March’s Featured Friend – Harry Bell

Harry Bell by his work in the Friends Summer Exhibition 2019

Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your passion for art:
I was born in 1947 and brought up in Gateshead, where I still live.

I’ve always drawn since the time I walked off with an assistant’s pencil stub from the Co-op when I was four and my Dad showed me how to draw cartoon spiders. My route to painting, however, was circuitous, involving several years detour into cartooning for the world of science fiction fanzines (I was Fan Guest of Honour at the World Science Fiction Convention in 1979).

In 1989 I began seriously to paint and, taking early retirement from the Civil Service in 1997, I began a BA (Hons) Fine Art course at Newcastle University, graduating in 2001. I’ve been a professional painter since then.

Can you tell us more about the artwork featured on the title page?
The paintings in the photograph are part of an occasional series based on found still life subjects. I love the careful, but often random arrangements of shoes, hats, bags and other holiday items set out in front of shops and stalls abroad. Given the chance, I like to draw them in my sketchbook (I’ve drawn an awful lot of rows of jars and cans in the Grainger Market) but usually this isn’t possible in the hot sun and busy streets where I find the stalls, so I rely on the photographs I have taken.

At home, I edit the photographs until I’m happy with the composition and even then, the painting itself will determine how closely I follow the original [photographic] source.

Are there any events/exhibitions upcoming that you’re particularly excited about?
I wish I could say so, but at the moment, apart from one or two regular club shows, I have no exhibitions lined up. I’m always on the lookout for opportunities but haven’t been very proactive in this respect in recent years.

Must do better!

What are you currently working on/planning to work on?
I’ve always been fascinated by the effects of time on surfaces, and a few months ago I began painting a series of paintings based on old doors I’ve photographed round the Mediterranean over the years.

I love the distressed paint work, rusted locks and handles of these doors, and using collage and acrylic gels has allowed me to work with the textures and relatively abstract compositions of the subject. From doors, I’ve moved on to walls with torn posters and broken brickwork and most recently, some parcels wrapped in crumpled brown paper.

Unwrapping John Piper by Harry BellUnwrapping John Piper – Mixed media on board, 30×30 cm

Who is your favourite artist and/or what is your favourite art movement?
I wrote my Dissertation on Graham Sutherland and his Pembrokeshire Landscapes and I’ve always loved the Neo-Romantic painters from Paul Nash to John Piper, John Minton, John Craxton and Keith Vaughan.

Someone once said that the ghost of Edward Hopper was sit ting on my shoulder because of my urban landscapes, and I have to say that I’ve never found him a heavy burden. But also across the Atlantic is Wayne Thiebaud, probably the greatest realist painter in the US. At 100 years of age, it’s astonishing that he’s never had a major exhibition in this country. I owe my interest in rows of hats and bags to his series of paintings of pies and cakes.

When did you become a Friend of the Hatton Gallery and why?
I was a Friend for quite some years in the late 80s and early 90s, but lapsed, probably ironically when I went to University. I always found the social events, workshops, weekends away at Ford Castle and the opportunity to show my work in the main galleries (despite the dreadful lighting!) great fun.

I’ve yet to recapture that feeling since I rejoined [two? three?] years ago, mainly because of pressure on my available time.

What is your favourite part of being a Friend of the Hatton Gallery?
Because, as I’ve said, I have limited time available, I’ve not been able to take part in many of FoTH’s events, but I do still enjoy the opportunity to show work, even in the limited space now granted to us, and the chance to meet other members at the preview.

You can see more of Stuart’s work on his website.

If you would like to  be our Featured Friend in a future issue , please email Tomke at

Season’s Greetings…

… and the best of wishes for 2020

Welcome to the Friends’ bulletin for December and January 2020.

This issue includes an article on fellow Friend and “plein air” artist Stuart Jones. If you would like to be our “Featured Friend” in a future bulletin, drop us a line and we’ll send you our questionnaire,

We have included a profile of local artist Mike Collier along with two reviews of a talk, which the Northumbrian Milliner Margaret Woodliff Wright gave in November.

We have included details of up and coming talks and events, “What’s on” at the Hatton Gallery and also at other local venues.

As always, the committee appreciate members’ views and comments. If any member wishes to include an article in a future bulletin please contact the Secretary,  Richard Thompson.

Reaching a wider audience

Over the recent months we have been publicising our talks and events more widely on our website and on Facebook. This has raised the profile of the Friends of the Hatton and allows us to reach a broader audience with, and get new members.

At times, this has generated a lot of interest from Friends and non-Friends alike. For our free talks this isn’t that much of a problem (aside from the possibility of exceeding the capacity of booked rooms). For our paid activities and workshops with a limited number of spaces however it is more of an issue. The committee has decided therefore to introduce a two tier pricing structure for workshops and a waiting list to ensure Friends get priority and cheaper fees.

We will also be encouraging non-member attendees of our free talks to make a donation to Friends of the Hatton, or, even better, to join up.

Mike Collier – a profile

Mike Collier is a lecturer, writer, curator and artist.  He studied Fine Art at Goldsmiths College before being appointed Gallery Manager at the ICA in London.  He subsequently became a freelance curator and arts organiser, working extensively in the UK and abroad.

7In 1985, he moved to Newcastle upon Tyne to run the Arts Development Strategy at the Laing Art Gallery, where he initiated the Tyne International Exhibition of Contemporary Art.

For the last 25 years he has worked in education and is currently Professor of Visual Art at the University of Sunderland and has a studio in Newcastle at Cobalt Studios.

Mike’s most recent project has involved a collaboration with Dr Bennett Hogg (composer/musician, Newcastle University, master printmaker Alex Charrington (a Newcastle University Alumni and natural history sound recordist Geoff Sample, who has his own label called Wildsong (

8Together, they have been developing new work that explores the relationship between the natural world, its specific cultures and cultural ecologies, and our own sense of culture/s. In particular, they have embarked on a three-year study of a dawn chorus in Northumberland, representing their research variously as digitally manipulated sonograms and musical transcriptions. This work has formed the basis of a series of screen prints, music and digital prints – work that has been widely seen and enthusiastically received in venues across the North East and the South West of England over the last two years.

The idea of the ‘dawn chorus’ vies with nightingale song as the aspect of birdsong most engaging to the general public, as evidenced by attendance on dawn chorus walks and the gradual proliferation of events celebrating International Dawn Chorus Day. Although the established understanding of birdsong is rooted on the premise that each singing bird is only, or predominantly, concerned with intra-specific communication, listening to the mass of birds singing at dawn we intuitively describe the phenomenon as a chorus. However, new analysis of the whole auditory scene suggests inter-specific structure as well as intra-specific relationships, giving rise to the ‘chorus’ impression, rather than random cacophony. This is the ‘area’ that our project specifically focuses on.

6Contemporary understandings of the relationships of humans to a ‘more-than-human-world’ have begun to move away from a “preservation” model to one of “sustainability”, and we now recognise the inescapable interdependence of humans and their environments, a model that sees humans as participant members of a world rather than its users.  This project links the arts and the environmental sciences, human expression and bird communication in a collaboration, exploring ways of presenting and reimagining our complex, embodied and participatory engagement with a particular aspect of local ecosystems – a dawn chorus.

Mike runs WALK (Walking, Art, Landscape and Knowledge) a research centre at the University of Sunderland which he co-founded with colleagues Tim Brennan and Brian Thompson. WALK aims to explore how cultural practitioners creatively engage with the world as we walk through it.

Mike is on the Advisory Committee for NECVAN; is a Director of Cobalt Studio and is the Visual Art Advisor for The Wordsworth Trust. He has shown and published widely in the UK and abroad and his work is a number of public and private collections.

For more information see

The Northumberland Milliner reviewed… twice

On 19th November, local milliner Margaret Woodliff Wright came in to talk to the Friends about her work. The following responses to her talk are from two of our fellow members:

A talk by Margaret Woodliff WrightHat and photo © Margaret Woodliff Wright

Margaret introduced her talk by showing a video about the large variety of hats that were available.  Margaret then went on to describe her journey of becoming a Milliner, her training, her exhibitions, her workshop themes and the materials she uses to make her hats. Everyone was very interested in the talk and numerous questions were asked. Margaret brought with her an extensive collection of her hats which were amazing – each one completely different.  It was a very enjoyable evening talk.

Jo Cousin

Hatton’s for Hats

During her talk, Margaret Woodliff Wright led us through her professional and academic career from her position as a Buyer at Fenwick, as a mature graduate in Couture Millinery at Leeds University, to being an exhibitor at London Hat Week.

IMG_9152She explained the inspiration and background to her numerous collections and how she sourced materials to construct her head pieces.

Margaret frequently uses recycled and repurposed materials in her work. It was amazing to see an unwanted jumper donated by a friend designed and created into a unique, couture masterpiece.

Another one of the wonderful exhibition pieces was made from recycled metal formerly part of a weaving loom.

My personal favourite was the carefully researched and inspirational WW1 Collection. In particular the Sweetheart Pincushions, with their most beautiful linings.

Not only does Margaret design hats and fascinators she also has a new range of headbands which are also proving to be very desirable.

As well as her internationally featured millinery business, Margaret accepts commissions and holds teaching workshops and masterclasses to share her expertise.

She is truly an Artist Maker.

Doug Howell MBE.

December’s Featured Friend – Stuart Jones

Sturat Jones by his work in the Friends Summer Exhibition 2019

Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your passion for art:
I’m an outdoor landscape painter which involves painting directly from life on location in the open air or ‘en plein air’, a French term coined by the Impressionists.  My passion for art was fostered throughout my education.  I did a foundation Fine Art course at Cleveland College of Art and Design, and then went on to do a BA Hons Fine Art Degree at Northampton University.

I moved back to the North East and worked as an Art Technician in a secondary school and decided to take a two year MA in Fine Art at Newcastle University.  This allowed me to experiment with my art practice though I ultimately turned back to my first love of drawing and painting after graduating.

I studied for a PGCE in Art and Design Education at Northumbria University and used these teaching skills as an Outreach Officer.  After several years of teaching workshops and delivering community projects, I decided to focus on my own art practice again.  My wife and I have two young children and I was able to work part-time, look after the children and pursue my passion for oil painting.

I couldn’t afford to rent an expensive studio and also felt that painting indoors didn’t offer enough excitement.  I wanted to feel inspired by the places around me and so resolved to work almost exclusively outdoors, working quickly to get some energy and life into my paintings.

Fishing at South Shields lighthouse - Stuart Jones
Fishing at South Shields Pier

Everytime there is something new to take your interest.  I love paining at the coast and it’s amazing how water can change its colour and appearance depending on the lighting conditions of the day.

Can you tell us more about the artwork featured on the title page?
This is a plein air painting created during the summer, called Haybales in a Field, Blyth.  I’d set up my equipment near a farmer’s field not far from the seafront promenade.  I was interested in the familiar sight of haybales sitting in a field, working with the seasons and responding to the subject matter at hand. I also enjoyed the way the light was catching the very tops of the bales and the swirling straw effect, which was painted using a hog bristle brush as it leaves wonderful linear marks through the paint.  Showing directional marks of the field and grasses, as well as hedges and a distant church helped provide a bit of context to the scene to tie it all together.

What are you currently working on/planning to work on?
Currently I’m responding to an open call exhibition for Northumberland: Magic and Myth at Woodhorn Museum so am hoping to submit a piece to this in the new year.

I’ve been heading into Northumberland making paintings in which trees play a supporting role to a main subject, as I wanted to capture the changing Autumn colours with the burnt oranges and yellows coming through.  With all the rain we’ve been having lately it has made it tricky to paint in oils and I have had to wipe a few boards that haven’t worked.  That’s all part of the experience of painting plein air though.

When the Winter arrives, I’m looking forward to painting snow scenes in some of the local parks and families playing in the snow.  It’s probably the only time of year when the ground appears as being a lighter value than the sky so it’s an interesting challenge observing and painting the various tints and chromatic whites.

Pavillion steps at Northumberland Park - Stuart Jones
Pavillion steps at Northumberland park

Are there any events/exhibitions upcoming that you’re particularly excited about?
I’m part of the group Winter Art Exhibition at Bistro Du Parc art café in Tynemouth from 22nd November 2019- 6th January 2020.  As well as having original plein air oil paintings available on show,  I’m also excited to offer limited edition archival quality prints for the first time.

Who is your favourite artist and/or what is your favourite art movement?
My favourite art movement has to be the Impressionists for their painterly brushwork and vivid use of colour.  I enjoy Camille Pissarro and British plein air artists like David Curtis ROI RSMA and cityscape painter Peter Brown.  I recently saw the work of Spanish artist Joaquin Sorolla at the National Gallery in the exhibition Sorolla: Spanish Master of Light.  His seascapes and ability to capture light on white fabric in his paintings were truly breathtaking and very inspiring.

When did you become a Friend of the Hatton Gallery and why?
I became a Friend of the Hatton after graduating from Newcastle University in 2007/08 and again in around 2016.  I felt having studied on the MA Fine Art course at Newcastle I wanted to continue having a link with the university and supporting the gallery that had displayed my work in the final degree show.  It’s a great way to meet fellow artists in Friends of the Hatton and attend exhibitions by members.  I think it’s important to be part of and actively support the arts community in Newcastle so that it grows for the benefit of new members and audiences.

What is your favourite part of being a Friend of the Hatton Gallery?
I think it’s great we have access to learning opportunities as part of the group and are able to listen to presentations by staff, artists and lecturers about the exhibitions that the Hatton Gallery showcases.  I also think having the opportunity to share your work in group exhibitions is an extremely positive part of being a member as it adds value to the group’s activity as being one that is engaged, active and is a champion for the visual arts to students and the public alike.

You can see more of Stuart’s work on his website.

If you would like to  be our Featured Friend in a future issue , please email Tomke at

Short Course in Printmaking II

The print studio during one of our print workshops

This is the second of the printmaking courses offered by Vhairi Cardinal & Caroline Coode

Vhairi and Caroline are offering a short course in Printmaking on Saturdays 25th January & 8th February 2020 (note, this has changed from 1st February to 8th), 10.30am till 4.00pm each day.

The course will be held in the Learning Room, at Hatton Gallery.

They aim to introduce simple screen-printing and revisit the 2 plate process, as well as helping students to continue with other techniques.

Limited places are available.

Cost: £20 per person per day for members plus a small surcharge for materials.

To register for a place on either of these courses, email

Art and the Creative Process – a talk by Rhonda Fenwick

Abstraction Reeds by Rhonda Fenwick

Rhonda Fenwick is a contemporary/ participatory artist
Tuesday 18th February, Seminar Room, Hatton Gallery, nibbles 6pm talk 6.30 – 7.30.

Rhonda’s work is concerned with Art and the creative process as a way of empowerment and transformation.

As Igor Stravinsky once said “I myself, having been created, cannot help but create”.

It is this example of inspiration which leads me to work with paint, mixed media, collage, write and film making – integrating the different mediums to create.

The talk is an attempt to explain the creative process of what that implies.  Uncovering the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ and the idea that creativity involves stored memories containing them with new incoming data to create something unique.

In the words of Artist Brice Marden, he said “ultimately, I’m using the painting as a sounding board for the spirt…

You can be painting and go into a place where thought stops – where you can just be and it just comes out… I present it as an open situation rather than a closed situation.”

If you would like to come please email

Art and the Creative Process – a workshop

By Peaceful Means, Rhonda Fenwick

Workshop lead by Rhonda Fenwick
Saturday, 29th February, Learning Room, Hatton Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne 1-3pm

This workshop follows on from Rhonda’s talk and is concerned with the creative process, how silence and meditation can help the artist to unleash creativity, express personal and authentic art especially in paintings.

During the workshop participants will be given a taste of meditation and an explanation as to how this can help them in their creative processes, plus exercises in mark making discovering their own person marks and personal signature.

Participants will be asked to write in their notebooks any ideas, thoughts, feelings, responses, fears etc. to create a personal diary of their work.  Participants will take part in a painting challenge.

Participants will need to bring with them

  • a notebook
  • four A1 sheets of drawing paper
  • mark making tools, e.g. graphite pencils, charcoal, marker pens, pastels, crayons paints and brushes.

Cost: £15.00 for members

For a place please contact: