Dear visitors

I would like to thank all the visitors for all the interest that they have shown in this blog, your views and visits have inspired me through the first year of my degree in painting, in that somebody somewhere out there likes what I am doing and takes the time to check it out.

I have recently passed the last examination for part 1 of my degree and will be posting no more on this blog but if you are interested in following my progress towards my degree you can do so at;


This is a record of my progress through the second year. I hope you will visit my new blog to give my further encouragement in my endeavours.

Oh I nearly forgot the commercial bit only four or five of the artworks on this site have been sold. To save haggling the rest are available at GB£180.00 each, unframed plus package and postage. If you are moved enough to want to hang one of these on your wall, please get in touch at mickthehat@hotmail.co.uk to make your dream come true.

Once again thank you for your visits to my garret

All the best

Mickos x


Painting 1 The Practice of painting

PART 5 Personal Development

Project 2 Adding other materials

Exercise 1 Preparing a textured ground


Figure 1 ( Blast acrylic on canvas board 350 x 450

This is something I have been toying with in my head for a while and it just so happened that I had decided it needed a textural ground and so this exercise fitted the bill. I had been thinking of doing it using smashed tiles or glass but that seemed a bit dangerous for people touching it so I used foam board instead.

It kind of grew out of these paintings by Raphael, Blake and Lichtenstein but mostly out of my head, it was the voices that were telling me to do it. I was pondering on the fact that an explosion is a creation by someone, sometimes lots of people working in collaboration and how distant a cousin is an explosion to a happening.

I didn’t reach a lot of conclusions yet but at least I have the cover for the book.


Painting 1 The Practice of painting

PART 5 Personal Development

Project 1 Different ways of applying paint

Exercise 3 Dripping, dribbling and splattering


Figure 1 ( Tuesday; acrylic on canvas board 350 x 450

Newspaper on the floor and having seen Pollock do this, prowled around the canvas until it became obvious which way was up and just carried on from there. This is where it ended up. It feels weird having a painting that I didn’t paint or compose yet maybe in a funny way I did.

Assignment 5

Painting 1 The Practice of painting

PART 5 Personal Development

Assignment 5

In the autumn of 1890, Monet wrote to his friend Gustave Geffroy: “I’m hard at it, working stubbornly on a series of different effects (grain stacks), but at this time of year the sun sets so fast it is hard to keep up with it….” (Kendall 12)

Monet practiced series in order to improve his ability to see, perhaps his most famous series are Haystacks and Rouen Cathedral, repetition of the same motive over and over in different lighting conditions in order to master the play of light over his subject in different lighting conditions. It has been suggested that Monet used photographs to influence the design of his compositions (Dunstan 13) and it was perhaps only because photography was in its infancy and Photoshop was a dream more advanced the walking on the moon, (no pun intended), that Monet did not make greater use of photography, it would have certainly made more sense than taking a wheelbarrow full of canvases into the field to alternate between as the light changed.

A plate glass window is a relatively modern invention in terms of art history and while I can remember the shop windows of Sickert, I can only remember The Laundry Shop Dieppe that gives the merest hint of the reflection of what lies on the opposite side of the street. Macke in his series of shop window paintings,  Before the Hat Shop, Woman with a red jacket and child before the hat store, Modegeshaft and Graubes helles Schaufenster seems sometimes oblivious to the glass and at other times uses it in an almost cubist expressionistic effect. In Hopper the glass is invisible, except in Automat where it seems to reflect loneliness stretching into the night. There is also an early Kline, Chatham Square, where he seems to catch the reflections of the escalator in the window on the left hand edge of the painting

At the suggestion of my tutor I researched the paintings of the photorealist painter Richard Estes on the internet and in the book by Linda Chase and while I could appreciate the composition of his reflections in that they were mainly in the upper part of the shop front windows I was not too keen on the harshness of his reflections, all linear and painted in a similar tones, colours and style to the real objects behind the shop windows. I have found reflections to be much smokier, ephemeral and abstract, maybe that is the nature of the light in New York City.

I have spent half a year taking photographs of a farm on the way to and from work, in anticipation of a series exercise a la Monet, with sketches and colour studies had the subject almost nailed but I needed a lead in and it didn’t quite work so I abandoned it as my final piece, but carried on with the photographs because it is a marvellous record of the changing seasons. I was two paintings in with the shops when they mowed the hay at the farm, being a city boy I failed to anticipate this, but the hay bales gave the perfect lead in, well it was a good learning experience anyway.

My interest in plate glass windows and reflections began while sitting outside a coffee shop drinking double espresso I became fascinated with the reflections in the window of the shop opposite and decided on the theme for my series.

This, I think, is a crucial period in the history of the shop, the internet has cast off the shackles of infancy and has replaced the need for the shop as a physical domain for the selling of goods rather like the museum without walls. Shops are dying; the High Street is fast becoming the lingering death of shops with the only flourishing businesses being the charity shop, the specialist shop and the cafe or coffee shop.

Shops no longer need the plate glass window, many of the local shops near me have replaced the window with solid advertising panels to give more display space inside the shop. The shop, following the development of electric lighting, is no longer dependant on the light from the window.

I needed some impasto gel so I went to the art shop and reading the label and talking to the shop assistant I decided I needed what they were selling but £18.00 seemed a bit dear. No problem, I could get the same thing on line for £14.50, add Vat and postage and I waited 2 days for Amazon to put it through my letterbox for just £18.50.

Perhaps no brand of shop is in greater decline than the newsagent, with direct competition from the internet and the dwindling tobacco sales, most of the newsagents in my area have branched out as general stores.

For whatever reason shops are in decline and the plate glass window, apart from the examples in the Shopping Cities, seems destined to go the same way as the steam engine and the public house, but I like them and it seemed fitting to put down a record of their existence in the early part of the twenty first century before they start to disappear.

The series has to me a logical order even though it consisted of much experimentation in the course of its execution. The first painting was “London New York Paris”, which was a portrait of a boutique opposite a local coffee shop. The second painting grew out of the first painting in a way as I was painting late into the night and ran out of cigarettes and had to walk to the 24 hour shop. The third painting came from a photograph I took on my phone on the way to the Tate gallery “St Paul’s Pizza” was an exploration of the great Cathedral reflected in the windows. The fourth painting was of a view of a Costa Coffee shop from across the road, “For Coffee” kind of amused me as the title for the painting. It is the most photo real of the five paintings. The last painting is “Shop Chipping Ongar” in a village in Essex which was picturesque probably before I was born.

I have treated the five paintings separately so you can get some of the feeling I had while I was painting then and the way my techniques developed as I was working on them.

 Initial related sketchbook work


Figure 1 (5A.01) Sharpie and graphite on double page A6 sketchbook


Figure 2 (5A.02) Sharpie on A6 sketchbook


Figure 3 (5A.03) Sharpie on A6 sketchbook


Figure 4 (5A.04) Sharpie on A6 sketchbook


Figure 5 (5A.05) Sharpie on A6 sketchbook


Figure 6 (5A.06) Sharpie on A6 sketchbook


Figure 7 (5A.07) Sharpie on A6 sketchbook


Figure 8 (5A.08) Sharpie on A6 sketchbook


Figure 9 (5A.09) Sharpie on A6 sketchbook


Figure 10 (5A.10) Sharpie on A6 sketchbook


Figure 11 (5A.11) Sharpie on double page A6 sketchbook

London New York Paris


Figure 12 (5A.12) Initial sketch; graphite on A4 cartridge


Figure 13 (5A.13) Reference photo

I had decided that probably the first way to go was to paint the interior of the shop ignoring the reflections and then somehow glaze the reflections in the window on top. It was a double first because it is the first painting I can ever remember doing with writing in it, writing and shops seem to go together.

I decided on the size of the paintings would be about 740 by 510 as this felt the maximum size that would look good in an A1 portfolio mount when they were ready for submission.


Figure 14 (5A.14) Some complicated sums working out the composition; graphite on double page A4 sketchbook

The first thing that struck me about the composition was the grid formed by the aluminium framing between the windows and doors The grid seemed to have a very Mondrian like importance to the composition of the piece and I spent a long time working out how it would fit compositionally on the painting size.


Figure 15 (5A.15) working out the overall composition, water mixable oils on 300lb Saunders watercolour not

Part of the solution was to shorten the length of the painting from my original intention and to make the painting more in your face with regard to the structure of the piece. I think the final composition works well in this regard and gives solidity to the piece.

I used masking tape to ensure that the lines of the frame were straight but realised as I took the tape off that Piet Mondrian, John Hoyland and Barnett Newman had considerably more patience than I when painting with masking tape, perhaps they all had the distinct advantage of not working to OCA deadlines.

I remembered that Degas paid special attention to the floors in his paintings and tried to follow his lead this gives a greater feeling of depth to the painted surface and a more 3 dimensional feel to the work.

I like the feel of the open door to the shop as you can move your way through the painting, this reminded me of the door in Velazquez’ Las Meninas and is perhaps something I should push a bit in this series as I am essentially painting a wall, if there is a back way out of the painting it encourages the eye to travel through the painting.


Figure 16 (5A.16) London New York Paris  before the addition of the reflections 590 x 500 mm  water mixable oils on 300lb Saunders watercolour not


Figure 17 (5A.17) London New York Paris 590 x 500 mm  water mixable oils on 300lb Saunders watercolour not

This was the only painting painted on a white ground and the only painting painted completely in oils; the paint was applied in thin layers, almost on a watercolour basis, which has kept the colours pure. The reason I used this technique was in an effort to get a floating feeling to the reflections in the way that Mark Rothko used thin glazing in the Seagram Murals to achieve a floating effect to his colours.

The reflections seem to float on the surface of the window yet they are somewhere behind the window this adds further depth to the piece. I think some of the science of reflections is that the lower part of the window is very bright from the light bouncing up from the pavement and this has the effect of destroying the reflections in this part of the window.

I can understand now that Macke avoided the reflections to avoid dulling his pure fauvist colours.

Night shops


Figure 18 (5A.18) Initial sketch Sharpie on A6 cartridge


Figure 19 (5A.18) Reference Photo

As I already said this painting came about as a result of a late night shopping trip to buy cigarettes while I was painting London New York Paris. I was in a very painterly frame of mind and the painting “Night shops” was right there in front of me.


Figure 20 (5A.20) resolving the composition Sharpie and graphite on A4 cartridge

Once I had resolved the composition I used ultramarine blue and white to paint a notan. I was so taken with this that I almost stopped right there and then. I turned the notan on its side and wanted to keep it as it was, I probably would have if I wasn’t doing this.


Figure 21 (5A.21) Notan acrylic on 740 x 510 300lb Saunders watercolour not

I turned the painting back around and carried on. It did, however, teach me a valuable lesson, I usually stop with the acrylic paint once I have toned down the gesso ground, but this time I carried on with the acrylics.

I can remember acrylics not being my favourite type of paint as they were always hard and brash, but, I think from doing this course particularly the colour theory bits, I can b(l)end them more to my will, even if you do have to be a bit quick with them.

The petrol station looks like something from another planet that has landed on the street corner, this is complimented by the brash neon signs of the 24 hour shop and the Kebab shop and the bright lights from the taxi offices above. It’s funny how it seems, (TM The Carpenters) that the night shops group together, almost like a circle of covered wagons against the evil that the night can bring, an oasis of light in the darkness. There is more than a nod to Hopper in this one, he was fond of exploring the oasis of light in the dark.

I could have licked the painting to death with small brushes and oils to give it an almost photographic look but, I reasoned that I didn’t need to do this, it had depth and rhythm and soul without the need for slick. (I‘m not sure who to credit with that one but I’ll never get it out of my head for a day or two)


Figure 22 (5A.22)  Night Shops acrylic on 740 x 510 300lb Saunders watercolour not


St Pauls Pizza  

I was on my way to the Tate Modern, I got off at St Pauls and walked through the church gardens and I was inspired by the reflections of the great cathedral in the windows of the Pizza Express opposite. I took a photo on my mobile phone and worked from it when I got home.


Figure 23 (5A.23) Reference Photo taken on mobile phone

I am of such an age that every time I go to St Pauls I always hum or sing “Feed the birds, tuppence a bag” by the time I had finished the painting I was thoroughly sick of the song. Something else happened too, maybe because I was painting the reflections of a church, I became extremely conscious of the crosses formed by the mullions of the shop front. It started to be a bit of an obsession cured somewhat I think by the cartoon I did in my sketchbook.


Figure 24 (5A.24) Cartoon; Sharpie in A4 sketchbook

I changed the composition and changed the architecture of the shop front to fit the composition. This shop does not in fact exist but looks as though it should and I think that by widening the shop front it makes the whole reflection of the cathedral seem more imposing. Once again I used the open door of the shop as an exit from the back of the painting adding depth to what is in effect a fairly flat building front.


Figure 25 (5A.25) Under painting; acrylic on 740 x 510 300lb Saunders watercolour not

As in Night Shops I carried on with the acrylics much longer than I normally would have, in fact I only did a glaze of Liquin with the tiniest touch of green over the glass areas in the painting. I blew the Pizza Express logo’s up on a printer and stuck them on, so it is a collage in a way, but it probably involves some horrific copyright infringements and issues that I would rather not think about.


Figure 26 (5A.26) St Pauls Pizza; acrylic on 740 x 510 300lb Saunders watercolour not

I like the way that the reflection and the inside of the building and the logo fixed to the window intermingle on the central window, the three distinct planes seem to be weaving between each other and I am particularly pleased with the looseness of the figures in the doorway and the way the figures on the left inside the shop balances them.

For Coffee

It wasn’t always possible or practical to sit and sketch everything I see, I have a whole other life with a job, family and everything so I  have developed the habit of taking photos on my mobile phone as I go about the town. When I was looking at some photos I took in Palmers Green, I realised I had captured a perfect figure group I blew the relevant section of the photograph up and then carried out a sketch of the main figures to establish the scale in the finished work.


Figure 27 (5A.27) Original reference photo


Figure 28 (5A.28) Enlargement of reference photo

Another sum appears in the top right corner of the sketch that I think was something to do with the proportions.

I scaled up the sketch and transferred it to the painting surface I have got a bit used to reflections now so I just drew them in. I stuck with the tried and tested open door effect to increase the depth in the painting.


Figure 29 (5A.29) Proportional check on figures; graphite in A4 sketchbook


Figure 30 (5A.30) Under drawing; graphite on 740 x 510 300lb Saunders watercolour not


Figure 31 (5A.31) Tonal under painting in progress; acrylic on 740 x 510 300lb Saunders watercolour not


Figure 32 (5A.32) Under painting completed; acrylic on 740 x 510 300lb Saunders watercolour not


Figure 33 (5A.33) Acrylic painting completed; acrylic on 740 x 510 300lb Saunders watercolour not

The method I used for this painting was a very traditional one first establishing a careful drawing then establishing the tones before finally applying the colours.

As I was painting it I invented scenarios for what was happening in the scene and I decided that the best fit was that the two main figures were in Emmaus waiting for someone to arrive but unsure of whom that someone was. I got to thinking that some of the old masters must have had a deep religious faith, or a deep fear of the religious authorities to put so much feeling into their work.

A shop front with a little bit of pavement in front of it is almost a theatre stage the character looking out of the picture at the viewer draws you in encouraging you to wonder why the women are paying him so much attention, and as your eye flits from character to character it accepts the reality of the reflections in the plate glass without skipping a beat. These reflections are much subtler than the ones in St Pauls Pizza but they are there none the less and are an essential part in setting the stage in this painting.


Figure 34 (5A.34) For coffee; water mixable oils on 740 x 510 300lb Saunders watercolour not

Shop Chipping Ongar


Figure 35 (5A.35) Reference photo


Figure 36 (5A.36) Resolving the composition 1; Sharpie on A4 Sketchbook


Figure 37 (5A.37) Resolving the composition 2; graphite on A4 Sketchbook

I was doing a small job in Chipping Ongar and took the reference photo on a cloudy afternoon. It was a newsagents, I have already bemoaned the fate of newsagents so I decided not to accentuate the fact. I played around with the composition a bit and came up with something that satisfied me and set to work on the under painting. I knew that it was going to need some figures but reasoned that I could pull a few figures out of my sketchbooks to do that trick.


Figure 38 (5A.38) Under painting; acrylic on 740 x 510 300lb Sanders watercolour not


Figure 39 (5A.39) Early colour; acrylic on 740 x 510 300lb Sanders watercolour not

I thought a long time about the figures, I knew that they couldn’t be looking out of the painting or they would be too strong in comparison to the whole effect. If they were looking into the shop window that would encourage the viewer to see what they were interested in and would get him to pay attention to the windows and their reflections, that dealt with two of the figures.

I used the third figure as a lead in, about to turn the corner and head up the steps to see what the other two are so interested in. This also makes the eye of the viewer head for the red patch in the open door before he is distracted by the red of the telephone box and the other two figures, still though he is intrigued as he is unable to find out what is so good that this shop is selling.

The different levels in the foreground makes it more interesting as does breaking up the foreground with the railings, while still leaving a way through them and the phone box.

Looking at the finished piece I think I might be going through a green period, I may have picked this up at a Giacometti exhibition I went to but I find it soothing and hope that you, the viewer, does too.


Figure 40 (5A.40) Completion of acrylics; acrylic on 740 x 510 300lb Sanders watercolour not


Figure 41 (5A.401 Shop Chipping Ongar; water mixable oils on 740 x 510 300lb Sanders watercolour not


Chase .L. (2014) Richard Estes. London:Phaidon Press Ltd.

Dunstan. B. (1979) Painting methods of the Impressionists. New York: Watson Gupteil Publications

Kendall. R. Editor (1989) Monet by himself. London: Guild publishing.













Albers J.(2006) Interaction of colour revised and expanded edition. New Haven: Yale University Press

Gombrich E.(1989) The story of art.15th Edition. London: Phaidon Press Ltd.

Hatt M. and Klonk C.(2006) Art History a critical introduction to its methods. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Von Goethe. (2006) Theory of colours. Mineola New York: Dover publications Inc.


Painting 1 The Practice of painting

PART 5 Personal Development

Project 1 Different ways of applying paint

Exercise 4 Research point

Find out what you can about the Abstract Expressionists and, in particular the style of painting called Tachism or Action Painting. Look at the work of those artists who developed this style of spontaneous expressive painting which worked by the artist making large gestures and exploiting accidental effects. Look at the work of Hans Hartung, Franz Kline and Jackson Pollock amongst others.

I’ve read a lot of books on Abstract Expressionism and watched a lot of videos on you tube, but yesterday I was lucky enough to go to the exhibition Abstract Expressionists at the Royal Academy. It was mind blowing, it is difficult to imagine the sheer scale of the works from reading books and watching videos. If you are reading this, before the end of this exhibition, please make every effort to go and see it, you won’t be disappointed.

The abstract expressionist movement as a whole splits two ways, firstly into the first and second generation, but perhaps more importantly into the colour field painters and the action painters. The colour field painters include Rothko, Hofmann, Motherwell, Newman, Still and Frankenthaler, they were more influenced by cubism. Incidentally, if you are interested enough to come to London to see the exhibition, be sure to go look at the Seagram Murals at the Tate Modern.

This essay, however, is more concerned with the Action Painters of Abstract Expressionism that include de Kooning, Guston, Kline, Krasner, Pollock and Gottleib.

Tachism or more correctly Tachisme is a French word (tache means spot or stain) that was applied to the Paris school of Abstract Expressionism or Art Informel, the leading proponents of which were Hartung, Messagier and Fautrier

I think the term Action Painter probably has its roots in the documentaries featuring Jackson Pollock where the canvas is laid on the floor and Pollock moves around it as almost a performance artist. The performance aspect of Abstract Expressionism comes through in the marks on the canvas, you can feel the way that Kline moves his arm to apply the brush stroke to the canvas. This is similar to the feeling I get when looking at the full size sketches for Constable’s six footers, the difference is that the Abstract Expressionists have abandoned the depiction of reality and are pushing the boundaries of the ability of the paint in two dimensions.

The scale of the paintings are probably dictated by the fact that the canvas needs to encompass whole body gestures, but it also perhaps owes something to several of the expressionists being employed as mural painters by the American government during the depression years of the thirties.

Pollock’s breakthrough piece in 1943, Mural, was commissioned by Peggy Guggenheim for her New York townhouse, it is 6.05m long and 2.72m high and is among the last of his fully brushed paintings his poured paintings were first exhibited in 1945 and the technique was developed into the drip and splatter paintings in 1947 that he continued with until his death in 1956, with the important black period being between 1951 to 1953. He ventured somewhat unsuccessfully into sculpture in the mid 1950’s. His last two paintings were Search and Scent in 1955 both of which are far smaller than his earlier monumental works.

Franz Kline was a figurative painter and good examples from his figurative period are Hot Jazz and the later more expressive Chatham Square. He was introduced to Abstract Expressionism by his friend Willem de Kooning developing his own unique signature style that, with minor variants, he practiced until his death in 1962.

A Kline painting is instantly recognisable, almost invariably black and white, although he had begun to reintroduce colour to his work towards the end of his life. His process was to blow up his drawings using a projector and select his motive from the blown up drawing a good example of this is Chief, which was included in his breakthrough show. In the flesh the paintings contain a multitude of greys, from the constant over painting of the process, that are not always apparent in the reproductions. The brushstrokes were forceful and remain so, and were at least whole arm or probably whole body movements, the force of which can still be felt when viewing the paintings.

Whist the paintings of Hartung are every bit as active as the American artists discussed here, there is a much more measured feel to them like he is searching for something without losing the spontaneity of the original sketch or idea. They are less of a brand new thing and appear as a development of European non figurative modern art, a very original development, non the less for that. Hartung was wheelchair bound following the injuries he received in World War Two which probably restricted his gestures to hand lower arm movements unlike the whole body gestures of Kline and Pollock.


Websites accessed

















Anfam D. (2016) Abstract Expressionism. London: Royal Academy of Arts.

Britt D. (1989) Modern Art Impressionism to Post Modernism. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd.

Emerling L. (2016) Pollock. Koln: Taschen GmbH.

Hess B.(2016) Abstract Expressionism. Koln: Taschen GmbH.

Honour H. andFleming J.(2016) A World History of Art. London: Laurence King Publishing Ltd.

Teshuva J. (2015) Rothko. Koln: Taschen GmbH.


Painting 1 The Practice of painting

PART 5 Personal Development

Project 3 Towards abstraction

Exercise 1 Abstraction from study of natural forms

I chose as my natural form Freya, my cat, I put the canvas board on the floor and drew the traces of the cat as she walked over or sat on the board over an evening. This gave the painting two things, a sense of time and the flatness that is generally associated with the floor indoors.

The drawing gave no ideas of colour so I was free to experiment. I started with a contrast between the green of the floor and the red of the temporary still catlike shapes. The painting developed as my response to the painting as it developed it began to feel more yellow and textural, I had no model and nothing to aim for and it took on a more textural quality and began to take on a life of its own. The painting was telling me what to do next, I thought a long time before following what the painting was telling me and sometimes did what it was telling me and sometimes did what I though I thought should be done.

Since the painting has been completed, and sometimes when I look at it, it feels incomplete, it has taken on a life of its own, it has become Leonardo’s wall, I can see all kinds of figurative themes in it which I never put in intentionally, but are there anyway, and are a mere brushstroke from becoming real and dominant in the painting.

I will not tell what I can see in it least I influence your own impression of the painting, of what it as an object suggests to you. My own dialogue with the painting is deep and meaningful, sometimes I feel the need to take a brush to it and take it to a different place, but so far I have resisted, and it seems to be growing to a sense of completion all by itself.


Figure 1 ( The dance of Freya, acrylic on A3 canvas board


Painting 1 The Practice of painting

PART 5 Personal Development

Project 1 Different ways of applying paint

Exercise 2 Impasto

I did as the exercise suggested and got a bunch of fruit to practice on I first drew it in my sketchbook to get used to the forms and the tones of my subject then I studied the sketch a bit and cropped the composition. In doing this I kind of internalised the shapes and the shadows and composition. Then I put away the fruit except for one apple I could refer to, if I felt the need, put away the sketch and started the paintings.


Figure 1 ( Initial sketch and cropping Sharpie in A4 sketchbook

I have realised that to be able to paint things I will not always have enough references to hand to paint with and I need to develop my visual memory more and this seemed as good a place as any to start.

I started with the brush and tried to keep the brush strokes large and as visible as possible there were places I couldn’t resist rubbing my thumb across but on the whole I was pleased with the result, it screams painting yet still manages to say quite loudly apples, roundness, volume, texture  and sculptural. If I had it to do over I would have used a table cloth to get rid of the wood grain in the table.


Figure 2 ( Four apples (1) acrylic on 250 x 180 canvas board

Then came the turn of the knife, it was new and clumsy and difficult and it will need lots more practice if I am ever going to go and live on a beach in Spain. Strangeness is the main scream followed by a loud surreal volume and form and last but not least a whisper of apple reminiscent really of commercially brewed strong cider, a bit synthetic, more like monoliths in a desert than apples on a table. I like the textural feel, but I will need to practice more so that I no longer pay so much attention to the stroke of the knife to the detriment of my palette and colour theory.

I really enjoyed the exercise and like I said will practice more with the knife.


Figure 3 ( Four apples (2) acrylic on 250 x 180 canvas board


Painting 1 The Practice of painting

PART 4 Looking out

Project 5 Working from drawings and photographs

Exercise 1 Painting from a working drawing

I found this exercise a really interesting challenge and I learned much from completing it. Most people look at my paintings and say “but it is so real it looks like a photograph”, but I am beginning to understand the difference between painting and a photograph. In the bad old days I would not have let a painting out of the studio if it didn’t look like a photograph to me, but I am beginning to realise that what looks like a painting to me looks like a photograph to a lot of people. Reality is relative to the ability to see and only by training and practice can you gain the ability to see.

From a drawing and a colour study I have painted what I believe to be a fully believable painting with form and colour and composition that could hang on a wall and never be confused with reality, yet will by some people be confused with reality. It is a painting, an illusion, something pretty to hang on your wall that will brighten it up, but it is not real and never will be, it is my reality and i can rip it to pieces in the blink of an eye, point out where the perspective is wrong or the tonality is wrong, where the colour is invented, or where there wasn’t enough information in the original sketch so I just made it up to make the picture pretty enough to hang on your wall.

If I want to, I think I can do reality (see figure 1) but I don’t think I need to do reality anymore, I need to paint things that a gallery can hang on its walls, something with pazaz, something with originality, something that lives and breathes but at the end of the day is a pretty thing to hang on the wall. I believe with this exercise I have achieved this not once but three times.

The drawing in a petty frame could stand on its own as a work of art, it has energy and feeling and a certain je ne sais quoi that I can’t quite put my finger on that makes it stand out from my usual drawings. The colour sketch could be a complete work in its own right and the final painting belies the lack of detail in either.

I used Cézanne’s technique of putting a few coins under one side of the bowl and was totally surprised at the difference it made to the end results. I think I am beginning to master the technique of the six colour palette without resorting to the addition of white or black or even earth colours to darken or lighten the mix and on this basis alone I am pleased with the way my technique is developing my practice in completing this course. I have been paying attention during my gallery visits to the way the thinness of the paint, not just the impasto, contribute to a work of art and have been consciously trying to embody this in my work.

I have also been thinking about stages and the theatre, I don’t seem to get to the theatre nearly enough these days. My main player, the solitary apple, is on the thirds commanding the stage and the chorus mid backstage right so as not to detract from the star of the show. The backcloth, thin and grainy in parts, leads the eye to the main player with its shooting diagonals, one of them broken by the star of the show, to emphasise her importance, this zigzag table edge a precipice over which she may fall at any second. I worry about her so much, that I can almost hear the change in tempo of the orchestra as she plunges deep into the smoky drifting hazy blue beyond. It is amazing what goes through your mind as you are painting.



Figure 1 ( an old concept of reality water mixable oils on 25 x 18 canvas board


Figure 2 ( The new reality sharpie on A4 cartridge


Figure 2 ( The new reality colour study 1 water mixable oils on 250 x 180  canvas board


Figure 3 ( The new reality colour study 2 water mixable oils on 250 x 180 canvas board


Figure 4 ( The new reality first statement water mixable oils on 400 x 500 canvas board


Figure 5 ( The new reality second statement water mixable oils on 400 x 500 canvas board


Figure 6 ( The new reality mixable oils on 400 x 500 canvas board


Painting 1 The Practice of painting

PART 5 Personel Development

Project 1 Different ways of applying paint

Exercise 1 Research point

Look at a range of painting with particular attention to the way the paint has been applied. For example look at the paintings of Monet, Pissarro, Cezanne Van Gogh and the expressionist painters. Look at some twentieth century pastel paintings and make notes about the range of effects you find.


I went to the Tate Liverpool to see the Matisse exhibition. In the earliest works, done while Matisse was studying in Paris, the paintings, Studio Interior and Nude Study in Blue were dark browns and greys using thinned down fluid oil paint with only accents of slightly thicker pure colour. The Portrait of Andre Derain, the early Fauvist work, which was quite impasto maybe this is because the Fauves were heavily influenced by Van Gogh and Gauguin. Standing nude was also quite impasto but then this was painted at a time when Matisse was interested in sculpture.

In most of the later paintings, Reading Woman with Parasol, Draped Nude, Triveau Pond , The Inattentive Reader and Cap d’Antibes, the oil paint was quite thin and scrubbed into the canvas in places The weight of the plaster in the Backs series, now cast in bronze, was very impressive. In his cut outs Matisse used sheets of paper painted with flat gouache by his assistants. That is a whole lot of different ways of applying paint and plaster by one artist during the course of his career.

Van Gogh

I went on a trip to the National Gallery at the weekend I go quite regularly now to pay attention to how different artists handle the paint on their canvas. Van Gogh is famous for his thick impasto painting, however, looking closely at his work on display at the gallery I was a little underwhelmed by the thickness of his paint. I think the awards for best impasto go to the early works of Frank Auerbach and Constables six foot sketches, which have such energy. In the Van Gogh works on show, whilst there is enough paint to leave the impression of the brush marks, the paint handling in the case of Wheatfield with Cypresses is really quite delicate. Maybe the impasto effects demonstrated here have something to do with Vincent’s state of mind Sunflowers was painted before he went into the Asylum while he was excited by the pending arrival of Gauguin at the yellow house in Arles, and while the impasto gives the impression of excitement and a swiftly moving brush, it is nowhere as deep and heavy relief as Two Crabs which was painted after he left the asylum. As I have already said he seemed much calmer when he was in the asylum, perhaps I could further explore this by reading his letters to Theo and I can’t think of a better place to do this than Schippol Airport what a lovely excuse for a trip to Amsterdam.


Paul Cezanne of course had 3 paintings in the same room as Vincent, the earliest, a Portrait of his Father had the thickest paint the paint got thinner as he got older in Still life with Water Jug and The Bathers. This seems to be something of a trend amongst artists; the more confident they become in their handling of colour and light the less they seem to rely on the sculptural qualities of the paint itself and the more gestural and visible their brush marks without the thick impasto. It could be that their eyes weakened as they got older and this is all going on in the days before Specsaver’s and two for one spectacles. Many of the famous artists were blind or almost blind at the end, off the top of my head I can think of Degas, Monet and O’Keefe, perhaps years of intense looking takes its toll in much the same way as the knees of footballers. Rembrandt of course is reputed to have been stereo blind his whole life from examination of his self portraits by eye experts, maybe they work for Specsaver’s, but this type of blindness does have the compensation of increased tonal perception, it’s an ill wind that doesn’t blow somebody some luck. I just checked on Google and the only other famous blind artists are Stevie Wonder and a few old blues singers. Many artists have been recorded as being blind drunks but that of course is a whole other line of inquiry or Googling.

Monet, Pissaro and Sisley

Carrying on if we consider the impressionists, the only true impressionists are Monet, Pissaro and Sisley, forever conjoined in the May triptych in the Quai D’Orsay. These three were the dot painters before Seurat was born and there is a distinct dottiness to their painterly marks at this time in their careers. Notice also how each panel of the triptych is typical of each of the artist’s works at the time.

The great day finished with a trip to the National Portrait gallery to look at Sargent’s painting of the First world war generals, there is something rather special about this painting because it mixes the thin paint with the impasto and the day was rounded off with an examination of a seriously non impasto work by Eileen Hogan ( contemporary artist alert) a finalist in the BP Portrait Award the flatness of her mark making was so thin as too be anorexic and reminded me a great deal  of the work of Giacometti and gave me some serious pointers to go forward with in my own process.

Finding pastel paintings proved much more elusive, I have in the past looked at the pastel works of Degas and Renoir, you would be hard pushed to classify these as Twentieth century masters, it seems like I’ll just have to keep looking.


Painting 1 The Practice of painting

PART 4 Looking out

Project 5 Working from drawings and photographs

Exercise 2 Squaring up

My friend Charlie asked me paint a picture of his uncle with his machinery and gave me a photograph as a reference. I first drew the photograph in my sketchbook and then squared up the drawing and transferred the drawing to a 500 x 400 canvas. I did an under painting with raw umber and titanium white and then painted over this with water mixable oils. I remembered seeing some tractor paintings at the ROI exhibition some years ago so I surfed the web and found this and this. Amanda Coleman’s tractors are painted in profile and have a much softer feel to them than my tractor but I think there is a hardness and an in your faceness about large machinery.


Figure 1 ( original photograph


Figure 2 ( A4 sketch



Figure 3 ( A4 sketch gridded up for transfer


Figure 4 ( Tonal under painting in acrylic


Figure 5 ( The Hay Baler, evening. water mixable oils on 500 x 400 canvas

I am pleased with the three dimensional quality of it and the way the landscape recedes into the picture. I think it will sink back a bit when it dries, I will let it dry for a week or so and glaze in a cast shadow, maybe more.