Its mid October on the Greek island of Samos. From the terrace above my little Airbnb house in Palaio Karlovasi, the views are perfect in every direction for painting.
The mountains opposite have a dreamy layer of mist floating below the peaks. Below that olive trees grow in red earth, and to the right a whole forest flourishes. Its the next level below that, that really catches my eye. A glowing white, red roofed house has three black short-sleeved shirts paraded like flags below the balcony. A large church building, Aghios Isidoros, hides the rest of the foreground from view. I make the church of lesser importance, and bring the house with the washing line much closer, as that is really my main subject.
Today the sky is flecked with clouds looking like horizontal brushstrokes, so that is where I start after sketching out the main outlines.
This garden is in Washdyke Lane, Hucknall, Nottingham. The owner, who sadly has since passed away, was holding an artists’ get together . We were encouraged to be productive so I brought along my oil paints, and this smallish square canvass and set up my easel in his garden. Fortunately it didn’t rain and it was warm enough to be comfortable standing outside all afternoon. I was forced to think carefully about what to leave out in order to make this painting work , using only his garden as the subject. The bench, the garage and a few flowers were enough to create what you see here.
This style of drawing is one of my favourite where the lively pencil sketch from life is the main element of the composition , then overlaid with a light watercolour wash to allow the structure to still be viewed while also adding a dimension of colour.
This is a homely domestic scene. The teenager has an almost vacant, look, as she sits watching TV, and certainly doesn’t appear to be that happy. You can’t see what she is thinking, as she is wrapped up in her own little world. Its evening time, and in the top left hand corner of the painting, adjacent to a small plant, the little lamp on top of the wooden desk casts reflected colours onto the desk itself and the wall to the right, on which a painting of a child playing the violin hangs. The armchair on which she sits has a yellow cellular blanket draped over it, while the second armchair next to her is adorned with colourful cushions. On the far left is a patterned carpet/rug.
So many colours and patterns, yet somehow they all hang together!
Another painting from life , created ten years earlier than the one shown above, depicts Greek villagers going about their business in the summer of 1984
This is an older oil painting and it continues to be one of my favourites. It depicts my then 5 year old daughter eating black grapes that a kind Italian gentleman has just helped her wash under the tap at this Italian water pump in the street. Its the end of our long summer holiday in the North of Greece , so we are hitch-hiking home via Italy.
Saskia always loved to imitate her brother, wearing his outgrown underpants , aged 5 : of course she doesn’t do that anymore nowadays!
A photo is a moment in time, the shutter clicked to capture a subject that excites visually or emotionally, or it can simply be a notebook to record facts and ideas. Just as in photography, the choice of a subject for a painting can be made in a flash, or it can require slowly made decisions to choose that moment when the lighting is right and it all comes together. Before starting this painting, I walked all round the area, taking photos of potential subjects, then painted it on the spot, spread over two evenings, not finishing till almost nightfall. Below are some of the photos I took before choosing the painting that would emerge. The first three photos show what I did not choose to paint – but did consider – as they didn’t suit the size and proportions of my canvass, and it the case of the first photo, would work much better in graphic media, rather than oils.
When my younger daughter was 6 years old she wanted to learn the violin. I had also wanted to learn to play it and was actually offered a chance to have free lessons in my junior school, but my Dad wouldn’t let me. He filled a few old glass milk bottles with water, tapped them and asked me which was higher and which was lower. His scientific conclusion was that I would be rubbish! So a few decades later, I was very happy to take my daughter to violin lessons with a fascinating Polish nonagenarian gentleman called Mr. Szistowski in Bradford. His house was like a museum, full of violins, and the toilet upstairs, accessed via a grand wooden staircase, had a huge wide wooden toilet seat nearly a meter wide!
We ended up sharing the 45 minute lesson, so I could learn to help my daughter practice. Then we started going to Cleckheaton Music Centre together, and I joined in too, along with all the other young children. Then one day we performed in a concert along with children from other schools in what was then the McAlpine Stadium, and I met another mother who also played the violin and viola (by then I was also playing the viola) , while her two sons, played the the cello and double bass. A few years later, I photographed her sons playing their Instruments in a room with sunlight streaming through the vertical blinds.
The boy’s mother loved it so much, she decided to commission a painting from me. No price was discussed, but she paid a hundred pounds deposit and waited for her painting. It was a very long wait, but she never gave up hope. Years passed, and I even photographed the older one’s wedding!
I was walking back from shopping in Aegina town, having bought a microwave, kettle and two ring electric table top cooker – a surprise gift for my Airbnb hosts, when I decided to explore another path back to my Airbnb “home”. It took longer than I thought it would, so I tried to follow a little path through an orchard, as the shop would be delivering my purchases after they shut for midday. The path lead to a house so it was either a case of turning back and being super late , or cutting through their garden (naughty!). I reckoned as it was Greek midday quiet time, that they would all be sleeping, so decided to risk it . I ended up in a little dirt road , and there on the corner was the YELLOW HOUSE! I could immediately see the painting in my mind, but just hoped the light would still be in the right direction by the time I got back again later.