Hartlepool Art Club turns Mail writer Chris into budding artist

ART ATTACK: Chris in full swing
ART ATTACK: Chris in full swing

THERE are some things in life that you just have to accept you are just not very good at.

In the case of the Hartlepool Mail head of features, Chris Cordner, art was definitely his weak spot.

Well, at least for the first 53 years of his life.

He explains how all that may have changed:

I AM always keen to take on a challenge.

So when Hartlepool Art Club told me they could get anyone to paint a pretty impressive picture, I had to put their theory to the test.

And let’s face it, they had their hands full. I am the person whose school report said there was a place in the world for Chris and art – just not in the same room.

Club president Margaret Wiles tried to put my mind at rest. “Believe me, you can do it,” she said.

Hmm, she clearly hasn’t seen me draw.

She passed me over to honorary club member Roy Carless, a man with vast experience of art.

“You’ll have painted a picture within two hours,” said the man who spent a lifetime teaching art.

“Bring a photograph, a portrait of someone you would like to paint.”

He definitely had not seen me drawing.

Yet just days later, I was sitting at an easel in a studio kindly provided by English Martyrs School and Sixth Form College.

By my side was a photograph of my wife Margaret taken on our wedding day.

And Roy soon had me hard at work. My first task was to give the canvas a covering of a light orange paint to take away the white glare.

“We’re using a burnt sienna acrylic,” Roy tells me.

Then, I had to cover the back of a copy of my photograph with a charcoal layer.

Then the outline of my wife’s face had to be transferred onto the canvas and, after that, the more focussed stuff started.

It was time to transfer colours on to a palette. Soon, a blue tray was a rainbow mix of white, cadmium orange, cadmium yellow, naples yellow, yellow ochre, burnt sienna and alizarin crimson.

After 15 minutes, there was not only an outline of my wife’s face on the canvas. Skin tones were taking shape – with your common kitchen scouring pad proving to be an ideal accompaniment for my attempts to blend shades into each other.

Skin tones of raw umber mixed with burnt sienna were carefully dabbed on followed my more scouring pad movement.

And to recreate the tree-line in the background, sap green was added.

Eyes, mouth, hairline, all took shape and unbelievably, a picture took shape in a little over an hour.

Just as remarkably, it bore a similarity to my wife.

The all-important intricate touches were added such as shadows, variation in hair colour, lighter effects on clothes and in the eyes.

And lo and behold, I had created a painting.

Roy told me: “I don’t think it is true that people can not paint.

“It is just about guiding them in the right direction.”

Hartlepool Art Club, one of the largest in the North, began in 1947 when a small group of artists staged an exhibition in the West Hartlepool Gas Showrooms.

From this humble beginning , the group now boasts 120 members.

Margaret said: “Anyone with a passion for art will be a warmly welcomed to our meetings which are held each month in the Hartlepool Art Gallery in Church Square. Members range from enthusiastic beginners to experienced painters and even non artists.

“We continue to promote the highest standards whilst offering friendly encouragement and advice to new painters and young artists.”

To get an idea of their work, why not visit the art gallery which is currently showing an exhibition of members’ work.

It runs until January 4.

The art club meets on the second Wednesday of each month at Hartlepool Art Gallery, from 7pm to 9pm, with doors opening at 6.30pm.

For more information on the art club, email info@hartlepoolartclub.co.uk