Monday 18 December 2023

Ave Des Gobelins

This replaces the post of 29 June 2023 which became corrupted - The Comments (David & John) were lost ...sorry!

 Just as you thought you'd seen the back of me ........

I always get pulled back to my roots, and a building often needs to be drawn. This one caught me .... the ink is still wet.

Number 2 the Avenue of Goblins Paris - as it looked in 1904

As 2023 Stumbles OUT, I Stumble ON!

 I don't suppose there are many who remember me as the prolific blogger, I doubt those that do will ever look in here...... BUT ... my life is very different now to how it used to be, and so here's an update for the few that might might peep in. xxx.

My wife died just over 2 years ago, we were married 62 years, and it changed me considerably. Now, aged 86,  I go where the wind blows me ... at first I painted and drew day & night like a maniac. 

...the wind changed direction and I fell into Forensic Psychology and took a Masters of Science degree (MSc).

...the wind changed and connected me to my childhood: At 15 years of age I became apprenticed for 5 years to be a Shipwright (Ship & boat builder) ... I have begun, and have almost finished, a Master of Arts degree (MA) with the University of Portsmouth, in Naval History.

If the wind stays in this direction I shall start a Doctorate (PhD) late 2024. I intend to write a thesis on a marshland that became Samuel Pepys's Dockyard, which in turn built a hamlet to accommodate the dockyard workers. Until then, the workers and their families lived in the Hulks of the old Ships of the Line of the Royal Navy.

The Hulks were loved by the workers, with street names, and 'house numbers'. Against their will they were moved to the wooden houses: the 'Blue Houses'...the houses grew to become a wooden town named Blue Town ... no electricity, water from a well, almost primitive, and here is where I grew up.

There is so little written about this particular history, that the two years for research will be fully utilised, and then a year to write. The only problem is!!!! I feel a slight change in the wind and am feeling the need to draw what I will be writing about! 

The Dockyard was closed in 1960. Blue Town expanded to become Sheerness and is more of a London suburb than a coastal town. So here we have the lifecycle of a dockyard and a way of life.  Amen.

If I 'pop my clogs' before I finish, at least I will go out of this life loving what I am doing.



Friday 5 August 2022

Busy, busy......BUSY

 I'm just not getting enough time to 'do' this blog, because I am really on a roll. I will just bring you up to speed as to where I am.

I saw a photo taken, I'm fairly sure, by Chuck Black, the American painter I so admire, and just had to paint it:

Patsy's Alpine Adventure

Then I fell under the influence of Tobias Brenner, the German painter I also admire, and I painted:

An Afterlife on an Ocean Wave

Then I fell under the influence of my eldest Australian Great-grandson, 'Topgun' (Logan) who wanted a painting of 'Among us red'????? After research, he got this:

Among Us Red 

Next I saw a photograph of the 'Porthcawl Wave' by Nigel Waters, which I didn't copy but it gave me a steer.

So that's five paintings in four weeks ... plus ... I was invited to exhibit in London next February!! I was flattered at the invite but turned it down as, at 84, I don't feel like shipping paintings and going to London at this stage in my career.

Wednesday 13 July 2022

CHAOS Continues and its effect on my portrait paining

 I have found that the relaxed process of chaos-drawing, has influenced my portrait painting. With portraits I attempt to put a likeness on to a surface, with 'chaos' I seek to extract a likeness from the chaotic surface.

With a portrait I don't exactly use a grid but I position certain features, by measurement, specifically from centre lines I have drawn. This procedure does restrict and discipline the portrait painting. It's as if I don't trust myself to put the key-features in the correct place. 

With 'chaos', it is totally freehand and I don't even think about trusting my ability, in fact I don't even consider I may get it wrong because it doesn't matter. Here it becomes common to continue with the mistakes and accommodate and correct them as you go along.

I hadn't realised all this until my niece asked me to paint a portrait of her husband's mum. She was quite a fantastic woman and a good friend, who died a few months ago aged 97.

The last portrait I painted was four-years ago, before I broke away from art to nurse my late wife. It therefore made sense to draw a portrait, before attempting to paint it: to try to get back into the swing of things. Consequently, I did a freehand charcoal sketch; the direct result of doing 'chaos'. 

I was quite pleased with the sketch, and this encouraged me to paint the portrait entirely freehand, which I did. (The flash of the camera has hidden the eyelashes on her right eye).

Madame Maachi was Algerian by the way, which reflects my cosmopolitan family ... we also have a Japanese, American and Australians ... not to mention English.

'Madam Maachi'  Oil on Stretched Canvas 

 16 x 11 inches (400 x 280mm)

Tuesday 21 June 2022



In the 1940s, Bluetown, on the Isle-of-Sheppey, was ghetto-like: surrounded by walls, cut off by a moat, with one road in and one out. The people of Sheerness generally viewed Bluetown as a slum populated by a class of people they distrusted. It was into this area that my family brought me to live as World War Two was raging.

If Sheerness people of the 1940s had looked at Bluetown on a bad day, they might have seen many buildings collapsing, collapsed or in ruins, an abundance of pubs spewing hordes of drunken sailors, gangs of ragged children, domestic violence, poverty, and despair.

However, if those people of the 1940s had looked at Bluetown on a good day, they might have seen a small close-knit community with its own church, school, police station, theatre, railway station and pier where paddle steamers landed their passengers. They may have seen cobblers, grocers, butchers, chandlers, hairdressers, bakers, laundry, collar factory, crisp factory not to mention the Magistrates Court. If that wasn’t enough, Charles Dickens had once lived there, and Lord Nelson had stayed at Bluetown’s grand hotel, the ‘Fountain’.

Bluetown was all those things and more, for it lay in the shadow of an army garrison and Samuel Pepys’s Naval Dockyard which provided the main source of employment for the island and surrounding area.

So, as you can see, Bluetown was always a series of contradictions, not least in its architecture. On one hand were the ramshackle dwellings, whilst on the other, there were grand buildings such as the one we Bluetowners called, the Magistrates Court; more correctly, I’m assured, it was officially the County Court.

It was built, in 1852, opposite the now bricked up South Gate of the Dockyard, at a cost of £2000.

One part of the court's history I loved, is that of the judge complaining about the noise made by the passing horses and carts as they trundled over the cobbled High Street. In response, the High Street was tarmacked. There are still a few cobbled areas left: the road between the 'Royal Fountain Hotel' and the 'Jolly Sailor' pub, for example

As a very poor and scruffy Bluetown boy, the Magistrates Court was a breath-taking wonder-of-the-world to me, which is why is features so high on my ‘drawing list’.


The "Old Ferry Bridge"

(John Simlett Pen & Ink)
I recently put together a chapter about the time Patsy and I came back to Sheppey to celebrate our Golden Wedding Anniversary in 2009. We’d got married in 1959 and left the island shortly after, never suspecting we wouldn’t be coming back.

Our adventures had led us a merry dance around the world, and our 25th move was here to the West Coast of Wales. On the way our kids and grandkids married - amongst others - a Japanese, an American, an Australian and a French Algerian … it was a complex journey from which we emerged a mixture of ‘The Mafia, the United Nations and, with all the great grandchildren… a Plague of Locusts,’

Without really thinking about it, Patsy and I must have imagined Sheppey would stay frozen in time, waiting for us to come back, or at least have had the patience to remain largely unchanged. Wrong! When we arrived, not only had the old bridge gone, but so had the new bridge. Now we were faced with a road that vanished up into the clouds… ‘The Crossing’….The Twilight Zone?

This chapter I have written came to mind when I was looking for old buildings I planned to draw or paint. With the drawing of the Rio and the Royal done, the old ferry bridge seemed a good place to restart, just as our visit had begun in 2009.

We had loved the old cantankerous clanky bridge which, when it felt like it, joined road and rail to the mainland. It was a bit like the old currency and cricket: it was impossible for outsiders to understand and kept the world at a safe distance.
When it was up, it was up.
And when it was down, it was down.
But when it was stuck halfway up …
… no bugger was going anywhere


 Those that know me, realise that I only paint and draw in the Realist mode, NEVER impressionism or abstract.

I have just seen this young chap drawing ‘Chaos Art’ and was fascinated by the whole process. I just HAD to have a go’ so I bought some compressed charcoal (soft) sticks, a kneadable eraser (feels like bread dough), charcoal pencils, and began drawing on cartridge paper.

The idea is to scribble a chaotic mess, and then pull an image out of it using the tools that I have just listed. Here is my first attempt, took 1.5 hours.

I was totally flabbergasted. I had a second go .... and out popped Adam Lambert (of
'Queen') in 45 minutes.

I can't get my head around drawing these straight off, if you knew me you'd not quite understand how it happened.......
     .......... at 84 I might have found another string to my brush pencil