Spring Newsletter





It’s been a busy time yet again.

This year for the first time I joined the Open Studios Notts.

Open Studios Notts, supported by the Arts Development Service, is a series of linked events organised and run by artists and makers across the county over 6 weeks through May and early June.

There is also a Central EXHIBITION AT RUFFORD CRAFT CENTRE running from 3 May to 7 June.
I have 3 paintings in this exhibition along with a number of mounted prints.

I turned my home into an Art Gallery for the weekend of 16-17 May.
Not knowing any other artists in my village. I went solo on this.

It was a great success.
Many people came to have a look at what I do and how I do it and some also came to buy which was fantastic.
Visitors stayed for at least 30 minutes, many stayed for a lot longer chatting and drinking tea and coffee which flowed
freely all day.
Some even came back for a second visit over the weekend.

I made short quick video before everyone came for those that wanted to see the exhibition but weren’t able to attend.
This I have now uploaded to YouTube if you’d like to have a look.
YouTube video

One of my twin daughters and her husband had come up from London to help out at the event.
(Having persuaded me to do it in the first place.)
And then her twin sister surprised me on the Saturday evening by turning up to give her support as well.
(Her husband having offered to look after the boys at home for the rest of the weekend.)
Thank you girls (and boys) love you loads and I wouldn’t have got this far without you.

Yesterday I dropped off a painting to Patchings for inclusion in their exhibition.
Patchings Open Art Competition 2015
This will run during and after the Art festival.

Have I got time to put my feet up for a break.
Well, no actually.

I am in the middle of doing some more New York paintings and as soon as the rain stops and the weather brightens up I will have to get on down to take photos in Nottingham.

More on that in the next installment.

Prints are now being stocked at Focus Gallery, Derby road, Nottingham
Pop along and have a browse.

Exhibition news

My first London exhibition was a resounding success.







The 2 day event arranged by Will Trump of Swiss re went down exceedingly well.

-0008085 -0009085






25% of monies raised through the sale of paintings and prints is being donated to  Alzheimers Society, which is Swiss re’s charity of choice for this year.

So far just over £500 has been raised from the event and for this week only 30th March – 5th April
25% of the purchase price from sales on the website on all paintings and prints will be donated to Alzheimers Society .

Lets see if we can raise some more.



A dialogue with photography

Last month I mentioned about possibly doing an Art degree and I was printing out the relevant info.
Info printed, studied and absorbed. Although not taken in as well as it should have been. As they used to say at college ‘Make sure you read the brief.’
I thought I had, but after reading so much more info I’d actually forgotten what it said and instead of re-reading, ploughed on.

The problem was simple there were 2 courses I was interested in. Painting and Creative Arts.
Painting is self explanatory.
Creative Arts was a course I could have taken at Derby when I left college but decided not to take the placement. This involved art, photography and creative writing.

I have been working for a fair few years so I decided to apply for an Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL). In simple terms try to get credits for what I already know. Therefore bypassing year one of photography and painting, leaving me one unit of year one to complete (drawing) before going on to year 2 of a 3 year course.  SIMPLE

So I wrote out what I thought was a reasonable APEL.

Re-read the brief and realised I had 3 times too many images and I had written for Digital Photographic Practice, which is a unit in Creative Arts. Instead of The Art of Photography which is the unit I need for the Painting degree DOH !

So rather than waste all the work I did you now have the pleasure.

APEL for ………… another day

Photography Experience
Worked under the pseudonym of Kris Mercer, Photography 1st.
I have for many years contributed to photo agencies, most now defunct.
Still contribute and sell through Alamy.
Worked part-time for a jeweller for approx 8 months in 2005 photographing stock and getting it ready to go on a website.
Was a member of the Royal Photographic Society around the same time.
Photographed card stock and crafts for inclusion on a website.
Part-time work for Photo-remote, photographing pylons and electricity sub stations.
October 2008 course in L.A. with Lauren Rinder learning lighting, photographing models and air brushing.

Living with a camera
I was given my first SLR at the age of 13, mainly I suspect because I didn’t have the necessary equipment to develop roll film and my Mother would prefer I no longer spilt chemicals on her sheets. Up to that point my passion had been for a tin can with a hole punched in one end and a small square of photo paper held in place at the other.
Quickly developed after exposure in my Mother’s airing cupboard. Hence the upgrade.
I started photographing insects around the garden, and although at that time it was only black and white, interspersed with many shades of grey, I was hooked.
I had more pressing issues through my teens and then family commitments took over, so although I was still taking snapshots and sending the odd photo to an agency I never took it up seriously again until I started a BTEC art course in my 30’s.
The few film cameras I still have, ranging from an old SLR Pentax, through brownies and an instamatic, to a box camera, are all now retired to the attic.
The mirror less rangefinder was the last to be withdrawn from active service. This small manual compact camera was a constant companion for many years as the size and weight meant it could be taken anywhere.Dragonfly - Trithemis  annulata (female)

My first venture into digital came with the 3.3mp Epson PhotoPC 3100z. This little point and shoot could be fully automatic or manual. Experimentation was now possible without the expense of developing and printing. When I realised I could shoot ‘macro’ and blow the photo up to A3+ I was a convert. Especially when this one photo alone almost paid for the camera.

SLR’s and dedicated lenses followed.

Having progressed from b/w through colour and from film to digital, I now process my ‘film’, in the guise of an sd card or compact flash, on the computer. Not only can I organise all my photographs into a library as I upload, but all the shooting information is to hand.






Using Adobe Lightroom I can also add keywords and captions at the time of uploading.
Other information being typed in later and stored.
Quick fixes to exposure, temperature balance and cropping are also done in this programme, leaving such things as correcting converging verticals or manipulation to be done in Photoshop.
One of the greatest benefits of the digital darkroom is you are completely in control of the outcome.

I have built up a large library of images ranging through animal, vegetable and mineral. So although my main interest over the years has been insects and macro I have not been exclusive.
In fact most of the photographs I have sold have not been of this genre.
I stick to shooting stock photos which covers all ranges and types of image and I have sold images of the mundane, in the shape of a concrete car park,

NCP car park Arndale centre Nottingham. Image shot 2008. Exact date unknown.








to the slightly more exotic, Montzah palace.

Montazah Palace gardens, Alexandria, Egypt






I have many photos I will probably never have a use for but if something catches my eye I will photograph it.

Reflection of a victorian building






It seems on the camera and lens issue I have come full circle.

I eventually gave up my digital SLR and lenses at the beginning of this year as the sheer weight stopped me from taking them out.
I have gone back to a mirror less in the shape of a Micro 4/3, due again to weight and size.
But this time it is digital and with a range of lenses, the only drawback so far is the viewfinder.
I am yet to be convinced that an electronic one can ever replace a large optical one.
There are a number of features I will miss on the SLR which the mirror less cameras have yet to match up to. One being the fast mid zoom lens. A must for speed and wildlife.

Lens 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 with a 1.5x adapter 1/640 sec at f / 4.5

Lens 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 with a 1.5x adapter 1/640 sec at f / 4.5

This photo of an Eurasian Eagle Owl was taken at a Birds of Prey Centre in Northumberland.
I, still a few years after the shot was taken, class this as one of my best wildlife shots straight out of the camera.  The focusing and framing were good as this was taken hand held without the aid of a tripod or monopod.

07 Gorilla

Lens 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 1/80 sec at f / 4.0

This is also a favourite as the use of thirds was used in the composition.
The background spoils this a little as more blur would have focused the eye more on the baby gorilla. Post processing could be used to sort out this problem.

A fast wide angle lenses was used to take this photo on an SLR but as it is not an ultra wide angle lens, nor at maximum aperture, this shot could also have been taken with a zoom lens on almost any sort of camera.

La Corbierre Lighthouse, Jersey, Channel Islands







Wide angle lenses if used to take photos of buildings must be used with care if the need for extensive post processing is to be avoided. Used incorrectly they can distort a scene and you can be left with the problem of converging verticals. As seen in the photo below.
Another problem is if people are in the shot, it can also distort their proportions. The two girls in the shot are identical twins, of identical shape, but the curvature of the lens has given the girl to the far left the look that you would usually find in a fairground hall of mirrors.

Island of Lokrum






My last lens that I have yet to equal on a mirror less camera is a dedicated macro lens.
Although there is a macro setting on many a point and shoot camera, true macro can only be achieved with a 1/1 lens. The micro 4/3 cameras do have macro lenses and extension tubes but focusing can be a problem.
I have tried to do a comparison and although adequate not quite on par with a good SLR.
The focusing is extremely difficult.

SLR camera - 105mm Macro f/2.8 1/250 sec f/20  Focal Length In 35mm Film: 157

SLR camera – 105mm Macro f/2.8 1/250 sec f/20 Focal Length In 35mm Film: 157






Micro 4/3 camera - Lens 60mm F2.8 Macro 1/60 sec f/18 Focal Length In 35mm Film: 120

Micro 4/3 camera – Lens 60mm F2.8 Macro 1/60 sec f/18 Focal Length In 35mm Film: 120








I find a fast 105mm macro lens is also a good all round lens for keeping on the camera if you only have the option of buying one or taking one out and about. The 60mm is an equivalent on th 4/3rds system. That is of course because I like to do a fair amount of close up work, it would not necessarily be everyones choice.
Getting the focus right is of course a priority when doing close-up work, but sometimes not getting a scene totally in focus can aid the visual impact.

Walking in the rain





If this scene was in sharp focus I think it would lose impact. You wouldn’t feel so aware of the rain pelting down.

Similarly motion blur gives the feeling of movement, but in this instance the structures have to stay in focus, only the people are blurred and out of focus. This is realised with an exposure of 0.4 sec at f/13. I would usually prefer to use a tripod to take this sort of shot but that would attract attention and I had already been asked to leave another shopping centre because I was taking photographs.

Birmingham Bullring

Shapes and patterns




This is an semi abandoned wasps nest that I found, of which I took a number of shots. This was a great find for a number of different reasons.
1. Good natural light in the form of cloudy afternoon sunlight, therefore I could shoot handheld, with a reasonable depth of field, without the use of flash.
2. Patterns of hexagons, circles and tubes.
3. Texture in the wood pulp sides of the comb and the tops being covered with a fibre reminiscent of candy floss
4. Differing stages of growth of the wasp eggs and larva.






Shapes and patterns can be found anywhere as demonstrated in the thumbnails above.
Image 1.Lines and circles in nature in the form of a tendril, growing vertically until it finds something, in this case a piece of old rope, to coil around.
Images 2 and 5 The architecture in buildings. In this instance the Pacific Design Centre. (see below for more info)
Images 3 and 4 On a trip to Beaulieu National Motor Museum I took close-up photos of the shapes on the car bodies as opposed to taking shots of the whole car.
Image 5 Shapes can also be made with light trails. These were taken on a London street.








This is a stunning building, not only architecturally but visually too. The colours and shapes intertwine, the interplay of straight lines versus curved lines and angles juxtaposed with oblongs and circles. This was taken early morning with the intention of catching a soft warm light, giving a calm, peaceful mood to image. Unfortunately a fire raging in San Antonio caused a blanket of ash to form over L.A.. The overcast light had a much cooler appearance than I was looking for.

Colour and light
Colour and light play a big part in the way we perceive an image. Some photos can look flat especially if the photo is taken outside at midday because colour saturation is typically lower,
and the downward shadows don’t make subjects appear as three-dimensional. This can also be true for interior shots where the light source used is available artificial light or even natural light coming from the wrong direction.




Sometimes due to lack of equipment (off camera flash) coupled with restraints on where a subject can be photographed from, a little lateral thinking can still bring in a reasonable shot. This can be seen in the shots above. Not enough light in the first shot, whereby moving around a little brought in the light but the source was a distraction, going up to the next level brought in the right amount of light from the window coupled with fill in flash. It is the light and shadow in a composition that make your subjects stand out from the background.
The camera can also play tricks on us. Our brains are trained to turn most artificial lights into neutral light.  The camera cannot do this so flourescent lights will add a green glow,  household bulbs an orange cast. This can be seen most clearly in these two shots taken on a cloudy night. Light pollution from low pressure sodium street lights and tungsten lighting reflect back from the cloud covering turning the sky orangey/brown.

Tower bridge, lit up at night






Kasr el Nil Bridge

This can be remedied by changing the white balance with the press of a button on a computer

Kasr el Nil Bridge



Sometimes b & w can be used to dramatise an image.

    This derelict cottage although looking sad and neglected with broken windows, has an air of life about it with the green ivy growing up and around the property. In stark contrast, the b & w photo gives the property a desolate feel.

This derelict cottage although looking sad and neglected with broken windows, has an air of life about it with the green ivy growing up and around the property.
In stark contrast, the b & w photo gives the property a desolate feel.





In stark contrast, the b & w photo gives the property a desolate feel.

In stark contrast, the b & w photo gives the property a desolate feel.










This sort of strategy has been used in home magazines dealing with interior design, renovations and extensions. A piece on an actual home improvement usually has before and after shots.
The before shot may be depicted in b & w and after a makeover in colour, to give the effect that the makeover now has a warmer homely feel.









The derelict cottage as depicted above after renovations. If used in a magazine the 2nd shot would now be used as the colours sing with the heat of a summers day,  the orangey red of the brickwork lends warmth to the picture which is lost in the b & w offering.

I actually like flat even lighting and for most of the work I do now it works just right.
For the following shot I experimented with a number of different coloured backdrops.
The blue background colour was chosen as the nearest to a complementary that would work so the orange would stand out. It also gave an idea of an orange against sky, fresh from the tree.
White was too insipid and didn’t show the droplet, the same for a neutral grey.
Black was too harsh and there was no relation to the item.
The orange merged into the red background.
The droplet proved to be problematic. The juice from the fruit was not orange.
When photographed it looked like water.
I used a drop of red and yellow acrylic mixed with water and squeezed orange juice to get the right colour and consistency.  A lot of oranges were used as during the shoot as after a few shots the paint mix would leave traces on the orange fruit, which meant it became increasingly obvious that the juice was not what it seemed.

Orange juiceGetting the drip right was difficult. Having 2 people on the job would have helped. I had a remote for the shutter but having to syringe juice into the orange and press the remote was not easy.
Soft boxes were used as the light source as can be seen in the droplet. The image was also cropped to a portrait format as this worked better.

Sold through an Agency Country: New Jersey Usage: Editorial Media: Trade magazine Industry sector: Travel and Tourism Sub-Industry: Business Travel Print run: up to 100,000 Placement: Front cover Image Size: 1 page

Sold through an Agency
Country: New Jersey
Usage: Editorial
Media: Trade magazine
Industry sector: Travel and Tourism
Sub-Industry: Business Travel
Print run: up to 100,000
Placement: Front cover
Image Size: 1 page

Although cropping and framing can be done post processing it is always better to try to think ahead when taking a shot. How will it be used and what is the eye focusing on.

24 boats, portrait24 boats, landscape

Although taken from virtually the same viewpoint the portrait format works better in this shot because it draws the eye in. The landscape format ,which would be the usual way to shoot this scene, doesn’t work as the picture is too busy in the middle and has no point of focus.




I decided I needed to learn more about off camera lighting so I went to L.A. for a course on lighting and portrait photography with someone I had contact with through one of the photo agencies.

Young woman dancingI also learnt techniques on airbrushing which was useful.Studio shot of Model, before and after airbrushing

This model had acne scars. I airbrushed out the scarring, smoothing the skin on her face. I whitened her teeth and changed the colour of her eyes.
These two photo’s have been published side by side in an educational textbook.
After going on the course I did a little portrait work and took ‘mug’ shots for passports but I didn’t enjoy directing people for a pose, nor entering into conversations.
Sometimes you need to try something even if it only confirms that it was something you didn’t want to do.

Illustration and Narrative
I am happy in the knowledge I have to use a digital camera, whether it be an SLR, mirror less or point and shoot, and can use any adequately for the images I want to produce.
I am proficient, up to this point in time, in using photo-editing tools and digital imaging software. This is an area that I need to keep on the ball with as technology changes and improves.
I like to set myself projects and goals.
The plight of the bees caught my attention.
I took many shots and then merged 5 together. This gives the idea that there isn’t a problem and shows how easy it is to manipulate a subject to give the wrong impression.
I got the idea from a war photo that had been manipulated to show something that actually never happened.

Bee thumbsBees on Orange Ball Tree - Buddleia globosa

This past few years I have been photographing the villages close to where I live.
An offshoot from this has been pit heads and headstocks.
One a working pit, one a museum run by volunteers and the headstocks of the 3rd photo have their fate still in the balance.

29 ThoresbyThoresby colliery.  Stitched together from 8 separate photos

30 PleasleyPleasley Pit and Country Park

Clipstone Colliery, Grade II listed Headstocks

Clipstone Colliery.    Grade II listed
Pair of headstocks and linking powerhouse. Built 1950-51 for the Bolsover Colliery Co. Steel, brick and concrete.Two tall steel framed headstocks with diagonal supports linked to central powerhouse. Each headstock has two wheels one above the other with steel hoods to protect the cables.
Central brick powerhouse and operating room brick with flat concrete roofs, has steel framed windows at eaves level. Brick square towers at either end with stepped central section with strips of windows.These headstocks are an early example of the ‘keope’ winding system for raising and lowering access cages. Vandalised with the surrounding land being eaten up for housing the fate of these headstocks hangs in the balance. The village where they stand does not have the funds to manage the upkeep and although listed an application for permission for demolition has been sought.

I am inclined to go back to Thoresby Colliery and take a series of shots depicting the seasons.
This is since seeing the recent Hockney exhibition at Salts Mill, Bradford. In particular the large piece entitled The Twenty five Big Trees between Bridlington School and Morrisons Supermarket on Bessingby Road in the Semi-Egyptian Style.

So there you have it.

I am hoping that having already written this I might be able to write ‘The Art of Photography’.  That though will be for the eyes of the accreditation team only.

The shape of things too come

Deja vu









I really can’t help myself and it amuses me, even if I am the only one who appreciates the pun !.

So I really do need to get to the point and stop going round in circles, but since writing my last blog things have been shaping up nicely.

It’s odd that after putting into words, then sending them words out into the world, my thoughts about what I had written began to make some sense.

No. 1 is Time management.

My time is no longer completely my own, which in some ways is no bad thing. It just means I have to allocate it slightly differently now.

Living back here in the village means a five minute stroll to the shops to get a bottle of milk may not be the same five minute stroll it was in the place I lived before.

People here know me and I know them. A chat with the lady from down the road who had a fall, the young girl who asked to stroke the dog, discussing the weather with a neighbour, it all takes a few extra precious minutes out of the day.

Then of course I have a new dog.
Whereas my other dog was old and tired and happy to shuffle around the garden at my former home this young thing wants to play and go walks in the woods everyday.

My mum calls in for a cuppa or there’s an hospital appointment, dentist, doctors, vets, supermarket.

It dawned on me that I need to allocate my time so I can be more efficient.

Having cut down my charity work from three half days to two should help do the trick but I need to make a concerted effort in the studio, which brings me to …

Offside by Kris Mercer









No. 2 Faith in oneself.


I don’t have any ‘arty’ friends or anyone to share my passion for painting with, so sometimes it wanes a little.

I get disappointed when a painting isn’t chosen for an exhibition and see that the ones that have been are all traditional still lifes and landscapes. Oh my goodness should I go back to painting them instead?.

Still life painting - Breakfast 2  -_








Even worse is when I do get chosen and then start to judge mine against the others and find myself wanting. I have no yardstick to gauge my work by. I have no peers, no critics bar myself. Am I falling into a rut.

Well, actually no.
Putting pen to paper or more accurately keyboard to web gave me the impetus to get my finger out and DO SOMETHING.


Fancy fish II









I have set myself a goal.
I am to do a series of paintings based on a set of geometric shapes.
I have set this series to consist of at least fifty paintings, canvas or paper of various sizes. It is the shapes within and the colours that matter.
I will next week enrol myself on a drawing course. Peers.
That may or may not be a success depending on whether or not I can control the flight response when around people I do not know.

I have also decided that I should take the degree I should have done when I left college. Now that it’s possible to do an Art degree course as distance learning.
I’m still looking into that and am printing out the details as I am typing this, so I will let you know more on that next month.

Back to the studio now then. Only another 45 paintings to go.



Losing my Mojo

Is it a phenomenon peculiar to me or is there some known psychological disorder that precludes creativity in certain areas.
Now I’m not talking areas of the brain or even areas relating to a certain craft.
This is geographical.
Or at least it seems that way.
I’m perplexed.

This notion would have never raised it’s head or even been thought of but for an issue that has come to be.
I’ve lost my mojo, my focus, my artistic inspiration took a long walk and hasn’t returned.
I’m lacking a purpose and it’s driving me insane.
I daren’t start a painting project as I’m worried it will turn out bad, and I’ve got myself into a self perpetuating circle.

Hayley plays princess by Kris Mercer







The story goes something like this:
When I returned from Cyprus (seriously depressed) I was painting virtually 24/7 unfortunately this was manic and couldn’t continue indefinitely.
I stayed at home and did nothing but work, even the food shopping was delivered and I saw no one for days on end.
Not particularly healthy, but very productive.
I was producing still life’s, figurative and semi abstract landscapes, alongside my abstract work.
I had a one man show and a small independent gallery in the city took my work.

There's always a story









A bungalow came up for sale in the village I had been looking at.
It needed a fair amount of work but it was habitable, well at least it was after the urine soaked carpets had been discarded and all the floors scrubbed and disinfected.
It was about this time that I was prescribed my “happy pills”
They may have evened out my mood but I was living in a sort of fog, a non world.
My abstracts weren’t being well received and the folks around me didn’t like them, somewhere along the line creativity took a hike.
I put away my painting paraphernalia.
The medication ended but the painting did not resume.
In the months and years that followed a fair number of the paintings that were still in my possession were burnt in fits of pique.

Fast forward 7 years.

I bought a derelict cottage in another village about 15 miles away.
Took a year to make habitable, moved in.
Had the urge to paint.
Got out my brushes and took up from where I had left off.

In the following 3 years I had work accepted in London as well as local galleries.

Due to my Mothers continuing ill health and other issues I decided to move back to the village where I had previously lived.
I had a buyer for the cottage so, my belongings went into storage and I moved in with my Mum for a few months.
After a 4 month wait I moved in to a bungalow on the same road that I had previously lived on.
That was last November.
I had a room allocated for my studio and was all set.



I have done a few paintings, but on the whole have not been too happy with them.
I’ve tinkered about with photos on the computer but that’s not really what I want to do.
And so it seems I am virtually back to where I started.
So… is it geographical.

Still life painting - Orange and flower  -_









Lets wait and see.