Saturday, 21 November 2015


'Self-Portrait'  70x45cms   oil on wood

My daughter Faye is working on a self-portrait in the style of Matisse for her art homework and it made me think of this painting, a rare self portrait. An antidote perhaps to all those recent red paintings. Strange, I cannot remember when or where it was made but possibly early nineties, Camberwell or Nunhead. I would have been looking at Auerbach and I was definitely looking at the Bellini's 'Portrait of Doge Leonardo Loredan'  in the National Gallery.

The painting reminds me of the advantage of painting on wood - I must have been broke- where you load on the paint without picking up an impression of the stretcher bars. Though wood does weigh ten times as much!

I'm enjoying the richness of the brushwork and mark-making, the paint itself, and it's a pretty good likeness with the blue background representing the sea and it's importance in my life and my art. 

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

'Porthleven 24'

'Porthleven 24'  40x30cms

Thurs 19 November

Twist!  I dreamt about the painting, convinced there was something stronger to be found, making changes in my head. No hesitation this morning in the studio, straight in with the green triangle on the pink smear/pier. If you know Porthleven, the triangle is there, a piece of reality, a vertical triangle that creates a delicious dialogue with the horizontal plane of blue triangle. The green triangle is echoed by the green angled line of the slipway in the top left. Together, they imply a corner to corner diagonal movement across the painting. The large angled slab of hotter red cuts through the gap, linking to the procession of red rectangles up the right-side. 


The final act, in the top left corner- a backhand slash with a loaded brush of cobalt/kings blue.

 I have answered some of questions, niggles from yesterday. The painting has moved on, it's a stronger piece, more complex, more context. Denise knew it wasn't finished! No explicit image but a place defined by a unique combination/concentration of angles and curves, structure and movement. Time to move on.


Wed 18 November

A looser painting- is it enough?  Could be a couple of lines away.....

Stick or twist? At any point in a painting there are a million options: choice- the next action- is dictated by knowledge, experience, intuition, emotion, curiosity, the idea, the subject. To 'stick' can be cowardice or exhaustion, the feeling of being painted out or it can be the bravest option. One hopes that to 'twist' is a sincere belief that there is a stronger painting to be found but can also be impatience or boredom, a failure to look, to see, to fully understand the piece.

It's the timeless conflict between freedom and control.

‘If there is too much order, it is dead; if there is too much chaos, it doesn’t cohere. I’m continually negotiating between these two extremes.’    Anselm Keifer

So what's going on with this piece?What are the options if I twist?  I love the duality/ambiguity of the blue triangle, its' purity and clarity as a colour and its description of form, the horizontal plane of the pier. You may not see that or care, you may enjoy the painting as sensation, as colour and marks interacting, but for me this mark is special, an ideal I am looking for, the tipping point where a mark, a piece of paint has a context, a possibility of being something concrete and experienced, without illustration. 

Do I need to introduce line here and there, a bit of drawing, to further hint or transform the paint into 'something'? 

Should I bring in 'image?- perhaps the vertical element of the iconic clocktower up the right hand side to subvert scale and mess up the space (though a familiar space in my work)

Should I have a slash of blue in the top left to imply sky or accentuate/repeat the motif of triangles? 

Or will all the above weaken the power and purity of the blue triangle? 

Stick or twist.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

'RED', Dec Workshop in Canterbury- 5 places left!

Two- day workshop exploring Red

Red is passion, courage, revolution, luck, blood, sin, fire…..

It is scarlet, cadmium, crimson, pink, burgundy, red earth…..

Red gets noticed…..

A red painting (or 2) - abstract, figurative or somewhere between- awaits all participants on the course.

It's no coincidence I've been working with red recently! - the course is definately going ahead, I've just booked my train ticket. I've even started a new Red 'Porthleven' painting today  Unquestionably, Matisse's 'The Red Studio' has had an enormous influence on my own work. Red is everywhere, it floods the canvas, disrupting space. The world is not the same anymore….

'The Red Studio'
One of my red paintings......

'City of Glass 8 - (The Red Notebook)'

Friday, 6 November 2015

'Porthleven 23'

'Porthleven 23'   40x30cms

A smaller piece, this might well be finished. Love the sea/paint/sea/paint/sea.......edges breaking down....Reds from cadmium/indian-red/geranium/burnt sienna- more prep. for the 'Red' December Workshop in Canterbury!

Monday, 2 November 2015

'D.C. - (Diamond City)'

'D.C. - (Diamond City)'   168x132cms

I have enjoyed looking at this painting again in the studio, triggered by a recent re-reading of ' Shame the Devil' by George Pelecanos. He has written a brilliant series of crime novels set in Washington DC. I can't remember which particular novel I was reading, but this 2003 painting from the Americascapes series, originally highlighted the locations of all the murders, using the repeated motif of a gun. 

My own personal experience of Washington is non-existent - just a few minutes in the train-station! During my travels around the US, I had an Amtrak Railpass which was about to expire and I had to be back in New York by midnight, so when I got to Washington I had to stay on the train. In a sense, i have got to know the city through the novels of George Pelecanos. 

In my work, I have always been fascinated by the 'shapes of places' and the almost-diamond shape of Washington had to be taken on. In the hands of politicians, planners, cartographers, a few drawn lines on a map become reality- the diamond of Washington, the capital, distinct from all the rest. Even within the diamond, the city is divided into four quadrants, like a kite, NW, NE, SW, SE. shown in the detail below, and centered in the painting.

detail 1

I love the colour and the composition in this piece - the placement of the diamond - and the subversion of scale with the out-sized Washington Monument, whose angled top echoes the diamond. 

To give a true sense of scale- to help judge how big the city is - I've put in the runways of the Ronald Reagan Airport, close to the meeting of the Potomac and Anacostia rivers. 

detail 2

detail 3

'Arizona' and 'DC - (Diamond City)' at the Michael West Gallery

Thursday, 29 October 2015

'Penzance 9'

'Penzance 9'    30x40cms

Another Penzance painting that changed dramatically- the only constant the rose-colour of the Inner Harbour. I enjoyed highlighting it's house-shape, echoed by the images of the Lifeboat Station and concertinaed warehouses. I don't usually care or remember the paintings underneath but I'm still very fond of 1, below. It was my demonstration painting in my very first Freedom in Painting workshop at the Penzance School Of Art - I was new to teaching and talked too much and one of the artists left after 10 minutes saying she was 'going home to paint'!




Wednesday, 28 October 2015

'Penzance 2'

'Penzance 2'   150x120cms

The still center in 'Porthleven 22' brought memories of this painting - a wild night in Penzance when it seemed the town was about to be overwhelmed by the sea. Penzance 2 was shortlisted for the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 2012.

As usual the painting changed orientation several times during the process, hence the two lighthouses in the detail below!  Male (structure) and female (the sea) in battle. Curiously, towards the end, when I was asking friends which way up it should go, opinion was split by gender, with the majority of females i asked preferring it with the left hand side as top and all the males liking it this way. 

Throughout my career, I have intrigued/obsessed with the shapes of places and how that shape can define their uniqueness. With Penzance, I was particularly interested with the house-shaped inner-harbour which appears in a different position in each of the  paintings in the series, the lighthouse pier moving round like the hands of a clock.  Looking at it now, sea-shape in the earlier version lookjs like a creature, a sea-horse? The almost-diamond shape remains, now it's like a spinning top, the painting full of movement. 



in progress