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.

Wednesday 8 October 2008

Exploring Mallorca: Bollards

Concrete Bollards (Mechanical pencil, A5 sketchbook)

You know what, I think I've got it figured. The reason I've been struggling to reassert the creative spirit is because after a year of working towards several shows, I reached a point where there were other things to be done. Things like accounts, hoovering, boring stuff. And to do that, I needed to engage my left brain.

Unfortunately, losing my golden stud meant my right brain was shaken loose and my left brain was able to take complete control. This would explain why I've been spending inordinate amounts of time playing word games like PathWords and Scramble on Facebook. My head is stuffed full of word patterns.

Nothing for it but to buckle down and get back to basics. Drawing is what's called for, so today I did this drawing in the sketchbook I started earlier this year. It's based on a photograph I took in Porto Pollensa on the first day there, and is one of those subjects that make friends and relatives say, Yes, but why did you take it?

Tuesday 7 October 2008


Donuts (Oil on board, 9 x 9 ins) £185

This is a contribution to Illustration Friday's Sugary.

Monday 6 October 2008

Words of Comfort

You never know who's watching you.

On Saturday night, Pat and I met up with her son Andy and a bunch of others, to give them a good send-off for the Great North Run. We ate in the Pizza Express in Gosforth and had a good meal and even better conversation.

It was in the course of the conversation that I discovered I was being read. Not that I think this isn't a good thing, you understand. Since abandoning my Mr Zip persona, I've actively striven to gain greater readership and have been linking Boogie Street into my Mailing List and onto my Facebook page.

But there's a little frisson of excitement to learn that people I know are reading it. And enjoying it, apparently. Makes it all seem worthwhile, somehow.

But can I ask a favour of those who've been picking up my pearls of wisdom? It would be a big help in raising the profile of my blog if you'd leave the occasional comment. It might appear that Blogger insists that you should register with them, but that isn't the case. You can leave a comment as "anonymous" (and could, I guess, even sign it, if you want to), and even a small, I like your blog, makes me smile.

Oh, and congratulations to Andy - two and a half hours is a very respectable time!

If you think before you speak the other guy gets his joke in first.

--Jimmy Nail, Philosopher

Saturday 4 October 2008

Golden Stud

In 1997 I had my left earlobe pierced. It was shortly after I left work for university and people assumed it was because I was going to uni and wanted to blend in. Had that been the case, I'd have been sorely disappointed, because by the time I started there, the fashion had moved on and no one had their earlobe pierced. Top of the ear yes; nose yes; eyebrow yes; tongue yes; body parts I don't want to think about yes; earlobe? No way.

No, my actual reason was symbolic, but with a nod to my curious childhood admiration for the drop pearl ear-ring worn by Errol Flynn in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939). The Earl of Essex beard arrived the following year, but instead of Errol Flynn, it made me look like Eddie Izzard, and along with many other things, it went in 2002.

The symbolic gesture was rather simple, and as such would qualify for inclusion in many a Conceptual Art exhibition - I had my ear pierced then because I would never have done so while at work because I felt it would have hampered my chances of promotion. Having it done now was a personal sign that I was most certainly never ever going back to work for The Man.

Since then, I've grown used to having the gold stud in my ear. It was the stud they gave me in the jewellers when they did the piercing and it was always comfortable. The only time I took it out was to put something a little fancier in - a ring, or a Murano glass stud, or a key pattern from Crete.

On the way back from Mallorca I realised it was no longer there. I guess it must have been rubbed out when I was sleepily drying off after a shower before catching the pre-dawn bus to Palma. Since then, I've felt strangely ill at ease.

Many of you will be familiar with the shaggy dog story about the boy who was born with a golden screw in his navel. Even Thomas Pynchon includes it in Gravity's Rainbow, I understand. Over countless pub tables I've listened to various accounts of how the boy ventures forth into the world to find out how to remove the screw. To cut a very long story short, he does of course find someone who can provide him with a golden screwdriver with which to unscrew his golden screw. And when he does, his bottom falls off.

OK, it's a silly story and whether the punchline is worth waiting for is dependent on how well the storyteller does his business. But I'm beginning to feel a vague sense of kinship with the boy with the golden screw in his navel in that since I got back from Mallorca, I've been feeling cut loose, disconnected, at a loose end, unsettled.

Finding the Virgin Media set-top box didn't work when I got home didn't help. I admit to watching too much tv, but not being able to watch any at all was a real bummer. But a bummer with it's occasional rewards. For something to watch - I really am a very visual person and need regular visual input - I dug out loads of old videos and caught up with things I'd recorded years ago and never watched. Babette's Feast was well worth catching up with and I found an old BBC programme about drawing in which the excellent David Gentleman does a drawing of the river near the gasometers at King's Cross. Working quickly and intuitively in fountain India ink and washes of watercolour, he made me feel so clumsy. Eventually, I was reduced to watching episodes of Clangers, with Noggin the Nog held in reserve.

The tv is working again, and I see there's the same old rubbish on, so I'm trying to work my way into an investigation of some of the new subjects I discovered on Mallorca, but it seems like heavy going. Nothing I do is working and most of it isn't salvageable. In all probability, I'm simply in a period between the end of all the work for this year's shows and whatever I will be doing next - what Eric Maisel , in his book, The Van Gogh Blues, calls a Meaning Respite.

But were I more superstitious (more? I'm not superstitious at all!) I'd think that removing the golden stud from my ear has caused the bottom to drop out of my world.

Thursday 2 October 2008

Back in the Saddle

Buildings with Tyne Bridge (work in progress)

You'll have gathered from my previous post that the weather was not all it might have been in Mallorca. Four days of rain, in fact. It certainly reduced the time available to do any sketching, so the one sketch already posted is all there is.

I did, however, take a lot of photographs and what I find these days is that on holiday, my eye is constantly looking for something new, some new project to get me excited. The Vaporetto Series came about that way, and this time I think I've identified two unrelated subjects to bring something fresh to my work. I've started to play around with some of the photographs, but I'd rather wait until there's a definite direction showing before I post them here.

Meanwhile, back to the Art Club today. I'd decided to work on a new small painting based on a photograph taken on the same day, and from almost the same position on the Tyne Bridge as this one.

Last night I squared the canvas up and drew out the main structure. I don't always square up the photograph and transfer it, but I wanted to be able to get on with the painting and ensure that all the elements were in the right place. It's a complicated subject and the chances of getting things wrong were high, leading to a lot of scraping out, re-painting and so on. I don't object to doing that, and indeed, it often leads to a much more interesting and complex paint surface, but this is a small canvas and that kind of work can get fiddly.

Anyway, having drawn out the main composition in pencil, I sealed it under a coat of lemon yellow acrylic. Not a colour I would normally use - I'd usually go for burnt sienna or raw umber, or maybe a dark blue or magenta - but that was first to hand and I went with it. Once I got painting at the Club, the underpainting turned out to be a poor choice. It jarred with everything I laid down and by the time I'd reached the end of the first day's painting, I'd begun flicking small brushstrokes over the points of yellow still showing.

Still, I'm pleased with the way it's goimg. Apart from the fact that I've given myself the task of painting the Tyne Bridge again, I'm looking forward to resuming work on this one next week.