Thursday, 18 May 2017

Simon Bolivar, Hearts and the problem with Blogger

I have been doing both abstract and figurative work recently. I felt in the need to undertake a copying exercise - I think a useful training thing. So here's a painting, in oils, I have done of Simon Bolivar, the great South American revolutionary. It's interpretive copy of a painting of Bolivar by someone I cannot find out who! There are lots of paintings of Bolivar, including numerous versions based on the same image. Confusing.. Anyway, here's mine:

Simon Bolivar
Oil on Canvas 22x33cm
I have also been working on a series of abstract heart paintings. I am often inspired by death and dark things. But I felt I wanted to do something more positive, and produced one for my wife . Following that I have done some more. I am pleased that she likes hers best.

Finally, I am frustrated by Blogger making it so hard to update from an iPad. Like many people I use my tablet and phone for internet stuff more than 90% of the time: but I can't update my Blog, and, to be fair, neither can I update my website, except from my PC. This all seems a bit out of date. I am thinking of changing everything to WordPress or Wix or something, but it's a bit painful...

Wednesday, 22 March 2017


As mentioned in my last entry In have been working on illustrations for a book. Some however, didn't get used, so here they are (the other ones will be available in the book which is due to come out in the autumn):

There are 26 (or 27?) other illustrations that did get used- the title of the book is "Alaskan Lonely Hearts Club…And other unlikely travel tales" by Paul Gogarty. I don't think I'll get in trouble for that!

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Painting over things - illustrations - book covers - acupuncture - pain

I was looking for a painting recently that someone saw on line at my website but I couldn't find it for a while, and I wondered if I'd painted over it. I don't remember exactly, but I remember my wife not liking it at all and not being that keen on it myself, so I though it was entirely possible I'd painted over it. But while I was looking through my stock of paintings I came across loads of other old paintings of mine that really I don't like. They don't exist on my website, but still do on other websites, so I have always been reluctant to paint over them - just in case! I did sell a painting last year that I'd forgotten about and didn't like - and that made me a few hundred quid, so I have been reluctant to paint over them. But no more!

What they generally are is failed abstract compositions that just don't work as far as I am concerned. There are some I have that haven't been sold, haven't ever been liked by many people but are significant to me, so I'm leaving them alone. But this pile - about 15 canvases in total, none of them very big (except one which I will get to another time) to me are all no good as they stand - but offer something to me in terms of background work. I am probably too interested in Jim Dine's hearts at the moment but anyway, I'm going to see what happens.

Meanwhile I have been working on black and white illustrations for a new book by Paul Gogarty based on his travel writing experiences over the last 25 years or so. Here's a couple to keep you interested - I think the book is out later in the year.

Whilst on the subject of books, one of my recent paintings "Revolutions" features on the cover of Jeremy Robson's new book of poems, to be launched in March by Smokestack Books. Here it is: 

Finally, I should add that the Parsonage-Turner Syndrome (PTS) hasn't departed. I am only able to draw or paint a couple of hours a day before descending into horrible shoulder and arm pain. None of the drugs they have given me have worked, unfortunately, so I am trying acupuncture. I had my first session yesterday - and as I was warned, today I am in bad pain. Mostly I am just trying to get along with my life, but pain is bloody tiring! Ah well, I hope that the acupuncture starts to take effect soon. Or at all. Or the bloody PTS just goes away!!

Monday, 19 December 2016


I've lived with pain for a long time. A lot of people do - they have all sorts of physical problems that you can't necessarily see. It's hard to know who is suffering with what.  Who knows who is working and living with what. We don't often talk about it. I guess I do more than others - well, I do when it's bad. Currently, as I said in the previous blog, I'm suffering from Parsonage Turner Syndrome, which means I have constant shoulder pain, and the muscles in my write arm are bit-by-bit withering down, which means it's tiring, and painful, using my right hand/arm. Including typing this. And including anything that involves any precision, as I am ridiculously right-handed. And yes that includes drawing and painting.

It's not helped by the carpal tunnel syndrome and tennis elbow I have too. It's kind of comical in some ways.  It means I pop too many (prescription) pills (Oh yeah, I'm diabetic too...) and some days it all becomes a bit much. So this painting took longer than many: I can only paint in short bursts and am trying to use my left hand some of the time. Anyway, guess what? I've called it "Pain".

Mixed Media on Canvas

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Parsonage Turner Syndrome

For the past six months or so I have been suffering from pain in my shoulder. This started after sleeping on a very hard bed in a hotel in Gerona. The pain was awful at first, but diminished after some osteopathy and some prescription meds. The doctor assumed I'd torn a muscle and sent me for physiotherapy which I had twice a week for 12 weeks - and this enable me to carry on working all summer with (see  my swimming pool maintenance business with discomfort but not unbearable pain. I carried on with a regular dose of paracetamol. The physiotherapy stopped roughly the same time work petered out as summer faded away. Since then the pain has built up, and it has been harder and harder to do things - like painting. And lifting. And reaching up high. But still. Anyway, the doc sent me for a CT scan, an x-ray and an ultrasound. The radiologist looked at all that and said "Hmm, there's something bizarre there, I better send you for an MRI"  - which I had today. And now they have finally diagnosed me as having Parsonage Turner Syndrome. It means my muscle, fat and other stuff in my shoulder has atrophied, and it's all inflamed. I guess this isn't as serious as it sounds, but at least it puts a label on it and explains the bloody pain! The annoying thing is it will take ages to go away - there's no cure, but it does resolve itself. Minimum time is within 6 months, maximum 5 years. For men in their fifties - i.e. me - the average time it lasts is 3 years. Bugger. And I will need more physio.  And painkillers. I'm going to need to work out how to live with this better than I am. Moan over. Until next time. And obviously the one after that. It also explains my lack of painting productivity. It's hard painting when it hurts - and I really am useless with my left hand.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Tattoos of Memories

We live in interesting times. However, you do know this is a curse "May you live in interesting times *spit*". Today Americans are voting for their president. As I write it could either be Hillary Clinton, or Donald Trump. Jesus. Donald Trump - how did that happen? The stupid Brexit vote showed frightening levels of stupidity in the UK, but Trump trumps that. Whether he wins or not a lot of people are going to vote for him. Why? I keep hearing he's "not part of the establishment" - of course not, he's a multi-multi-billionbaire. "He cares about the ordinary folk". Don't be ridiculous, of course he doesn't. He despises "ordinary folk", and all he cares about is whether you vote for him or not. I fear, like many others, that he's a fascist-in-waiting - but it's hard to be sure because his whole campaign has been based on getting stupid white men (as described by Michael Moore) to vote for him. He has gambled on their being enough white racist sexist idiots to sweep him into power. And as someone once said, you don't lose on gambling on people's stupidity. In the UK they read the Mail and the Sun and vote for Brexit, in the USA they watch FOX and vote for Trump. Meanwhile in Russia there's Putin, in France and elsewhere in Europe the right-wing racists are gaining support, and out in the middle east crazy people are supporting ISIS. What the fuck? When did everyone decide to be morons? Did I miss a meeting?

Anyway, here's a new painting. "Tattoos of Memories". As usual the title is a stolen lyric, randomly taken from my painting soundtrack. I hope you have the time of your life. Or at least an "interesting" time.
Tattoos of Memories
Mixed media on canvas 62 x 40 cm

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Art Scams (Part Three) - Salons, Art Fairs and Gallery Websites - and the good guys!

As you can tell by the blog entry title this isn't the first time I've written about this.  The first two concentrated on mainly email scams related to two types of ways to rip off artists - fake purchases from from people, and vanity publishers and galleries who want you to give them lots of money to show your work. The first is a straightforward scam, along the same lines as the nice man from Nigeria who wants you to look after all of his inheritance in your bank account - if you can just send details... The second appeals to the less well-known or amateur artist's ego. A chance to show your work without the risk of rejection - all for a "small" fee (usually a few hundred euros or more). Unfortunately nothing ever sells, and you don't get better noticed in the publication. That's because the gallery has absolutely no interest in selling your work because they make their money straight from the artists' payments, the publisher only cares about your payment and hardly prints any copies (those that they do they are happy to sell to artists for 20$ a copy!) and no one in the art world goes to those galleries or reads those publications anyway because they soon become well known as the vanity scams that they are. In fact, being involved can damage your reputation - at least that's what I have read.

So this time I am concentrating on a couple of other more subtle scams. First, Salons and Art Fairs. Generally these are the same thing, our at least in recent years that's what they have become. I am sure there are many organisers of these events would leap up and down with outrage at being called a scam, but for unrepresented artists, the way they work is little difference to how a vanity gallery works. To put it simply, an art fair (or salon in France) works like any other large exhibition/trade show you may have seen in an exhibition or hall, whether it's the Ideal Home Exhibition, the Motor Show or something exciting about Health and Safety. Everyone exhibiting at these events, whatever it is about, pays for the space where they show their thing: whether it's paintings, Ford Capris (I'm old), books or whatever. It's a trade show. There is no quality control, anyone can hire a space. This made sense when it was galleries who hired the space (like at Frieze), but many of the Art Fairs now make most of their living (I was going to say "small art fairs" but it's not true any more) from individual artists - who hire a space for 3 or 4 days for several hundred (or more) euros (plus programme costs, plus furniture, lighting etc) in the hope that a visiting gallery will like their work. Salons in France work the same way, with the rider that some artists have organised themselves cooperatively to share space, and some manage to get grants to help pay their costs. All in all though, it's brutal, and it's a rip off. The only people really making money out of these events are the organisers - and believe me, they are raking it in.

Then there are gallery websites. By that I mean websites whereby artists upload their work and sell their paintings via the web. By no means are all of these a rip off. In fact many of them are brilliant! The ones that are brilliant work hard to sell artists' work by publicising their site, the ones that are brilliant don't charge artists, they take a commission (like a proper gallery), the ones that are brilliant advise and support and communicate well with artists. I have written separately about this before, and listed my favourites - I'll do so again with a shorter list of my favourites at the end of this post. There are, however, some bad boys: websites that charge artists for uploading and websites that demand artists sign away their copyright to works uploaded. All these are people ripping off artists: the brilliant websites prove they don't need to do this, by simply NOT doing that and by actually selling work!

There are also some websites that just are no good - websites that demand you change the shape of your work to fit into their standard sizes, websites that are so primitive it takes a week to upload a file, and websites that simply never sell anything.

Like many artists, I'm sick of people who try to rip me off, whatever way they choose, but I would like to congratulate the few BRILLIANT gallery websites by listing them here:

Turning Art

This is a pretty small list compared to the last time I did this, partly because some of the ones I used to use no longer exist, and partly because some of the others have proved to be a waste of time - I get no sales and little or no contact/referrals from them. But if you use another site with great success, please let me know by using the "comment" form below.