Category Archives: Architecture

Reflections on Lockdown #4

When will it end!? I hear you crow.

I did warn you that I’ve had a very busy lockdown on the art front.

Today’s offering is landscapes, which segues nicely from Reflections on Lockdown #3.

I like drawing landscapes. There’s something very relaxing about it. Painting them, on the other hand, is a different kettle of fish.

Sketching is more about observation and trying to depict a representation of the landscape. Whereas, painting is more about trying to capture the energy of nature. (With varying degrees of success.)

Here’s a selection for you to ponder.

Yorkshire Dales
Yorkshire Dales
A village in Italy. (From a photo.)
Jenkin Chapel, Saltersford, Cheshire.
Top Withins, Haworth/Stanbury, West Yorkshire.
Yorkshire Dales.
Yorkshire Dales.
Yorkshire Dales.
Yorkshire Dales.
Yorkshire Dales.

If you, or someone you know, are experiencing mental health issues, call your GP or self refer to your local mental health team, (usually based at your local hospital).

If things are a bit more urgent than that you can call the Samaritans for free on 116 123. Or call the NHS on 111, they will treat your illness as seriously as they do any other.

If you want to see more of my photos and artwork follow me on Instagram: @milligancroft


Filed under Architecture, Art, Children, community, Contemporary Arts, Creativity, Education, health, Ideas, Illustration, Innovation, Inspiration, love, Medicine, mental health, Nature, nhs, Philosophy, Uncategorized

I [heart] America

There’s been a lot of hullabaloo this past couple of years because of the Cheeto-in-Chief of the good ol’ U S of A.

What with cosying up to dictators and alienating allies he certainly cuts a divisive figure. Unfortunately, this has had a backlash against America in general and its people.

So, to redress the balance, I wanted to write a positive post about some of the things I love about America. After all, one Mango-Mussolini shouldn’t taint the whole country.

In no particular order…


From Elvis Presley to Tom Waits to the Talking Heads. Who could argue that America has produced some of the greatest artists and genres the world has ever seen. Who are your favourites?




Next up, MOVIES.

When we think of American movies we tend to think of Hollywood blockbusters. But there are so many unbelievable directors and actors. Here are some of my favourites, who are yours?





As I have a penchant for the Arts, I’m going to pick out a few photographers who have inspired me over the years.



Marilyn Monroe by Eve Arnold


Gloria Swanson by Edward Steichen


Vivian Maier


Ansel Adams


Cindy Sherman


Saul Leiter

Understandably, most people couldn’t give a rat’s ass about advertising. But I do, because I worked in it for 30 years. When Doyle, Dane, Bernbach set up shop in the 1960s they revolutionised advertising. They focussed on simple product truths. Their ethos/philosophy permeated continents and generations. Still does. I had the privilege of working for DDB Dublin.



Leading on from advertising we have GRAPHIC DESIGN, and this iconic classic by Milton Glaser for the New York tourist board. which has been ‘parodied’ a trillion times. (Yes, including me.)


Milton Glaser

Next up, ARTISTS. Again, a multitude to pick from. Here are a couple of my faves.


Jean Michel Basquiat


Edward Hopper


Mary Cassatt

Moving on to something non art related – LANDSCAPE. America has such a diverse landscape, from snow-capped mountains to sun-scorched deserts.




I’ve always loved CLASSIC CARS, Mercedes, Jaguar, Citroen, Volvo. But I also love American cars for their sheer ostentatiousness.





I couldn’t write a post about America without including a few WRITERS. Too many to choose from. Here are a few of my heroes who have inspired me over the years. Recommendations anyone?






What else do I love about America? I really like their ARCHITECTURE. Whether it be a monumental skyscaper or the traditional colonial white-picket-fence style complete with veranda.




You won’t get very far in the States without some top-notch tucker. What is more quintessentially American than the humble DINER?


Who says Americans don’t get irony? They make some fantastic COMEDY and have some wonderful comedians. Obviously, you’re not as funny as us Brits. But you’re getting the hang of it. (Benny Hill.)





There you have it. Have I forgotten anything, anyone? What would you have included?

Obviously, there is one other thing I would like to give credit to. And that is the American people. (Well, only those that didn’t vote Trump.) You’re an innovative and inspiring bunch. Not only that, you saved our asses in two world wars! So, cheers for that.

My, (our), world would be a lot poorer without you.



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The Boating Party with Outside Authority

Luncheon of the Boating Party, 1881. By Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

The Boating Party is a series of Q&As with writers, artists, photographers, filmmakers, musicians, sculptors, illustrators, designers and the like.

In times of economic hardship, the Arts are usually the first things to be axed. But, in my view, the Arts are one of the most important aspects of our civilisation.

Without the arts, we wouldn’t have language or the written word. Without the arts, we have no culture. Without culture, we have no society. Without society, we have no civilisation. And without civilisation, we have anarchy.

Which, in itself, is paradoxical, because so many artists view themselves as rebels to society. To me, artists aren’t rebels, they are pioneers.

Perhaps, most importantly; without the Arts, where is the creativity that will solve the world’s problems going to come from? Including economic and scientific ones?

In this Q&A, I am delighted to welcome artist Outside Authority.

What can I tell you about OA? Not a lot really. She’s very secretive. She does a blog I follow. She posts images of drawings and paintings she’s done. Apart from that, I’m as much in the dark as you are. This Q&A will help us all get to know her a little better. She likes to keep pretty anonymous. Which is rare in today’s reality TV world we live in.

I like her work. A lot. (Here come the adjectives.) It feels spontaneous and fresh. Full of energy and vitality. It’s reminiscent of David Hockney and Joan Eardley. Anyway, you can decide for yourself after the Q&A.


What’s your greatest personal achievement?

Opening bat and best bowling figures of the season.

What inspires you?

People who have a go.

What was the last thing that inspired you?

A Joan Eardley exhibition.

What makes you unhappy?

Smug people.

What makes you happy?

The seaside.

What are you reading?

The Double – Jose Saramago.

What are you listening to?

Let’s Wrestle.

What’s your favourite film?

Once Upon a Time in the West.

If you could go back in time, where would you go?

About 20 years before I was born to meet the relatives who died before I was born or I can’t remember.

What frightens you?

There’s this man busking on the embankment that is dressed like a dog in a basket. It’s an abomination, he was licking his paw!!

What do you do to relax?


What do you do when you are angry?

Rant and hector.

What can’t you live without?

Marmite, sleep.

What’s your motto?

“It’s either too bloody hot or too bloody cold.”

Where is your utopia?

It’s a field or meadow far away with either a donkey or a pig in it.

If you only had one year to live, what would you do?

Email my resignation and hot foot it to Norfolk and Scotland.

Up who’s arse would you like to stick a rocket and why?

God, how do you choose? Jamie Oliver, apolitical my arse.

Who would you like to be stuck in an elevator with?

Alex Hales.

What are you working on at the moment?


What is your ambition?

Retire asap.

If you could change one thing in the world what would it be?

At present, make my combination boiler stop faulting and make hot water. Make that all combination boilers, I am altruistic.

Which 6 people would you invite to your boating party?

John Steed, Bodie, George from Seinfeld, my sister, my daughter, Joan Eardley.

What would be on the menu?

Beetroot and some other things.

What question do you wish I’d asked?

Who’s your favourite darts player?

I love nearly all of them, but will have to go with Steve ‘the Adonis’ Beaton.

Thank you Outside Authority.



















3 things you already know about me:
I have a blog.
I draw and paint.
I am Outside Authority.

Born in the sticks, OA was always going to go to Art school right up to the time she didn’t. With the odd life class inbetween, the creative urge fought its way back through a boring job and a new loft. She likes painting, drawing, printing, stitching people, animals and things and doesn’t see any reason why she should stop soon.


Filed under Architecture, Art, Contemporary Arts, Creativity, Ideas, Illustration, Inspiration, Nature, Uncategorized

Mark Coffey – Fine Art Photographer

I first met fine art photographer Mark Coffey at Arc, where we both volunteer.

If you don’t know already, Arc is an amazing place. It’s a gallery and centre for creativity, learning, fun and wellbeing. You should pop along if you’re in the Stockport area. (They do a fabulous job for the community and a mean cafetiere of fresh coffee.)

He teaches photography, photoshop and design. Whilst I just potter about making a nuisance of myself.

Anyways, he’s been helping me with a little exhibition I’m putting together at the Oasis cafe at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport. We were chatting away, as you do, when he mentioned his website, so I went over and took a look. There’s some great work on it, so I thought I’d share it with the class.

Some shots are fun and frivolous, whilst others are mean and moody. And some, don’t involve alliteration at all. (But, are striking images, nonetheless.)

Depending on which images you’re looking at, they are reminiscent of Saul Leiter, Martin Parr and Fan ho.

Have a mosey on over to Mark’s website for a more detailed look at his work.
After, you can nip down to Arc for a nice cup of tea and a Tunnock’s teacake.












Ewa Konior, Polish, artist, Arc gallery, Stockport

Hey! How did that get on here? To be fair, Mark did take it. (When I wasn’t looking!)


Filed under Architecture, Art, community, Contemporary Arts, Creativity, Design, Education, Ideas, Innovation, Inspiration, mental health, Nature, Photography, Uncategorized

Things for which I am grateful #365/365.

Some folks might think this is a bit of a cheat. I started with my kids and I’m going to finish with them. In my defence, I have two of the little rascals so I’m counting it as one post apiece.

There is nothing more precious to me on this Earth than my two daughters. Anyone who has children will know that something changes inside of you – chemically, biologically – and nothing else seems to matter.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to every parent, and true, the pesky varmints do get on your nerves a lot of the time. And yes, they bicker constantly. And they manage to talk in a stream of consciousness James Joyce would be proud of. But, when all’s said and done, they don’t outweigh all the adorable moments. I simply couldn’t live without them.

It’s been an epic year of blogging. Thank you for sticking by me and I wish you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous new year!

Right, I’m going for a lie down.

Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 16.32.04

Here are my 365 things that I am grateful for:

1 My daughters

2 Water

3 Poetry

4 Baths

5-7 Notebooks, pens, pencils

8,9 Butterflies and moths

10, 11 Softball and baseball

12 Fresh coffee

13 Sound / masts

14 Indoor toilets

15 Stepping Hill Hospital

16 Birds of Paradise

17 Roget’s thesaurus

18 Mother Earth

19 Clingfilm dispenser

20, 21 Yorkshire pudding and onion gravy

22 Jorge Luis Borges

23 Classic cars

24 Curry

25 Tim Berners Lee

26 Charles Bukowski

27 Yorkshire

28 Shiraz

29 Food

30 Katell Keineg

31 Tao Te Ching

32 A roof over my head

33 Peat fires

34 Street art

35 Friends (as in – mates, not the T.V. show)

36 Wilfred Owen

37 The Penguin Café Orchestra

38 The fry-up

39 Wolves

40 W.B. Yeats

41, 42 Cherry blossom trees and haiku poetry

43 Bread

44 Boules

45 Maps

46 Refuse collectors

47 Candy Chang

48 Sparrows

49 The tomato

50 Studio Ghibli

51 Oliver Jeffers

52 Johannes Gutenberg

53 Tom Waites

54 The cello

55 Mothers’ day

56 The Phoenicians

57, 58 Bacon and brown sauce

59 Tulips

60 Fish and chips

61 Giselle

62 Airfix

63 Firefighters

64 Rain

65 Libraries

66 Raymond Carver

67 Toulouse-Lautrec

68 The Goldfinch

69 Wings of Desire

70 Silence

71 Elizabeth Barrett Browning

72-99 Ireland

100 Talking Heads

101 Sylvia Plath

102 Yorkshire Sculpture Park

103 My mum

104 Modigliani

105 Kurt Vonnegut

106-128 Electricity

129 The pop man

130-147 Comedians/comedy

148 Commando magazine

149 Pastry

150-156 Social media

157 David Bowie

158 Football

159 D-Day

160-194 France

195-230 Novels

231 Graphic Design

232 Viva! Roxy Music

233 – 274 Art

275 Betty Blue

276 Writing

277 Joy Division

278 – 287 Scotland

288 – 324 Italy

325 – 352 Photography

353 Leeds Utd

354 Love

355 Universe

356 Advertising

357 Pan’s Labyrinth

358 – 363 Democracy

364 Miscellaneous

365 My daughters II

If anyone wants to read any of the previous posts simply type the title into the search box on the right. (It’s underneath the ‘topic’ cloud.)


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Things for which I am grateful #364 – Miscellaneous.

When I first started doing Things for which I am grateful, one for each day of 2014, I wasn’t sure if I’d make it. Now, on the penultimate post, I have far too many. So rather than pick just one I’m going to give you a miscellaneous list of all the ones that didn’t make it – but could have quite easily. (Lucky you.)

The point I’m trying to make is that we are very lucky in the ‘west’. And, even though I gripe on about our Tory overlords, I feel very fortunate to live in England.

The sun. (The big orange ball of fire, not the newspaper.)

England. (So much history, beautiful scenery and towns.)

History. (I love history.)

Wind turbines. (I think they’re cool.)

Thai food.

Chinese food.

The industrial revolution.

The sea. (I love the sea. And would love to live by it once again.)



The Romans.

The Greeks.

South Africa.

Elvis Presley.


Public transport.

Sri Lanka.






New Zealand.

Optometry. (I wouldn’t be able to see without my glasses.)

My ex-wife for having our children.


Monkeys. (I do love a monkey.)

My neighbours.


Penny sweet tray.

The Peak District.




The dictionary.






Uilleann pipes.

Sub-atomic particles. (Where would we be without these little jaspers? Nowhere, that’s where.)

Martin Luther King Jr.

The BBC. (Kiddy-fiddlers aside, they’ve done some great stuff.)

The Guardian.


Erik Satie.

The emergency services. (Police, fire, paramedics.)

So, as you can see, plenty for me to be grateful for. But the point is, not what I am grateful for – what do you have to be thankful for in your life?

Wonder what’s in store for the last one?


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Things for which I am grateful #325-352: Photography.

My goodness, where to begin?

There are so many brilliant photographers that I could probably fill all 365 things to be grateful for with them alone.

I’ve had the privilege of working with some outstanding photographers during my 30 long years in the ad industry. Most of whom were artists in their own right. I’m not going to feature them here just in case I forget someone and invoke their ire.

Instead, I’m going to show some of the photographers whose work has inspired me over the years. Certainly not an exhaustive list. Hope you like them. Feel free to make your own suggestion.

We could argue the toss as to what makes a great photograph – composition, light, concept. But what I feel a great photo should do is tell a story or ask questions of the viewer.

Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams

Eve Arnold

Eve Arnold

Richard Avedon

Richard Avedon

Diane Arbus

Diane Arbus

Cecile Beaton

Cecil Beaton



Henry Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson

Desiree Dolron

Desiree Dolron

Robert Doisneau

Robert Doisneau

Fan Ho

Fan Ho

Horst P. Horst

Horst P. Horst

Tom Hoops

Tom Hoops

Nadav Kander

Nadav Kander

Joey Lawrence

Joey Lawrence

Saul Leiter

Saul Leiter

Annie Leibovitz

Annie Leibovitz

Robert Mapplethorpe

Robert Mapplethorpe

Helmut Newton

Helmut Newton

Norman Parkinson

Norman Parkinson

Herb Ritts

Herb Ritts

Cindy Sherman

Cindy Sherman

Edward Steichen

Edward Steichen

Harry Thuillier

Harry Thuillier

There are always more photographers who spring to mind as soon as one clicks the ‘publish’ button. Here are a couple who slipped through the net…

Vivian Maier

Vivian Maier

Sebastiao Salgado

Sebastiao Salgado

Don McCullin

Don McCullin

Bill Brandt

Bill Brandt


Filed under Advertising, Architecture, Art, Children, community, Contemporary Arts, Creativity, Ideas, Innovation, Inspiration, Photography

Bella Italia! – Things for which I am grateful #288 – 324

Bella Italia288!

Trevi Fountain, Rome.

Trevi Fountain, Rome.

I once sold books in Italy.

It was, what people commonly refer to, as a ‘character building’ experience.

Which is another way of saying – it was a crock of shit.

The job, that is, not Italy.

I love Italy.

If you haven’t been to Rome289, you must try to if you possibly can. (Not as easy for some readers as it is for others.) Not only is it one of the most stunning cities on the planet, (and I’ve been to at least three), it is also the birthplace of that famous empire spanning five centuries.

The Forum, Rome.

The Forum, Rome.

Wherever you turn you are confronted by an ancient monument or building, some dating back a couple of millennia, such as the Pantheon290, the Colosseum291 the Palatine292 and the Trevi Fountain293.

The Pantheon, Rome.

The Pantheon, Rome.

Obviously, there’s The Vatican294 too, which is well worth a visit, even if you’re not a cat lick. I’m not at all religious and my eyes didn’t start burning at the sight of St. Paul’s295.

The view of St. Paul's through a keyhole which I've peeped through!

The view of St. Paul’s through a keyhole which I’ve peeped through!

I’ve never ventured further south than the Amalfi296 coast, (south of Naples297). There are spectacular cliff-top towns such as Sorrento298, Positano299 and Amalfi itself. Nearby is the wondrous relic of Pompeii300 which takes you back in time to when Mount Vesuvius301 erupted and preserved many buildings, artefacts and people! Then there’s the gorgeous island of Capri302 just a short boat ride away.



Walked up those steps. Amalfi.

Walked up those steps. Amalfi.

Positano, Amalfi coast.

Positano, Amalfi coast.

The island of Capri.

The island of Capri.


North of Rome, you have Florence303, Pisa304 and the Apennines305, (which our Pennine range is named after). On the west coast there are the marble producing towns of Carrera306 and Massa307 where the river runs white from the quarries in the mountains. And the sophisticated tourist spot of Viareggio308 on the coast.


And who could forget Venice309 in the north east? Seat of the once-mighty Borgias. A stupendous sinking city amidst an intricate maze of canals. In summer, the weather is to die for. Seriously, it is. I once got sunstroke in Lido de Jesolo310, so pack plenty of factor 50 if you’re a pale-blue-skinned Anglo Saxon, like me.

Venice carnival.

Venice carnival.



Then there’s the food. Obviously, pizza and pasta are top of mind. But spare a though for the taste bud tingling chicken cacciatore311 or bistecca pizzaiola312. You can’t beat a bowl of Penne Picante313 or a simple pepperoni and anchovy pizza314 in a traditional trattorria315. All washed down with your favourite tipple – in my case, (case being the optimum word), of Barolo316.

Does it have tomatoes in it? I'll have it. Pollo alla cacciatore.

Does it have tomatoes in it? I’ll have it. Pollo alla cacciatore.

Food of the gods.

Food of the gods.

Spaghetti vongole.

Spaghetti vongole.

Let us not forget the pioneering artists: Leonardo da Vinci317, Michelangelo318, Raphael319, Giotto320, Botticelli321, Titian322, Donatello323, Caravaggio324 and my old favourite – Modigliani. You can hardly turn a corner without bumping into a masterpiece.

Anatomical studies by Leonardo da Vinci.

Anatomical studies by Leonardo da Vinci.

Michelangelo's 'David'. (Detail.)

Michelangelo’s ‘David’. (Detail.)

Nice. Caravaggio.

Nice. Caravaggio.

If you like art, you’ll love Italy. If you like ancient architecture, you’ll love Italy. If you like history, you’ll love Italy. Most of all, if you like pizza, you’ll love Italy.

And yes, I can speak Italian. But only if you want to talk about books. (Specifically, encyclopaedias.)

Of course, there are many Italian delights that I have yet to discover. Maybe after I’ve sold my first million copies. Speaking of which, check out this piccolo classico…



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J’aime la France – #160-194

J’aime la France160.


Lovers’ locks, Paris.

I love France, so much so, that I sometimes wonder if I have a little bit of Plantagenet blood coursing through my veins. Then again, I hate cheese, so perhaps not.

And, following on from my last post, I probably wouldn’t like it half as much had the Allies not been successful in liberating it in 1944/45.

There are so many places in France I have yet to discover, but some of the ones I have, I shall share with you:



Paris161, of course, the epitome of the romantic city. Musée d’Orsay162 is one of the greatest art galleries in the world, boasting a smorgasbord of impressionist works. The Latin Quarter163 with its bohemian cafés and restaurants, the artists’ square in Montmartre164, Lautrec’s Pigalle165. I even had the best cassoulet166 of my life in Paris. (Not to mention the biggest hangover.)



Further north from Paris is the Somme167 – Albert168, Amiens169 and Arras170. Now, the River Somme winds its way sleepily through Amiens amidst the riverside cafes and restaurants. A far cry from the death and destruction 100 years ago. If you want to become a pacifist take a trip to any of the numerous First World War memorials that are dotted around the countryside. If you weren’t one beforehand you certainly will be after you witness hundreds of thousands of white marble slabs.

River Somme, Amiens,

River Somme, Amiens

Whilst Brittany171 may have a similar climate to the south coast of England, its beaches and medieval towns eclipse what we have here. Even towns that were bombed to smithereens during the Second World War have been painstakingly rebuilt to their former glory. From the walled city of Fougere172 in the east to the Dinan173 and Dinard174 in the north. Morlaix175 in the west, Concerneau176 and Pont-Aven177 in the south. Mont Saint Michel178, (which is actually in Normandy), is one of the modern wonders of the world.

Pont-Aven, Brittany

Pont-Aven, Brittany

Morlaix, Brittany

Morlaix, Brittany

Fougere, Brittany

Fougere, Brittany

Tregastel, Brittany

Tregastel, Brittany

Can't remember if this is Dinan or Dinard in Brittany

Can’t remember if this is Dinan or Dinard in Brittany

Mont Saint Michel, Normandy

Mont Saint Michel, Normandy

My favourite spot is the Cote d’Azur179. Nice with its wide boulevards and maze of streets in the old town180, (there’s a cracking Picasso gallery in) Antibes181, Cannes for a bit of bling182, Villefranche-sur-mer183, Monte Carlo184, Juan les Pins185, and not as expensive as you might think. Further inland up in the mountains is the perfume capital, Grasse186 and the artists’ haven of Saint Paul de Vence187.







Saint Paul de Vence

Saint Paul de Vence



Another treasure is the island of Corsica188. Bonifacio189 with its brightly coloured buildings clinging precariously to the cliffs. Cargése190 in the north west. And the pirate haven of Sarténe191 up in the hills.


Bonifacio, Corsica

Bonifacio, Corsica

Cargése, Corsica

Cargése, Corsica

All in all, a veritable paradise. Particularly if you like meat and fish. Can’t say it would be a utopia for veggies, mind. Cassoulet, bouillabaisse192, moules provencal193 – ahh, heaven. Obviously, washed down with copious amounts of rosé or red wine.

Moules Provencal

Moules Provencal

Maybe one day, when my second novel makes a million or two, I can buy a little gites194 by a lake, or overlooking the sea.

There are so many places in France that I have yet to see, so if you have a favourite, please feel free to share your recommendations in the comment box below.


The one thing I HATE about France is dog poo. They seem to have an extraordinary amount of it. Obviously, they love their dogs. But, disappointingly, they don’t appear to be too keen enforcing public hygiene laws.

I recall strolling across a Tregastel beach in Brittany cautiously stepping over and around dog stools looking over my shoulder to warn my kids then, squelch. Open-toed sandals. I still feel nauseous to this day.


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Cognitio, Sapientia, Humanitas.

That’s Knowledge, Wisdom, Humanity to the rest of us.

Which is the motto of The University of Manchester.

Why am I telling you this?

Well, I’ve been very remiss of late with regard to updating my blog. And the reason being is that I have recently taken up a position, at the aforementioned University, as their Head of Creative.

And, why should you give two hoots about this?

Well, you shouldn’t.

But I do have the privilege of working in a gloriously inspiring campus which I just had to share with the class because it is so beautiful.

I feel very fortunate to be treading the same cobblestones as 25 Nobel prizewinners.

Unfortunately, I don’t think they give Nobel prizes for graphic design.




























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