Rearranging the Landscape


This week I made great steps towards completing a painting commissioned early this year: it was to be a retirement present and none of my existing pictures quite fitted the bill. So the intended recipient was given a free hand to come up with his own suggestions. Yep, already sounding challenging!

He did his homework thoroughly and enthusiastically, even down to producing a map showing where to leave the car to  walk to the chosen viewing spot. And as you walked along the (very muddy but picturesquely rutted) track, you got wonderful near, middle and far distant views.

But, just repeating that ‘as you walked along…’ , the elements the customer wanted could not all be observed when you actually stood still. As I wasn’t filming but painting it required some ingenuity to compose a satisfying picture with them all in: the track, the modern  ‘windmill’, Shapwick village, the woods and Glastonbury Tor.


Back to a well-known problem: dealing with a view that is many times wider than it is high! There’s still a long way to go to the left before you see the windmill. And this isn’t even from the chosen viewpoint.


So these were the elements I dragged together and the general plan was approved:p1040393

I still took a lump out of the middle and reduced the size of the village. Finally:p1040625-cropped

And my (satisfied) customer said: The painting captures all the points we discussed and it takes the eye beautifully down the track to the middle and then the far distance. Job done.


30 minutes to closing time…

We’ve had quite a good three days and it’s been a  very pleasant experience, sharing with Sheila Jones and enjoying the company and something different to look at apart from my own work!

My mini pictures sold quite well, and i’m sure he remainder will find their way into various relatives’ Christmas stockings!

I’ve also been working on quite a large commission which has to remain under wraps until after delivery…I’ll just say it involved some very unfavourite subjects: motorbikes, cars…


This is the gallery – just a little bit of Christmas sparkle! And here is Sheila, who was the other side of the camera in the previousphoto:


Distant hills

So here I am desperately trying to tie up a few loose ends. My last painting this year was one of the biggest I’ve done – using a full sheet of paper and with the framed picture in the region of three feet by two-foot six. Quite a challenge – no sitting down for this one!

Again, based on some sketches done out on the Somerset Levels. Again, a gorgeous Autumn day, with too perfect a sky to begin with: the photos I took at the end of the morning at last yielded the bit of cloud you need for movement and brightness.

At first I thought the view of Lollover Hill near Compton Dundon didn’t have enough in it to make a good picture. But I always make things too complicated and this time simplicity won out.

The gateway was a gift for a focus, and the hill shapes and colours, especially the contrast between the shadowed and sunlit areas, gave me what I wanted. A very satisfying commission!

So all I need to say is – Happy New year, all!DSCF4299  cropped and resized


Having parted company with Chelsea, I next turned my attention to another commission: a lovely old converted building in Spaxton, on the Quantocks, sketched and photographed on a gorgoeus bright Autumn morning. The Challenge here was that the building was quite long, but with a fairly close wall, so a distant view wasn’t an option.

So I picked a spot where my customer often sat, looking over to the other end of the building. The sun streamed in at the windows, but a large tree conveniently provided a shadow on the left which stopped the eye, instead of feeling the building was cut off on that side. Well, that’s the theory anyway.

The typical Quantock red stone gave a rosy glow and enabled the use of some lovely purple shadows. The stony gravel was fun too – lots of splattering!

DSCF4302 cropped and resized

Chelsea Girl – a gorgeous female boxer

I’ve been a bit tied up with several commissions ( which is great, obviously) and quite a lot of work with the Chandos Society of Artists recently, but, as the festive season approaches, I can review the work which, I hope, had found favour with the people that asked me to produce it…

First was the pleasure of producing a portrait of Chelsea, the charming successor to Rocky whom I depicted earlier this year ( see post: thinking outside the box(er)). (Tricky blighters, nesting brackets!) (Nesting Boxers? …Sorry!) So, the other paintings will follow, but this is Chelsea’s spot.

I took lots of photos and did some sketches, but this was Julie’s (Chelsea’s owner) preferred pose:



Then I followed what has proved a useful plan, which is to collect sketches, photos and other ideas together:



and then to do a drawing, full-size, in water-solouble crayons (such as neocolour II).:

chelsea 1 resized


You can deal with any problems of composition at this stage, then trace the main shapes and …finally:

Chelsea 2013 resizedI was encouraged to think it a good likeness when the windpw-cleaner ( who also does Chelsea’s owners’ windows ) said ‘I see you’re doing a picture of Chelsea!’ . I had the painting on an easel inthe conservatory, so he had a good view. He then said ‘I recognise the umbrella stand too.’ But Chelsea’s owners seemed pleased with the likeness of the dog, too, which was a relief!

More on the other commissions later!


The house formerly known as pink…

The Pink House was a landmark as you came down into the village. That wasn’t its name, but that was what everyone called it because – well, it was very pink.

Now it has been remodelled – still retaining the character of its origins, which were actually three tiny cottages all with different rooflines that seemed to have flowed into one. Except…it isn’t the startling flamingo colour anymore.

To celebrate the reconstruction, I was delighted to be commissioned by the owners to paint the cottage – it’s ‘portrait’ that is, not the actual walls.

There were some charming features in the garden which I managed to give prominence to, using a bit of good ol-fashioned artistic licence. The result is shown below.


DSCF4057 Hill cottage resized

Thinking outside the Box(er)

Tigger helpingRocky finished, reduced DSCF1915

I was recently commissioned by a friend to paint a commemorative picture of Rocky, a noble Boxer dog who had gone to the great kennel in the sky. She provided me with many photographs and wanted Rocky and their house in the picture oh, and the collar was important too. This gave me a bit of a compositional problem, what with a house being big and a dog, relatively, small. I started out thinking of having Rocky standing outside the door, or in the gateway. But cropping out most of the house really wasn’t working. Then I hit on the idea of putting the house in the background with Rocky standing in the lane at some distance. That worked fine. I experimented with different doggy effects and in the end came up with something that satisfied me and Rocky’s owner. Mind you, the cat regarded the whole exercise as very suspect.

sketchbook Rocky DSCF1929