Thursday, 27 October 2016

Sketchbook Circle Moves Round Again

The summer has certainly interfered with 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.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Sketchbook Circling

While I'm waiting for the two small oils to dry (water-mixable oils don't seem to dry much faster than ordinary oils), I have some time to get on with Becca's sketchbook for the Sketchbook Circle

As always, I can't reveal what I'm up to until Becca herself gets the book back, so this teaser will have to do for now.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Water and Oil

I recently agreed to take part in an exhibition by the North of England Art Club at the Bondgate Gallery in Alnwick, the theme of which will be the rather vague "Northumbrian Scenes". There are two restrictions: the paintings must all be 20x20 cm and must all have a fixed selling price of £50.

Having agreed to get them ready by 12 May, I was dismayed to find that the date for handing in has changed to 28 April to allow for their framing. So the last few days have seen me hunting for images to fit the brief and suitably sized boards on which to paint them.

The studio still isn't really set up for oil painting, so I'd have preferred to work in acrylics, especially as I've just invested in a new set of Atelier Interactive Acrylics and would like to see how they perform. But the boards I found already have old oil paintings on them and acrylic over oil paint isn't a very good idea.

Another problem: most of my oil paints are still in the studio at my old house, so I found myself painting with a set of 8 Van Gogh water-mixable oils. Inevitably the colours aren't really those I would have chosen but they provided me with enough colour to cover over the old paintings.

This is where I got today with my two images which are, incidentally, scenes from Holy Island.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Sketchbook Circle : My Seconds Out

Time to reveal the additions and responses I made in my sketchbook sent this month to my Sketchbook Circle Partner, A. The first set of three are pages I prepared last time; A chose not to work on these (there are no rules), so I've added something of my own to them.

The next three are pages started by and added to by me. 

[Later: At her request, I've removed them]


This third set shows a response by me (the matchbox) to a page by (the matches), followed by some additions by me to her pages.

[Later -  here I've again deleted all of A's images, with the exception of the spent matches, which I feel are important to my own contribution]


Finally, we have three new pages by me. I don't regard most of these as being complete in any way, so if A does nothing to them (she can, of course, simply respond with images of her own), I'll be working on them again when the book returns at the end of the month.

Technical note: in working on these, I used black and coloured markers, watercolour, gouache, acrylic paint and coloured pencils, as well as collage, of course.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Sketchbook Circle: Second Round.

I've received Becca's sketchbook this week, so my thoughts turn to additions and responses again. The first image below shows Becca's additions to one of my pages in her book, and the three after that are her new pages.


Sunday, 3 April 2016

Mail Art Envelopes

I'm about to send out my Sketchbook Circle sketchbook to my Circle Partner A, so that she can begin her second round of additions to it. As soon as she's received it, I'll show you what I did in it over the last month.

In the course of unearthing suitable material for the sketchbook, I came across a cache of Mail Art envelopes. I've written here about my short involvement with the world of Mail Art and while these envelopes are far from being works of art in any way, they do demonstrate the sense of fun, anarchy, serendipity and plain silliness the movement embraced. Circulating these through the post was our way of bringing art into everyday life.

Look for collage, rubber stamps, photocopies, magazine cuttings, drawings, marker pens and fake postage stamps.