Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Pembrey Primary School

I got on okay today and did the above painting. I had been contacted by Pauline Thomas an artist from Ferryside. She contacted me on  behalf of the Pembrey Primary School PTA asking if I could donate a painting to a special auction to raise funds for the school. I was happy to oblige and wanted something relevant so Cefn Sidan seemed the answer. I have painted Seabirds rising off the beach before. That view was from the other direction without the Gower in the background and I didn't want to repeat this as I know the image was very poignant for the lovely lady who bought it. So there it is maybe you will go along and buy it.

Anyway I will try and post something about the evening when it gets closer in the meantime here is the website link for Pauline Thomas.

Our raspberries have been disappearing mysteriously from the canes over the last couple of weeks we speculated on the culprits and blamed the birds. The other day a black snout was seen with its head in the raspberry canes, yes it was our "Jac" the cocker spaniel who was stripping them off!!

Tuesday, 30 July 2013


I had intended to do an oil painting today. I have the image in my head and I prepared a board to size. Then I chickened out. I could probably have done it but could also have made a pigs ear of it.
I decided to leave it until tomorrow.
Anyway on a cheerful note when we went to Iceland (not the frozen food store) and Norway I was made up as they say or they used to say 20 odd years ago? Alex and I saw Minke Whales off Iceland and halfway across to Norway we saw 3 pods of Orca (killer whales). Now I got pictures of the Minke whales but my camera battery went flat and of course I didn't take the charger Duh!! Anyway I did a sketch or two and it will be one of those memories that remain with me for the rest of my life or as long as I can remember things. Such a shame they are hunted.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Aberglasney flower Garden

I have been feeling a bit under the weather the last couple of days. Lethargic to be honest. I meant to start the watercolour of Aberglasney yesterday but slept for the most part of the day. I am better but still a bit lethargic today. I did manage to do the watercolour above this morning. Strangely my great grandfather died of narcolepsy I suppose dying in your sleep is the second best way to depart this world. I will leave you to decide the best way.( Maybe watching Wales win another Grand Slam?)

The petunias which is what I think they are weren't actually in the picture but the reds and green worked out okay for the composition.

PS I have been told that the flowers are hollyhocks. I would never make a good gardener.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Dublin Bay

We anchored in Dublin Bay this year and I took the opportunity to sketch the Power Station with its two landmark towers. I had been commissioned to do a series of paintings with them in the background  about 12 years ago. So it was a kind of coming home moment, reminding me of the paintings which had to be done very quickly.

Today I am probably going to start a watercolour. Alex has about 500 cards to make so she is
pretty busy too.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Llansteffan Painting

Here is the painting of Llansteffan I finished this week. I have done several versions of this. Is that a problem? Well not for me. They are all different and it means that several people can have the original of the view of their choice. There are many examples of artists doing the same view.
Cezanne did numerous views of  Montagne Sainte Victoire in fact he painted the same view daily for many years. Leonardo did a number of versions of the same view of Madonna and child. Munch did up to 90 versions of his Scream. 

The other day the fabulous singer Mark Evans had a concert compered by Rob Brydon. I was pleased to be asked for my work to be used as a backdrop for the opening numbers. The show was a huge success.

Today I am in the gallery and Alex is framing all day.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Olden waterfall

The above sketch is of a waterfall in the fjord near Olden. It was undertaken rapidly standing up. Not only did I have little time but I was on a ship sailing passed it so the angle was changing along with the light. The Outline ink was done first and then I used watercolour to build up the foliage and rocks.

Yesterday I finished my oil painting of Llansteffan and sorted out the scratch on another painting.

I have recently been clearing my mother's house out. While we were away my sister came over to house and dog sit which was very kind of her. When I got back she informed me she had finished clearing my mother's garage for me. I was impressed and pleased.
"There was a lot of rubbish bric a brac and everywhere." She said.
"Great thanks," I said and as an after thought, "Where did you take it?" (expecting maybe the recycling centre or the local dump).
"Oh I put it all in your garage." She replied

Link, its kind of connected,  its about the past about getting old a really sad song thought provoking,  wonderfully written pathos.

Thursday, 25 July 2013


When we were in Iceland recently we saw some wonderful scenery. I could have happily sketched or painted for days. Inevitably taking it as much as possible in in a limited time meant I only had minutes to get anything done. The pen ink and watercolour sketch above was done at Godfoss when we had a 15 minute coach stop. It is a spectacular waterfall on a glacier fed river. The story goes that when Iceland decided to adopt Christianity in 900 something the statues of the old pagan gods were thrown in the falls hence the name "Godfoss".

Yesterday I noticed one of my completed paintings awaiting framing had a scratch mark across it where I had caught it with something, another task to be done today!

Now its off to take Jac for his first walk of the day.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

"Mark can't sing, can't dance and he walks like Del Shannon!"

Alex and I have just got in after a hectic day. Visiting the printers is always time consuming but worthwhile. We have a lot on our plate at the moment but it keeps life interesting.
In the meantime here is another sketch of Alex from my sketchbooks.

Yesterday Alex read my post about dancing and made the comment "Mark can't sing, he can't dance and he walks like Del Shannon!" (Some sort of play on words to a current song apparently?)

For those of you who aren't old enough to remember Del Shannon:

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Lets dance

I am not one for dancing as I really have no sense of rhythm. So the other day I was quite surprised when a lovely lady asked me to dance with her. Now no one other than Alex has asked me to dance for over 40 years. As Alex taught me to waltz many years ago and this was a waltz I am too much of a gentleman to refuse.

We started dancing and after a short while the lady started leaning in towards me! Now to be truthful I need to put this in context. The lady was a dancing instructor and the reason she started leaning in towards me was to avoid having me tread over her toes, too much. It was at this point I realised that in fact I couldn't waltz at all and had in fact for the last 30 plus years been shuffling around the floor in random fashion with Alex doing her best to anticipate my moves and look like we were doing some sort of dance. Life can be cruel when you are brought down to earth! Oh well onwards and upwards as they say.

The sketch above is of Alex and I. Today we have the grandchildren (don't you love school holidays?). We have a very busy couple of weeks coming up. Alex in particular has a lot of work to frame and cards to make plus a visit to the printers.

Link well I could have gone for Chris Rea but I decided to go for Chris Montez

Monday, 22 July 2013

Container Ship and Tugs Southampton Water

I haven't painted the last two days as it has been far too hot in the studio. So  I thought I would post some sketches from my sketchbook. We have recently been to Iceland and Norway. I tend to keep a sketch book for trips like this. A cheap bound one that will take ink and watercolour. It is purely for my own enjoyment and eventually they tend to  get scrapped.

The trip started from Southhampton. My sketches are dependent on the time I have available to do them and also the subject as I see it. For example for a sketch where I have one or two minutes to get it down I use a waterproof ink pen and will add watercolour with an aquabrush using a small palette.

The picture above is a good example The ship was going away from us and we were heading in the opposite direction so it was a continually changing scene. I had about 4 minutes to get it down and add the final touches after. I was quite pleased with the charming little reminder of the scene.

Today I found that the water wouldn't go down in the bathroom sink so I took the u bend and trap off. It was blocked as was the pipe below it. I cleared the trap, washed it outside and placed it in the sink ready to go back on. Alex came in while I was still under the sink and decided the trap and u bend weren't clean enough! Yes while I was under the sink cupboard she washed the trap out in the sink above me!! Yes well I didn't say much but gave her a look and cleaned up the mess. Women!
I then put it back together and tried it but inevitably there was a leak. I took the u bend and trap off which was now full of water, carefully reached up over my head and emptied it in the sink above me much to Alex's delight! Doh!

Saturday, 20 July 2013

New Painting ~ Llansteffan

I have been asked if I have any paintings of Llansteffan. I only have a couple of small ones so I thought I had better get on with something a bit bigger. I drew out the outlines and have started to work on it. I know the scene and don't need anything to work from now.

Friday, 19 July 2013

David Cox Artist

I have always admired the watercolours of David Cox and have in effect grown up with them as I was always in the Birmingham Art Gallery where there is a good collection. Davd Cox was brought up in Deritend,  Birmingham. He was born in Heathmill Lane. Coincidentally my family also lived in Heathmill Lane in the 1800's although I am not sure if there was any other connection.

Anyway I love his work and imagine what the colours would have been before time took its toll and faded them.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Solva Pembrokeshire

Here is the finished painting on my computer screen the cliff face on the right is slightly too dark and doesn't show the variety of tones that are in the original. There is no point in changing it as it is dependent on the viewer's computer settings. The painting is 24 ins x 16 ins which will work out as about 3ft by 2ft when mounted and framed.

Anyway I am pleased with the final result it is how anticipated it.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Painting of Solva Stage One

Here is the first stage of the painting of Solva. It is all coming together as I had hoped. It has taken about two days to get this far not including preparing the board or doing the drawing.

I am confident it will be fine. Tomorrow I will post the completed painting.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Drawing of Solva

I have been doing another painting of Solva looking inland towards the Pub. It is a strong composition with the cliff face on the left and hill on the right taking you into the picture.

Shown above is the drawing (or more correctly cartoon as this is full size) which is where I have worked out any issues. I have placed boats where I want them and know what tonal values will go where. I have reduced the detail on the boats although it is always a temptation to add more, especially have a good knowledge of rigging etc. Anyway I think I have the balance just about right.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Preparing for Aberglasney

The watercolour above is of Aberglasney the location of our next exhibition. The Mansion House has been restored downstairs now and is well worth a visit. Of course it may be worth waiting until my exhibition is on at the end of August.

Actually it can be quite amusing sat there while we steward our exhibitions. Every twentieth visitor or so walks into the rooms looking straight up at the ceiling. They are quite obviously only interested in the architecture or restoration of the Mansion. There could be free £50 notes on the wall and they still wouldn't see them. This is no criticism I am impressed by the building and the plaster work myself.

Of course then we get asked about the history, the lime content in the plaster, the way the work was undertaken to be honest its easier to answer than keep explaining we know as much as they do as we are only exhibiting there. Actually we have picked up quite a lot of knowledge and Alex in particular is good at going through it. If she gets stuck I help out with a credible if totally made up answer.

So we are preparing for the exhibition now . Alex is in the process of making several hundred cards and ordering prints from the DOT Foundry. I am finalising my paintings.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Tenby Finished Painting

Voila here is the finished painting. There are actually people on the beach but they may take a bit of finding on this image. I like Tenby although parking can be a bit of a nightmare.

 Our son got married here and we stopped in the Giltar hotel. Alex and I also came to a weekend here when I was a Detective Inspector. Richard one of the Detectives arranged a weekend away for a number of us, it was err quite entertaining. Alex and I had a wonderful view of the bay from our room in the Imperial Hotel and we could watch the lighthouse on Caldey at night. Painting this brought back a few memories.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

St Catherines Island

Here is the start of the painting. The sky is done graduated form the top and from the right.
The Island has been put in and next the hotels, cliff, sea and sand need to be added.

Today I was working on a watercolour for a change.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Tenby and St. Catherine's Island drawing.

Here is a drawing for a painting of Tenby with St. Catherine's Island. It is actually South Beach.
I like Tenby we have sailed here on a few occasions and dried out or gone on to Caldey Island and anchored in Paul Jones Bay.

The painting is fairly straightforward but you need to get the composition right in the first place.
I am quite happy with this. I now transfer the drawing to a fully prepared board 24 ins x 16 ins.

Tomorrow I will show you the second stage.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

My Bucket List

Well what would I like to do before I die? To be honest I have no great outstanding ambitions.
I have been most of the places that I would like to see and done pretty much what I would like to do. I have had quite a few experiences: climbed onto the wing of a bi-plane and jumped off (with a parachute), gone scuba diving (didn't like that), sailed in the arctic on a yacht, been on the coal face of a working mine, boxed, done karate for many years, and had many "interesting experiences in the police. I have met many different personalities, politicians, royalty...

No regrets well just a few.

So now I would like to see out my years enjoying the peace and tranquility of West Wales with my family. Okay I would like to go wale watching and keep on painting as long as I can.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Pembrokeshire Cottages

This painting of cottages in Newport with Myndyedd Carningli sold last week. The weather is genuine it was wet and windy but quite atmospheric.

I did a couple of sketches today but no painting as such.


The above watercolour painting I did shows the road into Llansaint with the Church in the background.
The 30 mph restriction signs are quite visible. This puts me in mind of an incident when I was a police officer many years ago, (not incidentally at Llansaint).

Now I love irony and this story is a good example. During my time as a police officer I met thousands of people of all different race, creed and background. By the very nature of the job I met many councillors. For the most part they were well intentioned likeable people doing a job for the community. There were occasionally however some you came across who seemed to revel in their position and would create as much chaos as possible complaining at anything especially if it affected them personally.

 Anyway one day a certain local councillor came to see me. He complained bitterly about cars and lorries speeding along the road where he lived. The speeding was apparently so bad it woke him in the morning. Now I am generally a patient person so I let him vent himself out and told him I would take a look at the matter but promised nothing.

 Later that day I saw the morning shift patrol officers and asked them to look at the road and do a speed check if necessary.

Two days later I had a visit from the same officers. They had done a speed check but had only caught one car speeding. Yes, it was the councillor who was of course booked for the offence.
Strangely enough he never came to my office to complain again.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Solva finished

Okay so here is the finished painting. It has all come together. I have chosen to have the tide out with just the water from the stream adding a complement to the sky. The painting has a feel of depth due to the high sides and dark tonal values taking you into the picture.

The very last time we left Solva we were in our Sadler 32 yacht. A beautiful boat that sailed like a dream. The forecast was okay with North Westerly winds predicted at force 4. We got out of the harbour and into St. Brides Bay pushing along under full sail. Half an hour later the wind picked up and we had to reduce sail. We heard a mayday on the radio from near Solva but the lifeboat was attending. Soon the winds were over 35 knots and short seas were making us somewhat concerned.
We had little more than a handkerchief of sail showing and we were heeled right over with the seas running along the side decks over the safety rails. Our main issue was Jack Sound the stretch of water between Skomer Island and the Mainland treacherous at the best of times. We had timed our sail to get us there by slack water with little current running and hopefully the least problems. We had no idea of the conditions on the other side off St. Anns Head either. Anyway we put Jac below and fitted the hatch down, we were both wearing life jackets and had harnesses attached to the boat. We had no choice really but to go for it a the only other real shelter was North Sound and that was open to the winds which were nearing 40 knots at times.

We got through Jac Sound and found very short seas against us. We were hitting waves which crashed the full length of the boat over the cabin and onto us in the rear cockpit. This was certainly getting interesting. Eventually we got to St Anns Head the entrance to the Haven. We kept well out and followed the main channel in. No other boats were out and the first one we saw was a large 40ft sailing school vessel when we joined it for shelter under the cliffs well inside The Milford Haven.

Now we have sailed for a good number of years and that was the worst conditions we have sailed in. It came very quickly without warning and faded out within a couple of hours. It was a sail we both remember very well. Knowing Jac he probably slept through it!

Monday, 8 July 2013

Solva stage 2

So here is the next stage of the painting of Solva. The sky has been put in and the headland in the distance. The nearer sides of the inlet have been put in with more colour and greater tonal value.
I will do some final touches to this in the final stage adding the highlights. The highlights incidentally will not be white they will be tinged with the colour of the light, in this painting a trace of indian yellow mixed with titanium white.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Solva moorings

The above drawing is one I used for a painting of Solva in Pembrokeshire. Solva is a lovely little Haven in St Bride's Bay. We have sailed there and anchored on several occasions.

On the first occasion we sailed there was in our 26 ft Golden Hind. This was a lovely looking boat very traditional with a lot of wood. It sailed like a bit of a pig to be honest as the rig was not properly balanced. She could have done with a short bowsprit as she had a tendency to broach (this effectively means with the wind behind or near she could without warning turn at right angles never a good idea!) . She was also very awkward to steer going particularly going astern (in reverse).

Now Solva is pretty crowded with moorings and when we first went in there we had no real idea what to expect. There was a strong tidal stream and we had to weave through several boats with hearts in our mouths. Alex was at the helm and it was my job to pickup the two moorings one fore one aft joined by a pick up rope.. Surprisingly all went well and I got them with a boat hook. But then decided it would be better if we were facing the other direction. I threw the mooring buoys back in and asked Alex to take us around again. I had a somewhat animated response accompanied by verbal abuse but nevertheless she did a good job weaving in and out of the boats and not hitting anything. When we got to the moorings again however I missed the pick up and we went over them. The rope got wrapped around the propeller. The propeller freed us as it cut the mooring rope in half.  I managed to get hold of one of the buoys and tied us up.

When the tide was out I made the best repair I could and then went to apologise very red faced to the harbourmaster for shredding his mooring ropes.

Yesterday we watched the British and Irish Lions and went to a barbecue so pretty successful all around.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Boat House Laugharne

Yesterday I had a nice chat with a lovely couple from Laugharne. The council had apparently sent plenty of workmen over to clean up and trim everything in sight as well as plant flowers for a Royal Visit.

We were wondering if the Royal family thought everything always smelt of new paint and had great rafts of flowering plants everywhere they went.
I suppose it is natural for things to be spruced up a bit when you have visitors and to my mind Prince Charles does a great deal to promote Wales and Organic Produce as well as many having many other charitable interests. Anyway it is always nice to meet new people particularly when they are good company. I have always had a soft spot for Laugharne. Shown above is a view of the Boat House from the water.

Friday, 5 July 2013

A View of Brecon

The painting above is a view of Brecon from the far side of the Usk Valley. Christ College is in the foreground with Castle behind and the Cathedral overlooking them all. I wanted a composition with all the features of the town in it. I painted this a few years ago and it sold straight away. Most paintings go within 18 months.

Brecon is a lovely market town and a great place to live. We were every happy there. We used to trek up the Beacons and I remember one day Alex and I having scrambled to the top of Corn Ddu came face to face with a unit of squaddies peeing in the wind. Fortunately it wasn't blowing in our direction. The squaddies were quick to apologise and Alex was gracious enough to pretend she hadn't noticed. When I was in Brecon I used to train with the Mountain Rescue as I was the Police Liaison Officer. This meant going out on the mountains and also training with the RAF ( a course down at Brawdy).

Anyway today I was in the gallery so no painting got done.

Thursday, 4 July 2013


I am not a particularly religious person but I do like to visit churches and cathedrals. When this country was being populated and villages/ towns were being created the first stone structures were  the castles and churches. The history of a place is most often contained within either or both. 
I enjoy looking around churches and getting the feel of the place its people and history. 

There is also generally a feeling of serenity which can be a break from the frenetic world outside. I have painted and sold countless pictures of churches so I guess I am not alone in my feelings. It's a pity that many of them are going into disrepair and even being sold off or abandoned. 

The painting above is of the interior of Brecon Cathedral which is interesting for many reasons not the least being the connection to the South Wales Borderers who fought at Rorkes Drift.

I was pleased to be the first artist to be invited to exhibit in the Cathedral itself and have done so on several occasions. Today I finished a painting and went to the dentist!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Shooting Times

As Jac and I walked down the lane this morning a pheasant flew out of the hedge and startled us both. We hear them in the wood but don't often see them. I used to go rough shooting with my father and occasionally shot a rabbit or pigeon. To be truthful I didn't really enjoy shooting them (more often than not I missed anyway) but it was good to go for a walk with my father and the old dog. When the children could walk I got rid of all my guns and haven't had one since.

I do still recall pigeon sandwiches that my mother used to make, very tasty too.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Black Lab

Here is a quick sketch of our lodger dog who has been with us nearly a couple of weeks. It is an unusual pose as he is normally flat out. He is a black Labrador but not 100% pedigree I guess. He has a large wide head and is also rather rotund. Age hasn't been that kind to him either.

He is however very cute. When I take him out it is more like trying to drive cattle. He is happy to go but would rather stand and sniff for 10 minutes than actually walk. A normal 5 minute lap of the reservoir is a full 15 minutes. Consequently I have to take both dogs out then return our lodger to take Jac for a proper walk.

Monday, 1 July 2013

"Jenny Wren"

Early morning I was stood with Jac at my viewing point overlooking the valley. The sun was up and mist was lifting off Merlin's Hill. A cloud of midges were drifting over the gorse. I was listening to the thrush on the electric wire when I spied "Jenny Wren" in the hedge in front of us. She was flitting around in the hedge and was soon joined by her mate.

I medieval times personal names were given to birds and this is when Jenny was given her name.
There  are more still in use if you think about it eg.
Anyway I started a new painting today and have a fair bit to get through this week.