Stoned! Painting pebbles – old and new.

‘Run Aground’ Oil on painted edge box canvas. 24″ x 36″ Available.

Why did I ever think it would be a good idea to paint a close-up study of a pebble beach on the high tide line?
Not my first attempt as a few years ago I painted ‘Turn of the tide’ (still one of my favourite figure studies). It was the fourth in a series of figure paintings, each very different, which used the same model, throw, and two seat sofa as props. Because my model lived in Southsea, within a few hundred yards of a very pebbly beach, it made sense to use elements of this location in this particular composition. The black ‘horizon’ marks the skirting board behind the sofa and the title of the painting is, as you’ve probably guessed, a small pun 🙂

The model’s covering her face, not because she wasn’t pretty, she was and is, but because I’d discovered by that point that the British public feel uncomfortable if the model’s looking back at them. Sounds bizarre but very much the case in my experience – I’ve seen people stare for ages at a study with a gracefully turned head but scurry past the next painting which has a full face. Says something about the British collective guilty conscience I suspect. I was actually offered what might have seemed a good price for the painting at an exhibition some years ago – unfortunately, when gallery commission had been deducted, it would have been next to nuppence in my pocket so I turned it down. It graced the wall in the dining room at Coles for some time and I’d be reluctant to sell (which is why it’s on the website as being sold), so if you want it be prepared to dig deep – well, deep’ish anyway!

‘Turn of the tide’ Oil on painted edge box canvas. 40″ x 40″ Collection of the artist.

Back then I used real stones, collected from Southsea, in the studio – a fair sized pile of them. Now, not only do I know better, but I know removing stones from the beach is, and probably was, actually illegal, and so it should be – we live and work not only close to the sea but not much above sea level and that pile of pebbles is all that’s stopping us from getting very wet feet if there’s a substantial storm surge – so for this new painting it was photographic reference – lots of it. This is because I not only wanted to choose from some of the more interesting stones but I needed to know how their shadows fell, and how they lay together. An interesting point that: one would imagine, tossed around by the sea as they are, it would be totally random, but it doesn’t seem to be. The stones appear to interlock somewhat as they settle and slide together. The washed up toy boat by the way, which is pretty much the subject of the painting, has never actually been near the ocean (unless you count the thousands of sea miles it spent in a Chinese shipping container) – it was bought from the gift shop down the road in East Wittering, carefully ‘distressed’ in the studio, and painted into the scene.
I thought it would be plain sailing when I first put brush to canvas but having begun the painting I started to slowly go mad! Pebble after pebble after pebble – there seemed to be no end to them. A quarter of the canvas covered, a third, a half! On and on it went – interminably. If it sells quickly I shall undoubtedly grit my teeth and paint another, but believe me – I’m in no rush! 🙂
But here it is – finished (Pic at the top of the page) I intended calling it ‘Pebbles 1’ (as imaginative as ever) but I’m thinking ‘Run Aground’ might be more appropriate 🙂 A painted edge box canvas, it would suit any modern decor, and it’s yours for a mere £1,250.00 – a labour of love, and I deserve every penny I promise you!
Small note: You may have noticed if you’re a regular reader (I shall make no observations about my following 🙂 ) that the blog format has changed. This is because I’ve moved it from Googles Blogger to WordPress. Two reasons: blogger isn’t a popular platform with just 1.2% of the market and there’s every possibility that Google will simply drop it (wouldn’t be the first time they’ve done this with a Google app)- and drop my blogs with it. Secondly, one could only comment on the blog if one had, and was logged into, a Google account. Thus I’ve migrated everything to WordPress which is hosted and stored on my own domain – now anyone can comment and my blogs are safer (providing I don’t forget to pay the hosting fee). To be fair, I don’t think WordPress as a blogging platform is as good, there’s less control over text for one thing, but I think the pros outweigh the cons.
Thanks for reading.
Pip, pip,

Royal Society? Pah!

First posted 24/08/2017 on Blogger

Surf Study No 3. Oil on painted edge box canvas. 20″ x 30″ Available

Well, as you may have guessed from the headline the tasteless sods on the selection committee at the Mall Galleries decided they didn’t want my painting Groyne No2 (pic in previous blog) for this years exhibition – well, it’s their loss! Pah!

Ah, you say, a little bit of sour grapes there. Well, maybe, just a little – but it really is their loss. You see, between the painting having been ‘digitally accepted’, lugged up to the Mall, rejected, and lugged back again, it acquired itself a customer. They came to see it, liked it, and wanted to buy it – and I had to tell them I couldn’t sell it to them while there was a chance it would be in the show.

“Not a problem” they said, “if it’s accepted we’ll go and buy it from the exhibition”.

‘But it’ll be over twice the price!’ says I.

“That’s all right” says them, “Will we have to queue like Harrods sale?” Wonderful – and what a refreshing change from “Will you take an offer?” so often the modern measure of appreciation.

So there you are, Mall Galleries, the painting is sold and already hanging on my customers wall – and you’re down a tad under three grand by my reckoning. Don’t you just hate it when that happens? 😄

Will I be trying again? Not a chance – I reckon I’m through with competitive exhibitions – too much of a fag, too much of an emotional roller-coaster, frankly I can do without it and anyway, supposing I pulled it off – can you imagine me as a member of a Royal Society? Polite society dinners and the such? With my conversational skills and colourful use of invective? Neither can I. Pah!

So – back to the business in hand. This months offering is Surf Study No3, and it’s yours for £750. Look closely and you’ll see my patented technique for painting shingle – well, it isn’t actually patented but I think it should be as it’s pretty unique in my experience – I’m chuffed to bits with it – tho’ I say so myself and probably shouldn’t! It doesn’t need framing and will suit any modern decor, and remember, there’s only 90 odd shopping days to Christmas (I gift wrap for free) 😊

Pip, pip.

One out of three ain’t bad…….

First posted 10/07/2017 on Blogger

Those of you who kindly read this a couple of weeks ago (a select few :-), will no doubt remember that I mentioned submitting my work for this years Royal Society of Marine Artists exhibition. Well, the digital selection finished last week and of the three paintings I entered one has gotten through – Hurrah! No great shakes in the vast scheme of things I suppose but considering the best Maritime artists in the country, possibly the world, world enter for this show I think I can allow myself a very tiny weeny pat on the back even now.

The most nerve wracking part is in a months time – I have to deliver the actual work at the beginning of August to Pall Mall where, painting by painting, the committee will sit down and consider the merits of each one. Skill, composition, surface and symbol, probably even it’s compatibility with the other paintings they’ve chosen. Are they going to accept mine? We’ll see!

So! No popping of champagne corks yet awhile, and sadly – I’ve been here before. About eight years ago I entered three of my big figure paintings (that’s big paintings rather than paintings of big figures – you know what I mean!) for the prestigious Threadneedle Exhibition, also at the Mall Galleries. No joy – none accepted – but when I went to collect the paintings there were only two to hand, I had to wait for the third as it was “still upstairs”. Pure conjecture, of course, but that suggests to me that it was in the room when they made the final selection. Good, but no cigar! Damn! (pic below – Skylark, 40″x40″, oil on canvas.)

Nothing so dispiriting as waiting at the collection counter with all the other artists to collect their rejected works – not that it’s going to be the case this year, and if the unthinkable does happen, I’m sending a courier 😀

You’ll probably have seen the pic at the top of the page before if you follow my Facebook page – it’s Groyne No2, completed earlier in the year, and of the three paintings I submitted this is the one that’s got through to the next round. I’ll keep you posted.

Pip, pip

Shock Horror!

First posted 29/06/2017 on Blogger

I sometimes wonder how I’ve ever managed to sell any paintings at all, let alone make an approximation of a living from them – but somehow I do. I’m not represented by a single UK gallery of note (various reasons – largely self-inflicted), I only have an exhibition once in a blue moon (my wife, my Ruth, finds it hard to deal with the accompanying angst) and I have a website usually only visited by mistake. Add to this a Facebook page which boasts a singularly unimpressive 175 likes – there are chimpanzees, who cheerfully daub away with a wallpaper brush and a pot of paint, who have more likes – a lot more likes – as have the galleries that flog the stuff.

Anyway, for some reason or other – very possibly mild panic at my advancing years – I’ve decided to become a little more pro-active. Not only is it my intention to have a one man show next year (much to Ruths horror) but I’ve just submitted three canvasses for consideration for The Royal Society of Marine Artists annual exhibition at Pall Mall Galleries this year. I know! Shock horror!

Any chance? Who knows – it’s in the lap of the Gods really, or to be more precise, in the lap of the members of said society which amounts to much the same thing in my book. I’ll let you know next month if I’ve made it past digital submission 🙂

As it happens ‘digital submission’ is one of the reasons I don’t get on with galleries. I know it’s part of their ‘process’ but why insist that I waste time gathering up jpegs (of not more than so and so megs), writing yet more resumes, biographies and the such, when following a url to my website will explain all. It’s not as if I’ve just taken up painting after half a dozen evening classes or holiday school in Provence – I’ve been doing this for years and frankly, I’m pretty good. Rocking on for seventy as I am I take a dim view of being put through hoops by some penis whose major achievement is looking down their nose, banging nails in a wall and bullshitting. Frankly a little respect wouldn’t go amiss! It’s worth mentioning that the Royal Societies and Mall Galleries only ask to see the digital images of the work you intend to submit, then the works themselves – nothing more – and that’s how it should be – after all, a painter is only as good as his last painting.

The pic above by the way is one of the three pieces I submitted –  Groyne No 3 -50cms x 100cms. What do you reckon? Anyway, I think I’ll put the kettle on…..

Pip, pip.


Hurrah! Blogs back!

First posted 20/01/2017 on Blogger

recently came across a resource site for artists called ‘Art Store Front’. They’re a hosting gallery and print shop primarily and consequently not a lot of use to me as I persist, for better or worse, in doing that myself – but they do provide buckets of good advice for artists own websites – presumably hoping said artists will  get fed up with their sites having so few hits Google Analytics can’t even be bothered to count them, and will pay them to take over. Still, I’m nothing if not tenacious, and ever keen to make my number one waste of time profitable, I trawled through their articles and videos voraciously.

The last of their features I read suggested that an artists site could be ‘Caveman’ or it could be ‘Romantic’ – the latter being the most desirable. I would have thought a ‘Caveman’ site was most suitable for some forms of sculpture but it seems that isn’t the case – it means the artist ignores the customers ‘needs’. Personally I would have thought my customers would rather I didn’t have anything to do with their needs, but no! On a ‘Romantic’ site the artist would, it said, engage, tell a story, share their personality with the reader. I couldn’t help think we were stepping onto dodgy ground here, after all, the writer has never met me, but I like to give myself the benefit of the doubt from time to time…

Ladies and Gentlemen – you’re in luck – my blogs back! 

New paintings – and thank heavens for Night Nurse!

So exactly how would one paint with a head that feels as if it’s stuffed with cotton wool? Badly, I suspect, and I’m not even going to try. It was only a matter of time when Ruth brought this cold home that, sooner or later, I was going down with it – and have I ever. Grade One – Man Flu

I feel like —-! I’m generating enough nasal interest to give fresh inspiration to Roald Dahl, and I’m more crochety than a bar of Afro-Caribbean music – I don’t want to be sick, dammit, I want to paint!

There are three paintings crying out for my attention at the moment and I’m desperate to get at them. Firstly a painting looking through the sand dunes towards the Isle of Wight with sea-grass in the foreground. Been on the easel far to long this one and it needs finishing.

 Secondly – a new angel. It’s ages since I painted ‘Lightbringer’ and I’ve been keen to do another for some time. This new painting will also feature that cloud merging into rock thing I had going on but in this one the figure will be centre stage. Principal inspiration here has been those wonderful Victorian’esque memorial sculptures – so beautiful. My palette? Deep, deep, purple and deep, deep, Prussian blue – IF I can pull it off it’s gonna be something else.

Finally another surf painting, this time rather than rolling waves it’s concentrating more on the detailing of one breaker, the swash and backwash. I’ve spent hours sat on the beach studying for this one – if there’s been a bit of a blow and the tides high I’ve been down there. It’s going onto a wide box canvas 20″ x 40″ – a format rather irreverently referred to as a ‘sofa painting’ because they’re usually hung behind the sofa. As a painter I’d much rather they were hung in front of the thing but seeing as there’s a sodding great TV in front of mine I’m hardly in a position to complain.

Still, with a little help from the my friend the Night Nurse, (God, but I love that stuff – fill the glass to the 20ml mark and whallop! Out of it until morning, sure as eggs is eggs!) I’ll be back in the studio in a day or two – can’t wait!

Stay happy and healthy, y’all

Pip, pip.

Painting and the art of one-upmanship

First Posted on Blogger – 03/04/2014

I’ve been putting together a new version of my Paintings of the Caribbean website – a friend helpfully pointed out that the existing one was looking a little tired – so kind! Now, the old one gets a lot of traffic, albeit with a low conversion rate, and has a good SEO ranking, so I can’t afford to let it slip – the new ones got to be good. (I recently learnt that, despite it being ranked umpteenth millionth in the world, the domain has been attributed a value of a $1000 – I was delighted, although perhaps I shan’t retire just yet!)

Anyway, whilst working on the thing I thought I ought to address the issue of the Limited Edition Prints I occasionally sell online. My dilemma was this; do I continue to sell the reproductions the same size as the originals or do I not? The scales are fairly evenly balanced. As a professional painter (and I use the term professional very loosely) I have to maximise my potential earnings however I can. My big originals don’t exactly fly off the gallery walls – they’re expensive, and out of the reach of most of the people who like them. Prints, ‘reproductions’ properly speaking, are the obvious answer. A downside, as a gallery proprietor has pointed out to me, is that it might not be fair to the purchaser of a painting, who has just shelled out several thousand dollars for the original, if I then start selling same size prints for a fraction of the price.

I can see his point, but as the artist the way I see it is that a print is a picture whilst the painting is a work of art. They’re certainly a work of something or other: the bigger canvasses take weeks!

It was while I was contemplating this that a potential scenario occurred to me. Imagine a dinner party in large villa somewhere in Barbados: big white walls and big colourful pictures. One of the guests is looking at a scene of coral cliffs, palm trees and tropical seas. He turns to his host and remarks “I see you have a print of Steve Bonner’s ‘Bottom Bay’”
“Actually” his host replies, “that’s the original!”
Surely that must be a pretty high-score in one-upmanship that almost anyone would aspire to? OK, so it’s not in the league of a Van Gogh or a Picasso, but wouldn’t that moment alone be worth the price of the painting? I’d have thought so.

While I’m on the subject of one-upmanship I must tell you of a similar episode here at Coles a few years back. Tim, the husband of the owner of the property, was mooching around when he bumped into a friend of ours who was renting the cottage at the time.
“Hello” says Tim, “I see you’re wearing a (somewhere or other) Game Reserve T-shirt”.
“Yes”, our friend replies, “Wonderful place. Have you been there?”
“I have actually” said Tim, “My family own it!”
Boom – boom!! Hat’s off to our pal who, treasure that she is, burst out laughing.

Pip, pip,


Sudden death in a Hampshire wood!

Originally posted Friday, 27th November, 2015 on Google Blogspot
Like many of us I find I’m increasingly bewildered by the downright stupidity I seem to encounter on an almost daily basis.
As many of you will know we live in a house surrounded by 26 acres of woodland garden. Mainly oak, azalea, and rhododendron, the garden is an ericaceous oasis in an almost totally limestone area. It is, especially in the springtime when the garden is carpeted with bluebells, simply stunning.
Last weekend we were visited by the owner of the property who informed us that Phytophthora Ramorum, a fungus like plant pathogen, better known as ‘Sudden Oak Death’ has found it’s way into the garden. We were told that it would probably be best if we ceased to walk the garden and, as garden centres are implicated in the spread of the disease, that we should refrain from buying and planting seasonal bedding. Possibly, you might imagine, a sensible precaution.
Now here’s the curious bit. All year round the local tree surgeons turn up at the garden to dump tons, possibly tens of tons, of chipped wood and cuttings. Sourced from God knows where, they dump huge mounds of the stuff. This the gardener then heaps into his trailer and tractors off around the garden, spreading it inches thick, as a weed suppressing mulch. But never mind, as long as we don’t walk around the garden we will undoubtedly be able to contain the infection!
I remember listening, some thirty years back, to a chap on Radio Four who was explaining how the use of Side Flails on tractors to cut back roadside woodland, then a new innovation but now common practice, was a really, really, bad idea. Previously cut cleanly by hand, the torn and twisted branches left by the mechanical flail would be very susceptible to infection by air born plant pathogens. Further, the spores of these fungal style infections, could travel in the vortex of moist air trapped behind lorries for many miles. Infections, that might have taken generations to travel the length of the country could be spread, God forbid, in a matter of months. Phytophthora Ramorum was first identified in the USA ten years ago – it is now virtually worldwide.

Hopefully we will be able to plant artificial pansies around the house this year – providing, of course, we don’t buy them from garden centres. How dull this world would be without occasional lashings of stupidity to cheer us all up.

Pip, pip.