2020 Review

Well, crikey what a year!

We all wait indoors for our post to arrive – perhaps we should have brought back the pigeons to give the postie a rest! (Image from Schwanengesang)

I don’t think anything has gone to plan for anyone this year. I never would have thought back in January, when planning my big Oxford exhibition, of the dark and difficult days this year would hold.

You Green and Mourning Garlands, Winterreise

Firstly I want to say a big thank you to everyone who has continued to support the Arts this year in any way they could. And in turn I hope that us artists have been able to provide you some beauty and solace; some light in the darkness.

To everyone who has continued to work; from NHS staff, delivery workers, and teachers, to gallery owners and event organisers a huge thank you.

Detail from Aurora.

Alongside planning for my Oxford exhibition, I had two large illustration projects. Last year myself and Ronda were asked by Scholastic to create a new Lighthouse Keeper book. From the germ of an idea about ocean pollution came The Lighthouse Keeper’s Mystery, 43 years after our first book, and with a poignant message about protecting our environment.

The second project was to complete the illustrations for my third Schubert book, Die Schone Mullerin. Being in Lockdown actually provided the time to focus on this, and using the wonderful music as inspiration the images flowed out naturally. After completing the paintings, it was then the task of my great friend and graphic desinger Paul Hayes to compile and arrange them into book format, with the text from the peoms alongside.

Both books were printed just in time for my exhibition in Oxford which featured some of the original illustrations.

I feel very fortunate to have been able to continue to show my work this year. My exhibition at The Jam Factory in Oxford was pulled together within weeks thanks to a passionate team. Having been delayed and close to being cancelled, as the first lockdown lifted we all sprung into action to get the show marketed and hung. With three exhibition spaces spread across the venue, it was ideal for showcasing my wide range, from illustrations to large abstracts. The paintings shone in that wonderful space and I was very pleased to receive positive attention from the press, as well as the many visitors.

The Boiler Room at The Jam Factory, Oxford

Hot on it’s heels was Lewes Artwave. With a few Covid safety adjustments, the studio welcomed many visitors – all masked of course! But that did not stop many interesting conversations, and a few sales. (More on that below.)

Left to Right: Auto Da Fe; Initiation Figure; Azrael/Queen of the Night; Catedral, Listening to Bruckner

Lockdown 2.0 put an end to my idea of an additional studio show for Christmas, so I turned my attention online. I joined the dreaded Twitterati! And I am building up my online shop, which now has a selection of quality giclee prints, as well as my Schubert illustrated books.

Stuck indoors again! (Image from Winterreise)

Lastly a special thank you to my patrons and followers. Your support is ever appreciated, and I have happily sold many paintings this year, large and small. I hope that my work has enriched your homes (god knows we could all do with a change from staring at the same four walls!!) and lifted your spirits.

Below is a selection of the work I have sold this year which now resides in homes as close as down the road and as far away as New Zealand.

Best wishes to you all for the Holiday season and here’s to vaccines and a better 2021! I shall now be putting my feet up next to the fire with a large glass of fruity red.

Lockdown with Schubert

This is how I am occupying myself during the lockdown. For information on my postponed exhibition see this post: Oxford Exhibition June 2020

Monoprinting in the studio

Having just completed a second book of illustrations for Schubert song cycles, I have now embarked on a third, which in this case is a prequel. I began with Winterreise in 2016. Apart from loving this stuff, I identified strongly with the ‘hero’ of this cycle, possibly stemming from an introverted childhood and spending endless days day dreaming on how things ought to be. In other words, knowing this ‘yearning’ thing which Schubert realises so completely.

Winterreise – A Winter’s Journey

The book has been well received, and after the illustrations were featured on https://winterreise.online/ – an online encyclopedia of Winterreise information and rescources – I was spurred on to create a follow on book, Schwanengesang.

These illustrations are set to Schubert’s final song cycle, which was published posthumously and therefore there is considerable fluttering in the Schubert dovecotes regarding the validity of the term ‘song cycle’ in connection with the latter, in that it is more a collection of songs and put together by somebody else. Dr Iain Phillips, author of the websites dedicated to cataloguing the work of Schubert, however has firmly aligned himself with the song cycle having launched his third Schubert website https://schwanengesang.online/
As far as I am concerned, they are right up there, whatever the title, a point re-inforced by the splendid recording by Fassbaender and Riemann. DG 1992.

Schwanengesang – Swan Song

My third set of illustrations are therefore inspired by Schubert’s first song cycle, Die Schone Mullerin (the beautiful maid of the mill). This is a challenge that will certainly keep me busy in lockdown! But the inspiration provided by the music is as ever a guiding light.

The paintings start out, with a now well practiced technique that relies heavily on accident. Conceived totally in the abstract, the figurative elements come later.


So, armed with a single sized glazed window, a rickety table, loads of acrylic inks , brushes, rags,3 in 1 oil, detergent, 300 gsm Arches watercolour paper and buckets or water, I can produce multiple images by the simple process of mono-prints. The inks are splashed or poured on to the wet glass, oil, detergent can be thrown in for good measure. The paper is then thoroughly doused in water and pressed face down on to the glass. Peel it off, and there it is, or isn’t.

Certainly 2 things happen at once. The tyranny of white paper is strangled at birth and stunning pictorial elements appear which one would never, ever, have consciously thought of. Should the result look like a river flowing upside down, the paper can be hosed down and re-cycled. (This has been demonstrated to year 2 and 3 kids who loved watching this and having a go themselves).

The resulting images contain a huge range of colour/tone relationships and differing moods… some may profit by being turned upside down.
Then, one hears the sound of wedding bells as protracted marriage ceremonies leads to pairing each painting with its counterpart in the verses. Most marriages are made in heaven but a few needed a bit of an academic shove here and there to be true to the text. The alchemy is to convey the spirit of the words and the music but preserve the equally huge disinterested power of abstraction… tricky. But conventional picture making would simply not cope with this exalted subject matter. It is also a good way of avoiding a couple of bete-noirs, technical skill and good taste.