Thursday, December 31, 2009

Day Two

Day two. I decided to continue work on the picture, partly because of this blog! Last night I photographed the model with perspective and lighting that would fit into the virtual scene. I located a male figure photo to use as a reference and included it in the sky. The mock-up at this stage was as shown below.

Then I prepared a piece of paper, 88x56cm for the final drawing. To accurately place the objects I use a simple crosshair, a circle with cross, which is easy to draw. I don't like gridding. I find I'm distracted by the grid lines and the resulting drawing is less accurate than a freehand drawing. The primary purpose of the crosshair is to place and size the object. The monolith with crosshair is shown below.

Then I drew the mountain background, and then the monolith.

After that I did the same for the face. The face photo is poor, the actual size is shown below. The photo was about 20mm, about ten times smaller than the painting!

Drawing from blurred photographs is very difficult, but it is good training and here an exact copy was not necessary or desirable. I drew the outline and used basic knowledge of what faces look like to fill in some of the lines that are just not there, like the details around the eyes. I'll invent some flowing hair for the back of the head. I roughly marked it out for later.

The sketch so far is show below. It's a poor photograph but the main objects can be made out. The gridded floor on the left looks rather strange and might be removed. Certainly not all of those guide lines are part of the finished picture, mere geometrical guides based on a pentacle.


I awoke late, mainly because I awoke early, at 4am after dreaming I was in a bed made of vertical rhubarb stalks. It was a communal bed and someone was with me. An old man who was partly Polish tried to get into the bed and I didn't want that so I hit him with a rhubarb stalk. This was considered rude, so I stopped. The scene shifted and I was invited into a sports car, to be chauffeured. I awoke then with amazing feelings of positivity and energy, so much so that I want to abandon all of my negative painting ideas and began new positive ones. I took the opportunity to sketch down lots of new ideas, and in some cases came up with positive versions of earlier negative ideas. One unpainted idea, for example, was a man turned to stone by a cacophony of gigantic medusa's, like buildings that intimidate and snub the man. That was about perceived lack of success as an artist, I sketched the positive reflection of this idea; a giant man turning a puppet medusa to stone.

I fell asleep again at around 7am, and dreamed of many things including a bishop who liked my paintings and wanted to commission me, and a hunt for blue gemstones which were located in a puzzle world, each needing clues to track down.

To work! I'll try to complete the plans and sketch The Hopelessness today. I've decided to paint in January. I need to get some of my planned paintings painted.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Understanding the fuzziness of perfection can really increase efficiency. Today I've been sorting out my old poems, choosing the best for a book of poems I'd like to put together, it's a goal for January. Choosing the "best" is always a matter of opinion, but it's important not to spend too long agonising over the choices.

Sometimes I've agonised over paintings, sometimes not. A long time later, the differences between the pictures are not apparent. So, does this mean I hit upon success with both? I think it's more a case of most of the agonising not being worth it. Sometimes it matters a great deal, but wonderful inspiration during that agony is very rare.

I often find, and I can see this in other artists too, that I can spend 90% of the thinking time considering 10% of the picture, and often not the most important 10% either! In short, haste can be your friend. In fact, confidence if it leads to anything leads to fast decisions, and fast decisions lead to confidence.

In four minutes I'll finish this blog entry, and tonight I'll finalise my list of poems. I might put together two books; one of poems generally which will include many of my favourites that I've not put on my website, and one of "painting poems", because many of my pictures have associated poems.

The Hopelessness of Non-mutual Attraction

A day of work! In the morning I began tracing the underdrawing to The Infinite Tiredness of Ageing. Then I began work on a new composition, one of two tasks left for this month. It's amazing how many I have achieved despite spending a week or so working on plaster experiments, and many days trapped in the annual Christmas doldrums. I resolve to paint more positive glorious pictures next year but for now will concentrate on the power of loss once more. The painting to be planned is to be called, assuming it is good enough to paint at all, The Hopelessness of Non-mutual Attraction and is about desire for someone unattainable, an obsession that cannot be.

The idea sketch in shown below and was scribbled when the idea hit.

Mentally the colours were like those in my painting Sunset With Rose Petals, but I also toyed with the idea of using pinks and greys as in Half a Broken Heart.

Stage one was to create model for the main figure. I use plasticine, which is a perfect modelling material for this. Before starting I posed myself in positions that would sum up the mood and took some photographs, then I got out my anatomy book and checked the muscles on limbs once more, these things all help when an anthropomorphic monolith is needed. I then modelled and photographed the sculpture, using the idea sketch as primary reference. That sketch is the map, it's as much a mnemonic as a guide because by seeing it I can remember the feeling and image that I had in my head when I drew it. The model is shown below.

The heart shape is plastic and made from a material called polymorph which is heat softened and then easily moulded.

Once photographed I decided on the size for the picture. An aspect like "The Transmittance of Pity..." seemed right so I chose those dimensions, then entered photoshop to create a compositional mock-up. Then I opened up Terragen and experimented with sky colours. Realism has its limitations but the rapid visualisation possibilities can be beneficial.

I began with turquoise with a yellow sunset, then tried more conventional colours. The realistic sky looked prettier, but this was at odds with the scene and mood, which in the idea sketch was sadder than mere blue. This is no time for Beirstadtian sentimentalism, melancholic truth is needed.

The green was too bright. I selected a modification of the blue and elected for a rose and turquoise scheme. These colours work well together and signify lost love exactly. The Intensity of the falling rose hearts, which are already venetian red in my head, will perfectly complement the subtle rose sunset and grey blue shadows. I added rough blobs for the heart shapes, which will also be rose petals. I also added a gold skylight to heaven and a crack of lightning, but here unlike in the idea sketch the lightning acts as a barrier. That represented a lack of confidence, so it makes a perfect barrier on an intellectual level and putting it right there increases the distance between the figure and the distant left side, which is now palpable. The pain slices into the right hand of the figure. A lighthouse begged to be added, so was, to the top sky with a dominant but distant view (like all lighthouses). The mock-up at this stage is shown.

The water is not part of the picture but had been added to create a flat plane for this mock-up. Some figures of desire are now to be added, and a hidden pentacle at the vanishing point to create a sense of balance on the calm left side of the picture.

How much further this picture will evolve is a mystery. After the first day, much is left to do and more than half of all pictures that reach this stage do not get painted. The key factor is to stay true to the meaning and feeling of the concept, so constant evaluation is needed. I must ensure that the picture conveys not mere loss but thwarted obsession which still remains. All other factors are secondary.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Nothing To Do But Wait

Another day, and three studies inc. two quick colour tests for a painting about being trapped and unable to act. The picture is mostly 2D, and very abstracted, a pile of figures like shadows. They are archers, firing arrows as they try to escape from the gravitational pull of destiny. They shrink and distort, firing off a few last arrows as they are stretched like chewing gum into the singularity of hell. It's called "Hell is Having Nothing to do but Wait for the Conclusion of an Inevitable Journey".

My initial idea for the colouration was yellow and green, with yellow browns making up the dark objects, with rusty reds to create drama, but this looked a little jarring, so I tried a second colouration idea using blues. I used cobalt turquoise for both studies, with lemon yellow (nickel) and yellow ochre, black and white. These are underpainting tests, so the colours are not the "final" ones but close enough to set the tones and test the colour relationships.

There is no doubt that the second picture is better looking, and the greens in the first are messy due to lack of direction, but the first is definitely more disturbing and panicky which might suit the feeling more.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Infinite Tiredness of Ageing

Sometimes having less time to work means you get more done. Today I had about 90 mins of time that I could devote to my artwork so I decided to finish the underdrawing to a picture about being tired and old. It's based on snails, the gentle spiral of the shell seemed to exactly indicate time fading away, and the slow sluggish motion of the soft body seemed to indicate lethargy.

The fundamental scene is a sunset, a giant mountain that is also a snail sailing off into a yellow sky. I wanted to further push home the tiredness aspect by hanging a figure over the horn of the snail, so I added one today. This in some ways gets in the way of the purity and simplicity of the image, but it does help the meaning. Each picture has beauty, meaning and feeling, and increasing one can decrease another. It's a balance. Generally, I think sacrificing a little purity to make a stronger feeling or meaning is a good thing. It depends on the object of the painting.

This picture is a small simple one that I'll trace in January for painting later in 2010.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Now Love Has Come

It's the end of a year so I've been updating my website with all of the song lyrics and poems I've written throughout 2009. Poetically it's not been a great year in terms of quality, and many are short or fragments, but I've written a lot. Many of the best haven't been published on the website, but there are some good ones in there all the same.

Among them are some anti-arachnophobic poems which were part of a multimedia project to cure phobias. A series of paintings with the same aim was planned but I became distracted with other ideas.

To celebrate their escape I'll premiere a joyous poem right here! It's called Now Love Has Come.

For years I had waited
through fog for the sun,
shed tears at my autumn,
but now love has come.
Long nights I imagined
the dawn others see.
Now right at my winter
the sun comes for me.

No cares for tomorrow
on this great today.
My grey hairs are singing
as though yesterday.
My old eyes are lit up
with new dreams begun.
For years I felt nothing,
but now love has come.

Let bells ring the morning
to cheer the race won!
Let crimson skies dawning
inspire everyone.
Let comet trails rocket
in joy at the sun!
For years I had waited,
but now love has come.


I've been plaster carving over the holiday but it's time consuming and has a habit of breaking and cracking. These experiments in media will have to wait. I'm getting back into painting itself instead and want to start the first paintings of 2010 soon.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Butterfly Mirror

This is a mix of media on glass; acrylic, oil, epoxy resin, polystyrene, gold, pigment, glitter and gem stones.

The plan was to represent escape using the butterfly shape, dividing the picture into two approximate zones, one of high chromanance to the top left and one of greys to the lower right. The work was started with heavy body acrylic on a mirror, mainly phthalo blue, phthalo green and dioxazine violet. A butterfly mask was cut and this was sponged over to create butterfly positives and negatives. A plain section was covered, allowing the mirror to shine through. PVA glue was used to stick glitters onto the picture, often using masks to limit the area. Glue was mixed with acrylic to make a frosted glass appearance in the lower right area.

After that, oil paint was applied to accentuate details, some veins on the butterfly wings, and some sky clouds. The same pigments were used. 24kt gold leaf was applied using an acetate mask and PVA glue. Parts of the acrylic were rubbed away to reveal scar shapes in the glass behind, also helping to convey the escape motif.

Once touch dry, a border was cut for the butterfly mirror area in foam board. This was painted in acrylic and covered in dusty gold pigment before being stuck to the mirror and carefully sealed to prevent leaks. Then liquid epoxy resin was poured into the whole area of the mirror's recess and pigments danced into the plastic lake. These were painted and spread to create deep areas of colour, like explosions of violet frozen in transparent ice. Gold pigment was sprinkled into the liquid to create a gold fur like the dust of a moths wing caught in disturbed air.

When the plastic was set, the two gemstones were added; amethyst and emerald.

Despite the complex mix of media, much of this artwork was improvised. The initial idea of escape using a butterfly motif was all I began with. With so many options and media, a detailed plan would have been unwieldy, and indeed undesirable. Sometimes it is best to feel your way, create with panache and aim for beauty. As a result I've created something different from my usual style, but not unique. This is one of a small number of "resin" pictures and I plan on making more artworks like this in 2010.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Plaster 3

Casting again today. I haven't been doing much work over the past few days, and perhaps this doldrum time of the year is for just that. It is also a time for planning.

Today's plaster experiments used thin packing foam, I think 2mm. No pencil would trace onto it so I placed the drawing underneath and could just see enough of the lines through the foam to enable me to cut out the holes I'd eventually fill. The results were not very even. It's just not possible to "sandwich" a mould without giving the excess plaster somewhere to flow. If it flows down, which it seems to want to, it makes huge holes in the casts.

Lots more to try. My next plan might be to go right back to the earliest solution, to the Moons and Keyholes, and carving. I'll decide later.

I aim to enter this painting into the John Moore's competition so I'll begin painting it in January. That means I'll have to complete my casting soon, as well as paint a study. It's not a large picture, fortunately.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Seed to Field to Seed

Inspired by John Salmon I've decided to make a Christmas present of some music to my blog readers to celebrate my new found blog friends. Here is a track from The Twelve Seasons called Seed to Field to Seed, which tries to evoke growth and rebirth, the passing of the seasons in a country field.

I wanted the melody to grow like cells, and so was partly inspired by the imagery of cellular automata. When I listen to this I see frost over a grassy field, thawing in the golden sun, releasing seeds that growing into new green grass, eventually frosting over again, slowly as a second winter approaches at the end.


The underpainting to this one is now finished, almost all of it is mars black and titanium white, with some naples yellow deep for the orangey parts. The final colours will be subtle violets.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


A busy day today. First I read a quick bit of philosophy, which is useful for any artist! Then I decided to be more careful about the quality of different jobs and concentrate on one thing, allocating time strictly to maximise efficiency. I found the foamboard positives and painted one in acrylic then applied gold dust before sticking it to a prepared surface. I'll post a picture of this mixed media artwork on my blog on Christmas day.

The second Gethsemane study is done too, and shown below. This picture is about a moment of choice. Last year I thought that a relationship with art and a woman at the same time was impossible. I decided to paint this romanticised dichotomy. What is the story of Christ in Gethsemane but an allegory about a single moment realisation? The painting ends positively though, with love.

The first draft was rather bare so I added some trees. There are a few things to resolve; whether the trees should be deep red or turquoise like the sky (note; this is an underpainting study, not the final colours). The lake reflection needs to be darker too, but on the whole I'm satisfied enough not to paint a third study. When dry I'll add more to this. It's important that the study is as close as possible to the desired underpainting.

In the afternoon I began a dark underpainting to a small picture about feeling distant from someone who was once close. The picture began with a sketch, then a plasticine model of the plant object, lit from above. A night photograph was located and composed.

The "dropped" photograph showing a harmony relationship between plant and moon was necessary to reinforce the meaning. The vanishing points for the photo were based on the background. Clouds were added to the sky to break up the wide flatness. When finished the colours here will be very subtle purples and oranges. This picture is smaller than the study above.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Plaster 2

Plaster 2

The second lot of casting for the "Transmittance of Pity" painting didn't work! The results were better than before however. There were two main problems. Firstly I sandwiched the plaster between two sheets of plastic, one flexible one solid. The flexible one was easy to peel off, but the solid one tended to stick to the plaster, making it hard to separate without cracking. Secondly the card parts of the foamboard absorbed the water in the plaster, sticking it to the edges. I could try to waterproof the card, or put some vaseline on it (thanks Kathy!). A new moulding material would be useful though, or I could try to make a mould from the positives I've already cut. I have some latex for that.

This test was better than the others though. The surface was level and very smooth, there were no raised edges or lumps. The thickness was even and consistent, the air bubbles inconsequential. Generally it was a good test, and one or two of the more robust shapes were good enough to use. The difficult "mirror", the important and most difficult curly part of the painting will have to be recast though.


I had my first play with encaustic wax painting last night. I had the idea of folding blobs of wax in the paper and ironing it while it was sealed to create mirror images. Most of the nice vein effect comes from unpeeling the wet wax. I'm sure the same effect could be achieved in paint to create blobs that could seed automatism, as in Decalcomania, Eclaboussure, Fumage etc.

I'm painting the second colour study to Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane at the moment and wrote a bouncy Christmas rock song yesterday while doing it called Christmas in the Sun, because the news is full of snow and I began to think of Christmas in Australia, naturally! Here are the words:

Oh what will you play, Kevin?
Oh what will you do when you awake?
Richard's gone away,
wonder if you'll see him.
When you wake we'll fly away,

and we'll have Christmas in the sun.
Christmas by the water.
Christmas in the sun
on a sandy beach.
We'll have Christmas in the sun
You and everybody
will be having fun!
'till the day is done!
Christmas in the sun,
this year.

Oh when shall we go, Kevin?
Oh when will you wake, to go?
Richard's gone away,
do you want to see him?
Open up your eyes for me

and we'll have Christmas in the sun.
Christmas by the water.
Christmas in the sun
on a sandy beach.
We'll have Christmas in the sun
You and everybody
will be having fun!
'till the day is done!
Christmas in the sun,
this year.

Oh what will you say, Kevin?
Cry my tears of joy when you awake?
Richard's gone away
are you off to see him?
When your morning comes we'll fly

and we'll have Christmas in the sun.
Christmas by the water.
Christmas in the sun
on a sandy beach.
We'll have Christmas in the sun
You and everybody
will be having fun!
'till the day is done!
Christmas in the sun,
this year.

The end. In other news my plaster is still rather damp and cold (it was minus five degrees here last night!) and so I'll leave it a little longer while I paint.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


A restful day but I have done a bit of casting. I've tried many way to obtain a smooth accurate relief including pouring plaster onto the painting surface, and cutting or carving images from solid blocks. This time I wanted to cut the shapes from foamboard and cast the plaster in the holes.

The foamboard positive, and cast plaster model

The first results were not promising, there were large air bubbles, and keeping the surface flat and even proved problematical. The process was also very messy. It's naturally difficult to calculate the volume of plaster needed for pouring into a mould, so it overspilled.

I've just cast a second set, this time casting a mirror image, so the visible part will be the underside which is always better looking. The foamboard, though excellent to mark and cut, does bend and deform easily and it is difficult to demould the shapes. The card is sensitive to water so after just one cast the moulds are already showing signs of deterioration.

When making the Keyholes picture I concluded that the best system was so cast a solid block and carve, but that makes for a heavy picture, and it's not easy to guarantee a strong bond between the plaster and the wood panel surface. A picture should ideally withstand being dropped. I like to test every new process to destruction!

It's all a lot of work. At the moment I'm more obsessed with perfecting the process, less so with the artistry. I might not use many of the relief parts I'm casting because impressive as they look, they might not increase the verisimilitude of the painting. It's good to gain the practical knowledge and skills though.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Death by Explosion of Moons and Keyholes

The Death By Explosion Of Moons And Keyholes. Oil, plaster and synthetic diamond on panel, size 264x371 mm.

This picture has been unveiled and is now on display as part of the Art Liberating Lives event in the Mall Galleries London.

It uses plaster reliefs and a gemstone to add to the visual impact. It took a lot of experimentation to work out the best way to incorporate plaster into the artwork and eventually cast a thin layer of plaster and carved the relief elements when dry, later fixing them firmly to the panel prior to painting.

This is the first painting to use plaster and gemstones but another is being planned.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Ark

Save us!

Last night I was thinking through a scenario. What if the world was a dead lump, humanity wiped out through a cataclysm of some sort; nuclear war (50's), ice age (60's), resource depletion (70's), nanobots (80's), killer virus (90's), or global warming (00's).

Nobody is left. In a cave deep under the surface of the moon, safe for a few billion years, safe from the tectonic activity of Earth, and from meteorites, the knowledge of humanity is stored. It was so resource expensive to send things there that just ten great artworks were chosen. I was pondering which.

I thought; The complete works of Shakespeare (that counts as one!), Michelangelo's David, Beethoven's 9th Symphony (if not all nine), 1984 by George Orwell, Paradise Lost by John Milton...

but when it came to paintings I got stuck. Not the Mona Lisa surely! So, what IS the best painting in the world?

The answer matters.

Of course on some level it will always be a matter of opinion, but some paintings do have more universal appeal than others. Criteria are needed. For me it must be beautiful, and executed well, at least. I'd nominate Las Meninas I think, or The Seven Deadly Sings by Otto Dix, or The Fairy Feller's Master Stroke!

Monday, December 14, 2009


Now! An over-the-top-award, graciously accepted from Katharine. These are like the "viral" surveys that get all over Facebook really so I'll answer a quick bunch of questions with ONE word and break the nomination of five people rule because I'm not going to stick to rules that might annoy friends or pry. Let fun commence:

1. Where is your cell phone?
In my pocket (doh! three words)

2. Your hair?
All over my body. Doh! Do you mean what colour is it? That dark brown colour that 90% of people have. Also Doh! Again because I'm using all my words up on this one question. I'll be good from now on.

3. Your mother?

4. Your father?

5. Your favorite food?

6. Your dream last night?
I was in the England football team, a striker on trial with David Beckham in goal. We both did well and I made the Beijing (yes) Olympic team but I panicked a bit because I didn't have a passport. I'm not sporty and don't like football much, so I don't know why I dreamed such a thing.

7. Your favorite drink?

8. Your dream/goal?

9. What room are you in?
Bedroom/workroom/studio/study/lab etc.

10. Your hobby?

11. Your fear?
Everything. Or nothing.

12. Where do you want to be in 6 years?
Dead but happy. Like Saint Sebastian.

13. Where were you last night?
That would be telling.

14. Something that you aren't?
Ummm.... decisive?

15. Muffins?
Mind your language.

16. Wish list item?

17. Where did you grow up?

18. Last thing you did?
Typed this.

19. What are you wearing?
My painter's uniform, sans beret.

20. Your TV?
I don't watch it.

21. Your Pets?

22. Friends?

23. Your life?

24. Your mood?
Ca va.

25. Missing Someone?

26. Vehicle?

27. Something you're not wearing?
Fez and pince-nez.

28. Your favorite store?
ie. shop. Wilkinsons.

29. Your favorite colour?

30. When was the last time you laughed?
August 14th 1982 at 7:39pm, 1.24 chortles. I'm joking.

31. Last time you cried?
Ten mins ago.

32. Your best friend?

33. One place that I go to over and over?

34. Facebook?
Now a memory.

35. Favorite place to eat?
Venice. I think it would taste of ice cream.

C'est la!

Here It Comes

Now a new poem. I wrote this on Saturday night while watching a South Bank Show about (the brilliant) Carol Ann Duffy. I wrote one about failure and one about success, this is the latter. I wrote it all in one go, which is how I generally write, then made a few small edits. Here there were two; first "micro suns" in the second to last line was originally "tiny suns" because the image was of very tiny suns, like specks of pollen, and the last line was originally "here it comes" but I felt that a near-repetition would be better than a full one. I did consider removing the "As" before over frosted fields but felt that I'd stick with my original train of thought.

Here It Comes

Here it comes,
like the sun.
Vaporous gold rays.
Phantoms of day's holy light.
Bright as love,
success and warmth.
Pulsing and flowing forms
into my chest, my flesh.

Here it comes
my lad.
Approaching from an unexpected place.
Racing atomic horses
of happiness, long awaited.
As over frosted fields
the thaw makes tears in the grass.
Fast as joy it runs,
like a billion micro suns,
it comes.

Iterations of Isolation

A day of painting, an old neglected picture that has spent many months in ugly isolation. And lo! That suits the picture, which is about isolation spawning feelings of suicide, fear and ultimately fascist hatred. This is quite an old idea and I painted the underpainting months ago, and I'm certainly paying in pain for the three rushed days I spent on the grisaille. The detail level is very poor, and here is a note for any student; a detailed painting needs a detailed underpainting, and how much detail? As much as possible, for the best paintings are painted in one layer and that one layer should be an underpainting, if you desire to improve your "perfection".

Anyway, I've ignored and bemoaned this picture too often so I had made up my mind to finish it. The workload is immense though. Much of today was spent finely painting Caravaggian skulls in the sad green sky. This picture will be no masterpiece but I'll toy with it when I have the time.

Which is rare! Yesterday I was making soap which was an interesting experience. On Saturday I was in London delivering a painting for consideration by a jury for the Royal Society of British Artists.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Song is in My Heart Again

Music today, and transcribing song ideas long written down. I've got a huge pile of papers with notes of music on. I'll never get through them all! This one is a silly bit of fun with a simple 3/4 lolloping melody not too different from Marble Halls. Definitely to be sung by a 1930's tenor dressed like a French foreign legionnaire!

A song is in my heart again
and love is in my soul.
A song is in my heart again
while I am on patrol.
My legs are in the desert sun
my heart's with you at home.
A song is in my heart today
no matter where I roam.

I think of you.
I think of me.
I see the desert dust.
I think of all the words you wrote,
the words of love and lust!

A song is in my heart again
and love is in my soul.
There's fire in my gun again
while I am on patrol.
The endless sand is everywhere
and hardship all I find,
but still a song is in my heart
for you are on my mind.

But still a song is in my heart
for you are on my mind.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas Is About Presents

Christmas Is About Presents, Oil on panel, 24x34cm.

Two years ago we exchanged Christmas cards at my art group, but despite being artists everyone gave normal bought ones! I decided to paint a card each year, and this is the card for 2009. Each has a sketch inside; for the members of Art Support I drew an animal for each person. This year, with so many members compared to last, a decision was made not to give cards in future years.

The picture is a bit unusual for me because I just made it up, instead of using models or images to copy from. The underpainting was simple greyscale.

Abandoning a Friend

Most of my paintings have poems. Here is the latest, for the "abandonment" picture I'll be working on next year.

As abandoned as a grey leaf
in a flat and ceaseless wind.
As lost as youth,
or the truth in a lie.
Alone as a cloud in a sunless sky.

In deserts of clay
tread a long slow path
to a cold wide peace
without once looking back.

Acrylic and Oil

I've been very busy over the past couple of days, working on sound effects today and yesterday and at my art group on Wednesday using experimental techniques, which have worked so far. Common wisdom states that oil and acrylic shouldn't be mixed but in the few instances where I have combined the two the results have been stable. Both soften in alcohol and perhaps softening in this way before applying another layer will create a bond between layers. I hope to perform some more rigorous experiments.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Tracing Shortcuts

Today I've been investigating way to transfer drawings more quickly. For my small scale studies I typically scan the sketch into the computer, then divide it into A4 sheets and print them on tracing paper, at that point trace as normal. This has the advantage of allowing me to use different surfaces and the result looks like the final actual drawing, but it is laborious, and so I began to consider ways to speed up the process.

First I thought of printing the mirror image onto tracing paper and putting acrylic medium on the surface. When sticky, I'd place the tracing paper face down to transfer the printer ink onto the surface. This didn't work. Tracing paper is very sensitive to moisture so wrinkles badly. I suspected though that even acetate or cellophane would be problematic because the printer ink is sometimes left on the paper, and getting the acrylic medium tacky enough to accept a print but not too wet (no transfer) or too dry (glue!) is difficult.

Then I printed onto paper and tried applying gesso over it. To my surprise I could apply quite a lot without hiding the lines. The paper wrinkled though. I tried card, the results were better but still wrinkly.

I then thought about printing onto a non-absorbent surface to avoid wrinkling. I have some acetate, but it's expensive. I located my textile samples and looked up the prices of nylon and PVC, cheap plastics that would be non-absorbent. The PVC is generally slick and untextured but that's not a problem. I've painted on it before and has enough tooth once gessoed. I also found some thin nylon that would probably work in my printer when cut into sheets. I wondered if it would make a good painting surface all round because of the texture. It would need to be adhered to a solid support though, this stuff is too thin for stretching. It feels absorbent, like it would need a lot of priming. I noted the nylon in my "to buy" list.

The PVC looked easier to prime, and it's transparent like a window. I thought that I could stick it temporarily over the top of a drawing or photograph, prime it then paint on it. It would eliminate the need to have the drawing on the painting surface, a simple alternative to a projector.

In the end I simply glued sheets of card onto a canvas board with PVA glue. It wrinkled but that can't be helped at the moment. I stuck it over the canvas board while it was still shrink-wrapped. When I'm finished with the study I can unwrap the board and it'll be as good as new!

Monday, December 07, 2009


Full day today. First I repainted the sky part of my colour study for "Abandoning..." I think it looks much better now. I'll keep hints of green in the turquoise sky because a green sky is sadder than a blue one. Then a walk, followed by printing a promotional copy of my "Stupid Computer Music" for a German radio station, posting an exhibition application to a London gallery called The Muse, and a letter a friend.

In the afternoon I was going to finish the colour study to a painting called "Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane" but the picture looked a little "empty". Here it is, the first study. Like most of my studies, this is just a quick guide to establish the tones and colours of the underpainting.

My walk took me though some trees so I decided to revisit my "garden" and add a wooded background, a twisty English wood with lots of interlocking oak branches and lots of detail. I drew the woods and traced them on the panel which had been ready for paint for almost a year.

Sunday, December 06, 2009


I was awake for most of the night with the stomach problems that have plagued my life. An indirect result of the turmoil meant that I was regrettably unable to attend the artist's event at the Down to a Fine Art gallery in Stretton today, where their new Zeitgeist exhibition is showing a few of my paintings. It was to be the last art event of the year for me because I'm also unable to attend the Art Liberating Lives event on the 15th. The Zeitgeist exhibition runs throughout December.

Today I was applying imprimatura. The result was poor. I simply cannot get a smooth result on my canvas, and each of the four attempts so far has damaged the underdrawing. On panels it's easy, partly because I can press down very hard to get a very thin "dry" surface. I get good results on canvas boards and panels though. I think it's down to the delicacy of the underdrawings on the plastic surface. This same problem occurred on an early painting of mine that was painted on polystyrene "glass". I must change.

Rubbing damages the drawing so I must apply the drawing over the imprimatura (or use a more permanent underdrawing, that's difficult at the moment). I think the best immediate choice is to tone the canvas in diluted acrylic before transferring the drawing.

Saturday, December 05, 2009


Music work again today and the boring task of uploading tracks (big ones) and cutting and folding CD artwork. I found some of the original printing I ordered for my first two CD's Synaesthesia, and The Incredible Journey, from 2002. Those haven't been on my website for years, so I decided to remedy that and am preparing the downloads and have put together some limited editions of the CDs.

Actually all my CD copies are limited because I tend to order twenty sets of the artwork and have yet to sell more than three of any, but I have faith. My confidence in my art makes me know more than ever that one day people will want to hear it. Even if not, even if I knew categorically that nobody would hear my music I think it's better to make it available than record it here and only listen to it myself. One of my fears is being flooded with orders one day but I'll worry about that when it happens.

Enough rambling!

Synaesthesia was my first attempt as an "album" or suite of music and dates back to the early 1990's. This is actually version three (version one is on tape and there are only two copies). It was hard to get the technology to work, basically my old PC was really slow and I used the first incarnation of my music software to write it, "Noisestation 1" which had no reverb effects and a very "clean" digital sound. I had cheap hi-fi speakers to do all the balancing too, but it's fine artistically.

The Incredible Journey was released the same year and was more of a mish-mash of tunes, including some from a huge game I was planning called "The Heart of Aorkhan". I'm using lots of quotes today aren't I!? Anyway, that game was the one that made me give up writing big games, the one that made me decide to try new things which is why in 2002 I set up my sound effects website IndieSFX, my game review website Bytten, my game website Cornutopia, released two music albums, wrote 150 poems, etc. etc. Everything started that year, apart from painting.

Now I AM rambling. This blog entry is the sort of email I'd write to my friend Andrew, my pen-pal and friend for about fifteen years, although we've only met twice. For perhaps a decade he was my only friend.

Tomorrow I must upload more tracks. While the computer ticks over I'll paint another study. Tick tick! Synaesthesia, The Incredible Journey, and the new one The Infinite Forest will be available by mp3 download for £5.99 and CD for £12.99 inc. postage.

If it's night then have a good night, and if it's day then have a good day dear reader!

Friday, December 04, 2009

The Infinite Forest

Music work today and the tedious task of converting files to mp3 format, creating clips, creating album artwork (four pages for a booklet complete with credits, and every other bit of text, rear artwork with track listing and inner tray artwork), then registering the tracks with PPL the recordings licencing authority, obtaining an LC code for German airplay royalties (currently pending), re-converting my older albums to 128kbps mp3 format, uploading the FLAC and MP3 versions, creating the downloadable music products, adding a web page to my website describing the music, emailing the printers to check costs and availability, entering information into the Emubands website for iTunes submission...

I'll stop there. There's a lot more yet. The paperwork involved in the music industry is immense. Instead I'll show you the front cover artwork I completed today and the inner sleeve poem.

The Infinite Forest

Onwards down the darkened path
as branches twist and arch around.
Crisp leaves make the only sound
upon the rusty forest ground.

The angel spirit leads the way
to distant lights of victory,
and slowly night transforms to day,
and mortal to infinity.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Grey Power

Painting today, the main study for a painting called "Abandoning Someone Who Was A Friend To Me When I Had None".

The colours are unusual. I began to wonder how to represent abandonment and had been toying with the idea of using grey to represent time in a painting. That came about because of my studies of neuro-linguistic programming early this year. In that, mental images to be enhanced should be imagined brightly coloured, clear and vivid, while images to be destroyed should be fuzzy and grey.

That made me think of an unusual property of paintings; that most have constant levels of chromanance. Paintings can be brightly coloured (like a Monet, van Gogh, or a Raphael), or subtly coloured in ashen greys (like a Hammershoi), but the overall chromanance tends to remain constant. I decided to colour part of the image in grey, and as you can see the result was powerful. Mentally speaking grey is a killer colour, it kills just about everything it touches! And here that tiny distant figure near the mountains at the end of that long grey road is dead, about as abandoned as anything can be.

This picture is about 25cm square and the full size one will be about 80cm square. Studies like this are very useful for working things out, and it only took one day. The picture cries out for blue and I'm unsure of the green back-reflections. More to do, tick tick.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


Wednesday means my weekly art group meeting, Art Support, and I traced out a half-size outline for the second picture in my "love" series.

My method for transferring drawings from paper to canvas is simple and laborious. First I trace carefully and accurately using a very fine black pen. Then I turn the paper over and use a brown watercolour pencil (currently a Derwent Inktense "Willow") and go over all of the lines. I use brown because it's light enough to see the black pen lines, it's also a permanent earth colour and more likely to blend and be hidden by paint over the top. The pencil doesn't blend or visibly react with solvents, which is why I use an Inktense. Finally I trace onto the painting surface using a fine point embossing scribe, a metal spike with a tiny ball at the end.

I haven't painted anything in what seems like a lifetime. I wanted to write a surreal novel, or at least one chapter in November (two chapters were my goal, but I did add a question mark!) but alas, I struggled which is no surprise because I hardly read any fiction. The idea is good though so I'll keep it. I'm not yet willing to commit the resources needed to learn to write. I'm full of painting ideas and ambitions. I'm pressuring myself to produce paintings, out of love for it, out of fear of growing old and losing my faculties, a degeneration which I can practically feel happening daily and seem to detect in everyone older than myself.

I'll paint some colour studies tomorrow. My monthly goals call for finishing colour studies for six paintings, finishing the artwork and releasing The Infinite Forest album, and modelling for two new paintings. I'd like to finish some actual paintings too, and perhaps start a new one. Oh, and have a good Christmas and 37th birthday.

Today's goal is to rest.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


Today I dropped off four paintings for a new exciting exhibition at the Down To A Fine Art Gallery called Zeitgeist. The barn gallery in Stretton, Cheshire (between Chester and Wrexham) has a different exhibition every month and this December the show aims to capture the mood of the times.

The full size version of Money Just Running Out will be premiered and on sale for £895. Three of my best paintings will also be on show, Yet More Ends Are Even (£195), So, It Has Come To This (£395), and Spear of Destiny (£595). The exhibition runs until the 11th of January.

There are two opening events and I aim to attend on Sunday the 6th, from 12 until 3pm. All are welcome to attend.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Priming Part Two

A second day of priming and some good results. I decided to use gesso, first spraying with water to retard drying. I slapped on a lot and used a spreader at first, then when the layer was reasonably even used a sponge roller.

This was slow work. The paint was so thick and wet that the bubbles when rolled were quite large. This, I've discovered, can be fixed by rolling when slightly more dry. I continued to roll until smooth, then dried with a hairdryer. Then I sanded the surface. Winsor and Newton Gesso has a jelly-like consistency and it can be sanded quite well, a good balance between a plastic and hard feel I think, for an acrylic gesso.

After sanding I sprayed again and applied a second coat, this time spreading with the sponge roller. Less paint needed. Then dry, then sand. The result was even although the texture of the canvas remains very visible and there are lots of tiny holes. That can't be helped. This is as good a job as I've done, and from the back when held up to the light there are no blotches or signs of lack of homogeneity.

Good! After that I rechecked the corners with a huge steel L, then traced the underdrawing using a fine embossing scribe. The painting is now ready for paint!

Key lessons:
1. Good light! Checking every bit for evenness while applying each layer.
2. Retarding drying with water spray, then drying with a hairdryer when even.
3. Practise. The lesson that every student hates to hear and loves to ignore.

This is "Now I've Tasted Love There Is No Going Back To A Loveless Life", the second in a series of three big square paintings. It's not a triptych, just three same sized paintings on a theme. I probably won't start painting until next year and should finish by this time next year.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Priming today. My last canvas failed, so I needed to prepare a new one. This is always tricky. I use acrylic canvas from a company called Point North. It's very tough stuff, water resistant and very lightfast, cheaper than linen and better in every way. They make a good acrylic coated polyester I aim to try too.

I've stretched and prepared four or five large ones so far, and my "procedure list" is evolving. The surface is slightly "furry" like felt and takes acrylic very well, making a soft looking downy texture that is a dream to paint on, but it can be difficult getting it flat and it does use a lot of primer.

First I stretch. My friend Sue did the stapling today, and two people are better than one. Then a layer of Golden GAC400 applied with a spreader. This is a fabric stiffener, but it doesn't stiffen that much really. Being an acrylic canvas I could paint straight on if needed but it's whiteness is not totally white and it's furry absorbency will probably be at odds with the way I paint. One reason for the GAC is that it's very liquid, and dries slowly. Those things make it easy to pour on lots and even it out, filling in the gaps on the weave and creating a smoother surface.

Up until now I've dried with a hairdryer then primed but this time I'll wait 24 hours. Last time I applied a second coat of GAC400 but that canvas was blotchy, and I suspect it was due to water spray and inadequate drying time between layers. The first square one, over a week ago, went from GAC400 to three coats of Winsor and Newton Acrylic Gesso Primer. That one was excellent, but did use lots of "gesso".

I'm undecided about the next stage. Generally speaking I like to try something that I haven't tried before, even if what I've done before seems to work adequately.

What I'll do with my 82x82 square "reject" canvas is another problem!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Apocalypse of Finance

The Apocalypse of Finance, oil on panel. This is my largest painting of 2009 and is about chaos and stability. The colour relationships and the interesting here, using my simple "chromo-surrealist" rules to create contrast in the areas that require dramatic effect.

Art Liberating Lives

I've just heard that my painting has made it into the exhibition for Art Liberating Lives, the event organised by the Sue Ryder charity. The picture is called The Death By Explosion Of Moons and Keyholes.

The event is quite short, running from December the 16th to the 20th (Wed to Sun) and is held in the Mall Galleries, close to Trafalgar Square London. I'm especially pleased with my painting and I'm sure it will sell. I already think I should have set a higher price.

Today I've been working on something similar because like 'Moons' it includes moons, and possibly plaster and gemstones too. Even as a plain painting this picture will be a great masterpiece. I can clearly visualise the frame which needs to be polished black stone of the sort that black gravestones are made. However I must be careful not to leap ahead. There are many technical challenges ahead and it's one of many paintings I'm planning at the moment.

Speaking of black gravestones however I can announce the death of Rene Descartes, or rather his painting. I had struggled with an idea about a painting that was about his philosophy, and although there were some new visual ideas, and some beauty and technical complexity worthy of showing off, it felt empty.

Let us go onward!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


After a stressful weekend of travelling it took all of yesterday to settle back down. Last night I had many fantastic dreams including one where I was tiger hunting. The monster was frightening and my rifle seemed puny. I shot it in the head but it continued to come towards me. In the end it put it's head right into the barrel before I let off the seventh and final shot to kill it.

I started to write up my surreal novel on Sunday night but will need encouragement from friends to get it written I think. I'm re-obsessed with paintings and have lots of new ideas, some of great size and ambition. The latest to be drawn out today included six moons of varying size. Drawing the same craters again and again was a good exercise in itself!

I made clay models of the principle protagonist yesterday and thought about the sculptures seen in the all media exhibition in Birmingham. I make lots of models like this. Perhaps it's time to enter some into exhibitions along with my paintings.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

On the Road to Birmingham

I was in London yesterday dropping off my painting for the Sue Ryder charity's Art Liberating Lives exhibition. Fingers are now crossed. Today it's Birmingham and a collection of work from the R.B.S.A. Gallery with Jean Briers. Here are the words to a song that was in my head this morning when I awoke. The music is, magically, rather like Bicycle Race by Queen, partly because I fell asleep thinking of the concept of a song that crossed Mama Mia with Bicycle Race. Lo and behold, the tune and words were in my head when I awoke. Mama Mia by Abba is psychologically connected to Birmingham for convoluted reasons!

On The Road To Birmingham

Look at the road and look at the street.
look at the people from the seat
of our amazing day.
See all the fountains, factories.
See all the stray cats and the bees
going about their way.

We're on the road to Birmingham
excitement on the way.
We're on the road to Birmingham today.
We're on the road to Birmingham
the cars are rushing by.
We're on the road to Birmingham the sky
is full of joy.

Going to see my auntie Jean
and uncle Tom and cousin Bean
in their amazing shed.
Going to wear their ginger wigs
and dance a few perverted jigs
or have a drink instead.

We're on the road to Birmingham
excitement on the way.
We're on the road to Birmingham today.
We're on the road to Birmingham
the cars are rushing by.
We're on the road to Birmingham the sky
is full of joy.

Going to stand in tartan shoes
see all the sights and feel the blues
painting the buildings grey.
And in the evening we'll go out
tweak any nose and run about.
What a fantastic day!

We're on the road to Birmingham
excitement on the way.
We're on the road to Birmingham today.
We're on the road to Birmingham
the cars are rushing by.
We're on the road to Birmingham the sky
is full of joy.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Drawing a Mess

Today I reaffirmed that I can draw! This afternoon I completely realised a new idea, assembled the objects to copy and drew them in a short three or four hours. The picture is called Happy Butterflies, and so includes many of the flying creatures. I seem to be rather butterflyish of late. I'm not sure why.

Drawing is easy. Very easy. But it's amazing how many artists don't think they can draw. So, if you are such an artist here is why drawing is easy.

1. Drawing accurately is simply a matter of "spot the difference" between what you've drawn and the thing you are copying.
2. It doesn't have to be perfect. Accept that and a drawing will come out better than a strained attempt to make it perfect.
3. Finally the ultimate clause; every line you make is an expression of your personality. To draw 100% accurately is to kill that self-expression and so is not desirable. This rule makes it impossible to draw "badly". This rule is not an excuse to not learn how to draw, though. This skill of all skills, is valuable for creative reasons.

Most drawing (and painting!) is having the confidence to try. It seems that many amateur painters are too afraid to even sign their name for fear of making a mess! If you are one such artist then read and accept rule three and sign. No matter what happens it will be your mess. What is a signature but that?


When an artist asks "how do you paint reflections?" or "how do you paint water?" or "how do you paint cloth?" they are thinking like proceduralists. They are asking for a trick or procedure that can be used to paint things like those objects.

Procedures like that can be useful for invented objects, and certain media too, with tricks like this being part and parcel of watercolour painting, but when oil painting something it's easiest to never be a proceduralist. Artists paint images, not things. A picture of a pipe is not a pipe!

A tree, a face, a sky, an apple, a pile of cornflakes, a pearl necklace. No matter what is to be painted everything can be done simply and carefully from top to bottom in one layer, using a tiny brush and tunnel vision.

Invented objects can be painted in this way too. For those it's best then not to move slowly but "deeply", forming an amorphous blob into the object. For this, a good visual knowledge bank is needed established by lots of observation.

Those are the only two tricks needed to paint anything.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Infinite Forest

Music! I cry. This has been a month of mixed emotions but good productivity. Over the past few days I've been finishing a new album of music, The Infinite Forest. The work stems from a music commission from last year for a suite of tunes. Those were rather short and all looping. I've expanded and edited the music into a full album. It is sequenced and produced on computer as usual but for the first time the instruments are all orchestral, and it has a feel like the sort of music that Nintendo include in their epic games. The story is of a quest for love. Here is a prospective track listing.

1. The Knight
2. Vision Of The Angel
3. Dark Forces
4. Lost Friends
5. March Of The Iron Animals
6. Orb Of Prophecy
7. Waltz Of The Forest
8. The Photograph
9. The Talking Butterflies
10. The Iron Graveyard
11. Victory
12. The Angel

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

R.B.S.A. Open All Media Exhibition

The Royal Birmingham Society Of Artists Open All Media Exhibition opens tomorrow. My painting Two Roman Legionaries Discovering The God-King Albion Turned Into Stone will be on display. This is my second appearance at the gallery.

Monday, November 16, 2009


Many fantastic dreams last night including Derren Brown telling me that I'll die of an infection next month, and the concept of a "peace shop", a dimly lit quiet room with comfortable seating in shopping centres where stressed shoppers pay to rest peacefully. I also wanted to win the national lottery jackpot but could only manage to win £19,000. I had three good painting ideas too. Today though I will continue work on the music which is still untitled.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


The Birmingham drop off went well and was quick. Many thanks to Jean for taking me.

Next I have a few days that I'd like to use for music and sound effects. I wrote a suite of music for a computer game last year that I will expand into an album. The music uses orchestral instruments throughout and has no percussion, it's melody based and all very pleasant. The original suite used short loops, one or two minutes, so I'd like to expand these for length and essentially remove the loop.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Money Just Running Out

Money Just Running Out, Oil on panel, 541x345mm.

I completed this in September but it was only dry enough to scan accurately today. The picture is based on an idea from 2007 about the panic of running out of money, here the ground literally falling away.


Well, this month and next seem like some sort of peak of the exhibition season with lots of pick-up and drop off dates to open exhibitions and competitions. It's getting a bit too much and I'm a little depressed today having not done any actual work since Tuesday, and with tomorrow one free day before another drop-off on Sunday, by and with my friend the artist Jean Briers for The Royal Birmingham Society of Artists Open.

I did learn today that rules and submission requirements should be checked very thoroughly. I failed to put mirror plates on two paintings submitted for The Three Counties Open. That fact rather astonished me because I delivered the paintings with some others by a friend and I pointed out that one of hers lacked mirror plates. I also pointed out that one of mine had the plates the wrong way round, and thirdly I attach mirror plates to every painting when I make the frame whether I use them or not, so in this case I must have at some point deliberately removed them before submitting them!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Some colour studies today. I plan three big square paintings, a "love" trilogy and today's quick work was on the colours for the first, "Abandoning Someone Who Was A Friend To Me When I Had None". The simple colour study is powerful already.

Tomorrow I'm going to the Manchester Art Gallery (and later the Lowry) as part of an organised trip by my art group. I want to see the Angels of Anarchy exhibition which shows paintings by female surrealists including Frida Kahlo, Dorothea Tanning and Leonora Carrington that I know well from books but haven't seen in real life. I'm quite excited!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Portrait of Andrew Williams

Today I added a glazing layer to Portrait Of Andrew Williams as Writer Dreamer. I didn't do much planning regarding the colours and the dark red figure looks rather stark, the blue-grey greens of the floor are a bit strange too, yet I can't picture other colours there looking better. The floor is filled with an improvised landscape, here a forest of white trees with letters hanging in them.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Keele Three Counties Open 2009

I've just returned from the opening to the Three Counties Open at Keele University, an annual open art exhibition where one of my paintings was selected. The variety of work there shows what a difficult choice the judges have. Only about 115 paintings are selected from over 450 entries.

I'm never quite sure what to make of exhibitions. I can analyse artworks. I'm good at analysis but what I "like" is very driven by my analysis. If I don't know what to feel I get stuck. It's rare for me to have instant likes or dislikes, but I can see the good points and bad points, merits and flaws in just about anything.

The judges are different each year, which is a nice feature, and prizes were awarded. The winner used pieces of glass to add a texture not evident from a distance to make a abstracted set of figures that looked a bit like Les Demoiselles d'Avignon in thick scribble.

There were many good works there. Hare at Sunset by Kate Gandolfo stood out and was commended by the judges too.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Gary Fernandez

Today I completed the large underdrawing to a future painting called Now I've Tasted Love There Is No Going Back To A Loveless Life. The floor is rather empty which is my current compositional concern.

I've also been briefly browsing around the website of an artist called Gary Fernandez, an artist with a clean and very recognisable style.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


Sometimes you need to believe that you are the best in the world at something just to have the confidence and drive to do it and see it through. Such a belief is only truly possible when naive. Perhaps naivety is the most useful possession of youth.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Joy to the World

Yes! My big painting is finished. I'll keep its image a secret for now. More importantly are the lessons learned...

1. Transparent azo yellow is very strong and very transparent. For glazing over light colours to use as a yellow is rarely advisable. I used this on a study but it was too "electric" and the cadmium I used on the actual painting was much better. I've had good results with the yellow over darker earth reds, and too with viridian to make excellent yellow greens. It's too transparent to model with on it's own though, and with white is no better than cadmium.

2. Large plain flat areas are fine on small paintings but on big ones can appear tedious.

3. Gold paint can look as good as gold leaf, but only in tiny sections because it dries very quickly and can become blobby. Gold leaf, with all it's difficulties, looks better when gold is needed.

4. Venetian red is the ultimate earth red. It's a colour that I love each time I use, and on this picture I used only venetian red, "naples yellow" deep (that is PBr24), cobalt turquoise light and black and white for underpainting which covered enough of the spectrum for any final colour (violets are the only notable problem, and remain so given the very long drying time of my Old Holland Dioxazine... my new plan for that is to mix with an earth during underpainting and glaze with ultramarine violet which is practically the same shade but very weak in power by comparison).


Monday, November 02, 2009

Apocalypse Figure

I did some work on the figure for The Apocalypse of Finance today. The colours worked very well despite being simple, yellow ochre light (Winsor and Newton's very transparent and very nice yellow ochre) and Transparent Maroon, a colour I never tire of, like an intense transparent Venetian Red. The feet were improvised which was a challenge and I'm unhappy with the expression, but on the whole this is one of my better poses that looks better in reality than in a photograph.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Castles of the Mind

Here's a photo of my most recent painting called Castles Of The Mind. It was originally about order forming spontaneously from chaos and was an improvised swirl of paint that led to a square. The swirl was "automatically" pushed and pulled into cloudy castle shapes. The painting is in oil on a coarse canvas board. The blue ground is thinned acrylic that was sponged on.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Flatspace Review

For those with iPhones, the iPhone version of my game Flatspace has has a good thorough review: "The App Store is rife with space games, many making promises on which they do not deliver. Flatspace is the game to put the rest to shame. If you’re a fan of computer games like EV Nova or Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space, then you’re going to love Flatspace. It is the only game I’ve played on the iPhone that lives up to the promise of being a true open space role-playing game...".

Thursday, October 29, 2009


My painting for the Sue Ryder Art Liberating Lives exhibition has made it through to the second round of judging!

Today I dropped off three paintings for judging for the Three Counties Open in Keele University. After Keele I had a lovely stroll through the Trentham garden estate, the nearest thing to a Florentine Renaissance garden I've been to. I'm beginning to feel quite better again but need another day or two of gentle rest I think to combat recent weakness.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Too Much

I've been under stress and listless today, feeling tired but under pressure too. After some thought I conclude that this is down to not having clear goals for the day. When I used to develop computer games I'd make a plan for the month, then a plan for each week, then for each day, and stick to the plans irrespective of how I felt. My "feelings" were to complete the plan. Doing anything not on the plan caused stress. It was that simple.

Recently I've been more loose regarding time management, and art is different to the computer work I knew so well in that the time and effort involved in a particular job is more difficult to predict. Today I wanted to plan a picture but stopped half way, deciding to start on another which I thought was more impressive. Then I decided to do something else, then a bit of something else. Nothing was finished adequately and I ended up feeling tired and frustrated.

As a result of today I'll re-examine my goals for November. Some good solid goals are needed.

Monday, October 26, 2009


The sky parts are now complete on my painting. I'll pause for a few days now.

First an announcement. Some of my original paintings including unseen works will be on sale on November the 11th at the Down To A Fine Art Gallery. All paintings are priced at £111.

Today I've been working on music. Music and painting are both quite similar but I normally approach them in very different ways. Capturing the instant idea in a sketch is more easily done with a pen than in a sequencer. I can too easily get bogged down in one little bit near the start, losing track of what the next bit was going to be. I'm stuck between trying to do it "the visionary way" with a sketch beforehand that sums it up, or "the crafting way" of playing around until something pretty happens. I paint the visionary way.

I feel too Kubrickish. What is the difference between Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg? Both fine artists of film, Stanley Kubrick would think and think and perfect and perfect, such that A.I. absorbed over 20 years of thinking. Steven Spielberg gave the impression of glancing at it and whisking it out in two weeks. There's definitely something to be said for just going for it and worrying about "perfection" levels after it is done.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Day Two

Day two of glazing. I worked on the butterfly and some of the green-yellow-blue sky. The work was unexciting and miniscule, lacking in flair. The yellow parts of the sky was glazed too brightly an I had to delicately brush it away and repaint.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Apocalypse Glazing Begins

Today I began glazing The Apocalypse of Finance, having been in the mood because of working on a smaller version yesterday in Art Support. I've decided to take my time and have at least one break of a few days during working on this layer. This is excusable when glazing but hard to justify when underpainting, because a good underpainting has edges that are smooth and blended so that glazes that adjoin areas can easily fade from one colour to another as smooth as glass even when one area is dry. Blending dry or semi-dry opaque paint is not possible and so underpaintings must ideally be completed quickly while the paint is wet.

I've painted the red sky today and the distant buildings. I used my trusty Prolene Plus 007 size 3/0 to draw some ultra-fine rays from the explosion of light in the sky. I've used that type of brush on just about every painting I've ever painted and it remains my standard choice for details, even when underpainting. A Winsor and Newton Series 7 000 is perhaps finer and better, but wears out more quickly and costs about ten times more. I reserve one of those for essential emergencies only.

The lines were too fine and anticrepuscular, so I smoothed them towards procrepuscular glory!

Sunday, October 18, 2009


More music work today. It's amazing how much filing, editing and general administration work is now associated with the music I do. It takes far longer than the actual composition and production even if I exclude any registration with the myriad music registration authorities.

I had hoped to write some new music this month but my computer problems probably cost more than ten days and now the busy schedule of art events mean I should really try and finish the paintings I've got in progress.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


I am now a friend of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, perhaps the most renowned art society outside London. Friendship costs £27 and bestows numerous benefits, including free submission into their open exhibitions, tutorials and art evenings, as well as reduced rates for just about every fee paying event. I look forward to participating in the events and exhibitions in their Brook Street gallery.

I've spent today working on music for my website IndieSFX. I will add more themes to the royalty free collection there in December. Computer game music tends to be catchy and always fun to write. Visualisation is the key to successful production, even in music!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Flatspace iPhone

The iPhone conversion of my game Flatspace has been released. The game costs $2.99 US (that's £1.79!) and is the first new Flatspace game in over a year. Available from Apple iTunes and other app stores.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


A few days of disruption end a couple of weeks of disruption due computer problems and now a new PC (and the necessary re-setting up). This new machine has a 3ghz CPU but it's still slower than my 2ghz PC from four years ago which is annoying.

In art, I'm planning paintings. My plans for music were laid aside due to the computer problems.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Computer trouble and a dull persistent headache and probably due to a cold have slowed my progress over recent days. I must generate morale so I will think of what I have achieved. First I've primed an 80cm square canvas, ready for a new painting "Abandoning Someone Who Was A Friend When I Had Nobody" which is drawn out and planned for the most part.

I've partly finished the study for Christ in the Garden Of Gethsemane, which is also a big picture. Even at this stage I'm making compositional changes and referred to the original automatic drawing to add an iris into the distance.

I've reprogrammed some mass file renamer software which was very useful in updating my website, and also updated my music software NoiseStation II a version, the first update since Dec 2007.

I finished a tune too, a simple game theme for IndieSFX. I hoped to start something grander and more impressive but I heard only silence in my head, or at least a cacophony of chaos instead of firm emotion. I have listened to some classical music to get me back into the swing of that. I've also finished another layer of a nuclear butterfly, a small painting about chaos that relates to the Apocalypse Of Finance.

Thursday, October 08, 2009


Visitors looking for a surreal creation this Christmas can now buy a card for that special occasion that features my artwork. I've added a few card designs to a new page on the PhotoBox website. PhotoBox are an excellent company that I've used for many years, and the site makes it easy for artists and designers to put their designs up for sale.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Canvas Stretching

Stretched a canvas today. Important lessons;
1. Use two people if possible, one to pull and one to staple.
2. Pull then lever with the canvas pliers.
3. Once done, you can remove and retry staples to get them perfect.
4. Don't staple into the joints! The stretchers should be allowed to move.
5. Cut the corner material... not sure when the best time to do this is. Folding and stapling the corners would violate rule 4, so it seems that thick canvas must be cut.
6. Insert wedges (see note).

I was not sure how to manage with a central crossbar. It interferes with the principle of stapling in the middle first because the bar gets in the way of the levering when using pliers. Today I stapled just to the right of it, then just to the left, treating those two as one.

The results are now very tight. I inserted the wedges before priming and painting. The correct method is (apparently) to insert them after painting to tighten things up, in case the priming and paint caused slackening, however the canvas wasn't tight enough without them, and I'd like a taut surface for the Golden GAC400 I'll apply. GAC400 is an acrylic medium that makes surfaces flatter and more rigid. Applying that to a slightly loose surface that is to be stretched later seems like a bad idea because the GAC400 will want to fix the canvas in shape.


All the world's a sage and all the men and women merely onions.

The Web

I've been updating my website over the past few days, adding style sheet support and lots of programming to make it easier to add pages and maintain current ones. Visually the site is the same for the most part although the menus have slight "hover" boxes behind the mouse when you point to different items.

Friday, October 02, 2009


Artists are constant learners, as are all craftsmen for each new object presents new challenges. A painting isn't like a chair, built the same way each time, it's a mix of engineering, communication, love making, skill and imagination. I feel that my paintings have dipped a little in quality this year after a good start, but now I feel back in the swing of things.

Examples of lessons I've learned since last year.

1. The Albion picture last year taught me that complex scenes need proper staging. I learned that for a complex painting, a detailed study saved time and was less work than painting the final picture and trying to correct it.
2. The Nine Ladies taught me that phthalo green in a glaze could look near black when toned down and was sufficiently opaque for details when liquified.
3. Perfection and Necroamoria taught me that acrylic resin varnish cannot be applied over gilding until the size is totally dry, and that wet sanding an acrylic gesso surface with alcohol creates a smooth slick surface. I also learned that a study should be repainted from the start if it is not an accurate representation of the final work, and that final varnishing should be done with absolute care and that it cannot be removed in part.
4. The Lightning Of Creation taught me that a painting that is considered "finished" can still be revisited and improved. I also learned about the application of gold pigment as glitter.
5. The Death By Explosion Of Moons And Keyholes taught me a lot about plaster of paris and that gold and jewels can improve a painting. This painting is recently complete and was developed for the Sue Ryder Art Liberating Lives exhibition. I will submit it soon.
6. Money Just Running Out taught me that abstraction can sometimes look better than reality, and that when glazing, flat synthetic brushes can be more effective transmitters of flair and panache than round sables.

I'll stop here because each painting has taught me something. The underpainting to The Apocalypse Of Finance is now complete, it is the last major work I will start this year.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Flatspace Mobile

The iPhone version of my game Flatspace has been submitted for publication on the Apple App Store. This new conversion is expected to be on sale to the public later this month for a bargain $2.99. It's a big game for such a small machine and credit must go to Wasp Games for the conversion work.

Still Painting

Painting the figure today. I used fairly realistic colours, yellows and dark reds even though this is just an underpainting. It gives me more flexibility during glazing and if smooth and pretty means I can finish with a flourish in one layer. A painting should look good enough to be called "finished" after every layer, even the first.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Apocalypse Underpainting

Tricks are never as good when you know how they are done, but magic is always amazing.

The meteorite is painted. Next; the buildings in the foreground.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Apocalypse Underpainting

Day three. Things proceed slowly but on track.

Haunted Camera Dream

I dream of enrolling in a college course. Two friends were with me, one I haven't seen in 20 years who subsequently. We sat down at a round table in the busy student area across from three pretty giggly girls. I wasn't interested in any of them but felt more confident with them than my shy friends. A chubby girl sat next to me with a prescription energy drink. We started talking and got on well although I felt slightly guilty doing so knowing that I had a girlfriend. When she looked at me her face was brightly painted and the patterns swirled and moved.

I walked home along the college road and found it very difficult to walk at all, straining to recall how to walk. I managed to make progress by walking backwards. I had a camera and took photographs of a fantastic yellow storm through the fence that lined the left of the road, it was the storm from my painting "I'll Be Here For You". I thought this was hell. The camera spoke words with a voice like a small child when the shutter was pressed and when I played back the images I saw video of a theme park. I knew that the camera was haunted and that the child was a ghost. A passer by became interested and I wanted to show him that the camera was only haunted when I used it. I turned the corner and was inside a building. The storm still raged beyond the glass making a beautiful tunnel in the yellow dusty clouds. An ostrich with one eye like a cyclops was behind glass in one room, like an exhibit in a zoo. I photographed that and passed the camera to the man to try it.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Day two of underpainting. The day started with a frustrating rendering of the large swallowtail. Most of the day was simple gradients and improvised textured surfaces such as the "gold" on the butterfly shown.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Today I painted with panache.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


I spent far too long today formatting and ordering a 2010 calendar with my paintings on. It's costing £20 but it is worth trying to see what it looks like. I like art calendars, but I also like my weeks to start on Sunday like American calendars because in my head Sunday has always felt like the first day of the week not the last. I seem unable to order a calendar that starts on Sunday! Anyway, that escapade took far too many hours that I should have spent drawing.

I also spent a long time looking for surrealists online with an eye to forming some sort of group or holding a joint exhibition. Sadly, most were either not really surrealists, not very good, and/or often totally bonkers, and each thought about art in different ways. It made me question the whole point and rationale behind a group! Re-recognising the art of Esther Albone was worthwhile though. Her paintings seem to be halfway between mine and Frida Kahlo's.

Achievements today then have been limited, but there have been some;
1. I have confirmed a second solo exhibition at the Lyceum Theatre for November 2010.
2. I have also confirmed the possibility of a joint exhibition in Nantwich Museum with my friend and artist Ray Perez. This is very much in the hands of the curator and is not decided in advance but we are hopeful that an exhibition around August of next year will take place.
3. I've had it confirmed that four paintings will go on display in Jobling Gowler Macclesfield from January to March 2010.

I also wrote three brilliant poems and bought a big chain for the Abandonment panting but the composition is causing me storms. The picture looks more dramatic as it is but the idea is conveyed better with a cloud on a broken chain. A cloud with a broken chain is the perfect metaphor for abandoning someone. I must resolve the storm with a deadline. It will be finished by October the 1st or be torn asunder!

Tomorrow I begin underpainting the final full version of The Apocalypse of Finance.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Machinosh, Giger and Hockney

I'm very tired today because I've done a lot of new things. I was more active than usual at Art Support, met a new member there and struggled but succeeded in recalling the names of many recent new artists! Exhausted when I got back I slumped down and sleepily watched a documentary about Charles Rennie Mackintosh which was interesting. I flicked through a book of H.R. Giger pictures at the same time and consequently drew the plan for a painting called Scales Of Justice as a joint homage to both artists. In my head the picture is about two metres wide by five or more high which is too big for me to paint. Mackintosh had more intelligence, skill and imagination than Giger. I went out and bought parts for a lamp and imagined making a limited number and selling them to all of the best people in Britain. Later I read part of a book by David Hockney, who has painted very few good pictures in my opinion, but he seems like a nice chap. I suspect he'd think that being a nice chap was more important than painting good pictures anyway.

Now I'm so tired I feel only the dull thud of a damp grey mop periodically thumping the inside of my cranium in an eternal salute to a slowly liquifying snail in a polished chromium shell. Tomorrow I'll draw or do light work for on Friday I begin a painting at full speed again. Today's ideas gave me a sense of future greatness and the feeling is more tangible than ever.