Fishing Boat at Dartside Quay

Fishing boat at Dartside Quay, painted on location. 4×7” Oil on Paper

I’m a sucker for a nice reflection, it’s a worth while challenge and a challenge it is, especially when the tide recedes and you are left staring at mud with only memories of the gently rippling waters edge full of light and colour from just an hour or two before.

It’s a useful skill to develop, painting alla prima and the added difficulty of water is that it moves and you have to grasp the characteristics rather than slavishly copying a distilled image. I think it makes for a much fresher and more appealing result this way.


When trudging in the rugged and unforgiving terrain of ol’ Blighty, in search of a spot to paint,  wild bears and poisonous snakes are always a concern especially when standing near the treacherous waters of of Galmpton Creak!…. with your back to the woods! ….

OK, I admit, my painting adventures are not really adventures at all, the quaint Dartside Quay of Galmpton in Devon is about as dangerous as a wood pigeon, but I do my best to keep things interesting.


It’s certainly not a bad thing to live in such an accommodating environment, who wants the added burden of having to learn survival skills – trying to put together a decent painting in under 3 hours is hard enough.  (For the uninitiated, this is about how long it takes for the light to change completely and you are left with just memories of the view you started with.)

If, and it’s often a big if, a pleasing view can be found then it’s a good start, since many a foul painting is the result of poor selection than bad technique.

Thus a view finder is very useful for honing in on the correct composition.

The next thing is to quickly and decisively block in the main light and dark pattern of your chosen view  (which, for those keen on good composition, involves painting the four edges of your selection, not just painting to the edges of your canvas). Once the light and dark arrangement has been set up and any excess removed I place the lights with it’s local colour. No time to decide on colour composition, I’m relying on instinct here. Colour theory is best reserved for the studio. I then work on the mid tones – again using the local colour, before pushing the light and dark range to the full spectrum.

There are times when a painting snaps together and comes out a real gem and there are others when things just don’t work, the painting collapses into a mess of poorly defined tonal arrangements, the colour is flat, the composition is weak. ”What is wrong with me! such childish, pathetic work! why did I even bother coming out and wasting this paint”

When this happens, the jaws of a hungry bear tightening around my melancholy head becomes a tempting fantasy. But it’s useful not to have these quick fixes so available to me.

It’s times like this when I find it better to just stop, scrape everything back, clean up the palette and either have another go or find another viewpoint or location.

If that doesn’t work there is always the muddy quagmire that sticks to these shores that would slowly yet surely engulf me.

Man and Elephant.

I have been spending a lot of time recently on photoshop whilst grinding through my anatomy studies. I find that my study is solidified if I make a drawing from memory at the end of my session. The result is not always anatomically accurate but it seems to steepen the learning curve if I try to draw something without any reference. (I did have to check a couple of pictures for the elephant though)


Digital sketch using Intuos tablet with Photoshop.
Digital sketch using Intuos tablet with Photoshop.

Commissioned Portrait completed

I took a commission from a gentleman I met in my line of work as a legal advisor. I noticed someone had already attempted his portrait and thought it was an opportune moment to offer my services. He gladly obliged and has now happily received the completed article.


Mr Cooper
Mr Cooper Oil on Chalk Gesso Panel




Great result at the Riviera Fringe Festival – Portrait Finalists Gala

Riviera fringe festival, portrait competition, portrait drawing in conte, realism,
Portrait of Helen my sister. Oil on panel.

I managed to win £250 last night at the Open Portrait Exhibition for my painting of Helen which I was very pleased about.

It was a great night too. How Steve Rawlings managed to perform his act in that heat I have no idea. I had to retreat to the shade and peer at the show through several panes of glass to stem the flow of sweat down my back and I was only holding a pint, Steve was bouncing around and throwing, balancing and juggling multiple pieces of furniture for a good hour.

I managed to brave the heat to collect my jumbo sized cheque though!


I’m sure I am not alone among artists when I say that I would rather hide away behind my art and never go to an event where there is a risk my name might get called and my picture taken. Its a strange experience if you are not at all good at social events.

So as it happens my name did get called and typically I am stood at the back hoping to applaud other winners and then slip away unnoticed, now I have to weave my way through tables and chairs whose lively occupants are now enthusiastically clapping and smiling kindly in my direction. Time slows down and each footstep requires careful planning to avoid tripping and headbutting a welcoming face or crushing an innocent child or a similar act of dishonour that would invoke immediate Seppuku.

My vision becomes a misty porthole in an unsteady vessel as I plot my route to the front. Large smiling heads seem to wind past me as I approach the judges whose unfamiliar faces suddenly appear as if through the peephole of my front door. In my self absorption and terror I completely ignore the Mayor Gordon Oliver and the Triton sponsors to my left. Everything in my peripheral had morphed into a Jackson Pollock and instead of composing myself I hastily retreat like a startled gazelle to the back of the room where I am more at ease.

Of course all of this probably passes unnoticed to normal people. At worst I probably appear slightly aloof but at least I can set the record straight here as if anyone gives a toss anyway.