Wednesday, 15 November 2017

The Great Print Exhibition 2017

You can see my work in The Great Print Exhibition 2017 @ Rheged near Penrith, Cumbria. (M6 J40 A66 dir. Keswick
The exhibition opens on Friday 17 November and runs until 
Sunday 18 February. 
For those of you living in the area, the preview opens at 6pm on 
Thursday 16 November. See below for details.
If you are visiting Cumbria over the festive season, do call in and see the wonderful array of original prints on display - 350 pieces of work from 65 professional printmakers - and browse related products available in the Gallery shop. A great place to find those special Christmas presents.
Or treat yourself in the New Year!

Friday, 5 February 2016

Inspirational Places 2

In March, eager for more snowy mountains, we set off for the Dolomites. Misurina was looking breathtaking under its mantle of snow with its icy mountains crowding in beyond the frozen Lago. Under moody skies or fair weather cloud, it never fails to enchant.
Waking to clear blue skies, I just had to head up to Cinque Torri with its spectacular panoramic views.
L. Marion Davidson, writing her travel guide to the Dolomites in 1912, begins, ‘The Dolomites! What are they? ROCKS!  ROCKS!  ROCKS! all in Capitals. Just ROCKS. ROCKS, sitting on top of mountains’. Gates of the Dolomites

And so they are - a glorious description indeed - and when those rocks are covered in snow they are simply magical. Drawing in the mountains that I love is essential to my practice as an artist. Here in this dazzling light I made my first watercolour of the trip.
By the way, isn't this just the best hot tub in the world?
A fortnight of delight followed, walking and drawing in some of my favourite mountains - the forbidding bulk of Sorapis, new perspectives on the distinctive Cadini di Misurina, a fantastic new viewpoint at Prato di Piazza only accessible by jeep (or skis) at this time of year - one to return to for its views of Cristallo and Croda Rosa.
Back home, I booked in for several sessions at Northern Print during April. Using my drawings (these two from previous trips) together with my memories of sunlight on snow I spent many hours absorbed in making some new monotypes.
I think they capture something of the spirit of the place in its winter glory.
Several of them are currently on display in the The Biscuit Factory Winter Show, Newcastle, until the end of February 2016. Still time to catch them!

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Inspirational Places 1

February already, a year on, and high time I brought you up to date with the highlights of 2015!

I had my wish to find snowy mountains in Scotland magnificently granted during a wonderful day on Cairngorm in February. Clear blue skies, lots of sparkling snow, gleaming ice and sunshine.

The wind was so high that it made drawing the Fiacaill Ridge quite a challenge, and blew the dog’s coat off her back! It was found by climbing friends a day or two later wrapped round the first aid post in Coire an t- sneachda. Velcro is a wonderful thing!

As Nan Shepherd observed in The Living Mountain (1977), ' I penetrate more deeply into the mountain's life, I penetrate also into my own. For an hour I am beyond desire....I am not out of myself, but in myself. I am.'

After the dazzling light of Aviemore, we headed to Sutherland and I found myself in the softer, moodier light of the West coast.

Here low cloud made for some beautifully atmospheric views but limited drawing opportunities.

After fortifying ourselves at the brilliant pie shop in Lochinver, I got to work making a couple of watercolours of the distinctive Assynt mountains Canisp, Suilven and Cul Mor from a nearby viewpoint.

Later in the month, I spent time immersed in memories of the snow in Scotland, making monotypes at Northern Print.

This is one of the Fiacaill Ridge. Currently on show at The Biscuit Factory, Newcastle upon Tyne until the end of February 2016.

Friday, 6 February 2015

New Work

In October I returned to Northern Print after quite a long time away from the printing press, equipped with brand new rollers! My former college tutor, Brian Waters, passed on the set of lovely handles and I bought new rollers for them. They are gorgeous!

I christened them by rolling up a polycarbonate plate with some sumptuous blues and a touch of viridian and got down to wiping the plate with high mountains and glaciers in mind.
These are the two images I created - the first one tending more to the abstract, but both of them celebrating the seductive forms, textures and light of snow and ice under sunshine and blue skies.
A month or so later I was busy again, working on some Cumbrian subjects and further afield, the Matterhorn (Swiss Alps) and Nanda Devi in the Indian Himalaya.
Here you can see the original drawing I made at Gornergrat above Zermatt, from which I drew out and wiped the inked up polycarbonate plate. When finished I passed it through the press to produce the final image.
The same process was used to make these monotypes of the Langdale Pikes and Wasdale in Cumbria.
In January I had a very satisfactory day at Northern Print making these totally contrasting images - Nanda Devi in the Garwhal Himalaya and Castlerigg Stone Circle near Keswick.
These are the studies that inspired them.

But now, it’s off to North West Scotland in search of snowy mountains and some new drawings.
I’ll leave you with a taste of the two monotypes I made this week, hot off the press. One is from the Torridon Hills - Liathach - and the other - maybe wishful thinking for finding something similar ‘up north’!

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Reviewing 2014

It’s a while since I posted on my blog, so here’s a brief review of 2014.

After my Lithography sessions working at Edinburgh Printmakers in January and the preparations for the Lit&Phil exhibition in April, we sailed away to the Outer Hebrides for a short break exploring the islands from Lewis, through Harris, then North and South Uist and down to Eriskay.

My head was filled with memorable colours and textures, wonderful coastlines and skies, always with Kathleen Jamie’s beautiful descriptions of the islands in mind. I also had fun spotting the locations in Peter May’s ‘Lewis Trilogy’!  Mixed weather sent us back to Skye in search of some mountain views - but the weather closed in even more - so no drawing from this trip.

Back in Newcastle, we installed my exhibition, ‘Mountains in Mind’, in the Lit&Phil main reading room - a wonderful space.


It was great to be able to show a lot of my drawings alongside some amazing early mountaineering books from the library’s collection.

The symposium, ‘Mountain Legacies,’ organised by Drs Abbie Garrington (Newcastle University) and Chris Donaldson (Lancaster University) and the opening of the show were well attended.

My presentation, ‘Meditations and Inspirations’, about spending time working in the high mountains was also very well received. To my delight, someone fell in love with my monotype of Island Peak in the Khumbu, having stood on the top of it himself, and took it home with him.

At the end of June I had an exhibition at the lovely Customs House gallery by the Tyne at South Shields. This was part of the International Print Biennale which is organised by Northern Print. My large monotype triptych of Ama Dablam was on show for the second time this year!

Then it was time for our annual trip to the Alps and Dolomites. Unseasonable weather again limited my drawing opportunities, but I did make some work in the Chamonix valley.

Recently a visit to Barter Books in the old Alnwick rail station yielded some inspiring mountain books.
In the introduction to his book, ‘Peaks and Valleys’, published in 1938, wonderful photographer, Frank Smythe writes:
‘..there is no more difficult subject for the artist than a mountain, for mountains are essentially static…. They are inimical to life, and the movement is restricted to clouds, streams and the play of the wind, whilst the scale on which they are built is as deceiving to the eye as to the brush. A skilful drawing or painting of hill scenery needs no justification, but the daubs that find their way…even into the Royal Academy…are proof that to any but an artist of exceptional skill and experience, who must perforce devote himself to his subject, hills are better left alone.’
No pressure then!
Autumn found me back working at Northern Print at last! (More of that later).

 The year began with inspiration from William Tillyer’s amazing watercolours in his exhibition at MIMA. ‘Against Nature’,
and from Ornulf Opdahl’s magnificent Nordic landscapes at University Gallery in Newcastle. It ended with the equally inspiring late Turner watercolours at Tate Britain and the enormous Anselm Kiefer paintings and sculptures at the Royal Academy, topped off by the moving late self portraits by Rembrandt at the National Gallery.

But now I’m off to read some more of Mrs Aubrey Le Blond’s collection of colourful accounts of ‘True Tales of Mountain Adventure’ published in 1903, courtesy of the Lit and Phil. With chapter headings like ‘A Wonderful Feat by Two Ladies - a Perilous Climb’ - the ladies being Miss Anna and Miss Ellen Pigeon of London, in 1869 - how can I resist!


Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Scenes from an Exhibition

The Lit&Phil, Newcastle upon Tyne, 21 May - 11 June 2014

It takes longer than you think to put on an exhibition!

First, there's the planning.....

How to tie your brain in knots trying to visualise the space and how the work will fit into it!

Then there's the framing....
The exhibition is in the main reading room of the beautiful Lit&Phil library, so boards are needed to hang the work.

 Re-painting some.....
..... and checking out the hanging system for the others.
Then the time has come to get some order into the chaos, trying out the hanging order to get an idea of how the images will work with each other - bit of a squeeze in the available space in the studio!
Positions decided, so just got to wrap everything up ready to load into the van - and type up lists of work, labels, prepare prints for the browsers, sort out material for the display cases and make information panels. Then unload, carry everything up the lovely stone staircase into the library, install it and label everything. Easy really!!
So why not come along and join Thomas Bewick any time during The Lit&Phil opening hours and see how it all worked out! He seems to be enjoying it - hasn't moved for a week!!

Saturday, 5 April 2014

And Finally - Edinburgh, the end of the beginning!

So - eventually - back to my second sojourn in Edinburgh in January. It seems a long time ago now as we rush through April and summertime is officially here - although not in the North East where it seems more like November at the moment!

Tuesday morning and another pleasant train journey along the Northumberland coast delivered me to Waverley Station in time to arrive at Edinburgh Printmakers for the afternoon session.

My first job was to create an acetate for a second colour on the Cuillin image.

I transfer this to the clean stone, process it, roll it up with black and leave it to rest overnight. Time flies when you're having fun!

Wednesday morning and another acetate - this one for the second colour on the Ama Dablam image. It's such a good process this - just like making monotypes but with the option to produce more than one print! Again I transfer it to the other clean stone, process it and leave it to rest.

Meanwhile I mix up a colour blend of dark blue and purple ink and use it to roll up and proof the Cullin stone. I'm so pleased with the resulting image, which has a lovely graphic quality, that I decide to print a separate edition of it.

Finally get round to adding this colour layer to the Cuillin image!

A short tea break, then clear the decks and prepare to print the Ama Dablam acetate transfer. 

I mix a deep, purplish blue, proof the stone and print the second colour layer. I like the strong contrast this makes with the first blue - it makes me think of moonlight on the mountain so I carry on and complete the edition.

By now, I'm well into the evening session - it's turned into quite a marathon today - so I call it a day (and a half!) and head off to the chip shop round the corner for my supper.

I start Thursday's session chemically cleaning the Cuillin stone to prepare it for another colour layer. While it's drying I create another acetate, then transfer it to the stone and process it. While it rests, I mix a rusty 'bracken' colour. After a break for coffee I proof the stone and print the third colour layer. I decide to add this to half the edition and retain the rest as a two-colour print.

The time has come to take a proper break so it's off to Broughton Street and The Bakehouse in search of a late lunch before tackling the cleaning up.

Then off to Waverley with a satisfactory hoard of new prints to take back to Northumberland. An enforced break will keep me from EP for a while, but come the spring, I will be back!