foliage and vegetation, and finally hogs and Mongoose brushes for the water and weeds and lilies.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

The end of an era

No painting to show you today, just a tribute to a friend, John Fountain, who died early this morning in hospital.  John was co proprietor with his wife Carole, of the Stamford Artists Gallery in Lincolnshire.

John gave me my first break as an artist, 29 years ago in 1985, after my career as a golf professional.  He and Carole took some of my paintings, which sold, and from then, right up to today, lasted a very happy working relationship.  

John was also an excellent picture framer, and was still making my frames until his recent illness just a few weeks ago.  He was meticulous in his frame-making, and his precision of cutting and assembling was second to none.

But, above all, John was a genuinely lovely man, absolutely straight and fair, and I will never forget his help in getting my foot on the first rung of the ladder of this wonderful vocation that I enjoy.

In 2010, Claudia Winkelman's Radio 2 Arts Programme conducted an interview with John and Carole about how they first encountered my work, and you can still hear it at

Saturday, 22 February 2014

February Sunlight

Oil on Board, 6 x 8 inches

This little painting will be going to the Affordable Art Fair at the Marine House stand.

This is the River Welland between the villages of Colleyweston and Ketton. I do like the skeletal trees of winter and when the sun lights up the landscape, there is a surprising amount of colour. Here I used a full range of yellows, reds and blues and all shades between. Most of the tree and vegetation was done with my 1" household brush, with a few strokes of a rigger for the tree branches and posts, whilst the lively sky was painted with a No 5 hog.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

New Gallery

I'm delighted to say that I've joined the great stable of artists at The Harbour Gallery in Portscatho, Cornwall, run by Mark David Hatwood FRSA:
Mark has a very prominent presence on Facebook, Google+, Twitter and You Tube, all of which can be accessed from his excellent website at

The Gallery has all four of the recent paintings I've done from the Roseland Peninsula in the last couple of weeks:

Low Tide, Portscatho Harbour:
Molunan Beaches, St Anthony Head:
Calm Waters off St Anthony Head:
and Towards Falmouth Docks:
Details can be seen on my page on his website and via my own website, link at top right of this Blog.

September morning, Beer Beach

Oil on Board, 6 x 8 inches

I painted this little study en plein air from the lookout balcony above the shingle beach of Beer in Devon. When I started, there was a bright sun trying to peak through the low cloud, giving a gorgeous sparkle on the sea and a halo of light on the boats and figures. However, after half-an-hour, the sun was gone and the scene was totally different, the sparkle gone and the colours flat with no contrast of tone.  This is the most difficult period for the plein air painter - do you carry on, re-painting a different scene that first inspired you to paint, or pack up and try to recreate the original lighting back in the studio? I carried on for a while, but the lack of sparkle lacked what I wanted, so I finally gave in and put the panel away to finish off just now.

Fortunately, I took a photo' of the view early on, so I had the basic information and managed to finish the painting off in the studio with little alteration, just adding the figure in the foreground to balance the composition. The old rubber conveyor belt, with the sunlight bouncing off it, provided a perfect 'lead-in' to the focal point - the red fishing vessel, with the fisherman looking out to sea.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Low tide, Portscatho Harbour

Oil on Board, 9 x 12 inches SOLD

Another oil from my Cornwall trip. Unfortunately, there was no sunlight on the day I was at Portscatho, so I had to make the best of what was on offer. 

When there is no sunlight, all the tones are close and subdued, so in many ways, more difficult to paint. Luckily, there was plenty of colour in all the boats lying on the mud, so it made for quite a polychromatic composition. I used my long palette knife to drag dark paint over the drying mud colour to get the effect of seaweed and stones. On this scale it was a little fiddly with all the bits and bobs on the boats, but they make up for the lack of sparkling sunlight.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Molunan Beaches, St Anthony Head

Oil on Board, 6.25 x 10 inches  SOLD

Here's another painting from my trip to the Roseland Peninsula last September, looking down on one of the Molunan Beaches - not sure whether this is Little or Great Molunan. This view is looking in the opposite direction to 'Calm Waters, St Anthony Head', the painting in my last post.

I quite liked the rhythm of the rocky outcrops, making your eye go in a zigzag path through the picture, with the tones of each mini-peninsula getting ever paler and bluer to give that sense of distance. I also loved the purpley colour of the rocks as they were covered by the green, milky sea in the foreground. This was towards the end of the season, so there wasn't a lot of activity, which adds to the tranquillity and sense of place I think. Ooh, get me, all poetic and lyrical...

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Calm Waters off St Anthony Head

Oil on Board, 7.5 x 10 inches

This little painting is a view from the SW Coastal Patch around the Roseland Peninsula in Cornwall. The day I was there, it was a rather dull and benign - a far cry from what has been blowing on these islands for too long now. 

With little in the way of light, aside from a hint of colour in the sky, I had to pay close attention to the tonal relationships between the foreground and headland in the distance with the lighthouse and the little white paraffin store. Soft brushes and hogs used to stroke the paint in the headland, and, conversely, plenty of texture dabbed in with my coarse 1" household brush for the vegetation near me, also helped to give spatial awareness to you, the viewer, hopefully!

Friday, 7 February 2014

Sun and Wind, Brancaster Staithe

Oil on Board, 7.5 x 10 inches

Here's my little effort from this Wednesday's paint out at Brancaster Staithe with the UK Plein Air Society. The view I picked was a little challenging, starting out in sunlight, then extremely dull, then sunlit again. I parked myself in front of a wall so that I was sheltered from the howling gale, apart from the back of my neck and head, so had to wrap them up with a scarf and my very fetching hat with earflaps to stave off rigor mortis.

Chasing the light is never easy and much like shares, boats can go down as well as up on the tide.  The poles (technical term) on the big boat were dark against the sky for most of the painting, then the sun came out and thay were bright white against the blue sky.  So, I ended up chasing the light and in the end decided to paint the high tide with the sun out, and finished the painting off in comfort of the studio.

This is how far I got on the day, with the exposed mud in the foreground, before opting to paint out the foreground mud and changing the mood of the painting.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Sunset over the Thames at Richmond

Pastel on Clairefontaine Pastelmat, 13 x 19 inches
Back in November, my friend Haidee-Jo Summers (a familiar name to many of you) and I went down for a day of plein air painting by the Thames at Richmond with a band of painters called the Brass Monkeys.  We only did one painting each, nowhere near finished, because poor Haidee developed a migraine (I have this effect on people!), so I dashed to the nearest chemists to get her some Migralieve, which, fortunately, did the trick for her.
On walking back to the car, I snapped a photo of the glorious sunset, which provided the basis for this painting, with a little artistic license.  As you'll know if you're familiar with my daubs, I tend to paint trees with perhaps more apparent detail in oils, so it's sometimes nice to ring the changes and tackle them with Pastels, which gives a softer, more painterly feel, I think. There were an awful lot of subtle changes of tones in the mauves and yellows and the corresponding darker notes, and these had to be observed with a lot of concentration (just in case you thought we artists just hold a magazine in one hand and paint with the other, barely glancing at the paper!)  Sunsets are tricky, getting the brilliance of the oranges and warm sky tones to shine out without getting the darker tones too dark.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Towards Falmouth Docks

Pastel on Clairfontaine Pastelmat, 9 x 13 inches

As I still had my Pastels spread out on my enormous palette (a long piece of wood) after painting Ruffin, I thought I would do this little study from a trip to St.Anthony's head in Cornwall last September.

Pastels are a bit fiddly on this scale with this sort of subject, with blunt little stubs to manouevre around, but I quite enjoyed the looseness of the water. Being a dull day, there was little light casting any interesting sparkles and shadows on the vista, so the close tones had to be carefully observed, a little more difficult with the dry medium.

Sunday, 26 January 2014


 Pastel on Clairefontaine Pastelmat, 12 x 9 inches

I rarely do pet portraits these days, but this is Ruffin, and he is a surprise present. Ruffin is a Border Terrier and is very much a typical member of the breed, with a rugged, scruffy coat, boundless energy and packed with the sheer indomitable spirit of being alive on this planet.  This is what I desperately wanted to capture with this painting and I think I've just about got him.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Swans by the Bridge

Oil on Board, 12 x 17 inches SOLD

This is the final painting destined for the Marine House Gallery stand at the Hong Kong Affordable Art Fair.  

I never tire of painting Swans, and this family group were particularly appealing, the juveniles' plumage echoing the frosted vegetation beautifully.  The dark band of tone on the top right section is actually the embankment of the 'new' concrete bridge over the River Welland at Duddington in Rutland, with the ancient, handsome bridge in the mid distance.  Although ugly in itself, the new bridge cast a nice shadow over the water, with the low morning sun just peaking over the top of it, reflected here in the water, breaking up the area.  As you all know who read this highly entertaining Blog, I love painting the effect of pure sunlight, especially on water, so this was right up my street, or stream...

When you have a river that traverses across the picture plane, there is always the danger of the eye flying out of the picture, but the tree branches on the top left poke the gaze back and the ducks invite you through the bridge arches.  Another bit of the painting I loved depicting was the sunlit steam hovering over the water before the old bridge, achieved mostly with the paint wet, but with a little drybrush afterwards.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Late Autumn Reedmace

Oil on Board, 6 x 8 inches SOLD

I don't know why Blogger is publishing photographs with much more saturation than from my file, but if it appears that way on your screen, I can assure you the painting looks a lot less colourful than here! A far better, more accurate photo (from the same file) can be seen by clicking on my Facebook page at 
NB...I've changed my settings and turned off Google's 'auto-enhance' button, so the photo is now more accurate (thanks to Andy for the tip!)
I rather liked the jaunty angles of the Reedmace with their characteristic long brown seedheads - often wrongly called Bullrushes, which look totally different. The seedheads release their fluffy cream cotton wool-like seeds, rather like Dandelions. 

I quite enjoyed painting the woodland in the background, with a lot of the warm colours of Autumn, but quite a bit of blue and white in the mixes to make the wood recede. Sadly, in the photo here, those subtly blued tones don't appear, so I urge you to look on my FB page to see that I haven't got cataracts!