My on-line diary began in the 1990's from my studio in the North of England. After a lapse of ten years, I resumed posting from my present studio on the Caribbean island of Dominica.

From the far beginning, the intention has been to give an insight into my working methods, and to share the triumphs, trials and tribulations of work-in-progress.

My diary pages are followed by thousands of artists, art students and art lovers in over 50 countries.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Tropical Storm Erika


From hundreds of images that record the devastation caused by tropical storm Erika I’ve chosen just one.  It shows yesterday’s evacuation of what was once the village of Petite Savane.  More than fallen bridges, wrecked cars and demolished houses, it sums up the sheer human tragedy of it all. 

On second thoughts

Before my attention is diverted from painting to storm recovery, let me update my entry, All in a day’s work, dated August 25th. 

From the very beginning of these diary pages, my intention has been to give an insight into the creative process, not so much in terms of how to mix one colour with another or how to fathom out perspective, but rather the successes and failures that are essentially part of creativity.  By its very nature, creativity is different to what has gone before.  Repetitive painting to a formula gets you nowhere.  Every painting must involve risk.  It has been said that a water colour cannot be right until it has gone wrong.  Creativity follows the same pattern.

In the heat of the moment I cannot judge whether I have succeeded or failed.  My last painting of Annabelle, thrown down minutes before the end of the session, satisfied me at the time.  But on second thoughts, I now realise that the painting that came before it ranks as the best of that day’s work.  Thank you Annabelle for bearing with me. 



I find that large paintings reduced to the size of a computer screen lose much of their impact, hence the detail.



Saturday, August 29, 2015

Throwing down a thunderous wash

As a water colourist I pride myself on being able to thrown down a thunderous wash.  There’s nothing delicate and finicky about my way of painting.  Onlookers have learnt to stand back, as otherwise they get drenched in the process.

But two nights ago Mother Nature won me hands down.  Up to then, Dominica had experienced the longest drought in living memory.  But tropical storm Erika put an end that with a vengeance.  In six hours we experienced the rainfall that should have been spread over six months.  Every one of the island’s famed 365 rivers burst their banks.  Houses and bridges were swept away and hundreds of vehicles now lie buried beneath landslides.  Many roads remain impassable. To date, is the death toll is twenty. 

On a personal note, our biggest lose is the stretch of river that winds its way around our property.  With its gentle waterfalls, crystal clear bathing pools and lush tropical flora, it came as close to the Garden of Eden as you are likely to get this side of paradise.  Now, all has been swept away and we are left with a featureless boulder strewn watercourse.  I doubt if the river has seen such a change in the last two hundred years, let alone the last two thousand!

Today’s painting - made between rain squalls - shows the aftermath; a roaring torrent of mud.  The second painting shows the river as it was this time last year.




Tuesday, August 25, 2015

All in a day’s work

Somewhere in the letters to his brother Theo, Vincent Van Gogh writes about an exhaustive day’s labour of balancing one colour against another.  I know the feeling all too well. 

This morning I worked with Marcella.  It was her first modelling session and she did extremely well.  In the afternoon I worked with Annabelle.  I’ve lost count of Annabelle’s sessions.  I first painted her three years ago but each time she visits the studio she brings a fresh approach to my work and dares me to reach new heights. 

Below is my first painting of Marcella and my most recent of Annabelle.  



Once again, these are large water colours, measuring 24" x 15". 
Below is a detail at the approximately actual size.



Friday, August 21, 2015

Awestruck

Shani is a Dominican who has distinguished herself in the field of ballet.  She first visited my studio seven years ago but her time overseas has meant that in recent years we lost touch.  Now she is home again and a week ago she telephoned out of interest in my search for models.  The upshot was that yesterday afternoon Shani came to my studio for her first modelling session. 

I have always envied the good fortune of Degas and Rodin in having ballet dances as models.  Now, from the next world, they must be envying me!

To begin with I suggested a relaxing reclining pose.  But for Shani reclining is out of character and towards the end of the session she suggested stretching exercises.  From that moment I was awestruck and challenged beyond anything in my fifty years of painting the figure.  I am now mentally preparing myself for our next session. 

In the meantime, here is my first five-minute sketch of Shani stretching for all she’s worth. 


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Proving my point

Continuing from yesterday’s entry, today’s modelling session proves my point.  The first two paintings didn’t meet my expectations; I had tried too hard and labored too long.  But then, just as I was about to wash my brushes and put away my paints, my model paused to look at some press clippings.  Once again, it was the last five minute sketch that saved the day. 

Today was Tashani’s second modelling session.   She is now totally relaxed.  When my model is relaxed, I relax! 


The naked human form belongs to no particular moment in history; it is eternal, and can be looked upon with joy by the people of all ages.  (Auguste Rodin)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

From start to finish

I work from the model for no longer than one and a half hours.  By the end of that time I am exhausted and my model has begun to wilt.  Not that I expect my models to hold a rigid pose.  In fact I encourage my models not to pose in the accepted sense of the word. 

The first painting in a session is usually the most formal; the second, seldom meets my expectations, but the third, usually done minutes before the end of a session is sometimes the best.

Here are the three paintings from yesterday’s session with Annabelle.  I tried to do credit to Annabelle in the first painting, especially as her sisters had come along watch.  The second painting didn’t work as well.  Then, just as we about to call it a day, Annabelle twisted herself around to massage her foot.  I yelled, stop…don’t move…hold it there…just give me five more minutes!  




Incidentally, for water colour, these are large paintings: 24" x 16".  Thank you Annabelle for your part in the creative process.


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Termites have taste


Today’s picture shows all that remains of my LP: Duke Ellington Meets Coleman Hawkins.  On my record shelf there are lesser recordings, but termites have taste!

A P Herbert’s poem about another troublesome creature succinctly sums up my feelings.

Greenfly, it’s difficult to see
Why God, who made the rose, made thee.

Long ago I saw Duke Ellington in concert but alas, never got back-stage to sketch him.  Instead, from the Halifax Symphony Orchestra, here is an oboe player that I sketched from the wings.


Sunday, August 9, 2015

A Model Society

There are times when I despair in my endevour to pay homage to the profound beauty of the nude and fear that my paintings and sculptures are in vain.  But this week my spirits were uplifted when I discovered a community of artists, models and photographers that passionately share my objective.   

Just when I thought to be alone in my respect and gratitude to models, I find that they too give credit to the model’s contribution to the creative process.  I quote from the first issue of their magazine:

The images within the pages of Model Society would not be possible without art models.  Art models give our work its soul.  They lend their hearts, their minds, their imaginations and their bodies to our cause.  Without the art models’ courage to be vulnerable, to allow their body and soul to be seen, the Model Society community – along with hundreds of years of art history – would simply not exist. 

You can freely access the magazine on their website: modelsociety.com

Once again I thank my models for enabling my work and I thank Model Society for giving me the courage to continue.




Today’s painting is from the series I made last year of my poetic muse Jessica.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Patron of the Arts

Today’s painting is one a series of thirty-two large (20in x 30in) water colours commissioned by Richard DeVos in the 1990’s.  At the time he was one of the ten wealthiest Americans and the owner of Peter Island, in the British Virgin Islands.  Had I lived two hundred years ago the King of Spain may have been my patron.  In my time it was the manufacturer of toiletries!  

Be that as it may, I was given absolute freedom to paint whatever took my fancy, providing my fancy didn’t stray beyond the bounds of his property. The series contained some of my best Caribbean seascapes. 

The painting shows two people on a remote beach.  Or should I say the suggestion of two people, as shown in the detail.  



Saturday, August 1, 2015

Faint heart never won fair lady

Or more to the point, a faint heart would never have found models for my series Daughters of the Caribbean Sun.

My search is not for professional models but real people between the age of eighteen and eighty.  I have found them carrying bananas down the steep hillsides of St Vincent, bathing in the rivers, selling mangoes by the roadside or passing me in the street.  I met Denise, my wife and model for twenty-three years, in the queue at Barclay’s Bank.  All I ask of my models – after I have plucked up courage to approach them - is that they do not disguise their natural appearance in preference to a foreign concept of beauty. 

How much easier it was in Paris in the 1880’s.  In those days there was a weekly model market and statistics reveal that a total of 671 models were professionally employed.  At least in Dominica I have the field to myself.

My search continues and I ask my regular readers on Dominica to pass the word. 

Today’s painting is my most recent of Naomi.  She is an inspired model who came to my studio and into modelling, quite by chance.