Reworking some old boards with surprising results.

Last summer whilst at the barn studio, I played around with oil bars. Big thick chubby sticks of solid oil colour that were cumbersome and either too soft or too hard. I used them by scraping off colour with a palette knife and applying it directly to the board.

It was what I called painting interludes, the little play paintings with colour and ideas that required little concentration or thought and I was quite pleased with them at the time.

After Christmas to get back into the swing after quite a break from painting, I looked at them again and had completely fallen out of love with them.  They didn’t reflect the quality of the oilbar and looked contrived, so I mixed some traditional oils and reworked them.

What a refreshing start to the year!… new ideas, new approach and looser work.  I’m thinking it might have been inspired by what was underneath, so it wasn’t time wasted and that this approach works well for  me.  It’s like the foundations or scaffolding to a controlled idea in which I then have the confidence to lay over something far more painterly.

I had trouble finding the reworked version of lightness and fullness as it had changed so radically. I hunted everywhere before I found a little glimpse of green that suggested it’s previous life.

So here they are, the before and afters. (left = before and right = after)



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Lisbon; the friendly city (April Holidays)

Living in Cornwall, cities are a little out of our comfort zone, but we have a love of Portugal and it’s people and Lisbon and surrounding area didn’t disappoint.

Having done the far west of the Algarve and the Alejento/ Costa Vicente, we are working our way up the coast line and booked a week in Caiscais 30km west of Lisbon on the Tagus estuary where it opens into the Atlantic. It felt very much like St Ives but grander and with a beautiful light and climate.

Lisbon was a €2 train ride along the coast and Sintra a half hour train ride or hour long via the bus coastal trip.with  so many UNESCO world heritage places to visit!

We packed a lot into a week and got a feel for the city. It always takes a day or two to get your bearings and is always worth getting lost, but never be afraid to ask in Portugal. The most gracious of people, they will often take your hand and physically walk you there. The city of seven hills could do with a few more signs, but going off track you come across some wonderful surprises with the added grandeur of the tile clad houses that line the often narrow streets that were as steep as Clovelly; the narrow alleys where the trams trundled through; the small door ways that revealed the best of local eateries to the decorative pastelarias; not forgetting the miradouras which opened up vistas over the city from high up and beautiful parks.

Too much to write, here are a few of our favourite things we did.


Every day walking a different route from our hotel Casa Vela and always ending up somewhere on the front. House of Wonders owned by Anna has great fresh world cuisine with a chic roof top bar. Dom Pedro gives you traditional Portuguese cuisine among the miriad of new chic expensive restaurants. The museums and historic houses were as good as any in Lisbon and cheap or free. It was small , friendly. a little touristy but had everything you needed with great walking and comforts. Shop at the mercerdo and buy your wines from the supermarket.


Take the coast road to Sintra. We caught the bus. the views down the coast are stunning as were all the wild flowers. arriving at the bijou station, we took a taxi to Quinta do Regaleria which we could in hindsight have walked. fantasy gothic gardens with grottos, statues and quirkiness, it is a must. With views to the sky top Royal Pena Palace we knew we had to go while here and avoid the tourist trap of central historic Sintra. A bumpy fun ride in a tuk tuk landed us at the entrance with a still 1km steep incline walk, it was beautiful though the rooms small but a picture postcard photo at every turn.

Pena National Palace

Quinta Da Regaleira


Walk and explore. It’s not a huge city but very steep. Tram 28 does the major spots and was fun. Don’t miss Alfama, Biarro Alto , Rossio square for Ginja (cherry liqueur ) and the lesser known Principe Real. High up, trendy but open and a mini village in it’s own right. For something more modern, using the so so simple, uber clean fast metro, you must not miss Oceanarium, a world class aquarium in the expo area of Parque do Nacoes with great urban art and views of the Vasco do gama bridge and a huge shopping centre. Timeout mercado di Ribiera offers fantastic communal modern eating in a market setting and is a a must do near Cais Do Sodre station. It also meant we could have a glass or two, eat and get on the train back to Caiscais in just a moment.

Belem area with the Monument to Discoveries with fountains and the monastery building as a backdrop was also beautiful whilst munching on the famous pastel de nata, custard tarts.

We didn’t hire a car, but just about did every other mode of transport though mainly our legs!

With the great exchange rate we ate out cheaply and bought a few lovely items along the way. Seriously, you need to go with an empty suitcase for beautiful clothing and linens.

There were so many things we didn’t get to do, but another time maybe.


elevador Bica from behind the fab mercado di ribiera

Tram 28 to get a feel for the city and lie of the land and admire the sights and architecture.

Park, a rooftop bar .

Biarro alto hotel rooftop bar just to be nosy and look around but great cocktails.

Via the elevador Gloria, admire the view from the miradouras and then walk up to Principe Real.

Walk Alfama for lunch or late aft when the locals are out chatting.

Chiado felt too much like a city to me, but you don’t have to go far either west of East to get into the old city.

Oceanarium a must see and use the metro. cheap, clean and easy even for us country bumpkins

Eat octopus.

Stand outside the back of Chiado theatre and listen to rehearsals

So many individual shops and not all expensive.

Gins are huge and tend to be cheaper than beer. Wines are far superior and love raposeira, their cava.

Talk to people. They are so friendly and always smiling. Hardly any English but mostly French visitors with a few Aussies, Scandinavian and it only takes a few Americans to know they are there. ;-) .

Already planning a trip back, as there was so much more to see in this beautiful city.


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Bottle top update 

Annie and I trundled down to Rame Head near Torpoint on the 11th April and spent the afternoon trailing down the cliff side with  250 other people carrying 1 km of bottle top chain. It far exceeded Claire Wallerstein’s estimate and was no mean feat getting down a very long steep path and laid out onto the beach. a very rewarding afternoon and great to be a little part of history in the making. 



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Beach Aware and Loving it.

Life is good and I feel so blessed to live so close to the sea.  Whatever the weather and when ever I wish, I can go to the beach and I’ve certainly made the most of these opportunities this winter.

It will be the second ‘It’s Not Rubbish Art Show’ in June and with this in mind, I’ve spent a lot of time collecting things from the beaches, those  fishing gloves and lost ghost gear, line and net, coloured pieces of plastic and the odd wellie boot and shoe.

Either as a one man band, with Postie Jo, Widemouth Task Force, the National Trust or 2minutebeachclean, it’s been a memorable winter of beach cleans, often loading the car with bags of plastic rubbish, fishing crates and nets.

Annie and I took two large nets into the local school and did a weaving afternoon and have plans to make some larger sculptures for the art show with the remnants.

A year dominated by beach awareness, and as I’m moving into a newly refurbished studio at the farm this year, will be fantastic editions to hang alongside some new artwork.





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My Mind is a Sea of Ideas

I’m usually painting flat out this time of year as my solo exhibition slot at the Castle has always been in the spring, but this year I’m not exhibiting until August.

I’ve been busy gathering images and ideas for future artwork and playing around with some ideas. I had hoped  this will all come together to provide me with some direction as I feel I’m swimming in a tidal pool amongst a flotilla of wildly opposing ideas which come and go with my mood and the day.

But as I am writing this, I realise I quite like being in this pool of ideas that are swirling around me and come and go with the tide. It’s MY pool, and I’m taking ownership of these ideas.  They aren’t going anywhere.

I am very influenced by how I feel on the day I am painting and rather than try and find a focus or direction to swim in, think that maybe this is how I work best and I need to be in this pool. By experimenting and trying new things it’s all a great experience, keeps variety and interest  and motivation going and allows more creative freedom.

For a case in point, I am very taken with some photos of the past few days and want to start some larger wilder paintings.  These might have to wait for barn studio where I will have more space, so I will be swimming with them in my own creative pool for a few weeks yet and hope that they feel as alive then as they do now.

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Posted by on February 26, 2015 in Art diary, Creativity


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Using Beach Rubbish to send a message to London

I had no idea bottle tops were such a beach pollution problem.  We have been picking them up as general plastic at the beach cleans for some time, but it wasn’t until we started seperating them, you realise the number there are and what a problem it is and of course the issue of where are the associated bottles.



Rame Peninsular Beach Care have had a campaign running for a while collecting the tops and threading them onto wire lengths which will all be joined together and taken to London to demonstrate the issue of beach pollution from discarded plastics and plastics washed into rivers.

The aim is to have influence on the Defra consultation on the Marine Strategy Framework Directive which will be the government’s response to the EU on how it plans to achieve good marine environmental status by 2020 with one of the indicators being marine rubbish.

There was a shout out for more bottle tops a few weeks ago and rather than send them down loose, a friend organised a coffee morning where we could chat, drill and thread the bottle tops.

In all we made 12 x 2 metre lengths, which made perfect beach bunting which will be going off to join the other approx 240 m of chain bottle tops they already have.

We are hoping that after their jaunt to the big smoke, they will come to Bude in June, to be shown at the ‘Its Not Rubbish Art Show’


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Auto to Manual in an afternoon’s photography workshop

I might  have had a slight alterior motive in purchasing a photography workshop voucher for my son’s girlfriend, but knew she would love it and it was only a few quid extra to add an extra person to an afternoon’s landscape photography workshop with Gary King Photography

For Christmas I bought a voucher for the both of us to do a one to one (one to two in this case) workshop.  We spent some time with our cameras over christmas and struggled to get anything decent apart from on Auto, so we were both pretty excited about this one.

I think we both thought it would have been quite technical and possibly a generic based lesson, but Gary was incredibly intuitative to what we wanted to get out of the session and it was straight into Manual Mode.  A very experienced photographer and currently ambassador and promoter of the new Samsung cameras, he quickly gave us some great tips on using the tripod and finding our way around the camera.

We both have a reasonable eye for composition, but needed help on how to deal with the light and give the picture more atmosphere.  We learnt the basics of aperture and shutter speeds and how to check our pictures for sharpness and then went on to introduce Neutral Density Graduated Filters.  These take the glare and brightness out of the sky and increase the depth, tone and colour in the sky with quite dramatic effect.

There was a biting easterly wind which seemed to follow us wherever we went but it was bright and a perfect February day.. We hoped to get a slight glimmer of sunset and set ourselves up on the tideline waiting for the sun to drop and catch the ripples as the tide came in. We were frozen to the bone, the sunset never happened, but we learnt the technique for slowing down the water and composing a good shot so it was worth staying on.

One tip I can definately pass on, is check your white balance and experiment.  Auto isn’t always best and neither is bright sunlight.  We discovered that cloudy and shade settings instantly put warmer colours into the composition.

And do a course like this with someone else. Stephie and I are planning sessions together and between us stand more chance of remembering what we have been taught.  It was a great afternoon. Just need to put it into practice now.



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