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Christmas Exhibition 2013

Painting of Dunstanburgh Castle-Spring

Dunstanburgh Castle, Spring

Painting of Windmills, Amsterdam

Windmills, Amsterdam

Royal Opera House, Oman at night

Royal Opera House, Oman

Painting of Qantab fishermen, Oman

Qantab fishermen, Oman

Pantheon Rome

The Pantheon, Rome

Painting of Florence from San Miniato

Florence from San Miniato

My Christmas Exhibition Preview weekend started 29th November. The exhibition continues until 24th December and is a collection of recent original watercolour paintings.

Subjects include the Northumbrian coastline depicting famous landmarks like Dunstanburgh Castle.

Paintings inspired by a trip to Amsterdam can also be seen, in particular this new limited edition print of Windmills seen in early morning light.

Over the last few weeks I have been working on a couple of commissions for a client in Oman, so I also have on view an original watercolour of The Royal Opera House in Oman at night and a small study of fishermen in Qantab, Oman.

I’ve been unable to travel to Italy this year, however the last 2 places for our painting holiday scheduled for May 2014 were booked up over the weekend.

A number of paintings of Italy can be seen including The Pantheon, Rome and Florence from San Miniato.

The exhibition also features gifts for Christmas including Christmas Cards, Magnetic Bookmarks and hand made glass, along with my Sketchbook of Oman, all of which are being purchased. Please feel free to call in over the weekend for a glass of wine or coffee and a mince pie.

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Cox and Kings Morocco Tours

Photograph of El Fna Square, Marrakesh

El Fna Square Marrakesh, Morocco

I’ve recently been chosen as one of six artists to enter a painting competition. The competition has been organised by Cox & Kings, the oldest travel company in the world, established in 1758.

Each artist has been given six photographs of Morocco from which they are select one to produce a painting from. We then have to blog about the finished painting and the competition which is to win one of Cox and Kings’ Morocco Tours.

I’ve chosen this rather interesting scene of El Fna Square in Marrakesh. Although I’ve never been to Morocco, I do have considerable experience painting Souks and markets “en plein air” on my travels to the Middle East and Italy.

My plan is to use that experience to make sure that I don’t end up with a slavish copy of the photograph but rather an interpretation of the image which captures something of the noise, activity, movement and hustle and bustle of Marrakesh. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to visit Marrakesh via the competition as the prize is a two night stay at the Hotel Palais Aziza & Spa.

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Dhows, Coming Home

Print of Dhows, Coming Home

Dhows, Coming Home

When I was painting on location in Kuwait back in 2009, I did several sketchbook watercolours around the Dhow Harbour. These studies became the catalyst for a number of original watercolour paintings of dhows, some of which I’ve had reproduced as limited edition prints.

This particular painting depicts a solitary dhow bathed in sunlight, slowly making its way in to the safety of the harbour to join the many other vessels birthed there. The painting can be seen at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland. It’s also available as a limited edition print from

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A History of Art in Three Colours

Sur, Oman, famous for Dhow Building

Sur, Oman

I’ve been watching with some interest “A History of Art in Three Colours” on BBC 4 on Saturday evenings. The first episode, narrated by Dr James Fox, looked at the way gold has been used in art over the centuries. Last Saturday it was the turn of the colour Blue.

The programme began on the Venetian Lagoon and told the story of how the precious stone Lapis Lazuli was brought 3500 miles across the Mediterranean from a land that is now Afghanistan, to the edge of Europe. The Lapis Lazuli was ground to dust and the precious powder was then purified into a pigment which could be painted with. The colour blue was to transform the world of art.

It’s a colour which I’ve used extensively throughout my 32 years as an artist but none more so in the last 5 years when I have been painting on location in Oman. In 2007 I visited Sur for the first time, a coastal town renowned for its building of dhows. From that trip I produced this small original watercolour which I’ve reproduced as a limited edition print. I remember the day as being incredibly hot and the sky being a very intense blue as I sketched the dhows not far from the  spot where I’ve painted the old watch tower in the painting above.

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Razha Dancing, Oman

Razha Dancing, Sur

Razha Dancing, Sur

In November 2010 I was working in the Gulf on a number of painting projects, one of which took me to Sur, a town on the coast of Oman. Sur is famous for dhow building and has its own maritime museum. I had been before and I’ve produce a number of paintings of dhows. We decided to call in to the museum in the afternoon and were given an unexpected treat of Razha Dancing which was taking place outside the museum.

The Razha is an Omani dance where local men leap into the air carrying either a heavy sword or rifle. As they land, they must not falter. They will also throw their weapon into the air and catch it as it comes down displaying their strength and prowess. Singing, and what sounds like chanting, will also be accompanied by the beating of a drum to three distinct rhythms to which the participants match their movements.

At first glance, the whole proceedings can look quite unnerving. Indeed, the dance would originally been used as a way to announce war, victory, the mustering of troops or to mediate between warring factions, however the locals made us feel very welcome offering us Omani coffee, bottled water and dates whilst I produced sketchbook studies of the poetic movements. In the evening I returned where the dancing was continuing well into the night. I gathered more reference material which I hope to develop into some more finished paintings. The image above is actually a small Christmas card which I made for Susan that year. The back of the card contains the following appropriate inscription from Psalm 30 verses 11 & 12:

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,

To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever.

The verses are appropriate because just after that trip, on returning to the UK, Susan had to be rushed to hospital to have emergency surgery for a twisted bowel. She had complained of stomach pains on the trip which could have been the early signs of problems. We are so pleased that it didn’t flare up whilst we were in Sur!


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The Jewel of Muscat

The Jewel of Muscat

The Jewel of Muscat

The wreck of a 9th century dhow was discovered by local fishermen off the island of Belitung. In 1998 a German company was given permission to excavate the wreck where they discovered 60,000 pieces of rare Chinese porcelain.

From the remains, a reconstruction of the sailing ship was made using original materials, including coconut fibre to sew together the hull, with the aim to sail the ship along an old trade route from Oman to Singapore.

In May 2009 I saw the Jewel of Muscat being constructed at Qantab in Oman.I was amazed to see that it was sewn together, following the construction techniques used in the wrecked ship, rather than the using more traditional methods of pegs or nails. In October 2009 I saw it in Oman’s mariner where I did a couple of sketchbook watercolours of the dhow at rest in the water without it’s masts.

After sea trials, the Jewel of Muscat set sail in February 2010 for Singapore using ancient navigation methods. I was able to track its progress through the tweets of Oman Sail. I completed this watercolour depicting the vessel sailing past a well known rock formation near Muscat, Oman. Since then I have painted many more paintings of dhows which can be seen on my website.

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Mubarakiyya Souk, Kuwait

In 2009 I spent a couple of weeks painting on location in Kuwait. Several different subjects attracted my attention and demanded to be painted. One was the entranceway to the Mubarakiyya Souk in Kuwait City.

I found a suitable place to sit outside the entranceway in the warmth of the January sunlight and peering into the darkness, I was able to pick out the architectural details and the movement of the locals wearing their Abayas and Dishdashas. Working directly onto the handmade watercolour paper in my sketchbook with paint, I was able to capture the flowing fabrics of the clothing and the rich rusty reds of the interior of the souk.

My activities attracted some attention from the locals who were both curious and friendly. These studies later became the catalyst for two studio paintings, one A4, the other a 21” x 14” watercolour which has also become a popular limited edition giclee print. I made a conscious effort to retain the fluidity of the sketchbook studies in the studio paintings, the smallest of the two already being sold.

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Dhows, Calm Waters

Dhows, Calm Waters

Dhows, Calm Waters

I recently received an order from a client in the USA for 15 copies of this limited edition print titled “Dhows, Calm Waters”. The painting was inspired by some sketchbook studies I made in watercolour of dhows in Kuwait when I was there in January 2009.

Since I first visited the Gulf back in 2007, I’ve been attracted by these ancient Arabic sailing vessels which grace the waters around Oman, the UAE, Kuwait and beyond. Silk dhows were known to travel to the Far East from Africa. Indeed, The Jewel of Muscat is a reconstruction of the Belitung Shipwreck, the wreck of an Arabian dhow which sailed a route to China around the 9th century. I saw the Jewel of Muscat under construction in Oman and at rest in harbour before its masts were fitted in 2009.

At the Creek in Dubai, one can see dozens of dhows being unloaded, their cargos ranging from fridges to food. Seen from the top of a nearby hotel, it makes a grand sight, especially towards the end of the day when the sun is setting. I have a number of sketchbook studies of the view below which I intend to re-create one day as a studio painting. Watch this space!

Sunset over Dubai Creek

Sunset over Dubai Creek


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