Friday, 31 July 2009

The Turnbull Building

The Turnbull Building 2002 (oil on board, 30 x 30 cms)

Last week, on my trip to the Valley, I picked up some small picture frames from Hobbycraft. Not overly expensive, averaging about £15, and not overly exciting either it has to be said, but presentable nonetheless.

I've has several paintings lying around in the studio, some finished, some not, but as they are on board, my interest in them had waned. If they weren't framed, they couldn't be shown anywhere, and as everything else I've shown this year has been unframed canvas, I didn't want to mix the two.

However, because I sold quite a few pictures at last year's Newcastle Gateshead Art Fair, I was beginning to think my stock of small works was looking a bit impoverished. Maybe these cheapish frames would serve to get the small pictures in showable condition, was how my thinking went.

Today I hunted out all the paintings I thought might look OK in the frames. First off, of course, I discovered that I've always been prone to painting on Imperial-sized boards and my 12 inch square paintings didn't fit the 30 cm frames. Still, a Stanley knife and a steel rule put that right. And you know what, I think they'll look OK.

The painting of the Turnbull Building (the site of Newcastle's first £1m apartment) is the only one completed, but the simple plain wood frame suits it quite well, I think. Now I just have to finish the others. More on this in due course - it's been exercising my mind lately.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Two from Brighton

Brighton Cafe (work in progress)

Brighton Cafe 2 (work in progress)

For the last two days I've been earnestly trying to finish these two small paintings. I made the unfounded assumption that because they were small, I could get them done quicker than a larger painting. Very silly. Despite my use of Daler Rowney's excellent Alkyd Medium, some of the paint simply isn't drying and all attempts to work on them has resulted in lifting and smudging.

So here they are for you to look at: works in progress.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Old Drawings #39

Sunday Market (charcoal on A2 cartridge paper)

Sunday Market (collage with some paint, on cartridge paper)

Dating from 1996, the drawing is a view from the Tyne Bridge of some of the stalls on Newcastle's Quayside. Unusually, I followed it quite quickly with a rare collage.

Even more unusually (I was really keen to try out different approaches in the year before I realised I could go to Uni), I followed up the drawing and the collage with this painting:

Quayside Market 1996 (oil on board, 24 x 24 ins)

Friday, 24 July 2009

A Natural Embrace

I took my back for a test drive today. After the last week of sitting in cars and trains for long periods, I found I was getting a lot of lower back discomfort and as a longish walk was mooted for Monday, I wanted to check things out. Not good, I found. For at least the first 45 minutes or so, it hurt rather a lot, then settled down, but after that my left foot started to ache. I guess I won't be walking down the Wear on Monday.

I'd chosen to walk down in the Valley, taking in Borders bookshop (nothing of any interest today) and Poundstretcher (big bag of birdseed), then along to Sainsbury's for some marmalade and back up round to home. In doing this, I had to go past the open field that lies beyond the dene at the end of my street.

Gateshead Council recently announced that it was having to make cuts in the Parks & Gardens budget and one effect of this seems to be that they've abandoned mowing this field. It was always meant to be a recreational area, but as it runs on a sharp slope down to the road, kids don't like to play ballgames on it. Its only purpose really is for people to walk their dogs. And now it's becoming meadow-like. I love it. It's taken on that wonderful pale sandy-yellow colour that you'd have to paint with Naples yellow and some white (or maybe raw sienna and a lot of white) and scattered amongst it are buttercups, ragwort and probably a lot more besides. I really hope they don't find the money to resume mowing.

I notice too that they've stopped spraying the edges of pavements and here and there colourful weeds and escapees from gardens are sprouting in the cracks and the angles between walls and paving stones. The natural world and the urban are coming together like fingers interlaced. Bring it on!

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Rock Forms

My thanks to Vivien for drawing my attention to Jeanette's rock challenge. I don't have access to any rocks right now, but the challenge gives me the opportunity to post a slideshow of older rock drawings and sketches.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Checking In

Just a brief note to explain the absence of any recent post. I'm in Wokingham for the week, staying with friends and enjoying our English mixed weather.

Not a lot of art-related activity, although a trip to Brighton has suggested some new imagery, and I did enjoy our visit to the Bohun Gallery in Henley.

I'll be travelling back on Wednesday, with the possibility of a detour to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, after which Normal Service will Resumed as Soon as Possible.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Home from the Island

Lindisfarne Castle from the Harbour

I was wrong about the weather. Although there was a strong wind blowing a lot of the time, we also got a fair bit of sunshine and by the end of the two days I'd adopted my "caught by the sun" beetroot look.

As is often the case with short holidays where others make the agenda, it proved difficult to do any sketching , so I opted for taking as many photographs as possible. There are certainly potential paintings in some of those, and the walking we did round the island made up for the lack of any sketching.

On the way back from one of our walks , I noticed a thrush behaving oddly on a window sill. He was jumping around, looking in through the window and tapping on it. Moments later, an old lady came to the door with a bowl in her hand and her dog scurrying round her ankles. The thrush, rather than flying away, jumped down and ran to the door where the lady threw food to it from the bowl. The dog and the bird ignored one another. Apparently this is the fourth year the thrush has come to her house for feeding. The natural world continually surprises me.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009


Holy Island (Rotring ArtPen, sketchbook)

I was last on Holy Island (Lindisfarne) in November 1996. It was a cold wet and windy day and the visit was only fleeting, but I managed to get this sketch done,despite the ArtPen beginning it's journey into clogging scratchiness, a journey from which it never recovered. Frustrating, disappointing and so far, despite advice from all quarters of the Interweb, non-reversible.

I'm off to Holy Island again tomorrow, this time stopping overnight and I had hoped that the weather - such a delight over the last week - would serve me better and perhaps let me get some more sketching done. Of course, as luck would have it, the weather has changed again for the worse, so I may find myself desperately searching for shelter on what is, as I recall, a rather barren island.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Old Drawings #38

Hanover Street (Charcoal on cartridge paper)

I did this sometime in 1997, I reckon. It's a drawing of an old Newcastle street near the Quayside, with some fascinating old warehouses at the left.

Someone bought the warehouses years ago, probably with the intention of converting them into fashionable apartments, but then discovered that they were subject to a Grade II listing. Even worse, from their point of view, the listing applied to the inside of the buildings.

As a consequence they stood empty for a long.

Then there was a fire. Curious that, but luckily the fire didn't do too much damage.

Then a couple of years later, there was another fire. Strangely the security seems not to have been tightened sufficiently after the first fire and the second fire more or less destroyed the better half of the warehouses. Now they've been converted into fashionable apartments. So that's alright then.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Cars and a G&T

Cars and Central Hotel (work in progress)

One of the good things about a studio in the basement of the house is that, on a hot day like today, it's really cool. So rather than mow the lawn or trim the hedge, I retreated to the welcoming atmosphere of the studio to paint. That's my excuse anyway.

Two or three hours and here we are, much of the car taking better shape and some detail on the buildings done. Obviously the Central Hotel needs more work - I do so hate buildings with lots of windows, but round here that's all you get. I suppose I could leave some or all of them out, but my vision of the building is clouded by the fact that I know it so well that any modification of it just looks wrong.

I was saved from further cursing the wobbly windows by the arrival of Pat and a couple of gin & tonics, so I called it a day and sat in the garden for a while, at least until the next rain shower arrived from across the Valley.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Molys Keep on Rolling

Michael's Moly

Jenn's Moly
Caught up at last! These two being completed means I can post all three to Pepparmynta in Stockholm. It's been fun making things up and finding colours amongst my collection of pencils and markers.

Moly Time Again

In March I announced my involvement with the Moly Totem Pole project. For various reasons, I haven't been able to carry on with it. Until now. Here's my addition to Lauren's Moly, done in a combination of coloured pencils and markers:

No Thread in my Needle

Well, it was worth a punt, but I didn't make it into the Threadneedle Prize. It'll be interesting to see what eventually appears in the show and what, above all, is included in the short list.

I suppose I should be feeling downhearted, but I'm not. In fact, rather the reverse. My mood was helped by receiving an email from a quite famous and nationally recognised painter telling me - inter alia - that "I have followed your work via the internet for a few years and really like the design and originality of your paintings especially your 'tram' series. One of those would have really stood out at the RA!"

I think my response to him had something of the fanboy about it, but I'd been taken by surprise and I know my sense of self-esteem has been on the wane for a time. Anyway, the effect on me has been electrifying and I'm reasserting my efforts to Move Things Along. Certainly, I haven't been put off submitting to open exhibitions. I'm looking now at the art societies associated with the Mall Galleries and expect in the future to be making increased use of the services of Mike Challoner's Picture Post, who will, incidentally, be bringing my Threadneedle pictures back to Newcastle.