I spent a wonderful week in June on the above mentioned course, with about 20 other artists. We were based in Dunbar in East Lothian and spent each day drawing and painting out in the open at St Abbs Head, Dunbar Castle, Seacliffe and best of all out on the Bass Rock. Sitting surrounded by thousands of gannets was a once in a lifetime experience. My drawings were OK but some of the art produced by the others was astonishing, especially when you realise it was all painted out in the open, sometimes in the pouring rain, and on the Bass, pouring bird poo. I’ll try and show some of the other artists’ work in the next entry. We spent one morning visiting John Busby’s studio, which was another high point. I bought one of his small paintings.
I have always had a soft spot for camels. No animal makes you feel quite so unimportant. I always feel that they are the one domesticated animal which one day will say “We’re just not going to do this any more”. These were the ones we rode into the Thar desert in Rajasthan to view the sunset over the dunes. Along with 50,000 other tourists. The sunset was not good, but the camels were worth it.
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.
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.
Just another example of grabbing a beautiful photograph in a moment. We were crossing a branch of the Mekong in the delta in Vietnam. The sun was shining towards us and I noticed a boat was just about to cross in front. I grabbed my little pocket camera and snapped this. A moment later it was gone. No other pictures I took are worth sharing with anyone.
Just three more photos from our visit to North East India last April. These are from Calcutta, or Kolkata, however you want to write it. I do like it as a city, but it can be challenging by its sheer size and contrasts.
This was taken in the district where they build the extraordinary dried clay sculptures of goddesses and gods, for submersion in the Hoogly River. This artist was painting exquisite cobras. I assume they were just air dried clay as well, as I could see no kilns. The quality is excellent. Most figures were life sized or larger.
These figures are dry and ready for painting and dressing. I thought they were of Durga, but I also thought she always rode on a lion or tiger, so I may be wrong. The small one on the right in the moulded sari is not typical. Most of them are modelled nude and then dressed in real silks after painting.
They are spectacular when complete, and will eventually end up in the river, and the whole cycle of digging clay from the river and returning the gods runs again. Essentially Hindu.
This is one of my favourite recent travel photos, taken on a beautiful day in Arunachal Pradesh in North East India in April 2014. We were walking through a long, extended Adi village, a most beautiful place. I just spotted these piglets scuttling after their mother on their way home. Five seconds later and the picture would be gone. The houses are beautiful.