Friday, February 27, 2009

The Silkworm Part 2

I'm currently glazing a painting called The Silkworm. It's taking longer than expected and is hard work although the strange thing about painting is that it leaves enough of your brain free to think about all sorts of things, and I've even been known to write songs or poems at the same time as paint. Sky and cocoon done today. I'll do the man and moth tomorrow, hopefully. Tired now.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

After The War

I haven't posted any poems for a while, and indeed haven't written much this year but here is one.

After The War

It's twelve o'clock on Trafalgar Square.
The man is there.
He's always there.

Every day, in thick grey clothes
he goes to the seat in the pigeon sea.
Every day for twenty four years,
sheds memories of tears,
of love enduring over fears.

"Meet me after the war" she said.
"We'll meet on Trafalgar Square.
I'll see you one day at twelve o'clock."
Her words were as loud as the noise all around,
as hot as the lock of her auburn hair
preserved in his book with care.
"At twelve I'll see you there."

His hat has changed.
The world has changed,
and everything different, except in his mind.
He sits and waits and contemplates,
and leaves today behind.

"Meet me after the war..." she cried.
Over noise and panic, the dust filled sky.
She dashed and ran, the city aglow.
"Meet me..." her words from so long ago.

Each golden word is precious,
as one o'clock is soon,
as every noon on Trafalgar Square
he's there like an ocean without any shore.
A glance at a face is a moment alone
in city of millions more.

For twenty four years he's been coming.
He'll come for sixteen more.
And when he dies he'll hear her again,
and meet her after the war.


If there's one thing not to be taken seriously it's all the important things in life. Art, however should be taken very seriously. Now I'm working on a picture called There's A Lot To Be Said For Endorphins. I love the idea (see picture) so much. It's a good illustration of how difficult it can be to translate the feeling of a tiny idea sketch into a full size painting with colour, tone and solidity. It also shows that these ideas are mnemonics for me more than fleshed out ideas. I know what everything is supposed to be but what the things are isn't obvious to other people.

Courage/My Skin

As well as painting I also write songs and my friend and singer Steven McLachlan has a new single out, a double A Side Courage/My Skin. It is not one of mine but I thought I would mention it. It's in aid of an eating disorder charity called Beat. Steven says...

"Courage has hit the #1 spot on the UK’s independent chart, based on sales made by SMS, while the promotion video is sitting comfortably in the YouTube Top100 music chart."

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Quest for Physical Intimacy in a Loveless Relationship

The Quest for Physical Intimacy in a Loveless Relationship. My first of painting of 2009 finally scanned. This year I'm sticking more closely to my ideal of painting mainly in summer so it's naturally going to be a slow start.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

More Glazing

More glazing on Nine Ladies Weeping today. The greeny floor is as problematical as ever. My love for viridian is constantly thwarted by its transparency which tends to hinder any grassy details. Touching up tomorrow and that will do it for another layer.


I was asked a week or two ago whether I was painting for work or play. I was unusually stuck for an answer. Work is something miserable done for money. Play is something joyous, and when you're full of joy you don't need money. By chance, my play seems to be creating wealth too. My income from my various creative activities is about £12k a year. I'm already looking forward to the day, perhaps this year when my paintings are worth £12k each! By the time I'm forty I anticipate I'll be a millionaire! The best thing anyone can do is to buy one of my paintings right now as an investment but no NO! The saddest thing is a painting that is an investment. Avarice is the most idiotic feeling and definitely not for me. People should buy a painting because it gives them joy. I might be painting my future wealth or just painting my future joy, but the joy is my motivation.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Fin de Siécle

Surrealism is different from other art forms. Some people struggle to separate their job from themselves, and many artists do the same with their art but with surrealism the opposite is true; the artist IS the art and sooner or later I faced the fact that my personality became my art and my art was my personality and that exposing my personality was the only option. As such, much of this blog is as much about my self-analysis and way of thinking as it is painting; and that's because my way of thinking is my art too, and each word here is a picture.

I've noticed that my paintings have reflected my life as much as dreams. Unlike perhaps classic surrealism I rarely paint my dreams, yet seem to dream while I'm awake and so do draw and 'see' in to some way fantastical imagery that I paint and even have dreamt of later (perhaps dreaming of my painted imagery makes me an unsurrealist).

Today I've been painting Nine Ladies Weeping, a picture of an ancient stone circle in Derbyshire, it is also about the end of times, a sad passing, and today I've noticed that I've thought of a few pictures and had dreams with that very feeling. As the sun sets who knows what the new day will bring. I feel I'm entering a new chaotic phase, my first since October 2008. The resulting change will impact my art as much as my life.


Who is the greater coward; he who grasps for death while living or he who grasps for life while dying?

Friday, February 20, 2009


I was thinking of glazing Nine Ladies Weeping, a picture for the Derbyshire Open today but had an insecurity about the unusual colours so decided to paint a colour study instead. I also signed off three pictures. The world must wait until they are dry enough to scan before I'll upload them but I can at least reveal the back to Self-Portrait As Idiot Wanker. I'll often draw random (pseudo-random? surreo-random? anti-stochastic-neuro-sequential-random?) things on the back while notating the dates, materials etc. and most paintings have an associated poem there too.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Paper Curling 2

Well the paper was flatter than when I used the acrylic medium but still has a few little ripples like sand in a riverbed. Next time I'll just dampen the wood with a cloth and see what happens. The drawing to Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane is as complete as the composition... but there is some greenery missing. I'll have to stare at it for a few weeks. Tomorrow I'm painting again and signing off two, so soon I'll actually have some final images to post, once this weather allows the pictures to dry!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Flattening Curling Paper

Last nights poem was not as glorious in the cold logical light of day, but the cold day HAS been glorious! I've flattened a new huge piece of Fabriano Accademia drawing paper using a new idea;

1. Get two pieces of wood as big as the paper (one piece and a smooth floor will do). You probably need a big drawing board anyway so that's one piece. I've used two huge pieces of 12mm MDF.

2. Unroll the paper and cut. This bit can be quite difficult. I used heavy books to hold the loose side down and used one of those snap-off blade knives.

3. Get a pump sprayer, one of those plant watering things. Spray the wood evenly to dampen it evenly.

4. Then put the paper on it and the second bit of wood on top and walk about on it for a bit. That slight dampness on the wood should help dampen the paper perfectly evenly without wrinkling.

The wood is still on there though. I'll see what it is like tomorrow. Some heat to dry it out would be nice. It's at times like this when I wish it was summer.

I'm currently past halfway drawing Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, an 80x50cm allegorical surrealist picture about facing a choice between an artists' life and a normal life.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


I did it. After eleven o'clock I wrote a poem which was well worth the final hours of the day. It's not finished but there is enough there to continue with tomorrow. Earlier at about six I wrote a simple song. Here are the words.

Today I'll not miss you,
and I'll not write.
I will not think of you
at times tonight.

Who am I fooling with this short song.
One day without you is too long.

Today I will miss you,
my new best friend
and I will think of you,
and I'll pretend.


Drawing today. It's amazing how I have to relearn to draw each day I draw. By 3pm I seem to be back to an expert, having spent almost all of the day as an amateur, and it seems that the cycle continues the next day! Two paintings sketched out; Clinging On (pictured) and a slightly bigger one called Depression Caused By The Selfishness Of Hiding Selected Personality Traits.

Now it's nearly 5pm. I want to do something else new and creative today to round it off. It's at times like this that I want a cornuthaum, that is a "wizard's" conical hat to concentrate cosmic mental energies! Perhaps I should make a cornuthaum. The cornuthaum market has really dried up in recent centuries.

Monday, February 16, 2009

New Compositions

Back to work. I've cut the paper for Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. The final composition was not spectacular enough for the giant 120cm canvas I've ordered the stretchers for. It's rather intimidating to have such huge blank canvas there. I'm immensely excited by it but I'll have to remember that my first attempt at such a big painting will be a form of training and a learning process. It is better to just get going than hold back for what I think might be a "great" picture. I've decided to cut the Gethsemane one down by a few percent, and have two other possible ideas for the big one. I've prepared the paper for a small one called, at the moment, Clinging To A Very Remote Being and begun the composition of a new idea about personality masks. The picture here is the underpainted windmill from The Silkworm.


I dream of fireworks. I was lighting the blue touch paper to a rocket and expecting a spectacular launch and explosion. I noticed that the rocket had become a cone shaped fountain-type firework like a Roman Candle instead. The crowd consisted of a few pretty ladies. I hoped that when it went off the cone would still shoot up into the sky an explode but feared that it would not. It felt like a good dream. The erupting cone shape indicated a new sense of sexual and social confidence, and I interpret the rocket as my artistic success, which I am apparently less certain of.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


I have just returned from a short walking break to the New Forest with my mum and brother. In those three days I achieved nothing towards changing the world for the better and very little towards my personal development. If I had not gone it would not have changed anything in the world, apart from perhaps a few pounds lost to the tourist industry. My skills were wasted on trivial activities that anyone could perform when it is my duty to stretch myself. On the plus side new experiences always have some value, especially to artists. Also, I primarily went in the role of companion rather than for a break myself, and I enjoyed some time with my family.

The above analysis of my feelings towards why I don't really like holidays is probably the greatest benefit of that break. One of my life rules has now changed from "Create your own destiny" to "Change the world. It is your destiny." My four rules are written on my wall as guiding lights, and as such that small change of words will affect me, and therefore affect my artworks and creations, and therefore and ultimately the world.

Now I am raring to get going on new painting plans! That is another benefit of a few days away.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Anna Q. Nilsson Drawing

Drawing today; a portrait of Anna Q. Nilsson and a positive surreal picture called The First Grasp Of Rebirth about my rebirth, the new me for 2009. Today's great idea is high heels for men. Height seems to matter more for men than women, ask any short man, yet high heels seem to be considered effeminate, perhaps seen as a sign of weakness or feeling inadequate? Ha! I say! I am 169cm tall, that's about five foot six in dinosaur units. Should I require more physical dominance I would wear high heels, but could I even walk in them?!!!! The idea of wearing them already intrigues me on some level. Hmm, this is most fascinating. I must design a line of masculine high heeled shoes.

Anyway back to the glories of painting. I want to draw and plan this month. Oil painting in winter is fraught with the danger of solvents with closed windows, something that Christine has recently drawn to my attention. Now, back to work! So much to do!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Paper Curling

Well the underpainting to The Silkworm is done. The windmills are only quite small, smaller than my hand but they still took about eight hours to paint because of the tiny bits. The squillion holes in the sails make them an intellectual challenge!

But ho! This post is about paper. I wanted to prepare the paper for a 120x75cm painting so have a new roll of Fabriano Accademia drawing paper (which looks to be good for this sort of thing) but then came the problem of curling. I decided to lay it flat on a big board curl side down (so it bulges up) and weigh it down with books. Then I applied some Golden GAC400 with a sponge, an acrylic "stiffener". It doesn't really stiffen that much but is better than normal acrylic medium. The paper still buckled but flattening it when it was damp was reasonably effective. Applying any watery thing to paper will probably buckle it, but this is too big to stretch! I think it's flat enough to draw on now but I'll keep thinking of how to flatten curling paper more perfectly... Tips appreciated if anyone has any!!

Monday, February 09, 2009


I dream of the end of an era. Art critic Sacha Craddock was going through a museum with the curator offering guidance to how the exhibits are laid out and lit. I am Stephen Fry and just wandering about while the others talk business. One room is all laid out like a Victorian parlour, well lit from a window on one wall. There are writing tables and chairs and lots of furniture in green and brass but all bright not in the normally dull blacks and greens of real Victorian rooms. I'm in the room alone after the others walk and talk away. The "sun" outside begins to set leaving the room dark but it is a spotlight. Sacha says that the sun should have been slower and the colours more intense, as they fade in red and oranges. She was right. The dream was completely true. The old days are dying for me and I want their death to last longer.

Sunday, February 08, 2009


Today I've been painting the silk folds for my silkworm picture. Most of it is now complete with only the windmills left to do tomorrow. I've now got painters headache which comes from staring at a canvas for hours on end. The only cure seems to be to sit in a dark room in silence and enter a half-sleep state. I'm going to do that now because my spontaneous creative energies all seem to have expired and I'm left with a trickle of thoughts that patter into tiny dotlets instead of a flowing stream of words. Sleep sleep sleep.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Emmanuel Kant's chick, and a box.

Two small paintings worked on yesterday and a song penned. Today if I'd got up at 3pm after staying in bed all day with depression (which, incidentally, has never happened) I would probably have been more artistic. At my art group and painted an "acrylic" landscape that looked like a Cézanne, yes that bad. Now I'm making a carrying case for wet oil paintings. I must photograph it because it's a useful invention. Some members of my group want one, at least lovely Anne does, the sole oil painter there. Essentially it is a wooden case with sloping sides and an elasticated closing mechanism so that a wet painting when face down will not slip about. It also has a windowed side so that the painting can dry in the light, and dust free.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Textual Melodic Notation

I wanted to develop a way to record the melodies of my songs with a simple text editor that uses a normal Roman font. This document describes that method. It is best viewed in a fixed pitch font. It is also duplicated in the Writings From 2009 section of my website That page will be updated as necessary.


Most songs do not change pitch much between notes and it is rare to change more than one octave in a song. As such, in this notation note pitch should be seen as relative to the previous note.

For the most part it is sufficient to list the notes and assume that the next note is the closest one. However to further clarify this, upper or lower case lettering is used to indicate the relative placement of the notes. Lower case, smaller letters, means the note is higher than the previous one and upper case, larger letters, indicates the note is lower. The first note should be upper case.

Whole octave shifts are much more rare than the same note appearing twice, so the same letter twice in a row indicates the same pitch even if the case is different. In such situations the case should remain the same unless it is neater or more easily understood to change case (in a phrase that is repeated for example).

Cde eDC

Indicates the notes C, D and E ascending then descending.


Is an identical alternative. The case of the two E notes is not relevant because they are next to each other.


Would be three notes repeated twice as in "Three Blind Mice".


Indicates that the D is lower than the C, so almost an octave lower. The e is two semitones higher than the D.

Octave Shifts

In rare cases of a shift of more than one octave, the number of octaves shifted is placed below the note.


Indicates a jump up of two semitones and one octave between C and D.

cc or Cc
1 1

Would mean a jump up of one octave, as in the lyric "Some-where" from Over The Rainbow.

CC or cC
1 1

Would mean a jump down of one octave.

Sharps and Flats

+ should indicate a sharp (eg. C+ is C sharp).
- should indicate a flat (B- is B flat).


Chords should be written using the following notation which mimics standard pop chord notation.

M or no symbol for major triad (eg. C or CM for a C major triad)
m for minor triad (eg. Cm)
+ for augmented triad (eg. C+)
o for diminished triad (eg. Co)
4 for suspended fourth (eg. C4)
2 for suspended second (eg. C2)

"nc" can be used to indicate no chord. Chords are presumed to be sustained otherwise.

There is no standard notation for sevenths or larger due to the large quantity of possibilities which are rarely entirely needed in one composition. More complex chord notation should use numbers (followed if necessary by other ASCII characters) with written notes at the top of the composition to indicate the type of chords, eg. "1 is used for Augmented-Major 7th (eg. C1)". Such notation should limit the chord notation to one character if possible.


Timing is indicated by using other characters as markers. A full-stop (period) "." is used to indicate a silent beat. If a note is to be sustained, a greater than ">" sign should be used. A slash "/" should indicate the end of a bar. The beats can be any width that will accommodate any desired lyrics. Spaces should flank the beat marks to permit sharp/flat notes and chord notation. Notes should appear at the beginning of the beat marks. The number of beats per bar should be used to accommodate the shortest notes in the melody.

Two empty bars with four beats per bar can look like any of the following:

. . . . / . . . . /

... ... ... ... / ... ... ... ... /

..... ..... ..... ..... / ..... ..... ..... ..... /

With notes:

C d e C / C . . . /

C.. d.. e.. C.. / C.. ... ... ... /

C.... d.... e.... C.... / C.... ..... ..... ..... /

Overall Structure

Each row should appear in one to four lines with equal spacing to allow easy reading in a fixed pitch font.

Chords (optional)
Octave shift (optional)
Lyrics (optional)


Frère Jacques, traditional.
8 beats per bar.

C . d . e . C . / C . d . e . C . / e . f . g . . . / E . f . g . . . /

g a G F E . C . / g a G F E . C . / C . G . c . . . / c . G . c . . . /

Physical Intimacy

Today and yesterday afternoon I've been glazing a picture called The Quest for Physical Intimacy in a Loveless Relationship (pictured).

The colours could have been almost anything for this fantastical idea but a lone tree in a barren winter field exactly summed up the mood, so I chose those colours, seen through a bus window and memorised two months ago. The picture is mostly ultramarine violet and raw umber, with viridian in the floor. I like viridian and it's opaque friend oxide of chromium because it makes nice natural colours when mixed with ochres and umbers and doesn't glow or overpower like the artificial greens (and it is more permanent and faster drying). Oxide of chromium is a dull "mushy pea" green that is totally uninspiring when first seen, yet it's earthy battlefield greens can transform the dead into the living, and its power make it ideal for those tiny grass stems. I've noticed that under artificial light it looks more beautiful.