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.

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.