Sunday, February 28, 2010

Plant Reaching For A Black Moon

Two pictures completed today, although the one shown might benefit from another layer to darken the sky. The colours are very subtle, but night is subtle and it has gone according to plan. I remember reading that people shouldn't use ultramarine violet unless they like layering forever. I like disobeying recommendations so much that I use that violet more than any other!

Now I've got enough time to write a poem and reframe "Coma"! First I'll do some blog wandering for 26 minutes.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

You Make Me Happy

I've been glazing the "Hell Is..." painting that I started in January. Should finish tomorrow. I've also been sorting out my meagre CD collection and made some special room for mine so that I can sit back and admire them with a sense of achievement. I had a listen to the old Gunstorm album I made with Steven McLachlan. I thought I'd give you my dear blog readers a free track, albeit on temporary download (readers from beyond 2010 will note that the link expired years ago!). This should cheer a winter day. The full album is available on my website and iTunes.

Be happy.

Friday, February 26, 2010

March Plans

If you're sailing a perfect course don't steer deliberately into windy areas. I've picked up the pictures from Jobling Gowler and will now enjoy quietly painting a few pictures over the next few days.

A new month means new goals and I missed a few in February, partly because of time lost due to computer failure. On my list for March; underpainting two pictures and glazing another two (I won't paint at full speed until April), finish the drawing for "The Quest For Pity...", design others "The Net" and a Romeo and Juliet painting, and transfer several others including colour studies (inc. The Annunciation, detail of the drawing shown). Set up the Cubby Hole exhibition and enter the R.B.S.A. Spring Open, design pictures for the MOMA Wales contest and the Derbyshire Open, frame the John Moores picture, sketch out a new album of some sort because I did woefully little in February, release The Infinite Forest on iTunes, compile more sound effects for indiesfx, plan or execute a small series of epoxy resin pictures about Pandora's box, and the usual commitments; poem a day etc. That should be enough although there are about 50 other things I'd like to fit in. If only months were 60 days long!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Flower for an Eye

A Flower for an Eye

The heavens wide and high for me.
The arc of infinity.
Blue rayed petals spray and cry.
A flower for an eye.

To gaze into the sacred heart
of space and mathematic god.
To taste the stars,
and dream of forces inbetween.
The path the masters trod.

An eggshell eye among a crowd.
A swarm of daisies in a field.
A maze of thought, of contemplation.
A planted nation.
Yet one of awe.
A different mind.
A flower for an eye.
A look of love to distant sky.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Flower of Awe

Another recently scanned painting, Flower of Awe.

I've been very busy over the past couple of days; yesterday drawing out The Quest For Pity On The Road To Self Destruction. It promises to be my largest painting to date and will take some time. Today was spent at my art group and I began to transfer the drawing to the Annunciation painting I started a few weeks ago. The picture is rather small and I'm thankful for that. I've seen at least two new competitions that I'd like to design pictures for. I must begin painting soon, I'm really feeling the urge to get started.

Tomorrow is a free day but I'm off to Macclesfield in the evening, to the offices of Jobling Gowler where I have some paintings displayed. Friday will be a day of rest before a week of work.

Monday, February 22, 2010


I've scanned in two more paintings of the year, including The Transmittance of Pity Falsely Perceived as Love Through a One-Way Mirror, shown.

Today I've started work on a huge picture and have been drawing on an easel for the first time. So far I conclude that it's much easier to draw flat because strokes can have an even pressure and move in all directions equally, but when vertical, down strokes are less work and up strokes more work. Anyway, it's essential I draw vertically for the really big pictures. It's either that or walk around on them as I draw, which could get messy. The picture I started is The Quest For Pity on the Road to Self Destruction, and is a relation of the above. It will be on canvas, and is a relatively simple "monolith" composition, not unlike Penalties.

Last night I had complex dreams, that ended in a dead Rolf Harris (who was part of an ultra nationalist anarchist group who dressed in Morris Dancer outfits). The death was disturbing because the T.V. artist represents my artist self in my dreams. My weekend duties were social and not artistic, and my hard drive failure set me back several days this month too so I'm feeling slightly off the art track. I'll get back soon enough. My confidence in drawing is as good as ever. I will need to paint something soon.

Friday, February 19, 2010


A mix of a day. I'm having trouble settling down to one thing. I spent a lot of the day planning the price lists and invitations for my exhibition (poster image shown). I've managed to do some drawing though. The underdrawing for The Annunciation is complete now, as is the one for a small painting called Wax Cataclysm Of Phoenixes And Unphoenixes. A third, City Of The Medusae, is mostly finished too.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Love and Credit

My latest painting, and the first of 2010 that is dry enough to scan! It was a small picture designed for a circular frame that I found cheaply. I didn't go to the lengths of making any models for this one. The butterfly uses iridescent white, a mica based pigment which makes any transparent colour "metallic". Here I used ultramarine violet. I also used cobalt blue for the sky, over an ultramarine acrylic wash, which was applied very evenly with a roller.

Two other new paintings are complete and waiting to be dry enough to scan. Now I'm drawing out many. Today I've done some work on a wax phoenix which is about mortality.

The main business of today though was planning my forthcoming exhibition. I've been typing up a catalogue and am wondering whether to print some out and charge £1 for visitors on the night, or have small single sheet price lists, or both. Opinions would be welcome.

I've also decided to offer paintings on interest free credit. It's relatively easy to spontaneously buy a picture that costs under £100, but anything over £200 is a major purchase and requiring all of the payment in one go would limit sales to people who would otherwise love to own one of my paintings. I've drawn up a simple agreement that makes the process clear and simple. The basic terms are that the buyer pays an initial deposit (which must cover the venue commission) and then regular monthly payments. The artist holds on to the picture until full payment is complete. If the buyer changes their mind later the monthly money is returned but the deposit retained. In the rare event of the picture becoming damaged or something, all of the money would be returned. Without the enforcement of a Direct Debit I think it represents the simplest way for anyone to buy a painting in instalments.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I'm Back

I've spent today setting up my effective new PC after a hard drive crash. I'm now on WindowsXP (nice of the old computer not to come with a Vista CD despite the fact I paid for the thing - such is life for O.E.M. software). Now I'm lacking some drivers but nothing important! It's taken about 20 hours to format the drive, install WindowsXP, update it (long hours!), install 80% of the software I used to have and get back to something like normal.

Yesterday I waited in all day for the drive to be delivered. It came this morning instead, but it meant that I had yesterday to work while not using the computer. I always tend to draw from the screen now so it was a reminder of the old days (2005)! Due to the lack of a digital mockup, it was doubly difficult to get the scale and placement of objects right. I found myself shifting the edges of the paper around like I used to. However, the freedom of a less rigid plan produced some interesting results.

I've now got about five compositions partly drawn. The Annunciation is just about finished. I made a detailed computer model for the fish which was worth it. The whole picture is very complex but now I think that complexity is a sign of higher art. Part of my new philosophy is that simple things arrange into complex forms, so the more complex something is the more advanced it is in evolutionary terms. Many of the other pictures involve Phoenixes, and some are on the scanned page I included a few entries back.

Now I'm waffling, a definite sign of too much work alone with a computer. Until next time, adeiu!

Monday, February 15, 2010

PC Woes

Computer trouble, which I always find stressful has been prevented work over the past few days. It might be that I need a new hard drive. This PC which is only five months old only worked correctly for the first ten days. After that intermittent driver errors, which I think were caused by a loose cable in the casing, caused lots of problems and meant that I had to boot three or four times each time I wanted to turn the machine on. More recently Windows freezes completely with the hard drive light fixed on or fluttering wildly, a classic sign of impending hard drive failure, which would come as little surprise because for the past month it's been making a sound like a stick being held in a fan. Today I've defragmented, which crashed Windows, then ChkDisk kicked in, then I did a virus check just in case. All is clear. I am now prepared to buy a new hard drive, and reinstall Window XP because my OEM Vista came pre-installed and I can't restore it if the hard drive fails. Losing Vista is no real loss. I can't use Windows 7 because my modem isn't compatible. I expect a week of lost productivity. That's a lot.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Annunciation Two

More work on the annunciation today, specifically modelling the fish. Now, what, I hear you cry has a fish got to do with Jan van Eyck's Annunciation or Kandinsky? Well perhaps a fish marks the perfect transition between these two objects. There must definitely be something decidedly aquatic about both pictures.

Anyway, on to the concept sketch.

As you can see the dimensionality of the image is the overriding factor present, and indeed one cause of the idea was three dimensional compositional thinking, that might well explain the fish, for here the fish-eye with its wide angle lens is a representation of multi-dimensionality and so the perspective distorted fish itself a vital contribution to the composition. Then, what is the link to the aforementioned masterworks? Kandinsky was decidedly two dimensional, concerned with abstraction, yet van Eyck was enthralled by perspective. Note that all of this reasoning is pure speculation because I scribbled the idea in an instant without any tangible conscious thought. I'm increasingly confident that my unconscious is more intelligent than my conscious mind, and I always trust it.

Now I thought I'd put up a scan of one page from my ideas book, several hundred pages large and growing daily.

This proves that the vast majority of painting ideas are destined not to be painted. I'll worry about going back to paint them when I'm 75 years old, or so!

Thanks for reading. The King of the Rocket Men is now poised and about to fall of a cliff. Find out if he survives in the next exciting update!

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Composition work today and two new pictures. One is a cross between Jan van Eyck's Annunciation and Kandinsky's Composition VII and is relatively complicated. In other news, I can say that Blockx Transparent Mars Red is pretty much the same as Winsor and Newtons' Burnt Sienna. Same pigment, although the Blockx colour is slightly less orange. The difference is slight, so it might be down to pigment density between the brands.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


I've been working on website ideas today but have been feeling rather tired and cold all day. I'm also putting all of my paintings plus poems on another blog to make an alternative gallery to my website. I have one on Facebook too. I feel I should limit a list of works to just my website because it's quite some work to retype everything. I seem to waste days and days doing mindless tasks while dreaming of actual creative work. It's halfway through February and I've not completed a painting or anything much really apart from a few poems and two catchy tunes. At times like this, quiet rest is the best option.

Sunday, February 07, 2010


Today I uploaded some of my old limericks to my website. The big page from 2004 had been up there for some time but I had written the odd one since so I thought I add the lot.

Here's an example:

A man with a hump was afraid
after seeing a doctor he'd paid.
The doc said "Stand there,
Close your eyes and prepare."
And then he got out a big spade.

...and some are genuinely educational..!

"It is true that the world is a ball."
said Sir Issac engaged in a fall
"As I fly through the air
the inverse of the square
is the force it exerts on my all."

Enough said.

Saturday, February 06, 2010


Busy. My music work is done for the most part and today I finished the nine frames I was working on. Last night was the preview at the Cubby Hole of an exhibition by my friends Katherine Laird and Jean Briers. I'm due to open there in four weeks. My daily poems continue and tonight's was inspired by the mist outside and a painting of an owl by Jean.

The Owl

Mist covers tangled trees,
white and soft.
Fresh wood smell below and aloft,
as moonlight's glow casts blue rays wide,
and low.

High in a tree,
cast in silver skin and copper free
an angel sits.
He watches me.

Great round eyes,
shine like jewels.
Smooth and deep like a cold black lake.
Sight that takes in every glimmer
and shimmer, and glint.
Ears that track each hint of prey.
Each tiny morsel,
eking out each fast heart day,
in warm earth below,
so far away.

Friday, February 05, 2010


I'm busy working on a music commission at the moment. I've re-listened to The Spiral Staircase recently and once more thought of a sequel. It's difficult to write a musical sequel because it's difficult to retain elements of what came before AND be original. I can envision the cover though, which is a start.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Apocalypse of Flamingos

Here is an example of the ink drawings I was making today, part of a series of five called Apocalypse Of Flamingos. For the first time in my notes I wrote "Image of superhero leaping to catch flying unicorn upside down on rear." I think the images of ornithological catastrophe on the front are more striking!


Well today was my art group meeting so I needed to find the paper I specially cut for the ink drawings I was going to do. That made me look through my old artwork, I mean, the few sketches and doodles and scribbles that I made before I painted my first picture. One computer image dated from my school days and was made in the 1980's.

It made me decide to catalogue and record the ones that were okay, and throw away the rest. There were less than ten pages so it's not a huge task.

I started to catalogue my works not long after starting painting and it's proved to be really useful. Each picture gets a code number, and each variation of the picture can get a letter. I use G for artwork (G for graphical) so my painting Girl in the Woods is number G41A. The variation letter is useful for studies or test versions that aren't important enough to get a full entry of their own. It's also useful for digital images that have colour variations or options.

Then I add a second letter for edition. For paintings the original is A. An edition of reproductions might be B for example. Reproductions might vary in size or quantity, so that is recorded too. Then there is a number for the edition. So a painting might be G41A-A1, and the 10th in a print reproduction G41A-B10.

That might be too pedantic and technical for most artists but it does stop works getting lost. Each picture has it's size and media noted, then a full list of the colours used and a day by day diary of work taken. That is really useful if you have to go back and make repairs, or reproduce an effect. All artists learn by experience, and my records are a written diary that reinforces each lesson. Finally, I add extensive notes about each picture, from motivations behind the work, interpretations, how I feel about it and a daily account of how the painting went.

Each time a picture is exhibited, wins an award or is sold, the prices, dates and venues, and name and address of the purchaser if known are noted.

Well that covers my filing practises. At some point I had to do it because I needed a system to keep things organised. I'm so glad I did.

I wonder what other artists do?

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Pricing Finalised

My pricing formula is now complete. After tests I got rid of the constant because it evened out things too much, making the quick and small artworks expensive and the large and time consuming ones cheaper. A flat rate per days work plus cost of materials is I think the fairest way, with a slight adjustments for awards. I'll fix these for a year and monitor sales over 2010. The prices for the most part match my previous ones and in many cases average at the prices I've sold works for in the past. A simple formula equally applied to all works makes things fairer for collectors and easier for the artist. The important thing is to make your art worth a high price. And so I will.

I stained and cut the glass and spacers for seven frames today, including one for an awkward oval brass frame. The start of a month means new monthly goals and mine seem to be mostly planning paintings. Last month I thought February would be about new websites and music, but it seems that my painting ambitions are too great even for my own plans! I'm sure I can fit some other tasks in. The exhibition at the Cubby Hole in March will need planning. Not long to go, and I need to work out the layout, organise publicity, print invitations and work out the transport and fitting parts.

Monday, February 01, 2010


Today I decided to rework my formula for pricing. How should a painting be priced? Up until now I've worked out the number of painting days, added a factor for the size of the picture, then a commission. This is not always ideal. For a start this doesn't take into account materials or days for studies and concepts. Also a picture is more than merely the time it takes to paint. I decided to rethink my strategy from scratch.

So, what factors are applicable to a price asked?

Let's examine costs. The cost of materials, plus the cost of the time involved are the important ones. It would do no good to sell anything at a loss so that was my first rule. For a beginning artist that is difficult to stick to. It's often the case that an artists early works are lacking in quality, or are experiments or tutorials, or sold below cost for promotional reasons. It takes time to create artworks of a saleable quality.

Some painters charge by size, per square inch. That is most useful for commissions, as a rough guide to the work that will be involved. For pricing works already painted the actual time taken is better.

I began then with time taken. Since my early days as a painter I've documented each day's work on a painting so I can calculate exactly how many days each picture takes.

Then I decided to add something for materials, the largest cost of which is the frame. Expensive materials such as gold leaf or gemstones have extra added.

Then I thought I needed another less corporeal number for quality. The most, the only, important thing to a buyer is whether it looks good, so it makes sense that the best works should have a premium added. However deciding which works are "the best" can be a slippery slope, it's difficult or impossible for the artist to objectively decide, and soon the love for one work spreads to love for another that is nearly the same.

I decided on a simple strategy; that works selected by juries in competitions or exhibitions are awarded extra points. Works commended or honourably mentioned get more points, and works that win prizes get yet more.

I thought that there needed to be a constant too because a sketch that takes ten minutes is not worth one 168th the amount of a painting that took 28 days.

Overall however, the days of work involved should make up the majority of the above calculation. That plus materials is the ultimate guide to profit.

Finally a commission percentage should be added. Exhibition venues charge a commission, and normal prices should be about the same as when exhibited. For a start, if something is sold after an exhibition the gallery deserve their cut. Adding commission also means that sales to friends and people who know about your work from other sources can be offered a discount.

Once computed all that remains is to assign a cost per day, the amount you need to work as an artist. That can be incremented periodically as demand dictates.

So, that about outlines my thoughts.

If you are an artist what formula do you use to calculate your prices?


This stage is done! Here's a picture of the nebula. For the first time I used a toothbrush for the fine stars, then painted the larger ones. The fine ones are very tiny. In the past I have had some good results from thinning out silver paint until its very granules become the stars. I tend to paint individual stars by hand but getting a random looking pattern is very difficult.