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The background image was less a completed painting, more of a thought; set down a few years ago as I worked on another project, focusing on a woodland area I know. The sphere was added for no other reason than something which seemed necessary to complete the image – an instinct, I guess.

For me there’s something interesting in a blend of the real and the abstract, which creates a surreal place. If, (I think it was Simon Schama’s explanation which first resonated with me) a landscape is a place we situate ourselves within, then this kind of place, with one foot in the real world and another in the imaginary, is somewhere I like to float – and to which I often return.

There’s a value in keeping a painting one isn’t satisfied with and reworking it much later, out of context. Relating to the way that I work, a couple of years later on, I find the once intense relationship with subject and object is mellowed, time’s taken its effect and there’s room to add another dimension – sometimes literally.

Oil on mdf 24″x 18″.






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Made from a photograph taken during an encounter with a statue in the grounds of a chateau in northern France. Half worn away by weather and time, the statue depicted a Pan-like figure with a small Cupid on his shoulder with them seemingly sharing a moment of conspiracy. Maybe some classical storyline; maybe a representation of the beauty of the grounds (Pan pastoral; Cupid love); or maybe some totem for the possibility of love within its boundaries?

Viewed from a 21st century British eye however, there was another way of viewing it – a creepy old goat fella, like the devil, with a baby on his shoulder.

Search online and you’ll see Greek mythology sites speaking of Pan as a Greek god of the pastoral – worshipped in the wild, of wild countryside and woods. Other sites, some I wouldn’t care to delve into any further, claim Pan as a symbol for the devil and all sorts of evil behaviour.

Rather than paint it as a direct image from the photograph, I thought of this duality as I worked, also how meaning is lost in time and reimagined. It’s painted more figuratively underneath but has been veiled, with stone and lichen-like overgrowth pushing it away from clear view.

Oil on wooden board 12x12in.



Storm Lit

It’s hard to quote examples of paintings which have spoken to me and inspired me over the years. I didn’t visit art exhibitions as a youngster and stand and stare at great paintings, bowled over and inspired to be an artist for ever more, as other artists sometimes recall – my family weren’t art buffs and fine art of any sort didn’t feature in my life until I pursued it. But I remember one painting which stuck with me. It was in a little private gallery where my parents were looking at something else. We children had been taken inside, grumbling probably, as they talked to the owner. But this one painting took my attention. It was a picture of an old silver-barked tree lit up by the sun against one of those stormy, navy blue skies which appear just before the rain arrives. It was one of those skies which still make me stop what I’m doing and reach for my camera or just stare and enjoy. (It’s particularly effective in the Cotswolds where the yellow stone buildings look spectacular against the dark blue).

While I painted this little image, I was able to take time to remember that painting. I have no idea who the artist was and I’m sure it was no particular ‘great painting’ but it inspired me as much as anything in the great galleries of the world.

Many years later and I know that the painting wasn’t a picture of a tree at all, it was a picture of light. Someone was doing what I was doing here – grabbing a moment and trying to save it and remember it.

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This is another oil on 12in squ wooden board. Painted from a photograph taken from my front window on one such day when a camera was nearby during one of those moments when I was lucky enough to look out as the scenery changed dramatically.

This little sketch doesn’t really do justice to the light, apart from giving me some time to pause and think about it. I’ll paint more of these one day.

stormy sky.JPG

Just some search results after Googling ‘tree against a stormy sky painting’ (the fourth one along is most like the light I’m talking about)


Movement of Motionless Man

Works of art are the by-products of the imagining being; In daydreaming, we experience immensity – Gaston Bachelard The Poetics of Space*.

“Immensity is within ourselves. It is attached to a sort of expansion of being that life curbs and caution arrests, but which starts again when we are alone. As soon as we become emotionless, we are elsewhere; we are dreaming in a world that is immense. Indeed, immensity is the movement of motionless man. It is one of the dynamic characteristics of quiet daydreaming.”

*Bachelard, G. and Jolas, M. (1992) The Poetics of Space. Boston: Beacon Press. p184)

[Having just had a little operation and spent a time in a hospital/sick bed, largely both emotionless and motionless, this idea of wandering in immensity seems paticularly apt to me just now. cm 24/8/16]



When I get notified of someone ‘liking’ a post, I often have a little peep to see who it is. I was very glad I peered at this page by Fritz because it introduced me to a poem by US writer and environmentalist Wendell Berry. Well worth sharing again (with many thanks!):

The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
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Fern Fronds

Timelessly beautiful – unfurling fern fronds in a puddle of sunshine in an old English wood.

That’s what made me reach for my camera when I took the photograph which inspired this oil painting. And that’s what I was thinking of as I painted it. Sunshine dazzling its way though the canopy and lighting up details by turn, as if the wood was proudly showing off its treasures to its inquisitive visitors.

The wood I visited has since become super-famous as a film set venue – Puzzle Wood in the Forest of Dean. It pops up in the new Star Wars film, in Merlin, in Doctor Who and I saw it the other night in the BBC’s The Living and the Dead (starring Merlin!). It’s instantly recognisable, with its mossy banks, and tree and limestone rock formations which have sheltered and delighted its human visitors at least back to Iron Age times.

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For my painting (wooden board 12inx12in) I only primed the foreground. The background is a light oil wash, which also leaves the wood grain showing – it seemed appropriate for its subject. It took a long time to tease all the leaf shapes out of the undergrowth and it was surprisingly fiddly to paint the little fronds caught in the sun. But I like this little reminder of the smell of damp leaves; of the pools of warm sunshine in the cool woods and the life which is battling for space all around where our feet tread.



A Trace of a Tree

A moment of sunshine, of shadow, waiting for the school bus one day beside the road.

Shapes, lines, veins, pathways – a photograph of a tree which doesn’t feature a tree at all.

So, on its traces continue into oils on a wooden 12in square board, painted while clearly remembering the pink blossom on the apple tree, its knarled bark and those birdsong-filled first days of spring when the world comes alive and there is warmth in the air at last. Living on this cloudy isle, those moments when sunshine switches on the colour around you are good reason for a moment’s pause and appreciation.

This painting has been bleached out a little in its presentation here, which somehow gives me more satisfaction in reflecting my feeling of the time – maybe as a memory rather than a photograph. It is interesting to note that as well as developing ideas about painting, this exercise also provides a place to wonder about reproduction of paintings digitally and how the making of the paintings isn’t always the end of the story.
I’ve been noting lately how teenage girls are starting to make up their faces so they look good on camera, rather than real life (ie the recent big dark eyebrow phenomenon) and I guess this is some sort of similar principle.

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Painting a selfie: But is it art?

Not sure whether I entirely agree with Jonathan Jones but it’s an interesting article about the selfie and the painter.

(I do, however, absolutely agree with one of the people who commented: It was my first thought too – I wouldn’t be in there, cleaning my teeth, while any bloke was on the loo!)

So. Everyday moments captured – or staged, narcissistic, superficiality?

“This portrait of the artist and his wife may be hugely popular on social media, but its intimacy and humanity – just as with a photographic selfie – is fake.”

“Apart from the fact it has been painted rather than snapped with a phone, this picture has exactly the same appeal as Kim Kardashian’s intimacies. Well, almost. It’s got the unbuttoned spontaneity that selfie culture celebrates – and the same deadening superficiality.

“The very thing that makes this painting an online hit is what makes it worthless as art: the fact that it sucks up to modern photography’s lowest common denominator. Some painters make brilliant use of photographs, transforming the images all around us into something more monumental and permanent…But instead of elevating photography into painting, Needham has lowered painting to the triviality of instantaneous self-portraituree.”


Air on a Tree String

There’s always a photo opportunity when a tree goes by – each one is photogenic in some way. They dramatise our horizons with their winter shapes; they quietly watch the world dash about around them, often for hundreds of years; they have distinctive and varying texture-filled bark, branches, leaves, and roots; they punctuate the landscape and flutter their leaves above our heads. They are beautiful young, old and in between and their importance to our world in so many ways is incalculable.

So it’s always good to grab a camera and photograph a tree. And likewise it’s good to ponder treeness as those initial images transfer to paint.

There’s something heavenly about looking up to the sky through trees. While it may be a bit of a photographic cliche to point your camera up through the translucent leaves,  sometimes there’s something there one is grasping for, to take away and save, such is the euphoric feeling it can instill.

Here’s a simple painting: It’s not great, it’s not grand, it’s not unusual, it’s no conceptual bright idea – it’s just a little meditation upon a moment of loveliness, which gave me some precious time to remember it.

Oil on wooden board 12inx12in. I left a wooden border – oh the irony!

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Mastering the Art

Chatting the other day with a painter friend, we were wondering if it was possible for a modern day painter to ever become as accomplished in his, or (very importantly) her, craft as our Old Master forerunners? Perhaps only if we start at 14, apprentice ourselves to another master for six years, paint day in day out in studios for 30 years with a band of workers doing different jobs – and then if we perfect everything, we may be able to use our vast knowledge to come up with something new and exciting?
(In our favour, we do live a lot longer and our paints don’t tend to actually kill us – also if you’re a female, you do actually get to have a go!)
Just when I got home, this popped up from the Essential Vermeer website, providing some interesting insights to ponder. So, just adding it to the scrapbook. Discuss etc…

Click here for the full article.

“…methods were very different than those used by artists today. Modern painters usually execute their works a unified whole. They work while standing so they can walk back to envision the totality of the painting. The painting is worked up directly with full color on a white or off-white canvas. Their palettes usually contain every pigment which will likely be present in the finished work. Experimentation and improvisation play vital roles in the working process. Since craft is not is retained an indispensable component of artistic expression there no longer exists uniform instruction in regards.

Instead, 17th-century painters proceeded according to a relatively fixed step-by-step method which they had assimilated in a master’s studio. The work load was divided into distinct phases in order to deal with the principal pictorial components one at a time. The rationale behind this division of labor was based on both technical and economical reasons. It must be remembered that paintings of the 17th century were generally far more complex in composition and great attention was given to perspective accuracy, naturalistic illumination and fine detail. Once the drawing and lighting scheme had been worked out in the drawing and underpainting stage, artists worked up their compositions in a piecemeal fashion, completing one restricted area at a time.”



“Applied to painting, critical thinking too often ends up calling into question the very medium—a deconstructionist impulse that particularly sabotages beginning students. Playing baseball or tennis requires accepting the game as a whole, and so does painting. But unlike baseball or tennis, painting is an open-ended pursuit without any numerical victory or defeat. It’s fraught with subjectivity and uncertainty. It is, as an artist I know has said, one semi-mistaken brushstroke after another applied until a kind of truce against the possibility of a perfect painting is reached.”

Laurie Fendrich

“How critical thinking sabotages painting” – An interesting article on methods and thoughts on the teaching of painting in art schools. Read it via the great painting blog Two Coats of Paint.


With Snail and I

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I make no apology for the pun, I used to be a sub-editor!

It’s an English summer on a stick. A snail creeping across the damp roses.

This painting is back to a 12in square wooden board. It took ages, for no good reason whatsoever. What you can’t see on the photograph (only by yellowy smudges) is that I used varnish to shine the rain spots and the snail (and give a snail trail). Not sure that was the answer, but I do enjoy a variety of surface – perhaps that’s a special something which only those seeing it in real life can share?

NB: I’m posting here less frequently because I’ve started studying for an MA (Fine Art). Very glad I did too. Although it’s hurting my head a little and I have even less time that I had before, it means I’m thinking, challenging myself and being challenged too. Recommended to anyone wondering whether to take the step!



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Verging on the…

Following what seems to be a general theme of focusing upon the seemingly mundane, this little painting depicts a bit of roadside verge. If you’re familiar with this blog, you’ll know that this is a series of paintings which have been based upon (or mostly upon) those photographs one takes to use in the future.

I can’t remember taking the photograph that this was based on. One of millions (ok, thousands) I take as I wander about. This came up in discussion recently – I’m sure I haven’t coined the phrase ‘craft photography’ but that’s how I think of analogue photography (or it could apply to technically brilliant digital photography just as well) where a photograph is made, rather than taken. Time is spent on composition, lighting, atmosphere. Most of the time I’m not interested in ‘making’ a photograph. I ‘take’ them – the photograph is not the primary focus. I guess what I tend to generally do as I wander the world, while being more than a snap, is less ‘craft’ – like blinking and saving what you see to think about later. Aide-memoires I suppose. For my ‘files’ – which aren’t real but kind of are…!

I enjoyed this little examination of the leaves and plants amongst the stones (oil on 12inx12in wooden board). It made me think about how fortunate we are living in so fertile a place, that even the tyre-cut edge of a roadside, is sprouting and teeming with life. On the flip-side, it also makes me think about another theme I very often consider while I work with landscape – the opposite to the welcoming image of the pastoral – the endless fight against nature, and man’s efforts to tame the wild.

By the way – for some reason this painting was particularly difficult to photograph. It’s a really unexpectedly and infuriatingly difficult task to photograph a painting well – best advice is to hire a professional as it’s a particular skill, both in the photography and the pre-press stages. Coincidentally, I just got an email from US artist Owen Garratt (AKA The Pencilneck!) who shares his experiences of the commercial market in an online blog (Marketing Tools for Artists).  Here he interviews Andy Derrick, Head of Artist Community at Artsquare on this subject- I know nothing about Artsquare I must stress and it seems a US service only in any case – but it’s an interesting discussion there seems some good advice amongst it.

Quotes for Quoting

Bob  Ross

“All you need to paint is a few tools, a little instruction, and a vision in your mind.”
Bob Ross
It’s funny how so many “quotes” float about online and fire at you on a daily basis nowadays- you can live your life by them if you’re not careful.
Edgar Degas

“A painting requires a little mystery, some vagueness, and some fantasy. When you always make your meaning perfectly plain you end up boring people”
Edgar Degas
I searched for ‘quotes painting’ and after scrolling past offers to quote for painting my house, I poked into the first site I found:  https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/painting.
It boasts 282 quotes. Can they all be right? You can easily pick a quote to suit your purpose.
I do like this one (and a load of others too). When I say ‘like’ – does it mean it fits with my thinking or has challenged my ideas? Probably more of the former than the latter.
O. Henry

“I wanted to paint a picture some day that people would stand before and forget that it was made of paint. I wanted it to creep into them like a bar of music and mushroom there like a soft bullet.”
O. Henry, The Complete Works of O. Henry
“Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing.”
Camille Pissarro
C. JoyBell C.

“Writing, music, sculpting, painting, and prayer! These are the three things that are most closely related! Writers, musicians, sculptors, painters, and the faithful are the ones who make things out of nothing. Everybody else, they make things out of something, they have materials! But a written work can be done with nothing, it can begin in the soul! A musical piece begins with a harmony in the soul, a sculpture begins with a formless, useless piece of rock chiseled and formed and molded into the thing that was first conceived in the sculptor’s heart! A painting can be carried inside the mind for a lifetime, before ever being put onto paper or canvass! And a prayer! A prayer is a thought, a remembrance, a whisper, a communion, that is from the soul going to what cannot be seen, yet it can move mountains! And so I believe that these five things are interrelated, these five kinds of people are kin.”
C. JoyBell C.
Have fun reading more, I will snuffle around a while longer. I hope you find something amazing for you there.


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There is a time in the late autumn, and sometimes way into winter snows, when the last of the leaves drop from the fruit trees and unpicked fruit is revealed. It’s almost eerie to see these fruits dangle without leaves; unchosen ones. They look cold, as if they’ve lost their coat. Some, like this one which caught my eye, have mutated or grown around their stalks – clinging on; trying to be part of the tree; battling against the inevitable.

This portrait of a lonely, cold apple now apparently speared by its branch (looks like a russet perhaps but could be a very old variety; the real-life version was in the garden orchard of Croft Castle in Herefordshire one November a few years ago) is painted on a portrait-oriented rectangular primed wooden board, for a change – 12 x 18in.

Not much more to say really, except that you can use that chubby fella as any metaphor you choose. Are you gripping onto your branch? Did you leap off to your fate? Did you ensure your attractiveness so you’d be snapped up straight away? What kind of apple are you as winter approaches? Is this a fruit of opportunity? Does it show dogged determination or avoidance of the things that matter (Try to take no notice of the chance occurrence that this painting has the most unlucky number of all!).


Photographic work by Agne Gintalaite from Lithuania – a beautiful document of garage doors.

She says:

By documenting these objects that are, most likely, about to disappear from Lithuanian society, I wished to communicate to the viewer the ambivalent, aesthetic, but also human significance of these garage doors.
Beautifully painterly, these doors do not need be explained to the beholder. It is the fascinating play of colour and texture that I attempted to capture with my camera.
As long as they last, this uncanny beauty remains.

Reordering the world – bringing items together for comparison. Something photography can do better than painting: Bringing things together, sorting, deconstructing and putting in piles, curating  – there seems weightier evidence here than could be found with paint?


100 12 YellowhammerI think it was a little yellowhammer who visited our garden and I lazily photographed it up on a branch (the bird, not me). Maybe I leaned backwards from a chair in the lounge with the doors open and a sunny day streaming in.

Its memory is now imprinted on this board; a reminder of a time when its path crossed mine and its yellow chest was so bright against the blue sky.

It’s another 12×12 wooden board and just oil paint. Fairly quickly painted and not too far fussed over.

It’s better in the flesh; this further filter of viewing takes something away from the original, as is often the case. It is surprisingly and frustratingly difficult to photograph a painting well.

Of course, we’re all colluding in the illusion that it’s a painting we’re looking at but it is, in fact, a digital photograph of a painting uploaded, adjusted, here and downloaded there – dots viewed on screens. Print it out and it’s neither painting, nor photograph nor digital image. Just some ink dots on a page.


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11/100 Tiger in the Late Afternoon

Painting 11

Another layering of images. A landscape from a photograph (mine), which became less figurative with the painting of it, and a tiger, which popped into my field of vision, online I think, during the time I was painting it. It is rare for me to use any other image that isn’t my own. This tiger image struck me by its colour perhaps, and I followed the thread of serendipity.

There is a border left bare on the wooden board (12″x12″) and the pale oil washes keep the wood grain running between border and painting. Looking back at it now prompts the same thoughts as when I painted it and I suppose some explanation as to why I stopped where I did: Have I painted a tiger in a field in Gloucestershire? There’s no shadow or imprint to connect him to the ground. Is he on another plane? Does he symbolise something? Why have I put him just there? Is that still a landscape now the ground drops away into brush strokes, now the leaves have been wiped away?

It is – and is always – just some paint, arranged.

The Unburdened Medium


Brautpaar (blau) – Bride and Groom (Blue)

1966 65 cm x 65 cm Oil on canvas

From Gerhard Richter website (follow link to view catalogue).

From Gerhard Richter ‘A Life in Painting’ [Dietmar Elger – English translation, University of Chicago Press, 2009]

 “During the 1972 Venice Biennale, Richter tried once more to explain why photography had come to mean so much for his painting.

“ ‘Because I was surprised by photography, which we all use massively every day. Suddenly I saw it in a new way as a picture that offered me a new view, free of all the conventional criteria I had always associated with art. It had no style, no composition, no judgement. It freed me from personal experience. For the first time there was nothing to it; pure picture.’

“The dialogue between painting and photography is as old as photography itself. The fearful predictions of the French history painter Paul Delaroche, who believed that photography would be the death of painting…never quite came to pass, though there is no question that the two mediums have competed and profoundly affected each other in both theory and practice. It was not long after the invention of the photograph that the medium took on and even bettered some of the functions of painting; whether in portraiture, the recording of cityscapes or scientific illustration, it at least seemed to offer greater objectivity and precision….

“In fact, the practice of photography served to embolden painting, even helping to pave the way to abstraction.”

… “As many have noted, artistic engagement with photography has prompted or inspired all sorts of critical questions regarding objectivity, manipulation, authenticity and cliché in photographic perception, aura and its loss as a result of unlimited mechanical reproducibility and the suggestive potential of photographs as reproduced images in the mass media.”

…“As an artist in the 1960s, Richter did not question the objectivity and authenticity of photography itself (this in a day before digital imaging). Indeed he has always worked to transfer the attributes and vocabulary of photographs into painting. He said in a 1972 interview with the journalist Rolf Schon:

“‘I’m not trying to imitate a photograph, I’m trying to make one. And if I disregard the assumption that a photograph is a piece of paper exposed to light, then I am practicing photography by other means; I’m not producing paintings that remind you of a photograph but producing photographs.’

“Richter intends on the one hand to undermine representation painting but on the other hand, to rescue it from the turbulent discourse surrounding artistic practice during the second half of the twentieth century…he transfers the fundamentals of photography, a relatively unburdened medium to the painted representation.”

[p 50-52]