Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Old Drawings #17

Tuxedo Princess (Charcoal and compressed charcoal on A2 cartridge paper)

The Tuxedo Princess began life as The Caledonian Princess and as such saw service on runs to Douglas, Isle of Man, and later as a Sealink ferry across the Channel. In 1982, however, she was sold for static use as a nightclub berthed on the River Tyne at Gateshead, where she was renamed Tuxedo Princess, but always known locally as "The Boat."

Sitting directly under the Tyne Bridge, she always looked out of proportion to me, or rather she made the Bridge look smaller than it actually is. There was a long-running battle with Gateshead Council, who tried to make the owners pay rates rather than a berthing fee, but a court case established that the ship was still sea-worthy and therefore eligible to pay berthing fees only.

For a few years she was taken away for a refit, and replaced by an even bigger ship, the Tuxedo Royale, now berthed, I believe, at Middlesbrough.

The club owners operated a policy of cheap drink offers and eventually, following the death of a night time reveller who fell overboard, and complaints from the police who felt they were being called out to deal with a disproportionate amount of drunken behaviour there, the Council came to an agreement with the owners that meant the end of the Princess.

On 27th July 2008, she left the Tyne.

I did this drawing in about 1993 as part of a series of work looking down from the Tyne Bridge. All the others were of buildings, and ultimately made more successful paintings. The painting derived from this drawing never really convinced and it got chopped down and reused (not unlike the Boat)

Monday, 29 September 2008


Something I found on Laketrees and thought I needed to post it, before I get my stuff done.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Porto Pollensa

Porto Pollensa (4B pencil, A5 sketchbook)

Back from Mallorca. At the beginning of the week, the sun was hot and bright, and we sat on the end of the marina's pier. Pat read her book and I drew this view across the bay towards the end of the town, with the hills looming behind. I thought to myself, this is a promising start, I'm sure to get more sketching done this week.

Later that week, however, the weather was more like this:

On the road to Cap Formentor (Photograph copyright Harry Bell)

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Old Drawings #16

Electric Iron (Charcoal on A2 cartridge paper)

I have no idea when this was done, or indeed why, other than for the sheer pleasure of doing it. But it seemed appropriate to post it today, given that I've spent the last hour ironing clothes to take on holiday.

Pat and I are off to Mallorca tomorrow for a week in what I hope will be sunshine. It's been such a rotten summer that I felt I needed to top up my sunshine batteries before facing the long greyness of the winter.

Be good to one another and don't start any more wars while I'm gone.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Old Drawings #15

Scary Self-Portrait (Compressed charcoal on A3 cartridge paper)

I think I had plans to make a series of self-portraits, but this one frightened me so much I stopped. There was a painting done following on from this and my glare was even more scary in that. It's the one I keep in the attic ...

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Early Thoughts

Spillers and the Cement Factory (Oil on board, 12 x 1 2 ins.)

A Bend in the Tyne (Oil on board, 12 x 12 ins.)

I could have sold these two pictures several times over, and since the nature of art fairs is that the buyer can take them away, I had to search through the studio for something to replace them. One that I found was this, which didn't sell but still attracted a lot of interest.

River Tyne Factory (Oil on board, 12 x 12ins.) (£250)

These were all paintings I did after a visit to an Andrew Gifford exhibition at The Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh in 2000. I've long been an admirer of his, in fact since I first saw his work in the studios at Newcastle University when he was doing his BA (Hons) degree (1990-94). It was his work that showed me how I might deal with the subject matter closest to my heart - townscapes. Although I'd moved on in my own way, going to see his exhibition revived an interest and, as with many good exhibitions, I came out of the show seeing "Andrew Gifford " subject matter everywhere. The following week I did these three paintings. There was one other, but it didn't survive to maturity.

Andrew has a new exhibition opening next month at John Martin of London, showing some huge new paintings of Istanbul, a city I love. The work looks great on the gallery website, but I'd really like to get to see the paintings themselves.

Anyway, I think I may be entering another neo-Gifford phase, but who can say. At the moment I'm in a state of calm with no need to get any painting done and plenty of time to clear up the mass of paperwork that always collects when I'm fully in right brain mode.

After the Fair

By the end of the Art Fair, I'd sold nine paintings. The task for me now, in the weeks ahead, is to consider what I might learn from how the Fair went and what conclusions might be drawn from what was sold. There was also a lot of very valuable feedback from people I spoke to who, although they didn't buy anything, talked about the work and indicated what it was they liked.

Some interesting facts: with one exception, all the paintings were sold in twos. Several of the buyers said that they thought they were reasonably priced, one that they were underpriced, and this might mean that I could have sold them one painting at twice the price. But I don't think this is necessarily the case: there's an obvious attraction about a pair of small paintings.

Again, with only two exceptions, all of the work that sold was nicely framed. Although I know there's a market for gallery wrap canvases (and that's what the two unframed ones were), I think many people who buy want something that will look good on the wall straight away. I overheard a couple of people buying from a fellow Figure 8 artist, asking him whether they should get it framed. I think unframed gallery wrap may unsettle some people.

Would I do it again? I had terrible misgivings about the whole thing before it started, but as I got into the swing of it, I really began to enjoy myself. It involves a lot of tiring standing about, excitement followed by disappointment as punters arrive, pause to look, then wander off. But that's more than made up for by the chance to engage visitors in conversation about the work, and it surprised me how much they evidently like doing that.

So overall, if the cost of hiring the stand was affordable, I guess the answer is yes, I'd do it again.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Art Fair So Far

This is a photograph taken on a friend's mobile phone at the Art Fair VIP Preview on Thursday night. That's me clutching a glass and engaging a couple in a bid to sell them something. It worked, in fact, and despite my early misgivings, the Fair has proven a great success for me. I've sold seven paintings so far, with a day to go.

So no time for more writing, that day is ahead of me. Back again soon.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Old Drawings #14

Part of Western Bypass (Charcoal on cartridge paper, 7 x 23 ins.)

An odd drawing. In 1993/4 I was beginning to paint a series of pictures based on Gateshead's Western Bypass, which I could see from the window of my Mum's flat at Allerdene. This is, I think, the only surviving drawing from that work.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Setting Up

We set up the Figure 8 Stand today, ready for the NewcastleGateshead VIP Preview Evening tomorrow. Considering we knew nothing of what would be expected of us, and having received no advice from anyone at home or in the blogosphere, I think we acquitted ourselves pretty well.

To give credit where due, I have to say that we'd have taken hours longer than we did, were it not for Mo's Mr Grumpy. He's a wizard with the spirit level, pencil and electric drill. By the time we left, shortly before the 6 o'clock close, there were people who'd been there all day and had barely got past the fixing on mirror plates stage.

Here are two photographs of how our stand looks. My pictures (in the first photograph) are the set after the right angle.

I have to be there early again tomorrow. The Art Fair Police will be coming round to inspect the stand and make sure our modest table doesn't intrude beyond our allocated space, then once we have their blessing, the place will be thrown open to the Press, about whom I intend to remain mute, in the hope that I might get some more publicity (I got one of my paintings shown in the Art Fair supplement in today's Journal).

If you're around, do try to look in on us at Stand N2, in the Northern Rock Foundation Hall at The Sage, Gateshead. I'll be there most times on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Opening times are:

Friday 12th September 11am-6pm
Saturday 13th September 11am-5pm
Sunday 14th September 11am-5pm

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Come in Forty Seven ...

Come in No.47 (wax crayon on computer printout, 15 x 21 cms)

During the week, Ian Craig announced an open fun project, the idea being to take a template of drawn black lines and make a composition using those lines. I missed last night's deadline, but have sent it to him anyway and I understand he'll be showing them all in due course.

The number of entries was limited to 47, hence the title, and his stipulation was that the picture should be completed in about 47 minutes, without too much forethought.

I dug out my box of Reeves 8 Assorted Colours Extra Large Non-Smudge Crayons and my box of 24 Guitar Special Artist's Crayons, "especially made for tropical use" (with the price , 24p, still on, which shows how long ago I bought them), and set to. This is the result.

Later: Ian has now posted all 47 images as a video here.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Almost Done

High Level Bridge (work in progress) (Private Collection)

Another few hours at the Art Club today with this little picture. There's not a lot more to do to it, just a few chimney pots and a bit touch-up here and there in the background. I was hoping to get this one done in time for the Art Fair and it looks like I'll be successful in that.

If everything I plan to do for the Art Fair goes as well as this, I'll be a happy man, but I already have to make an urgent visit to the dentist tomorrow to replace a filling, so I think it wise not to count my chickens just yet.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Memories (slight return)

Toy Aeroplane (watercolour on paper)

By the time I'd finished my drawing at Le Merlet, it was still raining heavily.

Never keen to do anything with my watercolour box, I nevertheless got it out and made this little watercolour painting of a child's toy. Too much water, not enough pigment, as usual.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008


Le Merlet (Pentel mechanical pencil, A5 sketchbook)

This is for Illustration Friday's brief, Memories.

In June 1992 I went on a walking holiday in the Cevennes. The previous year I'd been walking in the Tarn and the Pyrenees and had enjoyed it so much, I was looking forward to doing it again.

When we got there, it had been raining for 18 days straight and it never stopped longer than an hour or two the whole time we were there. One of the stops was at the farmhouse at Le Merlet, where we should have been able to rest up and take a gentle stroll round the area, before setting off again the next day. The rain made it impossible, or at least too uncomfortable to leave the farm, and since it was supposed to be Summer, there was no heating and it was terribly cold.

To console myself I took out my sketchbook and spent an hour or so escaping into wherever it is I go when I'm drawing. The lack of anything much outside the window is due entirely to the rain.