Life drawing. When I open my eyes.

When I open my eyes. Acrylic on prepared board. 50 x 40 cm.
I’ve been thinking of Chaïm Soutine recently and his exciting way with paint. It would be good to get that intensity and life into my work.
To start this artwork I painted the MDF board in thick black acrylic. This first layer was still wet when I started painting and drawing making me fight to get the right marks and colours in place. A restricted palette, three brushes and two pencils were needed. The blue was added near the end.

I wanted to capture a portrait of the model and the whole pose so came up with this composition which has precedent in Diego Velazquez’s work Christ in the house of Martha and Mary; is the reclining figure a painting, or in the same room, or even being imagined like a thought bubble…

Made on a Friday night with top tutor John Close.ïm_Soutine

Some detail showing the brushstrokes and pencil marks in the wet paint.

Some painted sketches in the big rag paper sketchbook. The last two images are the same page, it’s time to revise dull work, making something a bit more dynamic.

Some images of work form the same model. The last painting is a large oil painting that is proving hard to finish.

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Life drawing. When I close my eyes.

When I close my eyes. Acrylic on prepared wood. 90 x 90cm.
The colour range and composition was really thought about on this one.
There was going to be a cat in the bottom right.
The eyes were closed at the last session.
Notice the gold ring mirroring the yellow ribbon.

From the top left: 1. After the first session, the underpainting was strong – the idea of red going forwards, cold grey goes backwards. 2. After the second session. 3. An image test in mono, showing the tonal range. 4. A test in stronger colours, I was thinking of glazing the painting with stronger colours at the time. 5. The finished version unframed.

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Life drawing: Bronzino Night.

A in the manner of Bronzino. Acrylic and pencil on MDF. 40x50cm.
Bronzino is one of my favourite painters.
A master of flattery, technique, composition and colour.
Less Gravitas, more fun than some other painters of the time, with less religious feeling.
I’ve loved this painting for it’s unashamed indulgence since first seeing it many moons ago in the National Gallery, London. I’ve painted and sketched it many times, even made cartoon versions of it.

The paintings current title is ‘An Allegory with Venus & Cupid’. His saucy, complicated, overdone MASTERPICE.

Last Friday night the scene was set, swags of coloured material, many masks and in the middle of it all, the top life model, Adrian. Tutored by the top tutor John Close.
It was easy to make something dramatic and not a little camp.

Instagram: @johnclosearts @modbodadrian


Above: The painting in a Wallace collection frame, the unframed work, the inspiration, some of the many paintings made of Adrian and a double page spread form a rag paper sketchbook.
Below: Another, more worked on double page spread. Quite a lot of decoration.


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Octavian in Pompeian red

Octavian in Pompeian red. Acrylic on wood with big wooden frame.
Painted with a very restricted palette on a Pompeian red ground. I used glazing medium a lot on this. There’s an odd stylisation on this which made another artist say that it looked a bit like early Lucien Freud. The haircut of the model reminded me of a Roman cut, hence the title. The frame was given to me years ago and just seemed to fit, the roughness and colour works well with the paint texture of the rough wooden board. Painted at an art class tutored by the great John Close.

Here’s some details.

And just to check my memory of ancient sculpture, here’s images of Gaius Octavian (Augustus Caesar as a young man).

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Symphony of burgundy.

Symphony of Burgundy. Acrylic and pencil on board. 30 x40cm.
Painted with a fan brush and a very limited colour palette of red and browns. There’s a tiny bit of blue as well… I let the wood show through.

Made in the fantastic class of John Close on Friday nights in London near Old Street.
See his site here: or on instagram. A new season start this Friday, there might be a place or two left…

For once I thought the painting was done with at one hour and a half, so I made another study of the model.

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INTERPLAY: A Group Exhibition

I am part of an artist’s group called the East Finchley Open Artists. We are having an exhibition at the wonderful Hornsey Library in beautiful Crouch End (according to a paper, the best place to live in London). I designed the advertising, including banners which were put up locally. The bright imagery in the letterforms are from the great Penny Elder’s prints. I designed her website recently, which went well (see links below).

Unfortunately, I have Covid, so can visit or go to the Private View which is tonight. Also, that’s why this post is going up late.

Here’s the works I’m showing with a bit of text on each.

I see you. Acrylic and oils on canvas. 91 x76cm. £600.
The interplay between model and audience, being looked at from both sides of the canvas. This is a streamlined composition, with each element refined. Painted originally from life and then changed in the studio. Gathering together different elements to help, from Rubens’ paintings for skin colour and treatment to Michelangelo sculpture for details of the foot. The model’s features are confrontational. The title is from a brilliant Aimee Mann song. 

Does your mind wander? Oil on primed wood. 60 x 120cm. £600. 
The interplay between outer and inner life. The colours have give the work a calmness that doesn’t come into my work much. the composition was quite considered with contrasting diagonals and a Degas-like feel of cropping the figure. Trying to paint contemplation.

Here’s looking at you. Oil on, gesso and plaster on canvas. 90x90cm. £600. 
The interplay between model, artist and audience, representation and reality. Made in the life room at the Mary Ward Centre, Queens Square, London and in the studio. There were two live sessions with the model. 

Below are some images from the Exhibition.

Here’s some links

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Self portrait 2023 (Winter)

Self Portrait (Winter). Oil on wood panel. 60 x 90cm.
This painting was created to enter a portrait competition, after being asked to apply by a researcher.

Self portraits are a tough call, you are are invariably going to look rather self regarding, staring at yourself in a large mirror. The colours are purposely dour with stronger brighter colours over the top, like how Spring can be seen over the pallid greys of Winter. The jacket wasn’t deep blue, as I am not really the colour of an olive. I’m pointing at my eye as it is the mix of hand and eye that makes a painting. The amorphous forms at the bottom of the painting are stones from a beach near Margate. They look a lot like Henry Moore sculptures. The sketchbook was real and leant on the mirror. It was important to me to paint the whole thing from life and over the course of a few days. As usual I’ve used too much white in the paint mix.

Influences on the work: Oskar Kokoschka, Rembrandt van Rijn and William Orpen.

There is glazing (thinning paint with walnut oil for translucence), scumbling (dry brush), thick layers of paint and some use of gesso on the bottom right.

No, I didn’t get through to look confused on SkyArts. Of course I could make it better. Everything could always be better…

Yes, the frame really did cost me £30, it’s been repaired a little. Amazing what a bit of plaster and some gold paint can do.

Some details…

A slideshow of how the painting progressed.
A photo was taken after each session.
Some were a few hours, some were just 15 minutes.
You can see how I felt about myself in each session.

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Mackerel and lemons for S. Acrylic on MDF. A3.
This was painted live. There was a great moment when a spot of blood came of of the upper fish. Still need to eat the fish from the freezer. A very pleasant few hours.

From the top:
Mackerels in frame, to go with the painting of crabs. A black and white image, the unframed version, the painting with the fish in situ. Some details.

Vincent Van Gogh’s version from 1886. What a warm palette.

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My Son’s birthday portrait.

A Portrait 2023. Acrylic over glitter on gesso on MDF. Around A5.
Painted in an evening.

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Imagined Portrait on Red

Imagined Portrait on Red. Acrylic and pencil on MDF board. 50 x 40cm.
Originally made at a life class tutored by the fantastic John Close.
This painting was constantly tinkered with. as you can see below. Eventually I used a John Deakin photo for some of the details and lighting. The blue light was shining on the model. After the hour session it was taken home and worked on intermittently until it felt right and slightly monumental.

Some details.

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Dreaming of Silver

Dreaming of Silver. Acrylic and pastels over prepared board with glitter. 40 x 50cm.
There’s something fun about fighting with a painting surface; glitter does not like to be worked on! Another portrait with a hot red background, another painting with strongly coloured secondary lighting. The painting took 30 minutes and was worked on in the studio.

Details of the portrait showing the texture and layering.

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Red thoughts.

Red thoughts. Acrylic and pencil over prepared board. 40 x 50cm.
As I now have short salt and pepper beard and hair, people automatically think it is a self portrait. Which is interesting. The painting was created in a hour at a life drawing session tutored by the fantastic John Close, in London. Not much more to say really, it has a certain power.

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The Disappointed.

The Disappointed. Oil on prepared wood. 30 x 60 cm.
The model looked a little unhappy, which I amplified and skewed.
When someone said she looked a little like an absinthe drinker,
I thought to add a hazy still life in the background.
There is a fair bit of distortion going on in the image,
both in colour and proportion.
A melancholy air pervades.
Made at a class tutored by John Close, in London.

From the left:
1. A photoshopped version with the head a tad bigger.
2. The work without a frame.
3. & 4. Details of the head.
5. Detail of the still life.

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An advert for my portrait work.

I design a quarterly magazine and they had a page to fill, So…

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Red Portrait

Red portrait. Acrylic, glazing medium and pencil on board. 40 x 50cm.
1 hour in front of the model, 20 minutes at home. The model had a small but powerful pink light on his face. This was fascinating to paint. I was a quite far away from the model, which might have added to the feeling of detachment. There are at least three reds used in this work, which gives it depth. Made, as usual, at one of John Close’s art classes.

Some details showing the brushstrokes and pencil marks.

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Composition in Green, Yellow and Red.

Green, Yellow and Red. Still life on a table tennis table. Oil and oil pastels on mdf.
This was created as I was teaching art in my studio. I could be distracted by creating this and still be in the room without interrupting the other artist’s flow too much too much. I’ve been keeping the dried cardoons for a still life painting, the chillis were taken from downstairs, and the rest grabbed as I went up the stairs. Painted quickly and then worked on in spare minutes over a week. The light hitting the glass and bottle was different every time I looked.

From the left: The work without a frame, three detail shots and the set up on the ping-pong table.

Some more still lives from over the years. Different mediums and different approaches.

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More finished sketches.

Skull for PV. Pencils and wash on board. Just under A4.
A good friend of mine collects skulls that I draw. This was in payment for a gig ticket to the magnificent Suede at Camden’s Electric Ballroom. The drawing was finished off in transit on the tube to meet her.

The Pewter Gang. Palamino Blacking pencil on cartridge paper. A3.
The quality of the pencil mirrored the beautiful, slightly organic pewter vessels perfectly. After drawing so many people I seem to give every object in my field a human presence. These objects remind me of those band photos where the musicians try and look like they are in a gang, hence the title.

Sculptures in the V&A. Pencils on grey rag paper. A3.
A nice outing to a wonderful museum was needed to beat the winter blues. This view from a bench seemed to give a nice juxtaposition. A good 30 minutes.

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Why I spend my Friday nights life drawing

Thought I’d spread the word.

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Sketchbook pages

These sketches are mainly from my little A5 notebook, which is filled with graphic notes. I have it on me most of the time. As you can see, it comes in handy when waiting. I’ve been to Madrid, Radio 4 recordings (News Quiz and Meet David Sedaris), typography, views of London and my favourite sculpture ‘The Visitation’ by Jacob Epstein.

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The view from the interior

The view from the interior. Acrylics and oil on canvas. 30 x 50cm. May 2021 – November 2022.
This painting took a very long time to complete, with a lot of changes. A scene in a stylised manner, with a sense of space and form, flat and moulded at the same time. It seems complicated, uncomfortable and morose. It features old friends no longer with us and a cat.
The starting point for the composition was a 2021 Zoom life drawing class with the fabulous Robin, conducted by John Close.
See here for the earlier versions on the theme.

I’ve found few more works on the theme.

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