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.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Think fast!


The picture shows my hand testing the consistency of a bowl of plaster in readiness for pouring into the mold of my most recent sculpture. Because plaster sets within minutes I sometimes add a few grains (and I mean a few) of sodium citrate. This delays the setting time and allows the plaster to find its way into all the nooks and crannies. But if you over do the amount the plaster will take for ever to set. This once happened when I was making a life cast of a model's torso.

It takes a committed model to submit herself to a life cast. Plaster heats up when it sets rapidly. For the model's comfort, I add a tiny amount of sodium citrate to the mix so that it becomes no more than pleasantly warm. But on that one occasion I added too much and after ten minutes the plaster was showing no sign of setting.

Think fast! Here I am with a naked model covered in wet plaster from her neck to her thighs. I can't leave her like that. If she stands up the plaster will run down the rest of her and we'll be in a worse state than ever. I had no option but to scoop it off by the handful and then sponge her down.

And you know what...the brave girl volunteered to try again the next day!



Sunday, July 8, 2018

Try as I may


Through my paintings I try to get to somewhere where no one has ever been before. For the last twenty-five years my spontanious water colours have focused on the female nude and, thanks to my adopted home land, my models are Afro-Caribbean. But try as I may to explore new ground and avoid being repetitive I sometimes despair. This is all the more frustrating when my models have given their body and soul to progress my work.

Over the last few weeks I have taken a break from my regular subject matter and made an attempt to revert back to landscapes, townscapes and still-life from fifty years ago. It has been a dismal failure. Deep down inside I know that I cannot desert the ultimate challenge of the live model.

Thirty years ago my dear friend, the Virgin Island poet Sheila Hyndman (1958 – 1991), inspired me to explore the sensuous. In recent days I have discovered a writer in a far off land who is beautifully saying in words what I am trying to portray in paint.

But more about this later. In the meantime today's picture is a detail from a painting from two years ago.




Friday, June 29, 2018

A Flair for Art


If it wasn't for Miss Atack, my primary school teacher, and Miss Shepard, my secondary school headmistress, I would not be writing this blog today. Before the word was invented, they both recognized dyslexia. Up to the age of five I could not talk - my brother says I've made up for it since! 

If my music teachers had had a passion for jazz, I might have also got top marks in that subject. But alas, there's not much improvisation you can do around "Who is Sylvia". Likewise with history. I have no interest in the reign of Kings and Queens but tale of everyday things enthralls me.

I submit my report card from sixty-six years ago to offer hope to other creative minds.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

A passionate love affair

From my earliest days I have always painted with a passion. My subjects have varied but my way of working with watercolour has not. I swing a big brush and leave space for accidents to happen.

A few days ago I came across a box of colour transparencies from twenty-five years ago. In those days my passion was for life as it was then lived in the Caribbean. I do not have the originals as they all sold straight from my sketch book. I had even forgotten this photographic record of a few paintings from that period. Although the quality of the celluloid image has deteriorated, I still recall these scenes from the Virgin Islands that had set my heart on fire.





Thursday, June 7, 2018

Beneath the veil


To keep the clay moist, in recent weeks my latest sculpture has been hidden beneath a dampened veil. I must now take courage and make a plaster cast from the clay. If anything goes wrong, all is lost.

Today's pictures reveal the beauty that lies beneath the veil. In past centuries, sculptors were masters at modelling the seductive draped figure. The first picture shows how even my wet clay rag subtly highlights the breasts. It is the sculptural equivalent of today's wet tee shirt.

My model Verlena deserves credit for this is her third sculpture in a row.



Sunday, June 3, 2018

Winds of change


The 1st of June marked the start of this year's hurricane season. Last year Dominica, along with islands to the north of us, suffered the worst hurricane in the region's history. We are still reeling from the effect and the island is in no fit state to suffer another blow.

But the winds of change I refer to concern the future direction of my work. My studio, workshops and contents miraculously survived hurricane Maria. Perhaps this portends that I ain't finished yet!

Today's painting of washing hung out on a windy day in the north of England dates from twenty-five years ago.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Work in progress

While the current work is in progress I will do my best to keep the posts flowing - not easy after a hard day's work. From today's pictures you can see that I have added the arms and head: hands and feet will follow.

I have found it best, when the head is anything but upright - in this case it is turned to the left and tilted forward - to model the head separately and then attach it to the figure. I have placed a temporary prop behind the figure to keep the torso at the correct angle.

I am fighting against the temptation to overly define. 

Edouard Lanteri's book "Modelling and Sculpting the Human Figure", originally published in 1902 and now available in paperback by Dover Publications, is the indispensably portrait and figurative sculptor's bible. My copy has fallen apart at the seams.










Sunday, May 27, 2018

While I remember


I was too tired yesterday to begin work on the torso but today, while the image of my live model was fresh in my mind, I worked my way up to the shoulders. By the time Verlena returns for her next modelling session I will have roughly defined the complete figure...arms, hands, head and all.

While my brain has difficulty remembering my own telephone numbers (I always fail those bank security checks) it has no difficulty in remembering the intricacies of the human form.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

From the biblical clay


Although my last post was titled "Resisting Temptation" the perfection of Verlena's pose has lured me from working quarter life-size to working half life-size. 

We have spent all morning taking scores of measurements that will enable me to replicate the twist and inclination of the torso. The incredible complexity of the human form becomes all the more apparent when trying to recreate it from the biblical clay. 

As today's picture shows, from the very beginning the clay takes on a pulsating sensuous life of its own.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Resisting temptation


The perfection Verlena's pose for my next sculpture tempts me to work life-size. But I am trying hard to resist the temptation and keep to my recent intent of working on a series of quarter size figures.

Speed and spontaneity are the advantages of keeping it small. Also, the limited time that my model has available and the economics of materials. On a small island in the Caribbean everything has to be shipped in from overseas. Clay can be recycled, but my stock of casting plaster is running low.

The pose is crucial, not only for 360 degree interest, but for how well it lends itself to casting. Michelangelo claimed that the figure should be compact enough so that it could roll down a hill without breaking. In this pose, only the right arm (hidden from view in the above sketch) is out on a limb.

Once the pose has been decided upon, and before the model moves an inch, I chalk around her form so that she has reference marks to return to.  These are shown in the picture below.







Sunday, May 20, 2018

Sculptural key-hole surgery


Many of the art students throughout the world that follow my blog, do so in a thirst for hard to find information on traditional working methods and materials.

To fulfill that need today's post covers taking the waste mould from the clay sketch that I featured a couple of weeks ago under the title, “Sculptural Spontaneity”. As the figure is quarter life size, I have risked making the mould in one piece. Inevitably this involved some key-hole surgery when it came to removing the clay from the center section. The pictures tell the story.

Verlena, who modeled for the piece, moved heaven and earth to get here to watch the process and to model for my next sculpture. She then moved heaven and earth twice over to get home again…walking all the way. Now that's dedication!






Sunday, May 13, 2018

Intermission

My memories of the early days of BBC television, relate not so much the programs but the "short intermissions" due to technical failure. These took the form of pictures and music; my favourite being a pot being thrown on a potter's wheel. http://youtu.be/jUzGF401vLc

My intermission is more down to earth and likely to be long, rather than short. The main road that passes my studio and links the island east to west, is closed for major repairs. Unless I buy my model a donkey, there is no way she can reach me. Hence, painting and sculpture is on hold.

My intermission painting dates from the 1980's and is one of hundreds of sketches that I made on the beach in the Virgin Islands. My subject: a girl picking up sea shells.



Monday, May 7, 2018

Sculptural spontaneity

As a sculptor, I work as a modeller rather than a carver. I need to capture the mood of the moment, rather than calculated exactness. The clay sketch is the sculptural equivalent of a watercolour thrown down at the speed of light.

Today's pictures follow on from my last post and translate three dimensionally what I have in mind. 




Saturday, May 5, 2018

An off guarded moment

I consider my recent standing figure as one of my most successful sculptures. It will be a hard act to follow. Having succeeded in depicting the figure in its most natural pose, I am now about to take on the challenge of the off guarded moment. 

Last week's session ended with Verlena stretching in sweet relief. Could this be the off guarded moment that I'd been waiting for? Would it work as a piece of sculpture... hair cascading in all directions, the curve of the spine, the glimpse of the face and breasts, the sole of her foot, the arms outstretched. But for each positive I can foresee a negative and my initial enthusiasm may be misplaced. 


Saturday, April 28, 2018

Will-o'-the-wisp

Two days ago we past a major milestone in the recovery from Hurricane Maria. After seven months of candles, flashlights and warm beer, we now have electricity. Let's hope that it's not a will-o'-the-wisp.

But the elusiveness of today's paintings, done rapidly one after the other, can fit that definition. In the same way a child will boast, "look no hands" when showing off riding a bicycle; my boast is, "look no lines". My washes have been given the freedom to find their own way and to run as they choose.

I only dare work with this degree of freedom when I have a model that understands what I am reaching for and accepts that it's a hit and miss affair. Verlena is one such dedicated model. Incidentally, she was brave enough to attempt that upside down pose that I mentioned a few posts ago, but after twice toppling over we both came down to earth!