Wednesday 29 November 2017

Contemporary Painting Studio Week 7 - Scaling up continued

Using my time on the train journey to 'Contemporary Painting Studio' at City Lit  to prepare my ' to-do' list  is proving to be  productive ( although my stitching project is feeling neglected) . It's a bit challenging to cut out and glue pictures in an airline style seat although I do find that the seat next to me is left vacant as long as possible...  
My lists are always over ambitious but I achieved quite a lot of it in this session:  painting over large scale newspaper collage,  reviewing potential compositions  and exploring large scale marks on pre-painted surfaces 

The first job  was hanging the newspaper collage from last week back up on the screen easel - much better behaved now it has some substance to it than the initial roll of paper . Then it was a case of  loading my palette with a large amount of white acrylic paint and climbing up the step ladder  and painting with a large brush -  very satisfying.  I did one coat before coffee and another afterwards  so that after lunch it was dry enough to take off the screen  and I could concentrate on my other tasks! 

After morning coffee we had a quick  review ( 2 mins each) of everyone's work - we did  this in the second session  and it was really interesting to see how peoples ideas have developed  or changed in the intervening weeks.  We were asked to think about approaches used   by  other people  that  we found  interesting and we might use   in our own work.

As I hadn't started on  collage at  the previous review, I picked up on different ways this technique was used: working into photocopies  with paint to simplify shapes  and restrict colour palette;  combining photocopies in collages  with layers of tissue paper, working into them with paint and drawing (then enlarging and repeating the process).

I also was aware of the importance of format - in a couple of cases  we discussed how changing the shape and proportions  could alter the impact  and focal point of the painting  and the difficulties of scaling up from a sketch - do you keep the same format or change it?
Although I'd made the decision not to work in oil paint (  thanks to Amanda's session on glazing I  could achieve a lot of the same effects with acrylics) , there was much to learn from the many accomplished artists there who do use oils , in some cases what wasn't working and why. There were some very interesting layered backgrounds being  painted over and scratched into to reveal the underlying paint  and a discussion  on how to lighten  areas  with glazes without using white ( can lose translucency ). I remember that lesson from 'starting oil painting' class.     

After lunch I  looked again at my collages and sketches to review the compositions, to select what might prove interesting developed  into a larger piece of work. In week 5, I'd  started to paint into a photo of a collage applied to a painted canvas( above). It was over done   and I  wasn't happy with how some of it was working so had printed off a black and white and a colour copy to play with.

On the black and white copy  I started off by cropping to create a square format then using white  thinned acrylic  blocked out the areas I didn't like  and reinstated the inner dark curve, extended the outer one  with dark greys and introduced some breakwaters!

On the colour copy I made similar changes but instead of cropping , I first  extended the top part of the image with greyish blue paint to create the square format. 

Having rolled up my  large newspaper collage for next week, I then used the screen as in previous weeks for taping up sketches/ collages , including mark-making trials  and set up  an A1 sized newspaper  painted collage ( masked off for square format ) on an easel.  

My order of large brushes from Jackson's hadn't yet arrived ( it has now!)  but I made do with what was available and had an interesting time  applying an initial colour wash and then experimenting with different colour mixes and marks.

I found some of the underlying colour lifted off (note to self: less water more medium need )  and the textured surface provided by the underlying newspaper collage  reacted very differently to  primed paper( brushmarks were not retained in the same way and the paint was more opaque)

 I used up my paint applying  drippy colour washes to yet another newspaper collage( where I'd simply pasted a whole sheet down ) from 'Ways into abstract painting'. I'm seeing ghostly hilltop villages and am looking forward to working into it exploring the found shapes. 

But I shouldn't get too distracted from my principal task  for this weeks class which is getting started on my large scale painting! 

Monday 27 November 2017

Double Glazing Installed

Although our house was only built in 2009, the wooden double glazing  was already deteriorating, particularly on the  back of house which is south facing . Earlier in the year  we had our back  wooden French door replaced with PVC double glazed version  as  bits  were falling off  ( still waiting for 6th visit to replace scratched pane but that's another story...) 

We'd originally thought we' d get the rest of the house done in 2021  with the lump sum from my work pension  but the state of  our bedroom windows on the top floor was  so shocking I didn't think they'd last that long ! So we bit the bullet and got quotes for  windows, new front door and replacement fascia boards  at the roofline which were also in a bad way.  We went for a local firm that our neighbours used last year. 

After 3  exhausting weeks  of  moving furniture around , taking stuff out to the garage, covering as much as we could with dust sheets , our replacement PVC double glazing has been installed. I'm currently waiting for the scaffolders  to arrive to dismantle the scaffolding which as you can see from the photo above  was extensive! 

It took 2 days to set up the scaffolding - they came on the Monday and left without letting me know  so I was a bit concerned  that it seemed a bit incomplete  considering  the fascia boards etc on the roofline were also being replaced.
But they came back the following day  to complete it - as we're end of terrace all this was needed so they could get at the roofline down the side of the building. We also lost  the signal from the Freeview satellite dish - you can see why as it's trapped between 2 lots of scaffolding boards.

 The work on the roofline took  a couple of days  working outside and they then started on the windows working from inside. I was wearing 2 fleeces  most of the time as it was bitterly cold  with  the  front door   left ajar for bringing frames in . At one point there was no door at all , nor a window in the front room ( below) ! 

The stack of   glazing units that had been removed grew ever  larger in the 'front garden' ( just as well we'd cut the bushes down to the ground)

 My studio was one of the last rooms to be done  so it acted as  a storage room for new units. 

It was also the first room I put back to rights, it looks unnaturally tidy . I'm resisting temptation to play however as there's still a lot of cleaning involved. I always forget that however careful workmen are, and however many dust sheets you use , building works always generates huge amounts of dust that gets everywhere
Still it was worth it - as Ian says, we won't have to do it again  and   last Wednesday when the wind and rain raged,  it was noticeably quieter.  

Friday 24 November 2017

Work Currently On Show in Harrogate and Faversham

  'Birchington Breakwaters' winner of Fine Art Quilt Masters  2017  is currently in the  Winners Gallery  at the Knitting and Stitching show in Harrogate
Tomorrow , I'll be at the opening of the  Christmas pop-up market at Faversham art gallery ' 19. Preston'  which is showing ' A Helping Hand' (above)  which  went all around Europe ( and Russia and Kazakstan!) as part of Textile News 'Freedom'  exhibition . I  will also have 6 'Text Collages' on display ( below) .

Friday 17 November 2017

Contemporary Painting Studio Week 6

Rather than 'train stitching' , on the way  to class at City Lit I was updating my sketchbook/notebook and had prepared a 'to do' list  of what I wanted to achieve. This  meant I was already prepared for filling in the mid-course progress review form for the second half of the course. 

After putting a coat of white acrylic  over the newspaper collage I did last week. I put some  transparent colour glazes( with W&N paints and Golden soft gel)  over the collages I'd primed with PVA . I used raw sienna , burnt umber and a grey mixed with burnt umber and ultramarine. I could have done with using less of the gel, they're a bit shiny but then so are the bits of magazine and I'm loving the retention of brushmarks with this technique.  

Another task I'd listed  was to look at the marks and colours in the collages and see if I could replicate those effects in paint ( a lot harder than it looks!)
Over coffee there was discussions about  pro's /cons of doing a practice based MA .  During  my mentoring  session Christine had suggested I   would benefit from this in tackling larger projects , lateral thinking and networking but I wasn't sure I was ready  for  such a big commitment , particularly that would  I put myself under too much stress  with my tendency towards   unachievable high standards! 
Gave me food for thought though. 
After lunch we had a look at  a selection  of the artists that  we'd  each  identified  as being of interest/influence/ inspiration in our work ( some of whom were new to me) 
Henrietta Hoyer -Millar ( at Lang and Ryle) 
Basquiat ( Barbican ) for fluidity, composition , text as part of image
Erik Foss - brushstrokes 
Pierre Soulages  ( my choice) black , colour showing through brushmarks ( led onto comparison with Robert Motherwell
Kaye Donachie ( Maureen Paley Gallery) Led onto discussion about visiting galleries - search for what's on using 'Art Rabbit'
Jasper Johns ( Royal Academy) I  still haven't got to this  exhibition despite it being  one of the reasons I became a  member as I was so inspired by his work at the  BM print exhibition 

I'd  primed several section of old quilts with gesso during the week , and had bought a couple in  with me to  use as backgrounds in paintings. 
However reviewing progress with Lucinda and looking at results from the mornings work including the  now dry painted newspaper collage ( below) I was going to work on , once  composition format proportions were taken into account, I really wouldn't be working much bigger than  my original  paintings! 

So she  brought  me  a roll of 150cm width paper  and with some help ( it kept curling up) taped a large piece to the  screen easel .
A stepladder , a copy of the Metro and a lot of PVA   were required.
I was  last to pack up but thanks to a borrowed hairdryer , it was dry enough to roll up again ready for painting next week! 

Afterwards  I headed to Westminster Reference Library to pick up my copy of 'What is Art', catch up with some friends I hadn't seen for a long time  and hear a fascinating talk  from the book's author Robert Good on how it came into being.
I was chortling to myself  reading it on the train coming home but that might have been the wine at the reception not to mention the mulled wine at Cass Arts where I stocked up with  2 inch masking tape in their Xmas sale.... 

Monday 13 November 2017

Contemporary Painting Studio Week 5

Week 5 of Contemporary Painting Studio  started  with  a  structured peer review session   looking at each others work : project  development  and experimentation processes;  paint application methods.  
I was paired up with someone   with a very different  style  to mine ( process driven,  painting in oils,  responding to the surface ,  diving straight in without a great deal of preliminary planning). Quite a contrast to my 4 weeks  of developing ideas - she couldn't comment on my painting methods as I hadn't really done any!
I'd already written on my  review sheet ' halfway through, get painting!!'  so I did.
I started by  having a go at the techniques that Amanda had demonstrated the previous week : priming a sheet of paper with diluted PVA and layering  glazes of transparent  paint mixed with various acrylic media. I brought my own Winsor and Newton professional paints in as  they were truly transparent  and some unopened Golden  mediums  I got in a set years ago. I  began quite systematically  but then when some accidents  started to happen  ( dribbles and bubbles - perhaps due to a brush not being properly washed?)  I got a bit carried away seeing how far I could push the layering.  I confess I got a bit giddy using colour after so  many weeks of  monochromes and neutrals.

After lunch I returned to working with a more sombre palette,  mixing greys to match the colours in the collages I'd chosen to work with ( without using black).
In this case I'd printed a copy of the collage onto t shirt transfer paper and ironed it onto some primed canvas  and   worked outwards  trying to replicate the marks.

 Still a work in progress, trying hard to work slowly to retain the freshness of the collage.

This collage again was printed on t-shirt transfer paper but applied to a painted canvas.

 I can see I've already overdone it  but have made some copies I'm trying different things with  to see if I can rectify it.
 I discussed with Lucinda some of the outcomes from my mentoring session with   Christine that were relevant to  painting particularly use of collage, moving into abstraction  and scaling up. The painting above is only A3 and I've currently only  worked up to A2 in size.
Lucinda  suggested I build up to at least 1m ( they have paper on a roll) , taking advantage of  the large screen easel I have. 
Our 'tea break' in the afternoon consisted of Prosecco and cake ( it was several peoples birthdays)  and looking at our preliminary work hung in the corridor of floor 3 (it's on for another week)  
I finished off making up another sheet of collaged newspapers  as backgrounds for the following week - A1  this time!

Friday 10 November 2017

On Being Mentored

2 weeks ago I was heading down to Eastbourne ( along with  thousands  of  of runners taking part in the Beachy Head Marathon/ 10K !)  for my mentoring session with Christine Chester at Studio 11.
I'd discussed  the possibility when I'd been there  for the excellent course with Alice Fox in June.
But after winning Fine Art Quilt Masters, booking onto the programme was the first thing I did when I got home , to help  me work out what to do next.

There was a lot of preparatory work:  a detailed questionnaire  on  ambitions, barriers to success , strengths and weaknesses, time available and  other relevant information;  'Pinterest' pinboards of an 'e-portfolio'   showcasing representative examples of my  work and of inspirations ( I did separate ones for art and textiles). This ' homework' in itself was a very useful process, to clarify  what was most important to me, what direction I wanted to pursue  and sadly what I was beginning to  acknowledge I had to let go in order to realise these.

In order to fit me in her  packed teaching schedule, we'd agreed that the tutorial session would be on the Saturday evening  after the 'Wild about Colour' course  had finished for the day before Strictly (  we're both fans, have to get priorities right!)

As I was free during the day, I  went to Worthing , about an hour by train,  to see the first exhibition by ' Curious Threads' , an interesting show in a lovely bright venue,  and then found some wonderfully weathered wooden breakwaters on the beach afterwards. A perfect day out ! 

I turned up at  Studio 11 as the class was packing up  to lay out the quilts I'd brought with me which along with the e-portfolio provided the basis of our initial discussions. 
Aside  from 'Birchington Breakwaters' and ' Eroding Margins' ( which I couldn't bring as they're currently on tour) , the pieces I like most  and represent the direction I wish to explore further are 'Red Flotsam' and 'Red Remnants'.  Red Flotsam in particular with its move towards abstraction ( I had help from the 'Quilt Doctors'!) , it's combination of direct painting  with acrylics and  monoprints  , repurposing an  old quilt  and the use of handstitch sum up all that I love best. 
I had a bit of an epiphany while doing the paper collage for Contemporary Painting Studio, that many of my textile pieces involve collaging fabrics. One of  Christine's suggestions was to  use this technique more as a design tool  for helping with abstraction and scaling up along with  mind-mapping to assist in developing more  abstract concepts.  

The mentoring programme  includes 2 days access to a print bench  and all materials and  equipment  so I  came prepared for monoprinting on acetate sheet using acrylics . I also brought my Gelli plate which I hadn't used since Rydal 2015 (  Christine also  had one available  but I didn't use it as it was the same size as mine) . Although I  have my painting easel in the 'kitchen studio' ,  I don't  have such good facilities  for wet work/printing as the conservatory in our previous house.

On the Sunday , the second session of ' Wild about Colour' was going on   so I was able to  watch  and hear  about what the participants were up to as well as getting on with some printing, mainly using blacks. It was useful to compare the acetate sheet with the Gelli Plate. Although you get very fine  subtle marks with the Gelli, particularly  in the 'ghost prints' of threads and feathers, and the build -up of paints and marks, its' much more of a  pain to clean and the size is limiting. 

On  the Monday , it was just me and Christine  and we spent the morning companionably , Christine making up dyes while I expanded over 5 print benches(!!!)  with monoprints  , colour matched with the red in 'Birchington Breakwaters'

I used the time profitably in a 'what if' session , observing marks made , exploring possibilities of  different fabrics and layering them, taking one idea and seeing how far I could push it.
In the afternoon  , we reviewed what I'd produced ( 65 monoprints!)  and talked about how I  could use them , making copies in paper  at quarter scale to work out compositions to generate ideas that could be scaled  up,  and the importance of  having bolder larger scale marks. 
  Appropriately ,I'd seen some giant scale mark-making on the beach that morning made by several large yellow earth-movers working on the sea defences! 

Most of the afternoon  however was spent in ' full and frank debate' about my work practices:   developing a professional approach , ideas about building a supportive network, reviewing and rebuilding my website as part of capitalising  on my 'brand' . This week I received  a detailed   summary and action plan based on our discussions and have a much clearer idea of  how to move forward. There will be a follow-up Skype discussion  about my progress in March. 

I enjoyed working with Christine very much. It was tough at times but  because I was prepared to be honest and open to ideas and a fresh approach I really benefited from the mentoring process. I appreciated Christine's insight  and felt privileged that she shared examples from her own experience and practice in response to my questions. Now it's up to me.