Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Selecting work for national open exhibitions

We Know That Light, pastel on altered book pages, 44 x 35cm (framed)
based on drawing in sketchbook of Preble Beach, Cranberry Isles, Maine.

Bring Back the Golden Days,pastel on altered book pages, 44 x 35cm (framed)
drawn on site outside Ware House, Cranberry Isles, Maine.
I am submitting for the Discerning eye open exhibition again this year.  I have never got my work accepted, I believe I have submitted four times. Above are the two pieces I selected and will carry down to London o Friday.

Here are the rules:


  1. The ING Discerning Eye Exhibition is open to artists born or resident in the UK only.
  2. All works must be for sale.
  3. All works must be within the maximum size limit of 20 inches (50cm) including frame.
  4. All works must be an original creation by the artist; prints (including prints from i-pad drawings), photographs, and sculptures are acceptable.
  5. All entries must be accompanied by a fully completed, signed Entry Schedule and a fully completed Discerning Eye Work label.
As you will notice, there are no particular rules about what to submit. the exhibition has a particular way of selecting work and usually I google the selectors and think about them when I choose what to submit.  this year I have only just done that.


The ING Discerning Eye Exhibition is selected each year by 2 Collectors, 2 Critics and 2 Artists.
Gill Button – Painter & Illustrator
Charlotte Hodes – Fine Artist
Kwame Kwei-Armah – Young Vic Artistic Director
Tim Rice – Author and Lyricist
John Penrose – Past Chairman Discerning Eye
Louis Wise – Critic & Writer, The Sunday Times

I'm submitting two pieces because I think a pair is stronger than a single and although I agree with 'art tax' and don't object to paying to enter, I think it can be a bit like being a gambler… it's easy to add ad believe you will have a better chance with more. Because I am exploring opened books at the moment, I hoped I would make two of these for the exhibition. I haven't had much time lately but time pressure can be useful.

Having looked at the selectors… I think I might have chosen a different strand of my work… Below are the three opened books that I didn't choose. Wish me luck! I've already booked my train down to collect unaccepted work so don't fret on my behalf, though.
The Gathering Storm, pastel on altered book pages
Based on drawings made in Kenya

Lost in the Woods, pastel on altered book pages
drawings made in the Rockefeller Gardens, Mount Desert Island

Britains Structure and Scenery, pastel on altered book pages
drawings made on IBBAS paintout

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Everytime I come to Cranberry..I see something new

From the 'Beach Party', pastel on paper 17 x 16 cm

I find myself in a place that I have been in many times before but as I find my pastels and look at what's in front of me the light is just a little different, the position throws something new into focus and I can't translate/record it fast enough. Above I stood at the end of the dock while tens of young people 18-27 and a few parents jumped off the dock, lounged on towels and played jazz from a speaker. It was a high ozone day so everything was a bit bluey haze.

The First Beach Trip, 2019, pastel on 'opened book' The Friendly Road.

A New View, Goergie's point, pastel on 'opened book', The Friendly Road.

Old Pine Story, pastel on 'opened book'  The Study Reader
I found a stash of used hardbacks at the new resale/antique shop on the island.  I created an 'opened book' for later and assembled a series of pages for single images with book pages.  I may donate this one to the fair for the raffle.

Trying time for Little Plants, pastel on 'opneed book', Gardens.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Another story about exhibiting at the Mall Galleries!

Patrick and I took the 8:10 train.  Once in London, we went to the British Museum for a coffee. From there I walked over to Trafalgar Square and down to the Mall Galleries.  

On arriving I found my exhibitor's label but decided to save it for later. I walked to the 'naughty' room and to my surprise my work wasn't there. Instead, I found it in the main room, hung with other flower and still life works by RBA members and other exhibiting artists. I met quite a few members in the hours that I looked at work, drank coffee and introduced myself.  David Paul Rowan introduced me to others and put me at ease. Gabriella (last year's NEAC drawing Scholar) and Sergio came to support me. 

PV day

During the day, I met Terry Watts and saw his impressive paintings (one was on the invite). I found Mick Davies (after his wife greeted me and introduced herself) - I was a big fan of Mrs Hokusai's Hairdo!
work by Mike Davies
I visited Messums to see Antony Williams' exhibition. https://antony-williams.com/messums-exhibition-2019/ Later, other friends and family met me at the exhibition.

Tom Marsh and me
It was brilliant to meet Tom Marsh, a regular exhibitor at the Mall Galleries.  He knows some of the plein air painters I met during my NEAC scholarship year. I also introduced myself to Annie Boisseau whose work I admire.

On Thursday I went to John Sprakes talk/book launch/poetry and music event, held in the exhibition. I had met him at the PV and his congenial nature and strong vibrant paintings recommended me to the talk.  https://www.mallgalleries.org.uk/artist/john-sprakes-rba-roi
Brian Johnson and one of my paintings

While there, Patrick's dear friend, Brian, appeared, and we looked at a bit of the work, including my paintings, together.  His adorable words, something like 'it's quite exciting to be able say my friend has work in an exhibition here,' made my day.

Mr Wei Shao, and a fellow opera singer

The following Saturday, I went to the RBA's annual dinner.  We were entertained by the Patron of the RBA, Mr Wei Shao, and a fellow opera singer with a piece from La Traviata. Patrick and I enjoyed our table with dinner companions: Peter Newsome & Marion Eastwood (member and exhibitor) and Lorrain Abraham, member of the Society of Marine Painters who was an exhibitor in the RBA show.  I also had a wonderful encounter with revered Chinese artist, Feng   Sixaio https://www.royalsocietyofbritishartists.org.uk/royal-society-of-british-artists-honours-chinese-artist-sixiao-feng/ His wife and daughter-in-law took photos of me by my work and explained his practice in China.

As ever, the whole experience was delightful and exhillarating.  And I feel that I couldn't have got more from it, which is also good. (unless I'd sold…)

You can find the catalogue online here: 
https://www.mallgalleries.org.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/royal-society-british-artists-annual-exhibition-2019 my work on page 10

Thursday, June 20, 2019

A Few Days Drawing in London

The Plinth and the Priest, pastel on book page
Every year the New English Art Club runs a series of classes to coincide with their annual exhibition.  They are run by members and very affordable. I was able to sign up for two this year: one with Daniel Shadbolt http://danielshadbolt.com; the other with Ruth Stage: https://www.newenglishartclub.co.uk/artists/ruth-stage-neac.  

The weather was pretty poor for Daniel's workshop but we were all prepared and I managed to draw in the rain with an umbrella throughout.  True I had to close up my pastels and water pooled on the top of the containers once while I waited for the downpour to subside, but it was fun learning that I can be a guerrilla painter! I had to work with the rain.  My book was damp throughout and the pastels behaved differently. We were in Traflagar Square with Daniel and in St James Park with Ruth.

 For both worksops we brought our own materials and were encouraged to work in our own way. In Traflagar Square the goal was to draw people.  Obviously we would need the surroundings for context but I found it fun to have the figure focus.  Daniel also wanted us to try to create drawings which we would be able to look at and  tell where we had been standing. As I was working small (in my Silent Traveller in London book), I opted to do some cropping to give clues without needing to work in fine detail.
Final drawing St James Park,  pastel on book page
In the park the sun came and went.  Sometimes I wanted to be faithful to the way the 'still life' of plants, sky and architecture were actually arranged (the focus of this workshop was pattern in nature) and in other drawings I moved things around to make the composition and colour work. Some of the drawings took as long as an hour.  A few were completed in under 30 minutes.  Both in the park and in Trafalgar Square I featured in many tourists' photos.  People stopped to ask questions and look carefully at what I was doing and looking at.  

I had some wonderful experiences and Katerina, a young woman from Italy stood for me for a few minutes in front of the lions in Trafalgar Square while Gabrella entertained her parents. Then before and after the rain I met Jonathan, a musician who was next on to busk in front of the National Gallery. He also stood a bit for me.  I loved both workshops and it turns out I like going to the city to draw.

an Old Age,  pastel on book page

Standing by the Canteen, St James park,  pastel on book page

Jonathan on Deck,  pastel on book page

Dinosaur trees about Teatime,  pastel on book page

Katerina and the Lions,  pastel on book page

Green Stripe - No Men,  pastel on book page

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Low footfall, why not paint?

I thought about making badges during the down time of my open studio today.  That was the plan but when it came down to it, I wanted to paint or draw.  My flowers are starting to flower and it seemed to me that it might be interesting to visitors if I was doing something that reflects my current interests. While I was working on my little egg tempera, Fiona Camp, a fellow artist and sort-of neighbour came by. She was interested in egg tempera and had even done some herself.  She watched me paint, something I never really understand, but was willing to do. I was fine. I haven't finished...  something to do tomorrow if it's not too busy. I was pleased that I was integrating the various strands of what I am doing: portraiture, still life, egg tempera, painting on the spot and story telling.

What was also intersting about the day was that the picture I almost didn't frame was the favourite of three people. - an egg tempera of Lyra and Patrick on a cold morning. Who knew?

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Little sketches in cracks of time

We had a lot of rain in Maine and as my mum had injured her back there was just that little bit more to do in the garden...so this year so I drew less and had less 'headspace' in general for imagery. I carried my altered sketch books to Maine, so was determined to use them when I could. Hopefully I will use these notes later.
We went off the island to do chores. My mother and I collected new vessels from Goodwill.  Back home when it rained, we made bouquets from whatever we could find in the garden. The hellebore was the star of the counter.

One of the things I did in my 'spare time' was to renovate my travelling pastel 'kit'. The pastels have been in saggy cardboard boxes that were falling apart for the past few years - all held together with elastic bands. This year the elastic bands broke in my hands and my backpack was a big grey mess. At the workshop I took with Felicity House, I discovered the power of using rice to keep the pastels from turning grey so I searched for some new clear screw-top holders and it is like magic! It was so hard to say goodbye to this new system that on the way to the airport I stopped to buy another set and have replicated it here.

Back home I'm just coming out of catch-up mode. In the 20 mins when I should have been heading to the house to get on with dinner prep, I paused and drew the stuff at the other end of my studio. One day I went to draw with the IBBAS artists at Old Hall in Southwold. Yesterday Christopher Lucas came by and sat for me.  When I have a chance I will return to the egg tempera portrait below. Today I called into the Handmade shop.  The work by our trail looked fabulous!

Fig comes back tomorrow and It's Suffolk Open Studios soon so it will be a struggle to find even little cracks of time to sketch in...

Monday, April 22, 2019

As Spring Becomes Summer

Tulip Blossom Pear, egg tempera on panel, 27x24 cm, 
I find that so much of what I begin with feels intuitive but may actually be intentional, even though my mind hasn't caught up with what I'm responding to yet. 

I picked some flowers from the garden, wanted to use the dress I'd impulsively bought at a charity shop that was a great colour and had a great pattern but that I would never wear. I liked the idea of the IBBI bowls inside one another… As I was matching things, trying to get the balance (without thinking about it) I chose some similar blue items with bits of bright red on them. I needed height and structure to work, orange, green, more fascia.  The last few items and re-arranging them always takes the most real looking and nudging time.  The green cup on the right came towards the end of the painting, not part of the original still life at all but necessary in the end.

So what's it all about? Why did I gravitate towards those colours in the first place? I'm not sure that I can answer truthfully now that I am done but it was starting to get hotter, the tulip and the figure has a blossom feel, it's all making me feel exuberant... but is that language or what I was looking at? It felt wholesome and fecund, how do you show that, create that mood? 

Which of the players in the arrangement did I want to focus on, what does that say about my mood, the season, my thinking?  Is it really just a case of nostalgia or that thing that I love about pattern and colour? You tell me.