Sunday, 26 June 2011


Change is the one constant in life. Wanting to maintain the status quo we often resist it, but eventually we must embrace it.

There have been major changes in my life recently, and not just becoming a grand-parent, but in many other ways too, some good and some not so good. Such is life. And there are more changes on the way, so there has been little time for blogging at present which is not to say I haven’t been thinking of you lot, I just haven’t been able to keep up with all that’s going on for me and write about it as well.

So this is to say that it may be a little while before I get back to a more settled state and feel like blethering with yous again.

The good news for you art lovers out there is that drawing and painting is still my number one concern. It may no longer be the second career I hoped for but it is still my principal occupation.

And one thought I’ll leave you with for the present is: what do you do with all the artwork created when there is no more room left in your studio to turn around?

Hasta la vista!
Acrylics on canvas, 50x70cm.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Dhanakosa Day 2

Another wet day. Dark clouds depositing everything they have on top of us - wouldn't be Scotland otherwise.

Beginning to get the idea that I am better off out on my own even if frequent showers catch me without warning. Not exactly ideal weather for painting watercolours - the paint refuses to dry with so much moisture in the air., but I start with a small pastel sketch to capture one moment:

 Neocolours in Sketchbook, A6 x2.
I quite enjoy working at this scale, but of course I always try to put too much into it.

Further on I come across this stand of tall pines with just the merest glimpse of the loch:

 Neocolours in Sketchbook, A5 x2.
Another sudden shower catches me unaware and splatters the page disolving some of the Neocolour pastel. I like it.

I dive under a beech tree humming a happy tune and wait while the rain batters down. Now this is the perfect moment for meditating on the impermanence of life.

After a while I venture out and the sun is shining once again so I wander along my merry way and down closer to the loch I am attracted to these trees on the shoreline:

 Felt pen and watercolour in Sketchbook, A4.
What a beautiful place to sit sheltered from passing showers and a fresh breeze blowing through to keep them pesky flies from my fevered brow. Blue is, of course, my natural response, but what if...?

What if I let myself go for a moment and paint how I FEEL about it?

Orange felt pen and watercolour in Sketchbook, A5 x2.

 This small double sketch is much more satisfying...I am getting out of my head and down into my gut.

A happy day but hark, I hear the bell summoning me to Metta Bhavana meditation when I shall engender some loving kindness towards my fellow human beans. But not the one I am sharing a room with who snores and farts!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011


I had always wondered what it would be like to go on a “painting” holiday, and listening to others at the Glasgow Buddhist Centre talking of the meditation retreats they had been on I always wondered what that would be like too (this is why they call me The Wonder Boy). Last week I finally fulfilled both these things by going on a Painting and Meditation Retreat at one of the WBO’s centres in the Scottish Highlands at Dhanakosa on the shores of Loch Voil.

And I am cured. The boxes are ticked but never to be repeated.
On arrival, Friday evening, the first thing I was asked to do was put my name down for six (that’s right, 6) work activities ranging from breakfast prep and tidy away, food prep with the cook (vegetarian), dishes wash-up, kitchen cleaning, toilet cleaning, hoovering, etc. I agreed to do dishes wash-up on Saturday and Monday, morning noon and night. As luck would have it I actually only carried out one of those duties since two sisters, who arrived late, (both young, lively, and very beautiful) offered to take over all but one of my duties. Must have been my boyish charm! Sadly they then both left after a few days unable to stand it any longer, and I can’t blame them.
Instead of focusing on the negative aspects, however, I prefer to just tell you about the drawing and painting I did. Well, that’s what this blog is supposed to be about, ain’t it?
Day 1:
Saturday was the first full day of drawing activity starting with drawing flowers brought in from the garden. A pleasant enough activity and interesting to see everybody’s drawing capability but there were the seeds of my discontent right there: working alongside other people. I thought that I would like to do that kind of thing but when it came to it I was disconcerted. I couldn’t concentrate on the work for chatting - theirs, and mine!

Centaurea, pencil and watercolour on paper, A2

In the afternoon, even though it was quite wet we were allowed out to play and the task was to use charcoal and consider the landscape in tone:

 Value Study #1, charcoal on paper, A4.

 Value Study #2, charcoal on paper, A4.

 Value Study #3, charcoal on paper, A4.
The sky was alive with swallows and martins swooping and diving. It's a long way to come from Africa just to catch our midges, but good on them I say!

 Value Study #4, charcoal on paper, A4.

 Value Study #5, charcoal on paper, A4.
Beginning to feel the more abstract qualities already after just a few sketches.

 Value Study #6, charcoal on paper, A4.

 Value Study #7, charcoal on paper, A4.

Moving on from just using charcoal I began to introduce some lines in ink:

 Value Study #8, charcoal and ink on paper, A4.

Then, finally, I dispensed with the charcoal and just made these two ink drawings:

 Hill and Sky Study #9, ink in sketchbook, A6.

Mountain Stream Study #1, ink in sketchbook, A6.

The best thing about it all was being out again in the living landscape (after months in the studio) with mountain, loch and sky before me and a rucksac of art materials and a fold-away chair.
This is my kind of meditation.