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 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 wasn't a first instinct in the way making art is.

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

So, 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 "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, I had thought that  making art could be relegated to the status of a hobby and I tried to suppress my desire to make it.

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.