Category Archives: Updates

Back on the ground

I’ve moved, a few miles closer to where I work and from two floors up in a flat back to the earth in a small cottage in an old village that was once a port until land was reclaimed, Dutch-style, and the Forth was pushed back a few hundred metres behind a long dyke.

It’s a good little sun-trap, better than I’d anticipated, and I can even get the internet to work by the cunning use of my mobile in an upstairs window!  Now begins the slower task of sorting and purging my stuff and designing storage shelving that fits the quirky dimensions of the new spaces and has some degree of aesthetic quality!  I may even be able to start doing some painting again , later in the Summer; for now, I have enough to do in wood.  I’m also well into making a dining table, to be followed by benches to go with it, a project I aim to finish in July.

Meantime, we are getting some wonderful weather, especially for Scotland, which makes for very pleasant cycling to work.  Yesterday evening, there was a beautiful sky, it looked like the angels had been combing their hair, between heaven and earth, swifts flew and whistled…

angels hair with swifts

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Recovery and reconnaisance.

I had a setback, just after Christmas, when I was admitted to hospital with abdominal pains that led to me having my appendix removed; very tidily via ‘keyhole’ surgery.
This forced me to stop everything for a while but it also provided me with an opportunity to try out media and subjects that I’ve neglected for too long. I set up a simple still life composition and picked up some old Conte pastel pencils that I was given many years back.

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I had forgotten how pleasant it is to build up colours and tones slowly, without the urgency imposed by rapidly drying watercolour or acrylic paint. There is a pleasing feeling of control of the process with dry media that I find can help to deepen my observation of the subject. This is in turn beneficial when I decide to use paint.

My assortment of coloured pencils was not quite working for me though, each type had noticeably different characteristics, including the need for applying fixative, which I wanted to avoid.  I made the decision to clear out my stock, which I gave to the school art department for students to use, and invest in a new set of good quality coloured pencils. After trying a few different types out, I settled on the Koh-i-Noor Polycolour pencils, which have good quality colours and a nice softness without the powdery nature of pastel pencils.

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So now I am starting to explore and play with these nice new colours, it brings back that feeling I had as a child, the joy of simply making marks and building up areas of colour, even just in little thumbnail trials, as here.

I’ll post more in a while, it’s too late to photograph the other sketches just now and I have started back at work.

Little Journeys

My little journey began in the studio at Trigonos, with a mug of coffee. The members of the group, from Art North Wales and Helfa Gelf, dispersed slowly and deliberately on individual explorations around the site, which offers many lovely perspectives on the area around Nantlle.

I took my time, with sketchbook and paints in hand, to focus my attention on my whole experience of the stages of my walk, making notes in words as well as sketches.

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My route took me out to the car park, to greet and watch the chickens as they scratched and squabbled and chuckled to each other, apparently indifferent to the rain and wind and glowing softly in autumn coloured plumage.

I noted small clusters of bright flowers, hanging on into the autumn and making strong contrasts with the predominant rich greens, greys, browns.  Stacks of slate slabs in the walls reminded me of piles of books, the layers of history in this land, tied together with twisting bands of saturated green ivy.  The slanting slabs of the slate fence around the edge of the slate waste heaps are bound together with red-orange rusting wires like straighter versions of ivy stems, contrasting strongly with the blue and purple-grey stone. A few sheep grazed nervously nearby, their wool looking damp and with a slight mossy green tint.  Returning to the site, I noticed a creamy-coloured puddle ringed with variously-shaded slate pebbles and gravel.  Back inside the welcome warmth of the studio, I set up a small, simple still life arrangement from the objects available.  Fresh coffee, … and now to work on pulling this varied material together.  The result:

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Outdoor sketching – Pembrokeshire

I’ve had a brief but relaxing trip to a campsite near St David’s in Pembrokeshire (Wales, UK). Three excellent days of reunion with friends, sunshine, warm rock to climb on, some small but clean waves to surf and comfortably cool water to swim in. I did also manage a couple of hours out sketcning, something I’m not doing enough of right now, in the face of other priorities.  Here’s a sketch from a walk down to Porth Clais, where families were catching crabs while people jumped off the jetty at the harbour mouth.

Crabbing at Porth Clais - pencil & watercolour sketch, approx 5x8in

Crabbing at Porth Clais – pencil & watercolour sketch, approx 5x8in

Tomorrow I start again on a portrait painting I began last October, as a demonstration in the Wolverhampton Art Gallery, where the Wolverhampton Society of Artists had its biennial exhibition.

Portrait Study

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I’m leaving paint aside for a little while to enjoy simply drawing in charcoal or pencil. This is the result of last evening’s study at the “Art Mechanics” group that I have the privilege of attending at this time of year. The photo has a bit of false colour, it is charcoal on green paper with a light application of red coloured pencil.
I enjoy drawing in charcoal, it has a pleasing physicality about it, deep committing black marks and the possibility of great subtle delicacy when you refine it with your fingers.

Spring update

IMG00239-20120522-0712 IMG00230-20120522-0707 2 portrait studies 2012, acrylic on A3 paper.

The exhibition with Art North Wales in the Electric Mountain Gallery in Llanberis is now down and the paintings packed away for now. I shall be showing the paintings on this site (see Acrylic Paintings) for the time being.
The Summer promises to be busy with other commitments so painting will be sporadic. For the time being I plan to return to painting smaller watercolour landscapes from Wales and recent walking and cycling trips to Scotland. I’m about to update the Watercolour page soon so recent paintings should be there for viewing in the next couple of days.
Apart from this, I want to focus for a while on the portrait and life studies I’ve been building up in sessions at the Wolverhampton Society of Artists and at meetings of the informal “Art Mechanics” group near Telford. These are available on the Portrait & Life Studies page.
In my work at the school, I have started to assist a class with a transcript exercise (‘copy’) of a painting by Frida Kahlo; this was interesting to try out for myself, using the same paints and basic brushes as the students will be using. It’s piqued my interest in the artist herself, her challenging life and work.
I’ve also been exploring some basics in pottery and designing and making more armatures and wire forms for school projects with neighbouring primary schools: a full-size dragon, a clown that was transformed into an ancient Greek warrior (last minute request) and, most recently, a life-size Freddy Mercury for the school show “We Will Rock You”… we’ll see how it looks after the students have covered it in its ‘modroc’ skin!