Wednesday 30 March 2011

Late Night on Dundas Street

Dundas Street (work in progress)

Late night sessions are nothing new with me, but it's some time since I really got into one. When I worked full time in an office, the only way I could get anything done, apart from at weekends, was to work at night. Now that I have the luxury of all my time to myself, I ought to be able to get things done during the day. However, sometimes days get broken up by shopping for food essentials and the like and the urge to work cannot be denied, whatever time it is.

I made good progress with this painting tonight, but I should perhaps have remembered that the studio clock hadn't been changed at the weekend for British Summer Time. So when I knocked off it turned out to be 12.45 am instead of 11.45 pm.

I'm nearly finished with this painting, but there are a couple of problems, most especially the tall spire at the right. It's a very dominant element in both the painting and the city, but memory tells me that it's much further away than it appears, so some real consideration needs to be given to it to make it sit right.

Friday 25 March 2011

West End Fish

West End Fish (Oil on canvas, 30 x 30 cms)

One of the things I like about painting buildings in towns and cities is the opportunity it provides to celebrate the ordinary, the overlooked. I like to think that, without my painting, this building in Edinburgh on the corner of Queensferry Street and Charlotte Lane, would go largely unnoticed and uncelebrated.

Despite the busy traffic and pedestrians hurrying everywhere, the building's curves and cupola caught my eye and I knew I could do something with it. And I have.

I'm very pleased to report that after my tour of the galleries in and around Dundas Street, I was contacted by the Di Rollo Gallery and asked if I'd be interested in showing work with them during this year's Festival. You can probably guess what my answer was, especially in view of today's painting.

Thursday 24 March 2011

Purple and Green

Purple and Green (Oil on canvas, 8 x 8 ins.)

It's becoming eerie at the Club. People are taking their equipment home and the place is being stripped of much of its clutter. All in preparation for our move, of course.

On Monday we had our Annual Dinner and it was rather sobering to reflect on the fact that this would be the last we'd hold while in the Bolbec Hall premises. We ate in the Library of Neville Hall, home of the The North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers. The building is a grand Neo-Gothic affair next door to the Neo-Classical Lit & Phil, which in turn is next door to Bolbec Hall.

The Library in Neville Hall, with its galleries, photographs and memorabilia is a moving reminder of the days before we started to turn this country into a retail park selling stuff made abroad. In a socialist country, the Library would be a notable monument to the working man but now it's struggling to make itself known and to find funding. I can't imagine there ever being a Library devoted to workers in the call centres of the UK.

Today I finished this little picture of some chocolates. They used to be made by a British owned company, but now they belong to Nestlé (*spit*). Next week I'll go back to the Club and take away my paints. And then, I guess, look forward to life in the Club's new home; but it won't be the same.

Saturday 19 March 2011

Working on Dundas Street

Dundas Street (work in progress)

True to my determination to make a mark in Edinburgh, here's the beginning of a painting looking up Dundas Street. There's no doubt that Edinburgh is a difficult city to paint and its buildings are far from being colourful, so I'm having to think my way back into a rather subdued palette, but this seems promising to me.

Tuesday 15 March 2011

Official: Edinburgh Coldest Place on Earth

I've always had a great affection for Edinburgh. My Grandmother was born in Crammond, a little seaside village then just outside Edinburgh but now part of the city, and as a boy I spent many happy days staying with my "Auntie" Jessie (actually my Dad's aunt) in her flat overlooking Arthur's Seat.

This photograph from the family album shows me in August 1952, standing eating an ice cream cornet next to a sign saying PLEASE KEEP OFF THE GRASS - I guess I was always slightly rebellious.

Because of this love of Edinburgh, I'm always up for a stay there, so when a good offer of three nights became available, Pat and I decided we'd go. We travelled up on Tuesday last and came back on Friday. And all the time we were there I was freezing cold!

I expect it to be noticeably colder that little bit further north, and Edinburgh is certainly prone to strong winds blowing in off the Firth, but I wasn't prepared for the icy blasts blowing in from the west. None of my clothes proved adequate and I even had to pick up an extra M&S jumper from Princes Street (Thank you, Pat!). On Wednesday morning we had snow and on Thursday we got caught in a hailstorm.

But there are ways of staying warm, of course, not least the galleries, pubs and even the glasshouses of the Royal Botanic Garden. As well as the good selection of galleries down Dundas Street, we explored the area of Stockbridge for the first time, after walking down part of the Water of Leith Walkway.

At the The Scottish Gallery of Modern Art & Dean Gallery we had lunch (the Dean Gallery is the better of the two, I think, in terms of food - and there's table service) and then looked at the wonderful early 20th century photographs of August Sander and the Paolozzi Studio.

The National Gallery of Scotland were showing three rarely seen early Vermeers and a fascinating collection of French drawings.

The Open Eye, on the corner of Abercromby Place and Dundas Street, had a show of watercolours by the late Jack Firth RSW. Great fresh work. And I was able to pick up a facsimile of one of Leon Morrocco's sketchbooks - a real delight that made me want, yet again, to get back to that sketching habit.

The DiRollo Gallery. As its website says, it's friendly and sociable and when we visited they were showing some good new work by John V Gardner. I hope I may have made a friend there.

The Dundas Street Gallery is a hire gallery which I've never been in before, but I liked the look of the india ink drawings of Edinburgh by Jamie Primrose. We had a chat with him and I was delighted to find that he'd actually done his BA in Fine Art at Newcastle University at the same time as Andrew Gifford. Not so delighted to find that he shares my view of the standard of teaching there, even several years before I experienced it. By the time we left, it looked like his show had got off to a good start with quite a few sales.

In Stockbridge, we looked for and found the Laurel Gallery, a curious little one room gallery with a welcoming atmosphere. I'd wanted to find it because they were showing some work by David Body whose work I'd last seen on a day trip to Kirkcudbright, and I think it repaid the revisit.

Another tiny one room gallery we came across while looking for shelter from a freezing downpour, was the Sarah Dallas Gallery. Just as welcoming as the others and with some really excellent work by Sandra Moffat & Emerson Mayes.

Finally, there was, a good well-laid out gallery with stripped wood floors, very comfortable seating and showing a lot of very professional work. They have another gallery in Glasgow.

I came back with a renewed determination to get some work shown in Edinburgh and with a new knowledge of the dearth of paintings of Edinburgh in galleries there. Thoughts to dwell on. And act on.

Thursday 3 March 2011

Sweet Things

Purple and Green (work in progress)

Over a year ago, I planned a small painting of two Quality Street chocolates to go on the lid of a Xmas present. For one reason or another, the painting never got started, but because I knew finishing Shark Rock wouldn't take too long, I was looking for something new to start and came across the source material yesterday.

In the studio is a carton of 8 x 8 inch canvases I bought last year with a view to making some small paintings of food inspired by Wayne Thiebaud's wonderful cakes, so pulled one of them out and took it to the Club.

I rather like the arrangement of the chocolates and had the paint not become overworked in places, I'd have happily pushed on and finished this one today.

The chocolates? They were eaten a long time ago.

Shark Rock

Shark Rock (Oil on canvas, 12 x 12 ins.)

So here we are, back at the Club and Shark Rock is finished. [Note to self: get a better photograph]

The rock itself is at Blawearie, a place I've talked about painted before, but the name is for it is my own. Sometimes, I get a name in my head which makes sense to me and after a while it sticks, so I append it to the painting.

Wednesday 2 March 2011

In a Venice Frame of Mind

Venetian Balcony (work in progress)

I should perhaps be pursuing those outstanding Tyne Valley landscapes, but I firmly believe that, unless you have an overriding reason (like a gallery deadline) for pushing on with work when you don't feel the desire to do so, it's generally counter-productive.

I was watching a TV programme set in Venice last week and the city has been on my mind. Despite the crowds (and the mosquitoes!) Pat and I loved our time there and will surely go again one day. It's a place unlike any other I've visited and at times it fills my head with images, so when I had the idea for this painting I decided to get on with it straight away.

I'm glad I did. The painting went well, the paint flying onto the canvas and the colours setting themselves up for later adjustments perfectly.