Saturday, 15 November 2014

No more

After a hard summer, working 70 hours a week in BizeArt, autumn has been hard too. My father became seriously ill and died on September 28th. More here, I don't want to write about it in this blog. After returning to France after the funeral I tried to relaunch the shop, but then became ill myself with sinusitis, so gave that up for a week or so. Then I tried again - and I don't think my absence has helped (not that I could help it) but it's been dire - hardly any customers, or even anyone coming in at all. After 5 straight days of nothing I have shut up shop and decided I would be better off painting. All I can do in the shop is make Christmas cards and paint the odd watercolour, which isn't as satisfying as getting active with acrylics and oils. So that's what I've been doing for the last couple of days, working on several paintings at the same time - and here's the first one finished, which I've called "no more":
"No More"
Mixed media on canvas, 70x50cm
We will be selling stuff at Christmas Markets here in France, cards, paintings and stuff - starting tomorrow at Caunes Minervois, and then at various others including Le Somail, St Chinian and of course Bize. I'm going to put info on the BizeArt Facebook Page,  so take a look there if you're interested. As well as selling handmade cards I will of course be selling the new Purple Cat Xmas cards . take a look. I am doing an awful lot for someone not really working...

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Ink and watercolour bargains

This summer I have spent all day every day in the gallery/shop that is BizeArt. This has necessarily lessened my output on canvas, but encouraged me to think commercially, and to produce dozens of hand made cards (mainly flower drawings or cat drawings), and other work on paper, using a combination of ink and watercolours. Or sometimes just ink, or sometimes just watercolours. So listening to gentle Jazz, Blues and Country music here's some examples of this work:

Wine, flowers and stripy wallpaper
Ink and watercolour on paper 30x40cm

Blue Flowers, Stripy Vase
Ink and watercolour on paper 30x40cm

Wine, café, trees
Ink and watercolour on paper 30x40cm

Passarel, Bize-Minervois
Watercolour 20x30
Blue Flowers, Red Wine
Ink and watercolour on paper 33x50cm

Café des Amis
Ink and watercolour on paper 30x40cm

Red wine, 2 glasses
Ink and watercolour on paper 30x40cm

Empty Café, Green Chairs
Ink and watercolour on paper 30x40cm

Ink and watercolour on paper 24x34cm

All for sale, if you're interested, at incredibly cheap prices: Starting at £25 up to £90 plus postage (unframed)

Friday, 18 July 2014

Signatures - Artists v Experts

In the art world an artist’s signature is a very important thing. Art students are told it is vital. “Experts” cry out about its importance. Read any  “business advice” for artists and you will read somewhere about how important a signature is. I suppose a signature can be an interesting thing to see, and a verification that the piece of art you are looking at really IS a Matisse or a Picasso or whatever.  I mention those two because they are two of the most recognisable artist signatures:

Also easily recognisable are signatures by  Monet,  Renoir, Pollock, Degas, and my favourite – Oscar Kokochka – who just signs his pictures “OK”:

However, others are harder to recognise – try these ones for a bit of fun:
(answers at the end)




Now these are all famous artists of the 20th and 21st centuries and you’ve got to imagine that all of these guys spent time practicing their signatures, in the hope they’d be famous one day, but really their efforts are disappointing. Didn’t they know that a good signature is vital to all pieces of art, according to all experts? A good signature is necessary to help your pictures look professional, to be easily recognised by “experts”, (and to use as your website banner).

But, I am told you aren’t supposed to use the same signature you use to sign cheques – which means you have to have TWO signatures. Well actually possibly more for when you’re signing drawings and prints instead of paintings. Perhaps just using your initials is a good idea, but not everyone has a great set of initials like Oskar Kokoschka . I was thinking of changing my name to Vladimir Gorbachev – not for any political reason but I just feel like out-doing Oskar and having V.G. written in the corner of my paintings.

Actually I am jealous of artists with good signatures.  Some (like a number of those mentioned earlier) just use their surnames or their initials and this looks pretty cool.  Van Gogh of course only used his first name (that’s Vincent, not Van) - I have taken to just doing my initials (except when I forget) and I’m going to try a couple with just ABSE written in the corner – however I am worried that this means that somewhere down the line my work will be attributed to the Association of Boat Safety Examiners. One of the worst signatures I’ve seen recently was by a painter who put his initials – preceded by a copyright symbol! Given that most of his (very very very bad amateur) paintings were painted straight from other people’s photographs this raises another interesting point!

Another thing artists use is a monogram. Usually a superimposition of the initials of  both first and second names. This was common centuries ago, and painters who generally used monograms included Durer, Michelangelo and Leonardo. Whistler just drew a butterfly, and many painters appear not to have signed their pictures at all, for example, the Mona Lisa (but has anyone looked on the back?).

Interestingly advises that “no work of art is complete” without a signature. Gosh, if only they’d told Leonardo. Maybe he didn’t have the internet. But reading further I am told there are RULES about signatures *gasp*. I have to sign in the same media in which the painting was done – otherwise people might later on think it’s a forgery. Shit that means I have to sign my name in about 14 different media for each damn painting! Screw that! I am also advised to “date your art” “Don’t sign over varnish”, “emboss your paper work” etc. Aargh. Elsewhere I am advised that “all serious artists sign their work on the back”. Elsewhere again I am advised that a signature should be “clear and legible”. Someone go and tell those guys!

Actually, the best advice about signatures I have read is by Picasso, who said that the act of signing a picture was the act of finishing a picture – the act that delineated the time to stop. And that’s another thing…

[i]  David Hockney
[ii] Salvador Dali
[iii] Damian Hirst  (Not "D Shit" as you might have thought)
[iv] De Kooning
[v] Roy Litchenstein

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Where have I been?

Busy, busy, busy.

We have set up BizeArt, a new venture in Bize-Minervois, consisting of a Gallery/Shop/Café in a tiny space at the heart of the village, and this has been a lot of work. We opened two weeks ago, and so far, so ok. I don't think we're going to be millionaires, that's for sure, but the summer season will tell us all we need to know. Take a look at the website, and if you're in the area pop in for a coffee - and enjoy a mini cupcake. I have been producing cards like mad - printed and hand drawn, which are all for sale in the shop for incredibly reasonable prices, and include drawings of the village and many more Purple Cat cards - and even a Purple Cat book! Take a look at the Purple Cat website at . Whilst on the subject of Purple Cat, he will be appearing in a week or so at the Business Design Centre, at the "Progressive Greetings LIVE" fair. I've been working like mad at getting banners, posters, brochures, cards and all kinds of stuff ready.

What I haven't been doing enough of is painting - nor have a found enough time to carry on with my guitar practice/learning. None of this is helped by the excruciating pain I am in some of the time because of my tennis/golf elbow. I don't play either sport, by the way.

Anyway, here's a photo of the shop/gallery (above) and one of the drawings (left) I have done for postcards of the village. Below is a new Purple Cat image. The big pink bird is looking pretty disdainfully at Purple Cat using a rubber ring to swim in the sea, but I don't think Purple Cat cares very much. Stupid bird.

I've also been working on a couple of other things including a website called which is exactly what you think it is. Take a look and join in the fun. Or whatever it is.

Also working on stuff for other people such as "Languedoc Lifesavers" - as yet not live, but will be shortly. Or longly. Depending on people providing me with the text.

So busy, busy, busy.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Getting into the groove

Painting can be hard. Not the act of putting paint on canvas or paper or whatever, but the act of creativity to a level that is satisfying, that meets my own particular needs. Since before christmas I have laid down an awful lot of paint on canvas that has been a complete waste of paint. Because I haste no idea what I am doing. Thinking sometimes is a lousy idea and totally destroys creativity. Thinking about other things can be inspiring - or not, as the case may be. I've been doing a lot of walking the dog since the new year and this has given me plenty of time to think. I have thought about painting, writing, football and all kinds of stuff. None of it has really helped me paint. I have looked a lot at other people's paintings that I love - Chagall, Matisse, Derain, Kline - and they just reveal to me the problems with my own work. So I draw a Purple Cat.

Anyway, here's two I have finished this week that (for the first time in weeks) I don't immediately want to paint over.

Mixed Media on Canvas, 55x46cm

Oil on Canvas 65x54cm
But maybe this is better:

Purple Cat paints a "Selfie"
iPad painting

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Dogs and Visigoths

It's over a month since I last posted anything, and that wash't the most cheerful post in the world. The death of our beautiful dog Buffy hit us hard. She wasn't even 7 years old but died, in our arms, of the most virulent lymph cancer. Poor doggy. Here's some photos of her.

We miss her still, and always will. We have since adopted a new dog from the animal rescue centre in Carcassonne - a wonderful place where they support and rescue dogs, never putting them down. We went expecting to adopt a small mature dog, but instead fell for a beautiful baby boy whom we have named "Fender". He's only 8 months old, is part German Shepard but is the cutest, cuddliest dog with the sweetest disposition and waggiest tail. He's full of beans and has been described by more than one french person as "fou-fou" - which I guess translates best as silly. He has swiftly become an important part of our family, is getting on ok (mostly) with the cats, and helping me get fit. We are walking miles every day, and I am exploring and discovering new parts of the countryside around Bize.


Yesterday we did our longest walk so far - about two and a half hours or so - walking all over the hills behind Bize and paying a visit to the Tour de Boussecos.

 One of the great things about the south of France is the amount of ancient buildings, ruins and stuff lying around all over the countryside. Sure the UK has a similar amount of stuff, but you have to remember the size of the UK is about a third of the size of France in square kilometres, and the population about the same - therefore there's much more unexploited land, or abandoned land. In Britain, unless something is carefully preserved (and a lot is) it is generally built over. Here in France walking over hills and valleys are all sorts of scattered pieces of history. Some of it is recorded and noted (not a lot, but still noted) like the Tour de Boussecos, whilst other bits of wall, doorways and towers sit unidentified in fields.

The Tour de Boussecos itself, as you can read on the photo of the sign below (presuming both your eyesight and French are both good!) was built by the Visigoths, who occupied this part of the world between about 400 and 700AD. Look at this map and you can see that they occupied the whole Iberian peninsular for much of this time and this included a good amount of the Languedoc in France. Later occupants in the area added to the tower, the last being around the 15th century - when the area was subject to a loot of religious wars, with Simon de Montfort and his chums massacring loads of locals whose christianity they didn't approve of. But there's apparently also evidence of prehistoric occupation - with parts of neolithic pots and tools found.

All this history to look at and look up. I am spending almost as much time researching and reading about the area as I am walking around it. Just check out wikipedia here.

And in the meantime I am doing the odd drawing and failing to produce anything worthwhile on canvas - but as soon as I have a painting worth showing, it will be here first.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013


I covered three canvases today with complete and utter bollocks. One was previously a poor oil portrait, another was the start of another dull pomegranate painting and the other was virgin white. They all ended up with one thing in common. A waste of time and paint. On the positive side I bought some spray white gesso recently so it will be relatively easy to get them back to plain-ness.  Then I can start again. I am at kind of a creative zero at the moment. A broken rib, pain in my arm, pain in my knee, my dog dying, misadventures with cars, not enough money to live on, other shit health things. Yeah, that's right I was painting with a lot of black paint feeling like Jonny Nice Painter in the Fast Show: