Saturday, 30 May 2015

A day on the beach

I have done a few paintings of Broadhaven and Druidstone over the years. This one of Broadhaven is going into the exhibition.

We have fingers crossed for one of the granddaughters today who is representing Wales in the British Tumbling (gymnastics) finals. Not much other news really.

Friday, 29 May 2015


Here is another new painting that is now framed and ready for the exhibition (Boathouse by moonlight). It is quite an undertaking getting up 60 original works for a solo exhibition and thinking about it  I am amazed we used to do  up to 5 exhibitions a year.

This morning I telephoned BT about the ongoing saga about getting a BT package. I finally got through to a young lady who was very helpful and sorted everything out.

 I said to her, "Its good to speak to someone who understands me. What part of Scotland are you from?"
"Newcastle." She replied.

 Ah, considering Alex's family are all Geordies I suppose I should have got that one!

Thursday, 28 May 2015


I said I would be posting a painting a day until the exhibition so here is the first of the Bluestones in the Preseli Mountains. How or why anyone would drag some of these to Salisbury Plain to build Stonehenge heaven knows (or maybe not). Anyway there it is.

Today I have put the first coat on a painting of the woods in Dinefwr. It needs to dry a little before I carry on.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Madeline Bell

We last saw Madeline Bell a few years ago. So it was nice to get to see her a few days ago. Madeline is a superb soul singer who grew up singing with the likes of Dionne Warwick and Cissy Houston (mother of Whitney). Madeline said she remembered us but I honestly have my doubts memorable as our company may be. The last time we saw her was in Watford 1976! What I can say is she has a great sense of humour and has still got it!

I thought as our annual exhibition is approaching from tomorrow I would post a different painting from the exhibition every day until it starts. Seems like a plan as they say.


Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Finished painting of Dinefwr Castle in the mist

Here is the finished painting of Dinefwr Castle in the mist. Although you need a pretty good imagination and a good idea mentally how the painting will proceed the benefits of painting this way are hopefully obvious. It has similarities to the methods used by the Pre-Raphaelites. Anyway it is one of the ways I paint. It will be exhibited at our annual exhibition in July.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Dinefwr Castle by stages.

 Okay so I went to Dinefwr intending to find material for a bluebell painting. As it happened I was rather taken by the view of Dinefwr Castle in the morning mist.
Now I know all this looks a bit messy and you need a pretty good imagination to see where its going but trust me its going to be fine. I started with turps and washed in the first layer of colours. I then put in the sky not being too careful about going over the castle or skyline. You can always sort that out later.

I then started to detail the castle with some definition. I will finish it tomorrow and post the completed version.

Sunday, 24 May 2015


We decided kind of last minute to go to the to the Norwegian Fjords for a week. It was a lovely week. The scenery was spectacular and there was more snow on the hills than we have seen before.

We met a nice couple who were originally from Milford Haven and spent a while chatting to them while drinking the odd glass of wine. As Alex talks with her hands a lot this can be a bit risky.
 "There we go!" it happened she swept her glass of wine over the table and dyed Frank's tie and trousers a lovely carmine red. Fortunately they took it in good heart.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Things are not always what they seem

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 to answer a call of nature. 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.

Friday, 15 May 2015


I have pretty well finished my collection of paintings for the annual exhibition. I am minded to do another Spitfire because, its different, they sell easily enough, I like the subject.

I am fascinated by most things mechanical. I like to know how they all work and see that as part of the process of recreating them on canvas, board or paper. When I was painting more maritime work and attending boat shows etc. I was fairly knowledgeable about rigging. I even went as far as to build a wooden scale model of a British Frigate of the 1780's to ensure I had a good knowledge of its construction.

Whether the Spitfire will be done and dry for the Exhibition or not I don't know. I do intend to get  painting of Bluebells in Dinefwr however. I have done a bluebell painting before and to be honest I didn't like it it was pretty garish. This one therefore will be a challenge to get the colour right for the composition. I am going up to Dinefwr to get some reference material. If the bluebells are passed their best it doesn't matter that much that's the beauty of painting!

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Towy Valley in the snow

I did a watercolour painting sometime ago. Unfortunately I chose a board with an already stretched piece of paper on it. This was done a couple of months ago and the tape had started to lift. Anyway I thought I would risk using it.

The result is shown above. Oh well. The painting cockled i.e. it wrinkled. I have seen worse (much worse in fact) offered for sale and it is possible to reduce the cockling but this one will be relegated to the bin. At the end of the day it pays to do things properly and if you have any doubts don’t waste time start with good paper that is properly prepared. Eventually I did the scene again this time everything was as it should have been.

The view itself is of the Towy Valley in the snow, a scene I love as it is part of one of my walks. However since Jac tore his cruciate ligament I have avoided going up through the woods and over the top. He is pretty good now but I am still a bit reluctant to test him fully. So for the time being we are keeping to flat ground and the more popular walks. This morning I met a woman walking her dogs. She was looking at the floor and talking on her mobile. Fifteen minutes later I saw her again and she was still talking on her mobile. I thought what a pity you are missing all this fabulous nature (and spoiling the peace and quiet).


Wednesday, 13 May 2015


The above sketch is of Jac and I going for our constitutional. When we go off in our camper Jac of course comes with us. We have propane gas fitted in the van for cooking and heating and we are very careful with it.

When we had  boats we generally overhauled or even totally re-fitted the gas as a first priority. Testing and fitting a gas alarm was considered essential. With the van we have it tested by a qualified fitter regularly and I have now added a gas alarm with sensors at floor level.

After all this it was a little disconcerting the other day for us to be in the van and the gas alarm to go off. We immediately got out, turned off the gas and opened the windows. We gave it a while turned on the alarm all seemed clear.  We resumed our relaxed positions and resumed reading only for the alarm to go off again however this time it was accompanied by a foul smelling odour. We both looked at Jac who was lying next to the gas sensor. Yes we had found the source of the gas leak!


Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Talley Abbey

The last time we went passed Talley Abbey there was a mist and the sun was breaking through. I thought this would make for a good composition. So this week I got around to doing it.

As you can see it is a very limited palette of colour using yellow, greys and green.

Alex has spent an age on the phone today. I may or may not have mentioned we are getting rid of Sky and getting a whole package on BT which will be significantly less. Yes sounds great. I won't bore you with the details needless to say it has been a nightmare. We have had messages left on the phone which were totally intelligible. A letter telling us we had cancelled BT Sport and would lose it if we didn't respond to them by the 7th May. We hadn't cancelled it and the letter arrived on 12th May!
We have informed them when we were not here and they insist on delivering the equipment on the day we are not here!
Alex got hold of someone today and despite the language barrier managed to tell him all the problems. As far as she could ascertain he couldn't help us, but who knows. He signed off with words to the effect,"Is there anything else I can help you with have a nice day." Alex was simmering and despite myself I had to laugh. God knows whether we will get a new Internet connection phone and TV  but it will be a quieter life if we don't. (If I go quiet for a while you can guess why).

Addendum: having finished this painting last night by chance I saw some new work by Wendy Powell Jones and saw a lovely watercolour painting of Talley Abbey. The view is across the lake. She currently has an exhibition upstairs in Origin, King street. Carmarthen.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Ticking away the moments that make up of a dull day..

I don't teach. I used to give demonstrations I don't now and I don't give talks. Okay what do you do? 

I paint.

Sorry that all sounds a bit negative.  I am happy to help people with their interests but I am very selfish with my time. Everyone has a finite amount of time and I now generally do with it what I want to do (exceptions being helping out family friends....).

Teaching for me is not financially viable and to be honest I don't enjoy it. Likewise I don't enjoy talking about myself so I don't do talks.

Anyway I was brought up painting and have continually added to that knowledge. I don't regret that none of my family will be continuing my passion but I do sometimes feel its a waste that I have gained a lot of knowledge that will disappear with me. There again the paintings will mostly still be here.

I was going to talk about paints and colour mixing but I seem to have gone off on another subject. Oh well another day perhaps.

 I was thinking of a link with "Time " in it. The Stones "Time is on my side " is a great song but the opposite of what I am saying. Doors "Love me two times" not really relevant. 

 Pink Floyd wins it "Time",   "Ticking away the moments of a dull day..fritter and waste the moments...."  Link

Sunday, 10 May 2015

A day at the beach - and a visit with Mark Twain

So I am pretty up to date with my work now. I have a couple of paintings left to do for the exhibition but am pretty much covered. As I have been painting 6 days a week it is good to slow down a bit now and at least Alex can see the end of framing in sight.

Yesterday I decided to relax a bit I decided to do a beach scene. I had no clear idea of the outcome, a definite no no really. Anyway I thought I would just have fun adding and subtracting figures until I was happy with the final composition. I don't recommend this approach but it passed a few hours enjoyably. The colours matches aren't great on the image but as my sister would say, "There you go."

Yesterday evening we went to see our son and daughter in law. They live on a farm and the children are all real characters. When we arrived they were all outside playing. Barefooted, wild and looking like something out of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. The hens and dog were following the youngest around. Another had obviously found the tin of garden paint and decided to try out some contemporary art on everything including himself. One pair were wrestling and laughing the whole time we were there. Great to be young, happy and free.


Saturday, 9 May 2015


I enjoy my own company particularly when I start the day. I go for a good early walk with Jac and think about the day ahead, painting, my blog and anything else on the agenda. This morning I got to thinking about those artists I had seen who were no longer with us. I was prompted by Errol Browns death this week. I had seen Errol perform many years ago. I have also seen quite a few more who have gone to a different place. Others include Jim Morrison of the Doors, Marc Bolan, but notably for me Bert Jansch.

Alex and I went to a concert by Alison Moyet a few years back. I didn't know much about her but liked her work. The introductory act came on and started to play a lone guitarist. Everyone continued to talk and walk about . I was spellbound it was Bert Jansch a real hero of mine. I guess I was in a minority as no-one else paid him any attention or respect. Bert was a singer songwriter and folk jazz guitarist. Anyway he died a few years later and I was pleased to have had the opportunity to see him albeit by accident.

What I am getting at is for me success is about making a positive impact whilst you are still around and possibly leaving something positive behind whether you are Rembrandt or Mark Cox. For me my success has been to bring up a family who have all turned out well (possibly in spite of me who knows?). I am doubly lucky in that along the way I have helped a few people and on occasion literally saved peoples lives. As a painter I have brought pleasure to a few. This is all reward enough and I am more than content with my lot particularly as I can share it with Alex and of course Jac!.


As for Bert I used to play this (badly)  Link

Friday, 8 May 2015


I went down to Abergwili today with the intention of doing a painting. Well you can guess how that turned out. Just set up and the rain came in. So back to the studio and did one above in the warm.

I finished it this afternoon and photographed it. I washed all the brushes tidied up and then noticed some minute black streaks down the painting. It transpired that a few tiny flakes of dark grey had dropped off the top bar of the easel onto the painting when I moved it.  The paint was from the previous days work.

This has never happened before but it necessitated spending half an hour re-painting parts of the work!

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Morning Mist and sea birds Cefn Sidan - Pembrey

I have just finished another Cefn Sidan scene. This time looking towards Burry Holmes with Rhossili in the far distance.

The other day Alex and I went into a shoe shop because I needed a pair of black shoes. Now I confess I am not the worlds best shopper. I don't like looking at clothes...trying things on... I know what I like if they haven't got it I just leave. In the case of shoes I want them plain a good comfy fit and not costing a fortune.

Anyway we went into the shop and the assistant came over and was very pleasant. I saw lots of black shoes but they were all a throwback to the 1960's ie. chisel toes. Now I don't have pointy feet so I see little point in trying to cram my feet into odd shaped footwear. They were all out definitely!

Alex looked pleadingly at the girl and they found a pair of black shoes with a shape designed by a person who probably had to wear them ie. they were fine. I put them on. Great they were black, they were comfortable and didn't cost a huge amount. They as they say ticked all the boxes.

But hang on, "What the hell is that?" I said pointing to a little triangle on the side of the shoe.
"Oh no." said Alex," I was hoping you wouldn't see that."
A purple I repeat purple leather insert was set in by the tongue on the outside of the shoe. ALex was crestfallen.

"Oh what the hell Okay." I said "At least they are comfortable."
Alex quickly paid before I changed my mind.

I don't like shopping but I think Alex likes shopping with me even less!

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Sunderland Night Patrol

This is the painting I decided to rework for the exhibition. I did it last year but wasn't happy with it and left it in the studio. I decided to rework it as a nocturn and finished it yesterday. The Sunderland was required to provide day and nigh time patrols during the war and of course operated out of Pembroke Dock. Unusually for me I did it on box canvas.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Restoration man

I had a good day yesterday sorting out the studio. Its not large and I always like to work tidy. I started by sorting out my oil brushes. Some had gone a bit hard and needed some restoration. Of course its better to ensure they are absolutely cleaned when you finish each painting session, but inevitably the paint builds up particularly in short flats. I use ordinary brush restorer and leave it overnight. It's not nice stuff so always read and abide by the label.The small brushes I buy by the dozen and throw when they are passed it.

I also took the opportunity to sort out a few sketchbooks and paintings. A few sketch books made it to the dump along with a couple of dozen unframed works and a couple of framed ones. I am lucky as most framed works sell over an eighteen month period those that don't get a second look (about 8-12%).

Monday, 4 May 2015

Cefn Sidan

The painting above is of the beach at Cefn Sidan and is for my annual exhibition. As I have previously mentioned one of our favourite spots. Great stretches of sand with very few people on it. It is never the same. On this occasion the sky and clouds are reflected in the wet sand producing a wonderful effect. I hope I have done it justice.

I am going to start reworking a painting today that I started last year but was never happy with.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Brecon Beacons

I finished this painting of the Brecon Beacons in spring last week. Another for the annual exhibition.
It is sometime since I last climbed Pen y Fan but I think I will definitely revisit this year.

I heard from an old colleague the other day well actually a facebook request. It was from Dai Rees who was my Detective Chief Inspector when I was a D.C.

Senior officers come in all shapes and sizes some inspirational some awful. Well Dai Rees was not only a good detective but a great boss. For about a year I worked on a fraud enquiry with him involving  a government agency. Eventually we had to go to Canada to continue the enquiry. Now we both stayed in the same basic hotels and ate the same meals but when we got back and put in our expense receipts I had a bit of a shock.

Dai said, "Mark there is some good news and some bad news. The bad news is I have now been told that I will get the higher rate of expenses as a senior officer which will cover my costs. You will get a third less.(This meant I would be seriously out of pocket and have to go and see the bank). However I will put the two together and we will split it evenly."

True to his word when we were paid he gave me a cheque for not an unsubstantial amount of money that just about covered my expenses. He was a good boss and is a good guy. Cheers Dai.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Buzzard over Carreg Cennen in winter.

I was reminded I hadn't got a painting of Carreg Cennen Castle in my stock the other day when I had an enquiry. So I thought I had better do one. For a change I thought maybe a winter scene. You know those cold fresh mornings after a fall of snow. I also wanted it bathed in sunlight.

I didn't draw it but I did do some quick preliminary brushwork to define the composition. I had a clear image in my head and away I went. The work was fairly loose until defining the castle. I decided to add the buzzard at the last minute. People often think snow is white. Well the colour generally depends upon the light sources including the sky, reflections, the shapes it is covering and shadows.

Alex meanwhile had been going full pelt mounting paintings and making frames.

Friday, 1 May 2015

River Towy near Llanegwad

Here is the completed painting of the River Towy looking towards Carmarthen. A tranquil optpmistic scene that is kind of typical of my subjects.

The other day we went to a pub for food with one of our daughters, her husband and two of our grandchildren. Nothing unusual in that. It was funny how Alex reacted to the table sitting though. We took a table for four but needed to add another table for two on the end. The tables were placed together but the smaller table had the grain facing at ninety degrees to the other one. I could see this was really bugging Alex.

Eventually she said, "shall we just turn this around?"

She really is a perfectionist ideal for framing and her previous job as a marine engineer but sometimes she takes it a bit far. Mind you I suppose being a perfectionist is why she chose me!