Friday, 28 August 2015

Heartache

Sometimes I think I have no idea of exactly when in the month I am. Where does the time go? I had to take time out yesterday to get some ultramarine acrylic (I had to settle for Galeria rather than my preferred Liquitex) and then really had to crack on with the wooden heart to try to get it in the post today.

Nevertheless, against all odds I finished painting the heart and sent it off in its prepaid envelope to St Claire's Hospice. With luck it should get there by 1st September. 

If only I could post a picture of it now. I'm actually rather pleased with it, although I still find the peculiar, almost chalky surface of acrylics a little difficult to take.

Monday, 24 August 2015

I Heart Acrylics?

Some blocking in done on my wooden heart. It's already starting to look like it might work out, but I'm struggling a little with acrylics after something like 20 years without using them. 

Instead of painting in oils, I decided  to use up some tubes of Liquitex and Galeria acrylics from 20 years ago and while I'm getting on OK with them I'm sure I'd find the more modern acrylic paints more to my liking. 

In the days when I used acrylics I preferred Liquitex and only bought Galeria at university,but many of my painting friends recommend Golden. I recently bought some Golden High Flow acrylics, but they're for an online course I've signed up for. Still, I've run out of ultramarine, so I may have to raid them for that.


Saturday, 22 August 2015

Slow Heart Rate

Two coats of gesso on my wooden heart today. Progress is slow. I'm going to have to step up the pace.

Friday, 14 August 2015

I do have a wooden heart …



There's nothing like a deadline for getting the creative juices flowing. And I have a deadline. This wooden heart is to be decorated in any way I fancy and returned to St Clare's Hospice, Jarrow by the 1st September in time for a charity event.

The Hospice will be holding an exhibition of these decorated hearts (one of them has been decorated by "Call me Dave" Cameron - be still my beating heart!) in November. There'll be a catalogue and a website and I'll be sure to post details of those in due course.

Meanwhile, I'm afraid I'll be unable to share progress of my heart's painting with you. The work will all be displayed anonymously, although a list of contributors will be available. Later, after the exhibition has closed and the work has been sold, I'll let you see what I came up with.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

From Dillons' First Floor Window























From Dillons' First Floor Window
(Oil on board) Private Collection.

We went out to a Private View last night at a gallery new to me - the Bewicks Gallery Space in Gateshead Civic Centre. We'd been invited to a preview of work by Tom Bromly OBEDean of Newcastle Polytechnic (the forerunner of Northumbria University) Faculty of Art and Design until his retirement in 1992.

I liked the show very much, although I preferred his more designed/abstracted compositions to the straightforward studies and paintings of trees. I chatted to an old friend for a while and then, as we were taking a second glass of wine for a second turn around the gallery, someone came up to me and said:

"You're Harry Bell, aren't you? I bought a painting of yours a long time ago and I still love it!" We were joined by his wife who said "You're Harry Bell! You painted my favourite painting!"

The oil painting was From Dillons' First Floor Window and it was sold in 1995 from my first solo show. It was always a favourite of mine and here was the man who bought it twenty years ago, still enthusing about it now. 

Don't you just love it when that happens?

Friday, 7 August 2015

Food for Thought

























Food Station 
(Digitally coloured)

While it may have been the least accomplished of the sketches I did on Saturday's sketch crawl, the Market Square drawing is the most likely to prove useful. Today I ran it through Photoshop to see if it might work as a painting. And I think it might.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Sketch Crawl #2: Durham

























Market Square, Durham
(Pitt Medium marker with black Pentel Brush Pen, 
grey and blue brushpens in A4 sketchbook)

Despite all my good intentions, I did no more drawing following last month's Sketch Crawl, so it was with some relief that I headed off yesterday to Durham for my second Crawl. I had two possible buses to catch: the 21 and the X12. It seemed sensible to take the X12, it being an express to Durham, although I was puzzled to see from the timetable that it arrived in Durham Bus Station only five minutes sooner than the normal service 21.

Once I was on the bus, of course, I realised why the time difference was so small. We crawled along behind and only very slowly passed three 21s travelling in convoy, there being no opportunity to overtake them until more than half way to Durham.

We'd had a week of indifferent to poor weather before Sketch Crawl Day, so it was a real pleasure, if a mixed one, to find the sun out and shining on the milling throngs of people in Market Square. Michael and one or two others were already there, Michael beavering away at his first sketch; once we were all collected together and an itinerary agreed, we split up to look for subject matter.

The milling throngs proved difficult for me to deal with. Every time I saw something I wanted to draw, crowds would gather in front of it. So I was well into my allotted time before I'd found a convenient doorway from which to draw this food stall. Even then, I had people walking past me and thoughtlessly buying food from the stall (see the man with the transparent trousers in the drawing), so that with every line I was having to pause and say to myself "Where does that line go?"

By the time I'd finished all the other Crawlers had moved on to the Cathedral, outside of which 146 Harley Davidson motorbikes were parked. The bikers' long and thunderous drive through the Market Square hadn't helped in my search for subject matter, but now at least they were quiet.
















Some of the Harleys outside the Cathedral.

Drawing cathedrals isn't really my thing and standing in the middle of the road drawing a Harley didn't much appeal (although both Michael and Gary had a go), so I turned to a house on the corner of Owengate, with part of the castle behind it.
























Nr the Cathedral
(Pitt Medium marker with green and red brushpens in A4 sketchbook)

I confess I wasn't terribly happy with this drawing at the time (maybe it's my antipathy to red/green), but now it's on the blog, I'm warming to it.

With a little time in hand, I took a short walk inside the Cathedral looking for the Magna Carta display, but found instead a lovely painting of St Margaret by Paula Rego which I didn't know existed.

Margaret and David by Paula Rego (2003)

St Margaret by Paula Rego

Our final sketching area was down by the River Wear, which winds through Durham. Standing on Prebends Bridge we looked down the river and each of us saw something different to draw. I decided to go down to the riverside and draw what turned out to be a piece of sculpture by an uncredited artist. On the back was this collection of gurning faces ...


























... but I chose to sit in the sun on a nearby bench and draw the other side. After a while, the inevitable happened and three people sat down on the carved wooden benches. I quite liked the idea of having them in the drawing so, expecting they'd soon be up and gone, I put them in quickly, sacrificing the correct scale for speed. They, of course, were still sitting there when I packed up and left.


















Riverside, Durham
(Pitt Medium marker with black Pentel Brush Pen, 
grey brushpen in A4 sketchbook)

I mentioned last time that one hazard of drawing in public can be the curious passer-by. Luckily, I was untroubled this time, although it's possible some of the people on this cruise boat were looking at me.
















It had been a thoroughly enjoyable and productive day as we all agreed over coffee and cakes in the Cafe on the Green. There was a bit of "show-and-tell" with sketchbooks passed around and helpful comments made.














Sketch Crawlers 
(L-R:Liz, Gary, Laura, Andrew and Allan. Barbara had to forego the delights of spiced apple cake; and I'm the photographer)

So, all in all, a Very Good Day Out and a decision made for another very soon - probably in Tynemouth.

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

Bologna

























Bologna 
(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: