Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Flowers in black


Flowers in black, oil on card, 18 x 22 cm  SOLD


Thursday, May 7, 2015

A view of the mountains in Autumn, 2015


A view of the mountains in Autumn, 2015, oil on card, 17 x 22 cm

Another in an ongoing series from the same location.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

April in Britain and France: Part Four: Somerset and London; Conclusions


 Wiltshire, a view near Bruton, oil on card, 17 x 24 cm  SOLD

That brings me to a close. Somerset is beautiful, but the weather was inconsistent, and England in the grey doesn't make for good painting.



The trip involved too many different destinations or, rather, I found my energies spent too much in lugging luggage around, catching planes or trains or taxis than I would have liked.  In future, It would have been better to have rented a place for a month and used it as a base, instead of constantly having to pack and unpack and carry bags here and there. It's good for me to paint in different places: I need variety. But the actual business of travel itself has become tiresome for me.

This is the longest period of time I've spent in the UK. It is a cold country- in April it was still overcoat weather. It is not a place on the edge of collapse as some of its newspapers would like to imply, but reasonably orderly and civilised. It is very crowded, especially in the south. Despite the foodie revolution, it is still not easy to get a good simple meal for less than ten pounds. The beer is good, however, but it is not cheap either. It is not cheap to roam around in but, thankfully, major museums are still free. 

It is a poor place for painting on account of the weather. I had a conversation with Adam Elston, the writer, and it was about whether gray days might not have their own aesthetic qualities. Of course they do, but their charms are extremely limited:  sunlight defines not just colour but form.

Paris was agreeable but not as stylish as I'd expected. The women are not as chic as I'd hoped and the place often feels dowdy, though the architecture remains magnificent.


The pochades have grown in size steadily over the last couple of years. This makes them more difficult to carry around, and I paint fewer. I have started working with a portable easel which allows me to work in a wider variety of places, though it is devilishly heavy. There are about ten pochades from this trip that I like, not a bad percentage.

But on almost all of my trips I have been guilty of taking my subjects for granted. I mean, assuming that good pictures would flow, almost automatically, from simply being in x, y or z place. Aware of this, I've been extending my periods in specific locations with each successive trip. I shall increase my stays, and  re-visit places.


The next foreign trip will, circumstances permitting, be to New York.


Thanks to Jane Hodson for her generous hospitality in Somerset, and to the Ecclestons for their kindness in London.


Monday, May 4, 2015

April in Britain and France: Part Three: Glasgow


 Shop fronts, West End, Glasgow, oil on card, 14 x 15.5 cm  SOLD

 A close, Glasgow, oil on card, 14 x 16 cm

 A view from the Necropolis, Glasgow, oil on card, 13 x 18 cm

A bridge near Glasgow Green, oil on card, 16 x 13 cm

Factory along the Clyde, Glasgow, oil on card, 15 x 16 cm

I spent five days in Glasgow, mostly in the West End. I'd always felt very ignorant about Glasgow, having grown up and studied in Aberdeen and Edinburgh, and there being a strangely exaggerated antipathy between East and West coast in Scotland, despite, or perhaps because of, their proximity. Most of my thoughts about Glasgow were formed by a few childhood visits, by Frank Kuppner's "A Very Quiet Street", and books about architects Alexander "Greek" Thomson and Charles Rennie  Mackintosh and my notions were somewhat romantic. 

I wasn't disappointed. it's a fine painting city: spaciously laid out with great views. There are few tourists. It doesn't feel like a huge museum, and yet it has a clear identity.The weather was delightful. People left me in peace to work, or were friendly without being overbearing. There are lovely little cafes and places to eat.

It's a  schizophrenic city: the West End and centre is genteel, with magnificent 19th century apartment blocks, museums and charming cafes, while the rest of the city appears to be in a post Imperial, post-industrial condition, with empty land available for construction and a sense of incompletion. This makes it a marvellous subject, and I enjoyed painting from the Necropolis, and along the Clyde.

The first picture is one of the best of this year: economical and cool.


Sunday, May 3, 2015

April in Britain and France: Part Two: Paris


 Paris, oil on card, 16 x 18.5 cm

 Montmartre, oil on card, circa 17 x 15 cm 

The two above are the result of my perambulations in central Paris: not an especially easy place for painting, given the crowds of tourists who make it difficult to work peacefully. And, as a generality, famous landmarks rarely make for good paintings, as it is very difficult to develop an original attitude to them. But I am very pleased with my Eiffel Tower picture.

I would have been better off with an easel: I have since acquired a portable one: rather heavy.

The three below are from or near my little apartment in the 12th Arrondissement, Bercy, which I found more satisfactory, partly because there is so much space to work, and partly because it is not really part of the museum city, and has industrial and railway features that, aestheticised, have a definite anarchic visual appeal.

For many painters, French painting is a touchstone: this is certainly the case for me, and a trip to France is in some way inevitably a homage, specifically in my case to painters such as Utrillo or the Impressionists. I think my picture of Montmarte has sufficient Utrillo in it to count as a homage.

Railways, Bercy, oil on card 16 x 18 cm

 Bercy, looking West, oil on card, 16.5 x 22.5 cm

Near  Bois de Vincennes, Paris. oil on card, 16 x 18 cm

Rooftops, Bercy, Paris, oil on card, 16 x 18 cm


Many thanks to Frédéric Glorieux for his kindness in Paris.


Friday, May 1, 2015

April in Britain and France: Part One: London


 Hampstead Heath, oil on card, 18 x 16 cm   SOLD

 Berkeley Square, North side, oil on card, 17.5 x 17 cm

 Here are my first offerings from April's painting trip, which took me from Brazil to London, then to Paris, to Scotland, Somerset and back to Brazil via London.

London is not a good painting city. It lacks dramatic landscapes. The weather is both bland and unpredictable and the season changes lack force. The architecture is often good, but is also often fussy or indecisive, as is the street plan which rarely accommodates grandeur. And the city is uncontained,  rolling lazily in from endless suburbs and shires, undefined.

At the same time it lacks the sort of street life that makes Morocco, say, fascinating. In London, the private is utterly hidden. It cannot be intimate with you. It's true that you can sometimes get interesting views into the backs of people's gardens from railway lines but its hard ever to be able to find a place to paint them. And they aren't that fascinating anyway.

I never really "got" London, though I lived there for ten years, I seldom found it mysterious or enchanting except in old books or through the eyes of others such as writers like Ian Sinclair or painters such as Auerbach, though I came to love the more obscure stretches of Kensington and Bayswater. But most of it makes me shrug my shoulders.

Princes Square, Bayswater, oil on card, 14.5 x 16 cm  


Many thanks to Lise and Felix for their generous hospitality in Westbourne Grove.