Between Me and Figurative

It’s been a while since I posted anything more than a new piece of work and to be honest I’m not really much of a writer and I understand next to nothing about meta-data/tagging etc and lack the enthusiasm to learn, so most of the things I do write rarely get read. That’s OK.

Today I thought I’d just share my thinking behind my current painting. I promised my wife, many times over several years, that I would paint her portrait for her and I’ve finally started. This painting has, in pretty much every way imaginable, become the most challenging piece I’ve ever undertaken and so far I’m loving every minute! IF you’ve ever had a browse through my gallery you’ll know that my paintings are typically far from figurative. I’ve always been more of an expressive and gestural painter and despite my envy of those with more precise skills I’m happy with that. I made peace with the way I work a long time ago!

In my life I’ve only ever completed one full portrait painting, of my nice when she was about 2 years old.

'Poppy with Shells' (2009)

I’m still really proud of this piece, of course there are things I would change (looking back) but I’m happy that I caught something with a style somewhere between me and figurative.

So I’ve had one previous stab at a painted portrait and a few drawings here and there but nothing quite as ambitious as the piece I’m now working on. My wife doesn’t share my love of abstract expressionism (favouring more traditional forms of art) so I decided that she should be rendered in a style more befitting her. I chose to work from one of our wedding photos and I felt that something classical in style was required for my classically beautiful wife… and thus began months of preparation.

During my degree I focused intensely on abstract painting and whilst I learnt a little about more traditional methods and styles it’s safe to say that after almost 15 years, much of it has faded into the recesses of my brain. So I started over, researched my materials and slowly gathered them together, built my stretcher, sourced good quality linen and (for the first time ever!) sized my canvas! It took me at least 6 months to prepare the canvas, a combination of time, money, and cold weather slowing me down. Each month I use my spare cash (and one or two gratefully received gift vouchers) to buy good quality brushes and paints, researching each before hand. Everything about this painting has been a learning experience.

Today I managed to spend a significant amount of time working on the underpainting, enjoying the process and the materials (you just can’t beat oil paints!) and I’m feeling positive about the progress. I’m not sure yet what sort of finish I’m going for, in my head I had realism but I’m not sure that will ever be within my capabilities. What I can say for sure is that I’m loving every moment of it! The pressure is immense (I want my wife to be happy!) and I’m shitting myself that I will screw up the flesh tones (Alice is still very green) and ruin the painting, add a little to much here and spoil the overall shape…but I’m doing it!

It’s hard to explain to someone what it feels like, why it is you do this ‘thing’ that you do and I’m not sure I’ll ever find a way…but when you feel it, you FEEL it! A weird combination of harmony, happiness, excitement and blissful contentment radiating from somewhere inside your chest to every extremity. It’s like nothing else.



*New Work* ‘Alice’ (2018)

Conte on heavyweight paper.
(42cm x 29.7cm)

©Robin Croucher

I don’t ordinarily add words to pictures, it seems …unnecessary and often removes something from the work, but today I’m making an exception.

Words don’t always come naturally to me (spoken or written) they seldom tumble forth with any coherence or direction, just vague intention and purpose….sometimes they work, mostly they just fall. The more weight they carry the softer they should land perhaps, I have to tread carefully always for fear of crushing something so delicate, so considered…I wonder if we take enough time to feel the weight of the things we say.

This piece is dedicated to my wife, a muse in the truest sense of the word without her there’s just a void.


You make me better…….

…….so much better…….

….than I thought I could ever be .

I’ll love you…


…until my last .




*New Work* ‘Nightbugs’ (2016) 

Ink & bleach on paper

(42cm x 29.7cm)

©Robin Croucher

Thanks Teach!

Teaching was never something I though I would want to pursue as a career. I didn’t spend my formative years teaching the other kids in the neighbourhood, I didn’t particularly excel a school and I guess the truth is I’ve never really believed I have anything to teach!..but things change.

Over the last few years I have dabbled and contemplated and tried and failed at career in education (not mainstream schooling but adult and outreach work), a few volunteer positions presented themselves but for the most part opportunities to shadow a tutor have been non-existent. Many emails sent, few replies received.

In May of this year a local Artist and Tutor was kind enough to answer my email and spare me a little time, to chat and to allow me to observe her sessions….and ever since I have been assisting with workshops at ‘The Drawing Room’ whenever I am able. I’ve loved it from the first session and, if it were an option, I would quit my day job in a heartbeat to spend all my time in class. It is primarily, perhaps entirely, thanks to Kate that I have finally managed to find a footing on a somewhat illusive ladder. Not choosing the ‘conventional’ route of teacher training , Schools etc, has made it difficult to get started but I think i’m starting to make progress.

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‘Rebuild’ by Kate Conway – Print and Conte on Paper


After the first session one of Kate’s students, as he was saying goodbye, said to me “Thanks for the help” ….and it made me feel so happy to think, to know, that something I had said had made a difference, had value to someone else and perhaps gave them a little more confidence. Since then I’ve had this experience/feeling a few times (the sense of satisfaction doesn’t lessen) and each time it makes me think about THAT teacher, the one that makes all the difference, the ‘good one’ who challenges you, encourages you and in many ways makes you.

For me, that teacher was Mathew Gibson who’s scathing critiques woke me up and spurred me on, who’s persistence helped me to find and embrace my ‘style’, who’s encouragement gave me ambition and confidence. And now, every time I’m in the classroom and someone say’s “Thanks” its really thanks to Mathew for getting me where I am now.

So….. Thanks Mathew and Thanks Kate….please forgive me stealing images of your work…. I promise it’s only out of admiration and huge respect.



‘Desk’ by Mathew Gibson – Oil on board