Friday 28 August 2015


Sometimes I think I have no idea of exactly when in the month I am. Where does the time go? I had to take time out yesterday to get some ultramarine acrylic (I had to settle for Galeria rather than my preferred Liquitex) and then really had to crack on with the wooden heart to try to get it in the post today.

Nevertheless, against all odds I finished painting the heart and sent it off in its prepaid envelope to St Claire's Hospice. With luck it should get there by 1st September. 

If only I could post a picture of it now. I'm actually rather pleased with it, although I still find the peculiar, almost chalky surface of acrylics a little difficult to take.

Monday 24 August 2015

I Heart Acrylics?

Some blocking in done on my wooden heart. It's already starting to look like it might work out, but I'm struggling a little with acrylics after something like 20 years without using them. 

Instead of painting in oils, I decided  to use up some tubes of Liquitex and Galeria acrylics from 20 years ago and while I'm getting on OK with them I'm sure I'd find the more modern acrylic paints more to my liking. 

In the days when I used acrylics I preferred Liquitex and only bought Galeria at university,but many of my painting friends recommend Golden. I recently bought some Golden High Flow acrylics, but they're for an online course I've signed up for. Still, I've run out of ultramarine, so I may have to raid them for that.

Saturday 22 August 2015

Slow Heart Rate

Two coats of gesso on my wooden heart today. Progress is slow. I'm going to have to step up the pace.

Friday 14 August 2015

I do have a wooden heart …

There's nothing like a deadline for getting the creative juices flowing. And I have a deadline. This wooden heart is to be decorated in any way I fancy and returned to St Clare's Hospice, Jarrow by the 1st September in time for a charity event.

The Hospice will be holding an exhibition of these decorated hearts (one of them has been decorated by "Call me Dave" Cameron - be still my beating heart!) in November. There'll be a catalogue and a website and I'll be sure to post details of those in due course.

Meanwhile, I'm afraid I'll be unable to share progress of my heart's painting with you. The work will all be displayed anonymously, although a list of contributors will be available. Later, after the exhibition has closed and the work has been sold, I'll let you see what I came up with.

Saturday 8 August 2015

From Dillons' First Floor Window

From Dillons' First Floor Window
(Oil on board) Private Collection.

We went out to a Private View last night at a gallery new to me - the Bewicks Gallery Space in Gateshead Civic Centre. We'd been invited to a preview of work by Tom Bromly OBEDean of Newcastle Polytechnic (the forerunner of Northumbria University) Faculty of Art and Design until his retirement in 1992.

I liked the show very much, although I preferred his more designed/abstracted compositions to the straightforward studies and paintings of trees. I chatted to an old friend for a while and then, as we were taking a second glass of wine for a second turn around the gallery, someone came up to me and said:

"You're Harry Bell, aren't you? I bought a painting of yours a long time ago and I still love it!" We were joined by his wife who said "You're Harry Bell! You painted my favourite painting!"

The oil painting was From Dillons' First Floor Window and it was sold in 1995 from my first solo show. It was always a favourite of mine and here was the man who bought it twenty years ago, still enthusing about it now. 

Don't you just love it when that happens?

Friday 7 August 2015

Food for Thought

Food Station 
(Digitally coloured)

While it may have been the least accomplished of the sketches I did on Saturday's sketch crawl, the Market Square drawing is the most likely to prove useful. Today I ran it through Photoshop to see if it might work as a painting. And I think it might.

Sunday 2 August 2015

Sketch Crawl #2: Durham

Market Square, Durham
(Pitt Medium marker with black Pentel Brush Pen, 
grey and blue brushpens in A4 sketchbook)

Despite all my good intentions, I did no more drawing following last month's Sketch Crawl, so it was with some relief that I headed off yesterday to Durham for my second Crawl. I had two possible buses to catch: the 21 and the X12. It seemed sensible to take the X12, it being an express to Durham, although I was puzzled to see from the timetable that it arrived in Durham Bus Station only five minutes sooner than the normal service 21.

Once I was on the bus, of course, I realised why the time difference was so small. We crawled along behind and only very slowly passed three 21s travelling in convoy, there being no opportunity to overtake them until more than half way to Durham.

We'd had a week of indifferent to poor weather before Sketch Crawl Day, so it was a real pleasure, if a mixed one, to find the sun out and shining on the milling throngs of people in Market Square. Michael and one or two others were already there, Michael beavering away at his first sketch; once we were all collected together and an itinerary agreed, we split up to look for subject matter.

The milling throngs proved difficult for me to deal with. Every time I saw something I wanted to draw, crowds would gather in front of it. So I was well into my allotted time before I'd found a convenient doorway from which to draw this food stall. Even then, I had people walking past me and thoughtlessly buying food from the stall (see the man with the transparent trousers in the drawing), so that with every line I was having to pause and say to myself "Where does that line go?"

By the time I'd finished all the other Crawlers had moved on to the Cathedral, outside of which 146 Harley Davidson motorbikes were parked. The bikers' long and thunderous drive through the Market Square hadn't helped in my search for subject matter, but now at least they were quiet.

Some of the Harleys outside the Cathedral.

Drawing cathedrals isn't really my thing and standing in the middle of the road drawing a Harley didn't much appeal (although both Michael and Gary had a go), so I turned to a house on the corner of Owengate, with part of the castle behind it.

Nr the Cathedral
(Pitt Medium marker with green and red brushpens in A4 sketchbook)

I confess I wasn't terribly happy with this drawing at the time (maybe it's my antipathy to red/green), but now it's on the blog, I'm warming to it.

With a little time in hand, I took a short walk inside the Cathedral looking for the Magna Carta display, but found instead a lovely painting of St Margaret by Paula Rego which I didn't know existed.

Margaret and David by Paula Rego (2003)

St Margaret by Paula Rego

Our final sketching area was down by the River Wear, which winds through Durham. Standing on Prebends Bridge we looked down the river and each of us saw something different to draw. I decided to go down to the riverside and draw what turned out to be a piece of sculpture by an uncredited artist. On the back was this collection of gurning faces ...

... but I chose to sit in the sun on a nearby bench and draw the other side. After a while, the inevitable happened and three people sat down on the carved wooden benches. I quite liked the idea of having them in the drawing so, expecting they'd soon be up and gone, I put them in quickly, sacrificing the correct scale for speed. They, of course, were still sitting there when I packed up and left.

Riverside, Durham
(Pitt Medium marker with black Pentel Brush Pen, 
grey brushpen in A4 sketchbook)

I mentioned last time that one hazard of drawing in public can be the curious passer-by. Luckily, I was untroubled this time, although it's possible some of the people on this cruise boat were looking at me.

It had been a thoroughly enjoyable and productive day as we all agreed over coffee and cakes in the Cafe on the Green. There was a bit of "show-and-tell" with sketchbooks passed around and helpful comments made.

Sketch Crawlers 
(L-R:Liz, Gary, Laura, Andrew and Allan. Barbara had to forego the delights of spiced apple cake; and I'm the photographer)

So, all in all, a Very Good Day Out and a decision made for another very soon - probably in Tynemouth.