General Update…

One of our cats, Zebedee, has taken up residence in the now fully restored Shrine kennel!



The two Van Gogh landscapes arrived in Oslo yesterday for a cruise ship currently under construction for the Holland America Line II – New Statendam (operational this winter.) If anyone spots them while on their cruise, please send me a photo!






Every time I complete a new work my room looks as if a bomb has hit it. I then have to tidy up to clear my mind before I can start a new piece. After the VG landscapes, it was worse than ever and there was nowhere to stand on the floor…

Tidying up is so boring (!) but it’s now done and I’m ready to start something new. Next a commission of an unknown image of Frida Kahlo for a FK fan in the USA …

PS The picture was taken before I tidied!


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Inspirational Must-Read Book for Artists …

Sometimes a book comes along at just the right time, to give a personal message, meet a need or fill you with excitement about life! This is one of those books. On the train to London to the RA, I was reading The Art of Travel by the philosopher Alain de Botton.  The book asks questions about why we travel and why we sometimes find holidays disappointing.  I’d been intending to read it for sometime.

De Botton postulates  that we sometimes get more satisfaction from looking at a painting of a landscape than the landscape itself – because of the skill of the artist in their selection of what to depict, what aspects of reality to include and what to leave out, rather than a photographic representation.

The last two chapters were such an inspiration – one on Van Gogh and the other on John Ruskin. The VG chapter was about how the artist looked at a place in a different way – how he tried to capture something he saw that others could not – to show us a new way of seeing. In particular, the chapter focused on his fascination with Cypress trees in Provence, which was very pertinent as I’d just been working on Wheatfield with Cypresses for the cruise ship. VG observed the way the wind moved in the branches, making the tree appear to bend along different axes, as if the wind was blowing from different directions at once. “With it’s cone-like shape, the tree takes on the appearance of a flame flickering nervously in the wind.” Van Gogh saw this and tried to make others see it too.

Vincent van Gogh's Cypresses Drawing

The Ruskin chapter was about how to preserve (holiday or other) memories. Photographs and souvenirs do not adequately capture the essence of a place, that feeling of beauty or ambiance that we feel we want to bottle. Ruskin advocated drawing as a means of fixing a place in the mind: the value of drawing as a means of really looking – not dependent on talent. The aim is to learn not how to draw but how to look. Ruskin gave drawing classes to Cockney craftsmen, not with the aim of ‘making a carpenter an artist, but to make him happier as a carpenter.’ How brilliant!

I feel so inspired by this and am determined to put it into action …

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Kennel’s Return!

Well the kennel has been returned, thanks to my Uncle John who drove it down from London. Unfortunately it seems to have sustained some damage in all it’s transportation: the ‘sedan chair’ carrying poles have disappeared along with the bubble wrap. Angels and cherubs have lost their wings – very sad (as Trump might say!) Today I’m working on repairs ahead of the Kenton Flower Festival next week, in which it will be on show.  The theme is Cycle and Recycle Kenton Church, Devon July 26 – 29.

It’s interesting to look again at a work after a gap of some months. There is far more surface glue on the kennel than I remember. I worked on it through the dark days of January, often under spotlights. Now in the clear light of July, little imperfections are more visible!!

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Favourite picks from the RA Summer Show

Earlier this week, I visited the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy in Piccadilly, London.  As you might expect from curator Grayson Perry, it was quirky and fun.

Here’s my son Matthew in front of a colourful corner including 2 pictures by my friend Anna Grayson with whom I exhibited last summer.

Probably my favourite piece was The Taxonomy of the Cornflake: a case of specimens in small acryllic boxes, painstakingly catalogued according to size, colour, shape and curl. Hilarious! (Artist Anne Griffiths, £900)

An impressive piece (and winner of the (?Jack Guildhall) Sculpture prize) appeared to be a giant python twisted inside an antique glass case. Created by Kate MccGwire from acrylic and peacock feathers, it was entitled Squall, £42,000.

Next, another work in a deep box: Refuge by Cathy de Monchaux (NFS).

A dark eerie scene of unicorns in a wood,  reminiscent of many a fairy-tale. Created from copper wire and mixed media, the work was about 3m wide. I loved it!

One of a pair of dogs by Timothy Blewitt, this is Rufus 3rd (Wainwright?) Wood, metal and costume jewellery, £12,000. A dog fitting for the kennel I made!









Many people standing by this next piece were chuckling (please excuse the language!) Lightswitch by Jess Wilson (Edition of 75 at £250)

And finally, just to show how barmy the show is, here’s Untitled by Hans-Jorg Georgi. Acrylic, plastic, cardboard and glue, £13,800.

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New work: Audrey Hepburn

Here’s my recently completed commission of Audrey Hepburn which I did not wish to reveal until it had been received by the client…

At one point, I was so unhappy with it that I scraped everything off except her eyes!

Using a looser approach and several items of vintage haberdashery (cards of ‘hooks and eyes’, press-studs etc) I achieved a retro look with which I was very happy. The arched yellow/orange pieces in the background are from an old jigsaw from Portugal, sent to me by the lovely Portuguese lady (Hello Maria!) who cared for my late mother. As the client was also from Portugal, this seemed fitting. He had requested something like Subbuteo footballs for Audrey’s pearls – I couldn’t find any but managed to find some spherical numbered Bingo markers instead!


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General Update

Today I’ve delivered my Beethoven diptych (Composer Decomposed) to Thelma Hulbert Gallery in Honiton to submit it for their bi-annual Open Exhibition (June 2 – August 25). This work was rejected by the RA for their Summer Exhibition so I hope I will have more luck at THG!

I’ve also applied for the TRAIL exhibition at Devon Guild of Craftsmen (November). My two pictures were not selected but they do want to display Shrine (the kennel) Yay!!

I’ve almost finished the portrait commission. (Audrey Hepburn – I realize I mentioned her name in my April 9 Blog). I was really struggling with her – and her cat! (see Blog May 10) Having emailed the client for his opinion, I stripped everything off the board except Audrey’s eyes and started again. The looser stylized look has worked far better and I am now happy with her. Just waiting for some blingy earrings to arrive from ebay! (I’ll post an image once the client has received her.)

Working on Audrey has had me musing on the randomness of my work. Often, after I’ve finished a work, an item that would have been perfect for that work turns up – but it’s too late. If only I’d looked in Box A instead of Box B … the result would have been a different picture. But just as in Life generally, it’s no good thinking ‘what if’ or ‘if only’…

Next work: Two Van Gogh landscapes for a cruise ship. Exciting!

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Who was St Roch?

An lady called Alison (English living in France) has commented on my Blog entry about St Roch. She says My understanding of St Roch is a little bit different from yours. He’s quite a Big Thing in this area of France. She sent a link to her Blog with the French version of the story of St Roch … I found it interesting and hope you will too!

From Alison’s Blog:

OK, so I’ve promised you the story of St Roch. I thought he was a local saint as he features in many of the local chapels/churches around here, but according to Wikipedia (that Fount of all Knowledge) he was born in Montpellier. He is apparently the patron saint of surgeons, apothecaries, road pavers, furriers, second-hand clothes dealers, wool carders and is the Protector of Animals.

Anyway, Saint Roch was a rich young man, who was orphaned at an early age. He was studying to be a Doctor, but, as all good saints do, decided to give it all up and become a pilgrim and give everything to the Poor. He travelled through Italy and when the country was ravaged by the Plague he stayed and helped the sick and dying. When St Roch contracted the plague he heroically separated himself from the local populace and went to live in a forest. Unfortunately the sick and dying (and their relatives) weren’t terribly grateful for his thoughtfulness, and shunned him, so he was slowly dying of both plague and starvation.

But, never fear, Gentle Reader, because there was a dog (let’s call him Spot) who decided to help St Roch, providing him with bread taken daily from the table of his master. Without this, St Roch would surely have died. One day, Spot’s master, intruiged by the disappearing bread, followed him into the forest and found St Roch, still, I assume, plague-ridden. Spot’s master took St Roch into his home, and the saint was miraculously cured of the plague.

Although cured, he was horribly disfigured by the plague, and is now always shown demonstrating a plague scar (on his leg) and usually revealing blue undergarments. Spot stayed with him for the rest of his life, and there is apparently a saying “c’est saint Roch et son chien” (“They’re like St Roch and his dog”) when talking about two inseparable friends.

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