Monday, July 19, 2010


It's been quiet up here, I haven't painted much the past year or so, more focussed on music and other things. But it's time to brush off the cobwebs, as I'm off to Italy in August for a month of outdoor landscape painting at the Jerusalem Studio School summer program, headed by Israel Hershberg and his co-teachers. We'll be staying at and painting the landscape around a former monastry on top of a hill just out of Siena, Tuscany, as well as weekly day trips to see some of the artistic treasures that Italy holds. I'm sooo looking forward to 4 solid weeks of doing nothing but being outdoors with paints and easel again, not to mention the joy of getting my painting butt kick-started back into action by the master teachers there!

In the class I did in France with Rita Natarova a few years ago, I really loved the way of working with colour shapes (or 'colour spots' as she called them) that Rita teaches; she studied with Israel Hershberg and I'm pretty sure we will be working in a similar way - of placing one colour shape next to another. With Rita we worked indoors with the model, so bringing this to the landscape, my real love, in a learning situation is going to be truly wonderful!

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Lake Illawarra sunsets

I'm currently in Australia enjoying the wonderful weather! Here's a couple of paintings of Lake Illawarra.

Last Light, Lake Illawarra; oil on linen
First painting for 2009!

Day's End, Lake Illawarra; oil on linen
The light ran out before I had finished this one, but I don't think I'll do anything further to it, I'm kinda liking it the way it is.

Some from 2008... part 3 Oz

Last September I was in Australia and had the fortune of taking a plein air landscape class in Grafton with Clayton Beck, a wonderful artist and teacher who was vising Oz from the US. It was my first outdoor class, and first landscape class, and I absolutely loved it. Clayton's a great teacher, I learned a lot. Although I'm still pretty new to landscape painting, it's definitely where my heart and soul lie. There's nothing like being outdoors painting!

A couple done during the class:

Clarence River - afternoon, oil on linen

Cloud studies, oil on linen

I also managed to sneak up to Brisbane to do a couple of days of Clayton's Head Studies class. I'd love to do his 5 week summer class in Chicago one of these years. Here's one of my studies.
(This photo's pretty crappy, I'm travelling right now, but will take a better pic after I get back and replace this one. )

Contemplation, oil on linen

After my time in Grafton I headed north and hung out with some good friends near Byron Bay. This was painted on a friend's property where I was staying in Wooyong.

Malachai Morning, oil on linen

Below is a quick sketch painted one morning, at Lake Illawarra down on the NSW south coast, a hop, skip and jump away from my sister's place.

Lake Illawarra, morning; oil on linen

Some from 2008... part 2 Chiba area

The Dreaming Boat, oil on linen
Last July I started living part time in Chiba, on the coast. Summer out there was bliss.
This is the early morning view out my bedroom window. (apologies for the glare in the photo).

Oshibi Afternoon, oil on linen
Quick oil sketch at the end of the day of the 'back yard' view from the house of the rice fields. The smell of the rice growing is amazing - it hits you as soon as you go outside.

Mikado lotus, oil on linen
Had fun painting this, the first time I'd seen white lotuses.

Some from 2008... part 1 florals

Catchup from last year!

Bursting Forth, Sakura, oil on linen
This was painted in two sittings at Inokashira Koen last April.

Sakura, oil on linen
done one bleak windy afternoon near Kawasaki.

Iris, oil on linen
Korakuen's iris garden. Tripods and easels weren't allowed, so I sat on the path and painted with the canvas on my lap.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Natural Journeys - exhibition

I'm excited to be having first solo exhibition in Tokyo, at the Shiba Park Hotel, in The Fifteens gallery space. It runs until 10th Jan 2009, and is open from 3pm-11pm daily.

There are around 40 paintings, mostly oils, mostly painted from life. Please pop down if you're in that neck of the woods. For those interested in combining a gallery visit with live music, I'm also going to be singing jazz at the hotel on their Friday jazz nights in December and 24/25, and also 9th January. Further music info can be found here on my website.

The opening night was a real blast! To celebrate I performed my own music to a nice cosy crowd of friends. The band - some of my favourite players - Andy Bevan, Jeff Curry and Andy Matsukami were smoking hot and so much fun to play with, plus a couple of wonderful musician friends sat in with us (thanks Katherine, Bruce and Chris!) It was quite amazing to have my music and paintings all happening at the same time! Everyone had a great night and I look forward to my next show opening!

It's been a long time between posts! Over the coming weeks I'll be uploading some of the paintings I've done this year, better late than never!! - so please come back again soon.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Catching up.....

Being the middle of winter seems like a good time to catch up a bit from the summer...

Here are some studies I did during the month long class I did with Rita Natarova, last summer at Argenton Chateau in France.

Rita Sleeping, oil on taped canvas, approx 24 x 20cm

This was my favourite figure painting for the whole month, the very last one I did - an oil sketch of Rita herself done in about an hour and a half. At around 4pm on the final day she and posed for the few of us who were left. The pefect model, she didn't move at all (actually, she lay down promptly fell fast asleep!)

This next one is of our model....
Study of Eliza, oil on stretched canvas, approx 55 x 46cm

This was the final 'official' classwork we did, I think I did about two or so days work on this one. I enjoyed the right-brained focus of the method Rita was teaching us. The main focus wasn't perfect drawing but to work on getting the colour shapes right. The class was fantastic, and I have plenty to go on with on my own once the weather warms up and I start yearning to pick up my brushes again.

Below is a shot of some of my studies all together. Some of these were done in 25 mins, some were done with just palette knife and limited palette, some were done over two days, using glazes on the second day. We did lots of quicker studies to get us focussing on the big shapes, beginning with palette knife to stop us trying to get into details too early. Then we started to work larger with longer poses. Rita's principal was always the same - nail the big colour shapes first, placing one colour spot (or shape) next to another, whether the painting is going to take 25 mins or 25 days!  

About a month ago I returned to playing around with some inner landscapes, using gouache, and more recently oils. I made another stealth kit for painting in breaks at gigs, this time with gouache and a waterbrush and some watercolor paper. It works great, whether I want to sketch or simply do some colourful doodling.

But apart from that, there hasn't been much painting cos the main focus of late has been music. Since early January my life has been 'taken over' by a 12 week online mixing/mastering class I'm taking at Berklee Music College. I'm doing my best to demystify the world of EQ and dynamics and effects processing, something up till now I've never been able to do. The course is great, very intense and for me very challenging! I have no ambitions to become a mixing engineer, my own goals are simply to be able to get a better sound in my home recordings and understand it all more deeply. Funny how so many of my musician friends find this stuff so easy to grasp without needing to take any courses to learn it! But for whatever reasons my brain ain't wired that way, so I have to go over and over the lessons and examples again and again as I struggle on....

I recently began playing around with song ideas on my sketchpad computer-based 'studio', for the first time in a long long time. I'm really excited about what I sense I'll be able to create musically with today's technology, and it'll be great if I can also improve my engineering 'skills' along the way. It does feel like I'm about to enter into a new phase of songwriting/composition, and that's very exciting!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

End of summer lotuses

Lotuses, oil on taped linen, 21 x 26.5cm

After returning to Tokyo from my travels I was still able to catch the tail end of the lotus season, to my great joy. This was painted over 2 sessions at Shinobazu-ike, the lotus pond down the bottom of Ueno Park, though the photo is from the end of the first session. The changes are pretty subtle from this version.

I notice that a lot of outdoor painters tend to spend one session on their paintings. I find that - for me, anyway, some paintings need more than one session to complete them. Weather and location permitting, I really enjoy returning to the 'scene of the crime' more than once to work on a painting. In those times, since most of the painting is already down on the canvas, I find I tend to work a lot slower and more meditative. I find myself 'listening' quietly, allowing the painting and scene speak to me, telling me what needs to be done (or what needs to be left alone). Sometimes this may only require a few subtle dabs of paint. Sometimes it's more.

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges is to know when to stop. It's probably a lifelong process that one gradually gets better and better at. But I find the more deeply receptive I am to what the painting's trying to say to me, the better I am at knowing that moment.

In that way it's like writing music or improvising - if you're writing you have to constantly listen inside to what's trying to come through, or if you're improvising, you need to be constantly listening to the music and the other musicians around you. Once you stop listening, you kill the music by enforcing your own. Or (with improvising) you kill the beautiful communication and energy between the musicians. Every musician knows what it's like to jam with others where there's at least one person who isn't listening but is off on their own tangent. It really kills it for the rest.

Lately I find I'm starting see more and more similarities between music and painting. They tend to complement each other well and often cross over into the other, even blurring the boundaries at times. Having spent a lifetime working with one craft, I'm now finding there are skills I've learned musically that are really helping me with my journey into painting and seeing. It's quite fascinating, and also interesting to note that many artists are also musicians and vice versa.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Two Argenton landscapes

Balcony View, oil on taped linen, 35 x 16cm

This was the view from our back balcony of the place we stayed in France while doing the portrait figure course with Rita Natarova. Every morning I'd wake up to those lovely white cows when I looked out my window, so one morning I decided to try and paint it. It's my first attempt at painting buildings and animals. It took around 2 hours, the painting seemed to paint itself.

The studio was situated in the gorgeous rural medieval village, Argenton-Chateau, about 45 mins drive south-ish from Angers. Maybe 2 hours from the west coast, and toward the south of France.

I had also been eyeing a couple of fields of haybales on my walks in the nearby countryside, so a few days before it was time for us to leave I snuck out of my class for a couple of hours to attempt painting them. Here's the outcome:

Haybales, oil on taped linen , 32.5 x 19cm

It was quite a challenge due to constantly shifting light. The still, clear sunny morning which seemed like it would go on that way all day long decided to call in the clouds. I had begun at a leisurely pace in the sunshine, blocking in a basic underpainting and basic composition and then, as I was beginning to work the light on the haybales, the clouds turned up and began playing dancing games with the sun. This went on back and forth for awhile until eventually the sun disappeared altogether, and at one point there were even a couple of spots of rain, with the sky remaining overcast for the rest of the day.

I may still crop this a weeny bit. I still have a lot of canvas mileage to clock up before I feel able to take full command of (or complete surrender to) a situation of such changeability to its success! But.... I also need to add that producing high quality work when painting outdoors is really only icing on the cake. The process of just being out there, becoming one with the land and the day is really where it's at for me. Painting is an excuse for me to justify spending some quality time hanging out with nature. There's something so special about this process, something there are no words to describe, perhaps it's a secret that outdoor painters share.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A touch of England

English Roses, oil on linen

I'm back from my adventures in France and England, still catching up on posting here, there's a lot more to come, so stay tuned. I was away doing a one month painting class in France at Studio Escalier with guest teacher, Rita Natarova, (more on that in a future post). Afterwards I passed thru England on my way home, and spent a week in the beautiful scenic Box area, where I went for long walks in the countryside, did a bit of painting, hung out with some friends and sorted out some music publishing at Realworld Publishing.

Singer/songwriter Carole Rowley, who I'd only met once years ago, happened to be in town and generously invited me to stay a few nights with her in nearby Corsham. The roses were in the back garden, begging to be painted.

Here's the setup:

While in Box I also decided to test out my new portrait-painting skills and did a quick oil sketch of Realworld publisher and friend, Rob Bozas as he relaxed reading on his verandah one lazy Sunday afternoon.

Reading the Muse, oil on linen

Although not quite as bold as I had originally envisaged, we were both quite pleased with the likeness and I actually don't mind the quiet vibe.

I'll be uploading more paintings in the next few days so watch this space!