Saturday, September 29, 2018

Santo Antonio da Lisboa, looking East


Santo Antonio da Lisboa, looking East
 oil on card, 25 x 21.5 cm


Thursday, September 27, 2018

Santo Antonio da Lisboa- from above, late September


Santo Antonio da Lisboa - from above, late September
oil on card, 22 x 17.5 cm


Sunday, September 23, 2018

Santo Antonio, road


Santo Antonio, road, oil on card, 22 x 24.5 cm


Friday, September 21, 2018

Ecuador 2019- definitely this time


Ecuador, the Rough Guide and other travel essentials

I did it. I managed to find cheap-ish tickets- it's weird but getting two returns- from from Florianopolis to Sao Paulo  and another from from Sao Paulo to Quito is considerably cheaper than one return flight from Florianopolis to Quito- even though it is with the same airline. I just have to hope there aren't delays on connecting flights. 

It is a pity that Sao Paulo is such an unpleasant city as it would be nice to break the Brazilian leg of travel somehow. 

This time the trip is about six weeks and is the longest I've ever done. That makes me a little anxious, though I don't think the difference between the five of last year is significant either psychologically or economically. One certainty is that it would be far too hot here in Florianopolis to do anything much other than sit around complaining about the heat or the influx of tourists blocking the roads with traffic jams.

I'll follow the Andean route described in the previous Ecuador post, back in September 2017. From what I hear Cuenca is an extremely agreeable city.


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

A prospect across fields, Santo Antonio


A prospect across fields, Santo Antonio
 oil on card, 19 x 23.5 cm


Thursday, September 6, 2018

New Statement and Exhibition notes for Casa do Ideias show


These notes will accompany an exhibition of work at Ateliê Casa das Ideias, Campeche, opening on October 13, 2018:



I'm a British painter. I travel around and paint small pictures, plein air, in oils. I studied in Scotland but have been living in Brazil for the last twelve years. 

I`m trying to make pictures that that give the satisfaction you feel when a jigsaw puzzle piece snaps into place or which have the rightness of peanut butter on buttered toast, or a few notes on the piano that sit together so well as in a piece by Debussy ...

At the same time I want to make things that show the look of a place.

And at the same time as that I want my pictures to be about how I feel at that exact point in time when I`m making the work.



Some of the pictures here were in the BRDE show in June, but a good number have never been shown before. 

Beiramar XXV, oil on card, 2013


The sea is an inevitable subject for those who live on the Island of Santa Catarina.  The sentimental idea is that the sea, always in motion, can reflect our subjectivities more readily than other landscapes. 

I grew up in Aberdeen, Scotland, a city that turns it`s back on the grey North Sea- for good reason as there it is essentially hostile-  as a result I carry a prejudice against the sea, a prejudice I can`t escape even here, and which perhaps explains the tenor of the seascapes here.

Flowers, January oil on card, 2017   SOLD

The still lives are flirtations with an obvious European format, one which I come back to from time to time. Per-determined formats are hard as it is so difficult to act freely and originally within them.   

Both of mine are takes on Symbolist approaches of the 1890s, as seen in Gauguin and Redon. 

Flowers from Brazil, oil on card, 2014

I include also a dense landscape from Ratones- an essay in yellow and gold: 

Ratones, edge of a forest, oil on card, 2013

I am especially pleased to present a picture from Rome, that most splendid of cities for painting. It is one of a run depicting its fine bridges. I am very happy with the colour in this Roman picture. It's one of two pictures here taken from more distant painting expeditions- the other being from Puno in southern Peru- that unusual, if claustrophobic, city on Lake Titicaca.

Ponte Margherita, oil on card,, 2012 SOLD


Monday, September 3, 2018

Paintings from New York and Chicago- conclusions


Some thoughts on my trip

I enjoyed visiting the USA but, as East Africans say, I enjoyed it but not  very much.

A number of things come together for me to say that. Apropos Chicago, the flatness isn`t agreeable, The city turns itself from the lake. It has an endless grid plan which is inimical to walking. Walking matters, it`s a way of connecting with a  place, and if walking isn't agreeable or is dangerous , the city usually isn`t worth visiting.

While the food in supermarkets is excellent, cheaper food in restaurants otherwise is relentlessly awful. It isn`t even served on plates or using proper cups. The service system in restaurants - in which waiters are paid a tiny wage and essentially work for tips  - makes them both obsequious and annoying. And, of course, if someone is only working for tips, then they are unlikely to do anything that isn`t going to be paid- such as giving directions. The tipping system is dreadful because it makes people petty and mercenary. 

People look bad. Almost everyone over the age of forty in Chicago is obese. There is no sartorial distinction between adults, children men or women. They all dress horribly, like giant babies in logo festooned stretchy romper suitsThe use of shining white trainers and tube socks is dreadful, especially on older people. 

Specifically,  black people I met in Chicago were friendly and pleasant. Others were so so. But few people seemed very happy. They weren't that happy in N.Y. either. Perhaps that`s why they often weren`t very personable.

There is an officious way of speaking to people in the USA, and I encountered it in many small situations at immigration and in public transport especially. And they also have a robotic way of giving have a nice day pleasantries- they have a whole series of these vacuous catchphrases- (is there a list somewhere that you are expected to learn?). I spoke to very few people as I was painting in the street in Chicago- this is unusual. New York is much friendlier despite fairly frequent experiences of it`s world-renowned rudeness. 

There is a lack, in Chicago, of the sort of idiosyncrasies that make travel amusing- people dressed in individuated ways, shops or cafes serving things which are at all surprising, or people selling curious stuff on the road (the exception being some yard sales I passed). When I was there the huge pop festival, Lolapallooza was taking place and I was struck by the huge number of identikit teenagers streaming down to the park.

Of course, much of what I have just written is obvious but almost everything about the USA is very obvious. .

The transport system in Chicago was clean, efficient and pleasant to use. The grid plan, so monotonous- is fabulously easy to navigate. The subway in NY is grim- unclean, badly signed, with few staff. 

There are fine parks in Chicago. There are nice old suburbs too. 

There is also a huge problem with violence- when I was there in the fist weekend 35 people were shot.

Frank Lloyd Wright 

I visited two Frank Lloyd Wright buildings- Robie House and Oak Park- both are far smaller than I imagined and somewhat fussily styled. Photographs of these buildings are deceptive. To see these buildings you have to go on guided tours. These are tedious and overpriced.


Four Manhattan pochades

Working on  bigger pochades- which is something I`ve been pursuing over the last four months or so- works well with the bullying hugeness of North American urban architecture. So for that reason I might well go back. I worked very steadily, getting up early and coming home to cook dinner and watch the USA`s dismal television which consists mainly of adverts for medical products occasionally interrupted by low-intelligence programmes and news about shootings.

I took out very few different paint tubes- five or six. This makes the kit lighter to carry and easier to use. The style I am chasing is about simplicity and speed, not detail.

In West loop, building on Madison (detail)


Paintings from Chicago- Part 3- West Loop


In West Loop, building on Madison, oil on card, 19.5 x 24.5 cm

I'm pleased with this picture, which captures something of the massiveness of blocks in Chicago.

Chicago- Madison, a bar, oil on card, 20.5 x 17.2 cm  SOLD

I could have done a lot more work in this area and more to north the of here, where there are fine old warehouses.  

Something for the future, maybe.


Paintings from Chicago- Part 2- in the Loop


Buildings near Union Station, oil on card, 19.5 x 23 cm

Chicago, view up West Congress Parkway
 oil on card, 21.5 x 17.2 cm

The Loop is a showcase of huge modern and modernist buildings. Sometimes this is very visually impressive, when the light glints off glass or creates vast shadows

 I was moved on from on working long a canal walkway as the area belongs to some financial corporation. I had that feeling about a lot of Chicago, as if there wasn`t an intimate relation between inhabitants and owners. There is no street life. The shops on ground level aren`t interesting, just the usual dull chains. There are immense corporate sculptures by Miro and Picasso. It's interesting how the magnification of their works robs them of curiousity. They just become something to fill a void and signify something like "successs" or "wealth"  . 

There is a giant, bullying Trump building, there are various others each higher than the last. Grandeur is expressed in glass and metal- older buildings use stone, with enlarged pseudo renaissance motifs, or Art Deco. The tendency to massiveness functions well at a distance but close up the effect is often simultaneously intimidating and bland. 


Saturday, September 1, 2018

Paintings from Chicago- Part 1- out of the Loop


Wicker Park, overground railway, oil on card, 20.5 x 23.6 cm

The paintings from Chicago divide into Loop, West Loop and non-Loop.

Chicago is constructed on a plain extending from Lake and based on a grid system of great regularity with large blocks. It has a fine overground railway system and there are magnificent old factories and warehouses- I`d love to work more with them if I`m ever back in the city. These large, usually cubic, buildings, stark in the sun, are ideal for developing a simplified style based on flat planes of colour. 

Chicago, Western Avenue, railway crossings and warehouses
 oil on card, 18 x 16 cm

This, above, represents the bolder style -much influenced by Sironi and I am very pleased with it.

View down from an apartment on Madison, oil on card, 23.2 x 20 cm

Japanese Garden, Lincoln Park, oil on card, 18 x 22.5 cm


Paintings from New York- Manhattan


 Chelsea, New York, Jewelry Store, oil on card, 18.5 x 17 cm

These cubic buildings, on corners in Manhattan are very satisfying to paint. Painting a set of them is would be an enjoyable project. Perhaps next time I`m in New York  I`ll stay in Manhattan to be able to really concentrate on this. 

I have been to New York four times now. It wears its meanings on its face. This is what I first liked about it, this frankness,expressed in bold architecture, grand bridges and  gigantic museums. This is what attracts me as a painter.

In New York a rich neighborhood is very obviously rich. Your don`t need to de-code people in N.Y.  as you do with the (much) more subtle British class system, in which a rich man might dress in simple clothes and drive a bashed up mini (the American idea of wealth is a poor man`s idea of wealth- ostentation, bigness, obvious luxury symbols). 

Contrariwise, of course, you can get to know it fairly quickly and as you do you  find it less and less curious. And, as Kenneth Clark points out Civilization, it is much better at a distance than close- at a distance it is grand, but up close the lack of human scale considerations taken by architects can make one weary. 

In the great steeplechase of best cities- London N.Y. or Paris,  Paris has moved to the fore- it offers more long term pleasures.

 New York- on Lexington, oil on card, 17 x 19.5 cm

Washington Square Park- the arch, oil on card, 17 x 18 cm  SOLD

This is the third time I have painted the arch- this picture is larger and more simplified than the others. Arches are extremely satisfying to paint- and the simpler they are, the better.

 In Central Park, oil on card, 19 x 17.3 cm

White building on Lexington, oil on card, 17 x 19.4 cm


Paintings from New York - Queens


Queens, Newtown Avenue
 oil on card 19.5 x 25.7 cm SOLD

This was painted on a sad street that provides the only diagonal crossing the grid of streets, and seems to be lost in time.

 Actually, Queens overall itself seems to be stuck in about 1977, with innumerable old shops with somewhat forlorn facias and decaying blocks. 

But it has is very nice for Greek things- delis, restaurants, cafes.