Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Sketch Crawl - Tall Ships Festival, Sunderland

"Headwind", River Wear
(markers and coloured pencils over two pages of A5 sketchbook)

The heatwave continued on Saturday, so when I arrived at the National Glass Centre to meet up with the other Urban Sketchers I was faced with the now usual problem of finding no shade. No shade, and nowhere that wasn't full of people. There are seats along the quay near the Glass Centre, of course, but they were understandably occupied and even were they to become vacant, I realised that sitting on them would provide no view of the Tall Ships because the railing in front of the seats were fully taken up with sightseers leaning on them.

I do find that when I go to an event like this that I go with a certain mindset, such that if I can't find somewhere to draw what I've gone there to draw, I can't simply decide to draw something entirely different. For a while, I sat on the only sofa in the Glass Centre and worked up enthusiasm for drawing a display case containing two oddly shaped pieces of glassware, beyond which I could also see some diners in the cafe. As soon as I got out my sketchbook and pen, someone came through the door and stood in front of the display case and took root. 

I did a lot of walking around that day, trying to find a space among the crowds that would afford a decent view of one of the Tall Ships, but one by one the ships upped anchor and sailed out to sea. Their departure seemed like an echo of having to say a sad goodbye to Jenny that day, as she gets ready to return to China.

After a coffee in the cafe, we decided we might as well call it a day. Michael, of course, had drawn several sketches, but even his Tall Ship was rather perfunctory. The surprise of the day was Kim's nicely coloured sketch of one of the ships.

I really, really don't like going home from a sketch crawl without getting anything done, so just as I reached the path that takes me away from the quayside, I saw this little boat at rest and a completely empty stretch of railing. Taking the opportunity, I was able to go home relatively content.

Monday, 16 July 2018

Streetfighting Men WIP

(Photo taken in Dubrovnik)

(Sketch worked up in Photoshop from traced photo)

(WIP, with some paint and collage added)

This is a painting long in the gestation. I took the photo on holiday in Dubrovnik in 2012; the men were quite a long way off and the photo definition was really poor. So poor that when I tried to enlarge it in Photoshop it became hopelessly pixellated and I gave up on using it for a few years.

More recently, I bought a lightbox and tried tracing the printed photograph, scanned the tracing into Photoshop and then added some colour.

The next stage was to square it up on a 10 x 10 in. board, then add some collage. For that I dug out an old piece of an etching I'd saved from the Print Room bin at University (30 years ago!) - hence the curious round shapes at the right produced by someone's finger print on the etching plate's soft ground.

At the left I stuck down a torn fragment of a sheet that had contained a Gestetner stencil (science fiction fans will know all about those!) I'd use to produce a fanzine even longer ago. Who said stuff doesn't come in useful?

The stairs in the foreground have been started with some pieces of paper torn from a Sunday magazine supplement. 

The collage additions have produced a few challenges for the development of the painting. Hurrah! I like a challenge.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

The London Bookbarge

The London Bookbarge
(acrylic on board, 12 x 12 in)

On a recent trip to London, we went for a walk along the Regent's Canal towpath and came across the wonderful Word on the Water - The London Bookbarge. Taking a few photographs, I knew there was a special painting there, and so it proved to be.

This is possibly the most abstract painting I've done, yet, of course, it isn't abstract at all. It's just that all the shapes and marks suggest an abstract. I like it a lot and am pleased to find the owners of the Bookbarge like it too.

Just a note about the materials: although it is an acrylic painting, I used quite a few Posca Pens and resorted again to some old Letraset for the signage.

Friday, 6 July 2018

Sketch Crawl - The Hoppings, Newcastle Town Moor

Closed Teapot Ride
(0.5 marker in A5 sketchbook)

With the return of the annual Hoppings to Newcastle's Town Moor last month, I thought it was an opportunity to invite a few Tyne and Wear Urban Sketchers to a mid-week sketch crawl. Unusually for Hoppings week, we had glorious sunshine and although drawing in the middle of the day before the funfair opened at 2 o'clock meant few people were about, it also meant a serious absence of shade. 

To be honest, I'd forgotten what a visual overload the Hoppings presents, with complicated rides and stalls, all garishly decorated. The challenge was to find the basic shapes and include only sufficient decoration to make the drawing work.

After a short walk around, I stood in the shade of a closed stall and drew a teapot ride, also closed. I saw it later after it had opened up for business and realised how difficult it would have been to draw then.

(0.5 marker in A5 sketchbook)

A little later, I decided it might be fun to capture some of the prizes hanging up on the stalls. Standing again in the shade of a closed stall, I drew these stuffed animals on offer as prizes on a "lucky number" stall. After a while, the man who'd been hanging up these soft toys, walked past me and I could sense he was standing behind. I ignored him and a few minutes later he went back to his job, shaking his head.

Helter Skelter
(0.5 marker, brushpen and coloured pencils in A5 sketchbook)

After a break for regrouping, a sit down with chips and fizzy drinks (by which time our original seven or eight had reduced to three), I set off with Luigi to take a look at the top end of the funfair before setting off for home. I'd just about decided that the long hot afternoon had worn me out but decided at the last minute to give the helter skelter a go. Standing in the shade of the back of a burger van, I did this last drawing. I got so involved with it that I found I was prepared to take the time to add colour with a red brushpen and some coloured pencils.

Then back home, reflecting on the fact that unlike my boyhood visits to the Hoppings when coconuts and goldfish were the prizes on most stalls, the goldfish were thankfully gone and there was a stall advertising that it was the only place to get a coconut, which you had to pay for.

No boxing booth, naked ladies or freak shows either, but we live in different times.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Sketch Crawl - Saltwell Park return.

Pets Corner, Saltwell Park
(0.8 marker across two pages of A5 sketchbook)

For a change, we had a beautifully sunny day for our sketch crawl return to Saltwell Park. Sun, of course, poses its own problems for sketchers, in that you either have to be prepared to stand out in it and slowly melt, or hunt for a place in shade and hope that affords a subject worth drawing.

I wandered around for a while, then found myself in an area of shade overlooking Pets Corner. People came and went, so I included a couple of them, but mostly I was concentrating on reducing some of the complex brick decoration to what you see here. I seem to have abandoned the A4 sketchbook completely now, but may have to think about using a finer point marker in the smaller A5 book.

After the drawing session, and after my foot had ceased being numb (standing in one spot on a slope does that, I find), it was back to Bewicks Cafe in Saltwell Towers for coffee and a splendid photograph of the usual suspects (and some new ones).

(Photo: Kim Willis)

Wednesday, 4 July 2018


(acrylic/mixed media on board, 8x8 in)

The second of the two balcony paintings, using acrylic and collage. There are bits of a magazine page, an advertising brochure, the inside of an envelope, a paper bag from a shop in Greece, as well as a little sand. 

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Yellow Umbrella

Yellow Umbrella
(acrylic/mixed media on board, 8x8 in)

Someone called this "jewel-like" recently and I can appreciate that. Working at such a small scale means getting quite close tot he panel and that, in turn, leads to a certain kind of preciousness.

Nevertheless, I found the whole process of adding collage (and a little sand) and having to adapt the picture to those changes, quite fascinating. I know this method will become part of my working practice.

Monday, 2 July 2018


(acrylic on board, 10 x 10 in)

At one of Gateshead Art Society's meetings last month, we were challenged to paint a flower painting alla prima in the two hours of the meeting. Below is the painting as it stood by the end of the session.

It didn't win the prize on offer (as I expected) but I liked it sufficiently to work on it at home and with the help of a pattern stencil I found recently, bring it to the state shown above.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

The Young Fisherman

The Young Fisherman
(acrylic on board, 9x9 in.)

It sometimes amazes me how a painting takes on a life of its own. Anyone following the history of this picture will be very aware that the figure in it had no personality when I started it. I spent a lot of time looking at paintings of portrait heads and thought I knew how the man would look, but once I started to paint, the face grew into what you see here.

It's a pleasure to make his acquaintance.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Fisherman WIP

Fisherman WIP
(acrylic on board, 9 x 9 in.)

I'd intended to push on and finish the two balcony paintings, but Friday morning dawned and I knew I'd need to find something to do at Gateshead Art Society. Finishing small details on the balconies didn't feel like an option, so I looked at the suggested project for the day - "Maritime Subject" - and turned to a recently abandoned figure painting. My regular reader may recognise it as the man in a garden:

The man in the garden was never going to earn his keep, so he's become a fisherman on a beach, probably somewhere in Madeira (but not necessarily). 

I'm liking this version much more and will finish it soon. Yes, along with all the others!

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Collage Work in Progress

Acrylic on boards, each 8 x 8 in.

I thought I'd keep you up to date on some trial paintings I've started, using collage. Inspired in part by the very enjoyable workshop led by Karen Stamper, I began laying out these two panels last week at Gateshead Art Society, then pasted down some selected bits of collage paper.

Over the week since then I've worked on them both, with a mixture of confidence, trepidation, frustration, and pleasure. There's no doubt that the panel with the most collage elements (the balcony with the washing) has proven to be the most difficult to move along. 

The collage elements changed the original subject in such a way that I had to adapt and change the composition to get it to work. As it is, I'm still struggling with parts of it (not helped by finding acrylic colours behaving slightly differently from my accustomed oil colours). I've no doubt that if I were to allow a greater degree of abstraction the problems would be lessened, but I'm still not much of an abstractionist.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Sketch Crawl - Bowes Railway Museum

Bowes Railway Museum
(0.8 marker over two pages of A5 sketchbook)

Allan picked me up at 12.30 yesterday and we drove in unaccountable sunshine (can this be Summer at last?) to the car park of Bowes Railway Museum, just at the edge of Gateshead. I'd been wondering if we might be a small party of sketchers this time, as response from our regulars had been lukewarm or absent when the venue was proposed. ("Oh, railways!" said the ladies.) But my fears were groundless - in the end we numbered eleven, with many a new face.

Pessimism is always rewarded, of course, and we found that the Museum site closed an hour earlier than we'd thought and even worse, the cafe closed an hour sooner than that. Recognising that there'd be no time for a coffee break or a bit of the usual show & tell at the end, we decided to just get on with it, after an initial tour of the buildings.

Straight away I could see there was a huge amount of things to draw,  especially inside the workshops, so after a short walk I picked on the first view that caught my eye that also benefitted from being out of the light wind. I toyed with using my A4 sketchbook but decided that I'm really no longer comfortable with standing holding that size and weight for any considerable time, so took out the A5. And that proved to work well for me, especially utilising a two page spread to take in a couple of coal wagons and one of the long sheds. OK, the railway lines are wobbly, but that's an effect of standing holding the book and doesn't honestly bother me to any extent.

I realised there was only about an hour left of the session, so after checking out the inside of one of the sheds where Bob was drawing a forge of some sort, I decided to stay out in the sunshine and see if it was worth drawing wagon No.939 (see the drawing above) again, but from further inside the yard.

What clinched it for me was finding that Mark was now painting the same wagon and presented me with an opportunity to capture a relatively stationary figure. 

Bowes Railway Museum
- Mark paints his wagon.
(0.8 marker in A5 sketchbook)

Mark deserves an apology for the sagginess of his arse and the shortness of his legs in this sketch, but as I say, we were running out of time. I'm happy to confirm that in fact he's a reasonably well-proportioned human being; corrections might have been made if only he hadn't finished his sketch and moved away.

With no time for a proper winding up of proceedings, we had a bit of a natter and Allan took this group photo. After that, well ... we dispersed.

Urban Sketchers Tyne and Wear
26th May 2018
(Photo: Allan White)

Next time: Provisional date 23rd June. Venue to be decided.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Attic Vessels Rearranged.

Attic Vessels Rearranged
(acrylic on mountboard, 9 x 7 in)

I'm still suffering something of a creative block: there are things I could paint but the motivation to do so isn't there. I know the advice is "When you can't paint, paint something else" but that's not helping, so the search for a subject with a raison d'être continues.

Though I'm mostly idle (if just thinking a lot counts as "idle"), I did spend a little time a few days ago making some corrections to this small painting so that it's now finished.

My Regular Reader may remember that the composition came about after I'd printed off a copy of another small painting, cut out the pots and rearranged them. This is the original:

Five Attic Vessels
(acrylic on canvas 8 x 8 in.)

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Winter at Staithes

Winter at Staithes
(acrylic on board, 12 x 12 in.)

After the excitement of the workshop in York I found myself unsettled during the week, unable to really get into any work of consequence. Finally, at the Friday meeting of Gateshead Art Society (where the suggested theme was "Urban Painting"), I was able to finish this winter picture. Brrr.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Karen Stamper and the Concertina Sketchbook

It takes a lot to get me out of bed, dressed and breakfasted and onto a train by 8.43 am these days, but that's what happened last Saturday. I was on my way to York with fellow Sketch Crawler Richard to take part in a workshop led by Karen Stamper.

I've been looking at Karen's work for quite a while and wondering how she achieved the effects in her concertina sketchbooks, so when the opportunity to find out came up, I jumped at the chance.

And it was well worth the effort! I won't give away Karen's secrets - she has lots more workshops to give, I'm sure - but will say that she started us off slowly to get us over the natural trepidation most of us felt. Dribbling ink and squirting it with water while it runs down five or six pages of  the concertina must be a proven ice-breaker. After that it was just one bit of fun after another, involving PVA, gesso, frottage, markers, collage and some hard thinking.

I ended up with six pages of an abstracted townscape full of references to Crete. One of the fascinations of the concertina sketchbook is that as it's folded, new compositions come into view.

It was clear everyone enjoyed themselves and seeing the sketchbooks laid out together showed how individual the end results were. 

Pat and I have a long holiday in Chania planned for later this year and I can certainly see me using some of these techniques while I'm there. And I'll be watching out for the chance to take another of Karen's workshops!


Monday, 30 April 2018

Belated Blogiversary

Fourteen years ago, on the 15th April, I wrote my first blog post on Boogie Street. In fact, I wrote my first four blog posts. I soon realised I couldn't keep that up, but am surprised to find that I've kept going, with only one minor lapse, for fourteen years.

Commenters have come and gone and the world of blogging has closed down or moved over to Facebook, but I still find it helpful to write stuff about my work. With luck, my Regular Reader also finds it interesting.

Cheers! Here's to the next fourteen.

Meanwhile ...

The Fishmonger WIP
(acrylic on board, 25 x 25 cm.)

Fresh Fruit WIP
(acrylic on board, 25 x 25 cm)

Staithes in Winter WIP
(acrylic on board, 12 x 12 in.)

The Gardener WIP
(acrylic on board, 25 x 25 cm.)

Meanwhile, in the secret realm of the studio, work progresses on several paintings. The first two are very near completion, but as I've said here before, I hate finishing pictures when I know what they'll look like. I enjoy starting paintings and I enjoy struggling with the elements that aren't working, but once I recognise how they'll end up, I lose interest. Only when I need them for a show do I feel the need to really press on to the end. 

In the case of The Fishmonger, I'd like to give him a face; the man selling Fresh Fruit could do with a better nose.

It may seem odd to be working on a painting of Staithes in Winter, but I'm assured that greetings card manufacturers buy images for Xmas in June and it helps to maintain at least a facade of business-mindedness.

The Gardener is so named because he started out as a man in front of a topiary garden. I decided the picture wasn't working well and intended to simply paint over it and start afresh. But the man protested that he had a right to justify himself, so I've given his garden a coating of pasted down tissue paper and we'll see what emerges from the milky mist. Might be another garden; might not.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Sketch Crawl - Durham again.

Durham Market Square
(marker, brushpen and Inktense pans in A4 sketchbook)

Back to Durham yesterday for our latest Sketch Crawl. Last week's sun was still about, but sadly not last week's heat. There was a freezing wind blowing through the Market Square, but I found a handy wall to lean against and had a go at the Market Hall opposite.

Because we'd only allowed an hour for this first sketch, I rushed at the subject with only a minimum of measuring and as a result found I'd run out of room at the bottom of the page. My intention had been to include some of the people in the foreground, so I can't deny an element of disappointment with the eventual line drawing.

Image may contain: 1 person, tree, sky and outdoor

In an attempt to get warm, we moved on from the Market Square to inside the Cathedral. For me, the Cathedral interior is overwhelming. I could draw it with charcoal as a tonal study, but thinking about trying to capture it with simple line work meant I didn't even make a start. My compliments to Michael for not only sketching some very complicated elements and structures, but doing it with only line work and a little watercolour.

After a while I sat down in a quiet side chapel and, in the absence of anything I wanted to draw, I made some efforts to salvage my earlier drawing. A grey brushpen (Note to self: this is running dry) and a few notes of colour using my new box of Inktense pans moved the drawing to somewhere more acceptable in my arena of self-criticism.

On the way to the Cathedral, Kim had told me she was determined to get more work done but was concerned that she was easily side tracked by the attraction of sitting in a cafe with friends. When it was time for coffee (Cathedral coffee is terrible), I found her at a table in the cafe with Bethan, drinking coffee and bemoaning her weakness. Tsk. Must Try Harder.

It was great to have four people new to our Crawls join in at Durham. I hope to see you all again.

Next time: Bowes Railway on 26 May. A decision I think I have to make about that is whether to continue with the A4 sketchbook. It's quite heavy to hold while standing up, as I usually do, and my left hand is starting to cramp after an hour or so of holding it. (The perils of being so old that one of the drawings in the current sketchbook was done before Bethan was born.)

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Hats and Bags

Hats and Bags
(acrylic on board, 30 x 30 cm)

I was surprised at how long this took to finish. There was a lot of balancing of tones, colours and implied textures to get right and the background needed adjusting several times to make the hats sit properly in relation to the wall. 

But it's finished now and ready to frame. I think it makes a nice pair with the Jelly Shoes painting, but will also hang quite well with the smaller Caps and Bags.

 Jelly Shoes
(acrylic on board, 12 x 12 in)

Caps and Bags
(acrylic on canvas, 20 x 20 cm)

When I put the final touches to Hats and Bags, I felt a bit deflated because I realised I'd probably come to the end of this thread. There are more hats I could paint, but for now I think I'm done with them. I have a similar idea to explore which may result in one or two related works, but we'll have to see how that progresses. 

"What to do next?" is often a problem when you've done no work on the side to draw out lurking thoughts. The thing to do, though, is ensure you don't let a time of contemplation become a long fallow period. I find it becomes so much more difficult to start work again then.

Friday, 30 March 2018

You can leave your hat on.

Hats WIP
(acrylic on board, 30 x 30 cm)

For a man who hates wearing hats, I sure do love painting them. I'll move this along a little more today.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Jelly Shoes

Jelly Shoes
(acrylic on board, 12 x 12 in)

I made a bit of a push to finish this painting in time for the Newcastle Painters Group meeting on Saturday and am well pleased with the result and with the comments I received at the meeting.

You'll see that the mysterious woman who appeared behind the jelly shoe rack has been eliminated. I decided she wasn't required and in fact detracted from the arrangement of colourful footwear.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Sketch Crawl - The Hancock Museum and McKenna's Cafe

Bardon Mike @ McKenna's
(Pitt fine marker in A5 sketchbook)

Saturday dawned grey and snowy, Michael was sensibly in bed with a cold, but I braved the chill wind and met the other members of Urban Sketchers Tyne and Wear huddling in the entrance to Haymarket Metro.

The plan had been to draw in and around the campus of Newcastle University but the weather made that deeply unattractive, so we opted instead for a return to the Great North Museum : Hancock. 

This would be our third visit to the Hancock and for me yet another chance to draw pots. Annoyingly, I discovered I'd left my pencil case at home, but found a pack of Pitt pens in the bottom of my bag.

Attic Amphora and Funerary Pots
(Pitt fine marker in A4 sketchbook)

Cypriot Jug with Sphinxes c 600 BC
(Pitt marker in A4 sketchbook)

Sadly, the Hancock has a policy of closing its cafe at 3.30 so while some of us managed to snatch a coffee and a scone before they closed, Richard was reduced to drinking my little jug of milk. 

In need of further caffeine we upped sticks and moved to McKenna's Cafe, just across the road. There we were able to sit and watch the snow being blown around outside, draw the Students' Union Building or simply draw one another.

Unusually for me, I opted for the latter and Bardon Mike, who'd joined us for the day from Berwick Sketchers, helpfully sat very still while I obsessed over the folds in his hoodie to such an extent that I can't help feeling he looks a little like a character drawn by Dürer (see top of post).

I thought the time round the table in McKenna's, laughing and sketching one another was a lovely way to round out the day and Kim even managed to get a photo of me smiling with Jenny (but then it was nice to see Jenny back with the group!).

(Photo: Kim Willis)

Next sketch crawl : 28th April, venue to be decided.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Mmm ... Jelly Shoes

Jelly Shoes WIP
(acrylic on board, 12 x 12 in)

All this snow is making me wish for sunnier times past (and to come, I hope). 

Following on from Caps and Bags, I decided to see what I could make of a photograph of shoes I took in Croatia a few years ago. I love the way these colourful "jelly" shoes are scattered across a dark background, but the surprise came in finding a woman's head peering through the arrangement.

I completed most of this today and was optimistic of finishing altogether over the weekend, but had forgotten that on Saturday there's another Sketch Crawl, weather permitting.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Caps and Bags

Caps and Bags
(acrylic on canvas, 20 x 20 cm)

A problem with my recent reliance on composing subjects with the aid of Photoshop was highlighted this week as the snow came down. Although I still had access to Photoshop,  I find working from a screen impossible and I couldn't print anything off because my printer gave up the ghost at the beginning of the week.

Snow-related setbacks meant my replacement printer didn't arrive until yesterday. In the meantime, to stave off cabin fever, I pulled out a printout I'd worked on a while ago and produced this small painting over a couple of days.

I like it but am interested to see that it's mostly painted in the way I would have painted it were I using oil paint.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Sketch Crawl - The Apple Store

iPad Drawing

An unusual Sketch Crawl, this. Bob, who has been experimenting with the Procreate software on iPad Pro and joining in workshops at the Apple Store at the Metrocentre, arranged for us all to go to one of the workshops.

I have to say that I hate the Metrocentre; in all the time it's been open, I can't have been there more than half a dozen times. It's everything that my youthful science fiction reading told me an urban dystopia would be like, long before Sir John Hall had his bright idea to make more money than he already had.

And, of course, as soon as I got there, I got lost. I'd obviously got off the shuttle bus at the Wrong Quadrant instead of the Red Quadrant and had to wind my way through one mall after another, none more recognisable than the next, following signs that seemed to peter out at the most crucial point and looking at interactive maps that didn't seem to be able to tell me where I was so I could get to where I wanted to be.

Eventually, I asked a kind lady at a rare information stand: "Can you tell me how to get to the Apple Store, please?"

"It's behind you," she said.

The long trek through the labyrinth meant I arrived a little late for the techniques briefing, but a short bit of personal tuition coupled with my experience of Photoshop, allowed me to get started with the others on some iPad sketching in The Village ("I am not a number ....!").

(Photo: Bob Laine)

Like any other drawing experience, I soon found myself drawn into the actual making of an image and, although I knew what I was producing wouldn't hold up to great scrutiny, I enjoyed the whole thing. The tutors were kind enough (or professional enough) to enthuse over my attempt, and in return I introduced one of them to the work of Ronald Searle, whose wonderful line work was brought to mind by my little bit of black line at the top of the clock in my drawing.

Back at the Apple Store, our work was projected on a TV screen and then we all held up our individual iPads for this celebratory photo: