My Nuart favourites near Aberdeen Station

I’ve been meaning to write a post about Nuart since April. It’s now September but better late than never…

2019 Aberdeen hosted the 3rd Nuart Street Art Festival when street artists from all over the world come to Aberdeen and adorn our buildings with stunning artworks. The theme this year was “storytelling and the city” inspired by Italo Calvino’s 1972 novel “Invisible Cities”.

Once completed, the artworks remain as part of the fabric of Aberdeen city.


My favourite artwork this year is by Alexandre Farto aka VHILS, from Portugal:

Quoting the Nuart website “Vhils destroys to create. The Portuguese street artist who openly operates under his real name, Alexandre Farto, is internationally recognized in the forming of dramatic, oversized portraits made by carving directly into outdoor walls.”

Close up, you can see how the wall has been carved away:

The artwork is visible from the carpark next to Union Square Shopping Centre in Aberdeen. It’s on the building directly across the carpark from TK Maxx:


Another stunningly work is by SMUG, aka Sam Bates from Australia:

Incredible realism; the noses seem to come right out of the wall! The Nuart website says this about SMUG: “Known for his photo-realist graffiti work, Smug, or SmugOne, aka Sam Bates, is a contemporary graffiti writer and muralist with immense skill. Using nothing but spray cans, he has been able to gain mastery over the difficult task of creating highly technical figurative pieces that retain that edgy, cheeky, and playful side of traditional graffiti whilst embracing more established elements of figurative fine art. Traditionally, photo-realists have a lot of time on their hands, warm quiet studios and work with tiny brushes with precise movement. These are the three things that no one in graffiti culture generally has at their disposal, and yet, some of them, Smug being the perfect example, are able to create amazing large-scale road-side murals that look like they could be photographs, there isn’t a compliment of greater significance for any artist working in this field.”

You can find SMUG’s work on the side of the Trinity Shopping Centre in Aberdeen at the junction of Rennie’s Wynd and The Green:


My next photo is a work by HYORO from Nuart 2018:

The artist, Hyuro, “is an Argentinian-born street and urban artist best known for painterly compositions that combine vernacular depictions of femininity with socio-political undertones. Originally working on canvas, Hyuro took to the streets after striking up a friendship with Spanish street artist Escif. She has since carved out a reputation for addressing prevalent social and political issues in her work, with the characters she depicts often subordinated by patriarchal and capitalistic systems of power.” (from the Nuart 2018 website).

Her artwork is not far from SMUG’s. Walk along East Green to the beginning of the Tunnels and turn around to view the art on the wall behind you.

I love the sense of movement.


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Carcassonne in the rain

Carcassonne is an amazing UNESCO-listed medieval citadel. Very cold and rainy on the day we were there, though. We were soaked and frozen twice. While drying out and warming up, I did a quick sketch through the hotel window:

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Sketching on a train

Over the first two weeks in April, we travelled by train to and from Scotland, around France, and a little way into Spain, using 7-day Interrail passes for seniors. A website written by Mark Smith (a.k.a. ‘The Man in Seat 61’) has all the information you’ll ever need about train travel in Europe. Here’s his page on Interrail Passes. We had early bird discount Interrail passes for 7 full days of travel (first class!) for only £313 each. We had to pay additional booking fees on Eurostar and French trains.

Some trains were too bumpy for sketching – or the view from the train window was too interesting to tear myself away. One train was very smooth. I sketched from a super photo by Elliot Franks in a copy of The Times newspaper:

This photo of the dancer, Ivan Putrov, is perfect for a value study as it has very strong highlights and shadows. Ballet dancers, with their well-defined muscles, make super models for life drawing. I didn’t feel I quite managed to capture the gesture of the dancer’s pose in the sketch I made on the train so here’s a later sketch from the same newspaper cutting:

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Sketching in Nice, France

We’re just back from a trip to Nice, France. I managed to fit in a little sketching between sightseeing trips, some pencil and charcoal sketches from the hotel roof, and some gouache sketches in our hotel room from photos I’d taken earlier in the day:
Nice beach:

and the view from Castle hill:

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Orchid Painting

I completed a painting of orchids a couple of weeks ago.

The flowers and blue glass vase are painted fairly loosely. What caught my attention were the bright beams of sunlight bouncing through the vase and back onto the window frame. Also the reflection of the curtains in the window glass.

This painting is in much brighter colours than I normally produce. A little gaudy perhaps?

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BBC documentary about Shirley Hughes

BBC FOUR makes a series of programmes called What Do Artists Do All Day? Each programme features an individual artist.

I watched this gem about the illustrator, Shirley Hughes, who is still creating illustrated books for children at the age of 91 (according to her Wikipedia entry).

If you are in the UK and have a TV Licence, you can view the documentary on BBC iPlayer.

The programme follows Shirley through a typical day: painting in the morning; strolling through the market with her trolley; sketching from a coffee shop; having lunch with her daughter; and sketching children in the park.

Just think, if she were a male artist she might be arrested for attempting to sketch children, however innocently.

I do remember reading some of the “Naughty Little Sister” books by Dorothy Edwards when I was a child. These books were among the first that Shirley Hughes illustrated back in the 1950s!

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Life Drawing at Susie Hunt’s

We are lucky, in Aberdeenshire, to have so many wonderful artists. One who lives close by is Susie Hunt. Susie is a prolific, successful, painter and teacher. She is the founder of North East Open Studios (NEOS) and is an active member of the Aberdeen Artists’ Society. Also, she is a lovely, generous person. Read about Susie on the Tolquhon Gallery page.

Susie runs weekly life drawing/painting sessions at her home studio. These are not classes (there is no instruction) but instead they’re an opportunity for local artists and amateurs to get together to work with a live model. We pay a fee and turn up with our materials ready for a challenging two-and-a-half hour session. Some artists sketch, others paint, and one sculpts in clay. The models are excellent professionals, very patient, and great at holding still while we work away. I am especially glad to get the practice; it’s so much better working from life than from photos!

The format is similar to other life drawing sessions – three or four short, 3-5 min, poses, and then some longer, 20-30 min poses.

Below are a some of my graphite sketches from the past few months. My aim is to get the anatomy and proportions right. It will be interesting to look back at these after a year to see whether I’ve improved.

sketch Feb 2019

A nice, twisting pose. Is the neck is a little too long?

sketch Dec 2018

I love the shape of this hunched-over pose. Shame the foot was going off the page! Is one leg longer than the other?

sketch Mar 2019

Anatomy is not too bad, except for the hand on the thigh. I ran out of time to correct it.

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