The mollusc wins

I doubt the inventor of terracotta roof tiles used a colour wheel to ensure they are the complementary colour to a clear blue sky, but they are. Just as red berries are set off by complementary green leaves (to make them look more delicious to animals that will eat them and spread their seeds), so nature has ensured clay roof tiles complement the sky (at least on most days). Presumably nature does this to make us like roofs? (Or is it rooves?)

I used Michael Harding’s Cerulean Blue for this quick sketch of the roof. It is staggeringly pricey, but worth every cent. Yes, the chimney is wonky in this picture, but that is because the chimney is wonky (at least that is my excuse).

I did this painting of a mollusc’s roof ages ago. I was only happy with half of it, so I repainted the other half to provide a better context for the better half. Much as I like a red tile roof, this very old and dusty shell is a much more beautiful roof. However, it turns out we MUST leave these at the beach; apparently every shell we take does that little bit more damage to the sea.

Deployed airbag (with mascara and lipstick)

If you find yourself suffering an oversupply of hubris, I recommend a trip to a car wrecker. It is the opposite of a car showroom; tired, used up and smashed luxury items are savagely torn to pieces and shoved in rusty furnaces and bins. Apparently the process of tearing a smashed car to pieces is called ‘fluffing’.

There are incidentally beautiful things. Apparently it is common to see a faceful of make up on a deployed airbag – lipstick, eyeliner and mascara spread out just where they were on someone’s face. This is a good thing. It means the airbag worked and saved someone. I have heard a car wrecker call it ‘the kiss of life.’

Let it be done

This was intended to be the underpainting for a picture of a Fiat 500 in its native habitat. But I had a suspicion that if I ‘finished’ it the picture would lose its freshness.

Apparently in ancient Rome ‘fiat’ meant ‘let it be done.’ So, let it be done.


“I hung up and fed myself a slug of Old Forester to brace my nerves for the interview. As I was inhaling it I heard her steps tripping along the corridor.”

Raymond Chandler

After the party’s over

“‘Cause there’s a beach lies quiet near the open sea,

And a car park lay stretched where the bindies used to be”

Midnight Oil, ‘Bells and horns in the back of beyond.’

Made the mistake of trying to visit where my grandparents’ old house used to be. Their sprawling front lawn had no fence and ran down to a quiet beach, via a thicket of glossy banana trees and spiky weeds. It was permanently festooned with strings of coloured lights for summer parties that lasted all night. All gone now, replaced by a tight-packed chunder of Mac Mansions that look like oversized photo copiers. One of the gardeners looked up from vacuuming (yes, vacuuming) his hanky-sized lawn and told me I had no business being there. He was righter than he knew.

A brawny red pepper

Dinner is often dictated by which vegetables at the supermarket would look best in a painting. Red peppers often feature … and then there was the durian incident.

I thought this fellow looked like a body builder, showing off impressive, bulging muscles that are just the tiniest bit futile.

The last oozing of the summer

I suspect the only way to capture the warm translucence of honey in a painting is through glazing. I practised glazing in several layers with transparent orange oil paint, using linseed oil and solvent as a medium, to capture this, the last honey of the summer.

My hope, one day, is to create, in Robert Hughes’s words, a painting that ‘holds time as a vase holds water’