Diary 2006/2007

December 12th - Another new print


new waterfall linocut, as yet untitled
Stage 1 cut - the 'X's are a reminder to myself that these areas need further work


The idea for this print began, and may still be used, as a Christmas card, hence its small size ... only 9cm x 10cm.

It'll only use two colours (three if you count the white of the paper), so the first cutting stage is critical. Any lino removed at this stage will be a pure white in the print and very attention grabbing. For this reason, I worked slowly and resisted (very difficult when I'm charged up about a new piece of work) removing any lino outside the waterfall and the sky, which would naturally be the lightest parts of the landscape. This included a fleeting thought of incorporating falling snowflakes into the image ... but I decided this was just a bit too whimsical.

Adding other areas of white runs the risk of creating an image which is visually bitty and unbalanced because the eye will automatically flit from one area of white to the next - particularly at this small scale.

It'll be really interesting to see whether the size of the print impacts on strength of the finished image. I suspect the mood will be very different and the focus more on the intimate detail than in my earlier 'large' waterfalls.


December 5th - Working on new print


This linocut (about 9" square) was started a very long time ago and surfaced again last year during the loft conversion. I'm not quite sure why it was never finished, possibly because it came at the end of a long run of printmaking and I had simply 'had enough'. On rediscovering it, it still held enough interest for me to start working on it again and hopefully take it to conclusion this time. With a fresh eye, I can immediately see there are several issues that need sorting out, things which when resolved, will hopefully turn a decidely average print into something special.

Firstly, the horizon isn't level, not even vaguely! (how did that happen?)- but there's scope for correction which won't impact on the image at all. Secondly, there are a couple of areas of drawing/cutting that are pretty weak (bottom left and to the left of the bird looking skyward) but again, I'm confident that some careful and detailed cutting will resolve those problems. The most important thing to remember, especially when re-visiting earlier work, is not to go mad and cut too much of the remaining lino out in an attempt to correct weaknesses.


'Tern' linocut - first stage of cutting

It's so easy to do and the result is often that too little black ruins the visual weight and balance of a moncolour print, ending up with an airy, lightweight result - the motto being, cut carefully, cut slowly, once it's gone, it's gone!


November 26th - Work for Oriel Tegfryn Christmas exhibition, Tawelwch Cwyfan (Cwyfan calm/silence)


For me, Traeth Cwyfan has an incredible sense of peace and serenity, and this always comes across best just before the sun dips below the horizon. The mountains of Snowdonia and the Llŷn can be pin sharp or barely visible depending on the weather and the light, making the dark profile of the jagged, angled rocks on the beach all the more impressive.

It's difficult to resist the temptation to paint every rock and equally difficult to ignore the little church perched on the rock in the middle of the bay, but in this painting I wanted to avoid the obvious subject and too much 'fussy' detail, focusing instead on trying to convey as simply as possible, the contrast in texture and light falling on the sand against the dark angled rocks and the forms of the mountains on the mainland.


Sold to National Library of Wales, February 2010


August 20th - Re-worked and rescued - "Golau a chysgodion, Glyder" (Light and shadows, Glyder)


This was the third of the three paintings of the Glyders completed nearly 2 years ago. Although at the time, the three sat well as a triptych (2 sold, see below and 2005), this was, I guess, the runt of the three. It's been 'nagging' me for a while and I'd taken it out of its frame a few months ago with the intention of pushing it further.

Sometimes re-working an earlier painting can bring something new out of a weak piece of work. It might be down to a different mood, lack of pressure or simply putting more thought and effort into it. I'm not sure if other artists re-work (I would imagine so) but I find it's a different sense of satisfaction when an old painting takes on its own personality and becomes a work in its own right.


July 6th - Ceramic work at Denis Merle-Rémond's pottery


Whilst I've had a couple of attempts at 'traditional' pottery (throwing and making slab pots), I've never used ceramic glazes as a painting medium, not until last week that is. Whilst on holiday in France, staying in the house which adjoins Denis Merle-Rémond's pottery workshop and showroom, I was given the opportunity to try this completely new medium.

In a mixture of broken English and putting up with my attempts to communicate in French, Denis explained what I needed to do and working from one of my sketchbooks, I loosely copied some earlier life drawings onto several blank tiles, using glazes, a paintbrush and palette knife.


Surrounded by Denis' exuberant, colourful pottery, I knew what colours to expect but I had no idea how the finished pieces would look until they were fired. The results were really exciting, even though I thought I'd used the glazes quite thickly, in places, the base colour of the tile showed through clearly, particularly where I'd used a white glaze. More through luck than anything, this adds to the overall image because the colour is so similar to a warm skin tone. I managed to bring 2 pairs of tiles (top and bottom right above) back in hand-baggage just under the weight limit and I'm currently looking at the best method of exhibiting them.


June 20th - Selling work



Selling work always produces a mix of emotions. First comes the excitement, thrill and rush that someone 'likes' the work enough to spend good money on something I've produced.

And secondly comes a strange feeling of loss, a knowledge that in all likelihood, I'll never be able to refer to or learn from that painting again or re-work at a later stage if I feel there is scope for improvement. I do record the vast majority of my paintings digitally but it's not the same as seeing the real thing and almost impossible to see the subtle marks that are only apparent close up but critical to the overall atmosphere of the piece.

This is the second of the Dyffryn Ogwen triptych which Oriel Tegfryn have sold - the third is at home, out of its frame and being re-worked slightly as it wasn't as successful as the other two.


Haul diwedd dydd, Dyffryn Ogwen
Sold Oriel Tegfryn June 07


June 14th - Hanging at y Caban



The hanging at Y Caban went well tonight. Having prepared everything in advance and having a rechargeable drill and screwdriver made such a difference. Even though it's only a small exhibition, it's amazing how much there's been to do, mounts to cut, frames to make, glass to cut and clean, people to contact, price lists to print and so on.

I've had lots of support, so thanks to David and Sue for their input and help with the hanging and to Micrographics for speedy turn around of the flyers and price lists and of course to Y Caban for the exhibition space.

All prints are for sale framed and un-framed. If you're in the area, do come and have a look.


setting up and practice run on the table

prints on the 'green' wall
  getting rid of fingerprints from the glass


May 29th - Girls toys!

Very, very rarely do I rave about a 'nice bit of kit' but even i can't resist jumping up and down about the joys of my new Logan mountcutter. For a number of years, I've been using a trusty hand-held mountcutter which has probably cut several hundred mounts. However, I felt that sometimes the quality of the cut didn't meet the mark, so I started looking around for a more up-range model. The Logan Compact (301S) met my technical needs as well as being a reasonable cost ... there were other models which were very tempting but at several hundred pounds, a bit outside my budget.

Logan compact mountcutter

Assembly couldn't have been easier. Pretty much out of the box, apart from attaching the parallel ruler. Then came the first test cuts - which I must admit were very disappointing. Jagges edged and nicks everywhere. Thankfully these must have been bedding in blips because within 10 minutes everything was going very sweetly. Clean straight cuts, parallel lines and perfectly bevelled corners. I cut 20 mounts over the next 2 days without any spoils... and the 'how to' DVD was suprisingly useful too.


March 29th - Small paintings at Oriel Tegfryn Easter Show    

One of 2 paintings which will be part of the new exhibition at Oriel Tegfryn

This painting is one of 2 which I've been working on for the Easter show at Oriel Tegfryn. With a brief to paint some 'small' works, I headed for Traeth Cwyfan and the stunning "Eglwys bach y môr" (Little church of the sea) - I've often walked there but never painted. It turned out to be quite a challenge, mainly because I was working at a smaller scale that I normally would and also because I got totally absorbed in drawing/painting the jagged rock formations - a painting in themselves.

As a result, pehaps the church isn't integrated into the the painting as tightly as I would like but on the other hand, the gentler treatment of the building does throw it into the distance quite well, whereas if it was tonally similar to the fore and mid ground and drawn in the same style, it might be too prominent.


When I return to this subject, which I definately will, I'll work larger and I'm confident I'll resolve this minor niggle but first, there's another painting to be painted at the Spinneys and then a spot on the shore between Beaumaris and Penmon where the eroded cliffs are acting like magnets.

March 19th - The Studio    

It's difficult to imagine that this photo is of the same corner
as the one below (May 17th, 2006)


Sun setting over Anglesey from the studio

Nearly a year on, the studio is now properly up and running, still a few small niggles to iron out ... too much direct light when it's sunny and not quite enough in the evenings but nothing that can't be solved.



October 18th - Diwrnod poeth - yn edrych tua Porthdinllaen (Hot day, looking towards Portdinllaen)


Approximate size of painting is 30" x 24"

The north coast of the Llŷn is a spectacular mix of steep cliffs, rocky inlets and sandy beaches.

This view, looking west towards the sweeping bay of Porthdinllaen and on the horizon in the far distance, a glimpse of Bardsey Island, hopefully captures that mix.

Following on from the previous 2 paintings, this piece continues to use a loosley executed drawing as the basis or framework of the painting, then colours are added spontaneously and with minimal fuss, the important factors are capturing the light and atmosphere and keeping the work fresh.

August 7th - Llif, Afon Caseg (Flood, Afon Caseg)    

Will be shown as part of the Summer Exhibiton at
Oriel Tegfryn, Menai Bridge - Aug 26 to Sept 9

Sold Oriel Tegfryn October 2006

The first painting to come out of the new studio!

Mid way, this painting took an unexpected turn and a mood that I wasn't expecting. It's a little less 'cheerful' than I'd anticipated but I quite like the final gloominess.

The palette is very restrained and apart from the white of the water, the tonal value is quite narrow. I seem to enjoy depicting the lansdscape when it's a bit sombre (I wonder what this says about me!).

As always, capturing moving water is a huge challenge and there are areas where perhaps I could have been more successful but it's so easy to 'overdo' water, resulting in something flat, lifeless and distinctly un-waterlike.


July 19th - "Take me to the river"

The first painting emerging in the new studio and the light is fantastic!

Afon Caseg is a small river which rises in the Carneddau, flowing past Gerlan before it joins the Ogwen in the valley bottom. It's a river of many moods and always a challenge to paint. As with the Spinneys painting (below), the aim of this piece is to capture a moment. I'm not interested in drawing/painting the detail on every rock, a photograph can do that. When I look at the finished work (and when others look at it), I want to be there, I want to still feel the water tumbling over and through the rocks as it felt when I did the initial sketches - and to almost feel as though I could step off the bank into the wetness.

As the detail above shows, the painting is very loose and painted very spontaneously. In one way, it's a lovely method of working because 'happy accidents' happen frequently, things I couldn't achieve with the brush if I tried in a month of Sundays.

BUT, it does have its drawbacks - mistakes happen mor easily, careless observation screams out loud, so although it's a fast way of working whilst the paint is going on the paper, there are a lot of pauses in between to judge where the next wash is going to go, how wet it should be, how dark it should be, and constant checks to ensure the water is flowing convincingly and not at some odd unatural angle. There's quite a way to go on this one, adding definition whilst retaining the mood, not overdoing the background, adding depth to the water in the foreground, all hopefully without making a dog's dinner out of it!


July 4th - Cat gifts

Pencil drawing of a dead stoat
Sold Oriel Tegfryn January 2007

My previous cat's speciality catch was worms (once a mole, but once only as she came out of it with worse injuries than the mole) but the current 3 felines are voracious hunters and killers. Last night, this beautiful young stoat was deposited on the carpet, thankfully in one piece.

Perfect, undamaged and so peaceful looking, it cried out to be drawn, not just photographed. I don't often draw in a 'traditional' style but I wanted to capture the texture and sleekness of its fur and a detailed pencil drawing (a soft 4b) felt like the right medium.

In due course it may develop into a print

May 17th - Loft becomes studio

An unbelieveable change has taken place in the grimy old loft at 6/2 Stryd y Ffynnon. The photographs only hint at the transformation.

Thanks to Chris (the architect who's idea for the stairs was a small miracle), and Matt & Phil (the builders who did everything just as I'd hoped, if not better - they always went that extra mile), I now have a fantastic, spacious, light space to work in.... with just a bit of decorating left to do.

Can't wait to get in there and get painting.

Before ...


... and after

March 28th - Painting at the Spinneys

The Spinneys Nature Reserve is located just to the east of Bangor on the North Wales Coast. I wouldn't describe it as beautiful, or picturesque, quite simply because it's not - but it nevertheless has a lovely gritty, slightly scruffy character which makes it a great place to draw, paint or just to come and get away from it all.

The RCA has been invited to hold an exhibition in April in conjunction with the opening of the new extension to the North Wales Theatre. The theme of the exhibition is 'Llandudno' which although I have painted in the past, am not inspired to at the moment. So, I used the opportunity to tackle a subject which has been crying out to be painted for a long time - and it so happens that from Spinney's beach there's a distant view of Llandudno and the Great Orme. The weather last weekend was threatening rain, a moody grey sky, the odd bit of watery sunlight and a howling wind, not at all ideal for sketching but the perfect mood for capturing the Spinneys at its grey best.

Detail from "Cerdded ar draeth y Spinneys cyn y glaw" (Walking on Spinneys beach before the rain)
Full size of painting is 36" x 24"

Sold Oriel Tegfryn October 2006

The painting started with a rough graphite drawing to create a basic structure, then layers of wet-in-wet gouache were loosley painted on top, then back to the pencil, more drawing into the dry paint. In some areas the gouache is more opaque to add weight and stability, in particular to the rocks and weathered posts. It's been a very exciting painting to work on, very spontaneous and 'risky' and just a little bit obsessive (I was working till 1am on two consecutive nights) - I've never quite felt in control of the result but I think this is partly the reason why it's retained its looseness. The risk taking has resulted in a painting which for me is quite different from my 'normal' style, more about atmosphere than accuracy and one which I'll definately be trying to use more. There are a handful of things to resolve but I'm determined not to fiddle and start adding detail - that would kill the essence of what this painting is all about.

March 17th 2006 - Loft conversion begins

After too many months of dithering on my part, the builders started work today on the loft conversion. The resulting space is going to be a small studio which I can dedicate to my painting and printmaking, freeing up the 'spare' room. Having a dedicated space will make such a difference, no need to clear up half way through a painting, space to store framing materials and the general clutter of an artist....and most importantly, NO MORE EXCUSES not to paint.

Had to take a deep breath and have a stong coffee when the first phase (demolition of the current stairwell) happened this morning. It was quite a shock to see a large chunk of plasterboard wall suddenly drop into the Kitchen!


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