25 April 2017


I dislike the word "Brexit". It reminds me of idle word collisions in very unsubtle brand names such as "Weetabix" or "Kwikfit". The word "Brexit" seems to belong in the commercial world of "Toys R Us", "GameStop" and "Supasave". 

I find it rather trite and shallow, turning a process of immense importance and national concern into the kind of word you might find in a cartoon bubble. There's a cruel disconnect in my view.

Peter Wilding
Inventor of the term "Brexit"
The word "Brexit" was first coined on May 12th 2012 by a fellow called Peter Wilding who heads up a pressure group called "British Influence". He was pushing for a "Remain" vote so it's rather ironic that his gift to The Oxford English Dictionary is a word that was embraced by so many "Leave" voters and repeated time and time again in Britain's tabloid press.

And then you had our great leader Mother Theresa, ponderously defining the word in a mystical incantation... "Brexit means Brexit" which was like saying that "Cheese means cheese" or "Bollocks means bollocks". If she had wished to be totally honest with the British public what Mother Theresa should have said was "Brexit means what I think it means".

In my opinion, there should never have been a Brexit referendum in the first place. To reduce the whole complex web of Britain's associations with Europe down to a simple "Leave" or "Remain" vote was like dumbing down the story of someone's life to a verdict of "Good" or "Bad". 

In the confusion that has followed the Brexit vote, it becomes clearer each day that the original question was insufficient. If we were going to have to have a referendum, there should have been other questions resulting in clear choices to guide negotiators beyond the fateful day.

And finally, I just want to mention Russia. I am not someone who readily embraces conspiracy theories but it seems to me that The British establishment have been smothering or playing down reference to Russia's influence on the Brexit referendum. Russia clearly  played its shadowy hand in the US presidential election and several serious journalists and other well-informed  observers firmly believe that Russia also influenced Brexit voting. Go here and here and here.

But regarding that troubling matter, the British public are left to watch the rolling of tumbleweed while listening to the eerie sound of silence..."Brexit means Just Shut Up and Eat It!"

24 April 2017


What is Art? Is it something pretty that catches your eye? Is it something that stops you in your tracks and challenges your thinking? Is it merely an exhibition of technical skills?

Probably there isn't one simple answer. 

The first art gallery I ever visited was The Ferens Art Gallery in Hull. Many years had passed by since I last visited it but I was back there on Saturday morning.

The place was heaving with visitors - rather like a popular London exhibition. Many of them were there to see a new photographic display by Spencer Tunick in which hundreds of naked Hullensians gathered at several city locations. Often their bodies were painted blue to suggest the sea:-
In the gallery's vestibule there was a pile of what appeared to be stones:-
What do you think of it? Is it Art?

I kind of like to observe natural things in gallery situations. A different context can make you see things differently. But that pile of rocks wasn't a pile of rocks at all. It was a pile of pieces of sea-battered polyurethane foam that the artist had gathered from different coastal locations. That makes you think differently about the pile.

The artist-collector is Alexander Duncan and he calls this piece "Cove". He said of it, "Lost in the sea, these hyperobjects have returned to the land reminding us of the waste and pollution we are all responsible for".

Only a century ago, no such material could be found around the British coast but now it's everywhere. Even in the vast Pacific Ocean millions of plastic bags and bottles are floating, washing up on deserted islands or entering the food chains of precious marine life. Without words, Alexander Duncan's "Cove" makes you stop and think - perhaps we don't deserve to be the guardians of this beautiful planet. We continue to ruin it, thoughtlessly, arrogantly, stupidly...

23 April 2017


Bob Carver's minus an apostrophe and an ampersand
Condemned prisoners are sometimes asked to select the final meal of their lives before execution takes place. What would you pick if you were in that position?

For me there's no question about it. It would be cod, chips and mushy peas with a slice of bread and butter and a pot of tea. Manna from heaven. Ambrosia of the gods.

Yesterday, before watching ten man Hull City beat Watford by two goals to nil. I went into the centre of Hull to visit The Ferens Art Gallery. Hull is currently Britain's "City of Culture" and The Ferens has some excellent work on show.

Afterwards, I wandered down Whitefriargate towards the fruit market and upon a whim I decided to have an early lunch in Hull's most famous fish and chip restaurant - the legendary Bob Carver's. And this was the beautiful scene that greeted my eyes before I picked up my knife and fork:-

22 April 2017


You will probably not have heard of the man on the left. He is called Alan Knight and he lives in Anglesey. It took him years to get back to the thing he always loved - Art.

Shirley and I went to see an exhibition of his paintings at Oriel Ynys Mon - the main exhibition centre on  the Isle of Anglesey.

We were struck by his work in oils. So vibrant and swift and nearly all clearly done with palette knives. 

To the right there's a close up corner of  his urgent technique as seen in a typical painting. Up close it seems rough - as if just clarted on to the canvas but stand back from it and it looks like a vivid, believable sky, filled with physical energy.

Even though visitors weren't allowed to take pictures in Oriel Ynys Mon, I was very naughty and snapped the following two pictures. If I had had a spare thousand pounds on me I would have loved to buy one of them to hang on our front room wall:-

I visited Alan Knight's website and found him saying this about his painting:-

"After trying various techniques and mediums down the years I eventually discovered that knife painting in oil best suited my temperament. I want a result quickly, in one session, and knife painting enables a speedy process. I’ve found that deliberating over a work and being too hesitant always produces a lifeless, uninspired result. Having the confidence to abandon one's inhibitions and paint in the white heat of inspiration and excitement does not come easy. It took me years to untangle myself and begin to relish and enjoy the pleasure of painting and to forget about the finished work, just to enjoy the process. I tend not to think too much when I paint.

I take inspiration from the visual world. When outside I can see paintings everywhere. Back in my studio the process begins of transforming, distilling what I have seen into an original, personal vision in oil paint. In the end it’s a question of feeling and response."

Though I am using watercolour, I wonder if I could take a little of Alan's approach into my own painting. He scorns the idea of "deliberating" and "being too hesitant". Perhaps I should swig a few glasses of Irish whiskey before putting brush to paper... or more likely I could never approach things in quite the same way as Alan. Oils are so different. You can scrape oil paint off or paint over something you have done. Much more room for amendment. But as I say, a little of Alan Knight's approach probably wouldn't come amiss.

21 April 2017


Regular visitors to this blog will recall that for a while I was focused on painting foxes. Well it seems that somebody else has a fox fixation and has also been trying his hand at fox pictures:-
It is the latest artwork by The 45th President of the United States. To see more of his distinctive creations, go to Trump Draws on Twitter.

20 April 2017


I'm starting to think about painting landscapes. See the photograph above. I took it from the northern shore of The Humber near Hessle Haven. Beyond the old jetty you can see The Humber Bridge arching gracefully across the river. It was opened in 1981 and at that time was the longest suspension bridge in the world. It remains an iconic structure linking Yorkshire with northern Lincolnshire. 

I have travelled across it many times but when I was a schoolboy in Hull, the only way we could get across that mile-wide river was by steam ferry. Lincolnshire was a faraway world like Narnia, inhabited by strange folk known as Yellowbellies. Little did I know back then that I would end up marrying a Yellowbelly!

Below I have used picture effects in "Word" to create a new version of the picture in which only a handful of shades have been used in what is called a "cutout" style. I think it is handy to have a look at the picture this way because it helps to overlook superfluous details and get right to the heart of the picture's basic structure and the different layers of light and shade.
Perhaps I should have checked out this version before my first attempt at the composition. I am not happy with what emerged. Sometimes I can be far too timid with my use of colour and I know that I need  to force myself to be bolder. Anyway, this was my first attempt:-

19 April 2017


When riding a motorcycle it is important to wear a helmet, This will protect your skull if you come off the motorbike and headbutt a tree or the surface of the road upon which you are travelling. But if someone has borrowed your helmet - what should you do then?

A motorcycle is intended to carry either the driver on his/her own or accompanied by just one pillion passenger. However, some say there is better safety in numbers:-
Here in Britain thousands of car drivers have been fined by the police for not wearing seatbelts. Of course these are not necessary on motorbikes as motorcyclists are all extremely careful road users:-