31. Colin’s Summer Sale

I’m pleased to announce that I have a selection of prints and original paintings for sale. The prints are being offered at prices that barely cover the cost of production and most of the paintings are less than half price. If you wish to make a purchase please send a message via this blog or contact me by email at colinmurrayart@gmail.com. The prices quoted don’t include postage and packing.

1. Friday Woods – print size 100 x 92 cm actual image size 87 x 69 cm – Fine Art quality print laid with pigmented inks onto hahnemuhle paper two are available at 300 GDP each both are signed by the artist.

3. Still Life with a pint of Guinness – 72 x 50 cm – Fine Art quality stretcher framed canvas print signed on the top edge- 250 GDP.

13. Night (after Auguste Raynaud) – oil on canvas 600 GDP.


30. The Triumph of Greed Anger and Stupidity

Triumph large file

Oil on canvas – 102 x 76 cm – 40” x 30” – after a drawing by Paul Rumsey.

In eastern philosophies such as Buddhism, greed anger and stupidity or ignorance, are called the ‘three poisons’ and they are regarded as the root causes of human misery. The thinking behind this is fairly obvious, stupidity is associated with pestilence and environmental mismanagement, greed causes inflation and anger leads to war. Of these poisons stupidity is the worst because greedy people are also stupid people that are never satisfied no matter how much wealth they may acquire. And even if there is such a a thing as reincarnation there is no universal bank where funds can be deposited for use in one’s next lifetime. A person motivated by greed can never know true contentment and peace of mind. The actions caused by greed frequently lead to conflict and warfare and they inevitably engender hatred envy and fear. An angry person is also stupid because people ruled by the life state of anger easily succumb to hot impulses and rash actions with consequences that are difficult to erase. The three poisons of greed anger and stupidity are very resilient and pernicious, they exist in every human being and have been able to penetrate institutions, religions, governments and nations. However we can make a difference by being aware of these poisons working within our own lives and the environment and their negative impact can be offset by cultivating the ‘three virtues’ of courage wisdom and compassion.

In this picture the procession is led by Stupidity sitting astride the three-headed beast that represents Anger. Greed follows sitting upon a globe that indicates the planet earth, the globe is resting on a huge ingot of gold and this is being carried by paramilitaries in much the same way as pallbearers carry a coffin. The Trump lookalike symbolizes Greed although he could easily be any one of the three poisons. He has a halo and wings because the love of money is like a religion for many people and he is surrounded by symbolic imagery showing warfare and industrial pollution. At the rear of the procession we see the figure of Death wearing a bow tie and a wig and rolling forward the machinery of warfare. The vultures indicate those organizations that profit from despair and misery. The burning forest in the background shows the inevitable destruction that occurs when the three poisons run rampant.

I don’t often paint pictures that have a message but the tumultuous events of recent times have forced my brush. I’m not a natural when it comes to art drawn purely from the imagination so I’ve used some of the ideas of my old friend Paul Rumsey. Paul is a very talented artist who mainly works in charcoal and pen and ink. The following sequence of images show Paul’s drawing and then my copy which was my main source of visual information when I was painting this picture. These are followed by a series of images showing the development of the composition.

Paul Rumsey - Triumph of Folly

The Triumph of Folly – Paul Rumsey – charcoal drawing 1994.

Paul Rumsey - Folly copy by me

The Triumph of Folly – Colin Murray – pencil drawing 46 x 43 cm – late 1990’s

Folly oil 1

Folly oil 2

Folly oil 3

Folly oil 4

Folly oil 5

Triumph large file

Triumph detail


29. Mermaids

Black Mermaid lighter


Both of these pictures are in oils on canvas and they measure 76 x 56 cm.

The mythical beings called mermaids have always fascinated human beings for several millennia. The first mermaid story appeared in Assyria in about 1200 BC. A goddess called Atargtis (who was the mother of the Assyrian queen Semiramis) had fallen in love with a shepherd and unintentionally killed him. Full of remorse she threw herself into a lake and took the form of a fish but the water spirits could not conceal the divine nature of her beauty and so the first mermaid was created.

Mermaids have been associated with the Sirens from Greek Mythology. The Sirens lived on a rocky isle and used the power of song and flattering words to lure sailors to shipwreck and death. They are featured in Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ and we read how Odysseus had himself tied to the mast of his ship so he could hear the songs of the Sirens whilst his sailors had their ears blocked with wax to protect them from the seductive singing. When they drew close to the Sirens’ isle Odysseus became so enraptured by the sweet sounds that he begged his men to untie him but they had been forewarned and rowed on.

Mermaids have also been linked with other perilous events such as floods and storms. However in some folk stories mermaids are shown to be benevolent magical beings helping human kind and sometimes even falling in love. In Scottish folk lore there are many stories about Selkis, these mythological beings could change from being seals into human form by shedding there seal skin. In many of these tales female Selkis are coerced into relationships by humans who steal or hide their seal skins.

For several centuries at least they have been popular in art and literature. They are often shown in exotic settings, reclining on palm-fringed beaches or gliding through coral reefs. Despite this association with a hot climate they are usually white-skinned in the western tradition of idealized female beauty. And that is why I painted a black mermaid.

The next three pictures feature the world that exists underneath the waves. I’ve always been fascinated by coral reefs and the colourful fish that live in that environment. One of my paintings shows a mermaid in meditative mood swimming slowly on her back and surrounded by all kinds of fish with a dolphin above and a seahorse in one of her hands. She is communing with the fish and perhaps she’s offering them spiritual guidance. In the other underwater picture the mermaid is swimming into a shoal of small pink fish and she has one in each hand. At some point during the painting of this picture I realized that she is probably hunting. I like pictures to be open ended so that several interpretations may exist depending on the imagination of the viewer.



Both of these paintings are in oils on canvas. I have one print of each picture for sale, they are stretcher framed, Fine Art quality and signed 73 x 40 cm 150 GDP each.

The final painting was a commission. I was asked to paint my client’s girlfriend’s portrait onto the picture that shows the mermaid swimming into various shoals of fish.This picture is in oils and it measures 30″ x 20″.

Azad mermaid latest


28. Hitler-Buddha

Hitler Buddha mid resOil on canvas board – 34 x 45 cm

The idea for this painting came after I was asked to produce an image to illustrate the Buddhist concept of ‘the oneness of good and evil’. Monotheistic religions tends to separate this duality – the good will go to heaven and the bad will rot in hell. In these philosophies there is only one existence and if you mess it up the consequences are dire.

In Taoism the yin and yang symbols represent opposite forces that are interconnected. In eastern philosophies there are many dualities such as light and dark, male and female, fire and water and so on.

Coming back to Buddhism the Lotus Sutra is considered by many to represent the pinnacle of Shakymuni’s teaching. This is the sutra that proclaims the universality of the Buddha Nature. In other words the Buddha Nature exists in everything and every human being has the potential to manifest this state of life described by Shakymuni as being the ‘unsurpassed way’.

Adolf Hitler is considered to be the personification of evil because he was poisoned by hatred, especially of the Jews. Hitler’s Nazi Party created an organization of death camps unlike anything that had been seen before. Yet Hitler dreamed of ruling a utopian world dominated by a master race. He had an interest in spiritual matters and the swastika he designed was based on an ancient auspicious symbol used in Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. Although some leading Nazis were interested in the occult it is unclear to what extent Hitler was influenced by such ideas. His opinions on art seem to have been traditional, we know he liked Wagner and he certainly had an interest in Norse mythology. Apparently his favourite painting was’The Isle of the Dead’ by Arnold Bocklin and he had it hanging in his apartment, it’s a picture i wouldn’t mind living with. Some say he believed in God, but unfortunately he  did not see the Buddha nature existing in all living beings.

If we consider that the potential for good and evil or positive and negative is inherent in every moment of life then it becomes apparent that we can manifest either condition. So a good person could become corrupted and turn evil and by the same token a powerful evil person could have a change of heart. A good example of this is King Ashoka. This warlike monarch lived in the third century BC and ruled most of present day India. Becoming gradually converted to Buddhism he sent emissaries to neighbouring countries declaring his peaceful intentions and he encouraged the spread of Buddhist philosophy believing it could create peace in society. For a time India was peaceful but sadly after Ashoka’s death various factions vied for power and war and misery returned to the sub continent.

It seems that throughout history whatever system of society humans establish there is no end to misery in one form or another and now our human activities have come to threaten the very life of our planet. In view of this sobering reality everybody needs to be aware of the positive and negative consequences of their actions. It’s difficult to change or influence others but we can change ourselves and by doing that we will start to change our environment. Buddhist chants, prayers and meditations are intended to draw out the Buddha nature within the individual and his or her surroundings.

In my picture I am saying that no matter how evil a person may be a change of heart is always possible, so, instead of making the causes that lead to the life state of hell one could do the opposite and start making causes that reduce the balance of negative karma and hopefully bring forth the enlightened life state of Buddhahood. So even Hitler has the Buddha Nature and perhaps in a future lifetime when the balance of his karma has been corrected he could be become a Buddha himself. This possibility is suggested in the 12thchapter of the Lotus Sutra when Shakymuni predicts that the treacherous Devadatta will be become a Buddha called Heavenly King Thus Come One. But this is many lifetimes into the future.

The idea of karma is very important in Buddhism. Karma can only be understood if one tries to suspend disbelief and take on board the reality that we and everything else in the universe are part of an unending rhythm of birth and death.


27. Studying the Art of Master Painters

night midresNight – after Auguste Raynaud – oil on canvas – 50 x 40 cm

From antiquity up until the present day students of painting have made copies of works by the great masters. In Roman times sculptors made many copies of Greek sculpture. From 500BC it is known that copies were made of classic Greek sculpture and quite likely paintings as well however there are no surviving paintings by Greek artists. What we know of such things comes from contemporary Greek writers who described the works that they saw. From more recent times I can give a few examples of artists who made copies. In the 17thcentury a young Peter Paul Rubens traveled around Italy making drawings of master paintings. He was doing this partly to record what he saw because there was no photography in the 17thcentury and also because he intended to adapt some of the compositions and poses later on in his own work. Vincent Van Gogh made paintings and drawings based on etchings by Rembrandt, Pablo Picasso made copies of drawings by Michelangelo and Raphael and so the list goes on. One learns by repetition and imitation that is how we learn to talk and it’s also how musicians learn to play their instruments.

When I was in my teens I made copies of drawings by great artists and later on I made some oil paintings based on pictures by Mannerist artists such as Correggio and Parmigianino. Unfortunately I no longer have any photographs of these pictures.

The four paintings presented here are really homages because they are not direct copies as I’ve changed things around and taken liberties with aspects of the composition. I painted these pictures in order to gain a deeper understanding of French academic art. And also because I was hoping to create some saleable items.


Tide after G Seignac- 1

Tide 2 after G seignac-2

After Guillaume Seignac – oil on canvas – 50 x 40 cm

This picture was my first version of this subject.Tide 2 early version


26. The Animal Butchers

Animal_Butchers_Web_ReadyOil on panel – 43 x 61 cm

This picture came about after I was asked to make a sign for a public house called ‘The Jolly Butchers’. I made a sketch that was similar to this painting but with a plain background however the publican, lacking imagination, didn’t want to go ahead with the idea. He said, ‘it reminds me of my customers’, and I suppose he had a point seeing as the pub had nicknames such as ‘The Jolly Punchup’ and ‘The Flying Bottle’. So I had to make a more conventional sign. But it seemed to be an idea worth pursuing. So I made this picture with the animal butchers standing at the bar in a pub full of British wildlife. There’s a portrait of the nature god Pan, the friend and helper of all animals hanging above the mantlepiece. This kind of art is called ‘topsy turvey world’ or the ‘world turned upside down’. Many images have been made on this theme going back to Roman times and such pictures usually show situations which feature role reversals such as an audience of animals watching humans perform tricks, animals hunting humans etc.

They did display a print of this picture inside the bar but some customers found it unsettling especially the foreground details.


25. Welcome back to my Blog – Outsider Art

I enjoyed presenting the Alice picture so I’ve decided to start up my blog again and today I’m featuring a painting called ‘Orpheus playing to the Animals’. These days this kind of  painting is called Outsider Art, so I’m going to briefly discuss Outsider Art in this blog, it won’t take long and at the end there’s a sequence of closeups taken from the Orpheus picture.


Oil on panel – 30″ x 40″ – 76 x 100 cm

Orpheus was a poet and musician in Greek Mythology. Apollo gave him a golden lyre and the music he made was so beautiful that the birds and the animals would stop their normal pursuits, such as hunting and gather around him to listen, even the insects were effected. The underlying meaning to this myth is the power of music to soften the animal passions in mankind. In my painting it’s as if the animals have been transported to a magic realm. There are over a hundred different species of bird and beast in this painting and some of these may have gone extinct. My reason for painting this picture was simple, I just wanted the excuse to paint as many animals as possible, if you look closely you will see that some of them are in family groups and there are mothers carrying their young. I wanted to paint something that would appeal to children and I thought that a picture such as this would make a good jigsaw and be educational. I did have a jigsaw puzzle company interested at one time but then the deal fell through, part of the problem might have been to do with size as the complex detail in this picture is best seen life size (AO) and most jigsaw puzzles are not that large. When I made this painting I didn’t realise that I had created a work that is now described as being Outsider Art.

Orpheus detail 1


To quote Wikipedia, I’m sure they won’t mind – ‘Outsider Art is art by self-taught or naive artists. Typically those labelled as outsider artists have little or no contact with the mainstream art world or art institutions, in many cases their work is only discovered after their deaths. Often Outsider Art illustrates extreme mental states, unconventional ideas or elaborate fantasy worlds. The term was first coined by art critic Roger Cardinal in 1972 as an English synonym for the French expression ‘art brut’ or ‘rough art’ a label created by the French artist Jean Dubuffet. Dubuffet wanted a term to describe art that was created outside the boundaries of official culture, particularly by people that are well away from the established art scene. For examples he looked to the art created by people in psychiatric hospitals and the art produced by children.’ Since the 1970’s our understanding of this term has broadened out. Nowadays notable British artists such as L S Lowry and Richard Dadd are considered to be outsider artists.  In the contemporary world the amazing installations and street art of Banksy is definitely Outsider Art.

As I have grown older I have found myself identifying with outsider artists for the following reasons. Outsider artists often produce very detailed work – I’ve been doing that for years. An outsider artist often develops a particular technique or method of working – I am largely self-taught although my oil painting technique is not dissimilar to ways of painting known for centuries. Outsider artists live outside of the contemporary art scene – I am known to a small circle of collectors and have received little recognition from the art scene as it exists in London today…but who cares. Most of the time I’m painting for myself and that is exactly what outsider artists like to do. Outsider artists are often outsiders living on their own and obsessively creating art and once again that sounds like me. A lot of outsider artists have problems with their mental health, but then who doesn’t and art is often the best therapy. When I become absorbed in painting I’m able to step outside of my normal reality and time ceases to exist for a while, and when I see the fruits of my labours it lifts my spirits and then maybe, perhaps maybe, a have a point of reference in the search for happiness.

Orpheus detail 5

Orpheus detail 4

Orpheus detail 3

Orpheus detail 2

Orpheus detail 1http://www.colinmurrayart.co.uk

24. Alice in Wonderland – Who are you?

Alice wordpress

Oil on Canvas – 30” x 34” – 76 x 87 cm

I have always admired Lewis Carroll’s marvelous books ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and ‘Through the Looking Glass’ and I’ve often wanted to paint a picture based on an incident in one of these stories. I decided to illustrate the section where Alice meets the caterpillar because as far as I can tell no one has ever made a definitive version of this subject. Asides from Sir John Tenniel’s original illustrations I know of two other artists who have made excellent drawings based on the Alice stories, they are Arthur Rackham and Mervyn Peake, however their depictions of the scene with the caterpillar are disappointing. This is partly because Carroll has set up a situation that is almost impossible to illustrate – a caterpillar sitting on a mushroom with folded arms smoking a hookah, but caterpillars don’t sit they crawl, so creating a realistic image is not easy.

Before I get into a discussion on the pictorial development of this picture I’d like to briefly discuss the content of these books. ‘Alice in Wonderland was published in 1865 during the Victorian era. The 19thcentury was an age when notions of childhood began to be developed and many books were written with children in mind. Most of these were of a moralizing nature but not so with ‘Wonderland’. Carroll cleverly sends up this kind of literature, for example he presents us with a hilarious version of Robert Southey’s poem ‘You are old Father William’. Alice in seven years old in the story and this is a time when most children first begin to take notice of the adult world. And what a world, to a child’s mind the activities of the grownups must seem utterly mad. So in ‘Wonderland’ Alice finds herself in a strange mad world, she is constantly being contradicted, told off and ordered about yet she seems unperturbed by the curious goings on. She is polite and well mannered throughout.  So I think that Carroll is trying to help children deal with the world that they are growing up in. In order to achieve this he uses humour, absurdity and fantasy. His writing is very imaginative as Alice finds herself having to negotiate all kinds of bizarre situations and as if this isn’t enough she keeps changing her size. When Alice meets the caterpillar she is only three inches tall and what’s more she can’t even remember her name.

The Alice books are undoubtably surreal and possibly psychedelic, although this is a word that didn’t exist at the time when Carroll was writing. Back in the 1967 Jefferson Airplane recorded a song called ‘White Rabbit’ which is inspired by the Alice books however it is also an anthem in praise of LSD. Some people have speculated as to whether or not the author experimented with hallucinogenic drugs. Carroll may have known about psilocybin mushrooms and he may have experimented with opium but I doubt it, or if he did it was a rare occurrence. He was a meticulous man who led a well organised and disciplined life. He was a mathematician with a love of logic and both of these traits influence the Alice stories, for example the plot in ‘Through the Looking Glass’ is based on a chess problem. Carroll loves wordplay and to this day his nonsense poem ‘Jabberwocky’ has never been surpassed by any poet writing in this genre.

If you are interested in finding out more about the Alice books I would suggest having a browse through ‘The Annotated Alice: Definitive Edition’ by Martin Gardner. In recent times certain writers and filmmakers have sought to sully Carroll’s reputation. I do not wish to enter into any of this controversy but I would recommend listening to the Radio 4 program ‘Great Lives – Lewis Carroll’ with Lynne Truss, it’s available in the radio archive on the BBC i-player.

I hardly ever paint onto a white canvas, I use a ground colour and for this picture I chose a grey tint. Many artists use ground colours and this practice goes back to the birth of oil painting in the 14thcentury, using a ground colour means that white is a heightener from the word go and this can’t happen when painting onto a white canvas. Although I usually have a good idea of what I want the end result to be I compose my pictures on the hoof as it were, I experiment, rubbing out and improving as I go along. This is my way, some artists like to prepare sketches which they may even scale up onto the canvas before beginning the picture, each to their own. I always use reference material, usually photographs and sometimes sketches, although these are only useful at the start. In this picture I had an excellent model, a young girl called Harvest and with the help of her mother, who chose her clothes, she certainly looks the part. Incidentally when Harvest posed for the photographs that I used for this picture she was only seven years old, the same age as Alice Liddell was when Carroll first conceived the idea of writing ‘Alice in Wonderland’.

The following sequence of images shows the early development of the composition. Alice is standing on the very edge of the picture plane so that a part of the mushroom is intruding into the space outside of the painting.  I knew from the start that the caterpillar was going to be difficult to visualize, and my first version was influenced by Rackham’s drawing but soon discarded. Having decided to use a fly agaric mushroom I surrounded it with silver birches which makes sense as fly agaric mushrooms often grow close by. I took some low level photographs of a clump of birch trees growing nearby to help me with these details. I also collected some leaves and brought them into my flat to help me work out the arrangement of leaves around Alice. As you can see when I want to change something I have to go back to the ground colour because it won’t look right if I just paint  over what is already there. So the first caterpillar was painted out using the ground colour and later on the birches to the left because they weren’t steep enough. And then I started to develop my own caterpillar adding some falling leaves that are dropping through the space outside of the picture. However the caterpillar still didn’t look right so I made a model out of plasticine to help me work it out. I’ve attached an image of the model, seeing an object in three dimensions was a big help. The markings and colours on my caterpillar are similar to those found on the opium caterpillar and that seemed appropriate. I also brought in real leaves to help me create a convincing foreground. Artist often create little sets to help them work out the space between things. Alice oil 1

Alice oil 2

Alice oil 5Alice oil 6Alice oil 7Alice oil 10Alice modelAlice wordpresshttp://www.colinmurrayart.co.uk

23. Fantasia on the Theme of Abney Park Cemetery in Stoke Newington

Oil on canvas – 102 x 76 cm

This painting is currently being reworked.

Abney swans lighter 2

A 1

I began this painting immediately after the completion of Rising Mist. I felt like doing another deep toned picture and I wanted to work on a larger scale. This time I decided to use a warm ground. Some of the reference material is the same for both pictures. As usual I began by trying out different positions for the statues. With this picture I had a more definite composition in mind from the word go. Starting with the sleeping lion I soon found places for the statues that I wished to include.A 2

A 3

Now that the statues are well advanced it’s time to work on the background. I made a few visits to Abney Park and photographed various silver birch trees. As with ‘Rising Mist’ I decided to have the foreground flooded and considered adding various birds and animals.A 4

A 6

A 8

With the centre of the composition reworked the painting is now close to being completed. I’m about to take out one of the coots adding a pair of swans, a male and a female, also a nightingale, an owl and a magpie flying into the centre of the picture.A palette

This shot shows my full palette from left to right, viridian and magenta, these two colours are very intense and I don’t often use them, the rest of the tints are my usual colours, three shades of cadmium yellow, two shades of raw sienna, alizarin crimson, titanium white, two shades of cadmium red, burnt sienna, two shades of french ultramarine and two shades of cerulean blue.Abney swans lighter 2

The final effect shows an imaginary place overgrown, claustrophobic and part flooded. It is a place that has been left to grow wild, trees have seeded themselves and the various statues are going green with moss and lichens. It exists in another realm, in the middle distance beyond the woods the sun is setting leaving the viewer in this mystical environment, contemplating the transience of all phenonena and the mystery of life and death, I hope.

The painting below was completed several years ago and this picture underpins both ‘Rising Mist’ and ‘Fantasia on the Theme of Abney Park Cemetery’. I have two different photographic versions of this picture.


After the floods lodres-remastered.2 jpghttp://www.colinmurrayart.co.uk

22. Rising Mist

Abney rising mist lighter Rising Mist – oil on canvas – 50 x 60 cm

I live in Hackney in London and the large overgrown Victorian cemetery in Stoke Newington has inspired a number of my pictures. In this blog I’m hoping to show how this picture was developed. It began as a painting of mist rising in the early morning light on the River Lea.

RM 1However I soon decided to do something different so I painted a blue glaze over this sketch to prepare a ground for something different. The use of this blue will have a profound effect on the colour balance of the picture keeping it very cool.

With this new ground in place I began to paint in various statues from Abney Park Cemetery. I’ve always been fascinated by this sort of imagery, it’s very Gothic I suppose but I like this kind of atmosphere. I’ve used my own photographs as references. When composing pictures in this way it’s important to be aware of the eye level and direction of light. These days with computers it’s easy to print the reference material at home, also images can be reversed if necessary. In the past I had to go to chemist and order enlargements and then wait for them to arrive. So modern technology has made it easier to compose pictures of this nature. I sometimes use drawings but that is not possible with this picture for a start many of the statues are on plinths so they are difficult even to photograph at the right eye level. Them next sequence of images shows me playing with the composition. I tend to try out various positions and if I don’t like something then I paint it out using the ground colour. RM 3

RM 4

RM 6

RM 7At this stage I’ve decided to paint in the famous sleeping lion statue. In order to do that I’m painted out some of the statues so that they can be repositioned.

RM 8

RM 10

RM 15

The composition is now falling into place, as you can see I’ve used a pinkish ground to paint out some areas as the blue felt too cool.RM 16

RM 12At this stage the foliage didn’t feel right so I’ve re-grounded most of the background.

RM 13

RM 17

RM 18

RM 19

Perhaps I mess about too much however it’s the only way that I can achieve something that I find meaningful. Abney rising mist lighterhttp://www.colinmurrayart.co.uk