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 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!


Friday, June 2, 2017

Did I paint that?

It has happened to us all. We are jolted by the unexpected glimpse of our reflection in a shop window and ask: is that me?

The same goes for my paintings. After a session I select what I perceive to be the best and the remainder are put to one side. I stress “put to one side” for I learnt long ago never to discard. I also keep computer images of all my paintings. Sometimes, when searching through the thumb nails of these images I hit upon one that gives me a jolt. I enlarge it to full screen and ask: did I paint that?

Why I cast today’s painting to one side, goodness only knows. In retrospect it says all that I’ve ever wanted to say. In other words, it leaves more unsaid than what is said.


It takes a model as inspirational as Annabelle to work that kind of magic.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The lyrical vs the passionate




When landscapes, townscapes and seascapes were my means of survival, I strove to be lyrical:  now, with the figure, I strive to be passionate.

Either way, my approach is the same. I have to confront the real thing, be it a tree or my model, and I have to make my statement at the speed of light. I remember dodging a shower of rain for this painting of Halifax parish church.

During my engineering apprenticeship days I took a short cut through the church grounds to get to work. On the floor of the porch is the gravestone to a remarkable man that fathered 32 children. A feat made all the more notable as he was away fighting the wars for 18 years! At least those numbers are to the best of my memory. On reading this, I am sure that my brother, who still lives within a few miles of the church, will be down there with his camera to correct my inaccuracies.

The soldier’s amazing feat of strength and stamina reminds me of a statement made by Winston Churchill.  On reading in the Times that a pensioner had made sexually advances to young lady in Hyde Park in freezing cold weather, he remarked to his colleague on the front bench: “Makes you proud to be an Englishman”.



Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Accessorizing your lifestyle



What may seem to be the sales solution for a painter and sculptor working from a studio hidden within the idyllic interior of a remote Caribbean island; isn’t. I refer to selling art on-line.

There are scores of sites, tens of thousands of artists and millions - yes, millions – of images. I’ve tried them all, from the user friendly low key to the aloof curated high key. In between the two are the shopping baskets of the out and out commercial that can offer my coy nudes as shower curtains, duvet covers, and beach bags. Whichever way, I was better off on the pavements of France or beneath a palm tree in the Virgin Islands.

But then again, I do not want to “accessorize your lifestyle” as one on-line site puts it. I just want to share my passion for what I perceive to be profound and beautiful. The MA’s in History of Art curators don’t get it. But occasionally, someone like Anna, who commented on my last post, does.

Today’s picture (in the beauty going begging category) is a portrait bust that I made three years ago of my poetic model Jessica.

As the mid-day temperature here in Dominica is way into the 90’s, I’ll mull over the vicissitudes of an artists’ life while walking down to the river and taking a dip in our bathing hole. 


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The bare minimum

Photographers of the nude invariably place their models in derelict buildings or on idyllic sea shores and most painters of the nude allow their subjects the comfort of cushioned interiors.

In contrast, my paintings of the nude favour the bare minimum, both in setting and technique. I offer no distractions and I do not patronise the viewer with detailed finish. What I do offer, through my paintings and these diary pages, is an invitation to enter into the creative process.

If I’m repetitive; so be it: if I bore you; hard lines. I know of no other way of finding what I’m searching for. And if per chance – usually by accident rather than intent – I succeed, there is then the difficulty of seducing you, the recipient, by way of a language that you can learn to understand.

Today’s feverish searching in lines and paint, says it all.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Sleeping four to a bed

…I have only one bed in which four of us sleep…I am without shoes and without clothes… I live in the midst of the greatest hardships and of countless anxieties...I have not known one hour of well being…

The above is not an account of poverty in the Third World, but extracts from Michelangelo’s diary at the time he was painting the Sistine Chapel Ceiling. He goes on to say:

…I blame it on the times which are anything but favourable to our art…It would be easier to resuscitate the dead than to make this town art conscious…

Those of us that today labour upon the forge of art realise that nothing much has changed!

Many of Michelangelo’s preliminary drawings were made in red chalk, a similar material to what I used almost thirty years ago for these drawings of my model Alice. You will note that the figure is discreetly draped for in those days I had not the courage to work from the nude.




Wednesday, May 3, 2017

I have not seen as others saw

As a painter it is necessary for me to have a different way of seeing. My task is to see beauty where it has not been seen before. But in doing so, I make life difficult for myself and difficult for others to patronise what I create.

  • I work in watercolour and watercolours are not readily marketable.
  • I paint the female nude: a subject that most buyers are shy of.
  • My models are Afro-Caribbean: black rather than white.
  • I resist the abstract: my figures are physical and passionate.
  • I work rapidly and suggest rather than define detail, and it is in laboured detail that buyers consider they get their money’s worth.

For my good friend and kindred soul, the Virgin Island poet Sheila Hyndman Wheatley (1958-1991), I choose this poem for her memorial service. It may well be equally as fitting for mine.

From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; nor could I awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I loved, I loved alone.

Edgar Allan Poe (1809 – 1849)

Today’s painting is my most recent and in the very same vein.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A sculpted knick-knack

It was not until after I had completed my clay sketch of lovers embraced that I realised the pose had a similarities to Rodin’s sculpture, “The Kiss”. Although well loved by the public, Rodin was dismissive of the work, especially the enlarged marble version. He described it as: a large sculpted knick-knack following the usual formula. I think he would have agreed with the art critic Alastair Sooke that, unlike his more provocative work, it is a tasteful rendition of desire – a kiss, not an orgasm.

(http://www.musee-rodin.fr/en/collections/sculptures/kiss)

Likewise, I am unsure if the first intentions of my clay sketch have been fulfilled. It appears tamer than I originally intended. The rule is: make your work as challenging as you dare, and then make it more so.

Nevertheless I thought it worth taking a cast from the clay and the following pictures record the processes involved. This is about as small as you can successfully cast from a waste mold. The match box in the third image gives an indication of size. The final pictures show the completed plaster cast patinated to resemble bronze.


                                  










Sunday, April 23, 2017

A stroke of genius


For over half a century I have carried the above painting as a postcard reproduction on all my travels. The artist is Eugène Boudin (1824-1898). His Figures on a Beach is the work of seconds: the very thing I have tried to achieve with my own work.

The painting below has the same spontaneous stroke of genius. It dates from 1905 and the artist (I doubt if you’d guess) Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). The irony is, had Picasso continued to paint in that vein he would have died in obscurity!


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A clay sketch

I have spent the last few days reconstituting the clay that went into Annabelle’s life-size reclining figure. It is the same clay that I have used for all my sculptures over the last twenty years. With lots of pummeling and wetting down it can be made workable time and time again.

With the last ball of clay I made this sketch of lovers embraced. Its diminutive size (no more than 8” x 5”) and time taken in the making (no more than a couple of hours) belies the strength of the statement that I have attempted to make.


The 19th century French sculptor Auguste Rodin was the master of the clay sketch and also the master of lovers embraced. Art, he said, is nothing but a sexual pleasure…a derivative of the power of loving. By way of his team of assistants he sometimes enlarged his sketches to life-size.

But a sketch is best when left well alone; it’s very lack of finish is the finish. Let’s hope that tomorrow I’m not tempted to destroy the spontaneity of today’s work by making too many “refinements”.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Like father, but not necessarily like son



The portrait bust is one that I made of my father at age 85.

I have followed in his footsteps in terms of being an inventive engineer, but there the similarity ends. My father never took chances, whereas I have taken nothing else.

Albert lived well into his nineties and was loved by all. After being a virtual teetotaller, towards the closing years of his life he enjoyed nothing better than a glass of beer. And after hankering for retirement throughout his working life, his last words to me were: I wish I was back at work.

Given the above, I feel sure he would have agreed with the words Nadine Stair wrote at age 85.

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 am one of those people who have lived sensibly and sanely, hour after hour, day after day. Oh, I've had my moments, and if I had to do it 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 bare foot 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 daises.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Trials and tribulations



Beneath the header to these diary pages is my promise to share with you the triumphs, trials and tribulations of work-in-progress.

After each modelling session I send a little note of thanks to the model. My last session with Pearl was no exception. Pearl once again gave her body and soul while I struggled to break new ground.
Pearl’s response to my note read:

I really appreciate your compliment and I know you don't need me to tell you how great an artist you are. The session was my best.

In turn I replied:

Your message really cheered me up. At the moment I am full of self-doubt in terms of my work. My only consolation is that all the artists from the past that I really admire have gone through the same period of questioning many times over. It's a very painful process, but I suppose necessary. The very essence of creativity is conceiving something different to what has gone before. It would be easy for me to paint the pictures like the ones that I've painted in the past, but I'd be stuck in a repetitive groove. Please bear with me.

But I do need feedback, not necessarily to tell me how great I am, but to know that my work means something to someone out there. Remember: The function of art is to calm those who are disturbed and to disturb those who are calm.

For three months I have given every ounce of my creative zeal to my sculpture of Annabelle.  No: truthfully, the work in progress didn’t take three months; it took fifty years! With the exception of the three comments below, the silence has been deafening.

It’s beautiful (Annabelle, Model)
It’s beautiful (Alwin Bully, The Caribbean’s Distinguished Cultural Icon)
It’s beautiful (Ella Belle Rose, Supermarket Cashier)

I am touched by the repetitive simplicity of these comments, particularly as beauty relates to love, which is where the varied backgrounds of the observers found common ground.

Today’s 20 minute, 16" x 20" watercolour is one from my last session with Pearl and the reason for my self-doubt.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

‘Tis the best I can do

The master plaster cast of Annabelle’s life-size reclining figure is finished. Although it fulfills my expectations I again face the “Enigma of Arrival” that I wrote about in my diary page dated 13th August 2016. (http://sculpturestudiodominica.blogspot.com/2016/08/the-enigma-of-arrival.html)

Perhaps, after 74 years, I should resign myself to accepting, ‘Tis the best I can do and “go to my maker with that”.

                 I fancy my grave digger griping,
                As he gives my last lodging a pat.
                He wrote Dan McGrew,
                ‘Twas the best he could do.
                So I’ll go to my maker with that.

Robert Service. Poet 1874-1958 (Songs of a Sourdough, etc.)

But I ain't finished yet! Tomorrow I’ll take up my paints and once again struggle to capture the moods and changes of the live model.

In the meantime here is the plaster cast, finally at rest on its rectangular base.


I propose filling the vacant area to the right of the extended leg with a scattering of leaves. In the bronze cast they will be patinated in the colours of autumn. But unlike the heinous Fig Leaf they will not hide the delicate beauty of the female anatomy.



Wednesday, April 5, 2017

A comment on comments

Today’s post is by way of an apology. Up to a few months ago, on the rare occasions that someone commented on one of my posts, I’d get an alert message to say “Comment Awaiting Moderation”. But strange things happen on “blogger” and the recent no-show of that message is one of them.

A question from one of my models to the effect: why don’t people comment about your work, prompted me ask my daughter send me a test comment. This in turn led to the discovery of various praiseworthy comments that I had not been alerted to. Not least, two from my son Karl and one from my brother Alan.

Comments were more direct in the days before blogs. While sitting on the pavement sketching I would jot down wry comments from passersby at the top of my page. Today’s sketch is a case in point. The subject is the varied architectural heritage of my home town, Halifax, UK. The comment by an irate Yorkshire woman reads: Couldn't you think of something better to draw than that!


Please be assured, I do welcome comments.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Finding my way

These three paintings are from my second session with Pearl. They are shown in reverse order. The last (first below) was painted minutes before the end. I worked longer on the second painting but managed to resist the temptation of going too far: enough is enough! The confusion of first painting is a reflection of me finding my way over a new model. Remember, a watercolour cannot go right until it has gone wrong.






While I struggled against a seasonal pollen allergy, Pearl more than made up for my deficiency by giving body and soul to the session. Thank you Pearl, you did well and I survived...just!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Thy eternal summer shall not fade

The permanence of bronze bestows on the model everlasting life. Annabelle’s great, great grandchildren will see her as she is today. Shakespeare’s 18th Sonnet could appropriately bear testimony to this.

But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st; 
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee
.

And if these diary pages remain somewhere in cyberspace hundreds of years hence, they will also see the transitions from the initial clay to the final bronze cast. Today’s pictures show the master plaster cast emerging from the waste mold.





Monday, March 27, 2017

Model and Muse

At a talk I gave some years ago I was asked, at what point the model becomes the muse. For me, the two are inseparable and this makes it difficult to find the two in one. In my search for new models I am heartened by those who doubt that they’ll be suitable, for often it is the unlikely applicant that has that ability to inspire.

Last week I did a trial session with a new model. For both artist and model it takes courage to make that first step. The brief session went well and resulted in the painting shown below.



At today’s full session we both tried too hard to achieve the rare rapport that enables the muse to take flight. But in retrospect we almost succeeded, as can be seen in this 15 minute sketch of the standing figure.


Pearl (middle name) is a medical student from Nigeria. She has an attractive first name that my dyslexia will never enable me to pronounce: Ekponmwen. Thank you Pearl.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Life, Death and Resurrection

Clay is the life, plaster the death and bronze the resurrection. This saying has been handed down by sculptors for generations and refers to the principal stages involved in making a sculpture.

As a reminder, the first picture shows the completed clay sketch of Annabelle’s life-size figure.



The second picture, taken this morning, shows the waste mold being chipped away from the plaster cast. You can now better understand how the initial pink coat of plaster acts as a warning device. The circled area reveals the plaster cast within.



As the resurrection may be years away, here in bronze are two my figures for the City of Leeds.