Firenze blog 3

Well, I started this two week Firenze workshop from home, thanks to Covid virus lockdown, with the intention of moving on my creative process and to stop letting my 50+ years experience of painting and tough art college training from determining the outcomes, curtailing experimentation and just tidying it all up! I chose a 20 year-old experience of ‘The place where butterflies dance’ because it was a magical memory and not adaptable to a simplistic interpretation.

I stuck a 3×4 foot canvas to the wall (painting 1) and set off with big brushes and stopped after a day and a bit. I did a large charcoal drawing and then set off into a 3×5 foot canvas (Painting 2) and worked on that for several days with brushes, oil bars and pieces of card. This allowed me to really get into a painting process again and the work seemed to say ‘I’m finished, move on’.

Painting 2

So, I put another 3×5 foot canvas up (painting 3) and set off again into the same subject but in a bolder and freer way. The result is a much more expressive work and after several days I stopped to give it time to be and tell me what it needed to be whole.

Painting 3

I then started work on painting 1 again. I had been living with it for over a week and I started to see ways of moving it on. I let it speak of it’s needs and followed its demands and gradually the image morphed from ‘the place where butterflies dance’ to another memory of place, ‘the way to the giants’, standing stones in Morbihan. My artists controlling nature and training said, ‘this is wrong, get a grip and bend it to your will’, yet this was the very thing I was trying to overcome. I have skills and abilities and sometimes they just get in the way of change, exploration, experimentation and of seeing the world differently. So, I am in a dialogue with the painting. I am letting it speak to me as I work on it, it changes and so do it’s needs.

Painting 1

A strange but very important outcome for me from a cancelled workshop – I have changed and moved on and the paintings are still in play. I feel sorry for painting no.2 as it was the step that allowed me to change, but it is so locked up! As for the others, watch this space and I look forward to the real workshop next year, fingers crossed.

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Firenze workshop blog 2

Well Viv and I have completed the first 5 days of our home-based Firenze workshop. It is sad that we are not in the lovely surroundings of Firenze and with our fellow artist friends from America but we have worked hard and posted the results most days on facebook.

My main aim of the workshop was to loosen up my approach and do what Ron Pokrasso is always saying and let the work dictate its direction. So, I abandoned all my art plans in blog one and set off trying to paint a memory of 20 years ago, ‘The place where butterflies dance’ on a 4×3 foot canvas taped to the studio wall, which is the first pic.

My art problem for many years has been that a tough training and 53 years of painting in oils means that I am engaging those learned skills too much and too early and curtailing my creative process with rational thought! So, I am trying to overcome this and stay open to the possibilities arising from the idea and not getting too literal. Picture 2 is a 5×2 foot charcoal drawing from the same idea. I did start quite wild but then iris and butterfly shape appeared so a bit of a reversion to type happened.

So, I started another oil on canvas, 5×3 foot, of the magic encounter where the butterflies dance. Paint applied with oil bars, brushes, card, and zest thinners worked in, in places and I have now had 2 days on that painting – below. I am pleased in that I have kept the rawness and energy and not tightened up!

Also had another short session on the first painting which is developing its own character nicely – all I have to do is not get in the way!

I am pleased with my progress so far and after a day off will work back into the paintings and start another so I am having a good Firenze workshop so far and look forward to the real thing next year.

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Firenze Workshop 2020

Viv and I were due to fly to Firenze tomorrow (May 3rd) for another experimental printmaking workshop with Ron Pokrasso and other American artist and friends. The terrible Corona virus has cancelled that, but Viv and I are determined to continue with the workshop from home so watch this space and facebook, as we will be posting updates on our progress!

I am planning, at present, to do a range of work about horses including ‘The Horses Apollo’s Sun Chariot’, ‘Horses of Selene’ and those of San Marco, Venice, in paint, drawing, print and any combinations of those materials This pic of my studio floor shows some past works and ideas but I have to warn you that so far I have never worked on my planned subject at the workshop so who knows what may happen!

Last year’s prints made in Akua inks, included direct monoprint life drawings, works about the temple of Nike, and horses of the sun and moon chariots.

The falling horses of the sun chariot was drawn in waxy chub sticks on a clear plastic plate. The plate then rolled up with transparent lifting agent and put through the press with dry Arches 88 paper.

These two prints are of the horses of Selene with a blood moon. We saw the full moon go down above the horse of Selene on the Acropolis one morning, a couple of years ago so more work to come at some point.

This print is the first go at the myth of Apollo’s son Phaeton, losing control of the chariot of the sun and it tearing the sky and creating the milky Way galaxy. The plate was rolled up with ink and the images drawn through with card, points and cotton buds, a technique I had noticed in some of Marino Marini’s work. There is an amazing museum of Marini’s work in Firenze – one of my favourite places to visit when there.

The last pic is of the Temple of Nike and is one of about 12 different versions. An on-the -spot sketch was the basis from which I did a wild ink drawing. Ron kindly made me an Image-on plate of this for a black tonal plate that would stand about 25 to 20 prints and I used this inked in black and another clear plate to paint and draw on in coloured inks. Each print was made up of at least two plates and some drawn on as well.

So lots as starting ideas but art is an adventure to an unknown place, so who knows what will happen!


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Marazion Sketchbook – July 2018

We escape down to our flat above the beach at Marazion, where we look out towards the Lizard. My art has been stuck and I am determined to work in my sketchbook and try to catch fleeting moments and ideas. After my first stiff attempts, I thought You Idiot! Stop doing the thing as it looks in a photographic sense and make studies that catch the idea. This is the feeling of the beach, a sanctuary for curlews.

I saw the exhibition of Patrick Heron’s work at Tate St Ives and I just love his later garden paintings which are joyous distillations of experience and very inspiring. The new extension to the building is also a great showing space!

On the night of the full moon it rose as a deep red ball in the dark above the headland, to the sound of the sea and the piping call of curlews. Totally magical.

I did 24 sketches and studies in a week trying to catch fleeting moments of shape and colour and feel I have caught the sense of place in these rapid loose studies.

All I have to do now is keep painting the experience of what I see and feel and not tighten up again!

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Latest art exhibition

My Worthing Artists Open House Exhibition 2018


This year Viv and I are showing work at the Fish Factory in Brighton Road, Worthing as part of the Worthing Artists Open Houses trail (from June 16th to July 1st. More info at )

My work in oils on canvas is all recent, the largest piece ‘Storm at Church Cove’ is 1x 1.5 metres and aims to catch the feeling and power of nature at its most raw.







There are smaller storm studies too!


And an abstracted work ‘blue tide’ from sketches done at Marazion in Cornwall.

Hope you enjoy our work and the fish and chips too!


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New Directions part 2

My journey of change continued after my initial experiments (as described in part 1) with applying inks with seaweed, feathers, bamboo pens and anything to hand which could be effective. Viv and I have been doing work inspired by our visits to Cornwall for over 30 years and on a recent visit staying in Marazion we had a flat with a view looking down onto the beach. It was magic watching cormorants, oyster catchers, egrets and curlews feeding in the rock pools and the ebb and flow of the tide was totally hypnotic.

This is part of a series of paintings as seen from our flat trying to capture the ever-changing vista of water over rocks and sand plus the shifting light and atmosphere. They are part of a process which I want next to translate into working on canvas. So I predict more fun and mess ahead!

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New Directions part 1

 Let’s hear it for seaweed and bamboo!

My art has been stuck and seemingly going around in circles for several years now and all my attempts to move on have left me even more frustrated. Then a few months ago Viv sent me a Facebook link to a short film of an Australian artist who made her own brushes from materials found on her walks on the beach and in the countryside. Her brushes enabled some accuracy of marks but the huge variety of materials gave a wide range of different marks and alongside, random spats and squiggles from the often uncontrollable nature of trailing seaweed or springy twigs and leaves.

At the very least the idea looked like fun and as it was a lovely day, I set off down the beach in search of flotsam. Within an hour I had collected a bag full of likely materials ranging from twisted dried seaweeds and brightly coloured pieces of frayed fishing ropes to bird feathers and twigs.

Back at home I set up a table in the garden, got out a range of acrylic and other drawing inks and Tippex, and gathered together my new hoard of potential brushes and some home-made bamboo pens. Inspired by some apples still clinging to our trees, I began working in inks on large sheets of watercolour paper using twists of seaweed, feathers, bamboo pens and the glass droppers from the ink bottles. OH WHAT FUN! Drips, splats and dribbles everywhere. The mixture of control and accident was intoxicating if hugely messy!

I had not had so much sheer art joy in a long time. The results were not great art but very liberating oh and did I say FUN!

The first two works shown here were done in the garden of apples, but I then began to think how I could work on and develop existing ideas with this approach. I thought of the sketches I did earlier in the year in Greece so using a piece of three foot high cartridge paper I set off into the image of the temple of Nike using inks and Tippex applied with tufts of seaweed, bamboo pens and drawing and dribbling with the glass dippers in the ink pots. The result had all the energy my paintings had lost!

Then I cut five feet of paper off a roll of Fabriano and set off into a larger work. While staying in Athens, early one morning as the sun was rising, the full moon was beginning to go down but was hovering just over the Parthenon above the heads of the tired horses of the chariot of the moon goddess. OH WOW! So I started a work I call Moon-fall the first of what I think will be a series exploring that idea. My art is on the move again and that’s what matters

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Greek Odyssey

For the last 2 weeks Viv and I have been staying in a room with a view of the Acropolis in Athens. From our sunny balcony above the city noise we shared the air with swifts, swallows, sparrows, blackbirds, hawks and a small group of green parrots. We went partly to enjoy the Greek ambience but mainly to revisit some of the most interesting sites and art in human history.

Last time I took watercolours to try and catch ideas but ended up doing neat little pictures so I was determined to do different. A limited but versatile range materials is important, and weight is also an issue when you are carrying your stuff around sites and museums for several hours each day in the heat! . So I took and A4 cartridge pad and a small note/sketchbook and watercolours. As watercolour does not do naturally nice looking effects on cartridge paper I chose this awkwardness to help me stop doing pretty pictures. Also I decided to try and use the double page proportion approximately 3 to 1 as a base format.

The first work in graphite and watercolour was our view of the Acropolis with the end of the Parthenon and the Erechtheion against a clear blue sky. Yes it’s a picture but hey what a view!

There followed a range of work trying to catch a sense of place and light both in and around Athens. Below, the works are of a slice down from the fortress to the old Plaka village and the temple of Nike seen from a forest of olive trees.



















From the lovely temple of Brauron / Vavrona on the coast to the east of Athens the ruined tomb of Iphigeneia huddles against the cliff and is overhung with swathes of yellow flowers. There is calmness in this place. In total contrast, at Eleusis the home of the ancient mysteries, the feeling is uncomfortable and edgy. The painting is of the cave through which, reputedly, Pluto took Demeter’s daughter Persephone into the underworld.



















I also did lots of drawing in the museums and love the little clay horses which are either free standing or decorate the lids of large pots. There are masses of small clay and bronze figurines of horses, dogs, rams, pigs and deer. Some were votive offerings, stamps or toys for children. I loved the little figure jumping over the bulls horns from the Piraeus museum.


The next challenge is to, over the next few months, take all the information and ideas I have from this wonderful trip and start to produce more considered works which explore my experiences in more depth and to hopefully also move my art process on! Although I took quite a lot of photos, they are very tricky. I did a watercolour of bright yellow daisies in the Agora in full sun and cooked myself. The sense colour was intense yet the photos are bland and nothing like my experience – that is why I do art!


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The Way from Eleusis 3

As an artist I have felt stuck for some time and in my previous blog I talked about the difficulties and frustrations of that state which assails most artists at stages in their lives. Losing a close family member does not help and as I sensed beginning to come out of the emotional darkness from that event so finally my endeavours to move on in my art practice have begun to have more positive outcomes.

I began ‘The Way from Eleusis’ nearly two years ago and I have been trying to capture the magical feeling of being sat amongst the flowers on the ancient processional way from the mysteries in Eleusis to the acropolis in Athens, surrounded by light, colour, swifts, butterflies, bees and a sense of connection to place.

Since the summer of last year the triptych has been hanging in our living area nagging at me in terms of, ‘well I’m sort of OK but really you can’t leave me like this!’ I felt guilty about it but did not know what to do to sort it. Oh, I have lots of tricks and technical skills acquired over 50 years of painting in oils but, and it is a BIG BUT, I did not know how to bring the work to an emotionally satisfying conclusion and one which expressed what I felt about the sense of place until a couple of weeks ago. All of a sudden I had a new way in to the paintings. It may have been the short holiday in Venice which lifted my spirits or a chat with one of the famous bronze horses in the Basilica, whatever, something worked.

I decided to treat the three paintings as separate entities. I felt that the left hand one of the three was alright so I tackled the right hand one first as it had fewer issues and then finally moved on to the more difficult central panel. Experimentation with textures and overlays along with some decisions about which were the most important elements to focus on finally paid off and I have finished. The painting(s) now work in their own terms and I can let go of their need and my guilt just in time for my next visit to Keramikos to experience the place again with who knows what results……. Phew!


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The Way from Eleusis

At last! After a year of struggling with this 2×1 metre triptych I have finally brought it to a satisfactory conclusion. If you want to see the painting and more work, come to Paul and Viv’s studios at 7 Hythe Road, Worthing We are open this weekend 2nd 3rd July from 11am to 5pm as part of the Worthing Artists Open Houses.

Way from Eleusis fin

It is so hard trying to paint the feeling of being there – of sitting on the ancient way from Eleusis, where the mysteries took place, looking towards the Parthenon in Athens. There is a constant noise of tourists and the city of Athens all around, yet in Keramikos, I am sitting in a haven of comparative peace surrounded by swallows, bees, butterflies, flowers and with a huge sense of timelessness and history. Phew – I want to be back there….

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