Marsh Lane

I was cycling to the nature reserve where I observe and paint.  This time I stopped on the fifteenth century packhorse bridge and looked across at the newer arches carrying the railway across the River Blythe.  This quick sketch was done in charcoal.

This second sketch was, i think, done another day.  It is a view of the same bridge but from the other side.  I was in a hide in the reserve.  This was in pen and constitutes notes for a painting not yet executed.

I have just found another sketch in my folders.  View from the same hide I think but in the evening light.

Cami de Nou de l’Otre from Embaise de Cuber

OK – just more holiday sketches form Mallorca

I walked along side a reservoir high in the north western plateau / mountains in Mallorca.  Each 200m stretch along the path appeared to be a separate territory for an Eleanora Falcon.  These large tailed birds were hovering low over the landscape or perching on rocks, hunting dragonflies I think.  The flat valley floor is walled by high limestone faces on either side.  Looking up, I had a couple of glimpses of circling vultures.

In this sketch, I attempted to balance the tangle of undergrowth shaped by a fallen tree against the calligraphy scored onto the cliff by rainwater.

Later, I found myself looking down a steep rock tumble falling 900m  from where I sat to the town of Soller below and then the distant sea.

Opening onto the sea

A small sketch on Arches rough paper with a limited range of colours and the squirrel mop brush on a hot day in Mallorca.

Now I am preparing to submit some pieces for an exhibition for the first time.  And I am learning that there is more to display than sticking a bit of wood round a picture.  My experimental pieces like Drone III and White Birds have irregular edges and uneven surfaces from the action of the medium making them difficult to mount properly.  I will find out later this week what has been made of them.  I need to select three of the five pieces I am having framed.  Even writing about this feels a risk – there is a low probability of these pieces being accepted (even lower if I don’t get my act together and submit the form by Wednesday!).


The Holy Moment, plus goats

Painting begins in frustration, self-doubt and swearing.  I look at the marks on the paper and cannot believe that I have ever painted anything worthwhile.  I have to persist, make myself paint,  if necessary abandon that piece and start the picture  again.  Eventually there can come a moment when I stop thinking in words, forget by doubts, my eye, brain and hand become wired together.  Then I am completely in the present.  This is the Holy Moment as described by Purplewax

During one particular holy moment I painted goats on a karst rock face.

No one says achieving the Holy Moment results in good draughtsmanship.  My goats were mutating into reindeer or donkeys and required a little surgery with a sharp blade to bring back a little of their goaty nature.

Limestone gorge sketches

In recent weeks I have changed my tools. I used a squirrel mop brush that hold a lot of pain but comes to a fine point for calligraphic marking.   I painted on a small notebook of Arches rough paper.   I took my colour selection from Darren Woodhead, who paints birds direct from life with a skill that made me want to weep (  Prominent in this is the absence of pre-mixed greens and the generous use of rose madder in the neutrals.

I have revamped the pages to create galleries, marked by the tabs at the top of the home page.  These show work I  value, if not for my skill, at least for the meaning the work has for me.  Please do look in on these.

Secret cove ii: plein air

This was my first attempt at this picture, leading onto the studio version posted a day or two ago.  I was perched on a slab high above the valley floor, sun on my neck, the repetitive cry of a falcon behind me.  image

The cove is at the end of a short gorge between high limestone walls. The rock beds are uneven and diagonal; thrust up, I guess, by the African plate moving north. However, there are strong vertical lines scored in the stone faces, carved by rain continually dragging the minerals down. The tops of boulders are pocked by deep grykes.

Our life spans are so short, it is easy to miss that this is a dynamic landscape, that over only a few millennia a high plateau has been undermined by caverns; waterborn solutes forming stalagtites then columns then rock curtains, before that transient carved beauty collapsed and crumbled leaving the present chasm.

Experimental drawing: shards

The chosen reference for our experimental drawing workshops  is the work of Anselm Kiefer.

His work is carried out on a large scale, constructed thickly with paint, clay, ash, straw, metal, glass and the written word.  The images constitute a dialogue, perhaps more an argument with recent history, art and culture.

Responding to his art challenged me.  Paint combines with solid materials stuck to the surface.  Is this collage or mosaic or painting or a display of found objects?  Are the components iconic or, like individual pigment granules, devoid of individual symbolism?  Other than scale, what distinguishes this art from a child’s picture of glued autumn leaves?

In my first layer, I blocked in a silhouette of my home town in acrylic rose and phthalo green.

Weeks then elapsed.   I returned with toolbox, a hammer, glue, white porcelain plates,  bark, feathers from a predated corpse and tarmac gathered from a surface disrupted by a root.

I suspended the shards and granules in a sea of glue and swept into shapes using a plastic blade.  In my mind, there was a direct link back to this earlier work in charcoal (

Two more weeks have passed since.  Paint and glue has dried.  This week, I spent some time drinking coffee, just looking and thinking.  Then I tried to recreate and expand the obscured cityscape, painting into and over this surface.  I will post that next layer sometime soon.

I have only seen Anselm Kiefer’s paintings as photographs.  I cannot find an example displayed in the UK although the Tate and the National Gallery of Scotland seem to have archived a number of pieces.  I did not know of him earlier in the year when work was exhibited at the White Cube.  My knowledge of him to date is largely gleaned from the internet, including

Fine artist Chris Wood comments below and introduced me to the work of Julian Schnabel.  I post the link here so anyone else interested in this theme can follow it.


Tyninghame estuary on the North Berwick coast feels like a visual treasure trove, harking back to childhood seaside holidays.

There is a wide coastal plain, strewn with rocks, draped with seaweed, pocked by pools. Gulls, waders and ducks were far off at the shore line. Sitting and concentrating, I was surprised by the gurgle and splash as the incoming tide crept close.

I found a spot to paint, my umbrella canopy lashed to my tripod, the stem in my jacket pocket, braced against the wind and drizzle. The paper was not wholly protected by this contrivance – the top spattered with droplets.

As the rain increased I sheltered beneath nearby trees. Watercolour was now impossible but I thought perhaps I might get away with chalk pastel. Interesting effects anyway.

By the way. this is my 100th post. Thank you to everyone who has stopped by to look at my art, comment and even follow this blog. It really has made a difference to how I approach this work. I enjoy looking across your art in all its diversity.