Archive for June, 2009

“UENO” – 150cm x 40cm – (charcoal, graphite, carbon, ink)


This is my new drawing called “Ueno”. Ueno is one of the districts of Tokyo and this particular scene is set in Ueno park which is a beautiful park full of shrines and temples and a magnificent zoo which Anne and myself walked around.

I wanted to get a flavour for the place so I depicted the  main ancient temples Benten-Do temple which is dedicated to Benzaiten, the Buddhist goddess of the arts, wisdom, the sea and protector of children, ( so she covers a lot of ground). The temple is perched on a wonderful man made island ad surrounded by a lake full of huge water lilly pads with lots of beautiful dragon flies darting around.  The Kiyomizu-Do temple in the picture is where women wishing to conceive a child leave a doll for Senju Kannon, the goddes of mercy, and the accumulated dolls are ceremonially burnt each 25 September.

There are a lot of homeless people living rough in Ueno park in perfectly ordered cardboard box constructions and blue sheeting. They even brush dust away from their shanty towns with little brushes and pans. The homeles population  are notorious for looking after the hundreds of cats that live alongside them in the park. So, the guy at the front of the drawing was a homelss guy that I met and there are others dotted around in the composition together with fashionable Japanese youngsters who were also in the park walking around or making calls on their cell phones. There were also quite a lot of Buddhist monks standing around holding rice bowls and chanting waitng for donations to wrattle in thei rice bowls.

I have always loved the extended landscape compositions of the ancient Japanese paper scrolls which sometimes stretch out for 20 feet. I wanted to get something of the quality of line which is found in Japanes art from these ancient illustrated ink scrolls to contemporary Manga coupled with my usual realist style. I was trying to isolate sections of the picture juxtaposed to white space and line which seems to push out the figures against the background whilst giving them a context.

If you click on the image, I have loaded up a large version of the drawing so you may haveto wait a minute for it to load but you can have a good scroll arouund the drawing.

June 20th, 2009

“UENO” – sequence


Click on the images to enlare a little

June 20th, 2009

Roughs for new drawing – “UENO”


Here are the roughs for my latest drawing from the “Tokyo Portraits” series. I’ll explain more about the image in the following posts. As usual, my design process starts with walks and thoughts recorded onto a dictaphone as I walk our dog Max. Walking is really furtile territory for me and as usual ideas come whilst strolling along and rarely ever in the studio which is why I always carry a camera and dictaphone because I’ve normally forgotten ideas by the time I get back.

I then start writing down words and justifying everything over a period of weeks and months whilst I am working on other paintings and drawings, just thinking about it really – what is the picture actually about? I see this as the fermentation or gestation period and if an idea still seems good a few months later then I’ll go for it.

Previously I’ve done roughs in the traditional way with pencil and paper and then squared them up which also works perfectly well ( see my website for examples). More recently I’ve been using a simple photoshop programme which is fantastic for juxtaposition and working out scale and spacial areas before I go head first int the image. It can be quite time consuming for me  because I’m a bit slow on the uptake with computers and the procedure is very repetitive but it’s worth while , though I’m sure others would say it saps the spontenaety out of a painting.

Here are a few examples , just click on them to enlarge.

June 20th, 2009

New Book – “A Guide to Contemporary Portraiture”


The National Portrait Gallery have recently released a new book featuring 50 works from their contemporary collection. It’s an interesting book with lots of lavish illustrations and features David Hockney’s “Self Portrait with Charlie” which the gallery acquired a few years ago.  There’s a section on “artist’s processes” which includes some more recent commissions by the gallery and also my portrait of The Kinnocks and some interesting interviews with Marc Quinn, Michael Craig-Martin and Julian Opie.

ISBN: 978 185514 4040


June 20th, 2009



Anne and me were invited to the BP Awards and ceremony on Tuesday night. It certainly brought back memories of shaking knees and jelly joints 3 years earlier. My artist friend Mike Gaskell was shortlisted to the last 3 for his absolutely beautiful and sensitive  portrait of his son Tom. Unfortunately he came second …for the second time !! and I really had him down as this years winner. The author Sebastian Faulks was this years guest presenter and I believe he is currently writing a new Bond book.

It was a lovely dinner though, nice champers to start with and a very tasty lamb dinner complete with desert wine which is always a good thing.

June 20th, 2009



On Monday 15th – Wednesday 17th June I was invited to give  a series of talks about my work in the National Portrait Gallery lecture theatre. I was slightly worried that my monotone West Midlands drawl would send everybody into a coma but they seemed to go fine – lots of questions at the end anyway which is usually a good sign.

I managed to talk for an hour each time but I guess when you’ve been working as a painter for about 16 years there’s plenty to talk about. Infact the hardest part was editing out rather than trying to fill the time. It was basically a talk about my wotk from my MA in 1992 to present day in sequence. I look mighty small on that stage up there.

June 20th, 2009



Parliaments Education Service has been working with a group of 20 young students from KingsdaleFoundation School, West Dulwich. They were invited to create a work of art inspired by portraits in the Parliamentary art collection and the repeat patterns of the Pugin fabric of Westminster. They spent 8 weeks researching and making their beautiful final piece of work which was partly inspired by my portrait of Tony Benn which they selected.

We had a lovely lunch time reception in Portcullis House and met all of the students, teachers and workshop leaders and I saw the fruits of their labour.

June 20th, 2009

new work coming soon

Sorry I’ve not posted anything for a few weeks, I’ve been extremely busy working on new work and commissions but I’ll have some new pictures to post toward the end of the week.

Watch this space.

June 13th, 2009


June 2009

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