Monday, February 27, 2017

Marilyn in ten minutes

pastel on paper 13 x 14cm

altered book page spread  11 x 7cm pastel drawings

pastel on altered book page 21 x 14 cm

charcoal on paper 28 x 13 cm

pastel on paper 14 x 16 cm

For the first half of our drawing session, Sue asked Marilyn for five ten minute poses, although one lasted an extra five minutes.  The final pose was half an hour. I brought some images with me to inspire my palette and then began igonoring them, looking hard to see what the drawing needed that corresponded to what I was looking at.

I didn't put my pastels away at the end of each drawing so there is more consistency of colour than usual between them.  I prepared my ground and taped around the edges before I set off today and tried a few new approaches - watercolour with clear gesso and a little pastel ground, gouache with pastel ground, pastel with clear gesso.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Colours of Nightlight, altered sketchbook

The Colours of Nightlight, altered sketchbook February, 2017 
I was restless last night. I discovered a new artist on Pinterest and kept waking up thinking about his work.  Do you know Sandy Murphy's work?  I have pinned a lot in the past day... He attended the Glasgow School of Art and is a few years older than me.  His paintings astound me. You can see a few here:  He makes it look so simple and his colours make my heart sing.

Today in my altered sketchbook I thought about our walks with Lyra and the night light that is still hanging around as we walk in the winter. I tried to find the colours of daybreak and to keep things alive. 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Sketching at the Edges of Abstraction

I know logically that shapes are shapes and a cup or a flower is just a shape of colour, but I think differently about things I can name and use my pastels differently as I draw.  I often feel that my best drawing happens when I am truly confused and can't understand the things I can name so they become simply colours next to each other rather than a hand or a foot or a petal. I hate that feeling, and the confusion isn't always good, but I wonder if it is about a different part of my brain being activated.

This altered sketchbook (using soft pastel) is about the edges where figurative and abstract mark making meet. I have said before that making fused plastic is a playful part of my practice where I am freed to respond and which is more like solving a puzzle than drawing.  It is intuitive and does require careful looking, but it isn't as rooted in eye-hand coordination, it is more about discovery. As I progress through the altered sketchbook, will it be possible to combine the two in a different kind of drawing?

Last year I made a series of pastel drawings where I combined still life objects with some of  my painted paper collages, drawing about the two together.  They were surprising. Is this a direction that could be intriguing?

These are the last two of my dining on plastic pieces.  You can see more about them and the other from previous weeks at that blog here:
Mozarella and Mangoes at the Pier

Carrots Downriver

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Still Life by Colour

Yellow and Pink, 23 x 25cm, pastel on paper
While running my 30 minutes this morning, I decided to put myself under a new kind of pressure. I made no New Years resolutions this year but am chipping away at the things that need changing anyway. 

A few days ago I saw a twitter feed about a sketchbook open submission and I have been debating whether I could finish my altered pastel sketchbooks in time for the deadline.  Finishing them would have meant altering my course with the two that I have on the go. One is life drawings and the other is landscapes in Maine.  This morning I decided to attempt to make a new altered book sketchbook focused on whatever I was working on in the studio, so studies, after studies and related things and experiments. As I was looking at the set up I had made (the one with the orange and green) I considered how even as I was setting the still life up I kept thinking: THESE ARE NOT MY COLOURS. I wondered whether still life set-ups intentionally focusing on colour would teach me anything or lead my anywhere. 

Yellow and Pink was fun to compose.  Who knew I had any yellow. The big yellow motif behind the flowers is a plastic bag I found while walking.  The yellow things are lemons.

altered sketchbook still life by colour and experiments P 1 & 2
I started the altered sketchbook in Glasgow at Christmas but I hadn't had the time I envisaged and it went nowhere, so I began again leaving a little of what was there before.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Back from Mall Galleries

Pauline and I arrived at the Mall Galleries for the private view of the Pastel Societies' annual exhibition before 5 pm on Monday.  That gave us time to look around and try to find people whose work we admired. I was delighted to find my pastel eye height in the first room, above a pastel I had particularly liked from the catalogue. I had a label with my name on it and the words, exhibitor. Everyone was welcoming and the atmosphere was wonderful.  The room filled so that we were all pressed in to hear Jeanette Hayes (Pastel Society President) and Michael Portillo (Chairman of the Federation of British Artists) speak. 

Talking to Keith Bennett, the artist of the pastel below mine.

Michael Portillo

Spicy Vermillion - pastel on paper, 25 x 23cm,  Feb 2017

Yesterday and today I began making pastels again, with the hope that something will satisfy me enough to enter again next year!

Monday, February 13, 2017

The quiet of Emily

13.5 x 14 cm
 Our models are all very different. With one, you might get the feeling that you have caught them in the moment between something else; another tells a story with a shoulder.  With Emily, it's as though she stops time. Today I was using the side of my pastel to approximate areas of colour and light.  I used my eraser very little and just drew over to make adjustments.  I like the loose peaceful feel of some of what I drew. The first four sketches are ten minute poses.  The last was 25 mins.  
13.5 x 14cm

13.5 x 14cm

16 x 16 cm

16 x 15.5 cm

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Visiting Parndon Mills

After Parndon Mill series of 9 matted fused plastic collages (A6 )

Pamela Yeend and I went with Jane Lewis to Parndon Mill on Friday.
Jane Lewis and Caroline Fish have a show that is on now and I wasn't able to go to the opening a few weeks ago, so I was delighted to get there.  Making the journey with two artists was perfect. Parndon Mill is in Harlow and it takes 1 1/2 hrs from Boxford, where Jane lives.  It was a long day, but wow was it worth it! Sally Anderson and Roger Lee, brought the place to life in the 60s and 70s and now it is both a gallery and studios for artists.  Caroline and Jane's work looks stunning together and the setting of the mill is beautiful too. If you live anywhere nearby, it is definately worth visiting, but hurry, the exhibition ends on the 19th of February.

Pamela, Jane and I went on to the Gibberd Gallery next.  There was an open on but the permanent collection was the draw.  It has an eclectic mix of some exciting work from the past. You can see some of it here:

After that we went to see Simon Carter's opening at the Minories - also inspiring. 

In response, yesterday I began a new project, the results are above.  Now that I have my own mat cutter, the opportunity to use fragments beckons! I think I am sending these out as mail art.  One thing I discovered was a way of creating Diebenkornesque whites using fused plastic, see the top left, after Parndon Mill IX. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

What I see and what I do

Continuing on with my goal of making regular alla prima paintings, I wanted to think about colour and tone in the window setting and evoke spring in what I looked at. Today has been dreary and I think that's what made me reach for the pink and orange. I'll have to come back to this.  I applied some of the paint with a palette knife and some of the hottest colours in the brightest places need a little care and zing that will only be possible once things have dried a bit.
Strawberry and Orange Feast, oil on canvas, 20 x 20cm

Monday, February 6, 2017

Marks, Tone and Monoprints

There's an essay in Alice Mumford's book: Colour From Coast to Coast, which talks about colour versus tone and the tension she has felt to deal with both in her work.  She explains that if you look into light you can see more depth of field but that you will not see colour in such intensity and if light is behind you, you will see the colour but the view will appear more flat. Bonnard painted from his drawings and they are effusive with colour even though he looked into the Southern light because he seperated form and colour by drawing tonally and painting the colour. In life drawing I tend to draw tonally. With monotype you can't help but combine line, light and tone. I've always said that I need to work in different media to say things differently.  alice mumford has helped me to name it.

Today I took my 'monotype kit' to life drawing.  We had a new model, had 5, 10, and a 25 minute pose. Last week I drew Erin.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

What are the Colours of Spring?

Primose and Planning, pastel on paper, 14.5 x 16 cm
I wasn't tempted to reach for the too many muted colours when composing something that spoke to me of spring. Instead, my underpainting, crushed orange pastel with surgical spirit to fix it, was intense and my first marks, in a bright blue almost convinced me that it couldn't work. Instead I tried to keep the intensity, the free application of colour and shape and to create the belief that these objects belong together and are part of a story that hangs in the air.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Using the same objects to say something else

Flowers and Musk, 26 x 26cm, pastel on paper

Using a slightly bigger piece of paper than I did yesterday, this time I coated some Fabriano with a deeper pale blue acrylic/pastel ground.  One of the things I always have trouble with in a garden is yellow and red flowers together with a backdrop of green grass… so I took out the yellow flowers, changed the background and changed vases. I like to get up close.  I like to find the shapes in the complexity.  I like a richer, deeper palette.  For me, this arrangement works better and there's nothing wimply about it!

The Mall galleries have put what they call 'selected work' up on the website for the the Pastel Society Exhibition.  I am on page six!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Getting away from the Subject in Pastel

Spring on the Windowsill, pastel on paper 23 x 24 1/2
After the joy of my time looking at the 'blue room',  setting something up in another part of the studio felt impossible.  I had a crammed bouquet of spring flowers that I wanted to include, tulips, blue flags, roses and narcissus which felt impossible too (because although lovely, all those colours together defeat me every time).  I grabbed some clothes from the box under my bed, including the salwar kameez my mother made me with silk which Patrick had bought me before we were married. It is the green I associate with opportunity and love, quite a spring motif on a particularly grey day. I taped some turquoise mylar over the window so the light came through but the landscape behind was obscured and then I challenged myself to invent the window seat. The paper is medium size, for me, but I decided to stand back a little, in the same way I had been working in paint.

Getting the paper ready was troublesome as it pulled at the tape so I had to soak it and gesso it before I could even begin. Nevertheless I drew for a few hours yesterday and then all afternoon today.  There were many times when I wanted to abandon it. I find inventing part of a drawing in pastel, well, nearly impossible. Although I resolved this, as anticipated, it lands just this side of twee. Maybe I'll find a new 'blue room' tomorrow.