Saturday 31 December 2016

It Nearly All Went up In Smoke!

I nearly called this one Lazarus, as it almost died on me and took a lot of resuscitation. The smoke and steam went from bad to worse. I have never painted clouds, let alone steam before and, being me, I don't do test pieces... life's too short.

I tried so hard but it looked like soup. I got to the point when I had nothing to lose, and let the brush take over and do the painting instead of me.

The painting is far from perfect and missed my expectations by miles, nevertheless, the mixture of pen & ink on canvas with paint seems to be an avenue worth pursuing.

Quite a big painting then, by my standards. It doesn't do justice to Josh Friedman's photograph, for which I apologise.

                                                           Veteran Steam Engine                                   John Simlett
                                                                                                                         (from a photograph
                                                                                                                           by Josh Friedman)
Pen & Ink and Acrylic
On Stretched Cotton Canvas
31.5 x  23.5 inches (80 x  60 cms)

Reference Photograph Courtesy of
JoshFriedmanPhoto New York
(6 x 4 inches)

Saturday 24 December 2016

Nadolig Llawen and a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
From Fishguard, West Wales (UK)

From the John Simlett Studio (top right)

Sunday 18 December 2016

New Project

I stumbled into my new project when I was browsing my old friend, Zephyrinus (Link >>>Zephyrinus's <<< blog)  and saw a photograph of a vintage railway (railroad) engine.

   Now I'm not a particular fan of old trains, but this photograph grasped my muse and demanded attention.

I really wanted to 'paint' this scene, and but I wouldn't have done so without the permission of the photographer. Through the good offices of Zephyrinus I was able to contact Josh Friedman, a New York photographer, and Josh gave me permission; thanks Josh you're very kind ... and thanks Mr Z!! Now Josh's site is really well worth a visit and here is the link

 >>>--> JoshFriedmanPhoto

My next problem was how to do justice to Josh's work. Those that know me will tell you that I'm fundamentally, a Pen & Ink artist who paints. To draw the locomotive seemed the only way to bring out all the detail that makes up the old-gal. Also I needed to draw it very large.

I thought about it for a few days and I invented drawing on canvas direct with the pen... I have found out since that countless other people invented this system before me. Nevertheless, I invented it as well as I had never seen or heard of the system before.

The canvas is not a smooth canvas, I've chosen a medium cotton canvas which gives the drawing a unique texture. Considering that the photograph is 6 inches x 4 inches, the canvas is quite large at 31.5 x 23.5 inches. It needs to be as I am scaling the drawing up to five times larger than the photograph. The size is really important to what I'm trying to do - unfortunately on here it looks much the same size as the photograph. However, when it's finished I'll get it photographed with me ... then you will get the feel for it's size.

                                                                  Untitled                                             John Simlett
31.5 x 23.5  (80 x 60)
Pen & Ink and Oils on Stretched Cotton Canvas

Saturday 10 December 2016

2016 in Review

I didn't do much artistic work in 2016. However, I did manage to produce another painting of the Angolan Woman, in January. A much smaller version though, 14" x 10".

But then I started building my boat, Seagull, a 15 foot Maine Lobster Boat in Cedar and Douglas Fir and that took most of my time.

The very large pen & ink drawing of Saint David's Cathedral was started but has still not got finished (yet).

Then the boat-build was interrupted whilst we decided to drive across Europe to Austria, where we had a great time.

Then it was back home and on with the build.

I took the chance to paint my nephew-in-law's late father. All I had was the one awful photograph, but I did the best I could.

Only my kids and grand kids could have formed partnerships with, an Algerian, an American, an Australian and a Japanese! Not to mention one English (we are Welsh/British not English/British :)   )

I couldn't resist painting this Afghan 'priest' who lives in poverty in the mountains. (a touch of Davy Crochett about him)

With a run of bad weather keeping me from the boat

I resorted to painting  Imogene and Grace

Having got back into the flow of things, I painted my great-grandchildren (my grandchildren's children).  First there was Daisy, and then my little Australian, Topgun (Logan)

I then painted my best friend, Giselle - who is Logan and Koby's Mum.

Which leaves me in the midst of a painting of Logan and Koby

....... and ... a new project ... of something on an entirely different track.

Thursday 1 December 2016

Greetings Cards

I'm not an excessively PC type of person, but I don't send Christmas Cards to non-Christians. Not because it would offend them but because it seems inappropriate. By the same virtue, Muslim and Jews in my family don't send me Ramadan or Bar Mitzvah cards.

My way around all situations is to get my own cards printed and write in the appropriate message and/or greeting.

This year I've used my pen and ink drawing of the North Portal of Cologne Cathedral for the card, which is a risk as it has to be reduced from an original that I drew of 20 inches high and 11 wide. 

I was quite pleased with it the product, including the logo on the back.

My logo comes from my original Pen & Ink drawing of Vincento Lunardi who was the first person to fly in England (not in Britain, as James Tyler beat him by a couple of weeks when he flew in Scotland).

One of my long term hobbies is the protracted writing of the biography of Vincento Lunardi and James Tytler (which I doubt if I will ever finish, but love doing). 

I 'got into' these two champions of flight when I was commissioned to design a set of Philatelic First Day Covers for the 1984 bicentenary of Flight in the UK.

Which was the only time my artwork was reproduced on silk

Monday 28 November 2016


Although technically it isn't the best portrait in the world, I'm really happy that I've captured the real Giselle in this painting.

There's a certain amount of unfortunate camera-glare which lightens the whole thing.

Trying to get a photograph of her is difficult, because she usually pokes her tongue out at the last moment; you can see were here son (Topgun) gets it from See him here 

                                                          'Jimmy West' (Giselle)                                         John Simlett
Acrylic on Linen Canvas
18 inches x 14 inches

Wednesday 23 November 2016


I decided to paint Giselle in Acrylics, it allows me to slap on paint without worrying: with oils I'm still finding my way and am more considered in the work.

                                                                       'Jimmy'                                                  John Simlett
18 inch x 14 inch
Acrylic on Stretched Linen Canvas

I'm almost tempted to leave it here - it shows her as she is: totally in control yet a wild and free spirit with an outrageous sense of humour

Tuesday 22 November 2016

Back To Portraits

I shall be painting my #3 granddaughter next: Giselle, author, mother of 'Topgun' (Logan) and Billy (Koby). She's also my best friend in the world. I used to call her Jimmy, then she grew up into a girl and stopped sawing wood.

Notice the Simlett eyes! 

I shall use Golden acrylics to form a Zorn Palette 

Titanium White, Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Red, Burnt Umbra and Mars Black
The most important tool in my studio is the Pipe Wrench which I use for opening tubs and tubes that have their lids stuck in place

I can't get on with my boat building because of the weather. An Atlantic storm with a North Easterly, which also kept the ferry from Ireland from docking here - It had to steam to sheltered waters up the coast. 

The Ferry Beating a Hasty Retreat from docking here in Fishguard

Thursday 10 November 2016

On Crossing The Bar

Twilight and evening bell,
   And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
   When I embark;

For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
   The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
   When I have crossed the bar.

Pat and I will not be able to attend the Remembrance Day Service this year ... it's too far and we are too old. Nevertheless, to commemorate those that gave their lives in World Wars I & II,  and those that sacrificed their lives since, in order that we can live in a free world. I republish the comments I made over the years ... including those to my little brother, who I once taught to walk and talk. 

We spent Remembrance Sunday at a Pig Farm in the wilds of North East Yorkshire. Here my Squadron flew Halifax bombers in World War 2, when the farm was RAF Station Melbourne. 

The average age of the aircrew then was 22, and over the 3 years they were here, one out of every three crews were killed. 

Because World War 2 started for Britain in 1939, many other nationalities, such as Americans, Australians, Canadian (a lot of these) volunteered to join the RAF, and many ended up on 10 Squadron. So we were remembering them too, as part of our special 'family'.

10 Squadron is always known as 'Shiny Ten' and this is reflected in the memorial.

We turned up at 10 in the morning, last Sunday. The oldest were 92 and the youngest 6 months. We paraded our Association Standard (our colours). Here the escort were Tom and Doug, both 92 and from the same Halifax Bomber crew. Doug, nearest the camera, was the pilot (DSO, DFC & bar)

Number 10 Squadron is still operating, and currently flying  the new 'Voyager' Airbus down South in Oxfordshire, mainly flying to Afghanistan these days. They sent a detachment together with the Commanding Officer and the Squadron Colour Party

We gathered around the Memorial and Remembered our fallen Brothers-in-Arms.

There was no aircraft available for a Fly-Past, but last year they flew over a VC10 on which I have over 5000 flying hours

We then went to the pub that the War Time Crews used - The Plough in the village of Allerthorpe. It is stuffed full of the wartime memorabilia of 10 Squadron.

The years rolled back and soon we were ALL there and had a ball. We ended with the Loyal Toast, and took a few moments to say goodbye to our 'mates' and they went back to their rest and we went back home.

Lest We Forget

I took a moment to toast my 'baby' brother Colin, who died a year ago almost to the day. He would have been of great use in the Philippines at the moment, hanging from the helicopter and saving them from the sea - the job he did for over 25 years in the Royal Navy.

Colin Simlett 1948 - 2012
Helicopter Crewman Royal Navy

My little brother, Colin, spent a lot of his life, risking his life, to save other people's lives. A Royal Navy Helicopter Crewman who hung from that cable in the worse  possible conditions and rescued countless people in despair..

I told him he should have joined the Air Force, "You've always wanted to fly, for goodness sake!"
He told me I should have joined the Navy, "You're a bloody Shipwright, for goodness sake!"

We both did the opposite.

They once landed in the field behind my house. First we knew was a knock on the back door. There was Colin in all his flying gear, Helmet with visor down, Immersion suit, Life Jacket etc... "Excuse me, we've lost our map, could you give us instructions on how to get to..." Great sense of humour.

Cheers Colin, Happy Landings Mate... leave a drop of Scotch for the others ... 

Wednesday 26 October 2016

Getting the Models!!!

Getting models to sit in a set pose, when Topgun is the model in question, can be impossible.

The haircut must have left him 'light-headed.'

We're just back from France where we have been visiting #2 son in Toulouse. We drove up into the Pyrenees mountains - which separate France from Spain - and then down to the Mediterranean coast ... visiting a few vineyards on the way ... hic! A great time was had!


Monday 17 October 2016

'Brotherly Love' WIP

Onward and upwards. Every now and then we have strokes-of-luck: take for example the day that Topgun (Logan) decided to give his baby brother, Billie (Koby), a quick hug. Their mum caught the moment on the camera of her mobile-phone (cellphone); nothing posed ... pure spontaneity.The scene therefore is totally natural. 

For the first three or four months of his life, Billie didn't exist in Topgun's eyes: he ignored him. Soon, however, his warm nature showed through and if Billie cried, Topgun would stroke the baby's hair and sing quietly to him. For his part, Billie loves the heck out of Topgun, and it shows!

The only change I have made to the reference photo is Topgun's hair, which was still wet from the shower and plastered to his face.

The canvas is 30" x 20". Although the background looks white it is Titanium White with a touch of Terre Verte (a dark green). I use acrylic paint for this as it dries quickly; the portrait will be in oils using a Zorn Palette.

Why Billie? Well when my granddaughter told me she was going to have a little boy and call him Koby, I misheard and thought she said Cody. My mind automatically makes associations (which often surprise me) and came up with Buffalo Bill (William Cody). Only a short step to ..... Billie.

.... and the boat-building? Having spent a month sandpapering the hull to get rid of the surplus glue and Epoxy resin filler, I am ready to move on to the next stage. Not straight away though, as we will be off to Toulouse in France next week to visit #2 son for a few days.

Saturday 15 October 2016

Topgun - Completed

"A Portrait is a Painting With Something Wrong with its Mouth" (John Singer Sargent).

Logan had 'pulled-a-mouth', as only little boys can, and I struggled with it!  He'd sucked in his lower lip and rounded the front of his chin.

                                                                       'Topgun'                                                 John Simlett
Oil on Linen Canvas
18 inches x 14 inches

Sunday 9 October 2016


I have four granddaughters, and Daisy is the daughter of my eldest, Jade - the Forensic Psychologist.

Now 'Topgun' is the son of my third granddaughter, Giselle - the Writer. Giselle is also my best friend. When she was young her health caused her to miss a lot of education and so it fell upon me to take her through a programme (program) of home-education. In her words, "I came to you a carefree young girl, and four years later I left as a grumpy old-man." She ended up with a University Degree in English, so she didn't do too badly.

Giselle married Max, an Australian, and they live out there near Sydney. She remembered how we used to talk about the line dying-out when she married: there being no boys' in her generation to carry the name on. She does things her way and didn't change her surname when she married. This says a lot about what a decent guy Max is; who is a laid back Artist/ Games Designer. He didn't even object when Giselle named Topgun for me: Logan John Simlett. such a fantastic thing to do, bless 'em all.

Phonetically, Logan is pronounced Lowgun. I therefore decided there was nothing low about this little dynamo and have called him Topgun ever since.

Which is the long way around of telling you ... Topgun goes under the dreaded paintbrush next.

Wednesday 5 October 2016