Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Llansteffan in Moonlight from the sea

Okay so here is the finished painting of Llansteffan in moonlight from the sea.  The profile of the castle and headland is very different from the seaward side. I have seen it from this position on many occasions but haven't sketched it surprisingly, well I suppose I was sailing at the time.
Anyway I have now done a painting from this viewpoint. Ferryside is in the distance on the right.
To the left of the Castle is Scotts Bay.
Happy New Year to all!

Monday, 30 December 2013

Crossing Carmarthen Bar

I have had an image of a painting in my mind for a long time and I have finally got around to doing it.

I remember crossing the Carmarthen Bar in the darkness coming into Llansteffan many years ago. It was a little bit fraught. There were three of us, Terry who sadly is no longer with us, Tony and myself. We were on a Terry's yacht. Tony and I were helping him bring it back to Llansteffan for craning out over winter. It had been a good days sail but the winter nights were drawing in and the situation wasn't helped because there was live practice firing off the ranges.  Not normally a problem if this is published but we hadn't seen any notification of the event. Possibly no-one expected a yacht to be crossing Carmarthen Bay at this time of night or at this time of year.

Anyway this had caused us to go further out to sea than we had anticipated putting us behind our expected arrival time. We were then informed that we couldn't enter the estuary as live firing was continuing. The law on this is disputable in any case Terry decided we had little choice at this point but to continue and he informed the range authorities by VHF radio accordingly. They didn't dispute our right of passage or the lack of publication. It was however slightly unerving to see tracer and hear gunfire going out to sea although it was probably a good mile off and not going in our direction.
Crossing the Bar itself in darkness is not a great idea, the channel changes frequently and many ships have come to grief on it.

Anyway there was a good moon and this kept popping in and out of clouds giving us a helpoing hand. I was relieved to see the profile of Llansteffan Castle rise before us with Ferryside on the starboard bow in the distance.

Anyway I made a mental note of the scene and that is what I have attempted from memory.

The picture above is the opening stage of the painting, half a dozen lines drawn with a brush.

I then block in the darkest tones of the paitning. Yes, I know it doesn't look much at the moment but trust me it will be fine. I have mentally painted the picture and know what I am doing, touch wood!

Saturday, 28 December 2013


Alex and I were up early this morning as we had to take a relative to the airport. Although the forecast hadn't been too bad the M4 was pretty dire with downpours and plenty of standing water.
Fortunately the temperature was just above freezing. I took it easy a stance that was well justified as we passed several cars that had gone into the armco barriers and also one that had turned over.
(I hope no-one was seriously injured).
Anyway on my return I did the above painting giving an idea of the conditions.
Most of our visitors have gone now and it seems very quiet. We had a good Christmas and now have to start thinking about what to cook and how to lose some of those extra pounds!

Friday, 27 December 2013


The above painting of an Alvis was sold before Christmas. I saw the car at the Pontargothis Vintage Show and was much taken by it. I believe it is an Alvis Speed 20? Anyway a real classic car and I enjoyed painting it.
I suppose you could now say Alvis has left the building! Sorry!
Yesterday I went to the rugby with our son and two granddaughters. A good game in many respects the Scarlets forwards and tackling were positive points but the decision making and tactic of kicking the ball to the Ospreys back three whenever we had the ball left me somewhere between confused and spitting feathers. Oh well another game lost. At least it was four hours that got me away from  eating mince pies!

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Boxing Day

A full Christmas Day yesterday with family and lots of food and festive joy. The scene above is of the Ebeneezer Chapel in Abergwili. We actually did have snow yesterday but it was only a small amount and it didn't stick.

Off to the Rugby today to watch Scarlets and Ospreys.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

A Childs Christmas in Wales

The above painting shows a Black Five (Stannier) locomotive crossing the Bascule Bridge at Carmarthen in winter. I did the painting at the end of last year and for the most part it has hung on my own wall.

I have heard the BBC are doing a full reading of a Childs Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas. To be honest I am hot and cold with Dylan Thomas. Some work I really like. Other  works pass me by. A Childs Christmas in Wales is one of his works that takes me straight in with its nostalgic descriptive prose. It started life as a piece for the radio and he developed it so it has a different origin to many of his works.

Anyway reading it makes me think of my own childhood of the excitement of the first snowfall and dragging our sledge to the big hill with my brother and sister. Invariably we would have to come back almost straight away as my sister got very cold and we would end up pulling the sled home with her on it. Snowball fights, ice slides, and large snowballs set loose down the hill are all distant but real memories. I still remember opening my present on Christmas morning,  a green train made by my father from a piece of telegraph pole, and some of the fence from the back garden. I am not sure how he explained the hole in the fence to the landlord? That train lasted years and my son played with it when he was young.

I guess that is the real appeal of Thomas's Childs Christmas in Wales in that it prompts the readers or listeners own memories.

Anyway have a Happy Christmas.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Enviromentally friendly Santa

This morning I fancied doing something quickly (yes I mean a painting). I had to get the pork pies done for Christmas day and we had to go to Tesco's. I decided to do a portrait of Alex. Due to lack of time I had no time to do any sketches or tonal drawing beforehand so I just went for it with brush and paint. It could put up with refining but it'll do.

Yesterday we went to our son's house for dinner. The food was excellent and the little persons were well behaved and very entertaining. Our daughter in law told me they don't wrap presents now as they have told the children Santa has gone green and doesn't want trees cut down just to wrap presents. Fair comment I suppose but I suspect the real reason lies elsewhere!

Tesco's done and the pork pies.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

As you make your bed so must you lie on it

The weather is a bit hit and miss at the moment and it seems to insist on drenching me every time I step out of the door with Jac. I suppose Zeus (greek god of rain and the sky) is having a bit of a laugh at our expense. The watercolour above is one I did sometime ago and is of Paxton's Tower in the Towy Valley.

My daughter went to Ikea the other day to buy a new bed for their son. This involved a trip up the M5 to Bristol and was a bit of a pain. Now I know probably everyone had been to Ikea but to tell the truth I haven't (and have no wish to) so I have to rely on what I am told. Anyway my daughter negotiated her way around the maze of the shop/warehouse? and eventually found the bed she was looking for. She had two infants with her and was understanderbly under a bit of pressure. She found an assistant told them what she wanted.

She then asked,"Is everything I need for the bed included?"
"Yes" she was reassured.

She took the flat pack item to the cash out and then loaded the car and went home.
When she finally got home she took the packaging apart but couldn't find the slats for the bed. She rang Ikea and was informed that the slats were not part of the bed and she had to purchase them seperately. She was to put it mildly, none too pleased or even a little annoyed. Packing children in the car she ventured up the M5 again. The cost of the slats was minimal but not including them in the bed components had involved extra mileage, and hastle.

Arriving at Ikea she found the items she wanted and went to the cash desk thoroughly annoyed that she hadn't been told the slats weren't included and very agitated. As luck would have it, one of the children was also agitated and decided to projectile vomit all over the tills and chequeout. My daughter thought this was poetic justice and summed up her feelings eloquently. She smartly collected her receipt and left them to it.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Sunrise along the path

It was a glorious sunrise the day before yesterdya and it inspired me to do the above painting today.
Just that time in the morning before the landscape gets its local or natural colours.

I also managed to ice the cake today so not a bad day.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Fred Dibnah and traction engines

I did the above painting of a traction engine today. I painted it on a carmine ground and painted it directly with no underlying drawing or laying out. Sometimes this approach can pay dividends if you are after a painterly finish (see link forexplanation ).

It may be my last painting before Christmas. Alex has started to move crates and other things into the studio in preperation for the invading hordes so I guess thats a hint. (On the other hand I may be able to sneak a bit of painting in if I am subtle).

I like steam engines and as a boy I often went to the Science Museum in Birmingham where they have terrific working steam and beam engines. When I was older I also went around some of the old factories such as Guest Keen and Nettlefold and was shown many of the engineering processes. Even when I was a policeman in Birmingham there were still many small work shops left over from the Victorian era and I was shown the hand presses and tool making that they were involved in. I had many parts made for my old WD Ariel mainly by the apprentices as part of their training. It has all gone now as have many of the skills they had. I knew men who could throw a thread on brass by hand on a lathe using only a hand tool and their eye for measurement. I eventually I taught myself basic engineering skills and made working model steam engines and boilers as well as making parts for our boats. (Although I sold my lathe and tools about a year ago).

I loved watching the Fred Dibnah series on television a real enthusiast who made history come to life.

Thursday, 19 December 2013


I love the busy, noisy little oystercatchers that stalk our shoreline and estuaries. They are cheerful little souls and are a joy to watch flying together.
I finished the above painting today and although it is quite a small painting I think it captures the subjects quite well without getting bogged down in too much detail.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Nott Square Carmarthen

It doesn't look like we are going to have a white Christmas this year but who knows. Anyway here is a seasonal snow scene from the begining of the last century I did a while back.

The setting is Nott Square Carmarthen as it was (or at least my take on it). The imposing figure of Sir William Nott is central to the square. He was in command of a Brigade of troops during the First Afghan War in 1838 ( things have a habit of repeating themselves) and the statue was erected in about 1850.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Reflections of Cefn Sidan

I finished the above painting today. It is a large version of a study I did previously. The framed painting will be approximately 3ft x 2ft. It shows The Gower with Worms Head from Cefn Sidan in Pembrey Country Park. Alex and I often go there as it is always quiet and Jac loves running on the beach and in the dunes.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

The School Nativity Play

Alex and I have been away for a couple of days visiting our eldest daughter and family.
They have two young children and we were treated to a visit to the school nativity play.
Although I got a good education I didn't particularly like school and left at 16. So my views on school are probably a bit biased. Anyway this private school is most definitely posh and has plenty of opportunities for young children including fencing, ballet and every other conceivable pastime. This is just as well as the young lad is pretty well a genius (no I don't know where he gets it from).

Anyway Alex and I turned up in the rain and wandered about trying to find the theatre amongst the various buildings.  I eventually found a teacher who appeared to me to be about 12 and asked him directions. He was somewhat condescending and looked down his nose at me, (okay well actually he had to look up at me), probably because I don't have a plum in my mouth. Well suffice to say that situation didn't last long and he ended up escorting us to the right premises with an apology.

The nativity play was actually great and we had a good time. The one thing that stuck in my mind though was that the school uniform was from another century and possibly a parallel dimension. It was very Tom Browns School Days. Where was Flashman?

The uniform consisted of loud striped jacket and cap with green jumper and enormous grey shorts. To be honest I think that this is cruelty of the highest order and I was tempted to ring childline to report it.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Gosditch Street Cirencester

Here is a sketch of Gosditch Street in Cirencester. I tackled it slightly differently than usual.
Before I went out a laid the pale grey and sienna across the paper. I had no idea what I was going to sketch when I did this. I was later waiting to meet Alex and I thought, this will do fine but have I got enough time? I had 7 minutes and to be honest you don't want to be late meeting her although the reciprical is not a problem apparently.

Anyway I got out a 6b and drew it very quickly and then blocked in the rooves (and yes you can spell it this way. It is I admit an older version). A hurry up and I was outside the church as Alex arrived ( by the look of the bags she was carrying the shops had been emptied by this point!).

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Lakeside Cirencester

I did this sketch form the lakeside in the park in Cirencester. I decided Jac would be okay let off his lead as he wouldn't go far. I did try and keep an eye on him as there were a lot of water birds around.

I did the sketch and looked around for Jac. Yes, he was there alright. He was rolling in a midden for ducks. He was covered in mud and duck muck. Thanks, Jac. He was also wearing a new collar Alex had bought him. He looked distinctly worse for wear but he seemed very pleased with himself, he didn't have to explain to Alex  how it had happened.

Not a bad week so far with a couple of paintings gone and work coming in.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Winters Morning Towy Valley

It was misty this morning as Jac and I went out for our morning constitutional. Jupiter was the only thing visible in the sky a faint blurred but determined image poking throught the mist. On our way back the sun was coming up in the east and the valley skyline was spectacular against the sky with red and orange blending into the cool blues and greys..What a start to the day.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

West Market Place Cirencester

Here is the same street as yesterday drawn form a seat across the road under an old tree. It was pretty cold on this day and to be honest I was severly tempted to cross the road and go into the pub rather than draw it. I weakened at the last and carried on with the sketch. I think Jac would have grassed me out to Alex anyway!

As a composition it works nicely as it has movement and takes the eye into the picture. The previous sketch of the Crown is just an informative picture.

If I had somewhere to sell my work in Cirencester I could turn this into a reasonable painting. I have considered going to the galleries there but to be honest in my experience it could end up being needless hastle trying to control it over that distance. We have and problems dealing with some galleries in the past (not I hasten to add in Cirencester). Selling not being an issue, being informed of the sales and getting paid were the problem.

Monday, 9 December 2013

The Crown Cirencester

Alex and I recently spent a few days in Cirencester. For the most part I walked around the town doing the odd sketch with Jac and Alex enjoyed the hospitality of the shops! It was all very pleasant and relaxing.

The sketch above was done on good cartridge paper using a 6b pencil and an aqua pen dipped in a small watercolour box. This system works well as I can quite comfortably stand and paint/sketch for 20 minutes even with Jac on a lead.  The picture shows Jac and I outside a wonderful premises.
The Crown in Wet Market Place is an excellent hostelry. Friendly with a real fire excellent Bath ale and the best pub food we have had in many years.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Laugharne Castle

This painting of Laugharne Castle went last week. It is a bit too red in the image on my pc.
I was in the gallery today and we had a few people through the door so worth doing. one of the customers recalled Dylan Thomas on the bus to both Llansteffan and Laugharne. He was apparently quite inebriated on most occasions.

I also  had a good discussion with a sculptor today about the merits of basic skills in arts and crafts.
We both agreed that there is more than an element of snobbery with many artists unjustifiably looking down on craftmakers. Quality work is equally valid in both 2D and 3D formats.

I have to pick up Alex now then get on with the dinner!

Friday, 6 December 2013

Black Sheep

I have been watching David Dimbleby sailing around the coast and it has made me feel a bit nostalgic for our sailing days. Pictured above is one of our boats a little yacht called "Black Sheep".
This was a lovely boat with lots of teak and varnish but a bit of a pig to sail. The sail set up was never quite right as it really needed a short bowsprit to balance the sails.

Anyway we had great fun in her and sailed alll around th the coast of South and West Wales in this and other yachts.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

A Perfect Day

I finished the above painting this week. It's a smaller version of a painting I did of Llansteffan with the sunset going down a fortnight ago.

Had a perfect day today sketching and reading. We are not having a Christmas Exhibition this year for the first time in half a dozen years. Alex and I have had a lot on so its had to be put on the back burner.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013


You don't just get seabirds on the beach and the dark colours of crows and rooks make a good contrast to a very light beach particulary if you include a reflection.
The picture is a simple one that will probably never see a frame but satisfying to paint nevertheless.

Link is kind of appropriate

Monday, 2 December 2013

John Brown artist chairmaker

The other day I was contacted by Rosey More the grandaughter of John Brown.
John was a very skilled woodworker and artist. He had a good full life and had worked as a boat builder highly skilled chair maker and also as an artist. I knew John as was saddened by his passing.
He was a font of knowledge and good company.

Anyway I did a post on my blog about John in August 2011. Rosey recently saw the post and got in touch.

It brought back memories of John and prompted me to do a sketch of him working in wood planing at the workbench. As time passes your memory loses detail but it is certainly recognisable as him.
Rosey is doing a course in jewellry and ceramics so obviously creativity runs in the genes.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

I do get

 "Eugene Boudin"( French Impressionist Painter, 1824-1898) I do get. He could paint ships effortlessly. Being the son of a ships carpenter he knew what he was painting and did a damn fine job of it. 

 Boudin did tend to use a lot of black and greys which was unusual for an impressionist. The impressionists were all about light and painting outdoors. Fine unless you live in the UK!

Talking of light Alex, my good lady has gone very "Christmas Lights", Every where you look there seems to be a set of twinkling fairy lights. There are so many it takes five minutes to go around the house turning them off. We haven't yet got to the stage of icicles on the roof and Santa on the chimney or reindeer grazing on the lawn but I do return home wondering what new fairy enhancement is going to greet me.

Talking of Fairies one of my favourite paintings is the "Fairy Fellers Master Stroke" by Richard Dadd.

Dadd was quite mad and ended up in Bedlam having killed his father who he believed was the devil. On the up side he was one hell of a painter, hell being the operative word.