Friday, 27 February 2009

Twos and Threes

House and Garden, Alcudia (work in progress)

Twos and threes must be better than sixes and sevens, so I figure that's where I am now. Above is how I left House and Garden on Thursday evening. I always think there's a potential danger in trying to show rows of stone in a wall by drawing them out by hand. It often tends to look artificial that way. Yes, it is an artificial wall, but I'm sure you know what I mean. What you see here is an experimental method - I put the picture on its side on the easel and dribbled thin paint down the wall. Then I turned it round and did the same from the other side.

House and Garden, Alcudia (work in progress)

Today I worked on the stones themselves, fitting them into the lines provided by the dribbles. There's more to be done, but I think it's working. I'm suspicious of this photograph, by the way. I think there's a red dominance that isn't actually in the painting. I'm sure there's more yellow/orange in there.

Church and Rooftops, Alcudia (work in progress)

I was unsure of how this one was going when I started in on it again today, but the rows of tiles on the roof in the foreground, even simply rendered as they are at present, have pulled it together.

I'm looking forward to working on both of these again next week.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Sixes and Sevens

Church and Rooftops, Alcudia (Oil on canvas, work in progress)

I said I was at sixes and sevens. I started this at the Club last week, but forgot the camera, and then forgot to say anything about it anyway. Because I didn't have a photo of it, I was convinced I'd made a hash of it, but when I started on it again today, I found it quite to my liking. And today's progress has moved it into the comfort zone, so I'm relatively confident that it'll work out OK.

However, just to show that the sixes and sevens condition hasn't abated, I took this photo of the other one I started last week before doing any more work on it today. Although I did work on it, I then forgot to to photograph what I'd done. Blimey, I'll be glad when I'm back to normal.

House and Garden, Alcudia (Oil on canvas, work in progress)

Monday, 23 February 2009


Dorset Stump (Ink and watercolour, A4 sketchbook)

Ten days since my last post! Blimey. I'm at sixes and sevens, what with my Sensible Anchor being away in the Far East and all. She's back next week, thankfully.

But I've also been working on a project. Taking on a Flickr pro account, I've set about uploading all of my paintings, drawings and sketchbooks. The project is far from complete, but it's proving worthwhile. Being able to see them all there, without having to refer to individual work, has started to make connections in my head that weren't previously there. Which has got me thinking, and of course, thinking stops me from working, at least initially, so nothing new to show you at present.

However, if you'd like to see my public Flickr pages, here's the link:

and you can always follow the link through my Flickr badge on the sidebar, of course.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

St James's from Windmill Hills

St James's from Windmill Hills (Oil on canvas, 9 x 12 ins approx.)

It's been a disorganised few days, with only small bits of painting done. All bits that needed doing but which weren't worth posting here. The three pictures I was working on at the Club were brought home last week and all are nearing completion. This one I finished today. The struts on the football stadium were, as I expected, a pain to do, but they're done now and I've made a promise to myself to leave the subject of St James's alone for a long time.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Old Drawings #30

3-Way (Charcoal, A1 cartridge paper) Private Collection

This is actually a photograph of a photocopy of the original, the original belonging to a friend.

I came across this thing in Newcastle's Central Station round about 1995. I had no idea what it was, but it fascinated me in a similar way to the water meters of Greece. Oddly enough, when I took the drawing along to an OCA crit, one of the other students shouted out, "Hey, that's a three-way transponder! It shouldn't have it's cover off like that!"

So now you know.

Some years later, another friend commissioned me to paint this from the drawing (This is another camera phone photo, so the colours are a bit suspect again):

3-Way (Oil on board) Private Collection

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Snow Time

Snail (fibretip, digital colour)

The Captain of the Guard was ever vigilant, but was known to take his time in arriving ...

Snow stopped play. I received an email today to say that the heating had broken down at the Art Club, and since it's been snowing constantly since 10 o'clock this morning, I decided to stay home. It still felt too cold to venture outside to the studio, so I hibernated for the day, but found time to do this contribution to Illustration Friday's Time.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Tram Beginnings

Prague Tram (work in progress - 1st day)

I know, I know, I've started another one, but I couldn't resist it. I needed to paint and couldn't get into one of the existing pictures. I wanted to make further progress on the Night Station picture, but the inertia was too great.

As is usually the case, I enjoyed working on the early stages of this painting. One of the things I'm trying to do as part of my vague plan for the year, is to shake up my working practices a bit, so most of this was painted with a painting knife and quite a bit of gloopy Spectragel [Note to self: buy new tin of Spectragel]. When I used a brush, it was a round, rather than the flats and filberts I normally employ. I like the freshness this approach has brought to the work and I'll have to see how I can retain some of it as the painting progresses.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Old Drawings #29

View of the Tyne with Baltic Flour Mill (charcoal on cartridge paper)

I don't have the dimensions of this drawing, because it belongs to friends of mine. I did it in 1995 (I think) as a preparatory drawing for the painting they'd commissioned:

View of the Tyne - Baltic (Oil on board) (Private Collection)

The colours in this photograph may not be overly accurate - I think it was taken with a camera phone - but it gives a reasonable idea of it. The view is notable for the absence of the Gateshead Millennium Bridge which wasn't installed until 2000 (of course!)

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Working on Free Trade (Post 500)

Free Trade Inn (work in progress - 2nd day)

As promised, here's how the Free Trade Inn picture looked when I left it on Thursday. In modifying the sky colour, I've lost the edge of the roof, which I'll have to re-establish next time. The bushes and foreground need a little extra attention, without getting them too defined, and the boats will need a bit more work. Finally, the stonework on the wall behind the boats should have a little light colour dragged over it, the way I've done with the darker streaks, followed by scraping out of the mortar lines. I think it's coming along well, though, the way it is.

[I just realised that this is my 500th post. Who'd a thunk it.]

Friday, 6 February 2009

Useful Day

Yesterday I went with Mo and Frank the Dripper to inspect the exhibition space at Preston Hall and meet its Curator. She couldn't have been more helpful and now we know what kind of space Figure 8 will have to fill when we put on our newly-arranged show there in May.

Preston Hall is a fascinating place, full of collections of all sorts of stuff, but notable for it's painting, The Dice Players by Georges de La Tour, the last he completed. The grounds are considerable and there's a curiously large aviary, some forty feet tall, containing rabbits! Boy, but those rabbits must fly higher than any I've encountered previously. I guess the snow kept them grounded.

The exhibition space is not enormous, but will give us an opportunity to show work to another part of the region. And the restrictions made by the addition of a picture rail part of the way up the wall makes it necessary, I think, for us to paint new work no larger than about two feet.

At last -- another target to work towards. Now maybe I can get focused.

After our trip to Preston Hall, I went on to the Art Club and made more progress on the Free Trade Inn picture. I didn't have my camera, unfortunately, so no work in progress photograph, but I'll try to remedy that today or tomorrow.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009


(Ink, digital colour)
This poor chap is for this week's Illustration Friday brief: Flawed.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

A Taste of Real Winter

View from my rear window, looking north to Newcastle.

It seems almost incredible that in the last couple of days there were children in this country finding out what fun you can have with snow for the first time in their lives. But of course, winters have not been what they were for a very long time.

I used to moan about the blending of seasons one into another, so I suppose I should welcome this proper seasonal weather, but it is cold, isn't it? Still, if it means we might get a proper summer, I'm prepared to put up with it, and this being England, it does give us something to talk about, doesn't it? :0)

Luckily, it didn't snow while we were in Edinburgh. It didn't even rain, though the wind was pretty icy at times. Knowing Edinburgh of old, I'd dressed accordingly and didn't mind the wind on my face.

I'd gone with no great expectation of any interesting shows in the galleries there, because the end of January often signifies the changeover of exhibitions and the galleries can be closed for re-hanging, but I was very pleasantly surprised. Best of all was the annual showing of the Vaughan Bequest of Turner Watercolours at the National Gallery Complex. Under the terms of the Bequest, the pictures can only be shown in January every year, which reduces their exposure to light and consequent fading. As a policy, it's a resounding success, because the colours in the paintings are still so vivid. If you ever get the chance to go to Edinburgh in January, make sure you don't miss them!

Next stop: Dundas Street, where most of the commercial galleries cluster. It's rare that I don't enjoy an exhibition at the Scottish Gallery and I was lucky to find the current show of work by Gordon Bryce still on (it finished the day after we were there). Lovely, fresh paintings, mostly about 2 feet square or smaller, showing a lightness of touch and complexity of colour produced by layering and scraping back.

Over the road at the Open Eye, we found another great show, this one by Colin Black. Working mainly on a small scale (most were about 6 or 7 inches), he makes landscapes with collage and paint on board. They're quite exquisite jewel-like constructs with a fascinating choice of collage elements. He makes particularly good use of pieces of map, which have the effect, not only of providing useful colour and lines, but at an almost subliminal level register as "landscape."

We ate well in the Mussel Inn on Rose Street - I had a kilo pot of mussels with chillies, garlic, ginger, coriander and cumin, and Pat opted for a kilo with leek, Dijon mustard and cream. Fantastic.

Pat's son, Andy had sent up some money for my birthday to be spent on some of the Bow Bar's extensive range of single malt whiskies, so that's what we did. What was left over, I spent in the Whisky Shop in Princes Mall on a bottle of Ben Riach 12 year old single malt whisky, unusual for a Speyside malt because of its added peat. And who could resist the added interest of a dark rum finish? Not me. It certainly gets my vote.