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.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Pure and simple

What follows is my murmured soliloquy while working on the last of four paintings from yesterday’s session with Annabelle.

I’ve ten minutes left to save the day…Just relax in whichever way you choose…Where do I start…I’m seeing a line in silhouette that runs over the left breast and down to right thigh…Just one simple line with a hint of the rib cage…And now I can place the right breast and follow the curve to the hip…What a wonderful line that is…Keep it loose, don’t play about with detail…The face is largely hidden behind the left arm but that doesn’t make it easier…First I must let the chin fall into place…Now I can tie in the arms. The complication of the clasped hands I’ll leave to take care of themselves…Okay, stretch if you need to…No more line, just get the washes down, boldly, once and for all…My brush instinctively finds the earth colours I need…Leave the washes to find their own way…Keep the lights light and don’t be afraid of defining the darks around the face…The same touch of Indian Red serves for the lips and the nipples and the merest hint where the thighs meet…No time for background and it would be superfluous for what I am after…A glance at the clock tells me our time is up…To add more would be less…Annabelle, that’s it, we’re finished!

Here’s the result: pure and simple. With thanks to my inspirational model.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Pregnant in body and soul

In 1992, with my wife five months pregnant, we sailed our 36 foot gaff cutter from the Caribbean to Bermuda. Our plan was to spend some months there and then fly to England for the birth. However, the inevitable never happens but the unexpected often does. Unexpectedly, our daughter Tania came into the world a month premature. From that date my work moved towards the figurative and my collection of Bermuda paintings have been hidden away ever since. These paintings represent the last of a tropical townscape period that I began twenty years earlier in the Caribbean.

This detail heralds the transformation.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The sweetness of sin

The word beguine crops up in Kenneth Clark’s definitive book, The Nude, A Study in Ideal Form. The dictionary gives two meanings: first: Infatuation and the second, A popular dance of West Indian origin.

On further research I find that the dance originated in my neighbouring French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique. It is a slow close dance in which the female’s hands are clasped around the neck of the male and the male’s hands are clasped around the waist of the female. There is a back and forth hip movement.

Cole Porter encountered the dance when Martinique immigrants brought it to the dance halls of Paris. The rest is enshrined in the history of popular song. Interestingly, the accepted closing lines of the song are:

And we suddenly know what heaven we’re in,
When they begin the beguine.

But the first version read:

And we suddenly know the sweetness of sin,
When they begin the beguine.

I consider the accepted line to be adequate, but the presumably censored version, is pure poetry!

Here is Ella Fitzgerald’s classic recording of the song: 

I promise to track down the actual dance. So far I’ve drawn a blank here in Dominica, despite our strong French Creole connections. It might add some spice to our more formal crop of cultural dances, about which V. S. Naipaul had this to say in his book The Middle Passage:

To this mincing mimicry, the violence and improvisation and awesome skill of African dancing has been reduced.

These pictures illustrate one against the other.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

An ingenious work of art

Today’s picture illustrates a work of art, but not one that you will find in a gallery.

I stumbled across it a few weeks ago when visiting a village that was almost wiped out when Tropical Storm Erica devastated Dominica just over a year ago. The government is intent on re-housing the villagers in a new estate of plastic pre-fabricated houses; the equivalent of Pete Seeger’s “Little Boxes”.

However, some villagers, like the creator of this ingenious cane crashing mill, are staying put on what may now - after nature has done her worst - be considered safe ground. Some might say they are foolhardy, but for me they emphasise the unconquerable spirit of man.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Reaching for the impossible

What I am after keeps moving just beyond my reach. It might even be impossible, given the fleeting minutes I have available to capture the subtleties of nude figure, the intractability of a rapidly drawn line and unruliness of watercolour washes thrown down with a Number 12 brush.

Into the bargain I am experimenting with a different paper, both in texture and whiteness. Hence, I am up against the equivalent of letters on a computer keyboard being suddenly shifted about. 

My models are doing better. Next year Annabelle will be studying medicine in the States and Saryta (the subject of today’s paintings) will soon be professionally modelling in France.