Realisation in oils of the only known Self-Portrait by Hieronymus Bosch

Bosch portrait

I’ve admired the paintings of Bosch ever since discovering them as a teenager, in fact admired should read as fascinated by his paintings, who wouldn’t be? Well those who don’t wonder about the world I guess, or who can only judge paintings by technique. In fact Bosch is a very accomplished technician as well as a great ‘composer’ in oils, he was largely an ‘alla prima’ painter but there is much glazing in evidence too. The long and short of it is, he is very much an artist that I look up to and draw inspiration from, I never tire of looking at his work.

As someone who is appreciative of craft and technique, I used as mentioned elsewhere in my blogs, mediums that are made from recipes written in the renaissance, they are contained in the De Mayerne Manuscript from the seventeenth century and now made here in France, not a million miles away from chez moi. And so it is apt that I should paint an artist who painted right at the beginning of the renaissance with ancient mediums. I don’t use raw pigments often, although I do intend to much more so in the future, the oil paints that use are high quality contemporary tube paints.

For this painting I used an old canvas, (painters of Bosch’s epoch would have painted on a wooden panel), with a few wrinkles in it to add to the ancient look of the painting, I generally make my own canvases, I buy the supports and canvas or linen and stretch and size with RSG. I then cook up a primer, either distemper or just RSG and pigment. I prefer distemper, egg/oil/ water and pigment. I discovered distemper through my own, on-line research into renaissance techniques distemper, (egg/oil emulsion), it is an excellent primer, providing the artist with a silky smooth but still ‘toothy’ canvas to paint on. I apply between six and eight coats of thinly applied primer, sanding between each coat to achieve a very high quality painting surface. I prefer canvas to panels but I do occasionally use wood panels when the need arises, I use a chalk gesso on wood with many coats needed to produce a super smooth finish and thus enable micro-detail, if required.  For the moment I’ll continue completing my under drawings with graphite and charcoal but it should be noted that Van Eyck drew in fine detail with silver-point and I believe this technique made a significant contribution to the remarkable results he achieved.

After the canvas was ready I traced the self-portrait onto the white primed canvas and sealed it with non-fat milk, I then created a grisaille, following Boschs’ drawing but adjusting it where I thought necessary, he seems to have fired it off pretty quickly and there are a few errors of proportion here and there. I had in mind to make him weather beaten, like my Uncle Tom who was a farmer and this approach seemed to work from the start. There is considerable glazing and some impasto and alla prima elements involved too.

The eyes are glazed twice with amber varnish, to create extra depth and then glazed again as part of an overall amber varnish glaze.

Next year 2016, is the 500th anniversary of the death of Hieronymus Bosch, he is established as one of the greats and in this crazy world where fundamental religionists try at every moment to drag us back to the 7th century or earlier, the subject matter of his paintings is just as relevant as ever.

Very disappointed about the awful photo but it’s the best that I can do for now.

NB. Margaret Muller, I have to thank her memory and her family for keeping her website running, as without her I may never have started using distemper as a primer. Margaret Muller was brutally murdered in London while studying art on February 3rd 2003 which is coincidentally my birthday. I’m sure we would have enjoyed each others company and I dedicate this painting to her, it is the least I can do after what she has given to me.
her paintings and more information about her can be found here.


Réflexions sur ma vie No. 4 _ ‘Renaissance de moi’.

Renaissance de moi

Well I’m always at the centre of my paintings in some way, its why I paint, I can’t just paint someone’s dog or face, there has to be a meaning behind what I paint, the subject matter’s deeper meaning is what motivates me, even through long periods of ill health. The subject in this painting one of my favourites – is finding a way forward through painting/ drawing which is exactly and unexpectedly what occurred in my life, so the painting is a rebirth but as I have many interests it is a little more complicated than that. Obviously the eggs have to hatch into something, those nuts and bolts (which represent my lifelong interest in all things mechanical), what are they therefore, do they suggest what has hatched is perhaps Superman? Is it a human a robot? Perhaps our/my future as a cyborg and what does the desert fort represent, it’s decaying, (a general theme in my paintings) but retains some semblance of its former impressive self. Me I guess, hanging on by my finger nails, that’s how it feels some days.

I painted this using no solvents, I used the C.S.O. method developed by Louis Velasquez Calcite sun oil it’s a method very much for the artist who enjoys the ‘craft’ of painting, realising that the craft and the technique are the solid foundation for the creativity. It is of course the philosophy that underpins the technique of all the great masters from the Renaissance to Dali and on.
Sadly many art courses have lost the plot and teach artists very little of the real skill of painting or drawing. There are a number of famous exceptions, here are two The Art League – New York _ Florence art school much as I like Louis’ method I’ve also used the mediums made by Alchemist Mediums.

I somewhat like A.M.’s mediums but I prefer the C.S.O. painting method and the wonderful way it enables paint to flow onto the canvas, the finished paint film has a wonderful richness to it and real depth, never equalled by any other mediums that I’ve used. It is the addition of chalk in my view that gives the depth and the lustre to the paint film, it’s unlike any other additive.



Réflexions sur ma vie No.2 _ ‘Romance’


Only a tiny painting but one of my personal favourites, the cheese, gifts/bribes to win a potential lover’s heart or bed, the dice, chance, I think that the shoe and stockings are self explanatory.


La Peur

La Peur

Well this is a little more complex to put into words but you just need to look at the objects in the painting to get some clues. Without giving too much away, (after all it us up to the viewer to untangle paintings for themselves), the hand holding the pencil represents enlightenment through art. The spine – leaking, creativity pouring out, being lost or used? The statue a life compromised by serious disability, youth’s promise cut short. Keep going, there is more to unravel. The cliffs and the beach of my home town, broken, rusting wheels, a broken guitar, the blood, Britain bleeding, the lizard – nature -watches.