Monday, 28 December 2009

Holy Island Boat Shed

Holy Island Boat Shed (oil on canvas panel, 5 x 7 ins. Private collection)

I hope you all had a good Christmas. I certainly did and must thank Andy and Helen for giving us such a great time in Cambridge. And the Boxing Day revels with Helen's folks were much appreciated. Thanks guys!

The secret commission I spoke of a while ago can now be revealed. It was this small painting of one of the famous boat sheds on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, with the Castle in the background. I did it as a Christmas present for Andy and Helen.

It was interesting working on such a small scale again. When I first started painting, I did quite a lot of paintings on this sort of scale, especially while Northumbria Gallery were running their Small Works shows, but it's been a few years since I tackled one. Doing this one, and reflecting on the increased problem of storing large pictures in the house, has moved me further in the direction of a renewed interest in small works, I think. Hidden away, but lying dormant, is my Other Blog, Art from Tyneside, set up a year ago during a period of interest in the Daily Painters Movement. Maybe it's about time to get that project off the ground. Watch this space.

Friday, 25 December 2009

Merry Christmas!

Compliments of the Season to One and All.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Website Goes Live

At last! My website went live today, so I hope you'll think about visiting. No, don't just think about it, do it, go there now, do it without thinking! You know you want to.

I'm still finding my way around the template system provided by Clikpic, and as time goes by I'll be adding more content, but I'm happy with it as it stands. Which doesn't mean I won't be interested in any comments you may care to leave on my doorstep.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Old Drawings #49

Seaside Shelter (Charcoal, compressed charcoal on A4 cartridge)

I'm still distracted by various things, so no new painting to show.

On one of many lonely days in the studio at Uni late in 1998, I decided to take the Metro down to the Coast and look for inspiration. It was a cold but sunny day and I walked down the almost deserted beach from Seaton Sluice to Tynemouth. This is one of the drawings that resulted.

Later, I used it to make this painting:

Shelter (oil on canvas, 24 x 24ins)

Thursday, 3 December 2009


On Wednesday I overcame my reluctance and went to see Damien Hirst's installation Pharmacy at the Baltic. I don't like what Hirst does but thought it unfair to condemn a piece of work without actually seeing it. So I met up with my old mate John and after looking at the entertaining photographs in the Martin Parr exhibition, we walked into the room containing Pharmacy.

It didn't make me angry. It didn't make me curious. I didn't laugh. I didn't sneer. I was completely unmoved. The least I expect of an artwork is that it should provoke some emotion, however slight, and this did absolutely nothing.

Sorry, Damien: must try harder. Why not take up painting? No, wait .....

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Robert Holdstock (1948 - 2009)

This Winter continues to pry my fingers loose from all sense of reality. At the weekend, 29th November, Robert Holdstock died after collapsing on the 18th with what proved to be a serious E.coli infection . He was only 61. I knew Rob when I was active in the world of SF conventions and fandom. I didn't know him especially well socially, but he stands tall in my mind as a fun-loving man who filled every room he was in with laughter and good cheer. As is always the way of these things, I'd recently obtained his email address with the intention of writing to him to catch up and say how much his writing meant to me. I delayed doing so and regret that I can never do it now.

Those of you interested in the SF and fantasy field will know him as the author of many notable sf, fantasy and horror novels, but his talent was to show that genre writing could also be good literature.. Unquestionably, his most significant work is that connected with the Mythago cycle, which began with Mythago Wood (1984). The novel won both the World Fantasy Award and the BSFA Award and was particularly notable for creating a viable fantasy mythos set in the present day, while describing an ancient world of archetypes within an English woodland.

My sincerest sympathy to his partner Sarah and the rest of his family.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Old Drawings #48

Saltwell Park "Frying Pan"
(Charcoal, compressed charcoal on cartridge paper, 16.5 x 23 ins)

I've always liked this view - I've drawn it several times over the years and even started a small painting which failed to take off.

Saltwell Towers and its grounds, which lie at the heart of Saltwell Park, are surrounded by low walls and walkways and every now and then there's a little turret. These used to have nice wooden seats in them but seats always offend the loutish section of society, so they aren't there now. When I was a kid, I always called these turrets "the frying pans".

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Old Drawings #47

Steps by Saltwell Towers
(Charcoal, compressed charcoal on cartridge paper, 16.5 x 23 ins)

Walking down the path in the previous Old Drawing, you come to this set of steps next to the Towers. The Towers building at the time was hidden behind the dilapidated fence at the right, with many Danger - Keep Out - Falling Masonry signs.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Old Drawings #46

Saltwell Park - By the Towers.
(Charcoal, compressed charcoal on cartridge paper; 19 x 33 ins)

In 1998 I began to think about drawing the countryside rather than the town. I don't live in the countryside, however, so I decided the next best thing might be the local park. Saltwell Park at the time had been in decline for some years and the once splendid Saltwell Towers was nearing collapse. The Towers are that gloomy bulk at the right of the drawing.

I'm delighted to say that with a Government grant, the Park has since been restored to its former Victorian splendour and won an award as Britain's Best Park in 2005

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Oaks Nr Sawrey

Oaks Nr Sawrey (Oil on canvas, 24 x 24 ins)

Back at the Club again on Friday and good to get back into painting. It's a companion piece to Oak Citadel, which I've posted here previously. I'm really happy with the way these have turned out and am beginning to think about some further additions to this non-urban subject matter.

Thursday, 19 November 2009


The maquette is inaccessible, I'm afraid, but here are two photos, touched up with some wobbly Photoshoppery, which give some idea of how it looks.

The studio assistant with responsibility for sculpture proved her future value by saying, "You've been looking at too much sculpture, Harry." Suitably encouraged, the following year I dropped Sculpture in favour of Painting and Printmaking.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Short Interlude

More Good Press

Another nice write-up in the 9 November edition of The Courier, Newcastle University's student newspaper. This time I get compared to Hockney, rather than Thiebaud. Who am I to grumble?

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Drawing for Sculpture 2

Ideas for sculpture (Two pages, A4 sketchbook)

Ideas for sculpture (Two pages, A4 sketchbook)

Some pages from my sketchbook showing work on ideas for the sculpture derived from urban drawings. The top one was based on a drawing of some fire escapes, the lower one on the drawing of part of The Swing Bridge connecting Gateshead to Newcastle, posted last time. The second drawing is more fully realised because the maquette was being made by then.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Drawing for Sculpture

High Street Fire Escape (A4 sketchbook)

Concrete Walkways (A4 sketchbook)

Swing Bridge (A4 sketchbook)

As well as the drawings on sheets of A2 paper I've been showing you, I also did a few drawings in my sketchbook.

You can see in the last one that I was starting to work on ways of adapting the drawing of the Swing Bridge for sculptural purposes. Next time I'll show how I developed these ideas further and, with luck, I may be able to find the maquette for the final sculpture.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

It's Oh So Quiet

It really is quiet on Boogie Street, isn't it? I'm sorry about that. The changes in the weather and the clocks have, as always, produced a downturn in my spirits. I'll get over it, but for now I lack the drive to get much done in the studio.

Which is not to say that I'm absolutely idle. In addition to a bit of tinkering with one or two unfinished paintings, I'm currently working on a commission. But it's a secret commission, so I'm not at liberty to say anything about it or to show its progress. Frustrating, I know, but I can't take the chance of the recipient seeing it here before its completion.

Unusually for me, I've also designed and had printed (by Moo) my Xmas cards, which puts me well ahead of the game compared with any previous year you care to name. This ought to ensure that, for once, my friends and contacts should receive a Xmas card from me before New Year's Eve.

Wait, there's more. On the reverse of the Xmas card is my contact address, of course, and also, this year I've included my domain name - - but don't go clicking on it just yet. That's the point. I don't have a website to attach the domain name to. By putting the domain name on the cards, I figured it would spur me on to create the website, so that's something else occupying my time. At the moment I'm considering a site using a Clikpic template. If anyone has any reasons why that shouldn't be a good idea, I'd be grateful for any information.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Oak Citadel

Oak Citadel (Oil on canvas, 24 x 24 ins)

I tried to post this yesterday, but I found I couldn't connect to Blogger all day. A little searching on Twitter showed that I wasn't alone in this, but that it wasn't universal. Odd.

I made an effort to get to the Art Club on Friday ... and found myself alone. Maybe it's due to the half-term holidays and all the regulars have been roped into grandfatherly duties. I suppose I could have gone home again, and the thought did cross my mind once or twice, but I felt that I needed the discipline of getting back into to some work. If I'd gone home, I might not have started on anything at all.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Old Drawings #45

Drury Lane Fire Escapes (Charcoal on A2 cartridge paper)

I seem to be unable to get down to some work at the moment. I spent today with friends, looking at the Red Box and Guildhall shows, but I didn't come away with a burning need to get back in the studio, as sometimes happens.

So for now, let's carry on with the last of the Drawing for Sculpture drawings. There was one other, also done in Drury Lane (it's a lane in Newcastle, not London); a much better drawing, I believe, but one which I sold without taking a photograph of it. Foolish.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Old Drawings #44

Central Motorway (Charcoal on A2 cartridge paper)

Another in the University Drawing for Sculpture series. I took my life in my hands and climbed over a railing to get right next to the motorway. If there's a more hurried look to this drawing, put it down to freezing wind, cars and lorries rushing by only feet away and really horrible fumes. I didn't stay long.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Guildhall Exhibition

The Turnbull Building (Oil on board, 30 x 30 cms)

Swing Bridge (Oil on board, 30 x 30 cms)

Last night was the preview of the North of England Art Club's Annual Exhibition at the Guildhall on Newcastle's Quayside. I have these two small pictures in the show. They both date from around 2003, but only recently were put into frames.

It was a good night but not one noted for sales. One only, I think, and certainly not mine.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Old Drawings #43

Processional Way, Civic Centre (charcoal on A2 cartridge paper)

I'm full of cold at the moment and struggling to complete my end of year accounts, so only time to post another in the Old Drawings series.

This is the third of those I did for the Drawing for Sculpture project in 1997. It's a drawing of part of the Processional Way leading into Newcastle's Civic Centre and shows an ornate bronze screen which proved a bugger to draw with wind-frozen fingers.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Old Drawings #42

Pilgrim Street car park (charcoal on A2 cartridge paper)

Another of the Drawing for Sculpture pieces from 1997. Brings back memories of a cold and windy October.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Getty Images

Those of you who have taken the time to look round my blog will have noticed the Flickr badge in the sidebar at the right. Clicking on it takes you to my Flickr pages where (so I'm told) I have over 400 images of paintings, drawings, sketches and cartoons.

Some months ago I was contacted by Flickr who told me about a new arrangement with Getty Images and said that Getty Images were interested in buying a two year copyright licence on half a dozen of my paintings. After a bit of thought and some investigations, this seemed like a decent proposition, so signed I up for it. A few days ago, they told me they want another half dozen.

There are always problems with what appears to be a straightforward project. I needed a PayPal account into which they can pay any royalties, so I've set one up. They also need images with a much higher resolution than what's actually on my Flickr pages, but everything can be sorted out. I've spent the last few days raising the resolution in Photoshop and filling out the description boxes required for Getty.

And now I sit back and watch the money roll in? I should be so lucky, but it'll be interesting to see how it all works out.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Rocky Start

Rocks (work in progress)

I was tempted to make a quick run into town last Friday to stick up a copy of The Crack page on the Art Club notice board, but checking with a phone call, I discovered the heating wasn't on and the members were on the point of giving up. As I don't have a key for the door at the moment, there wasn't much point in going.

But on the assumption that I will get there soon, I started this small oil, to be continued at the Club. It's on a rather violently green background, which may or may not be a good thing. It's also on a rather unstable stretcher, which is definitely not a good thing.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

I've slipped into The Crack!

Local listings magazine, The Crack, gives Figure8's current show at Red Box the thumbs up in a quarter page review! How absolutely wonderful to be compared with Wayne Thiebaud, high in my pantheon of artist influences. All that looking at his work must be rubbing off.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Old Drawings #41

Car Park Steps (Charcoal, compressed charcoal on A2 cartridge paper)

As I'm still in Sorting Out mode, I'm not getting anything done to show you, so I may have to resort to showing Old Drawings for a while. Not such a bad thing, as we've reached the point in 1997 where I went to Newcastle University to start my BA (Hons) in Fine Art. As a result, there are quite a few drawings from that period.

The course was a four year course (rather on the model of the Scottish art colleges) and the first year was designed to bring everyone up to a similar level of ability. There were periods of drawing, sculpture and printmaking and this first exercise sent us out into town to make drawings of urban architecture, with a view to making sculpture based on the drawings.

This is the first I did.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Old Drawings #40

Gallowgate (charcoal, compressed charcoal on cartridge paper)

This must have been one of the last drawings I did before starting my BA (Hons) course at Newcastle University in 1997. The quality of the photograph is a little compromised because the drawing was sold and is now under glass, so the image has been Photoshopped to try to remove excessive glare.

In the background of the drawing is the Newcastle Brewery, which dominated the Gallowgate area of Newcastle for many years, but which was demolished in 2008.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Rock Study

Rock Study (Coloured pencil in A5 sketchbook)

In an effort to stave off that expected flat spot, I thought I'd explore a possible addition to the Rock & Tree paintings I'm working on at the Club. This is based on a photograph taken of the same rocky outcrop in the Lakes as the paintings are based on. I think it has great potential, but I need to decide on the size of canvas before I make any start on it.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Red Box Gallery opening

Last night, Figure8's new show opened to great acclaim. This was quite possibly our best attended preview ever, with some famous faces scattered amongst the crowd, and everyone seemed to have a good time. We should perhaps have had a photographer there, because all in all it was quite an elegant occasion worthy of recording.

Special thanks go to all my friends, especially The Groupies, who helped make it such a successful evening.

Where do we go from here? I dunno. There are no new shows planned and although the comments on my work were all positive, I always feel the need to retrench and consider what I want to do next.

At the Club there are two Rock & Tree pictures I want to complete. But maybe I want to work small after those big Views from the Keep. I have a few small paintings crying out to be finished and a number of ideas which I think would benefit from being ensmalled.

Meanwhile, I'll relax a little, I think, and remember - the show at Red Box continues until 20th November, so if you're in the area, make an appointment to look in and see it.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

The Free Trade Inn

The Free Trade Inn (oil on canvas, 40 x 40 cm)

I don't know why it's taken so long to finish this painting, except that I had other fish to fry. It took only the addition of the boat mast and some other adjustments to get it done.

The Free Trade Inn is one of Newcastle's great pubs, serving real ale and providing a stunning view up the Tyne.

Field of Dreams

Pat and I always try to walk around the area we're holidaying in. It's an opportunity to get to see something of the country many tourists never bother with. After breakfast one day we walked east out of town to Park Boder. Little waymarked paths led us to the top of a hill where we found ourselves in a huge concrete arena:

We couldn't work out what it might be used for. There were no roads to reach it, it was too uneven for anything other than maybe a helicopter landing field. But no helicopter would land where there were no roads or even decent paths. At one side (on the left in the photograph) was a concrete drain to take away surface water from the concrete field. The drain was blocked and the filed was obviously abandoned long ago, trees and shrubs thrusting up between the huge concrete slabs. What was it for? We were at a loss, although wandering through it gave a distinct sense of modern archaeology.

As we were about to leave, a man pushed through the bushes at the edge of the field and strode off to the other end. It looked as if he'd gone out at the other end , although we'd been unable to find another path at that end. We decided to follow him, but as we approached ht other end of the concrete field, he came back onto it. He nodded as he went by, so Pat asked if there was a path. He said there was but it wasn't good underfoot and made to stride off again (I think he was power-walking, actually). Before he went, Pat - ever the pro-active one - asked what the field was for. In halting English he explained: when it rained heavily the water would collect on the concrete and be led away through the drain to the town below.

What a great idea. And a lesson in lateral thinking. The drain wasn't a by-product of the field, put there to deal with the consequence of water collecting on the concrete, but an integral part of a water-collection system.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Back from the Balkans

Korcula Town (Pilot disposable fountain pen, 2 pages of A5 sketchbook)

What a fascinating place Croatia is. Or at least the bits we saw of it. Three nights in Split turned out to be not enough. It's a lively urbane city, built around and incorporating Diocletian's Palace. At times it reminded me of Venice, at others of Greece, and it was a pleasure to wander its little side streets and cafe-adorned squares, or sit out on the Riva and watch the world go by.

Despite Split's busy atmosphere, from our apartment we could easily reach the Marjan peninsula and walk through its wooded park; it felt for all the world as if most of civilisation was a hundred miles away.

Before we left Split, we had time to visit the Mestrovic Museum - a striking building filled with Ivan Mestrovic's sculpture. I loved them: very Expressionist at times, but also showing influences from Pre-Classical to Michaelangelo.

From Split we took the (amazingly cheap) ferry to the island of Korcula, and stayed in Korcula Town for seven nights. One of the great delights there was to find a terrific Tintoretto in the Cathedral. Newly restored, it glows with the most astonishingly vivid colours.

We also found a small gallery run by the painter, Hrvoje Lorenzo Kapelina. I loved his work and managed to get to meet and talk to him for a short while. A pleasant unassuming man, he told me he likes to do much of his painting during the Winter, so that he can "make the Summer last as long as possible." Eventually I bought one of his pictures - a rare event for me these days - and as Autumn claws its way across England, it's a real delight to be able to look at a little piece of Korculan Summer.

From Korcula, we took the ferry back to Split, then a bus to Trogir. Trogir is a UNESCO World heritage site, a town of twisting alleyways, and buildings of infinite variety - Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque. And nearby are the Kastelas, an astonishingly quiet riviera based on seven small castles whee we spent two days walking in tranquility.

The drawing muse visited me only once, when I sat on the balcony at Korcula and drew the view. It's a bit of a wobbly drawing, but it'll do as a reminder of a wonderful holiday. On the bus to the airport, we met a woman who invited us to stay with her in Pula, further north. She reminded us of the local 3rd C. relief depicting the Greek god of opportunity. You must grab him as he comes towards you, because the back of his head is shaved and after he's gone past, you'll find him very difficult to get hold of.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Siesta on Boogie Street

It's been quiet enough down on Boogie Street, but it'll be absolutely silent over the next two weeks. Tumbleweed may even blow past the cantina.

Pat and I are off to Croatia today for what I hope may be some sun and relaxation, although some forecasts predict thunderstorms for tomorrow. Whatever, it'll be a break.

Be good to one another. See you soon.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

High Level

High Level (oil on canvas, 36 x 36 ins.)

My, but I found this taxing. An awful lot of close colours made it difficult to get the buildings in recession. Anyway, this will be the last one I'm doing for the Red Box show. I'm simply out of time to do more, although there were a couple I had intended to finish. On Saturday, Pat and I are flying to Croatia for a couple of weeks, so tomorrow will be taken up with last minute arrangements.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Night Station

Night Station (oil on canvas, 24 x 30 ins.)

Sorry it's been so quiet here, but I'm desperately trying to finish the Red Box pictures this week. This is another you've seen before, if you're a regular reader. I wanted to finish this one for the Red Box show, too, because I thought it fitted nicely with the other views of Newcastle I plan on showing.

The photograph is as accurate as I could get it, but still displays a little lightness in the upper half (from my strip light, I guess).

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Central Hotel with Cars

Central Hotel with Cars (oil on canvas, 24 x 24 ins)

You last saw this one back in July. I decided that it would fit reasonably well in the upcoming Red Box show, especially if, as is possible, I need to hang some of my other Transport pictures to make up the numbers, so I pressed on and finished it.

Referring back to my post about passion and the reason for finishing pictures, it became clear to me today that having a reason, an incentive to finish them is very important. A deadline for an exhibition really gets me moving. If there's no great likelihood of a picture being seen on a gallery wall, I'm far less likely to want to push on to the finalisation.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

View from the Keep 2

View from the Keep 2 - Turnbull Building (oil on canvas, 36 x 48 ins)

Another one under my belt. I think there may be too much red showing in this photograph, or maybe that's just my monitor. I can't tell.

View from the Keep

View from the Keep 2009 (oil on canvas, 36 x 48 ins)

After a while you realise that everything else is just fiddling and you must simply stop. I think it was Picasso who said, "A painting is never finished, only abandoned". Leonardo may have said something on similar lines, but after all, Picasso also said "Bad artists copy. Good artists steal", so who knows, he may have stolen that too.

I've called it a day on this one. I'd forgotten how tiring it is to work on a painting this size, but also how ultimately rewarding.

The photograph was difficult to take. I had to do it in the garden but even though the sun was behind clouds, it's showing a slight darkening to the left (or a slight lightening to the right) which isn't as noticeable in the original. The lens has also made the curvature of the horizon more pronounced, although the skyline does actually do that.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Putting in Windows

View from the Keep (work in progress)

View from the Keep 2 (work in progress)

Have you ever wondered why on earth you started something? I've mentioned before how much I hate doing windows in buildings, so you can probably guess how I felt today as I started the tedious business of putting in the windows in the main buildings in both of these. Still, they're in place now, even if there's a good bit of work still to do to get them to look OK.

Overall, I'm quietly pleased with the way these two are coming along, although I'm still a little anxious at the lack of time to both finish these and get something else done by the end of the month. I may have to resort to showing older work after all.. While that's not necessarily a bad thing, I did want to pull out all the stops for this show.

Monday, 10 August 2009

The Second Big One

View from the Keep 2 (work in progress)

I know I have to have at least two large paintings for the Red Box show, so this is the second of the 3 x 4 feet canvases. Although I can still easily work on the first one, there'll come a time when only small amounts of work will be possible due to drying issues. By having two on the go, I'll be able to switch from one to the other. This is my preferred way of working anyway.

The red brick building at the right is the Turnbull Building which featured in a recent post. The view here is looking up the Tyne, with the Metro Bridge (as yet only showing as a remnant of the orange imprimatura) in the background. In the immediate foreground is the East Coast mainline, which shows up in the bottom left hand corner of the first Big One.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

More Work on the Big One

View from the Keep (work in progress)

Yesterday's work went well. I defined the buildings more and developed the relationships between them. The roofs on the main structure at the right are starting to make more sense and the grassy ares on the left (which lie alongside the main London-Edinburgh railway line) sit better than they did yesterday.

The large open car park in front of the railway station looks a little odd, but should start to work better when it gets more attention - tomorrow, I hope.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

First Big One

View from the Keep (work in progress)

Having said all that about unfinished work, I have to leave one or two that I was keen to finish, unfinished for now. For most of the year I've been conscious of needing to get some work done for the Figure8 show at the Red Box Gallery in September. Red Box is a prestigious gallery and any work there will, I hope, be seen by people with good connections.

What I wanted to do for this show was to find a way of reviving my interest in painting Newcastle. For some time I've felt that I'd exhausted that interest (and it was a passionate interest!) but recently I began to think that looking at the city again, taking into account my more colourful approach of the last year or so, might produce something fresh.

I appreciate the danger, discussed in the previous post, of building up a "mere" interest into a false "passionate" interest, but I believe this time I've got it right.

Last week I ordered a couple of canvases, 3 feet by 4 feet, and they arrived on Thursday. On Thursday night I began by laying down an acrylic imprimatura of raw sienna and by teatime on Friday I'd reached the stage you see above. Sorry about the quality of the photograph - it's going to be difficult to photograph this one.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Thoughts on Passion

Regular readers of Boogie Street will, I'm sure, be aware that I have a tendency to start paintings which is not balanced in equal measure by a tendency to finish them. This blog is littered with unfinished "work in progress".

Why should this be? That's something I've been thinking about recently, because I've been wondering if settling on a reason for not completing work might lead to a degree of self-knowledge which could help in structuring a more focused approach to my work. Unfortunately, I suspect that the reasons are several and quite often interrelated.

First of all, I simply enjoy the early stages in a painting, when it's possible to be free in the application of paint and when the picture has countless possibilities within it.

Secondly, once the painting reaches the point of being almost done, I can see whether or not it's achieved any or all of its original potential. At that stage it's tempting to leave that one and take up a new challenge.

The problem with both of these is fairly obvious but is worth setting out here - I'm a professional artist who needs something to set out on his metaphorical stall. Less obviously perhaps, there is the belief (a belief I subscribe to) that the creative process isn't complete until the work has been seen by someone other than the creator.

What I've begun to consider is whether I may be going astray due to a willingness to tackle a subject merely because it looks like it would make a good picture.

In one of his interesting email newsletters ("Mere Interest Versus Passionate Interest"), creativity coach Eric Maisel explains how "many things interest me, but not to the same extent. Some are mere interests, others fuel brainstorms."

He goes on to argue that it's imperative for the artist "to learn to distinguish between those things that interest him and those things that really interest him" [my emphasis]. Failure to make that distinction can lead to a misguided attempt to build up something of interest into something we hope can become of passionate interest.

Looking back over my unfinished paintings, I can readily see that some of them arose out of an interest in the subject matter, but an interest that failed to rise above "mere interest". By contrast, my series of vaporetto paintings and the subsequent paintings of Prague trams came from something that really excited me.

When faced with the consideration of a new subject, is it possible to determine whether it really has that quality of excitement about it that will lead to passionate work? Maybe, but as Maisel says:

"..... we know from the history of human effort that it is entirely possible for a person to spend years on a project that seemed unmistakably rich a t first blush and that turned out to have been chosen for unfortunate reasons. At that moment of choosing, some other richer project may have seemed too arduous, some other richer project may have seemed commercially risky, some other, richer project may have seemed too vague to pursue. So the [artist] convinces himself that he is passionate about his [chosen project], and actually he isn't. That something grabs you does not mean that you should let yourself be grabbed."

What I need to do, I guess, is try decide which of those unfinished paintings are worth finishing at all. Many of them are. But there are those that under close scrutiny will fail to meet the "passionate about" test; of those, some will be worth finishing because the effort involved will be minimal enough to justify it in terms of having a painting available for sale. The rest can be consigned to the dustbin, or painted over.

Friday, 31 July 2009

The Turnbull Building

The Turnbull Building 2002 (oil on board, 30 x 30 cms)

Last week, on my trip to the Valley, I picked up some small picture frames from Hobbycraft. Not overly expensive, averaging about £15, and not overly exciting either it has to be said, but presentable nonetheless.

I've has several paintings lying around in the studio, some finished, some not, but as they are on board, my interest in them had waned. If they weren't framed, they couldn't be shown anywhere, and as everything else I've shown this year has been unframed canvas, I didn't want to mix the two.

However, because I sold quite a few pictures at last year's Newcastle Gateshead Art Fair, I was beginning to think my stock of small works was looking a bit impoverished. Maybe these cheapish frames would serve to get the small pictures in showable condition, was how my thinking went.

Today I hunted out all the paintings I thought might look OK in the frames. First off, of course, I discovered that I've always been prone to painting on Imperial-sized boards and my 12 inch square paintings didn't fit the 30 cm frames. Still, a Stanley knife and a steel rule put that right. And you know what, I think they'll look OK.

The painting of the Turnbull Building (the site of Newcastle's first £1m apartment) is the only one completed, but the simple plain wood frame suits it quite well, I think. Now I just have to finish the others. More on this in due course - it's been exercising my mind lately.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Two from Brighton

Brighton Cafe (work in progress)

Brighton Cafe 2 (work in progress)

For the last two days I've been earnestly trying to finish these two small paintings. I made the unfounded assumption that because they were small, I could get them done quicker than a larger painting. Very silly. Despite my use of Daler Rowney's excellent Alkyd Medium, some of the paint simply isn't drying and all attempts to work on them has resulted in lifting and smudging.

So here they are for you to look at: works in progress.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Old Drawings #39

Sunday Market (charcoal on A2 cartridge paper)

Sunday Market (collage with some paint, on cartridge paper)

Dating from 1996, the drawing is a view from the Tyne Bridge of some of the stalls on Newcastle's Quayside. Unusually, I followed it quite quickly with a rare collage.

Even more unusually (I was really keen to try out different approaches in the year before I realised I could go to Uni), I followed up the drawing and the collage with this painting:

Quayside Market 1996 (oil on board, 24 x 24 ins)

Friday, 24 July 2009

A Natural Embrace

I took my back for a test drive today. After the last week of sitting in cars and trains for long periods, I found I was getting a lot of lower back discomfort and as a longish walk was mooted for Monday, I wanted to check things out. Not good, I found. For at least the first 45 minutes or so, it hurt rather a lot, then settled down, but after that my left foot started to ache. I guess I won't be walking down the Wear on Monday.

I'd chosen to walk down in the Valley, taking in Borders bookshop (nothing of any interest today) and Poundstretcher (big bag of birdseed), then along to Sainsbury's for some marmalade and back up round to home. In doing this, I had to go past the open field that lies beyond the dene at the end of my street.

Gateshead Council recently announced that it was having to make cuts in the Parks & Gardens budget and one effect of this seems to be that they've abandoned mowing this field. It was always meant to be a recreational area, but as it runs on a sharp slope down to the road, kids don't like to play ballgames on it. Its only purpose really is for people to walk their dogs. And now it's becoming meadow-like. I love it. It's taken on that wonderful pale sandy-yellow colour that you'd have to paint with Naples yellow and some white (or maybe raw sienna and a lot of white) and scattered amongst it are buttercups, ragwort and probably a lot more besides. I really hope they don't find the money to resume mowing.

I notice too that they've stopped spraying the edges of pavements and here and there colourful weeds and escapees from gardens are sprouting in the cracks and the angles between walls and paving stones. The natural world and the urban are coming together like fingers interlaced. Bring it on!

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Rock Forms

My thanks to Vivien for drawing my attention to Jeanette's rock challenge. I don't have access to any rocks right now, but the challenge gives me the opportunity to post a slideshow of older rock drawings and sketches.