Am I in a creative rut or just bone idle?

I keep pretty busy and I look busier than I am. It’s a few years since I had to earn a living from drawing related activity. So the temptation these days is to create my own self imposed work load and recently that has been light. Every now and again I get enthusiastic about an idea. I had one about haircuts of all things and did loads of drawings of the male haircut. I’m not sure quite why now, but it was fun to do. Names was another ‘thing’ and I have quite a lot of drawings in the desk, you can find them on-line too right here, in fact you can find loads of stuff there. I’ve done the odd political cartoon here and there. Interesting that this cartoon done all those months ago might still be able to be used again now.

Boris emerges from the shallows…

I suppose the one consistent thing that runs through all of my work is that there’s something truly British about it. I suppose that’s inevitable: its part of my DNA.

I’ve reinvented myself and done some so-called proper drawings as well as shown my collections of photographs.

Well to get to the creative point here. I am at present wallowing around trying to find my navigator again. I’m looking for my next project and something to get enthusiastic about again. It really should not be that difficult to find it, especially with the rain we’ve been having which is the best sort of weather for me to be drawing. Speaking of weather, I’ve even done a series on that.

Intelligent suggestions are always welcome, but for the time being, and so that I can buy some thinking time on this, I will be publishing seven days of photos over the next week. Starting tomorrow. These will hopefully fill a creative gap and as they are from my archive, requiring next to no effort. Bone idle.

Thanks for coming this way.

Olive Trees: I’m reticent about this.

My good friend and fine printmaker Rosalind, lives on Spetses and has made some wonderful prints of olive trees, so I m a little reticent about putting my own out there. The competition is a little on the hot side. No matter, here they my trees. I can’t remember now if these were from Crete or Spetses, Crete I think on a walking holiday. These trees are probably many years old and make a natural subject for almost any artist. Given that the light in these areas is bright and crisp it’s no wonder.

Spetses is one of those Greek Islands that you might think is covered in tourists, but as it’s a long boat ride to get there from Athens, it’s not. Retaining a lot of charm and tranquility. Ros has been drawing there for anumber of years. She’s a printmaker specialising in reduction lino cuts where many colours can be added to the process. It’s worth taking a look at her website where you can buy original lino prints of limited editions from her shop on the site. Like many artists she’s not as well known as she ought to be despite having many keen followers and owners of her exquisite works.

Enough about her, this is about my drawing! This one has not progressed beyond line drawing as yet, and like many of these, the colour may never happen. If it does not work for me then I ditch it, just keeping the line drawing in case I want to have another shot at it. You can see the ones that did get beyond the black line right here

I hope you’ve enjoyed these one-a-day-for-seven-days series and that you’ll come back soon.

Just outside Sheffield, there’s been rain.

It’s non-news really. Rain in Sheffield. A bit like three coming after two, or that a politician might have been flexible with the truth. Perhaps best not to go in that direction.

This drawing too managed to make it through to colour and you can see it right here. In many respects I like the simple line drawing.

Speaking of rain in Sheffield, then if you happen to be there, feel free to go here and get yourself one of their brilliant coffees, and the brunches and cakes are worth a detour to the summit of Walkley just on the outskirts of town. I declare an interest here, my son Joe is the prop here. He even does toast and jam some days, like it! He must take after his father, as jam and bread was my most favourite thing when I was a small child. I recall being at my most angry at a birthday party when all the fancies in the world were on offer and there were no jam butties. What was mine host thinking of for crying out loud. I even have a photo below of the event to prove it.

That’s me: Mr Grumpy fourth from the left, with my brother in matching jumper on my right.

How do you draw snow in Sheffield?

I only recently had any sort of connection with Sheffield in Yorkshire. A few years ago my son went to live there, for no reasons that was apparent to me but it seemed like a good idea to him. He loved the place and still does. He’s even opened a coffee bar there. If you go up to Yorkshire drop in and sample very carefully crafted coffee by a master coffee maker. In our family the mantra is: ” Don’t mention coffee to Joe, or he’ll talk about it until your eyelids droop”. He is seriously knowledgeable about it.

Sheffield is a great place, very friendly with lots of countryside places that are very easy to get to on the outskirts. Lady Bower Reservoir is recommended and on our last visit we saw the most amazing display of bluebells we’ve ever seen. It’s only a 20 minute drive away from Sheffield.

Meanwhile back at the drawing board. Last spring we spent some time up in Sheffield and it snowed, a lot. We were staying just out of Sheffield and in places the snow was up to the top of the walls. So a good day to take a walk and take some pictures.

In my youth I loved the drawings of Carl Giles, the then Daily Express cartoonist. There were times when he did drawings of snowy scenes and he seemed to be able to draw snow better than anyone. His way of framing the images with lots of white space gave an added feel of drama that one gets with snowy landscape and make for a quiet day and not a lot of drawing. He also used to use half tone in areas to indicate shadow and light on the snow, search around and I’m sure you’ll find some brilliant examples. To view an original Giles cartoon is a treat, they are quite large, about A3 if my memory serves me right. The half tone was ‘added’ by the printers who followed his instructions on the precentage of half tone to add to the finished printed areas. He, like other cartoonists of the era, would add a blue wash over the areas to be done. On an original, especially one with snow in it, this looked particularly effective. Privately Giles was not a particularly likeable character I’ve read, perhaps he took on the persona of the batty old granny that inhabited many of his cartoons.

Back to my drawing. It’s from an image near Sheffield and you can see the colour version right here . Not a granny in sight.

Tom Thompson and the Group of Seven.

Here’s another of my drawings from a photograph taken on a superb trip to the very West Coast of Canada on Vancouver Island. In Canada the Group of Seven is a much lauded collection of artists from the early 1900s and Tom Thompson was said to be a member of the group. Although you can see from the link that he died, quite young and in mysterious circumstances before the group really was formed.

Of all the works in the group I was really taken by his beautiful atmospheric landscapes with the strong graphic style. Visiting the area that he painted one could easily see how he must have been inspired by the landscape. There are few places where the landscape is more ‘atmospheric’ than the west coast of Vancouver Island. One view can take in crashing waves with a sea mist and an eerie light. Thompson managed to capture the essence of the place. My humble drawing is my own attempt to catch it. In this case I did venture into colour and you can see the result here

Perhaps I’m very slightly influenced by the fact that my own grandfather was also called Tom Thompson. He was something of a pioneer of colour photography in the North West of England, but made his living working for Pilkington’s Glass Works in St Helens. There would have been another subject for an atmospheric landscape, but not quite so healthy.

Juxtaposition, not a word to be used lightly.

It’s one of those words heard a lot on arts programmes on Radio 4 when worthy people talk about the very latest art, and it’s a word I try to avoid as it always reminds me of, those arts programmes on Radio 4.

So I’ll just use it once in relation to this drawing which is, like the others in this series, taken from a photograph when on our travels. This one is in Crete and is of a fishing boat with a broken down factory in the background. I wonder what the factory did with its tall chimneys and a solid stone wall around. I doubt that the fishing boat had been in the water for years, parked on the side of a road near the port.

I thought that the juxtaposition of the boat and the factory in the background made for an interesting image. There I’ve said it now, is it not time for the Archers?

Here’s the original photo