Life drawing, preparatory sketches

life drawings in charcoalHere are some sketches from this week’s life drawing session. As mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been struggling with the flat light in my studio space, as is evident in the top most drawings. I made sure that I had set up my studio lights for the second part of this sitting.

The purpose of this exercise, apart from exploring the lighting in my new studio. was to prepare poses that I can use for future sittings where I shall be painting directly from life. My plans have been brought forward somewhat by the imminent departure of this model to California. Oh well.


This pose looked nice enough, but a bit too linear. So for the next pose (shown below) I chose a more elevated viewpoint and tried to introduce some diagonals into the model’s position.

It was difficult enough trying to do a quick charcoal study while standing on a chair in order to get the right view, so I imagine that it might be quite a challenge spending four or so hours in that position while I’m painting from life.


New model, portrait sitting

I arranged a sitting with a new model for this morning. I had originally advertised on for a life model, but when Mia responded to the casting, and I had a look at her portfolio pictures, I immediately thought that she would be an ideal subject for a portrait. These sketches show me trying to find the best location for light in my new studio space. It’s a lovely large space, with very large windows, but all that light has created some problems; anywhere away from the windows suffers from rather flat light, and I will probably have to use studio lights for subsequent life drawing sessions.portrait drawings in charcoalI have not had a portrait sitting for quite a while. Portraits are not as commercial as nudes, and their main value to me is as an addition to my portfolio. In this instance, the main reason why I changed this sitting to a portrait session was because I found the model’s face and features so interesting, and just wanted to put them on paper. It’s also a useful exercise, and good preparation for portrait commissions.

Pure Painting

PurepaintingI have just learned that I have had the latest painting from my Relationship Series accepted for inclusion in the Pure Painting exhibition – a show organised by Brent Artist Resource.

Brent Artist’s Resource is an artist led voluntary organization founded in 1984. We aim to: serve the cultural needs of the people of Brent and North West London, and provide a supportive environment for artists in their professional development.

Relationships Series - beth and Nina No.3
Relationships Series – beth and Nina No.3

New studio and old model

After extensive delays caused by my preparations for moving house, various “family events”, and my dog being diagnosed with heart failure, I have finally started working in my new studio. It’s not always easy creating the right environment to produce paintings. Adequate space and light are essential, as are cleanliness and absence of distractions. All these requirements were compromised to some extent in my previous work space, and it was severely impacting on my ability to produce artwork. My new workspace has a particularly large and bright room that I can use for sittings, and I have been particularly  looking forward to the opportunity to have models pose for me here, and being able to work from life again.
charcoal life drawingsI am always surprised by how some artists will choose to work from photos, even when they have the option of working from life. Much of my painting has to be from reference photos out of necessity; I could not possibly afford to pay models to pose for the time it takes me to finish a painting. The process can become quite tedious, especially after working for months on a painting. So I am always pleased to have the chance to work from life. To be honest, it is the only time I truly feel like an artist. Shown above are preparatory drawings for my next paintings, where I’m trying to work out the best poses and lighting.

Sold paintings

I sold four paintings in January via New Blood Art, which took me by surprise, as I always considered January a quiet month for sales. I had informed Sarah Ryan, the site’s owner and founder, that I wanted to withdraw my paintings for sale from her site. I don’t have a problem with her site – I just didn’t think it was the right place to promote my work at the moment, as I have been finding more opportunities to show my work in traditional galleries (edit: like The South Galleries, who have just told me that they sold one of my Relationships Series last week). She was very understanding, and just suggested that she inform her client base via a newsletter of my intentions. The result was that I very quickly received confirmation of these four sales. Ordinarily, I’d be absolutely delighted, but my only regret is that three of these paintings have never been exhibited anywhere. The painting below, “Woman Bathing”, had only just been finished.

woman bathing, oil on linenI had been planning on showing all three of these pieces in the next few months, so now I’ll be denied that particular sense of satisfaction; when my work is on the wall in some gallery, and the occasional visitor might actually spend a minute or two to have a look at it. Oh well. I can only hope that they are on the wall in someone’s home, and not being kept in storage.


Multimedia installation at WOA, call for artists

becky walker multimedia art installation
during installation

Last week I paid a visit to my local art gallery, WOA, to see local Southend artist Becky Walker putting up her multimedia art installation. It seemed to involve the use of a couple of projectors, what seemed to be miles and miles of clingfilm,  and possibly beer cans.

I thought it brave of the gallery to give free rein to the artist to put on this event, which included rearranging the displayed artwork to suit her installation. The gallery was open all the time, and it was interesting viewing the reaction of a couple of visitors while I was there. This particular gallery puts a great importance on the active involvement of their participating artists; it positively encourages it. As such it is a great opportunity for emerging and local artists. Especially those who work in the multimedia field, who might otherwise have difficulty finding suitable venues for their offerings. And to be able to put on a show in an open gallery along quite a busy road.., well, that’s priceless.

The WOA gallery currently has openings for artists. The fee they charge, £20/month, really only covers costs, and as I said, they are always looking to host events. Any enquiries should be directed to Jon or Carra at the address below. More details can be found on their website.

You can visit the WOA gallery @
28 Hamlet Court Rd, Westcliff-on-Sea,
Southend-on-Sea, Essex, UK, SS0 7LX,

becky walker art installation
becky walker art installation, and those beer cans again
One of the projectors broke down on the evening, but I don’t think it spoiled anyone’s enjoyment. Quite a few people attended, and despite the technical problem, I would say the evening was a success.


Portrait of a Woman with Bare Breast.

All my paints and canvases have been packed away for a while now, in readiness for my moving house. Until the move happens, which could still be weeks, or even months away, I can not continue work on any of my painting; six of which are nearing completion. It is frustrating, but I am really looking forward to my new accommodation. Apart from having a dedicated studio space, I will also have use of a large, bright room for my sittings. Lots of natural light and plenty of space. So, unable to paint in the meantime, I have instead been planning my next paintings, which I hope they will take full advantage of my new “studio”.


I have often been fascinated by a number of portraits of women with bare breasts, dating from the Renaissance. They have the look of formal portraits (although they probably had a different purpose, as portraits of women were quite rare in those times), and yet they look strangely incongruous, with the sitter baring one or both breasts. This incongruity is largely a result of our modern perspective, no doubt influenced by a modern media filled with imagery sexualising the female form. Looking at female portraits, and the representation of women through history, does teach us that how we perceive the female form has changed dramatically over the years. Paintings of the Virgin Mary baring a breast for the baby Jesus were not uncommon, and clearly not intended for titillation; yet they might be viewed as improper by today’s standards.

Gauguin’s paintings of bare breasted Tahitian women are seen completely differently. The sitter is not “exposing” her breasts, as such, but is instead comfortable with no top. There is no sexual element that I can see. That is not necessarily how the later  bare breasted portraits by Jan Sluijters might be interpreted. I find Freud’s painting of his wife in “Girl with a White Dog” even more difficult to analyse, given what I know about his relationship with his  wife. I am fascinated with how the reaction to the representation of the human form has changed over time, and is constantly changing.


Bare breasts have been in the news lately. First there was Nigel Farage’s suggestion that breast feeding mothers should sit in the corner at restaurants. Then there was the “No More Page 3”, campaign, and their success in getting the Sun newspaper to remove photos of topless models from their paper… A success which lasted barely a week. I’m not offering an opinion on either of these stories, as I can’t allow them the time and space they deserve. I suppose they are examples of how we have differing, or rather, confused views on nudity and the human body.

Back to where I started: me and my work. And my plan to paint a series of portraits of women with bare breast(s).  It is just this “confusion” which is of interest to me. There was an incident, when I first showed one of my “Relationships” paintings with two female figures. A member of the public, on seeing it in the gallery, reacted quite angrily, saying it was sick and evil, and the gallery owner was a purveyor of filth. I might have laughed at his interpretation of my work, but the truth is, I can not dictate how people view or interpret my paintings. And more importantly, no matter how ignorant or misguided someone’s view might be, it is still valid. I am not suggesting that I would give it the same weight as the considered opinion of an expert, but it is still their opinion, their interpretation, and as such, it is still valid. I don’t worry now about how people might read my work. I see it instead as just another important part of the jigsaw, the relationship between the artist, the subject and the viewer. As such, I won’t explain what my intentions are in planning this series of bare breasted portraits. I shall leave that for the viewer.

portrait of a woman revealing her breasts
portrait of a woman revealing her breasts

Works in progress, a crucifixion and looking for a male model

crucifixionWith the New Year looming, I’m already planning the composition of some paintings for next year. One of the compositions will have a crucified male figure in background, with a female figure in foreground. I’ve already worked on preliminary poses for the female figure with my regular model, so I’m just in need of a male model for the crucified figure. I will be looking for someone of slim/athletic build under thirty, who is prepared to work for very low artist rates. I may have to avoid mentioning the crucified bit in any advert.

This past couple of weeks I have been working on some old, unfinished or abandoned paintings. One of them dating from 2010. Although I try to be methodical in my approach to work, it’s always a mystery how a painting will evolve. I might labour without success on what I thought was a straightforward composition, while more ambitious works might just emerge on the canvas, seemingly under their own volition.
Sometimes I just lose my nerve. I might have worked on a painting over a period of a couple of months, which will be the culmination of work started months earlier with a model posing in my studio; so I often feel quite nervous when applying the final glazes to a piece. I am aware that if I get it seriously wrong, I could ruin the painting. That is why I found it so relaxing working on these “abandoned” pieces. I had already given up on them, and had expected to paint over most of them. Although I haven’t finished them, I’m generally pleased with the results.

works in progress
works in progress

WOA December Exhibition

I have just finished hanging my work at WOA (WestcliffOnArt) gallery for their December show. I did enjoy the fact that it’s only five minutes walk from my house, so I didn’t have to struggle on trains and underground to get my work to it’s destination. I’m pleased with how the arrangement has worked out. I don’t often get a chance to exhibit my portraits, and I thought it quite apt that the portraits I have on show are of the three models who have worked with me on most of my recent paintings.

Jon adding labels to my work at WOA gallery
Jon adding labels to my work at WOA gallery

I’m looking forward to the “Opening” for the show, which will be on Saturday the 6th December. Their Facebook event page says:
Cordially requesting your esteemed attendance for a night of artistic appreciation – more than seven new artists to the gallery showing work – violin, guitar of varying qualities, and some wine.”
Not sure if I should be more alarmed by the “guitar of varying qualities” or the mention of “some wine”. The gallery owners/curators, Jon and Carra, seem nice people to do business with. Their business model seems very fair and reasonable to the artist; quite unlike so many of the “opportunities for artists” out there, which are no more than schemes to exploit and fleece artists.

Gallery information:

28 Hamlet Court Rd
Essex, UK

Opening Hours:
Mon: By Appointment
Tue: 10am – 7.30pm
Wed: 10am – 7.30pm
Thu: 10am – 7.30pm
Fri: 10am – 7.30pm
Sat: 10am – 7.30pm
Sun: 10am – 7.30pm

Westcliff on Art, December Exhibition

I have just arranged to have one of the walls in my local gallery, WestcliffOnArt, for their December show. The gallery hasn’t been open for long. It looks like a nice, inviting space, and I’m happy with the wall I have been allocated. They also use the gallery for workshops, which I always think is a nice idea. Art galleries have a terrible  reputation for being elitist, uninviting places, so It’s nice when you come across galleries that are opening their doors to the public.

WestcliffOnArt, Hamlet Court Road
WestcliffOnArt, Hamlet Court Road

The gallery website can be found here, and their Facebook page is here.