The Maids Pillow-fight

The pillow fight

This is from a postcard that I found post marked 1909. A scene from a play of those times called “The Dairymaids by Robert MacDonald”. I saw this and thought immediately what a great painting it would make. It is on a canvas 2’6″ by 4″. I started with as accurate a drawing of the architecture as i could do and then added in the figures.

I have learned that postcards were made of many of the music hall acts souvenirs that they could post to friends and relatives. From the glamourous actresses to funny comedians. Someone who cared about someone else would send a glamorous actress postcard to cheer them up. And of course when the 1st world war started it must have become and extra special thing to send to a friend. And people saved them, hence you can find thousands of all kinds of postcard for sale nowadays and its hard to throw them away now because of their history. Then there’s always the messages to read on the back, this one says Dear J – Shall be down by the train leaves here 10.30 gets to Ashford 11.30. I think Tom is coming with me. From Bill.

I’ve tried to find more information about the Dairymaids musical theatre but could not find anything.

I will now have to start painting using oil. I want something more colourful fauvist than is on the post card although I can see that it depicts a very posh mansion with gold fittings and a beautiful red stair carpet. The maids are attacking a sailor and another maid at the bottom of the stairs, it’s going to be super fun to paint.

The maids With basic colour

24 Dec, 2020. I have begun to add the kind of colour I wanted to use. I put red, yellow, blue on my pallet but only used red and blue and exchanged the yellow for Naples yellow and lightened brown and it seems to work.

12.01. 2021 Studying this old postcard of a Music Hall show I can see how well posed the women are, it’s quite an amazing work in itself and I have much to learn from it.

Painting: A man at a festival

Finished painting of man at festival

At first he looked like an ancient Chinese man, Confucius maybe. I was using a sketch I did from a photo of someone at a Stonehenge celebration. As it stood I could not use the drawing it didn’t seem to be something I could develop from there. I really needed to see the photo again so I had to search for it again. Now the original drawing is gone, painted over and I have a well an even stranger picture; a strange painting of a strange man at a Stonehenge festival. What is his hat, his headgear. It seems like an electronic device, I see it as the persons way of communicating with the spiritual world. A reciever maybe, a listening device, workable or not. Then he seems to have a scarlet cloak draped from his forearms, like a Roman soldiers cloak. His hair is a Rastafarian plaited hair style. And he wears sleeveless fur jacket.

Well here I am making a painting of a subject that normal people will not consider putting on their wall. It might never have a chance of a new home anywhere, ever. I’d be better off painting a vase of roses.

I imagine though an interesting man going on a spiritual journey searching for something, going where the wind takes him, unafraid to explore the unknowable world around him.

Each painting I do seems to effect me somehow. The more I get absorbed in it the more I think and feel about it, the more I have to change to know it, to paint it truthfully as I can. That’s why at first, the picture had only it’s surface value. My drawing then was a fault, I had found a subject that was of interest but I had been typically superficial about it.

I spend more time just looking at it than painting it. What do artist do all day goes the blurb. Am I even an artist, I don’t know. Society and me are miles apart.

Creative Anxiety (from psych central)

Anxiety impacts many people, but may be especially prevalent and acute for those who are creative, gifted and highly sensitive.

Psychotherapist Diana Pitaru writes, “Anxiety is a common emotion experienced by creative people and while some of the symptoms may be similar from one person to the next, how and when people experience anxiety differs widely.”
She adds, “Sometimes anxiety is experienced as a reaction to our surrounding environment.

“Something –negative or with negative connotations- happens in our environment, we perceive it as a threat to our current or future self and as a way to protect and defend ourselves we become anxious…”

“Another type of anxiety is a more constant one that we carry around throughout our lives, many times, since childhood. In this context, anxiety has been used as a defence mechanism from a very young age.”

From Keys to Creativity: Using anxiety to create. By Diana C. Pitaru, M.S., L.P.C.

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Lady Gaga This photo is musician, actor and performance artist Lady Gaga.

She once commented about one of the common experiences of many artists: a racing mind.

She said she used prescription medicine because “I can’t control my thoughts at all. I’m tortured. But I like that.

“Lorca says it’s good to be tortured. The thoughts are unstoppable – but so is the music. It comes to me constantly.”

From my article Artists and Mental Health.

(Photo from

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But some anxieties – like an overbearing level of perfectionism – can interfere with our creative inspiration and expression, and be crippling in other areas of life.

Why would high ability and highly sensitive creative people be more susceptible to anxiety and stress?

Paula ProberPaula Prober, M.S., M.Ed., is a licensed counselor who works with adults to “heal unresolved issues from childhood and specializes in counseling and consulting with gifted adults, youth, and families.”

She is author of Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being for Gifted Adults and Youth.

In an article (on her site) The More You Know, The More You Worry, she writes:

“Perhaps you thought that if you were smart, you wouldn’t be a worrier.

“If you were smart, you’d know all of the answers. You wouldn’t have to be anxious because you could think your way out of any problem.

“But, in fact, you may worry constantly. You worry when you’re sleeping. When you’re hiking. When you’re cooking. When you’re driving. When you’re not worrying.

“So what’s with that? Let me explain.

“Your very active rainforest mind is able to dream up so many things to worry about. Less complex minds may worry less because there isn’t as much thinking.

“With you, there’s lots of thinking.

“And if you’re highly creative? Watch out. Even more worries.”

Prober offers multiple suggestions under the amusing heading:
“What, then, can be done, when a lobotomy isn’t an option?”

Among them is “Read the research from the Heartmath Institute and see if you might want to try one of their devices to improve what they call your ‘heart rate variability’ and reduce your stress.”

See information and testimonials about this technology in my article
HeartMath Tools for Emotional Balance.

You can also learn more in this webinar:

Navigating Turbulent Times Using Your Heart’s Intelligence – A free presentation by HeartMath author and teacher Howard Martin.

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Michele Kane, Ed.D., an Associate Professor and the President of the Illinois Association for Gifted Children, gave a presentation on Stress and Anxiety: Helping Gifted Kids Cope – which also has helpful perspectives for us adults.

She points out that stress is universal and experienced by everyone, and that “Being bright, talented, creative, motivated, smart, ambitious, and even good looking can add to the stress in your life.”

“Academic success and drive aren’t enough to make life manageable. The world is too complicated and intense, and it’s changing too fast.”

anxiety woman from Michele Kane stress pdfShe notes “There are no easy answers, simple solutions, or quick fixes for managing stress” but says, “You can learn to understand why your life gets oppressive, depressive, stressed or otherwise unhealthy. You can learn to live in a new and better way.”

Here is more from her presentation:

Sources of Stress for Gifted People


conflict between our values and the values of others (what is and what ought to be)
interpersonal disharmony
lack of intellectual stimulation or challenge
challenges beyond our capability to respond
threats to emotional or physical well-being
lack of resources to accomplish a task
time constraints

setting excessively high standards for ourselves
fear of failure
fear of success
negative self-talk
emotionally loaded/highly evaluative beliefs about ourselves and our environment
believing that everyone should love, respect, and praise us
buying into others’ negative evaluations of us

global concerns (e.g., nuclear disaster, war, poverty, world hunger, the environment, etc.)
anger at fate
need for meaning and purpose
Strategies to Help Gifted Kids with Stress

Share resources for meditation and visualization; explain the effect on the body
Explain the biology of stress; determine which how the body sends signals
Encourage deep breathing and exercise to minimize personal stress
Supply biographies of notables that were able to resolve personal situations
Promote experiences in nature as a way to self-soothe
For much more, see the PDF of her presentation: Stress and Anxiety: Helping Gifted Kids Cope.

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More strategies to relieve stress and anxiety

In an interview about his book Mastering Creative Anxiety, creativity coach and psychologist Eric Maisel, PhD comments on why artists may be more vulnerable:

“First of all, so much is on the line. For someone who’s self-identified as a writer, painter, composer, scientist, inventor, and so on, [their] identity and ego are wrapped up in how well [they create] – and when what we do matters that much, we naturally get anxious.”

Mastering Creative Anxiety book Dr. Maisel notes that in his book Mastering Creative Anxiety, he presents “a menu of twenty-two effective anxiety management tools, enough tools that everyone can find at least one or two that will work well.

“The simplest is to remember to breathe; a few deep cleansing breaths can do wonders for reducing anxiety.

“The most important anxiety management tool is probably cognitive work, where you change the things you say to yourself, turning anxious thoughts into calmer, more productive thoughts.

“And creating a lifestyle that supports calmness is also very important: if the way you live your life produces a lot of anxiety, that’s a tremendous extra burden on your nervous system.”


How Artists See

How artists see: Painters may view scenes in a way that’s similar to how the world really is: A mishmash of colors, lines and shapes. By Sadie F. Dingfelder. February 2010, Vol 41, No. 2 American Psychological Centre

Painters may view scenes in a way that’s similar to how the world really is: A mishmash of colors, lines and shapes.

Can you sketch a landscape, or even a convincing piece of fruit? If not, chances are that your brain is getting in the way, says painting teacher and landscape artist David Dunlop.

“People don’t see like a camera,” he says. “We go through life anticipating what we are going to see and miss things — which is why so many wedding invitations go out with the wrong date.”

In his art classes, one of the first things Dunlop tells students is to stop identifying objects and instead see scenes as collections of lines, shadows, shapes and contours. Almost instantly, students sketches look more realistic and three-dimensional.

Artists have long known there are two ways of seeing the world, says University of Oslo psychology professor Stine Vogt, PhD. Without learning to turn off the part of the brain that identifies objects, people can only draw icons of objects, rather than the objects themselves. When faced with a hat, for instance, most people sketch an archetypal side view of a hat, rather than the curves, colours and shadows that hit our retina.

In fact, artists’ special way of seeing translates into eye scan patterns that are markedly different from those of nonartists, according to a study by Vogt in Perception (Vol. 36, No. 1). In her study, she asked nine psychology students and nine art students to view a series of 16 pictures while a camera and computer monitored where their gazes fell. She found that artists’ eyes tended to scan the whole picture, including apparently empty expanses of ocean or sky, while the nonartists focused in on objects, especially people. Nonartists spent about 40 per cent of the time looking at objects, while artists focused on them 20 per cent of the time.

This finding suggests that while nonartists were busy turning images into concepts, artists were taking note of colours and contours, Vogt says.

While it takes years of training to learn to see the world like an artist, a common visual disability may give some people a leg up, says Bevil Conway, PhD, a neuroscience professor at Wellesley. In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2004, he and Harvard neurobiologist Margaret Stratford Livingstone, PhD, analyzed 36 Rembrandt self-portraits and found that the artist depicted himself as wall-eyed, with one eye looking straight ahead and the other wandering outward.

This condition, called strabismus, affects 10 per cent of the population and results in stereoblindness — an inability to use both eyes to construct an integrated view of the world. Stereoblind people can’t see “magic eye” images, in which a chaotic background turns into a single three-dimensional image. They also have limited depth perception and must rely on other clues, such as shadows and occlusion, to navigate the world.

Rembrandt’s stereoblindness, says Conway, may have given him an advantage in seeing the world like an artist. It’s no accident that art teachers often tell their students to close one eye before sketching a scene, he says. The eye’s imperfect optics, which form a slightly blurred image of any scene, also may be a factor, he adds.

“Rembrandt had a whole lifetime of honing the ability to render three-dimensional images in two-dimensional space,” he says.

Stereoblindness may also give lesser-known artists an advantage, Conway says. A yet-unpublished study by Conway and Livingstone finds that the art students are far more likely to have the visual disability than non-artists.

Vogt, a painter as well as a scientist, says that stereoblindness and concept-blindness help artists see the world as it really is, as a mass of shapes, colors and forms. As a result, artists can paint pictures that jar regular people out of our well-worn habits of seeing.

“As artists, our job is to get people to enjoy their vision, instead of just using it to get around,” she says.

Painting: The civil war soldier


I have just about roundabout finished this painting now, I will eventually sign it and put it away somewhere. It’s as big as a kitchen window. It’s hard to get a good photo using a mobile phone but anyway. contrabands 2

This is the photo I used, called “contraband”. Some of these poor men have leg irons on. But it was the expression of the man second from the left or is that from the right, which got my attention. I wondered about him, about his life and so on. thanks.

Painting: Civil War Soldiers

oil painting
3 soldiers of the American civil war

This is my new painting, not finished yet. The central character caught my attention because his expression is of suffering, it’s from an old photo of the American Civil War.


Proposition: The love of war

The love of war
Goes on and on
In civic pride
In patriotic song
In love for fallen
That paid the price
For their governments
And how they lie
When populations
They cannot control
Need trimming down
Who knows?
God knows

They didn’t want to
They had no choice
They find their names
Their regiments
They parade around
Without any sense
The love of war song

And who do they really fight for
They fight for him

The love of war
It seems to grow
At cenotaph
On streets below
I’ve never known
So much unrest
The answer they give
To mankind’s quest
The love of war
The love of war
The love of war

The love of war
Gets to the stage
The curtains open
The battles rage
And what’s the answer
They have none
Except to say
Be very strong
And they call
To save their world of gold
You will march in time
Like days of old
The love of war
Is on TV
In everyday
Discussing warplanes
Talking tanks
Battle plans
And marching ranks
That fight
For Waterloo
And Ypres
And Vietnam
And enemy new

The love of war
It makes me sick
To see the mind
Behind all this
Working well
Deceiving all
The love of war
So listen people
You must beware
The government
Does it really care?
When it is all so eager
To send you there
For their love of war
When we see it
It’s like some kind of mockery
You sit and watch as soldiers fall
Put there by –
The god of war
For the love of war


A proposition: To turn the images in this poem into an art installation, using video of, paintings and performance. To explore, and enlarge upon the idea that/how the love of war exits in the institutions that people are led by.

Blue Period

self portrait after picasso

This is a self-portrait after Picasso. Someone, Bill I think, said it didn’t look like me, (but I wanted a self-portrait of how I looked to myself, and not to others).
The oil pastel is a copy of a Picasso self-portrait, from the blue period, I did this in 1980’s when I had moved to London, it was the time of the Minors strike and the electrical blackouts of the awful Thatcher years and all that.

Samson and the city gates

Oil Painting
Samson trapped by the Philistines inside their fortified city, removes the city gates and escapes and carries the heavy gates to the top of a high hill where the philistines could never hope to retrieve them


Two further changes need to be considered to this painting: he eluded the assassins by leaving in the night; he had seven locks of long hair.

The hair cannot be resolved easily because is hard to add the detail to the actual size of the figure. The figure of a small Samson in a big landscape is an interesting contrast to how Samson is usually depicted. The cartoon nature is also a contrast to the usual realistic way of picturing him.

I have tried to depict an early morning scene looking west as the horizon gets brighter. My Samson is perhaps more of a circus strongman than an Israelite. But is better understood these days. I imagine the term “to gird up your loins” would apply here as Samson tucked his gown into his belt in order to move better, but I like the Circus strongman image better than the probable ancient clothing. But who knows?