Landscape Artist of The Year 2019. My time on The Toon.

In July 2019 I participated in Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year, this time my heat was held in Newcastle upon Tyne and Gateshead.

Tyne Bridge (and camera!)

Above shows the view I and fellow contestants where to paint, the glorious Tyne Bridge. Luckily the weather was super, a little breeze but nothing to worry about. My entry for the competition is below, a view from the Rockerfeller Center in Manhattan, created after my trip there in March.

Manhattan Morning, Fifth Avenue (Private Collection)

This is a mixed media work on paper, using a mix of graphite stick, compressed charcoal, acrylic pouring medium, acrylic, biro and marker pen.

Receiving the news that this picture won me another chance on the show was an absolute thrill and I relished the opportunity to work with the team again. Driving up to Gateshead the day before gave me time to see the other heat taking place at the now iconic ‘winking’ Millenium Bridge.

The Millenium Bridge, Gateshead.

Not sure whether I would be painting this structure, I checked the bridge’s operating times to see if it would move during the day, which would determine if I was able to work slowly on a work on paper, or fast and gestural on a board. After having a super fish supper, yum, I then witnessed the pods being moved by truck up the road towards the main bridge! I felt relief at this, as the new bridge was a very tricky object to depict. Here the older structure, set against some superb architecture, made me feel more at home.

Some practice pieces before the heat:

For the heat I decided to bring with me my trusty, albeit rather old handmade easel that I built out of my dad’s old stretcher bars when I was fifteen. It worked a treat, holding up my board on which I had a primed A1 sheet of thick watercolour paper. The production team looked a little nervous at this however, and remarked that the breeze might blow it all down. I had a handy screw to fix my board to the easel – I wasn’t worried ;-).

What was more of a worry however was to decide the format shape of my painting. The view before me of the bridge and surrounding buildings seemed to require a fat oblong shape. I had come to the heat with A2 and folded A1 sheets, thinking that overall I would be working within A2 size. However this format proved too slim, not allowing for the height of the bridge to be depicted at the scale I wanted. So I resorted to unfolding a sheet of A1 and was able to work on that (alas with a crease in the middle!!). All of this was decided through quick sketches first to save time on the proper job!

The Heat 5 painting – Tyne Bridge

Prior to my trip to Gateshead I wanted to look into the history of the area.  In 2017 the Tyne Bridge was symbolically aligned with the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, as part of the fiftieth anniversary of the visit to Newcastle by Dr Martin Luther King. Similar in design, the bridge in Selma became a notorious flashpoint for the civil rights march of 1965 that involved Dr King, Rep. John Lewis and countless civilians in the state that called for the right to vote. The events of Selma have been brilliantly retold in the graphic novel trilogy ‘March’, with super illustrations by Nate Powell. I haven’t ever really considered graphic novels before, but I do now!

The team filming the completed work

Considering the state of the British weather this summer I think that we were very lucky in Tyneside. Not too warm, not too cold, and not wet!!

The first hour of working was quite tricky, particularly in capturing the angle of the bridge relative to where I was standing. What I found quite surprising was it’s great height, very imposing and dramatic. On the paper I used soft graphite stick, charcoal pencil, a limited palette of acrylic colour and acrylic pouring medium. The medium is great, it gives flexibilty to mark making and, when it is worked into charcoal, provides a satisfying range of warm greys and blacks. As minutes turned to hours I increased the amount of paint, adding subtle colour to the bridge and nearby buildings. Detailled areas were then added using sharpie makers (ordinary ink and biro does not hold well over acrylic medium). I felt happy with the overall effect at the end of the day, trying to capture the grace of the bridge with a rusty, industrial look. It didn’t convince the judges alas. Oh well, never mind!

As at Inverary last year, the day was expertly managed by a great team; they know how to make things run smoothly! Thanks to them for looking after us geniuses. It was great to see Kathleen again, and eventually to have a chat with Tai. I think Stephen was impressed by my easel 🤔…

Transferred to Manhattan…

The view from Roosevelt Island

March 4th – 10th 2019

This week saw my (eventual) return to the Big Apple. It’s been some time. The last time, as well as this time, had one thing in common: totally fffffreeeezzzing! This time, unlike last time however, involved me soaking up the city itself, rather than the fabulous museums that there are here. I have taken rather a lot of photos, understandably, and have walked mile on mile.

I had a great time. Weather, unlike temperature, was gorgeous; sharp, sunny, bright.

New Yorkers treated me like royalty. Friendly and polite all the way.

I forgot how fabulous the food is here. The Murray Hill Diner particularly…


Any regrets? No (well, maybe could’ve drawn and painted more, but the cold did not help so that’s ok)

How to get around? Well, for $32 you can use the tube and bus for a week with their Metrocard (imagine £30 a week on transport in London! Not happening!) – so if you don’t mind using underground trains (they were cleaner and faster than last time), then it’s a good deal to see the city.

Another good deal? Well MOMA on Friday evening is free, yippee (a tad crowded, no surprise)…

Gorgeous Vincent…

..and the ferry to Staten Island, always a lovely experience

Good views? Absolutely! The great thing about this trip was taking in the life on the sidewalks; the clatter, smoke, steam, chaos.

Midtown from Lower East Side

…and the ironwork!

Streets of Nolita..

More to follow in my next blog.

Landscape Artist of the Year 2018

In May this year I applied for Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year, an annual competition open to professional and amateur artists in the UK. A friend suggested I go in for it, a few days before the submission deadline. Very shortly after I recieved a phone call, and, thinking initially this would be an interview, was told there and then that I was a chosen contestant for heat 6 in Inverary, Scotland. My Manhattan submission piece (found on my City Scenes, City Steeets page) was loved by the judges and helped secure a place on the show.


Here I am in the pod on the day!

I thought carefully about my submission painting, which is a good example of my fascination with colour play in low level light conditions (as well as the architecture!). My selection to paint Inverary Castle seemed great, I love buildings so that didn’t pose a problem. However our pod proximity to the building was very, very near – the castle almost dominating my field of vision. I had an annoying tree in the way (which I edited out) and a very large expanse of green (including the stone of the castle, not very evident on internet photos). It was interesting to see Tai Shan Schierenberg and Stephen Mangan discussing the ‘obvious’ castle ahead of us, and to see whether artists would interpret the scene differently. Well for me the castle was fabulous and I wanted to embrace it all (I knew I had enough paint!!) – grey tupperware skies aren’t very exciting but again I’ve painted that many times before (cold dark grey November skies can be tricky however, but that’s another story….).

Halliday Fine Art-0082-109045_websize

My studio, my submission piece and I.

If you are thinking of applying to the show then why not! It’s free to enter and if you get selected you get great exposure, opportunity and sales. If your location is nearby then I strongly suggest that you visit prior to the actual heat, it could help loads. Be prepared for interruption and also the regular ‘tap, tap’ sound of the time-lapse camera behind you (you’ll get used to it). I must confess after four hours of painting non stop I was feeling knackered but the experience overall was great. I feel that friendship was made with the other very talented artists, and I am in contact with most from our heat. The production team really know what they’re doing, and the breakfast buns were superb.

Who knows, I might enter again..

One final note for men with hairy chests, the microphone won’t stick there.

Below – the heat painting, with accompanying bin store on the hill.




A view from Midtown looking south. The painting is coming along as expected and now I’m going to focus on ‘toning down’ the lights a little, adding subtleties to their ‘glow’ which will give the picture more interest. The Empire State Building, seen here in mid ground will also be merged in tone to the background, to soften it’s appearance. I love the shape of the ‘BoAT’ (Bank of America Tower) and find it remenicent of Renzo Piano’s Shard tower on London’s South Bank.

Central Park, looking East


A view of the wonderful Central Park, the essential green lungs of Manhattan island. The stark contrast of rambling green horizontals and pale, graceful verticals is hypnotic and spectacular. My last visit here was alas not particularly green (it was January) and criminally short (passing on my way to the Guggenhiem Museum). Honestly! I mean, just ‘passing’?? This is truly one of the loveliest parts of the city…. next time i’ll know better to spend a little longer here!!

Looking uptown, Evening


This painting is the first of a pair commissioned recently for clients who had met and lived for a few years in the city. This view includes the lovely Bryant Park in the foreground, hemmed in by a cluster of  dramatic verticals. The large open expanse of Central Park can be seen in the distance, top right. Further away is the George Washington Bridge illuminated by the setting sun. The tall, irregular yet graceful tower in the foreground is home to the Bank of America and is commonly known as ‘The Boat’. As with a growing number of businesses in the city, this building boasts beehives which in turn may be contributing to a rise in unwelcome swarms (although I’d love to give the honey a taste!)

Midtown Morning


Now complete, a view of the big apple from the east, near the United Nations headquarters. I am fascinated by the ‘turning’ times of dusk and dawn as this creates an unusual cocktail of colours created by weak sunlight. Skyscrapers are very good subjects for cast shadows, and, needless to say, perspective. Although I have included pretty much all the buildings seen from this viewpoint I have used a degree of artistic licence as to their relative heights. This helps to create a more pleasing composition. Additionally I have provided a familiar celestial object, which although is known as a symbol of night has in this case provided an alternative ‘rise’.

Hey Manhattan!


One of my latest completed paintings, a view looking northward past the Chrysler building to Queens and the East River. This is relatively large in size from what I usually do, at nearly a metre square. This is essential to evoke the sheer mass of NYC, its various forms, shadows and colours.

Looking a little closer..

Foxy! Here is a close up of one of my latest paintings. I have focused on a section which has involved my rather worn brushes. Here we see a mixture of thickly applied paint and more ‘pushed’ or ‘dragged’ areas which is possible with short yet firm bristles. This creates a degree of variety which enlivens the whole painting, creating a sense of vitality and freshness. WP_20160313_21_24_09_Pro