Monday, 30 December 2013

Autumn near Lyndon

Oil on Board, 9 x 12 inches

Firstly, I should say a big thank you to you all for reading my Blog over the past year and I hope you're all enjoying your festive break. And if you've only just joined, where have you been?

The painting above I did as a demonstration piece a few weeks ago to the Oundle Art Society.  On the day, I had forgotten to bring my big 1" household brush, but a lady in the audience very kindly loaned me her pastry brush, which I made do with and enabled me to paint in the foliage.  Not having painted anything for over a week, I checked back in the studio today and refined the painting a little with my trusty 1" brush.

Here's the painting on the day, showing how far I got in the allotted two hours using the pastry brush:

Thursday, 19 December 2013

ROI Paint Evening

 Kit, Oil on Board, 16 x 12 inches

Here's my effort from the ROI Paint Evening on Tuesday, where loads of artists were crammed together, painting from three models around the gallery.  There was a remarkable hush in the room right from the word go, punctuated by swishes of brushes being cleaned in the white spirit cans and the odd whispered tones from the spectators milling around, weaving between tripod and easel legs.  I found it a tricky experience, being too far from the model to see any detail in the face.  Hence, my version of Kit took on a rather 'plasticky' look about it, albeit a decent enough likeness, but I promised to post it, so here it is, warts and all. On reflection, I think I would have been better to have painted a full length portrait, showing an overall impression.

Kit himself found it a rather difficult exercise too, periodically dropping off, his eyes taking on a heavier look and his head changing angle! 
 Here's a snap I took at the mid-session break, with my friend David Pilgrim's painting to the left of mine and Haidee Jo Summers a couple of yards in front.
Here's another view to my right showing many more setups scattered about...
and another to my left during the break.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Self Portrait ll

 Oil on Board, 12 x 9 inches
Tomorrow I'm going to the ROI Paint Event evening in London, where I shall be mixing with fellow painters, to paint from three different models in front of an assembled audience.  So today I thought I would flex my painting muscles for a practise go, as I've barely painted anything for ages, let alone a PORTRAIT!  I had to paint from a somewhat unwilling and diffident model, with a rather fixed, serious gaze...

Using a mirror perched precariously on top of a paint tin on top of a shelf, resting against a pot of tall brushes, I set to, standing up, holding the brush at arms length to rough in the outline of this devilishly handsome brute.  Looking slightly upwards at my reflection avoided seeing my increasing bald patch, thus appearing to have a full head of luxurious locks.  I'm reasonably happy with the result, although I'd like to do a less serious pose of myself.  Doing anything else but a serious-looking pose of oneself is very difficult, because you have to concentrate on the painting, whilst doubling up as the model.  To switch from concentration to something else every few seconds is next to impossible.  I'd like to rig up two or three mirrors sometime in order to paint myself from a sideways-on profile, just to ring the changes.

Anyway, I look forward to tomorrow's gig, and will post my effort from the night very soon... 

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

ROI Private View

I spent today at the ROI Private View at the Mall Galleries in London. Despite none of my submissions being accepted this year, it's still a great show and well worth a visit if you're in London!

It's always a good day, catching up with friends and colleagues Haidee-Jo Summers, David Pilgrim, Graham Webber, David Curtis, Adebanji Alade, Keith Wilkinson and others, and talking shop, and having a good old gander at the superb work on display.  The show was officially opened by the new President of the ROI, Ian Cryer and the ever exuberantly verbose Dr David Starkey.

It was especially good to finally meet and chat with one of my all-time painting heroes, Pete 'The Street' Brown, who picked up yet another award. When Adebanji Alade asked Pete if he could take a photo of him in front of his paintings, I took advantage and got a snap too, above.

I shall endeavour to take a few more photos when it's a little less busy next Tuesday when I and many more artists, some ROI members and some not, will be painting from three models, live, from 6-9pm in the annual Art Event Evening. Tickets at £8 to watch the event, can be obtained from

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Glorious Snow

Oil on Board, 10 x 14 inches

Well, my silence is broken!  No doubt you've all been wondering where on earth I've been since nearly a month ago.  I've not been taking a holiday - in fact, my feet have hardly touched the ground.  My new custom-built studio is up at the bottom of the garden, it's been painted and now all I've got to do is get a path put in to get to it across what was the lawn and is now bare earth and mud. 

I've also been looking very, very seriously at opening a new gallery in the area, selling fine art by some of the country's finest painters.  In my opinion, the area is crying out for a gallery that sells modern fine art, not abstract-leaning 'contemporary' art, and there is a gap in the market that I intend to fill, so watch this space...any thoughts would be much appreciated.
I've also done a couple of demonstration paintings in the last month, and this one above is one of them, given at Oadby Society of Artists last Monday.
This was largely an exercise in tonal relationships.  As I said to the lovely group in Oadby, this is a classic case of painting what you see, not what you know, ie., we know snow is white, but looking into the sun with a river meandering through, the snow is NOT the lightest part of the landscape.  I placed pure Titanium White for the reflection of the sunlight straight away, to give me the brightest part of the painting to work up to, everything else being a tone down from this intense light.  Most of the snow was in shadow, so the colours were various tones of lilac, and the sunlit parts have a little red and blue in the mix, so as not to compete with that intense light on the water.
Painting under artificial tungsten light, as well as my daylight bulb was a challenge, and the colours were a little off after the two hours demo, as can be seen in the photo below, which is as far as I got on the evening.  So, a couple of hours were needed back in the studio, refining the tones and colours.

Thursday, 7 November 2013


I've been on cloud 9 this week to have been voted an Associate member of the Royal Society of Marine Artists - see those letters after my name on my Blog-header! 

However, upon returning home from the West Country, I found that none of the five paintings I submitted for the ROI (the Royal Institute of Oil Painters) had been accepted for the annual exhibition.  So, it's been a little bittersweet, from floating on a great high, being recognised by one's peers, to landing back down on the ground on my backside by not making it through to the final cut of the next big society's show.  Ouch...ah well, as Fred Astaire sang, time to pick myself up, dust myself off and start all over again.  I was reminded today that when he made his first screen test, it was said that he "can't sing, can't act, balding, can dance a little", and he did alright...

A huge thanks to all of you who attended my exhibition at the Marine House Gallery in Beer in Devon last Saturday, especially those who bought a 'Barker' - your patronage is much appreciated. The exhibition continues until November 15th and can be viewed online by clicking this link:

We had a great few days in Devon and on into Cornwall, visiting glorious Bantham and Mousehole. Here's yours truly painting at Mousehole:

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

RSMA Exhibition

Me, with my two paintings!

I had a wonderful day yesterday at the Royal Society of Marine Artists Exhibition at The Mall Galleries in London, meeting fellow artists and viewing the exhibition of some 288 paintings - a real feast for the eye!  The exhibition is open 10am-5pm from today until 27th October when it closes at 1pm, and I thoroughly recommend having a look if you get the chance to. 

The journey home was a little less enjoyable, with the last coach at 7pm not showing...broken down apparantly, so nine of us weary travellers were taken on another coach to Stansted airport, then after an hour's wait, the standard less than helpful, unsmiling, apathetic, vacant-looking staff ushered us to a couple of big taxis to take us back to Peterborugh, an hour-and-a-half late, groan.

The photo above was kindly taken by my colleague Haidee-Jo Summers, with me standing next to my two paintings in the gallery on the right as you go in, which we have nicknamed 'the fridge' or 'cold room', because it is lit, rather uninvitingly, by very cold, blue 'daylight' spotlights!  You can see my pics have yellow 'C' stickers on them, which stands for candidate, NOT what you lot might be making up your own meaning for!  I am being considered for associate membership of the esteemed society and will know in a couple of weeks or so whether I have gained enough votes.  It's one of those long drawn-out pregnant pauses like in every reality show on the telly employs; you can just hear some distant drum beats if you listen carefully...

Monday, 14 October 2013

The Palace from St.James's Park

Oil on Board, 10 x 17 inches

I've long fancied painting this view of Buckingham Palace from the Bridge over the lake in St.James's Park, so I've finally got around to it. Despite being in mid-December, there was a lot of colour abounding, with the cool blue/greys of the palace with its attendant reflections, contrasting with the warm reds, russets, yellows and greens of the trees and grass.  It really was a joy to paint, with some intense concentration required to depict the glassy water.  I particularly enjoyed painting the Victoria Monument right of centre with its gold top.
I think I shall submit this for the ROI exhibition too, as it's another local landscape. And it's more up my street, despite being in the heart of our capital, with lots of trees and glorious reflections, so we'll see what the selectors think...

Tomorrow I'm off to London to see the RSMA exhibition - always a great gig - so I shall be walking over the same bridge from where I was standing for this painting.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Buses on Buckingham Palace Road

Oil on Board, 12 x 17 inches

Here's a bit of a hand-brake turn for me, and a very enjoyable one.  I'm identified with painting the British countryside, especially rivers, and this one is about as far as you can get from that motif.  

Whenever I go to London for one of the major art society exhibitions at the Mall Galleries, I go by coach and walk the pleasant 1 mile to the gallery along Buck Palace Road, and this view is just around the corner from Victoria Coach Station.  I always feel a bit like 'Crocodile Dundee' in London and somewhat lost in an alien world - it's great for a change and a day out, but I sigh with relief when I'm back in my beloved countryside.

There's an awful lot going on here, and makes me even more in awe of Pete 'The Street' Brown's urban cityscapes from which he has earned his alias.  I loved the reflections of the surrounding buildings and vehicles both in the glass clad monster on the right and in the coaches on the other side of the road.  And of course, the new red routemaster provided a lovely vivid touch of colour.  There were at least a couple of London Plain trees to paint, just to make me feel a bit more at home!

I entered 3 paintings digitally for the ROI exhibition, leaving me 3 more possible paintings to enter on the official handing-in day, so this might be one, depending on what reaction it gets...

Thursday, 10 October 2013

My Devon Exhibition!

Just a joint exhibition with Helen Tabor at the Marine House Gallery at Beer in Devon starts with the Private View on Saturday 2nd November, and all the paintings are for sale and can now be seen on their website  at

Royal Society of Marine Artists Exhibition

Just a reminder to you all that the RSMA Annual Exhibition starts next week, 16th October and runs until 27th October, open 10-5pm every day (closes 1pm on final day).  This is, in my opinion, one of the best exhibitions at London's Mall Galleries on The Mall, near Trafalgar Square, SW1, with some of the best artists in the country showing work with a maritime theme.  I am lucky enough to have two paintings accepted for the show (above).

If anyone would like to attend next Tuesday's Private View on the 15th, when the exhibition is officially opened at 3.30pm by Dan Snow from the telly, preceded by a tour of the exhibition conducted by David Howell, the President of the society, please let me know - I have e-invites (admits two) I can email to you, and a few actual ones I can post.  Just click here to email me. The PV has a great atmosphere, with a lot of the exhibiting artists attending, me included - surely a big enough pull in itself!

You can also see half of the paintings in the show at

Monday, 7 October 2013

Crunchy Hoar Frost

Oil on Board, 10 x 14 inches

I painted this one as requested for a demonstration painting to the lovely Horncastle Art Group last Friday, finishing it off today in the studio.

With a sharp hoar frost after a snowfall, the landscape took on a fairytale look last January, with everything coated in crunchy crystal, and, with a steely blue sky, presented a gorgeous light effect.  Being an almost monochrome subject, it was very important to observe the tones accurately, making sure the trees stood out against the darker toned sky.

My big 1" household decorating brush came into its own for the painting of the willows' tracery, adorned with their white coating.

I may submit this one to the ROI exhibition too, depending what reaction it gets on here and Facebook...

Friday, 4 October 2013

Buckingham Palace from Green Park

Oil on Board, 9 x 12 inches

Here's another one I'm submitting to the ROI Exhibition.  Thought I'd do a 'local' one to the Mall Galleries, just down the road to the Palace!  
The contre jour lighting (posh for looking straight into it) provided a spectacular effect, with the Palace and its attendant statues and poncey pillars silhouetted in various subtle shades of purpley-grey - right up my street...well, the Queen's arctually, as Count Arthur Strong would say!
It was a bit fiddly on this small scale, but I enjoyed the challenge for a change, instead of my default riverine paintings.  Maybe one day I'll tackle something similar to this on a bigger scale, like the great Peter Brown whose unparallelled streetscapes have given him the name 'Pete the street'.  I'm more 'Pete the stream'...doesn't quite have the same ring to it does it?

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Narrowboats on the Oxford Canal at Enslow

Oil on Board, 14 x 20 inches

I'm submitting this one for the ROI (Royal Institute of Oil Painters) anual axhibition at The Mall Galleries in London.  It's a view from the bridge over the Oxford Canal at Enslow, near Woodstock.  The canal runs alongside the River Cherwell, a tributary of the River Thames, and runs for 78 miles, passing through the Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire and Warwickshire countryside.  It was once an important artery of trade between the English Midlands and London, and is now popular among pleasure boaters, as can be seen here.

The canal holds fond memories for me - I spent a great deal of my time fishing on the canal at Bodicote where I lived for most of my childhood.  I would almost always see a Water Vole swimming amongst the lilies and reeds - nowadays a very rare sight and one I haven't seen since those days. 

The inspiration for this painting was the fantastic sparkling light on the rippling water, churned by the boat. This sort of subject is meat and veg for me, and I really enjoyed trying to depict that brilliant sunlight reflecting off the tops of the narrowboats.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Threatening Skies over the River Soar

 Oil on Board, 12 x 17 inches

I painted this one as a demo to the Vale of Belvoir Art Society.  It was slightly ambitious to complete it to exhibition standard in the allotted two hours, and I failed miserably!  Mind you, I was up against it a little in that I went down with a stinker of a cold virus in the morning.  I did feel a bit rough and was sneezing and dripping (too much information) onto the palette throughout.  That did enable me to ham it up a little and get the sympathy vote...didn't work though - they're a hard lot at Bottesford!

Having completed it back in the studio, I'm reasonably pleased with it.  There aren't a lot of lit surfaces in the painting, but I loved the dark clouds hanging over and their dark reflections in the water, with a few flecks of light, thus giving quite a dramatic light effect, despite the lack of direct sunlight.  The winding River Soar, near Loughborough, gives a nice 'lead-in' to the picture, and the figure and cattle provide a little scale - always a useful feature.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Almost, BBC

Amazingly, 'The Culture Show' on BBC2 last night didn't make me switch over, because it was a portrait of Jonathan Yeo, fine portrait painter of various celebs, politicians and prominent people.  I actually thought it was going to be a really interesting look into how the artist went about constructing his portraits, but, alas, it quickly descended into lots of clever shots of the painter wielding tiny little brushes, side-on with sunlight glinting off the canvas, so no marks could actually be seen.  All we saw was the near-finished and final portrait of actor Tom Hollander, who was sitting for the artist, with no footage of the gorgeous, slabby strokes from large brushes, just the aforementioned arty-farty tickly dabs with a rigger filmed with more attention to getting sexy back-lighting than actually enabling us to see what was being painted.  The portraits were great, but what a chance missed to actually show us HOW they were painted, and I'm sure I speak for the majority in saying it would have been far more interesting to watch than just seeing finished paintings and poncey, pretentious lighting.  One day....

Friday, 13 September 2013

Bright Hoar Frost

Oil on Board, 6 x 8 inches

Last winter, notwithstanding the icy grip that it held on us, was a joy for us artists.  I love painting frost and snow and bare, skeletal trees.  The landscape is transformed into a wonderland of silver and I just love the more subtle, less shouty colours of winter.

Once the dark tones of the trees were scrubbed in quickly witha worn Hog brush, I set to with my 1" Household Decorator's brush to paint in the gorgeous, feathery tracery of the Willows' branches, making a concerted effort to try and make the trees look three dimensional and not just flat pancakes. The water was a simple affair, with a few blocky strokes of my Ivory Flat brush, the colours partially blended, then a few judicious, horizontal strokes with a Mongoose Flat.

This is the last little painting for my Devon exhibition...sigh of all I have to do is frame them...

Wet Lane near Postbridge

Oil on Board, 6 x 8 inches

A gleaming, wet road against the sunlight is right up my street (excuse the pun).  That blinding light you get when the sunlight bounces off a wet surface is joyous, almost pure Titanium White used to depict it, slightly lighter than the sky tone just above it, though difficult to see in the photo.  Coupled with the rich colours of Autumn, and the branches forming a tunnel, this was a little gem to paint.

Ready for the Off

Oil on Board, 6 x 8 inches

If you go down to the shingle beach at Beer (where my upcoming exhibition is), a working fishing village in Devon, early in the morning, the fishermen are getting ready to either go off fishing themselves, or take Mackerel fishermen with their rods out for a morning's fishing.  Kim, one of the well-known local fishermen, was just about to go out with his own catch of anglers on this particular morning, his boat set against a milky gray/green sea and the fret starting to lift, with the familiar backdrop of the chalky Beer cliffs as a backdrop.

Mist Clearing from Axmouth Road

Oil on Board, 6 x 8 inches

This was a pleasant little study of Seaton from the other side of the Axe estuary in Devon.  Misty vistas give nice soft tones and of course with this sort of scene, a good illusion of recession with very muted, pale tones of the town in the distance.  As I've said countless times before, tones are all in a painting, and the key is to place all your tones down together, never working on one part of the painting in isolation, otherwise a good-looking painted passage on its own can look totally wrong when the tone next to it is placed.  So, keep all the parts of your paintings moving along at the same pace.  I'm going to have to kill you all again aren't I....

Autumn by the Teign

Oil on Board, 7.5 x 10 inches

I've often said that painting still water or slow-moving rivers is the easiest part of any painting, but painting fast-moving water is a different kettle of fish altogether.  

This was a relatively overcast day, but just for a few seconds only, the evening sun broke through and danced on the water providing jewels of sparkling light.  I actually enjoyed painting the myriads of slightly different, subtle marks of colour to depict the water tumbling over the rocks and undulating riverbed, and was really pleased with how this one worked out.  Sometimes a painting just works and sometimes it doesn't.  When it does come off the brush well, first time, without fiddling, it's just a joy! 

Devon Reds and Oaks

 Oil on Board, 7.5 x 10 inches

'Devon Reds and Devon Oaks and little lambs eat ivy, a kid'll eat ivy too, wouldn't you'.  All right, it's 'Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy', a little dittie my mum used to sing - a wartime song performed by various artists at the time, but popularised by Sherri Lewis with Lamb Chop.

Anyway, I digress...I just liked the way these Devon Red cattle were standing between the Oak trees on a ridge in the field, with their calves just below, partly hidden, so i thought it would make a nice little study with the arrangement as it was.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

The Bank Vole

I found this delightful little chap just sitting hunched-up on the lawn just outside my current studio.  I picked him up and put him in a small box and gave him the once-over.  He seemed okay physically, apart from his left eye being closed, so it could be that he had injured it.  I gave him a few grains of bird seed which he gratefully nibbled at and then a Blackberry, which he ate half of after an hour or so.  Then I put him back in the hedgerow, well out of harm's way, and he had gone when I checked later.  So, I hope the little guy recovered enough and continued his voling life...

Bank Voles are beautiful little creatures, pint-sized versions of the endangered Water Vole, and at this time of year they feast on the abundant hedgerow berries and seeds, climbing easily amongst the spiky vegetation.

I mentioned this particular handsome rodent was just outside my current studio, because I am having a purpose-built new one erected at the end of my long garden, a 9m x 3.6m log cabin with a studio one end and gallery the other, so watch this space for news on that...

Exhibition in Woodstock

I have five paintings as support to an exhibition by Catherine Hyde, 'The Twilight Garden', at the Iona House Gallery  starting this Saturday, 14th September, running until 13th October.  Click on the gallery link and then my name on the gallery home page to see the paintings I am exhibiting.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Four Finished Orf!

Wind in the Reeds, Oil on Board, 9 x 12 inches

Very simple composition this one, and is the River Welland at one of my stretches near Duddington in Rutland. I painted it as a demonstration piece and refined it a little more in the studio and finished off the reeds in the foreground, which were bending over in the fresh breeze, giving lots of different tones and colours as the varying angles changed.   

I'm often asked how I paint reeds, so if you value your life again, stop reading now.  For you brave souls still reading and riding your luck, these were painted with a No4 Rosemary&Co long-handled Long Flat, Series 279, but keep it quiet....

Grazing by the Nene, Oil on Board, 9 x 12 inches

This one I painted in July, en plain air, but just finished it off.  Those sharp-eyed ones among you will recognise it from my July 15th post, when I showed a few steps to the painting.

   Moody Morning, Derwentwater
Oil on Board, 9 x 12 inches 

Again, this was another one painted en plein air last November, just refined a bit in the studio.  I also added the red ferry boat that takes folks around the lake, just for a spot of colour in an otherwise grey landscape.

The Reed Dabbler, Oil on Board, 10 x 14 inches

This was another painting I did as a demo to an art society earlier in the year, duly finished off.  A classic riverine view in high summer, but can you spot the female Mallard?

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Fairy in the Wood

Oil on Canvas, 18 x 26 inches

This is my last larger painting for my exhibition in Devon, so I thought I would include a Bluebell Wood, with a twist. The little girl behind the tree was playing in and out of a tent her mum had erected in the wood, and she was dressed in a bright pink fairy costume, so she just had to go in the picture.

There is an awful lot of paint to the square inch in this painting - a lot of texture impastoed on the surface with dabs from the palette knife and a well-loaded 1" household decorator's brush.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Longboat Summer

Oil on Canvas, 22 x 30 inches

This quintessential English river scene is at Waternewton where the River Nene runs through the old watermill in the painting, which is no longer a working mill, sadly, but a block of homes.

I had a lot of fun painting the reflections of the trees in shadow and then the bright greens of the sunlit reeds and vegetation on the right, although the colours in the photo are a little more vivid than in the painting.  The sunlit weeds growing on the water were dragged in with a well-loaded large rigger when the paint was sticky, using the weave of the canvas to give texture.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Luminous Beer Buoys

Oil on Canvas, 16 x 22 inches

This one was quite a challenge, but I liked the composition of the red boat with all the fishermen's gubbins around it and the pools of water and ropes helping to lead the eye to the boat, resting jauntily above the strand line, and then to the family silhouetted against the glare of the morning sun glinting off the sea.

Pitching the sky tone next to the water is always tricky, and it helps to put down the lightest light next to it at the same time in order to judge it right.  The flicks of glistening sparkles on the water were put in with a palette knife as the underpaint was sticky, so grabbing the paint on the high points of the canvas weave.  

The shingle is a problem to depict without painting every darned stone, which is not practical, nor necessary.  I tackled it by putting down lots of layers of various grey mixes, then dragged the palette knife over again in an attempt to simulate the rough texture.  Not sure whether it was successful, but I think it tells the viewer what is there and lets you tell fill in the blanks.

The translucent red buoys presented a more difficult problem - how to get that luminous quality with the light shing through them.  I could have just painted them with crimson and left them slightly muted, but I loved the glowing red of them, so was determined to try and capture that. I'll obviously have to kill you all now, so if you value your life, stop reading now.....I painted the round shapes in pure Titanium White forst, then when that was dry, I glazed the crimson over the top...nifty eh?  Right, you'd better look over your shoulder now.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Article in 'The Artist'

I'm in 'The Artist' magazine again in the Septemer issue, on page 52. That's my painting top right of the left-hand page above, featured as one of the winners in the Patchings Open Competition.
Voting is continuing until 1st September for the Artists Peoples Choice Award, so if you would like to vote for your favourite from 'The Artist' TA and the 'Leisure Painter' LP categories, you've got a few more days to do so by clicking on this link: 
There are some cracking good paintings but you can only vote for one from each category, choosing from any in the four galleries at the top right of the page (4 pages of the TA and LP paintings, and 3 pages in the TA and LP Highly Commended paintings).  Far be it from me to ask you to vote for any of my three paintings, but if a fiver would help, please send me your address...

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Two in for the RSMA

Well, I got the above two paintings accepted for the Royal Society of Marine Artists annual exhibition at the Mall Galleries in October.  Great to get two in, but I was really hoping to have three, but there we are. These were rejected, the first of which I thought was the strongest of all, from a painter's point of view:
Onwards and upwards...

Elephant Hawk Moth!

 I glanced out of the studio today and watched a pair of juvenile Blackbirds pecking at a Blackberry on the lawn, when I noticed their attention was disturbed by a dark beast trundling between them.  At first I thought it was a young Grass Snake as I've seen them in the garden before, but on going out to see, I was delighted to see that it was the caterpillar of an Elephant Hawk Moth.  You can plainly see why it is so named - the larva resembles the trunk of an Elephant with its segments and deeply mottled skin, and when the larva stretches out its head, it is uncanny how it looks so trunk-like!
 Here in this close-up you can see the false eyes that often put off predators.  This chap was on his way to find a suitable spot amongst leaf litter and loose soil to pupate.  There it will overwinter, to emerge next Summer, under the extraordinary metamorphosis, transformed into one of our most beautiful moths:
The larva feed on all types of Willowherb and often on Fuchsia, which my next door neighbour has in her garden.  So, I assume this guy had clambered over the dividing stone wall to search for his hibernation spot.