Friday, 28 January 2011


In some ways I'm disappointed with this latest painting as it's a bit too 'rough and ready'. On the other hand, I'm quite pleased with the overall effect as it is only 3" x 2" in size. I don't know if there is a generally recognised size that defines 'miniature' but if this doesn't qualify, it's certainly very small.

I found working with watercolour quite interesting at this scale as there just isn't the same scope for running out the water. It was all to easy to just deposit a drop of paint on the paper and find it bound by its own surface tension. Working drier than normal seemed to be the best way.

The other problem I had was actually seeing what I was doing. I have to take my glasses off to see things very close up but I was copying this painting from a reference photo on my computer. I can't see my computer monitor very well without my glasses and I couldn't see my painting properly with them. So most of the time I had a brush in my right hand and my specs in the left.

It was another of those things I wanted to try, and I enjoyed doing it. Might have a go at something smaller next.

Sunday, 23 January 2011


My plans to spend more time painting took a set back, both because of unexpected events offline and, of course, the crash of my web sites which took several days to reinstate. However, I've finally taken up pen and brush to do this Line and Wash of Portmeirion in North Wales.

Portmeirion was a very small settlement until 1925 when it was aquired by architect Clough Williams-Ellis. He soon began building and converting cottages, and many were found in other locations and transported brick by brick. Williams-Ellis wanted to prove that architecture didn't need to ruin the landscape but could be sympathetic with it, and you don't need to be there long to see that buildings and landscape are in perfect harmony.

Portmeirion is most famous as the setting for the 1960's TV series "The Prisoner" starring Patrick McGoohan. The unusual shapes and colours of the buildings create a surreal and idyllic environment.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Winter blues?

Not me! Here in the UK (he says, bearing in mind that our cyberworld is truly global), we still have a lot of winter to get through, and in some area's the worst of the snow and bad weather is still to come. It's all to easy to stay indoors in the belief that spring is a long way off. 

Having just spent a delightful couple of hours in my garden, sucking up fallen leaves and clearing away dead and rotten foliage from deciduous plants, I couldn't help but notice the signs that spring is coming. Some trees and plants just seem too impatient to wait for the better weather. 

With the birds whistling and singing, and buds forming in the Lilac's and Ribes, the rebirth that our gardens experience every spring is already clearly evident. The Verbena's have already formed clusters of small flower buds and their dark green leaves look just a little less weary than they did. 

I found Ladybird sheltering on this one so carefully took her into my greenhouse where she'll be much warmer. She'll repay me later when all those nasty aphids try to make my young cuttings their home.

The Snowdrops have been busily pushing up their new green shoots since Christmas and the first of the flower buds are now visible. Another week should see some of them opening, and a couple of weeks from now, they will be in their element. As usual, I will be out there with my camera, getting down in amongst them.

So whereas the first half of winter is about watching our gardens die off into hibernation, the second half is about awakening, new growth and the promise of a joyful spring just around the corner.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Old Fishing Boat

Probably my favourite medium, certainly at this time, is soluble pen. I just fancied doing a quickie sketch and was trying to think of a subject when a friend posted a photograph of an old fishing boat on another forum. The biggest problem I have with sketches like this is leaving them alone. I see lots of pen lines and brush strokes that cause me to think "why did I do that?" and there is this massive urge to pick up my pen and try to correct things. I think the technical term is 'fiddle'.

Friday, 14 January 2011

977,656 and counting

That's the present number of 'hits' I've had to my main web site to date. It means I am only a couple of weeks away from receiving my 1 millionth hit. Phew!

Of course, in internet terms 1 million isn't a huge number. Google eats up millions by the bucketful and there are lots of sites out there that would think nothing of getting a million hits over the course of a few days, weeks or months, but at my end of the spectrum ... the small home-made hobbyist site, it's a different matter.

I built my site in order to encourage people to have-a-go at painting. I've never professed to be any good at it, but it's very enjoyable nonetheless, and that's the message I want to send out into the world wide web ... that it's great fun no matter what level you're at.

My main site is now only one of many I own. As a result of feedback I was getting from my site I set up an Art Forum to encourage beginners to at least try. I made a site called "Young Persons Guide to the Orchestra" introducing 5-10 year olds to the instruments of the orchestra. I receive much mail from readers of my "Fuchsia" pages, and I've incorporated another of my hobbies by including photographs of my year round garden. I've set up a separate site as a platform for the sale of my art, though I'm not sure I will continue with that.

An exciting feature I added a while ago is the "Artist Showcase" where I like to showcase the work of a chosen artist. I'm presently displaying the work of one of my forum 'beginners' and this gives me a buzz because this lady, in the autumn of her years, dare not ever have dreamt that one day her paintings would be seen by other artists, let alone lots of them from all corners of the globe. And I'm equally 'buzzing' over the fact that one of my blog followers is the next artist in the frame and their Showcase will be launched around the end of the month. Which follower? Well you'll just have to wait and see.

But for now I watch my stats eagerly as I try to predict exactly when I will hit that landmark first million. Who will be the person who makes the one millionth hit? Will it be someone we know? Watch this space!!!

Thursday, 6 January 2011

More time on my hands

Well that was the plan, but now I'm not so sure.

Though I still have a couple of years before my official retirement when I can finally start drawing my pension, I decided, with my wife's blessing and enthusiastic support, to stop working now and live off our savings. It was a huge decision and took quite a while to arrive at. In September I handed in my notice with a view to finishing at Christmas. Unexpectedly, the company was not happy about losing my services entirely and after many discussions and much thinking I accepted their offer to continue in a part-time capacity. So, for the time being I am only working 3-days per week, and I hope to reduce that to 2-days in due course.

During the last few months I've been eagerly planning my days off .... but so have others. LOL. My wife, bless her heart, hasn't said a word over the last few years about my reluctance to do any DIY. We almost always had some decorating on the go, but I found it harder to work in the evenings after a day at the office, and became very neglectful of things that needed doing. To reward her patience, my first priority for my new-found time, is to start doing some decorating and make up for lost time. We also have a number of significant changes we want to make in our garden, especially the expansion of our vegetable garden and the growing of lots more produce.

I have also been planning my hobbies. I have a large box full of thousands of stamps. I inherited it years ago and decided to put it to one side until I retired from work. I have also promised myself some quality photo-shoots. As a keen amateur photographer I have been looking forward to getting out places with my camera, as well as trawling back through all the thousands of photo's stored on my computer waiting for me to do something with them. Of course, I also have my art. Plans include experimenting with different mediums, taking more time over my work, doing much more by way of practice, and (heaven forbid) even taking my pads outdoors for some plein aire work. Finally, I have my web site, which is long overdue for a serious upgrade (rebuild) and as a part of my extra online activities I planned to spend more time on my blog and certainly make a better effort to get round the blogs I follow.

So now I look at my two free days per week and expessions about quarts and pint pots come to mind. And the more I think about it the more I think that maybe the Monkey's got the right idea.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Hillside Cottage

It began with my "Steelworker" painting. I had used kitchen roll for lifting off mistakes, but not as part of the 'creation' process. I decided then that I wanted to do more by way of experimenting with 'lifting off' in a constructive way and I eventually tackled the foggy scene in "Boat on Bala Lake". This latest painting, "Hillside Cottage", has been done solely as a means of trying to paint hills whose tops are bathed in low cloud. It's not my finest painting and the cloud effect could be much better, but it was an interesting task nonetheless. I'd be very happy to hear from anyone as to how you tackle cloud over hilltops.