Well. Not quite. About half of the 'Lockdown lane walks' series I've been concentrating on lately
Here are the results of lockdown shopping visits to Shaftesbury. As a break from the studio, I'd sit with my takeaway coffee and scribble what was around me. Some of these sketches are now available from the lovely new Folde shop at the top of Gold Hill in Shaftesbury
Scribbles from a visit to Shaftesbury. Bits of Gold Hill, the bread queue and my boot
Massive thanks to thisisalfred.com for letting me ramble on about my Lockdown lane walks series of paintings
It’s been a tough year for us all. Perhaps that’s what makes good news seem even sweeter if it arrives. I’m lucky to have four watercolours selected by
for their Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours 209th Exhibition
I am really grateful and invigorated by the nod from the society’s members.
Really pleased to have work included in the SGFA Drawing Together online exhibition
Very pleased to have work included in irreplaceable.world a brilliant new website highlighting art and the environment
After standing ungrazed for over ten years the field on the left was recently rented out. The new farmer obviously loves kit and having a tidy up. The youngish (perhaps 80 years old) tangled oak in the foreground had a main limb hacked off as the new tenant wanted to be able to drive his digger beneath it. All the hedges and trees that had become lovely straggly wildlife havens could have been left or layed but were instead chainsawed back to a 'neat' box shape.
To allow stock to graze there, the whole area was cleared leaving a series of pyramids of hedge cuttings and tree branches that were eventually lit making massive bonfires that took days to burn down. The field and its funeral pyres of smouldering brush looked like the Dorset equivalent of rainforest clearance. After all this carnage and grubbing up of who-knows-what was establishing itself, the tenant has left this patch and moved to a field a little way down the valley. I know farming is tough and I'm sure he's doing his best while probably getting a small living from livestock, but this just isn’t right. I bet he'll be warming up his digger and chainsaw for another tidy up.
Ironically the hedgerows and trees he takes down all form part of the bucolic backdrop of the view from Gold Hill in nearby Shaftesbury, one of the most famous scenes in the country. Leaving aside all the environmental damage he's done, it amazes me that one man is allowed to change thousands of people's aspect with his out-of-date farming ideas.
Working at the coalface. Finishing touches on a new ink, watercolour and charcoal painting on prepared canvas
This little selection is on show at the lovely Sea Pictures Gallery in Clare, Suffolk. All are available online here
The Arborealists Being with Trees exhibition at Bermondsey Project Space is sadly on hold for the moment. Until we're all released, lots of the lovely work can been seen here
I'm getting soft in my old age. Too chilly to be watercolouring outdoors for me, but I've been wandering the fields and lanes with the camera on these misty mornings getting ammunition in
In 2006 while working in @sundaytimesgraphics at The Sunday Times @thetimes I produced four posters for @thestmagazine all about the climate emergency we were creating. The award winning journalist Richard Girling researched and wrote all the captions from information provided by @metoffice The great Art Director @stephenreiddesign worked his magic too. This diagram was one of a long line of environmental stories and graphics the newspaper published over thirty years warning about the damage we were doing to the planet. Unfortunately, during all that time very few of our politicians were prepared to "follow the science" and now we are, sadly, where we are. Working in The Sunday Times newsroom gave me the massive privilege of seeing reports and research into how we were damaging the environment which spurred me on to try and incorporate some of that information into my work as a painter today. This is why details and science about ecology and climate always feature somewhere in my paintings.
Many thanks to The Spreadeagle Magazine for using one of my paintings on the cover and for including an article about paintings and trees. Here's my rant, sorry, article on tree planting:
I’m sure people with proper jobs must think ‘What do artists do all day?’. It’s a fair question. Apart from sharpening pencils and contemplating cleaning brushes, I do spend a lot of time drinking tea whilst allegedly ‘pondering’ a painting on which I am meant to be working.
When I’m out in the woods around Melbury sketching, many of the hours are taken up with simply looking. Because the truth is this apparently humble everyday activity is actually the most important part of the process. In our busy lives, I think we all have a tendency to skim the surface and don’t allow ourselves the luxury of time to notice small details around us. Drawing and painting provide me with the legitimate excuse to slow down and observe.
Noticing the different intricacies of tree shapes is lovely in so many ways. Recognising different branch formations or lichens growing on gnarled bark makes me feel very connected to familiar woodlands. The downside is that I am unable to ignore a very inconvenient truth: our trees are in trouble. I used to work for The Sunday Times and remember nearly ten years ago drawing diagrams explaining how ash dieback disease had found its way into this country. Our perfect pocket of Dorset held out for years without showing signs of the fungus but this summer I was able to see its withering effect on our ash trees.
Sadly, experts predict that we will lose 90% of the UK's 70m ash to this airborne enemy. The impact of the fungus becomes more evident on a tree each season: leaves brown off, wilt and gradually the crown of the tree thins out. It’s a slow motion death. Distressing enough to witness, but it’s not just about the trees. There are up to 1,058 different species, from birds to beetles, fungi to lichen dependent in some way on ash. What will happen to all of those interconnected species?
Apart from making Melbury and Cann look so idyllic and their importance as a wildlife habitat, trees play a vital environmental role. When the trees ‘breathe’ they capture detrimental man-made greenhouse gases. This makes planting a sapling to replace each affected tree a cheap and simple no-brainer part of the solution to this international crisis. We in the UK can hardly complain about worldwide deforestation when we do little to save our ancient woodlands or plant enough trees. It’s part of a shocking statistic that only 10% of England is covered by woodland, compared with a European average of 37%. To counter ash dieback and guard against climate change we must increase tree cover by 9% to reach the Government's net-zero target. This means creating the equivalent to 30,000 football pitches of new woodlands in England every year from now until 2025.
As part of this ambitious initiative, Shaftesbury Tree Group is pioneering a five-year tree planting scheme up in the big town, where its members hope to dig deep to establish a network of more than 1,000 trees and hedgerow saplings. The Woodland Trust and its Big Climate Fightback campaign is another ray of hope on the horizon. It aims to plant 50 million trees over the next five years too. While support for planting trees is important, allowing trees to regenerate naturally is vital too. This will help to expand our native woods and forests quickly and research shows that those trees that grow naturally are best suited to survive. The Woodland Trust says, “Government must provide funding for both tree planting and natural regeneration of woodlands. Farmers and landowners should be supported to identify suitable sites and dedicate space for natural regeneration, as well as tree planting.”
We Spreadeagle readers can do our bit too. Do you have room in your garden for a tree or two? Landowners, could you leave some areas to regenerate naturally? Imagine the cutter fuel you’d save by allowing a corner of a field to sprout some free saplings. We’d also be pulling our weight for the nation. After all, the tourists on Gold Hill are oohing and aahing at us, well more specifically our gardens. We’re the backdrop to the hill’s Instagrammable thatched cottages after all. Surely it’s our duty to ensure the continuation of that soft focus patchwork of newly planted trees and hedges?
Sign the Big Climate Fightback campaign at
I have layed the hedges around our orchard when they have grown tall enough for ages, which is roughly every ten to fifteen years. That's supposed to be the optimum time to allow the stems to grow and strengthen and enough time for the hedge to thicken out and provide lots of wildlife-friendly branches, food and habitat. I've read Peter Wohlleben's book The Hidden Life of Trees and more recently Richard Powers' The Overstory, closely followed by Robin Walter's Living With Trees. Each clearly explain how trees and plants communicate with each other. All now scientifically proven in this amazing modern age. When under an insect attack they are able to warn their neighbours. Or, for instance, they can provide food for struggling relatives. OK, they're not nattering away with anything we can hear, but they're communicating on some level.
Laying these hedges means I'm taking a billhook and saw to innocent saplings and small trees. I mean, that's got to hurt hasn't it? I now have the dilemma of questioning if I'm just trying to keep the hedges tidy: a shocking human trait. Or am I rejuvenating the plants and providing local wildlife with a good home? Answers on a postcard please……
This is Gold Hill where I frequently sit with a cup of coffee pretending I'm mulling over work. You wouldn't believe the amount of times your hear Dvorak being hummed
Many thanks to the John Davies Gallery for putting my name in lights. Well, light grey. The exhibition in Moreton-in-Marsh is open Wednesday to Saturday until the 19th December
There are some things that are just very pleasurable to have. I think that holding and playing an LP is a much more inclusive experience than streaming a tune. There's more to music than just listening. A beautifully produced brochure is the same sort of thing. I know you can see the images online or in an email, but it's hard to beat the enjoyment of leafing through a thoughtfully made catalogue made by The John Davies Gallery . They have generously invested in we four artists about to show our work from December 5 - 19 in Moreton-in-Marsh. Let me know if you'd like to handle a brochure for yourself
Phew……it's always a good feeling when you've concentrated for a while and ended up producing a few pieces. Framing next
A little selection of works on show as part of the exhibition Four contrasting artists for Christmas at the lovely John Davies Gallery Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire. Available online only for the moment. There will be a Private View on Saturday December 5……unless there are tiers
I had to crawl to my outdoor studio last week. I didn't want to disturb this garden visitor who spent the day blending into her surroundings
I am pleased to say I have work included in the lovely Sea Pictures Gallery Winter show. Everything is available online and the gallery in Clare, Suffolk hopes to re-open to the public on December 2 ……if we're allowed out and about……
The exhibition Four contrasting artists for Christmas at the lovely John Davies Gallery Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire is available online only for the moment. There will be a Private View on Saturday December 5……as long as we're all well behaved
Mind the doors please……they're closing at 'A narrative' exhibition at The Gallery, Holt in Norfolk on Tuesday 27 October. I'm really pleased to have exhibited with members of the RI, RWS and SGFA
Thanks to @SundayTimesGraphics for the mention of the poster we produced back in 2013 in collaboration with the British Museum Pompeii and Herculaneum exhibition. In those days The Sunday Times had a dedicated Special Projects Editor, the brilliant Paul Croughton (now Robb Report editor). He and I had great fun delving into the incredible history of the eruption of Vesuvius in AD79 and came up with this glossy poster. The main part was painted in watercolour with Photoshop embellishments……Ah, those were the days……
Thanks to the lovely Hope Street Hotel in Liverpool for showing how much artistic license I used when sketching the view from Room 636
So, wind turbines will be providing all the UK's electricity by 2030? This "new Jerusalem" is to become the Saudi Arabia of wind. I'm not sure that aping Saudi Arabia for anything is to be admired. Least of all by somebody who in 2013 said “No one seriously believes that wind turbines are the answer to our power shortages,” and "We should depend on nuclear and shale gas." Still, at least it's a step in the right direction. Unfortunately it's more of a reluctant, slow shuffle. I believe we need to move much quicker to halt even more climate change.
The proven technology of wind turbines has been around for a while. In the Business section of The Sunday Times there was a page dedicated to innovations and upcoming businesses. For the Graphics Department this print space was catnip. There were few photographs of these ideas to reproduce in the paper so we in the team were often asked to provide diagrams of forward-thinking environmental plans. I produced this hand drawn graphic thirty years ago and illustrates that we knew back then that green technology gave us a route out of our carbon burning addiction. We just had to get on with it.
The newspaper was still printed in black and white in 1990 so these diagrams were drawn with ink pens and overlaid with Letratone. No colouring in required. The captions were printed out and stuck onto the diagram with hot wax.
It all seems a little old fashioned now, but the graphics show the information about climate change has been out there for years. We need our leaders to stop blowing hot and cold on turbines and just get on with it.
Sketchbook. Reading in the coffee shop……and somewhere else
Being bothered is exhausting isn't it?
The endless denial and inaction on climate change by our leaders over the years is so frustrating. The information and science that many have been denying has been clear for far too long. There really is no excuse. Too many countries aren't doing enough and even here in the UK, where there's finally a grudging acceptance that things must change, we get a series of over-spun, underfunded, greenwashed announcements, all due to happen in the far future.
I worked at The Sunday Times as part of the team producing graphics and remember drawing diagrams about climate and the environment nearly 30 years ago. The 1992 Earth summit in Rio was a big deal and the newspaper gave over four Focus news pages to the story, with the main image being a big stat map. Back then, we were still drawing everything by hand and just on the cusp of using colour, which made deadlines even trickier. Phil Green, the genius Graphics Editor, sketched out a lovely double page spread and we started putting everything together around 10am on a Friday morning. The pages had to be printed on Saturday night which didn't give us much time to produce a fact-heavy colour graphic. Phil did the main diagram while I scribbled logos and charts to be waxed down onto his gorgeous map. We always worked late on a Friday night, but the added complication of colour pushed our finish time to a coffee-fuelled 4am on Saturday morning. After four hours sleep we were back at our drawing boards blearily finishing the diagram off to press at 6pm that night.
I think it was the first time the square miles of Amazon destruction had been compared in scale with the size of Wales. Now it's a graphics standard, along with the classic, building heights versus stacked double decker buses. Amazonian areas the size of Wales have been burning each year since and as we know, have even recently increased in the pace of destruction. Pretty much every concern flagged up In that diagram has become reality and in many cases the situations depicted around the globe are virtually irretrievable. One of the few things to have improved is the ozone layer.
There's a pitifully slow acceptance that something should be done. But let's be honest, at the pace we're tackling our mess, it's too late……Or am I just being negative through exhaustion?
Here's the view from Morrone down onto Braemar. Tucked in the village there is the brilliant Fife Arms . Well worth a stay just to live among works by Lucian Freud, Brueghel and the odd Picasso……Walking this hill was a lovely bleak, windy climb. We thought we'd bagged a munro, but no. Even though it felt like a mountain to us, it doesn't make the rankings
If you get the chance have a look at the King's Arms in Dorchester. A beautifully restored hotel that Thomas Hardy ate and wrote in. The Rolling Stones stayed there too. Probably not the same weekend
I hope you're enjoying this website experience. Massive thanks to the amazing team at Glide Publishing Platform who built this site. Not only are they brilliant at their jobs, they are lovely people too. They glided through every pointless tweak and rethink I had without even a ripple. Hopefully you'll agree, on the surface it's very smooth, but underneath I know there's a hell of a lot going on.
Got a little giddy at seeing my two paintings on show at the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colour exhibition at the Mall Galleries. Um, can you spot which are mine?……
Have a walk in the woods…The Arborealist's Being with Trees exhibition at Bermondsey Project Space can be seen
A little glimpse of my new studio. Built just in time……
Proud that these two were selected for the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colour exhibiton at Mall Galleries. All the work can be seen
Looking forward to exhibiting at
Bermondsey Project Space
with The Arborealists from 24 March
Lucy, Richard and I apeing Mrs and Mrs Clark and Percy at the lovely opening of their Root & Branch exhibition at
Kevis House Gallery
Off to Kevis House Gallery in Petworth with some S, M and L paintings for the upcoming Root & Branch exhibition 5 Mar to 30 Apr