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

Friday 13 May 2022

Local History The Rio and The Royal

Although I was born a Welshman, I grew up in Kent. When all the kids were being evacuated from Kent to Wales, to avoid the German Bombing during World War II, my parents moved me from Wales to Kent... and we got bombed!

In short, I grew up on the Isle-of-Sheppey and left, aged 21, in 1959. I didn't realise that I would never return there to live again. However, it was a great place to grow up and I still feel semi-rooted there and, latterly, I have kept in touch through a Facebook Group called, 'The Sheppey History Page'. Which turned out to be interesting, informative, very friendly and active.

As you can imagine it has a great deal of Memory Lane wanderings, despite the many generations spanned by the membership. One of the common concerns is the loss of many of the old buildings. I undertook to draw many of these demolished, and neglected, old buildings.

I began with the Rio Cinema and its neighbour the Royal HotelThe Victorian hotel was built in 1825 by Sir Edward Banks who also built parts of Sheerness Royal Dockyard and the London and Waterloo Bridges.

Sheerness Rio Cinema was designed by George Coles and opened in June 1937 and demolished in 1988. Although it only had a 51-year lifespan it became an iconic feature to the wartime generation and beyond, and is well worth commemorating.

Here they are:

The Society of Architectural Illustrators

 I never thought to mention that I have been elected to the Society of Architectural Illustrators. Amazed to join the ranks of such as Lord Foster. 

Friday 6 May 2022


 We lived in Cologne in 1961 soon after we married. My diary informs me that I finished this drawing of Cologne Cathedral on this day, exactly 40 years ago.

Friday 18 March 2022

First Seascape

 This is more of a ‘study’ than a finished painting, which is why I used acrylics. I haven’t painted water, seascapes before.

Here’s what I take from it:

(1) It gives me a good starting position for the next seascape, I have learnt the basics of the technique.

(2)I need a flatter surface than cotton canvas which is too coarse for the finer detail. A flat board with a fine linen canvas glued to it and three coats of Gesso would take the detail in oils

Wednesday 2 March 2022



THE J & P AFTER LIFE   Adventure Stories


Adventure 1

Patsy’s …… M O N T A N A      A D V E N T U R E


As you can see, Patsy chose to go mountaineering in Montana …  the US State of the ‘Big Skies’ … for her first adventure. Naturally, the painting is called, ‘Patsy in Montana’.


I have included a separate photograph of me with the painting: to give you an idea of its size. It’s on a 30 x 40 inch Stretched Cotton Canvas and painted in oils.


This is my second ever Landscape, and I really enjoyed it. 

Monday 28 February 2022



I have today been sorting out the chaos that is/was my studio. In one drawer was an empty carrier bag which I nearly threw away, but first glanced in to find the ‘original’ of the first artistic Pen & Ink drawing I ever did.

The scene is of Cothele House in Cornwall, and I see it is signed Oct 1979. I thought I had drawn it when I was in Germany. However, the last flight from the UK I made was to New York and return with Mrs. Thatcher (according to my Flying Logbook), in December 1979.

I can only conclude that, I knew I was going to Germany in the January 1980, and that I was going to start pen & ink drawing as a hobby. In preparation I bought some pens. I had thought I would try my hand, and used the cover of a National Trust bag as a reference.
Interesting, for me anyway, is that most of the shading lines (hatching) in my drawing are vertical. Thereafter, I invented my own system, or so I thought. Later, my stuff was printed by a very old and traditional printers in Roermond, Holland. They informed me that the liked my style as it was the way the Dutch artists drew a century before. They were pleased and I was flattered.

Tuesday 22 February 2022


 This one is for two dear friends who came to Austria with Patsy and I in 2015

Saturday 12 February 2022

FIRST LANDSCAPE ... Enter the Train

I'm really enjoying the freedom of landscape painting: no need for 'deadly accuracy'. I'm used to spending over a hundred hours of exactness on my larger Pen & Ink. Also portraiture calls for exact likeness.

Although the train calls for Pen & Ink accuracy, it's not too demanding.

aide-mémoire: The canvas is 70 x 50 cms (27.5 x 20 inches approx) 


Thursday 10 February 2022


A quick update. Just starting to draw the train in pencil at the bottom.

Wednesday 9 February 2022


I have never painted landscapes before but focused mostly on portraits and still life.

The Mountain Landscape Painting I’m starting, has happened by chance. I was looking for a great photo of a steam train to paint … I found one. Now the one I found had no information with it, so I searched for a matching photo with text. I found many similar but not the same.

I turned to videos and found what looked like a match and so I played it. It was an exact fit. The video starts a little roughly, but it turned out to be so good that I sat mesmerized from start to finish. It’s well worth watching.

Just to round off the story, my daughter Louise is married to Carl who hails from Colorado (originally from Chicago). He has travelled on this train and took his sons when they were boys!

Durango & Silverton Railroad, Colorado
Acrylic on Stretched Canvas
(27 x 20 inches)

Believe it or not, this is a Railway Train (Railroad Locomotive) painting.

Zephyrinus can you email me please, I lost your contact details in a computer mix-up.

Friday 4 February 2022

SSSSsssteam Heat!

What a battle, that smoke and steam have given me....

At last this painting is finished, it's about 70% of where I was trying to get to. The strange lighting in the reference photograph works because we know it is a photograph. Trying to replicate it on a large canvas, with my limited abilities, moved from too bright to too dark via a canvas of  mud.

To finish it off I've got flash reflection off the front of the engine - makes it look much too light. I'm really going to take photography more seriously.

 Having said all that, it has really got me back into painting: I could feel the brush beginning to take over instead of me pushing it stiffly about.

I feel I have moved a little closer to rehabilitation after a two year break.

Saturday 29 January 2022

Trying to Stage a Comeback

 Hope you read this David Z.

I'm trying to get back into art after two + traumatic years. I started by reviewing my records:

I have a registry of my paintings which I was updating today and noticed that number 61 was blank. It drove me mad searching for which painting No 61could be. Then I remembered that I have this blog, and there it was: No 61’Vintage Steam Train’ Dec 2016. ……… It is unfinished!!


So why is an unfinished work registered as 61? Because I am a Virgo and need my art registered in date sequence so I can assess my progress.  


So why is it unfinished? Because life is short and I’m always champing-at-the-bit to get on with loads of other exciting projects … and I knew I could get back to all that smoke and steam later. The train was the exciting bit, the steam less so.


It’s a big canvas 80 x 60 cms (32 x 24 inches) …. I’ll have to finish now. 

Monday 17 January 2022


 My wife was very ill for two years, and I nursed her day and night.

She died on the 3rd November 2021. We had been married 62 years.

Not sure where life goes from here.