Thursday, 25 December 2008

cork oak drawing 1

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New Studio

Following a meeting that I had yesterday it now looks pretty certain now that I will be moving my studio and storage site away from the open terrace near the sea and up to a large warehouse near the Seirra Utera which is a bike ride away.

The warehouse's main purpose is to store furniture for people between homes, it also has a sales point. I've sorted out a cheap rate for a space against a wall and the WC shower room of about 3 metres x 2 metres and a storage unit that's about 2 x 2 x 1.5 metres. The space will be open at one side so I can view work from a gallery distance of about ten to twenty metres.

The space will allow me to work on finishing off some larger canvases and drawings as well as start to mount, stretch and store finished works. I can also start to be a bit more gestural and splash move pigments around. Also I can start to work on some of the larger commissions without resorting to diptychs etc.

I shall continue doing some work on the terrace but as you may know as boxes and frames etc start to mount up there becomes less space in the apartment to live. Everyone will be a little happier and I will find less and less task avoidance areas.

In any case my ork is about transition and I shall be working in an environment where peoples belongings are continously being stored securely, brought out and shipped around the world.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Autumn Cork Oak and Casares Bahia Painting

watercolour mixed media on paper 

Casares Painting, Autumn Cork Oak and Bahai stage 1

Antonio Machado
XI: Yo voy soñando caminas

I go dreaming down roadways
of evening. Emerald pine-trees
golden hillsides
dusty oak-leaves!…
Where does this road go?
I go travelling, singing,
into the road’s far distance…
– evening falls slow –
‘I bore in my heart
the thorn of passion:
Drew it out one day
And my heart is numb.’

A painting gets done in a number of stages and one of the more exciting apects of this is that you never know what the next part or stage will bring. I've spent a good few weeks now, weather permitting walking through, sitting in, and drawing the forests. As I have done this gradually Automn has turned to winter. Unusally for me but not for the trees that I have been with of late, their leaves stayed on the branches and twigs. Though other trees around the cork oak and I changed their attire to Automn and either lost their leaves or changed them to vibrant yellows and browns for our enjoyment, we carried on with our conversation.
Initially, as I began to work I stuck to large naturally formed pieces of chunky charcoal on large sheets of paper. Fighting with the wind to keep them clipped onto my drawing board.At the end of one long day I actually stopped the traffic on the main road as five of my best drawings on A2 sheets were picked up and sent whirling across the tarmac and stone service. I scampered after them trying desparatly not to crease or smudge the charcoal further. Using charcoal and natural materials felt the right thing to do, especially for this tree, the father of the forest and the provider of so much to so many.
You get to respect these Cork Oak guys as they wind their never ending branches wherever, irrespective of slopes or whatever else. On another day the grunting of three wild boar, two adults and a child came closer and closer and I held my breath until they had eaten enough acorns and passed upwind of where I sat. This chance meet was to be followed by a roe deer grazing with precision.
These sightings as always mark the close of the day and in the fading gloom of the forest the brightness of the sea down below acts a point of navigation.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Fincas Casares Landscape Watercolour Painting

Being a northern man I am used to seeing Autumn as the crescendo of the year. When its then followed by the onset of winters cloak I view it as the end of colour and the beginning of the greys and muted life. Of course there is the exception of the sparkling winter day, the magnificence of a frontal systems sky etc but in general these are splashes of light that we use to brighten up the months of dark . Here in the Casares Valley the autumns seem to make the world a better place. First of all the temperature drops a welcome ten degrees to about 22C which makes it more bearable to paint outdoors. Then there is the rain which comes in torrents and with it the gurgling playful sound of running water in Arroyos and Rios. Then not only does the Andalusian landscape painter have access to the new palette of deeper reds and browns of the autumn woodland but also a new colour, a vibrant green. The footpaths and trackes which litter the valley floor are covered with the palest of green clovers and grasses. As a painter you are spoiled for choice by the richness of colour. Finally in between the woods and ancient fields the Fincas or Farmsteads compete for the prize of who can be the brightest. Often painted in whites, or warm reds, or pale ochres, they stand like castles on the rise of a ridge or like an elven house huddled amongst the trees.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Some notes on work this week.

For a few days now the hills of Africa across the strait have looked very close and are very clear to the naked eye; they are a wonderful deep red in colour and the sea a flat blue so that the large tankers and other ships loom like drifting skyscrapers above it; I can discern groups of Moroccan buildings; a lighthouse or two; the town and last night even the blink of a car or truck headlight.
Having a cold for the last two days has set me back on this week’s planned work. Yesterday despite the temperature outside of 22 degrees C I felt chilled and came inside, wrapped myself up and spent my time indoors; as is the case when you work alone it’s hard to get on task; the result being I flitted mentally and physically from one task to another; I spent a lot of time watching Africa; I didn’t accomplish an awful lot; I think I am going to paint a long painting of its hills with the massive sky above it; Even my time sheet which I had placed in prominent places as a prompt for myself the night before, went largely unheeded. My indoor plan or wet weather route today was to do some watercolours on some local Fincas and make a start drawing up maps of two contrasting art routes from Slaidburn to Roeburndale and Estapona to Casares via the Arroyo Hondo but did not.

All day I had stared at the large canvas that I had worked on in the fading light on the summit of Los Reales; but nothing was happening to it; by the end of the day I felt less chilled and walking past the painting and seeing it in the same light things began to happen within it; the colour and form began to emerge; I carried the canvas outside and in the dwindling light of a splendid sunset managed to make a great deal of progress on it without a fight.

Today; the wind is strengthening and it howls and moans around the Moorish designed superstructure of the apartment building; it is maintaining its westerly route to the Ocean; it blows strongly from the East carrying a warm scent; I am in luck; I am in the lee of the building and can work without all my papers and things being blown about; Africa has disappeared again behind a shimmer that is neither sea nor sky; Gibraltar wears its white woolly hat; This morning I feel much better and the work I did yesterday still feels good; I have made some good progress on the two watercolours and I have started on two more small canvas’s of the working farms or Fincas up on the Casares road; today I also got two emails complimentary emails on my work and some interest from an art dealer in London; so its onwards and upwards. At least it was until a thunderstorm struck in mid to late afternoon; the deluge flooded the terrace and a retreat had to organised.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Arroyo Hondo Casares Landscape painting

The light was just starting to fade as the departing rays of the November sun struggled to keep within the confines of this steep valley. El Arroyo Hondo. The very steep valley and bright light sets up an ever changing array of beautiful blues and purples that drift upwards for about an hour and a half, the blues chasing their counterpart the warm reds and oranges of the autumnal Andaluz woodland.
This valley has been created by an arroyo digging deep into the hard rocks. The woodland that has largely been planted over the centuries is made up of ancient oaks planted for their cork, Juniper Trees planted for their berries which once fed the Moorish silk worms, and the grain crops planted on the steep slopes which once fed the now derelict water mills.
After painting here in temperatures of the mid 30’s c in August it feels strange to be feeling cold at 12c. Up and down the valley smoke from new an old Fincas hangs in stratas of creamy white over the pale cream buildings under blue green trees. High above a vulture drifts spiralling effortlessly in an infinity of pale blue. Whilst around me the air is full of the chatter of birds getting ready for their dreams. I painted, facing directly into the sun, hiding beneath the shade of the surrounding trees until a last blinding ray shone into my eyes saying “adios pintura”. As I gathered up my brushes and packed my canvas away.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Los Reales de Seirra Bermeja Landscape Painting

I spent some hours working outside on the Los Reales Seirra Bermeja.
The 2 images above are details taken from the Los Reales painting as dusk approached.
The image below is the canvas wedged against a table.

As a painter the atmosphere on the Pico or Peak is breathtaking. I painted with acrylic and charcoal on a 1m x 1m canvas. I was initially stationed with the canvas propped against a fir tree above a near vertical 700 metre slope of crags. Far below the white forest road snakes down to a very blue sea. The abrupt change in altitude 1000m in aprox 5k makes for constant cloud and winds which give a temperature change from 22c in November down to 4c. At times it was more like flying a kite than painting on a canvas, one minute I was working in a windless, hot, sauna and the next minute I was freezing in a strong gust, with ice crystals falling to within 2 metres of the ground before they melted. As the gusts of wind became stronger I had to chase after the 1 metre square canvas across the mountain, fortunately it went up the slope. I then decided that I would have to move location in order to wedge it against a table and be able to focus on my work in some safety. At the end of the day I had to work with the canvas flat on the table top, I used piled stones to stop it from flying away. The ground looks quite normal in the image, in reality it is a very sharp small gorse like plant.
As I painted I watch an Ibex graze and Eagles hunt close by. I completed the basic sections of the painting in 4 hours trying to catch the fleeting light as dusk descended. I think I will leave the painting in these dusk shades and tidy up some of the marks on the terrace studio at Casares.
Next week I shall take a second large canvas along with some breakfast and aim to start in the early morning sun.
I have added some information translated from a Malaga natural information centre below.
Los Reales The Pico or mountain peak is high above Estapona and is located at the southwestern side of the Serranía de Ronda.
The most attractive site of these mountain range are the little Spanish fir forests of Los Reales, consisting of 1.236 Ha. and protected since 1989 being declared as Natural Site.
Its ground, together with its smooth and relative rainy climatology, achieve a very special flora and vegetation, among them about 50 different vegetable species, considered to be rare by its botanical interest or by being in danger of dissapearance.The forests mainly consist of the Spanish fir, but there can also be found pine trees, junipers, cork trees and kermes oaks.
Concerning the fauna it is remarkable to see, the Spanish Ibex, the wild cat, the roe deer and the mongoose. And among the birds of prey, the eagle, the hawk, the kestrel and the owl.
Los Reales are part of the mountain range of Sierra Bermeja, which, through de 35Kms. separates Ronda from the Mediterranean Coasts. The mountain range has got an average height of 1.000 m. and is located between the Sierra de las Nieves and the pico de Los Reales, taking a southwestern - northeastern direction parallel to the Coast. At its very sharp sides there can be found some trees.The colour of its red rocks gives the name to the mountain range and it can be easily seen between the white coloured lime stones of Sierra de las Nieves and of the Sierra Blanca de Marbella.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Manilva Andalucia Landscape Drawing.

Artwork Sketchbook106 Artwork Sketchbook  Manilva 1

The view from Manilva looking across to Bahia Casares from the Manilva Sketchbook. Graphite and Ink.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Sabden Fold Landscape Painting

Sabden Fold Acrylic on Canvas 70 x 70 cm location owners UK- sold

It was with some interest that I wait for Halloween in Spain. In the UK Halloween has been taken over by fantasy and Hollywood. Having witnessed the vibrant life filled 24/7 festivals in Andalucias Manilva and San Roque I'm wondering what will take place in a week's time. The guide books all say that in Spain Halloween is a time of special respect when the Spanish people in families remember, honour with prayers and flowers their dead relatives. The work above is one that I painted last autumn in Sabden Fold Lancashire, there the small farms that are huddled under the lee of the moors in a linear settlement pattern look like a string of pearls, frost or rain or more rain is the order of the day there. Sabden is a place of witchcraft. That is why I painted the work in the spiritual colours of healing and peace as I thought about that last walk of the so named Pendle Witches who were wrongly accused of witchcraft and drowned because of greed for land.

Here in Andalucía, Spain had its inquisition to, though the threat from the legacy of the Moorish past was far greater to Catholicism than that of the witches in the UK. Having said that Calvanism was born in Pendle. For the Fincas and small holdings here there is much more space and much more wilderness. Society here appears to be far less broken, families are more intact and in the developing gloom and dark of the winter night a community of adults still seem to control the streets and old people here look forward to a knock on the door.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Gaucin Landscape Painting Andalucia

Gaucin Pueblo detail-Acrylic on canvas-sold Gaucin is a particularly attractive pueblo/village to paint. Steeped in modern and ancient history with an urbanization of casa blanco/ white homes, timeless steep calle/streets, una castile/castle and remarkable mirados/viewpoints; it makes for more than interesting study. Set high on a mountain ridge it creates a visible white mark for many kilometres. As far as Jeraz de la Fronteria maybe.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Ronda Gorge Andalucia

This is one of the premier views in Spain
the bustling white town of Ronda perched high on a huge cliff
and the gorge that splits it in two with a
tremendous bridge holding the two together.

Sunflower Farm Landscape painting On the road to Sevilla

Sunflower Farm on the road to Sevilla. Acrylic on Canvas 70 x 70 cm location Manchester UK sold. The expansive plains of Sevilla in central Andalucia are very fertile, with an abundance of light. In the summer the plain is host to millions of sunflowers which are harvested for their seed. Reflecting the Andalusia's' Moorish heritage, houses in the region have traditionally been designed with the goal of protecting residents from the heat of the sun. Often long white buildings built of stucco with thick walls and few windows, often with an inner courtyard to keep people and animals cool as well as safe in Andalusia's turbulent past. Windows overlook patios filled with potted plants. The house is often built around a shady central court-yard—sometimes including a fountain—in which the family can relax and cool off. Houses in and near Seville often have intricately carved wrought-iron gates over their doors and windows and splendid entrances to their drives

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

San Roque Pueblo Landscape Painting

Deserted Pueblo near San Roque-watercolour and pencil on paper (for sale)

Finca Cortesan Watercolour Painting

I found a spot to set my easel up on the side of the quiet Casares highway looking up the valley away from the sun coast . Horned brown cattle were grazing below a hot sun with small white farms and villas scattered across seemingly bare and arid ochre fields. The karst rock formations show a clear anticline which has been rent by a scar and the rocky land gives rise to surprisingly busy and productive farming. A different view to the one in the opposite direction were the lakes and greens of next years Volvo Cup host, the beautiful Finca Cortisan Golf Course sparkle against the Mediterranean sea.

watercolour ink and acrylic on paper (for sale)

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Normandy Farm Painting.

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New semi outdoor studio

A new work for my neuvé estudio here in Casares on a nice, bright, windless, day full of October sunshine. The studio is on the terrace and gives me a reasonable space to work in, it is unquestionable light and airy with views across to the Med. I've put the new studio to the test today by starting the finishing off process for a work I began and that appears in an earlier post. It is a painting of a grand old distinguished Cork Oak tree in the heart of the Cork Oak forest near Casares.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Landscapes of the soul Andalucia.

Pueblo Andaluz small holding lower slopes  Casares  Bahai (12)

Rob Miller drawings for the work pueblo Andaluz

I started this work after driving past a number of semi deserted villages were dogs scavenged in the rubbish; and buildings once homes slowly died through neglect; It was easy to make comparisons with the clearances of the Highlands in Scotland, Ireland and the North of England; and connect with the images that I had begun on Roeburndale. Here to are many religious shrines and small chapels; which maybe points to the dire need that people who lived here; working off the land; have for a spiritual connection and for a source of more than human sustenance. In fact in many cases the church here it can be argued, within its history, abused this need. My research on this led me to a reading of the Spaniard, the Nobel prize winning poet Juan Ramon Jimenez and his poetry; " the landscapes of the soul." This Spanish poet converted words into music-into something weightless, vaporous, almost resembling light.

Juan Ramon Jimenez's biography can be read in many articles and translations. His work is described as being strongly visual his early work linked to yellow and green and his later work to white. In his late years the influence was largely spiritual. How does he compare to Hughes and Jaccottet. Hughes poems on Crow were largely invited by and written to accompany the work of the sculpture Leonard Baskin. Well he compares more than favourably both in terms of sound and visualization. Its not really my thought though to go into the complexities of poetry; but to use poetry to enhance my understanding of my subject matter and creative work as an artist with the work of poets.

Pueblo Andaluz small holding lower slopes  Casares  Bahai (5)

This pueblo and others that you come across tell the same story as the clearances of the Highlands and the removal of people from the moors of the North of England. Haunting landscapes.

Casares Pueblo Andaluz Landscape drawings

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Urbis Centre Cathedral Square Manchester 9th-12th October 2008.

Work in progress Bridgewater Canal
at Ascot studios alongside other pieces
May 2008

Completed work Manchester Bridgewater Canal 1
on show at the
Buy Art Fair
Urbis Centre
Cathedral Square
October 2008

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Translations from Spanish Land poets

Oh Earth Wait for me
from memorial de isla negra.
A poem by Pablo Neruda
translated by A.S.Kline.

Turn me oh sun
towards my native destiny,
rain from the ancient forest,
return to me the fragrance and the swords
that fall from the sky,
the solitary peace of field and rock,
the moisture at the margins of the river,
the scent of the larch,
the wind, alive like a heart
beating among the remote flock
of the great araucaria.
Earth, return to me your pure gifts
the towers of silence that rose
from the solemnity of their roots:
I want to return to being what I have not been,
learn to return from such depths
that amongst all the things of nature
I could live or not live: no matter
to be one more stone, the dark stone,
the pure stone that is carried by the river.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Landscapes of the Soul. Roeburndale NW England


Haylot the crying of lambs

an empty road under a sky crowded with jet vapour trails

Guardians at the gate

space and meditation

This is a new and developing series that builds upon the notion and the circumstance of the spiritual dimension to the landscape. The drawings here are based upon Roeburndale and the valleys below Casares in Andalucia.