21. The Owl and the Pussycat

Oil on canvas – 43 x 99 cm

The Owl and the Pussycat is a poem about making the impossible possible. Inter-species love affairs are a rare thing and generally speaking birds and cats are sworn enemies, the only thing they have in common is a love of hunting. Yet in this poem the owl woos the cat and they end up getting married and living happily ever after

There is something very English about so called nonsense poetry asides from Edward Lear there are several nonsense poems in Lewis Carroll’s Alice books. Kenneth Graham’s ‘Wind in the Willows’ is about as English as you an get and there are many other poets and artists who produced work on these themes, notably Richard Dadd’s marvelous fantasy picture ‘The Faery Feller’s Masterstroke’.

If we look at the influence of psychedelic music in the 60’s we find that the UK interpretation was very different to the American take. The English pop groups were very much influenced by writers such as Lear and Carroll, we can see that especially in the music of Pink Floyd when Syd Barret was the leader of the group. The English psychedelia was inclined towards whimsy and world of the imagination whereas the American music was much more hard edged possibly because the youth of America  had to contend with the Vietnam war.

This is a painting that I was commissioned to do. I have always loved this poem and I like art that humanizes animals, sometimes this is called ‘Topsy Turvy World’ or the ‘World Turned Upside-down’. I wanted to paint a picture that was dreamy and atmospheric. The main problem I had was with the cat and how to make her look really ladylike.

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat



The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea

In a beautiful pea-green boat,

They took some honey, and plenty of money,

Wrapped up in a five-pound note.

The Owl looked up to the stars above,

And sang to a small guitar,

“O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,

What a beautiful Pussy you are,

You are,

You are!

What a beautiful Pussy you are!”


Pussy said to the Owl, “You elegant fowl!

How charmingly sweet you sing!

O let us be married! too long we have tarried:

But what shall we do for a ring?”

They sailed away, for a year and a day,

To the land where the Bong-Tree grows

And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood

With a ring at the end of his nose,

His nose,

His nose,

With a ring at the end of his nose.


“Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling

Your ring?” Said the Piggy, “I will.”

So they took it away, and were married next day

By the Turkey who lives on the hill.

They dined on mince, and slices of quince,

Which they ate with a runcible spoon;

And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,

They danced by the light of the moon,

The moon,

The moon,

They danced by the light of the moon.

Source: The Random House Book of Poetry for Children (1983)


20. Hope

Oil on canvas – 61 x 61 cm


This picture was begun when I was staying in Fambridge. The young tree in full blossom looked fine from my first floor window however its surroundings were mundane. Looking at the painting back in London I realized that the only bit of it I liked was the blossom so in order to give it some more bite I decided to paint in some moonlit ruins. The picture has a surreal quality which I find soothing.


19. Secret Stairs

Oil on panel – 96.5 x 102 cm


With blossoms blooming in every direction I thought it might be nice to revisit this old picture. I have never been entirely sure about the composition or lack of one. However it’s been a popular image over the years and one that has sold well as a print.

The scene is a made up and it’s the kind of place I like to dream about. But what does one find at the top of the stairs?

Interestingly it’s painted onto a cool ground colour and that’s something I’ve gone back to starting with the Afterglow pictures which appear in the early blogs. My current paintings of cherry blossoms should be featured in a blog fairly soon.


18. The Artists featured in the Art Collector

The Art Collector – oil on canvas – 122 x 153 cm


The theme for this painting is female beauty and female power. Having a theme creates a focus. In this respect my picture is different to other paintings of collectors by artists such as Johann Zoffany. The art collector seated at his desk is the only male presence in this picture with the exemption of Zeus (Jupitor) who appears as a swan and a shower of gold in the paintings of Leda and Danea respectively. As I mentioned in my previous blog I have sifted through hundreds of images to find the material for this picture. Each  featured image is intended to be seen in isolation but must also blend in with and complement the pictures and sculptures around it. I have taken liberties with most of these images, cropping and changing the details so that they fit in with my design. The scale of the paintings and sculptures selected for my painting have little connection with their sizes in real life. For example Velazques’ Rokeby Venus and Rodin’s Metamorphosis are both much larger in real life whereas the statue of Tara is much smaller. The drawing by William Russell Flint just off centre second down from the top would be about 3’ x 4’ according to the scale of things in my picture. In real life of course a drawing such as this probably measures about 18” x 24”.

Friends and associates have asked me about the source material for this painting so here are some brief comments about the artists whose work has contributed to the creation of this picture.

The Artists featured in the Art Collector

  1. Unknown artist – sculptural bust photographed in the Victoria and Albert Museum.
  2. Luis Ricardo Falero (1851-1896) – Falero is a Spanish painter who specialized in painting the female nude in mythological settings. This image is adapted from a painting of a witches Sabbath.
  3. Kay Neilson (1886-1957) – Neilson is a Danish illustrator who was active in the so-called ‘Golden age of Illustration’ early in the 20th century. This image depicts a women being embraced by a demonic figure as she surrenders to the fire of her passion.
  4. Paul Prosper Tillier (1834-1915) – Leda and the Swan – Tillier is a French artist noted for his paintings of mythological subjects.
  5. Colin Murray – This picture has been created using a variety of sources.
  6. William Russell Flint (1880-1969) – Flint is a Scottish artist who loved drawing and painting women, his pastels and watercolours are especially beautiful.
  7. Gustave Boulanger (1824-88) – Phyrne – Boulanger is a French artist noted for his depictions of classical and oriental subjects. This painting is of Phyrne the most famous courtesan of the classical world. She lived in Athens in the 4th century BC and there are many stories about her. She was once prosecuted for blasphemy because she had impersonated the goddess Aphrodite.
  8. Unknown artist – Danae and the shower of Gold – According to Ovid Danae was locked up in a dungeon because of a prophecy that her first born would kill her father. However Zeus inflamed with lust descended from Mt Olympus and ravished her disguised as shower of gold. As a result of this encounter she gave birth to Perseus. Later in life Perseus went on to slay the Gorgon and rescue Andromeda.
  9. Edward John Poynter (1836-1919) – Andromeda – This aristocratic English artist is noted for his exotic depictions of the female form. Like many of his contemporaries in the 19th century he was fond of classical and oriental subjects.
  10. Albert Toft (1862-1949) – The Bather – Toft was a highly successful English sculptor. Toft described his work as being ‘idealist’ he also said that ‘to become an idealist you must necessarily first be a realist’.
  11. Robert Auer (1873-1952) – Cleopatra – Auer is a Croatian painter who was very much influenced by Art Nouveau.
  12. Unknown artist – This is most probably a Roman copy of a Greek sculpture now lost. It could be the figure of a Maenad or Bacchante, these were the female followers of Dionysus, or Bacchus if you prefer the Roman name for this god of wine, fertility and general mayhem.
  13. Titian – Venus of Urbino – Tiziano Vecelli is known in English as Titian. This Venetian artist is one of the great masters of the 16th century. This painting caused a scandal when it was first exhibited because of the alluring way that the model is staring straight at the spectator and in Titian’s version their is something suggestive about the position of her hands. In my painting the background vignette identifies it as the ‘Venus of Urbino’.  We see the servants of the goddess engaged in some mundane task, one of them is rummaging about in a chest and the other has a curtain draped across her shoulder as she is casually scratches her right arm. Oblivious to the chores of her servants Venus is sitting up and getting ready to step out of the painting.
  14. Unknown artist – Venus with the Beautiful Bottom – This is a Roman copy of a Greek sculpture. The original may have been by Praxiteles the 4th century Athenian sculptor said to have been the first person to sculpt a life size female nude. Phyrne is known to have modeled for him and she may well have posed for this piece.
  15. Eric Gill (1882-1940) – Eve – Gill was a controversial English artist noted for his sculpture, printmaking and typeface designs. This wood block print shows Eve being tempted by the serpent.
  16. Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939) – Selene – This Czech artist is considered to be the catalyst for the Art Nouveau artistic movement that began in Paris in the late 1880’s. This painting shows the moon goddess Selene looking rather coy.
  17. Gaston Bussiere (1862-1928) – Nereids – Bussiere is a French Symbolist painter noted for his depictions of women in exotic, fantastical settings. In this painting a group of Nereids are about to surface. The Nereids are sea-nymphs and they are often shown with Poseidon the god of the sea.
  18. Diego Velazques (1599-1660) – Rokeby Venus – This great Spanish master is especially noted for his portraits. He is an important artist in the art movement known as the Baroque.
  19. Unknown artist – Sculpture of a Dominatrix
  20. Unknown artist – Aphrodite bathing – This sculpture is sometimes known as ‘Lely’s Venus’ since it once belonged to the portrait painter Sir Peter Lely. This piece was made in Rome in the second century AD from a Greek original now lost. It now resides in the British Museum and the version in my picture is painted from photographs I took myself.
  21. Jami Aka – Dancer – Jami Aka is a contemporary artist noted for his erotic sculpture.
  22. Gilbert Baynes (1872-1953) – Frog Princess – This quirky piece of Art Deco was photographed by me in the Victoria and Albert Museum.
  23. Evelyne Axell (1935-1975) – Girl eating an ice cream – This image was created by the Belgium pop artist in the 1960’s.
  24. Clodion (1738-1814) – Bacchante – Claude Michel was known as Clodion, this talented French Sculptor worked in the Rococo style.
  25. Allen Jones (born 1937) – Girl Chair – Jones made a number of pieces that show women being made into items of furniture. His work is influenced by rubber fetishism and BDSM.
  26. Jean Morisot (1899-1967) – Witch and Crone – Morisot is a French illustrator who produced numerous erotic drawings which were usually published in portfolio albums.
  27. Auguste Rodin 1840-1917) – Metamorphosis of Ovid – This French sculptor towered above his contemporaries and his work is yet to be eclipsed. The subject for this piece is unclear as it doesn’t refer to any specific story in Ovid’s Metamorphosis.
  28. Colin Murray – This imaginary sculpture was invented by me.
  29. Joseph-Charles Marin (1759-1834) – Bacchante and child – Marin was a French sculptor. He was a pupil of Clodion and his work echoes his master’s graceful Rococo style.
  30. Ernest Nomand (1857-1923) – Nomand’s painting of the Pygmalian and Galatea story is the main inspiration for the sculpture in my picture. The pose is based on the famous Venus de Milo except that he has added the arms. The story appears in Ovid’s Metamorphosis and tells how Pygmalian, a sculptor, creates a piece of art that is so beautiful that he falls in love with it. He goes to the Temple of Venus and prays that his creation may have life. Venus answers his prayer and when he returns to his studio the statue is awakened by a kiss. In my picture the sculpture that is coming to life resembles the art collector’s wife.
  31. Franz Von Stuck (1863-1928) – Sensuality – This German artist is associated with the Symbolist movement. He painted many pictures on the theme of the femme fatale which was a popular subject in Symbolist art.
  32. Unknown artist – Bunny sculpture.
  33. Colin Murray – This Fine Art print is adapted from various sources.
  34. P J Lynch (born 1962) – Death and the Maiden – This subject was especially popular in medieval times. Lynch is an Irish artist who has illustrated more than 20 books.
  35. Edward Hodges Bailey (1788-1867) – Bailey was a prolific English sculptor who produced many public commissions including the statue of Nelson that stands on top of the famous column in Trafalgar Square.
  36. Unknown artist – Erotic table
  37. Unknown artist – Tara – Arya Tara is a female Bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism where she is known as the ‘Mother of Liberation’ she represents the virtue of being successful in work and is also known as a Tantric Meditation Deity by the practitioners of the Vajrayana branch of Tibetan Buddhism.
  38. Colin Murray – Mermaid Bathing – This is a classic image of a mermaid based on one of my own designs.

17. The Art Collector

Oil on canvas – 122 x 153 cm


I began this picture late in November 2012. It was developed after a conversation with an art collector who owns a number of my paintings. He would prefer to remain anonymous, however he is a man who loves paintings of beautiful women so we decided to make feminine beauty the theme for this picture. The space in the picture is imaginary and some of the paintings and sculptures are from the collector’s own collection whilst others have been adapted by me. We thought it would be fun to have some of the paintings coming to life. As the end of this blog there is a sequence of details.

As this subject is potentially complex I decided to start with a simple idea – the relationship between the collector and the largest picture in the background. Later it was decided to make it look as if  Titian’s ‘Venus of Urbino’ was coming alive. She’s sitting up and about to tread on Allen Jones sculpture.

This picture is created entirely from photographic sources, thanks to my digital camera and computer technology it is much easier and quicker to get the visual information required in order to paint a picture such as this. I have sifted through hundreds of photographs to find the material for this painting. Some of these images have been downloaded from Google, others have been scanned in from various art books and some of them are taken from sculptures I have photographed myself. My research has taken me to the Victoria and Albert Museum, the British Museum and the Wallace Collection.

My way of working is quite time consuming. I paint in oils, starting with a ground colour, rubbing out or painting over various ideas as the composition is developed. This is a picture which requires a fair amount of detail in order to be convincing. I decided that each work of art should be painted in a way that allows it be viewed in isolation as well as being part of the overall effect so that there is a symbiotic relationship between the various art objects as if they are in some way conspiring with each other.

In the history of art there have been many pictures featuring individual connoisseurs or a group of art collectors surrounded by pictures and artefacts. Johann Zoffany a German artist active in England during the first half of the 19th century painted a number of such pictures. The people in these pictures are nearly always male and they are shown having discourse about art and culture. The objects they are discussing often include manuscipts and scientific instruments and there are usually references to music and philosophy. The intention is to show these men as being well educated and very much aware of the pre-Christian classical world, they are antiquarians with humanistic ideals. In pictures of this kind the main subject is the group of figures perusing the works of art. In most of these picturers the choice of objects and their arrangement is secondary to the activity of the gentleman collectors. Sir John Soane was such a person and most of his collection is still intact. His house in London at 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields is now a museum and it can be visited free of charge.

In my picture the paintings and sculptures and their positioning is at least as important as the figure of the collector seated at his desk. He is working on his computer and has just been distracted by an unknown noise or incident in a part of the room outside of the picture space or possibly by the cry of the seagull flying out of the foreground picture. He is not yet aware of the pictures that are coming to life around him as they are outside of his line of vision. A surreal moment is beginning to unfold.

This painting is quite large by my standards. The fine detail contained within makes it like a gigantic miniature. In this picture I am hoping to achieve a feeling of the sublime. We experience the sublime when our senses are overpowered. Examples could include a spectacular scenic view or the combination of sound and vision at the opera or a rock concert, or the soaring architecture inside a gothic cathedral. In my picture the detail within the individual works of art and the environment that contains them should have the effect of making the picture go slightly out of focus, so when the viewer is first confronted by the painting it is difficult to work out exactly what is going on and for a time there is a suspension of belief.

In my next blog I will be talking about some of the artists whose works are featured in my painting.

Roy 1

Roy 2

Roy 3

Roy 4

Roy 5

Roy 6

Roy 7

Roy 8

This is a bonus image, an original composition by me that isn’t featured in the Art Collector but it will be appearing in a future blog about erotic art, it’s painted in oils on canvas and measures 22 x 20 inches.

Nymph and Satyr














16. Enigmatic Still Life

Enigmatic still life

Oil on panel – 37 x 58 cm

There has always been a dichotomy in my painting as I like to paint from life quite realistically and I also enjoy fantasy and surreal subject matter. This picture in some way moulds together the two aspects of my interest in art. It began as a studio still life with the bananas, the statue the cloth and a piece of dried seaweed all accurately portrayed. But I was never quite sure about the background and then I thought of putting in a seascape which makes the picture look quite surreal. The peacefulness of the sea offsets the tension between the hardness of the bronze and the softness of the bananas. As to what it may mean I really have no idea. I know that the Italian surrealist De Chirico often used bunches of bananas in his pictures and De Chiroco’s use of the fruit probably had sexual overtones. In my picture it’s hard to say as the statue seems to be coming alive and the bananas have a sentient quality. So I leave any deeper explanation up to the viewer. This picture is in my Summer Sale at 400 GDP.


15. Every picture tells a story…

The Old Skip – oil on panel – 61 x 74 cm

An Old Skip-webready jpeg

I have always been fascinated by ruins I love the air of abandonment and decay. I love to see the return of nature whether it be to a temple in Cambodia or this once proud stately home in my picture.

I have never seen a skip as dilapidated as this, it looks as if it’s been in the same place for years. Although there is some evidence of human activity as the path on the right isn’t overgrown. But the building itself seems to be derelict Buddleia bushes are growing up the scaffold and grass is sprouting where there was once a roof.

I painted this picture from life a while ago. It was very pleasant to be in such a place listening to the birdsong and dimly aware of the rustlings made by various creatures as they went about their business. When you are painting on the spot especially if you’re sitting you make so little sound that the birds and the animals don’t realise that you are there.

Every picture tells a story but what is the back storey to this picture and where is this place? I’ll give you two clues, it’s less than a mile from one of the largest plague pits in London and it was once the setting for an early Sherlock Holmes story.


14. Two heads are better than one

Two Self Portraits – oil on canvas – 40 x 51 cm each

Two self portraits best low res

It’s a long time since I last painted any self portraits during the course of my life I’ve painted a few. I do it partly because it’s a good way of getting some practice at observational painting. And I can do it in my time so it’s different from working with a model. Having to keep still whilst working adds some tension to these kinds of portraits.

Recently I’ve been painting using much cooler ground colours. When I paint I dilute the oils with a medium which I make myself using liquin, refined linseed oil and genuine turpentine. I have this made up in different ways depending on how translucent I want the glaze to be. With glazes it’s possible to create very subtle effects of shade and colour. I rarely use impasto or try to build up swirls of expressive paint. And I never paint onto white because the ground colour effects the overall tone of a picture it also means that the colours I’m using will always be in a different key. When I paint I mostly use a palette of seven colours plus white. I have two reds, two blues; the same tint of yellow in two shades and two earth colours. This palette is based on the primary colours, the use of a limited palette helps to prevent colour from becoming muddy or turgid. Numerous tints are available but most of them can be mixed from a small palette, the only two that can’t are viridian and magenta, however I rarely need these extreme colours. I mix my own black using ultramarine and burnt sienna and sometimes some red depending on the ground colour. The advantage of mixing black in this way is this, with a tiny bit of white it can be either cool or warm. When I tried using blacks such as ivory black or lamp black I found that they deadened the colour. Having a ground colour means that I use less white, and obviously white can be effective in a way that it never could if you was painting onto a white canvas. If you paint onto a white canvas then a lot of white will have to be added to all of the mixes to make the colours light enough. As white is essentially opaque this will reduce the luminosity of the colour however some people like this effect.

With these two self portraits I can see quite a difference between the warm ground and the blue ground. I think I prefer the warm ground when looking at these two pictures but I will be using blue/grey grounds much more in the future.

The use of ground colours goes back to the 14th century when oil painting was first developed in western art. We know that many artists used grounds because of numerous unfinished works that exist such as ‘Adoration of the Magi’ by Leonardo da Vinci. In this picture Leonardo favours a warm brownish colour. Warm browns, tawny hues or grey grounds have been popular with many artists. To give just a few examples Rubens favoured brown or grey, Rembrandt usually brown, most of Goya’s portraits are painted onto orange grounds, Constable favoured a mixture of earth colours and the list goes on. In the 19th century certain Pre Raphaelite and Impressionist artists experimented with brilliant white grounds hoping that this would enable them to get more light into their pictures and in some cases it may have worked. However to my eye green always looks insipid when painted onto white.The Russian painter Shishkin painted onto white and although I admire many of his pictures after awhile the colours begin to look very much the same.


13. The Eternity of Life

Oil on panel – 45 x 60 cm


With spring in the air I thought I would feature this painting because it is full of flowers. At first glance it looks very psychedelic but what does it all mean?

The subject of this painting is the passage in the 12th chapter of the Lotus Sutra that describes how the Dragon King’s daughter was able to gain the fruit of enlightenment or Buddhahood. From the perspective of the written down Buddhist teachings this passage is immensely significant because in all of the earlier sutras women were denied Buddhahood or at any rate they would need to be reborn as a man in order to attain it. The sutras that preceded the Lotus Sutra also deny enlightenment to persons from the worlds of learning and realization and evil people. However in the Lotus Sutra all of these teachings are overturned and when the dragon girl attains Buddhahood the assembly (that had gathered to hear this teaching) goes wild with joy because this event means that Buddhahood is open to all.

Buddhist teachings can be confusing so I’m not going to go into too much detail here, suffice to say that the Lotus is considered to be Shakymuni’s ultimate teaching. In this sutra the Buddha describes his own enlightenment and that’s why the events narrated in the Lotus Sutra are on a cosmic scale. This is the teaching that elucidates the essentially eternal nature of all phenomena as they pass through the phases of life and death. It tells us how the Buddha-Nature exists in everything (not just in humans) and its emergence is a possible at any moment in time.

In my painting living things considered to be transient, such as the flowers, insects and the songs of birds are seen as being eternal. The diamond in the lower half of the picture is the jewel that the dragon girl offered the Buddha when she attained enlightenment, this symbolizes the indestructible nature of Buddhahood. In between the thumb and forefinger of each hand she holds a golden seed, these are the seeds of Buddhahood. The silver and golden apples close by indicate the wisdom needed to comprehend profound teachings. The circles of standing stones show that all teachings are contained within Buddhism and the central position of the hands emerging from the earth is a reference to the role of the ‘Bodhisattvas of the Earth’ in propagating the principles of the Lotus Sutra in our time. This part of the painting is about devotion and as such it corresponds with the character of ‘Nam’ from the mantra nam-myoho-renge-kyo. The portrait of the dragon girl represents the next character ‘Myoho’ which means mystic law or wonderful dharma. Next up we have the lotus flower which is called ‘Renge’. In eastern philosophy the lotus flower is revered because if flowers and seeds simultaneously and this indicates the principle of cause and effect by which karma is created. The next character ‘Kyo’ which means teaching or sutra is illustrated by the key and the crown because the Lotus is the king of sutras and the key to understanding. At the top of the picture the sun, moon and stars show that all the forces of nature follow the principles of the Lotus Sutra. By reciting nam-myoho-renge-kyo one is saying – I devote myself to the mystic law of cause and effect that permeates all phenomena throughout the universe.


12. The Perfect Pint

Oil on panel – 51 x 61 cm

The Perfect Pint-low res

This picture was largely painted from life when I was staying in Kilcommon high up in the Silver Mountains in Co. Tipperary. A local publican called TJ stands behind the bar with his arms folded. On the counter is a freshly pulled pint of Guinness. TJ and I became friendly during my stay and amazingly he agreed to pose for a portrait.

I like this picture especially the painting of TJ’s clothes and the still life details. As far as the actual portrait is concerned I’m not so sure as TJ looks a bit withdrawn and disconsolate. That’s the trouble with portraits I never know quite what the end result will be.

However I had a lovely time in Ireland and I hope to go there again. During my stay I visited all kind of interesting places such as the extensive ruins of Athassel Abbey near to a small town called Golden. I used sketches of the ruins in various paintings when I returned to London especially ‘After the Floods’ which was featured in a recent blog.