Thursday, 24 May 2018

Attic Vessels Rearranged.

Attic Vessels Rearranged
(acrylic on mountboard, 9 x 7 in)

I'm still suffering something of a creative block: there are things I could paint but the motivation to do so isn't there. I know the advice is "When you can't paint, paint something else" but that's not helping, so the search for a subject with a raison d'être continues.

Though I'm mostly idle (if just thinking a lot counts as "idle"), I did spend a little time a few days ago making some corrections to this small painting so that it's now finished.

My Regular Reader may remember that the composition came about after I'd printed off a copy of another small painting, cut out the pots and rearranged them. This is the original:

Five Attic Vessels
(acrylic on canvas 8 x 8 in.)

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Winter at Staithes

Winter at Staithes
(acrylic on board, 12 x 12 in.)

After the excitement of the workshop in York I found myself unsettled during the week, unable to really get into any work of consequence. Finally, at the Friday meeting of Gateshead Art Society (where the suggested theme was "Urban Painting"), I was able to finish this winter picture. Brrr.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Karen Stamper and the Concertina Sketchbook

It takes a lot to get me out of bed, dressed and breakfasted and onto a train by 8.43 am these days, but that's what happened last Saturday. I was on my way to York with fellow Sketch Crawler Richard to take part in a workshop led by Karen Stamper.

I've been looking at Karen's work for quite a while and wondering how she achieved the effects in her concertina sketchbooks, so when the opportunity to find out came up, I jumped at the chance.

And it was well worth the effort! I won't give away Karen's secrets - she has lots more workshops to give, I'm sure - but will say that she started us off slowly to get us over the natural trepidation most of us felt. Dribbling ink and squirting it with water while it runs down five or six pages of  the concertina must be a proven ice-breaker. After that it was just one bit of fun after another, involving PVA, gesso, frottage, markers, collage and some hard thinking.

I ended up with six pages of an abstracted townscape full of references to Crete. One of the fascinations of the concertina sketchbook is that as it's folded, new compositions come into view.

It was clear everyone enjoyed themselves and seeing the sketchbooks laid out together showed how individual the end results were. 

Pat and I have a long holiday in Chania planned for later this year and I can certainly see me using some of these techniques while I'm there. And I'll be watching out for the chance to take another of Karen's workshops!


Monday, 30 April 2018

Belated Blogiversary

Fourteen years ago, on the 15th April, I wrote my first blog post on Boogie Street. In fact, I wrote my first four blog posts. I soon realised I couldn't keep that up, but am surprised to find that I've kept going, with only one minor lapse, for fourteen years.

Commenters have come and gone and the world of blogging has closed down or moved over to Facebook, but I still find it helpful to write stuff about my work. With luck, my Regular Reader also finds it interesting.

Cheers! Here's to the next fourteen.

Meanwhile ...

The Fishmonger WIP
(acrylic on board, 25 x 25 cm.)

Fresh Fruit WIP
(acrylic on board, 25 x 25 cm)

Staithes in Winter WIP
(acrylic on board, 12 x 12 in.)

The Gardener WIP
(acrylic on board, 25 x 25 cm.)

Meanwhile, in the secret realm of the studio, work progresses on several paintings. The first two are very near completion, but as I've said here before, I hate finishing pictures when I know what they'll look like. I enjoy starting paintings and I enjoy struggling with the elements that aren't working, but once I recognise how they'll end up, I lose interest. Only when I need them for a show do I feel the need to really press on to the end. 

In the case of The Fishmonger, I'd like to give him a face; the man selling Fresh Fruit could do with a better nose.

It may seem odd to be working on a painting of Staithes in Winter, but I'm assured that greetings card manufacturers buy images for Xmas in June and it helps to maintain at least a facade of business-mindedness.

The Gardener is so named because he started out as a man in front of a topiary garden. I decided the picture wasn't working well and intended to simply paint over it and start afresh. But the man protested that he had a right to justify himself, so I've given his garden a coating of pasted down tissue paper and we'll see what emerges from the milky mist. Might be another garden; might not.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Sketch Crawl : Durham again.

Durham Market Square
(marker, brushpen and Inktense pans in A4 sketchbook)

Back to Durham yesterday for our latest Sketch Crawl. Last week's sun was still about, but sadly not last week's heat. There was a freezing wind blowing through the Market Square, but I found a handy wall to lean against and had a go at the Market Hall opposite.

Because we'd only allowed an hour for this first sketch, I rushed at the subject with only a minimum of measuring and as a result found I'd run out of room at the bottom of the page. My intention had been to include some of the people in the foreground, so I can't deny an element of disappointment with the eventual line drawing.

Image may contain: 1 person, tree, sky and outdoor

In an attempt to get warm, we moved on from the Market Square to inside the Cathedral. For me, the Cathedral interior is overwhelming. I could draw it with charcoal as a tonal study, but thinking about trying to capture it with simple line work meant I didn't even make a start. My compliments to Michael for not only sketching some very complicated elements and structures, but doing it with only line work and a little watercolour.

After a while I sat down in a quiet side chapel and, in the absence of anything I wanted to draw, I made some efforts to salvage my earlier drawing. A grey brushpen (Note to self: this is running dry) and a few notes of colour using my new box of Inktense pans moved the drawing to somewhere more acceptable in my arena of self-criticism.

On the way to the Cathedral, Kim had told me she was determined to get more work done but was concerned that she was easily side tracked by the attraction of sitting in a cafe with friends. When it was time for coffee (Cathedral coffee is terrible), I found her at a table in the cafe with Bethan, drinking coffee and bemoaning her weakness. Tsk. Must Try Harder.

It was great to have four people new to our Crawls join in at Durham. I hope to see you all again.

Next time: Bowes Railway on 26 May. A decision I think I have to make about that is whether to continue with the A4 sketchbook. It's quite heavy to hold while standing up, as I usually do, and my left hand is starting to cramp after an hour or so of holding it. (The perils of being so old that one of the drawings in the current sketchbook was done before Bethan was born.)

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Hats and Bags

Hats and Bags
(acrylic on board, 30 x 30 cm)

I was surprised at how long this took to finish. There was a lot of balancing of tones, colours and implied textures to get right and the background needed adjusting several times to make the hats sit properly in relation to the wall. 

But it's finished now and ready to frame. I think it makes a nice pair with the Jelly Shoes painting, but will also hang quite well with the smaller Caps and Bags.

 Jelly Shoes
(acrylic on board, 12 x 12 in)

Caps and Bags
(acrylic on canvas, 20 x 20 cm)

When I put the final touches to Hats and Bags, I felt a bit deflated because I realised I'd probably come to the end of this thread. There are more hats I could paint, but for now I think I'm done with them. I have a similar idea to explore which may result in one or two related works, but we'll have to see how that progresses. 

"What to do next?" is often a problem when you've done no work on the side to draw out lurking thoughts. The thing to do, though, is ensure you don't let a time of contemplation become a long fallow period. I find it becomes so much more difficult to start work again then.

Friday, 30 March 2018

You can leave your hat on.

Hats WIP
(acrylic on board, 30 x 30 cm)

For a man who hates wearing hats, I sure do love painting them. I'll move this along a little more today.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Jelly Shoes

Jelly Shoes
(acrylic on board, 12 x 12 in)

I made a bit of a push to finish this painting in time for the Newcastle Painters Group meeting on Saturday and am well pleased with the result and with the comments I received at the meeting.

You'll see that the mysterious woman who appeared behind the jelly shoe rack has been eliminated. I decided she wasn't required and in fact detracted from the arrangement of colourful footwear.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Sketch Crawl - The Hancock Museum and McKenna's Cafe

Bardon Mike @ McKenna's
(Pitt fine marker in A5 sketchbook)

Saturday dawned grey and snowy, Michael was sensibly in bed with a cold, but I braved the chill wind and met the other members of Urban Sketchers Tyne and Wear huddling in the entrance to Haymarket Metro.

The plan had been to draw in and around the campus of Newcastle University but the weather made that deeply unattractive, so we opted instead for a return to the Great North Museum : Hancock. 

This would be our third visit to the Hancock and for me yet another chance to draw pots. Annoyingly, I discovered I'd left my pencil case at home, but found a pack of Pitt pens in the bottom of my bag.

Attic Amphora and Funerary Pots
(Pitt fine marker in A4 sketchbook)

Cypriot Jug with Sphinxes c 600 BC
(Pitt marker in A4 sketchbook)

Sadly, the Hancock has a policy of closing its cafe at 3.30 so while some of us managed to snatch a coffee and a scone before they closed, Richard was reduced to drinking my little jug of milk. 

In need of further caffeine we upped sticks and moved to McKenna's Cafe, just across the road. There we were able to sit and watch the snow being blown around outside, draw the Students' Union Building or simply draw one another.

Unusually for me, I opted for the latter and Bardon Mike, who'd joined us for the day from Berwick Sketchers, helpfully sat very still while I obsessed over the folds in his hoodie to such an extent that I can't help feeling he looks a little like a character drawn by Dürer (see top of post).

I thought the time round the table in McKenna's, laughing and sketching one another was a lovely way to round out the day and Kim even managed to get a photo of me smiling with Jenny (but then it was nice to see Jenny back with the group!).

(Photo: Kim Willis)

Next sketch crawl : 28th April, venue to be decided.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Mmm ... Jelly Shoes

Jelly Shoes WIP
(acrylic on board, 12 x 12 in)

All this snow is making me wish for sunnier times past (and to come, I hope). 

Following on from Caps and Bags, I decided to see what I could make of a photograph of shoes I took in Croatia a few years ago. I love the way these colourful "jelly" shoes are scattered across a dark background, but the surprise came in finding a woman's head peering through the arrangement.

I completed most of this today and was optimistic of finishing altogether over the weekend, but had forgotten that on Saturday there's another Sketch Crawl, weather permitting.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Caps and Bags

Caps and Bags
(acrylic on canvas, 20 x 20 cm)

A problem with my recent reliance on composing subjects with the aid of Photoshop was highlighted this week as the snow came down. Although I still had access to Photoshop,  I find working from a screen impossible and I couldn't print anything off because my printer gave up the ghost at the beginning of the week.

Snow-related setbacks meant my replacement printer didn't arrive until yesterday. In the meantime, to stave off cabin fever, I pulled out a printout I'd worked on a while ago and produced this small painting over a couple of days.

I like it but am interested to see that it's mostly painted in the way I would have painted it were I using oil paint.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Sketch Crawl - The Apple Store

iPad Drawing

An unusual Sketch Crawl, this. Bob, who has been experimenting with the Procreate software on iPad Pro and joining in workshops at the Apple Store at the Metrocentre, arranged for us all to go to one of the workshops.

I have to say that I hate the Metrocentre; in all the time it's been open, I can't have been there more than half a dozen times. It's everything that my youthful science fiction reading told me an urban dystopia would be like, long before Sir John Hall had his bright idea to make more money than he already had.

And, of course, as soon as I got there, I got lost. I'd obviously got off the shuttle bus at the Wrong Quadrant instead of the Red Quadrant and had to wind my way through one mall after another, none more recognisable than the next, following signs that seemed to peter out at the most crucial point and looking at interactive maps that didn't seem to be able to tell me where I was so I could get to where I wanted to be.

Eventually, I asked a kind lady at a rare information stand: "Can you tell me how to get to the Apple Store, please?"

"It's behind you," she said.

The long trek through the labyrinth meant I arrived a little late for the techniques briefing, but a short bit of personal tuition coupled with my experience of Photoshop, allowed me to get started with the others on some iPad sketching in The Village ("I am not a number ....!").

(Photo: Bob Laine)

Like any other drawing experience, I soon found myself drawn into the actual making of an image and, although I knew what I was producing wouldn't hold up to great scrutiny, I enjoyed the whole thing. The tutors were kind enough (or professional enough) to enthuse over my attempt, and in return I introduced one of them to the work of Ronald Searle, whose wonderful line work was brought to mind by my little bit of black line at the top of the clock in my drawing.

Back at the Apple Store, our work was projected on a TV screen and then we all held up our individual iPads for this celebratory photo:

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Crab Pots and Men's Sheds

I was recently contacted (through Gateshead Art Society) by Graham Storer, asking if I might agree to the use of one of my paintings on a postcard to advertise the establishment of a Men's Shed in Staithes.

OK, you may not know what a Men's Shed is and I admit I didn't either, but researching the movement, it looks like a very worthwhile thing and I gladly gave my permission to use the image without a fee.

Here's what Graham has to say about the postcard:

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Trees and Mausoleum

Trees and Mausoleum
(acrylic on board, 30 x 30 cm)

This is the painting I worked on last week to get it ready for the Newcastle Painters Group meeting on Saturday. I had to fight my natural inclination to use brighter colour, but I thought it important to maintain the mood and sombre colour seemed appropriate to do that. So it is that most of it was achieved with raw umber, Payne's grey, unbleached titanium and sap green. Only the sky was allowed a little variation to include cobalt blue, ultramarine, cerulean blue and more Payne's grey. This may not be obvious from the photograph because of reflection into the camera lens. I hope the eventual varnishing will help with that.

[I'm not very happy with the title - Trees with Mausoleum may be accurate but falls short of the more poetic title I think it probably deserves. Serious suggestions welcome.]

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Spanish Pot

Spanish Pot
(acrylic on board, 7 x 7 in.)

Friday afternoon at Gateshead Art Society sometimes presents me with a decision on what I should do. There's a published programme that I'm free to ignore or follow, as the whim takes me, and this can be useful when I'm between paintings.

This week we had visitors at home so what spare time I had available was used to finish of a painting to take to the Newcastle Painters meeting on Saturday (more on that tomorrow) and little opportunity to research subject matter for a new painting to start at the Shipley on Friday. The programme suggested we do a painting without using any brushes and complete it in one session. In a rush, I chose a few tools and paints, grabbed a small prepared panel, printed off a photograph of a pot I'd seen in Seville and set off to make my little painting.

And after about an hour and a half, the painting was done. It was fascinating, frustrating and enlightening to see what could be done with my chosen tools - a pipe cleaner and a cosmetic sponge. The pattern on the pot proved most difficult but I like the rather primitive effect the folded sponge achieved.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Under the Knife

Following the death of my old friend Ian Bennett, members of the Newcastle Painters Group were invited to take whatever of his painting materials they wanted to remind them of him. I needed very little in the way of paints and canvas, but I asked for one or two small brushes and a painting knife.

On Friday, just before going to my session with Gateshead Art Society, I decided I'd take along the painting knife. Then it occurred to me that writing "IAN" on it would ensure it didn't become mixed up with my other tools and that I'd always remember him when I used it.

Imagine my surprise when I turned it over to write on the back with a Posca Pen and found somewhat worn but still legible the "H." that I've often used on my cartoons and sometimes to mark my effects. It was my painting knife! How or when Ian came by it, I have no idea, but I think he would have laughed as much as I did.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Up the garden path again.

Trees and Mausoleum WIP
(acrylic on board, 30 x 30cm)

Another day at Gateshead Art Society, another landscape. Somewhat inspired by The Tower in the Woods, I've begun another building in the woods. The woods in this case came from a sketching trip to Auchterarder and the mausoleum I found on a holiday in Majorca. They came together in my mind, a meeting place for many impossible things before breakfast.

I think it will work OK but in what way, I'm unsure. At the moment it looks a little eerie but whether my sunny disposition will win through, only time will tell.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Sketch Crawl - Shipley Art Gallery

Pieces of 2 Clarinets & 1 English Flute
(0.8 marker and Japanese brushpen in A4 sketchbook)

Very much on home turf for this sketchcrawl last Saturday with the Urban Sketchers Tyne & Wear. The Shipley Art Gallery is where Gateshead Art Society meets and where I go to paint on most Fridays. On those painting days I've often thought I'd like to take a closer look at the objects in the display cases, so while one or two hardy sketchers went out in the icy wind to draw the outside of the gallery building, I concentrated on the cases that contain the contents of the former Saltwell Towers Museum (very much a Cabinet of Curiosities).

Drawing the pieces of musical instrument, I puzzled over how they might fit together. It wasn't until I located the catalogue that I found they were pieces from several different instruments!

Time then for coffee and biscuits in the Henry Rothschild Room, where Kim took this photo of us displaying our creations.

A good turn out!

After coffee, I went back to a drawing I'd started of some bowls by Lucie Rie displayed in a case with some other ceramic pieces. I decided to add a little colour with markers and coloured pencils to bring the whole together. If the perspective on the lower row looks a little suspect (and I know it does!), it's because there was a gap and for the sake of the composition I added another pot from an upper row.

Lucie Rie Bowls and assorted ceramics
(0.8 marker, brushpens and coloured pencils
in A4 sketchbook)

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Mint Street Parade

Mint Street Parade
(acrylic on board, 25 x 25 cm)

In December I had trouble with very visible Sharpie lines on this panel but solved it with a layer of thin paper. Last week I pushed on and thought I'd finished the painting. 

I was a little dissatisfied with what seemed to be simply a street scene with a man standing there with his shopping bag and I'm always acutely aware that the good folk of the North East don't like buying pictures of places they don't recognise and Mint Street is in Lincoln.

My admiration for Carel Weight suggested an addition. In many of Weight's paintings there are mysterious or unexplained events, often taking place out of the picture, and into my head jumped the idea of a passing parade. Hence the balloons.

Oddly, when I showed this picture to my friends at the recent Newcastle Painters meeting, no one noticed the balloons and my little joke was lost.

Friday, 26 January 2018

Winter's Jar

Winter's Jar
(acrylic on board, 24 x 24 cm)

In an effort to get some things done before the next meeting of the Newcastle Painters Group, I pressed on and completed this small winter landscape, featuring another of the pharmacy jars I saw in the Fitzwilliam Museum. The landscape itself is a view of hills in Little Langdale, where I went on one of my painting trips ten years ago. The snow, of course, is pure invention.

I'm really quite pleased with this picture and was glad to find it met with a favourable reaction at the Painters group meeting.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Ian Bennett

Ian Bennett

I'm greatly saddened to report the passing of my old friend and painting buddy, Ian Bennett, who died on 29th of December 2017.

Ian was one quarter of the Figure 8 painting group which we set up in 2004. We had our first exhibition together in that year in the Long Gallery, University of Newcastle and went on to show as Figure 8 in twelve further exhibitions over ten years around the region.

Ian was also instrumental in starting the Newcastle Painters Group and acted as the unofficial "secretary" until last year.

It may have been due to his calling (he was a Canon at St Nicholas's Cathedral in Newcastle - I referred to him fondly as "the loose canon"), but I prefer to believe that it was because he was just a Very Nice Man that I never heard him say a bad thing about anyone. Everyone who knew him liked him.

To the end his greatest wish was to get back to his painting and when his family came to see to his affairs, there was a fresh canvas on his easel.

I shall miss him.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

The Last Cake

The Last Cake before the New Year Diet
(black marker with digital colour)

In the last few days I've posted on my Facebook Pages albums of all the paintings I completed in 2017 and all the sketchbook drawings I did in 2017 directly from the subject (on sketch crawls and on holiday). 

There were 14 paintings (excluding one or two that need to be re-photographed) and 16 sketches. That's not too many. Last year was a somewhat confused year and it took me quite some time to get into the creative swing of things. Drawing with the Tyne & Wear Urban Sketchers kept me (relatively) sane and there was the displacement activity of the Sketchbook Circle, but it wasn't until June that I began painting again.

I expected to resume oil painting and had bought a new radial easel to ease the transition from my old, larger basement studio to the new, attic conversion studio. But in the end, I found myself renewing my acquaintance with acrylics and working at a desk. Partly this was due to my use of water-based media in the Sketchbook Circle books, partly because I wasn't sure about the white spirit fumes in the smaller studio and partly out of a genuine desire to shake things up and try something new.

I last used acrylics in the late 80s and I was delighted to find how different they are today. I'm so please with the paintings I've done with them that I fully expect to continue exploring what they can do for the foreseeable future. 

As for drawing, my sketching with the Urban Sketchers will continue (next sketch crawl is on 27th January - venue yet to be decided) and having dropped out of the Sketchbook Circle for this year, I plan on getting more self-initiated sketchbook work done.

To that end, here's the first little sketchbook drawing of 2018. In the sketchbook it's only a black line drawing, but I still get great enjoyment out of colouring these things in Photoshop. Still, I may try some watercolour on the original in an effort to get more to grips with the slippery stuff so I can use it outdoors.

I hope my Regular Reader stays with me for what I hope will be an interestingly creative twelvemonth. Best Wishes to you all!

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Sketch Crawl - The 'Into' Building, 16th December

South Africa War Memorial, from the Into Building
(0.8 marker in A4 sketchbook)

For some reason I completely forgot to post this drawing, done on the last sketch crawl of the year. The "crawl" was a bit unusual, in that the Tyne & Wear Urban Sketchers were invited to join the Newcastle Painters Group for an informal lunch, before we went up to the top floor of Newcastle University's 'Into' Building to do some sketching.

What a view! I've never been able to see the angel on top of the South Africa War Memorial so clearly before and I'm well pleased with the drawing I made. A good end to the year's sketching.

My Dad's Diary : Wed 31st December 1947

"Work again.

Paid 1st full monthly salary £21.14.9.

Saw the New Year in at Mother's with Ronnie & Glad, Billy & Winnie."

And that, of course, is the last entry of the Diary. In the Notes at the bottom of the final diary page are these important dates:


Harry born Jan 29th.

Established as Sen. Mss. Nov 10th."

Finally, at the back of the diary, is a list of music that presumably my Dad listened to and thought worthy of noting down:

"Mood Indigo.
Moonlight Sonata.
Concerto for Two.
Rachmaninoff's Second.
The Flea.
The Folks Who Live on the Hill.
On with the Motley.
The Student Prince.
The Desert Song.
Tommy Dorsey - Getting Sentimental.
Cabin in the Sky.
Gloomy Sunday.
Westering Home (Robert Wilson)
Tenement Symphony (Anne Shelton)
The Folks Who Live on the Hill."

And yes, "The Folks..." does appear twice.

I hope at least some of you have found these diary entries of interest and my thanks to those who may not have found them so, but stayed on nevertheless.

To those who unsubscribed because "Content no longer relevant" I have nothing to say because you won't read it anyway (smiley face).

Friday, 29 December 2017

Ian Bennett RIP

I'm saddened to report that my old friend, Ian Bennett, died last night of pneumonia. His wife Rachel died earlier this year and when I saw him last he was looking very frail.
Ian and I, with two other painters, formed Figure8 in 2004 to show our paintings and we held shows round the region for ten years. This is part of the poster for our last show together in 2014. I shall miss him.

My Dad's Diary : Mon 29th December 1947


Mother minded Harry in PM. 

Took Doris to Westgate to see Charlie Chaplin."

Monsieur Verdoux Poster

The film was probably Monsieur Verdoux, a black comedy in which Chaplin abandoned his little tramp persona to play: "A suave but cynical man supports his family by marrying and murdering rich women for their money, but the job has some occupational hazards."

The film was not well received by the press and did better in Europe than America, but it was nominated for an Oscar for Best Writing in 1947.

Thursday, 28 December 2017

My Dad's Diary : Sun 28th December 1947

"Usual Sunday. Pottered about in garden.

Five Wand at night."

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

My Dad's Diary : Fri 26th December 1947

"Had walk out with Doris & Harry. Wreath on father's grave."

My Dad used to take me to Saltwell Cemetery every Xmas, without fail, to lay a holly wreath on his Father's grave. After his Mother's death, we changed the day to Xmas Day itself so that we could lay the wreath on her birthday.

My parents were both cremated but I had their ashes put in the same grave and I've made sure I continue the tradition of laying a wreath on the grave, although I now do it on Xmas Eve. This is this year's: