On my easel

on my easel

At the moment I have a great desire to be painting with no agenda other than to enjoy the materials, to see what will happen, to not worry about painting a finished piece, to just be laying down layers of colour shape. There can be a sense of ‘I should be doing this or that’ but I also know that working without expectation is an important part of what I do.

2013-11-24 00.25.19

Only a fraction of the work I produce is frame or wall worthy, but that is the way and nothing feels wasted. I learn something new every time I put paint to surface. As always I wish I had more time in the day and more days in the week but the more I am in the studio, the more I want to be there. Even when I don’t have time to paint for a few hours at a time, a one or two hour painting keeps my hand in and ensures I don’t have large gaps in-between painting days.

on my easel

It also feels good to leave work in a state where it is not completely resolved. Perhaps I will go back to these pieces. perhaps not. They are a good reference for when I am working on new pieces – each layer of a painting goes through a different phase – there are always the places where it is fresh and minimal, always there are the ugly stages and then there are flashes of something unexpected, so to have a few pieces around me at different stages gives me inspiration for new work. This piece was kind of a self portrait (so, so valuable to do I find) but in the end I think she became something else.

So I really would recommend just painting for the love of it on occasion, no expectations, no guaranteed result, just enjoy the feeling. For me all too soon it will be time to really get down to the work that does need to be done!

(Please excuse the dark shadowy photographs, I don’t seem to be able to pick the right time for photographing on these gloomy winter days.)

x x x

Advertisements

On my easel… Venturing into Oils.

On my easel

After many years working with acrylics (and loving all the possibilities that they allow) I am currently trying to put my fear aside about working with oil paints. Yep, I said fear. It has gone on for far too long. It is bordering on ridiculous. Acrylics I know, almost inside out. I know that used correctly they are one of the most stable painting materials around. They won’t flake, crack, fall off the substrate or discolour unless you do something really silly. Over the years, all the reading I have been doing about oils has put the idea into my head that they are the opposite unless you really know what you are doing. Because I have never known what I was doing with them, (fat over lean anyone? I know what it means but how much and when?) I have let them be. The odd tube I have purchased has taunted me into starting but never enough for me to open that lid. I know that as silly as it sounds, I will never really feel like a ‘painter’ until I can paint in oils. (yep…silly)

I have read and read and read and am currently reading The oil painting book by Bill Greevy and I have eventually decided that all the reading in the world is never going to make me an oil painter – only actually getting the brushes and paints out will give me even half a chance at that. So today I began. Confused, perplexed, trying to let go of doing it ‘right’ and just ‘doing it’. But I made a start and that’s what counts! Here’s to a new journey.

On my easel today …

At the harbour

Last Monday I was desperate to get some artwork done as it had felt a while since I had really been immersed in creating something. I decided to work on a larger piece, just on paper, mixed media predominantly working in oil bars. I didn’t want to think about the end result, just to enjoy the materials and the process and the piece above is what came out. I love working with oil bars – they enable me to make marks boldly and quickly, building up a surface that I can then draw into.

2013-11-08 17.42.14

Today I also painted another couple of harbour houses – this time at 10 x 7 inches they are twice the size of the smaller pieces from this week allowing for more detail and texture. I will be bringing back any that don’t sell this weekend and putting them in my online store next week.

2013-11-08 17.42.41

Changing the Subject

Changing the Subject

Small Harbour Houses

For the longest time it seems I have been focussed on the people in my work, character, expression and what we are about. But I have also had a long held fascination with the places we occupy, the places we come from.

small harbour houses 001

It is something I am really exploring in my latest work – figures and communities with the story also being told through the backgrounds and their environments but I have also wanted to work on some landscapes too.

small harbour houses 002

I have built up a fair amount of reference photos from visits to harbour towns and villages from holidays and places near my hometown and it has been great to dig these out and use them for some small pieces.

small harbour houses 003

I tried to work loosely – not wanting to forgo that haunting atmosphere that is such a central part of my work. Still wanting there to be emotion – a presence – an idea of the people that lived there. The landscape art that I connect with the most is that which says ‘someone walked over this land, lived in these houses’ the relationship between people and the places we walk or reside in. The way humans have touched the land and depended on it and changed it, for better or for worse.

small harbour houses 004

It was also fun to work in a series – painting four at the same time. They are only little (7 x 5 inches) but I can really see these marks and lines translating to larger work and can’t wait to try some bigger pieces.

I will have them for sale (£45.00 each) at the Holmfirth Art Market this coming weekend – mounted but not framed – so really affordable original art! Have worked on a few more today and hope to have some larger ones available too.

The Art Market at Holmfirth – putting your (he)art out for all to see.

Writing the last blog post has finally enabled me to catch up with more recent events that could only be written about after the last post (if that makes sense….) So much has changed since I am now concentrating more on my artwork and I have some very exciting plans in the works for the future. But a rather exciting thing has already happened.

Now I mentioned that I would not be applying for or exhibiting at any contemporary craft fairs for the foreseeable future and am instead focussing more on art shows and exhibitions (it pains me that there is such a distinction in this country, but unfortunately there is – craft and art are seen as two completely different things in the UK but that is a discussion for another post perhaps…..)

However there is one show that I have been lucky enough to have exhibited at for the 5th time just a couple of weeks ago and I think it is fairly unique in the fact that it champions both contemporary craft and fine art in equal measure, so therefor it is one that I have no hesitation in exhibiting at.

art market 2013

The Art Market in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire has just organised its 11th event and is going from strength to strength. Run by Victoria Robinson, Emily Stubbs and Brendan Hesmondhalgh and with the talents of PR and marketing expert Fiona Pattison of Happy 4pr (more on Fiona in the next post) they are dedicated to bringing together a diverse collection of artists and makers together for the viewing public – you can read more here.

art market 2013

I was rather more nervous setting up for the show as for the very first time (ever) I was exhibiting artwork only – no sculptures, no textile characters, no brooches… none of the quirky wee faces that usually draw people in, no smaller items that could be seen more as something to buy for a gift. Just a selection of larger framed paintings and smaller framed portraits, a few select prints and art cards – a very minimal display compared to previous times I have attended.

art market

It was a brilliant weekend. I felt very happy with my display in the end and I was satisfied that only having artwork made for a strong representation of my current work. Lots of people gave very positive and encouraging feedback and although lots of people commented on the fact that I did not have sculptures, not one person thought it was a negative thing. Out of the 7 small portraits I took, I sold 5 and had lots of interest in my larger pieces too. I had comments such as people thought that my painting had come a long way recently, that the emotion, storytelling and pathos were the strongest element of my work. One gentleman even said that he on viewing paintings he usually looked at and judged  technique first and subject matter second but that in my work the emotion draws you in and elicits a response but then the technique serves to back up the quality of the work – that might have been one of my favourite comments of the day!

Until….. a very elderly gentleman came up to me as I was packing up and told me that he had wanted to chat to me all day but that I had been so busy so he had waited till the end to see me. He wanted to tell me with great sincerity and emotion how much he loved my work, how much it moved him and how beautiful he thinks it. He almost had me in tears with his words and encouragement and he absolutely made my day.  Whenever I feel down about my work or have doubts, I will remember that lovely mans words – it makes it all worth it.

photo courtesy of the art market Uk

But that was not all. The icing on the cake was that I won the award for Outstanding Artist as judged and presented by local art legend Ashley Jackson. This is my second time winning the award – the last time I had a table full of sculptures and a rather emotional response. I have come such a long way since that show 2 years ago and whilst it is still nerve-wracking and completely out of my comfort zone standing there putting my work before the viewing public, I feel even more sure that I am a wee step closer to making the work that truly means the world to me. To receive an award for that, from such an esteemed artist makes it even better.

journal page

Well thank you for taking the time to read this novel of a blog post. I will just leave you with this handy hint for today – when exhibiting at an exhibition or an event – display an open sketchbook on your table or stand. I took my extra large painted moleskine sketchbook and it is no exaggeration to say that it received more attention than anything else on my stand. People took so much time looking through the pages and it was a greater opener to talking to people about my work. I had a few people asking if it was for sale (of course it wasn’t) but even more asking if I would do a printed book. Customers love gaining an insight into the artist behind the work. They love seeing the story, looking at works in progress and seeing all the work that goes into the end result of a finished painting.

Till next time.

x x x

Progress of a Painting …. part two

Continuing the journey of my latest painting (the inspiration and beginnings as described in this post) after developing an idea from images, places, dreams and sketching them out eventually the idea starts to come together for the first time on the canvas….

As always the light and atmosphere are really important in my work and I wanted to get the balance of establishing an interesting background but without it intruding on the central character and the emotion.

4

Lately I have been working using lots and lots of layers of glazes of colour, building them up all over the painting – painting, wiping away, painting, wiping away to give a translucent quality that changes as the light shifts. Painstaking slow but very satisfying when the atmosphere starts to appear.

7

Even with all the preparatory sketches, the face changed many times with this piece – painted and repainted over and over. I felt I had a clear idea of how she would look but I am discovering that rather than applying the character to the canvas with the paint, I am using the paint to excavate the character from the canvas (if that makes sense). At many points I probably could have left her as she was but there is always that sense that she is still not who she is supposed to be, so I paint again, changing the profile and this feature and that shadow – I am discovering who she is over many hours. It is the eternal question – how do you know when  a painting is done. There is no formula – you just know

Sometimes when I feel a painting is finished, I keep going anyway, just to see what will happen. More subtle and not so subtle changes, more and more glazes and layering of colours, more rubbing away and the emotion and atmosphere that I am seeking begins to come through.

Then finally I know it is done. I can leave it for a few days and go back to make sure I still feel the same way. But when I know, I know.

So here we have

Seeking Truth behind those Bright, Seeing Eyes

Acrylic on Board 2013

Progress of a Painting …… part one

It always starts with a seed of an idea, something that sparks my interest and a story begins.

2013-04-11 02.38.51

Lately I have been drawn to trying to create a sense of time and place, a certain atmosphere. Something that will draw the viewer in and encourage them to think that they may have been there at some point in the past. These photos are from my recent visit to Calke Abbey, a national trust property that has gone to wrack and ruin over the last decades but that is in a constant process of conservation to keep it as it is rather that restoring it to its former glory. There are lots of dark corridors with peeling layers of wallpaper and paint and it has an incredible beauty and atmosphere.

2013-04-11 01.10.57

Of course there always has to be a character, someone that could be me, could be you or someone you know or have read about or have imagined.

2013-06-02 00.15.22

I never tire of drawing and painting faces. They are a combination of self portraits, images of friends, from inspiration but also from my own imagination.

2013-06-01 23.54.21

With this painting I wanted to create a real sense of light and shade so took lots of self portraits with the light the way I wanted and sketched from those.

2013-06-01 19.03.12

The image started to come together in my large moleskine sketchbook that I use for painting in (someday I will do a slideshow of all the pages). Here I can work big, with no expectation, just enjoying the texture of the page and the feeling of the paint.

a

I prepared a lot more for this painting that I ever have before as I wanted to paint big (well bigger than my usual at 60 x 80 cms) and wanted to get the scale and perspective just right so I worked on yet another drawing and played with light and shadow too. Then time to start painting – but that is for another post!