Join me this September from 11th to the 17th for a week of painting in the inspirational settling of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is a wonderfully colourful, warm and friendly country and a great place to get away for a week of sunshine, sea, great hospitality, delicious food and perhaps most importantly a wonderful, place for painting. I went a couple of years ago for two weeks and can’t wait to get back to this exceptional country and explore more.
We shall have the chance to stay at one of two houses at Koggala Lake.
Sea Heart House, a destination in its self as can be seen in the photos here. There are 4 air-conditioned double bedrooms set in an acre of beautiful garden with elevated views over Koggala Lake.
Maddox, a most comfortable House with stunning views. It also has four double rooms with ensuite.
There will be a chance to paint various subjects and I will fully support you will be with personalised tuition
The days will include some short talks on various aspects and techniques of painting followed by painting sessions supported with advice and tips for improvement. There will be a limit of 10 people on the trip giving opportunity for one to one tuition.
There are many activities for non-painting partners whatever their range of interests, be they cultural, sporting or the natural world
I you are joining us, we have also been able to arrange a 10% discount on materials bought for the course at Green and Stone. Green and Stone are in the Kings road, London. The shop is a veritable cornucopia staffed by the most helpful and knowledgeable people. I love it there. They do mail order too.
For further information and costs, please contact:
I have always enjoyed drawing people. I think that because finding sitters is not always easy and when found they do not always stay put, it can be better to go out and draw them in their own enviroment, at some place where they are already occupied.
I have a number of venues that fit the bill so it’s hard to say what my favourite is but it is hard to beat a concert for the excitement and stimulation it offers. I wonder if the music occupies the conscious mind leaving the unconscious mind in charge of drawing. This is an idea that came to me after reading The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards.
The idea is that the unconscious mind is the creative side and can really get going unhindered by the uptight over thinking usual of its other half … well I havn’t decided if this train of thought is going anywhere but it’s is an interesting thought nonetheless. I certainly feel fully engaged when drawing in concerts. Emersed in the music, the performers and the place and it greatly enhances my enjoyment.
Imagine my distress on hearing from a friend that my wife had written to Dear Mary in The Spectator Magazine complaining about me drawing.
Dear Mary 18th February 2017.
In general, people take a great interest in what I have drawn. Sometimes I even give the performer the drawing and they are thrilled. I have only ever had 2 complaints in the past.
Clutch pencil and lead pointer
A fine round and a short fat tombow eraser.
Some loose sheets of Ingres paper in a leather wallet of which I have a variety of fairly similar
I have let my blog fall fallow this last year and although I have regularly uploaded paintings and drawings to my Instagram feed at willpaint, there are a number of things I want to get out there that are more suited to a blog and so I will attempt to put that right starting now.
I have been painting in various places around the world this year and it is something I love to do. Travel and painting seem to be made for each other (the problems encountered getting solvents in unfamiliar country’s aside). I intend to write a post soon on my various set-ups and my travel kit both bought and home made, but for now I want to write about something I am so excited about;
October in Kenya.
This October I shall rearrange my teaching days at The Royal Drawing School to fit in a week of teaching at Kilifi, a beautiful spot on the coast of Kenya.
From Saturday 8th to Sunday 16th October you are invited to Mdoroni on the Kenya coast to enjoy a week of painting in one of the most beautiful places in Kenya.
The idea is for accomplished and not so accomplished artists to paint without pressure under my guidance – We might paint interiors, exteriors, markets, landscapes, views, Arab ruins, boats, beach and trees. We will enjoy delicious healthy cooking, culture and the beauty of Kilifi Creek . This is a painting trip and holiday which can be enjoyed by artists and non-painting partners alike.
A beautiful tranquil fully staffed villa on the beach at the mouth of Kilifi Creek with views 360 degree views of the Indian Ocean. Furnished with Swahili antiques and surrounded by rambling coral gardens, bougainvillea and baobab trees.
If you are not signed up for Instagram I can highly recommend it. It’s a great place for following Artists who interest you, or anyone else for that matter and as its basically just a picture per post it really is suited to art works.
If you prefer not to install the Instagram app my feed can be viewed here
Just a quick mention that I will be taking part in Pintar Rapido, London this year. It takes place over two days; on Saturday 11th July we go out and paint our pictures and on Sunday they are put up for sale in an exhibition at Chelsea Town Hall in the Kings Road. The show opens at 12pm and closes at 5.30.
There are going to be a lot of artists painting views of London, up to about 500 and I think it will be great fun. It is actually a competition but I haven’t as much experience in one day painting as many of my fellow painters so will be painting one of the smaller pictures there in the hope of finishing in time to hand in my canvas before the end of the day.
If you are artist and you see this in time, why not join me on the Saturday?
My wife went through a period of illness a couple of years ago. She is feeling much better now and to celebrate this she took me and her children on a holiday to Srilanka. We all went to stay in a villa near Galle which is on the south west coast
In 2004 Srilanka was devastated by a Tsunami. That was over ten years ago and things have Improved a great deal. There are signs of poverty but it doesnt appear to be to the terrible degree that can be found in India for instance. We were occassionally asked for money but not often and not persistently. Some say that as a tourist destination, Srilanka is the soft option alternative to India.
I loved Srilanka. It is very near the equator and so very hot, It is also very humid, even in March. The arrival time of 5.30am was 12.30 am in the UK. We had not really slept so we all spent most of the first day flat out on our beds in our rooms with the aircon on. Cooling off in ones bedroom soon became known as going to mini Devizes, refering to the cold temperatures we had just left behind at home. Nealantha, one of the staff at the villa had a tuk-tuk and he became our driver, alternating his brother and his father into the convoy with their tuk-tuks. I would be hard put to say who was the best driver.
I was keen to paint but the others all had agendas of their own so I settled into a pattern of going out fairly early in the morning. The friut market was something I spotted early on and Nelanther’s father took me there and stood next to me with his hand onthe corner of my easle to give support. When people came past he would talk them through what I was doing and small crowds gathered round to watch. I don’t speak Srilankan and he didn’t speak English so I never found out what he said but everone was very kind and the shop keeper brought me a glass of mango juice to sustain me.
My step-son is a madly keen and a most talented fisherman and one of the first things we did was to go out and buy some fishing tackle. I went on to the fish market to paint and Declan had a look to see what people had caught. It was very exciting at the market, everybody moving about, coming and going,. stall keepers spahing water about to keep the fish wet and fresh looking before wandering off to the other end of the market to chat. I managed to slap down a quick oil sketch, hoping that he looser style would help to put accross the bustle and movement of the market.
One morning I asked Nelanther to recomend somewhere to me and he suggested the budhist temple at. A sign at the bottom of the flight of stone steps asked us to remove our shoes before going to the temple. The soles of my feet burnt like a pair of beef burgers on the grill in a short order diner, the stone steps were so hot. Ouch, ouch, ouch! All the way to the top. When I got there I took my time looking around and settled down to a painting of what was reputed to be a 3000 year old ban yan tree, grown from a cutting from the tree in India that the buddah himself sat under. In Srilanka all festivals are observed reguarless of which religion the festival or celebrants are affiliated to. The day I painted was, I think, Good Friday.
I had nearly finished when someone approached me and asked me kindly to remove the hat I was wearing to keep the sun from my eyes. I had tried so hard to behave repectfully at the temple… and failed, so I upped the amount of my tip to the monks.
There was a great view of the sea from where we were staying and it included a couple of the poles that locals fish from. Early one morning I saw some boys fishing there and I did a quick painting. I had always wondered how people paint moving sea and I think I got a bit better at it while trying to do this view. The light was good and the water was clear so it was a great day to try it.
Once we had arrived at the villa we made all our outings by Tuk-tuk. It is hard to find a jollier way to travel. I long for a tuk-tuk at home, but Devizes in the winter in a tuk-tuk may be a bit tough. I asked to be taken to a tuk-tuk repair shop. Somehow I had a vision of it being a good subject for a painting. The Tuk-tuks are the drivers only source of income and they can’t afford to leave them standing idle. The repair men worked quicky, the tuk-tuks were in one minute and out the next. It was quite a challenge, the heat was a real challenge too.I was lucky that I had my guerilla painter umbrella with the silver top with me. I don’t think I could have survived without it. I had also asked for a large bottle of mineral water to be frozen for me to take on my painting trips. My feet, which were not quite in the shade of the umbrella were burning inspite of the liberal coating of sun cream I had applied so occassionally I poured a few drops of freezing water onto them. The mechanics would sometimes come and look and they seemed to like the picture which pleased me very much. There was one particularly dirty mechanic who was literally covered from head to toe in motor oil and grease and he was a real character. If he has a wife, either she must get desperate trying to clean him up or perhaps she dosn’t mind getting filthy when they kiss.
I went to visit some old friends who had moved to Srilanka about 15 years ago. There I saw my old student, Phoebe Dickinson. I had taught her when she was at St Mary’s Calne and also at the Royal Drawing School We spent a morning painting together which I greatly enjoyed. Here I the sketch I did of Phoebe painting a cow by a lake.
You can see more of her work at http://www.phoebedickinson.com/.
Srilanka was a wonderful place to paint. There are so many varied things to see, I do hope to return someday soon. The people are particularly kind and hospitable but the Chinese tourists were a something was was not prepared for. On our second day at Galle fort I was painting away when a very large groups of tourists started tio descend on me. At one point I was standing infront of an audience of 50 plus, perhaps as many as 100, watching as I worked. I would like to think that they had never seen such a great artist at work before but I think they were just a bit bored and in search of free entertainment. This ended with me being jostled out of the way of my painting by a the tourists so they could take selfies.
“Nought as queer as folk” as they say in Yorkshire.
I wrote a blog post in March 2014 about my trip to Barbados and my plan to try and speed up my painting rate by doing some pochades.
Although I haven’t moved over entirely to the one day or en premier coup style, I have done a number of one day sketches since then. I feel that a lot that has come out of this newer way of working was already in me or informed by the work I have done in the past decades. Some of my new work however has been just that; new and also has more energy and vitality.
This year, like last and a number before, we spent a couple of weeks of February in Barbados. The climate is wonderful, especially after the long dark and cold winter of the UK. Ok the US got it very bad this year but it was grim all the same and I do feel very motivated when I arrive in the Caribbean and am greeted by a blast of heat and the suddenly intense light. A couple of years ago I went for some whistle lessons on the tin whistle and my teacher, Bill Guilding. He is a Bristol based artist and musician and he told me that when he goes to a hot country his fingers move more freely and that he can play whistle with more fluidity, a definite advantage when playing the irish whistle or penny whistle as it is also known. This ease of movement is a real advantage in sketching.
During my trip I managed about a painting a day which I feel is close to my limit at the moment. I can do two but feel somewhat drained if I persist. On this trip I did what I consider to be one of my most successful sketches to date over two afternoons. It is of the front of Heron Bay through some trees. Painting pictures of houses is great and Heron Bay is very beautiful so should make a good subject anyway but very straight lines carry the eye too fast and don’t give enough detail to sustain interest. Breaking the shapes up with trees is a solution to this dilemma but reminds me of the row that erupted when the artist Tim Gibbs who was my uncle by marriage some time ago was painting the house of the writer Anthony Powell, a literary hero of mine. Tim claimed that the house was hideous and said that the only way to solve the problem for the painting was to paint it from behind some trees and a pond. Anthony Powell, however was quite proud of the house and had commissioned the painting of it, so felt somewhat justifiably that Tim had not carried out the commission he has given him. I don’t quite remember how this was resolved financially but I think a deposit was involved. I slightly see both sides of the argument, the difference between the artistic needs of the painting and the fact that it was supposed to be primarily about the house. Which trumps which?
I managed three portraits while I was there. I find that painting people gives me a rush of adrenalin in a way that I imagine similar to a young man taking a bungee jump. The danger awakens my senses so that I begin to feel really alive. On this occasion I managed to remain fairly relaxed because I intended them really to be quick sketches.
The first is of the very charming Nick Peto. We were staying in the same house party together so I suggested that he sat for me. His very lovely wife Zoe died not long ago and I think that sort of thing makes you feel it a good thing to leave behind a record of your existence so he kindly agreed and we did a sketch taking three or four hours it total over 3 mornings. He is that thing that some people find surprising; every bit a gent, Eton then Sandhurst, achieving the rank of captain in the 9th and 12th Lancers and a regular in the field’s top shot list, combined with a wild sense of humour. It was a very enjoyable time that we spent together. Incidently, he wrote a book a couple of years ago which contains some of his very funny stories and although out of print it can still be got.
The following week I painted a picture of Bongo, the foot massage man who was on the beach at Sandy Lane. Bongo is a Rasta and something of a legend having sat for the Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood a few times. I am not in competition with Ronnie Wood, he is a somewhat different Artist so I was free to paint Bongo as I found him, A peaceful gentle soul who twisted my arm for quite a large sitting fee. We were in the middle of negotiations while I was painting and a lady we both knew came up and said “I hope that he is paying you well for sitting there”. Of course at this point I lost all bargaining power.
Here is my picture of Bongo
and then one of Ronnie Woods.
I was going to paint a second one of Bongo but he had a lump of cash now and didn’t turn up for a couple of days so I turned to one of the golf caddies at the Sandy Lane Golf Club. He is called Elvis but also known as Spicer. The Art dealer Guy Morrison had been using Elvis as his caddy that week and he arranged things for me thus saving me any awkwardness over modeling fees. We had a very peaceable time together. I believe he is an excellent player. For the past couple of years I had wanted to paint a picture of the Seventh hole on the “Old Nine”, the name of the original Sandy Lane course. It was Robert Sangster’s favourite and a bench was placed above the tee there in memory of him. There is also a tournament held annually in his memory there. He was a very kind and generous man with a wicked sense of fun and I was fortunate enough to know him a bit.
So I used this as an opportunity to paint this view in the background. Elvis sat on a ledge of rock at the edge of the tournament or pro tee. I did get permission from Stefan Soroka, the Sandy Lane pro.
Incidentally, I had a lesson with him a couple of years ago and in just one lesson he pointed out a fault in my swing that no pro had been able to help me with before in spite of the the rather large number of lessons I had had with them.
I have seen a drawing of Elvis by Matthew Carr but can’t find any image of it. Here is a link to his page at Marlborough Fine Art, his dealers until his death in February 2011.
What a difference a year makes? I think my work has come on since the same time last year. My one day pictures feel more confident and are coming together more easily. My slower more detailed work has had a bit of vigor breathed into it.
For nearly 15 years now, I have been teaching drawing and painting at the Princes Drawing School – or, as it should now be called, the Royal Drawing School, since the Queen recently awarded the school Royal status.
This didn’t get all that much coverage, but that may be a good thing given British press’s have a habit of finding fault rather that looking for the good. They do after all have to make money and it seems that the public have a taste for bad news with salacious details. Prince Charles receives a great deal of unfair criticism from the British papers but he has in fact created more jobs for young people in this country than anyone else. His critics achievements are often fairly questionable..
The Royal Academy was given royal status in 1768, followed by The Royal College of Music, The Royal College of Art, The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) and the last arts establishment to be granted Royal status was The Royal Ballet and that was over 50 years ago so we are in the most prestigious company.
The Prince’s Drawing School was founded by Prince Charles and Catherine Goodman in 2000 in response to the decline of the teaching of drawing in British art schools.
The Prince is a great boss and he hasn’t micromanaged the school, he just provided the impetus and support.
When I was teaching Art in a secondary school some years ago I went on an A Level exam marking course. We, that is, a few hundred Art teachers, met in a large hall, and the atmosphere was charged. Partly because putting an empirical value on a students body of work is a contentious issue but mainly it was the battling of egos. To paraphrase “Little Britain”, everyone thought that they were the only artist in the village,
Many teachers of art feel that art should be done their way and take it personally if anyone wants to do something else. There are a number of small Independent art schools around the world, – some have been started recently, others have been about in one guise or another for some time – and students of these schools seem to produce work very similar in style to that of their fellow students. I have to say that the Drawing school does not seem to have a house style. There are over 75 teaching members of faculty and probably as many styles of work. I think that the Director of the school, Catherine Goodman is largely responsible for this, she has been great at picking and orchestrating the large team of tutors to give a dynamic yet balanced approach.
One statement that I read of a small teaching atelier opined that art took a wrong turn a little before 1900 and that they would like to go back to the golden age before that wrong turn. I personally don’t think it is viable to dismiss all that has been created since the turn of the 19th century and find that idea somewhat boring. I really enjoy the work of many 20th century artists, particularly those who have worked outside the mainstream, for instance Edward Burra whom it would be hard to better for imaginative quality and insight..
It is in the philosophy of Drawing School to see drawing as a part of contemporary art as opposed to in opposition to it. We are all adding stuff to the big pond that is art today.
Recently, I was asked to give a talk about the Drawing School to the Tetbury Art Society. I was to do this in conjunction with Michelle Cioccoloni who has been a student at the Drawing School. The talk would be at Highgrove, Prince Charles’ home in Wiltshire, and I was to talk about my work and my experience of being a teacher at the drawing school while Michelle would talk about her own work and the school from a students perspective.
The drawing school have a power point slide show they use for talks but as I was talking about myself at the drawing school I needed to redo the slides with examples of my own work (enough of do this me talking about myself, what do you think of me?)
Trying to make sense of the events in your life is not just an indulgence, it is essential step in moving forward and I found the act of remembering how I had got to where I am now caused me to think about a lot of things I wouldn’t otherwise be thinking about.
I ran through a series of images of my paintings showing examples from the last 35 years and used them to describe my career and some of my thoughts on the importance of drawing.
I was greatly saddened to hear that the my old art School; The Slade had given up the use of models to teach drawing and that drawing from life was not really taking place there any more. It had had a grand reputation in the past and a tradition of drawing that was famed world wide. In the last 30 years they have abandoned all that but apart from business management I don’t see what they have to teach.
Fees at British Universities get higher every year and of course you wonder what the students are paying for. It doesn’t take much to start up a private art school and give better value for money. You don’t get a degree but you can learn something. Drawing is something tangible you can teach. It is also of value. Drawing is the way we make sense of the world when we first try to understand. May people stop drawing but it would be of value to anyone and you would never be without something to do. With a pencil and paper you can feel that you are communing with the world about you and resolve many a problem of form and design. An art student who can draw can always do a portrait, design a card or a logo, draw a house or illustrate a text or book, paint a mural. Most of these things are not that well paid but they are practical use. Being visually literate is of course useful in industry and enhances our lives. In the world of conceptual art; many are called but very few are chosen. Those not chosen are not really suited to as much. They may become art teachers in schools but of course would not be capable of teaching anyone to draw or even look. How depressing is that? A whole generation of art teachers would teach the next generation that drawing is unimportant, mainly because they wouldn’t have it in them to demonstrate otherwise.
Of course one of the major points of the drawing school is to teach the next generation. So to Michelle. I hadn’t met Michelle before the talk but we had plenty of interests in common, one of which was the use of silver-point and she had brought some examples of her drawings to the talk. Here is a link to her site
She spoke very well on the subject of coming to the drawing school to learn to draw She had previously studied for a degree at Chelsea School of Art and told us all how much more she had actually learnt on the drawing year compared tor her years of study at art school up to that point. As you can see Michelle draws beautifully and she is one of an ever growing number of good draftsmen who are emerging from the Drawing School and who will carry the torch for drawing into the future. They have great deal of ability and an infectious enthusiasm for what they are doing.
The problem is they may want teaching jobs at the drawing school and I’m not ready to leave just yet!
Michelle and I had a very enjoyable day hosted by the Chairman of the Tetbury Arts Society, Gill Ashley and her husband Roger. Photos are not allowed at Highgrove but this is a shot of Michelle and me after lunch at the nearby Hare and Hounds Hotel
I don’t drink alcohol, the red flush in my face is a bit of left over bronzing from our recent trip to Barbados. More of which anon.