Friday, 30 December 2011


There's nothing to get the painter as challenged as a self portrait. I usually tape some thin string to the mirror I'm looking at, to form a cursor. I align one eye with the centre of the cursor and the other along the horizontal axis. This makes it easy to adopt the same posture throughout. It's always worth looking at the portrait in a mirror to see how it looks. That's the simplest way to check how accurate it is. Another method is to take a photo from a similar angle, then superimpose one over the other in Photoshop, using a 50% mask. Obviously this only tells you how accurate the drawing is, not what a brilliant painting you have created! I checked this portrait using this method. The forehead is a touch too high, otherwise it's not far off. Unfortunately, like most self portraits, it has the artists almost insane stare. I do smile, a lot! 

Sunday, 11 December 2011


I've stood under this tree on a couple of occasions during the summer, trying to catch the atmosphere of the place plein air, but without success. The issues making it difficult are: no horizon line, no direct view of the sky, reflections in the pond, the tree trunk being in almost complete shadow so having no tonal relief, the tree being close up so one is forced to paint the foliage in some detail, always a tricky thing to do! Oil in canvas 30cm x 40 

Teddington Lock 24cm x 30

Shops near Richmond Green 35cm x 35

Thursday, 1 December 2011


I've spent the past 10 days in the studio working up paintings of local scenes. 

Sleeping fan
So called, due to a figure on the right of the cricket screen, laying on the ground, fast asleep. This is Putney Heath in the summer. Oil on canvas 24cm x 60.

Boathouse sunset
Oil on canvas 30cm x 40.

Farm buildings - winter sunset
I got my palette knife sharpened for this one and really had some fun trying to capture the shaft of light. Oil on canvas 24cm x 30.

Hotel Splendide - Lobby
Oil on canvas 24cm x 30.

Shop reflections - Richmond
Oil on canvas 24cm x 30.

Tree on Richmond green
Oil on canvas 30cm x 40.

Waterman's Green slipway
Oil on canvas 24cm x 30.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011


I've spent a couple of days in the studio. This gas mask has been hanging around in my old air-raid shelter studio for a couple of years, but I haven't painted it for 18 months. I like the study, but think the composition is a bit weak!

Lyme Regis harbour with the tide out. Tried some simple bold strokes.

Holkham Beach in Norfolk

Saturday, 12 November 2011


Today I intended to visit the Degas show at the Royal Academy. I entered, only to discover a very crowded and dark exhibition. OK, I chose the wrong day! Fortunately I'm a member of the RA so can pop back. I took the opportunity to check out the tertiary show, 'Driven to Draw, 20th Century Drawings and Sketchbooks from the Royal Academy's Collection' What a FAB show. Modest but revelatory! I've had two concurrent thoughts for some time, which may be about to flourish. Firstly, where does drawing and painting cross over. I've always believed that painting is 'drawing with colour', so where is the dividing line. Secondly, I think my drawing is much stronger than my painting. My recent life class, in which I just get stuck in with a paintbrush and doodle around until a 'form' evolves, has made me think about how my work could evolve. On Thursday evening I sold 3 paintings at the CHASE Modern Art Exhibition and came across the work of Tom Homewood ( An exponent of the concept 'painting is drawing' if there ever was one! Today I also took a look at the Discerning Eye exhibition at the Mall Galleries. The work of Bill Dean ( caught my eye, in particular his picture 'what's cooking'. Again, so loose, it could be called a drawing. Bumped into and had a chat with David Pilgrim ( and Tim King ( on the way out of the show. Shown below, top picture, one hour pose, with two fifteen minute poses below. Finally the Cauliflower and Broccoli I stuffed into cannelloni and baked with cheese on the top for my family on Wednesday evening!

Monday, 7 November 2011


In my last blog I mentioned my frustration at getting bogged down with too much detail when painting plants/leaves. In this picture I limited myself to one hour and tried to paint really instinctively, avoiding any detail. It worked reasonably well. The time limit ensured abstraction. The underside of the leaves, which I've never noticed before are an extraordinary red colour.

In the next picture, I restricted myself to two hours with the caveat that I must represent the flowers convincingly, and not just as colour 'splodges'. Again, I achieved some success. Note the warm patch at the back of the plate, part reflection, part shadow, caused, I think, by the red underside of the leaves reflecting the red backdrop onto the plate's rim!

Thursday, 3 November 2011


There are many slick daily painters (those that paint and market on ebay a picture every day) in the USA, eg Many of them paint foliage brilliantly, using three techniques, bravura brushwork, edges (hard or soft) and crafted light/dark contrasts.

I intended to have a go at these techniques, but wavered from my original intention, simplicity. The results were interesting, but not what I intended, it all got a bit fussy. I'll try again! 

Wednesday, 2 November 2011


I've signed up for a life drawing class, just a few hours each week for the next 6 weeks. These are the results from my first session. The model was excellent, she sat very still. The space wasn't a studio, it had fluorescent lighting which made for a really flat light... never mind. The top pose was for 15 minutes and the lower one for one hour. 

Friday, 28 October 2011


Reflections are not my only interest, I'm really beginning to enjoy the subtleties of shadows too. I'm currently reading Carlson's seminal book on landscape painting. I picked it up for less than £10 on amazon. It's a great read, it mentions one of Corot's recommendations, "start painting a landscape from 50 foot away", in other words, don't paint the foreground! I'm not sure I agree with this. He thought too much foreground detail 'draws attention' away from 'the distance', which in a landscape may be the most important bit. However, I think if it's left quite loose, it can work well.

I often bemoan my brushwork. In the picture below I took it slowly, mixing and placing quite deliberately. I've started using synthetic sable style brushes as well as Hog flats which gives a bit more variety. 

During a Scottish sailing trip earlier in the year I took quite a few photos with a view to working them up into paintings later in the year. The element of the view below that attracted me was the sunlight catching the tree tops on the loch side. Though it's quite convincing in this photo, it doesn't work so well on the actual painting. I may give this another go, another time.

I was fascinated by the sharp contrast between the red building facade and the wet shadowy foreground. It almost works, but I think I should have tried to keep the foreground looser. Perhaps Corot was right after all!! 

Thursday, 20 October 2011


This is a 24cm x 60cm painting of a very pretty private road in Barnes called St' Mary's Grove, produced mainly from photographic references.

And a 50cm x 50cm study of the avenue of trees in Bishop's Park Fulham. I've called it 'watching the dog' as there are a couple of tiny figures in the distant sunlight playing with a small dog.

For reference I used a combination of a plein air painting I completed earlier in the year (see picture below) and a photo.

Saturday, 15 October 2011


Again I have merged a plein air sketch together with some photographic references in this 24 x 60cm painting of the road along to the boathouses in Putney. This larger painting actually takes two very similar plein air paintings as its reference, the one at the bottom of this posting and another I did on 16th September.

Thursday, 13 October 2011


During the week of very fine weather a couple of weeks ago I went down onto the riverbed as the City ferry was leaving Putney Riverside Quarter and tried to paint a plein air picture of the scene. It was about 7am. I realised that the light was changing far too fast and abandoned the picture after 20 mins. However, to avoid complete frustration I spent 15 minutes recording 2 groups of 3 colours. The groups consisted of a colour 'swatch' of the sky, buildings and water, at the left hand end of the horizon and at the right hand end. Rather than thinking of them as 'colours', with a 'name' I tried to think of them as 'visual perceptions' or 'juxtapositions'. The 2 groups are circled in white on the plein air sketch. When I returned to the studio I used my photographic reference from the scene and the 'colour perceptions' and put together the above, reasonably satisfactory picture. I think it may be a stronger picture if the ferry was a bit further to the left. An interesting exercise though.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011


I've spent the last couple of days working up two plein air sketches from last week (see previous blog), into a larger painting (above) measuring 24cm x 60cm. I then used the same colour scheme and tonal range to work up a photo I took down on the riverfront about 10 days ago. These pictures have a very wide tonal range which gives them quite a punch. They hang together quite well, but as usual the brushwork is a bit haphazard! As is often said, a finished painting should look like a battleground! These do!

Monday, 10 October 2011


I don't intend to make a habit of painting pictures of people's houses, but I've stumbled across several ad-hoc offers in the past few months. I like to take on a challenge, the greatest of which is bringing some light and life to the facade of a north facing terrace! 

Wednesday, 5 October 2011


Last week I noticed a rather beautiful sunset occurring at Putney Pier. A combination of a high tide and a low autumn sunset. At around 4pm the sun shines between two tall buildings on the riverfront and creates an interesting shadow pattern on the moored barges. I painted it on two consecutive days. On the first day (top picture) there were also three moored boats (beyond the gantry to the pier), catching the sun. Rather than trying to create a picture I just decided to try to record the colours and tones as accurately as I could. I intend using these two studies for a larger studio painting later in the year. I only spent about 50 mins on each painting.

Also did a quick still life. Rather a dull composition, but I caught the glass and chrome materials reasonably well.

Friday, 23 September 2011


I got out with my pochade box a couple of times this week, firstly to Sheen and then to the boathouses in Putney. My first picture of the Mortlake brewery (in Sheen) was painted in reasonably consistent early morning light. The things that caught my eye were the sun catching the round building and the counterchange between the right tree in shadow and the light building behind, and the left tree in sun with the dark building behind. 

Then I had a shot at the level crossing at the bottom of Sheen High Street. There's always a buzzing atmosphere here, with people coming and going, and waiting!

On Wednesday I caught the hectic riverfront strip in front of the boathouses. There are always rowers and dog-walkers around, together with lots of cars, vans and trolleys all parked at peculiar angles on the slipway. All paintings, 24 x 30cm oil on canvas.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011


A couple of weekends ago I visited Bath to take a closer look at the Roman Bath which is my nominated subject for the Bath Prize. It was a dull day. Though inspired by the building and its possibilities, the sky was grey, the light poor. I noticed a couple of statues standing well above the building line and decided to make one of these a feature of my painting. Using the photos I took on the day and some extra references I researched I've composed a picture which captures the statue as a dominant element, but also the condensation rising from the warm water and the warm sun-lit facade of the cathedral behind. I've never before painted a picture that wasn't alla prima, so going back to a painting three days in a row was an interesting experience, though it didn't actually take 3 full days to complete!

Oil on canvas 35cm x 50cm

Friday, 16 September 2011


Yesterday, Thursday I headed down to Putney Embankment and spent just under a couple of hours painting this pretty late summer scene. The trees just turning from green and a high spring tide with boats clearly visible from the road.

I've recently met an excellent and very experienced painter, Rod Pearce. He's suggested I spend less time in my comfort zone and take on some new challenges, so today we tried our luck at St. Pancras station. It's hard to believe that if not for the efforts of Sir John Betjamin, in its place would be another dull rectangular concrete block. He wrote "What [the Londoner] sees in his mind's eye is that cluster of towers and pinnacles seen from Pentonville Hill and outlined against a foggy sunset, and the great arc of Barlow's train shed gaping to devour incoming engines, and the sudden burst of exuberant Gothic of the hotel seen from gloomy Judd Street." It was a painting subject I was inspired by, I'll be back another day to have another go. Today, my first two attempts were passable. All pictures 24 x 30cm oil on canvas.