I enjoy reading detective novels and recently returned to an author I had read a few years ago, Malcolm Hollingdrake. I had forgotten how he includes artwork and artists in his books. One of the detectives collects paintings mainly from the Northern school of artists. I didn't realise that he either owns or has owned the works he writes about and at the end of each book he features an artist. In one book "Dying Art" the main theme is that of art forgery, and as well as being an interesting story there are many fascinating facts about this practice.
Some of the artists, who specialise in mainly depicting the northern industrial landscape, mentioned in the books include James Lawrence Isherwood, Mary Feddon, Theodore Major, Harold Riley, John Coen, Norman Cornish and of course L.S. Lowry.
I have always been interested in this school of artists and in the late 70's and 80's I was lucky enough to exhibit alongside a couple of them. I was also fortunate to have a full exhibition of my work in an adjacent gallery to an exhibition by the late, great L.S Lowry.
In 1989, Peter Davies wrote a book about this school of art. I was invited to
the launch of the book, which took place at Blackpool Art Gallery. Many of the artists mentioned attended and an exhibition of their work was also opened. Looking back, I wish that I had asked more of them to sign my book, which by the way I have put in a safe place (if only I could remember where), as some copies are selling for up to £200 each.
Like many things that go in a cycle, this style of painting has again become popular in certain areas, with several Cheshire galleries specialising in it. In 2015, Peter published an updated version of the book called " A Northern School Revisited" acknowledging recent artists such as Liam Spencer, Bob Richardson and John Thompson.
It is a shame that there is no northern gallery with a permanent collection of these artworks on show or that a touring exhibition couldn't be organised. The recent film #MrsLowryAndSon shows that there is a great interest in this style and The Lowry Art Gallery in Salford, would be an ideal place for at least an exhibition; possibly in conjunction with Salford Art Gallery. I for one hope that in the near future someone takes the initiative to make this happen.
Our flight home wasn't until the evening, so we decided to stop off at the Space Centre on our way to the airport. We have been to other Science centres in America and seen space vehicles but this one was iconic housing mission control for the first Moon landing.
It was interesting to see all the rockets etc. used in space exploration and be able to go inside some of them, although they would have been too claustrophobic for Sue. Going inside the plane and learning about how they decided on the means to transport the space shuttle showed how people's creativity can overcome such a difficult problem which made it even more impressive.We even touched a piece of Moon rock and a piece of rock from Mars. We are waiting to see what superpower we will get though!
A pleasant surprise was the exhibition of artwork celebrating fifty years of Apollo art. There were a range of artworks in different mediums, many by people associated with the missions, as well as by local artists and even one by Andy Warhol.
Setting off to return to the airport, we realised the problems with having a slightly out of date Satnav, with it sending us on a indirect route; sometimes appearing to go off road. Fortunately, we had time to spare and were soon on our flight home.
A fascinating holiday with lots to see and do. Quite different from other trips we have done to the States as some of the towns were not tourist destinations, and the seaside towns were coming to the end of the holiday season.
We were lucky to avoid the tropical storm, apart from our arrival in Galveston, where we caught the end of it. A thoroughly enjoyable time and the hospitality and friendliness will stay in our thoughts. We saw lots of artwork and although this was not our aim, it did give us an excuse to get out of the heat, as well as another chance to admire Monet's paintings.
All we have to do now is decide where our next adventure will be.
Moving on to Kemah, we found we were in a hotel a little further out than we expected. After settling in, we decided to drive to the boardwalk which proved to be a theme park on the shoreline.
Our first stop was for a drink and fortunately it was a café that displayed lots of local artist's work. This we thought was a good idea and one that more cafes could do.
Again, it was really interesting to see the different styles and topics covered in this area and made the experience whilst we were sat having our drink more enjoyable. It also gave the artists a much needed outlet to display and sell their work.
The theme park was quite quiet during the day, and the heat soon got to us, so returned to the hotel for a shower and rest. That evening, the theme park came alive with music provided by a live band and the atmosphere was electric as families enjoyed the rides.
A different experience for us from the other places we had visited and another chance to unwind as our holiday drew to a close.
Having seen the poster for this exhibition and reading that it was another Digital based series of artworks, I was a bit apprehensive, as these can be very hit and miss. It sometimes seems galleries are looking for the next big thing and the exhibitions don't always work.
In this instance I was pleasantly surprised. The area was blacked out and the displays were impressive with the lighting adding to the ambience. The exhibition featured work by ten International artists and looks at how new technology helps explore the state of us and where we might be in the near future. It starts by showing how Marvel comics have been affected by external influences and shows how the artwork has changed.
The first modern art you see are a series of small glass shapes. These are brightly lit and show various body parts. I feel the exhibition is made more impressive by the setting and although I initially liked them, they now remind me of the souvenirs you can get abroad with pictures of your family inside them. Although the mould of the penis may have a following, as a paperweight, sold on the Christmas markets!
In the next room were some images under the heading The Tide Within Us. These smoky like images were very thought provoking and in a way reminded me of Francis Bacon's work with distorted figures,
As with all conceptual work, I found some artworks were thought provoking and others didn't appeal to me. The abstract image 'Inside the HSV1' was a colourful image, however, I must admit I didn't fancy trying the virtual reality headset in order to see the microscopic world of the Herpes virus! This was partly due to the disclaimer notice and a seat being proved for those who might suffer from disorientation. I have actually felt this after an experience of using a headset to go on a rollercoaster ride in the past.
The video of a man dancing reminded me of several other artworks I had seen before and some of the human organs rendered in a range of materials, I have also seen in other exhibitions.
The video 'Anatomy of Desire' caught our imagination but, after a while, the constantly evolving images started to give us a headache, so we moved on. The other rooms had a range of sculptures and installations which varied in degrees of success.
The most interesting thing for me was watching the robot arm drawing the image of a sitter that had been photographed. The artist Patrick Tresset used a computerised system to capture the image. As we arrived, it was drawing a young woman and next in line was a young girl. After watching for a while I put my name down and came back later. This idea has always fascinated me and I was interested to see the result.
I had to sit for a short series of photographs and then the robot arm proceeded to draw my image. The process took about twenty minutes and I was able to watch the image appear as program made decisions on where to add lines. What made it appear more involved, is that every now and again the arm stopped and the camera looked down at the drawing before the arm started to draw again.
My portrait started to take shape fairly quickly and I could see the likeness straight away. It then had the same problem artist's can have, there was a danger of overworking the image and loosing the likeness. Whether this was because of the program or the fact it was meant to work for the full twenty or so minutes,I don't know. I can see that in future artificial intelligence may be able to make these decisions however at this moment in time I'm not convinced.
After the robot had signed the picture and stopped, I was pleased to see that it had captured a likeness and my portrait was added to the wall of fame for a short spell, until eventually being replaced by future sitters. The friendly ladies, who were in charge of the exhibit, explained that all of the portraits would be sent to the artist for his collection.
A fascinating experience, which was enjoyable to be part of. Whether this will be the future I don't know. It isn't perfect at the moment and looking at the portraits of the two sitters before me, it captured their likeness but an observer would find that it had had problems with getting their age right as making the face fatter or thinner made them older or younger.
An enjoyable afternoon at the gallery and it's surprising how my impressions of an exhibition changed after a few days reflection on it. Although impressive, the term 'Smoke and Mirrors' comes to mind. The dark rooms and lighting by the gallery added to the overall impression and certainly changed the way people looked at the work, which may not have been as successful in different lighting.
After a couple of restful days in Port Aransas, we set off for Galveston. We had seen the bad weather reports about the Tropical Storm Imelda, but everything seemed fine when we left. Having stopped for a break in Alvin, Sue took a turn at driving. As is often the case when Sue drives, the weather soon deteriorated. We thought about turning around but we were two thirds of the way there. Fighting our way through heavy rain, and flooded streets, we finally managed to get to our destination and settled down for the night, hoping the car hadn't been washed away the next morning!
To our surprise we awoke to sunshine, and so after an excellent breakfast cooked by our guest house hosts, set off to explore the City of Galveston. We started with the downtown area.
Here we looked for art galleries, but several of these were still barricaded against the floods that had swept over the area, leaving over a metre deep of water in places. I did manage to get a few pictures through the windows though. Eventually, we found the Third Coast Gallery, where they had just finished mopping out the lower floor. Interestingly, the first exhibition, in there, was of watercolours depicting city scenes, and this was the first time that we had seen this type of landscape on our travels.
After a walk to the coast and a stroll along the beach, we finished the afternoon by doing part of a sculpture trail. Apparently, after Hurricane Ike in 2008, lots of trees were uprooted and the residents decided that local artists could create sculptures from these, as well as a further 8.000 new trees being planted. Guided tours are now organised or visitors can just walk along the streets with a map, showing the houses with the sculptures in their gardens.
The other trees were used for restoration work and a variety of art pieces. This seemed an excellent idea and one that other areas could adapt, recycling what otherwise would just be sent to landfill.
I have done a few workshops over the last few years but only recently ventured into doing demonstrations.
My first one was for my own club in Salford and was a learning experience. My landscape paintings, using a palette knife, can take about five hours in my studio so I decided to use a smaller canvas. I had nearly an hour and a half to complete the painting but finished with about twenty five minutes to spare. I then was able to do a questions and answers session about my work. I had learnt that I needed to work on my timing.
My next demonstration was for Bolton Art Circle. There were immediate problems as the video equipment decided to stop working. This meant that it was more difficult for the members at the back to see. Fortunately my canvas size had increased slightly and my timing was about right.
My most recent demonstration was for the Swinton Art Club in Clifton. Having two hours I decided to use my normal canvas and being more adventurous to try a completely new subject matter, as for the first two I decided to do a painting I had already painted.
This was my most successful demonstration and I was really pleased with the result and feedback. Although I'm not over fussed about doing demonstrations these have all been enjoyable and I have met many very friendly members of other art groups. I know have to wait several months for the painting to dry so that I can include it in my portfolio.
What was even more pleasing was the feedback from the art club's secretary below.
Hi Philip - On behalf of us all I just wanted to thank you so much for your fantastic demo last night - we were all so impressed as I’m sure you could tell! You have such a fascinating technique - it was so exciting to watch the process and see the beautiful picture emerge - and all the wonderful autumn colours! We loved it - thank you again!
With best wishes, Lyn
After a busy couple of weeks, we decided to head to the coast for a few restful days. It's strange that in Texas, a one and a half hour journey, turns into a three hour one; something we will have to remember in future. Also, we didn't realise that Mustang Island needed a ferry crossing; another learning experience!
Arriving to a severe storm warning, we set out to explore, although it was a shame we were viewing the area at the end of the holiday season, when everything was running down. The hotel was nice, though, with paintings oi every room, commissioned by the hotel by an artist Wade Koniakowsky. Our first meal at a local café was a gigantic plate of fish and chips as were all our meals in the town
After a morning around the pool, we set off to explore and work off some of the last evenings meal. Our first stop was to see a local attraction where a house owner had decorated his fence with a variety of seaside items, a work of art in itself. Also it contained a Geocache helping us to continue our quest to find at least one on our visits.
We then made our way down to the beach, which was not very busy at this time of year. Walking from the harbour area, along the beach back towards the hotel, in the heat, we soon realised why everyone hired buggies at this resort. Still we enjoyed the exercise and did see a few other brave souls enjoying the sea and sand.
Walking around the town, we visited a couple of the smaller galleries but were delighted when we found the Port Aransas Art Centre. Again, this was a local artists centre where they could exhibit their work and hold classes etc. This was a superb purpose built centre with excellent facilities. There were several boards displaying a range of work as well as ones for individual artists. Some excellent work, although quite pricey for an art group however this maybe was because of the local clientele and tourist customer base.
Another fascinating insight into an American town, although I don't think we saw the real side of it, as the number of surf shops indicated a different clientele in the Summer season. It certainly would have been a lot livelier. At least we missed the storm, although the sunsets were quite impressive.
One of the places we wanted to visit was the site of the Alamo.
Arriving at a quaint old American house, we settled in before walking into town to explore. As it was getting late most places were closing, so setting off early the next day we made our way to the Alamo. Inside, it was fascinating to listen to the commentary on the headphones, and we couldn't help but be moved by the bravery of the men and women during the battle.
What also impressed was the fact that the historical importance of the building had been recognised and it had been saved for future generations to visit. This is not always the case in our cities where important buildings such as, in Salford, where Monk's Hall and Buile Hill mansion are allowed to fall into disrepair.
Another impressive feature was the river running through the city. Due to the persistence of one Robert H. H. Hugman, this area has been transformed from a derelict area to a River walk, where people from all over the country come to visit. Since his vision was developed, the area has thrived.
Boarding one of the tourist boats, we toured the area which has now become a mecca for shops and eating places, as well as hosting various parades etc; such as the one we saw one evening featuring superheroes. It's a shame that funding can't be found to improve some of Manchester's waterways like this.
It was also good to see the amount of art around the city and one area, La Villita, houses a community of artists with galleries and craft shops. We visited the gallery belonging to the River Art Group. Here 250 members can show their work. Unfortunately, they wouldn't let me photograph the inside area.
Returning to the theme of this post, Salford Quays could incorporate an area like this in it's planning and this would increase the number of people visiting the area.
Another city visited and certainly a highlight, especially as it was so easy to navigate and enjoy the different historical and artistic sights. It certainly gave us food for thought!
We had been looking forward to visiting Fredericksburg, having read about this German settlement when planning our trip. After passing through the wine region, we were surprised, when we arrived, to find it was a lot bigger than we expected. The main road was packed with impressive buildings, hosting a range of shops including art galleries and breweries. The evenings had a lively feel even though it wasn't the high season and you were even encouraged to walk down the street with your glass of wine!
After having explored on the first day, we decided to visit the art galleries on the second day. It was good to see that the craft shops were quite unique; unlike in a lot of countries where they all seem to go to the same supplier.
Having arrived at the far end of the street, we found a full row of galleries, each having a distinct range of artwork and theme. The first ones featured work by Texan artists and another contemporary art. In one we met a lovely lady who told us all about her art. There was a range of artwork displayed as well as a fascinating garden of sculptures. In the Koch gallery, there was a selection of more than a thousand Native American paintings etc. The owner gave us a fascinating insight into the work and in particular the early paintings on display.
Fourth was the Good Art Company, featuring work by local artists as well as those from abroad. Last in this row was the Insight Gallery featuring work by nationally recognised and award winning artists.
Walking back towards the hotel, the last gallery we visited was housed in the Fredericksburg Art Guild, run by a group of local artists. They were lucky enough to have their own building in which to showcase their work and each month one member had a display on one of the walls. The group were actively involved with the community and the whole gallery was run professionally with artist details and cards for visitors.
It was fascinating to see how each of the art galleries focussed on different aspects of art and had a different feel to them. They certainly catered for a wide range of tastes but still reflected the area.
The Art Guild could certainly hold their heads up high as much of their work would not look out of place in any of these galleries and they should be proud of what they have achieved.
I am always interested in visiting other art groups and comparing their styles and subject matters to my art group.
Another town visited and a really enjoyable experience; some of the stores even gave out a free can of beer just for going in! What more could you ask for?
After a day looking around the city, we decided to have a walk along the river. Setting off in sunshine, half way along it started to rain and we were soon soaked through, but at least it was warm and when the sun came out we soon dried.
After lunch, we decided to visit a sculpture garden in the park. This was further way than we anticipated but proved worthwhile in the end. All the sculptures were by Charles Umlauf, an interesting artist, but one we had never heared of. Although he trained in Chicago, he moved to Austin in 1941 and after winning several awards, he decided to gift his home and hundreds of sculptures to the city of Austin. he did this inn 1985 and fifty eight of these are on show in the garden.
Although quite small, the garden had a good range of topics covered and we enjoyed a peaceful walk around the grounds.
To escape the heat, we caught a local bus into the city and returned to the apartment, where we reflected on our visit to the city. It had a vibrant feel to it and when the university students returned should be quite lively.
The city put aside a portion of it's budget each year for the arts and we saw evidence of this in the sculptures and wall art, as we walked around.
All these artworks enhanced our experiences and made the stay more enjoyable.