SAD it’s back.


SAD has entered the uncharted regions of my mind yet I do value those geese.

Searching for relationships and values from absolutes, light to dark, is like searching for notes on a scale, you know they’re out there, but pinning  down can be difficult. Once you’re in tune with your melody things, life, become a whole lot clearer. Absolutes of beginnings and ends need to be filled with values which make life worth living. Choose your notes and enjoy your time.

My available space on WordPress seems to be coming to an end. Perhaps this is where my journey as North Pennines Gallery comes to an end and a new beginning takes shape. Much to ponder.

Black headed gulls in Teesside


This sketch of black headed gulls was put together using pictures taken from various trips to Saltholme RSPB NR. I wanted to capture their movement in flight but could never get a single photograph that gave enough detail. The time between coming into land and hitting the shingle islands is so brief any hope of a sketch is simply impossible. Instead I took a series of pictures and tried to make a composition, taking distance and scale into the frame. It didn’t really work, but it was fun trying and I think there’s a little encouragement to make me try again. I keep revisiting this site for inspiration. This page shows how Martin plays around with the composition using small tracing paper sketches until he finds the right balance.

Hope, joy, wonder, grace, tranquility and others.

If the weather stays fine tomorrow, I’m taking my lunch down by the river. Only 10 yards from Widdybank Farm, it’s a hop and a jump to the gurgling waters of the river Tees. I was fortunate last week to see a black grouse… no, two black grouse! I also saw my first curlew, several snipe and skylarks. Our own garden is also a hive of activity. Since our hens arrived (two), blossom has decorated the cherry tree and the feeders are buzzing with finch. The great tit is also a common visitor; I could watch them all day (but that wouldn’t get any work done). Meanwhile, the collared doves made their flimsy nest in our conifers. We watched their courtship for days, and I was slightly devastated to find remains of one underneath our apple tree – nothing but feet and feathers. The survivor of the sparrow hawk encounter now sits alone on the garden fence, no doubt waiting for its mate. Yesterday we noticed a juvenile barely able to fly following its parent around the garden. Hope, joy, wonder, grace, tranquility and others. In spring I’m deepened by my encounters with life.

North Pennines

First free Sunday in ages, and my youngest son was involved in a rugby festival, so no walking again in October. I produced this sketch using acrylic inks on an acrylic pad which don’t buckle or bend when you apply the medium. It also takes pencil really well.

Next week I’m looking for a window to walk

Knock North pennines

Last weekend whilst driving through the village of Knock high in the North Pennines, we found ourselves suddenly ambushed by a flock of Swaledales. They looked equally as startled and for a brief moment we stared at one another.  I reached for my mobile and quickly took an out of focus picture. I’ve tried sketching the image and painting but the mood is lost. The humble upload from my phone has far more atmosphere hanging in the early morning air. Work in progress and a large acrylic on the agenda.

Pigs in Bishop Auckland

Pigs - Pen and Ink

I’ve really taken to my pig study in Bishop Auckland but not sure if they’ve really taken to me! Beautiful creatures to draw, but there’s a space between us – a connection I cannot bridge. Intelligent and equal I feel they have the better of me or are they more equal?

Pigs in County Durham

A friend of mine who owns a farm in County Durham has built a fabulous farm shop with a lovely deli and I’ve been helping out with the marketing. It’s the real thing; you drive passed the pens and cows before reaching the shop. All the meat and vegetables sold in the shop are grown on the farm, zero food miles. Whilst working (not real work) on the farm, I’ve made a few sketches; pigs are even better models than sheep, hardly moving at all. I see another acrylic coming on.

Durham Pig

Durham Dales and Swaledales

Today was meant to be my first full day away from the office since March. Any such plans usually guarantee interruption by a client on the phone or a change in the weather. The latter dictated today’s proceedings and I was forced back indoors.

My recent ‘postcard’ project has been a stop-start affair. The handful of postcards I have managed to draw during short trips to the Durham Dales, have only demonstrated the need for a full day to explore and sketch.

Local farms have Swaledales as their fell stock and are a common subject, throughout my sketches – I now refer to the body of my work as such.

These hardy creatures are hefted to the land, meaning they know the limits of their grazing. Some of the lambs are sold, as store-lambs in the marts during autumn as there’s insufficient grazing available in the hills by late summer to bring the lambs into a finished condition. They are purchased by farmers with better land at lower attitudes and grown for meat production or breeding.

They endure some of the most inclement weather conditions in the country. I admire them for there diligence. My trick is to walk ahead and pause. After a few inquisitive minutes they resume feeding making good subjects.

If the conditions improve over the coming days, a walk up Cronkley Fell is on the cards


Tups and Ewes-Teesdale

Tups and Ewes Teesdale

We’ve enjoyed almost continuous sunshine for several days, yet the frustration of being tied to the house with a back problem and with no sign of letting up, is driving me to despair. Aware that my own condition will in time return to some kind of normality and that millions of other sufferers will continue with their own far worse personal plight is drawing little comfort. I aim to correct this shallow self-centred mindset by starting to feel far less sorry for myself.

Yet spring in Teesdale and the North Pennines is a wonderful place to be. Soon ice flowers will be showing in Upper Teesdale, gentian and bird’s eye primrose along with the calls of wader birds filling the spring air. Having already missed my first rangering day with Natural England, I’m bad company to have around.

To make it three-in-a-row, the flu virus, and back problem have been accompanied by toothache. A new crown is on order and looking at the dentist’s quote I think he must have ordered the piece from the royal jewels.

I painted a picture from one of last year’s photographs showing tups and ewes in a small enclosure., near Newbiggin in Teesdale. The tree in the top right hand corner is one of my special places where I sneak to find some peace and quiet. The small copse of wood will exist long after I’m gone, but I guess I’ll still be lurking in some shape or form.

I’m so missing that little place at the moment.