This is my first ever blog. Here goes...
I am assuming you know me or have read my website so understand the passion and political standpoint that motivates me, but I'll try and paint a picture in words to set the scene for this and future blogs...
I am sitting in a kitchen in France in the quiet of the countryside with feeble sunshine struggling to shine through the grey cloud that has hung over the hilltops for days now. When it rains in the Cevennes, it teems down and does so for days on end, but that's why the region is green and lush despite often searing heat in the summer. The 'terroir' as they call it here is thick, cloying clay in the winter yet stony and sandy in the summer - making it an area brilliant for vines and lavander, roses and green oaks. But very, very hard to cultivate.
The people are tough; Protestant in a Catholic land. They are hard on strangers until they judge you sincere and committed to the place. Then the warmth unfolds slowly until it becomes a secure embrace.
Days are unstructured here; driven by the 'temps', filled with practicality in the garden or cuisine; but I have a studio in which to indulge my love of oil paint and people, combining them into paintings for my pleasure and sometimes others...
I am gearing myself up to paint some miners portraits to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the historic miners strike of 1984. I want them to resonate today so as well as UK miners I am searching for images across the globe - and there is no shortage; from Afganistan to Zambia men, women and children are toiling under and over ground to extract coal, copper and gold amongst other minerals to enrich the mine owners and provide the materials to maintain our lifestyles.
Miners profit little from these industries and never have. It's trite to say that it's dangerous, dirty and demanding work - but it is. And illness and pain go hand in hand with comradeship and community.
Solidarity can be the difference between life and death, so miners have always exhibited care and compassion for each other and their families. Well, so it used to be until multinational companies tried to drive wedges between them.
The miners portraits are well on their way and are to be exhibited in Sheffield, South Yorkshire at an anniversary picnic near Orgreave on June 14 - they are online for you to see, appreciate, criticise and buy!