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, November 17, 2018
"...I have to take a chance and in doing so risk failure, but not total failure for there is credibility in trying. The results are imperfect, but not without a degree of truth. The truth being my passionate belief in the beauty of the nude..."
Nothing has changed, I am still taking chances and I still have a passionate belief in the beauty of the nude.
Sunday, November 11, 2018
Within watercolours perceived as failures I find fragments of truth, and on the verso of a painting that has been cast aside I sometimes achieve success.
If only the painting in its entirety had the strength of the breast emerging from the depths of its surrounding shadows, as in the fragment below.
Luckily, I found this forgotten drawing of the fore-shortened arm and torso on the verso of an early painting in my series "Daughters of the Caribbean Sun".
Saturday, November 3, 2018
When Samantha modelled for her sculpture twenty years ago she was a college student and her e-mail address was "sexy sam". From more recent correspondence I learn that she has climbed to the top of her chosen profession, got married and is expecting her first child.
Actually Samantha didn't come to my studio with the view of being a model but to chaperone a friend that did. It is not the first time that I have chosen the chaperone rather than the applicant. Hence, the end of a beautiful friendships.
Samantha re-entered my life today as I was looking through images to illustrate my forthcoming book "Notes on the Nude". Samantha's sculpture qualifies as it includes, as she put it in her student days, her boobs.
Sunday, October 28, 2018
Dyslexia is not the best ability when it comes to proof reading. It took four reprints of my book Virgin Island Sketches to purge my spelling mistakes. And the more recent device of word prompting doesn't help. I sign off my personal emails with "Rog" only to find that behind my back it had been converted to "Dog". The cheek of it!
As you might guess, I'm doing the final proof of my forthcoming book "Voyage Into Ireland". The illustrations are more in my line and today's picture is a sketch I made fifty years ago of one of the Barrow Navigation lock keepers.
Sunday, October 21, 2018
For my book "Voyage into Ireland" the gestation period from conception to impending birth has been fifty years. By comparison my book "Notes on the Nude will be with you in next to no time. The embryo showed the first signs of life two years ago and it has been growing ever since.
The collection of notes and images will give an insight to my lifetime's experience of working from the nude figure. As with my watercolours, the text will suggest rather than define. I will put down 75% and then leave you to read between the lines.
Through these diary pages I will keep you updated on work in progress.
Sunday, October 14, 2018
It takes only a matter of seconds for my model to twist from one position to the next. My task is to get that elusive moment down on paper - in a matter of seconds.
Maybe you can't make head nor tail of the end result. But I can, and equally important, my models understand what I am attempting to portray. We hope that one day the rest of the world will cotton on.
Friday, October 5, 2018
Fifty years have passed since making the voyage that is the subject of this book. The manuscript that began as an up to the minute guide is now an historical document. Like the canals, it is a miracle that it has survived.
When my original publisher to put the book on hold due to financial restraints in the early 1970’s, the typed manuscript took off on an amazing voyage of its own. It twice crossed the Atlantic aboard small sailing boats, survived storms at sea and two major hurricanes on land. For years it languished on a shelf in my studio, all but forgotten about.
Between making the voyage and retrieving the manuscript, there is a time lapse of half a century. During those intervening years the inland waterways of Ireland developed beyond belief. What was then abandoned is now restored and the navigations upon which we once sailed in solitude are now popular cruising grounds. I have resisted updating the text in memory of those earlier idyllic times.
Monday, September 24, 2018
The two pictures are a year apart. The first was taken a few days after Hurricane Maria and the second was taken this afternoon.
Nature has made an amazing comeback. Flora that I thought was lost forever is blossoming again. Our bananas, oranges and limes are again there for the picking. Even the river has reverted back to its old course.
How I wish that building back structures could go at the same pace. In my case it's not so much a case of Kipling's "building them up again with worn-out tools". The tools are okay, it's more a case of worn out me.
For weeks my days have been spent putting things back together again. And there's a lot more to do before I can get back to painting.
Friday, September 14, 2018
Just as I started picking up the pieces from last year's hurricane, Tropical Storm Isaac headed directly towards Dominica. This time around it was torrential rain rather than hurricane force winds. Nevertheless, outdoor work is on hold.
As sitting around doing nothing would drive me insane, I've spent my time making a shirt. Over the years I have frequently been reduced to making my own shirts and shorts. The reason being that here in the tropics it's impossible to find clothing suited to a hot climate. Shirts are in polyester and shorts come way down below the knees. My shirts are in light weight cotton and my shorts are even lighter and shorter.
Today's picture picture shows Marcella's torso doubling as a tailor's dummy. I'm sure that when she finds out she'll claim the shirt as her own!
Incidentally, some years ago I launched my own fashion label for the tropics and named it, "Bare Minimum".
Monday, September 10, 2018
It is almost a year ago since Hurricane Maria wracked havoc to my island of Dominica. Luckily, my main studio and workshops survived but our gardens and the gazebo that I used for life classes did not fare as well.
After the hurricane I was on a creative high and up until now my time has been spent painting and sculpting rather than repairing the damage. But for the time being I have exhausted my creative muse and vacant and pensive moods have taken hold. Fortunately, for this malaise I have a cure: that is to throw myself into hard physical work. Hence, I am now picking up and putting back together the pieces that Maria blew down.
The curious thing is, when my muscles ache my hands are blistered, my muse shyly begins to favour me again.
Monday, September 3, 2018
V. S. Naipaul, to my mind the greatest and most perceptive Caribbean writer of the 20th century, died last month. In memory, I am re-reading (I've lost count of the number of times) his masterpiece, "The Enigma of Arrival".
In that book he refers to a writer friend's "admiration of certain writers and artists (and) his wish to do again, but for himself, what they had done.."
How true of myself! In a hundred year's time I doubt that anyone will bother about my work as a sculptor, regardless of my admiration of Rodin, although it is as a sculptor that, during my lifetime, I have received some degree of recognition. However, there is a chance that someone will re-discover my watercolours, especially those in my series "Daughters of the Caribbean Sun".
Today's painting was hurriedly chosen at random from hundreds of paintings in that series.
Sunday, August 26, 2018
Actual studio visits, as against virtual visits to these pages, are few and far between. But last week I had two.
The first was a government sponsored group of "tourism stake holders". My studio is seen as a "niche market tourism product". The stake holders left me feeling unsure that my work had been understood. Anyone seeking sexual content in my work, as against the beauty of the nude, would be be better off tuning into the Disney Channel.
I was initially wary of my second visitor because knew his interest, for very legitimate reasons, was the sexual. But it was my method of depicting the nude that drew his attention, not breasts or pudenda. I felt rewarded and comfortable.
Today's sketch dates from almost twenty years ago. If I had wanted my model to appear sexy I would have penciled in a bikini.
Monday, August 20, 2018
In the thirteen years that we've lived here the river and the path that meanders down to it, has changed beyond recognition. Before Tropical Storm Erica there was a bathing pool large enough and deep enough to swim in. Three subsequent smaller pools were swept away by Hurricane Maria. But climate change has been around since before the dinosaurs and geologists tell me that the entire valley was once a large lake.
The path is now an obstacle course with a climb over huge fallen trees and a ladder to negotiate a section that has eroded away. But the challenge of getting there is rewarded by ladling cool river water over my naked body.
The first picture shows the river in earlier times with a life-class in progress. If you look closely you can just make out the model perched like a mermaid on one of the boulders. The second picture was taken today and shows the river cascading down to my present pool.
Friday, August 10, 2018
At last, here is the plaster cast of my latest sculpture. The molding was one problem after another and after week's of effort I almost gave up on the job.
Working on a remote Caribbean island means that I have no means of obtaining fresh plaster. I have to recycle outdated stock by regrinding and reheating to a high temperature. But beyond that, my biggest mistake was using questionable washing up liquid as a mold release agent. It appears to have prevented the cast from fully hardening. The surface is powdery and I have lost a lot of detail.
But it is from mistakes that I occasionally make a break through. To bind the powdery surface of the cast I brushed on a liberal coating of shellac. As I could not obtain clear shellac I used a version that carpenters use for sealing knots. And low and behold, the effect was a patina that I've spent thirty years searching for!
The loss of detail may also be seen as a positive. Many of Rodin's plaster casts have a similar suggestive appearance. Maybe his mold makers also had an occasional off day. But they had good old-fashioned soft soap rather than today's washing up liquid.
Sunday, August 5, 2018
It has happened to me so many times. I see a beautiful face and I ask the recipient to model. But alas, by the time she reaches my studio her natural charms have been modified to a foreign concept of beauty: straightened hair, lightened skin and heavy makeup. Even worse, one young lady who was high on my list of possibilities has recently taken to wearing a wig!
Afro-Caribbeans appear to have developed a hatred for their own natural hair. The machismo male shaves it all off and the daughters of the Caribbean sun disguise it in anyway they can.
In contrast, the nude figure, for the most part, remains true to itself. Hence my preference.