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.


Sunday, 28 August 2016

New stuff

So I've got some new stuff to show off. Some things I have been working on for a while and gone back to time and time again until I'm happy enough to put them to one side and say "finished" - or "finished enough so I'm not going to fiddle with them any more". Three paintings that have little in common, but here they are - in no particular order:

Luca Brassi he sleeps with the fishes
60cm x 60cm mixed media on canvas

"Luca Brassi he sleeps with the fishes" is an abstract picture, I guess inspired by a combination of things: the fact I'm in or working with water all the time, my normal habit of listening to music - Catatonia if you don't know ("I am the mob") plus, obviously, The Godfather. A pretty good combination of things I think.

115cm x 163cm, Mixed Media on Canvas
For one reason or another I have spent a lot of time in and around the Pyrenees this summer. Also, we can see them on clear days from our house. Although what we normally see is "The Canigou", this isn't it! It;'s weird looking at the little digital reproduction above - which I think looks like a small drawing on paper - whilst just a metre behind me sits the monster-sized painting!

Big Bill Hayward
650x60 Oil on canvas

Last but not least is the portrait on the right of "Big Bill" Hayward, a leading light in the Wobblies many years ago in the US. I am fascinated by left wing political history in the US - so much of it has become obscured and untacked about. Whilst the CIA were doing really shit things after the first world war until - well, still, probably - they have hidden a lot of that history and at the same time driven the history of socialism in the USA underground.  If you are interested in Big Bill, on this occasion Wikipedia is pretty good:

Friday, 8 April 2016


For the last couple of months I have been listening to the brilliant "Revolutions" podcasts, by Mike Duncan. You can find out more on his website here. The story of the French revolution is so much more complicated than I ever learned at school, and he tells the story so well over 55 half-hour podcasts. Just amazing. So bloody. So bloody amazing. It's depressing that something that was originally so well-intentioned, so (I guess) noble, deteriorated into a blood-soaked orgy of power-seeking. This bloody revolution shaped the country I live in, and have lived in now for nearly nine years. The French are proud of their revolutionary heritage - and how they feel that it's the people of France who have shaped the country for last couple of hundred years or so. But so many people were killed, and so many men tried to use the situation for their own ends - to advance and increase their power. And so many of them died, were executed, guillotined or in pointless civil war. So here's my newest painting. It was going to be called "Bread and the Constitution of 1793", but the painting changed, and turned instead into a reflection of the bloodiness of it all. So here it is, simply called "Revolution".
Revolution - Mixed Media on Canvas, 91x71cm