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31 December 2020

This digital version of Hope Gap No 2 has been hanging around since early last year with compositional problems. The wide format doesn’t help, or the draconian restriction of all angles to multiples of 30 degrees, but I think the issue of balance has finally been resolved just in time for a 2020 publication date by the addition of a figure. In reality the figure was waiting at the top while I braved the long flight of seaweedy, slippery steps on my own – the hope in Hope Gap is for people stranded on the beach by incoming tides, not for curious walkers coming down from the clifftops.

More here.

29 December 2020

In Hope Gap No 4 (acrylic, 50 x 50 cm) I’ve tried to flatten the composition more and make it more abstract but the astringent colour scheme comes direct from the original chalk and seaweed.

More here.

12 December 2020

This is Seven Sisters Rising – not a Pre-Raphaelite fantasy of sleepy maidens in snowy white nightgowns, but the moment when the walker climbing up Seaford Head is rewarded by the first glimpse of these chalk cliffs rising like a celestial palace above the brow of the hill. This is the digital print; there may or may not be an acrylic yet to come.

More here.

9 December 2020

Another digital improvisation on these coastguard cottages at Cuckmere Haven, this time a bit freer. I’m not sure there’s another painting there; I’ve tried it in coloured pencils and even as a linocut (aborted hastily) but other than this digital print the best version is probably the original pencil drawing (also shown here). I like the almost expressionist quality of the pencil lines and the imperfect erasures.

Facts and figures here.

6 December 2020

I have sheets of black paper taped to my studio wall for rolling out paint before it goes on a picture. Once it’s dry it’s always good for another roll, and it was a random combination of cobalt blue rolled over pthalo green rolled over dark grey that caught my eye and was the inspiration for the sea here.

The rest of the picture grew around the sea. It’s called Three Sisters; at only 26 x 37 cm there wasn’t room for the other four. The digital version would work well much smaller.

More on the acrylic here and on the digital here.

2 December 2020

I’m reasonably happy with this second, larger version of the acrylic version of Cuckmere Haven No 2, but as often I have a feeling there was an earlier point in the painting process when I liked it even better. Anticipating this I've taken several interim shots, included here. I think I like the first one best; there's something about masking tape ...

More info here.

28 October 2020

My first acrylic for seven months, this is a painted version of the recent digital print Cuckmere Haven No 2. It’s tiny (23 x 25 cm), I didn’t want to upset the demons of painting after such a long absence.

More info here.

23 October 2020

For me art has always been about the interplay between two and three dimensions – a struggle to create a satisfying representation of the subject while at the same time making a strong design on a flat surface. This second version of Cuckmere Haven tips the balance a little further towards two dimensions. As in many of my recent acrylics the structure of conventional perspective is replaced by a strictly limited number of angles – here the slope of a line is limited to a "palette" of nine angles from the horizontal.

More info here.

21 October 2020

I was pleased to discover today my lockdown banana skins have been selected to appear in this year’s ING Discerning Eye exhibition. This is normally at the Mall Galleries but owing to the ongoing nastiness will be online only this time: “A virtual gallery will open on 19 November and run until 31 December 2020 showcasing the artists’ shortlisted works with commentary and introductions by the selectors and a new platform for viewers to buy the artwork directly”.

More facts and figures here.

14 October 2020

After a couple of hours’ walking east along the clifftops from Seaford in East Sussex a welcome downward slope to the path brings you to this row of coastguard cottages at Cuckmere Haven. In the distance the Seven Sisters stretch out like a vision of the Celestial City.

We did this walk in 2018 and it’s already yielded four pictures of Seaford Head and three of Hope Gap, making a total of four digital prints and five acrylics (some in both formats). So it’s taken me two years to reach the end of this two-hour walk. After Cuckmere Haven it was the pub.

More info here.

1 October 2020

Charlestown in Cornwall is familiar to many as the real-life Georgian harbour used in filming the BBC drama Poldark, but when we visited it I’m not sure television had been invented. I was also without a camera and this new digital image is based on some grainy photos shot by Anne-Marie as well as new satellite imagery courtesy of Google. This is a subject I’ve worked on many times over the years and as always my inspiration was the chunkiness of the architecture and the golden yellow of the stone it’s carved out of.

The second image below shows all the construction lines underlying the visible layers, which perhaps explain why this picture has been over a month in the making. The 18th century builders seem to have lacked a protractor and each section of the structure has its own set of unique vanishing points.

More info here.

23 September 2020

The Worshipful Company of Painter-Stainers may have an odd name but so would you if you'd been around since 1283. They are to be applauded at this difficult time for launching an "online exhibition of exciting work by leading established and emerging artists" and I'm pleased to have some of my acrylics included. It’s a rolling exhibition showing only two works from each artist at a time and today Seaford Head No 3 and The Warren go on sale after four earlier works all sold within days.

The Painters' Art Sale is on from 7 September to 31 December.

29 August 2020

Every afternoon at 4pm I have a cup of lemon and ginger tea and a banana in my studio. In the past the banana skins quickly found their way to the bin but recently, deprived of my weekly fix of life drawing, I have begun to take more notice of them. Provided they are discarded without any deliberation on my part they almost always come to rest in a perfect piece of sculpture, a dynamic and complex impromptu assembly of curves, sometimes almost obscenely sensuous.

So I started to draw them. Then, faced with a pile of dated drawings of banana skins I decided to use these for a different kind of art work: a sort of lockdown diary.

Default print size for the composite picture (all nine days) is 40cm high but two or three times that would work well. More facts and figures here.

24 August 2020

If you follow the footpath along the River Lea to the Thames you are diverted at Canning Town through a wilderness of waste management yards, repair shops and scrap metal merchants, the air heavy with cement dust and the wheezing of lorries. This was the subject of my 2016 picture No, named after the terse piece of graffiti I encountered there.

Revisiting this walk last year I was keen to discover what if anything remained of the wall and its inscription and was disappointed to find the view blocked by a large van. My disappointment was short lived as immediately beyond the van I found a rival attraction had been put together for my consideration, another multilayered assemblage of different textures, patterns and colours all carrying the same unequivocal message. Hence this new picture, No Revisited.

More on this picture here, on the earlier digital here and on the acrylic version of that picture here.

3 August 2020

Dungeness is a bit like a moon colony, an inhospitable wasteland of pebbles stretching as far as the horizon and dotted with starkly functional structures – although the 1961 lighthouse on the right here is a listed building and the black rubber-clad converted fisherman’s shack on the left won an architectural award in 2004.

For this picture I’ve dug back to some photographs I took in that same year. I was particularly inspired by the sinuous shape of the road and its multicoloured patchwork of repairs, and the way these are echoed in the stripes of the lighthouse. I was disappointed to see on Google StreetView that the surface of the road has since been smartened up.

More info here.

21 July 2020

This is a new digital version of No 3 in my occasional series on the Swale – the long finger of the North Sea dividing the marshes of mainland northern Kent from the marshes of the Isle of Sheppey. This bleak, treeless landscape has little in the way of natural landmarks but I was inspired by the wide mud beaches and the rounded shapes of rocks draped in multiple layers of seaweed to create a fairly abstract rendering of the subject.

The digital version keeps the broad outlines of an acrylic completed more than a year ago, but here I have tried to make the colours more naturalistic while developing the abstract qualities further.

More info here.

9 July 2020

East Kent, May 2017. After a long hot day’s walking in the sun the last mile was pleasantly downhill on a shady lane to Derringstone, passing on the way this cool vision in white and green. The central building was probably once a house but now seemed little more than a barn. The farmer had, however, recently given the right gable end a fresh lick of paint, hence the confusing disposition of light and shade. I considered (virtually) finishing the job for the farmer but decided in the end the patchiness of tone was an important feature of the composition.

More info here.

25 June 2020

Eastbourne, August 2010. Five seagulls strut their stuff on the beach while two other apparently headless creatures forage in the background. I like the way perspective creates an equivalence between the two species on the shingle, and I like the flattened perspective of the distant pier. But the most difficult parts of the picture were the splash and the pebbles. It's the blessing and the curse of vector graphics that if you don't like something you can always change it, and these went into countless versions.

I started this picture in October 2010 but soon abandoned it only to take it up again a couple of weeks ago. Now after 10 years I think it's done.

More info here.

14 June 2020

Continuing my virtual tour around Rye Harbour, number 18 in the series – just finished – shows the east breakwater at midday in July. The layers of seaweed deposited on the breakwater were slippery when I took my source photos and the sea was choppier than it looks here. I was reluctant to go any further along and it’s only from examining other photos online that I discovered that the large, complex structure at the end of the breakwater is in reality nothing more mysterious than a big sign saying “Welcome to Rye Harbour”.

The sun was sparkling on the water when I made my perilous journey and I have tried to retain this effect while avoiding anything too literal.

More info here.

8 June 2020

When working digitally you can endlessly undo and redo your work, but the same principle seems to apply as with painting: quit while you're winning. So I think this one is finished. The face has been officially approved and I'm more or less satisfied with the balance between pattern and landscape.

The title, incidentally – Back to Drumnadrochit – originally referred to the fact that the 2017 painting, being based loosely on a photo taken on the spot in 2008, represented an effective return to the location of the picture. But after some zooming around in Google's satellite view I realised that the picture doesn't actually show Drumnadrochit (the world capital of the Loch Ness monster industry) at all, as we are in fact looking in the opposite direction. So – same title, but now it means (standing with your) back to Drumnadrochit.

More info here.

1 June 2020

In reviewing earlier works worth another look I’ve decided to do something with Back to Drumnadrochit, an acrylic from 2017, itself loosely based on a photograph taken when we were walking the Great Glen Way in 2008. Although I was reasonably happy with the landscape a veto was placed on exhibiting it because of the unflattering portrait it includes of my walking companion. The face is about a centimetre high in the painting and it’s difficult to get a satisfactory likeness that size. The result was several layers of acrylic and the very thickness of the paint eventually added its own unhelpful contribution to the portrait.

So a digital version could be the solution – the jury’s out, but the face has already received provisional acceptance. Pictured here are the original painting (censored) and early stages of the digital version. Work continues …

25 May 2020

While working on the digital version of Rye Harbour No 4 I became intrigued by a tiny fragment in the distance, a row of houses just visible at the edge of the pebble beach. These were represented by just a few hundred pixels in the reference photo I took from the beach in 2017, not enough to work from. But Google StreetView came to my rescue and supplied a lot of useful detail with the sun in a similar position, although with radically different perspective.

The new digital picture, Rye Harbour No 17, started with just four buildings and retained the backdrop of the hills beyond Rye, but this led to a rather lop-sided composition. Meanwhile StreetView drew my attention further down the road to the Norman the Conqueror pub, which led me to expand the composition sideways and jettison the landscape backdrop altogether while retaining the perspective of my original reference photo. Interestingly, the driver of the StreetView camera van seems to have been similarly distracted. From the sudden change in the shadows at the end of the road you can see the presence of a carpark and a pub was too much of a temptation. We also had lunch there, in another life.

I like to think there’s something of Morandi in the final work – his paintings of oddly matched pots and vases lined up like a ragtag army on the table.

More info here.

25 May 2020

Like many grounded landscape artists unable this spring to visit potential new subjects I have been revisiting and reworking earlier compositions. So in April I had another look at my 2017 acrylic Rye Harbour No 4. This shows one of two WWII pillboxes on the beach, reminiscent in their design of Ned Kelly’s bulletproof helmet in Sydney Nolan’s Kelly paintings – an appropriate subject for lockdown. I already had the foundations of a vector graphics version, prepared as a preliminary for the painting, and decided this would be worth developing further for a digital print.

I feel this is an advance on the original acrylic, but in Rye Harbour No 16 was interested to experiment with further cropping and a more abstract approach.

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