Saturday, 27 January 2007


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I have often heard people say 'It's abstract!' as if it wasn't a real painting. There seems to be a large group of people who seem to be afraid of 'abstract'. Yet the word simply means to 'abstract from - to take from out of'. The painting below is an example of a none scary abstract, mainly because it still has some recognisable features. It is actually just part of the top left hand corner the painting below - a painting of a bunch of tulips. If I had the brushes and the skill I would love to be able to paint like this. The full beauty of this section can only be appreciated by enlarging the view by clicking on the picture.


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Friday, 19 January 2007

The Power of Water

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Look no further than the River Severn to see the power of water. The photo here was taken at the end of a very warm summer. It had been raining before this photograph. It is possible for fishermen to walk into the middle & for children to paddle at its edge. But the real power of water is seen in the old photos of Newtown where flooding was a fairly regular event, shhutting down the town, finally causing folk to abandon thier business.
Closer inspection of the picture of the wall just below the white building on the right, shows a defence to keep the river at bay. The wall is, I would guess some six foot high at least and is another six foot above the river at its base, but there are flood marks on the wall within a few feet of its top!
In flood, the river quickly turns into what looks like a mirror, hardly a ripple on its surface. Suddenly logs, trees and other large objects are to be seen careering at an unbelievable speed.
It is hard to think what the river was like before the building of the dam, some fifteen miles upstream, to hold back the water in a more controlled way. And this is only the start of the Severn, it still have another 350 miles to go.

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

Church over the Iron Bridge

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I wanted to have that feel of Autumn, the warm glow, the soft, mellow feel of the close of the year. As the painting progressed I became aware of wanting to paint a kind of blanket stitch, or an applique, to join each of the pieces of fabric that seemed to be growing on the canvas. I lost my nerve, but continued to develop the idea of a flat picture made up of pieces of glorious colour. as a school teacher I once read a wonderful book called 'The Memory Quilt' in which the grandmother told stories from each section of a quilt, each piece was made from a memory, an old dress, curtains at the 'old house', a gift, a treasure etc.
I remember developing a wonderful set of lessons in Lower Juniors about an old wall, just wondering what each brick had seen happen over many hundreds of years.
As a painting I find it deeply satisfying .... but the WHY remains a mystery, as it often does.
Why do I like this painting and not this one is a good bit of gymnastics for a spare moment!

Saturday, 13 January 2007

THE TOWN CLOCK NEWTOWN - acrylic/gouache

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This is one of an increasing series of paintings around the town of Newtown (Drenewydd). this building is probably the best known. The style although containing proportion and realism is still impressionist in essence, concerned with that passing moment in time. The town clock on the Barclay's Bank Building gives that gentle reminder of time as people shop on market day. The particular style of painting used here is an experiment using a mixed media of acrylic & gouache, giving a feeling of painting in oils, can be built up in structure and texture, without the long drying period. Acrylics are changing in so many ways. New produces include inhibiting spays to stop the drying process. Others enable painting to continue until hot air from a dryer is applied. Oil colour itself is being transformed into a more friendly media, especially water based oil paints.
One artist that inspired me in this range of canvases is Ian Houston who paints using three colours plus black and white. He uses acrylic & gouache ... his work can be seen on

PEMBROKE FARM - late evening - SOLD

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PEMBROKE FARM is the second painting of a scene painted 'plein aire' just a mile from Whitesands Bay, but is so typical of many parts of Wales. What I especially wanted to convey in this second painting of the scene was those magic moments just before the sun goes down when all the colours do something very special. I guess scientifically it is a change in wavelength, but it's not that that thrills me, it's the shimmering colour. Also that wonderful time, indicated here by the shepherd at the gate, of just standing still, listening, knowing 'all is well'. I still do this as often as I can. Just as the light of the day begins to fade, I go outside and wait for the sequence to begin. The light fades, the sheep get quieter, the birds speak to each other from far off. The light has almost gone now, when, suddenly the blackbird makes the final clatter, a clucking sound, very definite and sure -- it says without a doubt 'Good Night'. That very second the blackbird goes quiet the creatures of the night appear ... it's BAT TIME!

Tuesday, 9 January 2007

Maggie said 'Did you see the sky?' - acrylic - sold

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This picture came out of an amazing sequence of wild weather where every day was an adventure.
The symbols in the picture became clear to me only after painting a number of other canvases. The sky shows the wild uncontrolled glory of God. The sky was painted in a way where I had little control over how the paint would finally settle. It became more & more obvious to me that the symbols of the two cedar trees were pictures of the Holy Spirit ... I suppose like 'flames of fire'. In the background, as in many of my English paintings(!) are the shape of the Malvern Hills. As I have said before, this was the closest I could easily get to Wales on the bus/train from Birmingham ... and a bumpy, proper landscape. The rest of the canvas is filled with images and colours of 'plenty', 'abundance', and follow on from a painting called 'The Valleys stand so thick with corn'. Again I became aware of images that began to mean for me 'abundance' ... sheep, bursting fat cabbages, fields, poppies and rows of crops, often with lavender.

Monday, 8 January 2007


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PASTORAL - 18" x 24" - acrylic - SOLD

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This is a one of a small series of 'sheep' paintings, often very different in style.
The starter for this painting followed from one inspired by a view through the chapel window of the retreat centre of 'Ffald-Y-Brennin (Sheepfold of the King). It was the start of a new century, very cold and incredibly windy. The communion service in the chapel was the end of a wonderful few days set in the inspiring countryside of Pembrokeshire.
Through the circular window of the chapel I watched sheep in an almost abstract scene. The first and second version of this painiting sold at and around my very first exhibition.
The intention in all the sheep pictures is to show both the serenity and in other pictures the fragility of their life ... but above all to feel the safety of being looked after by a caring shepherd.

Sunday, 7 January 2007

HIRAETH - 24" x 30" - acrylic (Sold)

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Isaiah 43:1-7 (New Living Translation)
1 But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. 2 When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.
…. because you are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you.
5 “Do not be afraid, for I am with you. I will gather you and your children from east and west. 6 I will say to the north and south, ‘Bring my sons and daughters back to Israel from the distant corners of the earth. 7 Bring all who claim me as their God, for I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them.’”

This is one of those words that is so meaningful and yet defies simple translation or even explanation. For the Welsh Hiraeth is one such very special word. It is I suppose a word to be ‘felt’ rather than technically understood. This word type is found particularly among the Celtic tongues and similar cultures. At its root it speaks of longing, of a pull back home, of yearning, a deep yearning that has a kind of unsatisfied hole, it is a hope, an energy that reaches through the ‘mean-time’ to ‘another-time’.

The painting shows a vibrant expression of Newtown and the River Severn. Around the end of October through November, salmon move toward the end of a journey that has brought them all the way from Canada. This is a long journey made by longing – HIRAETH. Just think of what they have gone through to get back home to Mid-Wales, vast seas, cruel oceans, persecuted by those who see them as a tasty snack, finally reaching the British Isles. The next part of the journey is virtually an uphill struggle, against strong forces, strong currents, in rivers in flood or rock bottom, rocks, weirs and dams. But the strong yearning pulls them on.

The sermon this morning made me think so much of the homecoming of the salmon. ‘When you go through the rivers of difficulty’ – ‘You are precious, honoured & loved’ – I will bring you back from ‘the distant corners of the earth.’

For me living in Newtown is like coming home again. The journey has felt like HIRAETH … hardly seeming possible at times as the years went by and yet an awareness of a pull, a yearning.

This painting is a joyful celebration of ‘tough times, effort, dreams, yearnings against great odds, uphill struggles’, it is coming home on a secular level but speaks more strongly of a bigger picture …. Some of the salmon have got smiles on their faces!

Friday, 5 January 2007


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On my BBC Mid-Wales ‘Artist Profiles’ site someone from Swansea posted a comment saying they would like to speak to the artist about the paintings he saw. That made me think it would be good to comment on some of my paintings. Often it is only when we talk about things that we begin to understand the ‘whys’ ourselves.

BARNFIELDS ICON – this was painted following a discovery of a field on one of my morning walks. The field it seems is at the end of an old public pathway that weaves its way through what is now an ever-growing housing estate.
I had planned to use this special field above Newtown to paint the passing seasons. It was like a special gift, so close to home and yet apparently in the depths of the country, affording wonderful views.
In iconography gold is the colour of heaven. The reason for using gold in this painting was simple. Many people say that there are places that are special to them. The Celtic saints said that there were special places where the veil of heaven was very thin. This place for me was one of them.
Gold is the colour of the sacred but it is also reflective turning things back on ourselves.
I had thought of painting a series where for me the veil was thin.
I knew that these special sites are often under threat. ‘My field’ I thought was safe from the devouring builders, ever encroaching diggers.
The gold was symbolic of the sacred, the red a symbol of life … one of my favourite verses is ‘I am come that you might have life’ … ‘life in all abundance’… this place had both.
A few months ago I visited ‘my field’ again only to find that the beautiful, bird filled hawthorn hedge (bird motorway) had been torn down by yet another housing estate. Houses, diggers and noise had broken down the view that seemed to forever stand above the town.
Maybe, just maybe nature will again recover itself over the years recovering a very special view.

The simplicity of the painting was difficult to handle. The natural tendency is to want to do more, to add, to touch up and sharpen. After many days of looking I decided to sign the painting. This is often a decision point for artists when they say ‘it’s finished – the end – no more work – leave alone!’. It is a place of unbelievable relief.


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