The Bandstand


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Eastbourne is one of our favourite places in the world. I know it has a bit of reputation for being boring and a magnet for old people, but it’s not, it’s a very cool seaside town that rivals any in the UK… not that there is that much stiff competition in the UK, but still it, can hold its head high among its rivals and I like it!

Lately I’ve found myself working on a series of paintings focusing (not literally as you can see) on the seafront at night. I love the contrast of bright lights against the darkness. Seaside towns do evening lights better than almost anywhere and at night in the summer you could almost believe that you weren’t in Eastbourne at all, but somewhere in the south of France, or somewhere else more exotic than the south coast of England. If Tracey Emin can promote Margate, than I’m more than proud to promote Eastbourne. In a battle of seaside towns Eastbourne is the Optimus Prime of resorts!

Anyway here is the latest in the series: The Bandstand – oil on canvas 70cm x 60cm.

Bandstand copy

Chalkboard saw


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I’ve been wanting to try one of these for a while now, ever since I saw (sorry, couldn’t escape that pun if I’d tried) something similar on Pinterest. So as I had an old saw and some spare time I did just that!

All you need to do, to do the same is, find an old saw (don’t use a good one as the paint won’t stick very well to shiny steel), rub down the rust and prime it with a shellac based primer, or metal primer. Then coat it with blackboard paint (matt black), let it dry and sign write it! You will probably want to stick to all the same type of paint, i.e. all oil based or all acrylic. Acrylic on oil doesn’t seem to work very well. I used acrylic household paints because… well, I had them in the shed.

This is the result. The verse is part of a Gungor song, “You make beautiful things, make beautiful things out of dust, You make beautiful things, make beautiful things out of us”. Perhaps even retired tools can be useful in the right hands.

saw outdoors

chalkboard saw

Reference shots


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I tried one of those “draw something everyday” things recently, as some of you may remember, but sadly so far it’s been a bit of a failure. On the bright side though, I have been painting, which I guess sort of counts. The conclusion I often come to about these things, is that it’s often better just to get on and do what you plan to do and not talk about it or announce it first. Sometimes it seems that the telling of a thing can in fact impede its creation. You could call it the “new year’s resolution” syndrome. Where you make a resolution and in the mere stating of your intentions you are doomed to failure, as if dark forces were nefariously (never miss an opportunity to use the word “nefarious”) working against your resolve.

Obviously some intentions do need stating first. “I’m going to bake myself into a giant flan and see if I can become the first person to survive a flan drop off of Niagara falls” etc. is the sort of thing you announce first. “I’m going to draw something everyday” may just being setting yourself up for feeling a failure. Good intentions are no substitute for good actions, except perhaps in the “flan” instance.

Anyway I’m not sketching as much as I wanted, but I am dedicating more time to art. So, if your profession is based on how much time you give to it and not currently how much you earn from it, then I am now a professional artist. Hopefully sometime soon, both aspects of time and money will come into line.

No artwork to show as yet, but I did take some inspiration shots of Eastbourne seafront and pier, so thought I’d share them.

Pier at evening

pier section


blurry pic

All the shots were taken on the move, but I liked the blurry shots best and have been working on a painting of similar style. Hope to post it soon.

Alphonse Mucha


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A quick sketch of Alphonse Mucha. Mine has that slightly “happily surprised” look in comparison with the original photo’, but I’d like to think he might say “Hey, that’s me!” If he saw the drawing. Sadly I will never know as he’s been dead now for many years.

Anyway, graphite pencil 2B and H on sketchbook paper. Had a little difficulty getting the darks dark enough with only a 2B to hand, but I think it works.


Big Sis’


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I’ve been reminded lately of just how important the drawing stage is to the success or failure of a painting. A good drawing can make or break a work. In fact good draughtsmanship underpins just about every successful realist rendering of a subject.

With that in mind I’m going to try to keep these skills in good shape this year (and hopefully improve) by attempting to draw something every day!

So far this week I’m three pics for three days, so doing well so far.

This is today’s exercise, my glamorous big sister, from a rare camera snap taken on the balcony of the Towner Art Gallery (where she volunteers) last year. Graphite pencil H and 2B.




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Unfilled time is dangerous stuff and the old adage that “the devil makes work for idle hands” is probably largely true. There can be few things more unproductive than a day in which you have no plans. Don’t get me wrong, a day off spent doing nothing can sometimes be absolute bliss, but a day that should be spent working when you have no plans can be quite the opposite!

To quote Chuck Close again, “inspiration is for amateurs”. As an artist you’re better off painting anything than sitting around waiting for inspiration to strike. If you can’t bear to paint just anything then get out of the studio and go for a walk, have a coffee, see a friend, visit an exhibition, do anything that distracts you from the problem in hand. For it is often in doing something unconnected that inspiration strikes. Ever tried to remember a name and suffered memory constipation? It’s normally when we stop trying to remember that the memory pops into place. Inspiration is a similar mental process. Trying to think of something inspirational is a dead alley, you need fresh input and distraction.

A few of my latest paintings have been the result of a need to paint… something, anything! I’m not likely to paint a 21st century Mona Lisa, a) because it’s not a painting I like particularly and b) because I need to put in a few thousand more hours before I get that good… if ever! But the act of painting is a great teacher, to the artist that is prepared to be honest about their work. We learn new techniques, we hopefully see what we’re doing wrong and work on ways to fix it, we strive more and more with each new picture to express what’s inside of us straining to make it to canvas! Hopefully eventually we find our own artistic voice.

I think in this way, art mimics life. In life we copy people, we see characteristics that they may have and we try to emulate them, we try to incorporate something of people we admire within ourselves. Art is much the same, the art we admire we often try to emulate. We incorporate things in our own work that we have learnt from studying others and that is perfectly fine. We are all as people a mixture of the friends and family that have helped shaped who we are, to a greater extent, we get to choose who we are. In art we are shaped by the myriad of styles and art that we have seen, admired and tried to copy.

Anyway it seems to still be warm and sunny here on the South Coast of the UK. Summer seems reluctant to leave and Autumn a late guest that’s yet to arrive. Normally I’d be sitting here typing and looking out at leaden skies and feeling the dullness of the Autumn rains, but it’s warm and sunny and I’m between a new commission and a just finished portrait which finally means I have time to blog. So here’s the portrait.

“Lauren” is oil of canvas. Lauren is talented local animator and a family friend and she was a real sport in posing for the reference shots for this picture. Thanks Lauren.


Finished portrait. Sadly my camera won’t show the shadow detail in the hair etc. without over exposing the skin tones, so this is the best I could manage.


Early stages with some detail, but mostly underpainting. The left shoulder as you look at the picture was to high and bulky at this point.




Resolved most of it by now. The squid is one of Lauren’s characters and he does make it to the final piece, he was repainted and hardly visible in the final piece photo’ though. Also I improved the skins tones and deepened the shadows, picked up the highlights etc.

Lauren detail_edited-1Detail.

Painted using mostly Winsor and Newton oils (Artist’s range and Winton), some Michael Harding tubes and some Jackson’s Artist’s oils. The Winsor and Newton Winton colours are generally excellent, but a few like Raw Sienna are poor at tinting, so for those I’m currently using Michael Harding… currently. The Jackson’s own brand oil colours are also excellent and great value in the UK. Michael Harding’s Raw Sienna was a bit gritty, but at least it stains well. If you can recommend a good Raw Sienna I’d be happy to try it.



Women Painting Women

Originally posted on Elenacaravela's Blog:


12″x 12″ Oil on Canvas

I’m absolutely thrilled to announce that my painting, Divide1 will be part of the Women Painting Women show at the Principle Gallery Charleston.  I’ve had a look at some of the excellent work in the show, created by some wildly talented women artists, and I’m honored to be a part of this inspiring exhibition! Have a look:

‪#‎PaintLikeAGirl‬ ‪#‎WomenPaintingWomen‬ ‪#‎PrincipleCharleston‬

View original



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It’s bank holiday Monday and having spent some of the morning chiseling off the render from our chimney breast, somewhat inappropriately shod in a pair of slippers I might add, in order to explore an ongoing damp problem, I finally have some time to sit down in peace and quiet. listen to Radio3 and write.

Both the last work “Joe” and this latest piece “Luke” have taught me something. I think nearly everything I paint teaches me something, which is great because I figure if I’m learning, I’m growing and growth is good, especially if you’re not where, or who, you want to be! By both of those I mean in an artistic sense of course. I like “where” I am geographically and I have no desire to be anyone else… unless Superman’s on offer of course, I’d be Superman.

Anyway, one of the issues that both these pieces have highlighted is contrast. Contrast is essential to the full appreciation of so many things in life and art. Love is most deeply appreciated when contrasted with unlove/hate. Plenty appreciated most when contrasted with a period of want,  peace when surrounded by war and so on. We often don’t appreciate fully what we have, because we aren’t surrounded by the alternatives.

Light against light is unnoticeable, dark against another dark, likewise. Blue against blue, orange against orange and so on (orange against blue however..). If you want your lights to stand out they have to be contrasted with darkness. In art I think the simplest way to explain this is that you need white, grey and black, or highlights, mid tones and shadows/darks. My past pictures may well have lacked depth because I’ve been intimidated by the two extremes, light and dark. Plenty of safe mid tones though! Learning to differentiate between the highlights, the mid tones and the darks and representing them on canvas has been, and still is, a challenging task, especially when you’re trying to avoid using that troublesome pigment… black! Black is such an unwieldy and troublesome pigment and rarely the best choice for really giving depth to shadows. “But black is the darkest you can go surely” you might say. Well it may have the properties of a pigment-type vampire sucking in light and not letting it go, but it also has a nasty habit of sucking the life out of shadows too!

I’ve been amazed at how often pure pigment unsullied by white or black gives the most vibrant shadows and lowlights. White, particularly Titanium white, has a pastel-ising effect on colour and black has a deadening effect, but mixing dark colours (especially the transparent ones) together can produce some really deep vibrant darks. I used Burnt Umber and Cadmium Orange Hue for the lowlights on Luke’s forearm and in the shadow under the arm and was amazed at the depth it gave me.

Light is a weird phenomena. It behaves like a wave, but also acts like particles and the way it bounces around your subject picking up colour and reflecting it here and there is a revelation. Edges of shadows can have hints and halos of pure colour, oranges, blues, greens etc and if we fail to notice them and represent them then we impoverish our work of these wonderful additives. After all, all that we see is a result of the interaction of light on the surfaces of the things visible to us.

Painting however works in reverse to the way light works. Light is additive. Add coloured light together and it gets brighter with each successive colour until you get pure white. Paint is subtractive, add pigments together and they get darker with each successive colour until you get black. However as mortals this isn’t too big a problem as we don’t paint in light, we learn to represent light by using pigment and so know no different. God’s paintbox must be really quite something in comparison!

If I’ve learnt, or am learning anything, about art and representing things through it, it is that observation is everything. They say that the three keys to french cooking are butter, butter and butter! Well in art the three keys are observation, observation and observation! We grow up being taught, trees are green, sky is blue, roses are red etc. and then as artists we spend the rest of our lives discovering that this is often not so at all and for me at least it is a constant battle to fight against the preconceptions of representation that I’ve probably learnt as a child.

In these two last pictures observation has taught me the value of contrast. Observation is my best and most valued tutor. Talking to other artists, reading books, magazines and online articles are also extremely helpful, but nothing yet has beaten observation as a teacher. Looking and asking myself “what are you really seeing here?”. Not “what do you think you see”, but “what are you really observing”, because they are often two completely different things. One contains truth, the other contains a counterfeit of reality, a fake preconception of the real. When you really represent what you see as an artist your work has a compelling and reassuring truth to it and that only comes from looking and learning how your subject works and solving the puzzle that you are trying to represent.

Here’s Luke. He was a great sport sitting for the reference photo’s. He was however an even more obliging sitter after I loaded the water pistol. Apparently it’s no good asking a small boy to imagine he’s squirting someone with a water pistol, he has to actually be shooting someone with a water pistol!


Luke – Oil on linen


Joe – oil on linen


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