martin davis artist

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

Columbia Threadneedle Prize 2018, etc.

Been some while since I posted a blog and things happen when you least expect it. First I found to my great surprise that one of my entries for the Threadneedle had actually got to first base this year. Instead of outright rejection, which I must say is the norm and something I’ve come to expect, one of the three pieces I submitted this year has actually been pre-selected (shortlisted – or more accurately I guess longlisted) from the many thousands of entries they must get every year from gullible idiots like me. Which means I have to deliver the painting to them on 28th Oct for further consideration and hopefully final selection for the exhibition in the new year.

Well as they say you don’t win if you don’t apply! Actually I find such minor critical successes as this provide a huge shot in the arm of confidence and self belief that I must be doing something right somewhere along the line……if only I could pin it down whatever it is and bottle it.

Oh and the painting? That’ll be this one then – “Kiss”


Being pre-selected for such a prestigious thing as the Threadneedle also confirms me in my own belief that this little painting is probably the best thing I’ve yet painted……and it was quickly done……and it’s in acrylic, not my norm! my own judgement of what I do can’t be that far adrift then? Wish me luck for the next stage.


200 years ago in a village near here

I was approached  with a commission proposal more than 2 years ago now by a member of a local history group who were planning to commemorate the bi-centenary of an extraordinary event that tends to go unremarked. That group is The Pentrich & South Wingfield Revolution Group ( – check this out for a potted history of the Revolution).

Back in April I reported on the launch of the event – see April 8th post- in Belper which I attended. Now the group have fulfilled yet another of their commemorative intentions – erecting an official “information board” in a suitable location in every town and village involved in the event (and there are a few!), providing a permanent reminder of that place’s involvement in the historic events of 1817.

I am absolutely thrilled that my small contribution (my painting “Alfreton arise” – see earlier post 8th April below) has been included on the board erected in Alfreton, outside the entrance to Alma Park opposite the Watchorn Church.


I had no idea a detail from the painting was going to be used in such a permanent and public way and I can’t thank the group enough for that decision………. so proud!

Buxton Spa Prize winner announced

Source: Buxton Spa Prize winner announced

Buxton Spa Prize

Well in a year that has not really got off the ground today I achieved at least one of my aims & delivered my entry for this year’s Spa Prize. Getting one of my pieces of work to dry in sufficient time to get it framed and ready to go can sometimes be no mean feat. In fact for a while last week I really thought I’d blown it – for us oil painters it can be a really short window in which to compose and complete the work in the time allowed. But I finally did it for this year and I can relax a bit now.

If you want to see what all the fuss is just get yourself to the Green Man Gallery in Buxton, UK from 1st July to catch the full exhibition of all the entries. As usual and despite all the nervous energy expended I enjoyed myself painting “Reflections”, as I knew I would when I finally got down to it. Let’s see what BSP 2017 brings and here’s to next year!

Reflections, west window

Now I’m just hoping that will kick start me a bit for the rest of this year.  🙂

Pentrich Revolution 1817

This morning I had the unalloyed pleasure of attending the official launch of the Pentrich Revolution Exhibition in Belper, Derbyshire. I would hazard a guess that not many people outside the immediate locality have even the faintest idea of what the “Revolution” was all about. Here I am at the opening at No 28 Cafe, Belper;

Two things to explain here – 1. my involvement with the exhibition as an artist, and 2. the significance of the revolution itself.

Taking the second one of these first when I first became aware of the P.R. when I moved to this part of Derbyshire some 30 odd years ago my first reaction was why had I never heard of it before? ….and I still don’t know why. In 1817 an uprising occurred in these parts in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars and the poverty and the lack of jobs etc in the face of the ongoing industrial revolution. It has since been fondly referred to as the Pentrich Revolution even though the village of Pentrich was just one of the places up and down the land where an insurrection was festering and even though it never really got off the ground. In the end it was nipped in the bud with the ringleaders “tried” and hanged in Derby and the rest transported to Australia for life. To me this whole episode deserves a much bigger and more widely recognised place in the nation’s history because it was the very last time a revolution was planned and at least partially carried out in this country. To me that makes it hugely significant and deserving of wider recognition. At least as big as gunpowder, treason and plot! Maybe that would have happened had the uprising got much further than it did. To read more about this fascinating episode and the whole sordid story of govt spies and agent provocateurs go to

My involvement started when I was contacted by one of the local organisers a couple of years ago in anticipation of the bicentenary of the uprising this year. Great plans were afoot and festivities to mark the occasion both here and in Australia part of which was to have scenes from the uprising painted and produced by local artists with the intention of creating a multi-imaged tapestry and a permanent exhibition to raise awareness of the events that took place 200 years ago. The committee also had the aim of tracing all the descendants of the original “revolutionaries” who were transported down under for their sins and bring them together for the first time for the celebrations.

I love all this historical recognition and re-appraisal and even though my personal involvement has been just to produce an image of the insurrection (in my case to mark the uprising of men in the neighbouring town of Alfreton – see my painting Alfreton arise! below- I am following this year’s events with much interest. One of my passions about art is its ability to pop up in unexpected circumstances like this and involve you in something amazing way out of your ken.

So if you, like me, have never heard of this part of our history go to the website above and take a look. I promise you it is absolutely fascinating…real history about real people in their struggle to survive.


Alfreton arise!

Personal development

When I retired from the fire service many moons ago I anticipated a kind of paradise in which I could sit painting while sipping my favourite beverage as the birds sang outside the studio window in the sunshine….you know the sort of thing! what I never expected was the need to take care of my own portfolio and back catalogue – funny that. I like to keep good images of all my artwork so that in future I can produce prints etc whenever the need arises. High resolution pictures require a decent DSLR camera, and as I don’t like to rely on other people in the long run I coughed up the readies to buy myself a suitable camera this last Christmas.

Well it turns out that the capability of the camera far outstrips my ability and knowledge, so purely for archiving purposes I have booked me and the camera onto a workshop at West Studios in Chesterfield specifically designed (or so they tell me) for people like me – you know..all the gear and no idea! I am looking forward to it though and hopefully to using my fancy dan camera with confidence to keep a pictorial library of my artistic output.

Got a feeling though that even though I bought this thing with one specific purpose in mind I will end up getting into a whole new world of creativity….photography! Think I might have to rename my online avatar papparazzo!!

A question of two artists

thumbnail_img_0563A few days ago I was at Tate Britain, occasional trip to London is something I do as a treat and a chance to see up close how some of the great artists work(ed). I was there to see the recent Paul Nash exhibition but when I booked the ticket I realised I could also see the Hockney retrospective on the same day for very little extra cost. No brainer? I had not intended doing both as I’d already seen a lot of Hockney stuff lately and felt I’d seen enough but I thought what the heck?
I was glad I did though. For more than the obvious financial reason. I really, really enjoyed the Nash work, never having seen much more than his war work. But Hockney was a revelation. If like me you think you’ve seen Hockney think again. The scale variety and sheer vibrance & audacity of the work there was quite overwhelming. Not very often that I’m blown away by such things but I was close to it I have to say.
But what I didn’t see until a while after was the contrast between the two. Nash looked and felt like an artist working very darkly with careful experimentation. Hockney on the other hand was a joyous helter-skelter of a journey through his work. The word that kept coming back to me again and again was “playfulness”. His whole approach to his art seemed to revolve around pleasure seeking and a kind of “bugger it” attitude. Made me think again about this whole question of whether artists should suffer for their art, or at least have suffered before they can produce their best. Not true in the case of Hockney, as far as I could see. But overwhelmingly so for Nash whose whole life, let alone his artistic output, seemed bounded in and dominated by his wartime experiences. Questionable though even in his case whether it brought out the best in him – or prevented it from ever surfacing?

new work

Well I started a piece of work recently that is just not my usual thing at all – a lady decked out in her art deco finery in a kind of poster style- and is as yet untitled. Yet the strangest thing is that this work which I rate as purely decorative, not “art” at all and as yet unfinished has already earned me two more commissions.

I sometimes wonder about what the art buying public want and ask myself if I’m not absolutely the worst judge of my own work?

Party time. WIP.jpg

see what I mean?

still as they say the customer is always right. If things go even more crazy on the commission front I’ll keep you posted.Just goes to show what I’ve always said – do more, think less!

no mojo, no title – no visuals

struggling to find the mojo still………..something to do with the weather – true it’s warmed up of late, someone tell my studio. It’s like a chill cabinet in there. Christmas is on its way too, so many other things to do. Don’t worry come the 26th ART will re-establish itself. And my brain will have worked out what it wants to do next. These fallow periods are v important I think! in the meantime a lot of behind-the-scenes things going on. it’s not all glamour and paintbrushes you know!

The importance of advice

It has been a strange Summer. My art practice has been patchy, partly due to other pressures (domestic & otherwise) and partly down to my own damned awkwardness . Trying to think about my painting I slip into overthinking it. Then I overcompensate and try to clear my mind completely as I paint, stream of consciousness stuff, which I find I can’t do. Then I get irritated that I can’t produce the right mind set as and when I want. For anyone who thinks this is easy IT IS NOT EASY! at least not for me. I guess in my more sanguine moments that is why when the balance between thinking and creating is just right it is soooo beautiful….it can’t last which is why it’s so special when it does happen and you just have to hang on to it as long as possible and make the most. What do they say? carpe diem/make hay while the sun shines ..trite but true!

What I have to keep doing is paint no matter what, and hope the beautiful thing happens sooner rather than never. In the meantime trying too hard and getting some kind of mental constipation does zero, zilch towards achieving anything worthwhile. Bloody hard though – I just want the best, the best, the best!!  One of the reasons my output has always been so varied is exactly for this. To help keep me, artistically speaking, on my toes and stop the dreaded boredom gaining a toehold.

Well I can tell you I have been on the end of some rather frank and forthright feedback (I asked for it) recently by a gallery owner which has made me take stock and re-think this approach. Is constantly painting different stuff getting the best out of me really? or is it just whimsy on my part? up until he spoke to me I had always resisted it. gotta protect my artistic purity you know & not prostitute my art blah, blah, blah! but for the first time I have acknowledged this “dark” side….I can focus on one aspect of my art rather than continually chopping and changing without some unforeseen catastrophe befalling me. Well I can at least give it a serious go and see what it produces. So this might be the importance of advice, something freely offered which might just jolt me out of my hiding place and make me consider what I might produce if I focus.

I guess I do need at some point to find what I am best at. I can’t go on ignoring advice and pretending I know better without at least putting it to the test. So as an early NY resolution you will be seeing me producing more of this sort of thing –


just to see if I can hone my skills by a prolonged period of focus. I may need my other areas of interest just to give me a break but the main thrust of my practice will be as above for the foreseeable!

Wish me luck! I hope it works.