Wednesday 31 December 2008

Happy New Year!

Etching: Still Life (Etching and aquatint)

It's been a fascinating 12 months on Boogie Street, and I'd like to thank all of you who've followed me through this blog. Your comments have been a real and very welcome encouragement. I hope you'll stay with me in the coming year.

The choice of image may seem a strange one, but I see it as one of hope. The making of the etching itself, in 1998, wasn't really successful: the plate was left in the acid too long and the aquatint started to come loose. However, the end result, with platelets of aquatint shifting about probably makes the print more interesting than it might have been had it worked the way it was meant to. It's been a year of promise and achievement, but some things didn't work out. Despite that, shining through the shifting platelets of 2008, there's still the bright white light of 2009. Better stop there before I get too purple.

I wish you all a very happy and prosperous 2009. Happy New Year!

Tuesday 30 December 2008

Travelling Sketchbook

Elaborate Hair-Do (pencil, A5 sketchbook)

Cold Calling (pencil, A5 sketchbook)
Two people drawn on the Metro, on the same page of my A5 sketchbook.


Clandestine (Epsilon 11)
Pencils: Rob Hansen; Inks and digital colour: Harry Bell
[Used with Rob's permission]

Back in the 1980s, my old friend Rob Hansen and I collaborated on some fanzine covers. This one, dated 1982, was for Rob's own fanzine, Epsilon, and I did the inking over his pencils. The subject seemed to suit this week's Illustration Friday subject, Clandestine, so this time round I added some digital colour.

Saturday 27 December 2008

Xmas Unwrapped

Pension Kasteli (Oil on canvas, 12 x 12 ins.) (Private Collection)

It may have appeared that I'd stopped painting in the last week or so, but I've actually been working on this painting as a Xmas present for my partner, Pat. It was a secret, of course, so I couldn't post anything about it here as she'd be bound to see it.

At first, I thought I wouldn't be able to paint the hotel because the photograph I had was taken at such an acute angle. However, Photoshop proved itself more than up to the task. Using a Perspective Edit, I was able to stretch the building back into a face-on viewpoint. Photoshop never ceases to amaze me.

The painting is of the lovely little place we stayed in on Crete in September last year. Our room was at the back and I did this drawing from the balcony.

Thursday 25 December 2008

Merry Xmas!

Oh yes, nearly forgot

Have a happy one!

Tuesday 23 December 2008

Apparently, I'm THE STAR

There was a time when I was really into the occult, the metaphysical, and took something of an interest in the Tarot. But I've moved on since then, becoming much more pragmatic in my approach to life. Nevertheless, Tarot readings can be fun,and when I came across a reference to an online reading service on Paula Pertile's blog, I thought I'd give it a whirl. I'm not in the least surprised by the reading, because the questions in this sort of exercise are always cleverly designed to produce a recognisable result. But you know, who wouldn't be just a little pleased to be THE STAR?

You are The Star

Hope, expectation, Bright promises.

The Star is one of the great cards of faith, dreams realised

The Star is a card that looks to the future. It does not predict any immediate or powerful change, but it does predict hope and healing. This card suggests clarity of vision, spiritual insight. And, most importantly, that unexpected help will be coming, with water to quench your thirst, with a guiding light to the future. They might say you're a dreamer, but you're not the only one.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Monday 22 December 2008

Things I've Done

This seems to be everywhere, but I first found it on The Cycling Artist.

It's a somewhat peculiar list of things to do, with an obvious American bias, but hey! it's fun and it's Xmas! I've shown those I've done in bold.

1. Started your own blog.
2. Slept under the stars.
3. Played in a band.
4.Visited Hawaii.
5. Watched a meteor shower.
6. Given more than you can afford to charity.
7. Been to Disneyland.
8. Climbed a mountain (Helvellyn. But that's only 3,117 ft)
9. Held a praying mantis.
10. Sang a solo.
11. Bungee jumped.
12. Visited Paris.
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea (On a rustbucket going to Santorini)
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch.
15. Adopted a child.
16. Had food poisoning.
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty.
18. Grown your own vegetables.
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France.
20. Slept on an overnight train (London to Rome).
21. Had a pillow fight.
22. Hitch hiked.
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill.
24. Built a snow fort.
25. Held a lamb.
26. Gone skinny dipping.
27. Run a Marathon.
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice.
29. Seen a total eclipse.
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset.
31. Hit a home run (only at rounders, but that's the same, isn't it?)
32. Been on a cruise.
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person.
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors (I live there!)
35. Seen an Amish community.
36. Taught yourself a new language.
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied (but I didn't know it).
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person.
39. Gone rock climbing.
40. Seen Michelangelo's David.
41. Sung karaoke.
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt.
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant.
44. Visited Africa (North Africa)
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight.
46. Been transported in an ambulance (crashed my scooter and ended my Mod career).
47. Had your portrait painted.
48. Gone deep sea fishing.
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person.
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling.
52. Kissed in the rain.
53. Played in the mud.
54. Gone to a drive-in theater.
55. Been in a movie.
56. Visited the Great Wall of China.
57. Started a business.
58. Taken a martial arts class.
59. Visited Russia.
60. Served at a soup kitchen.
61. Sold Girl Scout cookies (no, but did Bob-A-Job Week)
62. Gone whale watching.
63. Got flowers for no reason.
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma.
65. Gone sky diving.
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp.
67. Bounced a cheque.
68. Flown in a helicopter.
69. Saved a favourite childhood toy (many)
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial.
71. Eaten Caviar.
72. Pieced a quilt.
73. Stood in Times Square.
74. Toured the Everglades.
75. Been fired from a job.
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London.
77. Broken a bone.
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle.
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person.
80. Published a book.
81. Visited the Vatican.
82. Bought a brand new car.
83. Walked in Jerusalem.
84. Had your picture in the newspaper.
85. Read the entire Bible.
86. Visited the White House (Stood outside on Lexington Ave. Does that count?)
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating.
88. Had chickenpox.
89. Saved someone’s life.
90. Sat on a jury.
91. Met someone famous.(but define famous)
92. Joined a book club.
93. Lost a loved one.
94. Had a baby.
95. Seen the Alamo in person.
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake.
97. Been involved in a lawsuit.
98. Owned a cell phone.
99. Been stung by a bee (only wasps)
100. Read an entire book in one day.

Old Drawings #25

High Level Bridge (Charcoal, pastel on cartridge paper)

I'm guessing 1995 again. I remember exaggerating the height of the bridge a little to make it fit the square - I'd just discovered the square format and was determined to make everything square.

The High Level was designed by Robert Stephenson and is the first major example of a wrought iron bow-string girder bridge in the world. It's probably my favourite of all the bridges over the Tyne (there are 12 in all) and is certainly the one I've painted most - I love the way its rectilinear profile fits the picture plane.

It's been closed to traffic since 2005 because, of course, in addition to the rail traffic on the upper deck, it was built to accommodate Victorian horse-drawn transport and years of heavy motorised transport had taken their toll. As a Grade I listed structure, there were strictures on how it might be repaired. The road bed, for instance, had to be completely replaced, along with a number of the girders which had corroded, and this had to be done with sympathetic materials. After a £42m refit it opened again this year, with traffic restricted to buses and taxis, going one way only (Newcastle to Gateshead).

Saturday 20 December 2008


(Fibretip, Photoshop, digital colour)

I know it's an easy solution doing that copy and paste thing in Photoshop, but I do get a kick out of seeing a line of the same image. This is for Illustration Friday: Voices, and is dedicated to H.P.Lovecraft fans everywhere.

Thursday 18 December 2008

Xmas at the Club

It was the Xmas party at the Art Club today. Last year there was a surfeit of sausage rolls, this year there were hardly any. But there were other compensations - the discovery that we have a Muffin Man amongst us, for one. And there were chicken kievs, pork pies, ham sandwiches, prawns with a dip, cocktail sausages, mince pies, chocolate cake, coffee and walnut cake, and ... oh you get the picture.

Of course, there was also enough red wine to wash it all down with. After lunch, Joe the Joiner told me that he and his father had once put in a new staircase in a brewery while the manager plied them with the products. When they came back to work the next day they had to take it out and put it back in again properly. I figured something similar might happen to anything I should paint after the party, so I came home without lifting a brush.

Wednesday 17 December 2008

Old Drawings #25

Hopper Mausoleum 2 (Charcoal, compressed charcoal, A2 cartridge)

It seemed appropriate to post the other drawing of the Mausoleum. Done at the same time, it shows the front of the building.

Tuesday 16 December 2008

Old Drawings #24

Hopper Mausoleum (Charcoal, compressed charcoal, A2 cartridge)

This dates from 1994 or 1995, I think. In those days I had access to a car and one of my favourite drives was out to the Derwent Reservoir.

On the way back, we'd often go via Grey Mare Hill, near Kilnpit Hill, on a minor road to Whittonstall. Stopping there, I'd walk up a signposted footpath on the south side of the road to St Andrew’s Church. The church, which is Grade II listed, was built in 1769, but following subsidence, was restored in 1892. It's an interesting, if unspectacular building, but what makes it special is the Grade I listed Hopper Mausoleum, standing in the churchyard.

The memorial was built by Humfrey Hopper of Black Hedley in 1752 as a memorial to his wife. He was later buried there and details of his descendants were engraved on the building, There's also a slab with a dedication that reads:

Erected by Humfrey Hopper of Black Hedley in memory of his wife Jane Hodsgon who died February 29th 1752 aged 77.

It's another of those eerie places, that few people visit. It's generally quiet, but often there's a breeze blowing up from the valley and this rustles the long grass in the field outside the churchyard. Looking at this drawing now brings back a vivid memory of the site.

Much as I rather like wind turbines, I'm sorry to see that there are plans afoot to put some up near the Mausoleum.

Monday 15 December 2008


(Fibretip, digital colour)

It's a bit difficult trying to illustrate a word that isn't in my normal vocabulary, but that's what Illustration Friday has invited me to do. I mean, I've heard the word in Westerns and on tv, but I can honestly say I've never used it.

So despite the Concise OED telling me it's US Colloq., - "uncontrollably exuberant", I'm not entirely sure I've got a proper handle on it. You'll have to let me know, those of you for whom this word is part of your everyday conversation, is this ... well, rambunctious enough?

Friday 12 December 2008

Painting a Day

Bigg Market Buildings (work in progress)

I've been following the Painting a Day movement for some time now. It seemed to me that, despite the obviously crowded painting a day sector, with hundreds of painters following the example set by Duane Keiser, it might be possible to elbow my way in and make a buck or two.

First, however, I'd have to find out if I could comfortably accommodate the practice of making a small painting if not every day, at least often enough to make it worthwhile for people to visit my site (I'd have to set up another blog, I think, to show specifically those pictures). Would this regime suit me at all, in fact, and how would I feel about having to work on such a small scale?

Two or three weeks ago I decided to see how I'd fare working on a 5 x 7 inch panel, the preferred size of daily painters like Stephen Magsig, whose work I admire a lot. As it happened, I had a prepared board in the studio and there was a photograph lying about that I'd considered working from and then abandoned. I set to and very quickly found it difficult to work on this scale. I put the results to one side and, in the course of things, almost forgot about it.

Looking round for something fresh to take along to the Club today, I hit on the little panel. While working on the new set of small pictures at the Club, I've become used to painting with small brushes and I figured I might as well see if I could move it on a bit.

What you see above is where I ended up today. I don't think I did myself any favours by using a composition that limits the painting action to the bottom third of the panel, of course. It's made for extremely fiddly working, but overall I'm quite pleased with how it's going. But it'll take another short session to finish it, which is hardly in the spirit of "a painting a day". Nevertheless, the idea may yet have legs. I'll put it in the Introspection & Reflection melting pot.

Thursday 11 December 2008


Tynemouth (9 x 12 ins, oil on canvas) £190

Despite all that introspection and reflection and a visit from a replacement window salesman, I managed to get an hour in at the Club today.

And an hour was enough to finish this small painting. I lined up the houses across the bay and allowed a couple of other blokes to join their friend skulking in front of the bushes in the foreground. It's a sunny day, so I expect they're simply on their way to the beach.

Introspection & Reflection

Gateshead Millennium Bridge (Raised) - Private Collection

I'm sorry if things seem to be quiet on Boogie Street at the moment. I guess it's the time of year. I'm spending some time going over what I've achieved this year, what hasn't worked out the way I wanted it to, and examining the way the work has been going. Have I fallen into any bad habits, for instance? Should I be narrowing my field of investigation, or looking at new areas? That sort of thing.

It's an important process but not one that lends itself easily to blog posts, so in the meantime, here's a painting I don't think I've posted before.

Monday 8 December 2008

Old Drawings #23

Yucca (21 x 16.5 ins., charcoal and pastel on cartridge paper)

Following on from that agave, I thought this might be an appropriate time to post this drawing, done in 1996. The yucca is sitting in the window of my parents' flat on Allerdene Estate in Gateshead. Through the window can be seen a bit of the estate and part of the Silver Hills.

Friday 5 December 2008

Exploring Mallorca: Agave 3

(Watercolour, Pilot disposable fountain pen, A5 sketchbook)

This weather really does get me down. No snow today, but some heavy rain and even heavier skies. All of which makes for a less than agreeable creative mood.

On hearing that the Club was likely to be deserted today, I gave it a miss again and worked on this sketchbook watercolour of another agave plant. Although it's rather dark, it brought memories of at least a bit of Mediterranean sunshine.


(Pen and ink, Photoshop, digital colour)

For one reason or another, I haven't participated in the recent Illustration Friday topics, but I thought I'd make a stab at this week's Similar.

Here I must acknowledge the primary source of a cartoon character created by my friend, the late Arthur (Atom) Thomson , whose work always inspired me to do better.

Thursday 4 December 2008


Window View - Snow (Charcoal and pastel, 19.5 x 16.5 ins)

I didn't go to the Club today and this is why. When I got up there was a white-out. It gradually thawed as the day went on, but I suspect the Club studio would have been deserted. And pretty damn cold. This drawing will have to do for today.

Preview Night

I had a good day yesterday. I met my mate, The Frootbat, for coffee in town and we decided to go to see the current show at the Laing - a roomful of Stanley Spencers. It's always a delight to renew acquaintances with Spencer's work and this was no exception. A good selection representing his career, starting with some pen and ink drawings and his early self-portrait, through to the one he did late in life, by way of the Leg of Mutton nude (which presumably inspired the "Parental Guidance" notice on the door to the exhibition) and the quite mad St Francis and the Birds.

Renaissance and Post-Impressionist influences abound, but the blend of imagination and the real world filtered through the mind of a wonderful painter produced images that continue to work their magic in an age when idiots still insist that painting is dead.

After the exhibition and a couple of coffees in the Laing's cafe, I went on to the Private View at the Guildhall. Despite it being fiercely cold, there was a good turnout and I was gratified to see a good deal of attention directed towards my painting. Almost as good as a sale. Almost.

Tuesday 2 December 2008

Farm in Langdale

Farm in Langdale (Oil on board, 16 x 16 ins.) S0LD

The Art Club's annual exhibition opens on Thursday, with the Preview tomorrow night. I wasn't sure what to put in, but this one which I worked on some time ago, fitted a frame. So this is my entry, after a little tweaking. The photograph is misleading, however, in that the blue shadow areas of the farm were made with Payne's grey and underpainting white, so are nowhere near as blue as they appear here.

If you're in the area, drop into the show at The Guildhall on Newcastle's Quayside. It runs until 28th December.

Friday 28 November 2008

A Day of Glazing

Tynemouth (work in Progress)

I've been staring at this painting for a week or two, worrying over the jarring effects of red, green and blue in one picture. Today, I took it back to the Club and repainted the sea, using Payne's grey and white with a little cadmium violet. Not only did that provide a more harmonious triad of red, green and blue violet, but it made the sea look a bit more like the North Sea.

I also glazed over the bushes in the foreground with a little sap green, to give them a bit more substance and tone down the brighter greens . In the meantime, a man in a blue shirt wandered down Front Street and got himself in the picture. I might leave him there; I might give him a friend or two; or I might paint him back into the brick wall.

Although I've been somewhat committed to direct painting of late, I felt that glazing might be beneficial here so, in addition to the green glazes on the bushes, I wiped a glaze of titanium white and cadmium violet mixed with Liquin onto the far shore. (I'd have preferred to use the more transparent zinc white for such a glaze, but I don't keep it at the Club.) This effectively pushed the shore back into aerial perspective and I'm happier with it now, although there's a bit more work left to do there. There are, for example, a few streets of houses to be sat along that dark line I've provided for them.

St James's Park (work in progress)

As I had some of that milky violet glaze still on the palette, I used it on the cloudy sky in this picture, too. The sky now sits further back and the skyline is better defined. I spent a few hours tickling away at the town, putting in lines, altering others, changing little patches of colour, picking out spots of light-struck building.

Next week: the superstructure of the football ground and some windows in the prominent orangey-yellow building. And then maybe it'll be finished.

Thursday 27 November 2008

The Barley Mow, Newcastle

The Barley Mow, Newcastle (Oil on canvas, 16 x 16 ins) £300

Conscious of my increasing tendency to stop short of completion, I decided to push on today and get this painting finished. It's now on the wall of the Club's studio, hoping to win the prize in this month's themed competition, "Townscapes".

I realised that had this been a much bigger picture, there'd have been a good deal less detail in it. Not that I think that it would therefore have been a better picture, just a different one. It's an effect of working close to a small painting, I think, that leads to putting in a wealth of incidentals.

Tuesday 25 November 2008

Wayne Thiebaud: Interview

I sometimes wonder if my early interest in becoming an illustrator and cartoonist might account for my preferences in painters. Both Edward Hopper and Wayne Thiebaud, the subject of this video, began their careers as illustrator/cartoonist. Maybe it's something to do with the clarity of image and use of strong composition that shows in their paintings.

I love Thiebaud's self-deprecating humour in this interview and am only disappointed that it doesn't feature any of his San Francisco street paintings. Still, although I forget where I found this video, I for one found it a delight. Let me know what you think.

Monday 24 November 2008

Hailstones and Blossom

Outside the sky has turned darkest grey and for the first time that I can recall, we're having thunder and hailstones. Inside, I'm warm and surrounded by the scent of grapefruit blossom.

Thirty years ago I picked up a pip from the office floor and pushed it into one of my plant pots. The resident plant - a miniature rose, I believe - died from an infestation of red spider mite, but the pip, to my surprise, started to grow. I wasn't certain what it was, but as one of my staff used to eat a grapefruit every day, the odds were that it was a grapefruit tree I was nurturing.

A year later it seemed like I'd lost it when something attacked the stem and the main growth tip died, but it rallied and sent out a side shoot. Eventually, even that gave way to a reinvigorated main stem that shot away from the top.

Re-potting the tree several times, I found a way of moving it whenever I changed offices, and when I left the Civil Service in 1997, I brought it home with me, giving it pride of place in the bay window.

I learned that it didn't like tap water and that the best way of keeping it healthy was to let it dry out to the point of seeing the leaves droop and some even fall, then give it a good soaking with rainwater. A few days ago, it repaid me for the first time in thirty years by putting on a small display of three clusters of white blossom. The scent is startling and even those few clusters, now that they're open, are filling the room with it.

Xmas is rolling round again, as I expect you've possibly noticed. I stopped putting up an "official" Xmas tree about six years ago, but a few days before Xmas Day, I usually dress the grapefruit tree in tinsel and fairy lights. This year, I think it deserves an extra star.

Friday 21 November 2008

Continuing the Small One

St James's Park (work in progress)

I wonder how interesting it is for you to see me post these images which change almost imperceptibly? I worked on this for three hours, breaking off for unlimited cups of coffee (the Club's system has changed - 50p for any number of cups, instead of 30p a cup) and yet it doesn't seem to have changed a great deal. I know it has, in that the paint has become more complex, with little patches of colour showing through new layers, but the scale is so small (9 x 12 inches approx) that it's difficult to appreciate it sometimes.

Oh well, whether you're interested or not (and obviously I'd like to think that some of you are), I find it useful to record the changes here, however small.

Thursday 20 November 2008

A Small One to Get Me Going

St James's Park (work in progress)

Work on the Barley Mow painting is getting so fiddly that I needed something to get me into a rhythm at the Club today. This little painting - which isn't finished yet - was sufficient to free me up and let me move on to the Barley Mow, which I left like this today:

Barley Mow (work in progress)

I worked on the edge of the quay today and used masking tape to get the edges sharp. Although I'm not desperately keen on very tight edges elsewhere in the composition, I often find that where I have a line running right across the picture the way the quayside does here, I enjoy playing off a very straight edge against the less rigid edges elsewhere.

I've also made a start on that problematic building at the top right, but I'm not happy with it yet.

Self Portraits

Wednesday 19 November 2008

From Dillons First Floor Window

From Dillons First Floor Window (Oil on board) (Private Collection)

In her comment on the previous post, Serena asked if I had a photograph of the painting derived from the drawing. Well, I do, and here it is. I see that the numbers in the crowd increased as the painting took shape! Maybe it was match day.

Tuesday 18 November 2008

Old Drawings #22

From Dillon's First Floor Window (charcoal on cartridge paper)

I've been distracted somewhat over the past week, and haven't been able to put the time in on my painting or my blogging. I hope this distraction has passed.

I reckon this drawing was done in 1994 when I was really starting to get into my urban landscapes. It's difficult taking photographs inside a shop. The staff look at you when you seem to be hovering round, not looking at the books. You come across as quite a shifty individual, so I had to make sure I knew what i wanted from the view, then lean over the tables of books and take two photographs in quick succession.

The drawing takes out one of the window mullions and in the course of its making, another sheet of paper was added to the right hand side (you can still see the join in the photograh, I think). Quite a successful painting came out of this drawing.

Sunday 9 November 2008

Gallery Grump

Theatre Royal, Grey Street (Private Collection)

Grey Street is one of the finest in Newcastle, designed by John Dobson in the Georgian style and apparently voted 'Best street in the UK' in 2002 by BBC Radio 4 listeners. I've always thought that it would be a suitable site for a good commercial gallery, so I was pleased to see earlier this year that a new gallery was opening there.

Alas, it's not what I was hoping for. Obviously, from a personal point of view, I would have liked them to be interested in local artists, but this has proven not to be the case. They're a branch of a national chain with Rolf Harris as their Big Name.

What depresses me most, however, is the fact that most of their stock is what they like to call limited edition prints, but which we know to be reproductions. I know this is something of a lost battle, but it's worth making the point now and again. The spin they put on these reproductions is one I've not previously come across. They're what they term hand-embellished. Looking at them, it's obvious that they're simply reproductions on which a few flicks of paint have been added. In a number of cases, they've had a transparent resin brushed onto them so that the effect of impasto is achieved without adding any extra colour whatsoever.

Although I thought this was pretty feeble, I did get the impression that the artists had done the additions themselves. However, I've come across this in some of their literature:

An increasing number of our Limited Edition Fine Art Prints are now hand-embellished.

This means that the print is placed alongside the original and under the direction of the artist certain elements of the image are highlighted with paint, inks, varnish or other medium by a master craftsman. This is done to bring each piece closer to the essence of the original and adds a new layer of authenticity to the finished composition. It also transforms each print into a unique handmade piece in its own right.

A "master craftsman", eh? Not even the artist. What a farce.

Friday 7 November 2008

More Barley Mow Progress

Barley Mow (work in progress)

Another two or three hours at the Club and the Barley Mow (incidentally, it's pronounced Mao) is moving along quite well. I sat and pondered the profusion of chimney stacks, but came to the conclusion that I like the way they flicker across the surface. The many windows may not be treated so favourably. There's also the problem of that big grey building at the top right. It's actually a clumsy 1970s office block made with rectangular modules which will take some thinking about.

I've lightened and greyed down the road to give a little contrast with the brighter buildings and the cars which had been about to park in the forecourt of the building front right have been cleared away. Eventually I found I couldn't go further without either a mahl stick or leaving it to dry. As I don't have a mahl stick at the Club, I decided to leave it to dry for a week.

Women in Art

Women In Art - The most amazing home videos are here

Thursday 6 November 2008

More Work on the Barley Mow

Barley Mow (work in progress)

Slow progress today at the Club, but this is moving along OK, I think. I've put in the shadows and shadow sides of many of the chimneys - and there are many - but there are lots of windows, too. They need to be indicated, without getting too fiddly. As this only 16 x 16 inches, there's a lot going on for a small space.

Bonfire Night

As is our custom, Pat and I surrendered to our inner children and went to see the fireworks in Saltwell Park last night. There was a classically opaque sky with a light drizzle and the grass in the park had turned to a sea of mud, but we had a great time.

It was good to note this year that the novelty of camera phones seems to have passed and very few people there were intent on watching the fireworks through their phones so they'd have the pleasure of watching them again later through their phones.

Whenever I go to see fireworks, I try to give myself entirely to the experience, cutting out the sounds of those around me and losing myself in the audio-visual feast of light and explosions. This would be helped hugely if they'd get rid of the pounding music and inane deejay at the back of the park. Fireworks need no musical accompaniment. They have their own: crackles, pops, bangs, whistles and banshee wails are the perfect musique concrète.

There was a time when I thought that Bonfire Night should be allowed to wither away and be replaced by Halloween which has, of course, a much older pedigree. Last night, however, I came to the realisation that Bonfire Night has managed to remain mercifully resistant to commercialisation, while Halloween is now a travesty of rampant money-making, owing little to the American version and even less to the ancient festival of Samhain.

Back home, we settled down to plates of sausage and mash and endless reruns and examinations of the US Presidential election. Go Obama!

Tuesday 4 November 2008

Exploring Mallorca: Swiss Cheese Plant

Swiss Cheese Plant (pigment liner, A5 sketchbook)
[mis-dated: should read 4 Nov. 2008]

Escaping from a thunderstorm, we found shelter in the Banys Arabs (the Arab Baths) in Palma. When it had passed, and before it returned, we had a chance to wander round the lovely garden outside the bath house. This was one of several flowering monsteras there - another wonderfully architectural plant!. It would have been really great to have been able to sit and draw in the garden but the weather, and time, was against me.

RSS Feeds

Some time ago I started to use RSS feeds as a way of keeping up with a lot of the blogs I was interested in. Those I couldn't get in Google Reader, I subscribed to as RSS feeds. Everything worked fine and I found I could maintain an interest that way in many more blogs than I could by endlessly visiting them (only to find nothing new had been posted).

Something went wrong round about 18th October. Now when I access any of the blogs in Feeds, I get the message "Internet Explorer was unable to update this feed and will try again later."

Nothing I've found on the interweb helps me to put this right. I know, for instance, that it's not a fault in my firewall settings. Does anyone more knowledgeable have a clue? More importantly, are you able to tell me how to put it right in words that will actually make some sense to me?

Monday 3 November 2008

Old Drawings #21

Wall (Charcoal, compressed charcoal on A2 cartridge paper)

I've always been fascinated by walls, by their textures, by the way they show a history of changes, decay, repair. If I wanted to be pretentious, I might suggest they stand as a metaphor for the human condition, but I don't, so I won't.

This drawing probably dates from 1995 or thereabouts. I made one or two paintings at that time that were based on images of walls and relied heavily on applied texture. Come to think of it, "heavily" is quite apposite, given that they were made on board and had surfaces built up of cardboard, Polyfilla, wax, wallpaper, sand and pieces of brick.

Friday 31 October 2008

Something Else at the Club

Barley Mow (work in progress)

[Unfortunately, I appear to have chopped the bottom off when I took this photograph. Better next time.]

Taking advantage of Overspill Friday, I went off to the Club again today with a new canvas already laid out in pencil and covered in the orange PVA ground I used yesterday.

Sometimes it takes a different environment to kick start a painting session and these days at the Club are proving useful in that respect. At the end of the day I sat and looked at this painting-in-progress and wondered if perhaps I "shouldn't do another thing to it" - something of a catch phrase of an old tutor of mine. In its present state it reminds me of the work of Chip Chadbourn, of whom I've written previously. Up close, however, it's less satisfactory, and I know I'll have to work on it some more.

Thursday 30 October 2008

A Long Day at the Easel

Tynemouth (work in progress)

I had an early appointment with the doctor this morning, so I figured for once I'd get an early start at the Club. Stopping off only to pick up a sandwich for later, I went straight from the surgery to the Club and had started painting by 10.30. I didn't stop until round about 4.30 .

It's a while since I've stood at the easel for so long, and I certainly felt it later, but I'm relatively pleased with the day's result.

It's a painting of the buildings at the mouth of the Tyne that can be seen from the window of Pat's flat. The far shore is South Shields, although I've yet to indicate the buildings there. There are still patches of quite bright orange showing here and there, due to my choice of ground this time - orange PVA.

I say I'm relatively pleased because I find myself painting yet another picture with that red/green axis, and I can't honestly tell what it looks like to others. Nevertheless, I think it's working. Initially the sea was unfeasibly blue, but some borrowed Payne's grey altered that. I may still work on it a little more if I can remember to take along a tube of indigo instead.

Saturday 25 October 2008

International Artist Day

It's been a disastrous week in terms of getting anything done. Poking myself in the eye on Thursday was not a good move, but by Friday it had stopped hurting quite so much.. Thursdays at the Art Club have been getting pretty crowded, so a number of the artists decided they'd change their day to Friday. I thought I'd try out the new Overspill Day.

When I got there, apart from someone who couldn't figure out how to lock the kitchen door and so hadn't quite left the building, there was no one there. I volunteered to wrestle the kitchen door into submission and he shoved off, leaving me with no one to talk to. The point of going to the Club is to have a bit of conversation, to relieve the cloistered condition of the solitary artist, so this was a bit useless in that respect.

I decided I might as well be on my own in my own studio, as on my own in the Club's, so I packed up my Buildings with Tyne Bridge painting and was on the point of leaving when Old Tom shuffled in. Long story short, we ended up having a cup of coffee together while Old Tom filled me in on more of his life history.

So no work done there then.

Today I realised it was International Artist Day and wondered what I could do to mark the occasion. As it happens, the calender provided the solution. I'd arranged to go with Mo and the Loose Canon back to Bearpark for the Bearpark Artists' Open Studio event. We had a good look round at their work and chatted again to them about the possibilities for future collaborations.

Not actually signalled as an International Artist Day event, but I think it followed the spirit of the occasion adequately. Happy Birthday, Picasso!

Thursday 23 October 2008

A Poke in the Eye

Not with a sharp stick, but with the corner of a piece of paper. I jabbed myself in the left eye this morning with a piece of paper and it's been aching all day. Not funny, I can tell you. And it meant that while I might have planned to get all sorts of art work done, seeing as the walk to Blawearie was off, I couldn't.


Old Drawings #20

Blawearie Garden (Charcoal and pastel on cartridge paper, 20 x 33 ins)

I don't recall when the drawing was made, I'm afraid, and I hadn't intended to post another Old Drawing so soon, but this one seemed apposite. My friend The Architect is off work for a couple of weeks, so he suggested that he and I and Mrs Sums should walk across Bewick Moor to Blawearie today. As I've said before, it's one of my most favourite places and I was looking forward not only to the walk, but to maybe getting a little sketching done. The Architect is an artist too, so I reckon he'd have been amenable to a short delay in the walk to make a drawing or two.

It was not to be. The weather has been quite pleasant so far this week, but for one day only it's due to visit us with gale force winds and lashing rain. Not the sort of weather you really want on Bewick Moor, where the only shelter is at Blawearie.

Monday 20 October 2008

Old Drawings #19

Ford Castle Garden 1994 (4B pencil, A3)

For a number of years I went to painting weekends at Ford Castle in Northumberland, organised by the Friends of the Hatton. There were usually two of them a year, in Spring and Autumn, and they were wonderful weekends, providing camaraderie, great food and the chance for quiet painting and drawing in the private grounds.

The Castle belonged to the Duke of Northumberland's family, but was leased to Northumberland County Council Education Authority. We were able to use it in out of term times. Unfortunately, it eventually fell under a new regime and it became finacially impractical for us to use it any more.

I did a lot of work in sketchbooks on those weekends, and several pochade paintings, but this one was on a single sheet of paper. I drew it from one of the dormitory windows (we had the place to ourselves, so I had a dormitory to myself!) and although I think I started a painting of the same view, nothing came of it.

This is often the case - the making of the drawing is sufficient. I don't find I want to do more with it. Do any of you feel the same way sometimes?

Saturday 18 October 2008

Bearpark Artists

When we (Figure8) had our exhibition at Bishop Auckland in August, there were some encouraging comments left in the Comments Book, as I mentioned here. One of them was from a group of artists calling themselves The Bearpark Artists Co-operative, and suggested we get in touch with them.

I did that and yesterday, Mo, Frank and I went throught to Bearpark to meet up. Their studio space is really good and they gave us lunch and a very warm welcome. We spent a good couple of hours swapping gallery horror stories with Romey, John and Barrie and came away with some interesting collaborative possibilities to mull over.

In case you were wondering, "Bearpark" is thought to be a corruption of "Beaurepaire." The ruins of Beaurepaire Priory are close by.

And for added trivia, Bearpark is the title and subject of a song by Prefab Sprout. Here it is.

Feaver and Kilbourn

I couldn't get to the Club on Thursday because of an appointment with my accountant, which meant I wasn't able to carry on with the small oil, Buildings with Tyne Bridge. I'll have to wait until next week, or call in and bring it home to finish off.

However, I did manage to catch up with an exhibition in town. The University Gallery are showing downstairs a small collection of paintings by the art critic, William Feaver. Mostly landscapes made in and around Spartylea near Allendale, they show a wonderfully fresh and spontaneous approach to the subject.

Although I appreciated its historical and nostalgic content, I was less interested in the show upstairs. Oliver Kilbourn: A Retrospective is an exhibition of paintings by one of the Pitmen Painters (and this is the connection with Bill Feaver). There were a lot things in the pictures which brought back childhood memories - playing on the mat in front of the range, washing hanging up in the back lane, that sort of thing - but ... how can I put this? The paintings aren't that well done, and what I wanted most of all that day was an input of well-crafted painting. William Feaver provided that.

Wednesday 15 October 2008

Pere et Mere Tanguy

Pere et Mere Tanguy's Night Out (Oil and postcard on board, 12 x 13.5 ins.)

Here's an oddity which fell out of a cupboard today. I think it was an early OCA exercise in which we were asked to buy a postcard, stick it down, then extend it in paint. Most people went for things like extending Baby Jesus in his crib to include the rest of the animals, the barn, all the angels etc, etc. Not me.

The picture hasn't stood the test of time too well - the postcard has faded and lifted from the board slightly - but I still have a soft spot for it.

It reminds me of this later picture I made, taking one of my favourite paintings in the National Gallery (Saint Jerome in his Study by Antonello da Messina) and reworking it a little as this:

The St. Jerome Study and Heritage Centre (Oil on canvas, 16 x 12 ins.)

Old Drawings #18

Red Extractor (Pastel and marker over photocopied sketchbook drawing)

I'm getting ahead of myself with this Old Drawing, but the recent drawings of aloes reminded me of it. I drew it in pencil in an A4 sketchbook in the Sculpture Department of Newcastle University in 1999, half-way though my degree. The addition of colour came later, when I was playing around with reworking photocopies. There were, in fact, two extractors, which accounts for the extra hose.

Tuesday 14 October 2008

Exploring Mallorca: Agave 2

Agave 2 (Pencil, Inktense pencils, Pilot disposable fountain pen, A5 sketchbook)

Some of the media fought one another on this. I drew it out in 2B pencil, then put on the Inktense pencil. This made the pencil lines fade, so I had to go over the lines and some of the darks with the disposable pen. The final result isn't too bad, although the computer has conspired with the media to alter the look of the original (the red, for instance, is much more even in the sketch)

Monday 13 October 2008

Exploring Mallorca: Agave

Agave (4B pencil, A5 sketchbook)

Structure. That's what I like to draw: things with structure. Nothing lost in the haze, nothing vague and indistinct. Something tangible, something I can feel my way around as I draw it.

Even though this is from a photograph, I could get a sense of its volume as I drew it. It's obvious I'll never settle for an arrangement of flat shapes on a flat surface. I am intensely interested in the shape the subject makes on the page, but not enough to want to lose the modeling, the shading that gives it form.

I think there'll be more of these plants. I like them a lot. How about you? Do they make you want to draw them, or are you more inclined to lose them in the mist?

Friday 10 October 2008

I Get The Horn

Browsing through my Google Alerts today, I came across this:

At some point, it sounds like she’s found a horn player, who has the very, very promising name of Harry Bell. If I was a horn player, I would want to be called Harry Bell, and I would look like a refuge from a Harley rally, and would be the loudest damn horn player on earth. My playing would sound like I’d just eaten a raw yak.

I can't decide whether to be mildly offended or secretly pleased.

"...and especially my support team ...."

I've been given an award by Spot, and the words of his award speech are truly humbling. I've been blogging now for something like four and a half years and have often wondered if I was making any kind of ripple in the blogosphere. Here's evidence that nothing goes unnoticed. Thanks, Spot.

Now the difficult bit. I decided a while ago to make the award buck stop here. I find it really awkward to come up with names of blogs to pass on the award to, so I'm no longer going to do so. I'll show Spot's award, and any others that might come my way (like the Arte y Pico Award already presented) with pride and gratitude, but I don't intend to get into the chain letter business . If the originators of the awards feel that what I'm doing runs counter to the principle of their award and ask me to take it down, I'll do so.

Ilya Zomb

Thursday 9 October 2008

Exploring Mallorca: Bollards again

Concrete Bollards 2 (Pencil, pastel, and Pentel Brushpen, A5 sketchbook)

Before setting off for the Art Club this morning, I felt the need to revisit the photograph of broken bollards. This was the result.

I actually got to the Club quite early today (a result of forgetting to re-set my alarm after having to make an early start yesterday to get to the dentist) and as a result was able to spend almost five hours working on the new view from the Tyne Bridge. It may not look like five hours work, but this is a small canvas with a great deal of complex detail and for most of the time I was using a brush no more than 5mm wide. I must be mad.

Buildings with Tyne Bridge (work in progress)

This is where I left it today. Apart form some minor corrections, the right hand side is pretty much complete. I've been delaying work on the Bridge itself, because it's such a bugger to get right. All those spars and dramatically receding perspective. I don't want to find myself fiddling with detail, so next week I'll have to approach it quite broadly.