Improving politics

Politics is rubbish.

Nobody likes it. Even people who are obsessed with it – like me – don’t really like it. We just like being made to feel angry, smug or superior.

Almost everyone else is bored, disgusted, suspicious or utterly disenfranchised by the whole sorry mess.

But I have an 8-point plan to make it better. See if you agree.

1: If you break more than 10% of your manifesto pledges, a general election is automatically called.

Sometimes promises need to be broken for entirely unavoidable and unpredictable reasons – wars, natural disasters, etc. But 10% gives you some leeway. Break more promises than that, and a new election is called – you may be kicked out.

2: Pay MP’s a lot more.

My brother is an absolute arse, and a mid-level manager in a moderately sized publishing business. But he’s paid £50,000 a year more than George Osborne, who has responsibility for raising and spending hundreds of billions of pounds in our name.

If we want good people to be in charge – clever, talented people – we have to pay them enough to do it. Otherwise all we’ll get is power-crazed imbeciles, who are easy to corrupt because they don’t earn very much; or feckless, independently-wealthy buffoons who have too much money, too much sense of entitlement, and not enough brain or chin. I blame the parents, who are also cousins.

Double their salaries. We’ll get better people to do the job.

3: Give MP’s and Lords an actual job to do.

Did you know that MP’s and Lords are the only civil servants to have no job description? Literally none. Once elected (or ennobled), they don’t have to do anything at all, and many don’t.

Some of them think their job is to attend MP’s surgeries, some think it’s to be in the House of Commons voting all day. Which is fine, at least it’s active. But many of them think their job is gardening, managing their stocks and shares, and occasionally opening local shopping centres.

Even active, qualified, intelligent MP’s fail us. Micheal (now Lord) Heseltine has sat in the Lords since 2001, and only made his first speech in March 2012. He earns £300 a day, has a wine allowance, can claim expenses of up to £155,000 per year, and pays zero tax. And he did nothing at all for 11 years.

Benefit scroungers? Physician, heal thyself.

We need to tell them what their responsibility is, and sack them if they don’t do the job.

4: State funding of political parties.

Politics is for sale right now. It’s not illegal, but it’s very wrong.

So instead, every year we should spend £1 per year from each UK citizen – dirt cheap. That’s £583,000 per month to split between political parties.

Each month, we hold an official opinion poll (they happen all the time anyway, so it costs nothing extra).

If the Tories get 35% of the vote, they get 35% of the money for that month. Next month they may get 27%, or 41%. Their income depends on their popularity – it’s an incentive to do things that people actually want!

It also means small parties can survive – if the Greens get 5% in the opinion poll, they get 5% of the cash. At the moment they get almost nothing because who would give to a party with almost no chance of influencing policy?

It’s a fair system, and it avoids corruption. No party (or individual) can buy their way into power by having deeper wallets. And no other donations or spending will be allowed, absolutely none. No more corruption.

5: Ban politicians from having a second job.

Most MP’s have more than one job. What, running the country isn’t keeping you busy?

I think they should have one job, and do it.

And cabinet ministers should be unable to take any job in a business that employs more than, say, 50 people for 5 years after leaving office. That way they can’t be retrospectively bribed (i.e. “just change this policy for us, and we’ll give you a nice directorship and a £1m pay packet the day you leave government”).

If they’re all so smart, they should be able to make a good living in a small business, or start their own. But no more conveyor belt from Downing St to Wall St.

Yes, Tony Blair, I’m looking at you!

6: More votes for people who know what the hell they’re talking about.

This will be controversial, but I think it makes sense. I’ve known people who want to vote for a party because they like the leader’s hair. No idea about the politics, or what that leader will do to the country. Don’t know. Don’t care.

I still want those people to have a vote, but I want people who do know and care to have more of a vote.

So before polling day everyone has to answer 10 multiple choice questions as part of their voting slip. Simple stuff, like “what’s the foreign secretary called”. If you get 100%, your vote scores 100. If you get 10% your vote scores 10.

It’s fair. If you don’t take an interest in how your country is run, why should you be able to contradict the votes of people who do? And if you don’t like having a low-scoring vote, watch Newsnight!

7: Local citizen observers.

I’d like to see an independent observer from each constituency, whose job it is to sit in on meetings with their constituency MP. It’ll be like jury duty. The observer would be trained and advised by a judge or senior civil servant, and would then be independently responsible for watching what’s done in our name, and reporting it to the media if the MP is being an utter shit.

If the MP is meeting lobbyists – business, charity, or union – the observer can make sure it’s all above-board, and no special favours are being requested or offered.

Observers should only be allowed to serve one term, maybe a year. Any longer and they risk becoming institutionalised or corrupted, just like the MP’s are.

8: Specialist MP’s.

Any idiot can stand for parliament, and they do. Many of them get elected, and end up running (for example) the NHS without knowing what a tonsil is.

I want MP’s to remain political. But we need experts too. So I’d like to see at least 1/3 of MP’s having to have a specific skill or trade. Doctor. Engineer. Scientist. Teacher. Not more lawyers and economists, it’s that sort of Surrey-landowner crap that has got us into this state. I’m not blaming the current government, this has been going on for 100 years. But it means we don’t have anybody in power – or even close to power – who actually knows what’s involved in setting up a manufacturing business, or running a hospital.

Of course we’ll still need diplomats and lawyers and economists. But we’ve got to find a way to push for a broader range of real-world skills within parliament, or the whole economy will continue to be slanted towards the stuff those 600 MP’s know about – and frankly, all most of them know is asset-stripping. Sell stuff the don’t own, create giant monopolies which hoover up tax money and provide a worse service (Virgin trains being a prime example).

All of this would be more expensive. But you get what you pay for. Our politics currently costs us nothing, and what have we got? Worthless politicians!


Katy raises some important philosophical points on her blog. And speaking of points… can I see yours please?

When I was 14 the single most important thing in the known universe was putting my hand on a breast. I hadn’t done it, but I knew I wanted to, and it obsessed me.

Now I’m 41, and the only thing that’s changed about me is the order in which the numbers 1 and 4 appear. Boobs still fascinate. I accept that it’s stupid, and that men are simple creatures, but there you have it.

Favourite joke.

Man: Can I weigh your boobs?

Woman: If you must.

Man: (grabs boobs) “Waaaaaaaaay”.

Women, I think, have a more sophisticated set of things which appeal to them. I recently read that a man’s forearm is a lovely thing, which was news to me, and pleasing because – unlike, say, a huge cock – I actually have forearms, so might be in with a chance. And I’ve known for a while that shoulders are good. You can touch a man’s arms or shoulders in public, on a date, or even in a business meeting while shaking his hand, and nobody would say a word.

But one handful of mamm, and a vintage “ar-ooo-ga” car-horn noise, and suddenly you’re in a tribunal… where’s the justice?

If I woke tomorrow morning and found I’d grown breasts, I’d stay in bed playing with them and do nothing else until the smell of my rotting corpse made the neighbours raise concerns with the police. And I’d die a happy man. Ladies don’t fully understand the power of their physique.

And it doesn’t have to be a huge pair of perfect pornstar globes. Tiny mounds, mid-range hillocks, bouncesome bazungas, they’re all good. Small hard nipples are my personal favourites, but that’s like choosing your favourite way of killing Simon Cowell – they all do the job, so bring it on. Large pale ones. Pink, brown, pierced, everything works a treat. Just let me do that thing to them. You know what thing, don’t make me type it.

I draw the line at grotesque fakes, or the kind of fleshy roll that is indistinguishable from the fleshy roll of the belly that is usually below it. Michelle McManus, as Katy mentioned, is not high on my list of mammarian manupulation. Sorry Michelle, I’m sure you’re heartbroken.

So I am, as most men are, in love with your funbags. And, in case they’re feeling left out, with your buttocks too.

But for the life of me, I can’t see the appeal of many of these Urban Dictionary claims (see Katy’s blog). Does anybody really – really – play testicle-tennis with your norks and your chin? I can’t see what you’d get out of it, and I can’t see what I’d get out of it either. Sounds like guff to me, and when it comes to guff I’m a man who knows a thing or two. You wouldn’t believe how much of it I’d say in order to have a little squeeze of your chesticles!

Letter to a Lord

I wrote to every Liberal peer, asking them to stop the progress of the NHS bill. I got a form reply from Lord Thomas, which is too long to appear here – write to him at and I’m sure he’ll send you the same message. In short, the last government were bad, the NHS is going to be fine, the media are lying, and private suppliers are lovely and cuddly.

So I have written the following to him:

Dear Lord Thomas,

Thank you for your reply, but you seem to be missing a few vital points:

  1.  Just because the last government did things wrong, does not mean you have the right to do even worse things. Blaming Labour is a terrible, feeble argument, and you know it.
  2. You claim that the central pillars of the NHS will be safe. But we – the British people – don’t want pillars: we want the full structure. When the wind blows, a few pillars aren’t going to help. And for all of us, at some stage the wind will blow. I’m sure that doesn’t affect a man with Your Lordship’s deep pockets, but it affects the rest of us.
  3. You can’t blame the media, and assume that the electorate is too stupid to read the bill or understand the issue. Whitewashing us will not do. We know what this bill means, and we DO NOT WANT IT.
  4. The NHS does not belong to you. It belongs to me. It belongs to my mother, and my neighbours. It belongs to the people of Britain. And we do not want this. We didn’t vote for it, because it appeared in NO manifesto and does not appear in the Coalition Agreement. It’s anti-democratic.
  5. And finally, it’s asset-stripping. If a private supplier wishes to offer services in this country, they may do so. No law prevents it. So why do you have to give them – free of charge – the assets and skills of the NHS, built up at vast expense over many generations? If they want to have those assets, make them pay for it. That’s what a competitive marketplace is supposed to do. But don’t give away our assets for nothing, and call it capitalism. It’s theft, sir! And you’re not just sealing money – think of the lives already donated to the NHS. Think of the people (like me) who have risked it all to take part in drug trials to help the NHS to cure the next generation. I am risking my life right now to participate in a trial of a new cancer treatment, and I am NOT doing it so a private supplier can make a quick buck. I’m doing it because it’s the right thing for my country, and for the next generation.

You, sir, have NO RIGHT to take away the NHS. And to offer such a mealy-mouthed excuse is, frankly, shameful.

I hope you will read this message and look into your conscience for the right thing to do.


Russell Jones

Being in a relationship is fucking great

Unless you’re one of the 7 people in the UK who saw it (and I know 4 of them), you’ve never heard of Arrested Development.

And that means you won’t know what the hell I’m talking about when I say any of the following:

  • I’ve made a huge mistake
  • I was the world’s first Analrapist
  • It’s a shemalé – I love it!

All of those things are incredibly funny jokes, but you don’t get any of them. Why? Because you’re on the outside. And being single is being permanently on the outside. You never get to learn the in-jokes. You’re permanently watching Keeping Up Appearances, and everybody else knows you’re an idiot.

Being in a relationship means you can get deeper. You can find out the truth about people. Maybe it’s not a truth you like, and it took you 5 years to discover that, and now you feel bitter that you wasted that time. But maybe it’s a wonderful truth, and being that deep means you’re warmer and safer and more comfortable than you’ve ever been before.

Isn’t it worth giving it a try? Isn’t it worth going that deep, and finding out if there’s something wonderful?

Isn’t it worth waking, and it’s early, and warm, and bright. And in my arms she lies, still, relaxed, pressed against me so closely that nothing is between us. She’s fast asleep, breathing softly, and yeah, she’s snoring a little, but God that’s nice. We’re naked, but not sexual. We’re just two soft, warm animals, clinging to each other through the night. But not from terror, not from fear, just from the ultimate comfort of knowing there isn’t any space between us.

She has long, wild hair, and it’s been pulled around her neck so I could lie behind and hold her close without it tickling my nose. She knew I liked that. She knew I liked my mouth against her naked shoulder, and our legs in a tangle. But here’s what makes it incredible: she didn’t have to wake to sweep her hair away. She knew it in her sleep. Is there anything more loving? Is there anything that speaks more perfectly of our oneness?

And of course, it’s reality. It’s not some romantic, passionate fantasy, full of movies and drinks and restaurants and sex. She knows what face I pull when I’m twisting my inflexible body so I can trim my toenails. I know her breasts aren’t all that perky really, because I’ve seen her sitting around in her sloppy clothes in the evening, braless and comfortable. She knows how furry my back is, because she’s scratched it for me when it itches, and has picked ingrowing hairs out of it for me. I know what colour her crap knickers are, the ones she likes, and she can’t bring herself to throw away even thought they’ve faded to thousand-wash beige, and lie limp and tattered on the radiator.

I’m not a ladies man, but yes, I’ve dated girls. I’ve had laughs, gone back to their place, had fabulous, original, clumsy sex, and cuddled up all night. But I’ve never known that girl’s favourite Womble, or whether she’s a bit weird about beans touching fried eggs. And she’s never discovered that I cry at Cyrano de Bergerac, or that for an atheist who hates Lloyd-Webber, I have an unexpected fondness for Jesus Christ Superstar. There’s always an element of pretence when you’re in the dating game. You don’t reveal that weird stuff. It’s like being on a constant job interview, showing your best side. But if you only show one side, you might as well be 2-dimensional.

And that’s why being in a relationship is fucking great: it’s in 3D. OK, the colours aren’t as bright as 2D Technicolor, and occasionally it gives you a headache. But it has depth, and you can move through it and get a fuller, richer experience. You can put your guard down in ways you never dream of when you’re on the dating game.

If you’re single, you are one person. Sometimes you meet another person, and you do some elementary maths: one plus one becomes two.

But in a relationship it’s safe to admit that you’re shit at maths, and never liked it, and need help with your tax return.

Because in a good, functioning relationship, maths breaks down anyway.

One plus one equals one. And being one is perfection.

Being single is fucking great

Monday isn’t the worst day: that’s Tuesday, without a doubt.

On Monday you can spend some time reminiscing about your weekend, and your boss is still too hung-over to make you do anything substantial (especially if, like me, you happen to be your own boss).

Wednesday is half-way to the finish line. In America they call it “hump day”, because you’re over the hump and into the downhill stretch. It’s pretty good, lots to feel happy about.

On Thursday you can console yourself with the thought that it’s Friday tomorrow. And by Friday you’ve done it – you’ve made it through another week, and party time is upon us.

But Tuesdays mean nothing. They’re the only day of the week with no redeeming features.

And being in a relationship is like being stuck in a perpetual Tuesday. You’re endlessly in the middle of things, there’s no end in sight. And after a while you realise that “hump day” is permanently tomorrow, tomorrow never seems to come… and neither do you any more!

Even if it’s a good Tuesday, and the sun is shining, and you’re going to take the day off and go to the zoo, at the back of your mind you know that tomorrow will be Tuesday again, and each Tuesday will be greyer and slower and duller than the last.

But being single? Being single is like a permanent Friday night. On Friday night I’m my own man, and answer to nobody. The world is my oyster, or lobster, or cuttlefish, or any other crustacean I fancy. I have a choice of crustaceans. In fact, I’m in lamellibranch heaven!

Nobody tells me what to do, or pecks at my head to find out why I haven’t done what they told me to do last time. If I want to be lazy, nobody forces me to get up and go out. If I want to be busy, nobody tells me to stay home and do the ironing. Being single is freedom.

It’s freedom to do things but it’s also freedom from things. From her choice of TV, her choice of dinner, her choice of music, her friends, her mess. And most of all it’s freedom from her blithering, meaningless babble about the time someone you never met said something you don’t care about to somebody else you never met.

I’m not having a go at girls here – I’m sure men are just as bad, or worse. Ladies, do you really want to hear about the football, or the carburetor, or what kind of machine guns they used in Band of Brothers? No, you don’t! But men want to talk about it (when they want to talk at all), and being in a relationship means we each have a permanent sounding board that isn’t allowed to walk away and talk to somebody more interesting instead. But giddy Jesus, don’t you want to?

Being single makes you happier. It makes you more hopeful. It makes you more adventurous and positive. It makes you more sociable, because the alternative is to be a solitary hermit, and nobody wants that. What we all want is to be a single person who meets interesting people and has sex with them. So we change, unwittingly, into better, happier, sexier, thinner people.

Thinner? Yes, being single makes you thinner. Well, it certainly doesn’t make you fat, but being in a relationship does: it’s called “the stone of contentment”, and it’s the weight people put on when they stop running after people to fuck. If she (or he, or they) are sat at the other end of the sofa, and don’t really care what you look like any more, you stop trying. Being single makes a lot of positive changes to your physique.

In fact, it changes many things. Your body, your mind, and your entire nervous system. Do you know what the most sensitive part of the body is while masturbating? It’s the ears: you’re always listening for the sound of somebody approaching. But not me. I can stuff my ears with cotton wool and wrap my head in a duvet before I “drop trou”. In fact, I think I will, right now, just because I can. Back in a moment.

OK, I’m back. That was fun, and nobody is judging me except for people on the internet, and don’t even pretend you haven’t thought about clicking away from this blog to look at some porn. Don’t even.

(Oh, and the cat saw me too. OK, I admit, it was a bit weird that he watched me; and I don’t really know if he understands what I just did, but he always looks disappointed in me, even when I’m feeding him fresh tuna. So I’m not reading too much into that baleful expression.)

But while we’re on the subject of sex – which we were before I got onto voyeuristic felines – isn’t sex in a relationship absolutely awful! I don’t mean at the beginning, or in the first couple of years. To start with it’s brilliant, and then it gets even better when you stop pretending to be sensitive and kind, and just tear each others’ clothes off, spit on each other, and rut like otters.

But before too long everything goes wrong, and not just with her. You’re bored. She’s bored. It’s the same every single time. Kiss. Squeeze. Feel. Mount. Dismount. Sleep. Sex is supposed to be the most thrilling thing in the world. If you attach electrodes to a rat’s brain and give it an “orgasm” button, it’ll keep pressing until it starves to death. Animals demand sex, and we should want it all the time.

But we don’t. And why? Because you bore each other to death. In a relationship, what should be a romantic night of passion (or at least a raw and dirty fuck with somebody who knows how you like it) becomes little more than a chore, or a desperate act to invigorate your flagging feelings or – more often than we care to admit – to help you to get to sleep. You might as well get out of bed and start decorating the kitchen.

And I know this might be controversial, but I’m gonna say it anyway: men have to perform. We have to actually do things. We can’t rely on a little KY and a patient expression, we have to actually be excited or nothing happens. And then who gets the blame? We do! You don’t point at us and allocate blame directly; instead we have the “don’t I excite you any more?” conversation, in which there is only one answer I can give, and that answer is a lie:

“Of course you excite me [you don’t], it’s just that I’ve had a long day [a long day dreaming about more interesting sex with people I haven’t seen naked over a million times]. Let’s do it properly tomorrow night [after I’ve spent the day looking at porn so I’ve got recent memories to help me along]”

Cynical? Fucking right it’s cynical, but it’s true!

I don’t want to live there. I don’t want to live in that dull, dreary, grey, sexless place, just waiting around until one of us dies, and hoping my hip still works when that moment arrives. Instead, I want to live in Singledonia, a land of opportunity, just like America. Sure, not all the opportunities pan out, but keep on panning and you’ll strike gold. Often in small worthless lumps, but still bright and shiny, and still exciting when you get it. And even if it turns out to be fools gold and worth less than nothing, you’ve still had that brief, intense thrill; and you have the pleasure of knowing there’s another thrill floating down the river towards you. Put on your waders and climb back in!

But being in a relationship is like living in Greece: the only sensible solution is to get out of the place before it drags everyone down.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating a series of one-night stands here. Far from it. There is little in life that’s more fun that dating someone a few times, learning about each other’s bodies, and getting better and better and the sexytimes. I love that. I love holding her afterwards, and I love making her laugh, and being made to laugh, and long, lazy Sunday mornings rolling around in bed with nothing to think about but how good her skin feels. Every day is “hump day”, and you never seem to go downhill.

And that’s why being single is fucking great. It’s a chance to discover and experience that thrill, over and over again. I’m trying to do it honestly, and without hurting anybody. I don’t date multiple people at once, but I do tell everyone up-front what I’m about.

And it’s not about Tuesday; it’s about Friday night.


When I’m on my own I like to paint.

I’ve recommended it to a few people, but the response is often “I’d love to, but don’t know how”. So here’s some advice.

I used to draw a lot when I was a kid, but at the age of 18 became a professional designer. When you do it all day every day, it stops being fun. Over the years I’ve moved away from designing every day, and into technical management.

So art hasn’t been part of my life for 25 years, and I was never any good at painting. These paintings are the first things I’ve done for quarter of a century. If I can do it, you can do it. Just start!

What you need:

Go to your local hobby shop and buy a starter-kit of acrylic paints. It costs about £18, and includes a dozen tubes of acrylic paint, brushes, palette knife, palette, pencil and brushes.

Buy an extra tube of mixing white, because you’ll definitely need it. It costs about £6.

Buy a canvas. A 12 or 15 inch square is a good way to start, but smaller doesn’t necessarily mean easier – it depends on the subject and style!

And you’ll need some sheets, a glass of water, old clothes, and a table near to natural light. Don’t try to do it by artificial light, because the next day all your colours will look wrong.

Abstract painting 1 (100cm x 100cm)

This was the first thing I did, and it was surprisingly simple to do. It’s figurative, but doesn’t have to be accurate – it’s not intended to be a photographic record. So it’s an easy way to get used to using paints.

Sketch out your idea on a scrap of paper, and think about the colours you want to use. I wanted something warm, so chose oranges and reds for the figures. But I wanted it to feel outdoors, so the background shades are sky blues, grass greens, tree greens etc.

Next, use a brown/orange tone, like burnt umber. Make a thin wash of it by mixing about 1:3 ration of paint-to-water. Use this to very roughly mark out the main shapes on the canvas. Don’t use pencil – it shows through the paint unless you’re using very dark, strong colours.

And don’t try to be extremely accurate. You’re not drawing it for final viewing, you’re just marking out rough areas as a guide. And don’t try to copy your drawing exactly – you can be creative throughout the process, you don’t stop being creative when the sketch is finalised. If you think of something better, or different – just do it!

Keep stepping well back, and looking at the overall composition. Does it (more or less) match your original sketch? Don’t be afraid to use a slightly less “thin” wash of the burnt umber to correct lines.

Remember the rule: thick over thin. Use thin paint, and then use thicker paint to correct, improve, and eventually to add the final paint to the canvas.

Then start painting in colours you like. There is no right or wrong, and the great thing about acrylics is that (once they’re dry, which is about an hour) you can paint over any mistakes. My painting used to have lots more green, and the blues were much darker. But it didn’t work, so the next day I went over it until I was happy.

And listen to your favourite music as you paint. I loved listening to Sigur Ros, because it made me think of nothing at all. But whatever works for you!

Abstract expressionism (40cm x 40 cm)

This is the painting style used by Monet and other very popular artists. It’s a great way to start using paints. This painting is based on a photo of a candle that I found online. I just kept the painting open on my phone by the side of me, so I could see it. And then I started in the centre with light colours, and worked my way out.

There is no white and no black used, in spite of what the photo suggests. Black and white look weird when you see them on a canvas, because they don’t really exist in nature. Instead the flame is a very pale yellow, with pale blue to indicate the hotter flame near the wick. Browns and oranges indicate the glow around the flame, and then it works into a series of dark blues, reds, greens and purples.

Don’t try to keep all your colours separate on the palette. I prefer to use a big white plate, with black and white at the edges (for mixing only, never to go straight onto the canvas), and the rest of the colours just mixed around. Keep intermixing them until you get the colours you want to use. Acrylics look almost identical wet on the palette to how they look dry on the canvas, so they’re easy to use. And if it looks wrong on the canvas, re-mix the colour and paint over it.

I did that, just adding splats of colour with a wide, flat brush. Then I stepped back and squinted. Squinting is a great way to evaluate the tone – you lose all the detail of your view, but you get a greater sense of the tonal values. And in this case, that’s what matters.

Up-close it’s a mess, but that’s expressionism for ya! Stand 10 feet away and it starts to look like a candle. It took maybe 30 minutes, and another 5 minutes the next evening to tweak a couple of splots which didn’t seem to work right.

Painting a face (40cm x 40 cm)

It’s a bit harder to paint a face. But the preparation uses my recommendations from the first two. Sketch it out on paper, and try to understand the elements that make up the face – the shadows, the highlights, the structure of a face.

Use a light wash of burnt umber to mark out the key areas – the cheeks, the eyes, the position of the mouth and nose, etc.

Then go one step further. Don’t attempt to get an accurate painting done on the first day, just use very approximate colours to indicate the light and dark areas. You don’t need to be accurate about the skin tones, just get the shapes down roughly.

Don’t make any attempt at detail. And ignore things you don’t need to worry about, like (in the final drawing) the highlights on the nose and cheek. Just shove the paint into the canvas, stepping back every so often to squint and assess it.

Then go away. Stop painting as soon as all the canvas is covered. Leave it to dry, and come back another day to work on the detail. Start with the light colours, and work your way towards the dark – it’s much easier than beginning with (for example) the man’s eyes or the dark shade under his cheek, and then working towards the dot of light on his nose.

Finally, when you’re almost complete, and more-or-less happy, try this little tip: mix a dark blue, and use it as a small splot or rough stroke of the brush on the darkest areas of shadow, such as under his chin or in his moustache. And then mix a deep red, and use that for areas which are warm – such as where light hits but doesn’t cause a highlight, or places where the skin is thinner and the blood is closer to the surface. It’ll add a mix of warmth and cool to your painting, even if it seems like a weird colour to add to a face!