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.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

My 74th Birthday Present



Too  busy to write, but yesterday was my 74th birthday and my present from my daughter Tania was tickets and a taxi for me and the rest of my family to see my favourite performers on stage in the hit Broadway Musical “Once on this Island”.

Nothing in the world surpasses Dominica’s “Sixth Form Sisserou Singers”. As the name suggests, the group was founded by high school students back in 1994. Under the masterful direction of their musical director, Pearl Christian, they have gone from strength to strength.

For this presentation they were aided by Dominica’s Cultural Icon, Alwin Bully (Director) and his daughter Sade Bully (Choreography). Dominica’s talented Michelle Henderson was guest star and the show was stolen by the incredible nine year old Beata (Beats) Vidal.

The pictures say the rest.


The Sixth Form Sisserou Singers 
(Alwin standing third from left and Pearl middle row center.)


Michelle Henderson in rehearsal.


The incredible nine year old Beata (Beats) Vidal. 
Remember this name, you'll see it in lights one day soon!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Intimate detachment

Regardless of earning my keep as a painter and sculptor of the human form, I have a poor memory for faces.

Years ago, unknowingly, I stood next to one of my models in a queue at the Post Office. We had worked together for three months but it wasn’t until she gave me an introductory tap on the shoulder that I recollected who she was. 

I am always searching for my next inspirational model; an elusive task. But last week, while waiting to cash at the supermarket, I was sure that I’d found her. When my turn came to check-out I gave the smiling cashier my card and told her to contact me if ever she should considered modelling.

Her answer: But Roger, I've already modeled for you!


 Now I remember!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

To the Editor

My first “Letter to the Editor” was penned and published sixty years ago and I’ve continued writing letters and articles for the press ever since. As my most recent touches on creativity, it may be of interest to my followers. The subject is the Caribbean Common Entrance Examination, a colonial hand-me down from the UK’s “Eleven Plus”.

Life beyond the Common Entrance

This week, in the small minority of homes of children that won bursaries or scholarships in the Common Entrance Examination there will be jubilation and resignation in the homes of the majority that did not.

In this commentary I want to give hope and assurance to those that the testing methodology failed. To my mind, it was not the children that failed the exam but the exam that failed the children. Furthermore, I maintain that grooming a child from the age of nine for that kind of examination ranks as a form of child abuse.

Sir William Henry Hadow, an educational reformer who in the 1920’s recommended the introduction of primary and secondary schools in the UK, would doubtless agree.  His report, progressive for its day, argued that:

The primary school curriculum should be based on the children's knowledge and experience, not on abstract generalisations or theoretical principles. It should be thought of in terms of activity and experience, rather than of knowledge to be acquired and facts to be stored. A good primary school is not a place of compulsory instruction.

The Caribbean Common Entrance Examination is a colonial hand-me-down from the UK’s 11 Plus. The 11 Plus Examination dates from 1945 when the Tripartite System introduced three types of secondary school, namely: grammar school, secondary technical school and secondary modern school. It was abolished in the 1970’s when all schools went Comprehensive.

As at this point in time Dominica does not have a similar Tripartite System – all children progress to the same level of secondary education – the only function of the Common Entrance Examination is as a financial incentive in the form of bursaries and scholarships and as a first choice of secondary school. It therefore beggars belief why we put children through the stress of the examination at that tender age. Subsequent streaming can be determined from regular class results.

As a confidence builder it serves only a small percentage of pupils. For the majority it serves as life’s first major “put-down”. Research has shown that it takes ten “up-lifts” to counter one “put-down”. It is an early differentiating step between the “have nots” and what a government minister recently termed as “those who are in higher positions in the social space”.

In essence the Common Entrance Examination is an Intelligence Test and as such it has the major failing of all intelligence tests: it cannot measure creativity. Neither can it measure the co-ordination between hand and eye, an essential attribute for all skilled work. A creative answer is marked as nought. Hence, a dyslexic child hasn’t a cat in hell’s chance and up to 15% of Afro-Caribbean children are dyslexic. To that you can add at least 30% of pupils who are creatively rather than academically inclined.

Research indicates that children are born with 98% the creative potential of genius. However, as they go through life, the figure falls dramatically. At the age of eight, the percentage has dropped to 32%. By the time they reach thirteen, peer pressure has brought it down to 10%, and by adulthood, conformity has reduced it to less than 2%. As individuals and as a nation, creativity is our most valuable resource. Creative thinking enhances academic qualifications but it is not necessarily dependent on them. Incidentally, the syllabuses of Dominica’s two most sought after secondary schools largely omit the Creative Arts.

Five years ago Dominica piloted the Caribbean Primary Exit Assessment as a possible alternative to the Common Entrance Examination. As some elements of the assessment are spread over a period of years, rather than on the result of a one-off nerve-racking exam, it offers some improvement. Nevertheless, it still misses the point: that being, what’s the point if all children are eligible for the same level of secondary education.

Let me end by offering hope to the majority that did not get a high test score by confessing that sixty-five years ago I failed the 11 Plus, and you can add that I am dyslexic. In those days dyslexia was not understood. We were put down as being dumb; albeit that in the year leading up to the exam I designed and built a model aircraft with a 30 inch wing span that could fly the length of a football field!

The “sink” secondary modern school that I attended was later closed by the government as failing. But it certainly did not fail me, and if I had my life to live over I would beg to be sent back to the same school. A remarkable bunch of teachers restored my confidence and in four years I rose from bottom of the bottom stream to top of the top stream. Those teachers, none of them highly academically qualified, were the first to recognise my potential in the Arts and Engineering Design. I have since won national awards in both fields.

On the other hand, my best friend Brian remained at the bottom of the class and when he left school the only job open to him was sweeping up in a bakery. Years later, on a visit to my home town in England, I looked twice at the smartly dressed man walking towards me: it was Brian, also home on a visit. Over the years he had progressed from sweeper to Master Baker. He then progressed to hotel catering and when we met he was the Head Pastry Chef at one of Australia’s top hotels. As he said: they tried to teach me everything at school but missed the one thing that I’m good at!

Had Leonardo Da Vinci sat the Common Entrance Examination 500 years ago, this is what his answer paper might have looked like – he was seriously dyslexic!


Sunday, July 2, 2017

Going back to go forward




It is twenty years since I last worked in pastel, and then only spasmodically. Since Degas (1834-1917) and Whistler (1834-1903) pastel has suffered a similar fate to water colour: its innate vibrancy has been reduced to timidity. On that score, I am determined to turn the tables.

My interest has been revived through my experiments in paper making. Commercial pastel papers lack the individuality in surface and colour that I’m after. But my hand-made papers from sugar cane, bamboo, banana stems and pineapple leaves, offer distinct possibilities.

The next step is to make my own pastels as my requirements are different to what’s on the market, both in colour, tonal range and hardness. Besides, neither paper nor pastels are available off the shelf on my island.

The first picture shows my last pastel sketch from twenty year ago. It is followed by the one I made, on the spur of the moment, the day before yesterday. My model, expecting my usual water colour washes, was impressed. Or at least that is what I took her “hmm” to mean. But I have a long way to go to get back to where I was twenty years ago and even further, to move forward with vengeance. 


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Similarities but poles apart

My daughter recently bought me a copy of Enrique Martínez Celaya’s Collected Writings & Interviews, 1990-2010. It was not the book that I had sent her in search of but she did her best in finding an alternative that she thought “looked like me”. Thanks Tania!

I had never heard of Enrique Martínez Celaya and I’m sure he’s never heard of me. As artists we have a few things in common: we both hail from the Caribbean (Cuba for him and Dominica for me); we both paint and sculpt and we both share our thoughts through speech and the written word.

But there the similarity ends: he veers towards the conceptual while I cling to the representational; his thoughts are complex and mine are simple; he is internationally known and in demand, whereas I am not.

He says: “I’m after work so empty yet so dense that in engaging it, the act of becoming is generated”.

I say: I want my work to have the passionate feeling of making love.

I will let our respective work speak for itself. First, two of mine at random...




 Now two of his at random.




Monday, June 19, 2017

He’s made up for it since


Due to what was thirty years later diagnosed as dyslexia, until the age of five I had no means of speech – even the pronunciation of my name eluded me. As my brother once sarcastically remarked: he’s made up for it since!

To prove his point I’ve given two talks in two days. The first was to visiting students from the States and the second, to Dominica’s Prison Officers. For the students, the venue was my studio and the theme my work as a painter and sculptor. For the prison officers, the venue was the prison and the theme dyslexia: a relevant topic as research shows that 40% of prisoners are dyslexic.

I’m an old hand at working with prisoners. In the early 1980’s I did regular Thursday afternoon sessions at Road Town Prison in the British Virgin Islands. Those were the days of the old prison that is shown in the opening illustration.

For the visiting students I rounded off my talk with a sketch of one of the participants. While sketching I kept up a running commentary, so I’m still talking to make up for lost time!



Thursday, June 15, 2017

Don’t pick a fight with a Grenadian woman


The above drawing is taken from my book Caribbean Sketches. It shows women carry bungles of sugar cane on the River Antoine Estate, Grenada.

It is mostly women that carry the heavy bungles of sugar cane from the fields to the mill. The bungles are hoisted shoulder high and then finally thrown down the trough that leads to the rollers – rollers that for hundreds of years have been turned by a huge waterwheel. What strength, I could barely lift one of the bungles. Take my advice: don’t ever pick a fight with a Grenadian woman!

Bagasse is the residue left after sugar cane has been crushed and it is from this that I am making paper. I have spent my day chopping, boiling and shredding a batch. 


Friday, June 9, 2017

Same ingredients, different end product


In the far corner of our land, are the remains of an old sugar works and rum distillery. The river provided the pure water and the surrounding hillsides provided the cane. Now only the old walls stand: the waterwheel and boiling coppers are no more. Two hundred years ago trash from the sugar cane was used to fire the coppers that converted the cane juice into rum.

Sugar cane still grows to within a few yards from my studio but alas the bottle of rum from which I pour my sundowner does not have Antrim Estate on the label. However, a different end product from the same raw ingredients may soon have Antrim Studio as its watermark. I refer to paper.

The first picture shows sugar cane growing alongside my studio and the second, a sample sheet of paper from the same growth of cane. The paper has a faint musky scent; perhaps that's a trace of aged Antrim Rum percolating through!


Friday, June 2, 2017

Did I paint that?

It has happened to us all. We are jolted by the unexpected glimpse of our reflection in a shop window and ask: is that me?

The same goes for my paintings. After a session I select what I perceive to be the best and the remainder are put to one side. I stress “put to one side” for I learnt long ago never to discard. I also keep computer images of all my paintings. Sometimes, when searching through the thumb nails of these images I hit upon one that gives me a jolt. I enlarge it to full screen and ask: did I paint that?

Why I cast today’s painting to one side, goodness only knows. In retrospect it says all that I’ve ever wanted to say. In other words, it leaves more unsaid than what is said.


It takes a model as inspirational as Annabelle to work that kind of magic.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The lyrical vs the passionate




When landscapes, townscapes and seascapes were my means of survival, I strove to be lyrical:  now, with the figure, I strive to be passionate.

Either way, my approach is the same. I have to confront the real thing, be it a tree or my model, and I have to make my statement at the speed of light. I remember dodging a shower of rain for this painting of Halifax parish church.

During my engineering apprenticeship days I took a short cut through the church grounds to get to work. On the floor of the porch is the gravestone to a remarkable man that fathered 32 children. A feat made all the more notable as he was away fighting the wars for 18 years! At least those numbers are to the best of my memory. On reading this, I am sure that my brother, who still lives within a few miles of the church, will be down there with his camera to correct my inaccuracies.

The soldier’s amazing feat of strength and stamina reminds me of a statement made by Winston Churchill.  On reading in the Times that a pensioner had made sexually advances to young lady in Hyde Park in freezing cold weather, he remarked to his colleague on the front bench: “Makes you proud to be an Englishman”.



Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Accessorizing your lifestyle



What may seem to be the sales solution for a painter and sculptor working from a studio hidden within the idyllic interior of a remote Caribbean island; isn’t. I refer to selling art on-line.

There are scores of sites, tens of thousands of artists and millions - yes, millions – of images. I’ve tried them all, from the user friendly low key to the aloof curated high key. In between the two are the shopping baskets of the out and out commercial that can offer my coy nudes as shower curtains, duvet covers, and beach bags. Whichever way, I was better off on the pavements of France or beneath a palm tree in the Virgin Islands.

But then again, I do not want to “accessorize your lifestyle” as one on-line site puts it. I just want to share my passion for what I perceive to be profound and beautiful. The MA’s in History of Art curators don’t get it. But occasionally, someone like Anna, who commented on my last post, does.

Today’s picture (in the beauty going begging category) is a portrait bust that I made three years ago of my poetic model Jessica.

As the mid-day temperature here in Dominica is way into the 90’s, I’ll mull over the vicissitudes of an artists’ life while walking down to the river and taking a dip in our bathing hole. 


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The bare minimum

Photographers of the nude invariably place their models in derelict buildings or on idyllic sea shores and most painters of the nude allow their subjects the comfort of cushioned interiors.

In contrast, my paintings of the nude favour the bare minimum, both in setting and technique. I offer no distractions and I do not patronise the viewer with detailed finish. What I do offer, through my paintings and these diary pages, is an invitation to enter into the creative process.

If I’m repetitive; so be it: if I bore you; hard lines. I know of no other way of finding what I’m searching for. And if per chance – usually by accident rather than intent – I succeed, there is then the difficulty of seducing you, the recipient, by way of a language that you can learn to understand.

Today’s feverish searching in lines and paint, says it all.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Sleeping four to a bed

…I have only one bed in which four of us sleep…I am without shoes and without clothes… I live in the midst of the greatest hardships and of countless anxieties...I have not known one hour of well being…

The above is not an account of poverty in the Third World, but extracts from Michelangelo’s diary at the time he was painting the Sistine Chapel Ceiling. He goes on to say:

…I blame it on the times which are anything but favourable to our art…It would be easier to resuscitate the dead than to make this town art conscious…

Those of us that today labour upon the forge of art realise that nothing much has changed!

Many of Michelangelo’s preliminary drawings were made in red chalk, a similar material to what I used almost thirty years ago for these drawings of my model Alice. You will note that the figure is discreetly draped for in those days I had not the courage to work from the nude.




Wednesday, May 3, 2017

I have not seen as others saw

As a painter it is necessary for me to have a different way of seeing. My task is to see beauty where it has not been seen before. But in doing so, I make life difficult for myself and difficult for others to patronise what I create.

  • I work in watercolour and watercolours are not readily marketable.
  • I paint the female nude: a subject that most buyers are shy of.
  • My models are Afro-Caribbean: black rather than white.
  • I resist the abstract: my figures are physical and passionate.
  • I work rapidly and suggest rather than define detail, and it is in laboured detail that buyers consider they get their money’s worth.

For my good friend and kindred soul, the Virgin Island poet Sheila Hyndman Wheatley (1958-1991), I choose this poem for her memorial service. It may well be equally as fitting for mine.

From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; nor could I awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I loved, I loved alone.

Edgar Allan Poe (1809 – 1849)

Today’s painting is my most recent and in the very same vein.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A sculpted knick-knack

It was not until after I had completed my clay sketch of lovers embraced that I realised the pose had a similarities to Rodin’s sculpture, “The Kiss”. Although well loved by the public, Rodin was dismissive of the work, especially the enlarged marble version. He described it as: a large sculpted knick-knack following the usual formula. I think he would have agreed with the art critic Alastair Sooke that, unlike his more provocative work, it is a tasteful rendition of desire – a kiss, not an orgasm.

(http://www.musee-rodin.fr/en/collections/sculptures/kiss)

Likewise, I am unsure if the first intentions of my clay sketch have been fulfilled. It appears tamer than I originally intended. The rule is: make your work as challenging as you dare, and then make it more so.

Nevertheless I thought it worth taking a cast from the clay and the following pictures record the processes involved. This is about as small as you can successfully cast from a waste mold. The match box in the third image gives an indication of size. The final pictures show the completed plaster cast patinated to resemble bronze.


                                  










Sunday, April 23, 2017

A stroke of genius


For over half a century I have carried the above painting as a postcard reproduction on all my travels. The artist is Eugène Boudin (1824-1898). His Figures on a Beach is the work of seconds: the very thing I have tried to achieve with my own work.

The painting below has the same spontaneous stroke of genius. It dates from 1905 and the artist (I doubt if you’d guess) Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). The irony is, had Picasso continued to paint in that vein he would have died in obscurity!


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A clay sketch

I have spent the last few days reconstituting the clay that went into Annabelle’s life-size reclining figure. It is the same clay that I have used for all my sculptures over the last twenty years. With lots of pummeling and wetting down it can be made workable time and time again.

With the last ball of clay I made this sketch of lovers embraced. Its diminutive size (no more than 8” x 5”) and time taken in the making (no more than a couple of hours) belies the strength of the statement that I have attempted to make.


The 19th century French sculptor Auguste Rodin was the master of the clay sketch and also the master of lovers embraced. Art, he said, is nothing but a sexual pleasure…a derivative of the power of loving. By way of his team of assistants he sometimes enlarged his sketches to life-size.

But a sketch is best when left well alone; it’s very lack of finish is the finish. Let’s hope that tomorrow I’m not tempted to destroy the spontaneity of today’s work by making too many “refinements”.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Like father, but not necessarily like son



The portrait bust is one that I made of my father at age 85.

I have followed in his footsteps in terms of being an inventive engineer, but there the similarity ends. My father never took chances, whereas I have taken nothing else.

Albert lived well into his nineties and was loved by all. After being a virtual teetotaller, towards the closing years of his life he enjoyed nothing better than a glass of beer. And after hankering for retirement throughout his working life, his last words to me were: I wish I was back at work.

Given the above, I feel sure he would have agreed with the words Nadine Stair wrote at age 85.

If I had my life to live over, I'd dare to make more mistakes next time. I'd relax, I would limber up. I would be sillier than I have been this trip. I would take fewer things seriously. I would take more chances. I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers. I would eat more ice cream and less beans. I would perhaps have more actual troubles, but I'd have fewer imaginary ones. You see, I am one of those people who have lived sensibly and sanely, hour after hour, day after day. Oh, I've had my moments, and if I had to do it over again, I'd have more of them. In fact, I'd try to have nothing else; just moments, one after another, instead of living so many years ahead of each day. I've been one of those people who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat and a parachute. If I had to do it again, I would travel lighter than I have. If I had my life to live over, I would start bare foot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I would go to more dances. I would ride more merry-go-rounds. I would pick more daises.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Trials and tribulations



Beneath the header to these diary pages is my promise to share with you the triumphs, trials and tribulations of work-in-progress.

After each modelling session I send a little note of thanks to the model. My last session with Pearl was no exception. Pearl once again gave her body and soul while I struggled to break new ground.
Pearl’s response to my note read:

I really appreciate your compliment and I know you don't need me to tell you how great an artist you are. The session was my best.

In turn I replied:

Your message really cheered me up. At the moment I am full of self-doubt in terms of my work. My only consolation is that all the artists from the past that I really admire have gone through the same period of questioning many times over. It's a very painful process, but I suppose necessary. The very essence of creativity is conceiving something different to what has gone before. It would be easy for me to paint the pictures like the ones that I've painted in the past, but I'd be stuck in a repetitive groove. Please bear with me.

But I do need feedback, not necessarily to tell me how great I am, but to know that my work means something to someone out there. Remember: The function of art is to calm those who are disturbed and to disturb those who are calm.

For three months I have given every ounce of my creative zeal to my sculpture of Annabelle.  No: truthfully, the work in progress didn’t take three months; it took fifty years! With the exception of the three comments below, the silence has been deafening.

It’s beautiful (Annabelle, Model)
It’s beautiful (Alwin Bully, The Caribbean’s Distinguished Cultural Icon)
It’s beautiful (Ella Belle Rose, Supermarket Cashier)

I am touched by the repetitive simplicity of these comments, particularly as beauty relates to love, which is where the varied backgrounds of the observers found common ground.

Today’s 20 minute, 16" x 20" watercolour is one from my last session with Pearl and the reason for my self-doubt.