Bird Illustration

I have recently been sketching with an Apple pencil, iPad, and the software, ProCreate. I have to say I’m very impressed with the flexibility and ease of the system. I know it doesn’t have the ultimate aesthetic qualities of graphite and the tactility of a paper surface, but the experience of drawing digitally has a great deal to recommend it. I did a series of illustrations a few years ago using Photodhop and aWacom tablet which was ok but the disconnect between the pen, tablet and screen took a while to navigate. Drawing directly on the ipad has far greater convenience and simplicity and so far…its been great fun! If you are an artist or illustrator and have experience of Pro Create I would love to know your thoughts. I have a lot to learn.

River Great Ouse

Heaven

Fish (fly-replete, in depth of June,
Dawdling away their wat’ry noon)
Ponder deep wisdom, dark or clear,
Each secret fishy hope or fear.
Fish say, they have their Stream and Pond;
But is there anything Beyond?
This life cannot be All, they swear,
For how unpleasant, if it were!
One may not doubt that, somehow, Good
Shall come of Water and of Mud;
And, sure, the reverent eye must see
A Purpose in Liquidity.
We darkly know, by Faith we cry,
The future is not Wholly Dry.
Mud unto mud! – Death eddies near –
Not here the appointed End, not here!
But somewhere, beyond Space and Time
Is wetter water, slimier slime!
And there (they trust) there swimmeth One
Who swam ere rivers were begun,
Immense, of fishy form and mind,
Squamous, omnipotent, and kind;
And under that Almighty Fin,
The littlest fish may enter in.
Oh! never fly conceals a hook,
Fish say, in the Eternal Brook,
But more than mundane weeds are there,
And mud, celestially fair;
Fat caterpillars drift around,
And Paradisal grubs are found;
Unfading moths, immortal flies,
And the worm that never dies.
And in that Heaven of all their wish,
There shall be no more land, say fish.

Rupert Brooke’s ‘Heaven’, composed in 1913

The Peasant Wedding

Bruegel: ‘The Peasant Wedding’… with guest appearances

Pieter Bruegel (revisited)

This is a departure from my usual work, but I thought you might enjoy this adaptation of Pieter Bruegel’s famous painting ‘The Peasant Wedding’.

The First Temple

100 x 70 cm on canvas
landscape painting on canvas of a forest
Detail
Detail

This painting is currently on view at the exhibition at Storey’s Field Centre in Cambridge at Eddington Ave, Cambridge CB3 1AA .

This painting, as with many of my recent pieces, has been inspired by my residency in the New Forest in England. The title refers to the sense of architectural power conveyed by the towering, magnificent columns of ancient trees. For me, the forest does indeed represent an authentic spiritual temple and is a precursor to all of our man made structures.

The medium is oil and cold wax. I hope the additional detail photographs will allow you to see the complexity of the surface texture within the darkness of the forest undergrowth.

Cambridge Open Art Exhibition Top Twenty

Thursday 24th October – 21st November

Showings
Mondays 09:00 to 20:00
Tuesdays 09:00 to 20:00
Wednesdays 09:00 to 20:00
Thursday to Sunday times vary depending on other bookings at the Centre. 

Some thoughts on painting a large canvas

This is a short video of me at work on a relatively large painting. It will give you some idea of how I approach the challenge of working on big surfaces. This is a 200 x 150 cm custom made canvas and the scale presents new challenges, forcing you to adopt different methods and techniques.

I have deliberately avoided brushes for this stage of the painting: an assortment of rollers and palette knives are used to block in the main areas of colour. For me, it is important to establish the overall composition as quickly as I can, it really doesn’t matter if these early indications and suggestions are obscured or abandoned. I am always alive to the notion that the painting will undergo many changes of direction; in a sense each new direction can only be based on previous decisions and judgements. The key is to make some judgements and decisions, they can always be modified as the work progresses. These early layers are essentially a way of breaking the ice, they may be obliterated by subsequent layers but they do begin the process of finding a composition whilst simultaneously building impasto and texture.

Paintings on this scale use considerable amounts of material and this has to be taken into account at the outset. There would be little point in adopting a parsimonious attitude towards materials and thereby restricting your creative options. Part of the joy of painting this big is the freedom to use materials with genuine exuberance and conviction. If you are worried about the quantity of paint you are using, I imagine this concern and hesitation would inevitably show in the work. Painting big requires physical movement, energy and action and you have to resist the temptation to reach for the fine sable brushes. Playing safe always seems like an attractive option but it is generally counterproductive in painting; in an effort to exert control over the exciting events unfolding in front of you the encounter becomes more about accountancy than art.

As you can see, the painting is in the early stages, I’ll update you as I progress over the next few days and weeks. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask.

A painting in progress (updated)

A painting in progress (updated)

Detail

In the last day or so I have added additional layers to this work and tried to ensure that the selected materials interact in both challenging and unexpected ways. The inclusion of shellac and emulsion paint with powdered pumice stone creates unpredictable textural qualities and patina. Gloss, satin and matt painting media combine to reflect and absorb light. Bitumen, partially diluted with turpentine has been allowed to flow across the surface settling in crevices and darker pools. I am much happier with the overall direction of the work now, although it would be fair to say that the more experimental approach has clearly resulted in a loss of definition and resolution. Whether this is acceptable in the long run…only tomorrow will tell, when I begin all over again.

Detail
Detail
Detail
Detail
Detail

A painting in progress

I thought I would share some of my working methods with you today. This is a painting of a well known landscape in Cambridgeshire called ‘Devil’s Dyke’. I have photographed the location on numerous occasions and in many different weather conditions; I have always found something new and exciting to reveal. A while ago, I decided to translate this scene into oil paint on canvas using a cold wax medium to render textural qualities.

It is a work in progress and I have been developing different ideas for a couple of days now. I am trying to achieve a balance to the recording of the pathway, the fields and the tonality of the sky; as you can see there is a great deal more to do here. I enjoy the fact that cold wax allows you to draw directly into the paint surface but there is always a tension between the purely illusionistic elements of light, tone and colour and the physicality of raised marks and incisions.

I’ll keep you updated and show you the next stage in a week or so.

Night Forest

painting forest
Night Forest

This painting is from my New Forest series and the materials used include oil paint, cold wax medium and a solid block of oak. The oak block is 20 x 20 x 5cm. I have worked on cradled boards many times and have found that the harder surface encourages a more aggressive approach to mark making. The weight and density of the oak block takes this strategy a stage further and allows you to exploit the resistance and grain of the wood. That my subject matter is trees and I am working directly on the ‘machined’ surface of a tree only enhances the poetry and mystery of this activity we call painting.

Night Forest Painting
Night Forest (Detail)
Night Forest Painting
Night Forest (Detail)