I’m very pleased and honoured that my drawing “God and Soldier” has been selected for the 2018 publication of Strokes of Genius - Volume 10. It’s also very good for morale to have been published in the last five volumes, which showcases some of the best drawing of all styles from around the world.
I recently asked a work colleague if he would allow me to take some photographs of him to work up some pencil studies; although I didn’t mention it at the time my real intention was to present him with a finished drawing by way of a thank you. Over the last few years he helped me to check artwork files for a national drawing society magazine I was putting together; Shaun assisted as always, without any fuss. I have known Shaun, our Mac studio manager, for almost 25 years; in this pencil portrait, entitled ‘Glass Half Full’, I wanted to reflect the fact that, despite first impressions, Shaun is in fact an optimist. Over many years, I witnessed how he dealt with significant professional and personal challenges. This is simply a gesture of gratitude for your technical support and your loyalty to the company over the years.
The Yorkshire 3 Peaks: my youngest daughter’s bright idea!
Penyghent, Whernside and Ingleborough, the three highest peaks in Yorkshire encircle the head of the Ribble valley, within the beautiful Yorkshire Dales National Park.
The event was sponsored by British Heart Foundation, so lots of participants starting at 6.30am on a misty morning. The inevitable queue approaching Penyghent, the first peak and checkpoint, slowed everyone down. Then a long 10 walk across the valley before the accent of the tallest peak, Whernside, described by Wainwright as the least interesting of the three. Some six hours after the start we were making the long approach towards Ingleborough, which frankly looked intimidating under a cloud. At this point I should add I felt every single one of my sixty years. We paused for a break at the base of a very steep scramble; I heard someone near me say; “I can’t bear to look at that climb”. As it turned out it proved to be the most interesting and a rewarding view from the top. This was of course just the first stage scramble of the final peak. That left 5 miles downhill towards the finish, I say a little too casually! We finally crossed the finish line in Horton in Ribblesdale, to enjoy a welcome cup of tea and a burger after 24 miles and 5000 ft up and down. Back in Harrogate that evening; even more welcome were; the beers, wine, steaks and finally a brandy night cap. What a great idea, same time next year then? Well done and thanks Katie.
The last year for me has been less productive in art terms than I would have liked, mainly due to business and other commitments. I've also been involved with the UK Coloured Pencil Society rebranding and annual exhibitions; I currently design and produce the quarterly magazine; Talking Point, with the assistance of a two society members. Now that the society has more members directly involved, I hope to pursue my own ideas which have been forming in my mind recently for both oils and pencil.
For more information on the UK Coloured Pencil Society go to www.ukcps.co.uk
I have been trying out the newly refined Graphic range from Derwent, which come in sets of 4, 12 and 24. This collection covers the full range, whether you prefer the deep smudgy darks or the precise hard high 'H's. There are 3 variations on the 12 pencil tins, with a mix to suit each taste. I find it useful to go back to graphite occasionally, it helps hone my value control, which is fundamental to achieving a convincing drawing or painting. I think Derwent have launched an excellent range here to suit all, I'll be using these quite a lot over the coming months.
My wife and I visited the Mall Galleries in July for the private viewing of the Armed Forces Art Society annual exhibition, where I had four pieces on show. And then, stand by...yours truly wins the Painters Award for 'God & Soldier', presented by BBC correspondent, Kate Adie who opened the exhibition. Worth the trip and good for morale.
I would like to thank everyone who attended my portrait workshop at the Menier Gallery in London, which was part of the UK Coloured Pencil Society International Open Exhibition. What a great group of artists, I hope you all enjoyed the day. I was also grateful to receive the President's Award for my 'Contre-jour' drawing in the exhibition itself. Many congratulations to Ann Swan for her 'Best in Show' picture and all of the other category winners. The most enjoyable feature of the show for me was meeting other artists from all parts of the country; in all a very enjoyable show.
Along with some major international pencil artists, I was honoured to be asked to provide a chapter for the new book 'Draw Portraits' by Ann Kullberg. I understand that the book has been very well received. The beautiful cover artwork is by renowned artist Karen Hull, my featured artwork will also appear in the UKCPS annual exhibition at the Menier Gallery London in May 2016.
Between projects over the last few months, I have had in mind to create a drawing to reflect the theme of the forgotten soldier, after reading somewhere recently that over 20% of the homeless are ex servicemen. Given the current national security situation I felt compelled to commit to paper in some way to illustrate how we don’t always look after those who put themselves in harms way on our behalf. I appreciate that this is more illustration than fine art but there we are.
I was sorry to read that Nelson Shanks, American painter has passed away recently at the age of 77. I am lucky enough to have seen a few of his works in a private collection near where I work. He was renowned for his portraits of political leaders and prominent figures, such as Princess Diana and Pope John Paul II. I also have a leaflet from his studio showing examples of how he dealt with hands in his portraits. He was arguably one of the best living portrait painters up until his death. He was also a strong advocate of painting from life, however I doubt whether that was always possible; for example I can't see that the Pope would have held that pose for many days of sittings. Nevertheless, Shanks was a painter I always look to for inspiration.
Now that Summer is almost over I intend getting back to painting, having just competed a couple of pencil commissions. I have also had a request to contribute some work for a new book on coloured pencil.
I am also delighted to have a piece chosen for the next volume of "Strokes of Genius Vol 8"
I returned a week ago from Atlanta, USA having attended a 3 day conference of workshops, lectures and meetings, where I was made to feel very welcome by numerous fellow artists and experts, just like my last trip to New York some 8 years ago. The sell-out Gala Awards Dinner was huge, with even some of the 800 delegates unable to get a place. I was honoured to be on one of the reserved tables with other finalists and special guests, which included owners of the top art suppliers in UK and USA. I sat next to a cosmetic surgeon; we had a interesting conversation about fascial muscles, I think we was surprised I could even name a few; we both agreed portrait artists should understand them more ! As my exhibition piece was a self portrait, I guess I shouldn't have been so surprised when I was approached, stared at in the lift or pointed out ... "hey, you're the pencil portrait guy in the exhibition". Slightly embarrassing but fun I have to admit. In short, a truly memorable event.
For the record I would like to say thank you to all who made my stay in Atlanta a wonderful experience; hope to be back again. ( Images below: the awards and the Face-Off session in the large hall, where selected artists paint one of a dozen models, while attendees watch, the finished paintings being auctioned off later. I have some experience of this format at the Royal Institute of Oil Painters in London and it is great fun.)
I was delighted and taken a little by surprise to be invited as a Finalist to attend the 'Art of the Portrait' Conference in Atlanta, Georgia in May. My coloured pencil "Self Analysis" (see Nov Blog image) was chosen to be exhibited along with 20 other Finalists. The 3 days Conference is a major event in Portraiture, so I'm very honoured, and hope to meet some old friends amongst the 800 delegates.
I have just about completed my take on Winston Churchill, perhaps the title needs explaining; it is taken from Churchill's Ottawa speech and refers to a French general's sneering comment that Britain would soon be invaded by Hitler just as France had just fallen:
"When I warned them that Britain would fight on alone whatever they did, their generals told their Prime Minister and his divided Cabinet, 'In three weeks England will have her neck wrung like a chicken.' Some chicken! Some neck!" — Winston Churchill, Ottawa, Dec. 30, 1941
I was only half way through Boris Johnson's book, "The Churchill Factor" when I just had to stop whatever I had on the easel and start a portrait of Winston; books often inspire me in this way. First of all I looked into available reference and decided to compile my own drawing from the various sources, using a pose of him in his 80's then redrawing his features when in his 60's, probably during the war, (Surprisingly he was 65 when he became Prime Minister for the first time to lead the Britain against the Nazis). The portrait uses many sources so it is basically how I see him. Johnson's book is a great read, revealing Churchill with all his faults, more importantly it informs us of what we might have lost without his leadership, you really don't want to think about what might have been. The portrait is still in progress, and the likeness will improve as it takes on a life of its own.
Now looking forward to the Private Viewing of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters Annual Exhibition at the Mall Galleries (10-21 Dec). This showcase is dedicated to Oil Painters whatever their subject. There is often a good mix of styles, although I do feel there is sometimes a predominance of loose painterly or broad stroke styles, which only the top painters do extremely well. Perhaps many developing artists feel that's what they must do. I'm always interested in seeing what the likes of Peter Wileman, June Mendoza, David Curtis and Lucy Mckie exhibit this year, each brilliant exponents of quite different styles.
I was pleased to receive some interesting news in October; an oil painting 'Gary Twelve Songs’ has been shortlisted for 2014 Artist of the Year, by the Artists and Illustrators magazine. (Home page) Obviously I am just pleased to be shortlisted from 3000 entries; the exhibition is to be held at the Mall Galleries in January, so that will be a good night out whoever wins; just happy to be there.
I also have two further pieces featured in Creative Quarterly design magazine and drawings in two new books, 'Strokes of Genius 7’, published in 2015, for the second time and 'Colour Pencil Treasures III', also for the second time. Its feels good to be consistent and all these little steps are good for morale.
On easel - I have a rather odd self portrait in progress, developed from a recent pencil study, not sure how this will end up, which is worrying. Also in progress is a more traditional large portrait of a well respected landscape artist who I've know for years. In a sketch book I’ve scamped out dozens of ideas which would require three lifetimes to realise, how frustrating!
Ah well, mustn’t grumble. As they say, no point worrying about anything in life, nobody gets out of this alive.
August has been a slow painting month with holidays and general admin prior to getting on with some meaningful studio work. To be honest I have also been distracted by what's in the news: Iraq, Gaza and closer to home, Scotland. I was born near the end of Hadrian’s Wall, I spent my formative years alongside brother Scots, and served with them, I enjoyed the banter and the characters. I like the Scots and Scotland, but I am not sure I like what Scotland could soon stand for. I have always said to my Jock friends; you can hate us (The English) but we still love you - that usually confuses them. However with an independent Scotland, the English wouldn’t be obliged to like or assist the Scots in future. This Scottish patriotism was fuelled by a bitter Australian actor screaming out of the cinema screen with a painted face. The Scots may think this intimidates, but it’s all just a little too vocal and the Zulus did it better anyway; instead they should beware of the quiet, angry Englishman; focused and determined. I also believe the English have a deep inner patriotism which ideally doesn’t shout out, we don’t feel the need to prove it. Neither should anyone assume that the Scots have the edge on passion when competing against England in sport; if they do they don’t really understand the English. It’s a shame that Alex Salmond (an intelligent but bitter Republican with a wicked tongue, who like most politicians likes the sound of his own voice) has created a fractured Scotland, some families at risk of becoming foreigners to each other overnight. The Scots will vote and get what they deserve. Good luck. Either way we will probably still love you, our dear petulant siblings. Scots will always try and annoy the English; so if you want to annoy a Jock ask him if he is "Scotch" he'll hate it. Now I just wish I could create an epic painting to sum all of this up!
It was with sadness that I heard about the passing of Northampton artist John Luce Lockett; I exchanged emails with John about 6 months ago and although he didn't elaborate, he hinted that he was not in good health. We often ranted and discussed the state of British Art. John was what some would call a proper artist, painting for a living and sharing his enthusiasm. I read somewhere that John did Jack Vettriano style six years before Vettriano; I can see the similarity in style. John had a great depth of technical knowledge of artists materials and human anatomy. I attended his life classes on and off for years to keep my hand in and I often recommended his classes to developing artists and designers. My greatest regret was not painting his portrait, an idea I had discussed with him a few years ago. He would have made a superb subject; long curly hair and that cheerful 'lived-a-life' face. I will always recall his sense of humour and gentle manner. If he showed any pride at all it was probably reserved for his son Billy, a talented musician. Thanks for all your advise and God Bless John. I know a lot of people will miss you.
I have just completed some work for Derwent Pencils, using their Coloursoft range. A really good pencil, well designed with a soft quality which sharpens to a good point; a useful combination. Coloursoft have some similarities with the soft ranges from USA and Central Europe but Derwent's range is also nicely branded, easy to read etc. I’ve used most of the well known soft brands and these are amongst the best with a good range of colours as you’d expect from Derwent. Colour pencils have come a long way in recent years with a pencil type for everyone, which is why I still enjoy using them for developing ideas for oil paintings as well as more considered finished pieces in coloured pencil.
April - while on holiday in Cornwall I was asked to give a portraiture talk and demo at the local Women's Institute!
Yes, I know it sounds scary, but it was fine and the lovely ladies were very kind. On my return I have to prep 3 pencil pieces for the UKCPS Open Exhibition at the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists in May. 2 pieces chosen are studies for my "Winter" oils project, which I've just started, the other was a pencil study for a recently completed oil portrait for singer/songwriter Gary Holt.
"Life Songs" - Chosen for LYRA AWARD for BEST PORTRAIT at UKCPS show. (pencil study below)