Friday, March 24, 2017

Library with Red Sarong - oil on six canvases

Library with Red Sarong  - oil on six canvases 40 x 30cm each
Paintings are problems and as I've got older I have learned to accept imperfection, to compromise and to let go.  It used to be that I loved starting things and dreaded seeing them through to their conclusion.  I would paint over everything at the first sign of something that didn't work. Now, if I have to move something, late into the painting or take it out completely it isn't such a drama. If a colour doesn't work I'll look for a long time and then begin testing alternatives. Believablity is what matters more than everything else. And I don't mean, 'is it realistic?'

Painting these six canvases has been an interesting problem and coming back and forth to it for a week has been fun. When I composed the still life I thought about the composition of each of the panels so had done some of the work before I began.  I knew quite a lot about the subject because I had made a big pastel drawing of it the week before. I only had to move things around a little as I worked. 

In order to paint something so long I had to move it and myself lots, so my perspective was changing more than usual but I tried not to let that bother me, as long as it was believable. There were lots of patterns and how much to simplify, how true to the colours I saw I wanted them to be, and how to tie everything together in terms of colour, shape and value were the main problems.

I anticipated taking the pieces apart to work on the individual parts, but in the end I decided this time I wouldn't.  Next time I will.  That will be a different experiment. I am very curious to see what they look like framed individually next to each other,how that will change things, and I'm sure that will inform my next experiment.

A few days ago, when I was beginning to despair of the red, I started a new sketchbook and invented new colours, stood at a totally different angle and unwinded with my pastels.

Hyacinths, Tulips and Daffodils

So later today I'll pack up the still life and begin thinking about what comes next. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Grids of sorts

At 16 - I went to the Animal Fair, Battisford, England, 2017

Later in the year one of my mail art friends, Nichola Orlick is hosting an exhibition at a gallery in Kobe, Japan. It is called Half Hundred Swing and is an homage to Joseph Cornell. We have been asked to make box collages. I have been thinking about it for some time and I earmarked this weekend to complete it. I read a book about Cornell Vision of Spiritual Order by Lindsay Blair that I found in a charity shop four or five years ago.  Before I began working on the collage, I  browsed throught the book and wrote down these words: 'childhood, swan, owl, bunny, body, self, repetition, arrangement, demarcation, compartmentalisation, colour, coding, tangential relationships, people, outside, set rules, ritual, alternative worlds.'

I had been saving a box that I found around Christmas and what I had been thinking about was how I could divide up the space to create depth using fused plastic. I thought I could use some mount board in some way. I got out my big bin of  plastic and started pulling pieces out looking for inspiration. I'm not sure you can see but each of the rectangles is a different height. It was fun and I think it may lead to something else later on. Arranging the rectangles was tricky.  I think  in the future playing more with colour, light and height could be interesting. This time I wanted to use some of the motifs Cornell was interested in.

At the end of last week, I began painting my six 40 x 30 canvases. I decided to attach them together to begin with and so far I haven't taken them apart.  I think I will.  Such a long canvas is unwieldy and it is difficult to see things, also the idea is six canvases, in the way Hockney did that. It's still early days and my goal is to make each of the rectangles work in itself.  The bouquet in the middle looks nothing like it did when I began, all the flowers were in different places and I was struggling with that.  That panel is the weakest one so far. Having spent so long drawing a version of the arrangement has meant that I have solved some of the problems and am able to focus on the colour and the shapes in a different way. I nearly changed the red because I've used a lot of red lately, but now that I am working on it I am loving the red.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Still Red Room

Still Red Room, pastel on fabriano 64 x 46 cm
One reason I love to work from life is that I can create something that reminds me of a place.  When I put together a still life I am inventing a place and trying to get it to feel real.  This time, without meaning to, I put many barriers in my way to success. 

I was determined to use some yellow lillies that two of my Albanian friends, who I know from Suffolk Refugee Support, gave me as a present.  I have spoken about having a hard time making yellow and red work for me, in garden and in drawings so by choosing a red, a very red, backdrop I was bringing this to a head. There were also some flourescent orange roses in the bouquet and again, that was troublesome. Additionally as I worked I realised, there were too many open cups and something too small in the foreground of the set up; so with a mix of invention, addition and seeing colour differently to the way it existed in front of me, I think I found a way to resolve things. For me, the overall feeling of this is quite still, maybe serious in a camp kind of way. Perhaps I could have varied the marks a bit more, but in order for it to be believable, this was what I found.

I'm going to get some new flowers later on so that tomorrow I can begin on the six canvases!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

From Sketchbook to something bigger

Looking at part (of the still life) I

Looking at part (of the still life) II

View of Patrick's side of the bureau and the view from above the bureau
My altered sketchbook only has four pages left. As I've worked through it, it has increasingly dominated my life. Deciding to draw in it every day has amplified the feeling that I might have run out of ideas.  So I am in a heightened state of alert.  I've noticed things I might not have noticed and that's great. What I've remembered is that there are beautiful still life possibilities everywhere and all I need is a hand full of pastels and my sketchbook and my day is sorted. I'm drawing on both sides of the page, so these drawings will remain bound in the sketchbook.  

What's interesting is that I am always drawing anyway, but deciding to make the drawings in one place has changed the structure of my whole day. With that in mind, it's time to get on with some of my ideas, so yesterday I primed six canvases and today I constructed a big still life in my studio and prepared three big drawing surfaces to use to respond to the still life. Seeing the Hockney made we want to try using a series of canvases to interpret a scene, and since my scenes seem to be still lifes right now, I'm beginning with that.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Fishing for Biscuits with Cups and Clutter

Cups and Clutter

Fishing for Biscuits, fused plastic collage with stitching and paint (21 x 21cm)

Tomorow I go down to London to pick up my unsold drawing from the Pastel Society show. Although it would have been even better if it had sold, I am looking forward to meeting Keith (who I met at the opening of the exhibition) and seeing the Watercolour Competition Exhibition at Bankside where a few of my firends have work.  Today we celebrated International women's day with Suffolk Refugee Support at Burlington Halls, in Ipswich. It was fabulous to see the women in their finery and to sample some of their cuisine but it was most of the day and I didn't have much time to work.

I was able to finish last week's Dining on Plastic, though.  It was predominately made of vegetable wrappers - mostly different kinds of lettuce.  Earlier in the week, I polished off a packet of water biscuits and the shimmery royal blue comes from that. Andrex toilet paper blue is a staple and I didn't find any roadside plastic!

Yesterday I drew in my sketchbook as the light was fading.  I found a box of old pastels, so old I can't remember where they come from… were they Patrick's?   New colours are always inspiring and chasing the light makes you concentrate hard!

Monday, March 6, 2017

A smattering of inspiration

Although I caught the dreaded Tanzanian cold, I dragged myself to the studio and tried to put something down everyday.  I haven't really got much else done in the past week.  I did go to London to draw at the Pastel Society's event at the Mall, see the Hockney and the Nash and have people over for dinner and then visit two local exhibitions  and, but in terms of beginning new work, that didn't happen. I'm feeling much better this evening, so am hopeful that tomorrow will be a painting day.

It's interesting to see how I use my two page spreads to respond or at least test something different on each side.  It's similar to the way I work, shifting from drawing to plastic to printmaking and painting. But I can't fail to notice that I've been jumping all over the place getting something down. Still it's a sketchbook and these ideas might come in useful sometime...