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Painting of Dunstanburgh Castle

Dunstanburgh Castle Painting

Painting of Dunstanburgh Castle

I don’t need much of an excuse to paint Dunstanburgh Castle. Northumberland’s Castles are well photographed and painted by amateurs and professionals alike. I’ve often been commissioned to do paintings of castles and I have to say, it’s always a delight. One such project came in 2003 when I was commissioned to do around a dozen large watercolours of the regions castles for a major North East Company for their boardrooms. Dunstanburgh Castle was one of the chosen paintings and I decided to paint it on a summer evening just as the sun was beginning to dip below the horizon.

I recently went back to the reference I gathered on that evening to do a watercolour demonstration for a painting class. They asked me to show them how to tackle a seascape in watercolour. The painting above is the result. I’ve painted a similar version of the scene which is available as a limited edition print.

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The Lit & Phil Library

Lit & Phil Watercolour

Lit & Phil Original Watercolour

The Lit & Phil stands for the Literary and Philosophical Society which was founded in 1793 as a place for the people of the North East to meet, talk and learn. Its members were many of the leading thinkers and innovators of their day and early presidents included Robert Stephenson, Lord Armstrong and Joseph Swan. The present building was opened in 1825 and the magnificent reading rooms remain largely unchanged today. Sadly, many folk in the region are not aware of its existence and are truly missing out on this outstanding resource for learning.

Earlier this year I visited the Lit & Phil in Newcastle for the first time and was introduced to Alma Devine their fundraiser. The building is in desperate need of some tender loving care to maintain its status as a landmark building with an extraordinary library. I have agreed to do a watercolour of the Grade 2 listed building and a limited edition print run with a portion of sales to donate to the fundraising cause. An exhibition of some of my paintings will be open to the public from Friday 6th July and will run throughout the month. Again, a portion of painting sales will go to the Lit & Phil.

I’m also doing a portrait in oils of North East Businessman Bill Midgley, chairman of Leazes Homes who is the Appeal Co-ordinator of the Lit and Phil. Both paintings will be unveiled at a special private viewing on the 5th July to launch the exhibition. Should you wish to receive an invitation to the special preview for the exhibition then please contact me.

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Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle

The Northumbrian town of Alnwick boasts a magnificent castle as well as stunning gardens. I’ve had the privilege of painting both. In 2003 I was commissioned to paint over a dozen Northumbrian Castles in watercolour for a leading North East company to grace the walls of their boardrooms and Alnwick Castle was one of them.

I had already decided that I would spread the paintings out over the course of a whole year so that I was capturing all of the seasons. After working out when the sun was most likely to be catching the ancient architecture, I felt that the last light of a summer evening was going to best for this particular scene.

It was painted on an expensive hand made watercolour paper, heavily textured, which was ideal for rendering both the stone and the foreground grasses. It also allowed me to make quite large, free brush strokes to indicate the low lying clouds reflected in the slow moving River Aln. The painting that was commissioned worked well for the client and I was so pleased with the result that I decided to do a slightly different interpratation of the same view which I later reproduced as a limited edition print. The original watercolour can be seen at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland.

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Dunstanburgh Castle, November afternoon

Dunstanburgh Castle, November Afternoon

Dunstanburgh Castle, November Afternoon

In November 2009 my birthday fell on our day off, a Monday, so Susan and I decided to celebrate by driving up the Northumbrian coast to Newton by the Sea to have lunch in The Ship Inn. After feasting on crab sandwiches and some local ale we walked along the beach towards Dunstanburgh Castle. I stopped to do a small sketchbook watercolour (yes even on my birthday) to capture the striking low light.

There was no wind and the sea was like a mill pond. I took some photographs and wasted little time in the studio to set about producing this watercolour which sold last year from a charity exhibition at the CastleGate in Newcastle in 2011. I did reproduce it as a limited edition print and sold another copy this afternoon to a couple purchasing it as a 40th birthday present for their daughter. There are only 25 copies in the edition which can be seen at my Studio and Gallery in Ponteland.

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Theatre Royal at night

Theatre Royal at Night

Theatre Royal at Night

Prints of the Theatre Royal in Newcastle upon Tyne are always popular but I’ve seen very few artists paint it at night which is when most theatre lovers see it. Artificial light is not easy to capture convincingly in paint, particularly in watercolour, however, this scene has worked well. The key is keeping the palate simple and the colours clean and fresh in terms of application.

For this watercolour I used Yellow Ochre, Raw Sienna, Cadmium Yellow, Purple, Paynes Grey and French Ultramarine for most of the painting with touches of Scarlet Lake and Windsor Green for some of the details on the figures and traffic lights.

The original watercolour sold many years ago but I do have other original paintings of the Theatre Royal on view online and at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland.

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Grainger Street

Grainger Street

Grainger Street

The popularity of my limited edition prints is partially down to the fact that I usually include figures in the paintings which bring the painting to life. Over the years I spent considerable time observing people going about their daily business in cities like Newcastle upon Tyne, Edinburgh, Venice, Florence and New York. I’ve developed a kind of shorthand for drawing them on the move in my sketchbook which I can refer to when I come to do a studio painting. I will of course take photographs as it’s impossible to draw people in detail walking about the streets unless they are deliberately modelling for you.

It’s the figures in this painting which are the dominant point of interest. Folk have often commented that they love the old man shuffling along with his newspaper sticking out of his back pocket, the two old ladies nattering away with their shopping bags and the road sweeper who has stopped to light up a fag. The original painting sold many years ago but the limited edition print titled Grainger Street is still available online or from my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland.

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Paintings of the Tyne Bridge

Quayside Morning Mist

Quayside Morning Mist

Paintings of the Tyne Bridge have always been on demand and I’m always on the lookout for a different angle. This particular view titled Quayside, Morning Mist was inspired from seeing the Tyne Bridge one morning after a business breakfast meeting at the Slug & Lettuce. The morning had started off dull, dim, dark and damp but by the time I had left the meeting, the sun had begun to filter through the early morning mist, it’s rays bursting through the iconic structure of the magnificant Tyne Bridge.

The light was changing rapidly so there was no way I was going to be able to paint on location. I took a number of photographs and along with previous sketches made on Newcastle’s Quayside, I was able to do this A4 studio watercolour on hand made deckled edged paper. I deliberately kept my palatte simple to create extra mood and atmosphere with just a tiny dot of red for the traffic light on the left.

The painting has been reproduced as a limited edition print and has proved to be very popular, available both online and from my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland.

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Tyne Bridges, Summer Sunset

Tyne Bridges, Summer Sunset

Tyne Bridges, Summer Sunset

Paintings of the Tyne Bridges have always been very popular. Rarely does a week go by without me selling a limited edition print depicting a view of Newcastle’s Quayside showing one or more of its famous bridges. The Quayside itself has some stunning architecture, so it’s not difficult to find some inspirational aspect to paint. Also, it’s an area which has seen massive changes, particularly over the last twenty years, so even the paintings I have done over my 27 years as a full time artist have become historical.

This watercolour was sold recently from my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland and shows some of the newer additions to the River Tyne, in particular the Sage and the Gateshead Millennium Bridge. In the background you have the Tyne Bridge, High Level Bridge and indications of some of the other more distant bridges, all of which are set against the backdrop of a summer sunset. I love the interplay of curves which combine to link the old with the new which is one of the reasons why I decided to publish it as a limited edition print.

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Grey Street, Snow Shower

Grey Street, Snow Shower

Grey Street, Snow Shower

My new Spring Exhibition preview weekend started last Saturday. star of the show was this new original watercolour painting titled “Grey Street, Snow Shower” a classic view of what has been described as the finest curved street in Europe. This moody, quite monchromatic painting comes to life with the tiny splash of red indicating the coat worn by the little girl, my eldest granddaughter Emily.

The first customer to arrive purchased one of the larger sized copies of the new limited edition print, taken from the original painting. The next customer to call in purchased the original watercolour which was a lovely start to the weekend. Further copies were sold throughout the day. The new print comes in 2 sizes and can be framed in a number of different framing options depending on ones taste and decor.

The Studio & Gallery in Ponteland is open Tuesday-Saturday, 9:30-5pm and we are serving free coffee and croissants every Saturday in March for the exhibition.

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Tyne Bridge from the Keep

Tyne Bridge from the Keep

Tyne Bridge from the Keep

I’m now at the stage in my career where some of the early paintings of Newcastle I’ve had reproduced as prints are now historical. They have captured views that have seen dramatic changes over the years. This view of the Tyne Bridge from the Keep is a prime example. I painted the original watercolour  around 1997 and it captures many elements that are either no longer there or have been transformed by re-developments.

The distant white building of Spillers Flour Mill, which has supplied Newcastle with flour since the 1930’s, has recently been demolished. At its peak in the 1970s it providing the flour for one in every 10 loaves baked in the UK with over 500 staff. Spillers supplied the baking industry for decades, including flour for Greggs and Home Pride flour, famous for Fred, their bowler-hatted mascot.

The Baltic, a home for seagulls at the time when I painted the scene, is now a contemporary art gallery and the empty space behind the iconic arch of the Tyne Bridge is now the home for the Sage, a venue for music lovers and the Newcastle/Gateshead Art Fair.

There have been two different boats berthed under the bridge since the early 1980’s, the Tuxedo Princess and Tuxedo Royale which were popular night clubs in their day. Despite all the changes, the limited edition print continues to sell. At the time of this post a customer called in to my Studio and Gallery in Ponteland to buy a copy to take out as a gift to a friend living in Australia.

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