All that glitters must surely be from Essex

All that glitters must surely be from Essex
Oil and glitter on canvas

Monday, 25 November 2013


In my last post I shared that for the first time in a really long while, I'm going to be working on 2 paintings at the same time.

  Now...this isn't life-changing, it won't rip apart the fabric of time and space, but it is quite a change in process for me.  I usually like to give one painting a time my full and undivided attention.  For some strange reason I really want to get another piece underway so thought, whatever- go with.

And so I charged around the ruins, taking photographs of every corner, wall, and doorway.  It was a beautiful, bright and crisp November afternoon and the winter sun helped to create some effective shadows across the walls.

It was very atmospheric.  From the remains of beautifully crafted doors and windows I really got a sense of the place it must have been before the Reformation.  

Even after taking its final battering during the Civil War, there is still plenty left to conjure visions of its former glory.  Ordinarily, I would know within minutes, which part to paint, but seriously....I really have no idea.  

Over the next couple of weeks I will make some sketches to see if a particular part speaks to me.  

I am sure it will, but one thing is certain, after spending some quiet contemplative moments in such a beautiful place...

I can't wait to start this painting - I hope I can do it justice.

Come back in a few days for the first sketch!

Sunday, 10 November 2013

St Botolph's in the making

So, this weekend I have changed the way in which I work.  Ordinarily I work on one painting at a time. Logistically this makes sense as my studio space is not much bigger than a first class stamp, but I also tend to do this as I like to focus on one piece at a time to give it my full attention.  That changed this weekend, when for the first time since being a student, I have embarked on a 2nd work which I will work on at the same time as finishing my painting of the Roman Gateway in Colchester (or the West Gate/Balkerne Gate, see previous posts).

I have started the research for the piece the subject of which will be another of Colchester's great historical features, St Botolphs Priory, or rather it's ruins.

Next weekend I will take myself into town to take some of my own photo's and make some preliminary sketches, which I will include on here - there are a lot on the internet if you would like to see what it looks like, but I'm not including any here as I don't want to infringe any copyrights!

My research this weekend has taken me by way of when it was built, who was St. Botolph and getting some images of the Saint that I could include in the work.  Also some Latin Bible text, as my work will look at it's destruction during the reformation and subsequent damage during the Civil War.  Now, the remains of the priory are a rather dramatic and stoic feature behind the shopping area of Colchester.  Often shoppers can be seen sat having quiet moments of reflection amidst the bustle of the town.  It seems that some sites keep an air of their past even in the present.  

If there is anyone reading this local or otherwise who can give me insight into this sites past, or their own personal view of the place then I'd be very happy to hear from you as I would like to work it into my painting.

See it's progress over the next few months here......

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Like buses!

This past week has certainly been eventful!

Last weekend was Open Studios at Cuckoo Farm and it was a great weekend.  Lots of people arrived to see the artists, work and studio spaces we make a mess of...well not all of us, but I certainly struggle to keep it ordered!
It was great to meet people and discuss the why's and wherefores of my work.  Which, to me keeps you thinking about the work and why you're doing it.  It was a really successful weekend for me as not only did I sell a painting ("Gunfleet" pictured below) but also 2 prints AND I managed to really stuck in with my newest piece.

So from the terracotta under-painting, I began to paint in the sky using dark blues, with a hint of white to add small areas of light and depth.

By painting over the terracotta but leaving some of it showing through it really did create the richness I was looking for (thanks Constable!), but also keep a key colour showing through.  This painting is about showing the layers of a landscape, it's a Roman wall so i don't want to just paint it as it looks now but also convey it's past.
So I continued to add a range of blue's until I was happy with the result and the balance on the canvas.  by using a blender brush I was able to soften some of the strokes to create a dramatic sky.

So, a successful weekend, but it didn't end there....a few days later I sold another of my pieces (All that glitters must surely be from Essex) with Saatchi Online.  So like buses, I wait months for a sale and then 2 come along at once!!  I hope that this can continue - just a taste of what life as a professional artists is like.  Painting, sales, packaging.....I love it!  And can only hope that whoever has bought All that glitters, wherever they are in the world, they enjoy welcoming the painting into their home as much as I enjoyed making it!
So here is where I left my newest piece, keep coming back to see the rest of it's progress.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Corner cutting and drawing in the dark

With canvas procured I went off to the studio today with a spring in my step and Paloma Faith blasting out of the car.  After a lot of planning and research I could get underway.  I have to admit I envisage this work to be on a larger scale, however the constraints of boot size and with no access to a larger vehicle, I had to go with a size that I could get to and from my studio space.

So without anymore delay I'm staring at the slightly overwhelming sight of a blank canvas.  It doesn't matter how many times in my life I have started a new piece, I always find the sight of a blank canvas daunting. BUT, that soon disappeared as this was the first chance for me to give my new toy a whirl.  I've bought a tracer, and before you start thinking "cheat!", I'm using it to project my own drawings onto larger canvases.  I am corner cutting yes, however it saves a lot of time and frustration measuring and scaling up and I am happy to use technology as a part of the process.

So the next question was composition; in my preparatory sketch of the Roman gate it was landscape, but I wanted the painting to be portrait.  So how much to include.....
Apologies for the quality of the pictures above, but I was taking them on my camera phone in the dark!  After a lot of walking from one side of my studio (now when I say walking, my studio space is rather bijou, so it is more like taking 2 steps!) to the other, tilting my head one way, then the other and talking to myself an AWFUL lot, I decided to go with the composition on the right.  I thought it more dynamic and envisaged the whole composition working better.  I preferred the proportions of sky to gateway and floor here.  If you have read my previous posts you will know that I am creating a layered landscape.  I will not only be painting but also collaging and including images from Colchester's rather colourful past.  Rather than painting just a snapshot of a place in a particular moment in time, I will be getting under it's skin; almost like an archaeologist scraping away layers of time.  I'm a geek and proud, so this work taps into my love of history and research.  See....geek!!!!

With my composition decided upon, then started my next challenge....find a pencil!  How does an artists' studio not have a pencil in it?! I really have no idea what happened to them all.  I finally managed to locate a "Birdworld" pencil that had obviously been bought for me at some point...probably as a joke I can't really remember, but it was sharp and that was all that mattered.  I started with the outline;

......and then eureka!! Whilst stopping for a quick chocolate break I found 2 graphite sticks...hurrah!!  I then began working the darker shades into the surface and giving it extra detail.  I'm working in the dark with the projector and can't really see a thing, so there's no way I can paint like that.  I needed to get as much detail into the drawing as possible to be a guide for the layers of paint that will follow.
I kept the mark making quick and loose as when I come to paint, although working from my original sketch (see previous posts) I want to still have freedom.  With too much information it will constrain the brush strokes and the painting will loose it's energy.

So after 20 or so minutes, working into the image and adding more to the left hand side, making the gateway disappear off to the left hand side of the canvas, I had enough information in the drawing to be to begin drawing on my next studio session.  Here's where I left it and will post the works progress here once the painting is underway so stay tuned.

Monday, 12 August 2013

I've been bad!

I cannot believe my last post on here was May!  I know, I know the most successful blogs are those which are updated regularly.  It has been an incredibly busy few months and I still have to buy a canvas to start the piece that has been in the pipeline for months now!

I've also started as a blogger with UK Arts directory so keep in touch with me over there at  I'm doing a regular stint looking at the up's and down's of becoming a professional artist, it's a little less personal than my blog here, bit more discursive but i'm really enjoying working with the team, they're a great bunch who work to promote all of the creative industries here in the UK.

A trip to Istanbul has given me a lot of ideas for a new series of works, I haven't even finished my Essex series yet and with York in the pipeline as well i need to get busy with the paintbrushes.

Open Studio season is also upon us, so if you are local to Essex (the one in the UK not America) and you're not busy on the weekend of the 5th/6th Sept then come and join us to see some fantastic artwork...I'm not just talking about me here either! you'll find me in the Artists Directory at the top of the page along with all the other wonderful artists (plug, plug, plug!)

There will be a lot more being posted her in the next couple of months, pictures updates on the new painting, Open Studios pictures and plans of the next series.  So sorry for the blog white noise over the last couple of months, I'll more than make up for it...I promise!

Saturday, 11 May 2013

"Just give me Britain, so that I may paint it with your colours, but with my own brush."

After having spent a number of weeks researching, I made a start this week on my newest painting.  The preliminary sketch was completed on Monday.  The gateway of the Roman Wall at Colchester will be the focal point of the composition.  But as my previous post shows, there will be quite a lot of other images going into this piece.  The difficulty here is going to be how to lay it all out.

I want to create a really rich piece, with depth and layers.  2000 years in one painting is a lot, and if I get it wrong it could just look like a big mess.

The execution of this is going to take quite a while, especially in terms of the individual layers.  Letting one dry before being able to get on with the next.  I will be using a range of different materials on this; oil paint  varnish, gold leaf, paper, metallic flakes,and probably some other stuff too.

I am really looking forward to this one, I just have to wait a couple more weeks until payday so that I can get the canvas.
Last time I posted I had a very talented lady Anni Howard get in touch with me, who uses the history of the area as inspiration for her knitted pieces.  A very interesting read at

As always the progress of my new painting will be posted here and in more detail on my website at so keep visiting to see how it goes.  In terms of composition, it's going to be the most complex piece I've painted in a number of years and size-wise I want it to be grand in stature, perhaps the biggest painting I will have worked on since Art college...I just hope I can fit it in my studio space, it's only wee!!

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Over 2000 years in one painting!!!!!

I'm not sure if I'm setting myself up for one massive creative headache here, but this is exactly what I'm setting out to do with the painting that i'm in the planning stages of now.
I'm turning my attentions to Colchester, for my next piece and want to show reflect in the painting the sheer amount of history that surrounds this place.  Although it might seem pretty impossible, I'm going to do my best.

Yesterday I visited Firstsite, a visual arts centre which opened here in 2011.  The centre is so named as Colchester was the first site of the Roman occupation (correct me if I'm wrong).  As you walk towards the exhibition spaces you walk over a glass panel in the floor under which is a beautiful mosaic floor in the position it was found in by someone gardening (again, correct me if I've remembered this wrong!).  It was taken and  put in Colchester Castle for quite a number of decades, but then finally was relocated back to it's original position when Firstsite was built.  Originally it was the wonderful floor of some rich Roman's dining room.

The corner is missing as it was dug through in medieval times, when a far less grand person than it's original owner was digging out a rubbish pit!  It all helped to cement in my mind how I was going to approach this painting.  I've decided to layer collaged images, materials and paintings.  Showing glimpses of what is now and was once was.  Landscape paintings show what is around us as it appears to us, even abstract landscapes are still showing what surrounds us as it appears.  I want to create a contemporary landscape which shows how we all walk within the remnants of the old, even older and the completely unseen.

(this is not Richard III by the way, but an image I'll be using to represent those that died when Boudica laid waste to Colchester)
Take for example Richard III, who could have known when parking their car that they were doing so on a King of England's head!
The unknown person from the middle ages who obliterated the corner of a fine Roman mosaic to create a rubbish pit; I wonder if he/she (most probably a he!) knew what they were digging through...possibly and didn't care/know what it was, but more than likely it was completely unseen to them.

So, for a place built on layer upon layer of yesterdays I hope to create a landscape which shows both the vibrancy and rich history of this glorious old settlement!

Saturday, 16 March 2013

What next?.........

It's been nearly a month since my work was up in Chelsea Town Hall, and nearly a month since I was in the studio!

Work has been a nightmare in terms of late nights and generally feeling knackered, so the last thing thast been on my mind at the weekend is getting to my studio space, mostly it's just been about me wanting to sit and not move very all!
But I need to remind myself of what is important, and it is important for me to find the time to paint.  So with this in mind I'm planning my next two works.

I've got some galleries to send submissions off to over the Easter holidays I'm going to make sure that I find the time to become productive again.

My next two pieces are inspired from the local landscape, one is an old chalet like building that intigued me when we came across it during a walk thoguh the woodland just out the back of our village.  It was clearly once a place that was cherished by someone.  Perhaps it was a place where the troubles of the life could be forgotten.  A little remote sanctuary where some precious peace and quiet could be found.  it's now being taken back by the woodland around it. but this little place has a story to tell.

The other work that I'll be starting will have as it's subject a piece of Colchester's history.  it's been on Time Team and is an old girl that's certainly doing well for her age.  Once part of the glorious Roman empire, she surrounded Colchester and kept it safe from.....well the local Essex folk!!  Colchester wall is still standing proud in a number of places around the town, and often overlooked by people as they walk over the bridge back to the car park I find it beautiful.

I can't wait to start both - I'm going BIG, and will, as always keep you posted on the progress here.

Happy Saturday, I'm off for a curry and glass of is good!

Monday, 25 February 2013

Private views and a glass of wine (or twenty!)

The half term week has flown past in a whirl of activity.  Weddings, private views, spa visits....that's right    I've squeezed a lot into a week.  On Thursday I took 3 pieces of my work into London on the tube and can I say just how careful people were around it.  My work had been chosen to hang with the work of artists from the UK and around the world.  My work was next to paintings of a woman from Australia who painted beautiful landscapes of the Outback.

Getting the work put up along with what felt like 100 other people was a little stressful at times but it was again really encouraging the patience and good will that artists showed each other.

In about 30mins the work was hung and we dashed off to get ready for the private view starting a little later.
Of course the District Line was having problems on our way back into London for the start of the PV at 7.30, so my family and I dashed out of the tube station and into a black cab.  Driving along the Embankment past Westminster and next to the Thames at night is most certainly a beautiful sight and although not planned we really did feel like we had arrived in style!  I wasn't sure how many people were turning up so was very surprised to open the doors straight into a wall of people.  It was packed!  A real mix of people, some in jeans and baseball caps and others in tux's and gowns.  It was straight off to get a glass of wine (which proved to be the only one of the evening as there were so many people that they ran out!).

 It was fantastic to meet so many other artists and it was wonderful to see my work hung among other really great works and if I had only just stuck to the glass of wine you see here in my hand this week - the day after this picture was taken was my best friends wedding, no lack of wine there, it felt like I drank 1000 bottles of wine...taking the work down on Saturday was a LOT harder than putting it up...dismantling with a hangover is not to be encouraged!  But a fantastic few days, a great opportunity for my work to be seen....right now....what next?!

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Got my groove on today!!!

It was difficult to motivate myself today as the weather was so wet and cold, and I KNEW that my studio space would be absolutely freezing!  However, I managed with an extra cup of coffee to finally extract myself from the settee and get off to the studio.

Yes, when I got there the front gate was surrounded by what looked like 3ft deep puddles and there was more mud than you could shake a muddy damp stick at.  And yes, when with trembling hands I manged to unlock my studio door I was hit in the face by a rush of even colder air.  I whacked the heater on, poured myself a lovely cup of coffee and waited for my hands to warm up before making a start.

I was in the zone today, belting through my list of "to do's" on the painting and with only a quick break for a Crunchie, I finished with a lot more done than I had anticipated.

It was time to start painting the ground and I decided on a bright and rather garish pink, in-keeping with the notion behind the work.  I painted it with smooth strokes before deciding that it just didn't look right, so used a combination of palette knife and rough strokes.

Then it was onto the front facade of the central beach hut  more masking tape but now I've got my technique down I was onto the painting before long.

And so by the time I made a quick exit before it got too dark, I left it at a stage where i can say the painting is very nearly finished....the oil painting at least.  Next it the spray painting and adding the metallics and gold leaf.  I'm really looking forward to that.  More photo's to follow next week when the fun stuff starts to get added!!

Monday, 4 February 2013

Not a huge amount of progress!

After even more taping this doesn't look like it's going anywhere at the is...honest!  2 hours of cutting, tearing and sticking and I was about to call it a day at the studio yesterday.  But I just couldn't leave without doing at least some painting.  So here was how it was looking, I didn't take pictures of it once the painting was done and the tape came off, because...there's!!!

I have said it before but not necessarily on here, I don't think(?) - if I ever talk of making a painting with ANY straight lines in again, please someone just punch me in the face.

More pictures to follow later in the week that should show much more progress.  Only a small amount of painting left to go on the beach huts themselves, then I'm adding the spray paint, metallics and gold leaf.  Can't wait!

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

And the fun continues!

As this is my first post of 2013 let me start off by saying Happy New Year!!  A bit tardy 15 days into it, but it has certainly been a busy few weeks.

This post is going to be mainly pictures on account of the early hour that I will need to rise tomorrow.  I wish I could say that it's to get to the studio....but it's not!  Mountain of paperwork to do at work, blah blah blah.

Onto happier things - I went straight to the the studio tonight from work as I am trying really hard to get this piece finished so that it has time to dry for the Art Fair in London that I am exhibiting several pieces of my work in.  More details of that to come soon.
The general theme of this piece so far has been masking tape, straight lines, masking tape, straight lines etc etc.  As a ratio (time sticking to time painting) it's about  20:1...and that's possibly being conservative.

This was how it was looking after about an hour and twenty of re-taping the areas to be painted on all 3 beach huts, and althoughIi'm a patient person it was really only the Chunky Kit-Kat that was helping to keep me sane at this point!

I couldn't wait to actually get painting, especially as, even with my heater working at full tilt, my studio space was freezing.  The outside temperature was -2 and it wasn't much warmer inside. 

A bit blurry this one, but I think at this point my hands had gone numb!  The absolute best part of working with all this masking tape is that sublime moment when you get to slowly peel it off and see whether the last 2 hours work have been completely ruined by a piece of masking tape (or 2) not quite stuck down properly.  Some people like to wait until the paint is dry, but I have found it's easier to do when wet.  You also don't run the risk of tearing layers of dry paint (far more complicated to correct).

As I stood back, cold cup of coffee in trembling hand, this is what the work looked like and so how I left it.  By this point my legs were numb to the knee!  I wonder if Emin has this problem in her £2 million studio space....I'm thinking not.

The residue of all of the tape!  Below I leave you with a picture of the colours I will be using on the grey beach hut once all of the oil painting is complete.  Really looking forward to that - and so to bed.  Night night!  I just hope I don't start dreaming about sodding masking tape!