Humanitarian Images of Syria and Iraq

Stranded Yazidis rescued by Kurdish peshmerga

Stranded Yazidis rescued by Kurdish peshmerga

The media has held our hand through the current crisis in Syria and Iraq and provided for us some of the most ghastly images of conflict seen for a long time. Beheaders, the defiant and armed, cloaked in black, make for a stunning bad guys and our governments too feed on a beautifully dumbed-down narrative of evil vs good. In reality war more often produces heroes: people who risk their lives to help others. The medics, the ambulance drivers, those putting out fires, those plucking children from the rubble. Many of these people are unpaid, driven by compassion and love. Some keep secrets, hide the oppressed, and give money and possessions to the needy. In any conflict situation these rays of sunshine exist. Yet they rarely do in the media. The bad-guys monopolise the story.

I spent many hours searching for the heroes of what is happening in Iraq and Syria at the moment. I found very little – but one image that re-occurred was that of the Stranded Yazidis being rescued from the Sinjar mountain range by Kurdish peshmerga in August 2014.

I am reliant on the agendas of the news media and a handful of Iraqi friends to build my version of events. The rescue mission has been picked over by the sceptical and is loaded with politics. I am not going to go into whether these images are propaganda or not – however the fact remain it was THE ONLY image of bravery and resilience I could find – where I know in reality there must be many. This is why I chose to paint it, and why I constantly seek more humanitarian examples in my work. Please reply with positive images if you have them.

Art Course in Murcia, Spain


I’m making the most of being here in Spain – our brand new not-for-profit arts organisation ,”Co-Create Arts” is offering three courses next year – all run by yours truly.  Would love to see you there!  More information on – but in brief below:

ART & THE ENVIRONMENT 17th – 21st January 2015 (£550)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAArtists will explore the salt planes – home to flocks of wading birds, including wild flamingos – the coastal dunes, and the more adventurous can kayak onto the tranquil waters of the Mar Menor. Accommodation and classrooms are located between unspoilt beaches on the Mediterranean coast and the biggest salt-water lagoon in Europe – both a short walk or cycle away. Creative responses will look at both the natural environment – the water and mountains around us, and sustainable art practice – using recycled materials and low impact art. All materials, transfers, instruction and full board included. Read more…



 ARTISTIC RETREAT 15th – 19th March 2015 (£700)

medAccommodated in a beautiful nine-bedroom villa with views over the Mediterranean and the quiet beaches of Bolnuevo – this five-day break gives you the environment, space and support needed to sketch, paint, and relax away from it all. The accommodation is on a hilltop, which overlooks the bay. It offers a range of bedroom suites, most with en-suites, some shared (three of them opening onto the pool and stunning terrace). We will start the day with a short session of Chi Gung exercises (optional) and each morning will include a period of discussion and thought followed by creative exercises – including sketching and drawing. Afternoons are left free to give you the space to continue to paint, sketch or create in other ways – or to simply relax and enjoy the tranquil setting. All instruction, accommodation, transfers, breakfast and lunch included.  Read more…


ART DEVELOPMENT COURSE  22nd – 31st February 2015 (£950)

beach hillThis five day intensive programme will challenge artists to think more about their work and why they are making it.  We believe this break away offers a perfect environment for artists to have the space to reflect on their work and inspire them further. There will be discussion, crits of your recent work and some fresh art making using materials provided. The setting is beautiful hilltop accommodation on the edge of a small Spanish town overlooking two bays with stunning views over the Mediterranean Sea. The traditional villa offers a range of bedroom suites, most with en-suites, some shared (three of them opening onto the pool and lovely terrace).  All materials, transfers, instruction and full board included. Read more…



Exposición / Exhibition en San Pedro del Pinatar


poster mientras hamblamos

Please contact me on if you would like to come to the private view of 28th November.

More examples of this work here


Fonetic – a poem


So, it was National Poetry Day yesterday, and I turn up fashionably a day too late.  Here is a poem I wrote for my daughter 15 years ago.



My dawter rites foneticly and I can see

the words and sentenses forming inside her

brewing then bersting onto paje

without ful stop or commer

with curly ys and pictures of


capitals There in the middle

and names in lower case


It’s how she thinks it is

But not how she will learn it must be


My language is trussed down

Pushed into different sized tupper-ware

And kept in cold storage like yesterday’s dinner

I break a nail opening the lids

And try to mix the apple pie

With the mashed potato

To come up with a half decent

Plate of words


Not surprising then

She turns her nose up at them

Selfish Self Portrait of an Activist


 A few years ago, feeling very self conscious about self portraits, I started a project called The Selfish Portrait - where I asked my portrait subjects to make an image of me.

I was inspired by the Oscar Wilde quote: “Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.”

A few years on and I have decided to at last tackle a real selfish portrait of my own.  It is a very strange experience to watch your own face appear on a canvas and look into your own two eyes over a period of weeks.  It is now finished and I couldn’t wait to get on with making it less selfish.  In some kind of hybrid between defacement (see my un-portraits) and activism I use the language of social media to turn a traditional painted portrait in oils into something, well, less selfish.

self portrait activist


Art Boot Camp on the Murcian Coast


This is an experience that I have developed with Co-Create Arts / Cambridge International Arts.  Get in touch if you are interested:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA We don’t see much developmental value in traditional art holidays – which might offer you a portfolio of pretty watercolours of Tuscan rooftops, but provide little robust, constructive criticism or challenge.

Co-Create Arts (a new project under Cambridge International Arts) is piloting an “Art Boot Camp” in Spain in the autumn of 2014. We have put together a programme covering four days (five nights) – which we think will challenge artists to think more about their work and why they are making it.  There will be discussion, crits of your recent work and some challenging art making. The setting is coastal Murcia in Spain – and yes, there are some beautiful natural sights, but we want artists to witness austere Spain too.  Accommodation will be in shared dormitories – in a brand new and very clean hostel.  All meals will be provided, as will bicycles, art materials, and a taxi to and from the airport (Murcia).  Flights are not included – but the area is served well by budget airlines.

We are looking for 10 open-minded artists to participate. We are running the pilot at cost – which means £280 per person – and in return would like your feedback on the last day.  Please contact Caroline if you are interested in taking part on or UK 07549929931

hostel nightime


Mar Menor – San Pedro del Pinatar seascapes


Despite being deeply engrossed in social and humanitarian art, I have taken great pleasure and peace from painting a number of seascapes – inspired by views just a ten minute walk from my studio in Spain. Some shared here.


Painting for the Rama Foundation


I have the honour to be creatively responding to the work of the wonderful Rama Foundation – who for many years have supporting young people in India.  This painting is of their work with Mother Miracle.  For more about the Rama Foundation, visit their website  The Rama Foundation are members of the Humanitarian Centre in Cambridge.