Sunday, 1 May 2016

Sketch Crawl # 9 : Holy Trinity Church, Jesmond, and the Dene

Churchill Gardens, Jesmond
(0.8 marker over two pages of A4 sketchbook)

I had a new pencil case (or at least an old one with some new pencils and markers in it) and the weather forecast was for sun all day, even if cold, so off I went on Saturday to Jesmond to meet up with the Sketch Crawlers at Holy Trinity Church.

Richard had the keys to the church and the interior was nice and warm. Outside as always, Mike was across the road drawing the church and new member Jenny was sitting on the church wall drawing from an unusual angle. Janet arrived as I got there and we had a bit of a shufty round the interior.

A sudden flurry of activity announced the arrival in the church of Mike and Jenny, shaking off some unexpected rain and everyone started to draw bits and pieces: windows, microphones, fonts ... But my eye had been taken with a building opposite the church and from the shelter of the doorway I was able to get this drawing of Churchill Gardens done. Actually, the rain soon passed and Anita, another new member appeared, having taken a peculiarly circuitous route from the Metro station.

By the time I'd finished my drawing of the end of Churchill Gardens, the sun was warm and bright and the others had gone round the corner to Pets Corner in Jesmond Dene. I joined them but found the animals annoyingly mobile. Mike showed how good he was at capturing the  likeness of various chickens and ducks, but I couldn't get to grips with all that movement.

Finally, I decided I'd go for the chicken coops and maybe include a hen if it would stay still long enough. As it happened, the hens all buggered off once I'd started and none appeared in the whole time I was drawing. Just as pleased, really.

Chicken Coops, Pets Corner, Jesmond Dene
(0.8 marker and Pentel Brush Pen in A4 sketchbook)

Friday, 29 April 2016


Lindisfarne Boatshed
(Oil on board, 8 x 8 in)

Coves Haven, Lindisfarne
(Oil on board, 8 x 8 in)

On Monday I went back to my old studio, unpacked the oil paints and finished off these two paintings over two days. There was always going to be the problem of drying, but a judicious mix of W&N Underpainting White and Liquin helped them dry by Thursday, when I handed them in at the North of England Art Club in Newcastle.

After handing them in, I made a final attempt to find my lost pencil case. The only place I hadn't checked was the Discovery Museum where we held our February Sketch Crawl, so I asked the nice man behind the desk if it had been handed in.

He was very helpful, even reading out some of the items that had been handed in.

"A ham sandwich and a bag of cash?"

"No", I said.

"A wallet with £100 in it?"

"Yes, that's the one!" but he was having none of it, and didn't find any mention of my pencil case either.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Sketchbook Circling

While I'm waiting for the two small oils to dry (water-mixable oils don't seem to dry much faster than ordinary oils), I have some time to get on with Becca's sketchbook for the Sketchbook Circle

As always, I can't reveal what I'm up to until Becca herself gets the book back, so this teaser will have to do for now.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Water and Oil

I recently agreed to take part in an exhibition by the North of England Art Club at the Bondgate Gallery in Alnwick, the theme of which will be the rather vague "Northumbrian Scenes". There are two restrictions: the paintings must all be 20x20 cm and must all have a fixed selling price of £50.

Having agreed to get them ready by 12 May, I was dismayed to find that the date for handing in has changed to 28 April to allow for their framing. So the last few days have seen me hunting for images to fit the brief and suitably sized boards on which to paint them.

The studio still isn't really set up for oil painting, so I'd have preferred to work in acrylics, especially as I've just invested in a new set of Atelier Interactive Acrylics and would like to see how they perform. But the boards I found already have old oil paintings on them and acrylic over oil paint isn't a very good idea.

Another problem: most of my oil paints are still in the studio at my old house, so I found myself painting with a set of 8 Van Gogh water-mixable oils. Inevitably the colours aren't really those I would have chosen but they provided me with enough colour to cover over the old paintings.

This is where I got today with my two images which are, incidentally, scenes from Holy Island.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Sketchbook Circle : My Seconds Out

Time to reveal the additions and responses I made in my sketchbook sent this month to my Sketchbook Circle Partner, Angela. The first set of three are pages I prepared last time; Angela chose not to work on these (there are no rules), so I've added something of my own to them.

The next three are pages started by Angela and added to by me.

This third set shows a response by me (the matchbox) to a page by Angela (the matches), followed by some additions by me to her pages.

Finally, we have three new pages by me. I don't regard most these as being complete in any way, so if Angela does nothing to them (she can, of course, simply respond with images of her own), I'll be working on them again when the book returns at the end of the month.

Technical note: in working on these, I used black and coloured markers, watercolour, gouache, acrylic paint and coloured pencils, as well as collage, of course.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Sketchbook Circle: Second Round.

I've received Becca's sketchbook this week, so my thoughts turn to additions and responses again. The first image below shows Becca's additions to one of my pages in her book, and the three after that are her new pages.


Sunday, 3 April 2016

Mail Art Envelopes

I'm about to send out my Sketchbook Circle sketchbook to my Circle Partner, Angela, so that she can begin her second round of additions to it. As soon as she's received it, I'll show you what I did in it over the last month.

In the course of unearthing suitable material for the sketchbook, I came across a cache of Mail Art envelopes. I've written here about my short involvement with the world of Mail Art and while these envelopes are far from being works of art in any way, they do demonstrate the sense of fun, anarchy, serendipity and plain silliness the movement embraced. Circulating these through the post was our way of bringing art into everyday life.

Look for collage, rubber stamps, photocopies, magazine cuttings, drawings, marker pens and fake postage stamps.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Sketch Crawl # 8 : Central Station to the Laing

I didn't go to last weekend's Sketch Crawl.

One day, when I was very little, I left one of my toys on the pavement outside our terrace house; within minutes it was gone, probably into the house next door where a family of petty criminals lived. My Mum gave me a good telling off for being careless with my things and I began to learn that not everyone was worthy of trust.

That episode may be the reason I've lost almost nothing of consequence in the sixty-odd years since and why, when something goes missing, I obsess about finding it. Experience has shown that eventually that which was lost will turn out to be that which was mislaid. 

The day before last weekend's Sketch Crawl I realised I didn't know where my pencil case was. An old blue one I've had for over 25 years, it contained my favourite pens and pencils. Despite turning over the stuff on the studio floor and searching in several bags, I couldn't unearth it and still haven't.

Perhaps my little anecdote about the lost toy helps to explain the extraordinary effect the loss of my pencil case had on my mood, especially at a time of year when I never feel good. By the time I was due to get ready to go out and meet the other Sketch Crawlers, I'd sunk really low. So I spent the rest of the weekend trying to find the pencil case. A huge pile of papers was sorted and binned and the studio is now in a much better state than previously, but still no pencil case.

I've put together a replacement set of instruments, although I'm going to have to buy a new Pentel Brush Pen, but even now I still find myself looking under chairs, down the side of the sofa, in bags I know I've checked before, in the hope that the familiar blue pencil case will jump out and shout "Surprise!".

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Luxury, a Green Man and Bill Viola

Pat and I were in Surrey and Hampshire last weekend for a rather late wedding present stay at the Four Seasons Hotel. We had a terrific time and I took umpteen photographs which I've hardly had time to sort through. One I did like immediately, however, was this one I took at an antiques shop in Surrey. This has to be the friendliest Green Man I've ever come across.

After our pampering at the Four Seasons we spent a couple of days in the rather more prosaic Premier Inn next to Kings Cross Station in London. Not as luxurious perhaps, but clean and comfortable and really what more do you need? 

From there we were able to get to one or two galleries. The John Caple exhibition at John Martin of London was shown to very good effect in their new upstairs premises in Albemarle Street and the staff there were, as always, very welcoming. I've yet to determine how Caple gets such creamy whites (just like flake white oil) in his acrylic paintings, but they're lovely.

For me, one of the highlights of the V&A's Botticelli Reimagined was Bill Viola's Going Forth by Day. I'm not usually one for an art video installation, but Bill Viola really is The Man for those. Inspired by Botticelli frescoes, the video simply shows people of all ages and races walking down a path in a sun-dappled wood. Walking in ones and and twos, and in groups, they walk slowly from the left edge of the very long image and leave at the right.

They're dressed mostly quite casually, some of them in sports equipment, and many carry objects - sports trophies, musical instruments, flowers in pots and bunches, suitcases - and the speed of their walk has been slowed by a fraction.

We didn't intend to watch the whole 36 minutes of it but we were drawn in by its mesmerising quality and didn't leave until the old guy with the walker came round again.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Studio Reconfigured

A weekend of clearing shelves, moving furniture and replacing books on shelves has resulted in this new configuration of the studio. I'm much happier with this layout, especially now the desk has moved from the corner to the bigger skylight.

Some of the lighting is still only temporary; and then there's the stuff accumulated in a pile in the middle of the floor which will need sorting out. But hey! I can now walk round it!

Friday, 4 March 2016

Sketchbook Revealed

Now that Becca, my second Partner in the Sketchbook Circle, has received her sketchbook back from me, I can show you the additions I made to her book.

The first four show Becca's original pages with my additions. On her introductory page she spoke of new beginnings but chose to include a number of skull drawings which we tend to associate with death. Working with those apparently opposing ideas, I started thinking about sprouting bulbs and new growth and went on from there in the first three. For the fourth, I had a blank page opposite a skull, so introduced the uniformed figure of "Major Death", complete with military medals.

For the five pages of my own I began by looking at scraps of collage material I had on and heads. Two anatomical diagrams of parts of the head, intended for students of life drawing, came together with a fragment of red stained etching paper on a background of  a map to give me "Skinned". More simply, I found an old photocopy of a cross-section of a head with what appears to be a foetus for a brain and laid it on another fragment of blue stained etching paper.

The girl from Whistler's Symphony in White, No. 2: The Little White Girl was a torn fragment Becca had left in the back of her book for future consideration. I used it with some other ideas of "white" and made a new image.

"Onion Head" happened by accident. While looking for images of sprouting bulbs to use with the skull drawings, I had printed off from the internet an image of a sprouting onion but found it was too big for the any of the skull pages. Laying it down on a blank page, I suddenly saw it as a head; with the addition of a pair of eyes from the front page of an Observer Colour Supplement and some gouache, the mysterious character came to life.

Finally, the "Owl Queen" is a fragment of a photocopied image I put together in my days of Mail Art exchanges. Coming together with another curiously shaped fragment of old cut up brochure and a bright flame-like piece of etching paper, I think I made something mysterious.

Now comes the exciting bit: what will Becca make of all of this? Will she add to my images? Will she find something in them to strike some sparks? Time will tell.

And what do you make of all of this? I'm always interested to hear from you.

Meanwhile, I'm waiting on tenterhooks for my original sketchbook to come back from Ang with her additions.

Monday, 29 February 2016

Mr Walker's Suitcase

Some drawings readily lend themselves to a little colouring in Photoshop. Here's Mr Walker's Suitcase given that treatment.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Sketch Crawl # 7: The Discovery Museum

Mr Walker's Suitcase
Discovery Museum
(Black markers in A4 sketchbook)

Holeyn Hall Turbine
Discovery Museum
(Black and grey markers, A4 sketchbook)

The Discovery Museum in Newcastle has changed quite a bit since I was there last. In addition to a huge new atrium accommodating the famous Turbinia, the world's first steam turbine-powered steamship, there is what seems to be a maze of rooms full of all sorts of engineering and historical stuff. 

Perhaps I should have been more adventurous in my choice of subjects on this, our seventh Sketch Crawl, because others seemed to find things that had somehow missed my attention, and while I thought Turbinia couldn't be drawn, Mike and Richard proved me wrong.

Still, I was happy with my suitcase, carried by a Mr Walker on his voyage on RMS Franconia. I don't know if there's anything special about Mr Walker or indeed his choice of steamship, but the suitcase served to illuminate the possibilities of world travel brought about by the introduction of steamships, in this case by the Cunard Line.

As for the turbine, I wish now that I'd not gone along with the black painted pipes,because although they were what drew me to the subject in the first place, I had to make a decision about the panel bearing the name of the manufacturer, C A Parsons. It was also black but couldn't remain so and still be legible; I think now the drawing would have worked better without the solid black. Oh well, you learn by your mistakes (sometimes).

Finally, as I'm pleased to say is often the case with museums and Sketch Crawls, I can recommend both the Americano and the fruit scone in the cafe, although Allan would rather they didn't serve Lattes in what he regards as glass vases.

Next time: a venue in Newcastle to be decided (Don't you just love a mystery?)