Saturday, September 30, 2006

A+D Waltz

Learnt a new step today:Artist and Designers Fair waltz. Not done this before, and so didn't know what to expect. We had to leave the house at 7:30 this morning, arrived at Buxton at 8:30 to set up. Opened at 10:00..Fortunately the man next to us wanted less space than he was allocated, so we were able to expand a little!! There were around 50 exhibitors, mostly with grand looking stalls with spotlights, preframed prints and visa terminals. There were some impressive pieces of work there, but nothing I hadn't seen in some other form or place before. I hoped my work would shine through, and visitors would be eager to spend!

To brake even we had to sell £70 worth of goods. So now after today we need to sell only £68.50 to reach our goal!! We spoke to hundreds of people, all incredibly amazed at what I do. Have heard the same questions over and over again: 1." I bet you need to have a lot of patience?" 2. "How long does it take to produce one picture?" 3. " Don't you suffer repetitive strain injury?"..I must have been asked these questions every 5 Mins all day! Sadly all the goodwill didn't translate into sales.

On a more positive note, I did manage around 5 hours of drawing ( progress seen above) It was good to let people see how I composed my pictures. We're back there in the morning for day 2.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Park Life

For the second time this week, I've taken a group of children from St.James School out in to the Arboretum to sketch. Judy Hall accompanied me and I couldn't have kept control of the group without her. It was lovely to sit in the park and be surrounded by all the trees, some beginning to turn yellow, squirrels darting about, people walking their dogs. There was an almost dignified hush to all sound and I felt that we were somehow being 'allowed' to enjoy the park by the trees themselves.

Have not been feeling too well today. So have not worked on my picture..Did a bit yesterday, the results are shown above. I am starting to feel anxious about the arrangements for an Artist and Designers fair I am to attend on Saturday and Sunday in Buxton, Derbyshire. It's the first time I've 'done' this sort of thing and hope to sell prints of my work. The scope for being made to feel amateurish and naive is scary to say the least!. We've not been able to find any display boards so will have to improvise. I'm also hoping that my new web site will go live at the weekend. My work will then be available for purchase online...I'll let you know the address when it's up and running!

Salsa tonight..


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Muffin tops and bingo wings

As an artist, I see it as my role to reflect and bring insight. Art is not about producing great is about the questing and journey, the alchemical nature involved with coming to terms with that which was, is and will be. The outward evidence of the inward search. A sign post on the way.

The woman in my picture is someone none of us perhaps will ever know. But in my mind she stands for all those women who have struggled home from town, to provide food for the children she split herself in two to deliver. The family that takes her for granted, the laundry angel, the queen of the home, a Mother, a Wife a Lover. To add more, she perhaps works all day as a care assistant wiping crap off beligerent old men for the minimum wage. Anonymous to us perhaps..but never the less, significant in my eyes and the subject of my work. So to all you Mums out there, worried about 'love handles' 'Bingo wings' 'Muffin Tops', stretch marks, varicose me you are beautiful!

You can perhaps see that I have added a bit of definition to her features. (click on the picture for a closer look!) and have added a little to the background. This is goingto be a very dark picture for the most part. The challenge is set.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Stepping out 2

Have begun to fill in the base shades. I always tend to start with any faces in a picture. It is at this stage things can go wrong, so I would rather make a mistake now, than in two or three weeks time! It's always interesting to see how the intensity of the colour alters as the deepest shades are filled in. In this case the background will determine the luminosity of the lighter colours. Around 4 1/2 hours work have gone into the picture so far. Sam ( my eldest son ) asked me if it wasn't a bit odd drawing someone without their permission. If you're out there and recognize yourself in the picture. Please let me know who you are and I'll sort out a framed print for you!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Stepping out

" You never know when you look in a busy street" my Grandma used to say. I often wondered about that. Have you ever looked up to see an airliner passing by, a little speck in the sky? I'm fond of remarking to my children " There's a couple of hundred people just gone over your head!". Stopping to consider the tangled lives contained therein, the hopes and aspirations, I am guilty of being wrapped up in my own little life.

In July I went into Derby to take photos of crowds of people. The first drawing to come from that session is represented below in 'Carpet Crawl'. Whilst cropping down other material from that day, I came across an image of a woman. She is seen stepping out of a shaded area into full sunlight, whilst others are heading into the shade. I wondered if I could use her to show how we all 'step out' into the light, or find ourselves entering a dark period. I also like the fact that she is an 'ordinary' person. Wrapped up in her day, but beautiful none the less as the light that falls on her gives an ethereal glow.

So:..I have posted the first stage of my new picture here, which shows the pencil sketch prior to starting the dotting. Will it turn out OK?.." You never know when you look in a busy street"!.......More tomorrow!

Saturday, September 23, 2006


I can stand and look at the stars, stare into the sky and speak words to God..Sometimes I look around half expecting to see 'him' peeking from behind a cloud. Isn't funny how we look to the sky when we think of God?. " He's up there somewhere"..I came to see that God doesn't live in the sky, he's not a 'gas', he's not this he's not that..I'm not even sure if 'He' is a proper concept apart from the word 'Father' that is used when referring to God. But when you truly believe in him, you find him in your heart. This is how I viewed the 'Church' which I was told was the ' Body of Christ' on Earth. He lived in the hearts of those I met with each Sunday. This was my world, my life.

Life throws many twists and turns, and for the most part, they are unlooked for and unwanted. Thus it was one cold New Years Eve( 1991) I was awoken at 1am by my Dad banging on my front door. I stood on the ledge so I could see out the top of my bedroom window. My Dad down in the street looked up at me and said "Will you come and help me. I think your Mum has died"

This was a defining moment in my life. Not only this , but earlier that same year, Jan and I had lost the life of our first child.

It's strange, but even now I feel a very deep and real bitterness towards some of those who held God in their hearts. I guess I could be forgiven for wanting to hide myself away, to heal myself. But I longed to be cared for, to be upheld by those I'd come to regard as 'my family'..the Fellowship. Despite the valued support on a couple of occasions from people close to me, the church ceased to exist. No one called. Did no one know how to talk to a man who'd lost so much? It appeared that no one cared. I often thought that it was as if I had died along with my Mum.

I thought of them every Sunday afternoon as they they met for tea...I never really went again.

The accompanying picture finished two days ago is called 'Elephantine' I have referred to it as the ' Mad Vicar picture'. I will write about it another time, but I would like to invite comment as to what you think it is about!

S.I.A.T ( symbolism in all things)

Friday, September 22, 2006

The carpet crawl

I was in school yesterday running my second workshop for year 2 Children. Young minds certainly know no inhibitions, and we were soon flinging paint around like a room full of Jackson Pollocks!..My main aim was to encourage the children to 'See' and not merely 'Look'. We studied in detail the parquet flooring and a climbing rope and discussed how we would show in a drawing that a chair was made of wood as opposed to metal or plastic. I know what you're thinking, 'You're dealing with a bunch of 7 year olds!'..Let me tell you..They listened, and couldn't wait to put pencil to paper. We did 30 second sketches of trees. In no time we'd produced a whole forest of images it had taken the Consevative Party £400.000 to do! We finished with two group paintings based on a brain storming session about 'Things we like about the Arboretum'. The children seemed happy, their parents seemed happy and I was happy.

The evening brought our next Salsa lesson. A hot and sultry evening. The class made up of 12 men and around 30 women was again very basic, and needed to be. For some reason, my image of a poetic 'mating ritual' full of passionate strutting and eye contact that called on my species instinctual urge to attract my mate, deserted me. I had no coordination and must have resembled a newly born foal that much to it's Mother's dismay, had six legs with roller skates already attached.

The accompanying picture to this post is my recently finished ' Derby Market'. It shows the cafe area outside the Market Hall.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

'LOL'..I challenge you not to!

Have spent ages on my 'Mad Vicar' picture today..The nib of my pen has become progressively worn and thus difficult to use and so had to go out to buy a new one ( I use Rotring Isographs ) sped along after that..will definitely finish it this week!!

Had a mad interlude with my camera today. Following my photo from 'Ugh' I decided to try a few other faces. I laughed till tears streamed down my face!It was by far THE funniest thing I've done in ages. I took a series of photos all looking like a role-call of missing relatives. Hope you enjoy them and let me know what you think. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Off to run second art session at Arboretum House today. I'd planned to take a couple of pictures in and spend time getting to know the residents. I have to assure the staff that I'm not there to hurd together as many residents to 'do art'..But to build trust and rapport so that individuals will want to try creating something. I arrive and go into the kitchen area of the upstairs section, I pour myself a cup of cold water from the dispenser. I sit to chat with a gentleman, then leaving my drink move over to the seating area to introduce myself to a rather timid looking lady. She is gentle and polite, talking about things I could not understand..I smiled and listened . Eventually returning to where I left my drink.

As I sat and talked to Bill ( name changed)..I took a drink of my water...That's funny' I thought..It tastes funny..I took another sip..Still the same. I nearly died when I looked into the cup!..Something white and distinctly mucous-like swirled in the water.Someone had ' gobbed' into my drink!! make things worse it had not being long since medication time, I began to wonder if I'd just taken someone's spat out laxatives or tranquilizer!...I can report no effects so far...But I'll never leave my drink unattended again!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Circus of becoming

It's been a heads down and working day. Both Jan and I are working from home. Jan completing applications for funding of her theatre tour and finalisng the dates..another school rang up today asking to book a performance..this means she is fully booked for two to three shows a day..28 shows!. I was working on my 'Mad vicar' picture..( have not finalised a title for it yet.) should finish it this week..I've been working on it since last November!! Jan and I walked out at lunchtime just to buy a paper and be together out of the house. It was a lovely day.

After spending time on The Times, I tore out a quote that said exactly how Jan and I feel about our work. I've printed it up to go in our kitchen and anywhere else. The quote is by Cecil Beaton on Fashion:

" Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary "

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Hearts on fire

I want to talk about books. Since early 1980's I've always had a book on the go..bedtime wouldn't be the same without dipping into another world or experience. Until now I have read almost exclusively science fiction and fantasy..I've read literaly hundreds of novels, forever it seems chasing that perfect moment at 16 when I first read The Lord Of The Rings. From Tolkien, Asimov, Heinlein, Aldiss to more recent authors Peter F Hamilton, Douglas Adams, David Eddings, Terry Goodkind, Stephen Donaldson, Raymond E Fiest..and of course the fantastic Terry Pratchett ( may I recommend 'Night Watch' and 'The Truth'?).

But things were to change. It happened this summer when in the turmoil of school holidays, career decisions, poverty and if I'm honest, an instance when I had to question the solidity of my marriage, I had to confront the very foundations of my existance. Why do I need to put my family through all the emotional instabillity of one concerned with making pretty pictures for a living? I found myself asking,often sitting in front of my drawing board not being able to move an artistic muscle. Desperatley dreaming of the best expression of my desires, but getting caught on the barbs of commercialism, wanting to actually sell something. then came my 'Mental Beach'..the heatwave and a little holiday in North Berwick.

Sitting on my patio at home during one of the hottest summers ever, I'd imagine I was on a beach, I'd imagine it all, the lapping of the waves, the screech of the gulls..people walking dogs..icecreams, deck chairs...I then would Email my two best friends and talk about my ideas. Off loading my angst, dropping into free fall whilst under the influence of a good bottle of red or J.D. During this time Brigid and especially Kay would experience emails from the mundane to the bizzare and extreme as I sought to find a way through. (Both of you I have to say are fundamental in the place I find myself take a bow! )

The result?..I turned to my reading to provide the answers. Whilst on holiday in North Berwick, Kay recommended a book: 'The Time Travellers Wife' by Audrey Niffenegger. I'll leave the reviews to others ( Check out Amazon! ). But I will say one thing (being frank, and this realy happened!) I was into the final few chapters of this heart was churning with the events in the story. I was having a bath and Jan was downstairs working on the computer. I have never had my heart bashed about and wrung by such a moving and beautiful tale..I cried and cried at one particular point, and nothing but the security of being held would do..thus it was that a naked ,wet,bubble covered and crying me appeared infront of a suprised Jan. I never knew a book could do that to me.

Since then I've read an equally moving tale: 'The Lovely Bones'by Alice Sebold and am now deep into 'The Kite Runner' by Khaled Hosseini. I love the way the tales I've read have moved me in a way I've not experienced before..Jan has said she delights in the discoveries I have yet to make. She of course is no stranger to the world I have recently found..perhaps after all I've questioned, I am now able to reach out and want the answers..that consolidation can be found in the writing of others and the sharing of ourselves, an openess to question and to accept. Staring into Jan's eyes at the Salsa class, I know that I love and need her more than ever.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Can't get it out of my head

You'll not be suprised to know that the title to each posting is usually a song reference, if you can let me know where each of the titles come from, I'll sort out a prize!

Dance on a Volcano

Thursday evening saw Jan and I attend our first Salsa dance class. I actually felt a little nervous..would I end up making an utter fool of myself? this something sad middleaged inevitably end up doing? the next step a SAGA railcard?..incontinence?..

I needn't have worried, in fact I was pleasently suprised!The class comprised of around40 people of varying ages and sizes. There was a a couple who looked about my age, he smelled strongly of 'dutch courage'..she wore a very flimsy dress and high heels.There was an Asian middle aged couple,a trendy young couple, two ladies,a bloke in a football shirt, a couple returning for a refresher and a man who was on his own and appeared to be aged around 70. Others too varied to mention made up the session. Our teacher was enthusiastic, a man who was not the usual teacher he said because the motorway had delayed the proper one. Still, he knew his stuff I guess and put us through an hour of discovery, basic Cuban and Mambo ( the discovery being that I am actually pretty good at this dance lark! ). We had to swap partners around the circle, so I managed to dance with all the women there,this was an experience..especially the woman in high heels who stood on my toe!

My last partner was Jan.

To dance is the deepest form of courtship, the mating ritual. To look into the eyes of the woman I have spent most of my life with, I saw someone altogether familiar, but dangerous, passionate hungry.So as God and heaven rejoice when one sinner nature and history give their blessings to people in love.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Evidence of Autumn

Jan telephoned me from Nottingham where she was meeting with Penny. Together they both run a new venture called; 'Big Windows Theatre Company'.They plan to take a play called 'Whose Shoes?' on tour later in the Autumn around Derby Schools. She said that she was unable to get back in time to collect Annie from school, so could I go? Of course I could, so I set off at the right time. Now it should be pointed out that Derby had only an hour or so before experienced a 'mini tornado'..heavier rain I have not seen before!.So I didn't know what the weather would do.

I needn't have worried..the sun came out and it was lovely..leaves golden yellow scattered all about.

As we walk home Annie likes to climb on to walls and balance with me holding her hand. We talk about all sorts of things, espescially the trees, plants and wildlife, the seasonal differences. I had been thinking of an old poem I wrote years went something like : 'It's that time of the year again, the changing of the season, where nature's outstretched hand deposits the spent change of summer upon the ground'.....( I forget the rest! ). I said to Annie.." Look, the streets are paved with gold! "..she laughed and said.." it's not real gold Daddy! "...I thought about Dick Whittington, I thought about the hundreds of Albanian and Polish immigrants who now live in our city...I thought about climate change and the melting perma frost in Siberia.

"No Annie, it's not real gold, but it's worth the Earth"

Thursday, September 14, 2006

"'s just a step to the left.."

Have just got back from speaking at the school assembly where I am to start art sessions next week. I'd been invited to introduce myself and the project to the children. I took along my trusty self potrait which I put on show at the front of the hall...the children thought it was a photograph and looked at me as if I was some sort of alien from outer space when I told them it was one of my drawings.

I always find it very moving looking into the assembled eyes of so many much potential,so much to discover..As I stood there I felt ( very irrationally !!) that I should be appologising for being just me..that actually I am falable and full of self doubt, and that I'm just doing what I know and do best and that in my mind it's not enough..that elsewhere people are starving and being killed and I think I can justify myself by drawing pretty pictures.

I came away and looked at the many towering cranes that dominate the Derby City skyline..and in the grey drizzle,I though about the fact that they were building the City of tomorow, the children's tomorrow to live in..all we can do is build the buildings and open the doors and hope that the little lives of today will walk in and live and so what if they change the wall paper or even knock it down one day to build something else..We are charged with teaching them to dance,to make the right steps and leave good footprints.

Tonight ladies and gentlemen, we will go to our first Salsa class..

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Emo's and Moshers v Chavs

My eldest Son Sam (14) and I sat chatting tonight at the end of a day that saw my Daughter Annie turn 6!..Sam is studying for his G.C.S.E's...and in English they are reading 'Educating Rita'. Sam and I share many traits but I surprised myself tonight. Sam told me they had been discussing the stereotypes presented in the play...And that had 'Rita' been written today, then Rita would be a 'Chav'...Some in the class then went on to describe the characteristics that they perceive as 'chav-like'.... One girl at the back of the class spoke up...Sam told me that she was a 'chav' and went on to complain at high volume that " it's not fair innit?..How people fink just because you're workin' class you're a chav"..Sam said the class laughed.

Hold on..I said, It was that very spirit, that indignation and anger and desire not to be pushed into the expectations of what society views as a working class girl that saw Rita seek her education. Sam said "yeah..but it was still funny".

I know who's side I'm on!......Go girl...innit!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

When time stood still

..If you breathe,you live...If you live,you dance.

With two easels, five pictures and a poly-folder under my arm..I entered the residential home. I had visited last Friday to introduce myself..It had been a difficult thing to do....You see my Dad lived there in the late 1990's...He died in 2000....and not having been there since,I expected to see him..( those of you who know the timeless nature of a residential home will know about the ingredients..Poor souls sitting around the edge of the room..That familiar smell...Everything moves in slow motion except the staff who bustle about because they're over worked and actually very underpaid!..)

Thus it was that the Deputy Manager ushered in a small selection of the more awake residents. " The Art Man is here..Don't you want to do some art?"...A resounding vote of apathy and Altzeimers was accompanied by the rattle of the tea trolley. So I sat with my cuppa and chatted to a couple who it turned out were man and wife..( here they shared separate rooms)..He answered most of my questions..78 years of life and 60 years of marriage did not dull the shine in his eyes as he looked at his wife. She with snowy white hair and a Glaswegian accent spoke of things not here anymore, people and names, situations long ago, but present to her...He smiled and appologised for her, the dying memories and grasp of the's sometimes easier to live in the past...

They came with me to view my pictures and talk about them..they couldn't quite grasp why I would want to do what I do and in any case, their eye sight was too poor to actually see the dots...( note self: Buy a big magnifying glass!!! )

Having looked at my pictures, they were keen that I should look at their photos which were carefully mounted in a clip frame hanging in her room, photographs of grown up children,weddings, stiffly posed portraits from the war. They stood gazing with me into the past..then he brought out a well thumbed book in which long ago he had recorded the results of breeding Canaries. Dark Cinnamon ( Cock ) and Green / gold ( hen )..Four chicks..Feeding well. Pages and pages of accurately written statistics...He looked at me and I knew that he was asking me to see him as the man he was..The working husband and father, the designer of radio relay stations for the Airforce. Our interlude was brought to a close with the announcement that " Dinner's ready " I left in humble admiration and a deep deep hatred of the inevitability of old age.

I left with my easels, five pictures, poly folder..And a Murry Mint.. I will go back next Tuesday.


We move in processon, ever eager to leap in freedom away from all we dance to a different beat......and live.

As a self proclaimed artist I now have to find a way to pay the bills . In January this year, I was fortunate enough to be awaded funding by Arts Council England to develop my unique style of drawing which I call ' Hyperpointilism '. I create images using millions of tiny dots of ink. Each picture is photographic in appearance ( once I get to grips with blogging I'll upload some for you to see!)

I came up with an idea to produce artwork reflecting my love of the 'Arboretum' here in Derby. It was in fact the first 'municipal ' park in the country and is smack bang in the sprawl of the Derby's industrial heritage including Royal Crown Derby, Rolls Royce and the Railway..Nearby is the industrial museum, site of the first 'Factory'....The start of the industrial revolution! I thought it would be a good idea to involve those who live near and use the park as part of their day to day lives . Jan ( my wife ) put together an application for funding ( I'm rubbish at that sort of thing!) ( and Jan has a degree in creative writing!!)......So what does this mean?...Well I'm to run workshops on a weekly basis at the local primary school and the residential home next door..I aim to get the children and elderly residents to create some art reflecting the Arboretum and it's social and environmental regeneration ...I have then booked space to exhibit the work next February in 'The Orangery'.

I'm hoping to gain funding to pay for me to produce a series of pictures to complement the exhibition. We applied 6 weeks ago but heard last week that I had not been successful..We'll reapply later this week. So back to today!...I spent my first 2 hour session at the residential home...The subject of my next post!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Summer and lightning

..Let the dance begin....

A storm has passed tonight..the air is yet humid and sticky. A clock sits by the monitor ticking with it's beat..and I sit, having beat to the rhythm of the day, now take time to view and be. So here is my first posting..I've dreamed of this moment for so long..Throwing words out into the ether and trying to make sense of all that is around.

This is a monumental week in my life. Now aged 44 I have recently achieved my life's dream. Since January I have I have become at last a 'professional artist' ....more of that another time. This week Jan and I have decided to take up Salsa..hence the title of my Blog...and I'll let you know how I get on. I have dreams of dancing in dimly lit, smokey bars, the unbearable heat and passion drives us wild as we lose ourselves to the dance....the sad reality is that tangled feet, uncoordination and an unstoppable urge to dance like my Grandad at a wedding will be the order of the day.

I dare to tread the floor...