Monday, 11 May 2020

Coins in a Wooden Box

Coins in a Wooden Box
(mixed media in A5 sketchbook)

After a short layoff, it's Mondaymondaysketchers time again, and the subject was "This turned up". I found a little wooden box my late Uncle Ken made, god knows how many years ago. It was full of coppers, including a 5c piece.
Although I'm usually quite happy to leave my sketches as simple black and white line drawings, I thought this one needed a little colour. Close at hand was a refill bottle of Rotring blue ink, a small bottle of orange dye and a glass jar of rather dried up sticky wood stain. They did the job well enough, I think.

Thursday, 23 April 2020

Three Men in a Bar

Three Men in a Bar
(acrylic on canvas board, 8x8 in)

Week 3 of the Shipley Art Gallery's Lockdown Challenge gave us this 19th C painting  and challenged us to "paint your friends, family or neighbour."

Painting, oil on canvas, entitled 'Grandfather's Tale', by the artist E.J. Davis

Grandfather's Tale 
by E J Davis

My painting is based on a photograph of me and a couple of friends at my stag night in 2014. The painting doesn't set out to be three portraits, although some might think they recognise two of the people in it.

Monday, 20 April 2020

My Back Door

My Back Door
(markers in A5 sketch book)

It's Mondaymonday again and for a change, I'm on time! Colin's Challenge this week for Mondaymonday (Isolated) Sketchers was "My Back Door". I planned on sitting outside but left it too long and the sun went elsewhere, so I sat and drew the back door from inside the french windows. 

The very patient wood pigeon sat on the wall for almost all the time it took to draw this, certain I'd go away and leave him to the bird seed, but eventually he gave up and flew off. An hour later, he was back, of course.

Thursday, 16 April 2020

My Favourite Painting

My Favourite Painting
(markers, watercolour and collage in square sketchbook)

A bit of fun, really, and late for this week's Challenge from the Mondaymonday (Isolated) Sketchers. In fact it turned out to be a Thursdaythursday sketch.

It's a painting by Michael Scott (1946-2006), whose son Jonny I went to University with. Michael put the painting in our blind postcard auction and i was wise enough to buy it. It's titled "The Fisherman in Search of his Lost Soul"(December 2000).

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Marsh Marigolds

Marsh Marigolds
(acrylic on watercolour board, 8x8 in)

The Shipley Art Gallery's second Challenge to Gateshead Art Society members presented us with two paintings, ‘Apple Blossom’ by Roger Ashby and ‘Summer Time’ by Ralph Hedley, showing the start of Spring and the middle of Summer. The challenge was to "create an artwork that shows how we are witnessing the start of Spring from our home, garden or daily walk. What flowers are starting to bloom and what animals are appearing?"
I wasn't going to do the Challenge this week because we have - or had - no flowers. Then the marsh marigolds in our little pond came to the rescue.
I found myself struggling a little with this painting, mainly I think because it's in such a very realist style and I could have achieved that more readily with oil paint. Blending acrylic is not so easy.

Monday, 13 April 2020

The Botanist

The Botanist
(acrylic on canvas board, 8x8 in)

I often think that when I'm unable to go out as now, due to Coronavirus Lockdown, I turn inwards to my imagination. When I completed the recent Man with Birds, it triggered a renewed interest in figure painting of a certain type. Previous attempts to get the idea up and running always failed, but this latest effort seems to be on the right track. 

As it's already met with mixed reviews (no names, no packdrill), I'd be interested in your views posted in the Comments here.

Wednesday, 8 April 2020


(markers in A5 sketchbook)

In these days of Coronavirus Lockdown I find the days merging into one another, so it's not really surprising that it wasn't until members of Mondaymondaysketchers started posting their sketches online on Monday evening that I realised I'd forgotten it was Monday and hadn't done the Monday Challenge.

The Challenge, set by Colin again, was "This has meant more to me since the lockdown started". A challenge indeed. On Tuesdaytuesday, I asked myself what to draw? Abandoning the idea of drawing a bottle of gin or whisky (someone had beaten me to it!), I finally decided on the telephone in my studio.

If truth be told, I rarely use the landline these days, preferring emails, but I think the telephone serves as a symbol of the need to stay on contact we all feel at the moment.

Stay safe and well, y'all!

Sunday, 5 April 2020

Man with Birds

Man with Birds
(acrylic on canvas board, 8x8 in)

Gateshead Art Society can’t meet these days at the Shipley Art Gallery because of the virus, so those nice people at the Shipley have set the Club a Challenge based on a painting in their collection. This is the painting:

'The Chorus of Birds'
by Jan van Kessel

 We were asked to "draw or paint any birds or animals you see out of your window or garden. If you have a pet, you could draw them instead." 

Being a disobedient artist with precious few birds in the garden and no pets, I decided I’d just riff on the basic idea and the painting you see above is the result. It's a curious affair, but one that answers a little voice in my head that often asks why I don't get on and paint the kind of figure paintings I've always intended to paint. How to interpret that answer I leave to another time, but the Coronavirus Lockdown is leading me down interesting paths.

Friday, 3 April 2020

Woman with Window Boxes

Woman with Window Boxes
(Mixed media on board, 8x8 in.)

I thought I knew where this painting was going but as time went on, it proved to have a will of its own. The wall became very textured, partly as a result of umpteen layers of newspaper, tissue paper, teabags, ink and paint used to get to a point where I was satisfied. In the process, a vine of some indeterminate sort grew up the side of the window and flourished.

In case you're interested, this is the photograph that inspired the painting:

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Paperwork on the Table

Paperwork on the Table
(markers in A5 sketchbook)

"This reminds me of Mondaymondays before all this stuff started" was Colin's challenge for Monday's isolated urban sketch. I went back to before Mondaymondaysketching was a thing and drew the pile of unfiled paperwork on the table. Monday was the day i used to file it away (even if the very mention of it seems to make Pat laugh).

Monday, 23 March 2020

Kitchen Corner

Kitchen Corner
(Markers in A5 sketchbook)

Mondaymondaysketcher's Colin decided we should draw something in the kitchen to maintain our Mondaymonday connection. So here's today's isolated urban sketch - the advantage being that it's easy to have a cup of coffee afterwards.

Friday, 20 March 2020

Dressing Table

Dressing Table
(0.2 marker in A5 sketchbook)

I've got several paintings on the go, quite a few of them scheduled to appear in a group show in a theatre gallery in Alnwick. However, the Coronavirus has put a stop to that, at least for the foreseeable future.

With the pressure to finish the paintings off for now, I found myself yesterday eyeing up Pat's dressing table in our bedroom. I've always liked the look of it and planned to draw it one day but somehow never found the time. Coronavirus provides us with copious spare time!

Normally these days I would start a drawing like this by simply making a mark with my marker and carrying on from there. With this piece of furniture, however, I lost my nerve and made a quick pencil layout to make sure I'd get it properly placed on the page. Sometimes it's just necessary.

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Studio Chair

Studio Chair
(marker and coloured pencils in A5 sketchbook)

When the Government advised us, as over 70s, to self-isolate for the sake of our health in the face of the Coronavirus onslaught, the fate of urban sketch groups was sealed, at least for the foreseeable future.

Not to be defeated, Mondaymondaysketchers decided to try to maintain group involvement, even if only online. So last Monday it was suggested that members should draw their favourite chair and post them on the group's Facebook Page.

This is my studio chair. It belonged to my Mum who hated it, but I've found it very comfortable; its only drawback is that whenever I drop something (which is often), it's really difficult to bend over the side to pick it up.

Monday, 9 March 2020

Condiments at The Quayside

Condiments, The Quayside, Newcastle

(markers and coloured pencils in A5 sketchbook)

Good day out with the Mondaymondaysketchers, but it comes to something when you sit in the upstairs room of a pub with a window view of all the Tyne bridges and end up drawing the condiments set on the table. 

It was a sunny day but the wind was cold and a cold wind on the Tyne is even colder, coming as it often does from the North Sea. I found one or two hardy souls sitting at the tables outside The Quayside (a Tim Widdlespoons pub, so I held my nose and put my conscience on hold), but the upper floor indoors seemed more attractive. Quite a few other Mondaymondaysketchers were there, clustered round a table by a window with a good view of the High Level Bridge and beyond. No room left at that table, so I moved down a couple of  tables, but the view from that window was more restricted, so I resorted to drawing the condiments set on the table. I've been finding such subject matter increasingly interesting and was pleased to find that this one came out well. A few markers and coloured pencils lent a bit of colour.

[Little did I realise this would be the last Mondaymondaysketchers outing for quite some time.]

Monday, 10 February 2020

Sketch Crawl : Revolution and Subway

Beer Taps at Revolution
(markers in A5 sketchbook)

On Saturday, I went on my first Sketch Crawl of the year (and my first for quite some months) with Urban Sketchers Tyne and Wear. Although the others had started at the Subway cafe at the cathedral end of Collingwood Street in Newcastle, I met up with them after they'd moved along to Revolution, a vodka bar at the other end of the street.

We'd been granted the exclusive use of a row of stools and tables but I found when I was finally perched on my stool (does anyone else find bar stools the most uncomfortable form of seating?) that left me with only two subjects for drawing. I could draw Colin who was sitting sketching across the small table from me, or I could draw ... some beer taps. I decided Colin would prove the more interesting (how about that, Colin? More interesting than a row of beer taps!) but just then the food he'd ordered before I got there arrived and he became decidedly more animated. I like to draw people who I reckon will remain relatively immobile and while Colin was that while he sketched, he moved about quite a bit when presented with a sandwich.

I drew the beer taps. A man with a cap and a girlfriend sat down in front of them and I almost began drawing his cap, but luckily they both got up again. As I was finishing the sketch, two girls sat down and I was able to include a handbag which I felt helped to balance the composition.

As the noise from partying girls began to get uncomfortable, we decided to return to the Subway cafe. I wasn't inspired by the view, so ate an uninspiring vegan and aioli wrap and chatted to Mike about the things that concern aspiring painters.

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Late for the Match

Late for the Match
(acrylic on board, 25x25 cm)

Another painting going down the Northern School route. Two Newcastle United fans, complete with black and white scarves and hats, hurry across the Tyne Bridge from Gateshead to Newcastle to see the Toon Army play. There are no more loyal fans than NUFC fans and the owners don't deserve them.

Monday, 3 February 2020

Monday Monday ...

Paul at the Biscuit Factory
(0.5 marker in A5 sketchbook)

There's a new gang of urban sketchers in town. Colin H has organised a weekly outing for his friends to go out sketching on a Monday with the idea, I guess, as my Mother would have put it, to "get the smell blown off you." He kindly invited me too.
"Meet at the same time," his email said.

"What's the same time?" I asked, not unreasonably.

"The same time as last week, of course."

"I wasn't there last week".

To his credit, he apologised and gave me the information.

Anyway, a nice day out was had, despite the furious winds, with the Mondaymonday Sketchers at The Biscuit Factory. I couldn't see anything from the balcony because of the people in between, so I drew Paul.

Then I drew Trudy.

Trudy at the Biscuit Factory
(0.5 marker in A5 sketchbook)

It felt good to have made some marks on paper again, but by then I'd drawn everyone within range and the wind was getting colder, so we retired to the cafe for coffee.

Sunday, 2 February 2020

Fighting Cocks

Fighting Cocks
(acrylic on board, 25 x 25 cm)

A New Year dawns, one in which I fear for the safety and prosperity of my country, so  I wish you, my Regular Reader, the best you wish you yourself. Here's tae us!

Dispiriting though life may occasionally seem, there is always Art to see us through. This is a painting I finished late last year. It reflects my fairly recent interest in what I find is called the Northern School, a style of painting unashamedly derived from that of  L. S. Lowry. I'd rather dismissed it in the past as the "Flat Cap & Whippet School" and I do despair sometimes at the proliferation of paintings of miners going to the pit painted by people who clearly are far too young to remember such things. Ersatz Norman Cornish

However, I've always had a liking for the grubbier parts of town and the interesting vernacular architecture of pubs in the area I grew up in. It's not nostalgia: I don't want to go back to the Good Old Days, which really weren't that Good. In the 1980s I took some photographs of old pubs, many of them now either demolished or put to different use, and The Fighting Cocks is one such. It used to be a boozer in Newcastle, but has subsequently been converted to (I think) a design practice, with a glass extension added to the end wall.

I really like the grand frontage and thought I could make a successful picture out of it, as I did with The Portland and, to a lesser extent, Burton House. In the past, I would never have included figures, but as I grow older, my memory starts to fill these scenes with archetypes and it seems only right to put them in my pictures.

Sunday, 22 December 2019

Merry Christmas!

Snow on Bath Lane
(Acrylic on board, 8x8 in. Text added)

Friday, 29 November 2019


(mixed media on board, 30x30 cm)

This is the second of my new wall paintings. It may seem very abstract but is based quite definitely on a crumbling wall I found in Funchal, the capital of Madeira. Still, it was the abstract quality that intrigued me and continues to do so. I love the way the various elements of it seem to float free from the rest and I was at pains not to make it so obviously a wall.

There are two more in this series so far. You may well find that they look more like walls, but it's this one I'll look to for inspiration in the future.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Hill Town

Hill Town
(mixed media on canvas, 24 x 12 in)

Working on the Textured Door paintings, I wondered how the methods used on those paintings might work on a more traditional image, so I began work on this view of a hill town.

A while ago I produced a collage of cut up inkjet prints of various views of places mostly in Croatia. It was tall and narrow and didn't fit in with my obsession with square paintings, so I put it away. Now that I wanted to try my new methods, I remembered I had a box of 24 x 12 inch canvases, ordered when I was making larger oil paintings, so I pulled one out of the storage room.

There's a lot of stuff on this painting - washi tape, tissue paper, pieces of magazine and envelopes, even some patterned wrapping tape, as well as acrylic paint and gels. 

It was an interesting project and seems to have worked pretty well. Oh, and because people have already asked, the white circles are satellite dishes!

Saturday, 2 November 2019

The Greatest Showgirls Tour

The Greatest Showgirls Tour
(Mixed media on board, 30x30 cm)

Cheered by the success, at least as I see it, of the series of door paintings, I started this wall painting last week. I laid out the main elements, but knew when I started I didn't want to include the large patch of grey cement that was in the source photograph I'd taken in Crete:

On the way to the Club, I came across a fly-posted ad for a touring show and ripped part of it off the wall. Sticking it down in the place of the grey cement, I began the task of accommodating this new element.

pushed and pulled the composition and the painting went through umpteen changes, but now it's done. I’ve learned a lot from this painting and looking back at the original photograph, I think I may return to the image again.

Thursday, 17 October 2019

Blue Door

Blue Door
(Mixed media on board, 30x30 cm)

This door painting, the fourth in the series, took much more pushing and pulling than the others, but I think I’m satisfied with it now.

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Inktober 2019 - Postscript

Chicken Shed
(Home made cane pen and Indian ink in square sketchbook)

Maybe I was feeling a little guilty at having given up on the Inktober challenge, or maybe I simply wanted to extract the elements of a photograph so that I could use those elements in some future painting. Whatever, I sat down with the photograph and drew this scratchy drawing with a home made pen, posting it on Facebook as Day 12 of Inktober 2019.

Anyway, I like it's lack of finesse.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Inktober 2019 - The Castle Drawings

Well, Inktober 2019 came round and because I'd missed Inktober 2018 by virtue of being hard at work in Crete, I determined to give this year's event a go. However, I have a poor track record in keeping up with challenges and even this first drawing came unwillingly. I simply sat down and drew what came into my head. 

And that's how it went for a week, but I became conscious of how much thought I was actually giving to each successive drawing, willing it into a series. And so, after a week I gave up. I'll post the other six drawings below, but as they're so clearly cartoons rather than serious drawings, I may also post them separately on The Cartoonist's Hat.

All were drawn with a Pilot disposable fountain pen in a Pink Pig square sketchbook.

Monday, 30 September 2019

La Farola, Malaga

La Farola, Malaga
(Markers and watercolour in A5 sketchbook)

Moving on to Malaga, I looked for something new to draw, but eventually settled on drawing the lighthouse again. I'd drawn it on my previous visit but opted for a different viewpoint, sitting among the bins and litter outside the gents loo. Who says an artist's life can't be glamorous?

(Photo: Pat Bell)

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Plaza de la Virgen, Valencia

Plaza de la Virgen, Valencia
(Black marker and coloured pencils in A5 sketchbook)

We spent three wonderful weeks in Spain in September; two in Valencia and one in Malaga. The choice of cities was in part due to the convenience of flights from and to Newcastle and, in the case of Malaga, because we'd been before and liked it.

Valencia is a beautiful city that proved really difficult for me to draw. The buildings are impressive but also very tall, so that the parts that I found most interesting were inevitably at the top and there was no way I could either get up to their height, or find a spot in crowded streets where I could easily sit and look upwards.

I did at one point consider doing some drawings of  the really exciting modernist buildings by Santiago Calatrava at the City of Arts and Sciences, but realised that, in effect, the designer had done all the work for me - everywhere I looked was a great composition!

Determined to come away from Valencia with at least one drawing in my sketchbook, I sat with a drink in the Plaza de la Virgen and drew this part of a square where all the world comes to mingle and take selfies in front of the fountain.

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Elsdon, and Blakehope Nick

Bird in Bush, Elsdon
(markers and coloured pencils in A5 sketchbook)

A second day of blazing hot sunshine! In England! 

Fortified by slices of melon and punnets of strawberries, sixteen sketchers (including some non-sketchers and a child) were yesterday driven over speed bumps and gravelly roads into the wilds of Northumberland by Bardon Mike in a Newcastle University minibus.

Arriving around midday in the delightful village of Elsdon, we showed Mike who was in charge by rejecting his invitation to draw the little Gothic church and opted instead for the food on offer at the Bird in Bush. I had quite possibly the best BLT baguette sandwich ever and washed it down with a pint of IPA brewed on the premises.

The sandwich was so big it took much longer to eat than expected and I never got more drawn than the front of the pub! 

Rounding up his scattered passengers, Mike suggested we go on to Blakehope Nick by driving part of the way up the Kielder Forest Drive, apparently the longest forest drive in the UK.

The Nick comes as quite a surprise when you top the rise in the road. It was designed and built by Newcastle University Architecture School students and I warmly congratulate them on it.

Not a lot of time to draw, but I did want to get something done. Going into the drawing quickly with a Uni-Pin BR marker may have lent the sketch a bit of a heavy-handed appearance and the hot sun certainly made seeing pretty difficult, even with sunglasses on, but ultimately I think I caught something of the structure.

Blakehope Nick
(markers over two pages of  A5 sketchbook)

Saturday, 24 August 2019

Drawing with GAS

Back of Market Street, Hexham
(Markers and watercolour in 14.5 x 21 cm sketchbook)

An unusual afternoon with Gateshead Art Society yesterday. Once a year we try to have a day out sketching and this time we opted for sketching in and around Hexham Abbey.

I find historic towns like Hexham quite difficult when it comes to urban sketching because it's often a problem to mentally separate the historic from the mundane. By which I mean that while most sketchers would go to Hexham to draw the admittedly lovely Abbey, I have to ignore it and look around for the back lanes and crumbling buildings of the "normal" workaday town, because that's what does it for me. I love old brick buildings, failing drainpipes ...

The terrific and largely unexpected sunshine presented its own difficulties. All the seats that were in the shade were occupied with English people complaining about how hot it was because complaining about the heat is a welcome change from complaining about how cold or how wet it is.

Eventually I came across Allan who had found a nice stone wall to sit on at the side of the Abbey. While there wasn't really sufficient room for two of us, I did realise I could lean on an adjacent wall and rest my sketchbook on top of it. That way, I was able to draw this scene of the back of Market Street. I started with markers but eventually decided to include a little watercolour. I still don't like watercolour.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Past the Great Rock

Past the Great Rock
(acrylic on canvas, 8 x 8 in)

This, too, was an unfinished painting in the Path Through the Woods series. If memory serves, it's based on a scene in Little Langdale where I spent a week with painter mates in 2007

I used a lot of acrylic gel at the start of this picture because I'd recently returned from a workshop with Lesley Seeger where I'd learned its use.