martin davis artist

Mark making is a primal urge. This is where I explain the ecstasy of painting and why it calms my soul.

Pandemic blues

So here we are early January 2021, more or less one year on. I’ll tell you on reflection what has surprised me about myself over the last 9-12 months. I can’t be the only one who has often craved a bit of peace and quiet from the hurly-burly of the world, many times in my life. And I always thought that given the chance, such as we have now what with lockdown, lockdown lite etc. etc., I would grab it with both hands and make the most of it – not least with my art. Now here’s the shocker………….I can’t and I haven’t! well not so far at least.

It would seem that rather than blossom in a quieter world I do much better by seeking my solace in the usual noisier stressful one. Weirdly enough quiet forced on me from outside doesn’t provide what I need to produce my work – as I always thought it would – but a noisy environment from which I have always had the ability to escape, switch off and turn inward does. Isn’t that strange? so here I am a year into enforced “solitude” and I have very little, artistically speaking, to show for it.

Maybe it’s a bit like the Brexit transition period (you remember that!). Perhaps I need a period of time(length indeterminate) before I feel the same old artistic drive start to surface again, something that has always been there before, that I’ve taken as a given, just waiting to snatch a moment to create in between the non-stop madness of hyperactivity that characterises the modern world.

I hope so because this endless nothing is stifling me.

ps: last bit of completed work below, November last year;

Title: No such thing as transparent.

much ado…….

I always promised myself that I wouldn’t use this platform for self promotion. Well that’s still the case but sometimes it just can’t be helped if it occurs as a result of making a serious – well semi-serious – point. After the excitement of breaking through in the prestigious Harley Gallery Open this year I settled down for a peaceful second half of the year.

Here comes the serious point – how many times in your life do you put your heart and soul into something and it turns out…well, not as you were hoping? I can tell you as an artist it’s almost a daily occurrence! The thing is never to cast these things away as an embarrassment, because sometimes we are ill placed to judge something’s true worth. On a whim shortly after my Harley escapade I submitted three paintings to the even more prestigious (sorry Harley!) ING Discerning Eye exhibition, one of which was a quickly executed self portrait, you know one of those works I was just talking about falling short of expectations. If you’re ahead of me at this point you’ll not be surprised to learn that of course it was selected by the very discerning Discerning Eye judges (along with its companion piece) for exhibition in the 2020 event. And this is after years of trying and failing to get other work accepted.

This exhibition is on now but sadly only online this year for obvious reasons. Well point made I think! never, ever dismiss your work, any work, as worthless junk. You are not the arbiter merely the creator. Here are the two successful artworks. I’ll let you figure out which one I was talking about.

Harley Open 2020

It’s been a year so far! a case of extremes. At one end of the spectrum, along with everyone else, I’ve been trying to cope with the changed world we now find ourselves in. I was tempted to add the words “post Covid”, but I don’t think we can be that confident yet!  Almost spelling the end of the artworld, definitely not business-as-usual anyway.

But every cloud has a silver lining, even this one. So at the other end of the spectrum something seems to have happened to the good in the portrait commissioning world. I’ve never had so many requests, and along with the free multiple portrait I offered to our heroes in the NHS (#portraitsfornhsheroes scheme) I’m a busy boy….AND now I learn I’ve been successful in getting my work into the prestigious Harley Gallery Open 2020. Things are looking up!  Stay alert and be careful!

A day out at The Harley Gallery – S80 3LW is in order? My contribution to the exhibition is “the minutes, the hours, the days” – see below.

the minutes, the hours, the days

Some good news.

I’m guessing that with the coronavirus outbreak there will be a deluge of bloggers out there filling in spare time during self isolation and social distancing with needless posts. I am determined to stick to my guns and not just write stuff for the sake of it so I’ll continue to put out just my “genuine” stuff. I always limit it anyway.

So just when my artistic life/confidence is taking a battering – rejections etc – along comes the cavalry in the nick of time with a bit of a boost. So pleased that my still life “Coffee break” (below) has made it through to the longlist for the Jackson’s Painting Prize 2020. That gives me reassurance that I have made the right choice to focus on still life for the time being….I do think it is my best stuff! Really pleased with this one.

Please, please please register and vote for me for the People’s Prize here

Coffee break

2020 – or something!

God knows how long since I last wrote anything in my blog. If you visit me from time to time expecting to catch up on whatever I’ve been up to you’ll have been disappointed for an embarrassingly long time and for which I could only offer inadequate excuses, so I won’t. Onward and upward as they say….

Well the new year has been and gone and my plans for the year have got off to a limp start. Been feeling for some time that my efforts to get myself out there on social media etc have been less than an effective use of my available “art time”. They may even have had a negative impact on my art so after a lot of soul-searching and disappointments I decided to draw in my horns and do a lot less of it and concentrate on what I love doing best ie. painting which is the point of all this in the first place. So this year has become somewhat planless – which is actually a relief to me – while I try and gather my energies again to produce something worthwhile, rather than simply to keep up with some meaningless plan. Artistic inspiration is an irrational mistress and will not be constrained. Expect even less from me except for the art therefore!

The year though is not without it’s highlights which amount to one, maybe two, exhibitions in September and October – details to follow. Actually my average year from here on will amount to one solo if possible, two tops, and either Derbyshire Open Arts or Buxton Art Prize……the rest of the time will be blissfully free to think about painting and only painting. Looking forward to it already!

Actually this year one extra thing has already cropped up. My self portrait “In the window seat” (below) has been selected for exhibition in London with The Artists Pool at Gallery @ the spaghetti house, Holborn. So I will be wending my way down there 19th April clutching my painting ready for the opening night on 22nd. Apparently it has been selected as one of only four finalists – though what for I’m not at all sure, apart from being exhibited which is reward enough. Amazing! things are looking up… see what happens? you take your foot off the gas…..!!

self portrait

Derbyshire Artists’ Guild

Been a founder member of this artists group for 2+ years now. Great to be part of something, makes me get organised more – and not such a lonesome existence!

In a nutshell this is what I’ll be doing for the rest of this year with my DAG buddies.


Green Man Gallery: 26th April-22nd May

DOA @ Baslow village hall: 25th-27th May

Gothic Warehouse, Cromford Mills: 13th/14th July

Focus Gallery, Nottingham: 4th-28th Sept

Baslow village hall: 16th/17th Nov

See you there!

Art of abstraction

Really pleased now I’ve managed to finish this latest contemplative piece, inspired by the poetry of Wendy Cope. “…the minutes, the hours, the days” is in oils on acrylic on mdf (I always have bits of mdf lying around looking for a use). I found what I thought was the perfect image for the title when I was lingering near a venetian blind in the low sun.

I often work “backwards” when it comes to this kind of work. The feel of the words that might suggest a title normally generate some excitement in me first, some feeling I want to communicate and I then spend any amount of time before I come up with a suitable image to go with it. Really happy with this one though!the minutes, the hours, the days

On the subject of reflection though please call in at West Studios, Chesterfield, Derbys between 11th Jan -1st Feb to see my exhibition “Treescapes and water” to see more of my reflections on nature.

An artwork loved

another original work of mine sold yesterday on the last day of the Derbyshire Artists Guild exhibition in Baslow (one of four regular dates throughout the year when I can be found exhibiting with my Guild colleagues).

“Destination Swing” was a special painting to me with personal memories, executed quickly in my “other” style – rapidly with broad brushstrokes and stylised to the point of abstraction. One of the few paintings I’ve been content with when I’ve finished it.

The inspiration for it came from watching the jazz band of the same name playing at my son and daughter-in-law’s wedding reception. So….sorry to see it go, but glad someone loved it enough to want it bought for Christmas! I watched as a young lad, late teens, having taken it in his hands and studied it carefully, persuaded his father to fork out for it for his Christmas present. He really, really wanted it so I know it’s gone to a good home. Proof perhaps that jazz is making a comeback with the youth of today!

Destination Swing

At least one satisfied customer!

Well here’s one satisfied customer – actually I think her parents were too! Although not completely dry I gave Elizabeth’s parents a first viewing of my portrait of their daughter recently. And naturally enough we had photos.


After the long hot summer

It’s been a long time since my last blogpost I realise, but for once it isn’t difficult to fathom where the time has gone. The best summer in the UK arguably ever, but certainly since ’76 (yes I remember that one too), meant many other calls on my time. And so hot most of the time in the studio it has been difficult to spend much time painting in there though I’ve been busy with organising a couple of group exhibitions, alongside my friends & colleagues in the newly formed Derbyshire Artists Guild. I’ll post details of the next 12 months exhibitions soon.

September onwards has largely been spent recuperating from a bit of planned elective surgery – having been healthy and hospital free just about all my life it came as something of a shock to discover that when they said 6 weeks to recover they really meant it….sadly I’m not superman after all. It has been a challenge to find that spark of inspiration and urge to create while I’ve been laid up.

But it’s not been all feet up, I have managed to produce a few pieces over the last couple of months. My foray into still life continues – see my latest piece below “Green bowl with bust”, and also I have found from somewhere the focus and “feel” to produce my best portrait for ages, “Elizabeth in Lace”, also below.

Best of all I have a number of other paintings underway at various stages so the signs are the creative juices are starting to flow again…….I’ve missed them.