Travel and boats, an enduring love affair

I took these photos in 1977, when I lived in the middle east for a year. Both are on the beach in Abu Dhabi. I doubt that this area even exists any more. They were building the dhows directly on the sand, almost entirely by hand except for a huge horizontal band saw which was used to cut up teak logs for planks. These are “real” photos, taken on 35mm colour slide film in the gorgeous Olympus OM2 that I bought out there. Hard to remember how long you had to wait to see the photos. I would take time choosing my framing, but once the film was full, I had to send it back to Europe to be developed and then have the slides sent back to me. Anything from three weeks or more before you saw the result. Despite that, we tended to get fewer pictures, but more good ones.


What is fascinating about these beautiful boats, from a European boat builder’s view point, is that even though the hull is perfectly symmetrical, as it has to be, the planking either side does not match at all. The planks are fitted together first, and then the internal framing cut to fit inside. The exact opposite from what we do here.


I called this the Fisherman’s mosque, and looking on Google maps, I think it is still there, but no trace of dhows anywhere near it. I actually won third prize in an architectural photography contest with this shot. I won the first prize as well, for a photograph of the Eiffel tower, which sadly I cannot find any more. It is probably in a box in the attic. I was very proud of it, as the judge was a French photographer, who said he must have seen 10,000 pictures of the Eiffel Tower, but he had never seen one like that. Sadly, we may never see it again now.

Painting from photographs

I have done many paintings based on photographs, but on the whole I am not pleased with them. This one is an exception, because it is actually based on a collage of several photos. We were wedged into a crowd to watch a temple ceremony in Kerela in late 2003, and there was no way I could draw. The camera could only pick out bits and pieces, which I used to try to reassemble the scene many days later. I was pleased with the result as it did give a feel for what the event was like.

Keralan temple festival
Keralan temple festival

Perfect sculptures

I don’t often photograph items in museums. I prefer to look at them and buy a professional photography of it if there is one. But these two Egyptian sculptures that I have just seen in the Neues Museum in Berlin are amongst the most beautiful I have ever seen, and they weren’t included in the postcard collection. So I went back to take my own. Nefertiti is gorgeous, but I loved these more

Ahkenaten, Nefertiti and three of their daughters
One of the daughters

Old watercolour of Taiwanese temples


I must admit straight away, I have never been to Taiwan. A good friend of mine has, and she showed me a photograph of the temple in the bottom left during an art class, and said “I bet you can’t draw that!” Inevitably I spent the rest of the class scribbling it in the corner of a large sheet of paper. She liked it, to the extent that she asked me to draw some more temples on the rest of the sheet. I drew the top temple over the next couple of days and was very pleased with the result. I lost my nerve with the rest of the sheet, as I was pretty certain that luck would not stay with me, so I made an attempt at a large Chinese character in the last section, which I think says “dao” as in dao de ching. The red seal is allegedly my name in Chinese, carved in Malaysia in 1993. Seemed a suitable way to sign this. Wendy has the finished painting hanging in her study, which is very gratifying.


I’ve said that I’ve been drawn to the styles of Bill Buchman, with his very loose, brightly coloured figure studies. I have been working on his style, to see what I can take from it. But then when  looked at the ink painting below, which I must have made 15 years ago and now sits on my window ledge, I can see why I like his style. This is entirely acrylic ink, both as washes and as linear overdrawing.


Revisiting some old drawings


This was a sketchbook entry from some years ago. The parish church in Schladming in Steirmark. I was waiting for a train, so at outside and sketched this classic onion doomed Austrian church. The colours were all added later in the day when I got to my next hotel.


This is not a proper sketch, as it is taken from a couple of photographs I took in rajasthan. I like it because they were just a couple of scribbles I did on the back of another drawing when I was bored in a class. It was only after I had finished them that I suddenly realised that they were quite good. The last throwaway scribbles are often the best.