Thursday, 8 November 2012

Taking the Pith

This is not art.

This is what happens when you live in a house where it's ok to play with your food...

Friday, 19 October 2012

It's never too late to make a date with fate.

I'd like to introduce my Grandfather.

I would also have liked to have met him, but since he was born 30 years before man first flew, it made the timing a little unlikely.

None the less, I have always had a profound sense of connection with him, and the more I discover about his life, the more I recognise the similarities with my own.

He appears to have been a romantic, creative soul, much given to painting moody landscapes and photographing pretty ladies.

He ran his own studio in Kinross in Edwardian times, and I have an album of sepia prints and watercolours that my father put together in celebration of him.

He gave up his artistic ambitions when he married my grandmother (as was considered correct in such times) and pursued an altogether more sensible career but he never lost his love of the aesthetic and continued filling notebooks with sketches of damsels, watercolour views, ideas for inventions and decorative designs.

I owe him a lot.

Last weekend, I visited Kinross to see if the town he knew could still be recognised.

Almost nothing has changed.

I stood in the same places that he had over 100 years ago, and took virtually the same photographs.

I wanted to put together some sort of appreciation of his work, as a tribute to the man who had unwittingly influenced me since I first stopped sticking crayons up my nose and started applying them to paper.

It was then that the coincidences started to happen.

A local pointed me to the old family residence.

I knocked the door, and was shown round by a charming gent who, if I'd turned up 10mins later would have been on his way to America.

I visited the recently opened museum and literally bumped into the Prof of Hist as he was leaving to go to Havana.

Even the owner of the B&B turned out to be custodian of the local archives who had just set up a website about the town's history.

The end result is that my Grandfather will finally have an exhibition of his paintings and photographs in the town that knew him as an artist.

I think he'd be pleased.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Big Mouth Rides Again

Ok, nothing clever to say, just a GREAT BIG THANKYOU to everyone who turned out to witness a bloke in a hat waving his hands about on Saturday.

I am truly humbled, and for once, speechless.

Enjoy it while it lasts...

Friday, 17 August 2012

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Lovely fresh tickets, get 'em while they're hot...

Tickets can be bought on the night but space is limited and they're going fast, so if you're planning on coming it might be worth getting a wiggle on.

Full details on:

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Take a gander

Most weeks I try to pop in to the Care Home over the road for a cup of tea and some arty malarky with the residents.

I always come back in a better mood than I started for the simple reason that they're such a jolly bunch you'd have to have the disposition of a traffic warden who's lost his pencil not to.

(By the way, is it true the yellow line round wardens hats is to stop people parking on their heads?)

One thing I've noticed, though, is how seldom our happy band includes any men.

Apart from the obvious fact that the ladies far outnumber the chaps in most retirement homes, it seemed that something else was afoot, so I asked  one particularly distinguished gent why he preferred his own company when there were such larks available.

It transpired that after a lifetime of working with women, coupled with the fact that his hearing was not what it once was, he had had enough.

"It's like being surrounded by geese!" he confided, with a twinkle in his eye.

Tim has reached the age where you can say what you think without people fainting or writing to the Telegraph.

Lucky Tim.

Shortly afterwards I was seized by what I thought was an attack of excitement of the knees, but which I deduced from the smell of burnt dust was in fact A Good Idea hatching.

Working on the principle that everybody needs five portions of art each day, I resolved to trap Tim in his room and inflict a portrait on him for his own good.

Fortunately Tim is a gentleman, and proved to be charming company whilst sitting for me.

And following my art regime, he is now a regular gentleman....

It's taken a while to finish this one as it turned into a bit of a crowd scene, but as soon as it's dry I'll take it over the road and see what Tim thinks.

By the way, the lady in the pink with the wings is Adele, who spends half her life accommodating that most British of requests:

"Be an angel, make us a cup of tea..."

Love 'em.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Rebel Without a Clue

With just over two weeks to go before I expose myself to the public  (no, not literally. I've learnt my lesson,  paid my debt to society,  let's all just move on, ok?)  it seemed like a good idea to have a go at a Really Big Painting of one of my brilliant Burlesque models.

Just to make things a bit more entertaining I thought I'd choose now to radically alter my painting style .

For a while now I've been trying to loosen up and get a bit more life into the paintings, but I always end up falling back on the tried and tested stuff that I'm confident with.

Not any longer.

From now on it's down the pub for a couple of pints of talent with an inspiration chaser and a determined wobble back to the studio to give the canvas  the benefit of my new found relaxed approach.

In fairness, I still had to draw it up in my usual fusspot way, but after that it's all big sloppy brushes, tonal values and getting paint in my ears.

It's been an evening and a half;  I've used up a lot of paint ( some of which seems to want to live on the ceiling now) and I've definitely shed my buttoned-up-tight-paint-by-numbers-and-don't-go-over-the-lines self.

The only problem is I seem to have created a fairly good likeness of a pigeon having an episode.

Still, early days...

One of the reasons for posting things like this is that by outing myself, I can't chicken out and burn it when nobody's looking.

No excuses, no surrender, no going back - It's me or it now.

Haven't really thought this through, have I ?


Friday, 20 July 2012

Somebody stop me...

Right, time to get serious.

First off, let's hear it for the new website.

So now the whole world can see why no DIY ever gets done in our house...

On the upside, you can now buy prints, keep up to date with events and generally wander round the galleries through the magic of the webnet-thing.

Eat yer heart out fancy West End galleries...

As if that wasn't enough, I now have details confirmed for the Grand Opening  of "People Like Us"

The Parlour,
31 College Green,

I'll be there all week ('til the 24th) but the Big Event will be on:

SATURDAY 18th AUGUST 7.30 (put it in your diaries/phones/ear'oles)

I can't be doing with ghastly, silent, what-the-hell-do-you-say-after-the-first-five-minutes private view rituals, so this is going to be loud and proud.

If you imagine 'An Evening With' type of thing with eye watering poetry, cheap plonk, touching tales, feathers and glitter you're on the right lines, but you might need to see somebody about it.

It's ticket only (£6 - bargain) and you can order them off the website.

Oh, did I mention that one of Bristol's best Burlesque belles will be performing on the night?

Now you're interested....

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Thistle do nicely...

There are lots of people out there.

Some you remember forever, some you have trouble registering even whilst you're talking to them ( I'm thinking bus enthusiasts, cardigan designers, Young Conservatives etc.)

Some are pleasing to the eye, some have the face of a dropped pie but pretty much everyone is fascinating if you look at them properly, and listen to their story.

Just occasionally you bump into someone who has the whole deal and then some.

Enter Ivana Van der Fluff ( not entirely sure that's her real name ) who, it's fair to say, is not exactly backward in coming forward.

She struck me as a walking celebration of the confidence (and courage) it takes to be whichever version of yourself you choose to be, unaffected by those who shake their heads as you shimmy past in a cloud of feline indifference.

She told me that there had been two things she had always wanted to do, but the business of having a responsible career, being a grown up and generally conforming to all the subtle expectations of those around us had somehow pushed her ambitions to the back of the queue.

But not any more...

One was to strut her stuff on the Burlesque stage, and the other was to abseil down a building.

So, for anyone who ever wondered if they should let their alter ego out to run about with it's pants on it's head, here's your answer.

We decide who we are and what we do and the fear of disapproval is of no consequence if we are true to ourselves.

Those who matter will not mind, and those who mind do not matter.

When I asked Ivana if she had fulfilled both her ambitions it came as no surprise to find that she had indeed abseiled down the outside of a tall building.

And Ivana being Ivana, had done it in feathers, boots and corsets.


Thursday, 21 June 2012

Of Corsets Art...


Just found out I've bagged a gallery space in the centre of Bristol in August, so it's time to test this stuff on The Great Unwashed.

Whilst I've trialled some of these, I've held off having a one man show until I thought I was good enough, and had enough paintings to justify it.

Since I'm never going to match either criteria, I might as well force them on an unsuspecting world anyway, and be damned.

More info soon, but let's just say that the timing of it is significant, I'm planning it as a fundraising event, and I've got a clear idea of how I will judge it's success which will have nothing to do with painting, artists or the number of people who put comments about 'inter spatial dichotomies between that which is and that which is not' in the visitors book.

Your presence is requested, be it in person or online, and I'll do my best to make it a belter.

Watch this space, details to be announced, warm up your wallets.

You have about 10 weeks to think up a subsequent engagement...

In the meantime, here is a teasing detail from the latest in the Burlesque series.

Yes, the birds are goldfinches, so no smutty schoolboy comments about tits if you please.

Tsk! -  what are you lot like....

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

The eye of the beholder

It's easy to get lost in the clouds.

I've had the nose, and various other parts to which I'm extremely attached, to the grindstone lately.

All very grown up and responsible in a "look at me with the bill paying skills" kind of way, but it does have it's downside.

By the time I get round to The Next Big Important Painting I'm generally so banjaxed I spend the evening staring myopically at blank canvas like a lobotomised boy scout.

However, nobody said it would be easy, so on I press with a whopping great picture of a Burlesque Queen who has been poured into her corsets and clearly forgot to say 'when'.

You know the sort of thing; a symphony in black leather, feathers, very small trousers and a couple of squadrons of Goldfinches doing a synchronised flypast.

More of that anon...

In the meantime, I'd been asked to do a couple of personal, memento paintings.

Not the sort of things I would normally do, but of some importance to the people involved.

I am the world's worst at doing anything unless I have a deadline, so I decide to get these two out of the way first, so that I can concentrate on 'The Big Picture".

These are they:

John Higgs - wit, bon viveur and rascal  1936 - 2009

'Eclipse' - big friendly horse

It's easy to get caught up in the idea that art has to be about lofty, high flown ideas and challenging, ground breaking issues of social importance.

It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that complexity and validity are sleeves on the same shirt, and that in order to have an impact we must be loud, outrageous and witnessed by crowds.

Both these paintings made their recipients cry.

Both are treasured.

Sometimes less is everything  

Monday, 30 April 2012

The Right to Bare Arms

I don't understand.

No really, I haven't got a clue.

Not even a geriatric glow worms arse of an idea to light the moles-pocket darkness of my total and utter incomprehension.

Throughout the passage of my disorganised, rudderless, futtering existence there has been one comforting precept that I have come to rely on;  that if I repeat any activity to which I bear some small aptitude a sufficient number of times, then I become tolerably proficient at it.

It's a strategy that has served me well in many areas:

Riding a bicycle, brushing my teeth without poking my eye out, avoiding IKEA, impersonating a stoat, getting fired from proper jobs, making tiny mice out of apple pips, buying shoes that don't fit.

All these, and more, are areas where I feel completely capable because I have done them so many times that I no longer have to think about them.  They just sort of happen automatically.

I rely on them.

Soooo.... why in the name of God's underpants do I periodically lose the ability to make anything even vaguely convincing appear on the evil, taunting piece of overstarched bedlinen propped up on the easel in front of me?

I mean, what if I suddenly forgot how to drive a car half way round Oxford circus, or had a momentary lapse of cognisance whilst doing something crucial involving a step ladder, a bucket of angry gerbils and an unusually large Swiss army knife?

I live in the cosy reassurance that such things are unlikely to happen, so why does the one ability I've devoted more time and attention to than any other suddenly decide to pack it's Speedo's and buzz off on its holidays without leaving a forwarding address?!

By now you may have gathered that the current bid for artistic gold has not gone according to plan.

It's like turning up at the Olympics only to find you've forgotten your PE kit.

It should be so simple: Paint the chairman's portrait as a present for his birthday.

I've worked with him for years, he's a perfect sitter, and I get a pretty fair likeness of his more reflective, personal side in a couple of takes.

Bung in his favourite winebar and a few memento's and the job's all but done.

All but for the foreground figure which steadfastly refuses to resemble a woman in a sleeveless dress and persists in looking like a haddock that's swallowed a hunchback.

Some days you just feel like sitting at the bottom of the garden eating worms.

At least I know how to do that....


Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Woman

It's odd,  but reassuring,  how paintings seem to sort themselves out if you let them.

This one is far from finished yet,  but it's on it's way.

If you recall,  I'd made a pig's protrusion of it by trying to fake it using old photo's as reference instead of basing it on a real person.

Long story short:
Quick trip to a Burlesque show in town, friendly fabulous dancers,  a studio session involving feathers, glitter,  fishnets and a spontaneous symposium on the failure rate of merkin attachment products and I had everything (and more ) that I needed to complete this painting and a whole bunch more.

By now you will have gathered that this whole process is to do with so much more than making pictures.

It's about meeting some pretty amazing people,  being witness to their stories  and celebrating the magic and brilliance of their take on the world.

All I have to do is link up the themes and colour them in.

This, then, is the story so far of a painting that feels like it would finish itself if I stopped painting it.

Without giving it all away, I wanted to paint something around the idea of the point at which we choose to identify ourselves.

Do we identify ourselves when we are young and beautiful, or when we're rich with experience?

Do we stop the clock at the bit that represents us at our best, and if so, when is that?

Youthful and desirable or old and dribbly, it's all part of the same story.

Maybe it's good to hold onto the evidence of our lives as we go along, so that one day, when some well intentioned teen is tucking the acrylic blanket round our boney knees, we can take out the scrapbook of how fabulous we once were and beat the sanctimonious smirk off their face with it.

Time is a thief that steals your future while you're looking for the keys of the here and now, so make each day a burlesque show in your heart.

Just mind your merkin...

Sunday, 11 March 2012

The Fickle Finger of Fate

A heartwarming tale of kindness and coincidence that should awaken the dormant doormouse of joy in even the most hardened old heart:

Being of an artistic temperament, and prone to moments of absent -mindedness due to the kaleidoscopic nature of the creative mind, I managed to lose my backpack one evening.

(Ok, fair enough, you're right, I had been overserved at the bar...)

Anyway, the crucial part is that it contained one of my moleskin notebooks, which in turned contained the last twelve month's ideas, dreams, sketches, personal futterings and contact details - not to mention my diary of the time I spent in France planting the Wireman.

Choked I was.

Fast forward two or three weeks and I'm having a pint with an artist chum (couldn't afford absinthe, even though it makes the parts grow longer ) and in a moment of Karmic harmony I bought the barmaid a drink.

When Artist chum questioned why I was chucking the currency around when we had barely enough for our own lubrication, I told him the tale of the lost notes, and how by spreading a little pleasantness I might offset the fact that my precious book was lost forever, abandoned to a hideous fate, and in all probability being used to line some miscreant's ferret's cage.

The Good Bit:

Artist chum then recalled a mysterious, garbled message he'd received, which had mentioned my name.

A quick check through his call history, contact with the caller, a trip across town and The Tale of the Lost Bag comes to a happy, misty eyed conclusion involving a charming, thoughtful taxi driver, a scrawled number in the back cover and a great deal of coincidental luck.

Or was it....

(Dramatic pause)

So, here's few sketches from it that might otherwise be lost on the storm tossed tides of misfortune.

Sorry about the florid verbosity of the epistle - I've been reading the biography of Dickens and it rubs off a bit.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Never mind...

Sometimes you just have to accept you've missed it by a living mile, and it's nobody's fault but your own.

I've spent 18hrs so far on this one and it's getting nowhere.

Sensibly, I put it away for several months and pretended it wasn't mine.

I had hoped that the Art Fairy might have visited and sorted it out, but no such luck.
On digging it out recently I discovered that all the old faults were still there, plus a few I hadn't seen before.

It's actually a useful lesson in not breaking your own rules; in this case trying to paint something I haven't seen with my own eyes.

Quite a Big Rule, that one...

It started with a photograph I found of a stunningly beautiful dancer, taken in 1898.

Her name was Cleo de Merode and she wowed them in some style, invented a new hairstyle, consorted with royalty, became the biggest star of the Paris stage and was photographed from here to Wednesday.

Later on,  I found a picture of her taken by Cecil Beaton in the early '60's when she was old,  forgotten and broke,  but still a star, still poised, elegant and beautiful.

It got me thinking about which point in our lives defines us.

Is the 'me' I think of the person I am today, yesterday, tomorrow?  Will I be a different 'me' in 30 years, or is the essence of oneself a constant?

I wanted to create an image that confronts that reflection, that contradiction, and she seemed perfect.

Ok so far, but all I had to go were some low res, tiny photographs I'd peeled off the net, and it shows.

The answer is to reconfigure the painting using a real model, in the here and now, and try to find a model with similar features but 50 years older for the reflected 'self'.

I'm off on Saturday to meet some lovely Burlesque ladies who I'm hoping will provide the answer to the young 'Cleo', and I'll wing it from there.

The moral of the tale is that you can't create this stuff in a bubble, tucked away in a studio, clinging onto your imac.

It has to be about real people, which means going out there and accosting strangers again.

Brace yourself Bristol, I'm back in the game...

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Ta daa

There we go.

Apologies for the crap photo's, but you get the rough idea.

Anyway, back in the saddle again so no excuses from here on in.

8hrs from start to finish and although it may not be the most meticulously nurtured piece I've ever done, it's probably a personal best in terms of slapping it on against the clock.

Right, off to watch Get Me a Big Fat Celebrity Essex Chef on Ice methinks.

Never mind the quality...

7.30 and going well.

A bored Madonna, a grumpy cherub and a cat.

There's a perfectly good reason for all of this, and when I've thought of it I'll let you know.

Nearly time for my Red Bull and amphetamine sandwich.

Pressing on...


Between the boiler man and clients, things have got off to a bit of a delayed start - 2.00pm to be precise.

Never mind, think what Biggles would have done...

This is it at 5.00pm.

All bets are still on

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Where's me jump leads?

I hate it when this happens.

The rather inconvenient fact of having to make a living has intruded, to the inevitable detriment of the Grand Scheme.

Equally inevitable is the fact that on returning to the easel I find the divine inspiration has disappeared over the horizon with it's arse on fire, leaving me staring at Big Blank Canvasses like a lobotomised amoeba that got out at the wrong stop.


Past experience has taught me that the only way through this soul sucking wilderness of failed dreams is through the time honoured discipline of ADS (Actually Doing Something).

Not thinking about it, not planning it, not researching the background to it, and almost certainly not writing about it on your blog, but GETTING ON WITH IT!!

So, I've dug out a small painting that I started several lifetimes ago and decided I'm going to get it finished, frame and all, by the end of tomorrow.

Can't stop, got to go....

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

One for the Classical fans

First off - Happy New Year and thank you to everyone who has taken an interest in my stuff.

Big Smiley Faces all round.

This little painting ('bout 30cms high) came out of a Life drawing class I gave some time ago.

To add a bit of interest I'd invited a beautiful local Burlesque dancer to model for the group, and she duly arrived in a taxi with a 6' python called Houdini in her handbag.

Casting around for a subject to place her in, I started researching the old Hebrew gospel story of Lilith.

If you recall your scrolls, she's the one who was originally created as a chum for Adam but who fell from grace when she objected to adopting a subservient position when required to, erm, - you the thing that Adam had only been able to do before when he caught the wildlife bending over at the waterhole, if you catch my drift.

Anyway, she instantly became the world's first feminist icon, and Adam became the first bloke to look a gift horse in the proverbials...

In truth, this is a typically chauvinistic load of old twaddle designed to - once again - cast women in the role of demonic persecutor, rampaging through a male defined world with lustful, wicked intent.

So much easier to make the female of the species into a monster than for men to admit that most of their troubles emanate from an inability to control the contents of their thousand-wash-grey dadpants...

To offset some of the baby-eating/men despoiling/devil-humping aspects of the traditional Lilith, I thought I'd see what other cultures had made of her.

Would you believe it, prior to the Romano/Greek/Christian rewrite, she (or a very similar version of her) was a Pagan icon of female spirit, strength and Mother Earthliness; just the sort of White Goddess that my old favourite poet and First War veteran Robert Graves was so fond of.

Anyone spot a pattern forming here?

Again, I built the composition around the Golden ratio, only to find that the same proportions exactly match the construction of the pentagram which - you've guessed it - is the traditional symbol of Goddess wholeness, unity and protection.

Add a suggestion of the tree of knowledge, and a bit of Hebrew script carved into the surface in a reverse order (girls on top this time) , put the finished thing into a frame that looks like it goes out at night scaring small children on its own and there you have it - a quasi post biblical retro re-engineered proto feminist icon reclaimed for metrocentric non-gender specific intellectuals.

Looks a bit rude to me...