Yesterday brought an exciting invitation – to take part in an exhibition at Blue Owl Art in Grantham, Lincolnshire!! The theme of the exhibition is the landscape and I will be showing some of my most recent ink, watercolour and charcoal works….
I am continuing to produce my ‘Six in Twenty’ series; hopefully I will retain the spontaneity of this work and won’t be hampered by the knowledge they will be shown publicly….
So, along with producing new work, I will be considering which of my recent work to exhibit, producing a ‘catalogue’ list, sorting frames, artist statement….all the admin stuff…..
I am finding myself more and more inspired by nature, the landscape itself and by the language and writings concerning the natural world. I have recently finished reading ‘Meadowland: the private life of an English field’ by John Lewis-Stempel, and this book introduced me to the writings and poems of Thomas Traherne (1636 – 1674), an English, poet, religious writer and theologian. Traherne wrote about his spiritual discoveries in ‘Centuries of Mediations’, and the following excerpt, highlighted in ‘Meadowland’ really resonated with me –
‘You never enjoy the world aright till the sea itself flows in your veins, till you are clothed with the heavens and crowned with the stars, till you so love the beauty of enjoying it you are earnest to persuade others to enjoy it too.’
Although I am an avid used of social media, I find myself more and more, longing to be out in the landscape, to reconnect with what is really important….and to that end I have recently spent the weekend in the North Yorkshire Moors National Park – partly a birthday celebration, partly time ‘to stand and stare’….
…and although I am not presumptuous enough to imagine my artistic efforts will persuade others to enjoy the landscape, I hope, in some small way, they convey my love for the natural world.
Monday finds me in a reflective mood… among a myriad of people I follow on social media, one is the artist Lucy Marks. Every Friday she posts a vlog/blog highlighting areas of interest, a topic for discussion…..and a couple of these posts have made me question myself…
One vlog was concerned with finding your own style and anyone who follows this blog effort of mine will know this is an area I struggle with. Influences abound in the art world; we have all seen artist’s work that we love, and one trap that we, as artists, mustn’t fall into is that of slavishly copying. Techniques, colour palettes, media… these can all be adapted, but it’s finding your own way of utilising them that makes your work unique, recognisable…
The other vlog of Lucy’s that piqued my interest was about why we paint, what are we trying to say, what is the philosophy that underpins our work….
Now, no way do I profess to be a deeply philosophical thinker, (some of that stuff at uni, such as why is a table a table, went straight over my head…) but even I recognise that, as artists, we are all trying to say something, even if it is ‘this is what I can see in front of me’…
For my final show at uni I produced an installation that incorporated sound called ‘Connecting Threads’..
…apart from the odd sketch which was more of a diagram for the aforementioned, I did no painting whatsoever….and although, I successfully justified/situated the above Threads, I find categorising my painting more difficult….or perhaps I am over-thinking things – why do I have to label my work at all?
Much easier for me is to say what interests me….
I have always loved being outdoors; lately I have become fascinated with the literature and language we use to describe nature and the landscape…. and have found the books of Dominick Tyler (Uncommon Ground) and Robert MacFarlane a joy to read – for me, Landmarks transports me to the high mountains, the fenlands, the woods, even those in-between areas…I think I have said in a previous post about how his writings have made me stop and look at the details in the landscape, and having a language to describe it makes life so much easier…so, with all this reflecting taking place, and spring having sprung, I took myself off for a walk by the River Soar…
…the reeds stood like giant cotton wool buds….
I sat and listened, church bells, a distant cockerel – a little late in the morning perhaps – the ‘flap flap’ silent soar of the pigeons, a lonely mallard squawking…the gentle flow of the river, ripples glinting in the sun…and as I walked along the desire path – so much better than ‘shortcut’.…I blew a kiss to the two magpies I disturbed – is that part of a song or an old wives’ tale – and watched a butterfly dance along… The path was springy underfoot, in fact, in some places it was definitely squelchy…
…but as I squidged and squelched I thought of a poem by Vicki Husband… called Desire Paths – I am never quite sure about copyright so I am not posting the whole poem, although an image of it is available on her twitter page @VicHusband – but the last lines are beautiful…
‘where every desire path reaches for its vanishing point
before heading off to shortcut a rumoured route between the stars’ ….
The poem even has its own desire path….
I am not sure that my work could every conjure up an image as poetic as that, but I keep trying…perhaps it’s the magic, ethereal, contradictory landscape that I am attempting to capture…
…and on the subject of language and words to describe features of the landscape..is there a word for the seemingly silver-tipped blades of grass, glinting in the sun…..?
'Paint Yourself Calm' by Jean Haines, Cadmium Yellow, Carbazole Violet, Cascade Green, clingfilm, Daniel Smith watercolours, Jean Haines, landscape, Perylene Red, Quinacridone Burnt Scarlet, Quinacridone Sienna, salt, Wales, watercolour
Another day, another attempt at Jean Haines ‘no pressure’ washes… and as before, all the pigments used are by Daniel Smith, apart from the Cadmium Yellow…
The LH wash is Quinacridone Burnt Scarlet, Cadmium Yellow and lots of water, resulting in the normally stubborn yellow almost disappearing. The RH wash is Perylene Red and Cascade Green with subtle clingfilm effects. I love the Cascade Green, but (and maybe this is my application…) I seem to get muddy effects from it under the clingfilm…..
The middle wash is Carbazole Violet and Quinacridone Sienna with…..salt…
From there, I practised some exercises from Jean’s book ‘Paint Yourself Calm’…as it has been a rather damp start here in Wales, I thought I would recall warmer days with no pressure landscapes and a loose poppy (yes, that’s what they are supposed to be!!) wash….
I am finding that Jean’s way of working up to more serious pieces is beginning to work for me…I know that my first washes are not going to be masterpieces, so immediately I don’t get anxious if things go awry…
From there, I returned to the rose wash that I am slowly building up….
The colours are darker in reality…. but I am reasonably satisfied with this… if only I had painted it on heavier paper – (it says it is Archival Quality Extra Heavy Weight Cold Press Paper 180lb) the edges have curled and there is slight buckling with the amount of water I used. However, as this was supposed to be just a study, I shouldn’t be too disappointed…
I even have another effort on the go….
art, Bowed But Not Broken, charcoal, Connecting Threads, Facebook, ink, installation, Jean Haines, landscape, Lincolnshire, Loughborough University, Patchings Art Centre, pencil, pigment, social media, Twitter, water, watercolour, West Wales Coast
I don’t want this post to be a wallowing ‘Woe is me’ post but feel I have to fill in some of the background details so the above title becomes clear….
I have really struggled since graduating from Loughborough University to find direction in my art. Although it was stressful, I thoroughly enjoyed creating Connecting Threads, my final piece based on the canals and cotton mills of the Midlands.
A large scale installation that included sound, I found it difficult, for varying reasons, to pursue this genre of art once I had graduated. I therefore reverted to a medium which was more practical – drawing and painting; I even managed to sell two or three pieces.
Still, I found it difficult to define my style, subject matter and medium – I dabbled with pencil, ink, charcoal and watercolour…..nonetheless I felt lost, going from tightly drawn figurative pieces such as Bowed But Not Broken to looser interpretations of the Lincolnshire landscape and the West Wales Coast…
No longer in the bubble of university I felt alone, rudderless, doubting that I would ever achieve my dreams. It’s now I have to admit to spending a lot of time on social media, procrastinating…..And it’s there that I came across the work of the self-proclaimed ‘watercolour addict’ Jean Haines. I must admit I enjoy using watercolours although I have had no formal training, which could be viewed as a good thing! Whilst I appreciate the skill of the more formal watercolour artists, I was drawn to Jean’s work because she paints in a loose manner, letting the pigment and water work together to create pieces full of life, light and energy. Suffice to say I was hooked and became a bit of a ‘Jean Haines’ addict ( or should that read stalker, in the nicest possible way I hope), reading her blog watercolourswithlife.blogspot.co.uk, her books, looking at her dvds, watching her demonstrate at the Patchings Art Festival…
The icing on the cake – attending one of Jean’s workshops – came this August; an early birthday present from my very supportive husband. What is immediately evident on meeting Jean is her sheer passion for watercolour! The day was filled with brilliant demonstrations, one to one sessions, and fun and laughter all the way! Jean is a very generous teacher, spending time making everyone feel special..
Jean advocates starting each of your painting sessions playing with pigment to produce three individual washes to help you learn how the colours mix (or not) and I have been endeavouring to follow her advice and teachings. (I would add here, that I take no credit for the methods and subject matter – they are all Jean’s and Jean’s alone.)
As I said earlier, Jean is a very generous lady, and even though she is super busy and very much in demand, she always finds time to comment on my efforts, giving encouragement and suggesting ways to improve.
Initially I struggled, but gradually I have become more confident, trusting myself more and, from just being pleased when I managed to produce ‘something’, I have found myself seeing areas for improvement, and more importantly, knowing what needs to be done….
I shall endeavour to chart my progress in subsequent posts but suffice to say I am learning to trust the process and …yes I am enjoying it!
Bockingford, Bowed But Not Broken, coast, Daniel Smith watercolours, experimenting, Extra White, Fabriano Artistico, fenland, HOT press, Indigo, Jackson's Art Supplies, Jean Haines, landscape, North Norfolk, NOT paper, painting, Payne's Grey, Raw Umber, Seawhite of Brighton, watercolour, Winsor & Newton, Yellow Ochre
As someone who hardly lifted a paint brush during my time at uni, and even prior to that, wasn’t exactly known for painting, I have recently been spending my time attempting to get to grips with the medium. Even though it has a reputation for being difficult, I have chosen to work in watercolours – glutton and punishment spring to mind! I haven’t had any formal lessons in watercolour – I’m very much ‘going with the flow’! I’m sure watercolour purists would be horrified, and I’m probably breaking every rule in the book – but you know what they say about rules….
Using this medium, along with lots of water, has also provided me with an opportunity to ‘loosen up’ Sometimes I have a tendency to work ‘very tightly’, as in an earlier piece I did called ‘Bowed But Not Broken’ –
Initially I experimented in my sketchbook – the good old Seawhite!
I used Winsor & Newton Professional watercolours along with some Daniel Smith colours – both very good, worth paying that bit extra for! Eventually I could put it off no longer – I had to experiment on ‘proper’ paper! Although the saying is that a good workman should never blame his tools, I think this is definitely a case of ‘the better the paper, the better the result’! I therefore treated myself to a selection of watercolour papers from Jackson’s Art Supplies – highly recommended for their easy to use website and prompt service!
It’s been really interesting learning what the various papers can take! First off I tried Fabriano Artistico Extra White HOT press 140lb. Lovely smooth paper, the paint, along with a fair bit of water moved beautifully over the surface. Here, I should admit to not stretching the paper beforehand…I know, I know – rules… As well as using paint brushes, and here I’m admitting to a bit of hero-worshipping – I use Jean Haines Watercolour brushes (again, worth every penny!) I also use sticks, wooden coffee stirrers & old/unwanted plastic store cards. On this paper I was able to swirl and push the paint around very easily without damaging the surface.
Although the paper withstood quite a lot of water, it did buckle a little – perhaps a reminder to stretch it prior to use. However, I see they do the same paper in 300lb so I might order some of that next!
Next I tried the Bockingford NOT 250lb paper – an altogether different surface! This paper withstood a LOT of water but I found I couldn’t use the plastic card to move the paint around so much as I damaged the slightly rougher texture of the surface. Instead I used my brush along with a wooden stirrer (used very lightly) as well as tilting and turning the paper to create runs.
I was impressed with both papers and would be hard pressed to choose a favourite! Not so my choice of colours, I seem to have a thing for Payne’s Grey, Indigo, Raw Umber and Yellow Ochre – reminding me as they do of the North Norfolk coast in winter, and the autumnal fenland fields of my childhood.
I have yet to try the Arches Aquarelle 400lb sheet or the Two Rivers 300lb – mainly due to my lack of confidence in my ability and the cost… When I do pluck up the courage I will let you know how I get on!
'Fragile Lands', Blue Owl Art, cafe, coast, Contemporary, craftwork, exhibition, Grantham, ink, Inspired by Nature, landscape, Lincolnshire, North Norfolk, The Peak District, watercolour, Yorkshire Dales, Yorkshire Moors
I am pleased to announce that I will be participating in the ‘Inspired by Nature’ exhibition at Blue Owl Art, Grantham, Lincolnshire. Running from 30 April – 31 August, the exhibition is for work that has been, like it says in the title, inspired by nature!
I will be exhibiting a new body of work, which I have called ‘Fragile Lands’: it consists of eight pieces inspired by my love and affinity for the landscape – The Peak District, Yorkshire Dales and Moors, the North Norfolk coast and beyond….
Growing up in rural Lincolnshire I came to love and respect the landscape in all its many guises, whatever the season. As a child, time seemed to stretch on forever, and although the countryside altered with the farming calendar, the bones of the landscape appeared infinite. Fast forward to the present and we are aware, more than ever, of the earth’s fragility. The mixed media work I will be exhibiting looks to capture this juxtaposition of permanence and vulnerability: the contour lines of the landscape contrasting with the delicacy of the tissue paper and soft ink and watercolour washes.
I am thrilled to be exhibiting at Blue Owl Art again – it’s a great gallery, has a great selection of contemporary craftwork as well, along with an on-site cafe serving delicious food – what more could you want?!
Readers of my last post will be aware that I am developing some new work based on my love of the landscape – the contrast between the apparent permance of it and it’s fragility particularly appeals to me. Inspiration comes from the Peak District, Yorkshire Dales and the North Norfolk coast – these areas are very special to me, I always feel ‘home’ when I’m there. I also love words, and for this new work I was also inpired by an extract from Robbie Burns’s ‘Tam O’ Shanter’ beginning ‘But pleasures are like poppies spread..’ (see previous post if you want to read the extract).
Another poet was brought to my attention (again via Countryfile) – Simon Armitage; in particular his Stanza Stones poems which have been carved into rocks around a trail from Marsden to Ilkley. Not being sure about the laws of copyright (with regards to living poets) I am not reproducing the poems here but if you check out the websites you can read them. Armitage’s observations about the landscape and weather are magical, evoking a real sense of place.
So, suitably inspired, I have carried on developing and experimenting!
and therein lies the rub! To be able to show potential galleries/sell them, the works need professionally mounting and framing (when will I learn to make my work a standard size!) but how do I afford that without selling some…..Catch 22! Any tips from you guys would be greatly appreciated!
Meanwhile, on with the work…..
anticline, Blue Owl Art, Bockingford Paper, Colin Prior, contour lines, Countryfile, Devon, Drop Me A Line, Grantham Tennis Club, Honiton, indian ink, Inspired by Nature, International Postcard Show 2015, landscape, landscape photographer, Louise Baker, Michael Fairfax, nature, Norfolk, Nottingham, Peak District, Robbie Burns, Sketch, social media, Surface Gallery, Tam O'Shanter, Thelma Hulbert Gallery, tissue paper, transient, Twitter, watercolour pencil, world
Although social media comes in for a fair amount of criticism (and in some cases I feel it is entirely justified!) there is a positive side to it as well. Without it I wouldn’t have discovered all the amazing artists that I have, picked up lots of tips from artists who generously share their techniques, methods and general advice for us mere mortals trying to find our way, or learn about so many opportunites and exhibitions. It was only through social media that I learnt about the International Postcard Exhibition at the Surface Gallery, Nottingham. I submitted three ‘postcards’ for display
It was also on social media that I spotted an invite to contribute to an installation – part of the ‘Drop Me A Line’ exhibition by Michael Fairfax and Louise Baker at the Thelma Hulbert Gallery, Honiton, Devon. Having seen examples, again on Twitter, as well as having a ‘bit of a thing for lines’ as anyone who was at uni with me will testify, I thought I would submit some work. My sketches of the Peak District and of the ‘cliffs’ along the Norfolk coast concentrating on the ‘anti-clines’ were my inspiration!
And here are the ones I submitted –
I like the strength of the line in the landscape – whilst also acknowledging the transient nature of the world around us. I had been playing around with this idea for a while, but felt like I needed more inspiration as I wasn’t totally sure about the direction I was going until, luck would have it, I watched ‘Countryfile’ on Sunday night, all about the bard of Scotland, Robbie Burns. It was the piece involving landscape photographer Colin Prior and his quote from Burns’ poem ‘Tam O’Shanter’ –
‘But pleasures are like poppies, spread,
You sieze the flower, its bloom is shed;
Or like the snow falls in the river,
A moment white – then melts forever,
Or like the borealis race,
That flit ere you can point their place,
Or like the rainbow’s lovely form,
Evanishing amid the storm,
Nae man can tether time or tide’
that really captured, in words, what I was trying to portray.
So, suitably inspired, I am now trying to develop these pieces further –
So far I have used Bockingford Paper, indian ink and watercolour pencil in an attempt to show the contour lines and anticlines, but with the addition of tissue paper and washes to portray the transient nature of the landscape. I can see these developing into larger pieces….
Might even submit these to Blue Owl Art, Grantham, for their ‘Inpired by Nature’ exhibition – 30 April-31 August 2015 -will see how they evolve…