Tag Archives: mission hill school boston

Spontaneous painting

My trusty companion for many years, water colour, is the perfect medium for spontaneous painting.     

No matter where I am in the world or what I am doing, I can always pull out my watercolours…..and I am immediately transported to a quiet, gentle, meditative place.

Rapid watercolour


Over the years, primarily using watercolours, I have recorded the people and places I have encountered.

Young girl at the Mission Hill School, Boston, USA


This has allowed me to meet and interact with people in a very special way.

This portrait of Catherine was painted on the day before her marriage a year and a half ago.     I first painted Catherine when she was four.


Like life drawing – these spontaneous portraits are all about observation.     If they take more than thirty minutes they don’t work.

Rapid life study.


My goal is to get under the skin of my subject – capturing the essence of the moment.

In this case, the nape of the neck says so much about the subject.


A Bientôt

Points of view.

‘We cling to our own point of view, as though everything depended on it.   Yet our opinions have no permanence;  like autumn and winter, they gradually pass away’.   Zhuangzi. 

Boathouse Studio series – rapid watercolour


I had my weekly Skype with my daughter Christie yesterday.    It’s a time when we talk about what’s happened during the preceding week, which invariably leads to all sorts of other interesting topics.

Boathouse Studio series – rapid watercolour


Yesterday’s conversation lead to how easy it is to get stuck in a way of thinking or being, and how beneficial it is every now and then to have our foundations rocked.    To be awoken to other points of view.

Boathouse Studio series – rapid watercolour


As a creative, I am fully aware of how easy it is to get stuck, and even though much of my teaching is about seeing everything from many different points of view….(my book The Apple Exercise is all about this) – I too can get caught in the trap of complacency.

Young girl Mission Hill School, Boston – rapid watercolour.


As we approach the end of another year, I sense a need to make some changes in my own life.   To break through some areas where I have been stuck…….

I have always been one to make new years resolutions, and for the most part stick to them….and so this is a good time for me to begin to make some fundamental shifts.

Young girl – Mission Hill School, Boston – rapid watercolour


One things for sure….I will definitely have the magical hummingbirds to accompany me:)




A Bientôt

Seeing behind the surface.

In an age of mass communication where it seems that everyone is plugged into something…..are we seeing more or just skimming across the surface of life?

I took this photograph next to Trafalgar Square, London during one of the many Olympic events and celebrations.



As an artist and portrait painter, I have had the privilege to look into the eyes of many people.

Twenty years ago, when I returned home to the UK/Europe after spending 28 years in the States, I had an exhibition in Brittany, France.     The exhibition was made up of portraits from Wales, America and France, and although I had painted spontaneous watercolour portraits before, (mostly as sketches for large oils)…it wasn’t until this point that I realised it was a way for me to really understand and see people…beyond the surface.

Christopher Seagrave-Daley visited me in Wales, and agreed to model for a workshop I was giving.




More recently I attended a three day seminar in London.   On the final day, all 150 of the participants were asked to sit in rows….Over the course of one hour and twenty minutes, each row would walk to the front of the room and scan the faces of the group.    Then another row was asked to make a line in front of those already standing….and as the leader said…get closer to the person in front of you than you would normally feel comfortable, and then simply look into their eyes.

Initially, there were those who were clearly very uncomfortable with this….and others who were moved to tears….and there were others who got the giggles…..(part of being uncomfortable) – however, as the time evolved….a stillness came over the room and it became clear that this was a new and profound experience for everyone involved. 

Woman in Akyaka, Turkey.    During the hour that we spent together, not a word was spoken.   It was not necessary, because we spoke through our eyes.    We both saw beneath the surface of one another, and in doing so had a much deeper understanding.



I stopped driving 20 years ago when I returned to the UK.    Since then I have designed my life in such a way that I don’t need a car.

This has given me a greater freedom to observe others…especially as I take public transportation all over London and many other places.      I will often wear dark glasses so that I can observe without making others uncomfortable.

Jean Paul, Paris – Gardener, artist and gentle soul



What becomes clear the more we take the time to see beyond the surface,  is that we are all part of the same humanity and that we are all interconnected.

Young girl at Mission Hill School, Boston



We all have the same hopes and dreams…..It is only when we stop really seeing one another that we forget this.

Claudia Nottale, when she visited me in Wales




I decided sometime ago that I didn’t want to just skim across the surface of life.    I made the decision to keep looking and learning.

Jean Marie – Le Pecq, France.    A wonderful artist – one who always sees beyond the surface. 





A Bientôt

War and Peace

I first posted this on 25th February 2014.    Six months later, and the madness continues.      

My desire to be well informed is currently at odds with my desire to remain sane.’  Matt Keeland

This quote resonated with me and indeed recently, I have changed my habit of turning on the BBC news first thing in the morning, and replacing it with beautiful music.

I listen to the news and read newspapers a little later in the day when I feel more fortified, more able to harness a constructive, positive attitude.

Because I believe that a picture speaks a thousand words, I chose the following images which express the polar opposites of destruction and construction, of war and peace. 

During the Bosnian war, (1992 – 1995) I saw a photograph of a young child ravaged by the madness of war.     I made two paintings from the photograph.

As a child of war, she represents all the other children who have, and are suffering because of the madness and greed that war brings.


In the second painting I focused on the little girls face….a face blank with shock and yet filled with horror.

We tend to be overwhelmed when we see stark images of whole cities in Syria being destroyed and given the immediacy of social networks and photographs flying around the world at break neck speeds, we have become desensitised…..making it easy for us to ignore and deny.     

By looking into the eyes of this child of war, we come closer to our own children, and our human interconnection.


This post is about the polar opposites of destruction and construction, war and peace. 

These two quick watercolour portraits of young girls, (probably about the same age as The Child of War) were painted when I spent the day with children from the Mission Hill School in Boston, USA. 

Their eyes are bright….and full of hope.


They express a sense of life, rather than sorrow……they are children of peace.


Then there is the innocent baby….a blank canvas to be filled in by life.


Quoting, Ralph Waldo Emerson ‘Each particle is a microcosm, and faithfully renders the likeness of the world’. 

All of life is interconnected, and I believe that only when we understand and accept this, that maybe humankind will stop the madness of war. 

This post was inspired by the face of a child I saw on the news last night.   Standing in the ruins of Homs, Syria, the distress in the child’s eyes was overwhelmingly tragic. 


A Bientôt