Thursday, 5 September 2019

Horror Story Published!

You're invited to read one of my short horror stories, Make Do and Mend, which was published in Flash Fiction Magazine yesterday. It's attracting some very lovely comments below it, also.

Read it for FREE here: Flash Fiction Magazine 4.09.19

This is the second short story I've had published with this online magazine this year. You can read Whatsername here: Flash Fiction Magazine 02.18.19

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Grotty Bits, Dodgy Doings and A Skull

Bride of Dreams by Adele Cosgrove-Bray; oil on canvas; 2019.

My most recent oil painting, Bride of Dreams, is a radical departure from the seascapes and shoreline landscapes which I've been creating over the last two or three years. While Bride of Dreams depicts a domestic interior, it also has a strong narrative quality and is laced with symbolism. I won't explain this symbolism to others; I'll leave each viewer to interpret it for themselves.

The bride was modelled by Rose Mairs, and the drawings for this came from a themed session for the Oxton life drawing group which I attend. Rose won the photography section of last year's Williamson Art Gallery's Open Exhibition. The cat, Bob, belongs to Janine Pinion, who won the painting section of the same exhibition.

I enjoyed a lovely narrowboat cruise along the Shropshire Union Canal recently, on a day which turned out to be the hottest on record. Top speed seemed to be 3 mph, which made a refreshing change from the usual full-on-charge with which we tend to hurtle through life these-days.

It's good to slow it all down, gaze idly out of a window and watch wild swans paddle by. This is an activity I could really get into. I quite fancy the idea of a floating, travelling art studio.

I've finally managed to squeeze in some gardening, and so the patio is no longer in danger of vanishing beneath an encroaching forest of in-the-wrong-place plants. If they had self-seeded in the border they'd have been fine as aquilegia are among my favourite flowers, and these deep purple and white ones (as in the photo) are gorgeous - but we also need to be able to walk over the patio!

The cherry crop is over now, so I pruned the tree back a bit. Now we can walk along the path without having to duck beneath branches laden with ripe fruit. The blackbirds have gorged themselves into an avian stupor. The squirrel family are looking distinctly portly, too.

Today I went to view the 9th Wirral Open Exhibition run by the Wirral Society of Arts and hosted by the Williamson Art Gallery and Museum. No sooner had I walked through the gallery door than my eyes leapt to a large painting of a ram's horned skull lit up from behind. By Jason Hurst, and called Illumined Aries, this painting's simple subject is vibrant with drama. Majestic work! No wonder that it had been selected as a prizewinner.

The other piece which really stood out to me was a well-planned symbolic painting, also a prizewinner, by John Afflick, called Humanitas. The frame has been inspired by the Italian Renaissance and there's more than a touch of Rossetti about the painting style, with its attention to detail, strong narrative quality and liberal inclusions of symbolism. I would very much like to view more work by this artist, who also had another intriguing painting in the exhibition.

Other personal favourites from the exhibition were: MSC Ellesmere Port by Chris Bellew; The Black Rock Lighthouse by Maria Teresa  Aquilera Calatat; Shallows by Julia Duerden; a delightful pen and ink drawing, Allotments, by Mary Hartley; two semi-abstract landscapes by Emma-Jayne Holmes, titled Morning Hue and Evening Stroll; Red Wharf Bay by Stephen Keenan; Path Round the Lake by Val Kosh; the Celtic-inspired 3D painted woodcarving called Dances with Dragons by Brian Minnery; Amanda Oliphant's atmospheric semi-abstract Escarpment 5; Waiting Hour by Janine Pinion; the exquisitely observed and very delicate Goldfinch by Marion Tuffrey; and On this Day of Your Fall the Islands Quake by Alistair Tucker.

I must stress, though, that my choices are entirely subjective and do not in any way mean that the other works in the exhibition weren't good too. These are just the works which stood out to me, and another person would most likely select differently.

Derelict Ferry Terminal, Liverpool by Richard Cosgrove-Bray, 2019.

Richard took his new camera for a trial run recently, and this is one of the images he took. It's of the long-abandoned ferry terminal not too far from the Pier Head in Liverpool, and I'm amazed it hasn't been demolished already.  Richard said he leaned over a fence to take this shot. I hope so!

Way back in 1992, I photographed Richard standing at the far end of this landing stage. It was more than a bit scary even then. He had his back to me, and was looking out across the Mersey. This happened during my first week working as a photographer at Conservation Practice, which is how Richard and I met.

Our job was to photograph listed buildings and monuments and disappearing sites around Liverpool, which is how we came to be trekking round the then semi-derelict docklands. Where once lay acres of abandoned warehouses, collapsing sheds and vast expanses of rubble now stand luxury apartments and glittering marinas. Gone are the aging ex-dockers with Alsatian dogs on chains outside their tiny wooden watchmen's huts, and instead it's all gated communities and apartment blocks with CCTV, with concierge staff togged out in quasi-military uniforms. And various bits of the city have been given fancy new names, such as the Baltic Quarter or the Ropewalks, which  used to be simply known as the grotty bits behind the shops.

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Call Out to Wirral Poets!

If you're a poet or someone who enjoys poetry, and in the Wirral area, then here's a forthcoming event for you. Technically, National Poetry Day will be held on the 3rd October, but this event will be held a day earlier to fit around other activity events within the venue.

This open mic event will run from 3pm till 4.15pm, in the lovely surroundings of the Chatterbox Tea Room within Oxton Grange Care Home, 51 - 53 Bidston Road, Oxton, Wirral, CH43 6UJ.

The venue is located half way along Bidston Road, offers full disabled access, and has a car park to the front of the building. Several buses service Bidston Road from Claughton or Birkenhead, and there are bus stops very close to the home.

Friday, 7 June 2019

Trembling Knees, Knocking Noses and Dinky Faces

Five cygnets with their parents, Birkenhead Park, June 2019.
Regular visitors to Birkenhead Park, here in Wirral, have been thrilled with the successful hatching of five cygnets, which all seem to be healthy. Their proud parents are keeping a sharp watch over their silvery-grey brood, who seem to be growing by the day.

I also saw two newly-hatched coots, and a mallard who was chirping orders to her flock of tiny brown balls of fluff, seven or eight in number. I tried photographing them but they were too small and too far away for my geriatric Kodak. (Click on photos to see images larger).

Canada geese with two goslings - feeling outshone by the swans, maybe?
I did some painting; nothing artistic, though, more a case of putting a coat of paint on the chunky edging stone with runs around the front of our house. I've used Wilko's Summer Rain, so it matches our front door. It looks a lot like chalk paint but is much more practical. Colour-wise it's hard to describe. Picture a chalky, very pale blue with a hint of green, but it's a muted too-grey-to-be-turquoise. Hmm, that probably doesn't help you much!

There is an exhibition of Wirral Metropolitan College's BA Fine Art degree graduates' work at the William Art Gallery, which runs until the 9th of this month. Charleigh Davidson exhibited some photos of people wearing papier-mache animal heads, which were engagingly quirky. Susan Leach's Womens' Lives was a shelf installation - literally a shop's clothing display shelf with T-shirts set out tidily upon it, but each garment's label referred to various equality issues. My personal favourites of the exhibition were Cheryl Bullough's woodland scenes, which had been created with black light reactive acrylic paint, and which were very evocative of a woodland at night.

Wednesday saw Richard and I in Chester, which is one of our favourite places. The summer crowds seemed conspicuous by their absence. Chester's normally packed-out with tourists at this time of the year, so much so that it can be shuffle-speed only along the main streets. Plenty of pavement space on Wednesday...

Anyway, we stumbled upon an exhibition of Bob Dylan's prints of his paintings in Castle Fine Art. Richard's a huge fan of Dylan's music and so he was very excited to find this exhibition. I'm not into his music, other than for his work with the Travelling Wilburys, but I did instantly take a liking to his bold use of colour and his loose, painterly approach which maintains strong linear and architectural qualities - roads heading off into the horizon, road-side cafes, roads lined with tall houses. I guess roads have featured heavily in his life while he's travelled from  place to place... Or maybe not; I know nothing about his life, other than for him having created a humongous body of music which is loved the world over.

In Baron Fine Art, I was able to view some original paintings by Edward Wesson and John Yardley, two artists whose work I admire deeply. The owner didn't mind us browsing at all, and happily talked about Wesson's and Yardley's work. There was plenty of other works to admire, also, of course, but I was grateful to be able to look at some of Wesson's actual works. He had a fabulously understated technique, obviously influenced by the tradition of Oriental ink landscape paintings. There's not an unnecessary line in his work, not a mark which doesn't play a direct part in the composition; and his paintings are full of light.

On Thursday, Richard and I went to the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight, in order to see the Rembrandt in Print exhibition, which brings together 50 of his etchings and printing experiments. The works were a lot smaller than I'd anticipated. Some prints were no bigger than a postage stamp, floating in  large frames displayed close together. This resulted in a room full of people cramming their noses to the glass, narrowly missing bumping skulls as they peered through magnifying glasses or muttered about needing new specs. (Okay, that last one was me).

Rembrandt's skill with drawing faces and facial expressions was extraordinary. With delicate lines and subtle cross-hatching he managed to capture character without resorting to caricature. Some of these works were done on Japanese paper, as he apparently liked how to ink reacted with that surface. It is an excellent exhibition which runs until September 15th, and if you're in the area I recommend that you take advantage of this opportunity to see some of his original works for yourself.

Bride of Dreams - 1st stage, June 2019.
I have begun work on a new painting which is total change in direction from the coastal seascapes I've been doing over the last two or three years. The working title is Bride of Dreams.  I'm going to deliberately leave its interpretation to the viewer. I know what it means to me, but you're welcome to interpret it any way you wish.

The model for the bride was photographer Rose Mairs, who posed for the Oxton life drawing group earlier this year, wearing her mother's wedding dress. The cat is Bob, who regularly helps (?!) Wirral artist Janine Pinion in her studio.

I actually feel a bit nervous of painting this. I've started on the under-painting, looking to Edward Burne-Jones, Vincent Van Gogh and Susan Ryder for inspiration. I have no idea how it's going to turn out! Maybe it will be a complete disaster... I'm definitely pushing outside of my usual boundaries here.

Sunday, 28 April 2019

Falling Trees and Blue Portraits

Birkenhead Park Visitor Centre, 7th April 2019, by Adele Cosgrove-Bray.

My ongoing series of sketches in the park continues unabated, as is evident. On a few recent sketches I've added some simple washes of watercolour to bring another dimension to the scenes. I've long grown accustomed to sketching in public, and the few people who've passed any comment have always been encouraging. I've even unintentionally captured a tiny bit of park history:-

I drew this lovely arching tree in February this year, and since then its own weight has pulled its roots out from the ground. Probably due to safety concerns, it has been brutally cut back so it's now little more than a stump, and the horizontal section, with all its vertical branches, has been removed. Hopefully the tree will survive this harsh treatment.

"How can walkies please, when every step's a wheeze?" by Adele Cosgrove-Bray.
Portrait by Adele Cosgrove-Bray; chalk and charcoal.

I've been reading a fascinating book, Venice & Drawing by Catherine Whistler. The reproduced images are great to browse through, but there's also a long and detailed account of how Venetian artists' studios functioned on a practical level, and how they sometimes shared resources, such as sculptures or collections of drawings used for reference or for apprentices to practice drawing from.

One dominant trait which was shared by many Venetian artists of this period was the use of blue paper for drawing on. This was not quality paper, but very economical paper originally intended for wrapping. However, it proved fine for apprentices to draw on,  and it was soon adopted by most fully-fledged artists of that region too. They used black, red and white chalks on the blue paper to great effect.

Portrait after Pierre Paul Prud'hon, by Adele Cosgrove-Bray.
I've been experimenting...! These two portraits are both approximately A3 in size, and so I had to photograph them then download them onto my computer, a process which distorts the colouring. In reality, the actual portraits are blended more smoothly than they appear to be here, particularly with the first.

The second portrait is a study of a work by the French artist Pierre Paul Prud'hon, who died in 1823, and whose work was partly influenced by Venetian artists.

Well, one of these years hopefully I'll get to explore those intriguingly beautiful Venetian canals...until then, I'll have to be satisfied with other peoples' photos of the place.

Brochures for the 10th Wirral Open Studio Tour are now available from various community centres, libraries, shops and galleries across Wirral, or you can download a copy from The tour will take place on Saturday 8th June - Sunday 9th June, though several venues will be open on Friday 7th as well. Check the brochure for details of the 65 artists and 34 studios taking part.

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Something Borrowed, Something (Mostly) Blue...

Sunset at the Beach by Adele Cosgrove-Bray; oil on canvas; 2019.
I finished this oil painting just this afternoon. It's my largest painting to date; you can see it here, balanced tentatively on my wooden French box easel, which is marketed as being portable though it isn't really, not unless you're willing to carry an attache-case-size tonne weight which requires a master of origami to unfold its various extendable bits, and which is guaranteed to spill the entire contents of its storage drawers over the floor in the process.

Light Approaches by Adele Cosgrove-Bray; watercolour; 2019.
I've begun looking for an easel which is genuinely suited to painting outdoors. It needs to be light but not so light it'll blow over with the first breeze. It needs to be suitable for both oils and watercolours, i.e. it needs to be able to offer vertical, tilted and horizontal angles. It does not need to have integrated storage, as a bag is more useful anyway. Try fitting sandwiches and a flask in an easel's storage drawer - it's never going to happen, yet oddly enough such items tend to come in handy.

On annual leave from my part-time day job, I'd decided to do battle outdoors with my old box easel despite its limitations. There's a particular scene in Birkenhead Park I've been meaning to attempt for ages. Naturally, each day that I was free to paint we had torrential rain and howling gales.

Shown above is my latest watercolour, Light Approaches, which has now been properly mounted and framed. I chose neutral colours for these as I didn't want to overpower the delicate sky. I've used a more painterly approach with this one; you can see the loose brush strokes in the pale blue of the sky, (though you may have to view it full size to do this; just right-click on the image). As is usual for me, the theme is the coastal light.

Having been an avid bookworm since childhood, these-days I read  around 45 - 50 books a year. So I recently decided to begin writing book reviews, which you can read HERE if you wish. This link will take you to my profile page on  Hubpages, and if you scroll down that you'll find 110 articles,  to date,  on a broad variety of subjects. Enjoy!

Last Saturday's life drawing group was a lot of fun. The model, Rose Mairs, wore her mother's wedding dress, (the mother being Wirral artist Marie Mairs). Rose also wore a floral headdress and bouquet created by Wirral textile artist Angela Stringer. It was good to see a few new faces among the group; also good was the sheer diversity of finished drawings, each quite distinct in style and approach.

I used a 9B graphite pencil and two sizes of sketchbook, an A4 hardback book for the ten minute poses and a larger A3 sketchbook for the 40 minute pose. Though the paper in both look similar in colour to the eye, my scanner only fits the A4 and so I have to photograph the larger one, and this comes out grey-looking for some reason unknown to me - probably something to do with light levels.

Currently on show at the Williamson Art Gallery is the Art & Photography Exhibition 2019, all work by artists who either live in Wirral or who have a clear connection to the area. Anyway, I went along to view the exhibition and found it to be more contemporary and less "safe" than in previous years. There was a clear narrative element to many of the works.

My own favourites were: Langdale Pikes by Heather Davies; Lowtide by Leslie Devonport; Harbourside by Julia Duerden; Sunlight in Cannes by Clare Flinn; Reflections by Irene Goodier; Drifting Sands by Amanda Oliphant; Where I'm Going You Can't Follow by Poppy Palin; January by Dennis Spicer;  and Lakeland (Autumn Morning) by Susan Stevens. This is not to imply that the other paintings on display were inferior; my selection is merely a reflection of my own tastes.

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Crash, Bang, Wallop!

High Tide by Adele Cosgrove-Bray; oil on canvas, 2019.
We've had builders here, taking several weeks over a fairly big repair job. Having re-pointed both chimneys and replaced a couple of broken roof tiles, the next task was to re-point the brickwork on the front of our house. However, when the building company owner looked at the wall he advised us to bring in a structural engineer as he thought something more serious was going on.

The engineer discovered that water had been coming in from the roof level and instead of flowing away down the gutter it had been pouring between the two layers of the wall, causing structural damage. Re-pointing would have merely hidden the problem in the short term.
Life drawing, Feb. 2019.

It was suspected that the weight of our modern PVCU double-glazed windows was too great for the walls which were built in 1897 for the Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. Apparently this is a common problem with older houses.

A trial pit was dug immediately adjacent to the front wall so that the foundations could be checked for subsidence. The foundations proved to be fine, fortunately. The pit was then back-filled and the old and deteriorating concrete surface next to the wall was discarded - which meant saying goodbye to the vile 1960's looped iron fence, (which we were planning to have changed anyway at some point). New concrete was then put down.

When the plaster beneath the bedroom window was removed, we could see for ourselves that the mortar had been washed away. Bricks were cracked, crumbling and saturated. This was repaired then strengthened with steel mesh and ties, then a thick waterproof layer added before being re-plastered. Similar repairs were also carried out beneath the ground floor bay window, though this wall was in better condition and did not require the waterproof layer.

Once the plaster was off the bedroom wall, it was obvious that the column of bricks to one side of the bay window had been repaired at some previous time. But someone had used cinder-blocks to rebuild it, and while these are fine for interior walls they are porous and therefore the wrong materials to use in any external wall. These were saturated and crumbling. So all those had to come out and be replaced with the proper kind of bricks.
Life drawing; Feb. 2019.

The bedroom floor had a definite slope right next to the window. When the floor boards were lifted up to investigate, it was found that a joist had dropped out of alignment due to the condition of the wall, and that this joist was rotting at both ends. Someone had "repaired" it by nailing new floorboards to this rotting, misaligned joist. So this joist had to be replaced, which meant part of the living room ceiling had to be removed in order to get it out and a new one put in at the right position. The ceiling then had to be repaired.

Anyway, the building work is now complete, the humongous forest of scaffolding has been taken away, and the dust has settled - literally, actually; we no sooner cleaned up one grey layer of dust than another had settled over every surface of the entire house. That can't be helped, considering the amount of work that's been done here.

The builders did their best, putting down dust sheets and draping a dust-catching curtain across the living room. For us, it was a bit like camping out in our own house. The people themselves were polite and pleasant around the place - no blaring radios, no men bellowing to each other rather than simply talk. They even came back after the job had been completed in order to put our curtains back up for us, after we'd had to order new track brackets. The old ones had gone brittle and so couldn't be re-used.

I'll be using this company, again. There're a few jobs already lined up. Not this year, though!

Life drawing; Jan 2019.
Despite this domestic disruption, I've still been creating some art. Here you can see three examples of my recent life drawings. The models are Emma and Ron. I've also done an A3-size watercolour that I'm pleased with, and that's currently at the  framer's.

Entries are already being accepted for this year's Open Studios Tour. I know I'd hoped to be in a position to take part this time around; it sounds like fun, and I might even have sold a few paintings! But looking around my little studio objectively, there simply isn't enough work to warrant it yet. Next year? Maybe.

Meanwhile, I aim to continue building up a body of work and developing/exploring my art. I shy of inviting people in only to offer them an exhibition which isn't ready. How does any artist judge if their own work is truly ready? When a piece is flawed it's obvious. But deciding when a piece good, or as good as it can be currently made, is much more tricky - and so subjective, also. Suggestions are invited.

Monday, 18 February 2019

Whatsername is Published

My short story, Whatsername, was published in Flash Fiction Magazine, and you can read it online HERE.

This 500-word monologue comes from a conversation I had while sitting on a bench in Birkenhead Park. A lady using a mobility scooter began chatting to me, and all the time she talked I was thinking "This would make a story..." And so it was done - and now you can read it online. You can also download a free ebook of flash fiction by various authors at that same URL.