Chicago: an artist on vacation

Wandering the rooms of the Chicago Art Institute. An artist on vacation. Art ancient and modern. Art. Art. art art art art. ART.

Stopping. Reflecting. Moving. Reading looking watching.

observing seeing remembering thinking feeling


ceramic indigenous photographic asia rome neolithic america paint islamic contemporary european sculpture africa

Gauguin: artist as alchemist led me there. Yet, exquisite displays of Chinese writing on turtle shell from the second millennium BC linger, with waves of art from everywhere, before and now, silently heard.


Of moving beds etc

On a work day my fox terrier brings his bed and parks it in the doorway of my studio. I step over him as I enter and exit. It seems a small price to pay for his constant presence. If I’ve got a varied morning, packing up paintings for instance then I have to use the sitting room (my studio is very small).  This space is more suitable for spreading out. He will then duly move his bed to where I am, making sure that he’s in the thick of things while he snoozes. Back in my studio as I go to work at my easel I feel excitement welling at the prospect of a day of paint. Alongside the pleasure of great company.


Beach palette

Everything was soft. Soft washes of paynes grey and ultramarine across the water filled sky. The sea was a cyan and raw sienna green with breakers of titanium white surfing across the sand. There translucent there opaque. Gulls swept up high against the wind and rain then dropped their prey. Swooping up and down, up and down until the shell fish cracked and became a meal. Miles of empty beach. Miles of painting and perspective thoughts.

of earth and sky


Last time, I wrote that nearly everything makes me think about painting. Tonight when I was walking on the beach at dusk I felt as if I were in a painting. Like some eighteenth or nineteenth century world of colour and beauty. An enormous planetarium of sky and earth. The light was fading and the sky was clearing after a wet autumn day. 

As I walked, the moon rose and banks of cloud on the horizon split its image until it burst above them and scattered its light across the sea.

My fox terrier trotted nose to the ground in his parallel universe seemingly unaware of this light show unfolding around us. He inspected seaweed and old fish, shells and driftwood, dead gulls and the thousand scents of other canines. It appeared to make him very happy.

We walked until only one or two distant figures remained in view then turned back. Later as we climbed to the ridge of the dunes there was the western sky filled with the fire of the setting sun.

I breathed it in and headed home.



painting fragrance


After dark last night I stood in the garden having gathered in the clothes off the line, I held my newly washed sarong against my face. It felt soft and smelt of sea air and that fragrance that only washing dried outside can hold.

It made me think about painting. Just about everything makes me think about painting. How do we convey those senses. Sound, smell, touch.

Some of my work is born together with its title. Some of my work never gets a title beyond a geographic pointer or similar.

One work that was born with its title embedded was The Fragrance of Hair at Storytime. That moment with a small child, washed and ready for bed, sitting snuggled in your lap, top of head in kissing distance as you read.

Strangely as I prepared to write this today, the post arrived with a donation request from Child Cancer Foundation. It had the usual updates and cheerful photos of brave small children. No hair. Smiles and courage, but no hair. For a time anyway, until it grows back.

It’s the child that is fragrant. Top of head kissably fragrant.




Summer Christmas

Although I was born in the northern hemisphere, summer and Christmas have become indelibly linked for me now. Festive meals in the garden and in years gone by, our children rushing in and out of the paddling pool.

Yet still I carry with me the sense of cold and occasional snow. The early dark, the twinkly lights, log fires and cosy rooms. I don't struggle with these opposites, I just love this time. 

I love that my dearest friend's possible bad news has turned out to be nothing after all. I love this time of human warmth and connection. And I love my faith. and the hope that it brings.


harpsichords and maps

The other day I went to a wonderful place, a home and garden where the owners were able to live off their own garden produce all year round. It was a place of such simple beauty with lawns and arbours of espaliered pears and abundant climbing roses filling the air with fragrance. Here Gina and Pete pour their creativity into life. Gina gardens and creates marvellous recipes and makes cheese and bread, it's all delicious. Pete has become a map-maker. He has created maps of Mt Athos peninsular and he has made harpsichords, 3 of them, they are astonishingly beautiful and as yet unfinished. I was transported. Maps and musical instruments and gardens, what a combination.