Thursday, September 30, 2010

Old brickwork.

I often wonder why it is that I'm attracted to old things? Having thought about it I have come to the conclusion that I happened to be born in an era that was a turning point in Britain, where much of the old was swept away and replaced by the new.

During the 1960's we had what was known as the 'Slum clearances', where many of the old streets were demolished to be replaced by high rise concrete blocks. An unfortunate by product of this was that entire community's where shattered and dispersed, friends and long time neighbours separated and lost.

The new high rise blocks also had no human scale, no charm, or character. Just as with new automobiles they were manufactured cheaply, efficiently, and with an eye on the cost. As a child in the early 1960's I had shared the homes, streets, and sense of community that had been familiar to my father, and my fathers father before him, yet all of that was taken away.

In the painting above I have depicted a typical British 'slum' dwelling of the pre-1960's period. The term 'slum' is a derogatory term for poor housing, but many such houses were kept immaculately clean and tidy by the women of the house who were very house-proud.

The exterior gas pipes shown were often removed as electricity was installed in these housed by the 1940's, and even the old gas lamps were latterly converted to electric bulbs. The houses themselves were typically small, heated by coal fires, and had no interior bathroom, just an exterior toilet in the back yard.

To a child though they were a cosy haven, imparting a sense of stability and continuity that we just don't have any more, and I for one have many happy memories of such a home.

As with many of my paintings I have recreated a scene just as I remember it, which then asks of the viewer to decipher just what it is that is going on within it. Careful study of the painting would then reveal that there are some makeshift 'wickets' drawn in chalk on the wall, and there is a cricket ball on the ground telling us that a game of cricket was in previously progress. You can even see the marks on the wall that the hard cricket ball made when it hit, notice also that one mark is a little too high and wide.

One might then notice the small window in the corner is broken, and the score chalked up is thirteen...unlucky for some maybe? Well it was certainly unlucky for the boy that broke the window as he has been brought in by his mother and 'grounded' as punishment, which gave me the painting's title - "Not out!"

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Barn find!

Here's a little oil painting that I did last week as an online painting demonstration.

Imagine the scene, it's 'somewhere in France', and the old barn door opens with a creak. As your eyes become accustomed to the light you begin to make out the old Citroen 2cv car. The sunlight streams in from the open window striking various objects in the room, there are cobwebs...and even a mouse!

Once again the blue and orange theme works well together to provide some interesting rust texture to the car. Also included in this painting are the depiction of textures such as glass, water, hay or straw, rubber, galvanised metal, flaky paint and rust, tin, a wicker basket, brass candlestick and copper!

It was lots of fun to paint.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Now here's a strange thing.
For years now I have been amazed at the way many Americans allow so many fine examples their automotive heritage to sit out rotting in fields. I have remarked upon the solid condition of many cars that have been abandoned to the Californian sun, those 'dry state' cars may be rusty, but they sure are worth saving.

Now here's where I'm a little confused. I know that among the VW bus and bug crowd there is a definite rat look vibe going on, and I can live with that because there are certain cars, (VW bugs included) that carry the distressed look off real well. Other products however don't.

Case in point the 1950 Buick fastback shown here. When I first saw it I was happy that this car had been saved, 'finally' I thought, someone has begun to appreciate those old heavy metal monsters enough to rescue them. But there was something about this car that just wasn't right.

I studied it before noticing that the chrome was new, and then I noticed the wheels. So okay the wheels are personal choice, but the chrome-work stands out as too new for the car. Rusty paint needs rusty chrome surely?

It was only after seeing this shot of the interior that I knew that the owner had blown it in my opinion. The car had been beautifully and carefully restored and re-trimmed - with the exception of the paint!

So that's why I have mixed emotions about this car. First of all I'd rather see it as it is now than sitting in a field someplace so that's good. I don't even mind original rust patina on those cars that can carry off the look either, but I think this car deserves better. No doubt the owner has spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours restoring this car, and the standard of work looks to be high, I just wish that on this occasion the car might have been returned to it's former glory, or left original but running.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Modern art in metal.

I've never really cared much for what is usually known as 'Modern art', preferring to admire the skills and quality of work from the representational artists who more accurately depict their subjects. On the few occasions when a modern painting has appealed to me it has been purely down to the arrangement of shapes and colours on canvas that simply have pleased the eye.

I spent some time thinking about this as by recognising that shapes and colour alone are able to please us without the element of drawing or structure, then surely using those shapes and colour combinations, with the extra dimensions of design and texture, would create a work that bridges the gap between representational art and the so called 'Modern art'.

The elements that are often missing in modern paintings, such as composition or light and shade are still present in my 'rust art' because we are dealing with the depiction of solid objects - and yet, the abstract shapes of colour and texture also play a part in the whole.

In the photo above we can see the bold yet faded turquoise of the roof contrasts perfectly against the flat grey/brown background. The rust textured paintwork gives scope for invention, as no two cars will ever rust the same, yet the firm bright-work of stainless steel lends a definite structure to the composition by rigidly locking those areas of abstract colours together.

I think the image above works beautifully, but there can also be changes made in the balance of the composition by removing even more of the detail, and changing the format. Often painting less has more impact, so it's fun to play around with the images until you find the one that 'speaks' to you.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

And again!

Another image that hits you like a punch! Pow!

Like the last picture I featured it's the bold simplicity of this image that captivates the eye, before alluring it into exploring the colourful details. The composition here is so finely balanced adding apparent tension to the rusty chain. The deep blue placed next to the reddish orange of the metal seems to set the metal aflame, it looks hot to touch!

Rust art at it's finest, and truly worthy of the title 'beautiful decay'.

Friday, May 21, 2010


Bam! That one hits you doesn't it? Simple, clear, and effective. Perfect rust art!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Amazing skill.

A couple of posts back I mentioned some really nice highly detailed model cars. Well I'm returning to that theme once more to share a truly fascinating discovery with you. The photo's shown here are diorama's created using those models, aren't they amazing?
They are photographed in such a way as to include elements of 'real' background in the far distance which, when combined with the super-detailed sets, and the cars themselves create images of a time period now long since past.

The creator of these dioramas has done quite a lot of them, and each one is hyper real, there is very convincing detail work added to all his work. to see a slide show of the artists work click on the link ...and prepare to be amazed! SLIDESHOW.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


I'm spending so much time restoring my old Citroen car recently (see my other blog) that I don't get to post on this one too often. Having spent hundreds of hours bringing an old rusty car back to life, it's a little ironic that here I post a similar car in the sort of condition mine started out as!

Is this car patinated, or is it just plain rusty? There are certain types of cars that can carry this look well, the Citroen above, or a beat up VW Beetle (Bug) can look quite cool in this natural, weather worn state of preservation. Unfortunately my car had rusted through in several places of the structure, so it no was longer safe enough to leave it as it was, the result is that I've rebuilt it and it's almost finished. (below)

In just a few more weeks I'll be using her as my daily driver, but then I'll be looking for another rusty and forlorn car to rescue. It's at times like these when I wish that I lived in the U.S. There are so many old cars out there in good solid condition just begging to be brought back to life! I agonise over some of that stuff, and when I see a car like the Buick below I don't see a rusty hulk, I see a gleaming two tone and chrome prize winner. All it takes is a little work, those things should be saved.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

High quality model cars.

Those that have read this blog before will know that I'm a BIG GM fan, especially the products produced between the late 1940's to the early 1950's. Living in the UK means that I'll most likely never own my own late 40's Buick, or Olds 88, but there is a way.

I came across these fantastically detailed models while surfing the net the other day. They look amazing! With opening doors, detailed dash panels, real steering wheels and chrome trim they really do look the part.

Even the two colour paint job looks like a real professional finish, these cars are beautiful. Just take a look at these photos.

So maybe I'll never get to own my own full sized car, but I could sure develop an interest in collecting a few of those miniature beauties.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The paintings of Mike Jeffries.

Regular readers of this blog will know that from time to time I like to feature an artist that has captured something special on canvas. Such an artist is Mike Jeffries. Quite often my posts feature old vehicles, and other objects of the past shown in a ruinous state, in other words in a state of decay brought about by years of abandonment.
This post is different in that it features Mikes paintings, and they are able to show us those old vehicles back in their heyday, almost like peering through a window in time. Those of us old enough to remember back when what are now called 'classic' vehicles were on our streets in their thousands, or when a train ride meant the experience of lots of steam, pervaded with the smell of hot oil and grease, or, for those who can still remember the haunting sound of that high pitched steam whistle from the engine, will love Mike's work as I do.

Known as 'The transport artist', Mike's subject matter covers (as would be expected) many areas of bygone transport. From these beautifully nostalgic depictions of steam engines, which are truly masterful in their use of fine detail and perspective, to subjects that once upon a time would have been considered the everyday, but to today's eyes reveal a treat, a veritable feast of nostalgia!

What is truly astounding about these paintings is not only the amount of true to life detail that is incorporated in them, but the unseen amount of research behind each one that ensures for example, that the correct type of beacons, road signs and road marking are incorporated in the scene.

The paintings vary from the panoramic view of a workplace in full swing as shown above, to a more intimate portrayal of a particular type of vehicle in use as in the scene below. Whatever the subject matter however, you can be sure that the incidental elements of the painting will be well thought out also, so there will be period advertising hoardings, and of course men wearing hats or carrying overcoats just as they did back then!

Another thing that sets these paintings apart from others is the feeling of seeing a vehicle in use. These are not merely 'portraits' of a certain type of vehicle, but living snapshots. we are given a glimpse at a certain moment in the daily life of that vehicle, and we see it totally unprepared for our attention, so wearing the dust, dirt, and oil stains that would have been there in actual use.

There are some that may have though a haulage lorry less than ideal as subject matter for a beautiful painting, but here again Mike shows them in such a way as to make them appear almost heroic, and as always depicts them in the most visually appealing settings.

For those who would like to see more of Mike's art please visit the following links.

Mike jeffries art

Monday, February 01, 2010

Hi Definition vs Pre-Raphaelites.

While searching the web for new examples of 'rust-art' I'm increasingly finding photographs that have been manipulated by imaging software. These high definition images give extra sharpness to the image which is in some ways unrealistic, but in other ways better. This manipulation gives them a strange look, at first there doesn't appear to be much difference, but the more one looks the more one sees.

In 19th Century England there was a group of artists that called themselves the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Their paintings were distinct because of their depiction in a painting of each and every tiny detail, details which the naked eye would normally dismiss. The finished effect of this attention to detail in their paintings was similar to today's Hi definition photographs, the paintings look to be somehow 'frozen' in time.

I find that HD images have that same quality, so maybe we should call this Pre-Raphaelite photography?

Friday, January 22, 2010

When is a door not a door?

If you're old enough to remember the old joke that I used as a title for this post then you may know the answer to the identity of this striking piece of rust-art. In purely abstract terms the shapes, lines, and colours present a bold image, but look closer and you'll find the textures of worn faded paint, cracked dried out rubber, and hard chrome trim, and the realisation that you are viewing part of an old car on its side. Have you got it yet?

So when is a door not a door? The answer is - "when it's ajar'" of course!