Saturday 21 January 2023


Pliny the Elder tells of  Zeuxis (Greek painter, 5BC) who was keen to paint an ideal image of the human form.  To get to his idea of an ‘ideal’ subject Zeuxis convened a sort of Life Model X-Factor. Whereby he appraised the young women of Agrigentum, a city on the south coast of Sicily.  Naked they stood before Zeuxis. In the end he selected five whose features he would combine in order to paint an ideal image. This is one of the earliest mentions of life or figure drawing. By C13th the practice was established.

Figure drawing is arguably the most difficult subject an artist encounters. My endeavours,  I first  went to classes in 1986, in this are a testament to this. I resumed sessions, locally, last week. And feel the better for it.

 Life drawing is very much part of the curriculum in art schools. Some staff at some schools, infatuated with present-day ‘conceptual’ art, try all sorts of gimmicks to avoid students following established approaches to life drawing; for example the person drawing  places a piece of chalk between her or his big and second toe, and then with eyes shut (no peeking) they draw the model posed in front of the class.


However it is an absorbing exercise, using charcoal, ink or paint one develops an eye for shape and the interplay of light. The equivalent I always thing of a pianist practising scales.

Thursday 12 January 2023


January is the month where joy, delight and happiness is thin on the ground. Here are recent incidents creating reasons to be cheerful.



Over the New Year’s we were fortunate to stay with dear friends Mike and Kate. 

Catching up, comparing notes, sharing news and our hopes and uncertainties for the year ahead Mike said:

“Well we are people who can get joy from any life”

I rushed back to our room and wrote his thought down in my book. I have been reflecting about this idea ever since.


Harry Baker, an author and poet has been talking to us this week on Prayer for the Day, BBC Radio 4’s daily prayer and reflection. Each 2 minute programme brings huge happiness at the start of the day.  He signed off his January 9 broadcast with 

“Creator god, thank you for adventure. Thank you that this world is so full of wonder that a lifetime spent exploring it wouldn’t even begin to scratch the surface”.

>> Link to that broadcast


I discovered joy in another quarter this week – Photographer Alan Burles in his Guardian article A lighter side of life – picture essay published on Monday 26 December.


“The first time I saw a photograph by Elliott Erwitt I fell madly in love with him. “I wasn’t only drawn to Erwitt, I quickly discovered many other amazing reportage photographers too and I now realise that one of the things that I was drawn to was that their work didn’t condemn the world, it celebrated it. 

Link to that article >>


I wrote to Alan saying how much I enjoyed his article and the accompanying photographs.

He replied saying 

“I see you are an artist I can see that your art also celebrates the world” 




The copyrights of The Guardian newspaper, BBC and photographer Alan Burles are acknowledged and also that of dear friend Mike Colling.

Monday 2 January 2023


At the end of a nine mile track off the A9 (Perth - Inverness road) is Bruar Lodge on the Atholl estate. Surrounded by high hills and bracing stretches of moorland this landscape that changes with the light, time of day and the weather. Siรขn and I were the guests of dear friends Kate and Mike. Arriving in good time on the 29th we had temerity to bring our car along the track. Mistake.

As I write, some five days later we are stranded here, swaddled in high luxury and wonderful company. It is toasty warm inside the lodge, and you step outside into a country that just has to be captured on paper, even when 5 – 8 degrees below.  


The energy, shape, sweep and patterns of the country is captivating and so is the compulsion to draw is easy to gratify.  


My field kit is simple: coat, scarf, cap, boots, over trousers:    ...Plus stick sketch book and graphite stick and pen and I am off. Across the snow. Almost everywhere the sound of running water from the river or streams that pop up from nowhere. Little wind and with the sun sometimes it is quite warm.


Certainly being outside here is the best place to make drawings and the ambient temperature ensure every mark is quickly pressed into submission.  

What brilliant fun.


When will we be out of the Glen? 

Who knows.