Monday, 30 April 2012

Size Matter

Size matters. The size of a painting or image is something that does affect the viewing of it. It is difficult to explain why I know. If you see an image of a painting in a book or these days on the internet then you get an expectation of the real thing. I recall this happened to me.
As a boy I had seen pictures of the work of Van Vermeer (Girl with the Pearl Earring  and the Milk maid above). What I was not prepared for was when I saw his works they were comparatively  small. The Milk maid above is 16ins x 18 ins. This does not detract from the technique or skill involved in painting them in fact it is harder to paint detail on that scale. But for me the paintings were lost and I felt cheated.
I still love his work but I do wish he had painted them bigger.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Cat Boat

Another of my favourite artists is Winslow Homer.That being said his style varied tremendously and there are some stages of his work that do nothing for me. The watercolour painting of the cat boat above is a very famous work. It is called the cat boat because that is the name for a boat rigged in this manner with the mast right foreard not in the middle of the boat. The painting is light and full of life, beautifully executed.
This week Alex has been kept busy she has been dealing with an order for 100 cards and a seperate order for 500 postcards along with going to the printers and framing!

Saturday, 28 April 2012

The Voice

I had to deliver work to Laugharne today so I took the opportunity to have a walk on the foreshore.
I notice Browns Hotel is looking very smart and hopefully its opening is not too far away.

One of our grandsons (the six year old) is quite in to "The Voice". Now Alex caught me singing along at breakfast this morning.  Not a thing to be recommended. I have an appalling voice apparently although it sounds okay to me. She said our grandson had been watching "The Voice " last week when Tom Jones team was on. Now I don't know if you have been watching the show but Tom has a couple who are a throwback to the Mommas and the Pappas or Peter Paul and Mary without Peter.
Anyway they came on and our six year old grandson said," Those dweebs are like Nanny and Grandad".

Well I admit I have been called a hell of a lot worse things in my  life but when Alex told me I nearly choked on my porridge. In fairness they can sing very nicely which is more than can be said for me (apparently).

 I am doing a watercolour this afternoon.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Clifton Common

The painting above is of three pines on the common at Clifton, Bristol. I had been down there visiting and I was taken by the trees. I didn't have a sketch book with me but I did find an old envelope which I opened up and used a biro to get the main points down. The rest I carried in my head. There was actually a bench under the trees but I was happy to leave it out.
The painting sold and now resides in a Royal Household in - "Dubai ?",  if I recall correctly. The gentleman who bought it was the head of the Police Service and was an extremely engaging man. He bought it along with a couple of others that I cant remember as a present for his mother who was having a new residence built.
I mention this as it was quite amusing we had been talking a while and I told him I had been a policeman he then told me so had he.  His wife later told me who he was. I was impressed by his modesty and that he didn't embarrass me. Okay I was also impressed he bought all the paintings.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

After the Rain

The above painting I called  "Cattle after the Rain". Of course what it doesn't say is that there is more rain on the way!

The other day I had to look after two of the grandchildren. I normally pick them up from school but Alex entertains them when I get them home. As she was at the printers I was left holding the baby so to speak. Initially I got them chocolate rolls and then iced buns. No problems there. An easy win. What to do next?
I asked my grandson who is 6 if he would like another iced bun.
"No, Thank you." (I know great manners).
I said "Would you like a chicken drumstick?"
He looked thoughtful, then said, "Yes please."
"Oh I said we haven't got any."
He was quiet for a minute and I was looking at the hole opening up underneath me.
All of a sudden he said, "Its a joke isn't it?" and laughed.
I relaxed and said "Yes".
I turned on the television and the grandaughter was happily entertained with Mickey Mouse. Our grandson  is quite creative so I found the "playdo" and he seemed quite happy.
I said to him "Would you like a knife to cut up the playdo?"
He looked hard at me and said," Have you got one?" Then smiled. Touche!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Snowdon again

I was quite taken by the painting I sold the other day of Snowdon so I thought I would do a looser version. The subject has been synthesised (broken down into its main parts). Most of the drawing has been done with a size 12 brush. The style is more modern compared to the previous one which is more Victorian in technique. The Victorians could certainly handle watercolours.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The Blind Girl

The painting above is the blind girl by John Everett Millais and is one of my favourite paintings in Birmingham Art Gallery. It is  a painting which tells a story to the viewer or rather makes the viewer read their own story. I rarely paint rainbows but it is interesting to note that the colours are reversed in a double rainbow. They are not identical. It is a beautifully executed painting.
Anyway today I didn't get to start anything but I have pretty well finished my toy chest. I have to collect two of the grandchildren now. Alex has gone to the printers.
That reminds me I found out that the Welsh Language Board have stopped there free translation service. This is a real pity. I found it to be a brilliant service. The staff were helpful, fast and totally competent. So thanks to Gwen, Huw and all who helped me so efficiently. Huw has started up a commercial translation service Annog Cyf, a subsidiary company of Menter Môn,  which will operate from 2 April 2012 onwards. Enquiries 0845 6076070. Pob lwc i chi.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Little Twt

The little twt in the picture is the one I have spent a couple of days making a toy chest for. It is coming on pretty well. I hope to varnish it tomorrow and maybe get a painting started in the afternoon. I have enjoyed making it but I confess I prefer the smell of turps and paint to that of saw dust.
I have to go out now to post off a painting and get a piece of wood to make a plinth for the chest.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Snowdon from Porthmadoc

The above watercolour painting of Snowdon from Porthmadoc sold today. We have been going to North Wales on and off  for at least 35-40 years and I think every time we have passed over the Cob at Porthmadoc there have been cattle in the fields by the river. (I know of course they cant be there all the time as it floods and the cattle are taken in in poor weather). The cob/seawall and  causeway was built in about 1811 by William Maddocks and it was as a result of this that the town and harbour became established .
Today I have been making a large toy chest for one of the grandson's birthday. It will take a couple of days so painting is off the agenda.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Old Harbour Tug

Yes I did do a boat painting today but I had to fit it in around taking the grandchildren to gymnastics and walking the dog etc. It is a bit of a generic old harbour tug from around the 50's. There would be tyres or rubber on the bow but I left it off for the sake of the composition.
Tonight I am off to watch the Scarlets play Munster.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Disappearing lamp

The sketch above is of a miners oil lamp we used on our boats. An oil lamp like this was ideal as it was safe, provided light and heat in a small cabin. (Of course we ensured we had ventilation, not normally a problem on a boat).The lamp disappeared after a break in on the boat. So it resides elsewhere now. I also lost a lot of tools which had been my father's so it was a bit upsetting. The boat went eventually as we were unable to use her as we caring for my mom.
Today I haven't done any painting. A bowl of mussels laid me low and I am getting back to the stage where I am feeling I may survive after all. Yes I know a bit dramatic. Talking about boats I haven't done any paintings of boats for a good while so I may have a go tomorrow although we are looking after the grandchildren for the weekend so may be not?

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Lancaster - Last Sortie?

When I did the painting of the Sunderland Flying Boat I was tempted to do a painting of the Lancaster Bomber instead.
In the end I decided to do both. During the Second World War 55,000 British aircrew died in Bomber Command. I thought it was fitting I paid a personal tribute to these young men who sacrificed their lives for us.
The painting above shows the crew going out to their Lancaster in the morning. Only 5 are in shot but the shadows of 2 more are in the near left of the painting.
I nearly painted the Bomber with the crew coming out of the plane at the end of the mission but  I thought it was more poignant to show them going to the plane. The life expectancy for a crew member was just 2 weeks. I guess that puts things in to perspective.
This afternoon I am teaching.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Old Harbour Tug

The watercolour painting of the old steam tug has been sold. I am very fond of old machinery whether steam powered or not. I am fascinated with how things work. As a boy I would  go to the Science Museum and watch the steam engines going around and wonder how hot air engines worked.  I liked to take things apart and if I was lucky I could get them back together in working order (although this wasn't always the case).
I once went around the Guest Keen and Nettlefold factory in Birmingham. At that time it was still making screws, threads and fixings in an old Victorian Building. I must have been about 12years old  but I was really interested. I would also go into the many scrap yards and be allowed to remove voltmeters,telephones and electrical surplus from scrap. I had quite a collection of gadgets.
Anyway knowing how things are put together is really an essential part of knowing them from an artistic standpoint. If you "know" them it is so much easier to paint them. Hence in addition to landscapes I quite often paint mechanical subjects be they vehicles, boats or occasionally an aeroplane.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Winter Sunrise a bend on the Towy

I finished the above painting this morning. I am hoping that with the arrival of Spring the morning swill be a bit warmer. Anyway I have also finished a commission to be presented to our twin town to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the twinning. So I am now getting pretty well up to date with my paintings and have a reasonable collection of work for my exhibition in June.
Talking of Spring I heard my first cuckoo this morning although Alex and I saw a pair of them on Sunday but they weren't in song.
This afternoon I am picking up 2 of the grandchildren. Alex is framing.

Monday, 16 April 2012


The painting above is of a workboat in the Haven “Wilfreedom”. The great thing for me about life is the experiences you have and the interesting people you meet. I am not one for amassing material things. Even so the house still retains a good deal of clutter.
Anyway one of the interesting characters we know is “Ziggy”. I am not sure of his actual nationality; I believe he may hold 3 passports, German, Norwegian and British.
We have known him a good 20 years and in all that time I have never heard him moaning once. He has had share of misfortune including losing his partner and his son being seriously injured in an accident.
One morning Alex and I set off for a sail over the Carmarthen Bar. It was the largest tide of the year and the highest for several years. There was a stiff breeze and as we approached the Bar we could see a large swell and the tops of the waves were just breaking. As the tide was ebbing at a fast rate we decided to turn back before we got in to trouble on rollers that looked like they were the size of a double decker bus. We managed to claw our way back up river against the tide (just) and drop anchor. In the meantime Ziggy had merrily sailed out single-handed waving and laughing on his 29-foot sailing boat. We were actual worried enough for his safety to drive to the top of the headland to watch him get out in to the bay and to watch him come back on the evening tide. When we spoke to him afterwards he was totally unconcerned and said it had been a little rough. The other thing I haven’t mentioned is that he had a heart transplant many years ago. He has an annual check up at Papworth and according to him needs to drink a few cans of lager a day for his heart?
He used to visit his son in Norway. To do this he would set off in his boat from Llansteffan and sail up around the top of Scotland and across the North Sea single-handed with several crates of lager to keep him company. If he was tired he would go below and sleep for a couple of hours with the boat on auto pilot. Always a bit hazardous. On one trip he told us he hit a Rock coming back. When asked what happened he said he was in Norwegian waters below decks when he struck a rock. The boat went aground then slid back down and he sailed off. He continued on his voyage down the North Sea and the English Channel and up into the Towy Estuary where he checked out the damage when he dried out. The last I heard of him he had sold up and moved to Norway to be closer to his son. Ziggy lived life to the full enjoying every day a fine example to us all.

Sunday, 15 April 2012


Now I have been painting yesterday and today but it was for our daughter. Alex and I have been decorating and doing some DIY for them. It has been very enjoyable but non stop. They were kind enough to take us out for a lovely meal at an Italian Restaurant as a thank you.
The only thing i did have time for when there was to take Jac and there dog Paddy out. On one occasion I stooped to talk to a Lady who was gardening. We passed some pleasantries and she then said how beautiful the dogs were. I said they were but they weren't very intelligent .
To this she replied " I am neither beautiful nor intelligent." The lady had a very marked facial disfigurement.
I regret that I was unable to find the right words to say to her in response. To negate her remarks might have been taken as patronising. So I just ignored what she had said and continued with the conversation .Even now I am not sure what I could have said to make her feel better without risking further offence.
Sometimes it seems that there are no right words. I have had the unenviable take of breaking the news to numerous persons that their loved one has been taken from them. It is probably the hardest job in the world and other than being honest and empathetic there is little that can be said to counter the weight of the tragic news.
Anyway the picture above is from my sketch book and is another study of Cattle.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Red Kite

The painting above is one I completed this week showing a red kite at Dinefwr. The castle is in the background.
Although kites are no longer a rare sight they are something I can't take for granted. I can stop and watch them as they circle and move on in search of prey without ever getting bored. Today we have been sorting out paintings for the next exhibition. What to frame and which rooms what paintings are going to hang in. Although it is a while off it makes life a lot simpler to do the work in advance otherwise you find the work you want is on display somewhere else.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Sunderland Flying Boat Milford Haven

The finished painting of the Sunderland Flying Boat is shown above. On the right is Stack Rock Fort. I am not an expert in the history of the RAF or the Flying boats at Pembroke Dock. My father was a radio operator in the RAF during the War and was also the gunner on a Catalina Flying boat off Ceylon. Many of my ancestors worked in the Dock Yards in Pembroke Dock so there is enough there to give me an interest.
I believe one of the Squadrons based in the Haven, 228 Squadron had a motto "Auxilium a Caelo",  "Help from the Skies". This reflected one of their duties in air sea rescue duties to downed pilots as well as Anti Submarine Patrols. I decided to put Stack Rock Fort in the background as opposed to Thorn Island as it is more likely that the flying boats used this flatter stretch of water where it is more sheltered.
Anyway the painting is finished and it came out as I envisaged it so I am quite pleased.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Pormeirion and Snowdon

The above is a watercolour sketch I did this year. Alex and I had a good walk 10 miles + on a lovely day walking from Harlech up the estuary to Ynys.
We have never actually been in to Portmeirion. We did go there once intending to but as dogs weren't allowed we went on to Criccieth and enjoyed the beach watching the dolphins in the bay.
I have now finished the painting of the Sunderland Flying Boat and will probably post it tomorrow.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Sea Plane on the blocks

The above is a sketch of Thorn Island in the Haven. It has been a Napoleonic Fort and a Hotel in its time. I am thinking about my next painting. I have done some of the work on it today. well I have done some drawing. I am either going to have Thorn Island or Stack  Rock Fort in the Background and a Sunderland Flying Boat under power int he foreground.
The Milford Haven Waterway was the major site for Sea planes during World War 11 and still has some of the
Hangers /Buildings. Tomorrow I shall start the painting all being well.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Winter Towy Valley

Here is the painting of Towy Valley in Winter I was painting last week.

This morning we had to be away early so I was out with the dog at 5.30am. The stars were still out and the moon was bright in the sky. The dawn chorus was wonderful. I was interested to remind myself of the effect of the moon on still water. Walking around the reservoir gave me that opportunity. Reflections are fascinating and don't always conform to a formula. Some things are a constant but the values of reflected subjects don't always change as you would expect. Darker values can generally be reflected slightly lighter and vice versa but not always. Shapes will always be mirrored in the same vertical plane.

I was asked yesterday for advice on painting detail in still life. The way I paint patterns etc is by getting the larger parts represented accurately and giving the impression of the smaller detail. I don't paint the smaller detail but overall it gives that impression. Easy to say not necessary easy to do.

Monday, 9 April 2012

The Heights

I reworked the painting of Carreg Cennen this week. I hadn't exhibited it as I wasn't 100% happy with it. Anyway its done now. It is quite a climb up to Carreg Cennen but worth it when you get there.
I did a post yesterday about my brother going deep sea fishing despite getting sea sick. Well actually I did something equally inappropriate. I don't like heights.
I do believe you should conquer your fears if possible and to that end I have done a parachute jump climbing onto the wing of a biplane and throwing myself off. I also had a job with a cowboy roofing contractor for a very short period.  Now my brother who is not at all bothered by heights used to go climbing quite a lot.
 I can understand the sense of achievement that it must bring following all the exhilaration.
I must say it never appealed to me in the least, but I did eventually agree to try it. So one day we went off to a cliff face in Mid Wales. Now I would have been happy if we had ropes and all the things you knock in to the cracks to clip onto. But no my brother liked free climbing. Great. So we set off up this face with nothing but a set of old daps as far as equipment was concerned. The face was only about 100yds high but high enough to kill you if you fell off. He seemed to find it easy and encouraged me. I struggled but got half way up the face before getting stuck. Unfortunately the face was mostly slate and shale which meant half my footholds disappeared below me whenever I moved. I also found that there is an incredible amount of effort involved in pulling yourself up a sheer cliff. He climbed down and called out the holds and somehow  I did get to the top.
I din't want to do it but you know having tried it I was just as determined never to do it again as long as I lived. It didn't cure my fear of heights, neither did jumping from a plane or working on 3 story roofs.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Llansteffan from Ferryside

The painting above of Llansteffan from Ferryside sold last week. I am probably having a painting free day to day , but then maybe not. I had an email form my brother today. Hi Tony I know you read the blog, Happy Easter.
He lives abroad and has had an interesting life being an artist, writer lecturer etc ... However this week I was reminded of one of his career opportunities that didn't work out too well. I was watching the Fisherman's Apprentice on TV.
It reminded me that back during the time of the Cod Wars my brother decided there was good money and adventure to be had on the deep sea trawlers off Iceland. All that may have been undoubtedly true. I just think there was a tiny little flaw in his thought process. My brother suffers from seasickness. If a boat was on wet grass he would be ill. So he spent a bad time confined to a bunk on a Deep Sea Trawler during gales off Iceland.
I have never been sea sick. I was somewhat uncomfortable when I had to dismantle the "heads" in a boat in a very lumpy sea however. Sea toilets or Heads can be quite easily blocked and if all else fails it is a matter of physically taking it all apart and removing the blockage by hand. Not a thing to be undertaken lightly. This can be further complicated if as in this case the heads is of the pressurised variety.  I leave the details to your imagination but it wasn't pretty.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Little lies

The watercolour study of cattle is one I did in Harlech a few weeks back. Today I set about a painting of the Towy Valley in winter.
I admire honesty in a person. I am often asked for my view on a painting. I am normally honest to a point. I would never be unkind to someone if a painting was poorly executed but would try to be positively objective and if they asked for it give advice on how to improve it. In my experience however there are not that many artists who actually want your honest opinion. If they start becoming defensive then you know they only want positive comments and can respond accordingly.
Alex is a very honest person. She could never leave a car in a car park for 2 minutes without paying or park on a yellow line for even a second. The downside comes when dealing with people.
 If we are asked out to a function and we are not keen I may say something like,
“Oh I think we are out that night.”
Alex will immediately respond, “No we are clear that night.”
“Why are you kicking me?”
Small white lies do not exist in her world. My luck to marry an angel.

Link to Little lies Fleetwood Mac

Friday, 6 April 2012

The Valley Awakes

When I came over the hill the other morning the valley was just starting to awake. It was that cold day after all the sunshine. I thought yes I must paint that. So there it is. It shows the river meandering across behind Llangunnor Hill on the right. The river then bends back on itself in an oxbow out of picture to Tan yr Rhallt farm on the right.
I went to the gym this morning and then Alex and I had a sort out of paintings. A couple have been given the last rites.

Thursday, 5 April 2012


I finished the oil painting above last week. It shows a couple with their dog on Llansteffan Beach. One of the good things about the beach is that you can exercise your dog there all year around. In the Summer dogs are prohibited from the castle end of the beach but there is more than sufficient space at the far end to exercise your dog. We went to North Devon a couple of years ago and dog owners were made to feel like second class citizens. In order to get onto a part of a beach that allowed dogs we had to walk 4 miles most of which was on narrow roads without a footpath. In the meantime we were passing empty coves and beaches where dogs were prohibited. I can understand the reasons for reserving parts of the beach for children etc but there should be some consideration for dog owners particularly if they want tourists too return. Anyway well done Carmarthenshire County Council for sensible policies.
Today we called in to see the last day of David Cowdry's Exhibition and had lunch at Aberglasney. We also caught Andrew Evans (another local artist) who had popped in.
This afternoon I am settling down with a book or maybe I will do a watercolour?

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Boathouse by moonlight

I finished the oil painting of the Boathouse in moonlight today. In the meantime Alex has been struggling with a large frame.
This afternoon Alex is off to Cardiff with one of our daughters to take one of the grandchildren to see the X factor Road Show. The last time we went to see anyone in Cardiff it was Alison Moyet in St David's Hall. She was terrific and obviously had a large following.
I remember one moonlight evening in Welshpool. It was approaching Christmas and at that time of year it was common for gangs to steal a lorry load of Christmas Trees overnight from the plantations around there.
It may seem hard to believe but in those days we were quite interested in either preventing crime or catching criminals. Every night part of the duties would be to go around every "lock up", vulnerable premises on the area, (shops garages etc) and physically check doors windows for any sign of a break in. If one was discovered the following morning you could guarantee being called out of bed to explain why you hadn't discovered it.
Anyway Mike and I were parked amongst a host of Christmas trees. It was quite eerie in the moonlight with  cold  mist swirling around us. In order to hear any sounds we had the windows down. Occasionally we heard muffled sounds and movement in the trees which on investigation turned out to be no more than an odd animal. All of a sudden we were shaken by a thundering noise coming right at us. We looked at each other with some misapprehension. I reached for the door handle and felt for my truncheon.With that from out of the mist a white horse appeared galloping towards our panda. It reared up and wheeled off disappearing into the trees. God knows where the horse had come from but my heart was beating louder than the horses hoof beats.
When it had gone we looked nonchalantly at each other and decided it was time to go and check the lock ups in town.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012


I finished the painting of Druidstone above yesterday. It is a smaller version of a painting I did last year.
I started a painting of the Towy Valley at Dawn this morning after taking the dog out.

 I then went with Alex to take two of the grand children for lunch and then the cinema to see "Pirates". It must be 7 or 8 years since I last went to the cinema and that was when we took another grandchild to see "Finding Nemo" something to do with a fish if I remember correctly. The first time I remember going to the pictures as it was called then was on a Saturday morning and I believe it was sixpence to get in.That was to  to see "Summer Holiday" with Cliff Richard. I suppose it is no surprise I haven't been to the cinema a lot after that.

I remember us taking two of our children to see " ET " in Newtown. At the start of the film it went dark and very quiet as the opening scene came on. The scene was of a rabbit playing in a field.
At that point our daughter said in a very loud and posh little voice,"I see mommy ET is a rabbit." This brought the whole cinema down in fits of laughter. It has also become something of a catch phrase in out household.

Actually "Pirates" wasn't too bad, a darn sight better than "Summer Holiday" anyway.

Monday, 2 April 2012


The painting above of Llansteffan sold last week.

I was painting yesterday when Alex called me and said there was a man on the phone who was interested in a commission.

I got to the phone brush in hand. The man “Timothy”, told me he had seen my website and was very impressed. He wanted a portrait done of his wife.Would I be interested? I told him I no longer did portraits for the public. (At one time I had a website purely for portraits and concentrated on that aspect of painting).
He was most insistent like a double-glazing salesman. The conversation went on a while and I politely tried to explain that  no I didn’t want the commission. I then twigged. It was April the first and my son had caught me out. He was in fits.

Today I am starting a new painting and Alex is making cards.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Schools Out

The sketch above is one I did of a farmer checking his cattle. At one point he seemed a little stressed out as I watched. He wanted to separate one of the cows and spent some time ushering her away from the herd at which point his collie dog leaped from the back of the pick up and started to herd the cow back to the rest of its companions much to the fury of the farmer who was now chasing the dog and the cow. Life can be a bit frustrating like that.

I walked into my studio today and found Jac had been sick in there. I trust it wasn't a response to my latest painting.

We met the Mr Williams headmaster of the Welsh Secondary School in Carmarthen yesterday. He was a real gentleman. I was thinking that the school had just recovered from our children passing through its portals and now it has to brace itself for the next generation as our grandchildren will soon be gracing its classrooms.

It is actually a first rate school and has a fine reputation. It has also produced more that its fair share of great rugby players including, Steven Jones, Rhys Priestland, Ken Owens and his sister Vicky. The previous headmaster Mr Evans always talks about our children when we meet him. They must have made some sort of impression you would think, having so many thousand children go through the school yet he can remember them vividly.

I have been touching up a couple of paintings this morning we are off later to Aberglasney for lunch.

PS "Clive have a happy birthday tomorrow!"