Early work

Some decisions made early on can prove to be right:

If the best way to become an artist is to draw, a LOT, then I am on the right course. Since childhood I have drawn for pleasure, for work, for practise. And if technical and architectural drawing is one of the classical techniques, then again, I am thankful for all those hours spent. Some would argue that it is over-emphasised and there are those that decry the lack of drawing practise in some art schools, but I'm a bit of a traditionalist and though it is true that there are many artists whose draughtsmanship is not their strongest points, they still manage to produce wonderful art. I just think it helps in so many areas and gives you the confidence to tackle any subject or any detail. This brief description of Van Gogh's development is interesting:

"Largely self-taught, van Gogh started his career copying prints and reading nineteenth-century drawing manuals and books. His technique grew out of the idea that to be a great painter you had to master drawing first. Van Gogh felt it was necessary to master black and white before working with color, and so he focused on learning the essentials of figure drawing and depicting landscapes in correct perspective.

It was only when he was satisfied with his drawing technique that he began adding in colors and his bold palette became one of the most recognizable features of his later work.

Van Gogh completed over 1,000 drawings in total and regarded drawing as a basic task enabling him to grow artistically and to study form and movement. Drawing was also a means of channeling his depression."

It was whilst in Africa in 1990 that I decided to take this further and so proceeded to systematically work through many exercises in sketching and perspective, before ever applying paint to paper. The result being that I feel pretty confident that I can draw and that I understand perspective. But, there's always more to learn and more practise needed.

The next step was a set of watercolours that I gradually added to. I worked intensely, free from distractions, to find out more. Nothing was really original or my own "vision," but the grounding from using this most difficult of mediums was invaluable.

A selection of early watercolours painted in the early 90s

Many of these are paintings are behind glass and therefore suffer from reflections

This was the first "proper" watercolour I did in 1990. Well actually it's the second version of one I did originally for my landlady in Zimbabwe. The first version was given to her and I did another (this one) for my mother shortly after (maybe when I'd just returned to England). It hangs in her bedroom and this is a low quality photograph unfortunately.

Looking back I still like it. Infact I'm less critical of it now than I was back then

Farm House in the snow

This was a simple light wash exercise. Probably done very quickly, but it was so long ago now I can hardly remember. I think there were only two colours used.

Misty lane

I had many doubts about this painting of an Austrian lake scene during and after working on it, but it was popular with my family. I still see the faults, but I now see the good points and how my use of watercolours was basically sound.

Lake in Austria

A charcoal and pencil sketch. Drawing portraits and figures is one of the most satisfying art techniques. Why I don't do more, I really don't know. Looking back at this one after 25 years, I don't think there is much I would do differently. A professional artist once tried to persuade me to sell this one to him - which was very flattering, but not going to happen.

I enjoy drawing hands and feet, so they're never deliberately hidden! 

Nude girl

This watercolour took longer than most here as building up and moving watercolour pigment around to make the skin tones better proved to be a challenge i.e. applying an oil painting technique to a different medium didn't help. I think it was at this point that I realised that oils could possibly suit my style better.
The painting is based on an image from a National Geographic photograph of two young Vietnamese girls sheltering from the rain. Now, I don't know why I was drawn to the subject, but it was a very good one for improving technique. I learned a lot with this one and enjoyed it immensely. It took me a while to decide to get this framed because of some drawing issues - I'm glad I did though.

Asian girls in the rain

Another very enjoyable exercise in using different watercolour techniques. A looser style and using perspective in a way that I wouldn't normally do.  A rather dark subject, and I don't know what's going on here.

Latin America

A very simple, quick and easy charcoal of a farmhouse in southern France, copied from an art book as another exercise. For some reason, this is a popular drawing with visitors to the house. It just shows that the amount of time and difficulty level is no predictor of success in engaging the viewer!

French farm

One of those speed sketches, probably done in about 10 minutes. That naughty look on her face was a lucky accident and really makes the sketch. No I don't know her!

Nude woman

A calm and gentle reminder of the landscape of Zimbabwe. This was one of my earliest watercolours and I can see a lot that I would do differently now, but I like it for the fact that it evokes good memories.

Rural Zimbabwe

From 2011 and another watercolour. Seemingly simple, but not as straightforward as it looks. An idealised and rather naive view of Marblehead, Massachusetts.


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