Saturday, 11 July 2015

Sketch Crawl #1: Sunderland

Sunderland University 
(Pitt medium fibretip and Pentel Brush Pen in A4 sketchbook)

My very first sketch crawl! And it was fun. I met Michael Lee, who'd organised the day (he might quibble at the use of the word "organised") at Sunderland University on a bright sunny day and after some brief introductions we set to drawing. While I decided on this rather minimalist building (best not to be over-ambitious at the beginning, I thought), Michael opted for something else. Whatever it was, here he is drawing it.

Having limbered up, we moved on to something much more taxing - the Empire Theatre.

Empire Theatre, Sunderland
(Pitt medium fibretip, coloured pencil 
and grey brush pen in A4 sketchbook)

Talk about complicated and fiddly! I got totally lost with that columned thingy at the top and the swags round the lion's head (for that is what it is) went far too wide. But hey! it's only a sketch. 

By the time we moved on, the band rehearsing in the pub over the road had still not mastered the song they'd been hammering away at.

And so to Keel Square, a new development in Sunderland. Or rather, a new open space, we found, with wind whistling in from all directions and a crazy BMX biker determined to whizz across anything we chose to sit on, so we retraced our steps to find a more sheltered view of the Londonderry:

The Londonderry, Sunderland
(Pitt medium fibretip, grey and blue brush pens in A4 sketchbook)

One of the hazards of drawing in the street is that you may attract the attention of interested but sometimes opinionated passers by. I attracted two today: one who seemed to be the cook in the Londonderry who just wanted know what we were doing; the second who I suspect was a patron of the Londonderry ventured the opinion that what I was doing was "not bad, not bad".

He may have been right. I added the blue wash after I got home and think it may have been a mistake, but too late now ...

Michael, who I think had produced two sketches for my every one, kindly pointed me in the direction of the Metro station. When I got there, the Metro was broken. I dunno, the good folk of Sunderland moaned for years that the Tyne & Wear Metro didn't go as far as Sunderland, so they built them an extension. What did they do? They broke it and made me get the bus home.

Transport snags aside, it was interesting to see Sunderland again after so many years and all in all, it was a Great Day Out. Thank you, Michael!

Friday, 10 July 2015

Urban Sketch Crawl

I'm filled with trepidation. My Regular Reader will know that I am not a stranger to drawing outside. I'm not even a stranger to drawing outside in towns. But I've always been somewhat averse to drawing outside in towns in the UK. 

For some reason, I'm prepared to stand in the street in a town in Crete or Croatia, get out my pen and sketchbook and spend an hour or so drawing what's in front of me. But I've always hated the prospect of doing it in British towns and cities.

Having said that, in the early days of my artistic endeavours I drew this building in Newcastle, standing in the street:

Northern Goldsmiths, 4th November 1990 
(Fine point marker and sepia ArtPen in A4 sketchbook)

I didn't enjoy the experience; it was terribly cold and once my feet had thawed out, they ached. I did no more drawings of this sort until I began my BA Fine Art course at Newcastle University in 1997, when we were required to go out every day for a week, drawing the urban environment. Here's a couple of the sketchbook drawings I did then:

 High Street Fire Escape (A4 sketchbook)

Concrete Walkways (A4 sketchbook)

Looking at the drawings I do every year on holiday you'll see that I often draw houses. I don't draw houses in the UK, but choose instead (if I'm put in the position of having to draw in a UK town) big chunks of urban concrete. There's a reason: Mediterranean buildings are often quite simple in design and are not cluttered up with neoclassical columns and bloody windows! Since the repeal of the Window Tax in 1851, we've stuck windows in every available wall and not just ordinary openings-with-shutters like Greek houses have, but complicated, fanciful structures with ornate lintels and ... oh, you get the picture, I'm sure.

But really, this is just another excuse for not getting down to drawing my world. Windows and architectural fol-de-rols may be awkward but they will no longer stand in my way. I will act! And hence my trepidation: tomorrow I'm off on my first Urban Sketch Crawl. I tried to link up with SketchCrawlers a few years ago, but no one in this area seemed up for it. Just last week, however, I discovered Sketch Crawl North East on Facebook : a group of occasional sketch crawlers in and around the cities of the North East. And by chance someone proposed a crawl tomorrow.

Now all I have to worry about, apart from what I might find myself having to draw, is what I'm going to draw it with and in which sketchbook. Life is full of difficult decisions ...

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.