Sunday 24 December 2017


Nadolig hapus a blwyddyn newydd lewyrchus

Welsh For

 Happy Christmas and a prosperous new year

O Abergwaun

From Fishguard

Saturday 2 December 2017


We are coming to the end of a three-month vacation in Australia. To round it off we went for a short 3 day cruise on the Golden Princess.

The cabin was very nice with its own private balcony.

It's nice to see Australia does Christmas full-on. The UK seems intent on'PC ing' it out of existence
This was reflected in the ship.

There was an art gallery and some of the paintings are below. To my shame I have lost the name of the artists.

In the first one there seemed to be an illusion of shards of invisible colour shooting out to all four corners - it gave a feel of movement.

Can't wait to get back to painting. The break has awoken 'the engine'.

Sunday 19 November 2017

A Lot of HOT AIR

You may well have thought you had seen the last of me, as it's months since I posted. I was ill for some time which kept me out of circulation. Then we came to stay with one of our granddaughters in Australia - for three months. 
   Those that know me, to be play-aholic, will understand that three months inactivity would turn me into a twitching wreck. However, I became ill for the first 7 weeks in Australia, and couldn't do much. I then tried painting but with my two little great-grandsons as my  shadow, I felt discretion was the better part of valour (valor).
   This left writing. I have managed to edit my novel/thriller The Othila Paradigm .....finally. I also completed my autobiography.
   I then decided to do a bit of writing about a couple of my 'heroes,' and I post below the piece I have written about them.

Here's a clue:

   Vincenzo Lunardi (Scotland, 28 July 1786)                  John Simlett
Pen & Ink on Cartridge Paper
12 inches x 8 inches

It's rather a long piece, please don't feel compelled to read it - my interests aren't to everyone's taste.  

Although the general advice for new writers seems consistent – don't give up, keep writing – I am the only person, as far as I know, who cites James Tyler as the prime example of the writer who kept the faith and just kept on writing. His stubborn persistence has resulted in him now being described as: ' extraordinary genius who was a fair specimen of a class of literary men who lived in the latter part of the eighteenth century'.        
   Whenever I mention my hero's name, people ask, 'Who the heck was James Tyler?'

   'He was editor, and largely the compiler, of the second and third editions of The Encyclopaedia Britannica,' I explain.
  'So what?' they invariably reply. At which point, if they're not too rude about him, I give them another clue.
   'He was the first person ever to fly in Britain'.
   'Really, so why haven't we heard of him?' they ask; which seems a fair enough question I suppose, given the magnitude of the achievement.
   I suggest to them that Tytler owes his lack of celebrity, to his knack of seizing failure out of the jaws of success. For example, when he became the first man to fly in Britain, hardly anyone noticed – and those that did couldn't stop giggling and holding their noses.
   Born the son of a Minister from Brechin, in Scotland, James Tytler became an apprentice to a surgeon in Forfar. He became a surgeon and in this new capacity, he made two voyages on a Greenland whaler, which enabled him to finance a full medical education at Edinburgh University.
    He was unfortunate insofar as, after graduating, he had insufficient capital to sustain him through the time needed to establish a medical practice. Instead he became a pharmacist and to set up his own 'Chemist shop'.
   Despite being a fine chemist, he once again failed and, to escape his creditors, he fled to Newcastle, where he set up a scientific laboratory which alas, was soon bankrupt.

I stumbled upon Tytler in 1984, when I received a commission from the Royal Air Force Museum at Hendon, to design ten philatelic 'First Day Covers' to commemorate the bicentenary of flight. Besides designing the envelope and cancellation stamps,

   Vincenzo Lunardi (Scotland, 28 July 1786)                  John Simlett

 I had to produce a five-hundred-word précis on each of the ten Aeronautical events. These were reproduced onto postcards and inserted into the appropriate envelopes.  
   With a whole museum and its resources at my disposal, the research was fascinating. I began living with characters such as: the Montgolfier brothers, Vincenzo Lunardi, the Frenchman Jean-Pierre Blanchard and the American John Jeffries. They and many others filled every moment of every exciting day. So many fantastic stories.
    Yet of all these larger than life characters, Tytler, for sheer tenacity, impressed me the most. He had single-handedly designed and built a hot air balloon which was little more than a large sailcloth bag inside a wicker-basket, beneath which he suspended a wooden platform that was just large enough to accommodate him and a stove.
    Came the day, 17th August 1784, the crowds turned out to watch his first flight, but alas, try as he might, the hot air generated by the stove was insufficient to get the balloon, and him, off the ground. All he received for his efforts were jeers of derision, which wasn't as bad as the reception the French balloonist Morell had received in London when his launch failed: the crowd tore his balloon to pieces and he ended in hospital.
    Undaunted, my hero varnished the porous sailcloth bag, to stop the hot air escaping, and on the 25th August, he tried again. The crowds soon lost interest and wandered away, but fortunately the reporter from the London Chronicle, who had travelled all the way to Edinburgh and who had managed to sober up for the event, remained to witness Tytler, in a fit of temper, kick the stove from the platform. The removal of the heavy stove caused two things to happen. Firstly, it caused the balloon, with Tyler hanging on for his life, to shoot three hundred feet into the air and drift away on the breeze, and secondly, caused the reporter to sympathetically write:

London Chronicle, 27th August 1784

'Early on the morning of 25th August, the bold Adventurer took his first Aerial Flight. Mr Tytler went up without his Furnace this morning; when it is added he will be able to fuel the Balloon with Inflammable Air and continue his Aerial Excursions as he chooses.'

    True to form, on the verge of fame and with the whole Nation beginning to take an interest, his next flight from Comely Gardens in Edinburgh was a disaster. The balloon rose, carrying the 'bold Adventurer' up into the sky, whereupon it drifted three miles before crashing deep into a ‘sewage-pit’ at Restalrig, destroying the balloon, the furnace and his flying career. Efforts, I might suggest, that were not at the time, to be sniffed at.
   Throughout his failures, Tytler never gave up and continued to write. At one time he moved to the village of Duddingston, where he and his long-suffering family lodged with a washerwoman, whose inverted wash-tub he used as the desk from which he industriously expanded the Encyclopaedia Britannica from three to ten volumes. Each day he sent a parcel of copy to his employers in Edinburgh: the ‘booksellers' Messer Bell and McFarquhar. The proceeds from which he was just able to provide food for him and his family and the odd wee dram (whisky)  for himself.
   Although seldom sober, Tytler was a very practical sort of writer insofar as he took self-publishing seriously. After his wife and family had, not surprisingly, deserted him, he moved into the Debtors Sanctuary in Holyrood House
                       Holyrood Palace          John Simlett
Pen & Ink on Cartridge Paper
where he built his own printing press, from which he, unsuccessfully, produced the Weekly Review, The Gentleman's and Lady's Magazine and the first volume of The British Universal History.
    Tytler also wrote poetry, and at least two popular songs: I hae laid a Herring in Saut, and, The Bonnie Brucket Lassie. The songs were of such a quality as to attract the attention of Robert Burns, who commented on how surprised he was to find that such clever ballads should come from such '... a poor drunken devil, with a sky-light hat, knee breeches and hardly a shoe to his feet...'.
   The ill-fortune and poverty of Tytler, it is claimed, ' ...were attributable to his imprudence and intemperate habits'. Despite this, Tytler the writer, was always in demand, not least for his great intellect, endless store of knowledge and skill with the pen. On one occasion he was sought out to write a complex piece of historic work. He was finally located in, '... one of those elevated apartments called garrats ...', where he lay drunk in bed. They sat him up, brought pen and paper and told him what was required, whereupon in a very short time: '...he produced about a page and a half of letter-press, which answered the end completely, as if by the most mature deliberation ...'.
   In 1792, Tytler became the 'ghost writer' of A System of Surgery, in three volumes, for a prominent Edinburgh Surgeon. In the same year completing a principle work, The Edinburgh Geographical Grammar – which after publication by a Mr Kincaid, ‘…ran to a number of editions...’. He also made time to produce a periodical, The Edinburgh Intelligencer. There seemed no evidence of writer's block!
     His fortune seemed made, but alas, he had joined the 'Friends of the People', a society in pursuit of parliamentary reform, for whom he produced a political pamphlet, which was deemed to be seditious. He went on the run from the authorities, hiding for a while in the house of a friend, before escaping via Ireland to America – never to return.
   But what of his legacy? What of the work he left behind? Ironically, his early work as a chemist - attempting to manufacture magnesia – went on to make a fortune for his former partner and family. Also, after his departure, the Encyclopaedia Britannica, made a massive £40,000, and his works of 1792 brought fame and fortune to the Edinburgh surgeon and Mr Kincaid, respectively.
    Yet his exploits as the first British Aeronaut where overshadowed by Vincenzo Lunardi, who as the 'Daredevil Aeronaut' and the first to fly in England, carried out many sensational flights in Scotland. His brightly striped silk Hydrogen balloon, not only encouraged a fad in ballooning, but inspired ladies' fashions in skirts and hats. 
The "Lunardi bonnet" is mentioned in the poem, To a Louse, by Robert Burns.
     It should be noted that Tyler also was a great admirer of Lunardi, and in 1806 – the year Tyler and Lunardi both died - wrote a very long Ode to Lunardi, the first two lines of which, in my opinion, seem to fit Tyler exactly:

Lost are my wishes, Lost is all my care,
And all my projects flutter in the air.

For those who hate untidy endings: James Tyler, re-emerged in Salem, Massachusetts, where he became a very successful editor of a newspaper from 1793 until his unfortunate death in 1806, when, whilst walking home from work, he fell into a drunken stupor and drown in a pond.


                                                        Word Count = 1544

Friday 25 August 2017

Painting Again... but not as you know it!

Will be trying to get around to my long lost friends blogs in the next few days. Just hope you remember me! 

... meanwhile...

I'm painting again, but not on canvas but on "Seagull"

For those that don't know, I've been building this wooden (No Tupperware boats here) boat for over a year now. It's a 16 foot Maine Lobster Boat.

Monday 21 August 2017

Getting there!!

Well it's been months since I posted on here, but I'm sort of getting there now. Started on some still-life stuff, but at this pace could be some time yet.

   I'm also writing my autobiography, and family far & wide are sending me all sorts of mementos they have about my life.

      I had forgotten drawing these two in 1982 of the F4 Phantom; I was a Combat Operations Officer (a 'Seagull') with them in Germany 1979 - 1983. 

Tuesday 4 April 2017

Turbulent Air

My only claim is that the painting is far better than the photograph ... nevertheless, I don't really care as this one is all about me having fun.

The pose is made up from lots of different photographs. The tights are based on Freddie Mercury's (Queen). The sleeves from an imagine I remember from a pack (deck) of cards. The hat and mask are from memory of items I vaguely remember.

                                                      Turbulent Air                                John Simlett
Acrylic on Cotton Canvas
39 x 19 inches
(100 x 50 cms)
I had this imagine in my mind of the air on stage being still until this dancer changed it into turbulence. Where he has been the air is turbulent whilst the unsuspecting air on his left is still calm.

The problem with a large painting, is that so much detail vanishes in the photograph, and many shades of red aren't really visible. 

Friday 17 March 2017

Giselle Completed ....Again!

Still not where I want to be with oils yet , but still ... I think I'm getting there. I painted on a Burnt Sierra ground to warm up her finish  - which is why she looked like a redhead for a time. 

When I have been painting 'blondes' in the past I have tended to use a light-coloured background and then found myself having to warm up a pale face. 

                                                            'Giselle'                                        John Simlett
Oil on Stretched Cotton Canvas
31 x 23.5 inches
(79 x 60 cms)

Giselle is one of those rare creatures that has naturally blonde hair and deep brown eyes (Italian great grandmother), and I think that allows the Burnt Sierra to glow through. 

Sunday 12 March 2017


One of my poems was accepted into an International Poetry Competition today - the result published in May.

Not sure how it will come out here, it's okay in 'Word' but gets temperamental when posted elsewhere.




                                                                    I like flags.
                                                                              a  Set
                                                           fore  Sails
                                                     sail  is    Flapping
                                               not for sale  In the wind.
                                           you  may find   Makes one think
                                       that you need it    Of  flying far off like
                                    rather badly in a    Some Albatross set free
                                 wind or in a gale       From land and those grassy ties
        I                    and  without it  find      That shore can bring, although I do
           do      others quickly up your tail    Like being a landlocked Shipwright it's part
                 like                                            of
                       boatbuilding it's                  my                                                      
                           such a large part of my life. I love the smell of the wood as I cut and plane it.
                              Listen to the music of the parts that go to make a boat, each such poetry:
                                      tumblehome and transom; hog and hogson; apron and the thwart                
                                           gutter and garboard strakes of planking: clinker & hard chine
                                                       but alas, without a keel,
                                                              where would we be?
                                                                   capsized and upside
                                                                       down, swimming
                                                                               deep beneath
                                                                                          the sea.


Monday 6 March 2017

Giselle Again - A Work In Progress

My best friend granddaughter, Giselle, continues to be my favourite (favorite) model.

Oil on stretched canvas 31 x 24 inches 

I have another in progress that I feel might surprise y'all.

Saturday 4 March 2017

Boat Club

I haven't any paintings to show at the moment, but I have so many painting projects in the planning stage that I'm very excited .... however ... we went to a place called Parrog today (5 miles away) ... so ... look out for seascapes in the future.

Parrog is a small village which is part of  the town of Newport, Pembrokeshire. Now when I tell you that Newport has a population of only 1200, you can imagine that Parrog is tiny.

We went to Parrog to join the Newport Boat Club:

Newport Boat Club, Parrog, Pembrokeshire, Wales.

It was a wet and windy day and all the boats are laid-up for winter. Here's a more popular seasonal picture:

You can see the potential for paintings already can't you?

We joined the club - a cosy little place we will be using a lot once I've finished building Seagull

Seagull - The  Wooden Maine Lobster Boat I'm building 

I had a look around for launching slips and there are lots of them. This one looked the most likely one, for two reasons:

Firstly, it's adjacent to the Boat Club Car Park and secondly, it is next to the lovely little restaurant which you can see on the left, in yellow. Best Crab Bake Pat has ever tasted.

My daughter and her dog Blodwyn sniffed-out a second slip behind the Boat Club:

Looks like lots of fun ahead ... I like the idea of painting from a boat!

Thursday 2 March 2017

Sandra Busby!!

No, I'm not Sandra's Press Agent, but I do owe her a debt-of-gratitude.

When I first started blogging in 2012,  Sandra was the first person to 'comment' and generally support me until I got the hang of things.

The blogging buddies I met along the way were all painters, and really good ones at that. In those days I was a Pen & Ink artist (To See My Drawings Click Here). To me all you painters were magicians ... I was spellbound.

Eventually, I thought I might have a try at painting but had no idea how to go about it. Sandra, plus others, explained about fat on lean, colour (color) theory, linen versus cotton canvases etc...

Well Sandra vanished from blogland, but has reemerged elsewhere: CLICK HERE

The point to all this is not for you to join a fan-club, but for you to look at her latest posting: a video on palettes (See it HERE).

Her video has inspired me and given me an Eureka moment! I was using a glass computer table as a storage for paints & brushes. It was covered in over a year's worth of paint. Following Sandra's technique I had it looking brand new in a couple of minutes. I now have the biggest glass palette in the whole universe(ish).

Here it is in place:

This inspired me to clean my studio out ... I do this every two years, if it needs it or not :)

The Painting Area

The the Pen & Ink area

The Refuelling point!!

When I'm not painting I'm a writer/editor ...

... for which I need plenty of reference data.

Similarly I need Art reference, which is tucked behind the easel. I mix my mediums here too.

And finally a little area for planning my boat-building:

This turned into a marathon posting, although not as long as the 'cleaning up the studio' marathon!

'Blodwyn walking near the Studio

This is really a test of uploading a video onto the blog .... I've never done it before

Seems to work OK. Blodwyn is a 9 month old Welsh Sheepdog (similar to a Cross Border Collie)

As you can see there is always a wind blowing here, straight off the Atlantic(ish)

Sunday 26 February 2017

Louise 5 - finished

Not too happy - I don't capture the vivacious character. Can't win 'em all.

                                                     "Louise"                                John Simletrt
Oil on Stretched Linen Canvas
18 x 14 inches (45 x  35 cms)

Saturday 25 February 2017

Louise 4 - Nearly finished

Nearly finished -  she looks miserable, I will need to tweak a 'smile.'

I've shown a string of photos, as the closer you get to the canvas, the more the light bounces  back off it.

It's oil on stretched linen canvas (18" x 14").

It might help if she wore makeup, but she's more of the 'farm-girl,' happy living on a farm, and walking her Welsh sheepdog (Blodwyn) along the cliffs and shoreline.

Wednesday 22 February 2017

Louise 3 - Grisaille planes.

To remind you: this is not a lesson! BUT ... 

 ... if this system was good enough for Diego Velázquez, then it's good enough for me (although I got more hits on my blog than he ever did! ........... just saying.)

Today I added grisaille planes (which the dictionary defines as: decoration in tones of a single grey [gray] designed to produce a three-dimensional effect.)

I mixed the grey (gray) using a W & N Carbon Black (a slow drier) with a W & N Alkyd Titanium White (a quick drier) to speed up the drying process.

I made a grey (gray) string mixing proportions that gave me a match with each value on the scale shown above (right).

I placed splotches of the mixes on a throw away paper palette, with pure unmixed black on the extreme right and similarly unmixed white on the extreme left.

I them mixed a medium for this layer of painting thus:

Using the value finder to identify the values on my reference photograph, I replicated the value planes on the painting, observing not to blend at all; just laying in planes of grey (gray)



Finally, I just softened the lines where the grey planes met, with a dry and paint-free soft sable brush - avoiding fully blending

I've left it to dry overnight.