Saturday, 31 May 2014

Nunney Castle 5029 in Carmarthen

Today Nunney Castle a GWR Locomotive visited Carmarthen and I thought I would wander down to see it. The Loco was built at the Swindon Works in 1934. I would normally just paint the engine in a scene but today I thought I would try to capture the crowds and excitement of the arrival of this beautiful living breathing machine.

So there we have it Nunney Castle Number 5029 in the guise of Southern Irishman visiting Carmarthen on 31st May 2014.

Friday, 30 May 2014

A few days off

We recently had a few days at Centre Parcs with all the family. I am not sure how many of us there were. I lose count over 20. Anyway we had a really good time. I surprised myself by joining in some of the activities. Alex and I hired bicycles although I don't think I quite had the fashion sense for it. Everyone else was in lycra shorts, T shirts and trainers whilst I was in wellies, waxed jacket, old trousers and flat cap. I went swimming and talked myself in to going down the waterchutes which was good fun.

It made me recall of being blagged into going up the waterslide in Oakwood Amusement Park. Our son was about 10 at the time and he wanted me to go with him. I unhappily agreed. The slide is about 80 metres high and has two chutes side by side. You climb the steps, sit on a plastic sled which goes down the water slide and skims across a pool at the bottom stopping on the other side. A large crowd stands around cheering on their kids.

I got to the top with my son I sat on my sled he went to get on his then disappeared. I was pushed off and I flew down the slide, and hit the water at the bottom. The sled shot from underneath me and continued across the water leaving me immersed in the pool. My son had meanwhile climbed back down the tower and was joining in the merriment with the crowd as I struggled across the water like a drowned rat.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Tenby Museum and Gallery

When we went to Tenby 2 weeks ago for a couple of nights we found a good pub that sold real ale. It was a backstreet pub with tile floor and dart board as a pub should be.

I got chatting to one of the locals and told him we had been to the museum. He obviously had differing views to me as he was quite rude about Gwen and Augustus John who are featured in the gallery at the museum. At that point I changed the subject as I didn't feel like arguing. I appreciate technically gifted artists. He held a more contemporary view. I was happy to leave him with it and we discussed rugby which was not contentious and went down well with my pint. Each to their own. (Anyway the museum is worth a visit in my opinion if you happen to be in Tenby).

 The watercolour above  shows Tenby from South Beach

Tuesday, 27 May 2014


The other day I mentioned we went to Cardiff and as always we took the opportunity to go to the National Gallery. One of the Impressionist Galleries was closed but there was still a huge amount to feast upon.
I can't say which is my favourite painting there but I really like the painting by John Brett, Forest Cove, Cardigan Bay. Those that know me will be aware that one of my major  influences is the work of the Pre-Raphaelites so liking John Brett will be no surprise.
Cardiff is a really good place to visit and we always enjoy.(painting above City Hall cardiff)

Monday, 26 May 2014


The sketch above shows Angle Life Boat Station. We used to have a mooring bouy just inside the bay from here where we kept our yacht. I recall one dark wet windy night when we were in our bunks on our boat at anchor when our old dog decided he needed to go ashore. I got up and put on oilskins pulled the tender alongside and got in with the dog. It was quite a lumpy sea which was going up and down and the rain was nearly horizontal. It wasn't really ideal conditions to row ashore. Anyway I had no choice and we set off with a strong outgoing tide. The tide was dragging large islands of seaweed with it. All of a sudden the dog leapt out of the dinghy onto a patch of seaweed and disappeared beneath it in the water. It was a worrying minute or so but although it was pretty dark I did manage to get hold of him and grab him back into the boat. He had probably mistaken the seaweed for land in his need to get ashore.

I suppose it shows that things are not always what they seem to be. This applies in respect of the art business as well I guess. You can only go on your own experience not impressions.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Thinking in the gym

I have mentioned before that I enjoy going to the gym regularly. Well actually I don't enjoy it I find it excruciatingly boring but I go anyway. To pass the time I do have an old ipod which helps for a little while. Then I tend to think of my paintings or events in my life ..etc

Today for some reason I was remembering the Prague Spring. For those that don't know it was when the Czechoslovakian Government tried to free itself from the Communist Bloc and the Soviet Union sent in the tanks to crush the burgeoning democracy. This was in 1968. I wasn't there but I did go to London to join the protest outside the Soviet Embassy. Not sure why it came to mind perhaps events in Ukraine? Or was it just the Rolling Stones on the ipod?

Anyway quite busy one way and another had to turn down a commission this week although I didn't like having to do it but we are too busy.

Link: well here is Stones Jumping Jack Flash by Anandar Shankar from 1970  I love this and it takes me back.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Validation of a painting

I have to admit that for the most part I don't really mind what people think or say about anything unless they are a friend or family member.

I don't feel a need for critics or anyone else to like my work. When I did my degree my tutors and I agreed  to differ and it never changed what I did. (I still liked them. I just wasn't going to change how I painted). So when it comes to my work I am quite happy if only Alex gives it the thumbs up, but to be honest it is still nice to receive plaudits and in particular it is always nice that the recipient of a painting is moved by the work.

Fortunately this happens quite often. Today I received an email regarding the above painting of Mwnt.

"Your painting of Mwnt was presented to a delighted couple last night. It brought tears to their eyes" 

Alright, hopefully of Joy!

Friday, 23 May 2014


The watercolour above shows boats dried out at Porthmadog. We normally spend a couple of weeks in the begining of the year in North Wales to get some material and have a change of scene. For a number of reasons we haven't managed it this year and we also cancelled a trip to the West Country.

 Still as they say "Onward and Upward". (Where did that come from?) Apparently from the Latin, "Excelsior". ( It seems a Conservative candidate once used the slogan "Up and up and up and on and on and on" in his election bumph. Sounds like a politician, anyway you won't be surprised to know he wasn't elected).

Anyway Alex is up to her armpits making cards at the moment we seem to have had a run on everything of late. We are looking forward to David Cowdry's next exhibition in Newton House, Dinefwr pictures look spectacular. Shouldn't be long now.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Horse and rider Llansteffan Beach

Here is the painting from yesterday, as yet I haven't added or changed anything. I will probably touch up the sides where the canvas is held in the pochade box and is unpainted. Other than that I will probably leave it as it is.

There wasn't a horse and rider on the beach yesterday but I thought it added to the painting so I included it.

It is one of my favourite places and out of interest I made a count to see how many paintings I had catalogued of Llansteffan in the last 8 years. How many I have painted I can't actually say because I only catalogue those that we decide to frame and offer for sale. Out of 950 paintings catalogued as framed 37 were of Llansteffan 2 of those are in my studio one in in a gallery and the rest are sold. (To be honest I thought it was slightly more than that, but as I say I am forever doing watercolours, sketches etc which are never catalogued).

Link  I did think about the Osmonds "Crazy Horses" but decided on something from my younger days!

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Painting at the beach

Alex and I made a bottle of balsamic glaze this morning so the smell reminded me of school days.
My school was next to the HP sauce factory and Ansells Brewery. Hops and vinegar! Anyway great result as we love it on pasta dishes.

I then went to the gym, then dropped Alex in town to go shopping,!!* Jac and I decided to make the most of the opportunity and go to Llansteffan. He ran around introducing himself to other dogs and I had a happy time painting. A couple of dinghies (Wayfarers) were out on the water gently criss-crossing the river mouth, I felt quite jealous for a while. We had a few people come and chat, all very pleasant. Anyway I finished the painting and then we went home to do the garden. One of those nice days.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Burry Port Lighthouse and the Gower

I managed to finish the painting of Burry Port Lighthouse and the Gower today. I was quite pleased because Alex and I also managed to decorate my mother in law's dining room and lounge as well as picking up grandchildren from school! I admit it was an early start. Anyway a good days work done.

Alex and I were talking about airports the other day and we remembered the first time we flew into Naples. The Airport was literally an old WW11 aircraft hanger. Its probably a bit more modern now.

The funniest one though was in Greece. It was a flight to a military base which had one civilian flight a week. The arrivals hall was hilarious. It was an old nissen hut. We all had to cram in and wait for our baggage. There were no toilets, refreshments or anything not even a customs. After a while I noticed a hole cut in the wall at the end of the hut and then suddenly without ceremony a bag came flying through it. This was followed by others and you had to grab your bag in the scrum and avoid being hit by the next flying object. Why we couldn't just go outside and pick up our bags I don't know but it was quite surreal and pretty funny if you had no breakables packed.

Link Jefferson Airplane my favourite guitar instrumental

Monday, 19 May 2014

Burry Port Lighthouse and the Gower - stage one

Back to it today. I have started a painting of Burry Port Lighthouse and the Gower. First off I used a ground of Burnt Sienna all over with turps. On this occasion I have wiped it with a rag for a more consistent value across the canvas. I have then started blocking in without any preliminary drawing. You need to be confident to do this but trust me unless you have a lot of detail or a complicated composition this is a good way to go. Keep the vision in your head even if the canvas looks a bit scary.

Here I am now putting in the darkest values and introducing the sky. It's all going to be fine.

We 've got a busy week this week I have a lot on including decorating for my mother in law 
( ironically Alex won't let me decorate in our house as she says I am too messy. This is true I get bored after a while and it gets a bit sloppy then). Anyway I am hoping to get at least two paintings finished this week.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Simply Italian - Simply Brilliant

When I came out of hospital last year having caught pneumonia on a cruise I took things easy for a while. I started to watch "Made in Italy Top Ten Classic Dishes" on Channel 4. This was a program featuring Michela Chiappa and her family's wonderful Italian recipes. Michela and her two sisters Romina and Emanuela were born in Wales coming from an Italian family. They now present their food by way of TV, YouTube, public demonstrations and with their Book Simply Italian.

Anyway  I was inspired to give Italian Cooking a go having never cooked more than toast before. Now I do pretty much all the cooking and the majority is based on recipes from The Chiappa Sisters.

So yesterday was a real treat Alex and I went to Cardiff for a masterclass in pasta making and an intimate meal with the Sisters and their family. So a lovely family and a brilliant night. I am pictured above with Emi, Michela, Romina and Mamma Chiappa.  The book is as I said, " Simply Italian" and available through Amazon, and Waterstones...

Alex and I making spinach and ricotta tortelli

                                                 Pictures from the evening


Link  The Chiappas


Saturday, 17 May 2014

School days

Yesterday Alex and I went off with my sister to visit one of our grandson's schools. It is a Private School and it was grandparents open day!

I had a good scrub down put on my old panama hat and changed my name to Rupert. Alex became Charlotte and the Vauxhall pretended it was a Mercedes!

To be fair the school has excellent facilities that you can only marvel at. Personally I didn't like school and was happy to leave at 16. Anyway we had a good time we were shown around by our grandson who is 5. We had tea and cakes on the lawn etc. We later joined our daughter, son in law and granddaughter who took an instant liking to my hat which is now even more battered that it was before.(see sketch above).

Our grandson was recently been invited to a party. It was held in a "large" house and had bouncy castles on the lawn a demonstration involving a real fire engine.. You get the picture. After the games all forty children were seated in the games room for special tea with parents sat around the outside.
Each child had been given a specially packaged hamper. Our grandson opened his and to the horror of his mother stood up and shouted,
 "Oh no mommy I can't eat this. Its "White" bread, and there's crisps in here!"
Apparently our embarrassed daughter looked around with the other parents trying to identify the culprits mother.

Link Floyd

Friday, 16 May 2014

Well I ask you

Well I ask you. Have you ever had one of those days. If at first you don't succeed give up! Yes it was one of those days for me yesterday. Was it Friday 13th ?
I went to piano lesson first thing and it was a disaster. What was this in front of me, a piano?
I couldn't play it at all. It was like I had never seen one before. I'd had a complete memory wipe.
I thought maybe I would go to the gym then and get it out of my system well that worked fine (I thought).
Then in the afternoon I did a cartoon for a painting. (A cartoon being a detailed drawing to transfer onto the board). I then spent an age going over it. It was a complete mess, the second disaster of the day!
Now that is the point to call it a day. If you are in a hole stop digging. Pick up a book feet up and forget about it all. I rarely have days like that so I should be grateful. The painting will be fine I know, but as for the piano.
Actually today I sat down at the piano and it recognised me and we got on fine, although I notice a lot of for sale signs going up in the neighbourhood!

Link Eden Kane 

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Exhibition of Embroidery - and The Yellow Rose of Texas

Alex and I called into an Exhibition of embroiderers  in Carmarthen Library yesterday. It was a lovely display of very varied and imaginative work. The exhibitino is on until 22nd May.

My mother in law is a very acomplished embroiderer and won a prize for her work. 

Speaking of Norma, she has been trying out new ringtones on her mobile to find the one with the loudest ring so she can hear it. So the other day when she was in town she was very pleased to hear her mobile going but a little frustrated at the timing. She had armfulls of shopping and the phone was at the bottom of her bag. She stopped put everything down and got her mobile out to only to realise at that point it was the sound of the church clock striking. (I know, it runs in the family). 

This also reminds me of my old chief inspector, a lovely gent who fought in the 8th Army with Montgomery. He was attached to the Artillery and this had a significant impact on his hearing.
In the early 1970's he was the proud owner of one of the first LED digital watches. It also had a musical alarm function. All well and good. The problem was somehow he had set the alarm function to go off hourly. He would be in the middle of giving a briefing and all of a sudden "The yellow rose of Texas" would start to accompany his words. Whilst it was plain to everyone else, he couldn't hear it. It was a nightmare to keep a straight face. This went on for a couple of days with an hourly rendition of this song until someone had to tell him. 

Link has to be the confederate cavalry song

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

A day at the printers

The above painting is one of three that went last week. Yesterday was spent arranging more prints.
We went off to see Sian at the DOT Foundry with new work to be photographed and colour matched. 

While we waited Alex and I spent a nervous time at Mac Arthur Glen retail outlet. More correctly it was I that was nervous. We did in the event have a very successful three hours. Apart from buying a pair of trousers for one of the grandchildren we came away with nothing, a major result in my opinion. 

Back at the DOT Foundry Sian had done a wonderful job and we came away with the first batch of prints.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Alex in the gallery

I said that yesterday Alex and I were in the Gallery in Llandielo. In the morning I took my pochade box outside up to Parc Penlan.

In the afternoon it was spitting so I thought I would take advantage of the fact that Alex was motionless and paint her. It was quiet and it was a good way to pass the time. I am a clean painter so wasn't too bothered about getting anything on the carpet. I got a mental picture of how I wanted the finished work and set about blocking in with some Burnt Umber and French Ultramarine mixed with genuine turps. It took about 50 minutes so I suppose you can forgive Alex falling asleep, even then she managed to move but by then I had everything in position. Of course with this method of painting you can go on seamlessly refining and defining as much as you want. I was more or less happy with calling it a day at that point. I could I suppose have lessened the borders between subject and background particularly by darkening the left of the sitter. I may potch with the painting again who knows? They say a painting is never finished just abandoned.

I don't mind painting in a gallery I used to be artist in residence in a gallery and you would get people coming to chat all the time. There is no pressure painting like that, the same as painting outside.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Parc Penlan Llandeilo

Today Alex and I were stewarding in a gallery in Llandeilo. I took Bertie my pochade box just in case it was quiet and didn't rain. My luck was in.

In the morning I wandered up to Parc Penlan and found a suitable spot under a tree (just in case it started to rain). There was a good shadow a couple of sheep and it stayed dry.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

One in a million

People and animals are generally incidental in my paintings not specifically the subject although some may be aware that for a time I was solely interested in doing portraits.

The painting above is one of my favourites and is in my own collection. It is a scene of St. Phillips Cathedral in Birmingham City Centre. The Cathedral has four beautiful stained glass windows by Edward Burne-Jones a member or more correctly an associate of the Pre-Raphaelites.
I spent some time in this area as it was part of my beat when I worked as a policeman in the City Centre. Anyway none of this is why it is one of my favourite paintings. The painting is actually a history painting which tells a story. The particular details of the story it portays are really only well known to Alex and I.

 I first met Alex at Edgbaston County Cricket Ground. I asked her out but nothing came of it. The following day we met accidentally while I was on duty by the Cathedral. That is her in her long black coat and platform boots. Now I don't really believe in coincedence not with odds of a few million to one. So either there is some greater being, fate, or whatever you want to call it and this is maybe the more probable answer Alex was stalking me!
Anyway the rest is history just like the painting. Kind of a nice romantic story one I have told before but is worth retelling.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Walking hand in hand

I had a full morning, trip to the gym a couple of good walks and then this afternoon I did the little painting above. It's not a great image of it but I couldn't be bothered to retake it. I 'm not very much into photography. The reason we get our prints done professionally is they have the set up to capture the image accurately with good colour matching facilities.
Anyway its a nice scene of a couple walking on South BeachTenby or any beach you like for that matter.

Friday, 9 May 2014

A couple of days in Tenby

On Thursday Alex and I decided on a last minute break with a couple of days in Tenby. We booked a nice room overlooking Caldey. Alex then went about planning, choosing and packing clothes.  Which trousers and which shirts did I want to take...etc?
Anyway all went well we found the hotel beautiful room with great views. So Alex unpacked and we went out for lunch. I sat down to take a sip of beer and then:

Alex said,"Now I suppose is the best time to tell you."
"I didn't pack everything."
"Okay what didn't you pack?"
"I forgot to pack your trousers."
"Did you forget any of your things?"
"No. I'm fine."
After lunch we went into Peacocks.
I asked "Why do we want to go in here?"
Alex,"I forgot your socks as well!"

Of course there is  more to this story, a bit of history actually.  Our son got married in Tenby. Now Alex like all mothers spent hours, no days choosing her "Outfit" and accessories for the big day. Everything else paled into insignificance. On the day we jumped into the car in casual clothes intending to book into the hotel and change there. Alex had put the suitcases and all accessories etc by the front door and I had loaded them into the car.

We booked into our room and I got changed in the merest "jiffy". Alex took her time (I should say unusually but I won't).
After a while she said,"Where are my new shoes?"
"I don't know where did you put them?"
Alex replied," I put them by the front door for you to pack!" No pressure there then.
"Oh. I will go and check the car." I said feeling a wee bit intimidated.

No of course they weren't in the car and although Alex looked a picture in her dress and hat the trainers did nothing for the overall affect!

 I didn't dare laugh. It was serious and I was unfortunately getting the full treatment. Eventually she borrowed a pair of shoes that weren't exactly awful. I thought they were fine but I admit they were too big. In the end she packed them with cardboard and shuffled around like a Geisha girl. I think she spoke to me again that day but it was probably only under sufferance. It was a lovely day in the end and everyone enjoyed.

When we got home of course the new shoes were... in their original box in the wardrobe!

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Stormy Weather

I was tied up with grandchildren and other duties yesterday, so no painting. Here is an old painting I did of a tall ship under bare poles (no sails due to the weather conditions). I have been caught in difficult conditions but fortunately nothing like this. Apparently they used to rig a canvas screen behind the helmsman sometimes. Not to give him protection but to stop him seeing the huge waves coming up behind which might cause him to lose his nerve. Anyway this painting was sold some years ago.

Following the blog about the kitchen units the other day Alex reminded me of our first fitted kitchen. That may be a slight exaggeration however. After we had been married a while we invested in a wait for it "wall cupboard for the kitchen". We still had no fridge, washing machine, dryer, etc. but we did buy a second hand wall cupboard in the local auction. I had responsibility for fitting it. I didn't have an electric drill but used the "old rawl plug tool" that you hit with a hammer and turned to drill a hole in the wall.

 I finally got it up on the wall and proudly showed Alex. She examined it and pointed out a half inch gap between the back of the cupboard and the wall. Always the perfectionist.

I told her it was absolutely fine and I could hang off it if necessary (a rash boast in the circumstances). I promptly grabbed hold of the cupboard and lifted my legs off the floor. The unit came crashing to the ground and broke into pieces. Alex just gave me that,"stupid boy look" and walked out of the kitchen.

We never did get a wall cupboard in that kitchen.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014


We had a lovely walk through the woods today, birds calling and sun shining through the trees.

The above watercolour and ink is simple but (hopefully) effective, using strong contrasts, catching the light playing throught the trees. You may have noticed I rarely use black but restrict my darkest values to blue, purple, browns. I do use black to make a green (with yellow ochre) and also for local colour (If an object is black and needs to be shown to be black).

Monday, 5 May 2014

Old Oak Carmarthen

I was commissioned to do this paiting some time ago. It shows the Old Oak as it would have been at the begining of the last century. I actually never had a picture to go from for this so made do with how it is now and a postcard from the other direction.

Today I finished my last big painting for the next exhibition. We have had visitors over the weekend and Alex has been in cleaning mode. Sometimes she may take things too far. I remember when I put in a new kitchen a few years back. I took out the old kitchen units and before I could take them up the tip Alex made me wait while she cleaned them!? *

Link Cleaning Mode

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Carmarthen and the River Towy

The above painting of Carmarthen and the River Towy sold last week (note: The blue is a little saturated on my monitor compared to the original). I like this view of Carmarthen. It incorporates all the history of the Town from the days of the Romans when it was a main sea port to include the slips where shipbuilding took place and the backdrop of the Old Castle which became the Town Gaol and is now the County Hall.

Alex was very skeptical about yesterday's blog. Strange it is me who is the real skeptic. I generally need to see evidential proof of any hypothesis. I guess my years as a police officer have ensured I really take little at face value. I do have a questioning nature.

Anyway hopefully we will finish the garden today and I will start on a new painting.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Surreal moment

There are times in your life when you suddenly have a genuine surreal moment. This morning at 6.45am Jac and I were one and a half miles into our morning walk in the forestry at Pembrey. Jac was happily sniffing the grass and I was mentally playing a tune on the piano ( I was playing it a darn sight better than I play it in reality too) when all of a sudden I heard a shout. I looked up and coming at us was, first impression,"Santa on his sleigh with Elf".

I pinched myself grabbed Jac and jumped out of the way as a bespectacled man with a long beard swept by on a sled pulled by a team of huskies.

Not an every day occurrence in my life.

Link Here's a clip from one of my favourite films

Thursday, 1 May 2014


The above painting of Llansteffan by moonlight is one of the paintings that sold this week. I enjoy doing the occasional nocturnal scene for a change. It's a totally different technique.

I had a quite day in the gallery yesterday but met a few nice people. Having a chat breaks the day up otherwise its head in a book time.

Oh Happy Birthday Jen  hope you have a great day. (This is the lady that kept me sane while going doing my Fine Art Degree).

Link  Off to torture my piano teacher now.     PS what 's a metronome ?