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.
I had heard of Julian Barrow and seen his paintings long before I met him. I had heard that he would travel the world, arriving somewhere with perhaps two letters of introduction. He would paint a collection of pictures, have an exhibition, then sell all the paintings to the large number of new friends he had made since arriving. He would then move on to another country and do the same again. Actually I didn’t just admire him; if I’m honest I was also a little jealous.
One day I was painting an interior of the dining room in a very grand London house and I went downstairs and found him painting a view of the hall. He was completely charming and I liked him right away.
We painted together like this for about three days during which time we stopped now and again to look at each others work and to chat. His picture was then finished and he went off to paint a house in St John’s Wood. My painting took a further two months and although he was very nice about it and said that I was doing something really much greater and that his was rather slight in comparison, I couldn’t help feeling that somehow he had the best of it all.
A few years later I bumped into him and he took me to see his studio in Tite Street, Chelsea,. It had once belonged to Augustus John and the living and working areas were situated on various different floors. The rooms were tastefully decorated in a Bohemian and rather opulent way and the walls were covered in his paintings, all beautifully framed. Here he held annual parties that were renowned throughout London and the home counties. All pictures were for sale and sell they did. As I left we swore undying friendship and promised to meet up in Wiltshire very soon.
Sadly he died last year and his memorial service was crowed out with his friends, more friends than most people would make in ten lifetimes. The address captured him so well and you can read it on line here and also see some of his work
He was famously known as one of the pin-stripe painters, after the sort of clothes worn around the St James’ area of London, where all the gentleman’s clubs are. Certainly, I noticed a number of pictures by him when I was painting a portrait interior at White’s a few of years ago. He told me he trained at Signorina Simi’s, an atelier in Florence where young people went to study painting 30 or more years ago. I think there was a large emphasis on tonal value there and this may have helped him see compositions in a simplified way which enabled him to paint so quickly and yet convincingly. I have read that he studied under Annigoni so I may have mis-remembered what he told me but the end result is the same. Many people who train in the Ateliers in Florence now seem to come out as clones, it can be hard to tell their work one from another but Julian Barrow’s work is easily recognised even before seeing his hand written style signature in the bottom corner.
I still think of him and his paintings, particularly when I am trying to capture something quickly. In fact I have been painting in a house recently where I counted 6 of his pictures so far – there may well be more – and as I go past them I have a look to see how they were done.
I love paintings of country houses and I thought I would try and do one. I painted this at Fosbury in Wiltshire a couple of weeks ago and I have to say it probably owes more than a little to Julian.