Thursday, 2 July 2015

Gateshead Art Society Exhibition

Gateshead Art Society is my other Art Club. I have three paintings in this show and there will be a small selection of my greetings cards for sale (other greetings cards are also available).

Unison Pastels

St Peter's, Falstone, 1 July 2015
(0.8 marker and Pentel Brush Pen in 21 x 26 cm sketchbook)

The North of England Art Club organised a good day out yesterday to the Unison Pastels Factory at Thorneyburn.  I've been twice before, but I still find it rather amazing that a world-wide business is run from a such a tiny place in the middle of absolutely nowhere. 

It's always interesting to see how the pastels are made, but I resisted the temptation to add to my untouched supply of pastels from those previous trips. I was keen to press on to Falstone where we were to have lunch and do some sketching.

A tiny village in Northumberland, Falstone boasts two churches, but only one pub. The pub was closed until the evening, but St Peter's, the Anglican church, was open, so I wandered around there for a while. It was refreshing to be in the cool air, after what had become a scorching hot day outside.

I'd just about given up finding something to draw and was on the point of ambling off to Rose Cottage where Ian and Judy were promising tea and biscuits at 2.30, when these gravestones set against the big cypress caught my eye. I managed to finish it just as the ink in my Brush Pen ran out and the need for tea and biscuits became overwhelming.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Willow Burn

I had a very pleasant afternoon tea with Lady Elsie Robson today, while looking round the lovely new Willow Burn Hospice at Lanchester. The Painters' Group has been invited to put on an exhibition of paintings there later in the year.

More of this in due course.

Saturday, 13 June 2015


(0.8 Marker in A5 sketchbook)

No sooner had I got back from Askrigg and dried off than I was packing again for a week in Bologna, in Italy, with Pat. The forecast looked no more impressive than that for Askrigg, with thunderstorms threatening every day, but the actuality was just the opposite.

Had it been raining we knew that there was plenty of shelter in Bologna because of its famous porticos (note to self: post photographs), but eventually we were grateful for the shade afforded by the porticos as the heat increased throughout the week.

It was a lovely trip and the city was wonderful. It's very much a student town (the oldest university in Europe, in fact) and benefits from their vibrancy. There were fire jugglers at night, an excellent Dizzy Gillespie-style quartet, and an absolutely astonishing juggler-cum-magician. I'm not usually terribly impressed with street magicians, but this guy's control was remarkable. There was one point at which I was certain that the glass ball he was manipulating was indeed floating in mid-air, though common sense told me he had to be keeping control with his thumbs. How though, I can't imagine.

My good intentions of getting more drawing done went out the window yet again, but I made sure that I did do this one drawing from the same window of our hotel, the Cavour Hotel (highly recommended).

Friday, 12 June 2015

Askrigg, May 2015

Nr. Helm, Wensleydale 
(Pentel Brush Pen in 21 x 26 cm sketchbook)

My Regular Reader will know of the trials and tribulations I've been going through in the last couple of years, coupled with the delights and accommodations of a new wife and a new house. I've had to get used to: reduced vision in my left eye (not out of the woods yet, it seems); wearing glasses for the first time (varifocals at that); a new studio (still being sorted out); two days away from home each week dealing with the old house; an upset routine (and I'm a great one for established routines); oh, and a host of other distractions if I were to allow myself to really think about it.

So much water has flowed down the gutter in Boogie Street, that it would be an impossible chore to bring you completely up to date and you might find your patience wearing thin in the process. This is a blog, after all, not an autobiography.

One significant event in recent times was the annual painting trip with friends from the Art Club. Or at least what used to be the annual painting trip: because of my eye problems I haven't been on one since 2012, when we went to Staithes. This year I decided I needed to get out and test myself again, to see if I could still do that old "look-and-put" style of drawing.

Eight of us from the Club booked a week in Ingleby Lodge in Wensleydale.

The place was great, with two kitchens and umpteen bedrooms but as we found to our dismay, no cover outside in case of rain. And that proved to be just what we needed. It rained most of the week. When it wasn't raining, there was a fierce cold wind which made standing around drawing or painting virtually impossible. I've always had doubts about Turner's story of having been lashed to a mast in a storm, but true or not, I wasn't prepared to emulate his feat.

So it was that only one proper drawing emerged for me - the one above. On a rare sunny day, with the wind still full in my face, I went out for a walk through some woods near Helm and dropped down into a sheltered valley. Making the drawing proved easy once I'd started and I grew quite immersed in the doing of it, such that after a while I heard a voice say "He's obviously concentrating". Looking up from my sketchbook, I saw a group of hikers climbing over the wall just a little further up. They were all waving and evidently saying "Good afternoon!" I smiled, waved and went back to my work.

The drawing may seem relatively inconsequential, but it certainly lifted my spirits to find that I can still cut it.

In a brief break from the rain, I stepped out into the garden the following day and drew this bird feeder, just for the hell of it:

Birdhouse, Ingleby Lodge, Askrigg.
(0.8 Marker in A5 sketchbook)

Monday, 22 December 2014

Spoaching and Basting

As a child, I used the verb "to spoach" all the time but over the years since then I've been unable to find anyone else who used it or any reference to it on the Interweb. I began to think it was just one of those words that families invented for themselves.
But no! Today I found a reference to it online and sure enough it turns out to be a word we shared with our Scottish neighbours and means what it always meant to me: "To pry, rummage or poke about (in)". As in "What are ye spoachin in that drawer for?"
It's a pity such a useful word seems to have been lost from our vocabulary.

It's been a good day for finding online references that back up my childhood memories. When I was a child schools would be closed on election day so that they could serve as polling stations. Those days were what we called Baster Day and we'd get our parents to make us what we called basters - rolled and folded newspapers tied with a length of string.
Then we'd go round in a gang and whenever we came across some other kids we'd demand to know how they were voting (ignoring the fact that anyone of that age had no vote). If they answered "Conservative" (or "Tory" or "Rent & Ratepayer", all the same thing), we'd give them a good whacking with our basters.
All good clean fun. Presumably there were some Conservative Basters around but I never suffered at their hands.
Anyway, this is one of those traditions that I can find no support for. No one I know remembers doing it and there's nothing on line about it. However, I did at least find a reference today for the word itself:
"baste (v)(tr)
1. To beat vigorously; thrash: basted the attacker with a club.
2. To scold; berate.
[Probably of Scandinavian origin; akin to Old Norse beysta; ....]"

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Lisbon Ceramics

There's a wonderful Tile Museum in Lisbon - the Museu Nacional do Azulejo. In addition to a splendid range of Portuguese ceramic tiles through history (and the modern ones are really something), there's a changing exhibition of ceramics in the broader sense. 

When we were there the show was called Art Submerged 2014 and the artist, Sylvain Bongard had made a collection of fish of various species, molluscs, crustaceans and marine plants:

 as well as old boots, keys and other stuff you might find on the sea bed:

I was particularly taken with a set of heads which seemed to be the underwater equivalent of the Green Man :

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Lisbon Tiles

No, look, I promise I'm going to get back to regular posting here on Boogie Street.

Lisbon is noted for its ceramic tiles.Whole houses are covered in them.

Here are a few I photographed both in the streets and in the Tile Museum.

Some were quirky:

and some were just weird:

And while the pavements weren't tiled they were certainly eye-catching:

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Wedding Bells

Perhaps this photograph will give some idea of the reason for the lack of posts on my blog. Here, Pat and I arrive for our marriage on 17th October at Gateshead Register Office.

Here's a family group, taken by my good friend Roy, who was my best man:

After that we had a week in Lisbon. There will be photographs from that trip soon.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Figure 8 Exhibition

Short notice, I know, but the Preview is Monday 15th September (tomorrow!), from 6.30 to 8.30 . Hope to see you there.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Mud on the Tyne

Pat and I went for a walk up the River Tyne today, on the Gateshead side. It was a lovely sunny day and the tide was just on the turn, the river flowing upstream. There were gulls pecking in the mud and one sat on a tyre and disappeared upstream until it was out of sight. 

We walked as far as Dunston Staithes where I took this picture of the mud (the Staithes are in the background). Apparently the nearness of the moon at the moment is producing very low tides and more mud than usual is being uncovered. I think it's rather beautiful. If you like mud, that is.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014


Montezuma (Oil on canvas, 15 x 18 in)

I last looked at this boat painting in 2008 and although I've shown it once, I never felt it was finished. Now it is, even if what I did to it wouldn't be noticed by anyone but me. Now it's framed and ready for a show coming up (more on that soon).

Monday, 4 August 2014

Wall of Paintings

My good friends Roy and Kathleen recently sent me this photograph of a wall in their house. They've hung it with paintings they've bought from me over the last few years and I'm thrilled with the way it looks.

Isn't it rewarding to see your work obviously giving pleasure to those who've bought it?

Friday, 1 August 2014

Malta Sketchbook #6: Tigne Battery - Clifftop

Tigne Battery - Clifftop
(Charcoal and compressed charcoal over two pages of A4 sketchbook)

OK, let's try to get this blog rolling again in its new home. Back to Malta, then, and my Malta Sketchbook from 1995. This is a view down onto a clifftop gun emplacement.

I'd be interested in hearing if you're still following this series of drawings. There are a few more in this sketchbook, and once I'm properly settled into this studio there should be new work to show you.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

New Studio

Monday's partial furniture move went off much better than I thought it might; we only forgot and had to go back for one desk and half my computer equipment. Setting up the computer in its new home didn't go too badly at all. Once I figured out that someone had switched off the surge protector, everything powered up OK. Apart from the scanner, because I seemed to have mislaid the power cable. And then only a 15 minute wrestle with the interweb connection. 

There are boxes of materials to empty before I can think about getting back to work, of course, but I'm very happy with the way things are looking.

Later today I went back and found the missing scanner cable, filled up a bag with more books and CDs and walked up the wearying hill. When I got in the studio, I found I'd left the cable behind.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Treasure Trove

I spent the afternoon clearing out some drawers in the studio, ready for a future move. What a treasure trove of oil bars, pastels, oil pastels, watercolour tubes and sets, and a huge selection of coloured pencils! All bought over the years and more or less neglected as I pursued my dedication to oils.

I think I see a new period of experimentation coming up, once I'm sorted.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Bonfire of the Vanities 3

Another work in progress consigned to the bin. It's been lying round the studio for a few years without attracting any further paint. I felt there was something there worth saving, but really it was just too big. I think I may look again at this photo at some time in the future and try the subject on a smaller scale.

Saturday, 12 July 2014


Chalice (Oil on canvas, 12 x 12 in)

Still not a perfect photograph, I'm afraid. Even after a coat of satin varnish followed by one of  matt varnish, the painting still reflects in the camera.  

I may try another thin coat of matt varnish, but until then this will have to do. Squint a little when you look at it; it helps.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Nordic Transcendence

I suppose it must be something to do with Sod's Law that when I go to the last (and for me, the only) meeting of the Painters' Group this season, I should miss the bus because it came early. I shall be glad to be free of this one-an-hour bus service.

Sod's Law continued to apply when I got to the Hatton Gallery where the Group usually meets: it was Newcastle University's Open Day and the gallery was full of folk. And no one from the Group, of course. So by the time I'd trotted over the road to the Northumbria Gallery, the fallback venue, I was only just in time to put my Chalice painting amongst the others and sit down for the crit.

I wasn't sure how it would be received, but everyone seemed to like it, including Bill V., our tutor. The term he used in reference to it was "Nordic Transcendence" which I thought somewhat appropriate. I remember two years ago seeing and enjoying the exhibition  Van Gogh to Kandinsky | Symbolist Landscape in Europe 1880-1910, not so much for the well known painters but for the lesser known works by artists such as Kallela and Willumsen. I found a a real connection with those paintings.

Whether or not Chalice represents a new departure. I honestly can't say, but it's stirring up some ideas from the past that may need to be looked at again.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Chalice (WIP)

Chalice (Oil on canvas, 12 x 12 in) Work in Progress

The Painters' Group is holding its final meeting of the season on Saturday. Because of other commitments and not a little to do with poor health I've missed most of the meetings this year, so I thought I might make an effort to catch this one.

I could go without any work, but I do like to take something when I go, so I pulled this one from the racks and had another go at it. It's been through various stages and the addition of the chalice is only the latest attempt to make something of the painting.

I actually find it interesting and it certainly looks better than the photograph might suggest. The photograph is picking up too much of the texture of old paint and dropping the background away from the chalice. I'll look at it again later and get another photograph.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Convalescence in Crete

Pension Kasteli (Oil on canvas, 12 x 12 in) Private Collection

I'm sorry to have neglected posting on Boogie Street for such a long time. Things have been going on, some of them good, some not so good.

Just as I thought I was getting over the effects of the eye operations, I got hit with a a mystery illness which left me without any energy for more than a month. I had to decamp to Pat's house for a while and my thoughts and energy (what there was of it) had to be directed to things other than my blogging.

Gradually, things improved and my energy slowly returned. What helped immensely was a week in Crete in May, when we simply walked about, sat and had drinks or food and just enjoyed ourselves.  I took a sketchbook, but the muse wasn't with me.

It was really, really hot when we got to Crete and the day after the sirocco, the hot southern wind, kicked in and made it even hotter. Then the wind changed and for the rest of the week we had (mainly) sun, but sometimes a really cold wind, especially at night. The resourceful tavern owners now have sections of windows to put in place to screen the wind and, of course, the handy patio heaters. Our enjoyment was never spoiled.

The place we were staying in (Pension Kasteli) in Chania hasn't changed to any great extent and Alex the owner is still garrulous and full of stories about Moroccans stealing stuff at every opportunity. The room we had last time (seven years ago!) wasn't available, but we had a bigger one at the front with a nice balcony to sit on and watch Alex wander up and down the street looking for people to talk to.

The people in Chania were still as warm and welcoming as ever, always prepared to ask where we were from, and talk generally about all sorts of stuff. The food was almost uniformly excellent, only being let down a bit by a taverna that seems to have hired a Scottish chef, in that everything on a meze plate we ordered was deep fried and the kitchen paper must have run out. But we soon found a couple of regular eating places - one on the harbour front where we had breakfast and some evening meals, and another in the town where we had the best most garlicky tzatziki I've ever tasted. We also had some lovely prawns cooked in ouzo at a restaurant we'd been to before. It's an old derelict building in which tall trees have grown, but with the help of some canopies it's a really nice restaurant where two musicians (guitar and bouzouki) play and sing great Greek and Cretan folksongs. 

Every day I was finding myself able to get about more and more, strength recovering. Mostly we just walked round the narrow streets of the town, looking at stuff, and sitting down for a drink or lunch. Last time we were there, it was a regular that they'd give you a free drink with the bill, but now (as a consequence of the economic downturn and the need to compete for money I guess) we were given ice cream and raki, ice cream, cake and raki, and on our final night, baklava and raki.

One of the things we've done in the past was to walk round the coast a bit to a cove which had once been quite industrialised (still not sure what they did in the stone built warehouses) but which seemed to be undergoing something of an uplift, a kind of gentrification, so I wanted to see how things had gone in the intervening years. Once I felt up to it, we went there again, but if anything, things have gone back a bit. More run down than the last time, certainly, though there was still a brave taverna with tables out.

On the way back we passed a taverna we'd visited last time. On that occasion we'd gone in for a drink and maybe a Greek salad, but were offered fresh fish caught that day. It couldn't happen again, could it? But it did. We had 11 red mullet, a Cretan salad (includes rusks) and some chips with a small bottle of quite drinkable Cretan white wine. 

Sometimes you can go back.

(Photo: Pat Mailer)

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Malta Sketchbook #5: Tigne Battery - Roofscape

Tigne Battery - Roofscape
(Charcoal and compressed charcoal over two pages of A4 sketchbook)

A rather overcast day, but that lent a sombre aspect to this drawing of the concrete roofs of the Battery, looking out over the countryside. 

I wonder if it brings to your mind, as it does to mine, the eerily vacant townscapes of de Chirico? Or is it a case of fixing on a landscape a predetermined aspect? There's no doubt that, even allowing for the reduced lighting, the drawing has become more about me than the place itself. 

John Ruskin saw this practice of projecting our own moods onto trees, clouds or complete landscapes as misguided and branded it the pathetic fallacy.  His view was very influential but failed to kill it off: witness the work of Nash, Sutherland, Piper and a whole host of other painters down to the present day. 

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Malta Sketchbook #4: Tigne Battery - Gun Emplacement

Tigne Battery - Gun Emplacement
(2B mechanical pencil in A4 sketchbook)

Sometimes it's great to just sit and take the time to make a careful drawing of something. That's what I did with this page of the sketchbook, using only a 2B pencil to capture the tones of this concrete structure which used to house some of the defensive weaponry.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Malta Sketchbook #3: Tigne Battery - Gnomon

Tigne Battery - Gnomon 
(Rotring Art Pens, black and sepia, over two pages of A4 sketchbook)

For some reason, I stopped dating the drawings in this sketchbook, so I'll have to give them titles. This one I've called "Gnomon" after the part of a sundial that casts the shadow.

You can see that this concrete building was badly damaged by the Luftwaffe during the War, leaving it shattered and pockmarked. I find this sort of ruin every bit as fascinating as some ancient archaeological site, like Stonehenge or Lanyon Quoit. It would be better if the graffiti, drinks cans and bottles, used condoms and syringes were cleared away, but hey, you can't have everything when it comes to urban archaeology.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Malta Sketchbook #2: Tigne Battery 15 Sept

Tigne Battery 15 September 1995
(Charcoal and compressed charcoal over two pages of A4 sketchbook)

I went back to the Battery the next day and with two kinds of charcoal, got this image down. I loved the grooves of the concrete walls and the way the arm of the metal hoist curved across the darkened entrance.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Pension Kastelli

Pension Kastelli (Oil on canvas, 12 x 12 in) Private Collection

I painted this after our last trip to Crete and gave it to Pat as a Xmas present. It's a picture of Pension Kastelli, the place we stayed in in Chania and I'm posting it now because we're going back again!

Last year I was so dogged with poor health that there never seemed a time when a holiday would have been enjoyable. Things in the eye department have settled down now and we think a trip abroad to see the Spring flowers on Crete in May is just what the doctor ordered.

We decided on this almost immediately after seeing the John Craxton Retrospective at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. Although he always rejected the label of Neo-Romantic, John Craxton was certainly influenced by the 19th century sources of that movement, William Blake and Samuel Palmer, as well as Picasso's Cubism and spent some time with Graham Sutherland in Pembrokeshire.

However, it was his discovery of the idyllic landscapes of Poros, Hydra and Crete that opened the way to paintings of breathtaking shimmering light with a fascinating technique using coloured lines "to explain the play of light on contours."

John Craxton: Landscape, Hydra (Tempera on canvas)

Of all the paintings in the show, I think it was the one showing asphodels that decided it for us - asphodels are always dead and shrivelled in September when we normally go on holiday: 

John Craxton: Reclining figure with asphodels.