Monday, 25 October 2010


I was back on the beach at Osmington today, taking advantage of a clear cold day after a week of storms and rain.

Having originally started this painting during an earlier period of clear skies – I found on my return that those very storms had changed the landscape of the beach, as they so often do.

So rather than simply finishing the painting off, I stripped back some of my previous work and depicted the new terrain of heaped stones and boulders as it now appeared.

I've written briefly before about how my landscapes and seascapes – painted over time, in situ – are so very different from those of artists who copy or work up from photographs they or others have taken of a scene. Sometimes, like today, I will be incorporating significant topographical changes. On other occasions it might be only the changing light as the painting progresses, and the effect of the wind moving grass.

Another factor today was that, it being half-term, there were quite a few more people visiting this usually-quiet beach than normal.

Many of course want to watch me work, or to ask questions and discuss painting. This, I think, will be the topic of another blog post.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Wild Horses

I was back on Winfrith Heath today, to finish my most recent painting.

The heath has a population of wild horses, which are very shy of human contact.

As I was hidden in the long heath grass I looked up to see a group of horses grazing very nearby. The horses saw me at the same time - and were as surprised as I was.

The lead stallion approached me nervously, and quite aggressively. I had to make a decision about whether to try to scare it away, or to stay still and not react. I chose the latter.

The stand-off continued for what seemed like a long time, with the stallion close enough to rear up and cause me some damage if it had chosen to. It champed and stamped quite threateningly, making it quite clear who was the boss.

It eventually decided I was no threat, returned to the herd, and continued to graze.

Shortly after this I packed up and left, gingerly.

I've had many encounters with animals over the years whilst painting in the landscape. This was certainly one of the most alarming.


My Breast Cancer LIFE exhibition moved to its second venue this weekend.

It will be at the Poundbury Garden Centre Gallery in Dorchester until 7 November. Full details are on the poster above - click on it to see a larger version.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Sunflower Seeds

I was in London during the week, and went to both Tate Britain and Tate Modern.

Ai Weiwei's impressive and beautiful Sunflower Seeds installation was in the turbine hall at the latter – and I would have been one of the last people to have got to walk on it before this was stopped.

I'll write a little more about the trip tomorrow.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Dorset Savanna

You might imagine that as we approach mid-October here in southern England that there might be a slight chill in the air.

It was certainly windy this morning; so much so that I decided against painting on the exposed beach.

Instead I went to Winfrith Heath, which is a short distance from where I live. I've painted here many times before, and made a series of short videos about painting outside last summer and the year before (here, here, here and here).

I knew I'd be sheltered from the wind, but had no idea just how hot it would get – the sheer intensity of the sun was almost overwhelming despite my peaked sun hat.

During my break I sought out the shade of one the few large trees on the heath. Had I not had this opportunity I don't think I could have continued painting all day.

It's not like me to sit in the shade.

[The very start of the painting itself can be seen in the bottom photograph]

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Makeshift Easel - 3

I've been making the most of the good weather this week, and have been back down to the beach at Osmington.

As usual, I have to find ways of propping my canvas up. On this occasion I found a polystyrene block, reinforced with a few stones, to serve as my makeshift easel. Because I work on the ground this kind of flotsam is usually perfectly good for the job.

Here are blogposts mentioning similar makeshift easels which I wrote in 2008 and 2009.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Time & Tide

Arriving at Osmington this afternoon I decided to set up in a position which, although close to the sea, was higher than the beach itself.

The sweep of shoreline where I'd chosen to paint has a narrow stretch of beach, which is almost completely covered at high tide. Arriving at about 2pm, I saw that the tide was coming in.

The light still had the warmth of early autumn, and although the skies were cloudy they had that beautiful yellowy luminescence which reflects in the sea.

It wasn't long before the tide had reached the beach just below me, and my palette was affected by spray as you can see in the photographs above. A combination of luck and judgement meant that I was in a position to continue painting until I was happy with the canvas.

Preliminary Study

Going through some old photographs recently I found these, from the late 1990s.

This shows my preliminary study for a competitive commission from the Jerwood Foundation. They were asking for artists to submit images of positive depictions of children for two large paintings for the boardroom of the Institute for Paediatrics and Child Health.

I sent them this watercolour along with some other sketches, and won the commission.

The paintings (over 10 ft wide) can be seen with some photographs of the unveiling here.

I am told that they now both hang in St Thomas' Hospital, opposite the Houses of Parliament, though I haven't yet seen them in their new home.