My on-line diary began in the 1990's from my studio in the North of England. After a lapse of ten years, I resumed posting from my present studio on the Caribbean island of Dominica.

From the far beginning, the intention has been to give an insight into my working methods, and to share the triumphs, trials and tribulations of work-in-progress.

My diary pages are followed by thousands of artists, art students and art lovers in over 50 countries.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Practice, practice, practice

The advice from legendary jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker to aspiring musicians was: learn you instrument, practice, practice, practice - then forget all you have learnt.

The same advice holds true twice over for watercolorists striving to capture the nuances of the nude figure. If my paintings of the nude appear at times repetitive, it is because practice is repetitive. Over the course of a lifetime, I have learnt “my instrument” and in more recent years, in order to give my paintings freedom, I have strived to forget all I have learnt. 

My difficulty twice over is because I can only practice from the live model: and inspirational live models are few and far between. I'm not looking for beauty queens but models, of any age,  who can feel comfortable and proud in their own skin. If there's a potential new one out there, please get in touch!

Today's picture is the end result – three paintings in all - of my morning's session with my current inspirational model, Verlena. 

Over the years I have had poets, musicians, ballet dancers, cashiers, street vendors, teachers and doctors as models, but this is the first time that I've pleasure of working with a talented calligrapher!

I apologize for the abysmally. low picture quality but my main computer and best camera, thanks to hurricane Maria, are out of action.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Begotten by despair upon impossibility

My love is of a birth so rare
As ‘tis for object strange and high; 
It was begotten by Despair
Upon Impossibility.

(Andrew Marvell 1659-1678)

Like true love, the creative endeavors of artist and model are thwart with difficulties and success verges on impossibility. Inspiration is dependent on the united body and soul of both. Trying too hard induces failure more than not trying at all. Our shared Muse “laughs and flies when pressed and bidden”, as she did on my final session with Annabelle – my faithful model for six years - before she left for the States.

As can be seen in today's picture, success evaded me – albeit by a hair's breadth – and Annabelle's poignant last words were…I'm cold!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

In all directions

Regular followers of my diary know that my work takes me in all directions and all the more so in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. But diversity would have been no stranger to artists of earlier times. 

Currently I'm making my own paper, my own raw pigments and extracting the filaments from banana stems for spinning a thread finer than silk. You can also add, toiling with pick and shovel to make our drive motorable and with chainsaw and machete to restore the path to the river.

In between all the above I'm making a pair of shorts (after first converting our sewing machine to hand-crank - remember, no electricity). The only shorts you can buy in the Caribbean come down below the knee, whereas my concept of tropical dress is bare minimum - or better still, nothing at all!

The first picture shows earth pigments found along the river bank and the second banana filament, more precious than gold.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

By candle light

Since Hurricane Maria devastated Dominica three months ago, we have been without electricity. For one hour a day we run the generator to charge batteries, but after that it's candle light.

Yesterday evening, when glancing in the bathroom mirror, by the afore said candle light, who did I see staring back at me: none other than Harmensz van Rijn Rembrandt (1606-1669).

Rembrandt, and other artists from earlier periods, lived and worked by candle light. I now realise that it is this light that gave their painting dramatic heights and depths. 

It is not often that I indulge in a self-portrait - my last dates from 1974 - but here I am, in the bathroom mirror in candle light.

Perhaps for the New Year I should tell my models to forget the morning and afternoon sessions, from now on we will work after dark by candle light.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The heights and depths

For a watercolourist the highlights are the white of the paper and, at best, the depths a thunderous wash that is weakened by the inherent transparency of the medium.

The gem-like jet blackness of my present model forces me to risk all I know in my attempt for a likeness. One wash is thrown down on top of another and the inevitable runs mopped up with a tissue.

Mind you, tissues have been heavily in demand today as both my model and myself are recovering from a severe bout of flue.

Thank you Verlena for seeing the session through to the end. Today's picture shows that it was worth our efforts.


This painting reverts back to my 22" x 16" format. It was painted through out with a number 16 brush and took 20 minutes, or rather 60 years, from beginning to end.

Monday, December 11, 2017

All that I need to say

Today's painting, small by my standards, is no larger than a sheet of typing paper. Nevertheless, it says all that I have spent a lifetime trying to say in terms of capturing the beauty of the nude figure through the elusive medium of watercolour. 

I did not set out to paint a picture, but rather to give a new model and myself confidence of working together. In ten minutes we had broken the ice.

Thank you Verlena.

Friday, December 8, 2017

No sooner said than done

No sooner had I lamented in my last post of the dearth of models than I got a message from Annabelle, my number one model, to say she can fit in six sessions before finally leaving for medical school in January.

Picking up the painterly threads after three months is not easy. But Annabelle was true to her inspirational self and today’s five minute opening sketch gives me hope that I too can still work the magic.

I regret not capturing Annabelle as she breezed into my studio. While nothing can be more beautiful than the nude figure, the image of Annabelle in an alluring white dress comes close. The next time she wears it, I shall paint it!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

In vacant or in pensive mood

It is not oft that I lie upon my couch in vacant or in pensive mood, and on the rare occasions that I do what dwells upon my inward eye is the beauty of the female nude, rather than daffodils. But I confess, the aftermath of Hurricane Maria has me vacant and pensive.

With little time left I need to get on with life, but now every move is tens times more difficult than it was before. Finding suitable models for my paintings and sculptures is a case in point. I search the island like a detective following possible leads. But alas, so far they have come to nought.

Today's drawing of the pregnant nude dates back to 1993.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Up and running again

Nine weeks ago my studio was in a state of retreat from Hurricane Maria: no paintings on the walls and sculptures inches deep in water. The task of restoration has been long and difficult and all the more so because I was determined to improve on what was there before.

Today's picture shows that I am up and running again.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Picking up the pieces

In this life there's so much to do and so little time to do it in.

My whole being yearns to be toiling on the forge of art and in particular, to pursue my work with the figure. Yet here I am, still picking up the pieces from Hurricane Maria. 

Today's picture says it all, or does it. Painting and sculpting alone does not represent my life's work. There's mor to it than that.

This link shows that the pieces are not solely related to my art.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Paradise Lost

We came out better than most from the cruel blow that Hurricane Maria dealt Dominica. The roof of the pavilion under which I teach life classes can be replaced, my damaged paintings and sculptures can be restored and our driveway can be cleared and made passerble again. What cannot be mended is the river that boarders our land. The idyllic bathing pools are gone and so is the path that leads down from my studio. I still go down to the river but the approach is now the equivalent of an assault course and I have to clamber over huge boulders to find a safe place to bathe.

My bathing figure from three years ago serves as a reminder of those halcyon days.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Getting my head around a "tablet"

If I can get my head around this table that my daughter has bought for me, there is a chance that, after a fashion, I might be able to resume my diary posts. It will mean climbing up on the roof to get reception - no electricity - and the help of my son (a computer geek) to get it to work. It will also mean fitting it in between survival necessities: repairing water pump, re-making the drive for vehicular access, etc. And all of that has to be accomplished on a diet of sardines and corned beef. Fortunately, the rum is holding out!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Major Hurricane Maria

Just over five weeks ago Dominica was hit by one of the worst hurricanes on record: a Category 5+ hurricane with winds in excess of 200 mph. The center passed right over the island. The damage is catastrophic by any standards: 80% of buildings, roads, bridges and services destroyed or seriously damaged. The island is still reeling from the storm and will be for at least a year.

We came out better than most. Flooding was our major problem but most of my paintings and sculptures survived, albeit with some interesting washes courtesy of Maria, as today's picture shows.

Getting this post out has been a major operation (no electricity and no broadband) via cell connections that only work when I climb up on the roof. Hence, posts will be few and far between until better times.  

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A lament to the British Virgin Islands

I have seen these islands destroyed twice in my life time. First, by the development that began in the late 1970’s; development that eventually overwhelmed the islander’s way of life and the local scene. And second, by Hurricane Irma. Palatial homes can be re-built but I can never again experience my first love.

I remember the Ridge Road when it was a grassy trail from end to end. In those days there were few cars and no buses. To get from East End to Road Town you hitched a ride on whatever came your way. I never locked a door and my boat shared the Maya Cove anchorage with no more than six others.

Perhaps from the mid 1970’s I sensed the inevitable, for it was then that I started gathering material for my book Virgin Island Sketches. My objective was to give the islanders confidence in their own identity and to encourage visitors to accept the islands in the way they found them.

Today's sketch is taken from my book.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Though grim as hell the worst is…

Though grim as hell the worst is,
Can you round it off with curses.

I offer the above lines by Robert Service to British Virgin Islanders to reinforce their resilience in the wake of Hurricane Irma. It was only yesterday that we learnt that all of our many family members are safe, albeit in unenviable circumstances.

During the anxious days of waiting for news I kept my mind occupied by preparing a batch of sugar cane for paper making. I had just poured the pulp into the vat when the good news came through. I celebrated with a rum and orange and added a generous tot of rum to the pulp. The resulting 80 proof limited edition sheets will be presented to family members that bravely fought through the storm – minus roof in one case.

Due to the alcoholic content children under the age of 18 will get half a sheet.

Today’s picture shows the paper in the making.