Residencies 1992-2014

Newcastle Building Society Yera of the Artist residency 2001- 2002. Man Just Looking (2002)
Oil on board. 75cm x 65cm.

A surveillance security camera captures on a screen behind the counter a man looking expressionless at a Norwich Union portable pension poster. I loved the contrasts of this everyday scene at the branch office in Darlington. Perhaps in the distant future people will discover this painting and puzzle over its possible meaning. I'm still figuring it out but that's why I think it is one of my more successful paintings- it retains a certain mystery or an openness to narrative possibility.
I spent 6 months with the Newcastle and had a studio on the top floor overlooking ther Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle upon Tyne. This was my second Year of the Artist residency so naturally I thought I had made it and was beginning to ride the wave of that elusive art world thing called 'success'.
It was a great experience but the manager who set the project up and found the Arts Council funding (the company put next to nothing in out of their very deep pockets) left before the project started. The person who took over was less excited about it and the CEO was almost totally without interest (in art not in money). This is classic example of a wasted opportunity because the basic idea had not been sold properly to the CEO. My preference would always to be involved somehow with the project negotiation so that I had the chance to explain my mission and ambition with the person holding the purse strings.
One brilliant idea not taken up was to offer employees the option of a portrait drawing in place of the portrait photo for the intranet data base being created by HR. The idea came out of a number of quick portraits I did of people who said they would prefer to have the drawn image in place of the photo. A forward thinking creatively minded director would have run with that as an idea and it would have raised the value and profile of the residency. I had a vision of other comapanies taking up the idea once they saw how well it worked at the NBS thus giving me a legitimate role in the economic life of the country. So if you are a company CEO or a head of HR drop me a line and lets talk business!
Collection of NBS.0
 
Newcastle Building Society Year of the Artist residency 2001. Man Just Looking, detail (2001)
Oil . 0cm x 0cm.

Detail of the security screen. My view of the public area was like a fly on the wall.0
 
Newcastle Building Society Year of the Artist residency 2001 (2001)
Coloured pencil. 0cm x 0cm.

3 colour portrait of John Liddle from life in Marketing. One of 3 or 4 done of individuals as an experiment to see if these could be used in place of conventional photos on the company HR intranet database. The idea was to give individuals an alternative that celebrated and valued them more powerfully. This could have been a world wide winner but alas no one in authority was interested. Still it's a good idea...0
 
Newcastle Building Society Year of the Artist residency 2001. make Over for Marketing. (2001)
Oil on canvas . 0cm x 0cm.

View of the Marketing Dept at Head Office with an imaginary colour scheme to drive away the dullness of a drab grey office. Based on sketches done around the office.
Collection of NBS.0
 
Newcastle Building Society Year of the Artist residency 2001. Reception. (2001)
Oil on canvas . 0cm x 0cm.

The commissionaire checks his screen. An executive briskly disappears into the lift stage left. Plants fed by the cleaning lady grow stage right. Light reflects of polished marble floors. Based on sketches done at the NBS Head Office. Collection of NBS.0
 
Newcastle Building Society Year of the Artist residency 2001. Girl Drinking Tea. (2001)
Oil on canvas . 0cm x 0cm.

Down in the mortgage approvals section the rituals of daily life continue. This painting is a meditation both on artificial light and on the way people humanise their individual territories within the machine of banking. The pink scarf cuts across the hard metal surfaces of office furniture. The computer screen has a mirage of a beautiful Northumberland beach as a saver.
If in 2001 I had been able to make good quality digital images of my landscape paintings I could have offered them to the entire company as screen savers. This would have been a novel alternative for employees which would also have raised awareness of my non residency work leading perhaps to increased private sales and greater human happiness for all (more time painting on the beach for me too). Why can't these things be made to happen more easily??0
 
Newcastle Building Society Year of the Artist residency 2001. Sketch at Darlington branch (2001)
Graphite pencil. 0cm x 0cm.

Clare Hart and Mr Danoub. I became fascinated with the relationships between people particularly between customers and staff viewed from the comapny side of the counter. I made hundreds of drawings in 4 branch offices and many more at head office. A pattern began to emerge after a while and it had something to do with observing repeated actions and rituals and the observation of the minutae of the office landscape - the daytime habitat of the bank worker. Only a few of these ideas had begun to form paintings by the time the residency was over (6 months at 2 days per week). Another 6 months might have seen a really interesting body of paintings but the funds were not forthcoming from the bank - and that was long before the recession.
Interestingly the NBS was my mortgage lender and a couple of years earlier I had offered them some paintings in lieu of mortgage arrears which was politely refused. Even when I had managed to set up studio in the inner sanctum they still wouldn't help! I seemed to me like a missed opportunity for both of us and when I looked at the executive bonuses, cars and generous pension schemes it also looked mean spirited considering the celebration through art that I was making of their company.0
 
Newcastle Building Society Year of the Artist residency 2001. Drawing notice board. (0)
. 0cm x 0cm.

Following the success of this idea at Volante Ltd I got hold of some laminate from the factory and created a notice board as soon as I arrived. This would be a changing display of drawings, newspaper cuttings, ideas. In addition I set up a page on the NBS intranet site and updated people with drawings, paintings and news of my activities in the branch offices and in the schools.
Nowadays this would be called a blog and be alot easier to manage. It would also include video footage with a fly on the wall camera in the studio. The blog would be extended to the world wide web somehow and the publicity would be further grown with Twitter and You-Tube. Nor sure how much actual drawing and painting would get done. Not that the company would be bothered so long as it was getting its positive public profile built.0
 
Studio view over the Laing Art Gallery. (0)
. 0cm x 0cm.

Room at the top. Interesting place to have a studio.0
 
Newcastle Building Society Year of the Artist residency 2001. Studio. (2001)
. 0cm x 0cm.

My creative nest up in Training. Bit like an eerie with the views over Newcastle. Bit surreal for an artist who was late with his mortage payments and threatened with legal action by the same company who was now accommodating his disgusting habit with oil and turpentine.0
 
Sponsors Club for Arts and Business awards (0)
. 0cm x 0cm.

Hilary Armstrong hands over the award. But who did it benefit? Certainly not the artist though I suppose it did no harm. No doors were magically opened, no productive contacts made, no business deals sealed. Art was still undervalued in Newcastle. David Faulkner, head of Arts and Business in the NE, who went to a great deal of trouble to help me, seems to be having a characteristically fun time with the bongos.0
 
Elswick Triangle Residency 2002 (2002)
. 0cm x 0cm.

The finished Mural by The Elswick Senior Black Boys Group, Mill Lane Youth Centre, Newcastle. A birds eye view of an imaginary future Elswick showing Sceptre Street with Snoop Dog and other heroes (local and international), cartoon characters, self portraits, exotic animals, new buildings. The image was conceived as a reflection in a giant pair of mirror shades showing day and night.0
 
Elswick Triangle Residency 2002 (0)
. 0cm x 0cm.

Senior Black Boys Group mural at Mill Lane Youth Centre, Elswick, Newcastle0
 
Elswick Triangle Residency, Mill Lane Mural (2002)
. 0cm x 0cm.

Senior Black Boys Group in front of their creation at Mill Lane Youth Centre, Elswick, Newcastle0
 
Elswick Triangle Residency 2002 (2002)
. 0cm x 0cm.

Hanging the mural at Mill Lane Youth Centre, Elswick, Newcastle0
 
Newcastle City News (0)
. 0cm x 0cm.

Boys from the Senior Black Boys Group show off their new mural with Habib their youth worker at Mill Lane Youth Centre in 20020
 
Night Talk. Elswick Triangle Residents Association (2002)
Oil on board. 90cm x 55cm.

Painting of Hartington Street at dusk based on drawings.0
 
Universal Building Society 2003.The Office, Southerly Gale. (2003)
Oil on canvas. 157cm x 91cm.

Main office with stormy weather brewing up over Newcastle out of the window. Wind curls in through open windows. A crow sits in the tree outside. Office workers look at drawings on their screens and discuss art i huddled groups. I have inserted a new building onto the skyline. All is not as it seems at head office. I felt Newcastle lacked any significant sky scraper worthy of its name as capital city of the North East of England so I put in a golden tower block next to the Norman castle. I really enjoyed using painting to be subtly subversive and felt that these paintings were a new departure for me both stylistically and in terms of story telling. The ideas came to me as I painted. I wanted to make a kind of wide screen epic out of the humdrum daily grind of the office. 0
 
Universal Building Society. Cuppa Tea, Clear Skies. Universal Building Society (2003)
Oil on canvas. 121cm x 91cm.

A sunny afternoon at head office. The CEO is having a meeting with the head of HR. Office workers are entering, checking and progressing data and the woman looking at her desk is dreaming of a lime green planet in the outer reaches of Alpha Centuri... Beam me up Scottie!0
 
UBS Building Society Finance Dept 2 (0)
Ink on paper. 0cm x 0cm.

Drawn on location at UBS Building Siociety Head Office, Newcastle upon Tyne0
 
Paper trays, UBS Building Society 2003 (2003)
Ink on paper. 0cm x 0cm.

Drawn on location at UBS head office Newcastle upon Tyne.0
 
Universal Building Society. Counting the Cash, Steady Rain (2003)
Oil on canvas. 91cm x 101cm.

Behind the tills at the Berwick branch on a grey rainy day. I made about 50 drawings during my 2 days there and several were of the hands of the teller as she counted out bank notes to the waiting customers. There something very interesting for me about these large meditations on office life, the way a poster promoting a new product looks surrealy out of place in the daily routine of town life, the way a cup of coffee goes cold on the counter or the way the colour of the ceiling changes from yellowish to purplish as the cool daylight interacts with the warm interior strip lights.0
 
Sarn, UBS Building Society 2003 Newcastle (0)
Oil based pencil. 0cm x 0cm.

Drawn on location at head office at the Universal Building Society, Newcastle in 2003.0
 
Executives meeting Universal Building Society 2003 (0)
Ink on paper. 0cm x 0cm.

Drawn on location at UBS headquarters, Newcastle upon Tyne0
 
Universal Buiolding Society Branch Office, Blyth (0)
Graphite NFS. 0cm x 0cm.

Drawn on location at the UBS branch office, Blyth, Northumberland.0
 
Universal Building Society branch Penrith (2003)
Graphite NFS. 0cm x 0cm.

Drawn on location at the UBS Penrith branch 20030
 
Universal Building Society work in progress IT department Oct 2003 (2003)
Oil on board. 0cm x 0cm.

Down in the basement of IT with the lads that make this place run smoothly. My first en plein air office landscape. having been demoted from the top floor among the cool executives I found myself painting in the store cupboard of IT. It was a useful change of scene and i felt more connected with the everyday life of the company down there. Hence my celebration of their space in oils.0
 
Universal Building Society artist's statement (2003)
Acrylic and collage on canvas. 0cm x 0cm.

The project explored some interesting vehicles for the display of my work including drawings and photos in the annual report which was a terrific idea from the marketing department.0
 
Universal Building Society with Abbeyfield School, Ponteland (2003)
. 0cm x 0cm.

Making Masks. The residency sent me out to 10 different schools - quite a heavy schedule for a relatively short project. I went up to Coldstream in Scotland, across to Lazonby and Kirkoswald in the Vale Of Eden, schools in Newcastle and up to Blyth. This was all part of the company's image building as a bank for the people.0
 
Universal Building Society with Darras Hall Primary School (2003)
. 0cm x 0cm.

A day drawing faces. The children imagined themselves as senior citizens.0
 
Volante residency exhibition poster (0)
. 0cm x 0cm.

Year of the the Artists residency at Volante Ltd, Trimdon Grange, Co. Durham 2000-2001. Exhibition at Trimdon village Labour Club. The exhibition included drawings of members made at the club as well as drawings and paintings made in the factory and with the children of Trimdon Grange Primary School.0
 
Volante residency, NC router in Machine Shop (1999)
Pastel. 0cm x 0cm.

Drawn on shop floor during pilot project.0
 
Volante residency, Machine Shop 4pm. (2000)
Pastel. 85cm x 60cm.

Year of the Artist residency. Volante PTIS Ltd, Trimdon Grange, County Durham. Pastel painting executed on afternoon shift.0
 
Volante residency. (2001)
Oil on board. 47cm x 59cm.

Year of the the Artists residency at Volante Ltd, Trimdon Grange, Co. Durham 2000-2001. Studio painting based on drawings and photograph.0
 
Volante residency. Detail of pastel drawing of machine shop made on night shift. (2000)
Pastel. 75cm x 55cm.

Year of the the Artists residency at Volante Ltd, Trimdon Grange, Co. Durham 2000-2001. Made on noisy shop floor about 11pm.0
 
Volante Residency. Machine Shop 11pm (0)
Pastel. 75cm x 55cm.

Year of the the Artists residency at Volante Ltd, Trimdon Grange, Co. Durham 2000-2001. Made on night shift about 11pm.0
 
Volante residency. Drawing Ken Proffitt's portrait. (2000)
. 0cm x 0cm.

Year of the the Artists residency at Volante Ltd, Trimdon Grange, Co. Durham 2000-2001. Part of my residency involved drawing people at work and I was able to get clearly recogniseable likenesses even in 5 second sketches as people moved about in their daily work. I offered formal portrait drawings to anyone willing to sit for 30 minutes (outside works time). In the end just 4 people took me up on the offer but I suppose it's a bit of an unfamiliar experience and might cause you to be the but of work mates jokes when the effigies were displayed on the shop floor display board. Ken didn't give a fig what others thought and was extremely supportive of the artist in residence idea. Thanks Ken!0
 
Volante residency notice board. (2000)
. 0cm x 0cm.

To keep everyone up to date with my work I erected a large laminate notice board to which I blu-taced a range of drawings and other information. I used this as sounding board for what was working. It was vital for me to get some feedback from people in a number of different ways as i knew this would give me something to work with and could help to create a positive feeling. The problem at the beginning was "who needs an artist" and "this isn't for me" or "is this a management trick". By the end I think few if nay thought this but instead I had made many friends and good acquaintances and as far as I know no enemies. At one point I erected a large blank sheet of paper and a pen on a string to see what people would draw. Predictably people didn't draw much at all but made plenty of rude jokes to such an extent that I had to take it down as it was turning into an official graffiti board. Still a worthwhile experiment as it humanized my presence there.0
 
Volante residency mural. (2000)
Acrylic on laminate. 244cm x 122cm.

Year of the the Artists residency at Volante Ltd, Trimdon Grange, Co. Durham 2000-2001. Made with children of Trimdon Grange Primary School at the school. Installed at factory in 2001. Still there on display undamaged despite company falling into receivership and now in new ownership. Second mural displayed at school. Painting was delivered by flat bed truck to Bishop Auckland Town Hall for temporary exhibition.0
 
Volante residency. Working at Trimdon Grange School on 2 large murals. (0)
. 0cm x 0cm.

Year of the the Artists residency at Volante Ltd, Trimdon Grange, Co. Durham 2000-2001. The artist worked with small groups of children selected by teachers one day a week for about 10 weeks including 3 field trips, one to the factory, one to the village and one to the countryside nearby.0
 
Volante residency Mural (0)
. 0cm x 0cm.

Year of the the Artists residency at Volante Ltd, Trimdon Grange, Co. Durham 2000-2001. In 2007 I visted the factory to check which pictures they still had on their walls. Despite the company going into receivership after John Park's retirement and now under new ownership, with debts wiped out, there were still a large number of paintings and drawings still up on the office walls and wonderfully the mural still up on the shop floor completely undamaged and as bright and cheerful as ever, the acrylic paints having hardly faded in the artificial lights of the factory.0
 
Volante Residency 199-2001. Exhibition opening. (0)
. 0cm x 0cm.

Year of the the Artists residency at Volante Ltd, Trimdon Grange, Co. Durham 2000-2001. Christmas exhibition opening in the factory with children from Trimdon Grange Priamry School. 0
 
Things Can Only Get Better... (1999)
. 0cm x 0cm.

Tony and Cherie Blair get a surprise New Year present from the artist during the opening of the first exhibition at the factory in December 1999. The PM was shown round the factory by John Park the CEO and founder of Volante and what was impressive was how many locals he and Cherie knew by name. Remarkably relaxed and informal we all thought. He maintained his famous grin throughout which must be exhausting on the face muscles. Still, one has to maintain appearances in front of the TV cameras and this was all before WMD changed his expression.0
 
Volante Residency 199-2001. Exhibition opening. (1999)
. 0cm x 0cm.

We finished the pilot project with a PR coup. CEO John Park on left used his charm and knowledge to persuade John Burton, Tony Blair's Trimdon agent, to arrange for the Blairs to come and open an exhibition of mine and the kids work at the factory during their annual Christmas visit to the Sedfgefield constituency.
With Cherie pregnant the media were exceptionally interested and it didn't take much to get the BBC cameras over plus some of the traditionally deaf arts world officials. Everyone whose anyone wants to have their moment in the sun. The effect was to massively increase (albeit temporarily) my worthiness as an artist and we managed to lever out a significant amount of money from sponsors for the Year of the Artist part of the project in 2000.
Also in the photo are the marvelous head mistress of Trimdon Grange Primary School and my wife to be, Alex.0
 
The Dead of Winter, English Nature 1992 (0)
Ink and oil pastel. 0cm x 0cm.

Painted on location at Castle Eden Dene National Nature Reserve, Peterlee, County Durham. 9 month residency, followed by 3 exhibitions in Peterborough, Hartlepool and Newcastle upon Tyne. First artist in residence for Natural England.0
 
Ash Poles (1992)
Ink and bleach.. 0cm x 0cm.

Painted on location at Castle Eden Dene National Nature Reserve, Peterlee, County Durham. 9 month residency, followed by 3 exhibitions in Peterborough, Hartlepool and Newcastle upon Tyne. First artist in residence for Natural England.0
 
©2004 Tom McElderry