Painting with pigments


Hull IV   100 x 120 cm

pigments and acrylic on paper

coast path 25 x 38 cm

Somerset Landscape

120 x 160 cm


comton martin ochre mine



Red Ochre is a familiar substance in my studio, where I have a large collection of jam jars filled with pigments of many hues. I have used them for a number of years alongside tubes of watercolour.


I mix the pigments with a binder, usually an acrylic medium or gum arabic (the traditional binder in watercolour), to make the paint I need, and find that it’s a direct and uncomplicated process.

Each pigment has its own characteristics and it takes a little practice to get to know them and to find the best way to prepare or apply each one. I particularly like using transparent iron oxides. They appear quite dull in their dry state, but once worked into a medium become clear, bright, intense and transparent earth colours. The iron oxides help me to create oranges, yellows and reds, so the opportunity to visit an ochre (red iron oxide) mine, no more than eight miles from home, was one I could hardly turn down.

pastel made with ground ochre from the mine

The mine is located in a wood on the edge of Compton Martin, a small village on the north side of the Mendip Hills in Somerset. A network of underground tunnels which were probably worked for some considerable time, it fell into disuse just after the Second World War. Knowledge of its existence faded from local memory and the villagers were surprised when cavers rediscovered it about 15 years ago.

Late one November evening, my wife Jane and I met our three guides in a dark lane high on the Mendips and were kitted out with helmets, lamps and boiler suits. The only entrance was on a steep hill side and the approach was physically the most difficult part of the trip – we needed ropes to negotiate the slippery climb.The colour was vivid in the light of our lamps and consistent throughout, whether as muddy clay at our feet or solid rock.  It’s similar to an English red with a slight blue tinge. Not quite like any pigment I have in the studio; I was delighted to collect a small bag full.


Day Bed     28 x 38 cm

pigment and acrylic on paper

Dry Red Press have just made a greeting card of Day Bed


Gold Fish  15 x 24 cm

pigment, goldleaf, gum arabic and ink on paper


Drawing using pencils and a pastel made from Compton Martin pigment


White Net    42 x 38  cm

pigments including crushed oyster shells and acrylic on paper

A Women's Reason 938KB

A Woman’s Reason    30 x 40 cm

pigment, silverleaf, gum arabic, acrylic paints on paper


lime green dress  38 x 33 cm

Yellow Dress III

pigment and acrylic on paper