Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A few weeks ago my bow developed a crack, which I repaired with glue and reinforced with tape. The repair appears to have been effective but, since I couldn't know if or when it would fail again, I thought it was time to upgrade to a new bow. My old bow was an American flat bow, nominally pulling at 35lbs. However, since I draw arrows to my ear, it was actually working out at 40lbs. The new bow is a Chinese made Hungarian style longbow, bought through Amazon. I wanted a stronger bow and this was quoted as being 50lbs at a draw length of 28 inches. However, it has a safe draw length of 33 inches and my own draw length is 30 inches, I anticipated that I could probably get a pull of 60lbs (which has turned out to be the case).

(I have to admit that the price was an important factor in my choice of bow. I would really fancy buying a genuine English longbow but, at five to six times the price, that would be too much to pay unless I was sure that I could handle one of at least 60lbs draw weight.)

The new bow arrived last Wednesday, since when I have been learning to adjust to the bow's particular characteristics. At the start, with my old bow, I was hitting the gold with roughly a third of my shots. This continued with the new bow but the wilder shots nearly doubled in number! I think that this was because the extra power exagerated the effect when my technique was poor.

I have been concentrating on using the new bow and the ratio of good shots to poor ones has improved considerably. However, when I briefly went back to my old bow it was interesting to note how little effort it seemed to require to use it! My accuracy had also gone up to nearly 50%!

In the longer term, I expect the greater power to be a big advantage, particularly over longer ranges. Already I find that I am making adjustments in my technique and the bow is becoming comfortable to use.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


I got quite a bit of practice in today, 400 shots. But the most remarkable thing about it was how unremarkable it was! I scored an average of 35.25% in the gold and 20.25% outside of the red band. That is just 1% improved on two days ago, but the percentage of poor shots has also gone up by 1.75%. However, whilst there were fewer really bad shots there was also very few very good ones. Normally, every so often, things will just come together and I will get a series of shots which just seem to go effortlessly into the right spot. For example, 3 arrows will perfectly place themselves into the inner gold - and that is really what it feels like!  It is as if the arrows decide where to go, I just go through the motions of firing the arrows! But today the spread of the arrows was remarkably even, not too bad, just not very good!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Better Zen!

Yesterday, over 400 shots, I  was averaging 34.25% into the gold, with 18.5% going outside of the red band. Today, over 300 shots, I averaged 44% gold, with just 13.67% outside of the red.

I was undoubtedly more relaxed today, able to quickly settle the bow into the position to shoot, which I think is an important factor. The poor shots often seem to be the result of poor timing, releasing hurriedly or "snatching" the shot. I believe my frame of mind is the important factor in continuing to improve.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Frustrated Zen?

Why does this happen? My first 25 shots of today's practice. First arrow goes nicely' into the inner gold, then my arrows start going all over the place - until the last 3 (bottom right), all into the gold, 2 of them inner gold. My best theory is that after a good start I am trying too hard and it is only when I give up at the end that my hand and eye start synchronisIng properly again!

It was a nice day in the garden so I got in some extra practice today, 200 shots in the morning and 200 in the afternoon. My average was fair, 34.25% gold, but I still had 18.5% of the arrows falling outside of the red. I should be able to do better!

The Zen of archery

When I was young, like a lot of kids, I played with crudely made bows and arrows. I briefly got to try out proper archery when I first went to art college, but it is only recently that I became seriously interested (one of the advantages of being retired and having time on my hands). Instinctive archery (shooting without conscious aiming and without mechanical aids) is what appeals to me, probably because I see it as similar to the way that I create art. For that reason I think that it is worth writing about my progress and what I am attempting to do.

I am shooting 33 inch carbon fibre arrows using an American style flat bow, pulling at approximately 40 lbs. However, to develop instinctive skill, the one recommendation that I believe to be true is that it takes a lot of practice! This is why I have developed my own particular way of doing things.

I use a back quiver as this enables me to reload quickly after shooting (after releasing an arrow my hand is already in position to lift out the next one). This means that without particularly hurrying the process, I can release an arrow approximately every seven seconds. This is not really all that fast, skilled speed shooters can do much better. My own purpose is simply to cut down on practice time. l also carry 25 arrows in the quiver. Since at present I am only shooting at a range of 10 metres, this means that shooting the 25 arrows and recovering them takes just less than 5 minutes each time. Two half hour practice sessions each day means that I shoot 300 arrows per day. To avoid unnecessary damage to the arrows, I divide my shots over 8 target faces, three per target - with one extra shot so that it is easier to work out my accuracy as a percentage!

My main concern now is to improve my consistency. If a shot is off centre by 6 inches at 10 metres, it will be miss by 12 inches at 20 metres, so I need to learn how to consistently hit the centre. Since I started I have improved, but I still need to get a lot better. At present, I score myself according to how many arrows I can get into or cutting the centre gold.
This is the first time that I achieved 6O% accuracy (15 arrows in or cutting gold) a few days ago. Unfortunately, most of the time my average occuracy is more like 32%, but there are signs of it improving!

THIS is what I need to be getting regularly (the rest of the 25 shots were only average)! However, if it can happen once, I can do it again! It is the mental process of getting up to this standard that I believe is of interest and that I am primarily concerned with writing about.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Some more Inspiration from the Past

The original inspiration for this painting was Claude Monet's, "Women in a Garden". There are three women in his painting, but I was a bit short of women, so this is:

"A Woman, a Dog and a Bird in a Garden", July-Dec, 2016

Oils on canvas, 69.5cm x 49.5cm.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Painting Labour

After the shock of the Brexit vote, I found myself wanting to become involved in politics. However, it was not until I discovered Jeremy Corbyn's policies that I found anything to really motivate me. So I found myself a part of an anti-austerity Party with the biggest membership in the UK (and still growing), Labour!

I have now been to a few of the meetings of the North Down Labour branch at the Funky Penguin Cafe, Bangor and l started to think that it would be interesting to base a painting on the meetings. If it works out, it will not be to claim that this particular branch is any more important than any other. Rather, it is to celebrate the importance of ALL grass roots members, meeting in little groups like this.

Last night at our AGM I did a few sketches, almost at random, depending on who I had a good view of. There will be a lot more work to be done before I would be ready to paint. For me, this is just part of the process of developing ideas and getting to know the people participating in the meetings. But this is what I have so far!

Friday, July 01, 2016

Inspiration from the past

I have been busy with a renovation project at home and have been neglecting both my painting and blogging. But it is time I got back to both!

I decided to take inspiration from some of the artists of the past, not by copying either their techniques or compositions, but creating a contemporary equivalent of their subject matter.

This one is inspired by Édouard Manet's "Déjeuner sur l'herbe (Luncheon on the grass)". There is still a lot of work to be done to it, but I am happy with the composition. The original "Déjeuner" is usually taken as showing two young, fashionable, parisian males with their mistresses. I wanted mine to show an intimate family group. The images are not of anyone in particular, I drew on a variety of sources for help with the detail.