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 30, 2017

By candle light

Since Hurricane Maria devastated Dominica three months ago, we have been without electricity. For one hour a day we run the generator to charge batteries, but after that it's candle light.

Yesterday evening, when glancing in the bathroom mirror, by the afore said candle light, who did I see staring back at me: none other than Harmensz van Rijn Rembrandt (1606-1669).

Rembrandt, and other artists from earlier periods, lived and worked by candle light. I now realise that it is this light that gave their painting dramatic heights and depths. 

It is not often that I indulge in a self-portrait - my last dates from 1974 - but here I am, in the bathroom mirror in candle light.

Perhaps for the New Year I should tell my models to forget the morning and afternoon sessions, from now on we will work after dark by candle light.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The heights and depths

For a watercolourist the highlights are the white of the paper and, at best, the depths a thunderous wash that is weakened by the inherent transparency of the medium.

The gem-like jet blackness of my present model forces me to risk all I know in my attempt for a likeness. One wash is thrown down on top of another and the inevitable runs mopped up with a tissue.

Mind you, tissues have been heavily in demand today as both my model and myself are recovering from a severe bout of flue.

Thank you Verlena for seeing the session through to the end. Today's picture shows that it was worth our efforts.


This painting reverts back to my 22" x 16" format. It was painted through out with a number 16 brush and took 20 minutes, or rather 60 years, from beginning to end.

Monday, December 11, 2017

All that I need to say

Today's painting, small by my standards, is no larger than a sheet of typing paper. Nevertheless, it says all that I have spent a lifetime trying to say in terms of capturing the beauty of the nude figure through the elusive medium of watercolour. 

I did not set out to paint a picture, but rather to give a new model and myself confidence of working together. In ten minutes we had broken the ice.

Thank you Verlena.

Friday, December 8, 2017

No sooner said than done

No sooner had I lamented in my last post of the dearth of models than I got a message from Annabelle, my number one model, to say she can fit in six sessions before finally leaving for medical school in January.

Picking up the painterly threads after three months is not easy. But Annabelle was true to her inspirational self and today’s five minute opening sketch gives me hope that I too can still work the magic.

I regret not capturing Annabelle as she breezed into my studio. While nothing can be more beautiful than the nude figure, the image of Annabelle in an alluring white dress comes close. The next time she wears it, I shall paint it!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

In vacant or in pensive mood

It is not oft that I lie upon my couch in vacant or in pensive mood, and on the rare occasions that I do what dwells upon my inward eye is the beauty of the female nude, rather than daffodils. But I confess, the aftermath of Hurricane Maria has me vacant and pensive.

With little time left I need to get on with life, but now every move is tens times more difficult than it was before. Finding suitable models for my paintings and sculptures is a case in point. I search the island like a detective following possible leads. But alas, so far they have come to nought.

Today's drawing of the pregnant nude dates back to 1993.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Up and running again

Nine weeks ago my studio was in a state of retreat from Hurricane Maria: no paintings on the walls and sculptures inches deep in water. The task of restoration has been long and difficult and all the more so because I was determined to improve on what was there before.

Today's picture shows that I am up and running again.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Picking up the pieces

In this life there's so much to do and so little time to do it in.

My whole being yearns to be toiling on the forge of art and in particular, to pursue my work with the figure. Yet here I am, still picking up the pieces from Hurricane Maria. 

Today's picture says it all, or does it. Painting and sculpting alone does not represent my life's work. There's mor to it than that.

This link shows that the pieces are not solely related to my art.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Paradise Lost

We came out better than most from the cruel blow that Hurricane Maria dealt Dominica. The roof of the pavilion under which I teach life classes can be replaced, my damaged paintings and sculptures can be restored and our driveway can be cleared and made passerble again. What cannot be mended is the river that boarders our land. The idyllic bathing pools are gone and so is the path that leads down from my studio. I still go down to the river but the approach is now the equivalent of an assault course and I have to clamber over huge boulders to find a safe place to bathe.

My bathing figure from three years ago serves as a reminder of those halcyon days.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Getting my head around a "tablet"

If I can get my head around this table that my daughter has bought for me, there is a chance that, after a fashion, I might be able to resume my diary posts. It will mean climbing up on the roof to get reception - no electricity - and the help of my son (a computer geek) to get it to work. It will also mean fitting it in between survival necessities: repairing water pump, re-making the drive for vehicular access, etc. And all of that has to be accomplished on a diet of sardines and corned beef. Fortunately, the rum is holding out!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Major Hurricane Maria

Just over five weeks ago Dominica was hit by one of the worst hurricanes on record: a Category 5+ hurricane with winds in excess of 200 mph. The center passed right over the island. The damage is catastrophic by any standards: 80% of buildings, roads, bridges and services destroyed or seriously damaged. The island is still reeling from the storm and will be for at least a year.

We came out better than most. Flooding was our major problem but most of my paintings and sculptures survived, albeit with some interesting washes courtesy of Maria, as today's picture shows.

Getting this post out has been a major operation (no electricity and no broadband) via cell connections that only work when I climb up on the roof. Hence, posts will be few and far between until better times.  

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A lament to the British Virgin Islands

I have seen these islands destroyed twice in my life time. First, by the development that began in the late 1970’s; development that eventually overwhelmed the islander’s way of life and the local scene. And second, by Hurricane Irma. Palatial homes can be re-built but I can never again experience my first love.

I remember the Ridge Road when it was a grassy trail from end to end. In those days there were few cars and no buses. To get from East End to Road Town you hitched a ride on whatever came your way. I never locked a door and my boat shared the Maya Cove anchorage with no more than six others.

Perhaps from the mid 1970’s I sensed the inevitable, for it was then that I started gathering material for my book Virgin Island Sketches. My objective was to give the islanders confidence in their own identity and to encourage visitors to accept the islands in the way they found them.

Today's sketch is taken from my book.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Though grim as hell the worst is…

Though grim as hell the worst is,
Can you round it off with curses.

I offer the above lines by Robert Service to British Virgin Islanders to reinforce their resilience in the wake of Hurricane Irma. It was only yesterday that we learnt that all of our many family members are safe, albeit in unenviable circumstances.

During the anxious days of waiting for news I kept my mind occupied by preparing a batch of sugar cane for paper making. I had just poured the pulp into the vat when the good news came through. I celebrated with a rum and orange and added a generous tot of rum to the pulp. The resulting 80 proof limited edition sheets will be presented to family members that bravely fought through the storm – minus roof in one case.

Due to the alcoholic content children under the age of 18 will get half a sheet.

Today’s picture shows the paper in the making. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Gone with the wind…well almost!

Over the last few days Hurricane Irma has brought home to me the vulnerability of a life’s work, at least in terms of paintings. Irma’s original trajectory was for directly in line for Dominica. 

The fact that it changed course for the Virgin Islands as a Category 5 hurricane is no consolation. Those islands were once my home and I have many family members there. The walls that surround them I built thirty years ago. The roof timbers are strapped down with rigging salvaged from a fifty foot racing yacht. The doors and shutters were made from the finest pitch pine planks. The house and studio survived Hurricane Hugo in the 1980’s - also a major 4/5 hurricane. Let’s hope they do the same again over the next 36 hours.

Dominica will likely miss all but the storms of Irma’s fringe. Today’s picture says it all.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

To disturb those who are calm

My mission statement as an artist is to calm those who are disturbed and to disturb those who are calm.

In pursuit of the latter my opening picture shows this year’s incoming students listening to the opening address at the Dominica State College. The video clip below is of Shah Rukh Khan addressing students at the University of Edinburgh.  

The students are similar, the message is the same, but the difference between the boredom of one and the enthralment of the other is the messenger. One opened with the hope that the students had listened to the Prime Minister’s budget speech (yawn) and the other with the admittance that his face was ugly (laughs).  

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

One thing leads to another

One thing leads to another and at the moment nothing is leading me back to painting.

Making the equipment I need for paper making is taking all of my time and creative ingenuity. Living on a small Caribbean island means that can’t pop into town and buy the bits and pieces I need. Instead everything has to be made in my workshop, including the vee belt pulleys needed to reduce the speed of the beater roller. Another week and I should be up and running.

Today’s opening picture shows the work in progress.

For those more interested in the beauty of the nude rather than the beauty of the mechanical here is a five minute sketch from a few months ago.

Friday, August 11, 2017

The power to live passionately

How I love the words that are the title of today’s post. They are taken from the announcement of the event shown in today’s opening picture. In full the by-line reads: For the love of dance and the power to live passionately.

My week has been one of diversions: first, a National Holiday and then a day spent attending a University of the West Indies Open Campus Conference. The conference, on the theme of Dominica’s indigenous race, the Kalinagos, comprised of one academic presentation after another. The passion was provided by brief guest performances by Salybia Primary School children and Kalinago dancers.  Sorry, I was so enthralled that I missed getting their photo! 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Thirsting to get back to painting

Recently my days have been spent making equipment for paper making. But I’m thirsting to get back to painting. The first picture is where I left off over a month ago. Be warned: my built up creative energy will explode on the first inspirational model that comes my way.

In the meantime: back to the workbench and the 24 blade beating roll that will be used for making paper pulp.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Knee deep in paper

My handmade papers have taken over all else. The images below give you an idea of colour and texture. 

Now that I have reams of exotic paper I can breathe new life into my Daughters of the Caribbean Sun. By way of pastels to begin with,100% pure cotton paper for my water colours will follow.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

My 74th Birthday Present

Too  busy to write, but yesterday was my 74th birthday and my present from my daughter Tania was tickets and a taxi for me and the rest of my family to see my favourite performers on stage in the hit Broadway Musical “Once on this Island”.

Nothing in the world surpasses Dominica’s “Sixth Form Sisserou Singers”. As the name suggests, the group was founded by high school students back in 1994. Under the masterful direction of their musical director, Pearl Christian, they have gone from strength to strength.

For this presentation they were aided by Dominica’s Cultural Icon, Alwin Bully (Director) and his daughter Sade Bully (Choreography). Dominica’s talented Michelle Henderson was guest star and the show was stolen by the incredible nine year old Beata (Beats) Vidal.

The pictures say the rest.

  The Sixth Form Sisserou Singers 
(Alwin standing third from left and Pearl middle row center)

 Michelle Henderson in rehearsal.

 The incredible nine year old Beata (Beats) Vidal. 
Remember this name, you'll see it in lights one day soon!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Intimate detachment

Regardless of earning my keep as a painter and sculptor of the human form, I have a poor memory for faces.

Years ago, unknowingly, I stood next to one of my models in a queue at the Post Office. We had worked together for three months but it wasn’t until she gave me an introductory tap on the shoulder that I recollected who she was. 

I am always searching for my next inspirational model; an elusive task. But last week, while waiting to cash at the supermarket, I was sure that I’d found her. When my turn came to check-out I gave the smiling cashier my card and told her to contact me if ever she should considered modelling.

Her answer: But Roger, I've already modeled for you!

 Now I remember!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

To the Editor

My first “Letter to the Editor” was penned and published sixty years ago and I’ve continued writing letters and articles for the press ever since. As my most recent touches on creativity, it may be of interest to my followers. The subject is the Caribbean Common Entrance Examination, a colonial hand-me down from the UK’s “Eleven Plus”.

Life beyond the Common Entrance

This week, in the small minority of homes of children that won bursaries or scholarships in the Common Entrance Examination there will be jubilation and resignation in the homes of the majority that did not.

In this commentary I want to give hope and assurance to those that the testing methodology failed. To my mind, it was not the children that failed the exam but the exam that failed the children. Furthermore, I maintain that grooming a child from the age of nine for that kind of examination ranks as a form of child abuse.

Sir William Henry Hadow, an educational reformer who in the 1920’s recommended the introduction of primary and secondary schools in the UK, would doubtless agree.  His report, progressive for its day, argued that:

The primary school curriculum should be based on the children's knowledge and experience, not on abstract generalisations or theoretical principles. It should be thought of in terms of activity and experience, rather than of knowledge to be acquired and facts to be stored. A good primary school is not a place of compulsory instruction.

The Caribbean Common Entrance Examination is a colonial hand-me-down from the UK’s 11 Plus. The 11 Plus Examination dates from 1945 when the Tripartite System introduced three types of secondary school, namely: grammar school, secondary technical school and secondary modern school. It was abolished in the 1970’s when all schools went Comprehensive.

As at this point in time Dominica does not have a similar Tripartite System – all children progress to the same level of secondary education – the only function of the Common Entrance Examination is as a financial incentive in the form of bursaries and scholarships and as a first choice of secondary school. It therefore beggars belief why we put children through the stress of the examination at that tender age. Subsequent streaming can be determined from regular class results.

As a confidence builder it serves only a small percentage of pupils. For the majority it serves as life’s first major “put-down”. Research has shown that it takes ten “up-lifts” to counter one “put-down”. It is an early differentiating step between the “have nots” and what a government minister recently termed as “those who are in higher positions in the social space”.

In essence the Common Entrance Examination is an Intelligence Test and as such it has the major failing of all intelligence tests: it cannot measure creativity. Neither can it measure the co-ordination between hand and eye, an essential attribute for all skilled work. A creative answer is marked as nought. Hence, a dyslexic child hasn’t a cat in hell’s chance and up to 15% of Afro-Caribbean children are dyslexic. To that you can add at least 30% of pupils who are creatively rather than academically inclined.

Research indicates that children are born with 98% the creative potential of genius. However, as they go through life, the figure falls dramatically. At the age of eight, the percentage has dropped to 32%. By the time they reach thirteen, peer pressure has brought it down to 10%, and by adulthood, conformity has reduced it to less than 2%. As individuals and as a nation, creativity is our most valuable resource. Creative thinking enhances academic qualifications but it is not necessarily dependent on them. Incidentally, the syllabuses of Dominica’s two most sought after secondary schools largely omit the Creative Arts.

Five years ago Dominica piloted the Caribbean Primary Exit Assessment as a possible alternative to the Common Entrance Examination. As some elements of the assessment are spread over a period of years, rather than on the result of a one-off nerve-racking exam, it offers some improvement. Nevertheless, it still misses the point: that being, what’s the point if all children are eligible for the same level of secondary education.

Let me end by offering hope to the majority that did not get a high test score by confessing that sixty-five years ago I failed the 11 Plus, and you can add that I am dyslexic. In those days dyslexia was not understood. We were put down as being dumb; albeit that in the year leading up to the exam I designed and built a model aircraft with a 30 inch wing span that could fly the length of a football field!

The “sink” secondary modern school that I attended was later closed by the government as failing. But it certainly did not fail me, and if I had my life to live over I would beg to be sent back to the same school. A remarkable bunch of teachers restored my confidence and in four years I rose from bottom of the bottom stream to top of the top stream. Those teachers, none of them highly academically qualified, were the first to recognise my potential in the Arts and Engineering Design. I have since won national awards in both fields.

On the other hand, my best friend Brian remained at the bottom of the class and when he left school the only job open to him was sweeping up in a bakery. Years later, on a visit to my home town in England, I looked twice at the smartly dressed man walking towards me: it was Brian, also home on a visit. Over the years he had progressed from sweeper to Master Baker. He then progressed to hotel catering and when we met he was the Head Pastry Chef at one of Australia’s top hotels. As he said: they tried to teach me everything at school but missed the one thing that I’m good at!

Had Leonardo Da Vinci sat the Common Entrance Examination 500 years ago, this is what his answer paper might have looked like – he was seriously dyslexic!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Going back to go forward

It is twenty years since I last worked in pastel, and then only spasmodically. Since Degas (1834-1917) and Whistler (1834-1903) pastel has suffered a similar fate to water colour: its innate vibrancy has been reduced to timidity. On that score, I am determined to turn the tables.

My interest has been revived through my experiments in paper making. Commercial pastel papers lack the individuality in surface and colour that I’m after. But my hand-made papers from sugar cane, bamboo, banana stems and pineapple leaves, offer distinct possibilities.

The next step is to make my own pastels as my requirements are different to what’s on the market, both in colour, tonal range and hardness. Besides, neither paper nor pastels are available off the shelf on my island.

The first picture shows my last pastel sketch from twenty year ago. It is followed by the one I made, on the spur of the moment, the day before yesterday. My model, expecting my usual water colour washes, was impressed. Or at least that is what I took her “hmm” to mean. But I have a long way to go to get back to where I was twenty years ago and even further, to move forward with vengeance. 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Similarities but poles apart

My daughter recently bought me a copy of Enrique Martínez Celaya’s Collected Writings & Interviews, 1990-2010. It was not the book that I had sent her in search of but she did her best in finding an alternative that she thought “looked like me”. Thanks Tania!

I had never heard of Enrique Martínez Celaya and I’m sure he’s never heard of me. As artists we have a few things in common: we both hail from the Caribbean (Cuba for him and Dominica for me); we both paint and sculpt and we both share our thoughts through speech and the written word.

But there the similarity ends: he veers towards the conceptual while I cling to the representational; his thoughts are complex and mine are simple; he is internationally known and in demand, whereas I am not.

He says: “I’m after work so empty yet so dense that in engaging it, the act of becoming is generated”.

I say: I want my work to have the passionate feeling of making love.

I will let our respective work speak for itself. First, two of mine at random...

 Now two of his at random.

Monday, June 19, 2017

He’s made up for it since

Due to what was thirty years later diagnosed as dyslexia, until the age of five I had no means of speech – even the pronunciation of my name eluded me. As my brother once sarcastically remarked: he’s made up for it since!

To prove his point I’ve given two talks in two days. The first was to visiting students from the States and the second, to Dominica’s Prison Officers. For the students, the venue was my studio and the theme my work as a painter and sculptor. For the prison officers, the venue was the prison and the theme dyslexia: a relevant topic as research shows that 40% of prisoners are dyslexic.

I’m an old hand at working with prisoners. In the early 1980’s I did regular Thursday afternoon sessions at Road Town Prison in the British Virgin Islands. Those were the days of the old prison that is shown in the opening illustration.

For the visiting students I rounded off my talk with a sketch of one of the participants. While sketching I kept up a running commentary, so I’m still talking to make up for lost time!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Don’t pick a fight with a Grenadian woman

The above drawing is taken from my book Caribbean Sketches. It shows women carry bungles of sugar cane on the River Antoine Estate, Grenada.

It is mostly women that carry the heavy bungles of sugar cane from the fields to the mill. The bungles are hoisted shoulder high and then finally thrown down the trough that leads to the rollers – rollers that for hundreds of years have been turned by a huge waterwheel. What strength, I could barely lift one of the bungles. Take my advice: don’t ever pick a fight with a Grenadian woman!

Bagasse is the residue left after sugar cane has been crushed and it is from this that I am making paper. I have spent my day chopping, boiling and shredding a batch. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Same ingredients, different end product

In the far corner of our land, are the remains of an old sugar works and rum distillery. The river provided the pure water and the surrounding hillsides provided the cane. Now only the old walls stand: the waterwheel and boiling coppers are no more. Two hundred years ago trash from the sugar cane was used to fire the coppers that converted the cane juice into rum.

Sugar cane still grows to within a few yards from my studio but alas the bottle of rum from which I pour my sundowner does not have Antrim Estate on the label. However, a different end product from the same raw ingredients may soon have Antrim Studio as its watermark. I refer to paper.

The first picture shows sugar cane growing alongside my studio and the second, a sample sheet of paper from the same growth of cane. The paper has a faint musky scent; perhaps that's a trace of aged Antrim Rum percolating through!