Impatience is a real problem for me. I ordered the stretcher pieces and a roll of canvas ready for the next painting before I had finished the drawings. The canvas is fine, but I think I may have ordered a stretcher that is going to be too small….


Original drawing

Original drawing


The drawings progress though, and working in part from drawings made in the garden in the hot months of May/June and in part from photographs, the ideas are getting sorted. I am exploring the colour contrasts and transitions I can make across an image, breaking it down so that colour and the canvas space are at odds with the image itself and trying to make a more thorough job than I did on the last painting. It doesn’t pay to cut the mythmaking short, neither for the colour transitions nor for the line drawings.

Looking at the grass, light and shade

Looking at the grass, light and shade

In the California Poppy painting there were a couple of basic mistakes. I did not explore the drawing enough relying on mark making on the canvas, which proved not to work terribly well, and I think I also got the scale of the canvas wrong. This meant the square I used was too small and it made the mark making too tight, not allowing the colour to flow freely.


Looking at the series of drawings I am making using oil pastel I think the scale of the mark in relation to the area of canvas it is covering is too tight in the paintings. I need to use a larger square to allow the brushstroke to sing more. The pastel drawings are over a yard square (about 950 if you are metric) and this leaves room for the mark to ‘breath’. The small square I did on the last canvas I think compressed this and throttles the mark.

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Unfortunately I have ordered a stretcher on the basis of the earlier square size, but I think I can extend the drawing to make it work with a larger drawing , so a little more mythmaking yet I think. This is the sixth of these large oil drawings I have done, and I am really happy with them. I need to pull some of the qualities into the paintings.

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36 inches square, oil pastel on paper

I want to retain the autographic quality of the mark, and to play with the relationship between colour and edge, using colour to create space but fragmented and without the visual clues that come from a drawn edge. Colour is space but an image can also define space without colour and I like to conflict between the two. It plays with the language of art, plays with the concepts of paintings as 2d illusions of the 3d world.

In the flower paintings from the earlier years I achieved this but I am groping to take things a step further. As Madness sang ‘One step beyond….’

Putting The Pain in Painting

In to Paint is to Love Again I showed the start of the painting. I started with high ambition that it will work well but I end with a self-critical kicking as I see where it is failing. I am somewhat embarrassed that, this time, it is entirely because of my monomaniac focus on colour and not enough on the preparatory drawing that is the cause.

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Drawing #5 California Poppy. Oil Pastel on paper 1 metre square

Oh there were plenty of drawings in both sketch book and on paper. There were photographs too. The large format oil pastels drawing culminated in one exploring the colour of the California Poppy, drawing no. 5 in this metre square series. I thoroughly enjoyed making the drawing and I think they were all very successful. All the drawings have worked for me so I started the painting optimistic that I had sorted everything. Alas I hadn’t.


Detail of drawing #5

Someone once explained that line is a locus of a point moving through space. A surface is the locus of a line moving through space, and a solid is the locus of a surface moving through space. With me the image is dislocated from the colour showing how the colour in painting defines the space and using the dislocation to play with the traditional idea of painting as an illusion of objects, a 2d representation of 3d or 4d space.

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Detail of Drawing #5 California Poppy

Unfortunately whilst all the drawing was strong in working out a great deal about the colour relationships I forgot a fundamental that colour has edge. In previous paintings I have made the drawing strong so that the edge of the colour played with the edge of the image. Here I allowed my self-indulgence with the colour to create edges I didn’t mean. Add this to the weak drawing and whilst bits of the painting work, overall the result lacks the clarity and simplicity that I think the image needs to carry the ambiguities of colour and space in a coherent visual framework.

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California Poppy. Acrylic on cavas. 3250mm square

Here the ambiguity of the drawing multiplies the ambiguity of the colour. I have allowed the original image to slip away, to escape the processing. Needing time and application to draw effectively, I backed away from the tough drawing I needed to do, indulged my desire, my impatience, to begin painting. I need to step back on the next painting to make sure I go forward purposefully. One step back for two forwards.

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Deatail of painting California Poppy

Drawing #6 will explore the colour – that thread stays intact, but the hard discipline of line drawing needs to be faced full on to distil the image I want of the painting, and to make sure it holds the colour in balance. This may also allow me to get the scale right too as in this painting I think the scale is also wrong, perhaps too small. There are bits that work though, and the finished piece does carry some of the feel of the original photograph. Yet it falls short of where I wanted to be.

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Plenty of material here in the garden for more colour exploration

Halfway through I think I knew all this. I paused and wrote  He Who Hesitates is Lost the black clouds were a good representation of how I felt/feel. I need to crack on past this point. I have to move forward once more, away from this place that puts the pain into painting

He who hesitates is lost?

It’s just over two weeks since I last blogged. I did set myself the target of blogging about once a week, so the reasons for not doing it have been difficult for me to get to grips with. I think part of the reason is physical. I have an old shoulder injury that has always bothered me when working at an easel. After finally being referred for an MRI scan I had high hopes that the NHS would find a cure to free me from pain.

It is possible to think into a dark place, light hidden in clouds, a battle to move forward

It is possible to think into a dark place, light hidden in clouds, a battle to move forward

However the consultant who saw me had not been sent the scan by my doctor and so after a lot of toing and froing I have now to wait until late September before having another consultancy. I think this has caused some depression and made it difficult to focus on working, especially when the painting has reached a difficult transition point. Short-hand I suppose for maybe it’s not working!

A glimmer of light can be just enough to follow to find a way back

A glimmer of light can be just enough to follow to find a way back

I also finally set up my second ‘print’ studio with a large printer, and then realised all sorts of problems within my photography. Because I have been taking images for the web, they are not manipulable nor as sharp as a professional’s photographs would be. Also I have never really thought of my photographs as art in their own right, any more than I think a page from my sketchbook is. I have seen the camera as a tool and only now am I beginning to think of them as possible art forms – but even then in my mind divorcing the imagery from the tool itself. Now I realise that is not how I really see photography for me, so I don’t want to go down that path.

Light breaks over the horizon

Light breaks over the horizon

So the clouds have gathered in my work, much as the clouds have gathered over Seaford as the end of hurricane Bertha has tromped its way along the coast. With 18 foot waves, and thunderstorms it has taken over a week for Bertha to clear off, and it is taking some time for me to sort out what I am doing both in the painting and the printing.  I have realised that whilst I have taken a large number of nice images, as art they need approaching in a different way, and I am now going to step down that path, into the unknown.

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Over the horizon lies the goal. But doesn’t it always?

So now I have taken steps to resolve issues and get back to work. I have taken on the challenge of calibrating the screen and the printer together, in itself and intellectual and technical challenge  (Don’t you hate it when instructions start off with defining colour as electronic colour not light? Hence the nonsense that green is a primary …) I have booked some lessons on how to use my software properly to achieve what I currently create mechanically.

I have also decided the painting will work.

Hesitation is not prevarication. I think therefore I am. The clouds are lifting.

Castles in the Air, Dreams Earthbound

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The last week has been a major disappointment. It started with a trek to Eastbourne to see a consultant about the worsening of a nagging pain in my shoulder, a relatively minor ailment for years morphing into something more serious as ageing sets in. Our wonderful NHS managed to X-ray the wrong area whilst also losing my MRI scan so the consultant was forced to deduction and injection. The result was a ban on working in the studio for a week, nor was I to do anything that might put strain on the shoulder.

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These pines gradually making way for new broadleaf woodland

Fortunately I had an invitation to Yorkshire – a weekend with my brother followed by a stay in an hotel. Alright so the hotel was work, but at least the trip would take me out of myself and into a different landscape.

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Painted Lady butterfly making a picture

Indeed the whole trip was a reminder of what a cobblers our government has made of our road system whilst reminding me of just how beautiful England is. I must say England now  as the break up of the UK seems inevitable as the Scots make their desire for independence evident (whilst denying the 800,000 Scots working in England the right to have a say).

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Sunrise looking towards the Yorkshire Moors

Yorkshire looked lovely, still showing signs of having been used for some cycle race or other. The villages in their local stone showed local produce, better cheese than anything from France. You haven’t lived until you have tried a Yorkshire tea. Not cream and scones, that’s a Devon tea, but rich fruit cake and Wensleydale cheese together, reet gradely.

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The fairy castle that is the Swinton Park hotel – fantastic food, local produce, local beers

The views we had at dawn were wonderful, but seeing weasels hunting a field of cut hay was fascinating and the proliferation of butterflies and birds to was wondrous to behold as were the albino deer in the Swinton Park, a revisualised Victorian country house that was our magical enchanted castle to stay in.

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Bit like our aristocracy, the deer herd needs fresh blood,its albino quality being due to inbreeding apparently

Am I refreshed and ready to go in the studio, shoulder cured? Nope, of course not. Tired after driving 650 miles, but yes, back in the studio later, shoulder no different. Isn’t our NHS wonderful? Seemingly condemned to increasing pain as I get older, not a great prospect, and so much still to achieve…

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The selfie shows I can at least still hold a camera

To Paint is to Love Again

Henry Miller wrote ‘To Paint is to Love Again’ (Cambria Book s published by William Webb in California in 1960). It is a book title that has engraved itself on my mind, and today looking at the progress in the studio I felt the first return of the joy I remember of creating paintings when I was a full time artist in my younger years. It has taken a while to get into this groove again, but looking around the growing amount of work I have on easels and walls in the studio I began to feel the familiar tingle of excitement of ideas, colour and textures mixing and developing.

The blank canvas is intimidating, no mater how much preparatory drawing has been done

The blank canvas is intimidating, no matter how much preparatory drawing has been done


I enjoyed 25 years running a design practice, but design, certainly the design of hotels which I was involved with (and for which we won awards) is a collaborative process. As a painter all the decisions are mine. Starting the canvas this week has reminded me just how many decisions an artist makes as a part of the process of creation.

Drawings look at bits of the colour and textures to be used. I've done about 20, some a metre square, to get this far

Drawings look at bits of the colour and textures to be used. I’ve done about 20, some a metre square, to get this far. This is grass – and relates only through colour and the mark

Everything from the size and scale of the canvas to the size and scale of the marks made, thousands of decisions an hour being made, some consciously, some unconsciously by instinct and experience, makes the process a complicated yet simple one. The process is complicated because of the wealth of considerations before starting, simple because one decision leads inexorably to another.

California poppies are part of the image (see a previous post on this blog)

California poppies are part of the image (see a previous post on this blog)

The process is full of feedback loops and as I painted I realised all the drawings had left some questions unanswered so alongside the painting another large drawing is beginning to take shape on which hopefully some of the questions relating to the painting can be explored and feedback into the creation on the canvas. Drawing is the mythmaking process, painting the formal realisation of the personal legends the artist creates. Myths and legends are a part of the human state – from the shared myths of gods from Thor, Zeus and Anubis to modern mysticism and religions, all have modified behaviours.

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California Poppy (drawing)

Artists drawing process is an exploration of their own soul and creation of their own myths, painting being a way of ritualised realisation of these myths. Makes Hurst’s derivative (sub Larry Poons) dots or bejewelled skull (sub Tretchikoff), or Tracy Emin’s unmade bed interesting as reflections of their souls, doesn’t it? For me the drawing is providing a route back into the joy of creation as well as a way of exploring colour and the texture of the mark, its relationship to the movement of the body through gesture, and the relationship to all this of the different media I am using.

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Finally underway – acrylic on canvas

There are no prizes for being right or wrong, but the process has no end. I am older but the spirit moves me in the same way, thanks goodness. The process of enquiry, of a dialogue with the self, conscious to unconscious, has not changed.

To paint is an affirmation of life. It is indeed, as Henry Miller wrote, to love again.

Canvas, Convolvulus and Carpets

We’ve been in Seaford for nearly a year now. We’ve achieved a great deal in that time, but we are still a long way off finishing. Best part so far is the building of the studio at the bottom of the garden which has set me up for painting again after about ten years. The last major piece I did was based on an image of fuchsias but the recent drawings seem to be taking me away from this – although it may change when I start working on the canvas that is now on the easel ready. Nothing more terrifying than a large blank white canvas when you’ve not had a brush in your hand seriously for ten years…

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My last major work. Acrylic on canvas, 900 x 1500mm. Private collection

So many things come between me and the painting. Prevarication? Distraction activities? Maybe so, in part anyway, but I still run a business too and deciding on working hours is one thing but then I am also fighting a war against convolvulus (bindweed) so even walking down the garden to the studio sometime takes nearly an hour…

Convolvulus wraps itself tightly around other plants, smothering and strangling them

Convolvulus wraps itself tightly around other plants, smothering and strangling them

I’ve worked through some colour things in another metre square drawing, but finding the oil pastels I’m using not right. It seems the make I used in the past are no longer available and all the others I am trying are very soft and greasy – a failing exaggerated by the hot weather recently. It did cross my mind to try making them but then that becomes another distraction activity.


Detail of the latest drawing ‘Summer Garden’.

In some of the drawing I have been playing with working with both acrylics and oil, and getting slightly disappointed that the acrylic doesn’t separate when used over the top of the oils, but maybe that is something I will play with on the next canvas. Where oil does score is on being able to scrape through to allow underpainting to show through, and it responds much better to gestural marks than the acrylics. Everything feels like new exploration at the moment, stuttering, a bit confused as to direction, but I’ll just keep pushing to see where things go.


Using the same format to hold the mark in place, Summer Garden (a metre square) follows on from the Verdun triptych

I have also ideas to explore through using photography more and have access to a wide carriage printer, but now need some real expertise in printing and Photoshop to be able to draw straight into the images. I’m sure there is plenty of stuff available but just being out of the art game for ten years leaves a knowledge gap (anyone?). Right now the next steps in getting the house how we want it are looming – clearing rooms for carpet fitting, making measured survey drawings for the new en-suite bathroom, waxing new oak…

C’est la vie



I now have a Pinterest board for my art at

Drawing and Goff’s Garden

The garden is endlessly fascinating. Even as a student I painted images of a lawn. Now I am working on images of my own garden again. The studio is at the bottom of the garden so the walk down takes while as I stop to battle the convolvulus (bindweed) that seems to be everywhere, or pause to take pics of the flowers or the grass. From previous posts you’ll know that I also enjoy other people’s gardens as well, and the images I have collected are the basis for the work I am trying to progress in the studio, the winter images of waves behind me for the moment.

The studio table this morning (July 5th)

The studio table this morning (July 5th)

I made a little drawing of grass, which to my surprise seemed to work well, and I have been exploring the imagery further through a series of drawings. I have been enjoying the sun and working directly in the garden, but have also carried a camera everywhere on my walks collecting images to work from, using the camera as a sketch book.

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Garden lawn Pencil drawing

I recently bought a decent printer and so am able to print some of my photographs to a larger scale and start playing with them too. Work appears to be going in several directions at once but ultimately they will all feed into a series of paintings, and the first two are forming themselves in my mind, I just need to get the drawing defined more and that will help to determine the scale to work on.


California Poppy Collage

Some of the drawings I have been doing are a metre square, don’t fit in my plan chest and I’m beginning to worry about how I’m going to store them safely. OH says why do them so big? They are not all large but the image and scale need to relate to hand and arm movement, so the size is dictated by the energy and size of the mark. It’s whether I am working my whole arm and body or just my fingers and wrist, together with the relationship of physical to mental, man to art work,  that dictates the size. So I have four drawings over a metre square each which I need to figure out how to store safely.

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Grass and Sky Pencil

Latest drawings include some collage again and smaller works that have a more precious quality – which I am not sure I like, but hey-ho, that’s how they are coming out right now. I’m enjoying the studio, which I keep white with a grey floor painted floor, just like the studios at Corsham when I was a student.

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Drawing in Progress. Oil on paper. Size: a metre square

I have a small room that is set up for the cameras and printer. Here I work with the printer and computer imagery, so finally seem to be getting everything set up right. The printer is capable of producing giclees prints, as I accept that a silkscreen studio is beyond my resources. Finally seem to be getting a good art working situation. So, watch this space….