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Doreen Fletcher’s Early Drawings

June 9, 2020
by the gentle author

Doreen Fletcher is an astonishingly brilliant draughtswoman. Even though her drawings are often undertaken as preparation for paintings, they stand as art works in their own right.

Readers are already familiar with Doreen Fletcher‘s paintings of the East End that were published in a monograph by Spitalfields Life Books and exhibited with such success at the Nunnery Gallery last year. Today it is my pleasure to introduce you to a selection of her early pencil drawings which originate from the Potteries where Doreen grew up. These pictures were done by Doreen in her teens and early twenties, and have never been see together before publicly.

Grandad at Prospect Terrace, 1975

“My grandad was a hard man when young, it was said he could break a brick with his bare fist. A survivor of Ypres, he gravitated to Knutton Forge in Warrington after the war where he met my grandmother, the daughter of a local shop-keeper who was forever making and losing money. As my granddad was twelve years older, it was assumed that he would die first but he was left a widower at the age of eighty-four and lived on for another eight years, despite a life of heavy smoking and beer consumption. To the end, he remained unable even to make a sandwich for himself, although he was a dab hand at making wreaths, a cottage industry in which the whole family took part every Christmas.”

View from our living room window, 17 Bailey St, 1975

“This was the view I saw from our living room window every morning, from when I was a tiny child until I left home at the age of twenty. It was identical to thousands of other views from other houses. At the end of the yard there was a row of three shacks – a coal house, an outside loo and a tool storage area. There was very little colour in those streets, save for the odd dandelion and escaped budgerigar, although sparrows abounded and there were pigeon fanciers with coops.

The house where I grew up was in a dip amongst row upon row of terraced houses, built in the eighteen-sixties to house mill workers. They were huddled together, forming a tight knit community of families, with corner shops surviving by selling produce on tick and a couple of pubs. Most of the inhabitants had been born within a few miles of Newcastle-under-Lyme, the only exceptions being an Italian couple from Milan who came to work in the mill, and a few Polish and Yugoslav refugees who spoke almost no English and who had a special delicatessen on the other side of town. All were accepted.”

Mum & Dad on the Front Step, 1976

“Alice, my mother, worked in a munitions factory during the war and became a servant afterwards. It gave her ideas about not having the newspaper on the table and no tomato ketchup, and healthy eating. Colin, my dad, was a farm worker who wanted to be a vet but did not like school and suffering a year long illness when he was seven  deprived him of the education he needed.

After I was born, they moved into the town from Stableford because he could earn more money there. When they started installing pylons in the late fifties, he worked on that. Later he worked putting in pipes for North Sea Gas too but, when he was fifty-seven, he had a brain haemorrhage at work, probably caused by a pneumatic drill, and never worked again.”

Houses Under Snow, 1980

Mother in the kitchen, Bailey St, 1975

“The scullery was a tiny multi-purpose extension. The cooker was by the entrance on the left, in front of my mother, and, on the other side, was a washing machine with a mangle. My mum is pouring water from a kettle kept on a shelf of the kitchen cabinet. I can still remember the midnight blue and gold hues of the teapot. I bought it as a present, thinking it was very posh and sophisticated unlike the common brown tea-pots in daily use.”

Directly behind her you can see a bath, which was considered upwardly-mobile when it was installed in 1957. There were no taps, the hot water came from the geyser on her right, so by the time there was enough to bathe, the hot water was lukewarm.”

St Giles, 1989

Corner Shop, Bailey St, 1975

“Almost every street had one or sometimes two corner shops, where provisions were bought on ‘tic’ with the bill paid, hopefully, on Friday. This was the morning after most workers got their wages. Mr & Mrs Jones ran the shop favoured by my mother and their daughter was an art student, so they were happy to pose for me.”

House in Whitfield Ave, 1977

House in Fenton, 1987

“Visits to Newcastle took on a new poignancy once my former home was demolished and I began to document the facades of the terraces that remained, wandering the streets often with my dad in tow, carrying a scrappy sketchbook and a camera I bought second hand.”

The Cottage Inn, Tunstall, 1998

“My grandparents ran ‘The Cottage Inn’ during the war and my dad my worked at nearby Shelton Bar Ironworks while courting my mum. After the war, the family moved to Prospect Terrace, Newcastle. Their dog, Paddy, moved with them but he used to take the bus every day at 11 am back to the pub in Tunstall. Everyone knew him, including all the bus conductors.”

House in New Ashfields, 1998

“I sold the painting I did from this drawing. I was attracted by the neat geometry of the brickwork. This house was in the New Ashfields, built a few decades later than the Old Ashfields where I grew up. The houses were generally more spacious and upmarket than my streets.”

Chapel in Silverdale, 1983

Fairground, 1977

“Every Summer, a fair came to Newcastle during the ‘Wakes’, two weeks in July when the potteries closed down and those who could afford it went away to stay in a boarding house or caravan in Rhyl, Blackpool or – for the more adventurous – Great Yarmouth. For those of us, who stayed behind there was the fun of the fair, with hotdogs and candyfloss.The summer I made this drawing, I visited Abergele in North Wales, where my boyfriend’s grandparents had retired. They lived in a bungalow in a suburban avenue close to the sea and, while I was there, we visited an amusement park in Rhyl. It was here I was persuaded, against my better judgement, onto a ride and I recall praying for the horizon to re-establish itself. It was the first and last time I ever took a fairground ride.”

Margaret Ann Hair Salon, 1995

Paintings copyright © Doreen Fletcher

You may also like to take a look at

Doreen Fletcher’s Early Paintings

Doreen Fletcher’s East End

Doreen Fletcher in her own words

25 Responses leave one →
  1. June 9, 2020

    Brilliant work!

  2. June 9, 2020

    Beautiful drawings infused with grace and warmth. It is striking that at an age when most young adults can’t get away from their parents fast enough, Doreen chose to observe them closely with loving care. Look at the tenderness bestowed on her mother in the kitchen: eyes and lips set in concentration, fingers gripping the teapot and kettle.

    Doreen told me that as a teenager she set up a stepladder in the corner of her bedroom to make an aerial drawing – proof of this extraordinary artist’s firm dedication, and proof that good pictures can be made anywhere.

  3. June 9, 2020

    A true artist. Stunning work

  4. Vicky permalink
    June 9, 2020

    These are astounding! The brickwork in the drawing of your Mum & Dad is unbelievable.

  5. Shawdian permalink
    June 9, 2020

    Superlative

  6. Helen permalink
    June 9, 2020

    Wow! These are amazing. I love ‘Mother in the Kitchen’, those tiles! And the geyser! We had one of those in the kitchen of my first office job in the early 1980s.

  7. Ron Wilkinson permalink
    June 9, 2020

    I really like the House in Fenton drawing withe the stone lintels and sill. Love the texture.
    Thanks, Ron

  8. Christopher permalink
    June 9, 2020

    Such loverly drawing, bringing to life an earlier time.

  9. Jill Wilson permalink
    June 9, 2020

    These are brilliant drawings, not only in the incredible attention to detail but also in the way she has captured subtle lighting effects and different textures. And the characters of the people.

    Will there be an exhibition of the drawings?

    I was also amused to read about the dog going to the pub every day. My grandfather had a dog which would go to work with him on the bus every day and then catch another bus back home!

  10. Paul Williams permalink
    June 9, 2020

    These sketches are astonishing – thanks so much for sharing

  11. Peta permalink
    June 9, 2020

    Morning. Beautiful drawings Doreen which stand as pieces on their own right. I particularly like the couple outside the shop on Bailey Street. Best wishes Peta.

  12. Elsa permalink
    June 9, 2020

    At the risk of repeating earlier comments, wow, amazing. I hugely enjoyed the images of everyday life. I shall certainly look out for her work.

  13. Richard Smith permalink
    June 9, 2020

    Doreen is an excellent artist and I always enjoy looking at her work.

  14. June 9, 2020

    What an incredible talent she is! Recording in word and image in such a hyperrealist way. I see another book on the horizon.

  15. Julie P permalink
    June 9, 2020

    Doreen’s drawing of her parents on the front step was on display at her exhibition at the Nunnery – from afar it looked like a photograph and I was fascinated by it! Thank you for sharing more of Doreen’s drawings, they are superb.

  16. Jo Ross permalink
    June 9, 2020

    These are just wonderful. I love grandad sitting in his chair and the corner shop couple. It’s hard to believe that they are drawings and not photos.

  17. Judi Jones permalink
    June 9, 2020

    I’m stunned that this lady with such tremendous talent was not appreciated by the art world – the detail in her drawings and paintings is astounding – I’ve loved seeing her work – Thank you Gentle Author for discovering such a wonderful talent and sharing it with us. And thank you Doreen for documenting such important images in such a lovely way.
    It’s an absolute treat.

  18. Mark permalink
    June 9, 2020

    Wow, Just wow!
    Should be nationally known.
    The fairground Carousel is particularly stunning.

  19. June 9, 2020

    Lovely, Amazing Pictures. Thank You So Much!!🥰😘💖🌺🌷🌸🎀💟

  20. June 9, 2020

    Just when you think you have seen the best…….along come even more amazing pictures.
    Such fine, evocative and tender portraits, drawn with such care and incredible detail.
    Doreen’s mum in her kitchen reminds me so much of our family kitchen back in the day……
    wonderful work. You are ‘up there with the greats’ as far as I’m concerned Doreen.
    Thank you for sharing these with us all through the GA.

  21. June 9, 2020

    Doreen is such a gifted artist.

  22. sarah permalink
    June 10, 2020

    oh my word … such wonderful captures … complete essence of terraced life , like gently stepping back. … made gently beautiful. Thank you ducks.

  23. June 11, 2020

    Stunning talent, and a magnificent piece of social history. Love it, love it, love it.

  24. Su C. permalink
    June 12, 2020

    If for nothing else (because it all is so wondeful!!), the texture in these images makes me know exactly what it is like to be in these places.

  25. June 12, 2020

    Absolutely brilliant drawings Doreen. I specially love the one of St. Giles and View from our living room window. And differently, Mother in the kitchen.

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