Category Archives: Architecture

Manchester Skyline emerges in paint

Industrial roots are obvious in the Manchester Skyline.

I often think of it as sooty black because my most vivid memories are from childhood when much of it was. Nowadays red brick and slate dominate the Manchester Skyline. Like the court house in the foreground. Along with a lot of glass and steel and other shiny building materials. Like many urban skylines, there’s a hint of industrial past and lofty ideals.

At street level it’s hard to get a sense of the Manchester Skyline,

But approach the city from Salford or Rochdale on a clear day and you see distinctive tall structures. As more tall buildings appear in cities, the sense of space found in a skyline view, is available to increasing numbers of residents and visitors. Like this view, from a Hotel near Piccadilly Station. The dominant buildings are

Manchester Court Buildings with a hint on Beetham Tower on the far left.

Manchester’s Skyline is changing as buildings expand ever upward, but, there is a sense of civic pride in the buildings that house local government.

The original Court buildings have been expanded with the glazing over of the courtyard.

But they still retain their distinctive Victorian facade. Here’s the finished painting.


You can see how the painting emerged in this stop motion video.

(There is no sound.)

You can see more videos on my Youtube Channel.




What is a Contemporary Painting?

What should Contemporary Painting focus on?

Have you ever wondered what Contemporary art is?

  • Abstracts?
  • Surreal Portraits?
  • Contemporary Architecture?

Most of mine focus on the latter, but what about historic buildings and features?

Do they still count?

I often wonder, especially if I have a subject that could have been painted 100 years ago.

©2017 - Cathy Read - Globe Light - 55 x 75cm_

Truth is, there’s no rule that says contemporary painting should be of a certain subject matter.

Tate modern’s website adds a note on quality

“The term contemporary art is loosely used to refer to art of the present day and of the relatively recent past, of an innovatory or avant-garde nature.
Personally, I like the addition of innovation. Artists who create new ideas and styles are exciting. If you see lots of similar work, or copies of these original ideas it can become dull. Being drawn to contemporary subjects, I find contemporary art exiting. I love antiques but contemporary works are the antiques of the future.

That’s not to say all contemporary painting is good.

Far from it, all genres have good and bad within them, but, like with music, there will be some art that transcends the genre and is appreciated by all. Art created to reflect the here and now will date, but it will reflect the mood of the present. In 20, 30 years time we will see a distinct style, but today it’s harder to define.

There is a danger of seeing an unreal world in historic art.

The act of drawing or painting a subject can render it more beautiful than reality. The past was not clean and shiny like a 1950’s TV show. Everything was not immaculately kept. Life was rough around the edges, and so is today. Showing the flaws bestows a sense of humanity. Things feel more normal. The everyday now, not some idyllic memory of yesteryear. The goal of the Contemporary artist is to reflect this.

When I paint historic architecture, recording its current state matters.

Perhaps a hint of former glory, or a chance distortion of it’s original intention. I chose this light because of the shape and the grimy nature of the lower glass.


There was a danger that I might move into the twee so I included Portcullis House in the background.

The finished painting is not very grimy though.

 ©2017 - Cathy Read - Globe Light - 55 x 75cm_

©2017 – Cathy Read – Globe Light – 55 x 75cm_

I shall continue on my quest.

So, what do you think defines a Contemporary Painting?

Let me know in the comments.













St Paul’s at Night – Stop Motion Painting in progress

After last year’s filming, I fell in love with Stop Motion Painting recording.

One of the most exciting pieces of film from the Landscape Artist of the Year filming last June was seeing the stop motion film they took of me on the day. I love the way you can magically see everything fall into place. As a result, I’m trying to set up some recording in the studio as a routine.

Painting inspiration is a curious thing.

Sometimes it can be hard to find. And others you just walk down the road and it leaps out at you. This one of St Paul’s is a case in point. I’d been out for a wonderful evening celebrating at Sadler’s Hall – my husband receiveda long service award last June. The night had been foul, when we arrived. I met him at the nearest underground. Sheltering from heavy rain in the station, I watched as water poured down the steps. When he arrived we ran to the venue and were soaking. We dried off, enjoying the evening immensely and  forgot about the weather.

Leaving the hall after the dinner, the rain had stopped but it was still very wet.

Night was falling and the lights reflected of the wet road. Seeing St Paul’s lit up, I had to take a picture, with the traffic moving so much the cars were a blur.

I loved the sense of movement so kept them in.

The masking stage is difficult to see so I didn’t start recording until much later. Here is the piece after I’d finished masking off areas.


And a few close up details

©2017 - Cathy Read - St Pauls at Night work in progress- masking detail 2 - 55 x 75cm
©2017 – Cathy Read – St Pauls at Night work in progress- masking detail 2 – 55 x 75cm

I really loved the painted bike detail

©2017 - Cathy Read - St Pauls at Night work in progress- masking detail 3 - 55 x 75cm
©2017 – Cathy Read – St Pauls at Night work in progress- masking detail 3 – 55 x 75cm
©2017 - Cathy Read - St Pauls at Night work in progress- masking detail 5 - 55 x 75cm
©2017 – Cathy Read – St Paul’s at Night work in progress- masking detail 5 – 55 x 75cm

Here’s the painting before the clean up.


And the finished picture


I haven’t any stills of the painting so

Finally,  the Stop Motion Painting in Progress

The edited video has no sound and I had a few technical glitches with the camera stopping unexpectedly and moving. I’m getting the hang of doing them now, though.

I think it’s fair to say I’m hooked on Stop Motion Painting.






Sloane Square – Painting the City at Night

Painting the City at night shows a different world.

During the day you see everything but at night things are hidden and the light adds drama. When it’s a wet evening like here, there are reflections in the road as well as those off the windows. I’ve been keen to create more night scenes. When I went to Battersea in October for the Affordable Art Fair, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity and got some night scenes of a very wet Sloane Square. There are several photos that worked well but I decided on one partially framed by railings.

Ready to start painting.

©2017 - Cathy Read -Sloane Square at Night Ready to paint-masking fluid, graphite and paper - 56 x 76 cm
©2017 – Cathy Read -Sloane Square at Night Ready to paint-masking fluid, graphite and paper – 56 x 76 cm

Yes, it’s sideways. The board is a bit too big to paint straight on.

This is where the image starts taking shape.

Why paint the city red, when there’s multicoloured.

©2017 - Cathy Read -Sloane Square at Night with reference image - watercolour and Acrylic Ink - 56 x 76 cm
©2017 – Cathy Read -Sloane Square at Night with reference image – watercolour and Acrylic Ink – 56 x 76 cm

Taking some liberties with the night sky though.

©2017 - Cathy Read -Sloane Square at Night - watercolour and Acrylic Ink - 56 x 76 cm
©2017 – Cathy Read -Sloane Square at Night – watercolour and Acrylic Ink – 56 x 76 cm

Really happy with the finished result! I have my favourite paintings and this is one.

So where should I focus my creative energies next.

What would you like to see me do next?










Urban Landscape – Dirty Old Mill

Imagine an Urban Landscape.

Do you think of Clean?

Probably not. Cities are much cleaner than they used to be but cities and grim go together like pencil and lead. Like many other cities, the clean air act transformed Manchester.

As a child I remember lots of very dirty cotton mills.

And I mean dirty with black soot. Features hard to determine. Wherever you looked the urban landscape was grim.

In fact, I grew up thinking most old buildings in Manchester were made of black stone.

That was until they started cleaning them up.  After a while I forgot and think my memorywas wrong. I began to question whether things were really that dirty. Then I found this post in the Manchester Evening News which confirms Manchester was a very dirty places.

So, when I saw Quarry Bank mill my first thought was…

“It’s far too clean!”

OK, it is in a rural area but there should be some soot somewhere. So I thought I’d dirty it up a bit.

©2013 - Cathy Read - Dirty Old Mill - Watercolour and acrylic ink - 75 x 55 cm
©2013 – Cathy Read – Dirty Old Mill – Watercolour and acrylic ink – 75 x 55 cm

Now, that looks better!

Although looking at the photos from the Manchester Evening News, I don’t think it is dirty enough!

If you fancy seeing some more urban grim take a look at my Industrial Paintings Portfolio.

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Mixed Media Painting Inspired by Revolutionary Design

Mixed Media was once revolutionary

Like the Daily Express Building in Manchester, built in the 1930’s, it could have been built today.

©2011 - Cathy Read - Daily Express Building, Manchester-Digital image
©2011 – Cathy Read – Daily Express Building, Manchester-Digital image

Even now people are wary of phrase mixed media and aren’t sure what it is.

Simple put, watercolour is one medium, oil is another, ink another and so on.Mixed media is when you use two or more together. If you use acrylic paint and oil paint it is mixed media. You can add as many media as you like, even things like metal, threads, wood and other materials. I tend to stop at two or three but there’s no need to.

The Daily Express building, above, featured on my daily commute to school.

Sitting at the front of the top deck I could see clearly into the windows. Behind the glass, a mass of printing presses running paper at full speed creating the next edition. Hot on the press.

I often wish I’d had a camera and taken some photographs.

In the days pre-mobile phones the thought of carrying a camera around was the realm of professional photographers. Parents didn’t allow their children to carry expensive items to school on a daily basis. The most technical and expensive item I ever got was a watch.Taking photographs was a much slower and more expensive process. In our household photographs were taken rarely.

Chances are if you did take a photo it would be weeks before the film was finished and developed.

Then there was the high probability that the photo you took would turn out “Naff” to use the technical term.

The immediacy of digital images is something of a blessing.

Oh how I love them! We can instantly evaluate the image and modify our approach on the next attempt until we have a satisfactory result. There is no doubt there is skill in using film. I could have included some photographs in the painting. I might do one time

Instead I used a different photograph as the basis of this painting which I’ve called Express Essence.

The Daily Express Building in Manchester.

©2012 - Cathy Read - Express- Mixed Media - 40x50cm
©2012 – Cathy Read – Express- Mixed Media – 40x50cm

The mediums used are pencil, watercolour and acrylic ink. After battling with those curves for longer than I care to remember, I was keen to clear off the masking fluid.I now made the following notes for myself –

  1. Paintings always take longer to dry than you expect – let them dry!

  2. Always wait until the painting is dry before attempting to remove masking fluid.

Words for any Mixed media Artist to live by.

You can find this painting along with others in my shop.

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