Tag Archives: marmite heaven

A very special visitor…..Boo Boo Chevalier

Boo Boo Chevalier….(yes that is his name)  with one of my large oil paintings as a backdrop.     A good friend and Boo Boo came to visit recently. 20-11-15-1-357I have loved many cats and dogs, however during the past 11 years since London has been my base, I have learned to enjoy other people’s animals.

I continue to look forward to living and working in Marmite Heaven where cats, dogs, chickens and all manner of other creatures will abound.

Because I believe in visualisation – here is a large oil on canvas – work in progress (5ft x 4ft) – of a mythical Marmite Heaven, based on many of the places where I have stayed in France.

Note that Chriseve the Cat is observing the village and a cockerel is sketched in…….hummingbirds to come……20-11-15-1-763Which brings me to  Christeve the Cat of the Magical Town of Crickadoon.…having a conversation with a tiger – overlooked by a magical hummingbird….

In my world  of imagination anything is possible……watercolour illustration for children’s book703902_309194122518618_437499646_oAnd Tarrantino whose company I recently enjoyed in Wales….watercolour/gouache from sketch book. 20-11-15 - 1 (406)  Just as the creative process is the key to emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing, so I believe is the natural world which  – definitely includes the likes of Boo Boo Chevalier. 🙂

And of course the Hummingbirds that symbolise for me the unseen magic of our world. 20-11-15-1-453

A bientôt




A Room With a View…….

Sometimes we visit a new place and feel as if we have known it all our lives….That’s what happened to me when I first visited Crickhowell, Wales in 1993, (aka The Magical Town of Crickadoon), and once again this experience occurred when I visited Saorge, a commune located in the Alpes-Maritimes Department of south eastern France.

A sketch from the view to the right of my bedroom window……watercolour/gouache sketch20-11-15-1-558

20-11-15-1-656As I mentioned in my last post – ‘Following Life’s Clues’  – good friends from Wales have been renting a house in Saorge for the past year and suggested that I visit.    They felt that Saorge encompassed many elements of Marmite Heaven..……my place in the sun:)

The view from my window looking to the left…… Oh the glorious light….. 

20-11-15-1-667After being met at Nice airport by my friend Gareth, we drove up into the mountains along the Italian/French border into what is the magnificent landscape of the Roya Valley.   Being mindful that this was a very short trip, I had to gulp in the dramatic scenery.

As we approached Saorge – one of the ‘Perched Villages’ – it was clear to see how this place has survived the centuries.    Perfectly place to fend off enemies and also part of the ancient Salt Route – which fuelled one of the great economies of Europe.

The view looking down the Roya Valley from my room.   ( Note the train coming through the Valley.)     The roar of the Roya River beneath  is constantly present.     This is a place where all the senses are nourished.

20-11-15-1-580We arrived around  4 p.m. and immediately took a walk through the Village where no cars are allowed.   Parking is available at both ends of the Village.

One of the fascinating elements of Saorge is that on the one side of the Village the views are vast and majestic and then on the other side of the houses – you enter the medieval cobbled lanes which lend a sense of intimacy and protection.

The lane outside of the house where I was staying. 

20-11-15-1-542In the Marmite Heaven of my dreams, I will be removed from the madness of our 21st century world.    I will write every day and  paint a series of portraits recording the people living within the community.    Saorge certainly has a lot of wonderful characters to draw upon.

After a delicious Italian meal at Restaurant Lou Pountin just a minutes stroll away, Gareth and I were joined by his friend Simon.    As we sat on our high perch on the second floor of the house, listening to the Roya River way beneath us and looking out onto a seemingly vast open expanse, I observed how ‘detached’ I felt from everything,  and I was.       Wonderful

One of the views of the approach to Saorge.saorge

I will be writing more about my first visit to Saorge in the next couple of weeks, along with impressions of  the very lovely and interesting people I met, plus cats and dogs……       Also I will be making mention of Monastere de Soarge  which looks over the Village and Roya Valley.    Along with its fascinating history and intrinsic beauty, it is here writers and other creatives gather.

One of the many ancient arches, nooks and crannies in Saorge….watercolour/gouache


Meanwhile, let it suffice to say that the magical hummingbirds were definitely with me….and just how much they were with me will be revealed in my next blog focusing on our visit to Notre Dame des Fontaines where we met beautiful Miriam, a direct connection to the world of hummingbirds, or in French – Colibris.…..

Soaring above all the madness like the magical hummingbird…..

976253_10151660779970396_1579837650_o-2 no sig


A bientôt




Drawing nudes preserves memory better than exercise or puzzles…..

This week will be dedicated to the joy of drawing and painting the human form.

Last week I was sent an article based on a research paper from Newcastle University, entitled ‘Drawing nudes preserves memory better than exercise or puzzles’

I have been drawing/painting nudes for over fifty years, and it is still one of my greatest pleasures to be working in a studio with a good model – particularly for the fast poses.

Twenty minute study – watercolour & felt tip pen


Life drawing is widely accepted as the foundation block for a fine art training.    Given that the human form offers the artist the most complex of creations, learning to draw it is considered one of the more difficult artistic challenges.    In my opinion it is the best way to hone observational skills.

I was fortunate in that when I went to art college in the early sixties we had life drawing sessions every day, and I am pleased to see after years of neglect, that figure/life drawing has come back into vogue.

Twenty minute study – watercolour


“It is my belief that the creative process in all its many forms is the key to physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing”. 

When I begin work….I start with one to five minute poses – referred to as ‘croquis’     These are all about capturing the gesture.      

When giving workshops with a life model I suggest that people start out using newspaper. This removes the fear of messing up a good piece of paper, and allows people to warm up.      It is so often the case that these warm ups turn out to be the best work, simply because the obstacle of fear has been removed. 

Watercolour & felt tip pen – five minute study. 


In this rapid sketch – I focused on the head and hand….endeavouring to capture as quickly as possible the gesture and expression of the model.

Watercolour & felt tip pen


A somewhat redundant statement, as I don’t buy lottery tickets,  but were I to win the lottery, along with the perfect Marmite Heaven scenario, I would work with models every morning for two hours a day………

Tomorrow how the creative process benefits our physical wellbeing.

A Bientôt

Processing information beyond the Intellectual – Interconnections

I have a relatively small bolt hole in London where I paint and live.    Consequently I have had to be creative in organising the space.  It’s more studio than living which suits me very well.

Along with my watercolour painting, I work on large canvases and have paintings stacked against walls, etc.      However, the light is good, and it meets all my needs until Marmite Heaven is revealed.

This image shows my new watercolour brush on the work table in the foreground and a large oil on canvas (still a work in progress) against the wall.P1160490

This is the story behind the series….and how it has developed since 1982, when I first spent time on Isle-au-Haut – an island in the Penobscot Bay – Maine.   I am hoping to return there next year.

In hindsight, I can see that until this point – my work was all about acquiring technical know-how and very little about the intangible – or thinking beyond the intellectual.     

It was while water-colour painting and sketching the incredible rock formations on Boom Beach, Isle-au-Haut,  that I had the sudden and intense insight that all of life is interconnected….I began to see and understand the ‘whole’ rather than life in fragmentation and can now see that this was when I began to process information beyond the intellectual…..

This large oil on canvas was painted in 1982 after my insight on Isle-au-haut.    Here I have integrated the human form with the rock formations…….It’s about the poignant moment when people turn their backs on one another. 

Although this painting might appear to be unrelated to the large canvases I am now working on…..in fact they are totally interconnected.            

til August 10 432

Since 1982, I have worked on many corporate/private commissions, exhibitions and so on, but throughout the journey, it is this series that holds my real interest.

When painting, regardless of size or subject matter….the fact is that when we change one tiny fraction of a painting – we change the whole….and this is true for life.

I believe that until we as a human species fully understand this concept….we will continue to self destruct.      

More about the paintings I am working now….

When I sit and observe nature….I see a symphony of colour/shape/shade/light – and natural rhythms.     There are no beginnings or endings – everything is interconnected. 

Using symbolic imagery – my goal, as this series develops, is to establish an intangible energy and rhythm in the paintings – celebrating the interconnections rather than the separations…

A Bientôt

Life and photographs from 2000 til today.

By 2000, I had been living in The Magical Town of Crickadoon (Crickhowell) for seven years.    Having continued to do large mural projects and give workshops on both sides of the Atlantic, I knew that i needed to find a way to make regular income in a less strenuous manner. 

Initially I thought of reproductions from my originals for hotels, hospitals, restaurants, etc.   The print technology was growing, but nowhere near where it is today.   

Just before leaving the States in 1993, I had licensed several images to a small company and quickly realised when I began to receive royalties, that this was the way to go.    

By 2000, I had painted this image of Christeve the Cat with tiger and hummingbird.   Everyone who came to my studio loved it, and so it became the cornerstone for what was to be the Christeve Project.


After producing more paintings featuring Christeve and her friends, the project attracted the attention of WRC Media in New York, an educational publishing company which owned The Weekly Reader, a magazine read in elementary schools throughout the States.     The project was given the Weekly Reader seal of approval and there was even talk of an animated story line for Nickelodeon TV. which at that time was owned by WRC Media. 

Without going into all the details, by the end of 2004, I had to accept that for reasons out of my control, it wasn’t going to happen!  After what had been nearly five years continuous work, it was a hard pill to swallow!    

October 2005 was a low point for me.    I moved to London, ironically just a stones throw from where I was born.  I had come full circle. 

To begin with it was difficult.   London and Crickhowell are two very different worlds.   I had been used to hill walking every day and being involved in a small community.     However, I am not one to give up and so I put one foot in front of the other and moved forward

Aerial view of Crickhowell and the Crickhowell bridge.

aerial of Crickhowellcrickhowell-bridge

My first lucky break happened in London when I gave a portrait demonstration at Rose Cottage in Barnes.   Martin and Greta Chaffer, approached me after the demo and asked if I would give a workshop for the Fulham/Hammersmith Arts Society.   They also asked  if I was related to Carel Weight because he had been one of the founders of  the Society back in the fifties!      That meeting proved to be a turning point.  

My first portrait painting workshop for the Fulham Hammersmith Arts Society – Spring 2006.

til August 10 133

Then in the early summer of 2007 another stroke of good luck.    I was asked to house/studio/animal sit just outside of Brussells, Belgium.  

Every now and then we have a need for healing and nurturing – and  the summers of 2007 and 2008 provided me with both elements.     I was in a country environment, surrounded by animals and painting every day, which for me is the prefect life recipe…..

A very happy moment in the studio with the Pups….Spuggy and Raisin.   They never left my side.   I also looked after Jessie a much older Jack Russell, Iccle the pure white blue eyed and very deaf cat….and chickens. 


I painted this large oil on canvas during the summer of 2007 inspired by my daily visits to the chicken coop.


At the same time I was working in many different areas of France, including, Paris, Brittany, SW and Northern France. 

By 2008, I was clear that a permanent move to France was in order.     I had organised accommodation and a studio in SW France where along with others, I would tutor and help organise international painting holidays and of course continue with my own work.  

Mas Cabardes, La Montagne Noir area of SW France. 

mas cabardes 1Lastours ruined castle

As we all know life can confront us with surprises.     When I returned to London from France on October 1st 2008, I found that my Mother was very ill, which was to be the beginning of a new chapter.     For anyone who has had an independent, healthy parent suddenly become ill they will know how traumatic it is.     

This did mean that plans for moving to France were put on hold. 

Again, without going into details…seven years later, my 92 year old Mother is in a good nursing home just five minutes from where I live in London.      

It’s important to add that I started writing my blog seven years ago this month, just before my Mother became ill.     During the three or more years that I oversaw her care at home, my blog was the one constant that kept me connected. 

Some special events since 2000….Christie began to run marathons and even completed a triathlon!

til August 10 422til August 10 418

I became great Aunt Janet to the beautiful twins born six years ago this month. 

photo 1-3

Living and working in London for the past nine years has allowed me to meet new people and at the same time continue my work/visits to France, Italy, Portugal, USA.    

I continue to work on large canvases, and most recently have begun licensing my hummingbird images to HummingbirdHQ.com

Next move will be to Marmite Heaven🙂

Last, but certainly not least is the fact that my son, Jarrod recently reconnected with a childhood sweetheart.    They are in love and very happy.   Kendle’s Mother, Anne Buffington, is an artist friend of mine….proving once again, that none of us is every creative enough to know how things will actually work out…..


As always I conclude with a Magical Hummingbird, and wish all my friends in the States a happy Labour Day weekend…See you all next week. 



A Bientôt