Monday, 30 June 2014

Laugharne - Ferryman Deli

My good friend George and his wife Julia have opened the Ferryman Deli in Laugharne. I wish them every success.  Just what Laugharne needs. We really like Laugharne and have a lot of attachments to it. We have often sailed there. We have dried out on the sands opposite Dylan Thomas Boathouse and left with the outgoing morning tide.Going to Rugby internationals in Cardiff on the Laugharne RFC Coach is an event in itself. Although I did cause a bit of a stir on one occasion as I had a bit of a turn with my heart and had to be taken to the Heath Hospital in Cardiff, as I left the bus I can still recall them cheerfully wishing me well and asking what about my tickets for the game!

The above painting of the Boathosue is in Ty Cymorth Hospice Carmarthen.

Sunday, 29 June 2014


Last night we took the dog for a walk on the beach at Llansteffan (yes the part they are allowed on). On the opposite side of the estuary is Ferryside and on the hill above is Llansaint. The watercolour painting above is of Llansaint. The painting is sold. I like the village it is friendly and I have given a couple of demonstration there. (Please note, I no longer give talks or demonstrations).

"Origin" is in King St. Carmarthen. The gallery is run by a co-operative of which I have been a member for about 15-16 years. I always have a small selection fo prints and originals in there. There is a good variety of craft there. I have never really understood the snobbish attitude of some artists that look down on craft makers. I respect all good work in whatever medium. 

Saturday, 28 June 2014

The painting above is of St Mary's in Newport.

Alex and I spent a week in our camper there three years ago last Winter. We tend to take time off out of season due to exhibitions and other commitments. We camped on the cliffs overlooking Cardigan Bay. There were periods of sunshine but mostly steely grey skies,rain and a couple of full blown gales. We even had to get up one night to move the camper around to face the wind to stop the van rocking from side to side.

Anway it was a beautiful spot with plenty to sketch although the weather meant painting was pretty much out of it. I got through quite a few paperbacks as well.

Some subjects like churches are quite awkward as they can be surrounded by large trees and or encroaching houses making a view difficult but not necessarily impossible for an artist.

St Mary's has a large northern graveyard which is overgrown but picturesque allowing for a good composition.

Today a sparrow Hawk visited our  bird table but the small garden birds managed a sharp exit before he swooped down. On a previous visit he took a wood pigeon.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Sunny Morning

Early every morning I take my dog for a walk. Today was no exception. I also had with me my sister who is stopping with us at the moment. The walk involves a climb past the reservoir up through the woods and fields to Penlanffos. This affords a wonderful view right down the Towy Valley. I generally stop and look over the valley for 5 minutes. It is a moment for reflection and also to catch your breath after the long uphill climb.

You can see East all the way to the Black Mountains and West towards Green Castle corner.
This morning I could hear a buzzard over the woods and had the company of cattle in my viewing point. It was a bright warm morning with the sun behind Merlins Hill. It would have made a good subject with the Hill and cattle all contre jour, ie. the light behind them. I have done several paintings looking down the valley from different points. The painting above is of Abergwili with Merlins Hill behind from Llangunnor Churchyard..

The Cloud Machine

The painting above is of the Oil Refinery at Angle on the Milford Haven. It was locally referred to as the Cloud Machine. It is an unusual subject for me but as we had a mooring at Angle I would paint what I saw from the boat and this was a good subject. The painting sold quite quickly and not to anybody from the area but to a couple that just liked it for what it was. I was once asked if I would go to London to paint Tankers for a Company Board Room but I didn't pursue it.

I kind of miss sitting at anchor painting with the boat swinging with the tide but those days have gone.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Amelia Rose Earhart

I was listening to the radio early this morning when I heard the interview of a young lady called Amelia Rose Earhart (named after the famous aviator). She is taking to the skies to recreate Amelia Earharts attempt at flying around the world and hopefully complete it. (The famous aviator disappeared on her attempt in 1937 over the Pacific). I did the above painting of Amelia Earhart quite a few years ago and the painting is gone now. Anyway I wish the brave young lady luck.

I have been asked by several people when my painting interlude is being screened on the TV. Well I am sorry you missed it. It was shown on the 10th June. To be honest I watched the rugby instead and missed it myself but I have seen a recording.

Monday, 23 June 2014

A trip in the dark.

We have got quite a lot of things to do over the next few days so Alex is pretty busy trying to finish things off as well as keep on top of the paperwork. Next job tax returns.

I was reminded by Alex that we still haven't received the money owing from an outlet from 3 years ago, which is a bit disappointing. I think we will have to write that one off and put it down to experience.

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. You can only go on your own experience not impressions.

Sunday, 22 June 2014


I tell myself "Get over it!" Perhaps I should listen to myself more. What a great day yesterday but what an awful result. The better side lost. Wales were outstanding.

That said we went to a Family Barbeque, well most of us did Alex and one daughter took a grandson to A&E as he had stood on a nail. (OK now) . Nice day good food plenty of sun and beer.
Oh and playing tippit.

Today, well the brain isn't quite functioning yet so we will see. I have a painting in mind but whether I start it today or not?

Saturday, 21 June 2014


Yes Alex is getting on well she has been framing at a pace. We haven't sold much in the way of original work this last month but we have been selling framed prints etc. She has also been kept busy making cards. Framing itself is a real pain you get faults in the moulding, glass, mount board which all adds up to wastage. A microscopic fleck under the glass will mean taking it all apart and starting again. Alex is excellent a real perfectioinist, but we had to stop framing for other artists and the public as it just wasn't worth the money or effort and to be fair Alex was snowed under with work.

Of course every time I finish a painting it gets added to her framing list which is still quite long but is steadily reducing.

Anyway for me today is a quick trip to the gym then watch the rugby and a barbeque.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Carreg Cennen Castle

I have now finished Carreg Cennen Castle. I wanted to show it at its impressive best. Anyway I am pretty much on target for the next exhibition with the paintings now and Alex is starting to make inroads into framing them.

I am off to the gym now where I will ponder my next painting. Its a rugby day tomorrow so a day off.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Carreg Cennen Stage 2

The next stage of Carreg Cennen is shown above. The distant hills have been blocked in with coloured greys and little contrast. It takes a bit of imagination to see where its going but by painting like this you do have the flexibility to change the composition if you need to. Anyway trust me it will be fine.

Yesterday I had to put in some plants in the garden that had been given to us. Jac and I went into the garden I had been instructed where to put them by my better half.. I went around digging the holes and bedding the plants in with compost. I got the last one in then went to get the hose. I took the hose to the first plant I had put in.

Gone. Just a hole and dirt. I looked at Jac he looked at me innocently but unfortunately for him he had forgotten about the forensics. No need to call in CSI. He had mud all over his nose.
He had followed me around and dug up the plants as soon as I had put them in!

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Carreg Cennen Castle

I haven't done a paiting of Carreg Cennen castle for over 2 years so I thought it was about time to do another. I set about it using burnt umber and turps. This stage is literally 5 minutes. It gives an overall guide to the composition and tonal values.

 I have dozens of brushes some very expensive sable watercolour ones I treat like royalty and will outlast me. I also have many brushes I use for oils in all shapes, sizes and condition. To be honest I use pretty much any brush in any condition these days for oils, whatever comes to hand. For the preliminary work as above I used an old battered watercolour brush. This one hasn't seen a point in years. I buy these brushes cheap 10 at a time.

Somehow I got talking to a friend about conferences the other day. It used to be the bane of my life. As a senior police officer I was sent to numerous conferences. I hated having to go. Why?

In general:
1. It was a waste of public money
2. It was a waste of my own time
3. I never came back more informed than when I went. (Not in a positive sense anyway).
I went to conferences on EFQM, Value for Money (that is ironic), and every wonderful initiative the Home Office dreamed up. They all had the same format. The only difference between them was that some were further away than others. The police service aren't the only ones subject to this of course.

I once went to a conference in the Midlands. The conference was being held in a posh hotel. I arrived just about on time. I picked up my badge to wear cheerfully around my neck. Took a cup of coffee and a biscuit and scooted through the double doors for the opening of the conference. I found a seat picked and waited with baited breath to be enthused by the first speaker. 

After 45 minutes of tedium the speaker concluded and we had a 5 minute break. I turned to the attendee/victim next to me, sympathised with him and asked him where he was from. 

"Northern Area." He replied "Where are you from?"
"Dyfed-Powys Police."
He gave me a quizzical look, "Why are you here?" I looked at the conference pack and realised it was a British Gas Seminar! 

I retreated and found my conference on the next floor. To be honest on the whole I think the British Gas Seminar was more interesting although there wasn't much in it. 

Tuesday, 17 June 2014


We have two of the grandchildren all day today and are picking up another this afternoon so no painting today.
I did take the opportunity to sketch them. Drawing children is a bit tricky as they don't stay still and the proportions are totally different to an adult.

Anyway thank god for Pepper Pig!

Monday, 16 June 2014

Nunney Castle in Carmarthen

I have finally finished my painting of Nunney Castle in Carmarthen. I have taken over a week or so to do it but I have been doing other things as well. Anyway there it is. I moved the stand pipe away from the hose reel as it was a bit confusing.

I have included myself in the crowd along with three grandchildren and Alex in the background. The reason I did this? Well it is easier making up pictures of people if you already know what they look like, and in any case I may keep it? I was tempted to put someone on the trackside talking to the driver in the cab but thought that might detract from the Loco itself? Anway in the event I didn't.

(The Loco is hauling the "Southern Irishman" to Fishguard.)

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Anne Hathaway Fowler Traction Engine FX6821

I was looking through some paintings this morning and I came across this one of the Traction Engine I did last year. I wasn't sure what to do with it. I quite like it but it wasn't particularly interesting. It wasn't going to be framed and would have ended up being thrown out. I decided to put a couple of characters in the picture resting against the engine and tidy up the painting a bit.
So here it is now.

I don't know what you think but I think it makes quite a nice little work now. The actual Engine itself is "Anne Hathaway" a Fowler Traction Engine built in 1918.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Towy Valley

Last night Alex and I picked up two of the grandchildren from gymnastics and then drove them home via Llandeilo and the Towy Valley. It was a stunning evening. Coming down to Llandeilo you could see Carreg Cennen Castle in the distance standing proud in the last of the days sun.

On the turn off for Golden Grove you could see Dinefwr Castle siloutted against a very pale blue sky with hints of pink and red. Then overlooking it all towards Carmarthen could be seen Paxtons Tower a beacon pointing home. We had chosen this route because of roadworks on the A48, thank you to whoever it was that decided to cause mayhem and have roadworks on the the weekend. We had a lovely evenings drive. That being said the main A40 road was blocked at Nantgarredig as we came upon some calves loose on the road. It was a bit chaotic with people herding them towards a field entrance and then the police arrived.

One of my old sergeants used to say, "He has never seen a situation so bad that it couldn't be made worse by the arrival of a police officer." ( I think he may have been quoting Georg Bernard Shaw but I am not sure). Well I was pleased to see them arrive as it was a bad spot and they stopped the traffic and the calves were quickly put in a field. Excitement over.

Friday, 13 June 2014

On Days like these

I intended to get some painting done today and in particular finish Nunney Castle. My studio is in the top of the house and today it was, warm dare I say, hot. I decided it was not going to happen. I went to the gym and then did work outside that was long overdue, so at least my conscience was clear.

It is on days days like these that I remember lolling about at anchor in the sun on our sailing yacht. One of our favourite anchorages was Castle Beach at the mouth of the Haven. I kept my watercolours on the yacht and did countless pictures and sketches from the cockpit all gone now for the most part. The watercolour above is of Castle Beach Bay. As I recall it was never framed and was cleared out long ago.

Tomorrow I am in the gallery and intend to be home in time to watch the rugby!

Link;  Well it is Matt Monro, but today having seen a photo of James Hetfield of "Metalica" standing over the the body of a grizzly with his rifle (courtesy of John Cox, no relation who summed it up perfectly)  I thought this was appropriate. Born Free

Thursday, 12 June 2014


Today we went to Aberglasney. It was beautiful weather and Jane Russell had her exhibition on.
We had a walk in the gardens which are now the best I have ever seen them, followed by a lunch overlooking the lake and then a walk around Jane's Exhibition. I would recommend a visit if you have never been.

Linkto Jane's website

PS the painting is an old one of mine.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Pembrey Country Park

Alex and I went to Pembrey Country Park for a couple of days with Jac. Lovely weather it rained but only at night! I thought I would try and capture the atmosphere of the Park. Lovely walks through stands of broken and full grown pines.
The photo could be better but you get the idea. I have to admit that I was wearing an odd pair of shoes for the whole time and didn't notice! Its not as bad as it sounds. My criteria for shoes are that they have to be comfortable and waterproof. I buy the same Clarks shoes and wear them all year then relegate them to gardening or painting duty.  I took one old shoe and one new shoe, fortunately it was a left and a right shoe!!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Buying a painting

The painting is by a fine artist called Clive Richard Browne (1901-1991) a Norfolk artist whose work is represented  in the National Collection and County Art Galleries. I don't generally buy contemporary works but I do occasionally buy a painting that takes my fancy. The painting above was in my studio and I bought it for £40. It is oil on canvas in a wooden frame app 26in x 20 ins.  The artist is not particularly well known these days and the shabby gilt and plaster frame didn't help it when I bought it from a dealer.

Never the less it is a far better painting than you could get for many times that amount these days. A British Impressionist from the Norfolk School. I bought it because I liked the work. Because it is not very valuable I felt no great shame in taking the frame off it and pressure washing all the plaster and gilt off it and painting it dark brown. 

It could do with a clean and restoring but the cost wouldn't justify it. I have in the past touched up paintings for people. I am not an expert and would n't make a habit of it. Although with all due modesty the matching was pretty good and would have needed an expert to locate it but any good artist is capable of colour matching allowing for drying and underpainting. 

On the other side of the coin I often see complete rubbish being passed off as art at ridiculous prices. (Yes I know that's mostly subjective although with a painting you can be objective about composition, technique, brushwork, colour and finishing). 

So my point is it is possible to pay a fortune for a poor painting or buy an excellent one for very little. 
Price doesn't necessarily guarantee value or quality.
Despite what anyone says art is simple ~ what you see is what you get ~ Buy what you like and what you can live with.

Anyway today I am doing a bit more on Nunney Castle. I couldn't afford to spend this amount of time on all my work but I think this picture justifies it.

PS. if you ever buy a painting look at it in daylight first or at least look at it without a spotlight on it.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Pilgrims Progress

Slowly but surely the painting is coming together. It is always a trade off deciding on the level of detail. You always get someone coming along and saying the return valve has a left hand thread ... Actually the picture is fairly accurate, sufficient to satisfy me anyway. The painting itself is a combination of techniques blocking in, layering, and being quite free and painterly. I am getting more drawn to the idea of keeping it for my own collection, but there again.. Anyway a bit to go yet before it is finished.

Alex has been busy framing up new prints this morning while I was painting although we both found time to watch the All Blacks and England. To be fair (as my sister always says) it was a good game and England played well.

Elephant Rally 2

Well I may as well finish the story about the Elephant Rally 2. On the second occasion we went to the Elephant Rally in Germany Alex my brother, Alex and I went on our Triumph 750 motorcycle combination. It had been a bit of a bugger to put together. The tow in etc was all very complicated and we had to change the gearing on the Triumph. Anyway we set off. All went well until we got into the Military Restricted Area Near Eupen. At that time it was still West Germany and there was still a cold war. As we were going along I started to hear a pinging noise. I couldn't make it out but it became more pronouced and I stopped. The spokes on the rear wheel were becoming detached and were hitting the frame as we went along. The wheel was completely done for. We weren't in a get you home service or any such thing. It was late and we decided there wasn't much we could do so we pitched our tents. We didn't have any food or drink as we had intended to buy it all at the Rally. We were cold, hungry, wet and miserable. 

In the middle of the night we were awoken by Military Police shining torches on us.  The tent Alex and I were in had collapsed and I tried to find a pole to put it back up so we could get out. I inadvertently poked Alex in the eye with it which caused much bad language and confusion. I unid the zip and got out to find four large policemen pointing guns at us and saying, "It is forbidden to stop here." Unfortunately that was the extent of their English and our German was none existent. At that point my brother came out of his tent wrapped in a heat blanket looking like a Christmas Turkey. This did cause the dour policemen to smile for a second.

By showing them the broken wheel and my warrant card we managed to avoid being taken away and they left us indicating we should leave as soon as possible. How we didn't know.

The following morning my brother got a lift into the nearest town with the broken wheel. We were left with no food or drink and in the afternoon we succumbed to drinking rainwater in a reasonably clean puddle. My brother was away all day but finally came back with the wheel having been respoked. He had the gall to tell us after leaving the wheel for respoking he had spent the day in a bar eating and drinking! Unfortunately the wheel should have been offset to allow for the sprocket and it wasn't. We fitted it anyway and my brother rode it very gingerly back to the Channel while Alex and I hitched a lift. The wheel did last a while but gave up at Dover. 

We left the combo there and caught a bus. The combo was recovered later on a trailer. I never was keen on motorcycle combinations but that finished it for me.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Interview with HTV.

I had an interesting day yesterday. I was down at the beach being filmed and interviewed by HTV.
An interesting experience.

I am used to people watching me work and I soon forgot the camera was there. I didn't take my camera so I don't have any pics ( the one above is an old one). I left Bertie the pochade box and took my large box easel as I could get a bigger painting on it. I have been interviewed on the radio and TV before but not actually painting.
Anyway I guess it will only be a minute or so when it is edited.  Owain Phillips the presenter is a nice guy and has an interesting life, so it was a pleasant way to spend the morning chatting and painting.
Today I am in the gallery so no time for painting.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

More Motorcycle Memoires

Alex and I went to the Elephant Rally in Nurburging on a couple of occasions well actually we only got there once. The first occasion it was  mid-winter. We went with my brother pictured here with Alex setting up tents in conditions Shackleton would have understood. The first hint of an interesting trip was when we arrived at Ostende. Several motorcycles took off and promptly did an impression of Bamby on Ice down the motorway. (Not being first sometimes has its advantages). None appeared to be hurt but it prompted us to await the appearance of a gritting lorry before venturing further.

It was snowing cold and the journey was slow. When we eventually arrived there was thick snow and minus temperatures. We had to buy an ether aerosol to spray in the air intakes to start the engines.

Not ideal conditions even for combos!

The rally itself was good fun. There were several thousand bikers from all walks of life, including several chapters of Hells Angels who we steared clear of. I didn't remove any item of clothing all weekend. We managed to avoid any accidents and got back to the UK in the early hours of the morning. Alex and I  set up off the motorway with my brother following. After a while I noticed he was no longer behind. We pulled over and walked back down the motorway (not now recommended). We found him with a flat rear tyre. It needed three of us to get the beast (A 750 watercooled Suzuki) on its centre stand then remove the wheel and repair the puncture in the freezing dark. We eventually got back to our bike having repaired his only to find it wouldn't start. I sprayed ether down the intake only for it to catch fire. Apparently I just stood over it trying to blow it out! Alex threw something over it and it was extinguished. It was however now hot enough to fire the engine up.

By now we were colder than cold and dog tired.  Having made it most of the way home at about 7am on the A5 I noticed Alex sailing passed me as I skated down the road underneath the bike. We had hit black ice. Fortunately nothing was coming in the opposite direction and we collected everything together and waited for conditions to improve. When we eventually got home we went straight to bed. An interesting venture. The next time we went to the Elephant Rally we didn't make it.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Motorcycle Memories

Its funny how things change as you grow older. Alex and I used to go every where on a motorcycle. We could go off for a fortnight with a tent sleeping bag stove and clothes on the back of our old Triumph Daytona. We used to go to motorcycle rallies with my brother and his girlfriend (he is pictured above with his Triumph Saint combination). We toured Europe and the UK. Now if we go anywhere for a weekend Alex packs three suitcases including both my shirts and one jumper. (Two of the suitcases are for her shoes!).

Anyway we used to love the motorcycles although we spent a great deal of time taking them apart and putting them back together.

We had all sorts, Ariels, Royal Enfield, Triumphs, BSA, even a few Japanese ones. Wehad an old DMW at one time. (A DMW was a Dudley Motor Works motorcycle) which we used as a field bike.
We had a few problems with it such as the spark plug blowing out of the cylinder head and the clutch packing up. We made new clutch plates with cork mat and put a helicoil in the cylinder head. In the end we blew it up and scrapped it.

We also had two trials Honda's. It was quite easy to pull this over your head with a fistful of throttle and a steep gradient which was quite entertaining for those watching but something not to be recommended as good practice. Seeing the world go by with the front wheel coming up over your head and wondering whether the bike will land on you is a little disturbing.

I remember watching Alex accidentally do a similar trick at the Beguildy T Junction. She pulled up at the give way, checked it was clear grabbed a fistfull of throttle, lifted the front wheel and shot across the road straight throught he hedge opposite. My brother and I were in fits! There were plenty of incidents and we were lucky to get away relatively unscathed. (Alex still has a couple of scars).  Now the roads are too busy and my reactions are too slow so I won't be having a Mid(?) Life Crisis and buy another bike, although I do often think about those times we had and the way the Triumph glided around corners like it was on rails. 

LInk  Doors

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Nunney Castle Stage Two

I managed to get in 4 hours on the above painting today. I have got the sky done with negative space for the steam. I have put in the background building and blocked in the base of a crowd.
The foreground has just had the base done, it will be lighter when completed. So its coming together. The main concern is the palette colours. I have stuck with the main colour being secondary green, with a primary yellow subsidiary along with greys. The red will be calmed down by the time it is finished. Still much to do with the running gear and detail work with the steam coming last. As ever I am enjoying painting it and maybe its one I'll keep?

Monday, 2 June 2014

Darius Brubeck Jazz Quartet

Last night Alex and I went out to see The Darius Brubeck Jazz Quartet at Neaudd y Dderwen near Cardigan. It was a fantastic venue and the music was wonderful. I am not a real Jazz enthusiast (for a start I don't have red trousers). I do however have a very varied taste in good music. I was first introduced to Dave Brubeck by my brother in about 1960 and loved this genre from then on.

Darius is Dave's son and continues the tradition of great jazz music. Alex was probably more interested in Dave O'Higgins the well known saxophonist who was a member of the quartet.

Anyway a thoroughly enjoyable evening. Today I am in the gallery in Llandeilo.

Link Take Five

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Nunney Castle stage 1

Okay well I couldn't help myself I just had to do a painting of Nunney Castle itself so here is the first stage.  The differing greens are a challenge but nothing major.  No ground, some light pencil work and away you go.
It quite detailed and is going to take a bit of work but its a nice change. I have quite a bit on this week but I should get it finished. Touch Wood!