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Painting not panicking.

The Night Prowler
 I’m at home, looking at my newly blank diary for the next three months; abandoned shows, cancelled contracts, delayed commissions.
It is worrying but I am trying to view it as an opportunity for me to get into the studio and really get to work on creating some new paintings. 
The two new paintings I am launching here are the culmination of many months work, I hope you enjoy them, and that they provide some light relief from the watching the news… I plan to do an accompanying piece to the The Night Prowler, McCaw parrots I think. I will of course have the children off school, but here’s hoping we all settle down to a creative routine! (Wishful thinking?!)

The Night Prowler came from a concept sketch I produced for a couture design studio who wanted to produce a jungle print on silk. In the end the project didn’t come off but I wanted to develop the sketch and after some time studying tropical foliage at Kew, and securing some reference images for jaguars I finally came up with two planned compositions. I’ve loved creating the more atmospheric background, and this is definitely an area I want to explore further. 

The Sable of Fables I heard rumours of the Giant Sable antelope while I was last in Africa, but really so few have ever seem them. The tiny population inhabit a small territory deep in Angola, and this sub species was thought to be wiped out in the Angolan Wars. They are enormous, magnificent antelope, the bulls horns can curve nearly two metres over their backs. There is now a dedicated team working for their conservation, and a percentage of profit from the sale of this original, or prints will go towards supporting their efforts. 
The Sable of Fables 150x100cm
So, dear readers, artists and galleries, if you’ve got this far down the page – please look after yourselves, and your families, and I am sending you all the love and strength I can. It’s going to be a testing few months for us all, I just hope that from the enforced quiet time I can at least create something worthwhile. 
If any of you are artists, and would like help, advice or for feedback on projects, please don’t hesitate to get in touch here. There are some incredibly inspiring projects, ideas and community art sessions springing up on social media. I will definitely be taking part in a few of them. 
In other news…I’ve started doing a few portraits recently , and am really enjoying it after a fifteen year break! Read more here »
My other plan for the next few weeks is to get my long neglected YouTube channel up and running again. This link will take you to a time lapse of me painting a still life for the first time in about decade. A lot more practice needed, but I think I should have some spare time now! There are a few videos up there already and I will load lots more from the archives over the next few weeks. 
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Studio makeover

 

The studio, before and after

I’ve been in my studio for over a decade, and I’m aware of how lucky I am to have such a dedicated space, where I can work, largely undisturbed, in peace.

The studio a few years ago.

It is an old building, originally the forge for a local brewery, long since out of operation. They shod the dray horses there, and I assume, made the barrels from the amount of ironwork (and beer bottles!) we have dug out of the garden.  In more recent times my studio was a motorbike work shop, but apart from adding electricity, I doubt much has been done in the way of modernisation since those hairy feet lined up to be shod.

 

A “before” montage of studio shots

So thats where the mice got in… we cleared many bags of mice nest from the wall cavity.

Old buildings, however quaint, have their drawbacks. The door swung three inches from the floor, on old leather hinges, and mice (please lets not say rats) scampered merrily above my head, and I suspect, at night over the easel, with every corner webbed and netted by spiders. Every winter, I tended to fall prey to some lung or chest infection until I realised my old gas heaters might be the cause and installed an ancient woodburner. This certainly dried the damp in the studio out, but sadly took so long to actually heat the vaulted studio that by the time it was a working temperature, the school bus was honking at the end of the drive, the school and working day well and truly over.

The victorian stove and a variety of pets

The renovation

I worked some winters inside, but I find this claustrophobic, the line between working and home life blurred, never leaving the house. There were objections to the smells, and to the mess. This has been the way for over twelve years, and I began to dread the winters, oil paint is sullenly uncooperative in cold damp conditions, refusing to flow or dry. The commissions began to stack up, and at the busiest time of the year I had to work at my slowest pace, layered in jumpers, constantly feeding my temperamental stove.

This year however I finally took the plunge and the studio has been completely gutted, then insulated, plastered, rewired and painted. We have opened the window up at the back to create french doors, creating a wonderful view of my long neglected garden. The ancient, wonky door, and shoddy, old, glass front have been replaced with a door that shuts and windows that open!

I have had a complete purge of all the rubbishy furniture that had crept into the studio for ‘storage’ to remain mouldering in corners. The old stove, though it has dried many a studio painting, dog, cat and the odd chicken, will be replaced with a modern one. I waved a relieved good bye to the manky, old, red chair, forever impregnated with the succession of dogs that slept in it.

 

heavy duty clearing!

 

The first coat of paint on the new plaster

 

New doors for some much needed light

 

The finished studio

The building work is finally finished, and I only need to rehang the work, and put back the furniture. The space is everything I have dreamed of; light, airy (spider free!) and I hope come winter, warm. I feel over awed by the studio, it seems enormous, and I suspect I have ‘blank canvas’ syndrome, fearful of making the first mark. The easel is in though, and I have always found that painting, whether good or bad, is the best cure for the hump of artist’s block.

Party!

I intend to have a relaunch party one evening this summer, with a private view of recent work and I hope some of you will join me for a cocktail or two! I’ll send out invites through my newsletter, so do please subscribe if you’d like an invitation.

The finished studio

The finished adjoining studio

The front with new windows and door

The view from my desk

The garden, which looks amazing this year, due to the weather rather than my very lacklustre gardening skills!