Friday, March 28, 2008

Breaking away from the herd

Breaking away from the herd
Mixed Media


If you would like to buy this painting, it will be available from the Foyer Gallery from April 11th 2008. Please email me at for more details.

The mixed media I am using is watercolour, pastel, and inks. They are great fun to create, and you can generate a lot of movement really spontaneously. I used a coloured paper for this one, and the pigments react differently to it, creating an unpredictable environment, to an extent, which opens up lots of possibilities for 'happy mistakes'.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Kokanee Photo

I thought it might be interesting to show one of my photographs of the Kokanee which I've been working from - especially for people who haven't seen them before.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Art Review on!

Thankyou EmptyEasel for a really cool review! Check it out at

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Kokanee studies

This is a detail from a series of mixed media paintings I'm working on for my forthcoming exhibition at The Foyer Gallery at Lake Tahoe Community College. The theme of my show is inspired by the spawning Kokanee Salmon, found here in Lake Tahoe.

Mixed media works are great fun, as they allow me to experiment with marks and colours in a more immediate way than oil painting. I use watercolour, pastel, inks and charcoal on heavy watercolour paper - which I stretch in advance to avoid buckling and to create a uniform, stable surface to work on.

Many of these Kokanee paintings have a metaphorical significance for me, and I find the repetitive nature of the designs liberating. There's so much energy and movement in the images, which makes for a dynamic which is visually exciting, as well as thought provokingly open to interpretation. On a pragmatic level, the images are dealing with the life cycle of fish. The kokanee return to the same place they were born (Taylor Creek), to lay eggs and then die. During the spawning they change from silver with a blue stripe to bright pinky-red with blue heads. The spectacle of hundreds of brightly coloured fish 'treading water' in a shoal just beneath the surface of the clear Tahoe water is breathtaking.

The poetic nature of this visually striking display is hard to dismiss. The joyous writhing is soon replaced by death. The luminous colour turns to grey, upturned fish litter the stream - a hearty meal for the bears, beavers, coyotes and birds who inhabit this picturesque landscape. The fertilised eggs are buried in the streambed, and hatch 100 days later, to start the whole cycle again.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

More Bedtime Stories!

More Bedtime Stories
Oil on Canvas Panel

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I got a nice big delivery of art supplies yesterday from Dick Blick, so I was really excited to try out my new canvas panels for these studies. I also ordered to big roll of canvas and some 60" stretcher bars, so that should keep me busy for a while!

This is a painting I've had in mind for a long time, and has a lot of meaning besides the subject for me. Most things I paint end up having some kind of personal metaphor embedded in them, whether or not I realise it at the time I paint it.

Sometimes I have to sit back after I've finished a big painting, exhausted, and just stare for hours at it. I'm becoming familiar with it, which I know sounds weird because I might have just spent a few weeks being obsessed with it while I'm structuring ideas, making drawings, stretching canvas or preparing a panel, and then actually painting it.

Sometimes it feels like someone else painted it, and I just came along at the end and decided on a title. I think that's when I know I've really allowed something subconscious to drive a piece, and so the emotion can be somewhat raw and challenging. I used to be fairly spiritual, and imagined that someone was channelling though me in some way. I don't feel that way any more. I know it all comes from me, from my experience, from my body, and my mind. It's not always an easy thing to accept.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Bedtime Stories

Bedtime Stories
Oil on Panel

Click here to buy this painting for

Ellie was actually 'reading' to me at the time this was taken. She was illuminated in a really pretty pink light from her string of flower lights hanging over her bed. I'm planning a larger version of this, taken from further away. She looked so tiny in her bed, surrounded by lights. It was a perfect composition - atmospheric, emotive and nostalgic.

Award-Winning Documentary 'High Art' included on showreel!

David Jinks of FridgeProductions, a UK film company, made the award-winning documentary 'High Art' about my work in 2005. My little appearance on this showreel is taken from that movie, filmed in Fontainebleau and Wales. He is currently making a feature film called 'The Impossible Escape' about a group of prisoners who escape and brave the wilds of Siberia.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

White Earthen Pitchers

White Earthen Pitchers
Oil on Panel

Click here to buy this painting

Great news! I found out yesterday that I've won a $1000 Jackpot Grant from the Nevada Arts Council to take a painting course with Daily Painter Carole Marine at the Andreeva Portrait Academy in Santa Fe! I'm so excited, I love Carole's work - in fact it was her who inspired me to take up daily painting - and I love Santa Fe too.

A change to my selling practice too - I'm moving my business away from Ebay. After a few weeks of no sales I found out there's been a massive Ebay boycott which has apparently cost Ebay $13 million a day, and god knows how much to artists and other sellers. I'm trying out a few different online auctions - starting with we'll see what happens.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Sand Harbour on a Sunny day

Sand Harbour (iii)
Oil on Panel

I wasn't quite as pleased with this painting - I'd had my heart set on another view but the Hilfiger shoot was being set up in the area I wanted to be - typical! Anyway, I can always go back there again when the weather gets better again. It's snowing now, and is forecast for the next few days, so I'll just have to wait.

I did enjoy the contrasts of the snow sitting on top of the dark rocks though. It created some interesting shapes, so the design of the rocky area became quite abstract.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Sand Harbour Painting

Sand Harbour (ii)
Oil on Panel

Given that I don't ordinarily enjoy painting outdoors, because of the distractions, it's crucial that my subject is engaging enough to keep me motivated in the right way. Sometimes a bit of background noise is a good thing - like having the radio* on - since my mind wonders in the deafening silence.

So back to Sand Harbour. On day one (this painting and yesterday's are day 1) the background noise was pretty much the gentle lapping of Lake Tahoe on the sand a few inches from my feet. It was a strange day for light, the clouds occasionally covering the sun entirely, but mostly just creating a diffused, pre-storm illumination.

I put down a layer of green first in these paintings, which is unusual for me as I'm not a green fan. What I've been doing of late is sketching the composition, and then applying a thin layer of the colour I anticipate to be the overall 'influence' of the painting - whether it be a 'accent', like a bright red/purple fruit in an otherwise white still life, or as in this case, the emerald - blue of the lake, made yellower by the sky and transcient sunlight.

I actually thought I'd messed up big time with these paintings at first, until Bonita came over to see how I was doing and I took a few steps back from what I thought was a nonsensical oily mess. Strange how something you've spent years doing automatically can be so easily forgotten in a new environment - moving away from your subject gives you perspective. Not just in art, in life generally. That's why travelling is such an amazing tool for reevaluation.

I was also very conscious of painting with others for the first time since my student days. I'd been admiring Donald's painting, almost complete to my eye by the time we arrived to meet him there. He's got a great portable painting set up - lightweight, compact and organised. He likes to work seated because of back problems, so was able to easily adjust the telescopic legs on his outdoor easel/paintbox and have everything ready to go in seconds. The paintbox doubles as an easel - I believe they call them French Easels. Bonita had an equally impressive apparatus. She works in pastels, and had a lidded box with an attachment like a drywall palette on it, which you slot into the telescopic legs and hey presto! open the box with all the pastels neatly organised inside.

In the end I was actually really pleased with the outcome of these two paintings. Maybe the pressure of doing something I wouldn't be too embarrassed to show the others made me dig a bit deeper. The granite rocks are so cool it really made the composition for me, being a rock person. I also love diagonals, they add a sense of underlying movement and drama to a painting.

Whilst I was painting, some guys started playing guitar and singing nearby. I couldn't see them, but could hear enough to deduce that they were writing a new song. It was a lovely moment of creative synchronicity, and the sounds weren't distracting at all, and I enjoyed hearing them working out guitar riffs and vocal melodies. It was a perfect day.

Unlike day 2, when the Tommy Hilfiger shoot was coming together. Loud New Yorker cries of "Yo yo yo yo!!" every 5 minutes...

Photos by Donald Neff

* BBC Radio 2 Mostly! Radcliffe & Marconi, Russel Brand, and Jonathan Ross are my favorites.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Plein Aire Painting at Sand Harbour, Lake Tahoe

Sand Harbour, Lake Tahoe (i)
Oil on Panel

For the past couple of days I've been taking advantage of the tail end of a spell of glorious weather here in Tahoe, by painting outdoors - a thing I kind of dread and love in equal measure.

The last time I did it, was last winter in a snowstorm as part of a plein aire event in the Martis Valley near Truckee. It was cold and as I was entirely inexperienced, I made some logistical errors which made things a bit stressful (overly large canvas got blown into bush, 'buttered side down' as it were). However, I did enjoy the experience - in a masochistic way, I suppose, fancying myself as a 'proper' artist for once, getting out there in the elements in true Turner-esque fashion.

So this time I was more prepared, and had the inspiration of some seasoned plein aire painters to draw on. Artist friend Donald Neff was visiting from San Jose, to pick up his work after the gallery we were both exhibiting in closed down - such a shame.

He invited me and some local artists, Bonita Paulis and Penny Shrawder (who are fellow members of the Tahoe Art League) to go out painting with him. I jumped at the chance, hoping to glean some tips from this award-winning artist - what kind of set-up does he have? how does he deal with annoying tourists/insects/wind/rain/wildlife? Bonita and Penny also work outdoors a lot (in pastels, very beautiful) so I was ready to peep over shoulders.

However, when we arrived, we discovered the beach was being appropriated for a Tommy Hilfiger photo shoot... be continued tomorrow!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Pitcher & Glass Bowl

Click here if you would like to buy this painting!
Pitcher & Glass Bowl
Oil on Panel

I'm thinking I need to be more imaginative with my titles for these paintings...I guess because I'm kind of new at the whole 'Still Life' genre, I'm still a bit literal-minded with them. I have a narrative in mind for the big painting (for which I'm using these as practice pieces, or test runs) - and that's not to say I don't think these studies don't have character, but I'm finding it difficult to express in words what I feel about these paintings (gasp! isn't that the purpose of this blog?!!)

Friday, March 7, 2008

St.Patrick's Day Wine Tasting & Corned Beef Feed

I've donated one of my little paintings to the Silent Auction at this event organised by the Tahoe Rotary Club. A bespoke frame has been kindly donated by my framer Doug Rousse of Lake Tahoe Master Framing - thank you Doug! Tickets are still available - come on over it's all for a very good cause.*


Grand Prize Hawaiian Vacation! Plus $1,000 towards Airfare - Bid on 100 Vacation Accommodations, Packages Around the USA, and Much, Much More!

It's the best Irish party of the year! The Tahoe Douglas Rotary Club will host the 40th Annual St. Patrick's Day Wine Tasting and Corned Beef Feed on Saturday, March 15, 2008 starting at 6:00 p.m. It is the best Irish party of the year and a true Lake Tahoe tradition! This lively fund-raiser will be held at Harrah's Convention Center and everyone is invited to come and join in the fun! Enjoy a complete Irish buffet dinner featuring corned sirloin of beef and cabbage with all of the trimmings. Sample generous pours of premium California wine from 12 different wineries. Music and dancing by JJ Entertainment DJ. It's a full evening of St. Patrick's Day celebration!

*The mission of The Rotary Foundation is to enable Rotarians to advance world understanding, goodwill, and peace through the improvement of health, the support of education, and the alleviation of poverty.

The Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation supported solely by voluntary contributions from Rotarians and friends of the Foundation who share its vision of a better world.

Pitcher & Peaches

Bid For this painting on Ebay!

I was given a few beautiful white pitchers by a friend, Lon Marie who is clearing out because she's moving to Hawaii to marry hunky surfer/artist Derek Glaskin - how exciting! I couldn't wait to get them home and start painting them - their simple forms are stunning, and the effect of different light on them has given me lots of ideas. Expect lots more of these paintings!

What is Art?

I love this, it's brilliant fun! I nicked it off my artist friend Donald Neff's blog, who nicked it off another artist...isn't that part of what art's all about? watch this and see.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Afternoon Sun

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This is today' s Painting a Day, Afternoon sun, Oil on Panel, 4x6".

When I was ill recently, and spent a few days languishing on the sofa. Fortunately, the light is amazing in the lounge, and I took the opportunity to watch the shafts of sunlight moving over all the objects in the room - in this case, the curtain, a fossil, a speaker, a Yoga manual and a Physics book. It's amazing how ordinary objects can become infused with a subtle magic when the searchlight of sun passes over it through the angular obstacles of architecture. I did several pencil sketches, and saved them for my daily painting when I was feeling better.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

China cup & Teapot

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I had a meeting with Billy McCullough of the very lovely Dragonfly Restaurant in Truckee, California yesterday, and he has offered me a couple of spots in their exhibition program! The first will be this August in the bar area, and then in about a year, the swanky Sushi Bar area which will take several very large canvases. Check them out at

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Teapot & Spoon

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Before we went climbing this morning I painted this little study. I'm really pleased with the cloth underneath the teapot - I've been thinking about using a Gustave Klimt-style decorative theme for the background of the large Tea Party painting. I happened upon the idea of using floral fabric when I was sketching a mock 'tea party' out on the deck a couple of days ago. By lucky chance I was drying our floral comforter on the washing line, and so it provided a natural backdrop for the compostion. I found this pink fabric in a cupboard whilst I was hunting for still life ideas - it was a curtain from my precious Matilda (the'76 Dodge Camper we travelled for 18 months or so in)

The spoon is deliberately large, and is a referance to the Mad Hatter's Tea Party in Alice in Wonderland. I'm going to play with the scale of things in the painting, partly out of the Wonderland influence, and partly because this painting will be about being young and everything seeming bigger than you. After all, little girl's tea parties are about pretending to be a grown up - mixing sloppy mud in a cup instead of tea, and wearing mum's big shoes and makeup.

Climbing at the Momma Cat Boulder

Taylor & I went out to the Momma Cat Boulder in Woodfords today, and as I'm still not well enough to climb, I sketched Taylor while he pulled down on familiar problems. It was bright and sunny, and a real pleasure to be outside.

What was also brilliant, was that a family was there, climbing, and we got chatting to them. Later, as I was sketching Taylor, the lady, Norah popped her head around the corner of the boulder, "were you on the radio the other day?" Yes! somebody heard it! Anyway, it turns out they'd been wanting to go climbing for ages and hearing me talking about climbing on the radio spurred them on to go out - and it was their son's first time climbing! I was so pleased that I had that effect on them, I'm still grinning! Nice to meet you Norah, Alexander and Houston (with the cool bob hat)

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Ellie Grace

Bid for this painting on Ebay!

So the big painting is coming my head at least. Since Ellie is in Wales and I am here in Tahoe, painting us together is going to be a challenge to say the least. I've done some preliminary sketches for the concept, which I have mentioned in previous posts. The imagery will be loosely based on the Mad Hatter's tea party/Gwen Stefani's video to 'What you waiting for?'(See below). This is partly a nosalgia piece, and will involve mud pies and all those imaginary elements little girls are so good at conjuring.

The composition is going to be tricky, but I've enlisted my sister-in-law, Emily to help, by dressing Ellie up and taking pictures of her based on my sketches. I'll then re-draw the ideas with the new photographs and take it from there. I've been taking pictures of the birds out here on our deck, and even set up a mock 'tea party' complete with soil-filled cups and peat-pellet 'fancy cakes'to sketch outside. I'm sure the neighbours think I'm off my head - but that's OK, artists aren't supposed to behave like accountants are they?