Thursday 29 January 2009


Our trip to York last weekend to see our friend Pam finally Doctored was a lot of fun, involving rambling round the Shambles, drinking in the Minster and eating too much. We did find the time, however, to visit the York Art Gallery where the Stanley Spencer Exhibition had just opened. I'd seen the show before, but Pat hadn't, and I enjoyed going round it again as much as the first time.

I had a vague memory of the Gallery being full of rather dull brown paintings of the Georgian/Victorian eras, but to my delight I discovered on the top floor a nice permanent collection of modern works by the likes of David Bomberg (a lovely charcoal drawing) John Monks (one of his paintings of a mirror with a battered cardboard box in the foreground), and John Piper (a mixed media landscape).

I'm resigned to January being written off as a month of little work. Too many distractions. Even as this is posted, I'm on my way to Edinburgh to celebrate my birthday with mussels and malt whisky. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Wednesday 28 January 2009

Old Drawings #28

Water Meter (Charcoal, compressed charcoal, A1 cartridge paper)

I've been to Greece so many times, that I'm not entirely sure when this drawing might date from. However, I'm opting for 1994/95, following my second stay in Nafplio in September 1994. At the time I was fascinated by walls, things embedded in walls and water meters. I still harbour an interest in things like that, and occasionally a painting or drawing comes out of it.

The thing about water meters, I think, is that they reminded me of the roadside shrines to be seen everywhere in Greece. I did make a start on a painting from this drawing, but even after chopping off part of it, it remains unresolved. I've been thinking about it again recently, though ....

Meter - work in progress (Oil and collage on board)

Thursday 22 January 2009

Club Stockpile

Free Trade (work in progress - 1st day)

I find that having several paintings on the go is the best policy for me: I can switch from one to another as I choose and gradually move each one to a conclusion. It's a system that does have its drawbacks, in that sometimes I feel none of them will ever be complete and there's no denying that some pictures go off into a kind of limbo, waiting for me to revive interest in them.

However, that is the way I prefer to work, and I haven't felt that there were enough paintings awaiting attention at the Art Club of late. So I started another one today. This is a painting of the Free Trade Inn at the mouth of the Ouseburn in Byker. I started with an orange PVA ground again and fairly quickly established the general colours I wanted.

Getting back to regular work is proving very difficult this month. I probably won't be able to work on this or any of the others at the Club for the best part of a month because of various commitments on Thursdays.

Tomorrow I'm off to York for a few days, so no posts from me until I get back. Stay tuned.

Monday 19 January 2009

Cup in a Modernist Stylee

Cup with African Dish (2B mechanical pencil, A5 sketchbook)

Why stop at one cup when you've got a whole cupboard full? I suppose I approached this in a rather playful fashion and the end result certainly shows something of the fact that I spent the morning leafing through the lovely illustrations in Mary Fedden: Enigmas and Variations.

I'm still in love with 20th Century Modernism, even though it seems to have been consigned to the dustbin of Art History. There seems to be so much more yet to be explored. What do you think? Is it time to move on and leave Cubism and its children to gather dust?

Friday 16 January 2009

Shoe on a Rug

(2B mechanical pencil, pastel, A5 sketchbook)

Too many things to catch up on at home today, so I decided to forgo my second visit of the week to the Art Club. However, just to keep things rolling, I did this drawing of my old trainer on a striped rug. "Draw a shoe" is Challenge No.1 on the Everyday Matters list.

It occurs to me that I must have been wearing these trainers for close to 30 years and they're still the most comfortable shoes I possess.

Thursday 15 January 2009

Cambridge Painting

King's College (work in progress - 1st day)

It was good to get back to the Club today and catch up on the gossip, but even better to start a new small painting there. I still have the St James's painting to finish, but I wanted to get something else going before I make a move on that.

I thought this subject had a nice simple quality to it, far less busy than most of what I've been working on over the last few months. It's a view of King's College, Cambridge, from the Backs.
The sky is currently a little too purple, but that was intentional - I want to work over it while leaving a hint showing through.

Wednesday 14 January 2009

Cup with Barbara Rae

(2B mechanical pencil, wax crayons, A5 sketchbook)

Still waiting for the Night Station to dry, so today I thought I might have look at the list of old Everyday Matters Challenges. I picked out No.4 - Draw your mug or cup. The cup I chose is an old kitchen cup, badly made, with no decoration, but I've always liked it for it's fragile irregularities. It's good for mixing up curry spices or preparing a marinade.

While looking for something to lay it on, I absentmindedly set it down on the excellent Barbara Rae monograph - and found my subject. I rather like the effect of pencil set against wax crayon and might use it again.

Tuesday 13 January 2009

Back on Track

Night Station (work in progress - 1st day)

Finally, I shook off the Xmas lethargy and began work on a new painting today. It's a similar view to one I did two years ago, but this time at night.

From the offices at the back of the building which houses the Art Club, I can see the rear of Newcastle's Central Station and over the last few months I've taken a series of photographs late in the day. It's going to be interesting to see how the reduced lighting affects the colour, but today's effort left me quite satisfied.

Monday 12 January 2009

Crushed Can

(2B mechanical pencil, A5 sketchbook)

In another attempt to return to the practice of drawing and sketching, I've recently joined the Everyday Matters group. My hope is that, by at least attempting the weekly challenge set there, I might re-establish the sketching habit.

The latest Challenge is "No. 205 - Draw a soda can." I don't drink anything as awful as soda, but this is an American Ginger Ale can, crushed after doing service with a measure of golden rum. I intended to put on some of the printing, but decided in the end that I liked it without.

Sunday 11 January 2009

Old Drawings #27

In the Hatton (Charcoal, compressed charcoal, A2 cartridge paper)

I'm still in that inevitable post-Xmas slump, but hope to get a new painting going tomorrow. Meanwhile, here's another in what must seem like an inexhaustible supply of Old Drawings. This was done at another drawing workshop, this one run by Tracey Tofield at the Hatton Gallery, again probably in 1995.

I quite liked it at the time, but now recognise that it only really works because of the dynamic "railway viaduct" sculpture in the gallery at the time. The lighting in the gallery is rotten, which may account for the interesting patterns on the ceiling.

Friday 9 January 2009


Tree in rock, Blawearie (Charcoal and pastel, cartridge paper)

This tree had struggled up through a crack in the rock in the garden at Blawearie, a place I've written about before. It seems to exemplify the qualities of the new Illustration Friday subject, Contained, while suggesting there is always a way out.

Wednesday 7 January 2009

Old Drawings #26

Black Still Life (Charcoal, compressed charcoal, A2 cartridge paper)

Another from 1995. This was done at a drawing workshop held in one of the studios at Newcastle University. Everything laid out was black - black brushes, plates, cups, jars and lumps of what I think may have been tar. I also remembered that I thoroughly enjoyed drawing it.

Tuesday 6 January 2009

Something for the CV

Old Town Hall, Gateshead (oil on canvas, 12 x 14 ins.)

I was contacted recently by the Public Catalogue Foundation. Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust commissioned two of my paintings: Newcastle Quayside I and Newcastle Quayside 2 (sorry, no photos available at present). and the PCF wanted to know if I'd give them copyright permission to reproduce these two paintings in the Northumberland and Tees Valley volume of the Catalogue.

Naturally, I agreed. The PCF is a very worthwhile charitable organisation, cataloguing works held by public bodies so that the general public - you and I - can know where they are and perhaps gain access to them (which we have a right to do).

In the course of the correspondence, however, I pointed out that early in 2008 I'd also sold a painting (Old Town Hall) to Gateshead MBC and assumed it was now hanging somewhere in the Council Offices. Perhaps they'd like to catalogue that one too?

To my surprise, I found out from the PCF today that the painting is now owned by the city of Komatsu, Japan, having been formally presented to the Mayor of Komatsu by the Borough! I'm really quite gobsmacked.

Monday 5 January 2009


Kevin and Harry resolved never to drink there again.
(Fibretip, digital colour)

Another fanzine cover, this time entirely my own, from a fanzine produced in 1982. Now with added digital colour for Illustration Friday 's brief, Resolve.

Sunday 4 January 2009

You put your left leg in ...

Moa Legbone, Hancock Museum (charcoal, coloured Conte, A4 sketchbook)

At about this time every year, I begin to look forward to the end of festivities. After almost two weeks of rich food and drink, constant partying alternated with couch potatoing in front of the telly, I feel the need to get back to the routine of work in the studio and the occasional meal of beans on toast.

I miss making art. It starts to burn me up inside, but I did at least find the time over the holidays to scan in all my sketchbooks. I was pleasantly surprised to find that - scattered as they are throughout umpteen half-empty books - the images amount to much more than I'd thought. Don't worry, I'm not about to launch a new series of Old Sketches - the continuing Old Drawings series has a while to run yet. But my continuing interest in reviving the sketchbook habit has had something of a boost from this exercise.

Just after Xmas Day, Pat and I went on a fascinating walk through an old part of Newcastle which got me wishing I'd taken a sketchbook along, and I'm still thinking about the place over a week later. Maybe when the weather gets a bit more inspiring ...