Summer of Love

summer of love

It was a summer when tarmac softened and grass turned paper dry. Earth hardened until it cracked open. It was nineteen-sixty-seven, the age of Aquarius, the summer of peace, love and understanding. But that was in the greater world. At home, his sister was locked in her bedroom, her passport confiscated, her choices withdrawn. His parents conversed only in terse sentences. 

His family was controlled by a mother who was volatile and unpredictable. His father sought solitude by making wine in a windowless garage and practising magic tricks in his bedroom. His sister, always distant, inhabited a world of parties and dancing.

An adult at university, a child at home, he worked that summer in a large shed with a corrugated iron roof. He learned how to melt the pitch on old car batteries, repair and reconstruct them. He was entrusted with the company van, to deliver them to the scorched forecourts of local garages.

He couldn’t remember how he learned that his sister was pregnant, or if the news slowly permeated his life. With no husband, she had threatened disgrace for their family. Relocated with a friend of his mother’s, she moved both physically, and emotionally, even further from him.

Eventually the weather broke, roads flooded, and in a heavily laden van, he visited his sister. Withered by a common matriarchy, a bond had grown. 

The new child was named, and taken away. A fable fabricated to explain his sister’s absence. That summer was never mentioned again. He was neither brave enough, or foolish enough, to question the decisions of his parents.

The summer of love ran its course. A baby was born, held by him one afternoon, then abandoned. An illusion of peace returned, love was an illusion, and there would never be understanding.

The Game

chess piece

Pale olive trees shaded the pavement – a place for sun-wrinkled men, a peaceful retreat. The boy stared at the three tables set outside the café in the square. Chess boards, populated by small familiar figures, stood alert, armies waiting for generals to command them. 

The trees were still and quiet, until a rare breeze rippled through them. An old man, sitting at one of the tables, was looking directly at the boy.

His parents had driven them down through France to the Spanish coast. It was less than twelve years since war had raged across the country, but the only armies still prepared to do battle and defend their monarchies were now poised, waiting patiently, outside that café. The small hotel in which they were staying was occupied predominantly by Germans. At breakfast and supper, they shared the same sausages. Those other guests were still portrayed as the enemy in his school playground. 

The boy’s father had presented him with a chess set on his seventh birthday and had spent many hours teaching him the rules of the game. He understood it as a conflict of two warring patriarchies, weak kings controlled and defended by flamboyant queens and their entourage. He only ever saw himself as a pawn, one hoping to achieve rank and be rewarded with higher status. More often, he would be sacrificed in exchange for small victories in the skirmishes between his parents. The game absorbed him in both its simplicity and complexity. It replaced a life in which he understood little, with one that was governed by clearly defined parameters.

The old man gestured for him to approach. He held an open palm towards the empty seat on the opposite side of the table. It was early evening, but the heat of the day lingered in the dust and stones of the dry buildings and weary streets. The chair was warm too, worn smooth by years of use. The man held out two clenched fists. The offer was understood, the challenge accepted. The boy touched one of the man’s wrinkled hands and was rewarded with a white pawn. Without a word, the board was turned, the pawns restored to their ranks. The armies were complete again.

The boy never looked up until the game was over. There was no need. The battle was tightly fought, but in the end, the black king lay diagonally across two squares, defeated. He heard the old man chuckle.

“Muy bueno.”

Looking up, the boy saw the man smiling, offering a hand across the table. Unused to being treated as an adult, an equal, he hesitated. The man nodded, smiled again. His teeth resembled a bombed city, reminding the boy of the jagged, shattered buildings he passed on his walk to school each day. They shook hands.

“Otro juego?”

The boy understood no Spanish, other than please and thank you – a lesson driven into him by his mother. But when the man picked up two pawns, the boy understood and nodded.

By the closing stages of the second game, they had drawn a small audience. Rather than watching in silence, as the boy would have expected, these onlookers made frequent groans, gasps, and even laughed aloud when a concealed attack unfolded. There was a small ripple of applause as the second game ended, this time a victory for the black army, commanded by the boy.

“Bien jugado.”

When the man held up three fingers, the boy understood. He looked at his new watch, bought for him by his father for this holiday. He stood, knowing that he should return to his hotel, that his parents might show concern over a longer absence.

“Tomorrow?” he asked.

One of the spectators said mañana, and they all nodded, patting the boy on his back, some reached out to also shake his hand. They spoke rapidly, in short bursts. None of it made any sense to the boy, but he nodded and smiled.

At the hotel, he found his parents in a small, dark lounge towards the back of the building. His sister was there too, refilling her tumbler from a large half-depleted jug of what he knew to be sangria. Despite the fruit floating in the red liquid and the slices of orange adorning the rims the tumblers, he knew he would not be permitted to share this glamorous drink.

A waiter appeared, unsummoned, and the boy’s father ordered a cola for him. It came with ice cubes and a slice of lemon, which the boy still thought of as exotic. Nobody asked where he had been or what he had been doing. He offered no explanation, for fear of disapproval, and being forbidden from returning to the square.

The family stayed in the small hotel for ten days, before they made the return journey through Spain and France. His parents became browner, more relaxed, but he was still tense whenever they turned towards him. His elder sister became attached to a young German, who was studying to become a doctor. 

The boy learned a few words of Spanish and the names of some of the men at the café. He did not win all his games, but from the second night, he kept a record of the moves on scraps of paper. During the day, on the beach, when the sand became too hot, or the sea too monotonous, he would ask his mother for a few pesetas to buy a cold drink. With the aid of a pocket chess set, he would sit in the shade of palm fronds at the beach café, replaying the games from the previous evening.

The family’s time in Spain ended too soon for the boy. His sister exchanged addresses with the young German, his mother almost wept over farewells to the waiter. The boy said goodbye, as best he could, to his new friends in the shady, quiet square. He had scoured his father’s phrase book for something suitable to offer them on that last night.

“Hasta el año que viene.”

He received more applause, more smiles and laughter, and a long speech from his original opponent of which he understood not a single word.

His family did not return to the same resort the following year, or on any subsequent holiday. Planes replaced roadmaps and their travels took them further afield. The boy kept the record of his games tucked into the back of a small book of chess openings. In later years, he would play through the games and smile at his errors. His friends’ names were mostly forgotten, but their smiles and laughter stayed with him.

Many years later, shortly before his eighteenth birthday, he returned to that same village on the Spanish coast, accompanied by a friend who claimed no interest in chess. The small book, and the records of those past games, were carefully stowed in his suitcase. One evening, while his friend sang in the shower, the boy retraced his steps to the small hotel where he had stayed as a child. From there, he took the familiar route to the leafy square he remembered so clearly.

The café was still there, but there were more tables outside, some in full sun where the trees had been pollarded. The three tables against the wall no longer supported chess sets, awaiting battles between friends. They had been replaced by menus, with pictures of burgers, chips and ice cream. 

Those men had survived a civil war, a European war, and a brutal dictatorship. But his childhood companions had finally fallen to an irresistible force. Tourism, in which he was an unwitting pawn, had changed the landscape forever. His friends had been lost in action from a new type of invasion.

Urban Forest

urban forest

This contemporary abstract painting relates to way we obscure nature in our cities, then seek it in our rural environments – but all the time nature adapts to our built environment and returns.

Ultimately we can never ignore nature and will always have to live hand in glove with it. The sooner we accept that the more balanced our society will become.

This poster is available to purchase in three sizes, framed or unframed. All prints are made to order and produced on a silk matt 170gsm paper. A visual guide to these is shown below:

poster sizes urban forest
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Reef

reef

Simply my idea of a perfect place to spend a day, reading a book, snorkeling or just swimming occasionally when you get too hot. It’s a generic scene, not a specific location, and could be almost anywhere in the world you care to imagine (as long as it has an off-shore reef).

This poster is available to purchase in three sizes, framed or unframed. All prints are made to order and produced on a silk matt 170gsm paper. A visual guide to these is shown below:

reef print sizes
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Cinque Terre

This is an original illustration employing the warm colours of the mediterranean. The Cinque Terre is a group of five villages within a national park in Italy’s Liguria region. It should still be on everyone’s bucket list, but its popularity and uniqueness has meant restricting tourism to avoid overcrowding. 

Art poster prints are for sale on Etsy in three different sizes. These prints are museum-quality posters made on long-lasting semi-glossy (silk) paper – weight: 170 gsm/65 lb

Because the artwork involves digital painting there is no physical original that can be sold. For anyone interested in purchasing something closer to the original work, I can supply a 29.5″ x 21.5″ limited edition Giclée print produced with acid free inks on Hahnemühle PhotoRag 308gsm, signed and numbered from an edition of 40.

print sizes cinque terre
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Construction 73

construction 73

Construction 73.

A contemporary abstract reflecting life in a working urban environment. Those familiar with maths may understand the significance of 73 in both prime and digital (or you’re a fan of The Big Bang Theory).

The oblective was to set up a construction that ‘almost’ balances. Everything in it is not quite aligned so the tension is subtle. The inspiration is in industrial parks, but of course there’s nothing representational here. I thought this would be a simple little exercise taking an hour or so – three days later…

This poster is available to purchase in three sizes, framed or unframed. All prints are made to order and produced on a silk matt 170gsm paper. A visual guide to these is shown below:

construction 73 sizes
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East Lyn to Lynmouth

east lyn to lynmouth

A reconstructed painting from old photographic reference and using a palette of colours that reflect paintings of that period and location. It shows the East Lyn river looking towards Lynmouth and Hollerday Hill in a time when George Newnes’ House still stood near the summit and there were far fewer trees.

Art poster prints are for sale on Etsy in three different sizes. These prints are museum-quality posters made on long-lasting semi-glossy (silk) paper – weight: 170 gsm/65 lb

Because the artwork involves digital painting there is no physical original that can be sold. For anyone interested in purchasing something closer to the original work, I can supply a 29.5″ x 21.5″ limited edition Giclée print produced with acid free inks on Hahnemühle PhotoRag 308gsm, signed and numbered from an edition of 40.

sizes for east lyn to lynmouth
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Dominion Cinema, Southall, London

dominion cinema southall

An illustration of the Dominion Cinema, Southall with a couple meeting outside. Now sadly demolished rather than being preserved. The setting is mid 1940s (the cinema was built in the late thirties) and the advertising posters are all from that period, being: It’s a Wonderful Life and Double Indemnity. The cinema is of a typical art deco style designed by the architect Frank Ernest Bromige who worked on many London cinemas.

This poster is available to purchase in three sizes. All prints are made to order and produced on a silk matt 170gsm paper. A visual guide to these is shown below:

sizes dominion southall
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Near County Gate on Exmoor

exmoor, county gate

Looking over the moors near County Gate between Devon and Somerset The road along the coast here is always spectacular, whatever the weather, but summer is a special time when you can the sea, sun-dried grass and heather at the same time.

Art poster prints are for sale on Etsy in three different sizes. These prints are museum-quality posters made on long-lasting semi-glossy (silk) paper – weight: 170 gsm/65 lb

Because the artwork involves digital painting there is no physical original that can be sold. For anyone interested in purchasing something closer to the original work, I can supply a 29.5″ x 21.5″ limited edition Giclée print produced with acid free inks on Hahnemühle PhotoRag 308gsm, signed and numbered from an edition of 40.

exmoor, county gate sizes
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Lynmouth Low Tide

lynmouth at low tide no title

A print from an original painting. Lynmouth Harbour at low tide, a couple of years ago before the Tors Hotel was restructured and when a typical autumnal mist had descended from Exmoor. Even on a chilly damp day there is still a beauty in this rugged coastline.

Art poster prints are for sale on Etsy in three different sizes. These prints are museum-quality posters made on long-lasting semi-glossy (silk) paper – weight: 170 gsm/65 lb

Because the artwork involves digital painting there is no physical original that can be sold. For anyone interested in purchasing something closer to the original work, I can supply a 29.5″ x 21.5″ limited edition Giclée print produced with acid free inks on Hahnemühle PhotoRag 308gsm, signed and numbered from an edition of 40.

sizes lynmouth at low tide
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