Wednesday, 18 November 2015

A Prize-Winning Artist no less . . . .

You may remember a couple of months back I entered the 'Your Alice in Sunderland' competition (see post 10th September - Home is where the Art is) purely because it was a chance for me to exhibit something in my home town which I hadn't done since leaving for pastures new 12 years ago.
The selected exhibits had been displayed in the Sunderland Library Gallery during September and my small A4 sized framed cartoon looked a bit lost among the impressive array of large scale and professional looking works which had been put together by the folk of Sunderland, everything from 2D art, pottery and poetry to models, knitted scenes and clothing. I certainly didn't expect to be a prize winner from what I saw of the other exhibits.

So you could have knocked me down with a feather when I was invited to attend the Opening night of the final exhibition at the Sunderland University Design Centre, having been awarded a runner up prize of £250 !!! :-O

Invitation to the Opening Night and a reminder of my entry

Here's a photo of all the prize-winners on the night, and a boatful of other photos from the occasion can be found on facebook :

That's me on the left at the back
photo from Twitter @PMCallaghan

The judges apparently all had different favourites and my personal favourites didn't even win a prize. But I'm not complaining, and many thanks to Paul Callaghan and Sunderland MAC trust for choosing my entry as one of the winners, I'm very thankful (and so will the kids be come Christmas).  :-)

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Today's the Day . . . .

The 4th Annual Xmas show was unveiled today at Newcastle City Library with my good mate Bob Laine.

Plenty of bargains, small gift-sized prints with a few originals at base prices as they've been displayed a few times over the last couple of years and it's about time they disappeared from my storeroom :-)
Here's my selection (apologies for poor photography, it's very reflective in there) :

The small Westie print (bottom right) sold before I'd
finished putting up the display

I call this my 'retro' panel as all the pictures were painted in my early days

A couple old, a couple new

Red Kites, classic cars and a touch of humour make up this
side of the panels. The red kite print Liberty (bottom left) was sold
later in the afternoon, a good start. 

Bob has a good selection of reasonably priced originals too, a mix of old and new and some charming little mini-canvasses on easel stands.

Bob's variety of landscapes and rustic buildings

Local scenes make up a large part of Bob's work

Trees, flowers and the wilderness feature well too.

Bob is on hand most days for sales and enquiries, I'll next be in on Tuesday so pop in for a chat if you're in town.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Christmas Show

It's been a bit hectic the last week or so preparing for the annual xmas exhibition at Newcastle City Library with my good mate Bob Laine, but it's all sorted now and will be up and running by the end of the week.

Bob has loads of new stuff as he sells mainly originals, though all at very good prices. As for myself, a few new watercolour sketches, other originals which have been exhibited a few times before so now at sale prices, and a big selection of popular prints at gift and stocking-filler prices (£10-£20).

Bob himself will be on show most days to take sales and orders and I'll be on hand a few days myself though no definite dates. We'll both be in on Thursday for the hanging of course :-)

Pop in for a Christmas present, something for yourself or just for a look and a chat, we're not far from the café so what more incentive do you need :-)

Friday, 23 October 2015

Cheese and Ennion - Where it all began

Visiting family in Sunderland always gives me the opportunity to look around the town centre to see what's changed (a lot), or which of my old haunts (pubs) are either still there, have changed name (again) or closed down altogether (plenty), or take in the latest exhibition at the Contemporary Art Gallery or Museum and Winter Gardens.
Last week saw me partake of a must see exhibition at the latter where a display of over 40 Eric Ennion originals is currently residing.

Eric Ennion (1900-1981) was a British naturalist, author, radio presenter, and of course artist and illustrator, specialising in birds. He had strong north east connections, founding the Monk's House Bird Observatory at Seahouses in Northumberland in 1950 and spent most of the decade there studying migration, ringing birds and writing field studies and ornithological reports.

Many of the paintings and sketches on display in Sunderland are from his time in Northumberland, beautiful field studies of seabirds and waders in pencil and watercolour, made on the spot or from memory with the aid of his notes and sketches.

In this way he captures the very essence of the birds in simple pencil sketches, and creates beautiful and inspirational finished pieces which (as a keen observer of birds myself) invoke memories in the viewer of similarly observed scenes.

The exhibition 'Ripples from the House on the Shore' is running until December 13th at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens and is well worth a look, with a display of original LS Lowry works on one wall and some beautiful historical works in an adjacent room.

In fact the museum on the whole is a cracking day out with plenty of local interest, the winter gardens attached, and an excellent café overlooking Mowbray Park pond, famous itself in birding circles for the mega-rare tiny Baillon's Crake back in 1989.

It was actually Mowbray Park where I 'saw the light' which started me off bird watching, eventually leading me to my chosen path as a natural history artist/illustrator. The story goes something like this :

Back in April 1997 work was badly stressing me out (I eventually left in early 2000 after depression set in, went to University where I got a BA hons in Illustration which set me on my way), I took time off and sat in my misery one sunny day in the park eating a Greggs cheese and onion pasty (yum). A brightly coloured blue tit and a splendid male chaffinch in his spring finery came down at my feet to eat the crumbs; I'd never seen them so close before or noticed how colourful they were, and I immediately wanted to see more so walked straight along to Argos and bought a pair of pocket-binoculars, then spent the rest of my week off in parks and at the coast exploring bird-life in the sunshine. The stresses of work were forgotten, and I'd found an interest in which I could lose myself, and set on a fantastic journey of seeing and knowledge-gathering, where I would want to learn to draw and paint those colourful birds I observed, and start to care about them as I realised their everyday struggles against both nature and (especially) the destructive behaviour of mankind. Today I see my art as a way of bringing our common birds to the attention of folk by portraying them in a cute and colourful way, hoping I can spark an interest in anyone to want to see and learn for themselves, and eventually care and want to protect.

Getting a bit heavy there, but that's my philosophy. And just to finish, my Mowbray Park birding highlights include tawny owls, nesting woodpeckers, grey wagtails and waxwings.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

A North East Welcome to Scotland

With the Rugby World Cup visiting Newcastle over the next two weekends and Scotland the visitors twice I'm sure they'll be well supported here (after all we're much closer to Edinburgh than we are London (in many ways)).

To commemorate the visits I've come up with a second Limited Edition Print featuring the very Scottish bird the Crested Tit, which in Britain is only found in the Highlands.

A very limited edition of 20 prints (like the England Robin) numbered and signed by the artist (that's me)
No 1. is on display at the North East Art Collective in Eldon Gardens, Newcastle, and orders can be taken from there.   

Good Luck to Scotland the Brave !!! 

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

World Cup Winner ? . . . .

It's the 2015 Rugby Union World Cup in England now until the end of October when hopefully England will be involved in the final.

To commemorate the tournament I've produced a limited edition print of a World Cup Robin, also celebrating our new national bird in the process :

It's a very limited edition run of only 20 framed prints (one for each point scored by England in the 2003 victory over Australia) costing £45 and available to order exclusively from North East Art Collective in Newcastle's Eldon Gardens (see details below).
Prints are ready framed in white (approx. 10 x 8 ins) and each one is numbered and signed by the artist (that'll be me then). 

A World Cup winner? I certainly hope so :-)  Tel : 0191 231 2483

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Art in the Garden

A North East Art Collective event showcasing a range of northeast arts and crafts. A few house artists will be on hand, but stalls are occupied by external craftspeople. If you want to see any of my work I have a few items in the actual Gallery but will be re-stocking next week :

Some of my characters currently on show in
North East Art Collective
prices ranging from £30 to £200 

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Home is Where the Art is . . .

I currently have a picture on display in the Your Alice in Sunderland Exhibition in Sunderland Central Library & Art Gallery, celebrating the 150 year anniversary of the publication of Lewis Carroll's most famous book.

I found out about the competition just a few weeks back after seeing a link on Twitter, and couldn't resist the opportunity to get something on display in my home town for the first time since I left for a new life 12 years ago. I quickly read the Alice in Wonderland story as it's a lot of years since I last did so, and finding the part about the croquet game played with Flamingos and Hedgehogs (I don't know if they'd get away with that today) I hit on the idea of a contemporary piece based on the cartoon flamingo design I had recently composed for my exhibition at Washington Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre.
I didn't have much time so kept it small (A4) and registered my interest by sending an image of the completed picture by email a couple of days before the deadline :

A bit of Alice related humour
in a contemporary setting

I got an immediate reply saying a display was already up and running in the Central Library for a selection of entries but they'd love to include my piece, even volunteering to come and pick it up. In the event I sent it off as it was in a lightweight frame fronted by Perspex, and as I needed to go in to Sunderland earlier this week to see family I looked in to see if it was up.
And I'm pleased to say it was:

There it is in the centre, dwarfed by some of the other entries

And there's Alice too, running away from it.

The competition has a couple of good cash prizes but I don't expect my entry to win anything. Having looked at some of the other work on display, some folk have gone to a lot of trouble to make some beautiful, large scale and high quality pieces.
My little cartoon complements the work on show and adds another piece to the tale but is hardly a prize winner in that sense, but the prize to me is having it on show in my home town, and pride is my reward :-)   

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Pride of Place

It's always nice to receive good comments from appreciative customers, and very nice when they send a photo of their recently acquired artwork in situ in their home or office.
The recent 'family portrait' commission (see previous post) was one I really enjoyed doing and knew was very well received from the comments I'd had, so it's great to see it holding pride of place on the wall of their lounge :

Love how the colours match the wallpaper
(I assure you that wasn't planned)

I also received a photo of the framed 'Magnificent 7' pet portrait I completed earlier in the year, another more than happy client :

And of course I can claim to be an 'International selling artist' thanks to a collector of my work in Texas USA who loves classic cars. His son spotted my experimental MG Midget on a classic car website and bought the original for his father's birthday, who then commissioned me to paint his own classic cars in a similar style, and sent me this picture of all three in situ on his office wall :

Texan Trio

Makes the job worthwhile and boosts the morale during times of drought :-)

Personalised commissions in wildlife, pets, classic cars and pencil portraits are the perfect gift for (dare I say it) Christmas, email me your enquiries for a no obligation quote (see header)

Thursday, 3 September 2015

The Good, The Bad, and the Unusual

My 3rd summer exhibition at Washington Wildfowl and Wetlands centre went as well as I could have hoped, with 40% of the 30 pictures I exhibited disappearing from the walls.
As usual it was the 'character bird' prints which sold best, though two of them were apparently 'lifted' from the walls by someone who 'forgot' to pay for them, so if anyone out there knows anyone who has a Bearded Tit and Treecreeper (pictured below) I'd be interested in clearing up the matter. Should be easy to spot as at the moment they are the only ones in existence :

Treecreeper (top left) and Bearded Tit (top right)
A5 prints framed in white oak if anyone knows their whereabouts

The WWT kindly paid me for the pictures in full which was much appreciated, but means they were down on commission which is a great shame.
I will be back again next July, but this time will ensure the pictures are fastened to the wall much more securely.

On a brighter note I received an unusual commission from a 'collector' who takes pride in watching the birds in their garden and wanted a picture of a bird family in my character style to represent their family.
From the list of birds they regularly see on the feeders I chose to portray them as a bullfinch family, as unlike some species, the male, female and juvenile are all individually recogniseable.
This was the result :

Bullfinch family
Title was changed to that of the family who commissioned it  

And here it is framed and ready for collection

I'm happy to say it was very well received,  and the framed original was collected last week by a delighted client. A novel idea which I don't mind repeating in any species of your choice should anyone wish something similar, just get in touch by email for no obligation quote.

Lastly on the subject, I've recently completed a couple of new characters for the garden birds collection, two very common and popular species so I don't know how it's taken me so long to get around to painting them.

Chaffinch (left) and House Sparrow (right)
Common but colourful, the house sparrow subtle colours but beautifully marked 

Pleased how they turned out and I'll soon be putting them up in the North East Art Collective, my representative Gallery in Eldon Gardens, Newcastle City Centre.            

Friday, 3 July 2015

Now Showing at . . . .

My Summer Exhibition has now started at Washington Wildfowl and Wetland Trust Visitor Centre and will run until the morning of August 1st :

Thirty pictures on show, mainly small framed prints of my popular character birds, a few old favourites and some new stuff not previously shown.
Due to an error on my part (I mistakenly believed I'd booked August so thought I had another month to prepare) there aren't as many new pictures on show as I was intending, so apologies for that, but I'm hoping the new selection of Characters prove as popular as ever :

I even have a Chilean Flamingo print this year, one of the resident star birds at the site. On show along the corridor between the café and the children's activities room during July, have a look if you're visiting. I'm a firm believer in affordable art so you might just pick up a bargain.    

Thursday, 21 May 2015

The Magnificent Seven

I recently completed a pet portrait like no other I've done, containing no less than SEVEN head and shoulder portraits of Boxers and French Bulldogs for a client for whom I did a single portrait last year.
It took almost six months from start to finish, but in truth I could only devote good time to it over the last two, when it quickly took shape, and I'm happy to say the client was delighted with the result : 

'The Magnificent Seven' (not the official title)
 Working from an assortment of photos I worked with the client to decide on the composition, from which an initial tonal drawing was made in pencil :

The second stage was a series of pale washes to gage tone and colour form, and for me it lessens the impact of the scary 'white paper'.

The picture stayed in this form for a number of weeks as Christmas and other commitments meant I couldn't get enough quality time to progress, I find these sort of projects need total focus at this stage as I'm not painting generic dogs here, they are all individuals which need to be treated as such, the client knows their pets better than anyone, and the likeness has to be near perfect as I have to try and capture the character from a couple of photographs.

Slowly I began to build up layers in the individual dogs, using ink, coloursoft pencils and more watercolour:
 One by one I completed each image, then scanned the individual images and did a side-by-side comparison on computer with the original photographs which enabled me to correct any glaring errors before sending an image to the client for appraisal :


Thankfully she only had a few minor concerns for me to address, which left me only to add their names and a card mount, and it was ready for collection.

Final image with mount measures 24 x 20 inches
When the client saw the picture 'in the flesh' for the first time it brought a few tears, a reaction which for me, means I've done a good job, and the weeks of stress have been worthwhile. How many times did I fear I was losing it, and knowing there was no going back as watercolour is hardly the most forgiving of mediums, how many times did I utter 'never again'.  ;-)
But now all done I can't wait for the next one, the satisfaction gained from client approval can't be underestimated, and afterwards she kindly send me an email  to underline her delight : 

"Just wanted to say thank you once again for my fab painting, I absolutely love it."

Very humbling, and very much appreciated.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Spring Show 2015

Now preparing for the annual spring event at Newcastle City Library, not much new work this year but a few character birds, some old favourites in print form and a mix of styles and media. Bargains galore as always :

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

If you go down to the woods today . . .

I've been investigating the woodlands for inspiration lately, with some new bird characters taking to the wing.

Not a local bird (obviously) but inspired by cute photos by
Andy Howard posted on Twitter

Seen many of these locally, cracking
little birds, aptly named as they creep up tree trunks
from the bottom to the top, then onto the
next one.

More often heard than seen, and calling
in the daytime lately as I pass the local dene.

A colourful little woodland bird. Unlike the
treecreeper, will climb down a tree as well as up it.

Put a few together with a couple of tiny goldcrests in a 'Woodland Window' 
Love raking around the woodlands at this time of year, the bare trees make it easy to spot birds which aren't easy to see in the spring and summer when the leaves take over, and get to grips with their essence and characteristics.

Friday, 6 February 2015

New Work at NEAC

I dropped off some more framed pictures at the North East Art Collective Gallery this week, and I'm delighted to say they are still selling well, with the Christmas build up a particularly productive time.

An assortment of prints and originals they are currently priced at £35-50 for prints, with original watercolours starting at £80. Pop along to the Gallery in Newcastle's Eldon Gardens, there are over 2000 artworks awaiting your perusal, in a huge range of subjects, sizes and prices.    

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Yeo Must See This . . .

Had the pleasure of viewing the Jonathan Yeo exhibition at the Laing during the week, a master of portraiture. The collection is almost entirely made up of the most famous (or infamous) people from contemporary life so all easy to recognise, and a great range of style and size.

Those I liked best were where he meticulously paints the features but the rest of the canvas is no more than a rough sketch, which leaves the viewer to both marvel at the expressive features, and lets you imagine the physicality of the surroundings. These are not happy snaps, but a captured moment of personality and /or mood, and all done beautifully.

Paul Boeteng
I think my favourite in the whole exhibition.
Authority in a relaxed manner is the best way
I can describe it.

Nicole Kidman
Beauty and thought rolled into one

Stephen Fry
Just what is going on in that brilliant mind?

Lily Cole
Superb expression, like she's just
been papped.
Other portraits were more specific poses, like this one of Kevin Spacey in his theatre role of Richard III 
Kevin Spacey as Richard III
And Grayson Perry placed in the realm of his other person, Claire.
Grayson Perry as his alter-ego in 'Claire's room'' 
 But the picture which raised a smile in the smaller of the two exhibition rooms is this collage of George W. made from the torn up pages of porn magazines. From any sort of distance you can't tell, but a close scrutiny will reveal a myriad of body-parts, and the odd explicit picture, particularly in his right ear :-O

Ex-President Bush
As part of the £5 entrance fee you are also treated to a gallery containing a photographic account of the life of Hollywood movie starlet Vivien Leigh, which I actually found quite interesting, though thought at first that 'frankly, I wouldn't give a damn'.

One of the better exhibits I've seen in a long time at the Laing, if you have a fiver to spare treat yourself to a bit of culture before the end of Feb. :-)