COG 41Sunday
'City of Glass 38 - (I know who I am...)' ....113x77cms


I have sat in my chair for an hour, looking and enjoying this piece. There is already a soft, subtle curve to the right of the rose line- there is no need to embellish. This paintings' links to the novel may be obscure, but after the (deliberate) claustrophobia of the last two paintings in the series, it represents a state of mind, a's a good place to be. It's done.


An online dialogue about the painting with the Freedom in Painting Group helped clarify my thoughts on the title.

A tale of obsession has become my obsession (in a good way)


This is more like it...much more's a space, a place (of escape)....the horizontals now all doing a job for the painting, the canvas-divide critical, the rose vertical - a signature- holding it all together. A grid has emerged not forced, open...the Ying/Yang of the two circles, one colour, one outline, contributing incident, difference, movement... This piece looks different yet looks like one of my paintings. I am not interested in straight image anymore or jack-off gesturing - painting is deeper...there must be an edge,,a question..

I have been watching 'True Detective' again. A line springs to mind from Rust Cohle- (yet another fictional detective) - who has a very dark perspective on 'being' but has no time for posturing, hypocrisy, compromise, bullshit.... 'I know who I am'.

This line could make a good title. in terms of the novel, it references Quinn's state of mind and freedom(?) when he finally leaves the 'locked-room' of the apartment on E69th St.

'The Locked Room' is the title of the third story in the Trilogy*. It is also the title of Episode 3 in 'True Detective'. It is also how I perceive the studio, where an artist must be alone with his/her thoughts and the piece.

I may simply call it 'Grid'.



SAT 12 MARCH p.m.

I'm in a painting.

It's gone backwards since this morning A loss of purity and spaciousness, I've been looking at the idea of messing with scale: a book on end casting a shadow, suggesting architecture, landscape or tabletop? Echoes of Morandi's monumental still-lives.,,just a bad illustration. The figure is going back in on the right side, casting the shadow.....The paint needs scraping back on the left, it's too heavy, fade it out, build up heaviness on the right, take it to the edge of the canvas...The colour, tone, angle, execution, presence, of the yellow on the left side is much more interesting below. I was trying to be too clever- lining up the angle with the angle at the top of the shadow.Mistake. The horizontal plane needs to more subtle, maybe a line....

just like this morning..back and forth....exploring ideas....what is this painting?



SAT 12 MARCH a.m.

Starting out with a word, 'Shadow' and it's dual meaning (a cast shadow and the verb-to shadow, to follow...), A familiar motif- the figure of Stillman - and the continuing, elusive objective of having Stillman and a building/tower in the same painting without the figure looking giant.

Just working out colours and composition, the placement and scale of the elements in the painting. A horizontal - introduced to counteract the powerful vertical of the central canvas divide- becomes a table-top and an idea emerges....

The central pillar suggests a book which I am going to move to the right-edge of the painting,
a more exciting,more extreme composition. The figure can go..for now.

*'The New York Trilogy', a novel by Paul Auster.

City of Glass 40 Riverside Park
'City of Glass 40 - (Coat of Paint))' 60x30cms



COG 3940 CopyCity of Glass 39 - (Prophecy)                                           City of Glass 40 - (Coat of Paint)



A change of title, a more intriguing title that references the physicality of this piece, the act of painting and Tom Waits' song, 'New Coat of Paint', from 'The Heart of Saturday Night' one of my favourite and most played albums in the studio.


'City of Glass 40 - (Riverside Park)'

A colour-exercise (1), preparing for the 'RED' workshop in Canterbury, becomes a painting. If there is red there is green, hence the unplanned title. If you are familiar with the novel*, Stillman, (and of course Quinn who is tailing him), spends a lot of time wandering in Riverside Park.

Following the method of 'City of Glass 39 - (STILLMANBABEL)', Stillman was 'built' over the armature of a wooden tower (of Babel). Once again the intention was to remove the tower during the process but stuff happens - I felt no need. Another bald Stillman- in (2) he has lost his head! Next time I'll give him some hair.



*'The New York Trilogy' by Paul Auster

Cape Cod the Islands
'Cape Cod & the Islands' 60x80cms


At the midway point of my journeys around US on the Boise Travel Scholarship*, Denise came over for a couple of weeks and we drove to New England visiting Cape Cod, Nantucket and up the coast to Maine. After an aborted attempt to get a studio in New York, I took up the offer of working in the barn of sculptor Jon Isherwood in upstate New York. a great friend from Canterbury College of Art. The location was idyllic, with a view of the Catskills through the barn door. Jon and Helen were great hosts and critics too. An intense two months period of working followed, a critical period in my career. I was prolific, twenty odd paintings, including several large canvases. I worked in oils so had to return to the US a year later to build a crate around the paintings, before shipping them back to England. My experiences in the US continued to inspire my work, becoming the 'A m e r i c a s c a p e s' series which was shown at the Woodlands Gallery, Morley Gallery and the Michael West Gallery.

'Cape Cod & the Islands' was shown at the Royal academy Summer Exhibition in 2011. Fall colours,... boat-shaped Nantucket sails out of the painting....enjoying the range of paint, the journey from the flat wash in the top left through to the dense mass/weight of paint, colour, marks in the waters of Rhode Island. (below). Powerful in a different way is the second area of focus, the tiny pink tip of Cape Cod pulsating against the blue sea....the Atlantic shoreline is broken, water seeps into the land creating movement...


Detail Cape Cod


Zooming in on Cape Cod in the next the colours of the water and the curved corner, echoing the shape of Cape Cod and the hook of Provincetown. The painting has an ambiguous space, the aerial viewpoint subverted by the receding scale of the boats, which help make Cape Cod almost vertical and sculptural. strangely anchored at the base.


Cape Cod700
'Cape Cod' 90x70cms


A colour-reversal in 'Nantucket': a mass of red-sea, perhaps influenced by Jon's barn where it was made. Colour and imagery are kept simple to highlight the amazing shape of the island- boat, sea-creature, moving through the water...


'Nantucket' 168x206cms


Two more favourite New England paintings from the 'Indian-Yellow' period! In 'New England', I particularly like the meandering outline of Maine against the lemon-sky (Canada). This painting has disappeared.

We never got to to Two Bush Island, I just liked the name. The painting is playful: location, image and the curious painter's space tucked behind the lighthouse.


New England
'New England' 60x50cms


Two Bush Island Light Maine
'Two Bush Island Light, Maine' 25x35cms

* from the Slade School of Art

COG 39 Prophecy Copy
City of  Glass 39 - (Prophecy)  60x30cms


It's taken a while but we have a new title.......



A few new touches that seem that seem to make the painting stronger. The orange line lifts the eye to the top of the painting: there was a nagging suspicion that the tower had to be higher - no need for that now. The orange line slightly squeezes the space between the top of the painting and the head and draws attention away from the head which I think works. I've also tidied up the top of the tower making it sharper, stronger and the paint around the bottom left of the overcoat which was getting a bit murky. Touch of orange in the brown too. Fiddled a bit with the hand that looks like a club in image below! The title still not definite..I may know more when I've finished the second one..


I took out a heavy brushmark from the bottom left of the coat and refined the shape of the tower by carving out the 'ziggurat' steps at the top. Much stronger now...there are traces, residues, marks of interest within the tower, not sure there is any need for the island....might have to change the title, perhaps 'Obsession' Thinking about putting thin horizontal band on the top edge to squeeze the space with the top of the head and also lift the tower. Or put in a spire/radio tower cutting thru the collar..we'll see...

'City of Glass 39 - (Prophecy)' 60x30cms


I couldn't wait..the reveal...odd, exciting....just dealing with it at the moment... might take out the heavy outline, lose the figure a little or lose the blue or the figure entirely then re-draw the figure inside the tower...

COG 39 The Reveal2


Stronger drawing- love the curve of the back- and better browns that are starting to do something with the blues. Denise and I are missing the grey. I've run out of quick-dry medium so shall have to wait longer before the tower is removed. I have a same size canvas- lets do another one. This is quite a small piece- 60x30cms- perhaps i need to do one life-size...the purity of the early version (1) is still my favourite..


The 'City of Glass' series*, is dominated by three elements:the Tower of Babel, the island-shape of Manhattan and the figure of Stillman. Several of the paintings include two of the three elements, the idea behind this piece is to include all three.

I started off with a straightforward representation of the familiar motif of Stillman. I was thinking about the sequence of 'Weeping Woman' paintings in the Edvard Munch exhibition at Tate Modern a couple of years ago, with the bowed head almost crushed by the low ceiling. Its' literalness was disrupted by smudge and disguise and a pour of blue and then by the introduction of the tower, made from wooden strips. A beautiful grey.

Then the figure of Stillman was re-introduced (2) - apologies for the brown, it's just Pollyfilla, building up the bulk of Stillman as I work out the composition. The painting tries to replicate the claustrophobia of the Munch paintings, the figure trapped by the four sides of the canvas. The plan, reviving a past process, is to remove the tower at some future point, to leave behind it's negative shape, seemingly carved out of the back of Stillman. Then we can work on the island-shape of Manhattan within that outline. Time to work.

COG 39


City of Glass 39


Weeping Woman Edvard Munch
'Weeping Woman'     Edvard Munch

*inspired by 'The New York Trilogy', a novel by Paul Auster

Three large harbour paintings from the 90's - 'a place can be defined by its' shape...'


'Barcelona' 180x140cms


Aircraft over Aberdeen
'Aircraft over Aberdeen'    180x120cms


San Diego
'San Diego'     180x100cms


I really liked San Diego spending a week there on my travels. The orientation is switched so that south is at the top of the painting, a subversion of 'map-truth'. The angled line is the Mexican border. It is a painting of curves with the man-made elements around the harbour picked out in tuned-up colours and straight lines and angles. In the detail below I love the interplay and repeated motif of the cranes and the harbour-arms, aerial-view and image in harmony.


san diego detail