Culture: A Perfect Place for Painters; Every Day Artists Gather in One of the Region's Best Appointed Studios, as David Whetstone Reports

Article excerpt

AN art club based at one of the region's most enviable locations is looking for new members to swell its ranks.

Current members of the North of England Art Club take what is reputed to be the oldest lift in Newcastle up to their top floor studio at the city's historic Bolbec Hall.

There they sketch, paint and attend a range of workshops on subjects such as pastel, print and watercolour.

They can also benefit from regular life classes, a rare opportunity to paint the human form.

Chairman Alan Christison, from Seahouses, is proof that the current membership of 75 is fairly widely flung. Others attend regularly from Sunderland, Hexham and across the North East.

The club has a long history. Some 30 years ago it merged with the Newcastle Society of Artists which dated from the 1840s.

"Quite a few famous names have been members over the years," says Alan.

Tony Harrison, who was in advertising and ran his own agency, became a member of the club 15 years ago when he was coming up to retirement.

"The thing to point out is that this place is unique," says Tony, who lives in Whitley Bay.

"There is nowhere that has these facilities outside the universities."

A relatively recent recruit is Malcolm Smith, from Gateshead, who took early retirement from a career in graphic design, started doing art evening classes and then embarked on a fine art degree course at Newcastle College.

"I didn't feel ready for the pipe and slippers and I've always been interested in watercolours," he says.

Now 67, he joined the club last October. "I'd always known about it and people who were on the same course were members. …