Wednesday 15 May 2024

Three score and ten

Wreckless Eric turns 70 this year. (I know, even as I type those six words I can't quite believe it myself). Ahead of his imminent move back to the UK (he's had his fill of New York County), Eric's playing a few gigs over here. And if, like me, you've been following Eric's diaries, fanzines, blogs & radio shows over the years you can't not like him. What you see is (nearly) what you get. Although he plays the underdog to a tee, don't be fooled; beneath that faux bumbling persona lies a talent so rich (he's written, recorded, produced and played on more records than Paul McCartney's had hot dinners), musical historians in the future will spend the rest of time just cataloguing his work.

A personalised note from Eric, 2004

It was fitting then that in October last year he was invited by Jools Holland to revisit the song that kickstarted it all in 1977. (Back when the idea of Wreckless Eric turning 30 would have been seen as far fetched as Star Wars.)

Wreckless Eric (with Jools Holland) - Whole Wide World - (2023)

Monday 13 May 2024

Who's gonna pay attention to your dreams?

I finally got round to reading a brilliant book that's been on my shelves for more years than I care to remember. 'Duel - And Other Stories of the Road' is a collection of short stories that loosely fall under a banner, I'm calling, Auto Noir. It's a collection from 1987 curated by William Pattrick and is crammed to the rafters with cracking good reads, all paying homage to the road and the vehicles thereupon. Charles Beaumont, Roald Dahl and Stephen King are all in there but it's Richard Matheson's masterpiece from 1971 that gets top billing: Duel first appeared in Playboy magazine (and anthologised for the first time here), tells the story of one man driving to a sales meeting on a very ordinary day & being stalked by a crazed tanker lorry driver on the open road in California - in broad daylight. Like the film, Stephen Spielberg's first ever movie, it's utterly compelling. And very chilling. Unlike my California road trip in 2022. And James' in 2020; both recorded for posterity above.

Duel - Official Trailer (1971)

Richard Matheson (1926-2013)
Dennis Hopper (1936-2010)

Thursday 9 May 2024

Love for Sale in Amsterdam

I paid my respects to the late great Chet Baker last week in the Amsterdam hotel he'd been staying in latterly, and where he sadly died in the late 80s. Back in the day he was the epitome of, and the byline for, cool. His stellar solo performances were off the charts and he played with all the greats including Miles Davis, Gerry Mulligan and Stan Getz. He will never be forgotten. 

Here he is in a relaxed mood playing Cole Porter's Love For Sale. It doesn't get much better than this. (Filmed only a couple of years before his tragic demise).

Chesney Henry Baker Jr. (1929-1988)

Wednesday 8 May 2024

Richard Castor Jeffery

've been following Bristol based artist Richard Castor Jeffery on Twitter for a couple of years now. His urban landscape paintings captivate me. Richard records the built environment in a unique, vibrant and vivid fashion & captures every last detail so minutely. I recently acquired one of his signed prints and asked him if he'd mind a bit of light interrogation for my blog. "Sure, happy to!" he replied, "Though not keen on being recorded (shy retiring artist!)." And so I pinged a few Who, Why & Wheres on the email and Richard kindly lobbed them back over the net. Thank you so much, Richard. And thank you for my print. As you can see below, it's back from the framers - I've just got decide where to hang it! 

Who are your influences? Hopper? Hockney? 

Growing up, in my teens, the first artist who really excited me had to be Lucian Freud. Something about how he could take a ‘typical’ subject and make it totally his own, by the way he applied his paint, fascinated me. I had no idea how he could work this magic and spent many evenings copying his pieces from a book that I had, trying to figure out his technique. Needless to say, these were pale imitations, but I did learn a lot about ‘how to paint’ by doing this. More recently, since taking up the brushes again in my 50s, and with the power of the internet I’ve discovered Euan Uglow, who is a huge inspiration for me. I wish I’d known of him earlier. Technically, his work is mesmerising, with such a careful eye for colour and the way he combines both painting and drawing. His work is precise and analytical, but with real sensitivity and emotional intelligence. Again, I’ve learnt a lot technically by copying some of his work, fastidiously trying to piece them together, working from photos. If I could own a painting by any artist, it would be one by Euan Uglow. Of course I love the work of both Hopper and Hockney but don’t feel moved by them in quite the same way. In terms of current artists, I’d have to shout out to Jonathan Hooper, a painter of dreamlike urban and suburban landscapes in Leeds with an amazing eye for colour and form. If I could paint anything like him I’d be a very happy man indeed.

When did you first pick up a paint brush/realise you could paint?

I’ve always painted for pleasure in some form. My maternal grandmother was a keen amateur painter and I used to sit and paint with her during family holidays on Anglesey when I was very young, probably 7/8. Of course I painted a bit at school, doing Art O and A levels and for pleasure at home as a student while at university. I’ve always dabbled, but mainly painting for myself and family members and not very seriously or with any great confidence. I started to post a few pieces on my Instagram about 5 years ago and got some really positive reactions from friends, so was encouraged to do more. This pretty much coincided with COVID and the lockdowns, so I decided then to seize the opportunity of the time at home and take my painting more seriously. 

What is your preferred medium? (And, a banal question I know, nevertheless one I can probably ask a painter, what is your favourite colour?) 

I only use oil paints. I used to paint with watercolour and acrylics when I was a student, but couldn’t go back now I think. Watercolour is incredibly tricky (you have to get things right first time) and acrylic dries too fast, which is super scary - oils are a lot more forgiving. I’m experimenting building up several layers of colour in oils at the moment and finding new techniques all the time. I’m only scratching the surface really of what’s possible within that one medium - loads to learn still, every day. Also, the depth of colour possible in oils is just fantastic! I love the literal chemistry of it all, mixing colours, mediums, varnishes etc. it’s hugely enjoyable messing around. My absolute favourite colour is a warm sunflower yellow, although it’s an incredibly difficult colour to use (technically) in oils, as it’s quite transparent and easily overwhelmed by anything else you put it with. I have plans to do some all yellow paintings, but haven’t yet found the time / courage… I need to experiment more with this. 

Where did you study & Where do you like to paint? (home/studio?) 

I’m completely self-taught as a painter, all trial and error and lots and lots of observation of other painters’ work. I trained as an architect at university and then practised for about 30 years before my recent foray into painting. My absolute favourite part of architecture was always the representation of buildings, either through drawing or models, and this has certainly informed my approach to my art now. It’s something about a combination of both flatness and depth that intrigues me. Also simplifying something down to its key components, while still keeping the sense of the whole. Typically, architectural representation can seem very dry and precise - I used to feel that this was something I should try and move away from in painting, be more ‘loose and expressive’. Ultimately though I realised this just isn’t how I do things and that I should work to my strengths and employ the skills I learnt as an architect in a new way to describe the world around me. Stick with what you know… In terms of where I work now, I have a desk set up in the back room downstairs at home, which is now an ‘art studio’ that I share with my daughter (studying art & design at college). I love working from home and having the freedom to pick up the brushes whenever I want (within reason). I’m quite a neat and careful painter, so things never get too messy - except when the cat walks across the palette… 

How long did it take to get recognised/established? 

I guess this is a constantly evolving process, but I’ve been very lucky inasmuch as I seemed to find an audience and start selling my work from the off. I’ve always posted pretty much all of my work on my social media (mainly Instagram and Twitter / X) which is hungry for a strong image. I’ve been lucky to have had my work shared by friends and family, some with a good sm following, which certainly hasn’t hurt. Through Instagram particularly, I’ve found an incredible supportive and encouraging network of artists in a similar situation to myself, who’ve been very generous in giving my posts a wider reach, as I try and do for them. I’ve had a couple of pieces accepted into some judged open exhibitions, but haven’t felt the need to approach any galleries or agents to this point, preferring to promote and sell my work myself. Thankfully, this is working well for me at the moment. I wouldn’t say that I’m an ‘established’ artist in any sense, but things are moving in the right direction and I’m just going to keep at it and see where it takes me. 

You paint, seemingly, very ordinary urban vistas but in a most extraordinary way. Why do you think your paintings have captured the public’s imagination? 

I only paint scenes that really grab me personally - they have to have something ‘particular’ about them that I find beautiful. Obviously, this is a subjective thing, but I’d like to think that I’m not too different to other people in this regard. Discovering unexpected moments of beauty in the mundane, that you’d otherwise ignore, is a constant source of delight for me. Out of laziness as much as anything else, I chance across these in the immediate landscape around me, which is a landscape that I imagine everyone is familiar with in some way, that of suburbia and the 19th & 20th century city. In my case it’s Bristol, but it could be any small town or city in the UK to be honest. I feel that the paintings that seem to have the most resonance are those that could be almost anywhere, those that are as unspecific and as undesigned as possible. To this end I try and select views with as little ‘local detail’ as possible, removing distracting narrative elements (text, people, vehicles etc.) and make them universal. 

 Full details of Richard's work can be found at RCJ Fine Art

Tuesday 7 May 2024


A quick footnote/addendum to May's Photo Challenge. I've just returned from a few days away in Amsterdam (hence my tardiness in replying to your wonderful comments) and...guess what I saw? Yep, dummies by the dozen. What was I supposed to do, just walk on by? So, as a bit of a mopping up exercise I've decided to post them here. 

These ones spin*.

An Amsterdam collective.

Hatty Town.

Scary Town. (I honestly thought this fella was real.) 

Oh, and it's cycles and cyclists next time - well I have just come back from Bike City! By June 1st, please.

*Spin City?