Sunday 30 May 2010

Distracted Again

Night Station 2 (work in progress)

I've been forced to take my eye off the ball, despite an earnest wish to get on with the outstanding paintings of Shops & Stalls, Kastela restaurants and like so. A few days ago I learned I have the chance of showing some work in a gallery I hold in very high esteem; I've shown there before and have been anxious to show there again for some time.

But there's a problem. The show will be at the end of the year and, although it won't be themed, it was made clear to me that "Winter" paintings are what will be required. The problem? I don't do Winter paintings, or at least haven't done for some considerable time. You'll know that I regularly work from photographs, but I don't even take many photographs in the Winter. I hate the Winter. It's cold and miserable and for some years now I've concentrated on making paintings celebrating colour and light; they make me happy.

So what do I do? It's a not inconsiderable dilemma, but one I'm determined to work through. In an effort to get into a "Winter" frame of mind, I've just begun this painting, a companion piece to the Night Station I painted last year. We'll see how it works out. There are definitely things about it that I like and I may yet be able to fuse this kind of subject matter to my other current work.

Wednesday 26 May 2010

Boat in New Harbour, Chania

Boat in New Harbour, Chania (oil on canvas, 30 x 30 cms)

I've been busy socialising since I got back from Glasgow and fretting that my pictures were being neglected., but today I was able to finish this boat painting. I'm pleased to be able to add it to what seemed a limited supply of small paintings.

As well as working on the boat picture, I made further progress on one of the Shops & Stalls series. A satisfactory day.

Picture Shop (work in progress)

Monday 24 May 2010


Balcony, GOMA

When it opened as a gallery of modern art, it came in for a lot of criticism from the "art establishment" who considered that it was too "populist." They were right - it has indeed become very popular, with over 400,000 visitors a year, and none the worse for that! This is a modern art gallery which everyone can enjoy, even those who would not normally consider themselves "arty". And the art which has been acquired for this gallery has been produced by living artists. There is much of Glasgow here, of course, with Beryl Cook's "By the Clyde" (pictured here) and "Karaoke" and the minute detail of a Glasgow tenement in Avril Paton's "Windows in the West."

Peter Howson, whose work has been purchased by major corporate and private collectors in the UK and USA, is well represented with his sometimes brutal figures and the gallery seems to enjoy presenting three dimensional perspectives which make people stop and blink, such as "The Shadow of War" by Patrick Hughes. And there are not too many art galleries with sculptures of "The King" (Elvis Presley, complete with halo) and the Queen (in carpet slippers and dressing gown). Yes, definitely, populist! - Places to Visit in Scotland
Yeah, that was what I thought, too. I went to GOMA in 1996 and thought the collection on display was really interesting, so I was looking forward to going again while we were in Glasgow. Pat isn't familiar with the work of the "New Glasgow Boys" (Peter Howson, Steven Campbell, Adrian Wiszniewski, Ken Currie) and all the guidebooks and leaflets assured us that their work is well-represented there.

Well, it isn't. There's one very large painting by Adrian Wiszniewski carefully hung on one of the landings of the stairwell, such that it's actually impossible to get further than two feet away from it. Other than that, nowt.

Perhaps I might have been forewarned if I'd seen this on the GOMA website before I went:

Photography, video and installation from Glasgow Museums' contemporary art collection - open now.

It's that word "contemporary", isn't it? Had I read that signal, I might have been prepared for the sight of two floors of visually non-descript prints and photographs, with their explanatory labels - labels with short stories which bore little or no relevance to the pictures next to them. Or perhaps it's fairer to say that the pictures were the irrelevance; as Pat said to me, some of the stories might be interesting to read in a magazine, but did they deserve to be put on the wall with a pointless "illustration"?

The best part of the museum is the neo-classical building itself and we enjoyed talking to a helpful attendant who offered a potted history of it, complete with tales of the tobacco and slave trade which paid for its construction. But in that respect, it reminded me of nothing so much as the Baltic in Gateshead, where people come to look at the building and are generally indifferent to the contents. The few other people in GOMA were, like us, drifting through the floors of exhibits like lost souls hoping that something might leap out and grab their attention. No such look.

The ground floor, the biggest exhibition space they have, had all its windows blacked out so that it could be given over to a video installation by Fiona Tan: "two screens, this work is an atmospheric portrait of a group of schoolchildren that challenges assumptions about identity, race and ethnicity." Ho hum. The whole floor, for one video presentation, presented as if it were a religious experience. Give me strength. No one was watching it, by the way.

On the way out we asked one of the attendants on the desk what had happened to the permanent exhibition, particularly the New Glasgow Boys' work. She looked uncomfortable, and waffled a bit about how they liked to rotate their collection and of course there was the question of conservation and the problem of sunlight and .... Yeah, right, oil paintings suffer so much from sunlight.

As it turns out, some of the work referred to in the piece at the beginning of this post (the Avril Paton painting and the sculpture of Elvis) have obviously been transferred permanently to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, because sure enough, there they were.

Monday 17 May 2010

Shop Work

Clothes Shop (work in progress)

Getting ready to go to Glasgow tomorrow, but I still found time to work on the new shop painting today. That brings it up to the same degree of completion as the the one I began on Saturday. Coming back from Glasgow, I'll have quite a choice of paintings to finish, always something I like.

Sunday 16 May 2010

Two More Shops

Picture Shop (work in progress)

It's always a good sign when I start to get excited about a new series and that's what's happened with what is now becoming a series of paintings of Shops & Stalls. Yesterday I made good progress in getting this painting of a picture shop in Crete under way despite the unsympathetic orange underpainting. I'd forgotten that painting over an orange ground makes all the yellows look green and had to work hard to correct it. [Note to self: don't do this again].

With a little time to spare, and the bit between my teeth, I laid out another clothes shop.

Clothes Shop (work in progress)

Further work on these and the other outstanding works in progress will probably have to wait a week, as Pat is taking me to Glasgow on Tuesday for a few days - a belated birthday present.

Wednesday 12 May 2010

Two Chairs Appear

New Harbour (work in progress)

Finishing a painting, as I did yesterday, always makes me want to get on with another, but today I had a meeting for coffee and a chat at Kaffecinos in town. Still, while the spirit was with me, I had time to make some small progress on this painting of a boat in the New Harbour at Chania.

Somebody seems to have put out two chairs and is that ouzo and kalamari I can smell?

Tuesday 11 May 2010

Black Ship at Chania

Black Ship at Chania (Oil on canvas, 30 x 30 cms)

As the election process rumbled on towards its inevitable conclusion (although distinctly more promising than I thought possible), I got on with this small painting. By the end of the day the country had a new government and I had a new painting. No prizes for guessing which I liked more.

Wednesday 5 May 2010

Dales Diary - Wednesday 28 April (pm)

Scar Top (Rotring BB Art Pen, watercolour, in 21 x 25 cm sketchbook)

Every day on my way down to breakfast, I'd look out of the rear window and up to the empty farmhouse on top of the hill. I knew I wanted to draw it and on Wednesday afternoon I sat out on the terrace at the back of the house and made this drawing.

As soon as I sat down on my stool I realised the view was better from inside the house because of the slightly lower viewpoint, but I'd made up my mind to do the drawing from the terrace. As a result, rather than do a portrait-shaped drawing, I opted for this landscape one. The black trees against the sky turned out to be something of a nightmare, but a wash over the soluble ink of the Art Pen proved to be the solution.

This turned out to be the last drawing I did at The Rookery. Thursday's walk along the far side of the beck, where I'd hoped to find some new material, ended when I met two of the others coming back, having been chased away by a sheepdog.

Tuesday 4 May 2010

Dales Diary - Wednesday 28 April (am)

Ravine (4B pencil in A4 sketchbook)

We'd been promised heavy rained for Wednesday, but by the time the day rolled round the bad weather had moved away, so Roly and I went for a short drive to check out the far end of the valley and on into Wharfedale. Just beyond Buckden, we topped a rise and on the way down the other side, came across this ravine with a not very energetic waterfall in it.

It was a delight to sit in the sunshine and struggle with the problem of capturing streams and trickles of water falling in the recesses of the ravine.

Monday 3 May 2010

Dales Diary - Tuesday 27 April

Scar Top (Rotring Art Pens, 21 x 25 cm sketchbook)

At the top of the hill behind TheRookery and overlooking the valley was an old farm house, Scar Top. Derelict for some time, it's now being renovated, but while we were there no work was being done. It was a fascinating place with 17th C milking parlours and an eerie shed with tables and chairs laid out formally, heads and skulls of animals on the walls next to old iron traps and bottles of wine in a rack.

To draw the house, I stood on the steep track just as it turned onto the top of the hill, and used my favourite Art Pens. I've mentioned before how these had stopped working, but just before I went on this trip I followed the advice given me by Wibbler in the Comments and - hurrah! - they work perfectly now.

Sunday 2 May 2010

Dales Diary - Monday 26 April

Tree Innards (0.5 Marker, 21 x 25 cm sketchbook)

High above The Rookery a limestone crag, or scar, runs along the top of the valley and in places is cut by waterfalls. Indeed, the whole of the valley is sliced by waterfalls of varying sizes and complexity. On Monday I set off up the path behind the house that leads to the nearest of the falls. There hadn't been much rain recently, so it certainly wasn't in full spate, but it was impressive and wide enough for me to not fancy trying to cross the rock pavement that lay where falls and path intersected.

As with most waterfalls, trees and shrubs clustered near the source of water and many of the trees there were old and gnarled from their struggle to find root space and from being battered by the wind. Because of their position, most were too awkward for me to draw, but this one, while it was impossible to open up my little folding stool, did allow me to stand in front of it and draw the convolutions of its bole. By the time I'd finished, my feet were numb and my fingers icy cold.

Saturday 1 May 2010

Dales Diary - Sunday 25 April

Gateway to The Rookery (4B pencil, wax crayon, in A4 sketchbook)

A mixed day for weather. At the front of the house is a covered area with tables and chairs, so for a while I sat there and fairly quickly drew this archway. Through the arch are some of the trees that give the house its name. There's a constant uproar in the tree tops from nesting rooks, but in the forecourt chaffinches fly in and out looking for crumbs. After a while, I took to making sure they found some.