Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Spirited Away

It's come to my notice recently that my Red Kite artwork 'Spirit of the Valley', comprising 6 panels and stretching 18 meters along the front of the village Tesco store in my former home of Rowlands Gill has now been taken down.
It was commissioned in 2009 to celebrate the completion of the Northern Kites Project (to re-introduce the Red Kite into the skies of Gateshead's lower Derwent Valley) and was always designed as a semi-permanent artwork with a lifespan of between 5 and 10 years.
In truth its been looking rather pale and sun-bleached for the past 3 or 4 years and was reduced to just 3 panels a couple of years ago, so had come to the end of its expected lifespan.

Spirit of the Valley (In its glory days)

I was proud to be trusted with this huge commission and be associated with a project dear to my heart, and though sad this particular piece of my work is no more, there are still information panels on display throughout the Valley using my artwork, so the legacy of my connection with the project still lives on, and more importantly, the Red Kites themselves are thriving in the Valley and long may they continue to do so.

For the full story of 'Tesco - Spirit of the Valley', click on the relevant page in the header.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Hot and Cold Delivery

It's the height of summer (apparently) and Dragonfly season is in full swing. To me, dragonflies and damselflies are the essence of a balmy summer day, a true representation of the summer months, so I'm pleased to say that I at last managed to get my dragonfly pictures mounted, framed and delivered to the North East Art Collective as a reminder that the sunny season is upon us.

Demoiselle, Ruddy Darter, Black Darter, and
Four-spotted Chaser

Original ink and watercolours they are framed in black and priced at £110.

Also delivered today, and a reminder of colder climes, are a couple of Penguin pictures on the back of my first earlier in the year which sold after less than a week in the Gallery. One a print taken from that original, and the second another original watercolour, both depicting the relationship between parent and chick.

What's Afoot? and Someone to Look Up to

Unlike the birds themselves, I'm hoping these fly off the walls, so why not pop into the North East Art Collective in Newcastle's Eldon Gardens and p-p-pick up a penguin. Visit the gallery website to see images and details.       

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Urban Sketching - Tanfield Railway

I do like a bit of Urban Sketching, and should do more of it really but I'm still at the stage of being self-conscious as its mainly done in public within the gaze (and comment) of passers-by. Sketching is an art-form in itself and I just don't have the confidence in mine at the moment. It's a bit of a vicious circle really, confidence comes with practice, but practice is difficult because of the self-consciousness. Just need to bite the bullet and get on with it I suppose.

An urban sketch is one done on location with the subject in front of you, and doesn't matter whether its in town or countryside, indoors or outdoors. People often feature, and I find it easier to draw a rear view, as there's little danger of being 'found out' by the subject, hence I have an increasing collection of the back of people's heads :-)

By their very nature, sketches also tend to be done quickly (especially people), but they don't have to be tight or totally accurate drawings, just capture the essence of the subject and moment in time, in your own expressive way. Any medium can be used, at the moment I prefer to sketch the basic scene in pencil then fill in the detail with fine-liner, Uni-ball Air ink pens or biro.

A good way to overcome the shyness is to join a group of like-minded individuals on a sketch-walk.  Urban Sketchers Tyne and Wear can be found on Facebook and have meets at various locations on a monthly basis. Sadly for me these tend to be on a Saturday which I find difficult to get to due to having three boys off school at weekends to entertain, but thoroughly enjoyed those I've been to and hope to return soon.

Anyway back to the original subject of this post. Tanfield Railway rolling-stock 'graveyard' is a great place for urban sketching and just a 10 minute bus ride away for me. On weekdays there is the added attraction of being few people about (weekends are busy when the trains are running) and you are free to roam around the yard. There's an endless supply of sketching opportunities with a vast array of decrepit and semi-restored wagons, machine parts and old buildings galore. A visit here is a blast from the past with a unique atmosphere of industrial decay being reclaimed by nature, almost post-apocalyptic.
A bonus for me with my interest in wildlife and nature is spring and summer when it's wonderful to see the wild flowers sprouting among the rust and metal being visited by an array of bees and butterflies. Swallows can be seen darting in and out of some disused carriages they now use for nesting, Red Kites and Buzzards can often be seen soaring overhead and it has one of the most diverse populations of ant species (a favourite insect of mine) in Gateshead.
I digress.

Yesterday, off I went with my good mate and long-time sketcher Bob Laine, and we had a great day sketching this and that in the glorious sunshine. Here's a few images of what's on offer and some sketches done over a couple of visits :

Bob in concentration mode.
He's not as grumpy as I made him look
by the way :-)

This is a composite image of sketches I did over
two visits, mostly pages from a 5 x 3 ins. sketchbook
And here are a few of Bob's done on the procreate sketching app. on ipad. Love the way he uses the colour here, leaving the sketched machinery in outline is really effective to portray the contrast of industry and nature which I find so fascinating about this place :

Like I said earlier, there is so much to sketch here, and if you're lucky the shed may be open which houses the working engines and gives another dimension to the subject matter available with all the tools and old equipment on display. One day I aim to make this into a pet project, and paint some up on a larger scale. Don't hold your breath though.

Thanks for looking in.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Of Damsels and Dragons . . .

Looking for new lines of work to sell in the NEAC Gallery and my interest in the insect world now far outweighs my enthusiasm for the avian world. I produced these dragonfly pictures (all species found locally) a good few years ago when my studio was the old greenhouse in our garden at Rowlands Gill, but have recently finished them off by improving the look of the wings and adding legs, and now I'm in the process of framing them up to take down to the Gallery for display.

Black Darter (male)
Ink & Watercolour (approx. A4)

Broad-bodied Chaser (male)
Ink & Watercolour (approx. A4) 

Four-spotted Chaser (male)
Ink & Watercolour (approx. A4)

Ruddy Darter (male)
Ink & Watercolour (approx. A4)

More latterly I produced this ink and watercolour Banded Demoiselle in a rather sketchy style, a beaut of an insect found locally on the river Derwent. This too will soon be hanging on the walls of the NEAC Gallery.

Banded Demoiselle (male)
Ink & Watercolour (approx. A4)

I hope to do more insect-based work as I find the macro world an inspiring place, so am hoping with the recent upturn of interest generally in the insect world, some of these sell quickly to prove there's a market for it and I'll crack on with some more. Fingers crossed.    

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Leonardo 500 Exhibition

Recently visited the Leonardo 500 Exhibition of da Vinci's drawings at Sunderland Museum and what a great show they've put on.

The da Vinci show itself is full of information about the man himself, his work and his thinking (taken from the notation on his drawings) and though there are only a dozen or so actual drawings it seems more. The drawings themselves are a mix of materials from chalk to ink, my particular favourites being the drapery of a kneeling figure, his botanical piece and portrait of a woman in profile, all intricately and beautifully drawn, though it was also most interesting seeing his anatomical pieces complete with plentiful notes.

Loved this - the intricacies of the folds of the cloth - magnificent

Beautifully observed drawing


A good crowd

More of a technical drawing, beautifully illustrated

A map of Tuscany, he could turn his hand to anything

Botanical drawing - another favourite

Scientific studies tendons of the foot

More sketches and notes

And finally a full length portrait - the weight and balance of the figure
beautifully observed

In the same gallery is a collection of the Museum's drawings, including some old pictures of Sunderland by local artists which (it being my home town) I really enjoyed seeing, and a donated item by Pre-raphaelite big-gun  Dante Gabriel Rosetti for the opening of the museum in 1879.

Bridge building over the Wear - Details below

Panoramic view of Sunderland 1857

Sunderland Museum just after the war - bomb zone in the foreground

Shipbuilding at Pickersgill's on the Wear

Pastel sketches donated by Dante Gabriel Rosetti

A closer view

There is also a film about the da Vinci drawings being shown between the exhibition room and Gallery 2, which houses the permanent collection of the museum, and includes a good number of LS Lowry originals (due to his connection with Sunderland) and at the moment a hyper-realistic portrait exhibition of local care-home residents by Andrew Tift  to complement the Leornardo show. These really have to be seen to be believed, such giant portraits in so much detail, getting into the very soul of the sitters. Fantastic technique.

Introduction to Andrew Tift's amazing portraiture

And some small-scale sketches

To finish, one of my favourite paintings from the Museum's permanent collection
Sunderland Docks 1900 - Details below

All in all a really worthwhile visit, the Museum has to be congratulated on putting it all together, some very different works but all in some way connected, and it was great to see so many people there, well into its second month now.
Well worth the £2.50 entrance fee, one of the best shows I've seen in a while.