Tag Archives: watercolour portraits

Mother Nature’s reminders of not to take life for granted….

“Even with all our technology and the inventions that make modern life so much easier than it once was, it takes one big natural disaster to wipe all that away and remind us that, here on Earth, we’re still at the mercy of nature”  Neil deGrasse Tyson – Scientist

Fires fuelled by drought, high temperatures and wind along with other catastrophic natural disasters are all contributing factors to the millions of displaced people roaming the earth looking for somewhere to live and work.

Quintin – watercolour     P1150314It is very easy for those of us with a roof over our heads, food in the cupboards and an ordered infrastructure to live within to believe that we are OK…..All those awful things only happen to other people.     It would seem that we take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.

Tom – American poet20-11-15-1-745I was prompted to write this post because two people I know have been effected by the terrible fires in California.       All of a sudden ordered lives have been turned upside down and inside out……For many life is now unrecognisable.

The same of course can be said for the people so badly pummelled by recent hurricanes and flooding…..Within hours, all that was ‘normal’ – has changed.

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Although I have never been in such a catastrophe – I have had major changes in my life which have meant learning to live in new ways.     Most certainly, they have taught me never to take anything for granted.

When people’s lives are torn apart…it takes time to pick up the pieces – to start again.     Orderly lives are replaced with fragmentation…..routines disappear until new ones are established.     The more adaptable we are, the better.

P1160910Speaking from personal experience, change can come with new opportunities.   New ways to see ourselves – new ways to live our lives.

Once again, I believe that the creative process can help and indeed maybe guide some into a new more creative way of being.      Creatives are very familiar with seeing life in many different ways….which is the kind of thinking that needs to prevail at such times.

Children playing with shells on Armona Island Portugal. 20-11-15 - 1 (913)One friend said it was very difficult to know what to take when having to leave a home very quickly.   A home filled with years of memories and all the things we tend to take for granted.

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Learning to respect Mother Nature is key to living well on Earth.    Every time a piece of litter is dropped – although it may seem insignificant – it shows a lack of respect for our beautiful Earth.

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“Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted”.   Aldous Huxley

A Bientôt

 

my take on the ageing process….

Having just celebrated my 70th birthday, I thought I would write something on my feelings about the ageing process.

First a quote by Sophia Loren

‘There is a fountain of youth:  It is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of the people you love.    When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.’

watercolour demonstration at the school in Olhao http://www.artinthealgarve.com

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Sophia Loren’s quote resonated with me, because at the core of  all my work and way of being is the belief that the creative process in all its many forms is the key to emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing.    

Of course our bodies will change and age – and there will be days when we feel stronger than others, but to walk through life on an aimless path ultimately brings a sense of deep frustration.       By integrating some form of creativity into our daily lives we bring substance, meaning, a sense of satisfaction and wellbeing.

Yesterday, I painted the portrait of musician, Sue Ballingall.     Sue has that ageless quality about her.   She has the vitality and zest that comes when someone loves what they do……

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I have experienced two ways of being: – the first forty years of my life were fragmented, anxiety ridden and filled with a great sense of frustration.     Had I continued on that path….my life today would look very different.

For the latter thirty years, I chose a new path.     By introducing new habits, routines and  rhythms I was able to slowly but surely establish a life that works for me.    A life that brings me countless joys and a sense of fulfilment. I will be always be grateful that I experienced such a turning point.

Large oil on canvas – self portrait – painted at my turning point – 1989.     I keep this painting as a reminder, that we can always make new choices….

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Today, I enjoy the flow of life…..it brings such wonderful surprises – in ways that I could never be creative enough to imagine.

Just before my birthday celebrations I gave a talk in Somerset…in the Bristol area and stayed with a woman who I met in Portugal last year….and there I met these two little angels:)    Bobby and Winston……that’s what happens when I am in the flow…….

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I conclude with a magical hummingbird – and a quote from the book Buddhist Offerings 365 days. 

‘The first thing upon which we should meditate is our precious and fleeting human life, hard to obtain, and easy to destroy; – I will now give it meaning…..’

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A Bientôt

 

 

 

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

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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

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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.

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

Rapid life study.

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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.

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A Bientôt

Quintin – Little boy lost. –

This is another short, true story about a ‘little boy lost – named Quintin’

Watercolour portrait of Quintin 

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‘I was staying with friends in Scaer, a small town in Brittany, France.    It was the summer of 1995, and the day was very hot.

Friends of my hosts came to visit with their children, along with a little boy who had recently become the victim of a difficult divorce.      His Mother, a solicitor, had recently moved to Paris for work – and the Father had gone elsewhere.

It was clear from the moment I met the little boy that he felt alienated…unable to join in with the other children.     For that matter, I was feeling a little alienated myself, in that the talk was all about the parent’s divorce.

I took him into the garden where we found a shady spot beneath a beautiful tree.   We sat together for a long time…just quietly taking one another in.

When I started to sketch him with my watercolours, he began to show interest.    For the first time he spoke and told me his name was ‘Quintin’  –  in England we would spell and pronounce it as Quentin.

I am not sure exactly how long we sat together, but I do know that by the time I painted the portrait shown here, we had established a special bond.

Sometime later that day, Quintin and the people who had brought him left.    I will never forget how difficult it was for us both to say goodbye.

I never saw Quintin again, or found out what happened to him.     Today he would be about 25 years old.     If I were ever to meet him again, I would give him this portrait.

I also hope that the magical hummingbirds are looking over him, wherever he is.

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A bientôt

Sid the Boxer.

I am going to write the occasional short story on my blog, based on personal experiences. 

This is a true story about my meeting with Sid the Boxer. 

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‘It was mid morning in the summer of 2005 when I was sitting on a bench in a small park situated by the River Thames between Barnes and Chiswick.       I had spread out my watercolour paraphernalia and was sketching the view.

I suddenly became aware of a group of people walking from the other side of the park towards me.    As they came closer, most of the group veered away towards the river path, but one man, carrying a big can of beer, had clearly decided to come and see what I was doing.

As he approached – he asked if I would paint his portrait.     I think I surprised him when I agreed to do so.     I suggested that he sit on the other end of the bench from me, and relax.

As I painted two rapid portraits, I learned that the man called Sid the Boxer, was living in a half way house having recently been released from Wandsworth Prison for assault and battery!

He told me about his life….how he had been part of a ‘travelling family’ and that he had a daughter, who he had never seen.     He had used his boxing skills to make money and as he said, gained a great deal of respect in the prison system because of his boxing reputation.

He was clearly fascinated with my painting, and just as I finished the two sketches…he asked me if I had gone to a special school to learn to paint.     I told him that I had studied at The Medway College of Art in Rochester, Kent – and then he told me with great delight, that he had gone to Borstal (a famous youth detention centre)  in Rochester.    

I gave him one of the sketches and kept the one shown here for myself and then we shook hands and said good bye.

I often wonder what happened to Sid the Boxer, and where his portrait  hangs….I do hope the Magical Hummingbirds are watching over him:)’

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A Bientôt

Portrait in three colours

Since returning from Portugal I haven’t had much extra time to post demos and so here is the breakdown of a watercolour portrait using just three colours – Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre and Raw Umber Violet.

I always, without exception, begin a portrait with the eyes…..the window to the soul.  

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At this early stage in the watercolour, I will know whether or  not I have captured my subject.    

 

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I don’t usually work from photographs….however, in this instance, I was so drawn to the face of Peter Deunov, (1864 – 1944) I decided to do so.    When working from a photograph, no matter what the subject – the key is to use the image as the jumping off point, and to then make the painting your own. 

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Peter Deunov had a lot of white hair and a beard, and so in this image, I will simply suggest the hair by leaving white paper, allowing the viewers imagination to fill in the gaps.     

It’s key in this image to leave the emphasis on the depth and intensity of his eyes. 

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Throughout this portrait, I have used simple techniques.    Applying colour in the shadow areas, and then with a wet brush and no paint, I have pulled out the colour.     This gives me soft edges and alleviates the age old issue of mud in a watercolour. 

The finished image….

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Wishing all my friends in the States and other countries a very Happy Mother’s Day this coming Sunday.    This is the one holiday that continues to confuse me.    In the UK we celebrate a month earlier!

A Bientôt

Communication

As an artist I like to think that I communicate through my paintings, however as a human being, I realise more and more that the real art of communication, the sharing of emotions, feelings and concerns is often difficult.    For most of us the learning and re-honing of communication skills will be a work in progress until the day we depart from this zone….

The rapid watercolours in this post are from the Boathouse Studio series. 

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It’s all too easy to make snap judgements and to categorise others, and then to impose our own ideas of what’s right and wrong.     

Depending on our life experiences, especially during the formative years, when our minds our like blotting paper, we are taught to view the world in a certain way, and it is here that the basis for our communication skills are formed.

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A recent letter from my daughter reminded me of how easy it is to compartmentalise certain areas of our lives.    Christie’s observations had sparked a light bulb moment for her and then consequently for me.    

Christie had examined her feelings and concerns and then had the courage to communicate them to me.   

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Christie’s courage has removed a box/compartment, which in turn, allows for a freer flow of real communication.   

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Like anything of substance, we need to practise and work on our communication skills.

The following quote from Mark Twain, points this out so eloquently.

“It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech”.

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A Bientôt

 

 

 

 

 

Less is More.

Perhaps a real understanding of less being more, comes with age.    I have certainly found this to be true with painting and life in general. 

I met someone yesterday who is at a turning point, and wanting to put more emphasis on being an artist rather than endlessly driving from A to B and organising a house full of STUFF.

This quick watercolour study of a model at the Boathouse Studio is an example of less being more.    Note that all the techniques I have been showing in my tutorials are in this quick sketch. 

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Perhaps one of the many lessons we learn with watercolour painting is the art of letting go.    Getting out of the way and allowing the paint to do its own thing. 

It was only when I began to understand this concept in my own life that I was able to let go of all the unnecessary stuff, which in turn freed me up to immerse myself into the creative process. 

In today’s fast paced world, it’s very easy to live our lives in boxes, all the time being plugged into some sort of technology.    A little of this is necessary, however, too much of it deadens the senses….and consequently our creativity. 

This quote from the book Buddhist Offerings, says it all. 

‘Our five senses are like openings through which we receive all the perceptions that are then transformed into concepts and ideas.’ 

Wishing everyone a magical hummingbird weekend:)

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A Bientôt