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.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Starting young...

Whereas my daughters Tania and Trina can claim they started their modelling career captive in their mother’s womb, my son Tristan had been in the world eight months before modelling for his first sculpture.  Now that he is ten, getting him to model is a different kettle of fish.  A portrait bust that I started of him a couple of years ago dragged out so long that the clay turned to dust long before completion.

My sculptures have themselves brought children into this world.  Behind the backs of the commissioners, I added a little boy to the maquette of my figures for Leeds City Centre.  When called to account for this addition to their budget, I shrugged it off as the inevitable consequence of the couple’s liaison.   

Although children have featured in many of my sculptures, I confess that they are not my preferred subject.  Mummy’s little darling can soon become a fidgety thorn in my side. 

Today’s picture shows Tristan pointing out to me the errors of my work while it was at the initial clay stage.   

Saturday, April 20, 2013

In the mood…

Between the mid 1970’s and the mid 1990’s it seemed that I had sketched every beach, every coconut palm and every grain of sand throughout the length of the Caribbean I then declared enough is enough, and turned to the figure with a vengeance.  

Last week, for the first time in almost twenty years, I put aside my ebony flesh colours and dug deep for tubes of viridian and turquoise.   I slung my sketch bag over my shoulder and headed for the wild Atlantic Coastline of Dominica.  This seascape of Rosalie Bay is the result of my morning’s labour. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Confronting the real thing…

A few weeks ago, I visited an exhibition that featured the work of regional students who had over the years, won top marks in the Caribbean Examination Council Visual Arts Examination.  Many of the works were portraits of meticulous detail.  A representative of the Council confirmed my suspicion that they had copied from photographs.  Furthermore, it seems that students are encouraged to work from photographic references, whether it is a portrait, landscape or market scene. 

As a staunch advocate for working from life, this approach to teaching the next generation of artists, beggars belief.  There have been occasions when I have sourced technical detail from photographs to ensure accuracy.  The Caribbean postage stamps that I designed in the 1980’s are a case in point.  But when it comes to the landscape, portrait or figure, I need to confront the real thing. 

I cannot walk around a photograph of my subject, neither can I touch, feel, sense or talk to it.  It can be troublesome working outdoors; you get burnt by the sun, drenched by the rain, bitten by ants and easels get bowled over in the wind.  In the studio, models cannot be expected to retain the freshness of a pose for longer than a couple of minutes. 

Nevertheless, the rewards of working from life are worth the effort.  Between the torn up false starts, the exploratory lines and the dashed down runs of colour, there, on paper, is a trace of the breath of life!   

The above watercolour, which I painted from life this afternoon, illustrates my point.  A photograph would have defined five fingers: my wash dribbled down to make three or four.  I leave the difference to your imagination. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Standing Pregnant Nude

I will begin my collection by going back twenty years to when I painted Denise through the pregnancies of our daughters Tania and Trina. Their birth dates are less than a year apart, so what I missed on one pregnancy, I caught on the other. I exhibited the entire collection of twenty-five paintings and drawings in the UK in 1998. 

A visitor to the exhibition - a lady in her eighties - was pleased that I had captured the beauty that she had not dared to realise in the days of her youth.  She told me that in those days the nude figure – let alone the pregnant nude - was considered shameful.  Alas, my dear lady, for many it is still so!

This is one of those rare watercolours that I painted directly on the page without the guide lines of a preliminary drawing.  Remember, in watercolour mistakes cannot be corrected and a successful painting – one that has avoided a thousand pitfalls along the way - is a minor miracle.  But as G. K. Chesterton said, “The miraculous thing about miracles is that they do sometimes happen”. 

Incidentally, I had this painting in mind when I wrote my poem The Colour Black.  (Search the archives for entry dated August 11th 2011)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Problems associated with growing younger…

When my father - who lived well into his nineties – made his infrequent visits to the village surgery, the doctor would greet him with the words, “Good God, are you still walking around”!

After an absence of well over a year, I’m sure you’ll be saying about me.  Let me explain.  This year I reach my biblical three score years and ten, and my long absence has all to do with the problems associated with growing younger. 

At this time of life, I have so many projects on the go that it is difficult to find time to sit down and write about them.  Which brings us back to Henry David Thoreau and his line:

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

It is not only projects that I have been grappling with.  Last week for the first time in living memory, we took a day’s holiday.  My family enjoyed it immensely but agreed that we wouldn’t want to repeat the experience too often.  

One of the projects has been tutoring the next generation of creative artists and, as an extension of that initiative, offering my studio life classes to visitors. 

Bythe way, as I grow younger, so does my wife.  Here's a sketch of her as she begins her twenty-second year of modelling.