Monday 30 March 2009


Fibretip with digital colour.

I haven't felt much like contributing to Illustration Friday for the last few weeks, but I stirred myself for this one. This is for the current brief - Poise.

Saturday 28 March 2009

Prague Tram No.4

Prague Tram No.4 (Oil on canvas, 24 x 24 ins,)

The muse returns! Or at least, the necessity to complete one of the Tram Series so that I might photograph it for the Preston Hall show publicity asserted itself.

I finished this one today, after working on it, on and off, over the last three days. There's the usual problem with reflections on wet paint which throw the colours in the sky out a little, but otherwise this is a decent photograph. I chose this one to finish on the basis that it's more colourful and therefore lends itself to publicity in brochures and the like, but there's no guarantee that it'll be chosen from the four images submitted. Just have to wait and see.

Getting this one finished makes me want to move the others along, so the prospect for work next week is good. Hurrah!

Thursday 26 March 2009

Old Drawings #35

Archways (Charcoal, compressed charcoal and pastel on cartridge paper)
These arches lie at the Newcastle end of the Tyne Bridge and carry the main London to Edinburgh rail line. I think when I was making the drawing (probably in 1996), a hint of Cubism crept into the building on the right.


As Beaudelaire knew, the painter who cannot begin to paint, and the writer who puts off writing, endure a living death of the spirit. As the seasons change, they are tormented by the combined eagerness of the senses and the passage of time. Frequently they are aware that everything around them gives urgent signs that this is the very moment at which to begin work, that this is the minute of all minutes that they owe it to themselves to preserve. No task is impossibly long or impossibly hard except the one that the painter or poet does not dare to begin. Bomberg, through no fault of his own, frequently put off starting. There were long periods when he was too despondent, too discouraged, to paint at all. But by delaying what has to be done one runs the risk of never being able to do it. Prolonged unhappiness, as Chateaubriand says, has the same effect on the soul as old age on the body: "one can no longer be active; one goes to bed."

-- Christopher Neve, The Unquiet Landscape

Wednesday 25 March 2009

Old Drawings #34

Devon Blocks (Charcoal, compressed charcoal on cartridge paper, 21 x 33 ins.)

I did some tinkering with my Tram series today, but nothing you'd be able to see in a photograph. I'm still feeling off-colour and finding it difficult to get into my work properly. So, it's back to Old Drawings again.

I came across these old concrete blocks somewhere on the Devon Coast Path in 1996. I was on holiday there for a couple of weeks and the walks along the cliffs were spectacular. The decaying concrete of an old gun emplacement was bound to attract me, so I made this drawing, but in the finished work I exaggerated the size of the blocks to make them seem almost Neolithic.

Shortly after we passed them, we were caught in the blackest, heaviest storm I've ever encountered - you can see it approaching in the distance.

Thursday 19 March 2009

Back to the Club

Church and Rooftops (work in progress)

Back to the Club today to work on this Mallorca painting. I decided I didn't like the busy sky and replaced it, at least for now, with this overall blue. More work on the tiles, some extra layering on the walls and some sharpening up of edges. I'm relatively happy with the way this is going, but my real interest is in the Tram pictures at home.

I may have bitten off a little too much today. I feel really tired, so tomorrow I may give the extra day at the Club a miss; but if I stay at home, I suspect the lure of the trams will be too great.

Wednesday 18 March 2009

Two More Makes a Set

Tram 3 (oil on canvas, work in progress)

Tram 4 (oil on canvas, work in progress)

I discovered from the doctor that you can't get any medication for a prolonged cough if your lungs are uncongested. I'm delighted to report that my lungs are indeed perfectly clear, so I have to just cough my way to health. Meanwhile, life and art must go on, so it's back to the trams for me.

Very roughly blocked in, but these two new paintings mean I have four paintings of Prague Trams on the go. I suspect these four will complete the Tram Series, but you never know. The composition in each of these new ones interests me. They're put together from separate images - trams and street scenes - but seem to work and are further examples of a kind of whirling vortex that crops up occasionally in my work.

Tuesday 17 March 2009

Someone Cares

Although I'm generally reluctant to get into the award meme thing, it is nice to be recognised by my fellow bloggers. This award was created by James Parker to show his appreciation of fellow bloggers and Trevor Lingard has kindly awarded it to me. I'm grateful to him for it and I'll be displaying it in the sidebar, but I hope no one will be offended if I don't now follow the rules and award it to someone else.

Friday 13 March 2009

Tramcar to Sanity

Tram 2 (work in progress)

Does this mean my cold has gone? No, it certainly doesn't; indeed, I've been coughing and sneezing for over a week now. However, I can't get a doctor's appointment until next week and I'm acutely aware of our impending Figure8 show at Preston Hall, for which I have no finished work. So let's see what a couple of hours of breathing in white spirit fumes does for me.

It looks like there's going to be a Tram Series, to follow on from the Vaporetto Series. This is how my second Prague tram looks after an hour and a half today. There's still quite a bit to do in adjusting the sky and making more of the church (it's actually the Church of St. Ludmilla, in Namesti Miru Square). I think the curve of the windows has been exaggerated by the camera lens, but I'll check on that later. I also want to make sense of some of the marks inside the tram - some of those should look like people!

Gosh, but it feels good to be painting again!

Tuesday 10 March 2009

No Energy

This cold is making life difficult. I try to brush it off as "only a cold", but it's interrupting my sleep and sapping all energy. On top of that, I have to stand by while the Window Replacement Men go about their work, then - with the expert help of Pat, I hasten to add - clean up after them. It's not a lot of fun this week.

So please, bear with me until this has all passed. I promise that Normal Service Will Be Resumed As Soon As Possible.

Saturday 7 March 2009

Go Moly!

What a thrill! I signed up for an International Moleskine Sketchbook Exchange last month and today the first of my collaborators' molys dropped through the letterbox and onto the mat. The theme of this exchange, Moly_x_63 , is Totem Pole. We each start with the bottom of a totem pole (or the top) and then pass the Moleskine on to the next in line, who adds a bit to the top (or bottom). And so on till the totem pole is finished and comes back to its originator. It's a bit like the Surrealists' Exquisite Corpse, except that we get to see what we're adding to.

That's the beginning of my totem up there, which I'm about to mail off to Anna in Stockholm. The one that arrived today came from Jenn in Concord, Massachusetts.

Sometimes it takes a little of this kind of fun to ensure you feel connected to the world.

Thursday 5 March 2009

Old Drawings #31, #32 and #33

I was woken from my slumbers by the call of the lesser spotted scaffolder this morning. Can window replacement be far behind? Not far at all - Monday, in fact. I'm having all the windows at the back, including the studio window replaced with uPVC.

This intrusion of scaffolding, coupled with my first heavy cold of the winter, meant I didn't go to the Club today. This winter is seriously affecting my work production, although on the positive side, it's giving me ample time for further reflection.

So, with no new work to show you, Old Drawings steps into the breach. These are from a drawing workshop I went to (at the Art Club, as a matter of fact, before I became a member) in 1996. The one above was done using graphite sticks and white spirit on cartridge paper. An interesting method, but a smelly one, and probably not particularly good for your health.

This one was simply charcoal on cartridge paper.

And this was made with a bamboo pen dipped in Indian ink applied to cartridge paper.

Wednesday 4 March 2009

Parcel Post

When I was very young I used to be fascinated watching assistants in shops tie up parcels with string. In those days before parcel tape, everything seemed to be tied up with string. Rolls of wallpaper seemed to me to be the most difficult, but the shop assistant could tie up three or four rolls of wallpaper in the blink of an eye and provide a handle to carry it with. Miraculous! All gone now, of course, except in the luxury goods market, where there's always someone who can tie a bit of ribbon into a fancy bow.

I was reminded of this when I came to tie up my Disintegration Parcel.

Through a late reading of Annie's Ink Haven, I found out about Seth's Disintegration project. I should have been aware of it already, but since the failure of my RSS Feeds system, I've been missing out on those bloggers who don't have the Followers facility (a Boon and a Godsend).

Anyway, I thought this was a triffic idea, so decided today to make up my own parcel. It's not a particularly inspired choice of materials, but in my defence I claim my current state of coughing and sniffing (my first cold of the winter). Inside my parcel is

  • a printout of my scary self-portrait
  • a leopard skin print paper bag
  • a sheet of orange tissue paper
  • a leaf from my grapefruit tree
  • a coffee filter with contents
  • some rusty screws
  • some pieces of onion skin
  • some wool
  • part of a charcoal drawing
  • a sample of watercolour paper
  • a piece of a coloured drawing
  • all wrapped in a large piece of sturdy cartridge paper with part of a painting on it

And here it is tied up as best I could with finest string from Austin, Tx, and stamped with my old Mail Art Reuse Me stamp.

Finally, here it is hanging in the old pink cherry tree (now just as likely to have to be recycled itself, unfortunately). The jackdaws and magpies may have a go at it, because it's hanging near the bird feeders, but I think it might survive. Just after I hung it, it started to hail. I take this as a Good Omen.

On May 1st, the parcel will be opened.