The Silent Space Between the Stars


I have sometimes heard people say that they are “going to their happy place”.  Recently I wondered what my imaginary happy place might be.

I think I would choose to be inside a huge self-supporting space ship out in the deep black between the stars.   The kind of ship which you could live a lifetime on with big bio-domes and loads of fuel.  Perhaps something like the ships in the old Sci Fi film “Silent Running”


[From the Film “Silent Running” 1972.]

I imagine I would be lying in  a narrow navy-style bunk and listening to the gentle hum of the air recyclers and the imperceptable low vibration from the engines.  I love the idea of the light years of silent empty space which would be all around me.  Even thinking about it feels peaceful.

So this was the inspiration for an ink drawing I did a day or so ago…


It’s called

The Silent Space Between the Stars.


Later I scanned it into Manga Studio and coloured it how it seems in my dreams…


Blue Shadow Mosura Shrimp

Since Bonnie (my dog) died I’ve struggled with managing my pain condition, especially at night.  Despite her tendency to add doggy smells to the room which should be banned under the Geneva Convention, and to kick me if she felt I was taking up too much room in my own blooming bed, she was very good at helping me manage pain.  She didn’t care about being woken up so long as her tummy got tickled and would snuggle up if things got too bad and I wasn’t coping.  Without her I’m struggling to rest properly.


So this is why I’ve not been painting for a few months.  All I’ve been able to manage is work and looking after my son.  Anyway, things are gradually improving and today I managed to paint a small quick sketch for fun.  It took about half an hour and it’s of a beautiful Blue Shadow Mosura Shrimp. (I think)

Here’s the sketch…

Here’s the beginning of the background…

And here’s the finished sketch…


Bonnie – Oil Painting Finished


Finally it’s half term!  I admit it – without Lemsip and coffee I wouldn’t have made it.  But we all got there in the end which is really great.  Now I’ve had some rest and some antibiotics I’m back to painting.


I started working on Bonnie’s portrait again.

One of the things I find tricky with oils which I’m going to have to adapt to is the waiting time between layers.  With watercolour I could whizz out my hairdryer and be on to the next stage in minutes, but now it takes a day or so and more if I’m using white (which takes a long time to dry). Normally when I’m painting I  get into the flow of it and the painting then seems to paint itself but now I am forced by the medium to have breaks and stopping and starting that peaceful painting thing that goes on inside me is difficult.  That said, I LOVE OILS – more than enough to find a way to adjust to this difference!  The way they move and blend and work just fits me like a glove.

So, the first thing I did was dump the background I painted last time.  I didn’t like it and I didn’t think it would give the contrast I wanted for my little darling doggie.  I started again with a raw umber wash…


Then when that was dry I sketched my outline onto the canvas…


Next I painted in a deep red blackground because I thought it would contrast and complement Bonnie’s coat really well…


Then there was a bit of wait.  First I was just letting the paint dry and then there was some time when I didn’t want to do anymore.  I just missed her too much to think about it.  There is this hole in my life where she used to be and I would do anything to have her back.

Finally I got back to painting her.  My first job was to just dab in the main colours and shapes not worrying about the detail – just general colours and tones and forms…


Then I added some rough details including some of her fur and her facial features…


Then finally, after a nice omlette for lunch, I finished the details.

Here she is – my lovely beautiful Bonnie…

I miss her so much.


I’m sorry for being away from my blog for so long.  I had a really difficult time a few weekends ago which left me not knowing which way was up.  I’m still really confused by it all.  I think it’s just part of being autistic.  It’s happened in one way or another all my life.  The bottom line is that I just can’t do people – they don’t make sense to me.  So often I think I finally understand the basic pattern of how people work and how to get on nicely with folk and then I do something I think is kind and good and unexpectedly get into awful trouble.  It’s so much worse because I can’t find a way to make it not happen again because I don’t understand the pattern.


Then, sadly, last week my little dog, Bonnie, died.  She had been ill since August with some subtle, and some not so subtle, symptoms which the vets were working hard to treat.  Last Wednesday (27th Sept) we woke to find her out of her mind, pacing in circles, breathing in a horrible horse and panting way and not fully aware of herself or us.  I took her straight to the vets and she had a seizure in the car on the way and then another while the team were trying to get a line in to help her.  The last seizure at the vets was very bad and they weren’t able to wake her up from it so we had to put her to sleep.

It was awful to see her like that and then worse to have to let her go.  Now I find so many moments in my day when I would share a treat with her or say hello to her or sit with her and those moments are just empty.  I know to some people dogs are just an animal, but to me she was my close family and I miss her really badly.  She was the one who helped me when my pain was bad at night, she always wanted a treat and a tummy tickle no matter what time it was.  She was my friend and I never had to worry about my autism with her because she wasn’t bothered by it so long as I loved and cared for her.

We scattered her ashes on Sunday morning in a hole she actually dug herself under a bench near the Common.  She dug it over the period of a year or so when I was able to sit on the bench while she played.  She adored being muddy and making a little nest like that – especially if she’d just been to the groomers.


So, to remember her I’m going to do a painting of her.  My plan is to try it in oils, alla prima (well with primer on first.)

I have quite a few photos of my lovely little girl…

When she first came to us she was shaved all over to get her clean.

Despite her shave she still had a beautiful face!

She went through times of being quite shaggy (which she liked enormously.)


And times of being much tidier (which she tried to bring an end to as soon as possible by rubbing her freshly brushed hair and beard on her bed).


She wasn’t the cleverest little dog.  After ten years of teaching her to lie on her blanket on the bed this is what she would do…


I decided to try painting her based on this photo…


So I made a quick sketch with markers – just to see the main lines.

I wasn’t really aiming for a drawing here so much as a map.

In terms of the colours, because she’s grey and black and white I thought I would prime my canvas with the same shades.  I kind of played around with it when I was priming it, but I almost certainly won’t keep the primer background as I think she will need one or two strong colours behind her to push her beautiful greys to the foreground.

So this is my primed canvas which I now need to get dry before I paint.

Mega-City Undercover – Book 1


I am now back at work and, having had a really difficult weekend before starting back, I’ve not had the energy to paint.  So I’ve been kicking back and just reading comics in the evenings which is my best way of relaxing when I’m not painting or fishing.

This week I read a brilliant trade paperback (a collection of serialised comic stories) called…

Mega-City Under Cover

Mega-City Under Cover (book 1) was one of the best 2000AD collections I’ve read in a long while. It’s published by Rebellion and well worth a look.  The book is based in the world of Judge Dredd, in his city, Mega City One but follows the lives adn struggles of under cover Judges rather than the Dredd style Judge.  The book’s split into three main parts with several stories in each.

In the first part you’ve got three brilliant Lenny Zero stories written by Andy Diggle and drawn by Jock. They are like an cross between an edgy cyberpunk tale and a noir detective story. It’s sort of what you’d get if you crossed Raymond Chandler and William Gibson. (Think ‘The Long Goodbye’ mixed with ‘Neuromancer’). The characters were excellent. I couldn’t help rooting for our hero, ‘Zero’, from the start. The stories each have their own tale to tell and each form part of a longer story which fits together beautifully. It was a joy to read.



Lenny Zero – Art by Jock. Copyright with Rebellion.

Jock’s art in the Lenny Zero stories is beautifully done. His style fits the theme perfectly. The stories are all drawn in black and white with grey tones in a way which has an excellent grungy futuristic feel without losing the definition of any of the characters or losing sight of the plot. You always know which character is which and what is going on but still have this beautifully styled artwork.  Here’s some more of his work.


‘Lenny Zero’ – Art by Jock Copyright with Rebellion


The second and third set of stories all come under the Mega-City One undercover cop title ‘Low Life’ written by Rob Williams. The series as a whole follows the adventures of undercover judges in a particularly run down area of the city called ‘Low Life’ where criminality is normal and nasty, and life is cheap. Life for judges in Mega-City One is never easy but if the judges are undercover too the demands of fitting into a criminal fraternity and still being a judge constantly pull their personalities apart which makes for a really interesting read. All of the Low life stories filling the rest of the book are excellent – some of the best 2000AD I’ve ever read.


‘Low Life’ – Art by Henry Flint. Copyright with Rebellion.


The first half of ‘Low Life’ is drawn by Henry Flint. Again it’s done in black and white with grey tones and it looks absolutely superb. Henry Flint manages to combine a strong dynamic drawing style with amazingly clear and beautifully rendered art. It’s an absolute pleasure to look at and some of my favourite art of all time.

Here’s some more of the brilliant Flint…



‘Low Life’ – Art by Henry Flint. Copyright with Rebellion.


‘Low Life’ – Art by Henry Flint. Copyright with Rebellion.


The last third of the book is also beautifully written by Rob Williams but is drawn by Simon Coleby.  I’m afraid, in this particular book, I didn’t get on with his art at all. I found it generally too high in contrast – too many solid blacks and solid whites.  I struggled to work out which character was which . (The same character frequently looked very different from panel to panel and some different characters looked the same as each other.)  As a result I found it difficult to follow the story at times and sometimes couldn’t work out what the picture was of.  I think it’s a shame I struggled here because, what I could read of the stories by Rob Williams in this part of the book, was still great.  I suspect that if Simon’s art had been passed to a colourist before publishing it would have scanned much better, as coloured clothing could help track which character is which.  (Also, I think it’s worth noting that  this particular art was first published 12 years ago.  Simon’s more current work, on ‘Yaeger’ for instance, is outstanding!)


So overall I’d give this book 4 out of 5 stars. Basically the first two thirds of the book were some of the best comic stories I’ve ever read and it was only let down a little by the art in the last third of the book which I couldn’t get on with personally.


Here’s Jock‘s cover art for the book in all it’s glory… (Again copyright – Rebellion)


[Please note: None of the above art is by me – all art is Copyright Rebellion and by the people named in the text.]

Bluebells for a friend

I friend who recently left our school asked me if I would create some icons for her to use as she starts up her own business.  I really enjoy helping people so this week I worked on that (I’ll back to the elephants soon).

I began by trying to paint some stuff digitally to get a feel for it.

But what I produced this was felt souless to me so I went back to more traditional art.

I began again using a picture I’d made for the same lady as a leaving present.  It’s got part of a famous poem on it which was written by a lady from Bristol called Minnie Haskins (1875 – 1957) and was quoted by King George VI in one of his Christmas day speeches.

I keep a scan of all the artwork I do, even if I don’t put it all up here, so I still had the scan…


Here is the banner and the icon I made using this painting…


Icon big (500 x 500)

Same icon small (50 x 50)



Then I had a go at painting some watercolour bluebells.  I painted one picture which incorporated the golden spiral (which is based on the golden ratio)…


I really liked the mixture of art and science in this but it didn’t feel right as a finished product.  So I made another watercolour painting…


(I’ve added a shadow to this painting here to make it stand out a bit. I’m not sure if it helps or hinders!)

Then I used part of this to make similar graphics…


Icon big (500 x 500)

Same icon small (50 x 50)


It all worked out fine and I think my friend was pleased.  It was a really fun thing to do.   🙂

All hands on deck!

We had a holiday this past week on the Norfolk Broads.  We were living on board a 4 berth motor cruiser, me, my son and two friends from Church.  It was incredibly relaxing.  I love being on the water, always have.

So, no art this week – just a few holiday photos – back to my elephants next week I hope!

This is the sunset south of Ludham Village.  There was really good fishing here.  I got personal bests for Perch and Roach and my first ever Rudd.  I caught twelve in 90 minutes.  It was an amazing place – utterly beautiful!


Next we have a couple of windmills – there were loads of these!


Here’s a photo of a beautiful sailing boat.  We saw many of these and gave them space and priority on the river.  They’re like silent graceful birds skimming through the water.


Lastly I photographed the reeds at the sides of the broads.  I’m not sure I can explain what I was trying to capture with this photo, but there is a vastness to the skies in that place and a barreness to the vegetation which makes you feel so alive because somehow your soul knows that you’re in the heart of the wild.  It’s an incredibly freeing feeling.


‘The Love of Elephants’ #2 – UnderPainting and Colour Study


I carried on working on my elephant oil painting this week.

Going on from my basic pencil outline on the canvas board from last week…

I added what’s called a ‘tonal ground’ – which just means a middling kind of colour, not dark or light.  I used burnt umber thinned with my solvent thinner Sansodor.  (I would have used raw umber but my set didn’t have any!)

It’s actually more even than this rather poor photo suggests.  Then I gave it a day to dry.

Next I used burnt umber again with just Sansador to sketch in some of the main dark areas of my elephants.

And again I gave it another day to dry.

My next job was to paint in either the underpainting or the first layer of the actual finished picture.  I had to read up on this before deciding which way I would go.

In the end I decided not to try to do what they call the ‘Flemmish Technique’ second time I’ve painted something in oils – it seemed too advanced.  What I wanted was something simple which worked.  I do like the idea of doing an underpainting because it helps me work more freely.  But I didn’t want it to be too much – just a guide to lights, darks and middles.  So instead of that Flemmish thing I just extended my sketch to include some lighter areas.  I used underpainting white (for a shorter drying time) mixed with some yellow ochre to give a light brown / creamy colour and then thinned it just a bit with Sansador.

So here’s my completed underpainting…

This is not the finished product – just a guide for the real work which will go on top.  (You can also see, I also got hold of some raw umber when I bought the underpainting white.  I used this for the shadow under the two animals.)

My next job was to more accurately work out what I want the final painting to look like, so I used my scanned ouline and made a quick and dirty digital painting as a guide for my final colours and tones.  I decided to mostly drop out the blues and purples and just go for set of analogous colours – reds oranges, yellows, and browns.  My thinking is that this will give the scene the peacefulness I’m after.

Here’s my digital colour study…


So now I’ve just got to paint it for real!!!

‘The Love of Elephants’ – an oil painting #1

I have been waiting and waiting to have a try at oil painting again, having only painted one previous oil painting in my life before.

So when I saw saw a set of Winsor and Newton Artist’s Oil Colours which were half price I finally bought some.  Then I spent a long time trying to work out which mediums to use.  Previously I’d been very traditional, painting with turps and linseed oil as my mum had showed me, but I can’t go back to that turps smell again.  So, after some research, and some very kind help from the technical people at Winsor and Newton, I decided to try Liquin for the first time and Sansador which is a low odour solvent.  I had some problems with my pain last week and was generally feeling unwell so I couldn’t get to the shops.  Instead I ordered them online – they should come very soon.

So what to paint?

I knew I wanted to paint an animal (my favourite painting subject) and finally settled on elephants.  I like them because they look really kind of odd in the most lovely way but at the same time they have these beautiful loving relationships between members of their family.

I made some pencil sketches in my sketchbook to begin with…





After doing these I decided to make a final sketch of a mother and her calf for my main painting.  I did this on canvas board, which was quite tricky to draw on with pencil because it’s got so much texture.

I didn’t put any shading or detail in – just enough to show my paintbrush where to go.  Here’s the final outline sketch:




Now I think I’m going to paint the elephants in purple/blue greys and soft browns but I needed a background colour and I needed to sort out my colour palette generally.  I want the final picture to have a calm restful complete feeling so I’m going to keep the colours restricted to two groups – yellow/browns and possibly grey/blue/purple (in the shadows) although this will be very muted,

Here’s a digital sketch of the colour ideas I’m working on at the moment…



My plan will be to make the greys in the above colour sketch just a little more blue/purple to show the coolness in the shade of these big animals and to complement the yellow orange of the savannah.

This is as far as I’ve got this week.  I’m still feeling a bit under the weather so I didn’t make a start but I’m quite excited to give this a go.

My health wasn’t helped by a big thunder storm last night.  I quite enjoy storms generally but my geriatric miniature schnauzer kept us both awake half the night with a new trick.  She would jump off my bed when the lightning flashed against the curtains and then jumped back on in terror when the thunder roared.  It was too hot for her to sleep really close to me which usually calms her down and, when she wasn’t jumping on and off, she kept panting and shaking from fear in the storm.  In the end I think we both got to sleep at about 3am when I put my hand over her front paws so she knew I was there but I didn’t make her too warm.  She is a silly sausage!