Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Gene Genie

The other night Alex and I watched "Vera" a TV program about a female Detective Inspector. It was well done and entertaining. Anyway it reminded me of the time I was first attached to CID. This would be about 40 years ago in Birmingham. Things were very different then. Not too different from the portrayal in  "Life on Mars".

An attachment to CID sounds exciting and glamorous but the most exciting thing I was allowed to do was walk up the road to post a letter. No-one spoke to you and you were obviously just a nuisance. You may have gathered there was some antipathy between CID and uniform officers. Now I don't have an axe to grind I spent a long time in CID myself and was a Detective Inspector for some time. I digress, going back to my CID attachment. Discipline was quite rigid in the police at that. You stood to attention when you paraded for the start of a shift, stood up if a senior officer came in the room, reported to the Station Sergeant when entering the police station saying,"All correct Sergeant" as a mark of respect, you saluted senior officers outside, and you called senior officers,"Sir".

Now in the CID at that time was a rarity, a Female Detective Inspector. So when I first met her I was flummoxed. What did I call her.

I started with, "Good morning Sir." Realised that was wrong and changed it to,"Err Madam" Thought that could be taken badly and added,"Maam."

She laughed and I still recall her words after 40 years," You can call me what you like. You can call me Mom if you want but don't expect me to do your dirty washing."

Those were the only friendly words I ever experienced in that particular CID office. I never had that problem in Wales.

Link Gene Genie

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Llansteffan Summer

I have now finished the painting, having added another layer to the beach and worked on the grass and trees on the right. I did consider putting more figures but in the end decided to go with my first instinct.

I also touched up a painting that had been damaged during the recent work on my studio. I had piled up a number of paintings and it was on the bottom of the pile. To be honest it is probably better than before now. Anyway grandchildren to collect from school now.

Link well I saw this group a long long time ago but the song reminds me of long hot summers

Incidentally why does my computer always play up when my antivirus software is coming up for renewal? A gentle reminder?

Monday, 28 April 2014

The story so far

The story so far, 80% done a bit to go yet. More work on the beach and figures as well as the grass and cottages. We have the grandchildren tomorrow so who knows if I will manage to get a bit done. I was in the gallery this morning. Saw a couple of people we know good to see you Geraint.
Two commissions now finished and one to be framed.

Off to pick up Alex now.

Link No real link but I like it

Sunday, 27 April 2014

A New painting of Llansteffan

I have started a new painting of Llansteffan. I intend having a few more people in this scene and to include some of Llansteffan Green. I thought about having a centre band of ochre ground but opted for a white start in the end.

Above you can see I have blocked in the main subjects quickly in (genuine) turps (not spirits) with burnt umber and also ultramarine. The brush I used is mishapen and missing two thirds of the bristles this stops me getting too picky at this stage.

Here I have done the sky including a jet's trail or two. I have also started to add the second layer for the trees castle etc. Should finish it in a couple of days now.

Last night Alex and watched the Disney Film "Lone Ranger", totally different to the original series, but I thought it was brilliant. Don't take that as a recommendation my sense of humour is very dry, but yes I thoroughly enjoyed it and Johnny Depp as Tonto was outstanding. 

Link Got to be Quantum Jump

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Rain and rebuke

I went shopping with Alex yesterday afternoon. She had been working in the garden and done a terrific job but needed more compost and grow bags. As we left the house it started to rain cats and dogs. We got to the garden centre and she chose 3 grow bags and 3 large compost bags which I duly loaded on to the trolley. She then changed her mind and I had to unload the compost bags and put 3 different ones on. This was all outside and of course the bags were a. heavy and b. wet. By the time I finished and manoeuvred the trolley inside the front of my trousers were soaking. It looked like I had had an age related accident.

We then went into town and parked. We went to the post office to get my bus pass done. We had the form, photographs, passport but no we needed a utility bill! We did get a couple of nice pans to replace some rather dodgy ones at home. I then left Alex to go to the butchers for a steak (nice treat) and next door The Waverley Stores to pick up her organic veg box. I said I would walk back and get the car to pick her up to save her getting very wet. Having walked back to pick up the car then driven through town to park she was nowhere in sight. I went in the Waverley I made some innocent comment about her talking and not being ready. This earned the response:

"You know sometimes Mark you are a pleasure to go shopping with."

Actually I am not sure about the "sometimes" bit and I have the sneaking suspicion she may have been a bit sarcastic.
(To be honest I admit I am not kean on shopping).

 Anyway Alex made a lovely steak dinner and it was washed down with a ten year old red wine.

The rain was like stair rods and it reminded me of a painting I had done of the Sarah Siddons Pub in Brecon 25- 30years ago. It was in the rain with light shining out onto the pavement and onto people passing. I don't have the painting now or an image of it so I used the one I did of "A Number 56 bus in Union Street, Birmingham in the 1960's" which is kind of similar. (This painting is in my own collection which is not for sale).

I am stewarding in Origin this morning.

Link something from the 1960's

Friday, 25 April 2014

Those were the days of our lives

I was going through an old photograph album the other day and came across a photo of our old canal boat. My father was a clever and resourceful man. When I was young he bought an old wooden ships lifeboat and converted an Austin 7 engine for propulsion. He added the cabin, topping it in canvas and tar.

We spent many happy years touring the canals. This was in the days before they became a popular leisure facility. We explored abandoned WW11 aerodromes. Found plentiful supplies of fruit in empty lock keepers cottages, plums apples, pears, blackberries. We picked nettles for nettle tea, and as a green. During the winter we kept the boat at Gas Street Basin which was then just a graveyard of hulks, wooden barges rotting in the mucky water. There were still horse drawn garbage barges working at that time.

We met up with a couple living on a barge and they became good friends of my parents. He was an artist called Bowler although for the life of me I can't recall his first name. I always thought of him as Tom for obvious reasons.

He had a little studio on his barge and I would often watch him work. As age caught up with them the barge became impractical and they moved to Ireland and we lost touch. He must have passed on many years ago but I still remember watching him work in his little studio. I think he would have been pleased to think he was one of a number of influences on me.

The painting above was one I did on the Brecon canal.

Link Queen

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Carmarthen Church

I donated the above watercolour painting of Carmarthen Church to a local charity to auction.
We support a couple of local charities and have donated paintings to others on an adhoc basis.There is obviously a limit to what you can donate and we set a limit each year albeit we have gone over that limit at times. I have not really considered why we do it. It is not for any religious reasons although it may be based on humanity. We don't claim any tax benefit. Maybe it just makes us feel good or assuages a guilty conscience? I know a number of artists who donate work regulary to good causes so we are not alone in this.
Of course there is always a risk in donating a painting for auction in that it attracts a derisory amount, which would be a marketting disaster. Fortunately this has never been the case. The above painting sold very well and I am told there was a good fight for it.
That reminds me I have a painting to do for a Cardiff Charity that was requested last year, its not required until Sept but that will fly around! Must find a "post it"!

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Dylan Thomas Boathouse Laugharne finished painting

Well there it is ,"Just like that!" the finished painting. It is was actually commissioned for the New Hospice in Carmarthen.

This morning I listened to an interesting interview with Colin Charvis. It was conducted by Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson. Colin was Captain of Wales. He has cycled across Africa and around Wales twice for charity and done many other significant challenges. I include some of his answers para-phrased below.

Colin was asked what made great rugby players, surprising answer but heartening. "Humility."

He was asked what he took from rugby to business and life after rugby. "Reliability. If I say I will do something I will do it, no excuses."

Greatest moment of his life? "Meeting Nelson Mandela."

I also noted that Colin and Alex had something in common. Jac said it was the hair. I said  he better not let Alex hear that. No both were born in Sutton Coldfield.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Dylan Thomas - Boathouse Laugharne

Well after a false start ( I had to redo a board due to a defect) here is the fisrt stage of my current commission. I layout in free hand with a brush and turps the rough boudaries of my composition. For those familiar with the area you should recognise this is going to be the Boat House Laugharne.
The benefit of using paint and turps are that;
You don't get dirty graphite mixed into your clean oils
The lines are quite clear but can be painted over easily
It is quicker to loosely paint in the composition and you cut it down to the bare essentials
(I do use pencil on odd occasions to layout but horses for courses!)

I could go all the way and lay in all the tonal values with the turps but that is quite sufficient for this painting. I could have laid a ground over the work had I wished to reduce the contrast and have the benefit of harmonizing the colours but I was happy to go ahead with the white primer.

We have some of the grandchildren today. Now who would sit them in front of the television to entertain them, err I confess while Alex is out I have taken advantage of this excellent learning tool. What could be more educational than Scooby Doo?

Monday, 21 April 2014

Southhaven - Skomer Island

With recent posts about Skomer Island it reminded me of the times Alex and I would anchor in Southhaven watching the puffins and seals. I knew I had done a little watercolour from the boat and eventually found an image of it. I can't remember who bought it or when but I know for some reason we framed it and it went. Anyway there it is a view looking out to the entrance of the Haven.

I did some work on my current commission yesterday and hope to finish it today. I was held up a bit as I noticed that the board I had prepared had a slight defect which I hadn't seen until it had received 3 coats of primer with careful sanding in between. There is no point going ahead and hoping the paint will cover it. Start again with a sound surface its the only way.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Boys Shrimping

The above painting of boys shrimping was sold last week. I don't often do paintings of people but now and again I feel like doing something different. It is for me a painting about the innocence of being young and those long lost summers of our youth, but like any painting it is what the viewer makes of it.

Salvador Dali made many interesting quotes one goes something like this, " Just because the painting had no meaning to me when I painted it, that does not mean the painting has no meaning." In other words a painting is there to be interpreted however the viewer wants, but don't put words in his mouth.
For the most part with my work you get what you see.  The painting is my interpretation of a view seen through my eyes. Of course if you want to look deeper into the painting and intellectualise it that is fine too, but who does it say more about the artist or the viewer?

I enjoy reading quotes from Dali here are a few more:

"A true artist is not one who is inspired but one who inspires"

"Drawing is the honesty of the art. There is no possibility of cheating: It is either good or bad."

"At the age of six I wanted to be a cook. At seven I wanted to be Napoleon. And my ambition has been growing steadily ever since."

(As an aside I note with some dismay my old primary school in is one of several schools in the national news for all the wrong reasons). 

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Kidwelly - Cidweli

The above painting of Kidwelly sold this week. It is a very picturesque village with the castle being predominant.

We spent yesterday at Cwmderi Vineyard all very pleasant sampling the wine with a very nice lunch. This was followed by a lazy aftenoon snoozing and reading! Jac tried to catch two rabbits this morning but you know the old saying, "A hunter who chases two rabbits will fail to catch either." I guess its true of dogs too. (To be honest Jac couldn't catch one rabbit but there we are).

Off to watch Carmarthen Quinns play Llandovery now.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Beautiful Day

Another beautiful morning. I was up walking with Jac across the fields with the sun rising in the east and the moon in the west. I have to start another commission today or maybe we will make the most of the weather?

Thursday, 17 April 2014


Painting and Sailing have something in common you (well I do) become completely absorbed in both practices. In sailing (particularly in the Bristol Channel) there is nearly always too much to think about to let your thoughts wander. In painting within seconds of starting to think about the painting I am fairly oblivious to other thoughts or outside influences. We no longer sail having had to sell our yacht for family reasons. 

I do however still have a great respect and attachment to the sea. The painting above is sold but shows a Brixham Trawler entering St Annes Head and is influenced by a painting that has been in the family for several generations. 

It is a chaotic time at the moment but  I have for the most part been in a state of inner peace and concentration with a brush and paint. I have to prepare some more boards today. I also have another piano lesson! 

Three days or so painting is a big commitment so it is essential to get it right from the begining. After working out the composition I then consider the order of painting. Do I do the background first? Do I put an overall ground over the surface ? Do I start at the top and work down?
Am I going to use glazes? There can be good reasons for choosing anyone of the above.
Then I get ready to work. I am by nature a tidy person not obsessed by it but I like a clean organised work space. There is less chance of accidentally spilling paint or damaging your work and it is easier to know where everything is.

Link  Otis

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

The Wall

Okay well it has happened I have hit the wall. This is musically not artistically fortunately.
I have been having piano lessons for 10 weeks despite having no previous experience or ability.
I practice rigorously. Well yesterday it happened. I had a lesson. I was playing most of the right notes in the right order but was told, "It was bland!"

I am glad my teacher sugar coated it for me or I could be offended. To be honest we are very good friends and I was not in the least bothered by the disclosure. I am bothered by my ability but that is another thing. He asked what the time was and counting to the rythm. Counting I have enough trouble reading the music for both hands then playing the notes never mind anything else. I would need another brain to do that. ( I am sure there was a film called the man with two brains).

I can compare it to painting so I do understand the issue. It is the difference between copying something (blandly) or showing the world how you view things through your eyes. However loose brush strokes and fluidity must, (in my view) follow at the least a basic understanding and practice of technique.

Anyway I will persevere. Anyone who knows me will know that not much will stop me trying and very little will put me off unfortunately for the neighbours.

Link  guess

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

St. Teilo's - Llandeilo

Well here it is St. Teilo's Llandeilo 99% done. I have added some warm colours to the church tower and painted the two trees in the middle ground with the strong contrasts. The grave stones and grass are all very loosely done and I am quite happy with the result. A couple of things to do to finish it when it has dried a bit but essentially done. I hope you can see how I progressed with the painting by comparing the last three days posts. Anyway I am thinking about my next painting now.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Llandeilo Church - one days painting

Everything is a bit chaotic at the moment. Even this morning Alex told me at 7am to go and help our daughter who had been on her way to work and had a puncture. I was thinking about saying , "Heh, your the engineer," but common sense prevailed. In any case I wasn't feeling that brave. When I got there our son had arrived and was already removing the wheel so it was all in hand.

Anyway I managed to get some painting done yesterday. I have loosely blocked in some of the painting of Llandeilo Church. I have also started a bit of detail of the church tower. I am more interested in the tonal values (the shades of dark and light) in this painting than the colours although they are both important.

Off to the gym now then some painting and then plant some of the veg patch hopefully.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Mixed bag

Its about ten years or so since I last painted Llandeilo Church and to be honest I wasn't that chuffed with it. In fact it never made it to a frame. Yes we all have failures. The important thing is to recognise it and to learn from it. In this case it was the composition. Anyway a couple of months ago I had a few minutes to spare and wandered around the churchyard until I got an idea in mind for a good composition.
Yesterday I thought I would go for it. There is the start I have done some pruning ie. A tree has been left out and I have yet to decide on a couple of gravestones.
Events saw me curtail my painting and that is as far as I have got.  I am however reasonably confident it is going to be ok.
Yesterday saw the first skylark of the year wonderful song made my day. Good to see a few bumblebees in the garden.  Last night I went to the rugby, bit of a mixed bag Scarlets won but a few players went missing in my opinion.

Link Takes me back a bit

Friday, 11 April 2014

Navigationally Challenged

The above sketch is a medieval fortification on the Rhone that I sketched as we passed it on our recent trip. We met  some really nice people although you always get the odd one who is an embarrassment to the country or hiuman race for that matter.

There was an elderly English couple (Colonel and Mrs Blimp) who I noticed sat having lunch one day when the waiter came along to ask if they needed anything, the woman (I can't say lady)  never muttered a word but pointed at her empty glass and waved her hand at it  presumably dismissing it and the waiter. He picked up the glass and left. I took notice of them and witnessed similar bad manners over the next few days never giving a please thank you or even an acknowledgement that the staff were of the same planet. (Come the revolution they would have been first against the wall, or for the guillotine). Anyway every dog has its day. At the airport they were in the same queue as us to get through the gate to board the aircraft. There was a call for priority passengers and they immediately went out of the queue and marched to the front. They showed their boarding cards to the non plussed French Officials who promptly showed them the back of the queue. Made my day!" "Vive La France!"

On the other hand we sat with a great bunch. One night a couple asked Alex if she would like a trip on on another river cruise. Alex replied she thought she would like to go down the Danube as it looked spectacular and in any case we had never been to Portugal!

Stunned silence.


Link  guess 

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Llansteffan from Ferryside

Here is the completed painting of Llansteffan from Ferryside. It is not the best image of it (as I have a little light bleeding in on the left of it and need to take the photo properly when I have time).

Anyway you get the drift of it. Before I started I "ummed" and "ahhed" a bit about where to locate the castle to get a balanced composition in the end I decided plum in the middle would be fine due to the heavy foreground shadow and the receding image of Ginst Point. I admit I was minutely apprehensive until it was finished but am quite happy with the decision. Phew!

I am stewarding in a gallery today and have a co-operative meeting tonight.

Link  Robbie

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Llansteffan from Ferryside first stage

I started a new painting today of Llansteffan from Ferryside. I began by marking out some boundaries with the brush. I subsequently slightly adjust the position of the left tower of the castle.

I have a clear idea of wher eI am going with this so should be no issues. I want a nice crisp sky with cumulus clouds and a sunny day.

Off to pick up a grandchild from gymanstics now..

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Dawn Chorus

A lovely morning around the reservoir this morning with the dawn chorus and the sun shining through the trees. Spectacular.

I continued with my commission getting on well.

Link: obvious but well small faces

Monday, 7 April 2014

Still life with fruit

Here is another still life I did in the style of the Victorian's. It is appropriate as Alex and I did some work in the garden today sorting out the vegetable plot (well to be honest Alex did most of it and I managed to slink off inside to start on a commission).

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Spring flowers

Well Spring is definitely here, -- its raining again. I am quite taken with the work of Victorian artists in general. They are often ignored or looked down on by current critics. They are hugel underated in my opinioin. They were immersed in their work learning the trade before setting out on their own. The Royal Academy set the standard and even artists who didn't make it there were often apprenticed at an early age, copying works, mixing paints and colouring lesser parts of the "master's" works until trusted to do whole works. They were technically proficient.

Anyway I did the painting above and it is really in the style of many Victorian still life artists such as the Clare Brothers who specialised in these subjects.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Sunset on the move

Just when everything is going swimmingly there was an issue in  my studio and we had the builder in to remove part of the wall. So no painting today but to be fair he has been a true hero and got the work done and I am now back in business so to speak. On the plus side I didn't waste all the day I did a bit of reading and I made a good spinach pie ( including parmesan and home made pesto)  plus an almond cake ! The spinach pie is all gone there is a bit of the cake left!

I caught the little vignette above passing a tributary on the Rhone at sunset.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Towy Valley Dryslwyn Castle from Paxtons Tower.

Finally finished. Here is the painting I started this week of Towy Valley with Dryslwyn Castle from Paxtons Tower. It would have taken quite a while longer if I had drawn it all out before starting the painting but it was fairly straight forward and no real risk. I am quite pleased with it.

I have been touching up a previous painting that has been sat on the easel this morning. It will be framed shortly and then I will have to stop messing with it. As Leonardo da Vinci  said, "paintings are never finished just abandoned."

I have to deliver a couple of paintings now.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

True Grit

The above painting sold this week. It includes a bottle Alex dug out of the garden when we lived in Brecon.

I have been busy painting today and then popped to see my mother this afternoon.

When we were away we made friends with Kas and Gloria a couple from San Fransisco. They were a lovely couple quiet and unassuming, although when pressed they had plenty of interesting things to talk about.

Kaz had been a Navy Flier. He had flown jets off a carrier during the Vietnam War. He told me that the "hairiest" time for him had been during the Cuban Missile Crisis (for those of you old enough to remember it). They were at sea in bad weather with poor visibility going out on patrol, returning to land on the carrier with the deck rising and falling 25 feet. It was he said, " a controlled crash". That for me is True Grit. I have palpitations landing in good weather at Cardiff on a Charter plane.

Link; is by Highs High Open Season

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Towy Valley from Paxton's Tower stage 2

This is the second stage of my painting. You can see I am roughly bocking in the fields and castle.
I suppose I have the advantage of knowing what its going to end up like (hopefully). This is just the first layer but it is taking shape.

I mentioned we were in the South of France last week. Well Alex and I were walking around Arles I was taking in the lovely medieval streets and the spectacular Roman Ampitheatre. It was a sunny day and I restrained myself from asking to do a sketch when Alex popped the question:
"Is there anything interesting to do in Arles?"
What could I say I was stumped.

It reminded me of our youngest daughter. I believe it was one of our first holidays abroad in a hotel (previously we had been camping in France). The hotel in Limassol was a dump with cockroaches in our bedroom and dirty stagnant pools outside our window but I digress.
Our eldest two were allowed to stay by the pool but we took our youngest with us exploring the island and its ancient monuments. We arrived at a spectacular ampitheatre overlooking the sea and our daughter came out with:
"Not another ruin!"
Like mother like daughter?  I wouldn't argue with either of them.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Towy Valley from Paxton's Tower first stage

Having repainted the ceiling in my studio and removed all the stored items I can now start painting again.

I decided to do the view of the Towy valley from Paxton's Tower I have been thinking about it for a while. I am using a 24 ins x 17ins board I have prepared. I have used a brush with turps and burnt umber to draw a rough outline of the parts of the composition. I moved the bridge slightly to the left after initially painting it. Anyway it looks rough and it is but it is going to be fine.

When we go away Alex does the packing. Only she knows which 2 dozen pairs of shoes she is likely to need. Anyway she can be frugal when it comes to me and she put a new blade on my razor, left the spare blades and took a small sample toothpaste. Okay fine but when I came to use the razor on the first morning the blade dropped off down the plug hole! She tried to retrieve it with a pair of tweezers but it just dropped out of sight and I had to disconnect the trap under the sink to get it!
The toothpaste was all air and no paste! We walked into Touscon and found a pharmacie. I didn't know the word for toothpaste but found a tube on display albeit I didn't understand all the words.

"Here we are Alex," I said no problem and started to get out my euros.
Alex looked at me sadly shaking her head and said,"Why are there pet things all around it?"
Err yes she was right. I  had found the dog toothpaste. We then found a tube of sensodyne with the human items!!
A pretty close shave.