Saturday 31 December 2016

My Dad's Diary: Tues 31st December 1946

Not so long ago, I found my Dad's diary for 1947. It was the first year following his return from the War in Burma. The diary is full of the (mostly inconsequential) entries that we all make if we keep a diary, but for me it paints a fascinating picture of life in a country trying to recover from a devastating conflict and cope with rationing. The winter that year was particularly severe and coal was in very short supply.

Here's the first entry, squeezed in before the diary proper begins:

"Met up with Ken Gardiner - first time since Calcutta.

First Foot at Mother's."

Wednesday 21 December 2016

Sketch Crawl : The Hancock Museum (again)

Attic Vessels c.450 BC, Hancock Museum
(Broad and fine point markers, with grey brush pen in A4 sketchbook)

And so we get to it: our most recent Sketch Crawl. As I missed the one before that (at Arch Sixteen Cafe ), I've decided to stop numbering these Sketch Crawl posts.

On 10th December, there was a good turnout of North East Sketch Crawlers, although one or two had to cry off because of Xmas-related activities. The weather was OK, although the wind, as is often the case it seems, was icy cold.

This drawing is all I got done, but I'm really pleased with it. Someone online suggested that the wavy lines in the background ruin it and I'm not about to dismiss that. There was a blankness about the top third of the page that seemed to need something, so I added these lines from the mural that formed the back of the display case. Were I to make this into a painting (and I'm thinking seriously about it), I know I wouldn't include the wavy lines. Still, you make these decisions in the moment and have to live with them.

I've been looking at a lot of still life paintings recently, especially of the 20th Century Modernist sort and I think it shows in this drawing. Another person online pointed out what a good subject it was for practising drawing ellipses. She was right, of course, but in this case it served as an opportunity for me to wilfully make the ellipses irregular. I seem to remember reading many years ago that Japanese master potters, probably including Hamada, would turn a perfect pot on the wheel and then at the last moment, slightly tip it sideways. They recognised that perfection is boring and that the eye is intrigued by its perception of something that is not quite right. For that reason I made sure that, while I really do assure you I can draw a pretty good ellipse, these ones would not be perfect. I even drew them out in pencil first (something I normally don't do with these Sketch Crawl drawings), just to make sure they were wrong, before inking them.

While we were drawing in the Museum we were entertained by a brass band, a choir, the Newcastle University Wind Band, and finally by Heaton Voices. As my wife Pat sings in this community choir, it seemed only right that I hang on for their performance though I didn't try to sketch them, unlike some of the other Sketch Crawlers.

Our plan had been to move on to the Laing Art Gallery but by the time we'd listened to the music, shown appreciative choir members sketches of themselves and shuffled though the Xmas crowds in Northumberland Street, it was a bit late to think about doing that. Instead we investigated a building that contained almost nothing but a staircase, ending up on the top floor of The Botanist which was packed. Who could have predicted a bar and restaurant would be full of people on a Saturday afternoon two weeks before Xmas?

In desperate need of coffee and cake we crossed the road to the new food quarter of Eldon Square and settled on stools round a table in TGI Friday's. In deference to Anita's sensitivities, I'll gloss over details of the lukewarm coffee, my American style muffin decorated with cold fried onions (just wrong!), Anita's half-eaten cowpat brownie, her several pots of stewed tea and her eventual face-off with the manager of TGI Friday's. It was all very ... interesting and festive.

Next time: 21st January 2017, possibly at the Lit & Phil. 

Monday 19 December 2016

The Man Who Sold the Tyne Bridge

Buildings with Tyne Bridge 
(oil on canvas, 9x12 in)

I know, I know, I'm supposed to be telling you about the most recent Sketch Crawl, but things keep happening. On Friday I discovered that this painting in the current Gateshead Art Society Xmas Exhibition, has sold. 

I'm really pleased, of course. I painted it about six years ago and have been mildly surprised that, despite it being exhibited several times in different galleries, it didn't sell earlier. I always considered it one of my better pieces and it has the Tyne Bridge in it, usually a magnet to local buyers. For whatever reason, it failed to walk off the wall. I guess it was just waiting for the right owner to come along. I hope it looks good in its new home and that its new owners like it as much as I enjoyed making it.

Thursday 15 December 2016


Fallen Log (Oil on canvas, 16 x 16 in)

I'm delighted to say that this painting recently sold and has made the journey from the UK to its new home in the USA. It still astonishes me that a parcel can leave Gateshead on Monday and, passing through East Midlands Airport, Philadelphia, Louisville, Nashville and Doraville, be in Roswell, Georgia by Wednesday.

I hope the painting's new owners like it as much as I enjoyed making it.

Friday 9 December 2016

Xmas Orange

The Orange House (Oil on canvas, 16 x 16 in)

I've recently been mulling over the possibility that the days of blogging are over; so many of the bloggers I used to follow have stopped posting on their blogs and have moved across to Facebook. For a while it seemed to be so much easier to capture the attention of an audience. There were giveaways for liking and sharing and a community appeared to have sprung up around artists' Pages. 

Then Facebook made one of its mysterious changes and it became really difficult to visit and exchange comments between Pages; to such an extent that the flourishing community spirit appears to have withered on the vine.

And now I find a small flurry of new subscribers to Boogie Street! Someone is clearly interested in what I have to say and show here, so perhaps I should shrug off my pessimistic thoughts and get on with posting again.

So here we go: in addition to having work shown in a couple of exhibitions at the moment (Gateshead Art Society's Xmas Exhibition at the Shipley and the Newcastle Painters' Group show at Jesmond Dene House - see previous posts), I had the pleasure of sending this painting off to a client in America this week.

Coming up: Another sale and another Sketch Crawl. Stay tuned.

Saturday 5 November 2016

The Other Sketchbook Circle Book

Blogger seems to be playing silly buggers with my posts recently - it's saving my posts as Drafts instead of Posting them. Which is why my previous post has only now appeared.

So this is another quick post to bring the Sketchbook Circle activity up to date.  This book is my Partner Becca's and contains quite a few pencil sketches done on holiday in Cuba. I won't post them all, because I didn't feel able to work over them, but these two led me to make pages of my own.

These pages followed and show a few small additions of mine.

And finally, these are my new pages in her book.

Thursday 27 October 2016

Sketchbook Circle Moves Round Again

The summer has certainly interfered with the movement of sketchbooks round the Sketchbook Circle, but we're back up and running again. I found there was an empty page in my book, so added a print of this fine fellow.

With time at a premium right now, I'm simply going to post a selection of the pages my new Partner Lynne and I have made (some collaborations, some not)

Tuesday 18 October 2016

Sketch Crawl # 14 - Saltwell Park

The Climbing Tree, Saltwell Park
(0.5 Micron marker across two pages of 21x26 cm sketchbook)

If you have a good memory, or if you're prepared to look back to this entry, you'll know that in July I did some drawing with members of Gateshead Art Society in Saltwell Park, Gateshead. 

In the time available, I was able to fill one page of my sketchbook with part of The Climbing Tree but was disappointed not to be able to continue onto the opposite page with more of the Tree. It was a delight, therefore, to return to the Park and to the subject with the North East Sketch Crawlers on Saturday, 16th October. 

It took a while to relocate the ends of the branches and recapture a feel for the structure of the Tree, but I'm glad I did. I had planned to fill the background between the branches with a dark green wash, but for now I like it as it is.

After coffee in Bewick's Cafe, we had some time left to get a little more drawing done, so I found this view of the path leading to Pets' Corner with the roof of Saltwell Towers in the distance and drew it quite quickly as kids on bikes and scooters tried to knock me over.

Saltwell Park Path 
(2B mechanical pencil in 21x26 cm sketchbook)

Tuesday 4 October 2016

Sketch Crawl #13 : Durham City

Durham City 
(0.8 marker in A4 sketchbook, colour added later)

Sorry for the delay in reporting on the September Sketch Crawl. I've been very busy sorting through my huge book collection and deciding which to move to my new house, then packing them up and actually getting them moved. Now I'm faced with the prospect of getting them all back onto shelves, but in a new configuration of shelving. It's a job that has its pleasures but also many challenges.

So for now, I'll simply post this, the only drawing done on the Durham Sketch Crawl, and add that our next Crawl will be in Saltwell Park, Gateshead (just round the corner from here!) on Saturday 8th October.

Sunday 28 August 2016

Deckchair Couple

Deckchair couple (Coloured in Photoshop)

I spent Saturday in Blyth where some of the tall ships have gathered for the Tall Ships Regatta. It was difficult to get anywhere close enough to photograph the ships and would have been even harder to find somewhere to draw, but then, that wasn't why I was there.

Pat was singing with Heaton Voices in the South Shore Bandstand as part of the Regatta celebrations, so while I looked after her bag and listened to the songs, I had a little time to make this drawing of  a couple in their deckchairs, enjoying the music. 

Deckchair Couple (0.5 marker in A6 sketchbook)

I have to say drawing in an A6 sketchbook is rather fiddly, but now that I've added some colour in Photoshop I'm quite pleased with it.

Wednesday 24 August 2016

Just Thinking Out Loud

Last Saturday's Sketch Crawl drawing pulled into a square, then run through Photoshop's Watercolour Filter to cut down on the linear effect of the coloured pencils.

Sunday 21 August 2016

Sketch Crawl # 12 : National Glass Centre, Sunderland

On the Wear (Coloured pencils in A5 sketchbook)

Looking at a Facebook Memory for this day eight years ago, I find I was "feeling ... disconnected." Without drawing any inferences (because there are none), I note that I was feeling something similar yesterday. Maybe it was the weather; after all it's the middle of August in England, so naturally it would turn wet and windy for our latest Sketch Crawl.

On the Metro going to Sunderland, I met up with Richard and we chatted about things while the sun shone on the landscape outside. By the time we got to St Peter's Metro Station, however, it was greying over.  Richard was keen to show us some of the techniques he'd learned at the International Sketching Symposium in Manchester recently, so we gathered round a table in the Glass Centre and listened with interest. Then off to try out the techniques.

Or not. I realised very quickly that doing thumbnails in the sketchbook  (the suggested technique) is what I do already, but I do it in my head. This is partly why I always take so long to get to started - I'm working out the best composition and deciding what the focus will be.

As a result, in the 45 minutes allocated to the thumbnail exercise, I found that although I'd started a thumbnail in the smaller of my two sketchbooks, it quickly moved into a full pencil drawing. And then it started to rain.

Back in the Glass Centre, we compared notes and thumbnails for a while then set about finding something to draw that didn't involve going out in the rain. I discovered that by creeping along the front of the building I could find an area, complete with pigeons splashing about in a big puddle, where I could at least make out the boat I'd drawn as it slowly raised with the tide further upriver. Digging out my little box of Rowney coloured pencils bought years ago, I made my best effort o colour the drawing. There are areas where I feel it became a bit overworked, but it's acceptable, even if, for some reason, Photoshop refuses to represent the greens accurately. 

Unusually, I think I may have drawn something that will eventually become a painting.

[Next Sketch Crawl: Durham Market Place, 10 September, 1pm]

Tuesday 2 August 2016

Sketchbook Circle Revival

After the withdrawal of my Partner A from our exchange, I wondered if things would grind to a halt, but no! I have a new Partner Lynne who, for her sins, now has my Sketchbook to add to.

Before it went I thought I might add one more new page to those already shown here, so this is a quick collage made up of brown wrapping paper, a small paper doily, a magazine page showing a tie pattern, one of my "hands" printouts and a piece of a paper bag. All in an A5 sketchbook.

Is it finished? Probably not, but we shall see ...

Saturday 16 July 2016

St John Lee

St John Lee Churchyard
(0.5 Micron marker in A5 sketchbook)

Occasionally, the North of England Art Club organises a day out for members to do some drawing, painting, whatever. This used to happen a lot a few years ago but the main instigators have fallen by the wayside. Pity, because they used to be good fun. Still, here was one on Monday and off I went in a friend's car.

I've seen the road sign to "St John Lee" hundreds of times: it's on the roundabout on the main road just north of Hexham, but I knew nothing more than that.

It turned out to be a really nice little church tucked away in the depths of the country with a long hut nearby that they hire out for groups such as ours. By the time I got there, Ian was setting up his table outside to begin cooking sausages, so I wandered around the church and graveyard taking a few photographs until the sausage sandwiches were ready.

Two sausage sandwiches later, I was off into the graveyard to draw these headstones. The one in the foreground was an interesting lesson in the general impossibility of immortality. After the quite easily read inscription of ERECTED IN MEMORY OF, the stone had almost completely eroded away and the details of the person were pretty much indecipherable.

Just as I finished the drawing, the call came for cups of tea, lemon drizzle and Victoria sponge cakes. Sometimes food can be a great distraction to the struggling artist, so no more drawing was done. 

But here's a photograph of a stone with Neolithic cup and ring marks I found just inside the door of the church.

Friday 15 July 2016

Sketch Crawl #11 : Ouseburn Farm

"Sea Song Sang",Ouseburn
(0.5 Micron marker in A4 sketchbook)

Ouseburn Farm Giraffes
(0.5 Micron marker and Pentel Brush Pen
 in A4 sketchbook)

Last Saturday was my eleventh Sketch Crawl and we'd decided to return to the Ouseburn. Last time we were there it rained constantly and we had to spend most of our time looking round the open studios in 36 Lime Street and my heart sank a little when I checked the weather forecast the night before: more rain.

No need to worry, however; the weather was very kind and only a brief shower interrupted us, so I was able to get done the drawing of the little "Sea Song Sang" boat that sits on the Ouseburn below the windows of the Seven Stories cafe. I'd wanted to draw that last time but without shelter from the rain it was impossible. Good to be able to do it this time then.

After a short regrouping to decide what to do with the rest of the afternoon, we went out to draw again. This time I had a good look round the Ouseburn Farm and found an interesting view of the railway and road arches, together with some plants and two concrete giraffes (sorry to disillusion anyone who thought there might be wild giraffes in Byker).

Two drawings. Definitely my limit it seems. When I was done I headed off to the Biscuit Factory cafe to drink coffee and compare sketchbooks with the others. There was a bit of a holdup at the cafe counter, but this was definitely absolutely nothing to do with Anita and indecisiveness didn't come into it at all.

Friday 8 July 2016

Drawing in Saltwell Park

The Climbing Tree, Saltwell Park
(0.5 Micron marker in 21x26 cm sketchbook)

As a break from the normal session in the workroom of the Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead Art Society decided on an afternoon sketching in Saltwell Park

Amazingly, after a morning shower, the weather decided to co-operate and half a dozen of us turned up in bright sunshine to make minor masterpieces in our individual ways. For good or ill, I opted for the very complicated "Climbing Tree". It's a very old yew tree whose branches have played host to generations of kids, and I speak from personal experience.

Part way through the drawing I realised the sun had moved round and was now shining directly into my one good eye. I should have brought a hat to shade my eyes, but in the absence of one, I went for a walk to see how others were doing.

Coming back to the tree about ten minutes later, the sun wasn't being any more helpful, so I moved position to work on the right hand side branches, ignoring the small boy now clambering over them. Eventually, however, I realised I'd done enough for the day and coffee called at the cafe in Saltwell Towers.

I walked home via the bird cages and listened for a while to the nice grey parrot in the end cage telling people to "F*ck Off!"

The tree still intrigues me and I plan on going back to work on the drawing some more, taking in the branches that will spread across the left hand page.

Thursday 7 July 2016

Madeira 2016

Car Park Ventilators, Funchal
(0.5 Micron marker and Pentel Brush Pen 
over two pages of A5 sketchbook)

Little Lighthouse, Camara de Lobos
(0.5 Micron marker and coloured pencils in A5 sketchbook)

Monte Palace Tropical Garden, Funchal
(0.5 Micron marker, Pentel Brush Pen
 and coloured pencils in A5 sketchbook)

In June, Pat and I went to Madeira for a week's holiday. We stayed at the same hotel as last time, Vila Vicencia, because we'd liked it so much and we weren't disappointed this time either. It's a nice little group of buildings clustered round a small pool and far enough out of the centre of Funchal to be quite quiet, but near enough to walk in or take the bus.

I was determined to get more sketching done this time and got off to a good start with the double page spread of the car park ventilators. While I was drawing it, I could hear my Mum in my head saying, "Couldn't you find anything nice to draw?" but I'm resigned to drawing only what interests me and these shapes I found fascinating.

My recent trips out with my Sketch Crawl friends have certainly made me more confident in simply starting a drawing and making it work, but because of this need for "interesting" subject matter, I'm still slow to settle on a subject. Which meant that I only managed to do two more, despite constantly keeping my eyes open for things that would appeal.

There was one new development in this drawing trip: I moved my position several times when making the first two drawings. Not an earth-shattering development, because artists have been doing it for hundreds of years, but new to me.  With the ventilators, I moved my position to get the (quite important) palm tree where I wanted it; with the lighthouse drawing, I moved from drawing the rock outcrop to a position where I could take in the cactus and once again so that I could have a better view of the  lighthouse.

No such moving when I did the drawing of the folly at Monte Palace Tropical Garden, because I was limited to a park bench on another terrace overlooking the folly. A very complicated subject, I found myself getting very confused and perhaps it shows a little in the drawing; however, I think the coloured pencil additions made back at the hotel help to pull it together. Am I wrong? What do you think?

Tuesday 5 July 2016

Circle Grounded

Sketchbook Circle Partner A has returned my book without further additions. Quite where we go from here, I'm not sure, but the Administrators are aware of the situation and are trying to make new arrangements.

Meanwhile, I think it's safe to post my own recent pages in my book. Those who were quick enough to see what I posted before being asked to delete them, may remember that much of Partner A's pages consisted of hands. I took that as a lead and made these new pages (one of which is an elaboration of my line-drawn page). This is my idea of a sketchbook conversation and how I see the work of the Circle progressing. The last one above takes the theme of the hand and adds the bowl that I used in the very first page of my book and, of course it also appears in the hand of the woman in the first page shown above.

And just to round things out, here's how I changed one of my pages by adding further imagery and colour.

Saturday 11 June 2016

Grinding Gears

[Later - at Circle Partner A's request I have removed her work. I'm sorry she has asked me to do this, but am happy to oblige]


These are A's April additions to my Sketchbook Circle sketchbook. It's clear that we're operating on different tracks. She's told me that she prefers not to work into my pages, which I'm OK with, and from that I assume she'd prefer me not to work into her pages. I'm afraid that probably means she's not too happy with my work on those pages, but it's too late to do anything about that now.

[I have, however, now removed all but one of those pages from the blog]

A is of the opinion that working into pages would be like "talking over" me, whereas I feel that it becomes more a work of collaboration, an image that couldn't exist without the input of two people.

She goes along with the currently prevailing idea that students should be allowed to develop their own ideas without interference from the tutor. I ran into this concept at university and found it terribly frustrating. There were times when I would have been thrilled to have a tutor suggest a way forward rather than being constantly asked "Well, what do you think?" I always think, but sometimes thinking needs a nudge. I never got one.

The argument behind this hands-off approach by teachers is that they don't want to produce students who are carbon copies of themselves. In the past this rejected method produced two types of student, at least amongst those with real talent: those who took the style of their teacher and went on to develop and reinvigorate it, and those who rejected it and in doing so, went on to produce something fresh and new. Both of these types benefited from being given a working language to start with.

What I find most difficult about A's additions (and here I must emphasise that I don't dislike them) is that if they are the result of a visual conversation between us, what is she saying to me? How do they relate to my pages? Maybe it's a little too cerebral for me. Still, I'll keep on keeping on.

Sunday 5 June 2016

Sketch Crawl #10 : Customs House, South Shields

The Steamboat, Mill Dam, South Shields
(various markers in A4 sketchbook)

Brick Pillar, Mill Dam, South Shields
(markers in A4 sketchbook)

We'd been putting off our visit to the Customs House in South Shields until we could count on better weather. How much experience of British weather does that display? To be fair, although the day started a bit grey and damp, the sun was starting to break through as we made our separate ways to the banks of the Tyne yesterday. But the wind! Oh the wind! Blasting in from the North Sea and off the river, the wind made finding shelter a real necessity if you didn't want to freeze.

Mike had made a good start when I got there, by drawing a complicated Victorian building that Richard identified as the old River Police Station. It was, as he obviously enjoyed telling us, the place where corpses were once laid out after being fished out of the Tyne. Fascinating though this might be, the building was nevertheless a busy concoction of  brick and sandstone Neo-Classicism, so I headed of for something more basic.

My first choice was the brick pillar standing opposite the Customs House. I still can't decide if it was built as a chimney or as a brick tower or pillar, perhaps supporting a navigation light. Built of rendered brick it just stands there, uncelebrated, except by pigeons courting on the top.

In the shelter of a brick wall, I was able to stand in comfort and draw the entrance to The Steamboat, "CAMRA Real Ale Pub of 2015". Interrupted only by a young woman who walked past me up and down the hill four or five times glued to her mobile phone, telling the world and her friend about how awful her boyfriend was and what he'd done on Facebook, I got the drawing done in about an hour. And my only regret is that due to seriously mismanaging the dimensions of the front wall, I had to reduce the number of windows from three to two. But as my Mum would have said, a man on a galloping horse would never notice.

3.30 and coffee in the Customs House cafe called. By the time I got there, some were already sitting and Anita was being indecisive. Cake or scone? Or maybe a panini? Or what was that other thing on the menu? 

Eventually we all sat down and after eating and drinking, we passed our work around. As usual it was all fascinating and Kim kindly allowed me to include this photo of everyone holding up sketchbooks. Well, everyone except me, which probably accounts for my glum look. If you look carefully, you can see I'm eyeing up the lonely book at the front of the table (Jenny has mine).

Anita, Mike, Me, Richard, Allan and Jenny
with Kim behind the camera.

Next Sketch Crawl : 9 July 2016, 1.00pm at the Ouseburn Farm.

Sunday 1 May 2016

Sketch Crawl # 9 : Holy Trinity Church, Jesmond, and the Dene

Churchill Gardens, Jesmond
(0.8 marker over two pages of A4 sketchbook)

I had a new pencil case (or at least an old one with some new pencils and markers in it) and the weather forecast was for sun all day, even if cold, so off I went on Saturday to Jesmond to meet up with the Sketch Crawlers at Holy Trinity Church.

Richard had the keys to the church and the interior was nice and warm. Outside as always, Mike was across the road drawing the church and new member Jenny was sitting on the church wall drawing from an unusual angle. Janet arrived as I got there and we had a bit of a shufty round the interior.

A sudden flurry of activity announced the arrival in the church of Mike and Jenny, shaking off some unexpected rain and everyone started to draw bits and pieces: windows, microphones, fonts ... But my eye had been taken with a building opposite the church and from the shelter of the doorway I was able to get this drawing of Churchill Gardens done. Actually, the rain soon passed and Anita, another new member appeared, having taken a peculiarly circuitous route from the Metro station.

By the time I'd finished my drawing of the end of Churchill Gardens, the sun was warm and bright and the others had gone round the corner to Pets Corner in Jesmond Dene. I joined them but found the animals annoyingly mobile. Mike showed how good he was at capturing the  likeness of various chickens and ducks, but I couldn't get to grips with all that movement.

Finally, I decided I'd go for the chicken coops and maybe include a hen if it would stay still long enough. As it happened, the hens all buggered off once I'd started and none appeared in the whole time I was drawing. Just as pleased, really.

Chicken Coops, Pets Corner, Jesmond Dene
(0.8 marker and Pentel Brush Pen in A4 sketchbook)

Friday 29 April 2016


Lindisfarne Boatshed
(Oil on board, 8 x 8 in)

Coves Haven, Lindisfarne
(Oil on board, 8 x 8 in)

On Monday I went back to my old studio, unpacked the oil paints and finished off these two paintings over two days. There was always going to be the problem of drying, but a judicious mix of W&N Underpainting White and Liquin helped them dry by Thursday, when I handed them in at the North of England Art Club in Newcastle.

After handing them in, I made a final attempt to find my lost pencil case. The only place I hadn't checked was the Discovery Museum where we held our February Sketch Crawl, so I asked the nice man behind the desk if it had been handed in.

He was very helpful, even reading out some of the items that had been handed in.

"A ham sandwich and a bag of cash?"

"No", I said.

"A wallet with £100 in it?"

"Yes, that's the one!" but he was having none of it, and didn't find any mention of my pencil case either.