In 1929 my mother aged 9 visited the North East Coast Exhibition; one of 4 million visitors. Above is an image of the postcard she bought showing a view of the Arts Pavilion.  The exhibition cost around £7.7 million in todays money, more than the £5 million allocated for the 2018 Great Exhibition of the North, but let us hope it brings in a similar amount of visitors to this great region and is designed and presented with the same stature.  We can only wait and see!!!!  My mother posted this card to me in 1984. She used it to confirm the delivery of my portfolio to the Royal College of Art. I was skint at the time and couldn’t afford the fair to London!!!  To my surprize I was invited for an interview for the post grad printmaking course.  However, all I remember of the interview was a lot of questions concerning my home made clothes!!! Maybe I should have applied for the Fashion course instead..Ha! Ha!

The second image is a rough photo of the third stage of my new painting (the first from a triptych entitled ‘The Walls’) It has moved on quite significantly from the image I posted in my last blog.  It is getting there…long way to go however.  So much else to do!!!! Can’t get a good few days at it!  Off to the village of Aller this week to build a rather large bonfire.  My next blog will compare it to the wicker nonsense that was built on the river Thames.  The I’ll let you decide which was best!!

Below is a link to an interesting article by Michael Barke, reflecting on the North East Coast Exhibition of 1929…enjoy…




I have decided to leave an account concerning the process of making an artwork.  The artwork in this case is a triptych of three 120cm x 150cm acrylic paintings on canvas, entitled ‘The Walls’. The images above show the first and second stages of the initial painting from the triptych. The many of the elements in the painting have been taken from sketches, direct from photographs and occasionally from the imagination. I may put some of these alongside the next stage.  I have a broad idea concerning the structure of the painting/paintings, but elements may change or be removed as the work progresses.  Some of this can be seen if a comparison is made between the two images.  And that’s about it.  This is more a visual record than a written one.  However, this painting style suits me emotionally and I am really enjoying making this work. This cannot be said of some of my more recent creations.


My dad died this month 28 years ago. I was 28 at the time, so it seems an apt, even balanced moment to write about how he viewed my art and misunderstood the real reason for its creation. As a boy and a teenager I had always sketched and painted; it was something I did on a rainy day or anytime I could get away with it at school. I wasn’t brilliant, but people recognised I had an ability to capture the essence of reality.

I never thought about making art seriously until I started a degree in Geology. Strange you might think, but after a year out (now called a gap year!) working and playing in bands, the 9-5 study of a geology degree was about as exciting as watching the BBC test card disappear into a small grey dot at the end of the night; thinking about it, the test card was more exciting!  In the single term that I studied geology, I spent all of my spare time in the Art Department and the bar that accompanied it, rapidly coming to the conclusion that I needed to swap the study of seismic waves for the freedom of creative nonsense.  Unfortunately, the icy faces of my mother and father that greeted me on my return to the frozen north did not bode well for my conversion from priest to sinner. However, the conversion was soon completed, as the next year I gained a place at Art College and began creating nonsense in earnest.  And so, it was about this time that my dad took me to one side, as parents sometimes do, to discuss the odd art work I had been showing them.  You see my dad was a very practical man, he was great with his hands and could make and fix just about anything. With this in mind, he had really wanted me to leave school at 16 to learn a ‘trade’, luckily my mother was having none of it and allowed me to stay on to take my A levels.  So with this practical outlook, he couldn’t understand why I would want to create ‘strange’ art and make no money, when in his eyes I could make a ‘good living’ painting those ‘nice water colours’. Mmmm.  You can guess the outcome of that conversation.  He never really understood and to be fair neither did my mother, what I was trying to achieve. I have always been quite fancy at doing the odd water colour (l have always greatly admired Cotman and Turner’s abilities in this area), but to do this week in, week out to earn a living would be for me, turning my art into ‘stacking shelves at Sainsbury’s’. I realise that many artists get great pleasure from creating this type of work and often when I’m walking in the hills I will sketch in my notebook as a visual reference to that days walking. However, that’s all it is, a visual reference. There is a link between a skill and creativity in all its odd forms, but I have always endeavoured to keep those ideas separate, as when I haven’t my work become stale and about showing off my skills. Make work that always ‘rocks your boat’, my dad didn’t get this, he liked my work when I showed off my skills.  RIP Joe.

The two water colour sketches above are from isle of Arran in Scotland, 2016.   The other two sketches are works towards a major painting I have just started.