Monday, 31 January 2011


I did the painting above of Laugharne Boathouse today. I have omitted the pile of rubble that is next to it. Originally there used to be Ferry House next to it but that was bought and demolished. It is all a bit of a mess now and a real shame. Lets hope it is all sorted out tastefully soon. It does however remind me of an embarrassing moment.

I mentioned one of our embarrassing moments in a previous post. Thinking about it there are actually quite a few. Now the first decent car Alex and I owned was an Austin Maxi. We bought it second hand from a dealer called Huw Talerddig. He had resprayed it and it looked superb. I drove it home and parked it in the garage. Unfortunately I also left half of the rear wheel arch on the garage wall! Not a good start within 1 hour of owning it.

Anyway it was a real tank. Shortly after buying it Alex decided to broadside and write off a mini, which had the temerity to drive down Newtown High Street when Alex was coming out of a side road. The only damage to the Maxi was a bent bumper, which we took off and hammered back in to shape with a lump hammer.

One day after taking the children to school Alex came home and parked the Maxi on our drive, which sloped up from the road. Later that day I came home for lunch and was having a sandwich when a neighbour knocked on the door and asked if it was our car parked in her house.

It had rolled down our drive across the road and then down her drive reversing into her porch and house. Now the Maxi did sustain some scratches and a broken lens. The house faired pretty badly and to be fair the neighbour took it pretty well. That Maxi did us proud for a quite a few years and would go anywhere in any conditions.

It eventually found a less exciting pair of owners.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Lane near Midland Uchaf Letterston

The painting above is of the lane near where we stayed in Letterston last week. To be truthful there weren’t that many subjects to paint within walking distance other than trees. There was the source of the Western Cleddau but it was in a wet dank area with little light. I didn’t fancy carrying my materials too far in the cold weather.

One of my watercolour favourite artists is John Sell Cotman. He painted very simply but rarely on sight. He would sketch and then undertake the painting at home or wherever he was staying. He was a very accurate draughtsman something which is easy to evaluate when comparing his paintings with subjects still in existence. His technique changes after an initially dirty/muddy style to one of transparent flat washes with crisp edges. These are the paintings I admire. He rarely if ever uses wet into wet technique.

For my own part I tend to start with a wet into wet technique and gradually use more washes onto dry paper. Today we had a good walk around the Llansteffan and Wharley Point. I did a quick watercolour of Lord Park Farm with the Castle in the background when I got home.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Early Morning ~ Heneglwys Farm

We have been away for a few of days in Pembrokeshire. The first day was pouring with rain the other days were cold but sunny. I read a couple of books, managed a couple of watercolours and some sketches and enjoyed a few long walks.

The Christians have a song called Perfect moment and it has a really great sentiment to the lyrics. Basically it is saying that every day has every so often a perfect moment. For me this could be the sight of the dawn breaking as I walk the dog, silence in the valley, sharing the sunset with Alex my good lady or a perfect brush stroke.

A watercolour is always an adventure. This is because in many ways it is a random process that can somehow surprise or disappoint you. Whilst it is nearly always possible to alter a watercolour for me it is not perfect if it isn’t right first time. The viewer may not know but the artist will. Another artist will generally also be able to see it as well. For me there is great satisfaction in a wash going well, for a tree materialising from a series of marks on the paper. These are perfect moments. On the rare occasions everything about a watercolour goes perfectly that is something to savour.

The painting above is of Heneglwys Farm near Letterston, Pembrokeshire. Heneglwys means old church. I assume at one time there was a church nearby. Anyway I did a quick sketch in the literally freezing cold and then painted the picture in the camper van. It was pretty well a perfect moment. The painting was simple and went as I planned it. It is not the greatest subject in the world and the composition could probably be improved. It is unlikely I will frame it for sale but I had great pleasure in painting it and seeing it turn into the perfect moment.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Wildlife Art

Today I have posted a sample of the work of Jason Morgan from Ebbw Vale. I have been looking at his work and am mightily impressed.

I don’t do wildlife as a rule as I don’t know the subject. Here is a good reason example of why it is a good reason. Jason is an artist who is an expert in his field. He paints up to 20 paintings a year. He takes his time and paints from observation and experience.

I am not sure I would particularly want to go to Africa but Jason’s paintings are a fairly persuasive arguement for going. The scenery is stunning as are his works.

Anyway have a good look at his website.

Today I have been getting cold and doing a bit of sketching.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Portrait of the Artist as a dog

The painting above is of “The Boathouse Laugharne” and I sold it this week. I have a great affection for Laugharne. We have often sailed there and moored opposite the Boathouse or further up river under the trees. Obviously Laugharne is famous for Dylan Thomas commonly referred to a Wales Greatest Poet. I confess I am not really a man of letters and don’t claim to understand anything more complicated than Wordsworth as far as poetry goes.

Dylan I am afraid leaves me confused. I am sure his work must be excellent and I admit when hearing Richard Burton reading Thomas it does sound very wonderful. (But there again Richard Burton reading the telephone directory would probably have my full attention).

I suppose that in many respects my tastes are too conservative in both art and literature to find real pleasure in any form of post-modernism.

I recall when I took my degree in art I did a print of Dylan Thomas together with one of his newly discovered poems. My tutor was in raptures with the poem. I didn’t have the heart to tell him it was merely a random selection of words and no great literary discovery. I suppose it was quite unkind of me but it would probably have been worse to tell him.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Art and Sexism

Here is a little watercolour I did in conjunction with Carmarthen Radio. The painting sold shortly after.

I have quite often found myself at the wrong end of a camera or microphone by some act of fate. Even this weekend as we went to London on the train a television crew asked for a piece about the electrification of the line. I am not particularly nervous about facing a camera or making a speech in public. On the other hand it is not something I seek out. I am distinctly aware of the microphone or camera. Only yesterday 2 television commentators were disciplined for comments they made that were distinctly sexist.

I don’t think I am sexist on the other hand I am not averse to making banter about it. Alex (a former beauty queen) my good lady is a shining example of how a women (or man) can succeed in any role they wish. As an office manager she was efficient and capable. When all the children had left home she decided to become a marine engineer. She went to college and was the marine engineer student of the year. She worked in a boatyard, working on engines, climbing masts, and removing fittings with a grinder etc. She had nothing but praise for the men she worked with. She was the only female and was always treated very well by all the rough and ready men. When she finally left the boatyard did everything they could to retain her. Now she is a professional framer and runs our business.

Is there sexism in art? Who knows probably, but it is such a disparate profession it is difficult to know. Basically artists stand or fall on their own merits and luck. (Unless they happen to be connected or are a celebrity in their own right. e.g. Timmy Mallet, Sting…)

Today I am off to do some watercolours outside weather permitting.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011


The painting above is a quick oil sketch of one of the characters we met on the Orient Express. He was one of a number of actors on the train adding to atmosphere by telling tales about the train and its history. His name was squiffy an affectionate name for someone who is slightly inebriated.

I actually had a suit like that which I reluctantly threw out about a year ago. To be fair it had served me a lot of years and would probably have come back into fashion eventually. I never had a hat like that though.

We are starting to catch up with our backlog of work now caused by Christmas and a lot of family commitments.

Monday, 24 January 2011


The painting above is of Ferryside from Llansteffan Beach. In the middle of the estuary is a marker called the Barrel Post. It is not visible on the painting. It marks an underwater obstruction i.e. a number of rocks.

We learnt to sail on the Towy and have often sailed dinghies up and down the estuary. The Barrel Post is often used as a racing mark. I recall my first ever dinghy race. I had only just learnt to sail. I was asked if I would crew with another sailor called “Des”who had slightly more experience than I had.

It was a very windy day with big gusts coming up the channel. I like being in boats on the water but I admit I don’t much like being in the water. Anyway there were about 30 or more boats in the race and we were all careering about near the start line just above Ferry Point. It was as far as I could see, “Mayhem”. There were boats flying around in all directions mostly out of control. When the starting gun went off we were all tacking madly to get the best advantage over the start line.

All of a sudden we came upon a dinghy in front of us. Des starting shouting for them to get out of our way. This was clearly impossible in the melee and we just continued until we crashed in to them.

“Its alright,” said Des, “Its our right of way!”

I looked in astonishment at the capsized dinghy with the two floundering sailors in short sharp cold sea. Apart from anything they were on our team. We careered on obviously out of control.

I then heard Des shouting “Get the hell off our boat”

I could see one of the capsized sailors was hanging desperately to our stern as we sailed on. Des was busy prising his hands off the boat. So much for the Rules of the Sea. Eventually we left the casualty behind in wallowing in the waves.

Not long after we were struck by another boat and I found myself being launched into the air and then into the dark muddy cold water of the Towy. I came to the surface and noted our boat seemed to have sunk and Des was being hauled in to a rescue boat.

I was directed to what turned out to be our boat full to the gunwales with water.

Des shouted for me to bail it out. I must have been mad because I tried. More water came over the top then I could ever bail out and I was eventually towed to shore.

Whilst I did a lot of sailing after I never crewed with Des again.

Today we had a couple of people call for paintings and we spent sometime trying to sort out the water system on our camper. A none return valve had given up the ghost.

Sunday, 23 January 2011


As I have been talking about locomotives I thought I would post a painting by Charles Sheeler. The painting is of a set of locomotive wheels and is often mistaken for a photograph. Sheeler was an American artist who worked in what was called the Precisionist style.

It is a favourite image of mine and “oozes” class technique and power.
Sheeler was also a photographer and there is obviously some gross polenisation between the two arts.

A fine painter of Railway subjects is Richard Picton born in Aberdare. His paintings are becoming more collectable and his prices although rising are still very reasonable.His paintings are very evocative and a reminder of a time that is gone forever.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Classic Lines

The Painting above is called the Catch and is sold. It shows fishermen at Newquay unloading their catch.

Over the last couple of days I have been very lucky. Alex and I went to London to have a trip on the Orient Express. It was a Christmas present for us. It was absolutely fabulous. I am not a train spotter but I am you may have noticed quite sentimental and love steam engines et al. We went from Victoria Station with a band playing us off. There were several celebrities there such as Andrew Castle, Sharon Davies and others enjoying the day. A Steam Locomotive took us around the Downs while we dined in a style. I won’t bore you with the details but it was truly magnificent if not a trifle excessive.

When we got back to Victoria Alex blagged herself up onto the footplate of the Loco.
It was a good climb up off the platform and a few hearts were beating when she ascended from the platform in her party dress and high heels showing some very classic lines!
On the way home today from Paddington the train in front of us broke down setting us back 2 hours. We found out it was the Orient Express, typical. It was however apparently being pulled by a diesel at the time. Something to be said for the old timers.
Alex has got a bit of framing to do tomorrow to catch up.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Another Tale to tell

Here is another pen and ink sketch I found of Luke our old dog. I was talking about my St. Bernard yesterday. I remember one incident with him on a hot sunny day. I would have been about 12 years old. I took him to the local park. Well actually he took me. He was probably fractionally lighter than me but certainly a lot stronger. Taking him for a walk entailed hanging on to the lead and watching the scenery flash by.

Running through the park was a stream that was fed by local factories. As a child I had played in this with my friends and it is a wonder I am not glowing green now.

Anyway being a hot day “Tel” decided to head for the stream of pollutants and lie in it. There was nothing I could do to stop him. He was running with his lead hanging behind him. He submerged himself in the stream and then ran up the hill to a man sunbathing on the grass. He then, you can see where this is going, launched himself playfully onto the prone body. I was already in full flight towards the park gates. “Tel” caught me up, with a very irate and wet man chasing us hurling threats and abuse words that questioned out parentage.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Doggy Tale

The sketch above is one of our old dog Luke who made it to 15. We have had dogs for the last 30+ years. They have always been good company and a great way to make sure we maintain some level of fitness. Whatever the weather they still need to go for a walk a couple of times a day. Yesterday when I was walking Jac our Cocker Spaniel we met a Great Dane a huge dog but they are very good-natured so I believe.

When I was a boy growing up we had another large dog, a St Bernard’s. He was immense. For some reason I no longer have any sketches of him.

He was always a crowd puller but he did have some unfortunate habits.

He drooled quite a lot and when it was hanging like a fishing line he would shake his head and despatch the slobber in a random direction. This inevitably meant we spent a good deal of time apologising to people and also cleaning the walls and ceilings of our house.

He didn’t have a particularly long life as he had a routine operation and the vet in an effort to anaesthetise him gave him enough anaesthetic to put an elephant to sleep but too much for our dog.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Brown Owl

The painting above is an oil of Carmarthen Town from the South, South West. The river runs on the right hand side of the painting and is just visible in places. The view is from near Green Castle Corner.

Green Castle itself is a ruined 15th or 16th century fortified manor house in private hands. Nearby is a quarry that was used for much of the stonework in Carmarthen. So much so that the riverbank here is called Cooks Bank. It was named thus, because at night you could see all the cooking fires from the quarrymen and the bargemen who cut and ferried the stone from the quarry.

Green Castle Woods is under the ownership of a trust and is open to the public. I believe there are over 100 acres of woodland.
The woods are home to a variety of birds including Tawny Owls which are encouraged by putting up large boxes (over 2ft deep). As the owl is struggling in Wales with loss of habitat this is a very worthwhile project. You don’t often see owls anyway and obviously they are mainly nocturnal.

Alex doesn’t like to be reminded but she did unfortunately add to the demise of the Owl Species when she ran over one a few years ago.

Today I did a painting of the Towy Valley in the gallery.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

"Candlewick to Trumpton"

Today I did a painting of Carreg Cennen Castle shown above. I did the painting from a sketch. I used a ground of burnt sienna and alizarin crimson, then painted directly without sketching it out.

I watched Candlewick Green to Trumpton or something like that on Sunday Night. It is light easy watching if not a little idyllic, extolling the virtues of poverty and simple living. There was a point brought up in the episode worthy of note.

The story concerned a poetry competition being held by the “Candlewick Times”? The heroine was sternly addressed by her mother about her attitude to the competition. Our heroine or at least subject of the story was obsessed with winning the competition. Her mother asked the pertinent point. Did she wish to become a writer or was it merely that she wished to be decorated in garlands as the winner of the competition?

There is of course no simple answer to this question. All artists, poets and people in general probably wish to be recognised by their peers. Do they however wish to put in the hard work to become proficient at their craft?

As for myself I admit I have flirted with the idea of greater recognition and allowed myself to submit work to Annual London Exhibitions on several occasions in the past. It is truthfully, an ego thing but I am confident enough in my own work now not to let it bother me. The truth is that in the main I am just grateful that by working hard I am able to produce work of a high standard that people are happy to buy.

I had a knock on the door only the other day and a neighbour tried to persuade me to enter some television competition about art. I was happy they had been thoughtful enough to bring it to my attention but I really have no interest in that sort of thing. If an artist I admire, is kind enough to make a positive comment about my work that is recognition enough.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Paul won't like that

The painting above is of Tretower. I finished it a couple of weeks ago but have occasionally given it a sideways glance. I eventually succumbed and made a few alterations. There was a lack of overall harmony, which I think has been much improved by the changes.

Today we had the plumbers in from 7.30am. They have been going flat out on the central heating, which was going downhill quite rapidly. Three floors doesn’t help a tired pump and sludge for water. They have just left and are coming back later, all looking good but I haven’t had the bill yet.

Then the dog got ill and had to go to the vet. Then we both had the dentist.

Yesterday I was talking about our mooring in Angle. When you are allocated a mooring it is just a point on a chart. There may or may not be mooring chains buoys etc present. In our case there was nothing except some ground chain in the deep mud.

To lay a mooring involves waiting for a low tide and trudging carefully for a quarter of a mile in mud dragging chains, warp (rope), and a buoy. Then finding the ground chain that belongs to your allocated position. None of this is easy.

Anyway we put down our mooring and sailed from Swansea down the Bristol Channel into Milford Haven Waterway and into Angle Bay. No sooner had we attached our yacht to the mooring than we heard a voice.

“Paul won’t like that!”

Looking around we found a boat next to us with a head sticking out of the hatch.

“I’m sorry what did you say?”

“Paul won’t like that.”

“What do you mean?”

“That’s Paul’s mooring.”

“I think your mistaken this is our mooring we have been allocated it and there was no tackle on it. We bought this tackle and laid it ourselves.”

“Paul won’t like that”

No amount of reasoning would stop the four-word response.

“Paul won’t like that.”

Or even the glare that was now accompanying it as we settled down to sandwiches in the cockpit determined to hold our ground.

Over the weeks we learned to ignore him despite him being next to us. Do you know he never spoke to us for a whole season but continued with the dark looks. I was waiting to find a Black Spot nailed to the mast. We did find out who Paul was and of course his mooring was nowhere near and a decent chap he was as well.

Anyway our friend moved on at the end of the summer. You meet awkward or odd people in all walks of life and in all activities. He was definitely one of them. There again we have met many very odd artists and critics.

Sunday, 16 January 2011


I had time today to paint the watercolour above of an LNG tanker in Milford Haven with attending tugs. We used to have a mooring in Angle Bay inside the Tug Moorings. It was a lovely spot with the Point House Public House on the edge of the slip. The lifeboat men used the Public House and it was always full of characters.

The mooring itself was pretty safe although if an easterly wind came up it could be pretty uncomfortable.

Our boat had twin keels and would happily sit aground when the tide went out. One sunny afternoon I was happily dozing with no care in the world. The boat had settled as the tide had started to go out. I was awakened from my dreamlike state by Alex calling. The tender (a small rubber dinghy we used to get to and from the boat) was normally tied securely to the stern of the boat. Somehow she had managed to drop the securing rope in the water and the tender was drifting with the tide away from the boat out of the bay. Without thinking (clearly) I dived in the water and swam after the tender. Getting to the tender was no problem but now I had a problem as the tender and I continued to drift away with the tide. I had to get myself into it. It was actually very hard to find something to haul yourself up with particularly as the tender had large diameter tubes.

It was as much as I could do to reach over the tubes into the tender. I was also hampered, as I was fully clothed. Suffice to say I did eventually manage to haul my walrus like body into the tender sustaining a fair bit of bruising from the steel rowlocks. After that it was a matter of rowing back to the sound of Alex’s apologies. I swear I could hear her laughing as well but she vehemently denied that.

With hindsight I should have just let the tender go. Still alls well that ends well and fortunately there were no witnesses or we would have suffered endless Mickey taking.

Tomorrow we are paying a visit to the dentist!

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Towy Valley

I had time to do a little watercolour today shown above. It is a view down the Towy Valley towards Paxton's Tower from Newton House. I have got a commission to do but the weather is against me on that one for the time being.

So this afternoon I will now be watching the Heineken Cup Rugby on TV. We were offered 2 tickets to watch Scarlets v. Leicester this afternoon but it was a bit late in the day and it’s pretty miserable so we will watch it on TV.

Tomorrow we will probably go for a walk on the beach at Llansteffan to blow out the cobwebs. Which reminds me of an embarrassing moment.

Not too long ago we took my mother and sister to for a drive to the beach in our blue Astra. After parking up in the beach car park we went for a walk. After about 10 minutes my elderly mother and sister decided to go back and get a cup of tea from the tearoom by the car park.

When we returned we walked up behind the car and I could see my sister had sat in the drivers seat with my mother alongside in the front. They were drinking tea. I tapped on the roof, which caused them to jump, and then went to open the boot to let the dog in. Looking out of the corner of my eye I then saw coming from the direction of the tea room my mother and sister carrying cups of tea. I now noticed the second blue Astra next to this car. Clearly I had got the wrong car. To make matters worse in my embarrassment I opened the driver’s door to apologise. I think the two elderly spinsters thought they were going to be mugged. I did manage to apologise and somehow explain the situation before driving off very red faced.

Friday, 14 January 2011

And then there was light

Okay so here is the finished still life of Willow Pattern. The light was finally good enough today to photograph it.

Many people paint under artificial light, for instance all those people who attend art at evening classes. I have painted under artificial light in the past but would not do it now. I know when you think about it this isn’t really logical because all paintings are seen under artificial light when they are hung. I find the colours just don’t work out, as I want them. There again all the great masters painted indoors and it wasn’t really until the impressionists came along that artists went outside to paint. So I guess I am in the minority on this one.

I will give you a tip though. When you are considering buying a painting in a gallery always look at it in daylight. At least put your hand to shade the painting from any spotlight. Don’t put your hand where it will get burnt. You will be amazed how much difference it can make to a painting. This may well avoid disappointment when you get home. What was once bright and full of life may now be dull and lifeless.

Another thing to look for is poor framing and mounting.

If you are paying for luxury item, which paintings are, don’t accept frames that don’t join or marks on a mount.

Today I didn’t get any painting done. Domestic and caring chores took precedence, that’s life.
Anyway I thought this joke was quite appropriate, as I have been talking about light.

How many modern artists does it take to change a light bulb?


One to throw bulbs against the wall,

One to pile hundreds of them in a heap and spray-paint them,

One to glue light bulbs to a cocker spaniel,

One to put a bulb in the socket and light the room

Thursday, 13 January 2011

In good company

Here is a watercolour of Dryslwyn Castle I did today. It was quite simple and fairly quick.

We had two of the grandchildren today so I was lucky to get any painting done. Also the light was reasonable for a couple of hours.

Dryslwyn Castle overlooks the River Towy and sits in a commanding position in the centre of the valley. The Castle was subject to a siege in 1287, following a revolt by Rhys ap Maredudd.

Rhys was Prince of Deheubarth, an area of South West Wales covering roughly the Counties of Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, and Pembrokeshire today.

The English reacted with Earl Edmund of Cornwall, taking a great army from Carmarthen on 9th August. Eventually there were more than 11,000 men-laying siege to the Castle. They used all the usual means to force an outcome including mining under the walls and throwing huge stones with a trebuchet. I believe some of these large carved stones/missiles have since been found.

The castle was captured by 5 September, and although Rhys ap Maredudd escaped, his wife and son were captured.

I enjoy painting churches, castles and to be honest most things. I do however occasionally hear the odd comment at my exhibitions, “oh, not another castle.” Despite the fact there may be only five or six amongst sixty paintings.

Joseph Mallord William Turner was one of the finest artists Britain has had. He painted many castles including Dryslwyn (in 1798). If it was good enough for him its good enough for me.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

I don't like cricket ~ I love it ?

The watercolour above is a sketch of Lee Bay near Damage Barton, North Devon. While Alex and Jac our cocker spaniel went playing and hunting through rock pools I sat and daubed with watercolour on cartridge paper. It is a lovely little bay and hamlet. We have seen this part of the coast from both sides having sailed across the Bristol Channel and also visited Lundy Island.

Today I sat and watched England and Australia playing cricket for a couple of hours. It was far too dark to paint, conveniently.

I am not a great cricketer but I do like watching the odd game.

I was once asked, no begged to make up an eleven to play the fire brigade at cricket. I agreed, as it was only a friendly. My side was batting and I sat quietly drinking tea and listening to the “thwack” of leather on willow. It was all very friendly and leisurely until a new bowler appeared. He started to walk towards the boundary ropes before turning and sprinting in like a demon. He demolished the wicket and the batsman came back to the pavilion. I was told it was my turn. I nervously walked to the wicket and asked the umpire if my bat was in the right place. The next sight I saw was of the demon bowler running at me. Fortunately I managed to lift my bat and let him hit my wicket. I was out and still in one piece.

All went well when we fielded they put me on the boundary and other than running for the odd ball everything was peaceful. I was then told it was my turn to bowl. This was a surprise. I duly ran up and let go of the ball, which was caught by a fielder over to my right. That would have been good but it had been nowhere near the batsman.

When I let go of my next ball it landed at my feet. Two balls gone two wides. The batsmen were in stitches; I was getting pretty ugly looks from my friends who had begged me to play. I had a third go and somehow took out the batsman’s wicket. He was out.

I then did what no self-respecting cricketer should do. I bowled under arm. I believe the rules prevent it now but then it was legal. There was uproar, particularly from the firemen. The problem is it is difficult to hit a ball very far when it is rolling along the ground.

After the (friendly) game things became so heated in the pavilion I had my tea outside.

You will not be surprised that I have never been asked to make up a team for cricket again.

After watching the test match today I finished my still life and touched up a painting of Tretower. I tried to photograph them but the light was insufficient.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Spring Flowers

The painting above is of spring flowers and is sold. I don’t usually paint flowers as a subject. I was asked to do these for a window display and I was happy to oblige.

I am not a great lover of flowers as I may have said before. I will include them as incidental to my painting but not normally the main subject. I believe you need an affinity and depth of knowledge of your subject to paint it successfully.

My father however was very keen on flowers and built his own greenhouse. This had a stone base with cedar shell. There was nothing remarkable in that. However he grew orchids in a manner that at the time was quite revolutionary. He was a pioneer of hydroponics.

This meant all his plants were grown in a solution not soil or compost. This was in the 1960’s and 70’s. (Today hydroponics is used to cultivate cannabis by ne’er-do-wells). My father used to lecture on hydroponics and visited Lord Seiff of Brimpton (chairman of Marks and Spencers) on several occasions to advise on his Orchid collection. My father was a chemist, and radio engineer by trade so using chemicals to grow plants was second nature to him. This in itself however was of no great interest to me at the time.
What I found fascinating was his automated greenhouse. We could go away and the greenhouse would look after itself without the aid of any electrical timers.

As I recall it started with a large water tank, which dripped at a certain rate into the first trough. When the water reached a certain level it emptied in to the next trough through a siphon. As the next trough filled, a float attached to a mercury switch would rise connect the switch then start a pump which would pump water to the highest trough on the other side etc. etc.

It was all very Heath Robinson a bit like watching Wallace and Gromit today.

Talking of which we had two of the grandchildren today, and Alex has been a bit under the weather so not much done today.


Monday, 10 January 2011

The Companion

I couldn’t resist painting this. I don’t know what sort of dog it is probably some sort of terrier. He was there ready to protect his mistress. The two ladies were oblivious to it all in some prolonged discussion. They always are aren’t they?

It is an odd composition but I think it works okay. Strictly speaking there are a number of reasons why it shouldn’t work but I have tried to balance those out.
The image is a bit poor due to the lack of light. I always photograph my paintings under natural light and today there wasn’t a great deal about. Not brilliant for painting either more to the point. I had thought I would paint a landscape but there you go thats the impulsive nature of the artist, live dangerously eh (sorry that’s irony there).

I solved a problem today I had with my Juliann Easel. The easel itself is very well thought out and comprises of a portable easel combined with a paint box.

It was designed by Roger Jullian a French Prisoner of War. He spent much of the war refining his design and afterwards went into production. My specific problem is that although the top half of the easel is fully adjustable it slips backwards when adjusted to its primary angle i.e. About 65 degrees +. This is most disconcerting when you are in the middle of some delicate piece of detail.

The problem is that the weight of a board is too much for it to hold. The nuts holding it in place were 2 x knurled nuts for hand tightening. I have replaced them with wing nuts, which now allow it to be tightened sufficiently to prevent slippage when pressing on the board.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

A walk on the beach

This morning we went for a walk with the dogs on Llansteffan Beach. It was a beautiful crisp morning. I didn’t have time to do any painting and in any case it was a little bit frosty on the digits. I have painted the views here on many occasions and they all sell. I did do a quick a pen and ink sketch which is shown above.
I also fell in crossing the stream at Ferry Point which raised a good deal of laughter.

I enjoy using pen and ink. It is not a forgiving medium and it is quite possible to spoil a picture right up until you put the last mark on it. For that reason you have to think out every line and mentally place it on the paper before doing it.

The little stone in the foreground to the left of centre is the top of a standing stone on the beach. The stone is not shown on any current records that I am aware of although there are many megalithic sites and stones recorded in the area. The nearest of these being Is Coed (a standing stone at Ferryside) virtually opposite on the other side of the Towy. I have however been assured that the stone on Llansteffan Beach is shown on earlier maps of the area and that it is shown as being a good deal higher at that time. So it is likely that the sands have shifted somewhat.

Well Alex has made a lovely Sunday dinner and we have family around to help devour it so I had better not be tardy.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Willem Kalf and still life

I have pushed on with the still life today. It is mostly done now. When it has dried a bit I will do the final details and clean up a couple of the edges. I confess I did make one mistake I dragged my hand through part of the painting. This is not to be recommended and it did result in a mild rebuke to myself. Still I repainted it fairly quickly.

I don’t do many still life paintings but it is nice to have a change. The still life artist who I most admire is the Dutch artist Willem Kalf. His  famous painting of, Still life with drinking horn, is in the National Gallery London. It shows a drinking horn with a silver mount amongst  varied textured objects including a lobster.

Willem was a good businessman. He chose his subjects carefully. Originally he painted every day kitchen and farmyard scenes, but then moved on to painting opulent subjects, which would appeal to those wealthy patrons who could afford his work. To be successful you must paint what people want to buy. It’s just as true today as it was then.
Alex is on her way back today, which is good news. A day off painting tomorrow, well maybe.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Willow Pattern ~

This is the next still life so far. I started the plate and blocked in the sugar shaker and knife today. It is actually a scalloped plate, that is it has little bits nibbled out of the edge. I will actually ignore the scalloped edge. There is probably about 2 days painting left to finish it. I may do some tomorrow I’ll see.

When I was young we had plenty of willow pattern crockery at home its odd to think that it is collected now. Good plates are particularly expensive as I suppose people hang them on the wall.

The story attached to Willow Pattern is about a Mandarin’s daughter Koong-se who fell in love with a servant Chang who. The couple eloped and it is they being chased across the bridge by the Mandarin.

Eventually the lovers settled in distant lands, but this is no happy ending story. The Mandarins men found them, put Chang to the sword and burnt down the house with Koong-se in it.

The gods were touched by the story and immortalised the lovers as two doves and stuck them on a plate.

Well it goes something like that anyway. It’s quite a nice story and as I said before I like to know the story behind things.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Chicken tonight!

The painting above is of Laugharne Castle and was sold at the end of last year. I am something of a romantic in that I have an attachment to old places, churches, castles and am interested in the history of places. When I was young one of my ambitions was to be an archaeologist. To be fair at other times wanted to be a train driver, a scientist, a sailor, an artist and a stonemason.

I did go on a few archaeological digs which were interesting at times but there was a lot of scraping and digging. As I have a low boredom threshold I soon fell out of the idea of being an archaeologist. I had a good education but didn’t work at school leaving at 16yrs. I tried to get a job as a stonemason but failed at the time as no one was taking on apprentices.

I have done a lot of sailing and I am a full time artist so in the end I didn’t do badly.

I like history because I like to know the story behind things. Why is a place called that? How old is that? I am interested in my family history which I can trace back to 1500's on my mother's side.

I talked about my father yesterday. I have researched into his side of the family without much success. My father said his side of the family were Romanies from North Africa. I never really believed him but there again he was very dark skinned. I am quite dark and also have a propensity to keloidal scarring which is I understand genetic to persons of African or Asian descent. So who knows.

His mother’s family were easy to trace, they were  from Pembroke Dock, and were  mostly Dockyard workers.
Anyway today I started another still life. I am using the willow pattern coffee pot I bought on ebay and a willow pattern plate. It is quite involved and because of the detail it can be quite tiring on the eyes. I have made good progress though.

Alex is still at her mother’s so I am considering how to cook chicken thighs now.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011


I did the painting above today from the sketch in yesterday’s post. You will note I did make a couple of changes. I ended up with one dog although I did paint two initially and I also added a couple of sea birds. I am quite happy with the composition now.

It is a nice history picture of a boy with his father and a dog. A history picture lets the viewer read what is happening or has happened in the painting.

It reminds me of my father who was an extremely clever man. I would spend many happy hours watching him work in his workshop. Although I was too young to remember we were the only people in our street to have a television when Broadcasts started in our area. This would be 1955 I believe. The local doctor and all the neighbours came around for the first program.

We weren’t rich but my father had made the television from bits he had collected. It was apparently a green and black picture as it was an old cathode ray tube from some defunct radar equipment. It all worked perfectly except the picture was upside down. This was quickly rectified by turning the case on its head.

The term thinking outside the box must have been invented for him. If he wanted something he would think about how to make it irrespective of the complexities.

To my knowledge he made an electronic organ, many radio’s, stereo player, lathe’s, metal working machines, a large electric saw you had to start by slipping the pulley with a counter weight. His whole workshop had many strange machines running on old flat canvas belts held together with metal pins that made a “clacking ”sound as they ran over the pulleys.

Sadly all those machines are gone now but the memories are alive in my head.

Today Alex took her mother home so I am left with Jac and my mother to look after.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Where to start

No, I know its not pretty but in the interest of art I thought I would show you a sketch I did for the next painting. It is a rough sketch on cheap printer paper. The blob in the sky is not the sun. It is a blob of olive oil picked up off the kitchen table. I have resolved the composition of the painting here, well almost I am not 100% certain. I may move the second dog. I will probably paint the dog with the ball first and see.

Today I did a few household chores unblocking a drain and re-hanging a door... Then I watched highlights of the Ashes. I then spent some time with pencil and paper to come up with the next painting. I will make this a small painting as I think it will suit it well. I have also decided to slightly change the foreground of the painting I did yesterday. I want a touch more yellow ochre in it. Now I am going for provisions as Alex is off for a few days taking her Mom home.
I should get a bit done while she is away and have plenty of excercise as she has the car.

Monday, 3 January 2011


Yesterday when I went to Llandielo I stopped on the way back to do a quick sketch of the Towy Valley from Whitemill. Today I did the painting shown with the sketch above. The sky was not that clear either yesterday or today more a dirty grey but I wanted a clear sharp sky so there it is.

During Christmas we played a number of games of Trivial Pursuit and one of the questions was about Fridtjof Nansen. I was particularly interested as my Junior School was named after him.

Nansen was a Norwegian Scientist and Explorer. Born in1861 died May 13, 1930.

He explored the Arctic using dogs and sledges. Nansen and one companion, with thirty days' rations for twenty-eight dogs, three sledges, two kayaks, and a hundred days' rations for themselves, set out in March 1895 to the North Pole. In twenty-three days they travelled 140 miles over oceans of tumbled ice, getting closer to the Pole than anyone had previously been.

Alex and I are fortunate to have travelled in the Arctic Circle and sailed on a sloop around the Lofoten Islands and the West Coast of Norway (yes, I know there is no East Coast). The scenery was spectacular but strangely there was little to be seen in the way of wildlife. There were very few birds and not much evidence of anything else except for dried and salted cod which to be honest must be an acquired taste.

On my second walk today I saw a fox about 50ft away he was in superb condition and had obviously not suffered from the recent cold spell. His coat was all the earth colours and more than spectacular.

Now its time for a cup of tea.

Sunday, 2 January 2011


When I talked about my mother walking home it reminded me of our old house. So I did a watercolour sketch ommitting a large Dutch Elm tree in the garden. Now normally a house is just a house. This house however has had quite a few interesting events in its history. Here are a few I know of.

Eastville was built I believe in the last quarter of the 19th century. At some stage it was lived in by the local vicar. My mother’s friend used to live there until she tragically died. The parents could no longer bear to live there so put they house up for sale and my grandfather bought it in the 1920’s.

It was a large three-story building with a cellar and gardens, including a well and water pump.

One night during the Second World War my mother came home from driving an ambulance to find a land mine had been dropped nearby. Many houses had disappeared, as had the roof of our house. Fortunately neither my grandfather nor grandmother was hurt.The roof was eventually replaced although when it snowed and blew hard the snow would get in under the tiles and lie in the loft and you had to climb in and shovel it up.

We moved into the house to look after my grandparents when I was about 11years old and lived there until my mother and father sold it in the 1970’s. The house then was pretty much as it would have been pre-war. It was full of Edwardian and Victorian furniture and paintings. The only heating was a coal fire in the Lounge. In my bedroom ice formed on the inside of the windows throughout the winter. I loved that house and the many paintings that were hung there. The paintings have long gone being either sold or passed on to family members. They weren’t hugely valuable but they were good original paintings by listed artists many being former members of the R.A. It is difficult not to believe they had a major influence upon me.

Having just sold it within a month the rear chimneystack fell through the roof. It was a huge stack and must have caused major damage. I don’t believe there were any injuries.

Later the house was used as the location for the Grand Hotel in a television series called “Boon” with Michael Elphick and Neil Morrisey.

The house became a Care Home for a while.

Now the house stands empty, windows boarded up and waiting for demolition and development. It is sad to see it when I think of all the interesting and happy memories locked inside it.

Today I went to an antique shop in Llandeilo and bought a couple of props for painting
a couple of Victorian wine glasses £5 each and a Spode  willow pattern plate with excellent definition £7.

Saturday, 1 January 2011


Here is the sugar shaker pretty well finished. I had a fresh look at it today and there are a couple of details to finalise including the rim of the bowl. I used a good warm background made up from Burnt Umber and French Ultramarine adding Titanium white and Yellow Ochre when bringing it into the foregound.
Anyway we had a good New Years Eve.

Yesterday I went to see my mother and was greeted with,
 “I thought you were dead, dear.” I didn't think I was so I replied with the quote by Mark Twain,
 “Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

It went over my mother’s head and into the ether!
“Have you come to make my sandwiches?”

I thought about her comments and those she made before she became confused. Her view was that the young generation ie.mine (although I am grey and have six grandchildren) is very weak and becomes upset by death too easily. She had lived through the War and seen many friends die and had seen the huge amount of suffering caused by the Luftwaffe.
She drove an ambulance in the war and often referred to the large numbers of dead that were the daily toll. She and many others would walk back home in the early hours with bombs still going off and the fires burning having little choice but to accept whatever hand fate played for them. She is now at an age now when there are only a handful of her friends left alive.

So from her perspective maybe I can see why death is treated in a fairly matter of fact manner.
 I have to take the dogs out now.
Then I will watch the rugby on the television. Scarlets v Dragons. Alex is hoping to start framing again tomorrow as we have some work to finish.