Year: 2014

Making friends with Aluminium, a new painting surface

Aluminium is not the first painting surface that would naturally spring to mind, and had I not seen it painted on, would probably never have considered it.  In fact, I have realised that most of my new directions have been borne out of requests or challenges from other people, exhibitions or commissions.  I know now that this needs to change. It’s far too easy to stay in the comfort zone with what you know, but it’s so much more exciting to break into new territories.

This story started in August which was good timing, as I had the space and the better weather for this project up at the Barn.  I was approached with the idea of commission for a new restaurant.  Tailoring the piece to the space, I took photos of the colour scheme and a perfect size was decided on.  Long and quite narrow, the artwork measurement required was 1700mm x 170 mm.

A large canvas would be needed and bespoke made and this was when I had the idea of aluminium.  It’s light, contemporary and has no chance of warping or moving and would be ideal in this situation.  My clients at the time were not convinced and I needed to convince myself too,  so I took off a friend who has is a  metal fabricator and he gave some advice on how to prep it and a small off cut to practice on.

I needed to use acrylics as there was not enough time to let oil dry.  Mediums helped to give it body and gloss but it just stays on the tops.  In one sense it’s not forgiving at all as it almost slips around and discovered that once on it was best untouched. Brushes felt alien on this hard surface, but sponges and rollers were perfect and picking up several colours, they blended into a harmonious though unpredictable sweep when laid down on the surface.

(The preparation is slightly boring, but for anyone reading that wants to know,it is also imperative to get it right.  The metal needs to be etch primed to hold the paint and to do this you have to rub the metal down with fine grade wet and dry sandpaper and household soap to thoroughly clean the surface and provide a key. You can see where you have done it as it takes on a brushed aluminium look and quality.  Then you apply etching primer evenly over the whole surface right to the edges.  Best done with a mask and outside, it’s pretty innocuous stuff and incredibly fine. I also had trouble finding it in anything other than grey. Once a couple of coats have been applied its touch dry pretty quick and after leaving to harden overnight, you are ready to go.)

Like most of my work, I find it hard to work to a specific idea with a strong framework of design. My art comes from within and whilst I can work to a certain colour idea, it has to be something fluid and able to change and evolve.  What started out as something quite abstract, it evolved into a semi abstract seascape with dark waters and a distant coastline to give some perspective with strong light added for contrast and to draw the eye in lots of brights.

I was working on the Cruel and Curious at the same time, and think this slightly influenced the painting which in hindsight was probably inevitable as I get so drawn into it, and it didn’t get finished before our holiday to Portugal or indeed before I left the barn studio, but like most things, it needed to be left to come back to, to stop getting focused on detail and overworking .

There is more scope for working on this surface and I am very keen to give it a go. The paint can be moved around and wiped off in an instant. Texture provides a tension in the surface and once dry it is very durable, so could be worked over and over. Alternatively you can work with the smoothness and keep some of the almost enamel qualities of working on metal.   Plenty of thought for the future in trying to work out how I and this surface become intimate friends.
iphone image of hot summers night

In the meantime, here is the finished painting.  The story in one sense didn’t have a happy ending.  The restaurant didn’t quite work out, but both my clients, nor I have regrets.  We both learnt a lot which added to our experiences and will take us forward in new directions and I’m sure I will find a home for it somewhere. Oh.. and the new title. “Hot Summers Night”
Nomada commission (800x318)


Community, Art and the Media.

This autumn winter has not been so much a time for painting as a time to put back into the community.

I’ve been involved with the Bude Look Group, a local art appreciation group who with the Tate St Ives and Royal Cornwall Museum are bringing artwork from the schools collection to Bude Castle for an exhibition over the Christmas period. The artwork was donated to the people of Cornwall by practising artists in Cornwall over the past 80 years. It is a fantastic opportunity to bring great calliber of art to this part of Cornwall. The exhibition is titled ‘Your Art’ and we are hoping to get as many local people to come and see it as well as organising workshops for local schools.

The Cruel and Curious Sea II was incredibly successful this year. Before and during the exhibition, the National Trust came to my studio at the barn and interviewed me.  This was used as part of a very atmospheric soulful film that encompasses the people, ideas and creativity behind the whole project.  Here is the resulting film.

Another passion is keeping the beaches clean and as a supporter of the #2minutebeachclean I was very excited when I saw they launched a competition for people to make christmas wreaths from beach rubbish inspired by the wreath I made a couple of years ago. Martin Dorey tweeted my wreath and it was picked up by the Western Morning News reporter Phil Goodwin.  I got a phone call, quick chat and he quickly arranged a photo shoot.  It was freezing cold, but with great lighting and the beautiful dramatic location of Northcott Mouth, the photographer got a great shot which has appeared in todays Sunday edition.

Exciting Times, Artwork to the Steins new restaurant at Porthleven.

Three weeks ago I received an email from Jill Stein’s PA, with details of a new restaurant  and request for information on prints and any originals I might have.  Trying not to get too excited I sent all the information back and waited.

Within a few days I had a request for seven prints and six originals. I was home alone and openly admit to doing a few whoops and jumps around the kitchen.

Within ten days, the prints were done and framed and I was driving down to Porthleven with a car load of artwork, fit to burst.

Roll back a bit, and you are probably all wondering how she found me, what the connection is?. Well, two years ago an interior designer Cathryn Bishop found my work via my solo exhibition at the Castle Bude and a new beach hotel who had commented. This resulted in me working with them on a few projects in the Padstow area.  Then, this year whilst at Port Eliot Festival I bumped into Jill and we had a chat about my artwork and this chance meeting sparked renewed interest.

So the day had arrived.The weather was against me, but David from Stable Arts loaded the prints in and the large framed ones were  huge and just fitted flat.

I always consider there to be three corners of Cornwall, Bude, Penzance and the Lizard; and Porthleven was 90 miles away very near one of these distant corners.

Clay Quay is a big old historic building on the quayside, a warehouse for shipping china clay out of cornwall.  On three floors, it is a magnificent building, light and airy with thick cob walls and plenty of display space.

I met with Jill, Viv, the Porthleven team and maintenance who were busy prepping the building for the evening opening celebrations. David Pearce from Padstow Fine Art also arrived with his artwork and during the morning we managed to hang six of my prints, 5 originals and around 6 of David’s originals as well.

It was now only lunchtime, but I sauntered around Porthleven and took a few photos as well as driving out the coast road towards Rinsey and managed to pass a few hours.

I’d brought a change of dress and changed in the car in a lay-by which I have to say was a bit unnerving, and arrived back at the restaurant with time for a quick spruce up before meeting more of the Stein team, which included the chairman, operations manager and the man himself.

We chatted about the paintings  and we talked a little about Bude before he had a few words to the invitees of the opening. Local people were a little sceptical about the ‘Steins’ coming to Porthleven, but he brushed it off a little saying he always finds the Cornish to be ‘careful’ which I think sums it up very well. Not adverse to change, it happens slowly and with caution, careful not to impact on the communities values.  Porthleven is already quite a little food mecca, with a festival every year. No chains there yet, so retains its charm with small independent shops around a large harbour and iconic clock tower which gets a real hammering in the winter storms. It felt like Padstow thirty years ago.

It would have been nice to stay for longer, but probably just as well. The champagne was the bee’s knees,but I had a two hour drive home and the weather had come in really blowy and rainy again, so I said my farewells and headed home.

It just took me a couple of days to come back down to earth.



Hickory Nines x National Trust / Cruel & Curious Sea 2014

Lovely film here which perfectly encapsulates what “Cruel and Curious Sea II” was all about. It’s the highlight of the year for many of us now. Watch this and you will get a sense of what makes it so special.

Travelling with a paintbox in Western Portugal

It’s not often I want to visit a place twice, but we were so enamoured with the south west coastline of Portugal last year that we made a return trip this October to see the beaches we missed and get a better feel for the area.

At the last minute decided to slip in the watercolours and sketchbook just in case, although having so busy for the past few months thought a break might be a good idea, but as it turned out I had lots of opportunity to do a quick sketch in paint and reacquaint myself with the immediacy and simplicity of working with watercolour.

On the west coast, the roads are lined with pine and eucalyptus with deep valleys and rivers leading down to the sea.  The valleys are incredibly fertile with orange, lime and olive groves and an abundance of sweet potatoes this time of the year. The southwest peninsular around Sagres and Cabo St Vincente is very barren, exposed and rocky in complete contrast. You can almost draw a line dividing the two.

We arrived in Aljezur and stayed at a farm boutique B & B , Herdade Quinta Natura which was stunning. With just four rooms, a private terrace, chefs breakfast, it was the so peaceful and relaxing. You also had the use of the all the living spaces and kitchen so could move around. There was a couple from France and a couple from Luxembourg, who were great company too. Outside our room there was a large cork oak tree which was the first thing I painted while Don recovered from tonsilitis he came on holiday with.

Over the next couple of days, we travelled up and down the coast to Odeceixe , Rogil , Monte Clerigo, Amoreira, Arrifana, and then down towards Bordeira and Carrapateira where our favourite beach lies, Praia Do Amado and further south to Casteljo and Cordoama before you hit the most southwesterly point and turn the corner back along the Algarve coastline. Here are a few of those beaches.

And here are the watercolours I captured in around ten to fifteen minutes in my indian handmade paper sketchbook A5 size.  Has reconnected me with watercolour and I will definately be carrying it around with me in the future.