David Lodge Day 13


water colour study from my sketch book

water colour study from my sketch book

March 12th 2013

Continued in square format but this time worked in watercolour which is similarly challenging; very unforgiving. Started six side by side studies which I can work back into with mixed media also. Late afternoon I went across to the Barber Institute with Sunny to hear David Lodge talk about his novel, “Changing Places.” He was introduced by the wife of the novelist Jim Crace. Liked his use of a variety of stylistic formats in the book, eg. third person, first person and script; gave me an idea for the text in my picture book. I call it that as it is aimed at children and adults. Slightly embarrassing as he was asked at the end to choose between a bottle of wine and a bottle of champagne as  a gift and as the bottles were physically there we all felt he should be given both; but he wasn’t . He took the champagne and kindly signed my first edition copy of Changing Places. Upstairs in the gallery afterwards I saw the latest acquisition: a Reynolds they had hung that veryday; it had been given to the state in lieu of death taxes apparently. Talking informally to the marketing man at the Barber they apparently receive income from paintings loaned out so the large Manet for example is currently down in London at the Royal Academy. 


Bear’s & Snuff Day 11


water colour study from my sketch book

water colour study from my sketch book

March 7th 2013

Grey dismal damp drizzly day. Drawing in the nursery two days ago was challenging as there is a problem with the sensor. Hence the tune of the Teddy Bear’s Picnic is playing constantly and appears to go faster and faster forcing you out of the room to find an axe! Normally the music is triggered by new movement in the room and there is a sedate pause between playing but not at the moment. The first thing  I did on arriving in the studio today was turn off the lights as I prefer natural daylight whenever possible. I realised I had forgotten my specs so the lunchtime lecture might be a bit blurred. Primed the back of a number of paintings- aka recycling- because I can’t bear to paint over them but I may not necessarily wish to start a new piece. Attended the lunchtime lecture at the Barber Institute about the changing landscape of Paris during the French revolution; very interesting.  Completed adding watercolour to my sketchbook and began working on two illustrations of Winterbourne landscape which I might use as a backdrop for the picture book: Where’s Snuff! It will be a story about John & Margaret Nettlefold’s little dog, Snuff. Clare is going to give me copies of photographs of the family to aid the research. Chatted to three young people from Finland who were impressed I had been to Helsinki (I exhibited at the British Embassy in Helsinki in 2005 representing the creative industries of the West Midlands). Began some big splashy abstract paintings- layer one.

Sunshine & Burgh Island Day 8


water colour study from my sketch book

water colour study from my sketch book

February 27th 2013

The sun came out! Hurray! I covered over more or less all I had done on the oil painting last week and softened it with an overlay of the palest creamiest blue I could make and added washes to sketch book studies which examine arts and crafts motif in and around Winterbourne. I created a larger acrylic study of the garden in black and white on a red ground working from a charcoal sketch. Went to lunchtime lecture at Barber Institute on art deco where they mentioned John Nettlefold’s cousin Archie Nettlefold who built Burgh Island Hotel, Bigbury-on-sea, Devon, c. 1929. Began two abstract oils to which I will keep adding. Worked in the garden later in the afternoon, looking, sketching, and thinking. The bird song was noticeably loud and lovely but the chickens had been put to bed by the time I got to them. Primroses, crocae, hellebore are all out and I saw a daffodil and azalea in bud. There are signs of growth everywhere. Drew some of the gardeners working in the garden from the window; they were busy clearing winter debris off the ground.

Structure & Ideals Day 4


water colour study from my sketch book

water colour study from my sketch book

February 6th 2013

It’s colder in Birmingham than Worcester and the train was delayed by half an hour so shivered as I alighted at the University. I learnt more today about John Nettlefold’s ideals and emphasis on tradition and craft via town planning aka Moor Pool Estate.Went to a lecture at the Barber Institute about the Venice Carnival and decided my picture book might be about “Clara the eighteenth century rhinoceros” in and around Venice with puncinello masked figures in tow. Primed four canvases and chatted to people and braved the cold to do four drawings in and around the garden using black aquarelle strick which is really hard and performs like Conte crayon. At the bottom of Winterbourne gardens I sat on a bench dedicated to Hilde Hunt (1913-2004) who coincidentally taught me German at school next door at KEHS from 1975-82. She looked ancient then; and I can remember her telling us about the horrors of Buchenwald. The inscription about her said simply, “who loved gardens.” At home I googled her and read an obituary and hadn’t realised she was actiually Austrian, not German.The drawings I did today focused on winter structures and edited out 90% of what was there;  working solely in black and white I find it easy to think monchromatically. The colour will come.



water colour study from my sketch book

water colour study from my sketch book

January 24th 2013

Drove up to Winterbourne with a car load of stuff; canvases, easel, tubs of paint and primer, art materials and a few books to establish my new studio space. No recent snow fall so the journey was easy and we sailed through. A stream of students were just leaving as we arrived for the private view of the new upper rooms at Winterbourne: there’s an Edwardian nursery, Nina the teenage daughter’s room, the governess’ room, also a hobbies’ room leading onto my studio. The staff were racing around making final adjustments and then at 5.30pm the first of fifty arrived for the reception. I chatted to the editor of Birmingham’s Gem magazine, two of Winterbourne’s volunteers, a Birmingham Councillor, an ex KES headmaster and his wife, the marketing manager of the Barber Institute, and the new director of the B.I, Nicola Kalinsky. Alison Derby made a short speech to us all from the stairs and announced my position as artist in residence as from Monday. Paul enjoyed seeing the whole wonderful set up for the first time and said I’d have a great time. We’re ready for the off!

111001 false alarm

This week I was fortunate enough to spend a number of hours visiting two major art collections: first the Barber Institute of Fine Art in Birmingham, the second the National Museum in Cardiff. It is always fascinating to see artists represented in different collections; paintings produced perhaps a few years apart: different but complimentary. I saw two examples of Richard Wilson for example, two of Corot, two of Whistler, many by Gwen John, two by Howard Hodgkin. The first viewed in England’s second city, the second in Wales’ first city.

In Cardiff the visit was followed by a well spent half hour in the Martin Tinney Gallery in St Andrew’ s Crescent. This was followed by a boat trip on the aquabus down the Taff to Cardiff Bay via Penarth, followed by a quick dash into John Lewis where we watched a programme about my favourite US artist Frank Stella, then finished with an evening in St David’s Hall listening to the BBC National Orchestra & Chorus of Wales (with choristers from Hereford, Gloucester and Worcester Cathedrals).

The rendition of John Adams’ deeply felt tribute to the victims of the 9/11 tragedy was as expected very moving and there  followed an interval. It was just coming to a close with requests for us to return to our seats when the announcements were swiftly replaced by orders for us to evacuate the auditorium immediately. Traipsing at a snail’s pace down the stairs from level 3 behind the elderly and infirm we naturally thought of those caught up in the twin towers a decade ago. Fortunately for us the firemen soon declared our emergency all clear and we were allowed back in to the auditorium to hear Thierry Fischer conduct Beethoven’s Symphony no. 9 with Rebecca Evans, Hanne Fischer, Andrew Kennedy and Matthew Rose. It had been a false alarm.

If only that had been the case ten years ago.

110702 missing out

Twice this week I’ve been wrong footed. I was up at the Barber Institute on Tuesday delivering paintings for submission to the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2011 and ambled upstairs to see the exhibition Court on Canvas.  At the top of the stairs I turned left into the exhibition and had a quick look but wasn’t overly impressed. There were black and white photographs of Billie-Jean King, a cheeky tennis poster (you know the one), a range of tennis rackets from throughout the ages, a case full of art deco jewellery featuring tennis motifs etc etc. All well and good but nothing exactly scintillating. So I continued on into the permanent collection, mildly disappointed, enjoying the Howard Hodgkin as always, revisiting the Vuillard, the Bonnard, Sickert, and onto my Frans Hals and Bellini favourites. I paused for a moment to listen to various excellent explanations of paintings to a school party by a young museum officer before turning right into the final room and catching the train home. Imagine my surprise therefore when I found THIS was the main room of superb, fantactic tennis paintings and prints featuring works by Eric Gill, Edward Ravilious, Percy Shakespeare, Paul Nash, Sir John Lavery, Stanley Spencer and E.H.Shephard. I was gobsmacked and spellbound, in equal measures; it’s an ace exhibition and well worth seeing. But nearly missed it.

Blow me if a similar thing didn’t happen yesterday! I met a dear friend at Compton Verney near Stratford to take in the current Stanley Spencer and the English Garden exhibition. We did a couple of rooms of garden paintings before finishing off in the final room to watch the film about his life and career. This film had originally come out in the late 70s when we had both seen the Stanley Spencer exhibition at the Royal Academy as part of our O-level studies. It was quite a long film and what with the wooden floors, visiting school parties, and open plan nature of the gallery adversely affecting the accoustics, barely audible at times. We both stuck it out however and by the end were ready to go for lunch rating the experience overall as very good but not fantastic. As we walked back through the galleries we suddenly spotted a small sign on a door saying ‘exhibition continues’. This only turned out to be the entrance to the main exhibition which we had very nearly missed: two massive rooms of far more major works than those in the previous rooms.

Later I popped into the RSC theatre to see the current Folio exhibition- a response to Shakespeare by staff and student printmakers at the RCA; prints by Norman Ackroyd, Alistair Grant (my old tutor), Joe Tilson, Elizabeth Frink and many others. It was a lovely exhibition and well worth seeing. On the two and a half hour train journey from Worcester to Stratford first thing I had got talking to two ladies about their day trip to Stratford. What are you going to do there, I asked casually. Go on the river, they replied. Well, you could always go into the theatre, I suggested. There followed a pregnant pause. Why would we want to do that? they asked in unison. Well, because it’s the home of Shakespeare theatre, they’ve just spent a trillion pounds rebuilding it, you can get a cup of tea, visit the gift shop, see an exhibition, it’s the RSC’s 50th birthday, lots of reasons, blah, blah, blah, but I suspect my well meaning suggestions were falling on deaf ears.