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, 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.


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. (

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.