Friday 29 October 2010

Almost Done

Turnbull Winter (work in progress)

Several hours of fiddly work later and this painting is getting close to being finished (as much as any paining is ever finished).

There are some areas where the tones need re-balancing as a result of the snow being lightened; there's also the never-ending need to get the red (red!) on the sides of the building to meet my expectations. Overall, though, I think it's getting there.

Thursday 28 October 2010

The Orange House

The Orange House (oil on canvas, 40 x 40 cms)

What happens beyond the Archway will have to wait. Today, I took this painting to the Club and finished it.

It's one of those paintings that leaves me puzzled. I began it at the same time as the Archway picture, but it seems to have turned out completely differently (allowing for the fact that the Archway picture isn't finished).

Sometimes paintings really do take on a life of their own and no matter what you want them to be, they simply have to be true to their own nature.

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Moly Once More

(Markers, fibretips and coloured pencils in Japanese accordion-fold Moleskine)
[Illustration Friday - "Burning"]

It's been well over a year since I was able to add to any of the moleskines in the Totem Pole Moly exchange, Moly_x_63. Unfortunately, this seems to be the nature of the beast. Things are on the move again, however, and this is my latest addition.

Thursday 21 October 2010

Pick yourself up, dust yourself off

Archway (work in progress)

I suppose there are only two ways to deal with disappointment: you can sit around and mope; or you can get on with things. Although I admit to a degree of despondency when I first found I'd been rejected from the NEAC open competition, I chose the latter. Off to the Art Club again, this time with a painting I started in July.

I made good progress with it, which lifted my spirits, and I now have a week to think about what can be seen through the archway. I know it's a sunlit wall, but ... what else?

No Fanfare

(Black marker, colour in Photoshop)

The New English Art Club
posted their chosen works on the Mall Galleries website today. My two paintings aren't on the list. Tsk.

I've been adopting the attitude that I probably wouldn't get in the show, in the hope that I'd not be disappointed. Didn't work, and the day seems somehow rather flat.

Prague Tram No.3 (oil on canvas, 61 x 61 cms)

Prague Tram No.4 (oil on canvas, 61 x 61 cms)

Wednesday 20 October 2010

Reclaiming My Work

Turnbull Winter (work in progress)

Have you ever gone down a road and realised after a while that you should have turned left some way back, but continued on in the mistaken belief that you might find a way to your destination? Me too. I did it with this painting. I've been unhappy with it for some time, probably shortly after it got started.

As time went on, I realised that it was someone else's painting; I was trying to make it work by making it look like paintings by some other artist. As a result it didn't look like mine and I didn't know how to finish it. It had become misty, undefined, and the one thing I think you can say about my usual work is that it's well-defined - chunky, someone once called it. I also didn't like the fact that it was painted with a different palette from the other paintings I'm preparing for the Xmas show.

A few days ago, I came to the conclusion that I was going to have to take a radical swipe at it and make it my own again. I did that today and while it still has, to me, an unusual look about it, it feels like my unusual look. There are elements in it of paintings I did years ago and elements of what I've been doing more recently. In that sense, it may prove to be an important piece of work for me. Even if not, I feel that, with a bit more effort, after the paint dries, it'll sit far more comfortably in my oeuvre, as we say in Gateshead.

Tuesday 19 October 2010

Thursday 14 October 2010

Early Evening, Chania

Early Evening, Chania (oil on canvas, 30 x 30 cms)

I had to make a trip into town today and since it seemed like months since I'd been to the Art Club, I made a detour. Once I was there and the gossip was all caught up on (if Old Tom's gossip can ever be caught up on), I figured I might as well get some work done.

This little painting of part of the harbour at Chania in Crete turned out to need very little to finish it off and I came home to my snow pictures feeling a degree or two warmer.

Wednesday 13 October 2010

... and back to the chimneys

The Side, with Snow (work in progress)

Under pressure now to provide details of titles, prices and images for publicity for the Xmas show, I'm moving quicker on this painting. I do find I work better under pressure.

Using charcoal, I've sorted out some of the confusion of roofs under snow and delineated the chimneys, so it's easier now to work on the various planes. My usual problem with red makes me wonder if the red building is too red, but perhaps it's the snow that's too blue. We'll see how that develops in the next session.

The use of charcoal reminds me that I've often considered employing line in my paintings, but so far that has never happened before. Something for the future, perhaps.

Sunday 10 October 2010

More Windows ...

Turnbull Winter (work in progress)

This is a terrible photograph, I'm afraid. The studio light is reflecting far too much on the most recent layer of paint in the sky and skewing the balance of colours. Still, it serves to demonstrate that I'm back on this painting.

[Slightly better photograph uploaded 11 October 2010]

The painting is, in fact, giving me all sorts of problems. When I left it last time (can it really be June since I worked on it?) I knew it had become far too tight and fiddly and I was particularly unhappy with the trees. All of which put me off doing more to it: I didn't want to continue in that very descriptive manner, I knew there were many more windows to be put in (Windows! Why did I choose to be a painter of buildings?) and I didn't want to have to measure them and apply bits of masking tape.

I realised today that I needed to deliberately spoil the tidiness that was keeping me back, so I put in the new windows in a much more careless (carefree?) way. Irregularities can be made good as the picture goes along and while they're too dark at the moment, they can be knocked back easily enough later.. I've also painted over the trees, using a mixture of tools - rags, crumpled paper, a painting knife and a fan brush. The intention is for that to provide a better underpainting for the next session.

Finally, I used some of the paint mixtures on the palette to make thin layers mixed with white to film over parts of the sky. I've been doing that each time I've worked on the picture and it's starting to produce an effective glow.

Saturday 9 October 2010


Underpass (oil on canvas, 36 x 72 ins).

I have no real reason for posting this picture today, other than not liking to have a post with no image attached. This is a painting of an underpass in Newcastle and was part of my Degree Show in 2001. It's never been displayed since then.

I suppose a very tenuous connection to it might be made by my having gone to Newcastle today, but that really is stretching things, considering we didn't even drive anywhere near the eponymous underpass.

My friend and fellow painter, Allan, drove me to the rather scummy but today very busy Rye Hill campus car park to wait for the arrival of Mike Challoner's Picture Post courier van. After a while I waved goodbye to four paintings and a chunk of cash. Mike has taken two of my pictures for submission to the NEAC Open Exhibition and two for submission to the ROI Open Exhibitions at the Mall Galleries in London.

Last year I had a go at getting into the Threadneedle Prize, but failed. I determined then to keep plugging away at other open exhibitions, and this is the first opportunity I've had to do so. I have to admit that watching the money drain away is a bit dispiriting: if nothing comes of these submissions, I'll be at least £175 out of pocket. There's a limit to how often I can afford that outlay, but as my cheery window cleaner assured me on Friday, "If you don't buy a scratchcard, you won't win".

Wednesday 6 October 2010

Newcastle, East and West

Newcastle, West of the Tyne Bridge
(Oil on 3 MDF panels, 24 x 144 ins)

Newcastle, East of the Tyne Bridge
(Oil on 2 MDF panels, 24 x 96 ins)

Each time I go to the RVI, I experience a sense of irony as I pass the Ophthalmolgy Department's casualty waiting room, because each time I catch a glimpse of two of my paintings. They're quite big - 2 x 12 feet and 2 x 8 feet - and hang in the corner of the room.

The paintings were commissioned as part of an Arts Lottery Project in 1997/98 and as Germaine Stanger, the Arts Consultant on the Project put it in her booklet:
The paintings in casualty are very popular as you would expect, for the subject matter and style of painting makes them instantly recognised by a partisan Geordie public. But some comments are not about the subject matter but how it is painted and show a well deserved appreciation.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to take decent photographs of the works when they were originally first hung, because Health & Safety insisted on acrylic glazing being put over them which made photography impossible. Fears of painting sabotage proving unsubstantiated, the acrylic was taken off the following year and I should have photographed them when I supervised that, but I didn't. Time passed and the urge to get a proper record faded., but my enforced renewed association with the place makes me think i should go in when the waiting room is quiet (whenever that might be!) and take some decent photographs.

Meanwhile, I remembered Germaine's booklet and scanned these images from those printed (very small!) in it. There's also a photo of me (much bigger, in too many ways) in the studio:

"Harry Bell in his studio in Gateshead"

The full text of Germaine's article can now be found in the Reviews section of my website.

Tuesday 5 October 2010

RV Eye

Marker with Photoshop colour

After some weeks of remembering to routinely put three drops from two bottles into my left eye in the right order each day, I went to the RVI today for a check-up. The pressure in both eyes now registers as normal, so hurrah! Most of the time, I've been quite blasé about the potential seriousness of the condition, but occasionally I'd secretly admit to a little worry or two.

Anyway, although the drops regimen has to continue for another four months (at least), I feel happier about it now and more able to concentrate on painting.