Bombstar is a collaboration between poet Paul Steffan Jones and singer-songwriter Charlie Sharp, both from Cardigan, Wales. The song has been put on myspace to bring it to a wider audience. The poem Bombstar was written by Paul in response to a realisation that there is often a beauty in scenes of destruction. It is a love song in a cold climate, a hymn to surviving in troubled times when our every move is open to surveillance, judgement and retribution by smart weapons. The poem was published in Poetry Wales and Paul’s friend Charlie was moved to turn the lyric into a song. Another friend, David R. Edwards, leader of the band Datblygu, liked it so much that he released it on a double A-sided comeback/farewell single Can Y Mynach Modern/Song of The Modern Monk on the Ankst label in August 2008.

hear the song at:

Sleight of Hand; interview with David Floyd

oil on canvas 183x152cm

Smoke and Mirrors: oil on canvas 183x152cm

What type of artist do you see yourself as? Do you see your work as a coherent body of work, developing in a particular direction?
I cover a broad range of subject matter; landscape, interiors, still-life, portraiture and life painting, all in a representational idiom. My central interest is the human figure.My approach to each of the genres in which I operate is one of flexibility; developments in any one area are unlikely to influence my activity in another. This may seem rather schizophrenic, but exhibition audiences appear to discern an overall coherence to the body of work as a whole.
It seems to me that light plays an important part in your work. Would you say that wanting to capture the qualities of light is one of your inspirations?
As a student, I concentrated on the problems of defining the form and structure of objects, to the exclusion of painting anything remotely ethereal. Only gradually [initially through drawing practice, utilizing contre-jour and chiaroscuro lighting set-ups], did I realize that light effects could make my task easier.
Light has become particularly important as a result of a career working as a scenic artist in the film and television industry, where paint and light is thoroughly integrated in the studio to produce the required result. I am now using this experience to inform my own painting; coloured, high-contrast and directional light is now used to heighten the theatricality of these compositions.
Where do you find inspiration for your work?
Direct observation provides the core of all my work. On this I build my projects with random observations from everyday situations, combined with salient memories of past experiences. For example, the central figure of “Giant” was painted from life studies, and the onlookers from a sketch of visitors in the Prado museum; but the theme derives from a powerful image from my childhood. My father and I were walking along a stretch of Lincolnshire beach on one of those hazy mornings where the pearlescent expanse of wet sand at low-tide blends seamlessly into watery sky. There were several dark, glossy forms in the distance. As we advanced, these forms revealed themselves as a stranded pod of Pilot Whales. To a land-locked five year old, they looked utterly colossal.

oil on canvas 61x122cm

the Lincolnshire Giant: oil on canvas 61x122cm

What sorts of things are you looking at and thinking about when you are making your work?
Formal considerations predominate during the making: shape, contour and line; chromatic intensity and hue.
Do you work entirely from life, or do you ever use photographs to complete your work?
My core activity remains life work; drawn or painted entirely from the model. Only recently have I been confident enough to supplement observational work with photographic imagery to produce the larger multi-figure compositions. After nearly thirty years, I now have the experience of anatomy to compensate for those ‘flat’ areas bereft of structure in a photograph. The real breakthrough for me has been the ability to compose paintings using the “Photoshop” programme on a Mac. I am able to re-size figures from several sources [drawing, painting studies, sketchbook, photographs] and combine them to scale in a convincing space. Though the final painting may depart significantly from these studies, they give me a vital starting point.
Your work seems meticulously painted. Do you usually do an acrylic underpainting for your oil painted work? How long, on average, does it take to complete a piece?
Only certain areas are meticulously painted; I am particularly interested in the juxtaposition of thick impasto with thin glazing; careful multi-layering alongside cursory thin layers; broken colour techniques beside flat areas. I feel this gives the painting a greater surface interest at close quarters.
I tend to use acrylics for the preliminary layers of painting simply because they dry so quickly. Thereafter, I switch to oils which provide unmatched versatility and subtlety of handling.
It is difficult to calculate time taken on the studio compositions; it depends on size, complexity of pose, and arrangement of light. Because I tend to have several paintings on the go at any one time, there is always at least one work at a stage dry enough to take another layer of paint. A painting may have been worked over a period of months [sometimes years], though the actual time devoted to its surface may be measured in days or weeks.
The smaller landscape panels, [generally no larger than 18” in either dimension] are painted on site using acrylic and these usually take no longer than 3-4 hours.
Who or what are your main influences?
As regards drawing, my main guides have been Degas and Schiele, though much earlier, the impetus to sketch came from my childhood enthusiasm for American Super-Hero comics. These generally displayed little aesthetic merit, until the later 1960’s when an artist called Neal Adams began work on several titles [Batman, Spectre, Green Arrow]. He obviously used models to achieve his foreshortenings, and the unusual viewpoints he chose, effected a new realism in this genre. He is well worth an image search on Google.

DC covers by Neal Adams

DC covers by Neal Adams

My big three painters who helped me through three stultifying years at art college were :Cezanne; for his pictorial organizationEuan Uglow; who showed me what a life painting might look like before the more closely observed subtleties of surface detail are layered over a structural scaffolding.Vermeer; cool and analytical; a perfect integration of figure and environment; forms and planes modeled using light effects of remarkable sophistication, yet with an ability to downplay his virtuosity which I think makes him more appealing to a modern audience than his more artistically bombastic contemporaries.
Are you a performer yourself?
No; I prefer the role of director which painting gives me. In fact, I have begun to investigate film-making as a medium to develop some of the themes which recent work has revealed, but which may require a time-based treatment. Earlier this year as part of the Fishguard ArtsFest, I presented a short film entitled “Blacksites”; provoked by the use of abduction and psychological torture techniques, used by Western Governments in our name. I am currently working on a film and series of paintings [working title; “Box”], which combine the imagery of escapology with issues of human trafficking. In this project, I am artist, film-maker and model. Does that count?

June 2007: “Sleight of Hand” Oriel Cambria, Tregaron

An Unknown Soldier of the Great War


I have long suspected that all the treasures comprising the antiques trade have by now been sourced, identified and marked to their full current values. Given the televisual super-saturation on this theme, the chances of discovering anything approaching a bargain must be pretty close to zero. However, if you prefer artefacts whose worth cannot be marked in hard currency, there may be hope. Several years ago, I acquired this drawing of a military officer for something less than twenty pounds, from an auction house in Bridgenorth, Shropshire. How he got there I have no way of knowing. I had hoped that there may be some hidden clues waiting between the drawing and the frame’s rear panel. The frame was suitably old and the window mount foxed with age, so I carefully prised away its back with anticipation, but previous ‘tomb robbers’ had broken in first; replacing any original packing with a couple of pages from a 1980’s Daily Mail…
I am no expert in military costume and would welcome correction on this point, but I intuitively felt from first sight that this man was an officer of the German Army. After all, his appearance conforms to that “Prussian” persona so beloved of the national stereotypist; squared jaw, strong neck and full moustache. [Where is the monocle?] However, even a shallow trawl through any photographic record of the Great War shows us that the differences in appearance are between ranks, [and class] and not armies – compare British C.I.G.S. Sir William Robertson’s appearance with any of equivalent rank across the lines at German High Command; they are interchangeable. What actually indicated nationality of origin to me was a technical component of the drawing itself; the line of strange, stylised background swirls. These were characteristic of innumerable German Expressionist woodcuts of the time.
I would surmise that this drawing was executed by someone who had at least a minimum of academic art training and a working knowledge of contemporary drawing style. Operating behind the front line as an artist conscripted into the army, or on the home front as a student whose studies had been interrupted by world war, he was utilising his skill to produce works for the officer class. The head is fixed on the paper with a firm line rather than a sophisticated contour, but this is just the type of figure edge one sees in the contemporary drawings of a society portraitist like John Singer Sargeant; an example of a European-wide salon style. The pencil hatching follows around the form of cheeks, over fullish lips and around the chin with a lightness of touch typical of portrait drawings of the time. Modern portraiture tends to steer clear of softening effects; facets which unequivocally model form are currently preferred to blending and softening techniques. Yielding, fleshy softness is now the preserve of photography. Yet here, this hatching is still able to indicate form; note how a 180 degree change of hatching angle on the nose tip pushes this form well forward of the cheeks. The softness of flesh is held resolutely in check by the stiffness of the tunic collar, thereby stabilising the unmilitary weakness of the jaw line. The hair is depicted through a series of small planes, which convincingly follow the head structure beneath; contrast this with the rendition of individual hair strands in the moustache. The buttons are cursorily scribed, but still achieve the appearance of polished brass.
What I find particularly poignant about this work is the date; January 1916. Unless the subject of this portrait was a military adviser to the Turkish Army, which had decisively repelled invasion the year before, he was likely to have to face action of the utmost ferocity at some point that year. Repelling the Brusilov offensive in the East, or enduring Verdun and the Somme in the West. Might he have faced the battalions of my West Yorkshire forbears at Serre on the first of July? There, on that morning, my great-grandfathers prepared to advance on a tribe who had burned history and knowledge in the medieval library of Louvain within days of their incursion through the Belgian frontier and who thereafter practiced ‘schrecklichkeit’; terrorizing civilians on both land and at sea. These British troops had been reliably informed by their leaders that this Teuton and his ilk had bayoneted babies, cut off the hands of children, and used live priests as bell clappers.
Now the fog of war has cleared, the imperial propagandist’s black arts have been scrutinised and deconstructed and ninety years later, a little piece of a lost world hangs in my study. Here is a man, his history obscure, this displaced portrait of him forever lost to his family. An essentially benign man, his severe collar is not quite able to squeeze the smile from his eyes. Unlike my forbears, I can only hope that he survived his ordeal with this sympathetic demeanour intact.
Glenn Ibbitson
This article first appeared in “Carmarthenshire Life”; April 2006

Collage: new variations

collage and origami on panel

Plunge: collage and origami on panel


I Initially adopted collage to sidestep a period of artists block; using high quality, full colour, glossy magazine print as source material. Used primarily as a mosaic technique, the paper selected was chosen only for its colour and tone. The paper-punch collages represent extreme examples. This tight control over the medium relaxed once aspects of the actual printed imagery were absorbed into the compositions. Increasingly, the success of a work hinges on one fragment of torn paper, which provides that special intersection of textural or colour juxtaposition, not evident when originally embedded in the printed page. It cannot be manufactured; it is discovered, and usually only by accident. Its incorporation represents the point at which the composition assumes a life of its own and deviates positively from the original plan. Surfaces are constantly adjusted through a series of overlayerings, and areas of particular detail are more painstakingly constructed with smaller paper fragments. A unique characteristic of this form of collage is the variation in focus which one is able to achieve by combining the printed image edges with the physical tears of the paper fragment itself, producing ambiguities of form and space.

Across the Studio Floor;  collage

Across the Studio Floor; collage

relief collage

Interior with Stripes: relief collage

relief collage

Sequencer: relief collage

January 2008

Kim Frohsin: a case for review


It was while researching collage references online that I discovered the work of Kim Frohsin, a painter based in San Francisco. Her pieces stood out from the general montage of mediocrity. They each looked as if they had been considered and thought through to a satisfying conclusion. I sought out more references to her art and was delighted to find that she was a figure painter of considerable talent. However, as I read about her, a theme emerged which seemed at variance to the images I was uncovering. The art of Richard Diebenkorn was a persistent reference point, with which Frohsin’s paintings were being unfavourably compared.
Stephen Jay Gould in one of his reflections on natural history reproduced in his collection of essays; “Bully for Brontosaurus”, examines the case of the “Creeping Fox Terrier”. The breed was [mistakenly, as it turned out,] used in an early paleontological tract as a size comparison for an extinct lineage of small horse. This comparison became standard in natural history textbooks, passing from generation to generation, because subsequent writers simply accepted this statement as fact and failed to question its veracity through first hand observation. I feel the same thing is happening with the connection between Frohsin and Diebenkorn; critics are re-treading the writings of their peers and not looking afresh at the work they are reviewing. Why? Because it’s so much easier for them to write this way; word-smithing without the encumbrance of examining the art for themselves.
The connection between Frohsin and Diebenkorn is straightforward. She moved to California in 1979. By living in San Francisco at this time, she was exposed to the art of the Bay Area Figurative Group; Diebenkorn, Park, Oliveira, and Bischoff. Frohsin’s work was influenced, much as a student is influenced by any tutor in any academic activity. In the early 1990’s, Frohsin’s work began to be exhibited alongside Diebenkorn’s work and other Bay Area painters.


Richard Diebenkorn’s abstract paintings are marvellous; his figure painting less so. His move to figuration in the late 1950’s was overvalued at the time simply because there just wasn’t enough good representational art to balance the proliferation of abstract art in its myriad forms. Any art with a figure as its focus was bound to be welcomed as relief by a niche audience who secretly craved the recognisable; some narrative in painting, no matter how tenuous.


In fact, the paintings are pretty weak. Unsupported by concentrated, direct observation, they lack that small yet significant bit of detailed painting which might have anchored the drifting approximations and created the visual tension such paintings require. The major signifiers of human expression with which the audience can engage are largely absent: hands have no more expressive form than unoccupied gloves in a frost, and faces are not those of a living, breathing model, but of curious modernist hybrids pre-packaged by Matisse and Picasso. In his hands, pigment is forced, rather than co-opted, to perform the task of depicting convincing, plastic form. It proves an unwilling slave.


Diebenkorn’s real talent, abstract organisation, shines through in “Figure on a Porch” 1959. Here the figure is formalised, absorbed into a composition which is organised on a grid, intersected by diagonals. The spaces between are infilled with variegated areas of sumptuous paint, applied with great dexterity. It is built on the same strong formal principles as the impressive Ocean Park series.


The figure gradually becomes a vestigial organ in Dibenkorn’s painting; in Frohsin’s, it is the beating heart of her practice.
Why does such an invidious comparison continue to be made between these two artists? Frohsin’s last obviously Bay-influenced paintings date from the 1990’s. It is how these stylistic foundations have been built upon, de-constructed and modified with time and the accumulation of independent experience, which matters. Frohsin shook off any direct influence years ago. It could take her only so far; a more concentrated relationship with the model was required to propel her towards where she wanted to go. Observational skills needed practice; her drawing skills had to be extended; pushed beyond what she already had at her disposal. What Frohsin is producing now, Diebenkorn couldn’t approach, because what are now her core skills in draughtsmanship, far exceed anything he ever had in his repertoire.


It is at once rigorous and disciplined, yet playful and carried along with an obvious passion for colour. Her vision is translated through confident line and bravura paint application. A desire to grasp illusionistic form is held in tension by an acknowledgement of basic two-dimensional organisation. Refined tertiary hues carefully balance brash areas of super-saturated colour.
I began this ramble by recalling Kim Frohsin’s paintings. I conclude with a note to art critics. It is your duty to analyse work with rigour and clarity; unclouded by the prejudices and accepted opinions of your predecessors. If you are unable to do this, the apparatus is now freely available for a public interested in visual art to bypass your views altogether, and to enter into direct dialogue with the artists themselves through their websites and associated blogs. These provide an opportunity to engage with the practicioner, [perhaps even to arrange a studio visit] before that artist’s ideas are warped or skewed by even the most well meaning and erudite of interlocutors.

Glenn Ibbitson February 2009

Kim Frohsin
Stephen Jay Gould

Bully for Brontosaurus: further reflections in natural history 1990

FOUR COLLAGES from the model

collage 21x42cm

Mother of Pearl: collage 21x42cm

collage 55x40cm irreg.

Model in Combats: collage 55x40cm irreg.

collage 70x43cm irreg.

Red Gown 1: collage 70x43cm irreg.

collage 84x56cm

Blue Nude: collage 84x56cm

Four of a series of collages which will be exhibited between

Thursday April 2nd to Tuesday April 28th 2009 at:

Art Matters Gallery South Parade, Tenby SA70 7DG

Carole King will be showing her Wales landscapes and flora paintings and prints on these dates. See examples of her artwork at: