Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Rare Scottish Lowry Painting Sells

A rare painting of a Scottish scene of Thurso by LS Lowry sold last night at auction for £842,000.  It's called Street Musicians at Shore Street, and shows his characteristic stick figures in the Caithness town.

Read more about the sale of the painting  HERE.

The picture was, however, not painted on location, but in Manchester in 1938, although Lowry had visited Thurso in the very north of Scotland several years earlier.  Which shows an interesting methodology in the manner of producing his work.  Instead of painting in situ, Lowry travelled around and made sketches, completing the work later using this reference material and notes that he'd made mentally.

Here's a link to the AUCTION CATALOGUE NOTES, which shows a photograph of the actual Thurso street, with its strange castellated building on the left, and also Lowry's original sketch, showing the empty unpopulated street.  The figures which make the scene teem with life were added from memory when it was painted years later in Manchester.

Interestingly, Lowry was appointed as an official artist at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1952.   The mind boggles...however, here's the finished result.

L S Lowry, The Procession passing the Queen Victoria Memorial, Coronation
© Queen's Printer and Controller of HMSO. Government Art Collection

(I know, I'd have liked to have seen a Lowry stick version of the Queen too....)

Anyway, over 100 works were commissioned by the Government Art Collection to celebrate the Coronation, with a huge range of artists, from the mundane to the semi-abstract.  Here's the rather lovely Leonard Rosoman version of the same events.

Leonard Rosoman, The Coronation Procession in the Mall, from Admiralty Arch 
© Queen's Printer and Controller of HMSO. Government Art Collection

Lowry was 66 in the year of the Coronation, and had been tasked with perching outside Buckingham Palace on the day in order to do his painting.  He was meant to be at his position at 6am, but was late.  So he didn't make any drawings at the time, but instead went back the next morning to do a few sketches. 

 "What I am going to paint I don't yet know, but it will sort itself out", he wrote to a friend.  Considering that he was only just beginning to gain the sort of recognition as a painter that he craved, and considering the massive importance of the commission, it's an extraordinarily laid-back approach.

So, like the Thurso painting,  he must have sketched the scene in the Mall completely empty of the procession and all the people - in other words, devoid of the whole subject matter of the painting.  But also like the Thurso painting, he then went back to the studio and worked up the finished piece, populating it with the people that he had seen and the energy that he had felt when he had actually been there.  Within the vast crowd in the Coronation painting, there's a tremendous sense of orderliness and control - the rhythm and pattern of the buildings of Buckingham Palace, the line of the carriages, the reverential feeling of the crowd.  The sense of what it was actually like and the public spectacle is there.

The Thurso painting is also a crowd scene, but it's a scene in which the figures talk of a community.  They stop and chat, there's a wide range of ages, there's a leisurely bustle.  It looks like the figures are people who know each other.  Lowry's figures may look simple and stick-like, but they are deceptively well observed.

You can read my other blogposts about L S Lowry HERE and HERE.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Paintings Arrive in Bristol

My paintings have arrived at the Lime Tree Gallery in Bristol, ready for the 'Beside the Sea' exhibition which opens on Saturday.

I'll be exhibiting with two other artists, Euan McGregor and Davie Smith, and the paintings are all on the theme of the sea.

Here's a sneak peak of a few of them...

Low Sun, Weston super Mare (Oil on linen, 16 x 16)

For a few moments, the rays of the setting sun caught the curved forms of the pier on the deserted beach.  Then just as quickly, the moment was gone.

Setting Sun, Weston super Mare (Oil on linen, 32 x 32)

I was treated to a particularly magnificent sunset in Weston Super Mare.  Here, the sun changed to a white-hot circle just dipping towards the horizon, and the whole sky was ablaze.

Old Harry Rocks (Oil on linen, 12 x 12)

It was quite a hike in the heat along to Old Harry Rocks, but worth the trek.  The white of the rocks was very bright in the sun, and across the bay in the haze there was Poole on the left and Bournemouth in the distance to the right.  Yachts were out for a summer sail, their jaunty white sails echoing the white of the cliffs.   
Moon on the Water, Lulworth Cove (Oil on linen, 12 x 12)

Lulworth is a great cauldron-shaped cove, with a curving pebbly beach and colourful yachts moored.  By night, the beach was a little tricky to negotiate, even by the light of a full moon in a clear velvety blue sky.  It made the cove look both mysterious and exciting, like an illustration from an adventure book.
Summer at Durdle Door (Oil on linen, 24 x 26)
I was in Dorset during a particularly hot spell of weather.  I took a walk along the Jurassic coast, where a long walk in the heat is rewarded by many unusual rock formations and interesting little coves.  Here, the cerulean sea was very flat and shimmering in the heat, with the long low shape of the Isle of Portland just visible in the haze on the horizon.

Rhossili Bay (Oil on linen, 24 x 26)
The weather hadn’t been particularly kind on my trip to Wales – it was very, very wet  But then often the best paintings can come out of the most dramatic weather.  After a day of travelling about in intense rain, the sun came out on the Gower peninsula.  The beautiful, smooth expanse of Rhossili Bay stretched far out into the distance, shimmering with rain and seawater.

The exhibition opens on Saturday 29th March with a preview at the gallery from 11am - 4pm.  All welcome - hope to see you there!
View all the paintings on the website HERE.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Casting in Pewter

Sculpture class is drawing to a close for this term, but I'm still frantically trying to get to grips with a whole range of techniques.  Last week, it was paper clay - mashed-up paper fibre mixed with slip in a 1:2 ratio, moulded and fired to produce a very light but durable ceramic.  (That's the theory - I've still to see the finished article...)

This week, I'm hopefully casting in pewter.

Here's a small figure which I've made in wax, which is going to be cast as part of the 'lost wax' process.  This is the front...

...and this is the back.

I know it's hard to make out - partly because it's quite a small figure very badly carved, and partly because it's a poor photograph.  

It's a rectangular block of wax carved with limited tools in a limited time with limited skill, so you're looking at a kneeling female nude figure with her right arm over her head and her left arm over the front of her body.

The things like skate blades or antlers down the sides are the breather pipes, which will let air escape from the mould when the hot pewter is poured in and the molten wax escapes.  Or something.  I've only the vaguest idea of what I'm doing, but you can have a look at a video all about the process HERE.  It shows the casting of Degas' wax model of the Little Dancer Aged Fourteen Years.  

Obviously my sculpture is of exactly the same sort of standard, and the final results will be comparable and ultimately housed in a museum near you.

Friday, 21 March 2014

...and the Peak District

After Keswick, it was on to the Peak District.

The weather was, again, a tad blustery and cold.  Nevertheless, I managed to get some good photos of the fast-moving clouds over Castleton.  However, as far as Peaks in the Peak District, it always surprises me how, er...small they are.  And how the landscape always seems to be the colour of a post-war sitting room whenever I go.

But the shapes are fantastic, all Paul Nash.  Just look at this...

BTW, if you're looking for a place for lunch, try the Ladybower Inn (they've got a fantastic chutney that goes with the ploughmans).  It's a popular pub with cyclists, walkers and dog lovers, as there's plenty of seating outside where you can take in views of the reservoir.

And here's the Ladybower overflow, water engineering fans.  How sculptural is that?

The Castleton photos are also going to form part of the paintings that I'm currently working on in the studio.  It's not so much about the colours, it's going to be all about the shapes and the patterns of the landscape.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

A Visit to the Lake District

It's officially the first day of spring, so the weather today is distinctly stormy.  But fortunately things were a little better at the weekend.

I was once again down at Derwent Water and Keswick, to take some photos.  I've visited the same spot on the same weekend in March for the last three years now.  

It had been rather misty on the way down, but fortunately that cleared and there was a lovely view down the lake (once I'd got past the hoards of hungry swans and insistent geese by the landing stages, who were all demanding to be fed). 

Catbells had a beautiful orange hue to it, and there was still some yellow gorse around.

Here the famous view from the end of Friar's Crag - that's Catbells on the right.

“The first thing which I remember as an event in life was being taken by my nurse to the brow of Friars Crag on Derwentwater.”  wrote buttoned-up Victorian art critic and philanthropist John Ruskin, declaring this view to be one of the three most beautiful in Europe.   (Maybe someone can tell me what the other two are...?)

The Crag may also be familiar to readers of Arthur Ransome books, as Darien, the children’s lookout point in ‘Swallows and Amazons’.   Basically, it's a view which aches of adventure and childhood and the great outdoors.

I'm now back in the studio, working on paintings of this photo session for a show later in the year.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Affordable Art Fair at Battersea

My London solo show may finish tomorrow, but then it's straight on to the exhibiting at the Affordable Art Fair in Battersea.

Running from the 13-16th March, the Fair is held in big white tents on the edge of Battersea Park.  It's a very informal fair, with plenty to see, and a casual just-drop-in attitude!

I'll have a selection of paintings with Duncan R Miller Fine Arts, so if you're there, look out for them.

For more information about the Fair, please click HERE.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Strange But True...

Now here's something I never thought I'd see.

Apparently, there's a place in the Far East which does reproductions of my paintings.  

That's right - there's a whole studio of artists out there, poised, ready and waiting to paint one of three of my paintings to your specifications.  Any size - and two different qualities ('high quality', or for a little more, 'top quality').  And, you'll be pleased to know, they guarantee they aren't poisonous.  Phew!


You can choose from three 'Bridgland' paintings.

Here's 'Abstract Decorative Landscape'

or you can have 'Abstract Decorative Landscape'

or why not ring the changes with 'Abstract Decorative Landscape'.

Now, not only have I not given permission for any of these shenanigans, but - two of the 'Bridgland' paintings aren't even by me!!  

However, it has given me an idea for my next show. 

I could put in an order for 50 versions of my painting, done by different painters, in different sizes and different qualities.  Then I just sit back, put my feet up, wait for them to arrive, and hey presto - one conceptual show.  

In fact, I can just outsource anything in future.  What have I been thinking of, painting it all myself...??  What an idiot...

PS The first two paintings are in fact by Eleanor McGowan.  Only the bottom one is mine, and is called 'Fields near Fintry'.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014


It's the last week of my show in London, so I thought I'd give a quick mention to one or two of the paintings in the show and say a word about them.

I have a friend who has a little cottage in the Braes of Glenlivet, near Tomintoul in the Highlands.  It's a typical croft, with two rooms downstairs, a couple of attic rooms, water from a spring, and open fires for heating.  I've been lucky enough to stay there a few times over the years, and it's good to see the familiar land around it in all weathers and times of the year.  Sometimes we even manage to be there during the Tomintoul Highland Games, which are very traditional, with lots of caber tossing, hammer throwing, tug-o-war, and running up the nearest hill and back again.

This painting was done on a walk near to the cottage in September.

Cottages by Forest, Braes of Glenlivet (Oil on linen, 26 x 32)

I like the dark line of the trees, the colour of the tin roof and the autumn colours of the fields and hedgerow.

This painting was done just along the road from the cottage.  Other crofts are scattered around, all along the river plain.  The very distinctively-patterned, gentle hills undulate in the distance. Again, the colours are that of the autumn, all purples and oranges.

Meandering Stream, Glenlivet (Oil on linen, 20 x 20)

Now, of course, if you mention Glenlivet, then probably the first thing you think of is the whisky, which is produced at a distillery nearby.  The Glenlivet is a single malt whisky - apparently the best selling single malt whisky in the United States, no less.

I can't say taste-wise that it's one of my favourites, although it does get more interesting the older it gets.  Don't bother with the 10 year old.  Although if it was a toss-up between a glass of Glenlivet 10-year old and a measure of Penderyn (the only whisky from Wales), then it would be the Glenlivet every time.  I got a bottle of Penderyn on my painting trip to Wales, and it's shocking - no finish at all.

So lets look at some Glenlivet, made from all that lovely natural soft Speyside water....

...and then have a look at the colours of my painting, based on all that lovely natural landscape...
Hmmm....that correlation wasn't deliberate, honestly!

Glenlivet is quite a simple flavour. It's a Speyside malt, and so is smooth and uncomplicated, with none of the peaty, smoky or briny flavours of the Island whiskies, which are all about the sea, the iodine of the seaweed, the peaty soil.  Glenlivet tastes like where it comes from - all rolling hills, soft water, flowery and floral.  It's quite peachy.  The older it gets, the smoother it is, the fuller and more developed the flavour.  

Now, when I go to Skye, I get a bottle of Talisker, and that's very very nice.  

As an Island whisky, it also tastes of where it comes from.  It's peaty and heathery, sweet and peppery, spicy, briny and smoky.  It has a very complex flavour, like swallowing the landscape, and a very very long finish.  In other words, once you've drunk it, you feel the warmth of it going down, whilst the flavour is still full and developing in your mouth.  

And it also gets better the older it is.  The 25 year old is something special.  However, I've yet to try the Dark Storm, which apparently is even smokier, an effect which has been achieved by using some heavily-charred casks for maturation.

So if you're ever given a whisky and asked to taste it and guess what it is, the most obvious thing to think of is whether it tastes peaty or smoky, or not.  That gives you a big clue to distinguish the Islands from the Speysides or Lowland.  Or Welsh.
Think landscape.