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, December 31, 2011

Dreamers of the day…

Thankfully, at the start of all my New Years, I’ve never been able to predict what I’ll be doing this time next year.  That very uncertainty has been the spice of my life.  If nothing else, these diary pages bear witness to the fact that, what I’m doing today I’m unlikely to be doing tomorrow. 

These lines by T. E. Lawrence are an appropriate beginning for 2012…along with my sketch of the Halifax Symphony  Orchestra. (You’ve seen sketches of individual players before but not, as I remember, the full orchestra.)

This, therefore, is a faded dream of the time when I went down into the dust and noise of the Eastern market-place, and with my brain and muscles, with sweat and constant thinking, made others see my visions coming true. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that all was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, and make it possible.
A Very Happy New Year

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Santa’s workshop update…

Christmas was just a little late this year.  The Lego custom wheels and axel had me working until ten this morning.  At least they bear the stamp Made in Dominica!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Santa’s workshop…

If toyshops had to depend on me for their Christmas trade, they would soon have to put up the shutters.  On Christmas Eve my workshop becomes Santa’s workshop.  When it comes to toys, you name it and I’ve made it.  Either that or I’ve handed down my toys.  The picture shows a random collection that I managed retrieve from Tristan’s bedroom this afternoon.  The mallet I made on the day he was born.  The boat is one of a whole fleet that I have fashioned over the years.  Muffin the Mule was one of my Christmas presents when I was about his age.   The aeroplane goes back to when he was four years old and the Lego blocks are a clue to this year’s present – a set of custom made Lego wheels and axels.  I’ll be working on a custom made Meccano set for next Christmas. 

Occasionally the present originates from the studio.  Tomorrow, a little girl by the name of Jaylah will be finding a framed sketch of herself among her presents (See diary entry for 3rd October).

I must thank my brother for my Christmas present…a replacement battery for my camera.  Thanks Ali!

Friday, December 16, 2011

My life has been the poem I would have writ…

When I read the collected letters of Vincent Van Gogh or the diaries of Michelangelo, I have to accept gaps in their accounts that sometimes extend into years.  Over the last fifty years, my diaries have followed the same pattern.  Usually I write most when nothing much is happen and least, when everything is. 

The scarcity of entries over the last week is due in part to waiting for a replacement camera battery but to a much greater degree, due to keeping the wheels of the island’s production lines turning.  Just as my grandfather Enoch was expected to repair everything from church clocks to violins, when all else fails, that “white man at Antrim” is expected to rectify things mechanical. 

I quote again Henry David Thoreau lines,

My life has been the poem I would have writ,
But I could not both live and utter it.

The picture is of a cast that I made some weeks ago of a tropical leaf the size of an umbrella.  I leave you to guess the material.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

I am two fools…

I am two fools, I know,
For loving, and for saying so
In whining poetry…

In a wider context John Donne’s words might well sum up the story of my life. Whereas most people take life very much as they find it, I have live it and loved it with a passion.  In attempting to express that love, one way or another, I have often made a complete fool of myself…but no regrets.

Nadine Stair, was 85 years old when she wrote these lines:
If I had my life to live over, I'd dare to make more mistakes next time. I'd relax, I would limber up. I would be sillier than I have been this trip. I would take fewer things seriously. I would take more chances. I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers. I would eat more ice cream and less beans. I would perhaps have more actual troubles, but I'd have fewer imaginary ones. You see, I'm one of those people who live sensibly and sanely hour after hour, day after day. Oh, I've had my moments, and if I had it to do over again, I'd have more of them. In fact, I'd try to have nothing else. Just moments, one after another, instead of living so many years ahead of each day. I've been one of those people who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat and a parachute. If I had to do it again, I would travel lighter than I have. If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I would go to more dances. I would ride more merry-go-rounds. I would pick more daisies.

Finding a sketch to illustrate today’s diary is difficult, but how about this one.  It was a proposed life-size bronze figure for the Glan Clwyd NHS Trust.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Rosie the riveter…

A couple of my machines date back to World War II and it’s possible that in those days they were operated by women.  On both sides of the Atlantic, women took the place of men in engineering workshops.  Many of them enjoyed the work so much that they were still on the job when I served my apprenticeship in the 1960’s.  Their contribution to the war effort came to mind today when I was sharpening milling cutters, one of the many jobs that benefited from a woman’s delicate touch. 

Welding was another, and back in the 1980’s one of the best welders in the Caribbean was a pretty Guyanese girl.  With a welding torch she had the touch of an angel and I’m sure she’d agree with the sentiments expressed by one of the WW2 women welders:

I loved the look of welding, the smell of it.  You moved the welding rod in tiny, circular motions, making half-crescents.  If you did it right, it was beautiful.  It was like embroidery. 

At the war’s height, women, many of them African-American, made up more than a quarter of the Richmond, US shipyards’ 90,000 workers.  Norman Rockwell captured their image for all time with Rosie the Riveter.   Here’s Rosie and my nine-year-old son Tristan serving his time on my fifty-year-old tool and cutter grinder.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Practising to be a painter…

In the top right hand corner of one of my recently posted market sketches are the words, “What he doing?”  As one follower correctly assumed, these were the words of a passer-by.  

I’m a collector of phrases uttered by those who look over my shoulder as I work.   In my formative days an onlooker once asked, “Are you a professional”.  When I modestly answered no, the response was, “I thought not”. 

A couple of young lads watched as I worked as I painted the sketch shown below.  Curiosity finally got the better of them and one of them asked, “Are you practising to be a painter mister?” 

I suppose in truth I am – and always will be.  Like Renoir, I’ll probably say on my death bed, “What a pity, I’m just getting the hang of it.”

After the Burnett battle of the market place, (See I award today’s sketch to my brother.  He may just recognise it as a view to the south over Elland, a West Yorkshire town of which he has many memories.