North Pennine Swaledales








Hectic few weeks. Squeezing any me time is proving almost impossible. Revisiting a familiar theme, I’ve chased the Swaledales along the North Pennines. It already feels as though Autumn is slip-sliding away. Sorrow for the borrow Paul.

When the paint dries up.

Occasionally, the paints aren’t to hand and you need to use what’s closest. I often turn to my Caren D’ache pencils. I always thought it cheesey when people drew their children. I now make it a constant subject matter, a diary of sorts as to when they were young and I wasn’t so old. Sorry for any missed posts during my recent subatical. Normal Autumn service has resumed. SAD?, I’m not going there this year.


The washing line

The space I call my office, (a room crammed with anything but space), leans out to a view where the green finch and house sparrows hide. They dart from cover into our small front garden. Their quarrelling is incessant, they chase in gangs, often fleeing in flocks as the raptor approach. In the secret back garden we have two feeders, named a) and b) ( I really need to work on names), they act as ‘fly-throw’ for every small feeding bird in the village. Today I counted the first coal tits, bossed by sparrows but holding their own until overwhelming numbers chased them from view. I’m staring Seasonal Adjustment Syndrome in the face. It looms like the brink of a storm on a grey horizon. Thank goodness for the hedge and the feeders and the memory of clothes drying in summer on the washing line.

Doris the West Highland Terrier

Summer seems to be flying past, yet I have little to show for my efforts. A visit to the Lake District provided some interesting sketches of my walking friends, as did my venture into Baldersdale. However, Doris proved to be the model of the month relaxing on our sofa.

My Dad

my dad

I intended to post this in the New Year but changed my mind. So much guilt surrounds everything I do- or don’t do! Loosing my mother last year, I promised to spend more time with my dad . A great lover of the North Pennines and the person who first introduced me to England’s last great wilderness. I painted this mini portrait from a picture I taken on my phone, caught unawares as usual.

Teesdale Cattle

I stumbled upon these ladies last weekend whilst exploring some of the old woods in Teesdale.  The woodland floor was littered with ambers and gold. I spent far too long examining the leaves, of oak, maple, hawthorn and ash, pushing some of the better specimens into my holdall for close examination, alas only to be forgotten.

From the river I noticed a small footbridge spanning Bow Lee Beck just before feeding into the river Tees. Figuring this path wood take me to Newbiggen and not along my intended route, I decided to follow for a short distance. The narrow path is tightly squeezed between two dry stonewalls. After a short climb, the muddy path brings you to a stile leading into a lovely meadow.

Peeping over the wall, I spooked a heard of cattle that suddenly stampeded a few yards back into the field before stopping to view the trespasser.  They were inquisitive, watching me for several minutes, puffing warm clouds into the cold air.  Realising an opportunity was quickly slipping, I reached into my bag for pad and pencil. They proved to be good models, although by the time I added the colour they’d changed position.

The picture like the path became a little muddy and after rain threatened to spoil the moment I packed my things and stumbled back down the path to follow my intended route along the river. It was the only painting I made that day. Pleasant end to autumn. Hello snow. 😦

Teesdale Cattle


Boys on beach

Following some very interesting threads on technique, I decided to try something new. Leslie offered some valuable background information on the way she paints, mixing colours on the paper in washes rather than in the palette. So I decided to give it a go. I cheated a little as I used inks… and I think I’m going to need a lot more practice.
This painting was produced from a photo my dear wife took of our boys on a local beach during the summer. I thought it would prove a good subject to try out Leslie’s technique. A slightly rude awakening lay in store. However, I don’t take my self too seriously not to be able to post a hard lesson in the steep curve of mastering a new technique!

This skilled approach really exposes your limitations as an artist, and if I didn’t see it before, I do now! Looking back on Amber’s recent post ‘Tears in the Rain’ which was beautifully rendered and Barry Coombs watercolour workshops, I’m stuck between where I want to be. The colours in Barry’s pumpkins are a joy as are the washes in Leslies work.  Carol King’s – ‘Venus’ and Linda Halcomb’s ‘Abstract’ are all so clever… not forgetting Sonya’s magnificent ‘Mendaur and the first signs of Autumn.’

Boys on beach

I want so much to be able to use the richness of colour like you all, alas for now; I’ll continue to be a humble sketcher, with a little colour here and there. Lesson learnt. Practice-focus and remember the fingers are slaves to the imagination. I imagine it’s time for a glass of wine!


This is my take on ‘the girl with the pearl earring”

Today (3rd October 2010) must be the wettest day of the year. It’s poured all day, even Doris refuses to step out! I decided it was her turn for a little portrait. I worked from a photo I took earlier in the day. I finished in one session, which isn’t like me at all. She (Doris) must be the most friendly dog I’ve ever had. She loves the children and they do her! Doris follows the boys around the house, wants to join in with whatever they’re doing. She’s also head of security- a tough job, but Westies make great house dogs. I might try and take some more pictures to see if I can paint her in a less contrived pose.  Acrylic on canvas.

Doris-West Highland Terrier

Red Deer

After enjoying the BBC’s ‘Autumn Watch’ in 2009, where a team of scientists were stationed on the island of Rum watching Red Deer with a webcam.  I became so engrossed by the story of the stags and there ritual mating duals, I decided to learn a little more. This was one of my attempts at capturing a little of what the webcam brought into my studio.

Red Deer (Watercolour)