Tuesday 17 July 2018

Showing Your Artwork

One major problem I get with displaying artwork is perspective. That is to say that the viewer has no real, visual, idea of how large the artwork is. One answer is to post a close-up for detail 

and another t
o show the work in situ. 

For this idea I am in debt to Mary Maxam (Link to her Blog Here)

Monday 25 June 2018

Pot Luck

When we moved here a few years ago, the idea of a small garden (yard) was quite appealing. With my wife, Pat, physically unable to do much work, the idea of an hour or two gardening each week was great. I used to spend15-20 hours on the garden we left.

The plan was simple... cut the lawn!

As time went on we decided a flowerbed down one side of the lawn would add a touch of colour (color).

Then a flowerbed for wild flowers for the bees seemed logical; soon it was naturally seeded from wild Foxgloves and set against the ancient gorse hedge - both native plants.

I'd already built myself a workshop, we thought it would be nice to give an Austrian chalet touch with some pots of red geraniums etc.

Pat thought the geraniums and shrubs looked great so we added 60 geraniums and 20 large potted shrubs in the front garden (no photo). 

Pat liked them so much, she asked if we could have some outside the backdoor?

 Oh and some herbs (we pronounce the 'h' btw HHherbs)

Oh and some flowers in pots....

Oh, and some roses (yes, that is the Ocean in the background)...

Oh, and an island of pots ...

Oh, and some vegetables and fruit!!!

Friday 22 June 2018

Afghan Again!

I thought I should post something to show I'm still around, and so here, once again is my portrait of the Afghan religious man who wanders the mountains in total poverty.

 I'm still working on a massive Pen & Ink drawing of Saint Davids Cathedral - when I'm not on the boat-build or doing the housework.

 Afghan                                              John Simlett
Acrylic on Cotton Canvas
(14 x 10 inches)

Wednesday 2 May 2018

Work In Progress

As I'm back into large Pen and Ink drawings, my output is much less than when I'm painting. Each drawing takes weeks. It is impossible for my old eyes to work hour after hour, and so I draw in short spurts of action.

The downside of this is that I post infrequently. Therefore, I thought I would give you a few photographs of where I live on the West Coast of Wales.

Those that know me know that this is the 24th move of home we have been in almost 60 years of marriage, and this is the best move we ever made. You may also know that this is a tiny seafaring town perched on the edge of the ocean. 

The notice written in Welsh and then in English.

Yet if you look out inland you are in a rural area: Dairy cattle and sheep.

Friday 20 April 2018


I am fortunate enough enough to live in a beautiful part of Wales, not very far from the smallest city in Britain: Saint Davids (pop. c3000). Not sure about the rest of the world, but here a city must have a Cathedral to be recognised as a city. Appropriately enough, the city boasts the smallest cathedral in the country, named after the Patron Saint of Wales, Saint David.
   This cathedral is 'something else' and I intend to draw a series of Pen and Ink drawings of some of its features. Here is the first, the statue of Saint David.

                                         Saint David, St Davids Cathedral, Wales                      John Simlett
Pen & Ink on 300 gsm  Cartridge Paper
18  x 14 inches  (46 x 35 cms)

The monastic community was founded by Saint DavidAbbot of Menevia (the Roman name for this area), who died in 589. The monastery was attacked by Vikings many times over the next 400 years.

Work began on the modern cathedral in 1123, but it was damaged by an earthquake (!!!) in 1248, and the cathedral all but destroyed by Oliver Cromwell in the 1650s'.

There were many attempts at restoring the cathedral over the centuries, but it wasn't until the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth century that full restoration was completed. The Bishop's Palace, however, remains a ruin to this very day.

On a grammatical point: the apostrophe one might anticipate with Saint David's, is always omitted, and Saint Davids is always the correct form ......... but don't ask me why! 

Monday 16 April 2018


I'm going to be doing a few more Pen & Ink drawings soon. The big one I'm working on will be ready this week. Many people forget, or didn't know, that in art Pen & Ink is my strongest 'suit' and that painting came later.

I have often been asked where I learnt to draw and it might come as a surprise to know that I never took an art drawing lesson in my life. I began my working life as a shipwright apprentice and as part of a 5/6 year apprenticeship I had to learn to read technical drawings. 

The ingrained need to draw was in me though, and in the evening I would draw as a hobby, but not artistically. From engineering drawings I would draw the object in 3D (an Isometric view). Whilst clearing my drawing storage I unearthed a really special specimen of my hobby drawing; a turbine:

You may notice the drawing is unfinished! The reason being, I was drawing it in a small top story apartment in Cologne, Germany on the night of 13 August 1961!! Two things happened that day, my second son was born in a German hospital ...and ... they began to build the Berlin Wall. I said I would never finish it, and 57 years later I still haven't.

The second drawing I want to show you is my most treasured drawing. In the last year of my apprenticeship, aged 20, I had to spend a few months in the Drawing Office with the draughtsmen (draftsmen). Here I was to witness what went on ... make the tea, and do all the odd jobs. 

Being me, I found myself a spare drawing table and began to draw  what I wanted to draw, from boat plans I found laying about. Here it is, finished in January 1959.

It's a big drawing, over 36 inches wide.

When I show you the tools available back then, you will see why I find modern drawing pens absolute effortless luxury

Here is THE Pen of the day. The thickness of the line was obtained by tightening the screw, which moved one blade in or out. Ink was placed between the blades by an eye-dropper.

Happy Days! Nostalgia's not what it used to be!

Monday 19 March 2018

Spring is Coming ....... Isn't it?

Hopefully we will soon return to this 

from this

Meanwhile, I'm about half way through my Pen & Ink drawing.

Sunday 4 March 2018

Blast From The Past

                              Rechteren Castle, Holland     John Simlett

Pen & Ink on 350 gsm paper
11 inch x 9 inch
(280 mm x 230 mm)

I drew this picture 38 years ago and it was the fourth drawing I had ever done in my life, outside of Geometric and Engineering drawing. It was a significant drawing insofar as it indicated to me, and others, that perhaps I should take it all a little bit more seriously. It was then, this drawing that 'sorted me out.'

At the moment I need 'sorting-out' once again. For many reasons, not least that my wife is physically disabled, I am unable to get continuity in anything I do. When I do get free time, I seem to be unable to focus long enough to carry a project to a conclusion. Half-finished paintings litter the studio.

As a solution I am undertaking another pen and ink drawing of some complexity. I haven't drawn for ages as I got seduced by painting - and the influence of many of the painters you may see in my 'Blog Roll.' A drawing, therefore, will be a complete change.

Pen & Ink, as you probably know, is very unforgiving: there is no way back from a mistake. Focus and discipline have to be continuous and I think that is what will 'sort me out'. We'll see.


Sunday 11 February 2018




                                                                    I like flags.
                                                           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.
                                                                                                                           (John Simlett,2005)

Friday 2 February 2018

Logan's Light - Finished

Tried a lot of experimentation with this one (a) Painting it almost mono although I used burnt umber glazes to soften edges and give the suggestion of a secondary light source - top left. (b) No eyes - and I always make them the key point of a portrait ... similarly the hair.

                                                                Logan's Light                                             John Simlett
27 x 19.5 inches
Oil on stretched Italian linen

The photography does no favours (favors).

I tried to soften everything except the two focal points, the light and the face.

Given the degree of difficulty I'm reasonably pleased. As always seeing it full size is best. 

Friday 26 January 2018

How to DOUBLE your artistic output

'Topgun' (Logan), my great-grandson and the sitter for my current portrait (see last two posts), has let me in on his secret for doubling artistic output. I always like to pass on any tips I learn, so here we are:

Wednesday 24 January 2018

Underpainting - Stage 2

Not a lot different to last posting, just strengthened the 'darks' and introduced the 'lights.'

For those who don't know me, I am in reality a pen & ink artist who was seduced into painting by my friends hereabouts. Quite unexpectedly I feel the urge to do a bit of drawing again ... wonder if I will and wonder what I'll draw.

Tuesday 23 January 2018

Underpainting stage 1

I have made a start on my latest, and here is the first part of the underpainting  using only raw umbra. 

27 x 19.5 inches
Oil on stretched Italian linen

I always rely on the eyes to make my portrait work, here the eyes aren't visible so quite a challenge for me. As if the lighting wasn't tricky enough.

I'm letting it dry out overnight before completing the underpainting tomorrow.

I really do love the Pre-Raphaelites and am trying to paint under that influence. The two paintings influencing me here are Holman Hunt's Light of the World' E R Hughes's Midsummer Eve.  Hughes was Holman Hunt's studio assistant .

Saturday 20 January 2018

The Light of My World

You have probably seen the Pre-Raphaelite painting 'Light of the World' by Holman Hunt, in which the light source comes from below, casting unusual shadows on the subject. It is my intention to paint a portrait of my great grandson 'Topgun' (Logan) using a similar light source, from below, that all but blots out his image with shadow.

To complicate the issue I shall use oils, and paint it in mono - yes black & white (ish).

I've made a start by sketching out the basic image, in which a nighttime scene shows Topgun  holding a bright light in his hands and looking down on it. I have used the grey (gray) grounded canvas I showed you in the previous post.

I have set myself an impossible task here, but at worst I will turn a grey canvas into a black canvas and nobody gets hurt in the process. If it works then it will match the portrait of his dad, Max, that I painted last year

Why I have to complicate life with next-to-impossible tasks I don't know ... it must be pre-programmed into my DNA. For example, I am about to turn-over the wooden Maine Lobster Boat (Seagull) I am building: 

The easy way to turn it over is by using 10 strong men! I want to do it single handed next week. I don't have the foggiest idea how though ... I can't wait to see what I do. 

Monday 8 January 2018

Paint on Canvas

It might not seem a lot to you, but the canvas shown here is, "One tiny step for mankind, one huge step for me," as it is almost 12 months since I last painted, for many and diverse reasons.

This 27.5 x 19.5 inch (700 x 500 mm) Italian linen canvas now has a thin wash of light umbra acrylic on it. I have also marked in the vertical and horizontal centre-lines with a pencil: my portraits tend to end up off centre without this aid.

That's it folk, that's all the news... but heck ... "mighty oaks from acorns grow", "Rome wasn't built in a day", "slowly, slowly, catchee monkey" ...................!!

Who knows, I might just remember how to paint a portrait.