Sunday 29 March 2009

A Step in the WW Direction


It's windy and rainy so I plan to do a bit more with the disaster I started a couple of weeks ago. I'm feeling pretty good as I've laid my paints out on the palette before I set off, got my rain cover for the easel and a plastic bag for the brushes. The smokers are still there when I arrive, but I know their break will end soon so I set up anyway. There's dog pooh, but I see it before it sees me. Yep - I'm feeling pretty smug - I even discover a new way of holding the brushes in my inside jacket pocket which helps to keep them dry. Yessiree, I've pretty well got the weather licked. Yup, yup, yup, yup, nothing can go wrong ....

Death Ray magazine (it's great) - I was reading an article in the latest issue about a famous comic artist and he said that when doing loose pictures it was better to do a precise underdrawing first and just paint loosely on top. His words come back to haunt me as I paint. My oh so loose and wayward underpainting is so off whack (technical term) that the whole session is spent trying to correct things - still I come away thinking that it looks better than when I started (praise be for that).

... ha, see, everything's dandy. Pack up, time for lunch. Hang on, what's this? The wind has blown my bag over. No problem there, surely ... it's only rolled down the pavement ... and managed to play football (because bags can) with the dog pooh on the way - eugh - there's pooh all over the shoulder straps. Sigh. I have been justly and righteously punished for my smugness by a higher plein air being, able to wield the power of pooh with devastating effect.


I'm feeling all WW - looking to make music out of something dirty and grubby.


I'm in my studio, so not much happens.


but I'm including this in the blog because I like it and it's a step in the WW direction.

p.m still, but later

I've got to pick up Ciara from her friends house at 6.00. I'm killing time, when all of a sudden I get excited by the sky and Twerton Mount. There's some places that strike a chord with you - can't explain it - maybe it's ley lines or something, but Twerton Mount is one of those places for me and as the opportunity presents itself I find myself racing to get a painting done.

huff puff ... climb the hill
huff puff ... set up the easel

I'm out of the wind near a copse full of burned out cushions and teenage debris - better be out of here before it gets dark! But of course I will, as I've only got twenty minutes to finish the painting. Obviously the WW thing to do would be to paint this, but I'm feeling all Constable Cloud Studyish. Not sure it goes to plan as the interesting shapes have blown past & I'm left with a big cloud suasage. Can't wait, can't stay.

huff puff ... take down the easel
huff puff ... down the hill.


I've got to stop rambling - try and keep these things a bit shorter. In the words of someone what I was speaking to recently, "let the painting do the talking". 

Next week.

Sunday 22 March 2009

Asda pants


42 today. I find myself standing in the clothes section of Asda waiting for Yolanda and watching. It's very easy to criticise the shoppers that whizz up and down the aisle in front of me with their considerable girth (in a lot of cases) and strong Brissel accents. But then it strikes me - I'm here, I'm one of them, standing, clutching my 3 for £3 boxer shorts. 42. Half way through my working life and still buying the £1 a pair pants. Wow - I've really made it.


William Wray - that's the name of the artist who is my latest inspiration (I know his name now as I got a book of his for my birthday - check him out at His stuff gels with my notion that my paintings need to be less reliant on the location and more about the light/colour/composition etc. I don't know what it all means, but in town I settle on a less well known view that I think I can do something with.

Two interruptions:
1. Lady: "With your eyes, can you see the detail on those balcony railings up there?"
I allow myself to be distracted, but can't really see anything better than her and not quite sure why it matters.

2. Man: "Do you know where the nearest cash point is?"
I pause to think whether there are any closer than the high street.
Man (in a hurry): "Where the banks are ..."
Yes, I know what a cash point is! I point him in the right direction.


Sht sht sht. I'm a bit hungover - not really bad, but just enough to make me really GRUMPY (again). I don't Twit - yesterday I forgot and today I just think it's STUPID.

Sht sht, grump grump. I set up on Widcombe Hill, trying to do something, but I don't know what. I make a total pig's ear of the painting. It starts badly when I realise I haven't got the right colour paint for the sky and then it just goes sht. So much for inspiration. (I almost don't put it on the blog because I'm that angry about it.


Later in town & I need some sort of confirmation that I can paint.

William Wray - he manages to make paintings of nothing look like something (rubbishy description). I almost set up to paint in the Studios car park to paint my car - that would be a WW thing to do. Almost, but I don't, unable to face the questions from any passing artists if it all goes pear shaped.

I walk into town. I pass a group of Yoofs sitting in and standing around a comfy chair on the pavement - WW slice of life? Maybe, and they would make a good subject, but I move on. I end up at St Ann's Close (not even on the map according to the passing postie). I've painted this before and not done it justice, so I'm hoping to prove to myself that I am getting better.

It sort of goes okay, but I don't finish it so I guess the jury's out. Grump.

Back to the studio and the Yoofs have started on the Stella. (They're making a strong case for banning cheap booze. Grump.)

Back into town to do the Mothers Day thing. Yoofs are still enjoying the sun and the beer.

3.30 ish and back into town for the last time. The kids are still there (4 hours and still going strong). I pass the doctors clinic and they are still advertising a completely new approach to varicose vein treatment. I am less tempted now as I know that they LIE - the sign is two years old at least.

I've got a different easel than earlier and setting up I realise I forgot to clean my brushes and palette last week. Grump. The brushes are solid and mixing the paint is hard work. Grump.

A woman asks how much to paint her portrait. I give her a price and she balks. I give her a card and she walks away. Immediately I realise my error - she would have made a great subject - a middle aged coloured lady with a beautiful round face, I would have loved to have painted her. (Damn. Grump.)
[You said you were from Whiteway and if you're reading this then please get in touch] [ha! using the power of the blog and its enormous following to reach out - ha!]


Verdict: Day is a big pile of pooh (mood obviously improving as I stop cussing) - luckily I've got my Asda pants on.

Sunday 15 March 2009

Mush as in Bush

Should be a short blog today - I make some notes after each painting session and I've gone and lost them. It's only a couple of days ago as I write this, but already everything's blurry - it's a brain thing - mine's all mush (mush rhyming with bush, rather than mush rhyming with lush). I'm worse with names - they just don't stick.

Still here we go ...


Drizzly. Nice, wet, slick streets - I fancy Queen Street with all its cobbles & I figure I'll have another go with canvas.

When I reach the street and the shelter of Trim Bridge it's crowded with smokers so I take my time setting up, hoping their break will finish before I have to start painting. It works, but I misjudge the drizzle totally - it's so light that being under the bridge doesn't make any difference and by the time I realise my mistake the canvas is soaking wet. The brush slides across the canvas - it's a total disaster. I've got nothing to dry the surface with so I wait until no one's looking and then sneak back to the studio.

P.m. and I try again. The day is still grey, but it's dried up. I forget to Twit - no great loss there as I set up on Upper Bristol Road.

I was in a gallery the other day and the manager was saying about landscapes (mine in particular) only selling if the buyer has a personal association with the specific location. This annoyed me as I obviously want people to buy my paintings purely on the basis of them being fantastic rather than the slightly more random fact that they used to live in the street or something. Maybe I'm too late - maybe I've gone too far down the road of picture postcard paintings to turn back. Can I make a stand now ... ?

With all these artistic angst questions flitting through my head I decide to once again sacrifice all hope of selling by setting up in UBR and the beautiful building at the junction of Charlotte St. and Monmouth Place. I start these things thinking it's going to be great, but then I get side tracked by detail and representationalism (it is a word, honest). By the time I get to the end I'm left thinking, "Was that it? Is that what inspired me?" Maybe I'm just playing safe as to start messing about with colour and texture and all is a bit scary.

Still, I do quite like the painting.


Twit, twit, twit - why oh why?

I finish off the Marlborough Buildings painting. Still not sure what to write so I sort of scribble some words on it that neither you or I will be able to read and I (in a few days time) won't remember (told you - mushy - as in bushy - brain). A couple come up to me and we chat a bit and then she announces that we've met before at the gallery in town and I do remember her face and her husbands (still okay with faces, so maybe it's just jelly like and only half way mushy), but she makes a crack about putting her house in the painting for her to want to buy it and I'm back to yesterday's issue. I sold a painting once to a couple  - a big one of Ronda in Spain - and they'd never been there, but they bought it anyway and then they took a trip to see the place. That's the way it ought to be (whine, whine, whine)

On to River Street (Twit). I set up outside the place I used to live. It's cold, cold and getting colder, despite the weather forecast. (bad) Luckily I've forgotten my gloves and the problems with the composition and the angles all mean that I fail to finish. It's a bizarre feeling as I know I've painted this view before, but I can't for the life of me picture the actual painting. It's another sure sign that I'm on the road to Mushville. I never forget a painting. Never. Until now. Or maybe, it too, went so tragically wrong that I have blotted it out of my mind - locked all recollection away in a deep dark mushy cellar, never to be let out. Never. Until now. Short flashbacks will inevitably plague me from now on, my dreams will be full of puzzle like fragments set in Eastern Europe and the next time someone taps me on the shoulder I will snap them in two like a twig! These hands - these killing machines - these ...

Short blog ... hmmm.

Sunday 8 March 2009



Sombre mood today as I'm going to the funeral of a friend later; someone who died far too young. The whole week has been pretty sobering, although only in a metaphorical way, as I have been drinking far more than usual. Maybe a bit of painting is what I need.

The painting proves difficult - the different lighting and the canvas surface all conspire to make it hard work. It does however seem to be coming together and I really like the clean edges that the canvas gives so I'm hopeful that it will be worth it.

Time marches on and so must I. The painting isn't finished yet and I'm struggling to think of anything to write on it. Today of all days it seems to be totally inappropriate to put some glib humorous comment on and maybe that's a reflection on whether I should write on the paintings at all. Maybe I should dedicate the painting to Melissa. Maybe I shouldn't. I don't know.

Talking of pointless writing: Twitter - what a pile of pants that is - don't know why I started doing it. I set out with the idea of uploading photos of the paintings as they progress straight to Twitter, but it turns out you can't see the image without going through a convoluted link and log in thing - see, total rubbish. Still I Twit anyway.

Melissa was always very enthusiastic about my paintings and she did suggest the writing on the painting thing way back when I did a talk on my work. So maybe it would be fitting. Yeah, okay, decided.

This one's for Melissa.

Sunday 1 March 2009

Close to the edge


It's cold, grey and windy. Oh yes, don't forget the wind. Perfect for finishing the cold, grey painting of GPS started way back on the 29th Jan. Only, they've gone and set up a mass of road works right in the way - I'm not averse to a bit of real life grit in my paintings, but this would be a bit much.

Not dispirited, I find another small bit of board in the back of the car and head further into town. The board is a bit warped, but I figure it will do. I end up in front of Pulteney Bridge. It's an odd thing, but as I start to paint I feel particularly nervous - probably one or all of the following, take your pick:
  • it's a small painting so I know I really should be finishing it in one session
  • the subject is quite tricky with lots of subtle angles and lots of detail
  • I'm very much out in the open and overlooked by the tourists along Grand Parade
  • the painting starts off going really rubbishy.
I have three encounters:

1. Tourist: "Can you move please so we can take a photo." What?! Don't they know I am a tourist attraction?

2. Another tourist: "Can you take a photo of us please?" One of these days I am just going to lose it and run amok with my size 5 filbert hog hacking and slashing and leaving a pile of tourists brushed to death in my wake. (No I won't - you can't use this as evidence in my trial, anyway it will all end with me taking my own life by guzzling a 120ml tube of cadmium red - ha! ha! see you on the other side suckers!)

3. Man asks me if I was painting up by the Royal Crescent a few weeks ago (Yes, it could have been me) because while he was looking at my painting he met a woman who was also looking at my painting. He wants to shake my hand because he has been out on his first date with her and it's all down to my painting!

He then proceeds to talk about star signs (he's a believer) and get this - he and she are Cancer & Pisces (two water signs, obviously a good match) and me and mine are Pisces & Cancer (cue spooky music) - and then, get this again, he lives right next to my studio ... This is okay, because I don't think he's crazy. Then he tells me that I look like Sting and I know he isn't crazy because it has been noted before - admittedly, not for some time, due primarily to said fading rock star stoically holding onto his hair - but I am wearing a hat so yeah, the likeness is uncanny. Rock on ...)

All the while we're talking, I'm packing up (having rescued the painting and now being quite pleased with myself). I put the painting against the railings and, for a moment, forget about the wind. (Where oh where is my trusty cardboard box when I need it?) I turn to dismantle the easel and then 'flip' the painting is blown over and and I look around to see it lying face down in the dirt. Damn! But wait, there's still hope: the warp in the board could come to my rescue. I pick up the painting and, relief - look there's no paint on the ground at all, ha! But then I realise why there's no paint on the ground - the ground is on the paint - Big Pooh Word (my daughter reads this blog) - all my lovely sky, covered in brown speckles. Sigh.


Back to last week's inspiration and today I'm using canvas rather than board to paint on. (It's got a cleaner edge, which will mean I can frame it with the edge showing - make a feature of it.) Canvas has a different feel with the brushes and the paint and as I'm not sure of the results I steer away from any crowds and wander up Marlborough Lane. The light catches the chimney tops leading up towards Lansdown Crescent and yes - that's it - I'm sold.

Spring must be coming because it's warming up (ooo - insightful comment) Sun out - hat off, sun in - hat on. On off on off on off.

Van man: "Am I in your way here? I can back it up a bit if you want." !? He does and the van then acts as a shade for the canvas while not blocking any of my view - that is definitely something that doesn't happen every day.