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Colourful Identity in Liverpool

I’d taken my car to the dealership for some minor maintenance and noticed that you can’t escape the company’s logo and corporate identity. Evidence of it was all around. They apparently have no qualms about displaying it all over the showroom. With an hour or so to kill, I went walkabout in Liverpool’s Pall Mall area and up towards Vauxhall. Not much to see other than some discarded warehouses and garages in railway arches that wouldn’t be out of place in London. Didn’t expect to see such a rich array of colour in the area.

That beautiful blue sky as a backdrop didn’t harm either. There was more to come. This piece of faded timber and peeling paintwork could almost have been designed that way.

Even the dilapidated remains of a garage hoarding took on an a curiously attractive look.

This garage certainly wasn’t going to be competing with the car dealership I’d just visited. Yet once they’d been just as keen to promote their identity, their brand.

Some even more curious attempts at stamping an identity were there to see.

And this.

Seems like everyone is trying to stamp their identity on the area in one form or another. Easy to pass this run down area by. But there’s plenty to satisfy the eye from a warning sign on a substation –

– to a strange piece of industrial remains that wouldn’t look out of place in Ikea or Habitat.


Le Fenetre Bleu

Doors and windows are a gift to the imagination of writers and photographers too. Fascinating to ponder what might be going on behind a particular door. Or wonder who could possibly be living in a room with windows like these.

There’s just the hint of a decorative design in the window on the left. This window scene is high up on a terraced townhouse in Ceret in France and looks down over the main street and the buzz of daily life. I was drawn to the powder blue of the fabric contrasting with the much darker blue of the peeling casements. Not to mention the soft dappled morning sunlight.


The King Who Learned To Smile

Growing up in the early 60’s as an only child in the first instance,  and with television  also in it’s infancy, books played a big part in feeding my imagination. There’s one that I’d remembered really clearly but lost all trace of until it turned up on the internet .. The King Who Learned to Smile – by Seymour Reit.

This was the cover which is almost quite baroque in terms of it’s style. Think the warm, rich colours must have appealed. Lost count of the times I must have opened this book. It was strange how quickly the narrative came back all these years later.

The book’s appeal undoubtedly owed a lot to the superb illustrations by Gordon Laite. I’ve been reading posts by others who remembered this book and everyone seems to agree that the images have remained in their memories over the years. His style was highly illustrative but there was something curiously compelling and at times a little dark about it.

A quick look at some of his other work confirms this haunting, almost gothic style.

His black and white illustrations have an even more disturbing quality to them. Hard to believe they were drawn for children really.

Kids were clearly made of sterner stuff in those days!

Seymour Reit made sure that The King Who Learned to Smile had a happy ending. He, too, it turns out, had been an animator at one time and had even been co-created Caspar the Friendly Ghost. More interesting still is that he went on to write many pages for the hugely successful and zany ‘Mad‘ magazine – also to become a bit of a favourite of mine as I was growing up.I’d never put the two together though!


Blue Orchid

I’m supposed to be doing my homework ahead of Mandarin Chinese lesson at the Confucius Centre at Liverpool University this afternoon. To relax and get in the mood I’m posting this shot.

The orchid was sitting on top of a bookcase in front of an oil painting by David Goodwin. I thought that they went together pretty well. David paints superb pictures and is based in the Arts & Crafts Centre in Manchester’s Northern Quarter . You can see his paintings at this site too.

Well worth a look.


Landscape Sketches

A couple of weeks ago I drove over to North Wales to start some preparatory landscape sketches with a view to having a first go at oil painting. Started to review some earlier sketches, too, and found these. It’s the view from Thurstaston on the Wirral. The name Thurstaston betrays the Wirral’s Viking origins by the way!

The view looks out across the River Dee to Wales and out into the Irish Sea. Wide open skies above as the photo below shows.

I like to try a quick sketch first to try to get a working sense of the shapes, shadows, and outlines. Then have a go at a more detailed sketch.

Noticed that I was mainly using pencil in my sketches at the time, whereas now I’m using charcoal much more.


Texture, Colour & Light

A mid week offering of two abstract shots. I like the warm colours of each and the contrasting surfaces and textures.

Can’t remember where this first one was taken but the one below was part of some fancy lighting in a London hotel I stayed in last summer.

Warm images for a dark and gloomy February evening.


The Pursuit of Happiness

A fellow blogger recently posted a great shot of a man in a crowd with a beaming smile. Couldn’t help but smile back. Here’s my offering in the happy smiles department. This is the girl who served me in a juice bar in a brand new shopping centre in the heart of Beijing.

Hope he doesn’t mind me plugging his blog, but I really like his work and think you might too.

Anyone else got any HAPPY SMILE pics? Let’s start a chain reaction.


Funk Soul Friday

Putney’s south of the river – the Thames, that is – but this was no guarantee that it would feel any warmer than the rest of London on Friday last week. I’d been feeling deprived of snow this winter up in Liverpool, but there was plenty of it in London. Slippery pavements, occasional snowmen, and muffled commuters on the tube, were all signs of the recent cold snap. This is the station at East Putney. Minutes later I was having coffee, a croissant, and a respite from the cold in a cafe next door.

Had a great day with the client in Putney, but it had been hard work and a very early start that morning. Decided a little exercise was in order and walked the half mile or so back to the station and was intrigued to see a sign for Soul Brother Records.

Must have looked a little incongruous in my black overcoat with a suit and tie underneath but the staff couldn’t have been more helpful and friendly. This was a small, specialist and independent record shop that happened to specialise in funk, soul and jazz. So – “I’d like some funk, please” – seemed as good an opening line as any. After all, they were the specialists. I was keen to see how they’d interpret such an open brief.

The two guys – Laurence and Johnny – couldn’t have been more enthusiastic. I’d nearly bought a double album of early Candi Staton on their say-so at the start of the proceedings. The recommendations came thick and fast; their enthusiasm was infectious! In the end, I settled on a classic 70’s album by The Meters – a New Orleans funk outfit – called Rejuvenation. It’s a great album and far more accomplished all round than their funk contemporaries, Rufus. With a cover like this, you know you’re in for an exciting set. Personal favourite track so far is Hey Pocky A-Way.

Second purchase was a classic soul album from the same period – I’m Only A Man – by Willie Tee. As soon as they played this on the shop’s sound system it was game over – I had to have it. His version of By The Time I Get To Phoenix leaves the original in the shade. And I never thought this could be a soul song too! The whole album has more a Chicago soul feel rather than say, Philadelphia or the West Coast.

Great to see the shop have a website too for online ordering – – this could turn out to be an expensive find today!


galeries lafayette

A few weeks ago I’d posted from the Corn Exchange in Leeds. It had a pretty amazing domed ceiling. Then I found this picture I’d taken in the galeries lafayette in Paris a little while ago.

Now that’s what I call a ceiling!


Chinese Hot Pot

You don’t have to look too hard to find signs of a growing taste for western products, from clothes to cars, as you move around China’s big cities. And that taste now extends to fast food too. This is McDonalds right in the heart of Shanghai.

It’ll be interesting to see how far and how fast this trend develops but there is plenty of evidence already that it’s catching on. Meanwhile, I was lucky enough to eat – and experience – traditional Chinese hot pot. This hot pot restaurant in Beijing had an exclusively local clientele – referred to as old Beijingers.

The principle of Chinese hot pot is a brass pot with a base filled with burning charcoal. Around the pot, a moat of boiling water, and everyone gets to cook their own food – strips of fresh meat, vegetables, and prawns amongst other things.

Very popular with the locals as you can see.

That’s my friend, Terry, shutting the draught out.This was Beijing in mid December after all! Terry’s a local and was keen to introduce me to this traditional way of eating. Really glad he did. The large goldfish weren’t on the menu you’ll be glad to hear.