Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Bed of Tulips

Here's a seasonal image for a very blustery, sleety, wet spring day!

Bed of Tulips (Oil on linen, 16 x 16)

I have to admit, it'll be a while yet till the tulips poke their noses out of the ground in my garden.  These paintings are of bulbs which I've brought back over the years from Holland. I like to try out a few of the more interesting varieties and see what comes up. The pictures on the packet are always so incredibly exotic.

Strangely, they always seem to turn out mostly red....

Sunday, 29 March 2015

The Great Outdoors - Paintings by Stanley Royle

I went to a great little exhibition at the Graves Gallery in Sheffield last weekend.

The gallery is on the top floor of the library in the centre of Sheffield (quite a few stairs!).  The first two rooms are currently given over to an exhibition of the landscape paintings of local boy Stanley Royle, who painted Sheffield and the rolling hills of the surrounding Peak District.

Stanley Royle, From Yorkshire Hills to Derbyshire Hills (Oil on canvas, 1919) (c) the estate of Stanley Royle

Stanley Royle was one of the most popular Sheffield painters of the 20th century. This major retrospective exhibition is the first in almost 30 years,and showcases Sheffield’s magnificent collection of his paintings, which is the largest in the country.

Royle painted the industrialisation of the city and the rolling landscape on the very edge of that urbanisation in the years after the First World War.  He later emigrated to Canada in 1931 to escape the Depression - Canada of course being famous for its Group of Seven painters (including names such as Tom Thomson), with their ecstatic and very Scottish use of colour.  

Here is Thomson's snowscene, contemporary to the work of Royle

 Tom Thomson April in Algonquin Park 1917

and here is Royle's gorgeous painting of snow at Ringinglow, being hung in the exhibition

Photograph by Scott Merrylees SM1006/17

It really is stunning when you see it.  It has a glow of pinkish late afternoon light in the distance, and is so true.

His paintings are all about capturing the sense of place and the transience of a moment, whether it be a season, the weather, or the transition from the rural to the urban.  

Here's another gorgeous painting of the same spot just on the outskirts of Sheffield to the south at Ringinglow (there's an alpaca farm there now, which is great for a visit and costs a mere £2.50 to walk round).

 Stanley Royle, Mayfield Valley in the Snow

 It really does look like that.  With alpacas.

The large oils are very impressive, and when viewed at a distance, they give a real sense of light and space, of standing on the moors and looking right into the distance, with sharp light coming through the clouds and catching the colours of the moorland.

This is his painting of his wife walking on the moor, in her favourite lilac dress.

Stanely Royle, Morning on the Derbyshire Moors (Oil on canvas, 1920)

It immediately reminded me of this familiar favourite painting from the National Gallery of Ireland, which I travelled all the way to Dublin to see (as well as their Caravaggio).

The gallery had originally credited it to William Leech (!!), but it is now rightly accredited to Royle, and shows his wife walking in Whiteley Woods, Sheffield.

After the Second World War, Royle returned to England and painted in Cornwall, amongst other locations.  Here's his last painting from 1960, and see what a change in the colour scheme - his paintings with figures often have a frieze-like quality, but here the pattern-making is even more explicit, akin to the post-war Festival of Britain design ethic, as exemplified in 1950s textiles and ceramic designs. 

Stanley Royle, Megavissey (Oil on canvas, 1960)

Compared with the truth of his paintings of Sheffield, this feels somewhat peripatetic, and it's very much a reflection of the age in which it was painted, but is also very much a reflection of the painter himself and his life.  Remember, it's his last painting.  The space is totally different - instead of youthfully opening out, full of yearning possibilities as far as the eye can see, it is enclosed and sheltered.  The colours are saturated, the boats fan out to make a pattern in the foreground, the houses are cubes, the scene idealised.  There is a flatness and stasis, a feeling of design and deliberate arrangement, but also a strong sense of order and calm.  It's perfectly content.

It is every summer holiday you could ever want, every happy memory you have ever had - bright, perfect, sunny, as far away from the grime of Sheffield as you could get. And of course, Sheffield is just about as far away from the sea as you can get as well.

The exhibition continues at the Graves Gallery until 30 May, and shows not only Royle's beautiful big oil paintings, but his sketches and notes as well.  

Do go and see it if you can.

Friday, 27 March 2015

How The Archers Sounds to People Who Never Listen to The Archers

Well, I've been listening on the radio in the studio to The Archers for 25 years, and this is still exactly how it sounds to me...


Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Lovely brushes!

Just a quick post to let you know about some lovely new brushes I've been using.  Not only are they fabulous to use - they're dirt cheap as well!

Here they are.  

They're flat watercolour/acrylic brushes, which don't have the usual stiff bristles you'd normally use with oils.  Instead, they're nice and soft, and if you mix the paint with a little liquin or turps, you get beautiful, fluid gestural washes and marks that are beautifully expressive.

So as well as using palette knifes for getting nice big slabs of paint on the canvas, these watercolour brushes are ideal for getting the subtle marks of the composition down.  It means you can have different passages of paint on the canvas - thick and thin, broad and detailed.  

Plus these brushes feel really nice in your hand when you use them.

And yes, that's my palette at the back there!

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Sculpture Workshop

Thought you might like to see a couple of photos (courtesy of Sue!) of the wonderful sculpture workshop that I went to last September.

The workshop is local to me, in an old bakery, and its great to have all the tools, equipment and patient expertise on hand.

Getting ready to do some welding.  You can see the found metal which used as armature on the worktop (armature is the internal skeleton used in a sculpture).

This is Anne mixing herculite, a type of very hard plaster which is good for sculpting.  If you were making a plaster jacket for a mould, you would use a softer grade of plaster.

This is Mary, sculpting her 'green man' garden ornament head out of clay.  Mary always makes the most amazingly expressive figures!  

This will be covered in a plaster jacket, the clay removed from the inside, and concrete or jesmonite poured into the void inside the plaster to make a model exactly like the clay figure.  The figure is then all set for putting in an outdoor garden setting.

This is Mies getting some hands-on advice from Billy.  Mies is applying the plaster jacket to her figure - the clay model that she has been working on is inside.  Mies makes very fluid, rhythmical sculptures, and has cast them in bronze at a local foundry, I believe.

Getting the force needed to cut armature rods is hard work!

As well as a wood fire inside for cold days, the workshop has large doors which lead out onto the back lanes of the tenements for sunny days - the bakery building is in the back court.  

Here, Billy is working on the mould for Mies's sculpture.

Hopefully I'll be doing some more sculptures soon back in the workshop.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Ignoring the Obvious

Whilst unpacking my paints order last night, I tuned in to go-to expert Professor Amanda Vickery and her programme on the Suffragettes - Suffragettes Forever - The Story of Women and Power.  Hey, my kind of thing!

Readers of this blog might remember my views on Prof V from her less-than-insightful programmes on the role of women in art - The Story of Women in Art and The Story of Amanda Vickery with Some Art.

Here's Amanda, showing a bit of feminist shoulder.

However, this was the last episode of Suffragettes Forever - The Story of Women and Power, which you can view here on i-Player.  And very interesting it was too, exploring how the Edwardian suffragette movement became a quasi-terrorost organisation.  It examined how women were forced to adopt guerilla tactics to get their point across to the establishment that women should have the vote.  

This establishment old-boys club treated them by first ignoring them, then ridiculing them with vile abuse, sexual and physical degradation, out-and-out misogyny and general male political skulduggery, before finally caving in and granting them suffrage.  In other words, the establishment acted in a formulaic way to protect itself  just as it always does when it, as an institution, is threatened by what it perceives as dangerous outside forces. (A historcal pattern we should all do well to pay attention to, given certain current political situations.)

Anyway, Prof Vickery looked at incidents of protest, including one which involved the then-prime-minister Herbert Asquith, which required Ms Vickery to stride around a golf course.  "A remote Scottish course" declared Amanda, which turned out to be Lossiemouth (thus putting the good people of the north east in their geographical place).

(Mr Asquith was, it turns out,  jumped on by two suffragettes who tried to strip off his clothes, thus giving him nightmares ever afterwards.)

 1911: Annie Kenney (left) and Christabel Pankhurst (right), who both spoke at huge meetings of the Suffragettes at the Royal Albert Hall in London

The series concluded by looking to the UK's first female political leader, Margaret Thatcher. In an interview with Kelvinside corncrake Kirsty Wark, one of the few women allowed to interview Thatcher, Amanda and Kirsty concluded that by keeping herself as the only woman in an all-male cabinet (only one other woman was ever briefly allowed in the cabinet), Thatcher skilfully played the female card to her advantage by maintaining her exclusivity, her USP, and generally acting like Elizabeth the First in her court of admiring men. 

Amanda finished by mournfully looking at a statue of the pioneering suffragette Pankhurst, and intoning "equal rights, equal status and equal power remain elusive."

Now hold on there, Amanda.  Haven't you forgotten something?  Something big and current and really really important that's right under your nose...?

It's all very well looking to the past at Mrs Thatcher, Britain's only UK Prime Minister, and making the projectory of your thesis that this was a blip, a one-off in the past that signals that female equality is still stuck in the starting gate.  Good grief woman, if you're presenting a programme on women and political power, look at the evidence staring you in the face, HAPPENING NOW, for goodness sake!!

If Ms Vickery had only raised her tear-filled eyes to that 'remote' corner of the UK, she might just have found that there is, in fact a whole country there, currently - shock!! - run by a woman.  Here she is.

It's Nicola Sturgeon, my MSP.  And one of her first acts when becoming First Minister for Scotland was to create a gender balanced cabinet.

So why wasn't this acknowledged as part of the programme?  How is that not of any interest or pertinence?  To leave it out was to present a grossly skewed story of what is going on in UK politics, and the progressiveness of Scottish politics.  It's a complete misrepresentation of history in a historical programme, by someone who purports to be a historian.

Also pertinent to the history mapped out in Ms Vickery's programme of reform vs establishment, it would have been extremely valuable to look at the way that Ms Sturgeon is currently being met by views such as this from the English media.  Despite being a calm, polite, well-briefed, professional, hard-working politician, here she is presented in a bizarely sexualised way by the English edition of the Sun (not the Scottish version).

She is a threat to the establishment, ready to shake things to their foundation (the wrecking ball) but is also oddly sexy.  A sexy threat.  What's that all about??

Meanwhile, Sturgeon is constantly belittled and disrespected purely for being a woman in a position of power. For example, Labour dinosaur David Hamilton in a jaw-droppingly shouty misogynistic speech on International Women's Day at the Labour Party Conference.  He referred to her as "that wee lassie with her tin helmet on" (a sentiment received with guffaws and applause). 

So there you have it.  Women breaking through the glass ceiling of politics ended with Mrs Thatcher, according to Professor Vickery.  End of.  Boo hoo.  Once again, Amanda has done a great disservice to the subject matter of her programme, by completely ignoring what's happening right here, right now.  Woman First Minister?   Gender balanced cabinet?  Vibrant grassroots groups such as Women for Independence?  La, la la, never heard of them.

I just don't understand how she can have ignored it.  In fact, it's almost as if Amanda is the establishment, who won't give a voice to the current vibrant, intelligent, committed, forward-thinking progressive women right at the forefront in politics.  

Call that feminism...?

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Affordable Art Fair, Battersea

It's a busy week...

If you missed my recent solo show in London, then you might like to know that I have paintings going on display at the  Affordable Art Fair in Battersea, which opens tomorrow. 

It's held twice a year (March and October) in large tents in Battersea Park, and there's over a hundred galleries with work on display, all of which is priced at under £4000.

A selection of my work will be on the Duncan R Miller Fine Arts stand, so look out for it if you're there!

Heather and Harebells, Torr Head (Oil on linen, 12 x 12)

Monday, 9 March 2015

Walker Galleries, Harrogate

So as one show closes, another one opens...

This time, I've got a small selection of paintings in a show of Scottish painters at the WALKER GALLERIES in Harrogate.  The show also includes work by Nael Hanna, Simon Laurie and Sandy Murphy.

It's on until the 15th, so just a short show.  Here's one of my paintings that's being exhibited there.

Line of Autumn Trees (Oil on linen, 12 x 12)

As well as Scottish scenes, I have some paintings of the Peak District and the Lake District.  To see all the work on show, just click the link HERE.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

London Show Finishes Tomorrow...

...so if you haven't been along to the gallery, now's your last chance!

Take a look at the show at Duncan R Miller Fine Arts HERE.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Another canvas from my easel...

Dark Hill with Orange Grasses, Argyll (Oil on linen, 24 x 26)

This one is going in a show a little later this year.  It's of the hill on the B839 which runs from the spectacular Rest and Be Thankful in Argyll.  I was out there taking photos at New Year.
I was out at a concert tonight.  You'll never guess who...

I once had breakfast with Hawkwind.

But that's another story...