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, June 30, 2013

In the beginning…

As God didn’t have a please a patron or satisfy a board of trustees, I doubt if he made a preliminary sketch or marquette before he created the world.  Sculptors seldom have the same creative freedom. 

Usually commissioners need visible evidence of what’s in the sculptor’s mind’s eye.  When the evidence is to their liking, they want the work to follow suit and the creative process stops there and then.  For this reason, I have grown wary of presenting preliminary sketches and maquettes.  I have learnt that the creative spark ignites all the better when the work is in progress.  Sometimes the model relaxes into a more convincing pose or a group of figures fall into a better arrangement. 

On the other hand, a small maquette occasionally has more life than the finished figure.  I believe this to be the case with my maquette of a Frenchman playing boules - one of a group of figures that I made for the city of Leeds.

Today’s pictures show the 7-inch high plaster maquette and the clay life-size figure. And that’s me in the process of making the waste moulds. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The artist as reporter

In years to come, whoever makes the final tally of my paintings and sketches, will find that a significant percentage of my work falls under the heading of reportage.  I have attempted to follow the lead of Feliks Topolski, one of the masters of this genre. Editions of his 1950’s broadsheet Topolski’s Chronicle set an enviable benchmark.

My books Virgin Island Sketches and Caribbean Sketches fall under the heading of reportage and my portfolios are crammed with more of the same. 

Fifteen years ago, I gathered material on the nightclub scene in the North of England.  It was an assignment that tested my commitment for working from life to the limits!  To catch my subject, I had to set up my stall at two in the morning on the edge of a crowded dance floor, beneath strobe lights and with decibels beyond measure shaking me to bits.   Today’s sketch is from that series.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The creative potential of genius

It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child. Pablo Picasso

Research has shown that children are born with 98% the creative potential of genius.  At eight years, their potential is 32% and by the age of thirteen, it is down to 10%.  On average, an adult’s creative potential is 2%. 

While I resist teaching children how to draw and paint, I welcome opportunities to introduce them to art.  Over the years, I have occasionally shared my work with schoolchildren.  I painted today’s picture – with running commentary – before a class of primary school children in the UK seventeen years ago.

The painting was brought to my attention a couple of days ago when a teacher at the school tracked me down to Dominica via a roundabout series of e-mails, to which the painting was attached.  In a similar roundabout way, here I am back in the Caribbean remembering the winter’s day in England when I showed a class of ten year olds, what a West Indian Market is all about. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Stretching a watercolour to its limits…

 As a watercolourist, I am most comfortable working to a paper size of 20” x 16”.  Anything less feels restrictive, anything larger can be daunting.  I might not always fill the sheet, but at least it gives me the freedom to manoeuvre.  Without that freedom, I find myself constricting an arm or leg to fit the page.

To work larger than 20” x 16” means pulling out more stops than there are stops.  The washes have to be thrown down at twice the speed and with an unnerving confidence.  Moreover, there is the fear of spoiling a very expensive 100% all rag of watercolour board.  When the page size is increased to 40” x 30”, I really have reached my limit. 

Recently a long admirer of my work requested the impossible.  Well, the impossible took a little time, but here it is.

Incidentally, I find that photographic reproductions enhance small paintings but diminish large ones.  This is true of all media but especially so with watercolour.  In the photograph, the eye takes in the reduced image at a glance and the interplay of suggestive brush strokes is lost.  On the large original, the eye wanders and selects passages as it may.  

For the technically minded, I used was a No14 pure sable brush and that is as big as a sable watercolour brush gets!