Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Back to Birchington

We revisited Birchington on -Sea  on Sunday and had a lovely walk and delicious Sunday roast at the Minnis Bay. We haven't been since last year and I wanted to gather further photos and sketches of the breakwaters which have provided a rich source of inspiration for my recent series of artworks.

Also  an appropriate place to celebrate   my quilt being selected for Fine Art Quilt Masters at the Festival of Quilts. Being one of only 20 shortlisted from entries all over the world is a real honour! I'm not sure of the etiquette in showing you the quilt yet as is still has to be judged so I'm erring on the side of caution.

 As a change from breakwaters, I've also been studying the layers of the cliffs, I'm thinking of a tryptich.

Drawing Tuesday: 'Electricity' at Wellcome; Hokusai at British Museum

A week ago I made a brief visit to the Hokusai exhibition at the British Museum - one of the advantages of being a member  is that   you don't need to book  ( although it's recommended at busy times) and  don't feel that you have to see absolutely everything in one go as can always come back another time!
I loved the 3D installation in the Great Court (top)  the result of family workshops  in painting and origami.

 I made some notes in my sketchbook of the work that caught my eye ( particularly the mark-making) and found  images online afterwards

An earlier version of the 'Great Wave' had a wonderful subtlety of line  and interesting composition  as did the one below  (the balance of dark and light especially).

The stylised  flow of  this waterfall reminds me of Gordale  Scar.

Towards the end of the exhibition there was a lovely black and red drawing of breakwaters ( a subject dear to my heart!) . I couldn't find the exact work on line but  the print below is based on it..
I loved seeing the drawings  and the stages  of the process involved in producing such finely executed and lively woodcuts, a shame that most of the items for sale in the shop are so crude and tacky!
In the morning , the location for drawing Tuesday was the Wellcome Collection . I was pleased to revisit the 'Spark of Life'  exhibition on electricity which had been the focus of the Contemporary
Drawing Sketchbook course and draw some items I'd missed!
I concentrated on the early voltaic cells ( battery) and Edison's first lightbulb.
And after the museums I  did some shopping for art supplies in Cornelissens, getting the assistants whizzing up their ladders to find items in the numbered  wooden drawers. It might seem a rather large bag just for a few tubes of watercolour  but I did buy paper as well!!  

Saturday, 10 June 2017


  Investing in 2 Sew-Ezi tables was  a good move , not only  do I have dedicated  set-up for both of my sewing machines but  with a wooden insert and being able to position them anywhere in the room  it makes boring tasks like stitching on hanging sleeves and labels so much more pleasant. I've spent many hours over the  few days   looking out the window and contemplating  the early stages of my next few journal quilts.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Saturday Life Drawing at at Creek Creative

 I haven't done any life drawing  for decades -  it's one of those disciplines  that I  don't really enjoy  but  I know is very good for  improving observational drawing and I've benefited a lot from in the past.  When having lunch one day at the excellent Creek Creative , I noticed there was a tutored life class with watercolour  with  John Wiltshire on 3rd June .  I  try to avoid doing things on a Saturday  to spend time with Ian but as he was working that day I had no excuse.

It turned out to be a really good  session, I've spared your blushes including photos  here  , my studies were mixed in their quality so I'm just showing you the better bits!

The first challenge was setting up the easel -  it's cunning design was not one I'd come across before but having tried it , I think it could be very useful to have at home.
We started off with some very quick poses using charcoal on newsprint,  concentrating initially on fast and slow lines of the body. The model moved around 90 degrees each time - I rubbed out my drawing each time and drew over it, liking the history of the marks. We did this exercise twice, beginning to look for the negative shapes the second time round.  
We then did a longer poise on cartridge paper applying what we'd learnt

After a  well earned coffee we did  2 studies on coloured paper using charcoal/ graphite and white chalk   looking at tone and  areas of high contrast .I went a bit mad with the white chalk on my first attempt ( top) , my second (below)  was an improvement.
 We all shared a table at lunch ( excellent soup and cheese scone as usual!) and chatted with  several very nice people, some having lived in the area a long time and already done several of John's classes ,  others like myself relatively  new to the area.  

In the afternoon   we moved to watercolour using a limited palette ( I feel a visit to Cornelissens is  required to buy some particular Schmincke colours - they were so intense! )

 We were allowed to do  a very light pencil drawing just to indicate the areas of contrast with quality of line  and then built up layers of watercolour  working from light to darks.  The  quicker painting I did on cartridge paper  ( above) was better overall  than the  hour-long one I did on watercolour paper( below)as  although I got some nice effects with hard and soft  edges, I continued when I should have stopped!   

It was a most enjoyable day , thanks to an excellent tutor, good company ( and lunch)  and  a fantastic model, without having to travel up to London. I'd definitely do further courses there, the Auerbach one looks intriguing.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Ways into Abstract Painting Week 5 : Personal Project

  The last session of 'Ways into Abstract Painting' was devoted to our own projects based on the techniques we'd been shown  during the classes and  researching examples at Tate Modern. It was a 2 easel  day for me as I tried different ideas out!
Shozo  Shimomoto 'Holes'  from  back and front

 At the end of the previous  class , I'd prepared several  layered ,painted surfaces with newspaper applied to cartridge paper then painted with white acrylic, thinking I would work on something based on Shozo Shimomoto's 'Holes'   But with further research on his methods of layering multiple sheets of newspaper I decided I didn't have time in a day to do it justice. 
The surfaces themselves  had dried  with very interesting textures - some people in the  class 'stole' my idea and produced some great pieces of work!  I look forward to using them myself at a later stage.   

As my main aim on coming on the course was to help me in my design work  for textile  pieces, I returned to the subject matter I'm using at the moment, breakwaters at Birchington on Sea .
 In the advanced Painting class last year,  in spare moments I produced a lot of layered, scumbled backgrounds  and brought some of these along with me.
My first   experiment was using  the black  dry brushstrokes of Pierre Soulages as inspiration . I loved how the background shows through but then went too far reintroducing some of the white  - it was better left alone !

I was keen to use a canvas as well as paper so the day before had painted over a failed painting with a grey-green.  Tinted white paint added with credit card and drips and splashes in the foreground in preparation for the breakwater posts

The last half hour before lunch I had  a very satisfying time mixing paint swatches to match the colours in Nicolas de Stael 'Marathon' ( I'd printed a photo of it and laminated it, excellent tip as inevitably paint gets on the photo!)

After lunch  using some of the colours from de Stael but deciding against original plan of impasto techniques I added more drips and splashes and painted  breakwaters in with dryish brush
I'd forgotten the pleasures of painting on canvas( I'd constructed this one myself with high quality fabric)   such a different surface to paper. I was a bit more considered with marks and  from   across the room the tutor said 'stop'  so I'm leaving it as it is for the moment! I might play around with options in Photoshop  and work on it some more but slowly.

So to try out more ideas I used another of my scumbled backgrounds and a  different format- a bit rushed so the paint didn't have time to dry between layers  and I didn't achieve the clean lines I was after  but bits of it are nice!

A very interesting review session in the final hour - peoples work was so varied with starting points from different aspects of the course and their own interests and experiences. Some had used oils rather than acrylics and that's something I want to explore further, the potential in layering colours and working more slowly.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Ways into abstract painting week 4: Tate Modern Visit

I've spent most of the last week stitching and painting my entry for SAQA 'Made in Europe II'   but  with that completed ( a day before the deadline!) I can concentrate on looking through my notes and sketches  in preparation for tomorrow's final session of 'Ways into Abstract Painting' . It's gone so quickly!
Last week we had an 'off site' visit to Tate Modern to research the work of a variety of artists , looking at the ways they use colour, composition, paint application etc.   We  were working in small groups , finding   artists who used one of each of a range of painting techniques  eg impasto, directional brushmarks and then discussed what their starting point was ( observational, memory, random ) and how treatment of the work affected the atmosphere or feeling of the piece) . Then individually  we did sketches of composition looking at tone and colour study.
We started in ' In the Studio' and the group I was with looked at works by Duncan Grant and Matisse . I wouldn't necessarily have chosen this work myself but  I  like how it's obviously based on a room and easels etc but interesting composition and colour choices.  Then the security guard suggested I deposit my rucksack in the cloakroom/lockers and on my return  it was difficult to get back into discussions so contrary to instructions , I went and looked at work on my own.
It's probably just as well, I'm not very good at looking at artworks with others unless it's a tutor pointing out key features etc. When I go to exhibitions with friends or Ian , tend to go round separately

It was interesting to look at work with an initial focus on painting methods - picking up on the 'grissage' of Max Ernst and the outlines and subtle layers of Jean Miro. The intense blue initially looks flat but looking closer you can see directional brushmarks.

Nicolas de Stael  was an obvious example of impasto! The notes on the wall/ website suggest that the title perhaps indicates the comparison with creating a painting and the extended exertion of a race. 
However the composition to me looked like a head  or helmet like the ones worn at the battle of Marathon  ( Ian' s interests in military history obviously rubbing off on me....)

I was so wrapped up in analysing this artwork with its' combination of burlap, paint  and a colour palette similar to the coastal ones I'm using at the moment that I lost control of my crayons . One rooled behind the security wire so I had to ask a security guard to retrieve  it for me!

Nearby was this large work by Pierre Soulages,  with its calligraphic heavy directional brushmarks.

I paid homage to Gerhard Richter  and did a quick sketch of Winifred Nicholson's calm  piece in ' Art and Society'  I like her quote about abstraction:
"the nature of abstract colour is utter purity – but colours wish to fly, to merge, to change each other by their juxtapositions, to radiate, to shine, to withdraw deep within themselves."

By the time I'd looked once again at Shozo Shimamoto's ' Holes' I'd run out of steam so had a quick look around the Giacometti before meeting up with the class for coffee and to discuss our findings.
It was really interesting to see what others had discovered, some had concentrated on just one or 2 paintings,  others had  a different mix to my own selection. I'd missed the Kurt Schwitters and the Peter Doig  so had a look at those before returning to City Lit. With browsing in the bookshop and getting sidetracked by Magdalena Abakanowicz I only had  10 minutes to eat my lunch!

In the afternoon we started on a project working from a similar starting point to the artist we'd chosen.  Most people were looking at composition  but my starting point was the process used by Shizo Shimamoto of layering newspapers . I was interested to read more about the Gutai group  having coincidentally  looked at work by 2 members.

I  had a happy afternoon glueing  pages and torn up bits of text and pictures from that day's Metro onto cartridge paper and then applying white paint using different methods ( credit card scraping, brushwork etc )  ready to tear up and layer the following week. . Reading more about  his work  and the process involved  I realised that the  delicacy of the orginal piece come from multiple layers  of newspaper glued with flour and water  contrasted with the use of enamel paint - I don't think what I've prepared will work in the same way. 

I've also been thinking about  why I wanted to do this class ( to help with  abstract composition in my textile pieces) and how I could best use what I've learnt so far in a final project.   Further work on holes and tears requires  more attention to materials and process than can be achieved in a days' class so I'm putting that interesting topic to one side for the moment.   

So for tomorrow I'm looking at the brushmarks/ impasto of De Stael and Soulages  and have printed and laminated photos so I can do some colour mixing , (particularly of greys)   in preparation for the next in my ' Birchington Breakwater ' series.