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.

Posted by Picasa

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.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Olive Trees Gaucin Andalucia

Bright warm branches cut against a shining silk sky.

Red Olive Tree.

Its early morning in late January and the air is warm. Over head the sky is a wonderful clear pale blue with streaks of soft white cirrus up higher than the limestone crags that steeply rise above the road on my left.
Further to my left the valley continues to fall quickly through oak trees far down to a river

Work in mixed media on paper

below which sparkles in the sun. The Phoenicians had camped down there and later the Romans, later still the bandits and British buccaneers from Gibraltar.
To my front is a series of hairpin bends and more crags. There is supposed to be a village here on the map, we should be there but I can’t hear or see it. On my right is a steep slope and olive trees are growing in lines, old and gnarled they cling to the soil and stones, beyond them another craggy mountain and another disappearing in a developing haze. I can see a buzzard circling, or is it an eagle. Barbara joins me and we sit down and peel the fresh orange that she took from a lone orange tree by the road side, its juice is sweet, warm and tasty. Sitting still we share the fruit and listen to the silence of nature.
Dropping below us is ridge after ridge of cork oak, the ridges drop one after the other. They have a colour graduation that runs from red purple to the deepest mauve. In the distance I can see the blue sugar loaf of Gibraltar –Jebel Tariq as the moors called it and fainter still in the distance the summit of Jebel Musa its twin across the straights of Morocco.

It’s our second day in Andalucía. We have just stopped the small hire car at a lay-by. The road we have travelled on from Casares, a town named after the Roman Caesar Julius, is steep and damaged in many places. On the other side of the road from the car park the steep bank is full of tall cactus and a lush variety of vivid wild plants. They are quite beautiful I recognise some of them from home, but here they are larger and brighter and grow in profusion. Not being a botanist I’ve no idea of their name, Ox eyed daisy maybe, or cowslip. My interests tend to be in what they look like and the shape of them as they grow. I get out my sketch book and camera, and quickly make some drawings and take some photographs. There is a profusion of good images around me but what I’m drawn to most of all is the trees and the steep stony ground. I had seen Olive Trees like these in Cyprus a couple of years ago. Then the images of Olive trees appearing out of a heat haze could have been lifted from some of the books on the Holy land that I had studied at St Mary’s R.C College. The Olive grove before us now, on this steep mountain side should be an illustration of the Garden where the Christ prayed in occupied Judea.

The sun was getting hotter, the ground dry and stony and the Olive trees in their winter vestments looked gnarled and windswept. While I worked on my drawings I was remembering the stories of Englishmen fighting for both Fascists and Communists in the 1930’s. The Spanish civil war began in the hillside town that we had driven passed half an hour ago. There is a roadside memorial near there to a group of murdered communists. Christy Moor’s song on the role of the Irish Holy Roman Catholic church in the Spanish civil war had since then, and still was running relentlessly through my head. “ Viva la Quinta brigade”, the pastor and the peasant side by side; Avanti was the cry upon the hillside as below the Spanish sun they fought and died”. I realised that though this was a landscape I was actually thinking about 2000 years of war and faith. No wonder Andalucía's Picasso created Guernica and that we are still drawn to icons and symbols of peace. What will we draw for Iraq, or for Tibet?
I wrote in my notes next to my sketches, “The Olive trees would have to presented as icons, silent witnesses to change, cared for, and harvested, their branches reaching forwards, a sign of movement and peace. The olive, their fruit, a source of sustenance. In this way they should be painted with the marks visible, pencil, charcoal, graphite, ink, each mark leaving a visible path, the paint would need to be applied over this as a veil, thinly, spattered and scratched into like the old Catholic icons which are varnished with a satin sheen”.

Rob miller arts journal formative works
Ascot studios Ribchester .

Cork Oak Trees Andalucia

Cork Oak tree painting acrylic on canvas 1 metre x 1 metre Location 3 k below Casares on the south side of the road a steep slope populated by younger trees runs down into a dell. At the bottom of which is an ancient banking and ditch. This oak has seeded and lived its life here and is now the oldest tree. Bathed in dappled sunshine and sheltered from both the Atlantic and Sahara winds which create the extremes of Andalusian weather the old tree grows like a young lad. This painting is just 2 hours old very much a work in progress and still much to be done

middle aged Cork Oak tree near Casares nestling against a banking

its trunk and branches twists and bulges.

large mature C0rk Oak Tree

against a bank dominating the woodland

Three twisted Cork Oak trees on a steep bank. One trunk in particular

maybe freshly cut was a bright orange colour.

Mature tree at dusk Casares

deep purple red bare trunk.

The stripped bark leaves a deep red to purple trunk which makes for striking images when you walk through the vast woodlands. And the Oak trees themselves make for interesting study ancient gnarled trunks and branches and triple trunks of mature trees and straight young saplings their image has been with us for millennium making them a venerable topic for the artist to study.

Info attached from

The cork oak, quercus suber - quercus the Latin for oak, suber the Latin for cork - is a native of both northern and southern shores of the Mediterranean. Its age is unknown, but the quercus suber or its ancestors have been around for at least 147 million years, when an evolutionary Selection Event - probably a drastic change in climate - caused the decline of single-seed gymnosperm trees and the appearance of angiosperm - multi-seeded - plants and trees. More suited to propagation and seed distribution, the angiosperms, among them the earliest quercus species, spread around the Mediterranean, forming part of the maquis, or scrub, that would cover the Mediterranean basin for millions of years. Early man would have used quercus suber, among others of the quercus family (and there are dozens of varieties) for fire wood, implements, weapons and, when the hunter-gatherers began to settle in or around the thirteen century BCE, for building.

Archaeologists have found evidence of tribes actively working with quercus suber in northern Africa before 6,000 BCE. Similar evidence has been found in Andalucía and other parts of southern Spain dating back 4,000 years BCE or more. It would take thousands of years more before the special sealant qualities of cork would be used to seal containers of liquid. This property is due solely to the presence of one particular substance, suberin, like suber taken from the Latin for cork. Suberin is a fatty substance found in the cells of cork which, in the denser forms of cork stops the passage of air, or liquid, through the cork.

Cork was probably first used as a sealant on containers by the Greeks and Phoenicians, to seal wines and other liquids in amphorae, the fat-bellied, wide-mouthed pottery containers that are probably distant ancestors of the Spanish tinaja. It would take the invention of the glass bottle, a fairly recent innovation in historical terms, for cork to finally meet glass. Apocryphal legend claims that a French monk, the aptly-named Fr. Perignon, discovered the sealant qualities of cork on a slender glass bottle neck, some time in the seventeenth century. As news of its efficacy spread, so a new industry appeared. Previously, cork had been one of a number of wild tree and bush growths which farmers used for implements, firewood and construction. They had also actively begun to manage it, often using fire, to clear land for crops and livestock, and to put a distance between the maquis where wild animals lived and the human settlements appearing throughout the regions where quercus suber flourished.e men join the gangs who roam the oak forests - Andalucia's Bosque del Alcornocales in the
Parque Natural de Alcornocales is Spain's biggest single plantation - and each has a specific role in the (usually five-man) gang, from chief cutter to lowly carrier. The cutters' experience tells them how far to cut up the tree to avoid harming it. They travel around the forest in a nine-year cycle, allowing the trees they cut time to regenerate the cork (which is, in fact, a type of parasite on the bark of the tree beneath). Their burros, mules, roam free in the forest for the rest of the year, never straying too far from a free meal, but for the two month harvest they trek back and forth between harvest site and cork factory. So expert is their knowledge of the routes that, once loaded, a tap on the back will send them off unaccompanied to the factory. The town of Cortes de la Frontera actually holds burro-loading contests at its annual summer feria, with a prize for the most ingenious loading of a burro.

What we see lying curled on the ground is still many stages away from fitting into the neck of a bottle. At the factory the cork is boiled in a vast, deep (maybe 15 feet) pool of water, which renders it malleable for flattening and then processing by machine.
The cork then goes through several levels of compression, depending on its destination. It emerges as very thin sheets of varying sizes, perhaps thinner than a child's little finger. It is then checked for quality - the oak trade has five levels, from excellent to poor - and the oak is assigned to a particular use; insulation, say.

Most interestingly, however, is how it does reach the bottles we uncork. Bottle corks are stamped out by machines, at different widths for wine, champagne and cognac (Spanish cork is treasured by the French brandy producers). When they pile up in the dumpers beneath the pressing machines, they look like big wooden pennies.he cork oak, quercus suber - quercus the Latin for oak, suber the Latin for cork - is a native of both northern and southern shores of the Mediterranean. Its age is unknown, but the quercus suber or its ancestors have been around for at least 147 million years, when an evolutionary Selection Event - probably a drastic change in climate - caused the decline of single-seed gymnosperm trees and the appearance of angiosperm - multi-seeded - plants and trees. More suited to propagation and seed distribution, the angiosperms, among them the earliest quercus species, spread around the Mediterranean, forming part of the maquis, or scrub, that would cover the Mediterranean basin for millions of years. Early man would have used quercus suber, among others of the quercus family (and there are dozens of varieties) for fire wood, implements, weapons and, when the hunter-gatherers began to settle in or around the thirteen century BCE, for building. Info from