Friday, October 20, 2017



Four pochades from Northumberland, showing carrier label

I painted the bridge twice. First I felt I didn't go far enough, I didn't "push through" to arrive at a stylistic conclusion somehow signaled by the bridge itself.

 Railway Bridge, Berwick, oil on card, 17.8 x 16 cm

Railway bridge, Berwick-upon-Tweed, oil on card, 15.5 x 17.5 cm

So there are two paintings. Now I prefer the first. It's shaky, but I like that.

I walked along the river and painted the tress and bushes in the land beside. Mysterious places- I felt that I could have spent many more days there.

Near Berwick-upon-Tweed, fields, oil on card, 16 x 15.8 cm

There's a nice chunkiness about the handling in this one (above).

Fields, Northumberland, oil on card, 17.5 x 14 cm


Pochades from London


Three London Pochades in their carriers

My British trip began and ended in London.

Island Gardens, oil on card, 17.2 x 15.5 cm

Two my paintings this time were painting in Greenwich or, just over the river, on the Isle of Dogs.

Greenwich, a view north in the park, oil on card, 17 x 16 cm

This painting of Greenwich (above) was executed from the rise in the park looking North, The light flickered on and off through the clouds with a certain drama. You get the feeling on such days that winter is coming soon.

I've never really enjoyed painting in London: it's too flat, and its edges are ill-defined: it bleeds out into suburbs. The prevailing architectural styles are often bitty, even twee. There are few striking geographical elements other than the river, which now features little activity. The light is often dull, so the city lacks drama, and there is, of course, the rain. Recent painters of London have almost emphasized these insipid characteristics in a sort of deliberately anti-dramatic painting- in the Euston road School, or the Camden Town Group, or the paintings of Auerbach. Their work is often full of sadness I think.

When we look at the lively London painting of Monet, Turner or of Canaletto, then visit the places their pictures describe it seems as if they are creating fictions just tangentially related to reality.

I also worked a little in Marylebone. The light is silvery and everything lacks form. I started to work on St Mary's Church on Wyndham Place but the view was unsatisfactory and the parks cars ruin the perspectives. 

Marylebone, Homer Row, oil on card, 17.5 x 16 cm

I feel that New York is considerably more satisfactory as a painting place than London. It is much more visually arresting with its bold deco buildings and heroic bridges.


Berwick-upon-Tweed and an exhibition of the Scottish Colourists



The town is solid stone, cheerfully sincere and beautifully situated on the convergence of the Tweed and the sea. It would have been a perfect painting place if the wind had been less strong. The choice of restaurants is not large. There are shops which seem to have been transplanted from the early sixties- traditional butchers or fish and chip shops.

Accents change sharply in from place to place in the UK. There seemed to be no gradation between  the Geordie and the Border Scots.

This lovely town was visited and painted by Lowry- the authorities have marked the places where he painted with information boards. I saw a fine small exhibition at Berwick Visual Arts called Scottish Colourists from the Fleming Collection, which included these lively, unpretentious pictures:

 George Leslie Hunter, Lower Largo, Fife, oil on Millboard, 1919

 George Leslie Hunter, Peonies in a Chinese Vase, oil on board, 1925

Often there are traces of art deco stylisation in the paintings of the twenties.

 J.D. Fergusson, The Drift Posts, oil on canvas, 1922

Samuel John Peploe, Luxembourg Gardens, oil on panel, 1910


Tuesday, October 17, 2017



Three Melrose pochades

Melrose is a pleasant, if twee, town in the Scottish Borders,close to the river Tweed and featuring a ruined abbey, elegant gardens and innumerable tea shops.

 It nestles in some hills and is a fine place to go painting, though I think next time I would go up the road to Galashiels where there are more affordable options in terms of hospitality and catering and is a bit less up its own arse. But, had I had more money, I could have stayed in Melrose a month and worked on paintings, easily.

Melrose, a bridge over the Tweed, oil on card, 15.5 x 17.5 cm

The fields above the town provided me with material, as did the river. I try to respond frankly to the subject, in an unfussy style. I don`t think it's a sentimental affectation to seek truthfulness in art and to judge its effectiveness by that. 

White houses, Melrose, oil on card, 19 x 17 cm

I love those white-washed houses that so characterise Scotland. This one is good, it has some of that sadness that so prevails in October in Britain. Should I have gone for more detail?

Hills behind Melrose, oil on card, 17.5 x 18 cm


Monday, September 25, 2017



Priming cards

The cards are cut from mat boards. I prime them with a mixture of  95% linseed oil , 3% turps and 2% oil paint for the first layer, then leave it to dry for a week. I recoat the cards with the same mixture a fortnight later.

 I wait another month then coat it in a layer which is about 90% titanium white and 10% turpentine.

I let it dry for at month before painting on it.

I rarely have problems with either sinkage or cracking, and have been using this formula for about five years.


Thursday, September 21, 2017

A photo from Bucharest, becoming an artist


Bucharest, 2002

Here I am over twenty years ago twenty in Bucharest in 1992. I had graduated from Edinburgh University two years before and was teaching English in Bayswater, London.

I'd taken the decision not to continue making art but to focus on teaching to make a living and get on the career ladder That decision showed a failure of self-awareness on my part, albeit an understandable one: I can teach, and that offered a much more secure financial future, but it isn't a first instinct in the way making art is.

In addition, I thought that the pleasure I got from travel was merely a phase, and that I could happily develop a life in London as permanent fixed resident, with all the usual accouterments and relationships.

In both these decisions I was mistaken. And I compounded the effect of these misjudgments because instead of accepting my nature- that of a nomadic and creative individual- I waged a campaign against my instincts and tried to force myself into a condition I did not suit, throwing moralist arguments about the "better good of society" or, "duty" or "career" at myself. I had had some ideas that "happiness came not from pursuit of suit of self interest but in the fulfillment " of duty (which is not a direct quote from Saint-Exupery, but could well be).

In short, had thought that my enjoyment of making art could be relegated to the status of a hobby and I tried to suppress my desire to do so.

Eventually I came to my senses.


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

View into a bedroom; Facebook page


View into a bedroom, oil on card, 12 x 14 cm

I have now a Facebook page specifically related to my artwork.

 I shall continue to put work on my personal page which contains pretty much the entire catalogue of pochades. However, it is recommended that artists create specific pages relating to work and here it is-


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Table, bottle, The Old Patagonia Express


Table, bottle, The Old Patagonia Express, plate, oil on card, 13 x 14 cm


Monday, September 18, 2017

A bowl on a tray and a plate with apples; painting in monochrome


A bowl on a tray and a plate with apples, oil on card, 11 x 13 cm

I had the idea that on one of the trips I should esshew colour entirely and just work with black and white,  or dark sepia, this sustaining a deeper understanding of this fascinating area.

I like the way subtleties of brush movement, or of texture or tone become highlighted and how using black and white tips one into abstraction. Perhaps London, already monochrome in Portland Stone and steel sky would be the ideal place to experiment?

Colour is heady and tends to obliterate appreciation of anything but itself. It's like a drug, and like a drug you need to take more and more for the same effect. That does you no harm, though appreciation of anything grows with its absence.

A puritanical, or perhaps merely ascetic, side to my nature, Scottish or Danish in origin, lends me to suspect any too easily won aesthetic pleasure.


Sunday, September 17, 2017

A bowl, a spoon, tomatoes, papers


A bowl, a spoon, tomatoes, papers, oil on card, 12.5 x 14.2 cm


Saturday, September 16, 2017

Friday, September 15, 2017

A poem about Britain in thirty pictures


Thirty pochade carriers for the U.K.

I think of the trip as a poem, the paintings bearing more similarity in their subjective qualities to this than to any topographical survey. A poem about Britain in thirty pictures. Or fewer, as I may ditch some later. The schematic quality of the project is satisfying, but such schematic notions can stultify. It's better to just get on with the work and see if anything good happens. 

 As the trip approaches I regret not giving more time to it, but the UK is an expensive place to travel in, and simply does not represent good value, both food and accommodation being very costly. It is wiser to put the money aside for use in Ecuador next year.

The carriers in their playschool colours when laid out like that are reminiscent of Klee's* Magic Squares. This external character a little different from their sober insides:

Open carrier 

Some of the carriers have been reused many times on different trips and I like the sense that they have a garnered a history. I enjoy repairing them and trying to trying ways to make make them ever more robust containers.


Like many, I guess, I feel a certain pessimism about the way the UK is going, that the better elements in the society are suppressed and a strange and reckless yet powerful group is determining its future.

* a fine travel-painter


Friday, September 8, 2017

Ecuador alone


Andean Ecuador: map from Sandfords 1912

This is alternative January itinerary, this time leaving out Peru.

Why? Because the border crossing, from what I read, at the point at which I would like to cross just south of Loja, is pretty awful: by bus you cross at night , at 2 am, and the buses are pretty ghastly. Better, therefore, to focus on Ecuador, that means less lugging stuff around,  a simpler timetable and more energy spent concentrating on painting.

From north to south, circled on the map:








Thursday, September 7, 2017

Ecuador and Peru: next year's itinerary revisited


A journey to Peru and Ecuador

In this version I fly to Quito from Brazil, returning from Lima.

Map from Stamfords Library Series, 1912.

My markings: red lines are bus journets, blue ones flights.

Fly to Quito: 1 week in Quito (1)
Fly to Cuenca: 1 week in Cuenco (2)
Bus to Loja: 1 week in Loja (3)
Cross Ecuadorian border by bus and stay at St Ignacio: 3 days in St Ignacio (4)
Bus to Chachapoyas: Stay in Chachapoyas Backpackers : 1 week (5)
Visit Gopta waterfall.

Bus to Cajamarca: 1 week in Cajamarca (6)
Fly from Cajamarca to Lima: 3 days in Lima (7)
Fly from Lima to Brazil

All that takes almost exactly six weeks altogether.

I've a number of reservations about making a trip of six weeks and usually I don't travel for over a month. There are specific reasons for this, but most of them are answerable.

As follows:

1. There is an issue about paying bills here. They can all be paid online but I have a certain anxiety about this- rather irrational, as I pay them online while I am here.

2. I have an anxiety about leaving the apartment empty. This is not completely irrational as the level of crime is quite high in Brazil. However, to counter this, I have little of obvious commercial value to steal, including my computer.

3. I have encountered other long-time travelers, and many of them seem to develop a certain "stoned" mental condition caused from having too much time in which to do too little, sightseeing having its limitations. However I have found working on the paintings sufficiently absorbing not to feel this sort of malaise.

4. There is an issue of my students here. Again, this is an irrational anxiety as the period up to and just after carnival is very poor for work, and many students take these months off anyway.

5. There is a question about carrying stuff, specifically paintings. That is, I will have to lug a lot of paintings around, probably about 40 altogether if I work well and the weather is kind. This is problematic when the pictures are wet. But when they dry they can be packed close together, say three in each carrier. This isn't ideal, but usually they are dry enough after 2 weeks to do this without sticking together or getting scratched or blurred. When pictures get damaged it is usually because of poor packing combined with rough handling. You can only control the latter: in airports and bus stations their destiny  is in the hands of the fates.

Against these negative points is a strong general argument, which goes - what else will you do? That is, it will certainly be extremely hot here, there will be little work to do and the island will so be full of tourists that getting around will be tricky. I've passed the summer here before,- it's so hot outside that I sat irritable in my apartment watching TV and figiting mindlessly on the computer. That hs even less to recommend about it.


Tuesday, September 5, 2017



Campeche, September 2017, oil on card, 17 x 19.5 cm


Monday, September 4, 2017

Praia Moçambique, hills, sea


Praia Moçambique, hills, sea, oil on card, 18.5 x 21 cm

Terribly windy- my things blew all over. The painting is good, however. 

Praia Moçambique is one of the most romantic of Florianopolis`s many charming beaches, as yet unscarred by buildings and surrounded by parkland.


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Vargem Grande, hill


 Vargem Grande, hill, oil on card, 18 x 24 cm

I work- happy under the influence of Cezanne. 


Monday, August 28, 2017

Vargem Grande


Vargem Grande, oil on card, 15.5 x 17 cm


Friday, August 25, 2017

Campeche, winter


 Campeche, winter, oil on card, 16.5 x 15 cm


Wednesday, August 23, 2017


Interior with flowers, a table and tea things, oil on card, 14.5 x 17 cm


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Flowers (Say Hello, Wave Goodbye)


Flowers (Say Hello, Wave Goodbye), oil on card, 15 x 13.5 cm

Standin' in the door of the Pink Flamingo cryin' in the rain

It was a kind of so-so love
And I'm gonna make sure it never happens again
You and I, it had to be the standing joke of the year
You were a sleep-around, a lost and found and not for me, I feel

I tried to make it work, you in a cocktail skirt

And me in a suit but it just wasn't me
You're used to wearing less
And now your life's a mess, so insecure you see
I put up with all the scenes
And this is one scene that's goin' to be played my way

Take your hands off me, hey

I don't belong to you, you see
And take a look in my face, for the last time,
I never knew you, you never knew me,
Say hello goodbye,
Say hello and wave goodbye

Under the deep red light

I can see the make-up slidin' down
Hey little girl you will always make up
So take off that unbecoming frown
What about me, well, I'll find someone
That's not goin' cheap in the sales
A nice little housewife, who'll give me a steady life
And won't keep going off the rails

Take your hands off me

I don't belong to you, you see
Take a look in my face, for the last time
I never knew you, you never knew me
Say hello goodbye
Say hello and wave goodbye

We've been involved for quite a while now

And to keep you a secret, has been hell
We're strangers meeting for the first time, ok?
Just smile and say hello

Say hello then wave goodbye

Say hello then wave goodbye
Say hello then wave goodbye
Say hello then wave goodbye
Say hello, wave goodbye
Say hello then wave goodbye
Say hello, say goodbye
Say goodbye

Say Hello, Wave Goodbye, Marc Almond and David Ball, 1982


Monday, August 21, 2017

The white teapot


The white teapot, oil on card, 12.5 x 12 cm