Sunday 22 December 2019

Merry Christmas!

Snow on Bath Lane
(Acrylic on board, 8x8 in. Text added)

Friday 29 November 2019


(mixed media on board, 30x30 cm)

This is the second of my new wall paintings. It may seem very abstract but is based quite definitely on a crumbling wall I found in Funchal, the capital of Madeira. Still, it was the abstract quality that intrigued me and continues to do so. I love the way the various elements of it seem to float free from the rest and I was at pains not to make it so obviously a wall.

There are two more in this series so far. You may well find that they look more like walls, but it's this one I'll look to for inspiration in the future.

Tuesday 12 November 2019

Hill Town

Hill Town
(mixed media on canvas, 24 x 12 in)

Working on the Textured Door paintings, I wondered how the methods used on those paintings might work on a more traditional image, so I began work on this view of a hill town.

A while ago I produced a collage of cut up inkjet prints of various views of places mostly in Croatia. It was tall and narrow and didn't fit in with my obsession with square paintings, so I put it away. Now that I wanted to try my new methods, I remembered I had a box of 24 x 12 inch canvases, ordered when I was making larger oil paintings, so I pulled one out of the storage room.

There's a lot of stuff on this painting - washi tape, tissue paper, pieces of magazine and envelopes, even some patterned wrapping tape, as well as acrylic paint and gels. 

It was an interesting project and seems to have worked pretty well. Oh, and because people have already asked, the white circles are satellite dishes!

Saturday 2 November 2019

The Greatest Showgirls Tour

The Greatest Showgirls Tour
(Mixed media on board, 30x30 cm)

Cheered by the success, at least as I see it, of the series of door paintings, I started this wall painting last week. I laid out the main elements, but knew when I started I didn't want to include the large patch of grey cement that was in the source photograph I'd taken in Crete:

On the way to the Club, I came across a fly-posted ad for a touring show and ripped part of it off the wall. Sticking it down in the place of the grey cement, I began the task of accommodating this new element.

pushed and pulled the composition and the painting went through umpteen changes, but now it's done. I’ve learned a lot from this painting and looking back at the original photograph, I think I may return to the image again.

Thursday 17 October 2019

Blue Door

Blue Door
(Mixed media on board, 30x30 cm)

This door painting, the fourth in the series, took much more pushing and pulling than the others, but I think I’m satisfied with it now.

Saturday 12 October 2019

Inktober 2019 - Postscript

Chicken Shed
(Home made cane pen and Indian ink in square sketchbook)

Maybe I was feeling a little guilty at having given up on the Inktober challenge, or maybe I simply wanted to extract the elements of a photograph so that I could use those elements in some future painting. Whatever, I sat down with the photograph and drew this scratchy drawing with a home made pen, posting it on Facebook as Day 12 of Inktober 2019.

Anyway, I like it's lack of finesse.

Tuesday 8 October 2019

Inktober 2019 - The Castle Drawings

Well, Inktober 2019 came round and because I'd missed Inktober 2018 by virtue of being hard at work in Crete, I determined to give this year's event a go. However, I have a poor track record in keeping up with challenges and even this first drawing came unwillingly. I simply sat down and drew what came into my head. 

And that's how it went for a week, but I became conscious of how much thought I was actually giving to each successive drawing, willing it into a series. And so, after a week I gave up. I'll post the other six drawings below, but as they're so clearly cartoons rather than serious drawings, I may also post them separately on The Cartoonist's Hat.

All were drawn with a Pilot disposable fountain pen in a Pink Pig square sketchbook.

Monday 30 September 2019

La Farola, Malaga

La Farola, Malaga
(Markers and watercolour in A5 sketchbook)

Moving on to Malaga, I looked for something new to draw, but eventually settled on drawing the lighthouse again. I'd drawn it on my previous visit but opted for a different viewpoint, sitting among the bins and litter outside the gents loo. Who says an artist's life can't be glamorous?

(Photo: Pat Bell)

Sunday 29 September 2019

Plaza de la Virgen, Valencia

Plaza de la Virgen, Valencia
(Black marker and coloured pencils in A5 sketchbook)

We spent three wonderful weeks in Spain in September; two in Valencia and one in Malaga. The choice of cities was in part due to the convenience of flights from and to Newcastle and, in the case of Malaga, because we'd been before and liked it.

Valencia is a beautiful city that proved really difficult for me to draw. The buildings are impressive but also very tall, so that the parts that I found most interesting were inevitably at the top and there was no way I could either get up to their height, or find a spot in crowded streets where I could easily sit and look upwards.

I did at one point consider doing some drawings of  the really exciting modernist buildings by Santiago Calatrava at the City of Arts and Sciences, but realised that, in effect, the designer had done all the work for me - everywhere I looked was a great composition!

Determined to come away from Valencia with at least one drawing in my sketchbook, I sat with a drink in the Plaza de la Virgen and drew this part of a square where all the world comes to mingle and take selfies in front of the fountain.

Sunday 25 August 2019

Elsdon, and Blakehope Nick

Bird in Bush, Elsdon
(markers and coloured pencils in A5 sketchbook)

A second day of blazing hot sunshine! In England! 

Fortified by slices of melon and punnets of strawberries, sixteen sketchers (including some non-sketchers and a child) were yesterday driven over speed bumps and gravelly roads into the wilds of Northumberland by Bardon Mike in a Newcastle University minibus.

Arriving around midday in the delightful village of Elsdon, we showed Mike who was in charge by rejecting his invitation to draw the little Gothic church and opted instead for the food on offer at the Bird in Bush. I had quite possibly the best BLT baguette sandwich ever and washed it down with a pint of IPA brewed on the premises.

The sandwich was so big it took much longer to eat than expected and I never got more drawn than the front of the pub! 

Rounding up his scattered passengers, Mike suggested we go on to Blakehope Nick by driving part of the way up the Kielder Forest Drive, apparently the longest forest drive in the UK.

The Nick comes as quite a surprise when you top the rise in the road. It was designed and built by Newcastle University Architecture School students and I warmly congratulate them on it.

Not a lot of time to draw, but I did want to get something done. Going into the drawing quickly with a Uni-Pin BR marker may have lent the sketch a bit of a heavy-handed appearance and the hot sun certainly made seeing pretty difficult, even with sunglasses on, but ultimately I think I caught something of the structure.

Blakehope Nick
(markers over two pages of  A5 sketchbook)

Saturday 24 August 2019

Drawing with GAS

Back of Market Street, Hexham
(Markers and watercolour in 14.5 x 21 cm sketchbook)

An unusual afternoon with Gateshead Art Society yesterday. Once a year we try to have a day out sketching and this time we opted for sketching in and around Hexham Abbey.

I find historic towns like Hexham quite difficult when it comes to urban sketching because it's often a problem to mentally separate the historic from the mundane. By which I mean that while most sketchers would go to Hexham to draw the admittedly lovely Abbey, I have to ignore it and look around for the back lanes and crumbling buildings of the "normal" workaday town, because that's what does it for me. I love old brick buildings, failing drainpipes ...

The terrific and largely unexpected sunshine presented its own difficulties. All the seats that were in the shade were occupied with English people complaining about how hot it was because complaining about the heat is a welcome change from complaining about how cold or how wet it is.

Eventually I came across Allan who had found a nice stone wall to sit on at the side of the Abbey. While there wasn't really sufficient room for two of us, I did realise I could lean on an adjacent wall and rest my sketchbook on top of it. That way, I was able to draw this scene of the back of Market Street. I started with markers but eventually decided to include a little watercolour. I still don't like watercolour.

Sunday 18 August 2019

Past the Great Rock

Past the Great Rock
(acrylic on canvas, 8 x 8 in)

This, too, was an unfinished painting in the Path Through the Woods series. If memory serves, it's based on a scene in Little Langdale where I spent a week with painter mates in 2007

I used a lot of acrylic gel at the start of this picture because I'd recently returned from a workshop with Lesley Seeger where I'd learned its use.

Saturday 17 August 2019

The Path Never Taken

The Path Never Taken
(acrylic on canvas, 8 x 8 in)

Over the last few months I've started, and left unfinished, quite a few paintings. I've written before how I like starting a picture and, seeing what I think will be the final image in my mind, leaving it to be finished later. As the enjoyment of starting exceeds the enjoyment of finishing, inevitably more pictures get started than are finished. 

Sometimes it takes an exhibition asking for or suggesting a particular theme to get me to return to a painting and move it to completion. So it is with this painting in the Path Through the Woods series begun in 2017. There's a call for an open exhibition locally that suggests to me that I might enter some of these Path paintings. Two of them were unfinished, this being one of them, so I buckled down to work, and here it is now, finished.

Of interest, to me at least, is that the darker atmosphere of the two recent pub paintings has found its way to a certain extent into this one.

Friday 16 August 2019

The Portland and Burton House

The Portland
(acrylic on board, 25 x 25 cm)

I took a photograph of this Newcastle pub sometime in the 1980s but somehow never found a way into making a painting from it. The pub itself was demolished in 1992.

Recently, I completed a painting of another vanished pub, Burton House, demolished in 1992:

Burton House
(acrylic on board, 10 x 10 in)

Casting about for another similar subject, I tried to make something from the photograph of The Portland which I'd photographed at the same time as Burton House. Somehow it just didn't work and I abandoned it, painting over what I'd done.

And then I found myself looking at the work of Ed Kluz, with his lost great houses of England, standing out against very dark skies, and comparing them with my painting of Burton House. And that was when I realised I'd been trying to paint The Portland with a clear blue sky in an attempt to imbue it with some kind of cheerful memory. But it, and Burton House, really belong to the grimy past of Newcastle and fit not uncomfortably into that category sometimes known as the Northern School.

When I failed in my first attempt to paint The Portland, I decided I'd had enough of painting local urban scenes, long a staple of my output. With the success of this new painting (in my opinion, at least), I've had to concede that I'm still interested in the subject.

Tuesday 13 August 2019

Closed Indefinitely

Closed Indefinitely
(mixed media on board, 30 x 30 cm)

Another of my new paintings of old doors, celebrating the textural qualities of weathered wood, flaking paint and rusting metal.

This one was made using acrylic paint, tissue paper, paper collage, acrylic gel, Posca Pens and coloured inks.

Monday 12 August 2019

Roy's Italian Door

Roy's Italian Door
(mixed media on board, 30 x 30 cm)

As I said last month, I enjoyed making the painting, Door Textures, and decided to make more of these texture pieces. This one uses acrylic paint, paper collage, Posca Pens, coloured inks and acrylic gel.

Thursday 8 August 2019

Catch of the Day

Catch of the Day
(acrylic on board, 10x10 in)

I'm happy to report that this painting - one of my favourites - is now hanging on the wall in its new home in Yorkshire.

Tuesday 30 July 2019

Door Textures

Door Textures
(mixed media on board, 30x30 cm)

Although I'm in the middle of several paintings that I'd like to get finished, I was attracted to last Friday's programme challenge at Gateshead Art Society: Surface Textures. 

For many years I've been fascinated by the effects of sun, rain and wind on doors, walls and ironwork and have made one or two paintings based on those effects. So rather than get on and finish an existing painting, I began work on a new picture of part of a weathered door, using as subject matter one of many photographs collected on my travels.

The hardboard panel was first covered in black gesso which I allowed to show through some of the layers of acrylic paint and gel applied (and sometimes scraped off) with palette knife, rags and fingers. There are several pieces of watercolour paper stuck on too, so that the end result is one of actual texture and implied texture. 

I like it and will do more, I think.

Saturday 20 July 2019

Sketch-Together : The Arches and the Hatton

The Boiler House, Newcastle University
(markers in A5 sketchbook)

To accommodate a visiting Luigi, who wouldn't be in Newcastle for any of our scheduled Sketch Crawls, Bob, Alan, Mark and I met up next to The Arches of Newcastle University. Waiting for Luigi to finish his breakfast, the rest of us started to draw, but he arrived soon after.

I know this view very well from my time at the University in the late 90s, but I've never drawn it, so I leaned against a convenient tree and made this drawing. Just as I finished, the heavens opened and we were forced to escape the rivers running across the pavement by sheltering under a tent left over from the recent Degree Congregations.

Even the tent began to leak and we ran round the corner to try for better shelter under a building overhang, though the spray still reached us.

Taking advantage of a brief lull in the rain, we trotted across to the Hatton Gallery. Although I could barely drag the others away from my two astounding artworks hanging in the Friends of the Hatton Summer Exhibition in the Long Gallery (see previous post), some of us did eventually settle down to draw the giant pots that Andrew Burton had previously shown at Gibside

While we drew, the "Gogmagog" sound installation by Matt Stokes filled the room with bells, voices and a brass band. 

I'm afraid either the giant pots or the sound installation had proven too much for the guest of honour, because by the time we were finished sketching and were ready for coffee, we couldn't find Luigi. I learned later he'd failed to find us and had gone off to watch the city's Pride Parade.

Tuesday 16 July 2019

Friends of the Hatton Summer Exhibition.

Jelly Shoes 
and Hats and Bags

Guarding the Friends of the Hatton Summer Exhibition today, I get to look at my two pictures all afternoon. Only half a dozen visitors during my three hour stint, including one woman who rushed in asking to see "the painting of carrots", looked at it, then rushed out without a word.

I think the show could do with better advertising to draw in the punters - tell your friends! It's on until Friday 2 August in the Long Gallery at the Hatton.

Saturday 6 July 2019

Sketch Crawl - Return to Durham City

St Mary the Less, Durham City
(markers in A5 sketchbook)

I was looking forward to the sketch crawl last Saturday, organised by Richard of the Urban Sketchers Tyne and Wear, because for one reason or another, I'd not been able to go to any sketch crawls since February. I had my usual reservations about the venue as I don't have too much interest in drawing the Cathedral or the Castle and it being a very busy city, it's often difficult to find a quiet space to stand (or sit) and draw. 

The Market Square, our original meeting place, turned out to be given over to a giant screen showing the Cricket World Cup from nearby Chester-le-Street. Imagine then, my dismay, to round the corner and see an enormous set of marquees on the Cathedral Green, set up for the University's Convocation Circus.

Urban Sketchers were lying on the grassopposite and some had evidently found things to draw, but I decided to take a walk down another lane, passing Allan who'd discovered a sheltered spot, until I came across a small church celebrating the unsurprisingly little known St Mary the Less. Sitting on a step to avoid the very hot sun, I found I had no view of the church itself, but straight opposite was an old gravestone and a large tree. A gravestone seemed an appropriate subject for the very last page in my sketchbook and the tree challenged me to find new marks for foliage. A broad black marker and a Tombow grey marker supplemented my usual 0.5 marker and really, I came away quite satisfied.

It was great to catch up with Anita, Kim and Bethan in the coffee shop, but disappointing to discover that half the group, including many new members I've yet to meet, were settled in another coffee shop across the river.

Wednesday 3 July 2019

Wooden Bridge at Trogir

Wooden Bridge at Trogir 
(markers in A5 Holidays Sketchbook)

I drew this on our lasr day in Trogir. A late flight gave me the opportunity to sit in the park and draw this wooden bridge, while slowly cooking in the sun.

It's many years since I've allowed myself to burn in the sun, but all the creams and stuff were packed away and when I began to draw I was sitting on a bench in the shade. The sun, however, did what it always does, and slowly moved round until my legs, arms and face were fully exposed. I was still peeling two weeks later.

Tuesday 2 July 2019

On the Riva - outside Diocletian's Palace in Split.

On the Riva - outside Diocletian's Palace in Split.
 (Markers in A5 sketchbook)

A hot day in Split, although we did find ourselves in a ten minute downpour. But before the rain, I sat and drew this view of Diocletian's Palace in my Holidays Sketchbook.

Monday 1 July 2019

On the roof of Villa Ruzica.

On the roof of Villa Ruzica. 
(Markers in A5 sketchbook)

At the beginning of June, Pat and I went off to Croatia for a week. It was purely a chance to get away from what was seeming like an endless Winter, and we stayed in Trogir, a lovely little town we've been to before. 

The weather wasn't quite as we'd hoped and there were days when we realised that Trogir is very much an outdoors town, with most of the bars and restaurants having little or no indoor seating. Nevertheless, overall it was warm and sunny and I made good on my promise to myself to get some work done in my Holidays Sketchbook.

This drawing is a view from a comfy chair on the roof terrace of Villa Ruzica, the little hotel where we stayed and were made very welcome.

Monday 8 April 2019


(Ink, Pentel Brush Pen and Posca Pen in 8x8 in sketchbook)

In March I spent six days in Belgium; first of all in Bruges, then in Leuven. They were both fascinating places to visit and I'd love to go there again. If only Brexit can be prevented from cutting us off completely from Europe. Or just prevented.

Being new to a place always makes it more likely that I'll spend the whole time there walking about, looking and photographing, rather than sketching. And so it was this time.

I'd love to go back, especially to Bruges, where I saw so much I'd want to draw. Oddly, rather than the buildings, the thing that stuck in my mind was the Flemish obsession with pollarding trees and I wish I'd taken more photographs of pollarding examples. I'd certainly make more of them were I able to do some drawing there.

Using one of only two photographs I took, I made this drawing today by quickly brushing in the shape with some ochre ink, then drawing over it with a Pentel Brush Pen. The cut ends of the branches were highlighted with a white Posca Pen.

Tuesday 19 March 2019

The Greek Butcher

The Greek Butcher
(acrylic and collage on board, 8x8 in)

With all these posts from last year's stay in Crete, there may be a temptation for my Regular Reader to think I've been doing no other work. To set the record straight, here's a painting I completed last week. 

The collage element in this one is simply the inside of an envelope used for the background pattern. 

It might be of interest if I show the photograph I used as source material. It took me a long time to find out what information I needed to extract from this photograph:

Monday 18 March 2019

Two Months in Crete : Sketch - On Kissamou Avenue

On Kissamou Avenue.
(Marker and watercolour in 195x195 mm sketchbook)

Moving away from the historical Old Town, I wandered into the more commercial and, I have to say, rather run down part of the new town. Kissamou Avenue is a very busy main road running out of town and just crossing it needs very careful timing but it led me to some lovely dilapidated properties.

When I started this drawing, there was a motorbike parked in front of the building. By the time I got to the bottom part of the drawing, the rider had driven off and a car had arrived and parked. Such are the difficulties of urban sketching.

Tuesday 12 March 2019

Two Months in Crete : Sketch - Potted Hydrangeas

Potted Hydrangeas
(Rotring Art Pen in 195x195 mm sketchbook)

Feeling a little lacking in energy, I decided to sit in the sun on our apartment's patio area. I can never sit still for long without wanting to do something, however, so I thought I'd draw the big pot of hydrangeas near me.

I started in the middle and gradually worked outwards. There's a kind of meditative tranquility that takes hold of me whenever I draw something that needs careful observation like this. Everything else ceases to exist.

I hadn't used my Art Pen in a long time because it had clogged up, but I thought I'd found a way to clean it out and really enjoyed using it again. Unfortunately, when I was done, there was ink all over my fingers and I had to retire it from use again.

Sunday 10 March 2019

Two Months in Crete : Sketch - Lunch at Ntemek Cafe

Lunch at Ntemek Cafe
(Marker and coloured pencils 
in 195x195 mm sketchbook)

On a walk along the bay with Pat, we decided to stop for lunch at Ntemek Cafe. Sitting out front we could look across at the Mocenigo Bastion and enjoy our olives, slices of cucumber, and garlic bread, washed down with Brink's Rhethymnian Dark.

Pat was very patient and understanding in allowing me to draw the meal before we could eat it, but most of the colouring had to wait until we'd done.

Wednesday 6 March 2019

Two Months in Crete : Sketch - On the Walls of Chania

On the Walls of Chania
(mixed media in 195x195 mm sketchbook)

I went out onto the road along the Venetian wall again, but this time I'd made preparations. The sketchbook page was collaged with some pieces of brown paper bag and fragments from a magazine whose colours I knew ought to correspond to a house I had in mind to draw. I also had a folding stool so I could sit in the shade at the side of the road while the groups of tourists passed by on the other side.

Things went well; the colours worked just as I'd hoped and with watercolour, coloured pencils and markers I got what I wanted from the subject.  Just as I was wondering if there was more I might do, a man drove up and parked his car in front of me, then covered it with a tarpaulin, completely shutting off my view. I decided it was time to go, so stood up, but somehow I put pressure on one of the three legs of the stool, it bent and collapsed and I rolled around on my back in the dust.

Thankfully, the car driver had gone and there was a gap in the groups of tourists, so my embarrassment was a private affair.

Tuesday 5 March 2019

Two Months in Crete : Sketch - The House with Good Connection

The House with Good Connection
(markers, watercolour, and coloured pencils 
in 195x195 mm sketchbook)

A road runs along the top of the Venetian fortified walls near our apartment and I knew I wanted to draw some of the buildings that can be seen from that road. I've always liked being able to look down on buildings or get a view of the upper stories and this was a great opportunity. 

This house was on the street immediately inside the walls. No shade again, so I had to simply stand with my sketchbook resting on the parapet for around two hours, the sweat running down my neck from inside my straw hat. But it was worth it. I was able to include the details of the wires and pipes of the building and I especially loved the cable that ran from the downstairs apartment window up to the tv aerial. Hence the title, of course.

Monday 4 March 2019

Two Months in Crete : Sketch - From Ntemek Cafe

From Ntemek Cafe
(Marker in small square sketchbook)

Lunch at Ntemek Cafe, looking out over the bay towards the Mocenigo Bastion. We ate at the Ntemek several times, partly because they stocked the excellent Brink's beer, brewed in Rethymnon. 

The bay has a small beach and is popular with local swimmers (you might see one in the drawing).

Sunday 3 March 2019

Two Months in Crete : Sketch - Down Balantinou

Down Balantinou
(Markers in 195x195 sketchbook)

Balantinou was one of the streets we used most often to walk into the Old Town. It was just round the corner from the apartment and skirted the Schiavo Bastion, built by the Venetians as part of the city fortifications.

On the left of this drawing is a ramp leading up to the top of the Bastion. For about a week after we arrived the ramp was closed off because of a landslide, but the demand from people wanting to get a view of the town from the top soon led to a dismantling of the fence; whether officially or not, who can say?

The landslide had fallen onto the road, which meant it was closed to traffic, so I was able to stand in the middle of the road to draw. In doing so, I was much safer than if I'd stood on the pavement, because that was being used by all the local motorcyclists in the absence of a road.

The taverna canopies belong to the Banana Garden and the blue dome in the background is on the top of the Roman Catholic Church.

Thursday 28 February 2019

Two Months in Crete : Sketch - Shrine and Bell

Shrine and Bell
(Markers and coffee stain in 195x195 mm sketchbook)

This little shrine stands in front of the old buildings in Chania I drew earlier, but rather than stand in the sun this time, I was able to find a sheltered door where I could sit on the step and draw. Only now and then did I have to pull my legs in to avoid being crushed by cars and motorbikes.

The page for this drawing was prepared by having cold coffee spilled over it - deliberately - before leaving the apartment. I knew the stain produced would be similar to the colour of the buildings and I was pleased to find I was able to work with it well.