Monday, October 25, 2010


Back home and it's sweet. The colours seem brighter and the smells more pungent. I didn't realise how much I missed the sea breathing in and out. And I can have good long conversations again (but the world still doesn't change!). So I will take stock, carry on painting, work in the restaurant a bit and go sailing!

Two new portraits, Samanthas' mum Margaret and my sons' partner Paul

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

My Italian Honeymoon is almost over. I leave on the 21st Sep, spend 10 days in Sydney with my daughter and family and back in NZ on the 3rd Oct. I will keep the apartment here and probably come back in March next year but who knows with my record! It's been a wild adventure with many highs and lows. I have felt at home here in Roccasecca but I need the language so will go home and practice hard.
The photos are from a good exhibition I had in Thomas Aquinas original house last weekend.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Francesca and Lydia

A couple more portraits. No commissions this week but I still paint every day

Monday, August 23, 2010


A portrait of friend Franca. I am getting faster and a little better. The need for speed is to keep the cost down, nobody has any money to spend on art here and I don't want an apartment full of paintings!

After one hour

Two hours

Three hours

Three and a half hours + half an hour prep = Four hours total

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Guiseppe and Laura

A couple more portraits. Because I socialise on the street at night (and a painting hermit during the day) most of the commissions I get are from photos taken in the dark which are often blurry and difficult to see detail. Perhaps it is good for me to be not so particular!

Friday, August 13, 2010


So do you need talent to be an artist (or anything) or can you make it through sheer hard work? And does it matter? Perhaps tapping in to your creativity is something you need talent for but I think you can learn that also. So why are artists considered special? Different than a good plumber? It's all a hoax (look at that word for a while, unusual) so as long as we don't tell the common people we will continue to be special. Hope no common people are reading this. Do you need talent to be a common person.....

Monday, August 9, 2010

St. Thomas Aquinas

My latest portrait (well until the one I did today) - Monica from the best gelato shop in town

My house is the last on the street out of Roccasecca right next to the statue Of St. Thomas Aquinas who was born here. He stands fifteen metres high, bare foot with a book in his hand, leaning forward as if about to stride out over the plain and is perhaps the reason the people are so proud of their town. There are many public sculptures both old and contemporary in a town half the size of Whitianga (take note councillors!).
At six I kneel to the altar of my coffee machine (no room for it on my bench) and walk early along unpretentious country lanes. Small farms, around 3 hectares, olives, grapes, fruit and nuts, large vege gardens, tomato, bean, eggplant, lettuce. They grow all their own food and make wine, olive oil, tomato paste etc. Small flocks of floppy eared sheep, goats and a cow or two graze in fields of cornflower blue and queen annes lace.
The well kept houses 2-3 story, some white but mostly soft creams and browns with orange tile roofs without flower gardens all concrete and tile with big pot plants.
I climb high up a stony track in a narrow gorge to the 11th century church Eremo Spirito Santo built into the rock with a hermit cave above it. Well preserved but used rarely except for the sheep (religion Baha’i??) it’s as if time has stopped. The bell up as if to ring down and inside a withered apple an open drawer and faded family photos.
So I swing home to a day at the easel happy with the rhythm of my life.

Monday, August 2, 2010

A Lone Wolf

Being completely alone in a foreign country where I don't speak the language hasn't been easy but I wonder how much can be attributed to the residue of 42 years of relationships. I have become used to a shared experience with partner and children and now the joy and pain are completely mine (and yours now!). Lonliness is a strange experience, you can be lonely in a crowd and unlonely by your self but really in the end it is only a state of mind and I like to change the rules in my head to change the experience. You know how time, which is constant, goes fast and slow depending whether you are enjoying yourself or not. Imagine if you could make it go slow when you are having a good time and fast when you are being tortured. It must be able to be done, it's only a state of mind.
My Italian is improving. I know all the regular patrons of my bar and we have great fun every night. They teach me new words then laugh at my pronunciation. They are a warm and loving people as long as you keep money, religion and the mafia out of the conversation! What's left??

Monday, July 26, 2010

Music for the soul

Exquisite music and visuals from 23 yr old Iclandic composer Olafur Arnalds by way of Carol Diehl If you don't get fullscreen left click and it will take you to youtube.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Some more portraits. I'm starting to understand the human face a little better with all the practice.

Monday, July 12, 2010


Granny (nonna) who lives below me is a real hoot. She must be in her 90s and I hear her slippers on the stairs and a little knock or if my door is open she waltzes in and looks in every room and if there are clothes on the bed she throws up her hands in horror. I haven't got a clue what she is talking about but am learning to read her expression so I get the si or non in the right place. If I get it wrong she slaps me about the face and she keeps tugging my long hair and beard, shaking her head and clucking so I guess she disapproves. Already I have a wardrobe full of her dead husbands coats and shirts, ties and underpants and she brings me homemade cakes. It'll be shoes next because she can't understand my penchant for bare feet.
It all makes up the tapestry of life.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Street art

Spent the weekend exhibiting at the Fest of Caprile the town next door. Painted and played guitar on the street. Lotsa fun!

Friday, June 25, 2010

More characters

My temporary studio at the castello. Not a bad place to work with a view over the town and no curtains to splash paint on! The easel painting is of Rita with a 5 hour difference. She is a lovely character at my local, hardworking with a brilliant smile but with an underlying longing. Michele is in the background.

Monday, June 21, 2010


I ask myself why Roccasecca feels like home to me and I guess there are many answers. Sometimes it just takes a friendly face to change your perception of a town and from the very first night I have been blessed with many friendly faces. But there is more to it than that. In Gagnieres I felt claustrophobic with the hills coming right down into the village. I'm used to living by the sea with wide horizons and Roccasec perched high on a mountain looks out over a very wide plain which gives me the impression of an ocean, particularly in the morning when it is covered in mist. But more. There are at least 10 public sculptures, in a town much smaller than Whitianga, with a huge (15 metre) one of Tommaso Aquinas the middle age philosopher who was born here. Is it his legacy that brings artists? My apartment is right next to his figure (fate?), leaning forward as if about to stride out over the plain.
So I really can't answer the question but do I need to? Sometimes something just feels right and you grab it with both hands.
La Locanda, the hotel that bought my sculpture have generously offered me free accomodation until my apartment is ready in 2 or 3 days. It will be good to have an kitchen again!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Poor Traits

OK I have finished Allessandro, he doesn't look much different but you will have to believe me that he looks better in real life (paint!). Ugo is finished too, a lovely 86 year old and a regular at the card table

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Allessandro (yet again)

Just about finished Allessandro, alright I have done my 8 hours but it looks like he has a wad of cotton wool on his head. I need to settle it down with some shadow. Please!

Friday, June 4, 2010

I'm back in France but not for long, maybe two weeks. I've fallen in love with the small town and people of Roccasecca where I stayed during the exhibition and will head back there to find a place to live. I sold my sculpture to the Locanda Del Castello a beauitiful old hotel, family run and who have become very good friends.

The title is 'Feb. 1944 We died. For What!'
Over 300 civilians died during the bombing of the Abbey on Monte Cassino ordered by Freyberg the NZ Commander. I have portrayed a mother, father and child rising phoenix like out of the ruined buiding and looking out at the world today and asking the question "Was our sacrifice worth it?" Is there less war? Are peoples' values better? I think not.

You can just make out the sculpture below the hotel with the old church on the hill leading to 2nd century ruins

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Allessandros' tyres have been slashed again. He says it's because he is from Rome but I don't know. He rocks between anger and laughter then suddenly picks up Mr Brigadiers' glass and hurls it at the teenagers across the street. There is a moment when it's alright as the glass bounces once but miracles don't happen twice and everybody lets out a sigh as it smashes and lets loose the young men. Allessandro is down and I try to deflect the kicks then it is over, nothing malicious just bantams crowing and fighting.
He plays chess like a gentleman. Indicates when I am in danger and wants me to take back a move that he considers stupid and then cries out 'I cannot play like this' when I won't. We play fast. Bang, bang, bang and as soon as he feels I have an advantage he knocks his king over with a great flourish. Sure he wins but then he gives me Stautons chess book in english and says I have to read it from cover to cover before he'll play me again.
I feel for him. His heart is in Rome but his ailing parents are in Roccasecca. He must travel sometimes 3 hours each way to work as a lighting tehnician in Rome for 1000euros a month. 'But I love them' he pleads and 'I can't afford to live and I can't afford to die'. He's fond of quotes and not a good listener but what he says has huge meaning and I can sit with him for hours trying to decipher his wonderful mind. We have a common love of Bertrand Russell and both read his 'History of Western Philosophy' at an early age which certainly opened my eyes and, I suspect, his.
So heres to you brother. Long may you hold court at the bar and I will sit and wonder and kiss your feet.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Long trip down to Roccasecca (an hour south of Rome) with my sculpture on the trailer and $200 in motorway fees. Erected said sculpture in the foyer of the library building where the NZ exhibition is being held and helped hang the other works inside. Not allowed titles, price or name on works because its not the Italian way, so it means that my work will be incomprehensible. The organisation this end is disastrous no media, no publicity etc. and I feel we have been used and abused. It has cost us all a lot of time and money to get works here and the lack of professionalism is not good enough.
OK I have had my gripe. The town of Roccasecca where I am staying is lovely. It has old 2nd century ruins on the hills overlooking the town and is just a small poorish village where the locals love to meet you and you can get a big beer for $3. I will stay till the end of the exhibition on the 29th then who knows I might be tempted to stay longer.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Towards Italy

Off towards Italy tomorrow. Still no computer and my phone wont send images so you will have to wait to see the sculpture. Doing an unveiling ( actually a putting on of heads) tonite. It has been a very wet and cold three days in the rush to get them finished. Dont know if they `work` as usual after six weeks of living and breathing them its difficult to see them properly;
My French is improving but still a long way to go before I can hold proper conversations. I tried drinking whisky to help understand but the people I was with drank it too and their conversation got faster and they used more slang! Now I have to try to understand Italian!
Ah its tough! New country code on my phone, dont know what it is yet.
Will keep you posted as I can.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Bloody computers!

Just when I get connected, my brand new expensive computer is kaput!!Who knows how long it will take to fix, I have been waiting 3 weeks for nails for my nail gun. I said I wouldnt get frustrated didnt I. My sculpture for Italy is going well (even with a hammer!) and now without a computer I`ll have even more time. My phone in France is 0033 (0) 636613334 if you want to contact me. Not that I`m desperate for friends!!

Friday, April 23, 2010

At last I have internet in my house. It's only taken 3 weeks which is phhh! nothing. I don't get frustrated with the speed (snailpace) that things work here, it makes you stop and think. However having internet makes the world seem much smaller and New Zealand not quite so far away. A few photos below of my whereabouts.

My garden towards my house

the view of the mountains from my workshop

The entrance to my abode

A typical visitor

A typical tableau for aperitif

Caught working in my makeshift workshop

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Run rabbit run!

So I take this half lapin (rabbit, 2 euro) and discard the eyes. Now I don't know if dey have four-eyed rabbits in France, it's a wonder dey catch dem if dey have. Anyway the two eyes are gone, kaput, I mean if you invite yo friends to eat and dey see dem seeing dem dey not be coming back. Well I chops him up a bit an flours him and puts him in a hot pan wif da local olive oil til he is brown all over and smelling good. Bang he is in da pot. Den I find da veges I have in de bottom of de cupboard, onion, carrot, corjet?, potato, garlic, fenuil (fennel) an I chops dem big and hearty and browns dem in de pan til they smell etc. Bang dey are in de pot too. Now yo best cognac yo put in a glass and drink quick(da world might end before yo are finished!, yo worst brandy yo put in de hot pan an flambo (light with a match dear boy, you numbskull!) an scrape up all de goodies from da bottom. Bingo into da pot. Yo cover with water. On no account do yo drink da water, the same without alcohol is very dangerous! Throw three handfuls of de brown lentil, some salt, fat peppercorns, herbs de provence (or whatever), a little chilli and simmer for 14 days. But, But! Yo must eat after 2-3 hours. Now I don't tell yo to taste but yo should know by now. After the good cooking (the shorter version) yo have by yo side, balsamic, soy sauce, red wine vinegar an yo taste an yo add a little an yo taste. Need more chilli? Need more salt? Da lapin must have a balance and his eyes are still watchin yo to make sure yo balance him right.
OK yo can use da chicken if yo want!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The town plane trees stand imprisoned in concrete, their leperous arms raised up with small baton fingers in a plea for spring to send new clothes and a neighbour also leperous with whiskers and the detrius of life and in need of new clothes spouts old wisdom in great gusts of French while his dog Poupoul looks on in disgust. He's heard it all before. He says non to wine but manages to drink a lot and with each emphasis he pulls his chair closer to the table till he cannot move so he must leave but after he is up and away he thinks of something else and he is back with the dance of the chair and his big secret. He is an Anarchist!! I can't remember if I've met an anarchist before but he fits the bill.
I feel we are going to be good friends.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

In France wireless internet sux!! It appears to be everywhere but connection and security codes etc etc make it difficult so I haven├Ęt been able to keep you up with my adventures.
travelled quickly south in a rented car(to try and warm up), stayed with friends of friends in NW Provence and more f of f near Marseille, bought a Puegeot 406 (so now I am French!) and then travelled back up to an apartment in Gagniere a very small town an hour from Avignon where the locals look at me very strangely, is it the hat or the popcorn machine strapped to my back!! The apt is on the second floor of a large house and has lovely big rooms and opens out to a large garden where I can work. The family live below, Mum, Dad and 4 boys and are great fun with lots going on.
Still need tools and materials before I can start my sculpture but at least I have a place to build it. I am finding the language difficult, I ca make myself understood a little but have no idea what they are saying. I will have to continue to work hard on it.
The bread and cheese are just as I remembered them!

Saturday, April 3, 2010


From the coddled, easy life he is jet-thrusted into the veins and battle scarred arteries of the city he loves. The train sheek, sheek, sheeks and the chic,chic,chic Parisian women live up to their reputation from toe to coiffure. Ah, the city of springtime love. But not now as she spits him in the face and fumbles his coat with icy fingers while he limps along with arthritic knives in his hip and knee and the Georges Pompideau is closed so no succour from Lucian Freud. The computer lied, the language is not remotely like what it taught him but after a friendly pernod and a new sun on his back he knew there was a poem there somewhere.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


It's hard saying goodbye to friends when you don't know when you will see them again but I see us all as thousands of little spinning cogs randomly living our lives and connecting by chance or design. Sometimes the encounter is meaningful and the two cogs mesh and slow down and sometimes it is a brief encounter and they barely touch before spinning away. However the length of time between encounters often determines the amount of meshing involved. So the longer the interval the slower the cogs spin when they meet.. In other words the quality of the friendship stays the same even if you don't see each other for a while.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

How heavy is a life?

Autumn is upon us with cool mornings and brilliant skies. Spent yesterday upside down under the boat painting her bottom (I'm usually a breast man) and fitting new zinc anodes on the sail drives in preparation for winter. There is a lot of door closing for my move to France but they sure ain't going to be locked. I've been weighing my tools and rating them in order of importance so I am not over weight on the plane. Not much room for clothes but I'm taking my beloved Maton guitar. Paints are too heavy but ideas travel well. The hat collection has to come. Can I fit a life into two suitcases? I suppose we fit a life into one coffin. Freedom!

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Road to Monte Cassino

In twelve days I fly out to start a new adventure in France. Two days in Paris then a week travelling down to Marseille exploring the countryside looking for a house and workshop to rent. I only have six weeks to finish a sculpture for the Cassino exhibition which starts on the 15th May, it will be pushing it but I work well under pressure. Originally I thought of constructing a bombed building and have two figures rising out of it (Phoenix?) denoting peace, love and beauty (the exhibition has a theme of peace and remembrance of the war) but lately I have been thinking about those who died and if they could rise from the building and see the world today what would they think of it. Was it worth the sacrifice? Have we used it wisely? Are our values better? Is there less war? I don't think so. It's going to be hard to express but maybe on the two figures faces a look of bewildered horror that their efforts have been in vain along with some of the results of our hollow, celebrity seeking society, a TV with the E Channel running, a barbie doll, an AK47 etc etc.
I am a fan of hope and love and beauty but for them to be acheived we have to look very hard at ourselves and that is one of the job descriptions of an artist.

Monday, March 8, 2010

What the.......

OK just don't ask!! The title is 'Head in the Clouds but Open to Reason'. It seemed like a good idea at the time (the wee small hours) but then most things do. At least I was able to recycle lots of wood from our old bach and it's kind of nice that it's made another little house/lighthouse/abomination! It was in an exhibition at a local cafe but today I assembled at the Mercury Estate Winery, it will probably scare all their customers away.