Wednesday 19 December 2012

Foliate Head

Foliate Head (Fired clay)

I've always been fascinated by the Green Man. Carvings depicting the Green Man are usually referred to as foliate heads and are common in medieval architecture, especially churches, despite the image's pagan origins. 

This interest was rekindled recently when I found that foliate heads are something of an obsession with Clive Hicks-Jenkins on his Artlog and that there are one or two more on Phil Cooper's hedgecrows.

A little over twenty years ago I spent the day at Newcastle University doing a clay sculpture workshop with their sculpture technician. At the end of the day I had some clay left over and decided to make something quickly. Working quite intuitively, I found this foliate head growing under my fingers.

Unfortunately, one of the head's leafy "ears" broke off in the firing and is now, if not lost, mislaid. What you can see below is a repair using Photoshop, to give you an idea of what it ought to look like. 

One day, I'll colour it. Green, of course.

Tuesday 18 December 2012

A Missing Piece

Funchal, from Hotel Sirius. 13 August 1992
(Rotring Art Pen in A5 sketchbook)

I knew when I posted the painting of Madeira that I'd missed out a sketchbook study that was an integral part of the painting. And here it is, found in the sketchbook which I've been using as my holiday travel sketchbook since September 1990.

This is where posting from the sketchbooks starts to get complicated. In the time I've been blogging here, I've posted a great deal from this Holidays Sketchbook, so I think it may not be desirable to post the same things again. But maybe I'm wrong. What do you think?

Wednesday 12 December 2012

Sketchbook No.2 (#7)

Tree Form, Devon, August 1996 
(Rotring Art Pen and watercolour in A4 sketchbook)

One of my first drawings showing an interest in plant and tree forms, inspired by the work of Graham Sutherland, which continues to the present.

This is last drawing in Sketchbook No.2 and a big jump in time from the previous sketch - 1992 to 1996. I wonder if that means there's a gap to be filled by looking at other sketchbooks. As I've mentioned before, I began to buy sketchbooks faster than I could fill them and to use them for specific subjects.

Watch this space if you're interested. There'll be more to come. There's the Museum Sketchbook, the Saltwell Park Sketchbook, the Malta Sketchbook ......

Sunday 9 December 2012

Sketchbook No.2 (#6)

Still Life, Hotel Sirius balcony, Madeira - 14 August 1992
(2B mechanical pencil in A4 sketchbook)

The day after drawing this table of stuff on our hotel balcony, I decided I'd have a go at the hills to the north of the hotel:

Hill above Funchal, 15 August 1992
(Watercolour and oil pastel on 7 x 9 in.watercolour paper)

Some time later I put the two together and made this painting:

Madeira (Oil on board, 28 x 14 ins)

Not entirely successful as a painting, but it was important at the time. It's still on my living room wall.

Thursday 22 November 2012

Sketchbook No.2 (#5)

In the Boatyard, Funchal. 10 August 1992 (Mixed media in A5 sketchbook)

Drawn the same day as the previous post, this is a pair of a huge tanks normally floated in the harbour to keep ships from bumping into the harbour walls.

It was probably a mistake to favour the dark local colour of the tanks when drawing this. I should have simply concentrated on the linear and tonal qualities.

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Sketchbook No.2 (#4)

On the Mole, Funchal, 10 August 1992 (Rotring Art Pen in A4 sketchbook)

It was quite intimidating drawing this huge grab. It towered over me and getting the perspective right was a challenge. Putting the two pages together in Photoshop proved almost beyond me, however, so apologies for the slight disconnect at the top of the drawing.

Monday 19 November 2012

Sketchbook No.2 (#3)

Funchal, 7 August 1992 (Coloured pencil in A4 sketchbook)

I sat on a bench in one of the municipal gardens of Funchal,the capital of Madeiraand drew this. I wanted to see how I might tackle the subject with coloured pencil and the end result seems to owe just a little to Pointillism

Not entirely a success, but not a waste of time either.

Friday 16 November 2012

Sketchbook No.2 (#2)

Up Cuthbert Street, 27 October 1991
(2B pencil in A4 sketchbook)

I'd recently discovered the paintings of Wayne Thiebaud when I drew this. Trying to capture something of his vertiginous San Francisco views, I chose one of the steeper streets in Gateshead and looked up Cuthbert Street to the  houses on Bensham Road.

I don't think I really caught Thiebaud's essence, but looking at this drawing now, complete with colour notes, I think it might still make an interesting painting.

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Sketchbook No.2 (#1)

Northern Goldsmiths, 4th November 1990 
(Fine point marker and sepia ArtPen in A4 sketchbook))

Having begun a course in painting with the OCA, I decided I needed to get serious about my sketchbook, so this drawing is the first done in a lovely black bound A4 sketchbook from Atlantis.

It was a freezing cold Saturday afternoon in November and I stood on a corner of Westgate Road to draw this great example of Victorian Newcastle. I was just outside a pub that was later closed for allowing drug dealing on the premises..My thermal socks, fingerless gloves and whisky-primed hip flask failed to keep me warm and by the time I went home I was almost frozen solid.

It's interesting to note that in 1990 there were still flocks of starlings settling on the tops of buildings. Even individual starlings are a rare sight in town now.

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Henry Pijohn

Henry Pijohn, 4 May 1972 (Ballpoint on scrap paper)

Drawn the year following the other fragments, this is a quick sketch of Henry Pijohn who sat opposite me in the office. He and I became firm friends for many years until - and no one really understands why - he abruptly cut off contact with me and his other friends in our circle.

Monday 12 November 2012


Norman, 28 July 1971

CA filing, 28 July 1971

Peter Healy, 29 July 1971

For some incomprehensible reason, a number of the comments made made most recently on this blog have disappeared. As a consequence, I'm unable to assess the size of the probable flood of requests from the Boogie Street Readership for me to continue posting from my sketchbooks. 

Anyway, in the absence of comments to the contrary, I'm going to assume that there's a real desire to see where sketching took me after the end of the Very First Sketchbook. Meanwhile, however, here are three fragments I found tucked away at the back of the Very First Sketchbook. They were all done in  in the office with ballpoint on scrap paper, then torn off to keep for posterity.

Norman, I believe, was then the Executive Officer and Peter Healy the Senior Clerical Officer. I worked with both of them at different times and in different situations throughout my Civil Service career, The Clerical Assistant's name escapes me altogether.

Thursday 8 November 2012

Very First Sketchbook #19

Poly corridor, 16 October 1990(Fine point marker in A5 sketchbook)

Like the previous sketch from the Very First Sketchbook (#18), this was done while roaming the corridors of Newcastle Polytechnic one night. I like the sense of emptiness in the corridor, the feeling that no one else is around. It's an idea I've returned to many times in my paintings.

This is the final sketch in my Very First Sketchbook. Although there were many pages left untouched, I decided that I didn't like the ring binding or indeed the fine point marker I'd stored in the binding, so I moved on to a series of differently sized sketchbooks. Whether this was a good move is debatable, as it eventually seems to have led to a falling away of the sketching habit. However, if you'd like me to, I think it might be interesting to post sketches and drawings from those other sketchbooks. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday 7 November 2012


Pot (2B mechanical pencil in A5 sketchbook)

There are times when inertia builds up so much that the only thing to do is to pick up a pencil and draw. Draw anything, whatever comes to hand. In this case it was a ceramic pot, so I guess it qualifies as EDM #43 - "Draw something china or ceramic".

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Very First Sketchbook #18

Poly lift, 16 October 1990 (Fine point marker in A5 sketchbook)

One evening, at an OCA tutorial in Newcastle Polytechnic (now the University of Northumbria), we were sent away to find something to draw. Wandering the corridors of the building, I eventually settled on this lift as a subject. Not very exciting, perhaps, but looking into (and out of) interiors proved to be a recurrent theme for me later.

Monday 5 November 2012


While we were in Dubrovnik this year, we found an exhibition of decorative fabrics by Ottavio MIssoni. Missoni was born in Dubrovnik and it was as the founder of the Missoni fashion house that I knew his name, but the wall hangings and rugs were a real visual delight.

Missoni Rug

Missoni Screenprint

Missoni Wall Hanging

Missoni Wall Hanging

Missoni Wall Hanging

Missoni Four Panel Wall Piece

Thursday 1 November 2012

Very First Sketchbook #17

Heraklion (Fine point marker in A5 sketchbook)

A return to Crete in September 1990 and here I am, sitting in a pavement cafe, drawing the building opposite. One of the difficulties in having only a fine point marker was that it took some time to fill in that black square with the Loggia Piano Bar sign on it.

Tuesday 30 October 2012

Very First Sketchbook #16

Tangier House, 1990 (Fine point marker and felt pen in A5 sketchbook)

On a whim, and as a result of an offer from my Union, I decided to spend a week in Morocco early in 1990.. This drawing, the only one in the sketchbook although there are others on loose paper,was done from the window of our hotel looking across the street.

By 1990 I'd started to do a painting course with the Open College of the Arts and in the seasonal break we'd been tasked with doing a painting for the next session. I made this painting from my sketch, backed up with photographs:

Tangier 1990 (Acrylic on board, 24 x 36 ins)

This was the biggest painting I'd done so far and I was quite pleased with it, so I was hoping for a bit of praise when I took it to the next OCA tutorial. The tutor looked briefly at it then, without a word, passed quickly on to a her favourite pupil and spent the night extolling the value of his work. That was the beginning of my realisation that  simply occupying the position of  tutor does not make you a good one.

Thursday 25 October 2012

Just so you know ....

Underpass (Oil on canvas, 36 x 72 ins)

I know I've been letting my blog slide a bit, but there are mitigating circumstances. The cold I spoke of last time dragged on and dragged on and even now I'm feeling a few lingering effects. More importantly, the problem  I wrote about quite a while ago, the ocular hypertension in my left eye, continues to plague me and has now entered the stage of being classed as open angle glaucoma. There has been some damage to my vision and I'm learning to come to terms with that.

But I'm resilient and there are ideas buzzing around in my head that must eventually come out onto paper or canvas. I hope you'll stick around for the journey.

Tuesday 9 October 2012

"Ceci n'est pas une pipe"

"Ceci n'est pas une pipe"

On the flight back from Croatia I picked up a cold which has plagued me for the last three weeks. As a result I haven't felt up to posting anything here. Yesterday, however, I got round to looking at my photographs from the trip and picked out this example of Belgian Surrealism found on the island of Lokrum within spitting distance of Dubrovnik.

Thursday 27 September 2012

Two Towers

Two Towers, Korcula (0.8 marker in A5 sketchbook)

The last drawing I did in Croatia this year. I did it leaning up against the end of a wall while people went past me, in and out of a pastry shop, a dog snuffled round my feet, and fags were stubbed out in the litter bin next to me.

It's this kind of lovely detail that comes back to me whenever I look back over my sketchbook drawings.

Tuesday 25 September 2012


Korcula, from Neno's Rooms, 16 Sept 2012 
(0.8 marker in A5 sketchbook)

We spent our second week in Korčula, a beautiful little island off the Pelješac peninsula.. After the somewhat frenetic atmosphere of Dubrovnik,  Korčula  provided a haven of calm.

Regular readers of this blog may remember that on a previous visit to Croatia we've stayed in  Korčula  before; in fact, we stayed at the same Neno's Rooms, though this time Neno gave us a bigger apartment with a better view of the Old Town. It's interesting to compare the view I drew this time with the one from the previous trip:

Korcula Town (Pilot disposable fountain pen, 2 pages of A5 sketchbook)

Monday 24 September 2012

Croatia for the Third Time

Ploce, Dubrovnik (0.8 marker in A5 sketchbook)

Pat and I have just returned from our third trip to the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia. The weather was mostly great (there were three terrific thunderstorms), which makes it even more dispiriting to be sitting looking out of the window at the grey windy wet weather of Gateshead.

We spent our first week in a lovely little apartment overlooking the Ploce Gate of Dubrovnik. From the patio outside the apartment we could sit and watch the boats go in and out of the Old Harbour and see the people scurrying over the bridge into the Old Town. I did this drawing on our last day there.

Friday 7 September 2012

Stolen Copyright

I recently learned that by putting an image into Google Image Search, you can look for appearances on the web of that image. Within minutes I'd found this Chinese company using one of my paintings as a mobile phone cover, entirely without permission, of course.

Here's the original:

Thursday 6 September 2012

Very First Sketchbook (#15)

In Yedikule - 14.9.89
(Fine point marker and grey Magic marker in A5 sketchbook)    

The same day in Yedikule Castle, I sat in the shade of a tree and drew this old clay pot. Two workmen came by and l stood watching me for a while, nodded approvingly and went about their business again.

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Very First Sketchbook (#14)

Yedikule - "Castle of Seven Towers", 14.9.89
(Fine point marker and grey Magic marker in A5 sketchbook)   

The Yedikule Fortress is part of the old walls of Constantinople. Originally built as a gate, during the years of the Ottoman Empire it served as a treasury, archive and prison.

Tuesday 4 September 2012

Comments Book

The Free Trade Inn (Oil on canvas, 16 x 16 ins)

Northumberland Fells (Oil on canvas, 12 x 12 ins)

Today my paintings came back from my solo show at the Arts Centre in Newcastle - minus these two, which happily have sold..

Yesterday I collected the Comments Book from the gallery and, if you can forgive me a little self-indulgence, I thought I might share some of the comments here.

Your hedges and walls make me want to go out and look for myself. Your vision of Newcastle is optimistic if not romantic. Good luck with this exhibition. - Paul

Really like the 'city scapes' and the differing view points. - Liz Atkins

What a wonderful exhibition. So much detail and colour, with even some "blue skies". Keep up the good work. Wishing you all the best, - Ann Elliott

Thank you Harry! I liked 'The Free Trade Inn' when I saw it on your blog, while researching Newcastle for an English class I teach. How wonderful now I finally visit, to find a whole exhibition of your strong shapes and colours and Norh East visions. I've just slept 2 nights in Sandhill and agree the roofs are full of pictures. Keep the art coming! - Sally (Holman) Johnson, London E17

Really liked the rich use of paint - my favourite, 'Wooden Spiral', reminiscent of Carel Weight's surreal atmosphere. - Joy Barsby

Love the oaks and hedgerows; the textures and colours are inspiring. - JGriffiths

Love the way you capture the feel of Newcastle. No.16, 'View from the Keep' somehow suggests the proximity of the sea. So glad I saw your works. - P Johnston, Berwick upon Tweed.

These are wonderful. Redolent of Edward Hopper without being remotely derivative and they are most certainly *not* illustrative. - Chandra Sankarayya

I'd like to thank all those who took the time to leave such generous comments in the Comments Book (and they were all positive) and those others who complimented me in person.

Monday 3 September 2012

Very First Sketchbook (#13)

Haghia Sophia, 13.9.89
(Fine point marker in A5 sketchbook) 

Another year, another country. I loved Istanbul. I loved the people and the city. I loved all it's smoggy chaos.

Haghia Sophia is a big building, so I thought it best to attempt only part of it. I think that was s wise decision in retrospect and the vignetted sketch holds up quite well.

Friday 31 August 2012

Very First Sketchbook (#12)

Nafplio, 2.9.87
(Fine point and coloured markers in A5 sketchbook) 

Moving on a year and onto the Greek mainland. Nafplio was briefly the capital of modern Greece following its liberation from the Ottoman Empire. I enjoyed my stay there which came at the end of a period of island hopping, but the trip was a difficult one for various reasons and I managed only this sketch. 

I didn't much care for the coloured markers - I found the colours crude - and didn't use them again. 

Thursday 30 August 2012

Very First Sketchbook (#11)

Akandia Boatyard, Rhodes, 27.9.86
(Fine point marker in A5 sketchbook)

Going south east from the Old Town there are three harbours, the last of them being Akandia. There's a large boatyard at Akandia and I thought it might be interesting to find some boats to draw. Instead, I found myself fascinated by this old converted lorry.

Wednesday 29 August 2012

Very First Sketchbook (#10)

Hidden fortification, Rhodes 
(Fine point marker in A5 sketchbook)

In 1309 Rhodes was occupied by Knights Hospitaller and under the rule of the newly named Knights of Rhodes the fortified city walls were built. That appears to be one of their crests on this underground entrance I found in the moat. With no torch, I decided going in wasn't an option.

Tuesday 28 August 2012

Very First Sketchbook (#9)

Thunderstorm, Club Elli, Rhodes. 23.9.86
(Fine point marker and grey Magic marker in A5 sketchbook)  

To the north of the Old Town lies Mandraki Harbour and at the far end of that  is this building, Club Elli. It's still something of a nightspot, I understand. I'd been thinking about drawing it for a few days when suddenly I found myself caught in a thunderstorm. Sheltering in a doorway, waiting for the rain to stop, I figured now was as good a time as any to get the club on paper.

When I'd finished the drawing, it was still chucking it down, so I walked back to my apartment in the rain. The rain was warm and, dressed as I was in shorts and a t-shirt, I didn't mind getting soaked. And as is often the way of things in the Aegean, before I got to the apartment the sun came out and I was almost dry by the time I arrived.

Monday 27 August 2012

Very First Sketchbook (#8)

In the Moat, Rhodes, 17.9.86 
(Fine point marker and grey Magic marker in A5 sketchbook) 

Before leaving on this trip, I'd been reading Drawing with Markers by Richard Welling. As a result, when I went into the moat again, this time I was armed with a grey felt tip in addition to my fine point. I was quite pleased with the result at the time and I continued to use this combination, off and on, for some time to come.

Friday 24 August 2012

Very First Sketchbook (#7)

Rhodes, 16.9.86 (Fine point marker in A5 sketchbook) 

It's 1986 and I'm back in Greece, this time on the island of Rhodes, a new destination for me. I was there for three weeks and for the first of them I was on my own. Plenty of time to get some sketching done, I told myself, and to a certain extent that proved true.

I managed to find an apartment in Rhodes Old Town (something I was glad of when I saw the rather soulless concrete New Town outside) and spent a great deal of my time wandering round the moat inside the town walls. It was quiet there and mostly deserted and that's where this first Rhodes sketch was done.

Thursday 23 August 2012

Very First Sketchbook (#6)

On board F?B Lemnos, 28.9.85 
(Fine point marker in A5 sketchbook) 

This may have been done on the ferry to Paros from Naxos (in which case I did no more sketching on that trip) or on the ferry back to Piraeus and ultimately home.

At home I attempted to make a painting from this sketch, but again it didn't work out and was destroyed.

Wednesday 22 August 2012

Very First Sketchbook (#5)

Naxos Alley, 27.9.85 (Fine point marker in A5 sketchbook)

Done the same day as the previous sketch, this was also in the winding passageways of the kastro (old town) of Naxos. The island was once under the control of the Venetians and the kastro has all the hallmarks of the alleys and passageways of Venice in miniature.