Visual Arts Reviews


You may or may not have heard of it but Dr Sketchy is a worldwide phenomenon founded in Brooklyn New York by illustrator and former artist’s model, Molly Crabapple.

Essentially it is a fascinating hybrid of burlesque cabaret and life drawing, something that works perhaps because it takes the stuffiness out of reverential life drawing classes whilst acknowledging the beauty and dignity of burlesque dancers. Dr Sketchy is also highly entertaining and definitely tongue in cheek with last night’s event in Buxton taking a Wild West theme and showing spats among the dancing girls and an ever so slightly over the hill model wearing an outrageous wig that may even have been a family pet.

The names said it all. Male and female performers/models were introduced as Howdee Doodee, Lusty Leila, Randy Spurs, Wild Heather, Woody Woodstock, Guntoting Tallulah and more. Meanwhile our sketching was accompanied by a country and western soundtrack featuring kitsch classics such as The Devil Went Down to Georgia and D-I-V-O-R-C-E.

If you haven’t actually been to one of these events, you may still feel a little confused as to what to expect. Having been to one in the past, I think last night’s was fairly typical (if slightly toned down from a sexiness point of view) featuring a combination of five, ten, 15 and 20 minute sketching sessions with the dancers forming various staged tableaux. There were also some actual dance performances on stage ending up with a spirited, frilly-knickered can-can.

In its bar room setting and with a large, like-minded audience happy to chat about art, it was all a lot of fun with the organisers adding a competitive element as at the end of each drawing session, the models would choose their favourite artwork from a group of artists and the winner would receive some badges. There was nothing too serious about this and we were only talking about badges, but I detected a healthy competitive spirit out there in the audience. All abilities are welcome at these events but I noticed the standard last night seemed very high with some artists coming in with pre-prepared backgrounds and a huge array of materials designed to make the most of their short bursts of artistic activity. There were also a lot of photos being taken, the idea being that you worked up your masterpiece at home. At the end of the evening, people left out their work for us to admire and it was truly inspirational in many cases.

If you’d like to see an example of one my own humble attempts (and I did begin to feel that the soundtrack was talking to me when it played Desperado) you can follow this link:

And thank you Dr Sketchy Sheffield for bringing such fun, glamour and burlesque artistry to the Fringe. Look out for further Dr Sketchy events both here and in Sheffield on

2014 ART EXHIBITION - Burbage Art Group

A regular Fringe event, the annual show by the Burbage Art Group was a damn fine show. It showed the work of the local art group of the past year, and some of it was very recent indeed, suggesting that the members were keen to get their work in the show.

Of course, local scenes and landscapes featured strongly and I did like Maria Hyde's pencil dawing of the 'Shoe Tree' as it is a feature of our daily trips into Buxton often commented on by the children. It was another scene involving the children which caught my eye - David Allard's watercolour of Tobermory, or as they remember it, Balamory! I must have stood in the same spot for all those photos! It was a bright, cheerful rendition of one of the most reproduced seafronts in Britain. Hilary McLynn's pencil drawing 'Its March' featuring two hares, was also an eye catcher with the movement and exuberance the animals caught crisply and so perfectly. I also like another of her works, 'Mandarin drake and duck' which was also crisp and bright and black and white. Back to the world of colour, and Laura Critchlow's still life pieces were excellent, particularly 'Cherry', 'Strawberry' and 'Apple' - and they rather put me in mind of the style of Joseph Banks, they were that good. There was also an entry for the Buxton Spa Prize - a competition with a 1st prize of £5,000 no less! So good luck to Stephanie Osborne with that.

The Burbage Group also try and encourge talent among the young, not that they are all oldies by any means! The group sponsor and support young artists with potential from Buxton Community School, and this year Holly Maddison benefited from this and some of her work was on show as well. It is always good to see talent being nurtured and I have to agree with the group and say Holly shows promise indeed. Art school next Holly?

All in all, it was a good show of work by local artists who are passionate about art. They are not afraid to try out new things with new materials and let us see the results. Well done to you all!

Ian Parker Heath

THE GREAT DOME ART FAIR - Peak District Artisans

The annual great Buxton Dome art fair has become a bit of a tradition for me and is a great way to enjoy some home grown talent and browse longingly at all the work you wish to have on your walls.

Featured among them were usual favourites such as Pauline Townsend and it was great to see Rob Wilson's mixed media take on the Tour de France.

There are loads of opportunities to get involved and the Silent Action and postcard raffle are fun ways to take your chance at bringing home an original.

John Rattigan was one of the stand out figures for me this year with his unique drawings of mischievous owls and monkeys.

Catriona Hall's stylised paintings had bold use of colour and form and jumped off the canvas in a 'you must own me' kind of way.

Sarah Sharpe's mythical etchings and water colours held the narrative of fairy stories and Sue Prince creates these striking folk stories which celebrate modern myths and legends!

This year my journey around the (rather warm and sticky) dome was accompanied by Sarka Skuckova and Rose Attwood-Harris piano and violin duo. The music was beautiful and the event wouldn't be the same without them.

Sian Dudley

LANDSCAPES FOR DAD - Michaela Wrigley

This exhibition is displayed in Gallery 2 of Buxton Museum. At the preview the room was filled with people. There were many positive comments in the visitors’ book.

The aim of this exhibition is for Michaela to show how she felt for her dad who died in 2012. She does this by exhibiting four artworks and a film showing various pictures of him through various phases in his life accompanied by his favourite songs.

The material she uses is brick clay which is locally mined and is very abundant. The artist is excited by the beautiful colours it changes into after being fired.

Walls of Tears consist of glazed bowls each one representing a time she cried for various reasons but her recent tears have been for her dad.

In Barns she uses rather thin pieces of brick clay to form the work. The use of contrasting shapes and colours creates a beautiful work. Her father used to prepare the barns for the harvest to be stored.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is based on thirty five tiles forming a rectangular shape. On the tiles are printed various phrases from sermons. It was created to represent the fact that her dad was a printer before he became a pastor. Like Barns it has an attractive feel about it.

In Brick Walls the theme is a memorable day in summer when Michaela was a little girl. It was about a picnic her dad had organised which was near a stone wall. Each of the stones represented one of her dad’s fourteen grandchildren.

There are many attractions at the museum at present and this one must not be missed.

Roger Horvath


Springbank Arts Centre, New Mills. (venue 62)

For one weekend only the Springbank Arts Centre in New Mills holds an exhibition of some of the work of artist Harry Ousley (1915-85) who spent much of the 1940's living with his new wife at Hill Farm on Kinder.

The show consists of over 30 abstract watercolours and 4 pencil drawings and date to the latter part of the artists life. The show reflects Harry's beliefs in two ways, firstly that abstraction was the only way to express emotion and secondly, most of the paintings are untitled as he felt this pre-loaded the viewers appreciation, understanding and emotional response to the piece. For this second fact I am grateful to his niece and biographer Sue Astles who was on hand to help when I visited. The works themselves are bright and lively yet somehow aloof. There aren't features or hooks which draw the viewer in, something I think which bedevils much of the genre.

That said, there is an audience for this approach and you are guaranteed a warm welcome at Springbank. Not only that but there are a number of related activities going on over the weekend. There is an informal talk by Sue Astles at 11.00 on Saturday and Sunday, a children's event with local artist Jo Orme at 11.00 on Saturday and a reading of a story by Harry's wife Susie at 11.00 on Sunday. There's a Pimms Reception and introduction by Sue Astles at 7.30pm Saturday, followed by a read-through of Maxim Howard's play 'In Search of the new' which tells the story of Susie Ousey's reflections on her life with Harry after his death in 1985.

The exhibition and children's events are free. The Saturday evening Pimms reception and read-through is £6 - please phone the Centre for ticket availabilty on 01663 308202.

Ian Parker Heath

SEA FEVER - High Peak Artists

At the Art Café until 27 July

The thematic exhibition by these local artists is always worth searching out – and this year is no exception. For those people new to town – or unfamiliar with the layout – the Art Café is upstairs in the Pavilion Gardens, above the main restaurant café area.

This year’s show is prompted by John Masefield’s poem:

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking

It is a poem that most of us of a certain age recall – however faintly. It is an interesting choice of subject for landlocked Buxton of course and is likely to produce some surprising results.

So, for example, if Louise Jannetta has exhibited seascapes before then I’ve missed them. Anyway here she has an outstanding mixed media piece that twinkles and shines.

For those that have visited previous exhibitions by these artists you will know whose latest work you will be interested in seeing. Rob Wilson has developed a very distinctive style; again he is better known for his cityscapes but his crepuscular beach scene shows him extending his range in a rewarding way.

Ingrid Karlsson-Kemp has two pieces – Gwenver I & II – set in Cornwall. One with a gull in the foreground and the other has foxgloves. They are delicate, intriguing and totally absorbing. As ever with Ingrid’s work read the text stitched into the piece.

Sandra Orme has always specialised in seascapes – often carrying the threat of storm – but here she contributes a large pastel where the earth, sea and sky come together in a harmonious and almost tranquil way.

If it is real turbulence you want then look no further than Dave Butcher’s black and white photographs. Dave really is a master of the darkroom and his two prints are excellent examples of his craft.

In the corner of the Café stands a cabinet of delicate jewellery and ceramic pieces – they are part of this delightful exhibition. Do seek it out. Tea and cake is not compulsory but you might as well!

Keith Savage

GRINLOW ART AND STORYTELLING TRAIL 2014 - Local Artists, Makers and Creators

If you go down into the woods today… you will find them totally transformed in a completely magical way by local artists.

You may think you know what to expect from this kind of venture but in fact at every turn the visitor’s preconceptions are confounded by something rich and strange whether it is Chris Robinson’s views of Buxton given kaleidoscopic new dimensions with mirrors, or Emily Smedley’s Magical Garden inspired by her childhood memories and featuring original poetry, her dancing teacher’s shoes, a beautiful large scale canvas and flowers dangling through the trees.

The beauty of this weekend is that the walk though up hill is easily managed and various artists are around to guide you and discuss their work. I was lucky enough to be taken round by Ruby Moon whose Flower Bomb includes 135 crocheted flowers each one representing 1000 of the deaths caused by the Nagasaki bomb. She explains that she was anxious not to use garish colours – in fact her rich pinks while not exactly woodland in hue – perfectly complement their surroundings to beautiful effect.

Scultpure is well represented with Russell Simms’ Reach, Andrea Lewis’s Mother Earth, moss covered and seemingly growing out of a tree trunk, and Ilsa Elford’s woman on a swing sculpture. Look up and you are likely to see beautifully painted flags or a sculpture apparently suspended in thin air. Look down and you may catch various eyes looking out at you from the woodlands or tiny nests offering up eggs (well Christmas puddings but Ruby says it is very hard to find chocolate eggs after Easter…) At eye level meanwhile, it is all incredible with large scale works such as Ilsa Elford’s tented den complete with elaborate frescoes on the walls contrasting with smaller but no less exquisite offerings such as Sarah Males’ memories of water in which a tree hollow has been filled with flowers and dangling testtubes inside which are tiny written memories somehow captured within the water.

There is an awful lot to see here. I was particularly struck by the colourful use of textiles throughout and also by Ilsa’s work – what an amazing den and how brave to suspend her massive, romantic canvases to the trees, weather be-damned. The painting depicting views from the windows of Solomon’s Temple was especially remarkable and will never be seen to greater effect than framed by leaves and dappled in sunlight as here.

The Trail is only on this weekend (July 12, 13) and you should go today (Sat) if you’d like to hear storytelling sessions in the beautifully constructed tent at the top – 12, 2 and 4pm. In case I’m not making myself clear – this is a rave review. This is art that both offers solace and comes out and grabs you. I love the idea of all those Fringe-invaded dog walkers! Don’t miss the chance to see the woods transformed and bring some change to contribute to the Project Green Hands reforestation scheme that they are promoting. As Henry David Thoreau put it once: “I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees."

Stephanie Billen

SQUARE ROOTS - The Green Man Gallery

The Green Man Gallery has grown and blossomed over the last 18 months. Such is the confidence at the Gallery now that on Monday of this week the space was re-hung with new work. At the heart of this are two new exhibitions created specifically for the Fringe. Square Roots is the product of a challenge set to the artists who make-up The Green Man group.

The artists were asked to look at the Ordnance Survey maps for the Dark Peak and White Peak, choose one kilometre square from a map and take something from that square to inspire a piece of original work. What has resulted is about 20 pieces – mostly from the White Peak as it happens – and, not surprisingly given the starting point, mostly ‘unpeopled’.

In any exhibition different people will be drawn to different pieces of work. For me it was the work of two photographers that struck me most urgently.

Natasha Braithwaite has two black-and-white images. One is broadly familiar to most that have lived and walked in the Dark Peak – it is part of the World War Two American aircraft wreckage on Bleaklow. As with all the artwork the artists have provided a brief written commentary explaining what drew them to the subject. Natasha reminds us that coming across the wreckage – especially in November when flowers may be left by it – is deeply affecting, even for those of us who absolutely no connection with the American deaths. Natasha’s other image is from Monsal Weir – but rather than choosing the obvious picture of the weir itself she chooses an image of the huge soughs which have trees growing out of the stonework like a crown on a head.

Caroline Small has chosen images from very close to home and they are personal, almost private. A triptych – Rest Is Not Idleness – is of tall grass on Temple Fields and is hung vertically so that we read it almost as we would a poem. Four colour photographs from her own garden of very ordinary flowers – at one level – geraniums, lilies, aquilegia reveal great delicacy and tenderness. They also persuade us to rest but not be idle as we search and examine.

The ‘peopled’ image is Janet Mayled’s fishermen standing mid-river; the biggest work on show this needs you to sit on the opposite side of the room and quietly to be drawn in by the light on the water. Suzannah Thompson’s watercolour Somewhere In The Roaches is impressionistic, succeeding in suggesting not only the massiveness of the rocks but also their fragmented shape. Ellia has two intriguing little pieces; one The Magic of Poole’s Cavern looks at first like a cave from the Arabian Nights but closer inspection reveals tentacled monsters in the rocks – perhaps a product of the artist’s agoraphobia.

The whole Gallery is a delight and there is much work on sale at very realistic prices. So take a walk through the Market Place and relish all that the Green Man has to offer.

Keith Savage

WITHIN THE FRINGE - Buxton & High Peak Artists

Part of the aim of the artists who manage the Green Man is to provide opportunities for all artists – of whatever age – to develop their skills and to share their work. To that end the Gallery runs many workshops and has initiated community projects. The Gallery is very much involved in the forthcoming Family Festival: the Green Man is about more than exhibiting and selling art.

This exhibition is clearly in this spirit, giving about 30 local artists the opportunity to hang, exhibit and maybe sell their work. Much of the work is based on local landscapes but the artists have drawn on their travels throughout Britain and Europe.

At the time of my visit to the Gallery – and this exhibition is on the 1st floor – the room was full of people eagerly pointing out their favourite pieces and the response to the show was clearly enthusiastic. It is impossible to describe all the work shown here – you are encouraged to visit and see for yourself. [There is much, much more to see at the Gallery at ground level or on the staircase. Take the lift up and walk down!]

Phyllis Marston’s oil painting ‘Silver Lining’ is a striking image of a stormy sea, full of light and energy. Tucked around a corner – so do look carefully – is a lovely, warm print of an original watercolour called ‘Sunrise in Suffolk’ by Anne Parsonson.

Linda Rolland has two subtle, textured oils of country scenes which are very satisfying studies in green. Quite different in tone and mood, but equally engaging, is Sheila Benton’s small, Japanese inspired, watercolour ‘Misty Morning’.

Angela Caunce has two graphic, cartoonish pieces that stand out partly because they are unlike anything else in the show. ‘Sunken Treasure’ and ‘Pirates’ are also great fun, hung at a lowish height they are bound to become favourites with younger visitors.

Among the male artists work I found myself returning to two very different, near black and white (perhaps shades of grey if one can use the expression any more) images. David Blowers’ ‘Swizzles In The Snow’ should be a Christmas card hit in New Mills. Stephen Riggs is showing a fine watercolour of the snow covered mountains of the Grandes Jorrasses.

So, there is much to see. If you visit on Mondays 14 or 21 July between 1-4pm there will be a chance to meet some of the artists. You can be sure of a warm welcome.

Keith Savage

DERBYSHIRE OPEN 2014 - Buxton Museum & Art Gallery

This year sees the 32nd Derbyshire Open exhibition and as ever there is a good variety of works on display with something to appeal to most tastes. Styles, genres and media sit side-by-side to present the viewer with a snapshot of the artistic temperature of the county.

The opening section at the top of the stairs is the children’s, which has some charming pieces among them. I have wondered whether splitting them off from the main show sets the right tone of encouragement for the youngsters, even if it is a formal competition, but that is just something that strikes me in this age of inclusion.

The main exhibition as it were then, features a selection which might be categorised as eclectic in terms of styles and content, yet similar in overall tone. There are no less than seven ‘award-winning’ works on show ranging from ‘A Peaceful Morning In The Pavilion Gardens’ by Jess Abbs-Brown which won the DCC Young Artist award to the winner of the Munro Trophy, ‘Derbyshire Grit’ by Fergus Carmichael (a portrait of what is presumably a farmer). There are works by local artists and local subjects such as Vera Brittain, and with a background in archaeology I’m always pleased to see some make it to exhibitions such as this with 9 Ladies being the subject matter this time around. For me only two pieces evoked an emotional response – ‘He Had Seen Sheep Rotting In The Sun And Wind’ by Roger Allan and Jonathon Cusick’s humourous cartoon of ‘At The Cattle Auction 17 March 2014’.

Now, the thing with art is that it’s subjective and all a matter of taste; well taste and education if we believe the research. The artworks have been well executed by skilled practitioners, but for me art should say something, even challenge on occasion. My overall impression was one of safety of choice by both artists and judges. I can imagine that competition for places is fierce yet several artists had more than one work on display – perhaps a limit on numbers would allow others a ‘foot in the door’? But don’t let that put you off! There were plenty of visitors to the show when I was there and they were engaged in conversations about what they were seeing and the comments book was full of praise.

Ian Parker Heath


This show by Peak District artist Kate Pheasey is a showcase for a modern take on an old art-form. In this case mosaics get a work-over to give us impressions of a local landscape. The works are bright and cheery yet hint at undercurrents of place and memory as evinced by fragments of maps with familiar place-names.

There is a range of complexity among the mosaics on display, from ‘Maple Leaf’ to ‘White Peak Wander’ Ms Pheasey draws together and creates three dimensional objects, natural and artificial, which allow you to wander and wonder on the subject without too much effort.

The exhibition is based in the foyer of the museum and the pieces jostle with long-term exhibits and the hustle and bustle of a busy museum. That said, and despite their relatively small size, they do grab your attention and one can easily imagine them in a domestic setting!

Do spend a few minutes of your visit to the museum to browse through the show and see what you think.

Ian Parker Heath


Anyone who has enjoyed the Buxton Art Trail of the Derbyshire Open in the past will know how rewarding it is to meet artists in their own homes and talk to them about their work.

Paula Hobdey is a member of the Buxton and High Peak Artists, whose work can be seen at the Green Man Gallery, but this show is all her own and feels delightfully intimate with subject matter inspired by her own location off Macclesfield Rd near Gadley Wood as well as family members, animals, flowers and local and holiday landscapes.

Acrylic is her medium and a tricky one at that but she has mastered it in all its forms whether laid on thick or used as thinly as watercolour. Interestingly, she is not afraid to play and experiment, some pictures of meadows being created partly through knifing on the paint left on the palate. The spontaneity of this exactly suits the kind of natural scenes she likes to depict. Paula also uses a little mixed media with a picture of flowers underwater benefiting from a smattering of glitter and one particularly successful painting of an evening sky over wetlands having a foreground of spiky grass cut out from magazines.

Conventional though much of the subject matter is, Paula has an eye for the quietly unusual, depicting a puffin emerging from its burrow underground or observing the contours of a quarry face in such a way as to create something almost abstract. She also has a great sense of colour – I thought it was bold to depict a gingery cat against an equally gingery yet somehow distinct background. She also homes in on a dandelion, exactly reproducing its scruffiness in a painting that is unusual for turning the spotlight on something generally ignored.

Paula has no airs and graces about her work. Her sense of humour shines through in various quirky picture titles and the fact that she is not a professional artist makes the exhibition in her welcoming, cosy house particularly accessible.

So nothing snooty here and do bring the kids as Paula, whose works also include some lovely painted glass, is offering a free glass-painting workshop for children. All levels and abilities are welcome and there is always a cuppa to be had as well. One last thing, if you do bring the family, beware of the monsters in the garden – Paula lives next door to an artist who creates dinosaur sculptures and one has even found its way onto her patch!

Stephanie Billen