Friday, 16 February 2018


In my daily readings I've been working through the book of Ezekiel with the John Goldingay's wonderful book Ezekiel for Everyone by my side to guide me.  John has a very historical approach to the Bible, looking at is firstly as a record of an ancient people and then finding those aspects which may apply to us today.  There is a lot in Ezekiel about angels and other spiritual creatures such as "cherubs" and "cherubims".  Forget about rosy-cheeked winged babies fluttering around paintings by Venetian masters. Ezekiel's cherubs are fearsome creatures with faces of lions and wings like eagles, which make you collapse on the ground in fear when you see them.

I did a bit of research and found that these creatures are found in the art of many Near Eastern cultures and in fact the Phoenicians of roughly Ezekiel's time were carving images out of ivory which resembled Ezekiel's visions.  Perhaps they were a frequent sight in those days!

Anyway, they looked pretty good to paint so hear are two Phoenician cherubim from the archealogical site at Arslan Tash in Syria, drawn in pencil then painted with watercolour.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Welcome 2018

Well during 2017 I seem to have done about 70 small paintings, about six or seven a month.  My creativity took off when I gave up on trying to do large, formal works and began to concentrate on small format sketches instead.  The biggest paintings I do are now 7" x 10" and quite often I work smaller than that.  Posting them to Instagram too has been a spur to further work - its a joy to be part of a huge community of artists who watch each other's progress.  I now post a new painting on Instagram and between 200 and 300 people will look at it - much better than just sticking it in a cupboard somewhere - but more importantly, the opportunity to learn from others is key.  You can see my Instagram stream here

Here are just two or three recent painting.

The first is a scene from the village of Broadway in the Cotswolds.  I saw the photograph from which this come in The Times last week and just had to have a go at it.

I had some fun with the next one.  I love the work of Eric Ravilious (1903-1942) an artist and illustrator from the last century.  He worked for a while at Newhaven, East Sussex which is very near where I live (the next town in fact) and I copied his painting of the harbour by using a combination of Inktense water-soluble pencils and watercolour.  You can see the original here.

Finally, I went for a photowalk in Brighton with my photographer friend Steve. These three shops are just by the Theatre Royal and I just had to have a go at painting them.  A happy scene I hope.

I wish my readers a very happy and successful New Year.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

More buildings!

There is no doubt that I get more pleasure from painting old buildings than anything else.  I've been busy in the last month and have managed to do a few more old buildings to add to my collection.  Firstly, I loved a photograph a friend sent me of this modern sculpture adorning an old hotel in Venice.  It is supposed to signify the effects of global warming - Venice is particularly affected by rising sea levels and the huge hands are shoring up the hotel to stop if falling into the water.

After that I reverted to home territory and did a couple of paintings from a small town called Rye which is near where I live.  The first one shows the old town wall with an arch leading into the town.

The next painting is of a cottage I walked past. Normally you avoid painting anything with a strong horizontal blocking the view of the subject, but I thought the tall fence was worth painting in anyway and to be honest, I rather like the effect. 

Finally I painted a couple of 1920s houses from nearby Brighton.  They're nothing exceptional but I pass them every time I pick up my grandchildren from school and have come to quite like the look of them.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Drawing again

We went away for a few days to the New Forest, staying in a mobile home on the same Forest Park on which our daughter and her three children were staying - in another mobile home.  We've not stayed in a mobile home since we were young and were suprised how comfortable and well-equipped it was.  The park had a really nice indoor swimming pool and there were also varous forest trails with "treasure hunts" for the children.  It was great to have the children round in the morning and to set them all to drawing with a brand new set of Sharpie pens which I'd bought for them, and a stack of printer paper.

As I'd just been working through Paul Heaston's Craftsy course myself I had a go at one of his panoramic drawings of a room interior.  Have to say I loved doing it.

As soon as I'd finished it I realised I'd got in too close to the subject and so had lost any context of the caravan itself.  So the next morning I turned round and drew facing the other direction towards the windows at the front of thy caravan.

This seems to work rather better so when I got home I did another one of our back room

Again a little too close-in, so this weekend I'm going to do one of our lounge and try to get all three walls in - ahead of me and the two sides.  I've loved doing these and highly recommend Paul's course, Sketch Your Point of View.  A tip - don't whatever you do pay the full price of it - register with the site and you'll get endless emails from Craftsy with special offers - eventually the course you want will come up at about half the original price.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Vintage Paper

William of the Vintage Paper Company (located in Stromness in the Orkney Islands), sent me a sample pack of some 60 year old paper.  Its 167lb paper manufactured about 60 years ago.  and is mould-made from cotton rag with gelatine size.  I couldn't wait to try it out and so started work on a painting of Prospect Cottage, Dungeness, Kent.  I have to say, I loved the granulation on this paper and when I painted the black cottage with Daniel Smith's Lunar Black (which contains iron) the result was very appealing (you get some idea of it from the photograph below).

Prospect Cottage
I also received a hot pressed paper, which is very creamy and smooth.  This is a paper which has been made specially for the Vintage Paper Co. and its very beautiful stuff with its deckle edge.  It seemed to demand something more detailed than the subject above so I thought I'd try a floral painting - not my thing at all. Nevertheless I set too and you can see the result here.

The light was coming from the side in this photograph so it rather emphasises the texture of the paper which is actually quite smooth.  I'll post another one with light from above here.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

21 Small Paintings completed

Well, I had it in mind to fill a sketchbook with finished small paintings - not sketches as such, but as finished drawings and paintings. It took me about two months to do all 21.  I then had to write in all the commentary on each one (some background to why I painted it and what it is) and then to do a title page and an index and also write title and author in white gel pen on the black cover.

I think it worked out quite well and while I still don't really know what the point is of it all, I like what I've produced and will see it as a marker of what I did at this stage of my life.

Here is a video of the finished book

All the paintings can be seen on my Instagram account @tom_cunliffe_art

When I had finished it I felt as though I never wanted to do it again - towards the end it felt a little fussy and laborious, but within four days of finishing it I had a great desire to start another one and have now done three paintings for it.  Here they are (click on any image to see it larger)

I've been painting for many years now and its hard to say how much happier I am with painting what are basically sketches.  I no longer have to worry about whether something will look good in a frame.  I don't worry about how the painting will turn out. Somehow, these little paintings always turn out good enough to make me feel happy with them.  

Monday, 11 September 2017

Developing a sketchbook

My latest sketchbook seems to have taken on a life of its own.  I somehow find myself trying to fill it with finished paintings all in the same format with a text description on the left hand side.   Its like creating a hand-written, illustrated manuscript book.  I see quite a few other people doing this sort of thing on Instagram.

I still have my other sketchbooks for location work but this one is going to be an artefact in its own right. ("artefact"?  What on earth is that I ask myself.  The dictionary says, any object made by human beings, especially with a view to subsequent use, a handmade object, as a tool, or the remains of one, as a shard of pottery, characteristic of an earlier time or cultural stage, especially such an object found at an archaeological excavation - oh well, I hope that doesn't sound too pretentious).

Here are some new paintings from it.