Distant relative ?

Frederick John Skill (1824-1881)

Aliases: J.F. Skill

Professions: Landscape painter; Portrait painter; Illustrator; Engraver; Water colorist

According to Russell Skill who has undertaken some research on this artist….

Frederick John Skill –  Artist. Landscape, & Rustic Genre. Illustrator & Engraver. FJS studied under Cotman. He has paintings in the Royal Albert Museum and his painting commands a respectable price and come up for auction from time to time. Members of his family also did well in painting and engraving. FJS had a Son Edward who became a wood cut artist producing art for magazines, he was so talented that news paper/magazine publisher in Sweden recruited him to produce and teach the art there. He died and was buried in Sweden and was awarded a medal for his contributions to industry in that country.

Here are some examples of his work that have come up for auction:

If anyone knows anything about this artist I would love to hear from you.


Painting at Haslams of Hallgate Gallery today

I had a great time today as artist in residence at my friend and fellow artist Ben Haslam’s Gallery in Hexham. I demonstrated some of the methods I use to depict woodland, with a slightly modern twist, using stickers to mask shapes within the folliage. The Hallgate Gallery is a beautiful space showing artists work from the North East of England.











New Courses in September !

‘Breaking the rules of watercolour’


‘More cake?’ Watercolour and gouache on toned laid paper – Jason Skill

Subject – The course is designed to help you see the potential of working with watercolour on a number of papers and surfaces that are non traditional alternatives to traditional watercolour paper.

Length of the course10 weeks

Starts   13th September 2017

Costs  £120



‘Painting the sea with watercolour’


‘Like flames in the fire’ 98x70cmWatercolour on tub sized satin paper – Jason Skill – private collection

Subject – Painting the sea with watercolour

Length of the course12 weeks

Starts   13th September 2017

Costs  £164

‘Moving away from realism with still life –  watercolours ‘

‘Daff’s’ Watercolour – Jason Skill

This course is designed to help you make still life images that are modern, colourful, playful and inventive.

Length of the course10 weeks

Starts   15th September 2017

Costs  £120

No more Muddy colours …how to mix the colours you want when you need them.


Subject – The course is designed to help you improve your colour mixing. It will also provide you with a grounding in colour theory to help you make informed choices when you plan and paint your pictures.

Length of the course10 weeks

Starts 11th September 2017

Refreshments – tea and coffee is included.

Level  – would suit a relative beginner to painting or someone who has been painting for some time

Time –  10:00 – 13:00

3 hours per lesson

Paint medium – this course can be undertaken using watercolours or acrylics

Costs  £180


Painting With Skill Limited, Company No. 5763767, a company registered in England and Wales.
Registered address: Sikehead, Woodside Lane, Ryton, Tyne and Wear, NE40 3ND


In this painting I imagined myself as a Viking, landing on the beaches of Northumberland in search of gold and glory.  Which is exactly what you get in this picture: A nine year old boy, dressed in Viking garb, looking really uncomfortable  at the thought of marauding  through the land of the Prince Bishops with a bunch of blood thirsty Odin worshiping  thugs.



Pastel on paper

When we were kids my brother had a keen interest in railways. As well as messing about with electric model trains, making a layout with a station, sidings and landscape features, he also read avidly about the history of railways. Consequently days out were spent quite often at tourist railway sites then under construction. Wearing stout Wellingtons we would tramp around, muddy, sooty railway sites begging a ride on the footplate. York Railway Museum was not the clean smart site it is now outside the main sheds and the Tanfield railway was positively filthy. We also were lucky enough to have a Grandma who lived in Barmouth in Wales; this gave us a good excuse to ride on all the nearby narrow gauge railways that wind through the Welsh hills. I loved these days out and could understand my brothers enthusiasm and what drove the people who were helping to restore this part of our heritage with the gift of so much of their free time.


One of the high points of these days out was watching the Flying Scotsman speed past on its way to Scotland full of passengers in period costume waving at the crowds that stood cheering.  Little wonder then that I produced this pastel drawing and the accompanying Stevenson’s Rocket for my brother to pin up in the bedroom.


Pastel on paper

It’s no wonder everyone was so impressed with how fast his engine could go, if it came down a hill like that on its show trial !


‘Charlie and the Chocolate factory’ was read to me at school by one of my teachers.  I loved the story and must have been inspired enough by the tale to draw one of the central characters Willie Wonka. The idea of finding a chocolate bar in the street was good enough, but having your own chocolate factory seemed fabulous.  As an adult I now associate the story with the film version and in particular the Oompa-Loompas.  If you have seen it and have mentally visualised them, I bet you are singing to yourself that awful song they sing. ‘Oompa-Loompas didily doo’ ect .  It will be with you all day. You can hate me now if you like.


Matthew shows off his awesome recreation of a trolley bus, carefully crafted using Meccano in the days before kits, when you had to very carefully bend the steel plates and invent much of the design as you went along with the Meccano pieces you had available.  I  made a bizarre pig like creature I  called a ‘Rhinelopig,’ with plasticine,  which is placed on my knee. I know which I think is more impressive












The battle of Hastings was a big deal for me when I was at junior school, because we re-enacted it on the school playing fields. Mr Bradley used to take the boys for craft and had the bright idea of letting loose thirty or forty children with homemade weaponry bent on destruction. For weeks we forged helmets, swords, shields, axes and armour out of cardboard of varying thickness. We then painted them with authentic designs and sealed the handy work with PVA glue in case the day of judgement was inclement. Those that were more cunning in the art of war soaked their equipment in PVA until it became as strong as folded steel. We discussed the tactics of the battle itself and how we would re-enact the events whilst the home team drew lots to see who would be the unfortunate soul to play Harold. I was to be an invader, a Norman. This pleased me for two reasons, a). the kit was better looking and b). we were destined to win…..

Battle eventually came after weeks of waiting. A hill with young woodland growing upon it was chosen, as the best setting, but we were given stern warnings to keep away from the school pond and surrounding marshland, which sat at the lower portion on the hill for obvious reasons. We lined up in battle formations and on Mr Bradley’s signal we charged into action. With blood curdling war cries Harrods army ran down the hill whilst we struggled up the slope to meet them. We crashed together in a scene of utter carnage next to the school pond slap bang in the middle of the marshland. Those that fell were trampled underfoot or were unceremoniously pushed into the pond. Soldiers with PVA strengthened weaponry made short work of any contenders cutting to ribbons weeks of careful work causing fistfights to sporadically break out. All thoughts of enacting the events of the true battle of 1066  had evaporated. This was all out war and the last boy standing would be the victor. Boys turned on their own countrymen when no true enemy could be found until we eventually heard the loud shouting and whistle blowing of Mr Bradley now desperate to stop the slaughter. Limping wet and bruised back to the classroom with our heads bowed in shame at our behaviour, we were secretly delighted as to how the day had turned out. We had little left to take home and show our parents but what did that compare to a day we were unlikely to ever forget.

I doubt that today, with fears of legal action in teachers minds, whether this kind of event could take place in a school. If so, this is a great pity, as it was one of the key events that cemented my love of history and for that Mr Bradley I owe you a debt of gratitude.




This is one MEAN guy.  I really like this one as it shows how passionate I must have felt about what a horrible baddy this man was. I had a book that talked about the crimes of the real life pirates and Blackbeard was made out to be a truly horrible man.

This illustration of Edward Teach, the real name of Blackbeard, created in this 1736 engraving used to illustrate Johnson’s general history, shows him bristling with weapons with his trademark smoldering beard, staring wildly to emphasise his menace.



My Dad made an easel with an area for my paints, brushes and water pots when I was about

eight.  I loved it because it made me feel like a real artist. This was one of the first paintings I did on the new easel. One of many, bold portraits of real and imaginary villains and heroes. In my

painting of Bonnie Prince Charlie, I imagined him as a rugged, proud Scottish hero who loved the highlands and wearing a kilt. In my painting he has a full ginger beard. The  oil portaits by Louis Gabriel blanchet of Prince Charles Edward Stuart in 1739, portays the young prince at 19

looking like is will be some time before he grows a beard. In the painting above by Maurice-Quentin de la Tour, he is depicted as ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ at age 26 at the time of the rebellion in 1746. Still no sign of a beard.

Louis Gabriel Blanchet, Prince Charles Edward Stuart, 1739, oil on canvas, The Royal Collection. Royal Collection Trust / © HM Queen Elizabeth II 2017




Felt tip pens on paper

Recently I was at home ill watching ‘Reap the wild wind’ in the afternoon to pass the time.  John Wayne  gets killed at the end wearing a deep-sea diving suit, trapped in a shipwreck, attacked by a huge octopus.   This film was total rubbish, making me at the time laugh out loud at the poor performances, but I was delighted to watch it all the same, for it was one of those films that had stuck in my mind as a child. I can vividly remember his deep-sea diving helmet filling up with water and feeling strangely helpless and sad. Quite frankly for his acting alone he deserved it, but as a kid I was devastated.

Big John did not die; he was like Joe 90, he could be steadily relied on to get away,  however dangerous his opponents. Deep sea diving in one of those heavy suits was obviously  THE MOST DANGEROUS THING ON EARTH.


My ‘Action Man’ just had to have a deep-sea diving suit. To save the princely sum that would be needed to acquire this would take a considerable time with the pocket money I received each week. While I waited I fantasised by drawing pictures of divers, of which this is the only one that has survived. I also made a relief picture of a diver under the sea with bits of balsa wood, which my parents kept for years until all the bits eventually fell off. When at last I did get the suit I was not as pleased as I had expected with my acquisition. The suit was hellish to get on and off action man without real risk of pulling his arms and legs off, and the menacing plastic shark which came with the set deflated and looked sadly in need of oxygen within a matter of hours.




Oil paint on oil painting paper

This would appear to be one of my first attempts with oil paint. To get the paint it may have come from one of two sources: Painting by numbers was all the rage and I can remember receiving a set from my Auntie one Christmas. I disliked painting by numbers as I could see little fun in it. The tiny paint pots used to run out before I had covered all the patches so inevitably I painted on top of the carefully drawn out image with whatever I liked. Around the same time my Mum had an oil painting set bought for her and I commandeered it whenever possible. This painting was – I think – copied from a picture on an Airfix box. I can remember how special it felt to move this strange smelly paint about, so different from my little box of watercolours.



My brother and I are sporting fashionable home knit cardigans and white polo necks, well turned out for our infants school photo. The double portrait being the charming economy option for any young family wishing to avoid multiple school photo outlay.

These photographs would be placed with pride on top of the TVs, sideboards, pianos and fireplaces by parents and grandparents across the land, to remind them of those they loved most.

No one would be happy if you blinked, pulled a funny face or did not smile lovingly at the camera. This was a moment to show everyone what a lovely model child you were.  Boys would wet their hair in the sink and comb it into side partings to mimic grownups haircuts. The girls would lovingly prep each others locks by platting or combing repeatedly until their friends hair shone. Hair lice loved  school photo day as children freely shared combs and hair brushes. Nicky Nora the dicky explorer had no fear of being out of work as long as the school photographers were in business.

If these photographs  were so revered, I thought, why not make a  three quarter portrait version that could hang with pride elsewhere in our home.  Although charmed by this idea, my parents sensibly declined from framing this watercolour and adding it to the interior decoration.


Like all boys of my generation in Britain we were bombarded with sanitised images from World War Two. This came in the form of black and white war films that by now were regularly screened on the TV, plastic figures and models from Airfix, and action comics which were sold by newsagents. The school play yard was a battlefield full of continuous machine gun fire shouted by small boys holding imaginary guns, shuddering with recoil in their hands. This painting was worked from the cover of a Tiger Christmas annual, which I had bought at a jumble sale full of tales of daring do. When I look back on it now it is amazing that more of us did not turn into homicidal maniacs.