Thursday, 31 January 2013

Two Emus

Two Emus (Oil on board, 24 x 24 ins)

Thinking about the time I spent in the Hancock Museum reminded me that I did a few paintings based on the sketches and photographs I brought back from there. This rather inadequate photograph is of a painting I did on a piece of blockboard rescued from the skip outside the School of Architecture. Framed up in a nice dark wood frame it still looks pretty good to me.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Mind Map

Mind Map (Oil on canvas, 12 x 12 in)

One of the things about having problems with my sight and distrusting my ability to see what I want to see in the world outside, is that I think it encourages me to turn inward, to look at the world of the imagination, of memory and fantasy. So you'd be forgiven for thinking that this painting is a fanciful invention, but that isn't quite the case.

In my first year at university we were given free access to the Hancock Museum which was then part of the university. That was before the Labour Government's enlightened Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Chris Smithenabled many museums to give free admission and well before it was absorbed into Tyne & Wear's Great North Museum.

The Hancock in those days was still pretty much the way I remembered it as a child - full of dimly lit wooden galleries with rows and rows of cases full of beetles and butterflies and big glass cases with stuffed birds and ethnographic items from far off exotic places. I loved it and did a lot of drawing there as well as taking several rolls of film (I had to source very fast film to get what I wanted).

It was undergoing a makeover, however, with roaring life size dinosaurs being put in and new interactive displays to attract children who think they need modern devices to get their imaginations working.

Looking down from one of the galleries I saw two people pondering a new display which linked various collections in the museum. That's what this painting shows, the original rather poor photograph filtered through time and memory and the interested couple replaced by a man who owes his existence more to the workings of paint than to actuality.

Saturday, 26 January 2013


Puzzle (work in progress)

Once I'd worked out what I wanted this picture to look like, which took me most of the week, the initial stage of painting has gone remarkably well, I think. Because of over- and re-working, the figure has taken on a degree of awkwardness, so that's what I'll have to try to address later, as well as working on the background.

Saturday, 19 January 2013


Dreamer (Oil on canvas, 30 x 30 cm)

I finished this yesterday but as luck and the weather would have it, I couldn't take it to the Painters' Group meeting. It snowed most of the night and although snow fall has eased off today, there's no sign of a thaw.

I got up early to see if I might be able to get to the meeting, but the main road looked bad and the front street was covered in a thick blanket of snow. In addition, the painting was still tacky, which made carrying it in bad conditions not an attractive proposition. I put the central heating on and went back to bed. The painting will keep for another month.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013


Sleeper (work in progress)

It may not be obvious that much has changed. What I've done is refine the image a little, close up the gaps between planes of colour, modify the hair and add toes and fingers. The problem with working on a painting like this is that the paint has to be dry before small additions can be made and inevitably this takes time. My object is to get it done before Saturday, when the Painters' Group reconvenes.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Progress of a sort.

Sleeper (work in progress)

I'm not sure this is necessarily where I expect to end up in my quest for something new, but it feels like a helpful place to pause on the way.

There's a good deal more to do to get it finished, of course, and even then it may simply be what was described to me today as "just a painting of a woman sleeping in a chair." But it feels different and if not on the direct route to the New, at least a useful Sidestep.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Canongate Kirk, Edinburgh

Canongate Kirk, Edinburgh (Oil on canvas, 30 x 30 cm)

Unravelling a bit of string, I left the darkened corridor last night to see if I might get at least one new painting finished this year. I knew this Edinburgh churchyard painting could be brought to a conclusion very easily; all it needed was the addition of some grave markers and crosses and a bit work on the tops of walls. 

I didn't much enjoy the experience of painting while wearing my near distance specs, but later it occurred to me that, given the small size of the painting, I might have been better off using my reading glasses.

Following the string back along the dark corridor, I'm standing here, finger tips on the wall, musing on the quaint Chinese method of making the stretcher on which this picture is completed. It has three sides 30cm long and one, 12 inches long. An interesting problem for my framer.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Feeling my way

The Blindfold (Oil on canvas, 16 x 16 ins)

Sometimes I feel I'm in a darkened corridor, inching my way along the wall, my hands outstretched, looking for an exit. It's an exit that may not be there, but there's a reassurance in the knowledge that I can easily find my way back to the entrance.

I'm still having trouble with my eyesight and am waiting for a hospital appointment to see what might be done about it. Meanwhile, I'm learning to cope with a couple of pairs of glasses for the first time in my life. One pair is for reading and they've already proven their worth, in that my rate of getting through books has increased dramatically. I've also been able to make use of them for cartooning because that kind of work I do quite close to the paper. You'll find some of my newly invigorated cartooning skills over on my other blog, The Cartoonist's Hat.

The other pair is for near distance and they're the ones I'm finding difficult to get used to. They're fine for reading the computer monitor screen and even for messing around in the kitchen, but I've yet to summon up the courage to use them for what the optician prescribed them for - painting.

In part, this is because I'm in the middle of a period of Not Knowing What to Paint. I have it in my mind to tackle some subject matter quite different to what I've dealt with over the last few years. These paintings wouldn't necessarily be to the exclusion of all else but they're things I've wanted to get at for a long time, so I set my sights on getting one or two moving - to no avail so far. 

Which is where the darkened corridor metaphor comes in. I think I know where I want to go, but finding the way into it is proving difficult. I could just retreat to the known exit and resume what I was doing before, but that's happened before and this time I really, really want to see if there's a different room beyond the one I know.