Friday, September 29, 2006


Yesterday I was part of a small group on a course learning how to enlarge photographs. It was fascinating. Previously we had taken shots in black/white on our SLR cameras and had them developed at local photography shops. I was horrified to find that a lot of my shots had not come out - a blow because I had spent some time on Sunday finding suitable places and people to photograph. I had been to the rugby club and photographed the players, I had been to the town centre and photographed the shoppers and the interior of the cinema and I had been to the small children's playground and asked a couple of parents if I could photograph their children playing there. One said yes and the other said "I would rather not". So I hoped for some good shots except all I could see for about 25% of the reel was blanks. Anyway, I had enough to get on with. With the instructions and enthusiasm from our tutor we all managed to enlarge our photographs and I felt so pleased with mine, I had three at the end of the day. My very first black and white enlargement. Cartier Bresson, watch out!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


I have just got back from Berlin after four and a half exhausting days. Luckily we were able to go out to see art galleries, museums and architecture every day. Public transport is fast and frequent, despite it being extremely difficult to work out the routes. We preferred the S-bahn because you get to see the city from an elevated track.
I can recommend the Fat Tire Bike Tours that operate from Alexander Platz. We went on the City Tour and our guide was Enda from British Columbia. He is very funny and has a great line of chatter - keeping us laughing even though the traffic was a bit intense from time to time. It was a long day though, starting off at about 11.30 and wending our weary way back at about 4.30. We stopped off for lunch at a beer-garden in the Tiergarten and I had the best meal of my stay, there. If you get the chance, this is the best way to have an overview of the city. Enda also suggested other places which we could return to, for a closer look or a direct visit, such as the Reichstag dome and the exhibition at Checkpoint Charlie, the exact name of which I forget, but it is free. Unfortunately we did not get to do either of these visits but - next time!

Friday, September 01, 2006


Planning at trip to Berlin, mainly to see the paintings there. I am interested in the Germans, Otto Dix, Kirchner, Georg Grosz etc.
There are a vast number of galleries and museums of course, and the main ones all seem to be under state control, so you can buy a three-day ticket to visit. No free ones like our wonderful National Gallery and Tate. We plan to visit the Hamburger Bahnhof Museum for the Contemporary, as it is listed in my Guide Book, and also the Neue National Gallery and the Gemaldegalerie (13th cent to 18th cent).
I hope that Berlin is not too vast, because walking round exhibitions is tiring enough without having the walk for miles between them. I want to spend as little time as possible in the Underground, as I do enough of that in London.
I am trying to work out a brief itineray, because in only four full days, it will be a big rush. Of course we will be visiting the beer cellars too, and trying some German cream torte! Not to mention the sausages and sauerkraut.
On the plan is a bike tour of the city, and although it is not likely in the time, also a bike tour of the Third Reich if possible. History in such an ancient and famous city cannot be ignored by us.
To put an emotional spin on the visit, I have just watched the film about Ann Frank which was on the TV recently. And talked to a fellow allotment holder who said he was in Berlin during the airlift, as he was in the RAF, and he said "We thought we had had it bad but when you saw what was the result of the bombing in Germany, well...."
I shared a room in the YWMCA in Great Russell Street, many years ago when I first left school, with Angelika. She came from Berlin and told me about how hungry they had been, and how glad they were when the food parcels came on the airlift. Angelika, where are you now? You went to Buenos Aires and then returned to Germany, I think. I still have a photo of you and your boyfriend taken in my bed-sit in Tooting.

HH at the Tate Britain

A friend recommended the Howard Hodgkin exhibition at the Tate. I thought it would be a small exhibition but in fact it is extremely large. The colours in some of the paintings are delicious. It is very well displayed on colour washed walls, and in some parts of the gallery, only one painting is displayed on a whole vast space. It is, unlike the Oehlen exhibition, arranged chronologically.
Once again there is a filmed interview, though this time you cannot see the interviwer and some of the words are very indistinct, so luckily there is a typescript.
Howerd Hodgkin said he did not want his paintings to be described as beautiful, because he felt he could described no great paintings as "beautiful". He wants his paintings to be described as "good". Well I agree, they are.
But once again, the shapes of the abstracts are not easy for me to appreciate. Almost all of the mid and later ones include dots and splodges, some marks made with a sponge or cork, perhaps. As you probably know, the frames are part of the image and most of the works are paintings on wood, which I think he prefers because he works on them over several years. This is something that a lot of artists do not like to do. I wonder why he has chosen this course? One I belive took him 9 years to complete.
This is only possible if you are not pressed to sell, and have plenty of studio space, of course.
The fact they are all titled gave me cause for thought, because the titles are not as far as I can tell, more than the starting point, or inspiration, for the work. For instance Bombay Sunset. Far removed from Bombay or sunsets. But you have to have a handle, perhaps. If you just number everything, or use the alphabet, this removes your work very far from what is important or noteworthy in most people's lives. We have all seen sunsets. I made the experiment of walking round the second time and not reading the titles. This was very difficult to do. My eye was attracted time and time again to the part of the wall to the left of the painting. Do we really need to relate images to words?
Which comes first, the title or the painting? Even photographs in exhibitions and newspapers all have titles. We can order objects better if we name them, of course.


Because I have neglected visiting Whitechapel for some time, I made the effort to go and see the Albert Oehlen exhibition there. It is called "I will always champion good painting". This is not the kind of work that I find easy to appreciate or get to grips with. There is two levels of the exhibition, plus a room where a filmed interview takes place.
It is not possible to take photographs so I bought a hard-back catalogue where the reproductions are not very good. And two postcards which are 60p each.
The ground floor has 11 oils all similar dimensions, i e large. A lot of these were untitled. Because they are untitled it was difficult later to work out which was which from my notes compared to the catalogue, but on the other hand, when I went to see the Howard Hodgkin exhibition at the Tate Britain, I thought the titles were compelely unnecessary. So are we in favour of titles or not? The paintings of Oehlen downstairs are abstract although he has used faintly familiar images in a few of them, for example skulls, a tree, an eye. There has been a great deal written about Oehlen, I have discovered, so there is little point in me writing more. The filmed interview is printed again in the catalogue, so more words, more "art speak", in a wordy art scene. But I think some of the interview is edited out, because I noted that Oehlen said that he had no "painting" classes when he was at art school in Hamburg in the late 1970s, with the tutor being Sigmar Polke. I calculate is he about 54 now. He described his "grey" paintings and the "collage" paintings as being easier to do, because of course the grey ones are all in greys and the collages have some of the work done for him. He said that he had been inspired by Dali when it came to the collages.
The amount that is written about artists such as him and the Brit Art artists suggested to me that they exist partly to provide bread and butter for art journalists.


At last had the chance for a few days away, visiting family. They have moved into a house overlooking the Rive Yare and opposite is a fantastic view of coloured storage silos. The river is tidal here and a great deal of shipping passes by. I found the light on the water and the silos inspired and demanded me to sketch. The silos are vast, and coloured orange, with some rust-streaked white, and one wholely rusty brown. During the day there is a constant coming and going of vehicles, brightly painted, loading the containers for the dock just in front. These containers too are wonderful colours, mostly red when I was there, with the odd blue and turquoise one. In addition there is the coloured blue splashes of barrels. The water of the river reflects these colours. I am sure that the changing light and the levels of the sun would provide each day a different fascinating image, not to mention the mist in the winter, and the snow, which often falls in Norfolk.


The second week at the Summer School we had two different tutors. Also we had M, our model every day for the week. It was a great way of getting to grips with drawing the human form. This drawing was done by covering the large A1 sheet of paper with graphite then drawing the model using a putty rubber. Since all the drawings were put up on the studio wall, I took the opportunity to photograph mine. Later in the week we went up to the South Bank and drew our model in various spaces, for instance near the Hayward Gallery, and also sitting on a wooden pier near the Oxo Tower, where I had earlier in the summer done a watercolour of the City on the opposite bank. This time I drew people sitting on the pier itself, in a very soft compressed charcoal, so it has smudged somewhat. But it is a great place to draw and paint. During this time I decided to carry on with a more structured approach and to apply for a course which will give me three days a week studio space in Kensington and Chelsea.


I took the oportunity to join an excellent Summer School at Wimbledon Art School this August. The first week was a pure experiment for me, as we worked with drawing from a structure of wood, cloth and plastic to produce two-dimensional drawings using pen, chalk, glue, ink and paper collage. I am reproducing here the collage which I completed. At the end we all constructed three-dimensional pieces. Mine, which is in paper, very colourful, is based on drawings done from a balcony in Centre Court, in the town centre. I was looking over the balcony and noticed, below me, a young woman dressed in black, who was moving constantly around her little shop display. She was preening herself, first with the left hand, then the right, caressing her hair, arranging her black flouncy dress. Her whole display was fascinating and I did several sketches of her seen from above, with her little black flip-flops peeping out from under her skirt. She also had an ample bossom, well dsiplayed.

Thursday, August 03, 2006


It seemed a good idea to go out with my sketch book last Friday night, and draw at some of the many bars in the City of London. An especially warm evening meant that there would be plenty of people about, I thought.
We started off at Tower Bridge tube station and walked up to the Crutched Friars, presumably a very old street, but now comprising modern boxes of buidings, mostly hideous and without charm. Immediately there are people talking and drinking, standing in friendly groups on the pavements. Then further on, we came to the pub also called the Crutched Friars, where I did this pencil sketch.
The good thing about this pub, which I liked very much, was the small garden at the back, where you can sit under green umbrellas, and also the fact you can get a "double" of spirits, for only £1 extra on the price of a single. So I was on the gin!
Inside the pub I liked observing the groups, mainly men, doing the male bonding thing I suppose, and talking shop.
The rest of the evening we spent wandering from bar to bar (not getting pissed I hasten to add), and I made some more sketches. The buildings were closed and dark, the shops closed too, but every so often by the bars, of which there seemed to be very many, crowds in their white, blue, striped shirts, collected with their drinks, mainly beers. They piled their jackets sometimes on the pavement, in a little pile with their briefcases and computer cases. Of course there were girls drinking too, but not as many as I had expected. As the evening progressed, the chat got louder, the laughs more frequent.
The most animated scene was by The Monument, where there is a large bar with a balcony inside, called The Fine Line. The noise from all the chatter spread all round the neighbourhood. I intend to go back there and do some more drawing.

Saturday, July 29, 2006


I am pleased with this painting although it was difficult to paint because I did not have sketches to help me, I relied on altering and juxtaposing various photographs, and on visual memory.
It is one I entered for the Singer Friedlander Watercolour Prize this June, and got rejected.
Actually I get over these rejection letters quite quickly thank goodness. They fade into the background and I continue painting and drawing. I feel a little flash of annoyance when I realize I spent more than I can afford on nice frames for this watercolour, and for the drawing I entered into Jerwood.
This spring we went to see the Boat Race atHammersmith, instead of the usual Putney. I wanted to see how the crowds congregated to watch the race from the other bank. I was carrying a heavy bag with drawing stuff and a stool. It poured with rain as we walked along.
Hammersmith tube station is some way from the river and it was a very gloomy afternoon. Everyone who could do so, was carrying an umbrella. We arrived well before that start of the race, but even so a huge number of people were gathered around the various pubs, where beer etc was being consumed in quantity. Also optimists had set up little stalls selling barbecued food, especially hamburgers and hot dogs. You can see two people eating them in my picture, and some others sitting at a little table by a barbecue stands. The sky was dark and dramatic and to add to the low light, dense clouds of smoke from the barbecues drifted over everybody. Even so, it was a highly partified atmosphere, everyone laughting and chatting. I was suprised to hear so many accents from Australia and New Zealand, perhaps the grapeview put out the news that it was party time!
Because of the rain I did not get my sketch book out. In the end, we walked for what seemed like miles to Chiswick. I hardly saw the race itself, because we were at a bad vantage point when the boats went past. But that didn't matter much, everyone was having a good time.

Thursday, July 27, 2006


A strange evening at friend's flat, I will call him D, where he had invited several of us for a small party. Two people there are friends which he made from being involved in poetry readings, mail art and performance art. One, called Peter Netmail, read a "Commemorative Speech for Dawn Redwood held on his 70th birthday on 22nd July 2006" Dawn Redwood is D's other name. I am used to seeing "Dawn Redwood" in his red wig with long fingernails often painted red too. As he is very tall, his appearance is even more strange. Peter Netmail is from Germany and had decided to read a commemorative speech for this reason "I had to hold some funeral speeches lately for deceased mailartists. Each time it was a pity they could not hear them, and me. That is why I decided to fly here and hold yours, dear Dawn, today on your 70th birthday, for you to enjoy it personally - with your good ear."
I am sure Peter won't mind me printing part of his speech - it is certainly a novel way of delivering an eulogy!
So we sat around talking about the Perfomances which Peter, and the other guest, an Italian called Laura, had made in various cities in Europe. It was all new to me.
Later Laura "performed" a piece with D as the recipient of her actions. She called it a Sheren performance, I think. She is very interested in dolphins.
Luckily I had had a glass of wine.
I have just made this watercolour of the party scene. Here is Laura as Sheren, which means siren, perhaps. She used turquoise veils of net and two long things wrapped up and shaken at intervals. She also used plastic sheeting to wrap round D. She also put on various nets and a fetching little cap on herself.
Peter gave me a copy of a magazine called Oswald Kuntmagazin which he edits. In it are sections about mail art, and other forms of art, such as WindowArt, MuralArt, ClownArt, StampArt, PerformanceArt, ActionArt. D is particularly interested in mail art and sends his letters to contacts all over the world, with his own created "postage" stamps. He has contacts in the USA and Japan, as well as in Europe.
Altogether the strangest party I have ever been to!


I read about the 50 Over 50 competition in an art magazine and thought it sounded worth a shot. After all, it limited the competition if you had to be over 50 to enter it!
I am interested, every year, in the spectacular event of the Boat Race, and I love drawing and painting it. So this is the result of my endeavours, a similar composition to the watercolour I worked on later in the month.
The 50 Over 50 competition was run by the University of Brighton, I believe, and the gallery is under the control of Brighton and Hove City Council. The art works had to be photographed and then the image submitted on a CD-Rom with a sumission form which had to be downloaded from the 50 Over 50 website. I have never submitted work in this way before but it certainly cuts down on the trips you have to take with heavy, bulky and fragile paintings on the tube or train.
Luckily this time my image was selected to go to the final stage of selection, and was collected by a company called C'Art for transportation to Brighton.
Then I was not so lucky as the drawing was not selected for the final exhibition. I got the usual letter. The usual expression of regret. It was an efficient business though, and C'Art brought my picture back to the door a week later, no problems.
This was a nationwide competition so it must have taken some organizing.


Well I got the expected letter about my drawing, which I subitted to the "Selection Panel" of the Jerwood Drawing Prize 2006. The usual phrase followed the statutory thanks for submitting the work. "I am sorry to inform you that on this occasion your drawing(s) has not been selected for the exhibition." Apparently from a total submission of over 2,400 works (perhaps 2401?, surely they know exactly) they chose 47 drawings. I worked it out that if for every one of those entries, the artist paid £15, then the total entree fees would come to £36,000! Also 40% is the commission deducted from each piece of work sold. I know that everyone did not pay £15 per drawing because if you submitted 2 drawings, for instance, you paid £20, and £25 for three. Also there was a reduced fee for students. Even so, it seems like a money spinner and I only wish I had thought of the idea first.

How about the PAULI DRAWING PRIZE? First prize a trip on Eurostar (I think I could finance this out of the profits), with 45% commission being deducted by me from sales? I and a group of impartial neighbours would form the Selection Committee and the pictures would be on display in the waiting room of the local doctor's surgery and then on tour, viewed from the back of a friend's pick-up truck, round the local car boot sales. I guarantee national press coverage too!

Incidentally if anyone is interested in viewing, apparently the 47 drawings will be on view at the Jerwood Space in London on 20 September, "following which it would tour to Cheltenham, Birmingham, Durham, Bury St Edmunds and Cardiff".

Monday, July 24, 2006


I have just finished the watercolour of those Londoners enjoying themselves one hot Saturday (or was it a Sunday?) afternoon in early June 2006. If you recognise yourself, please feel free the buy the picture!
Actually some of the people I have painted, I saw at another bar, Gordon's Wine Bar, on the other bank of the Thames in Villiers Street.

Last time I went to this bar, on a normal weekday, it was almost empty and I missed the buzz but no doubt it is full after work, and at weekends. I intend to go back there to do some more drawing.


That day when I went to see the Cuba Carnival, it was so hot and crowded that to cool down I looked for a place it sit out of the sun. I discovered a bar at the foot of Oxo tower, on the South Bank, where there was room to sit down and have a nice cold beer. The bar had fascinating red chairs and this large orange recliner, which I sketched. It is called Tamesa.
A large group of people sitting just nearby were chatting, downing drinks and flirting. They may have been young graduates, I thought.
Later I did a painting, based loosely on the interior of the Tamesa bar, but obviously if you go there, you will find it quite different. For instance, I am not sure if you can smoke there!


Here is the finished gouache painting of the N.C.C.P.G. plant sale at Wisley in May 2006.

I am a member of the Surrey branch of the National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens. It is a busy, active group of keen gardeners and plants-people and one of the activities I enjoy is the plant sale. Plants sales in Surrey take place in spring and autumn, in an area near the car park of the Royal Horticultural Society gardens at Wisley. This year was a fine day and I helped out at the sale. The plants are all excellent, grown by the members, and are usually rare and difficult to source from usual outlets like garden centres. They were arranged by their dozens on the table tops, each with a colour coded label.
The buyers all have the common body language of the stoop - to read the little lables and examine the plants very carefully!
I made a pencil sketch of the helpers and buyers, in preparation for a painting in gouache, which is quite a difficult medium to use.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Here is a watercolour sketch which I painted one hot summer morning in late June, 2006. My stool was set on the muddy, gritty foreshaw and kept sinking in! So I was sitting a bit lopsided. Also I discovered the Thames water was too dirty to use as painting water, so it was a good thing I had brought some drinking water with me in a bottle. The city of London looked fantastic from that view point but difficult to capture in a fairly short time. I liked the way the church towers had a shining, yellow sparkle while the area under the bridge was in deep shadow. The river too had a bright, yellowish glow to it. Maybe I will turn this into a painting sometime. A pity there was only one person around to draw! After this, I met up with friends and we had sandwiches and drinks on the bank. Luckly when you are down on the river bank, nobody much comes along to look over your shoulder.

This is a sketch which I made in early June, when a big Cuban festival was held at Bernie Spain Gardens, on the South Bank (of the Thames, for those not in the know). There is a good bar at the foot of the Oxo Tower, called Tamesa, and just outside, lots of onlookers to the performing bands were sitting on the steps leading up to the bar. It is a great vantage point. Because of the wonderful weather, lots of drink was consumed and people were in party mood. I saw some fascinating types but only managed to sketch very quickly. For instance there is a man with very long, plaited hair at the left foreground, with his dog. I used this sketch and some others, to make a finished drawing which I entered for the Jerwood Drawing Prize. Later in July I returned to this part of the Thames embankment, and sat on the foreshore, where I did a watercolour sketch of the city to my right, with some steps leading down to the water.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Small Hopes - The Jerwood Drawing Prize 2006

The Jerwood Drawing Prize 2006 is administered by Wimbledon School of Art this year. This photograph which I made of the drawing after it had been framed, unfortunately shows reflections in the glass. I took it in to the Art School on the last day, along with many other hopefuls. I tried to take a look at their work so as to judge the competition! It is the first time I have entered a drawing here. There are centres all over UK for people to enter drawings for the Jerwood, and it is a prestigeous prize. Now I have to wait for another week before I get the dreaded polite letter: "Sorry you have not been selected this time. bla bla bla" But I keep on trying! The drawing is of the South Bank of the Thames near the Oxo Tower, and I made the sketches for it when I went to the free music festival Carnival de Cuba on 10 June this year. The next big festival near here is not until 16 September, the Mayor's Thames Festival. Last year I went to this and later did a small watercolour, of a salsa band playing near the Tower Bridge, just as it was getting dark. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

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Russ Henderson - a picture - buy it now!

In the spring we went again to hear Russ Henderson play. He is usually booked to play on Tuesday nights at the Archduke winebar, near Waterloo station. But he is not always to be heard there. This time we went to the 606 Club which is at 90 Lots Road, Chelsea ( I did some drawings. Russ is a charming, warm and inspiring person. He always seems to wear a hat to play, and usually a bow tie too. This is what it says about him in the 606 Club leaflet: "Russ Henderson is a wonderful Afro-Caribbean pianist who celebrated his 75th birthday at the Club some time ago but who still plays as if he's 21. An accomplished steel pan player as will as pianist and one of the founders of the Notting Hill Carnival, his brand of mainstream piano playing is still truly infectious and everyone just has fun!" True, all of it.
It's a good club, the 606, and you can park near there as well.
Anyway, this time he was playing with a friend who is also a steel pan player, whose name I do not know, and was accompanied by the bass player and the percussionist. My drawing I later worked on, as a small watercolour. I had it framed and submitted it to the Royal Academy, with grave misgivings. This is an expensive proceedure because it costs £18 per picture, plus the cost of framing of course. What can I say? Much as my pessimism predicted, the picture was rejected. I took it along to the Gallery opposite the Old Vic, it is called the Llewellyn Alexander Gallery, 124-126 The Cut. They have an exhibition called "Not the Royal Academy" from June to 26 August 2006. The very nice people running the selection of pictures liked my Russ Henderson and promised to hang it. So there it is - rush along and buy it please. I am putting a photograph of the watercolour with this blog.

Monday, July 17, 2006

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I continued my plan to draw the horses at polo matches and horse shows this year and want to do at least two big paintings.
The first trip was on 18 June this year (2006)
Never been to polo before and I booked up well in advance, via the website of the Guards Polo Club in Windsor Great Park. It was picnic weather and, not knowing what to expect, we dressed up in fairly posh gear. Because I was not sure of the route, we actually arrived early so had choice of spaces in car park, then I had slightly painful walk (wearing strappy sandals) to find where the matches were being played. I was carrying my bag with sketching stool, sketchbooks, pencils, crayons and the camera. We did not realize there are two fields, - or maybe more - and each is the size of 3 soccer pitches so at first I did not find the "Subsididary Final" being played on the farthest field. Was able to take some distance pictures and did quite a few sketches, rather difficult because the riders and 'ponies' move so fast. As a novice to the sport, it takes some time to work out that there are two umpires riding with the teams.
In the afternoon was the final of the Queen's Cub and it was altogether a more fast and furious match with world class players. Under some trees I noticed some men who appeared to be from South American, cooking whole lambs or pigs on rotating spits. There was a lot of Argentinians among the spectators. The comentators on both matches had the audience in stitches because of their witty and outrageous comments, both about the players and the girls in the audience. My favourite was the Australian one.
At the half time everybody walks on to the field and treads in the divots of turf, usually chatting and posing to have photos taken. There was a lot of dogs too.
The big drink was Pimms, and in the decorated tents the well-heeled eat and drank during the lunch break, with champagne flowing freely. We had our picnic in the car park along with families, children, dogs and the general hoi-poloi. (how do you spell this?)
So I have some of my material for the paintings and want to go again, to get some more material re the on-lookers - trouble is it is very pricey! On the way home I managed to take the wrong turn and ended up in Brentford, causing some rather harsh words addressed to the map reader! It took us two hours to get home.