What a difference a year makes

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.

Front aspect of Heron Bay
Front aspect of Heron Bay through trees

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.

Capt Peto 8x9
Capt Peto 8×9

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

Bongo Man by WT
Bongo Man by WT

and then one of Ronnie Woods.

bongo-man - Ronnie Wood
Painting of Bongo Man by Ronnie Wood

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.

Elvis aka Spicer 12x10
Elvis aka Spicer 12×10

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.

http://www.marlboroughfineart.com/artist-Matthew-Carr-103.html
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.

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