Category Archives: Sketchbook

same street twice!

Well, perhaps not so much a street as a row of buildings, in Keswick.  I love this particular assembly of buildings.  Their design, the distinctive grey/green stone and the way they sit next to each other.   Perhaps I should do a finished painting of them, but, thus far, I haven’t.  On both occasions, they were bathed in sunshine as I sketched them from the park.  The first one, in 2005, shows a green net screen indicating construction work taking place on one of them.

Keswick B&Bs in 2005
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Keswick B&Bs in 2005

Keswick B&Bs in 2013
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Keswick B&Bs in 2013

sketches in the lake district

A relaxed break in the Lake District provides a perfect opportunity to sit and take in wonderful views and, of course, to sketch at leisure.  The results don’t have to be great, but to capture a little piece of a view at a particular moment  is so much more satisfying than taking a photo.  i feel as though I’ve brought a bit of  the place back with me.

hawkshead village
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hawkshead village

Of course,the sketching time is not infinite. The weather can cut short a session, as can my wife’s patience. She’s good for about three quarters of an hour then gets restless to move on. Suits me. I feel the same way, so my sketches concentrate on the focus of attention and the peripheral drawing is left unfinished. I rarely convert a sketch into a finished painting so there’s no need to dot the i’s and cross the t’s.

bowness town
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bowness town

watendlath
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watendlath

coniston water
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coniston water
from brantwood houss, coniston2
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steamer moored at glenridding
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steamer moored at glenridding

buttermere
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buttermere

lake view, derwentwater
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lake view, derwentwater

skiddaw near keswick
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skiddaw near keswick

wasdale head
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wasdale head

borrowdale
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borrowdale

White Open Spaces

Not a reference to the countryside so much as a description of how to sketch with limited time.  I sketch the view I see before me but only paint the essentials when time is short.  It captures the essence of a scene and its colour,  without labouring over a full colour picture.

eskdale2
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in this one the painting is definitely minimalist.  We’d travelled on the miniature railway from Ravenglass up the Esk Valley and did not have much time before the return ride.  The hill shapes were beautiful but the feature which got my attention was the sparse spread of buildings and their muted colour.  So, after carefully drawing the landscape in general, i  highlighted the buildings in colour (if you can call it colour.)

The rest of the sketches on this page received the same treatment for the same reasons.

keswick park
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keswick park

ullswater view
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ullswater view

park in ambleside
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park in ambleside

pooley bridge, ullswater
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pooley bridge, ullswater

hill above rydal water
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hill above rydal water

rydal water
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rydal water

yacht on ullswater
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yacht on ullswater

sun lovers

I’m not one for sitting in the sun just for the sake of it.

cowboy hat
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cowboy hat

It’s not really an option for me because I burn and, anyway, I’m too restless; I’ve got to be doing something. Here, for example, my family were all enjoying lying out in the sun, without guilt, without a compulsion to “do something,” and sinply loving the relaxation. I’m with them but not with them; I’m the odd one out, compelled to follow my instinct to record the shapes and colours while still having to endure the blistering heat of the Italian Summer sun. We were in a villa in the hills north of Pisa.  Some of the figures below were not at the villa.  I sketched them as they enjoyed the sun out and about. (In other words, I can’t remember where).

bare back
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bare back

sitting in the sun
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sitting in the sun

relax and read
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relax and read

holiday reading
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holiday reading

flat out
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flat out

female sunbather
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female sunbather

lying back
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lying back

feeling the heat
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feeling the heat

cowboy hat
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cowboy hat

Hockney Fans

This was a visit to York City Gallery in February 2011.   David Hockney’s digital painting of a clump of trees (one enormous picture made up of panels) was on display and it attracted loads of people, all standing in the main gallery staring up at it. It was an absolute gift for a compulsive sketcher like me.  I was lucky enough to grab one of the few chairs in the room and sat there sketching with impunity.  Most of my subjects, the visitors, were facing the picture off to the right, so I was outside their field of visual interest.  Besides, the one place where one can sketch without attracting curious interest is an art gallery.  The visitors remained still long enough for me to capture many of them though it was still vital to sketch quickly, picking out the key features.  I used a pen to avoid the comfort of resorting to using a rubber, and therefore the results are immediate and of the moment.

first group
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first group

second group with sketching man
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second group with sketching man

third group with pointing man
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third group with pointing man

fourth group with seated figures
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fourth group with seated figures

fifth group
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fifth group

sixth group
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sixth group

modern

Cornelia Parker’s exhibition at the Baltic, Gateshead, of squashed brass instruments was a “symphony” (sorry) of shapes, forms, reflections, created from the crushing process, but I had to select one tiny section and this was it.  Several severely crushed instruments hung in a circle and, though it seems a cruel end to their musical life, they took on a new life as art forms.  I’m rather partial to crushed forms and have sometimes been guilty of picking up crushed plastic cups and cartons, or flattening 3D shapes myself,  and drawing them.

I’m not usually keen on installations, so how I became entranced by this one by Sarah Sze I do not know.  It was/is composed of tens of thousands of bits of the detritus  of modern living covering a huge gallery floor in the Baltic.  Groups of plastic cups, bottles, nuts and bolts, plastic plants, boxes, string, wool, animal skulls and skeletons, office stationery – all connected and taking on a new life and purpose of their own.  The actual installing of the piece took several assistants three or more weeks to achieve.  Amazing.

The elephant and the Wild Man were on show at Manchester ( I think) in 2010.  Ornulf Opdahl’s work are gritty Norwegian landscapes.  I regret not knowing the artists who create the pottery at the Shipley, Gateshead, but they were exciting designs.  I haven’t researched Patrick Caulfield but his pictures (I’m assuming he did both) knocked me out – right up my street – design perfection, never mind art.

sarah sze, installation, baltic, 2009
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sarah sze, installation, baltic, 2009

cornelia parker, doubtful sound, baltic, 2010
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cornelia parker, doubtful sound, baltic, 2010

elephant 2010
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elephant 2010

patrick caulfield, laing gallery, 2010
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patrick caulfield, laing gallery, 2010

ornulf opdahl, northumbria uni gallery
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ornulf opdahl, northumbria uni gallery

ron mueck wild man
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ron mueck wild man

shipley art gallery gateshead 2007
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shipley art gallery gateshead 2007

pottery at shipley art gallery
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pottery at shipley art gallery

 

20th Century

A mixed batch here.  Nevinson and Nash were ex-Slade students ( 1910-13) and became war artists in World War 1, Nevinson being interested in the mechanical aspect (a la Futurist movement) and Nash using the devastation of the natural world as a metaphor for the horrors of war.  Duchamp Villon, from the same period, was a Vorticist (Google required!).  A great exhibition of Laura Knight’s life and work was held at the Laing.

banking at 4000ft, nevinson, laing gallery
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banking at 4000ft, nevinson, laing gallery

large horse (detail) duchamps-villon, hatton gallery
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large horse (detail) duchamp-villon, hatton gallerty

paura knight & vanessa bell, laing gallery
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laura knight & vanessa bell, laing gallery

take-off by laura knight 1943
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take-off by laura knight 1943

cornfield by paul nash, laing gallery
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cornfield by paul nash, laing gallery

coventry cathedral by paul nash, laing gallery
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coventry cathedral by paul nash, laing gallery

juliet, daughter of richard h fox of surrey
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juliet, daughter of richard h fox of surrey

picasso dancing figures, laing gallery
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picasso dancing figures, laing gallery

miro sculptures barcelona
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miro sculptures barcelona

smith & pasmore
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smith & pasmore

Local Interest

Clarkson Stansfield, Ralph Hedley and Norman Cornish are featured here.  Norman Cornish was a coal miner, turned artist, who recorded life in the pit villages in the 20th century.

As a point of interest, he was a guest lecturer at Sunderland College of Art when I did my foundation year (1969-70).  In fact, his daughter was in my year group.  Would you believe it?

Clarkson Stansfield, an artist of sea scenes, was a north-eastern artist of considerable standing. In fact, he was featured in the 2014 film, “Turner.”  This is a small detail of a large dramatic painting.

john Sell Cotman, early 19th century, painted landscapes in a unique, gorgeous style. I’ve tried to emulate it but, like any great art, its beauty belies its complexity.  I got nowhere near to finding out the secret of his subtle, earthy style, but love it nonetheless.This sketch is a detail of the whole and is done with coloured pencils.

I confess I know nothing about  Lizzie Rowe or Charles Simpson, but this contre-jour painting by the latter is a stunner, an absolute stunner.  I’ve seen it many times at the Laing.

mont st michel - js cotman
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mont st michel – js cotman

castle of ischia (detail) - clarkson stansfield
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castle of ischia (detail) – clarkson stansfield

the sail loft ralph hedley
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the sail loft ralph hedley

norman cornish' class=
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norman cornish’s miners

norman cornish' class=
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norman cornish’s miners & dog

dysphoria by lizzie rowe
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dysphoria by lizzie rowe

the herring season by charles simpsom
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the herring season by charles simpson

Saxon Jewellery

A wonderful exhibition of what I think is Saxon jewellery. It was exquisite and I stood there and sketched for ages.  I think it was in the Shipley Gallery, Gateshead, but I can’t be absolutely sure.

jewellery & horse artefact
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jewellery & horse artefact

saxon adornments
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saxon adornments

saxon jewellery & bowls
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saxon jewellery & bowls

saxon knife, comb & clasps
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saxon knife, comb & clasps