Painting of the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant – 3 June 2012

Thames Pageant - Royal Flotilla Enters the City of London

Following a bit of a creative hiatus I’ve now completed what I think is my best painting since I launched myself in the art business nearly a year ago.
I think my two City-of-London paintings would make a great pair of prints for commercial premises. At a metre across (unframed) they’re probably too large for most homes, although maybe I will get them published in an optional smaller format.

Full details of the painting can be seen on my web site: Thames Pageant Painting

I am becoming more and more interested in our capital city, and it will be the target for further paintings I’m sure.  However I haven’t forgotten my Yorkshire roots and I’m planning to paint the capital of Brittianica Inferior, York or Eboracum, also a fascinating city which at one time competed for power with London, and was even for a time the seat of power of the Roman Empire.

City of London Paintings

Posted in Thames Pageant Painting | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Realist painting versus photography

There are some very good ‘photo-realist’ artists around, who render photographs in oil paint or other media, aiming for near-perfect copies.  Whilst this requires very skilled craftsmanship, it is not my idea of art:  the creative process has all been done by the photographer rather than the painter.

Nevertheless the camera is an invaluable tool for a realist artist, just as the camera obcsura was for artists in centuries past, but I decided some time ago that I don’t want to just become a sort of human photocopier.  As an artist I feel that I should bring something to the party. The Thames Pageant painting gave me the ideal opportunity to demonstrate what a realist artist can achieve with imagination and creativity, especially when one considers that the Thames Pageant is possibly the most photographed event in history – in view of the fact that were over a million spectators lining the Thames, and the great majority with camera or mobile-phone camera.  According to an article I read recently, around 300 million photos were taken, and 70 million photo images have been shared on social networks.

I’m happy with the result, believing I’ve created an aesthetically pleasing realist image of the Royal flotilla entering the City of London.  A similar image couldn’t possibly have been achieved with a camera, even with photo-editing software, for the following reasons:

1.  A camera cannot see around obstructions (or imagine they weren’t there) !

2.  A camera cannot see sharply through the rain

3.  A camera computes the scene with a single exposure (this is why photographs of sunsets invariably disappoint), whereas the human eye can constantly adjust, many times a second, to correctly process the information it’s presented with.

4. The camera has a limited depth of field, whereas the human eye is constantly focusing and re-focusing on near and distant objects.

5. The human eye can effectively look in several directions at once, because it can quickly scan to take in all the essential information in a large scene.

6.  The camera has no imagination:  it cannot choose to see from an imaginary vantage point, and it cannot significantly rearrange what it sees.  (Of course, photo-editing software can be used to rearrange things, but within limits.)

I don’t think it would have been possible to get a realistic photograph on 3 June, which had details of all elements of the pageant:  boats, spectators, the cityscape, the sky and the river.

It certainly wouldn’t have been possible to get a photograph of the scene in the painting, because of the many physical obstructions between the camera and subject matter.  In other words, the camera, even with editing software, does not make the realist artist redundant, despite popular belief to the contrary.

In the 1800s, Impression was in part a reaction to the emerging new technology of photography, but in fact it is now easy to create an impressionistic image with a click of a mouse, in programs such as Photoshop.

Studying the famous Caneletto painting of the Lord Mayor’s river pageant, said to be the inspiration for the recent Jubilee Pageant, it is obvious to me that even if cameras had been invented at the time, it would not have been possible to get an image anything like the painted one:  Caneletto has been very creative with perspective to give his painting maximum interest and impact.  He had to make compromises, which is why, on careful observation, some of the boats towards the right of his painting appear as if they’re being rowed uphill.

Posted in About Art, Thames Pageant Painting | Leave a comment

Lucca – Mai 2012

Merci à toutes et à Marco.

Posted in Carnet de Voyages | Leave a comment

La contrainte, c’est la liberté !

A French friend once told me that ‘constraint is freedom’.  Well-travelled, she leads groups of artists on travel-sketching holidays.  She always sets constraints, such as : “you have 30 minutes, and you must choose a subject between here and the end of the street”.

Strange as it may seem, this sort of constraint is actually quite liberating.  The big decisions have been made, and the artist is now free to release his or her creativity and problem-solving skills on the subject, rather than spend all day wandering around a town or city trying to decide which is the ‘best’ scene to depict.  

I find myself in the fortunate position of working on corporate commissions (in the finance and hotel-and-leisure sectors). It is  liberating and will, I’m convinced, lead to my best work yet.   

The more I think about it, nearly all the creatives I admire, in all genres, produced oeuvres to commission:  Mozart, Vermeer, Shakespeare . . . . .

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Painting the Square Mile

When I’m painting something, be it a portrait, landscape, skyscape or cityscape, I like to ‘get under the skin’ and find out what’s going on. Why are those clouds the shape they are? Why do those bare twigs make the … Continue reading

Gallery | Leave a comment

Just a sketch

John (graphite on paper)

John: artist and philosopher. A quick sketch before venturing out to the pub to put the world to rights.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment


'Rainbow' - Pastel - 50cm x 40cm (click to view larger image)

I bought this rainbow trout this morning and couldn’t resist trying another quick still life.

Working with fresh fish I am obliged to work quicker than I usually do: artists can’t afford to to let food go off ! And working at speed can sometimes result in unexpected qualities that are pleasing. I have to admit I’m pleased with this one.

Posted in Pastel | Leave a comment