Tag Archives: Picasso

Reflections on Lockdown #2

At the end of last year, I wrote a post featuring some of the work I had produced during 2019.

I was trying to map my mental health and how that might correlate with the type of art I was producing. (You can see it here – Adieu 2019.)

I was hoping to follow that on this year to see if the art I am producing now is any different due to my much improved mental health.

To be honest, it’s a bit difficult to tell just from this post alone as it only represents a fraction of a whole series of artworks I have produced since the beginning of the year, primarily during lockdown. (See also previous post, ‘Reflections on Lockdown’ here.)

I am planning three further ‘Reflections on Lockdown’ posts, which will then give a clearer picture as to the correlation between art and my mental health.

I guess the reason for all this preamble is that if we just looked at this post in isolation, you would be forgiven for thinking that my mental health has not improved at all! As a lot of this work has its roots in a style I developed over the past couple of years when I wasn’t very well mentally.

I have stuck with it, and developed it, not because I am unhappy, but because I like it! I find it very expressive.

Like I say, we can have a look at the bigger picture once I’ve posted everything I’ve been working on this year.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this instalment of ‘Reflections of Lockdown’.

Follow me on Instagram: @milligancroft

Odysseus SOLD
Darius I
Corona – tion
After The Son of Man SOLD
Tethys SOLD

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.


Filed under Art, community, Contemporary Arts, Creativity, Education, health, Ideas, Illustration, Innovation, Inspiration, Medicine, mental health, nhs, Philosophy, Politics, Uncategorized

Adieu 2019.

Well, it’s been an eventful year, to say the least.

I’ve been doing a lot more visual arts this year, so I thought I’d do a month-by-month, blow-by-blow, pictorial representation of my year. (Lucky you.)

Actually, the reason behind it is to see if/how the images/moods have changed over the course of the year. And how that might correlate to my mental health.

As some of you know, I volunteer for an arts charity called Arc, (Arts for Recovery in the Community), which works with people with mental health issues. I am an ardent advocate of the arts as a medium to treat mental health, and wellbeing in general.

Many years ago, I visted the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and you could see the gradual decline in his mental health through his work.

Whilst I’m no Van Gogh, I am trying to see if there are any similar patterns to my own work.

Let’s have a look, shall we?

And before I forget; Have a Happy New Year and an absolutely spectacular 2020.


Oh dear… that’s not a good start.



That’s a bit more positive. Birthday trip to Haworth, West Yorkshire, (home of the Brontes’), with my daughters.



Pros: Part of an Arc exhibition. Cons: Became homeless.



Ee, it’s grim up north. Charcoal sketch of an L.S. Lowry.



“Are you sure you’re all right?”




Think I can see a pattern emerging.






I guess a lot of things are obvious in hindsight.






The road to recovery.




Signs of improvement.




Apart from my volunteer work at Arc, I started facilitating a Creative Writing Workshop at The Wellspring homeless charity in Stockport.



There are always reminders.




A change of outlook.







As you can see, it’s been a tumultuous year.

I feel very fortunate to be able to experience the last day of it. That would not have been possible were it not for the actions of my dear friend, Siobhan Costigan, over in Australia. Her, and my friends, family, NHS, Stepping Hill Hospital, Pathfinder, AA, The Wellspring and Arc have all played their part in saving my life and helping me to recover. And I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

As of 31/12/2019, I am 140 days abstinent. I feel completely blessed that I have been able to experience 140 days on Earth with my daughters, family and friends that I might not have been able to. I am truly a lucky man.

I wish you all a magnificent 2020; may the forthcoming decade bring you everything that you hope and dream for.



If you, or a loved one, are going through a difficult time, there are organisations out there who can help. Reaching out isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength that you have managed to hold on this far. And remember, if things get so bad, go to your nearest A&E dept., they will take care of you just like any other patient.

The Samaritans call 116 123

NHS call 111 or 999

Alcoholics Anonymous call 0800 917 7650


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

Body of Work

I was going to title this post: Portraits of the Damned.

Then I started to include landscapes and still-lives to it. So, the title wouldn’t really make sense. But it will in a minute! Be afraid, be very afraid.

Some of you may, or may not, know that I volunteer for an Arts charity called Arc, (Arts for Recovery in the Community), in Reddish, Stockport.

I’ve done a lot of this work there, and some at home. But all the techniques I’ve picked up are from either attending or volunteering on their programmes.

Whether it be block-printing, collage, charcoal, watercolour, acrylics, inks, fabric, embroidery, clay or pastel. Not to mention the numerous techniques, yes brushes, but also charcoal tied to the end of a three feet long piece of bamboo! Bits of old Paymobil and Lego, edges of long out-of-date credit cards.

At Arc, it’s never about the technique and what end result you achieve, it’s about enjoying the process of doing it. Losing yourself, immersing yourself in art for a few hours – now that is medicine!

I appreciate that my work is more the stuff of nightmares rather than living room walls. But I like it!






Pencil sketches







Processed with Snapseed.






Processed with Snapseed.









Pen and ink sketches





Portraits of the Damned!

Mostly acrylic and chalk pastel on canvas or paper.












And finally, the installation I made for the centenary commemoration of the end of the First World War at Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery. R.I.P. Herbert Jackson of Didsbury Road, Heaton Mersey, Stockport. Railway man, musician, fiance – and soldier.



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The Boating Party with Claudia McGill

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 Claudia McGill.

I love her bold, graphic style and use of colour. Reminds me of Picasso’s ceramics.

Scowl 3 7-4-1702

What has been your greatest personal or career achievement?

I can’t pick out one thing. I’ve been alive for 58+ years and I just can’t pick one thing over another. I won’t even start to speculate or compare, just thinking about trying to do so is unsettling me!

What has been your greatest sacrifice?

Once again, I can’t pick one out. Not because there have been so many to burden me that I can’t choose, thank goodness! but because I think that pretty much, things might have looked bad at the time, had been painful, even life-altering, but in the end, it came out all right, or else somehow I managed, and I have come to believe that this pattern will hold.

To whom do you owe a debt of gratitude?

My husband, who has always one hundred percent supported me in all my endeavors.

Who, or what, inspires you?

I just enjoy pretty much everything about ordinary life – maybe I am easily amused or interested, but I’m always thinking something intriguing is just around the corner, and usually it works out that way.

What makes you unhappy?

Harsh words, intolerant attitudes, and people who do not take others’ feelings into consideration.

What makes you happy?

Too many things to list.

What are you reading?

I read a lot, and mostly I read mysteries. I also like biographies and how-to books. As for the last, I don’t need to want to actually do the how-to of whatever it is; I just enjoy reading about how things are made, done, constructed, etc.

Who, or what, are you listening to?

Usually I listen to audio books; I am not much interested in music. I get the books from my library and I lean toward thrillers. That’s kind of funny because I don’t enjoy reading print version thrillers that much, but having one read to me – I love it.

You’re going on a day trip. Where are you going and what is in your ‘day’ bag?

I might visit a library or go to a park for a run, I can’t decide which. In either case, I’d take a snack or a lunch, some drawing materials, a pen and notebook for writing things down, a sweater (for the library in case of extra-powerful a/c) or extra clothes to change into (the run). Probably a grocery list or items for the cleaners, since I always seem to be running errands wherever I find the time, but that’s not part of the trip, really…

What’s your favourite film?

The Wizard of Oz. My favorite since I first saw it about 55 years ago. What a strong impression it made on me right from the first.

What’s your favourite tipple?

Very easy question! Unsweetened iced tea – since I was a teenager – has been my favorite drink. My addiction picked up after I left school and went out on my own – cheaper to make a pitcher of iced tea than to buy bottles of soda, and at that time, every dime counted. Now, I am very partial to Honest Tea’s green tea. And I like drinking tea from the bottle more than a glass. A very tame addiction, maybe, but it’s lifelong.

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

I don’t ever want to go back in time. I’m interested to read about the past, but I don’t want to be part of it.

What frightens you?

High winds; dogs running up to me, even if their owners say they are friendly; being stung by a wasp; being late; eating food past its sale date; I am afraid of the dentist now, or rather, of any pain at all in dental procedures, though I didn’t use to be; I’ve had some recent procedures that tipped the balance. Let me add that my dentist does his best not to hurt me and I appreciate it. I am not afraid of public speaking or most kinds of insects.

What do you do to relax?

Read. Ever since I learned to read, in 1963, I have never lacked for friends, excitement, new horizons…I can pick up a book and everything is all right.

What do you do when you’re angry?

Speak right up and let it out. When I am angry people know it. I don’t like being angry, though.

What can’t you live without?

My husband, my friends, my art and writing activities, and libraries.

What’s your motto?

“Give it a try and see what happens.”

Where is your Utopia?

Wyncote, PA, right where I live now and have for the past 25 years. It’s taken me time to understand it, but somehow, I’ve landed in (or made it into) just the right place for me.

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

Just as I am doing now. I like my life and I don’t long for things to be different. I might make sure I eat more chocolate cake than I do now, though.

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

Really, no one’s, to tell you the truth. I mostly want to go my way and let you go yours.

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

The person who knows how to fix it the fastest so I can get out of it. I am not very fond of feeling trapped…

What are you working on at the moment?

I am working on some paintings, for a friend, of his house and his dogs, for the art portion of the question. In my poetry writing I continue my Installment Plan Poetry Marathon sessions, in which I spend a scheduled time every week focusing on writing poetry. I am also working on returning to running and my goal is five miles straight – I am making good progress. Maybe in the fall I’ll get there.

What is your ambition?

To take care of my house and those in it, do art, do poetry, exercise, and visit friends. That’s it.

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

That chocolate cake would have very few calories and in fact be necessary to maintaining health.

Which six people would you invite to your boating party?

This one I can’t answer, because I don’t want to make choices and hurt anyone’s feelings. Maybe I’d make a list and draw names? Here’s a sign-up sheet…

What would be on the menu?

Chocolate cake. I guess you knew that!

What question would you have liked me to have asked?

I’d loved to have told you about how much I enjoyed working in the cafeteria in college, something people can’t believe, but it is true – and so you would ask me – what did I learn there that I could have learned nowhere else – and I would say, A lot of things, but one tangible skill I have as a result is that I know how to cut a pie into 9 equal pieces.

Thank you Claudia.

















Claudia McGill


I am a self-taught artist. I came to art later in life. Because of these things, making art for me is not a separate compartment in my life but a thread that runs through everything that I do.

Currently I concentrate on painting in acrylics, but I also spend time working in collage/mixed media as well as doing some hand-built clay, mostly tiles and sculptures. I got my start in fiber art, making pictorial appliqued wall hangings.

Here is a synopsis of some of my activities.

Fiber Art: I did many craft projects when I was growing up, and I learned to knit and sew clothing. I turned to appliqué quilting as a hobby in my thirties, eventually developing a style that used machine sewing to interpret my ideas as collages in fabric.

Collage/Mixed Media: After some years, I wanted to spend more time on composition and less on sewing. I began to experiment with collage, seeing similarities in the artistic process with my fabric work. In the beginning, I created pieces that were usually based on photos I’d taken of landscapes, city scenes, objects, or other images of this sort. I then interpreted them in collage using papers I’d painted myself with acrylic paints.

As time went on my work grew more abstract. I became more interested in portraying feelings, emotions, memories, or imaginings rather than representing scenes. I began to use found papers and materials in addition to my own painted papers and started incorporating painting (in acrylics) as part of the compositions. As well as creating art intended to be hung on the wall, I made and still do make postcards, artist trading cards, embellished art books, etc.

Acrylic Painting: My painting work was an outgrowth of my mixed media art, which familiarized me with acrylics. Painting is now my main artistic activity. My works are inspired by the world I see around me but my intent is not to represent it. Instead, I pick out what appeals to me, set these pieces together as I think they might like to be placed, and concentrate on how it all fits together, color and shape.

Other work: I have done hand-built clay for some time, changing styles as my interests change, but focusing on sculptures and tiles. I’ve recently begun spending more time sketching with pen and ink; I enjoy the focus and observation that go into this activity. I also write poetry and have self-published a number of books.

In all my activities, I work with a sense of purpose and hope mixed together. Making art is very important to me as it is the way I work out answers to questions and guide myself through everyday life.

web site: www.claudiamcgill.com
art blog, featuring current work: https://claudiamcgillart.wordpress.com
poetry blog: https://claudiamcgill.wordpress.com/


Filed under Art, Ceramics, community, Contemporary Arts, Creativity, Ideas, Illustration, Innovation, Inspiration, Uncategorized

Things for which I am grateful #233 – 274 – Art.

As you’ve probably gathered, the arts are a huge part of my life. And this is my mantra:


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 are viewed as rebels to society. To me, artists aren’t rebels, they are pioneers. They show us new ways of interpreting the world.

Art galleries are my cathedrals. They are the places I go to escape from reality and immerse myself in the presence of their genius.

Here are a few of my favourite artists. (I haven’t included ones that I’ve already written individual posts about, such as Modigliani, Chang or Lautrec.)

As you can see, I’m quite traditional in a lot of respects. What I love about much of the impressionistic work is the space, light, colour, composition and texture. Quite a lot of them have a simple, graphic quality, too. Which, perhaps, is no surprise considering that that is what I studied at art college.

Some famous names missing. Who are your favourites?

Michael McGinn

Michael McGinn

Aaron Smith

Aaron Smith

Yup, Banksy.

Yup, Banksy.

Edouard Vuillard

Edouard Vuillard

Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo



Igor Shipilin

Igor Shipilin

John Singer Sargent

John Singer Sargent

Kees van Dongen

Kees van Dongen

Kris Kuksi 1

Kris Kuksi 1

Kris Kuksi 2

Kris Kuksi 2



Mary Cassatt

Mary Cassatt



Yes, Monet.

Yes, Monet.

Grayson Perry

Grayson Perry

Picasso 1

Picasso 1

Picasso 2

Picasso 2

Pierre et Gilles

Pierre et Gilles



Sergey Rimashevsky

Sergey Rimashevsky



The chapman bros

The chapman brothers 1

The Chapman Brothers 2

The Chapman Brothers 2

Van Gogh

Van Gogh





Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon

Egon Schielle

Egon Schielle

Gustave Klimt

Gustave Klimt

Pierre Bonnard

Pierre Bonnard

Antonio Canova

Antonio Canova

Paul Cézanne

Paul Cézanne

William Merritt Chase

William Merritt Chase

Salvador Dali

Salvador Dali

Richard Estes

Richard Estes

Edward Hopper

Edward Hopper

Norman Rockwell

Norman Rockwell

Jan van Eyck

Jan van Eyck



Wilhelm Hammershøi

Wilhelm Hammershøi

Frederick Childe Hassam

Frederick Childe Hassam

Peder Severin Krøyer

Peder Severin Krøyer

Berthe Morisot

Berthe Morisot

Camille Pissarro

Camille Pissarro


By the way, if any late-comers are wondering what the hell all the numbers are about in the titles of these posts, the reason is: I decided, at the back end of 2013, to write 365 things for which I am grateful – one for every day of the year.

Why? Because, I think a lot of us in the ‘West’, (including me), sometimes forget how lucky we are and take too many things for granted. Which people in other parts of the world would die for, and do so, on a regular basis.





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If I can do it, it’s not art.

I went to visit my mate, Markham and his lovely wife, Sarah, in our nation’s fair capital last week. (That’s Londinium, if you don’t know where I live.)

Anyhoop, apart from drinking copious amounts of alcohol – as is our wont – and eating my own body weight in Rogan Josh, I took the liberty of culturising my soul by visiting a few galleries.

I managed to get to The National Portrait Gallery, The National Gallery and The Tate Modern.

I don’t know about you, but I always feel reinvigorated and inspired after a jaunt to a gallery. And, whilst Manchester has a fair few decent galleries, there’s nothing quite like a visit to a capital city to see the top-banana stuff.

The highlights for me, (apart from the boozing), were the BP Portrait Awards at the NPG. Some fantastically refreshing stuff on show. I even saw that portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge. (Or, Kate, as I prefer to call her.) I know she looks a tad tired in the piccie, but you have to admit, she’s still one of the most beautiful women in the world. (Up the republic!)


Did someone ask for a restorer?

Actually, I think it was this one.

Actually, I think it was this one.


Jamie Routley


John Devane


Miseon Lee


Geert Schless


Antonio Laglia

Now, the National Gallery is pretty vast, and time was pressing, so I just visited a couple of rooms – mainly the 19th Century galleries, where I got see works by: Monet, Van Gogh, Renoir, Cézanne, Picasso, Pissarro, Klimt, Vuillard, Degas, Sisley, Seurat, Gaugin and Matisse. My artistic soul was well and truly satiated. Here are a few highlights for your delectation.

Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 20.36.09




Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 20.36.51


Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 20.37.49




Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 20.38.35


Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 20.38.48


I also took a sneaky peek in a section where they had some medieval paintings of Anne Boleyn, King Dicky 3, Lizzie 1, and a whole host of others. It wasn’t so much the paintings that fascinated me, but being in the presence of work that was commissioned while these historic people were alive. (Or not, as the case may be.)

Buried under a bloody car park, indeed.

Buried under a bloody car park, indeed.


Last up, was The Tate Modern. And, whilst I’m all up for a bit of modern art, it was the ‘older’ fraternity that appealed to me the most – Henry Moore, Francis Bacon, Miro, Giacometti, Picasso, Turner, Warhol, Hockney, Kandinsky et al.



Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 20.41.48


But, I couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed with the majority of the works. So much so, that I remarked to my mate, Markham, that – if I can do it, it’s not art.

Pause button by Rothco. I could do that.

Pause button by Rothco. I could do that.

Yves Klein. You're having a Turkish, mate.

Yves Klein. You’re having a Turkish, mate.



Very graciously, he said that I should make a note of that remark because it was profound. (He always says nice things to me. That’s why he’s my mate.)

He also said that if I were to scrawl it on a piece of paper it would probably get hung in the gallery.

So, here we are. Profundity or Luddite. It’s your call.

Screen Shot 2013-08-21 at 13.04.23

My other mate, Mike McGinn, is an artist based in Edinburgh. (I have a thing about friends who’s name begins with ‘M’ – sorry, Zebediah.) And I reckon his work should be in the Tate. It’s miles better than some of the stuff they have in there.

Don’t get me wrong, the Tate Modern is a fantastic art gallery and it has some wonderful works in its collection. Just not enough of it on show at this moment in time. Maybe I’m just a traditionalist.


By Mike McGinn

The other thing that gets my goat is Contemporary Art Photographers. Not all of them, mind. I love Cindy Sherman and Ansel Adams just to name a couple. But there are so many art photographers out there that are technically inept. They may have an eye for a composition and an idea, but too many of them lack the technical skills to make them good photographs. I’m talking mainly about lighting, contrast, colour and depth. It’s one thing to have a concept. Taking it to the next level and being able to bring that concept to life through technical wizardry, is what makes it art.

The key is: Know your medium – then surpass it.

I’ve had the good fortune to work with many brilliant commercial photographers over the past 30 years in the ad industry. And a great many of them would be (and are) better artists than those who ply their trade doing it. I suspect that the reason many of them aren’t famous is because they are tarnished by the word “commercial”.


Eggleston. Contemporary art? FFS.

Sri Lanka by DMC

Sri Lanka by DMC

Fishermen, Sri Lanka by DMC

Fishermen, Sri Lanka by DMC


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

Art galleries are my cathedrals

When I studied at Jacob Kramer College of Art, (now Leeds College of Art), I used to pop into Saint Anne’s Catholic Cathedral next door. I’m not a religious man, in fact, I’m a devout agnostic. But what I loved about St. Anne’s was the tranquility. The calm. Because, as we all know, being an art student is a pretty stressful occupation. And I’d never been to an empty church before. (I even went to confession once. But I didn’t know you had to say “Bless me Father for I have sinned” first, so it was a pretty short confession.)

I was brought up a proddy and proddy churches are only open when there’s a service. Whereas, Catholic churches are open pretty much all the time, so you can go in and say a few prayers or light a candle. Or, in my case, just sit in the pews and admire the peace, the architecture, the stain glass windows, the art and the sculptures.

After a couple of visits I started to take my drawing pad to sketch the sculptures. Drawing sculptures is easier than life drawing classes because the human body is more defined in a sculpture.

I don’t go to church anymore. Instead I go to art galleries. They are my cathedrals. They are the places I go to escape from reality and immerse myself, not just in tranquility, but in one of my greatest loves – art.

We’re not as blessed as our cousins in the Big Smoke. But we do have a few good art galleries in the North West. In Manchester, we have the Manchester Art Gallery and The Whitworth. A short 35 mile jaunt down the M62 to Liverpool and you have The Walker and Tate Liverpool.

And it’s this last gallery that is the point of this post. I was fortunate enough to see Picasso’s Peace and Freedom exhibition there. (Running ’til the 30th August.)

I love Picasso’s work. He was a genius. And a prolific one at that.

I don’t mean genius as in: “Phil Collins’ drumming in ‘I can feel it coming in the air tonight’ is genius.” Phil Collins is a muppet. Always has been, always will be. He was shit in Genesis and he’s even worse as a solo “artist”. And that’s not my opinion. It’s the opinion of the man sitting next to me holding a pistol to my head making me type. (Who looks suspiciously like Peter Gabriel.)

No. Picasso was a genius like Einstein was a genius. And not just a genius painter –  “What? You don’t like my paintings? How ’bout a sculpture? No? What about a plate? I’m really good at plates. No? That floor looks like it could do with re-tiling.”

The man was a veritable art machine.

If you can get to see the exhibition, go. It’s brilliant. It’s inspirational. It’s humbling to be in the presence of work that has been touched by his hands.

And, if art galleries are my cathedrals, this one was blessed by Apollo.

Scroll down to see some of the work on show. And, unlike the Klimt exhibition here, it’s actually Picasso’s work! Not some bloke who lived in the same town as Klimt who may or may not have known or been influenced by him and used to deliver his post and was a bit handy at making chairs. Enjoy.

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