Wednesday 29 December 2010

Rob and Caz Together

Rob and Caz Together (Oil with sand on canvas, 30x30 cms)

First of all, I hope you all had a good Xmas.

Like last year, I set myself a secret project which I couldn't tell you about until now. This is a painting based on a photograph I took at the wedding of Pat's son, Rob, to Caz (or Caroline, depending on who reads this) and I did it as a combined wedding and Xmas present for them. Luckily, they stayed with us for a few days at Pat's flat in Tynemouth, so I was able to give it to them on Xmas Day, even though the surface was still a little tacky.

Thursday 23 December 2010

Sunday 19 December 2010

For Auld Lang Syne

Architctural Fragment (Pilot disposable pen in A5 sketchbook)

One of the traditions of the Art Club is to hold a bit of a party in the studio on a Thursday shortly before Xmas. And that's what we did last Thursday. Despite a fresh scattering of snow, there was a good turnout of around 25 people. The tables were well presented with pies, cakes, sausage rolls, and all the other things that members had thought fit to bring., including bottles of wine.

We all had a good time, but what made this one memorable and worthy of comment here, I think, is that this was the last such party we'll ever have in the studio at Bolbec Hall. Things have been uncomfortable at Bolbec for some time now, because the owners can't let the rest of the building, they're losing money on it hand over fist and a new buyer hasn't been forthcoming. Would you want to buy a building with the oldest (listed) lift in Newcastle and an art club in the attic?

So, in April next year. we'll up sticks and move to new premises at the Newcastle Arts Centre. This promises to be an interesting new era for us. I understand the studio there isn't quite as big as the one we currently occupy and it will cost us more, but I'm sure there will be compensations (not least the presence of an arts materials shop downstairs).

The club will also be changing it's name from the North of England Art Club (incorporating the Newcastle Society of Artists) to the Newcastle Society of Artists (incorporating the North of England Art Club). You see what we did there? There are historical reasons for the change, as well as practical ones - galleries are more interested in a "Society" than a "Club", for instance.

So the party was a good one, but certainly a poignant one.

Friday 17 December 2010

Sargy Mann, Blind Painter

Sargy Mann from Peter Mann Pictures on Vimeo.

Sargy Mann was diagnosed with cataracts at age 36 and eventually lost his sight altogether. However, he continues to paint.

An inspiration to us all.

Friday 10 December 2010

Preview Night at Churchill House

Newcastle, in common with many cities round the country, has innumerable 19th century offices standing empty. Years ago, a group of artists I was associated with tried to negotiate the use of one of these offices as a gallery space, The problem turned out to be that most of them are on the first floor or higher and the fire escapes are inadequate or even non-existent. As a consequence they constitute a hazard for public use and the idea came to nothing.

So when I received this invitation to a private view organised by the Newcastle Artists Society in Churchill House, I was curious to see how they'd arranged things. Churchill House in Mosley Street is a big impressive, listed building fallen on hard times. There's an Italian restaurant on the corner, but not much else that's memorable (and I have doubts about the memorability of the restaurant). The current owners are making efforts to do up the inside and rent out office space. As part of that they've come to an agreement with the NAS which allows them to mount exhibitions on the corridor walls and up the staircase. Artists get exposure (with the potential for sales) and the building gets free decoration: seems to be a reasonable arrangement.

It was a fascinating experience wandering the warren of corridors on three floors (I gather there are plans for a fourth to be opened up) , one of them turning out to be circular and the map I got from the reception room proved very useful! The work comprised paintings, prints and wall-hung sculpture; not all of it to my taste, but I'd have it no other way.

Private views have been disappointing in the last few years. Many of the decent galleries have gone and what we've been left with is the glitzy end of things where pushy salesmen try to sell you crap cartoons dolled up with a bit of "hand embellishment" and passed off as art. Yes, yes, that's a value judgement, but it's my value judgement. What these galleries attract is the type of punter who knows nothing about art, has no wish to talk about it other than to wonder if it will go with the decor. Artists themselves are generally not to be found.

So it was great to walk into Churchill House last night and immediately find myself talking to Richard Dobson over a couple of bottles of pils. I'd never met Richard before, but he works at the framer's I used recently and lives only a short walk away from me. Small world.

It's always good to be able to trade experiences with another artist and it doesn't have to be a painter. When Richard left, I fell straight away into conversation with Glenn Gibson, a photographer from Newcastle whose work graces the entrance lobby. Completely different from Richard, but just as entertaining a conversationalist, I thoroughly enjoyed talking to Glenn.

So, a good night which I wasn't really expecting. I hope I might be able to participate in shows there in the future. As for the title of the show - don't ask me. "Corperation-ism" is neither a word nor a term in my vocabulary, but I suppose it makes a change from "New Paintings".

Wednesday 8 December 2010


Vindolanda (Oil on canvas, 12 x 12 ins)

Although I managed to clear the stairs to the studio of snow a couple of days ago, I've not felt really keen on going down to paint. A combination of the bitter cold that's kept the snow on the ground despite there having been no further falls and a general malaise which always accompanies the end of a session of concentrated effort, in this case that for the Xmas paintings, has left me not a little dispirited.

As a consequence, I've spent my time over the past week or so simply drawing cartoons for The Cartoonist's Hat and surfing the web. To be honest, I think I'm on a cusp. My work may need to be shaken up a little. In a practical sense, I'm not sure I can go on filling up the house with the biggish paintings I've been making when the opportunities for displaying them are drying up.

Working on the cartoons has brought back to me that sense of enjoyment I always get working close up to a sheet of paper and I think perhaps a renewed effort to broaden my working methods might pay dividends.

Meanwhile, as I pondered these and other thoughts, I decided I should at least make a concerted attempt to get something done in the studio today. Hence this small painting which allowed me to tackle head on my bête noire, the landscape's ubiquitous green (perhaps that should be bête verte). I decided to simply not paint it green at all and for now at least, I think it works.

By the end of the afternoon my feet were frozen solid. I can heat up the air of the studio, but I can't do anything about the concrete floor.

Saturday 4 December 2010

Sign of the Times

As I sit here hoping this won't be the 10th day of snow, and wondering if this time I might be able to clear the steps to the studio without tumbling down two flights, more cheerful news come in the form of an e-mail. Here it is, edited where appropriate:

"I .... have unfortunately been tasked with contacting you with regards to the exhibition you had been discussing with [us] for 2012. As you will no doubt have heard, the Government is intending to make significant cuts to the amount of money it gives to local authorities. In the case of [the] Borough Council, this means that over the next four years spending has to reduce by £22 million from a budget of £107 million. Unfortunately in order to reach these target savings the Council are proposing to withdraw the subsidy from the Arts Centre.

At this stage whilst work is ongoing with partners to identify alternative options to closure, if these new approaches are unsuccessful then unfortunately the Arts Centre will have to close. Due to this uncertainty whilst we will continue to host exhibitions as programmed until July-August 2011, we can not guarantee exhibitions beyond this time and feel it is prudent to cancel all exhibitions beyond July 31 2011."

Friday 3 December 2010

Cautionary Tale

I know that while many gallerists are kind and honest folk, there is a small minority that gives the trade a bad name by devious practices.

Stories have been reaching me of an artist who has done well both locally and nationally. He showed some pictures with a gallery at a recent art fair where they sold very well. The gallery wanted more, but for whatever reason, they were unable to get the artist himself to supply them, so they went online and bought some from a website. The pictures they'd bought did not do well, however. In fact, they didn't sell at all.

When it came time for them to pay the artist, they did something I still find quite astonishing: they gave him back the recently acquired paintings, deducting their cost from what they owed him, and then factored in the cost of VAT and told him he owed them for that!