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 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.
This is the last painting for 2014, a small party blower sketch in oil on primed paper. If you suddenly have an impulse to do an oil sketch primed paper is wonderful; you can cut it to any size and proportion with just the snap of some scissors.
I posted it on Instagram and If you feel like following me my username is Willpaint.
I usually do a Christmas card to send out to our friends. I like to do our dogs and parrot in various Christmas situations but this year I had a cough at the critical moment when I should have been finishing the drawing and printing the card. Forgive my self pity but it made doing anything feel 10 times harder and I only got half way through drawing it before it became too late to send.
We had friends and children coming and I managed a couple of sketches of Shapes as gifts.
This one was for Joss, our friend Jonathon Bond’s black Labrador
These were for Iris, a blue, almost whippet, lurcher
For those unfamiliar with Shapes they are a kind of dog treat.
According to Pliny the Elder in 5th century BC Greece, the two artists Zeuxis and Parrhasius staged a contest to determine who was the greater. When Zeuxis unveiled his painting of grapes, they appeared so real that birds flew down to peck at them. But when Zeuxis asked Parrhasius to pull aside the curtain from his painting, the curtain itself turned out to be a painted illusion. Parrhasius won, and Zeuxis said, “I have deceived the birds, but Parrhasius has deceived Zeuxis.”
I tried my sketches on our dogs but sadly, as it turns out I have some way to go.
My son Lewis has been studying Mathematics for some years now , most recently at Manchester University. He completed his thesis nearly a year ago and has held a fellowship at UEA in Norwich since that time.
The actual awarding of his Doctorate took place last Thursday so his mother and I joined him there for the ceremony. I felt that I should mark the occasion so I packed my day bag with my smaller Pochade and a few things for the day. I set out from London in fairly overcast conditions and was a bit apprehensive as the weather is often warmer in the South East and Manchester is in the North West. My fears were groundless as when I got there it turned out to be a beautiful day. We had time to get a bowl of noodles in a Chinese restaurant beforehand. Manchester has a large Chinese population and it was a truly authentic place, food, customers, decor, the lot.
Then off to hire the gown and book the photograph and queue up to get in. Anticipating that I would get covered in paint, I wore a very cheap suit so I felt somewhat under dressed compared to my neighbours queuing behind me wearing in the most exquisite African robes
Once we had made it into the hall it was all pretty quick and the ceremony was all over in an hour. We arranged to meet up on a grassy area in front of the building where there was an ice cream van doing hardly any business so with no queuing Lewis and I had a cornet served by very a friendly ice cream man. The ice cream itself was definitely one of those that had been made of surplus lard from the meat industry, but what could one expect from one of the last bastions of the 50‘s?
Doctor of Cool
Next up was a small reception at the Alan Turing building where Lewis had had his office. They had laid on cream cakes and tea in the lobby and there were a couple of dozen people standing about in small groups, mostly degree graduates. I then went back to the grassy area in front of the old Victorian University building where the award ceremony had taken place and got out my paints. As I was just making the first few marks a couple of old dears came up and said “we’ve come to see if you are any good.”.
I would like to start a list of unanswerable remarks people have made as I work. The other people who came up were quite nice. The light was going behind the building and was catching my eyes so it was lucky I has a cap with me. I spend a disproportionate amount of time planing what to take painting as forgetting something like that can mess up the whole day.
The finished Sketch, oil on primed paper 5.5“ x 6“
I have mounted the painting on ply and I’ll send it to Lewis. We are really proud of what he has achieved and I’m only sad that of his four grandparents only one is still alive and he was too infirm to attend. They would have been thrilled.