Sunday 22 February 2009


Last week I went to Bristol, ostensibly to have an all over body massage and a session in a flotation sensory deprivation tank (don't ask*), but while I was there I went to check out some galleries in Clifton.

I was disappointed, nay horrified, at the dearth of said artistic establishments in the posh bit of Bristol. I went in the lone outpost of Innocent Fine Art - I had lunch with the owner ten years ago before I became a painter, but she doesn't recognise me and I don't say anything. This week, back in Bath, I try and redress the balance by walking round a few galleries and it's like a different world with one on every street. Finest of the fine galleries (apart, obviously, from the one that shows my paintings) is Mauger modern art and I find myself INSPIRED by two artists in particular: Nathan James and Guy Denning. I move on to not quite the finest of fine galleries Beaux Art and am similarly excited by the paintings here (not that I like them, but just the use of big old blank space within the pictures). Every so often, you (or I or artist's in general if it applies) need an extra external stimulus to get excited about your (or my or everyone's in general) own work. Surely, all this has got to be leading up to an exciting painting week ...


The issue is the outside bit of the paintings - I like it; all unfinished and a bit pencilly, but it's not working in my usual traditional frames. I spend the morning preparing some canvases as one solution and then I try and rework a painting of the Royal Crescent. It's already been framed, in a gallery window and everything, but it didn't seem to quite work (and obviously didn't sell). I try reworking the edges and the more paint I put on, the more the thing looks unfinished. In the end I cover up all the writing** and almost any trace of white. If I'm going to work with white on the edge it's going to have to be all or nothing as leaving small traces showing through just annoys me. Anyway, judge for yourself:

See, still not right. I still prefer the 'before'. More reworking required.

I also mess about with some little one's of venice, again experimenting with how to finish the edges. 

Overall the day does not live up to expectations. Maybe tomorrow.


Damn. The day doesn't start well when I step in dog pooh outside my studio door. The injustice of this is magnified by being inside - it shouldn't be there - how did it get there?

Damn, damn, dammity damn. I'm itching to get outside to use the canvases, just to do something with a paint brush and I'm stuck in the office trying to set up the accounts software for the studios. We (me and Claire) give up around 4.00 and I've just got time to rush out and do a quick sketch. I start walking around aimlessly, trying to find a subject. I get taken by these blue clouds bobbing along the hills on the south side of the city and suddenly I've got to get a clear view of them. Victoria park and the front of the Crescent is a waste of time with trees and architecture constantly getting in the way. I haven't time or the energy to climb higher so I end up in the allotments. A bit of panic starts to get hold as the clouds continue to move in the opposite direction to the sun and I'm in danger of missing the moment, but I set up quickly and slap some paint on. Shoulder muscles ease slightly (without the necessity of pummeling by scary woman with greasy hands) when I get the sky just about right before the colours change (those clouds are so blue). I then turn my attention to the bottom of the painting and the dark brown smudge that is the allotments. A shed - I know, I'll put a shed in. All sounds good, but whatever I do it's not coming out right. I  try highlights, pencil, reworking the angles, but to no avail. I'm just about resigning myself to the failure, when someone lights a bonfire. Praise be, just what the painting needed. Aaaaaand ..... relaxxxxx.

Not quite the breakthrough I was looking for, but there's always next week.

* okay ask. It wasn't on my list of 100 things to do before I die (henceforth to be known as my bucket list after the movie and because, yes I can take it, it's a much better name), but I was given a voucher so on it went, just so I could cross it off and because it sounded interesting.

I'll keep it brief:

  • she (the masseur) announced at the outset that she could be a bit rough - 'ha', said me, ' bring it on'. 
  • Not sure you could say that the next hour was a pleasure - most of the time it was far too close to being painful. 
  • Lot's of smelly oils and music (eastern twangy stuff, obviously).
  • 'all over' didn't mean 'all over', but it was as close as you could get this side of legal, even if twiddling my ears and pulling my toes all seemed a bit unnecessary.
Floatation (cos that's how they spelt it in the brochure)
  • 5 minutes interesting bobble about
  • 25 minutes being bored
  • 30 minutes fallen asleep
It was all at this place called the relaxation centre and I'm still not convinced. The masseur seemed particularly disappointed when I said I didn't feel any different after the event.

** This painting originally came from a blog free period, so for posterity I wrote down the words before I covered them up:

"17/04/08  I started this painting a couple of months ago and the angle of the sun makes the shadows a lie, but that's okay.

3 schoolgirls come over and ask to be in the painting. I point out that they are no longer in my view. They decide that they'd only end up as indistinguishable blobs anyway. They make me laugh with their questions:
'Are you rich?'
'Do you have a girlfriend?'

They swear casually, but I don't say anything - I just hope that my own daughter doesn't feel the need to talk like that."

Sunday 15 February 2009

Inside and Out


I'm standing, painting, in the window of an art gallery which is holding an exhibition of my work - It's like I am art! ... or perhaps a performing monkey.

Still it could be worse - I've got my back to the window so I can't see or hear anyone outside. That said, they can see what I'm painting, so the pressure's on to make it half way decent. I have occasional cause to regret my decision to paint the interior of the gallery itself (oo er - painter becomes art & gallery becomes painting - derderdoodooderderdoodoo - twilight zone or what?)

3 things better that being outdoors:
  1. It's warmer;
  2. There's a continuous supply coffee, lunch et al from the friendly gallery staff; and
  3. I can't hear any shouts of abuse from passing builders.


I start by finishing the Lansdown painting - it doesn't take long and not much happens. lol makes me promise to show her the finished painting - I agree, but don't warn her that I'm going to be writing all over it.

Afternoon and there's a bit of sun, so I storm into town determined to finish the painting of Quiet Street (or is it John Street?). The shadows aren't quite as they were when I started the thing back in November, but I make a few adjustments and it's all good.

I should have a big tourist information sign on my head because I get a long stream of interruptions:
  • Where's the Chapel Row Gallery?
  • Do you know how to get to the Theatre Royal?
  • Where's the Post Office?
  • Where's the you know, er, that crescent place? (This accompanied by hand gestures trying to describe the world renowned georgian architectural masterpiece with a few finger twiddles.)
  • And finally some guy in a car (yes, I am beckoned over as if I'm not actually busy doing something) who's looking for a hotel in Newbridge. He's so far off the mark, all I can do is wave him vaguely in the right direction and wonder why he didn't think to bring a map.
Only other conversation of note:

Young woman: "What's your name?"
Me: "Ben, Ben Hughes."
YW: "I did a project on you."
Me: "...."

I'm embarrassed, she's embarrassed, I smile, she laughs and I think we're okay, but before I can actually say anything she's gone.

Saturday 7 February 2009



A wise man once told me that the secret of a good snow painting is to paint the sky darker than the snowy ground. The reality varies as the clouds change, but I heed the words of the guru.

The same wise man also said, "look and look again." I pay this less attention as I get lost in the windows  - so many windows.

I've never seen the park so busy with snowmen and sledgers everywhere. I'm an easy target, but only two snowballs come my way and they are a bit feeble - must be my hard stare.

The snow is already melting and every passing car hastens its demise. The yellow lines start to appear, but I regret my decision to paint them in as it just looks like a load of pee stains in the snow. I try and correct the mistake, but not sure I totally get it right. I put the railings in at the end, but it's tricky to do it without making the snow all dirty and they end up all over the place.

The cold finally defeats me and as I pack up I find someone's car keys revealed by the melting snow. Picking them up I resolve to do the right thing and hand them in at the police station.


More snow! I schlep into town lugging easel and board only to find that the snow here has already melted. I schlep all the way back to the car, determined to make the most of the weather - I need some altitude. I try my luck with Lansdown Crescent again - it's a bit of a nemesis - but it's still got plenty of white stuff.

4 things that make me smile (or not):
  • A little old lady risks the treacherous snow and ice to come over and say hello. She's 87 (she told me) and she's supposed to be doing some shopping for a neighbour - what a star.
  • Bloke: "Are you the guy I've seen painting around town before?" Me: "Er .... I could be ..." A slightly awkward pause follows and I find myself trying to fill the void, "but you could be confusing me with Peter Brown, I often get confused with Peter Brown, he's much more famous (? What!?) babble babble Peter Brown babble babble ..." STOP! Who is this crazy person talking - I manage to mention Pete's name at least half a dozen times without once telling the guy who I am. He walks on, slightly bemused.
  • The cold again gets the better of me and I pack up. It's 3.30. I know this because lol is feeding the pigeons (who have been waiting impatiently for the last hour) and she always does this at 3.30 (she told me).
  • I drop the keys off at the police station. A policewoman comes over to the counter and announces 'You're the artist Ben Hughes!" Not a question, just a statement of fact. Yes - recognition at last (assuming of course that I haven't got my mug shot on some wanted poster). I look surprised and then she points out the paint on my clothes - damn, she's good.

Sunday 1 February 2009

Of Legs and Builders


Great Pulteney Street and brrrr it's cold. I've painted GPS before, but not this particular view and besides, my doctor's surgery is No.35 - I've got an appointment in a couple of hours so it's a good spot to kill time. I'm not ill or anything, just a precautionary thing. I was on holiday last year and striding out excitedly in my little swimming shorts on the first day only to be greeted by "Aaaagh!" from my daughter, "What's that?" She was pointing in horror at a particularly large lump under my skin on the upper part of my left leg. I looked in surprise, never really having paid it any mind before and, yes, I supposed it was quite large. Anywho, ever since then, I've been constantly badgered by family, one and all, to get the varicose veins checked out, AND, while I'm at it, get him to have a look at those moles. Moles - another one of those things that creep up on you. One minute you're walking along minding your own business and suddenly, there's another big hairy one. Talking of hairy .... no, let's not go there.

A song called 'I Was A Teenage Steve McQueen' is buzzing through my head as I set up the easel. No relevance really - just thought I'd mention it.

The pavement is not wide, so I've got to set the easel at a different angle from usual. The consequence of this is to give every passing motorist (& builder) a good view of the painting and I know I'm asking for abuse.

Sure enough it's not long before the first 'Rubbish!' is bellowed by someone leaning out of a passing van. Still, at least it was printable.

Next, and a bit later on it's, 'Great painting!'. What?! Where did that come from? - ah yes, a kid on a bus. Not for the first time I wonder what happens to us? When do we turn from enthusiastic youngsters to abusive, belligerent oldies? And why? Oooo ... I'm sure there's some deep socio-political answers, but my head is hurting already. I think I've written about this before - so many blogs - how can you remember everything you ever rambled on about? May the God of Blogs (for he doth prefer that to the 'Bloggod') smite me down if ever I mention how cold I ... KRACKABOOOMMMM!!!!!!!!


Three fatal errors:
  1. Assuming that the van parked in my way on double yellow lines with flashing hazard lights would move;
  2. Gambling on the cloud breaking up at the last moment, leading to a dramatic sky full of colour and light and
  3. Thinking that the Upper Bristol Road would make a great painting - it keeps luring me in and then whammy! I'm suckered again.
In case you're wondering, to paraphrase the doctor:

"Hot damn, that truly is one ugly leg! Now, quit wasting my time and get out of my office."