The Spaces Between. Part 2: On Show


Above: Detail from The Rapture

Looking back, I’m not at all sure why I kicked off the Artlog by deciding to make stage by stage posts of The Congregation of Birds. Given I’d been shy of visitors to the studio while any painting was in progress on the easel, it seems at this distance to have been quite a challenge to myself to have produced fourteen posts during twelve days spent making a single work. I know there were times when I thought I’d made a mistake and should back out of the venture before I made a complete fool of myself. But I stuck with it, and afterwards there was a sense of having achieved what I set out to do, which was to strip some of the mystery away from how a work is produced. The posts can be viewed at this link:

The Saint Francis Diary

Since then I’ve made two start-to-finish posts at the Artlog, and I rather wish I’d made more. They’re a good record, because there can be no doubt that while I imagine I’ll recall all the stages that go into making a painting, without photographs I quite quickly forget what’s under the top layer of it. Sometimes I make notes, especially when something is hard-won and I want a reminder of how I went about the resolving problems. Occasionally I have good intentions to photograph a work-in-progress, but get so deeply engaged by the day-to-day painting, that I forget to make the photographs necessary for a visual diary. My studio diary for Touched may be found if you click on ‘Annunciatons’ in the Topics bar, and once there, scroll down. (There were fourteen days of work that I recorded on it, but alas I ran out of files for my ‘Topics’ box, and couldn’t bundle the posts together in a link for easy access.)

The last ‘diary’ of a painting at the Artlog, was for a large Tobias and the Angel painting. Damian Walford Davies watched its progress, and by the day the painting was finished, he’d produced the beautiful poem that became its title; The Rapture.

Tobias and Raphael Diary

Although there haven’t been any more ‘diaries’ of paintings, I do try to post regular project updates at the Artlog, and Hansel & Gretel and Skin/Skôra may both be located in the Topics box. I hope shortly to add Gawain and the Green Knight, but first need to work out how to upgrade the number of categories that I’m allowed. I’ve currently reached my limit.


Jack is my companion at all times, and as he has a basket at the ready for snoozing in up in the studio, it’s little wonder that he occasionally makes appearances in my paintings. Here in a detail from The Rapture (2011) he’s been angelically hoisted aloft, along with his master, like aerialists from Cirque du Soleil.

Jack is an accomplished model, and he posed beautifully in the studio for this starring role alongside Raphael and the angel’s young charge, Tobias. Of course I didn’t dangle Jack from a hook in the ceiling while I painted him. He was lying on his side in his basket, but by depicting his harness as though it’s bearing his weight, and his ears as though streaming in the wind, the illusion of flight is conjured. Tobias’s untied and ribboning shoelace is probably my favourite part of the composition, along with Jack’s sideways look at the viewer. The oversized hand belongs to Raphael, the ‘catcher’ in this trapeze act.

It’s interesting to note that before I ever read the bible account of Tobias and the Angel (or the Tobias-themed novel Miss Garnet’s Angel by Sally Vickers), I always assumed the dog in the many paintings I’d seen of the subject, belonged not to Tobias, but to angel Raphael. It took my friends Nicolas and Frances to point out my error, by which time I was already wedded to my own notion. And so I reinvented the story, in my head, as one in which a dog arrives unannounced and is taken in as a stray by Tobias, though in reality it’s an emissary sent on ahead to smooth the way for its true master’s arrival. (This is my habit. If a story doesn’t quite fit together as I want it to, then I’ll add a subtext that no-one need know about other than me. In this way I’m like an actor figuring out the back-story that makes his character tick.)

In this detail from Green George (2007), Jack accompanies the maiden on a grassy knoll overlooking the killing-field, where both may have met their fates in the jaws of a dragon had not Saint George intervened and saved the day. Jack looks very interested in the action, and as soon as the dragon has been dispatched, he’s going to come down to check that the deed has been done well!

Finally we have My Dream Farm (2010), shown here in its entirety. You’ll have to play spot-the-dog with this one, as Jack is so small in the composition that he’s easily missed. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Read Damian Walford’s Tobias and the Angel poem The Rapture, HERE.