Tiger, tiger

I had a very rare day yesterday. So rare that I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a day like it, which is saying something. I actually had nowhere to be, nothing urgent to do, nobody relying on me to do anything and no reason not to take a day to indulge myself in the things I wanted to do rather than the things I was obligated to do.

And boy did I enjoy myself!

It took a while for me to get into the swing of it but I spent some time creating a picture of a tiger’s face, which I quickly did in oil pastels in my A4 sketchbook (and which has already been claimed by my son’s girlfriend!). I absolutely loved that feeling of applying colour to paper, and it prompted me to recreate it in oil paints on an A2 sized canvas, taking my time over it and taking care to build it up in layers rather than doing a “colouring in” exercise that I have tended to do in the past.

I copied them from a photograph online, and for the first time, I didn’t trace it onto the canvas beforehand. I sketched out the outlines in pencil for the pastel sketch, but…and I’m so glad I could do this…the painting was done entirely freehand with no backing sketch laid down first. It is totally painted and it represents a big step in my confidence as well as my developing technique. Who knows, I might even feel brave enough to take my materials out into the open air and paint something “live” sometime soon!

Here is the pastel sketch:

Tiger sketch in oil pastels

And here is the painting in its various stages of completion:

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I usually find that doing something creative helps if I am feeling a bit out of focus within myself, and yesterday’s and today’s activities have helped me feel better. Not that there has been anything drastically wrong, but you know what I mean? There doesn’t have to be something wrong for something to make you feel better.

Having a totally free day yesterday was the key to it and I’m really glad I haven’t squandered the time to myself. I’m really pleased with the results and I’m looking forward to attempting a landscape or something next time.







Who says my son is no oil painting??!

I have had the urge to put colour to page a bit recently, but plunged into oils on canvas this evening. An unexpected night off band and with a couple of hours spare I thought, why not?

And here he is.


Will work on the details a bit tomorrow and then we’ll see how he looks then. Not bad for a work in progress and for someone with no skill in art whatsoever!

I’m working from a photo because it was hard enough for him to sit still for that let alone for a painting, and it is sepia toned so I can improvise on the tones. Not brave enough to go all out “interpretation” yet, but let’s see what develops over the summer.


Picture of the Day

I was sorting out some stuff this weekend and I came across this sketch I did a few years ago tucked away in one of my music files. Don’t ask how it got there…I’m at a loss too!

I remember doing this one and one of Elvis at the same time but I can’t find the Elvis picture anywhere. It’s probably tucked away somewhere “safe” (like the Christmas chocolate I found last week was).

Anyway, here’s my picture of the day. It’s a pencil sketch of Humphrey Bogart done by me a few years ago one afternoon when my pencil got itchy. It’s getting itchy again now having seen this one…watch out for more coming along!

A sketch of Humphrey Bogart by me, scanned at 600dpi
A sketch of Humphrey Bogart by me, scanned at 600dpi






Art, Christianity

Foxes Have Holes – A Reflection

I delivered a reflection on this painting this evening at a Taize service at my church. My text is below the painting – I haven’t edited it from the way I delivered it so it is written in a different style to my usual stuff. I hope it speaks to you.

foxes have holes
Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891 – 1959) The Foxes Have Holes

Foxes: Vermin? Or victim?

Hunter? Or hunted?

Predator? Or parasite?

When we think of foxes we perhaps think of the storybook fox, the Aesop’s fable fox offering a sneaky lift across the river with the Gingerbread Man on his back. Maybe we think of the children’s character Basil Brush. All cute and cuddly maybe, but each with their own streak of cunning and wiliness.

We perhaps might think of the rural fox and his place in the so-called entertainment of others – horses, red coats, hunting horn, beagles…

We might think of the urban fox, skinny, frightened, foraging for food in gardens and bins. Occasionally overstepping the mark and attacking people in their homes and children in their beds if reports are to be believed.

Like us, the fox is made up of different things: he is sometimes two sides of the same coin. Who of us can say we are wholly one thing or another? Sometimes we are the victim, sometimes we are the hunter. Most times we are a combination of everything the fox embodies.

In this picture we see Jesus with three foxes. We see them in three very different ways – we see the face of one, the tail end of another, and we see the back of the head of the third. Jesus has his arms flung wide and is embracing them all, no matter how they are relating to him.

The power of three at work in the picture – three foxes, three poses. We even see three of Jesus’ hands and feet (one is hidden under his tunic). A classic device in art and literature but one that speaks volumes to us as Christians.

So which one of the foxes are you? Are you the one sat at Jesus’ feet, facing him, keen to hear his every word? Eager and alert, ready for action?

Or are you the one tucked under Jesus’ arm? Secure in your den, looking out at the world confident that Jesus is there and shielding you from the danger and harm outside.

Maybe you see yourself as the one disappearing from view, showing your back to the world. Maybe you are hiding from something, maybe you are desperate for refuge from something, maybe right at this moment you simply don’t want to see Jesus.

Look at the picture and where Jesus’ attention is focused.

Yes he is shielding the – possibly injured – fox in its den but he is ignoring him, as he is ignoring the one sat at his feet. Jesus is looking at and speaking to the one who is trying to get away and hide, the one who doesn’t want to see him.

There is something of all of us here in this picture. Maybe we see ourselves as one of the foxes in its totality, maybe you are a composite of all three.

There are times when we see ourselves at Jesus’ feet, keen, eager, ears pointed and waiting for the cue to spring into action. Full of energy, full of zest, heart and soul overflowing with the Holy Spirit, joyous in our lives and ready for anything.

There are times too when things are not so positive and we may want to turn away from Jesus… when life gets too hard to endure – illness, bereavement, injustice, repression all mount up and we just don’t want to know our Saviour.

We sometimes need the rest and respite that time at home in our den brings us, secure in the knowledge that Jesus has his arms out ready to keep us safe.

However we identify ourselves, and whichever of these foxes we align ourselves to, we know that Jesus is there for us in whatever capacity we need him to be.

Teacher, protector, calling us to his side, Jesus is there no matter how we see him and no matter how fox-like we are.