Thursday, 31 May 2007


Erotokritos (Oil on board; 12 x 12 ins.) SOLD
At last! These pictures done at the Art Club do seem to take a long time to complete. But in this case, I feel it was worth the wait; I'm well pleased with this one.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Cretan New Town

Big Pink Wall (lay-in)
This place doesn't really exist.
I tried to make a painting of the bottom part - the pink wall - some time ago, but gave it up as a bad job. Leafing through some print-outs today, I accidentally laid a couple of different places on top of each other and something clicked in my head.
So here we are with a new imaginary little town, somewhere in Crete. As it moves along, I think I may change it some more. Could prove interesting, to me at least.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

A Useful Day

At the River's Edge (Oil on board; 24 x 12 ins.)

I guess that's about enough on that one (although I may check the lower part when the paint is dry and add a a bit of a darker glaze to bring it down a little). Then it's up on the wall at the Club to see if I might win something.

I figured it was about time I started on some work for next year's show in South Shields, even though we don't have a definite date for it yet. This is the subject I liked best from my first foray into Sandancer country. Now that it's under way, I think it looks very promising.

Metro (start)

To round off the session, I played about with the sky on one of my small landscapes that have been troubling me for some time. They just seemed a little dull, so I've been adding dramatic skies. I put a new one on this last week, and again a couple of days ago, but I still wasn't satisfied. Today's looks more likely to stay, although in different light I find the green I introduced as a reflection of the landscape itself has turned out to be somewhat strident. So I'll probably be having another go at it some time soon.

Catterline Sky (ongoing)

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Near & Far

Erotokritos - third stage

It's been a long week of paperwork, research trips and the like, without much in the way of painting being done at home, so it was something of a relief to pick up the brush again at the Club.

This painting is just about finished. I've lightened the orange banner. which meant the paint was too wet for me to paint in the lettering. I'm not always in favour of lettering on pictures, but in this case, the word EROTOKRITOS was what attracted me to the scene in the first place, so I want it to go in.

I started in on another old one, but my confidence in getting it to work was not as great as it was with the others. I started it about five or six years ago, after my first visit to Venice, and left it more or less like this (although I've now trimmed it to a square):

Canal: first state.

After an hour it looked like this:

Canal: second state

No great advance on the original state. It's proving difficult for the same reasons I gave up on it the first time - the buildings in the distance are awkward in their lack of definition, while the foreground elements are heavy and clearly structured. This ought to make for an interesting contrast, but I think it has eluded me.

I'm also uncomfortable with the overall composition, with it's insistent perspective which doesn't sit well with my current thinking, so I've decided not to continue with this one.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Seven Secrets

Bee Skelton has tagged me. Each person tagged must give seven random facts about themselves; things that are a habit, unusual or that no-one else knows, as well as the rules of the game.

Since all the other bloggers I know are impervious to meme-tagging, I won't be passing this one on. My apologies to those who've gone before.

  1. I always like to have at least one pair of red shoes in the house.
  2. I am an acknowledged expert in a little-used musical instrument.
  3. I believe in the use of the correct spoon for every meal.
  4. I was once the guest of honour at a world event
  5. One of my eyes is both the same.
  6. I used to smoke but never inhaled.
  7. I have been known to make up things about myself.

Friday, 18 May 2007

Another Rescue Mission

Erotokritos - 1st stage

This is another picture I've had in the studio for some time. In fact, I probably started it over two years ago. I can't say why I didn't finish it. I liked the subject, but other things intervened, and there's no doubting that I prefer starting pictures to finishing them.

Yesterday dawned without my having anything new to take along to the Art Club. Again. There's one I want to get finished - I owe it to the Man With the Talent as payment for this computer - but for now the original Photoshop manipulation is hiding from me somewhere in the studio. Or elsewhere in the house.

There was nothing for it, then, but to take along the unfinished Erotokritos. It was difficult getting back into the picture, not least because boats can be problematic forms and these needed to be embedded properly into the composition. It was a real mistake not to have pushed on into that area in the first place.

Nevertheless, I was able to make headway and this is where I was when I packed up to go home yesterday.

Erotokritos - interim

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Trees & Water

Trees & Water - 1st stage

As part of an attempt to revitalise the Art Club and generate greater membership involvement in the wake of The Secretary Fiasco, there's now an on-going themed competition at the Club.

Last month we were invited to put up a still-life painting and members were encouraged to vote on the "best". I think there was a bottle of wine involved, not least in several of the entries. I didn't bother putting anything on the wall, but this month the subject chosen is "Trees and Water."

I wanted to see if I could get anything out of the many photographs I took on the recent trip to The Lakes and an off-cut piece of MDF winked at me and flaunted its interesting shape (it's actually a double square). So here's today's beginning. Inevitably, I find the greens worrying, but overall I'm quite pleased with the way it's going.

More work, especially on the trees, tomorrow.

Roy Harper

Looking a bit like a thinning Catweazle, Roy Harper strode onto the stage in Hall Two of The Sage, Gateshead, last night and within minutes had the audience - including Patsy123 and me - in the palm of his hand.

I'd wondered whether, at 66, his voice might sound a little frail, but I soon found that wasn't the case. If anything it's stronger than before, and even the high notes and falsetto were delivered faultlessly. He used a reverb on a lot of the songs, but that was always his special sound. I seem to recall that in the early days he was criticised for (somewhat self-indulgently) singing into the sound hole of his guitar.

He was accompanied on a good part of the set by a guitarist from Liverpool, Matt Churchill, who also did a warm-up before Harper came on. His entirely instrumental set showed what an excellent rhythmic musician he is, but with one exception, I thought maybe he could do with a course in melody lines.

Chatting between songs, Harper proved himself to be, not the cantankerous old git his pre-publicity had suggested, but a charismatic and funny speaker. Many of his anecdotes , cut loose from any pertinence to the song he was about to sing, free-wheeled into often bizarre territory, but there was almost an element of the rant when he spoke of his loathing for world leaders and for organised religion.

His song list contained a number of songs new to me, but he delighted the audience, many of whom were obviously long-time followers, by singing some of his best-loved, including the John Peel favourite, When An Old Cricketer Leaves The Crease. Even the song which got him into so much trouble with the owners of the Blue Boar Service Station was paraded and I gladly joined in the chorus (Watford Gap, Watford Gap/Plate of grease and a load of crap), if only in a mouthing stylee.

He reckons he has to give up touring to get some writing done, but promised that, after one, maybe two albums of new songs, he'll be back.

I'll be there to see him.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007


Lemba (Oil on board) - work in progress

There's a companion piece to this Lemba painting, called Beyond Lemba; both from 2000, neither of them finished.

The reason I find myself harking back to them is that, in a kind of synchronicity, two references to Cyprus have climbed over the garden wall and stared me in the face. The most recent is a comment from Bee Skelton on my last post. The other is a pair of videos of the Cyprus College of Art in Lemba on Robbie Bushe's blog.

I've been to Cyprus twice. Once in 1999, when I stayed in Polis-

Polis Plaza (Oil on board - sold)

- and again in 2000, this time in Paphos..

This wasn't the best of times for me, so I didn't get all I might have out of the visits and my memories are filtered through a disagreeable haze. But I do still think of the long-eared hedgehogs I watched each night on the outskirts of Polis and the time spent in Limassol:

Limassol Cathedral (Oil on board, 10 x 10 ins.)

Most memorable of all was the day I had in Lemba, at the Cyprus College of Art. I was a year off graduation and still in the frame of mind where further education seemed the right course of action. Looking round the College in the hot sun, it felt like a place I could settle into and get some interesting work done. Like one of Proust's madeleines, Robbie Bushe's videos have brought back that time in all its many colours, both light and dark.

Events conspired against me and I never did get to enroll at the Cyprus College of Art. Maybe it would have done me good to go. Maybe not. That's all very much chaff in the wind now. I'm still here. Let's see what Gateshead has to offer today.

Monday, 14 May 2007

The Prestige

On the plane back from San Francisco I whiled away the hours by trying to watch The Prestige. I had to contend with a tiny screen in the back of the seat in front and some earphones that interrupted the sound when wobbled in their socket - something they did with ease.

Despite all of the discomfort, I enjoyed the film. I'd been hoping to see it for some time. It's based on, and follows quite closely, the novel by an old friend of mine, Christopher Priest.

Yesterday, I got the opportunity to see The Prestige properly, or at least as properly as a DVD on Patsy123's little TV could provide. It really is a terrific film, cleverly plotted and beautifully dark and moody. The structure of the novel has been altered slightly to keep secrets hidden until the very end, and this really does work to its benefit.

As an aside, I've read a number of comments about the "ludicrous" nature of David Bowie's accent (he plays the real-life scientist, Nikola Tesla), but this just seems like knee-jerk bitchiness. It's not a big part, but I thought Bowie handled it with sympathetic underplaying.

Finally, for those who've never come across Chris's fiction, I heartily commend it to you.

In the Meme Time

I've been tagged with a meme!!!!! (I exclaim in my best JonnyB voice)

Lesly Finn has tagged me with a meme from Christy's Coffee Break called In the Spotlight. Here are my answers to the interview questions I've chosen from the list of possibles.

Is this your first meme?
Yes it is.

When did you start blogging?
Three years ago.

What do you hope to accomplish with with your blog?
When I started, I intended it to be something like a fanzine, a field I've had some experience in, with contributions from friends, emails as content and like so. But when I found there was a lack of support for the idea, I gradually morphed it into something more like an artist's journal.

The acquisition of a digital camera has speeded up this process, by allowing me to post much more of my work and show some of the processes in its making. Ultimately, I intend to tie it into a website of my own, so that there can be greater two-way traffic.

However, I still harbour an interest in writing as a skill in itself, so the occasional piece of writing, almost for its own sake, is always likely to appear.

What is your worst quality?

What is your best quality?

What is your favourite childhood memory?
Hard to choose. It's either :

  • Riding on the footplate of an 0-6-0 shunter in the marshalling yards in Edinburgh

  • Stealing a pencil stub from the Co-op.

Are you a spiritual person?
I'm spiritual in the sense that I feel a metaphysical connection to the world and I suspect there may be an underlying force in nature, which can be sometimes alluded to in art. I'm not a spiritual person in the sense proclaimed by the organised religions, whom I generally condemn for encouraging ignorance and superstition and on whom I blame many of the endless miseries of the world.

What is the weirdest thing that ever happened to you?
Being born.


In my turn, I hand on the Black Spot to:

Ian Gordon Craig - an artist whose on-line journal always fascinates.

Marja-Leena Rathje - another artist; her prints are quite lovely.

Anna - with funny taste in music but always a good view out of the window.

Winchester Whisperer - interesting political commentary.

Secret Simon - who may get something out of the moral and spiritual questions.

I crave their forgiveness.

Thursday, 10 May 2007


Naxos (Oil on canvas; 20 x 20 ins.)

I was a bit pushed for time today and couldn't find my source material for a new painting to start at the Art Club. This is becoming something of a regular occurrence and must be Attended To.

Anyway, I decided to finish off another picture which has been lying around for almost a year. This is how it looked when I started today.

Naxos (interim stage)
You can see it didn't need much more to get it to stand up and talk for itself and I think I'm just about done with it.
I like the island of Naxos a lot. I must have been there something like half a dozen times and always find the gloomy passageways of the old town, the Kastro, fascinating. The buildings are mostly Venetian, of course, and probably sowed the seeds of my passion for Venice itself.

Monday, 7 May 2007

Back from Little Langdale

Slaters Bridge (4B pencil, sketchbook)

This is the first drawing I made, in the first flush of enthusiasm for Little Langdale. My enthusiasm for the place never waned (indeed we've already made a provisional booking for next year), but as is often the case, I found it increasingly difficult to find things in the countryside I wanted to deal with.

Nevertheless, Slaters Bridge did get me back to draw one end of it.

Slaters Bridge (end) (Pentel Brushpen & watercolour, sketchbook)

And as always, there were collapsed and rotting trees everywhere.

Tree Form (Pilot disposable fountain pen, sketchbook)

Given that the weather was outstandingly good, with temperatures up to 21C each day and clear blue skies, I found myself wanting to walk more than in previous years. My planta fasciitis seems to have improved, leaving only a little numbness in my big toes, and it was a joy to get out on the fells; unencumbered by heavy weather-proof clothing, the walks reminded me of past holidays walking in Crete and France.

The food was especially good this year. The Three Shires Inn was only 100 yards away and served us well with steak & ale pie, game pie, Cumberland sausage studded with black pudding, and pints of Hawkshead Red and Coniston Old Man. In between, the Mad Doctor made his chilli and his flapjacks, Tall Tony his five spice chicken and I my chicken curry. Plastic Man just ate it all and entertained us with his illiberal remarks. And Raymondo? Well, he's from Sunderland.
Every year these trips seem to involve one or more detours to art suppliers to see what might tempt us to part with money. This year I bought a bottle of Indian ink, because I remembered I had a dip pen with me, but never got round to using it. Last year, I bought a tin of Derwent Inktense Pencils and didn't use them, but as I'd brought them along this time, I thought I'd give them a go.

Finding myself on one of many wrong paths, I stopped for a while to draw these rocks and decided to add some colour with the Inktense Pencils. I think the drawing was probably better before I added the colour, but you have to make mistakes to learn.

Rocks by The Dubs (6B pencil, Inktense Pencils, sketchbook)
The pencils are interesting, despite their limited success this time, because once you've added water to them they become insoluble. You could then work over them with other media, like pastel or oil pastel, which could be worth investigating in the future.
I put this on the Things To Do mental pile.