Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The To and Fro

Zinnias and Fog day 2, oil on canvas, 27 x 35 cm

Painting after drawing after painting takes me down a different path. Each iteration throws up other conflicts and my personality is to jump in head first and thrash around until something feels right.  There are still some things to straighten out.. the bottom of the frame, for one but finding the right colour for the right place seems to be the challenge of the moment. Scroll back a few days and you will see what I mean. In focus, out of focus, painting and drawing all at the same time.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Sam's Asters and my Zinnias

Sam's Asters and My Zinnias, pastel on paper 28 x 27 cm
I have had a pad of Sennelier Pastel Card since Christmas 2015 and never used it. I'm not sure why I decided to do the next version of this Maine/UK still life using it, I've been meaning to try it but the colour of the ground has always put me off.  I like my bright pastel grounds.   Maybe I didn't think this still life would work, and that it might be the occasion to try something new. 

I cut the pastel card down to 30 x 30 and gessoed around the edge.  Then I moved the tape to the gessoed area once it had dried.  It was a naples yellow ground. You can't erase the way I have grown accustomed to erasing, but the pastel seems to stick to it amazingly and it takes many layers easily.

I did many things differently for this drawing. I began by printing a photo of the current set up and turned it upside down, chose some pastels and with my back to the still life, I blocked in underpainting colours. 

I set up my table easel near to the still life but also had my bouquet sketchbook with my drawing from Maine opened. You can see how I edited, moved things around and substituted from the original drawing. For example, the bouquet on the left is a mixture of the bouquet Sam gave my mother in Maine and a bouquet I created yesterday - the blue rose is an aster and there is a yellow echinacea! Bob's painting is behind the bouquets instead of the paper I had tacked up. The mug is a pewter mug with the handle from the agate wear mug. I found that the drawing just needed all of those changes.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

reconfiguring a drawing experience

Zinnias and Fog, oil on canvas 35 x 27cm
 This is a couple hours worth of painting on an idea I have had for a few weeks. The question is, how do you take a drawing and make a painting with it later?

Today was the first day I have really had free to work in the studio since I returned from Maine. Even so I had to get some canvases ready, clear a space to work, water parts of the garden and do some grovery shopping.  In the end I only had a couple of hours to paint.  I would have gone on and I will return to this to see if I can resolve it.

I don't have the same objects here as I had in Maine so rather than work directly from my drawing, I decided to use my drawing to set up something reminiscent but different. I have never done that before. I don't have Bob's painting (behind the bouquet) but I have 'notes' in the drawing and I have looked at it often over the years. 

Sam's Bouquets, pastel on altered book pages (Bouquet Sketchbook)

Friday, August 25, 2017

Three days of workshops

So I've been in London again for most of the week, taking workshops with NEAC artists in the Mall Galleries learning centre, but we've mostly been outdoors doing things I never do. It's been hard and I like a struggle, even when the results aren't to my liking, but it's been hard. 

Julie Jackson's plein air 'painting the summer light' was set in St James' Park.  Most of the day was overcast but the sun did peek through around lunch time and it was that light that I tried to capture.  People came and went, benches were moved and because I arrived late (someone jumped in front of a train) I didn't have my distance glasses or my reading glasses, I had my 'occupational' lenses which are middle distance.

Julie was brilliant at planting seeds of advice that helped me through my stuck periods.  I liked painting at my smaller plein air easel but found the palette a bit small and I didn't really have the best brushes for the job.  This was my first oil painting outdoors from observation, ever and I think working bigger would be better for me.

 I had about a 1/2 hour to begin something else, the intention was to paint morning and afternoon light on two canvases,  and this was the start of another view from my easel. I enjoyed working looser and the blue ground was probably an easier base for painting. I didn't clean my palette and my turps was pretty grimy, but the scene inspired me more. 

 Neil Pittaway showed us the properties of watercolour in the morning in the learning centre.  We experimented on sheets of paper, blending, mixing, trying new techniques.  In the afternoon we went out to St James' Park.  Neil demonstrated how he works and we went off and found something nearby to paint. I enjoyed looking with a brush but I never got beyond watery nebulousness. Neil's work had so much variety and energy and hopefully I will apply some of his approach in the future.  This day mine was dreamily dull. Above is a detail. 

Yesterday was painting the figure with James Bland. James did a wonderful demo of approximating colour by comparing light, value and saturation.  His painting was full of colour. I found bending behind to mix my colour on a chair with the glare of the lights difficult, and my palette became a muddy mess. Stella was far from me and silouetted by a window behind. I ismply ran out of time to pull it together and looking at it there are many problems.For one, Stella is much, much prettier than this. Although this 16 x 20" painting feels disappointing and I will paint over it at the first opportunity, I feel I learned a lot from James.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Remembering London

Although I intended to paint using the drawings from my workshop with Paul Newland, it occured to me that a monotype might be a better medium than a painting for me to use to evoke a place . I also didn't have a canvas the right size.  So this afternoon I found my 8 x 6" zinc plate, looked at Maurice Pendergast monotypes and watercolours as well as some of Whistler's urban landscapes. I also visited Paul Newland's website again (looking for answers) and felt even more of a resonance with his work. You can see it here:

I rolled two blues on the plate horizontally and removed ink with my sock, q-tip and the end of the brush.  As I worked I realized working 'backwards' with the chaos of the intersecting roads was almost impossible. When Patrick dropped in, I told him I was not having fun.  I was more confused than I had been standing on the street corner… Anyone who has stood where I stood would be able to point out the errors in this representation but I'm telling myself that maybe that says something about memory and the way we record things rather than my poor hand eye coordination!

I am hoping to make a second version, using the ghost on the plate, tomorrow.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Last Bouquet

Leicester Bouquet
While in Maine I nearly completed the Bouquet (altered) Sketchbook I've had kicking around for some time.  My garden is full of a hotchpotch of flowers and today I went to the car boot sale and found the man with the Leicester lock-up who was selling incredibly affordable textiles from India. I stuffed a bag with them and after pulling up thousands of stinging nettles and running with Lyra and Patrick I decided I should turn my attention to the final page of Bouquet sketchbook. I gathered an arm full of flowers and set to assembling textiles and studio paraphenalia. 

I intend to start painting tomorrow!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Drawing London with Paul Newland

Just back from a two day workshop with Paul Newland, thanks to the New English Art Club. Paul's  course description intrigued me.  However, it was with some trepidation that I went to London, the day after getting back from Maine, to draw plein air somewhere near the Mall Galleries. 


This is a 2-day workshop about investigation and exploration, it will take place near or within St James's, with the Mall Galleries Learning Centre as a base. The aim is to record your evolving perceptions of place. The space, changing light, architecture, traffic and human activity may all be seen in numerous ways and in the course of these these two days we want you to explore your own vision of these phenomena. This may be done with numerous studies, or with one large work. You may enrol for one day only if you wish. There will be a plenery session at lunchtime and at the end of each working day.

After speaking to Paul, my goal was to make a series of what I will call 'gestures' to establish a sense of place that I will work from to make a small painting back in my studio.

I stood across from a few dynamic streets so there was a stream of traffic between me and the subject.  I learned quickly about how big the closest buses are and how much they obscure what I am trying to see.  

Paul wanted us to consider 'space' first and although he asked us to use line to begin with, I used pastel. Without even deciding to, I edited much of what I saw.  The goal was to get many done quickly. 

Next I moved onto light and what I noticed was that the sky was the lightest area - a little swathe of blue might appear, but the sky was mainly white with grey punctuation.  The cream coloured stone of the buildings and the column appeared darker than I might expect.  I limited my palette in both cases as the light seemed to require that. I never felt finished and I have included everything I did over the course of the two days here, even the things that don't work!

All of the drawings are contained in an altered sketchbook I'd prepared the day before: A Silent Traveler in London by Chiang Yee. Most measure 12 x 18 cm - with one taking two pages, so 24 x 18cm.
Paul wanted us to capture elements of human activity and traffic as well as the architecture and folliage that characterised the space. He encouraged us to experiment, to gather a range of drawings.  As a countryside dweller and never having drawn plein air in a bustling place, suggesting, let alone pinning down a bus, a car, a person on their way somewhere else was thrilling, exhausting and difficult. I tried tone, I tried line and I tried colour. Much of time I was in full struggle mode trying to juggle all the competing demands.  I wished I knew more about perspective and spent lots of time holding my pastels up to check the acute angles of the roads, realising the scale was all wrong or the distance between things didn't make sense.

All the individuals in the group were drawing in different places and Paul had to find them.  He found me quite easily, I think, and he and I had a series of short talks about different directions I might explore and he helped me to see where something didn't work.

I have to tell you that to make the sight of me even more comical than simply a scruffy middle aged woman with a trolley and a table easel drawing in a book (with lots of people, traffic and delivery carts going by), I was wearing two sets of glasses, one on top of the other in order to see the scene. I believe this version of me is not an intimidating version, as I had many curious onlookers and quite a few conversations.  One young man took a panoramic video of me, my subject and all the chaos.  Another handed me his phone and asked me to type my name in it.

The person I spoke with longest was a man named Skye from Bejing. He designs museums and was in the UK for a month.  He had been to Glasgow, Edinburgh, and London at least. He showed me some gorgeous photos of museum art, his parents and their acupunture images. We spoke twice, once before he played a game of table tennis with a man who found him on the street and then again after.  I nearly missed my train… 

Skye noticed that my book had Chinese writing in it, which you can see in the drawing below on the top page.  This thrilled him! We'll see what I can make of all of this… I'm not feeling very confident but Paul in standing by to give me input.

I took a slightly later train back.  After dinner I noticed the sun setting over the hedge - of course the light faded fast but it felt good to position my easel right outside the front door and to observe my non-urban view,the sun going down behind the hedge for a short time, pastels in hand, no head torch this time.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

A Blaze of Bouquets

Pattern of Three

My mother is generous with her flowers and gives me free reign to pull out objects to draw. Left alone in the house, I wander around imagining what new arrangements could say. This year the colours in Jan's garden are imprinted on my palette and in the last days of being here I wanted to translate them in some way, distanced from their fiery border. My first bouquets were brought over by my friend and our neighbour, Sam King.

Sam's Flowers
I must admit to thinking more consciously about compostion, or at least 'naming' the composition more after the NEAC courses I have taken. Yesterday I approached my drawings in a slightly different way. Mostly it was me trying not to take out all my pastels in order to begin, a time saving way to start. When I liked the results the first time, each time I drew (yesterday) I used the approach.

I began by using my derwent pastel pencils to put down a few of the exact shapes of colour in proportion in the space as I saw them. I did not make a series of marks around the page, honing in as I made sense of the space. I also stuck to my box of sennelier pastels which are unbelievably brilliant but big and clunky, shunning my little paper boxes (aranged by colour) which are a mix of pastels from my life. 
Bob's Complementary Flowers
I guess you might say years of looking at the garden has made me a colourist. Thanks mom. What a summer of inspiration! I must also admit to be being a little excited to get back to my studio to see how there drawings evolve into the next thing, though!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Last Pieces of the Landscape of Holiday

Fish Flower Launch
There are rituals in a place where you've been spending months of the summer for fifty years.  There are objects you see that make time tumble back.  There are new things that quickly become home. 

We sit on the porches at different times of day, watching island life, reading our books, eating our lunch, toasting each other, kibitzing. So when I got to the final pages of Holiday Home, I went to the porch.  But my porch was an amalgamation, a summary, a romanticized view. It could never be the way I composed it, and I did compose it so I saw it that way, stacking footstools on stools to raise the horizon to incorporate the sea, hanging rugs on fences, placing flowers high.

Flowers Kantha China
From Porch to Pier

Towards the end of the book I began to turn to the more complex aspects of my view… Most years Patrick builds something that becomes a feature of the garden.  His structures grow out of the landscape.  

Driftwood Garden and Chair

And as I closed one book I was able to work into another.  Yesterday as we walked around the beach the red flag and the rocks made me pause long enough to get something down. Inspired by words on the page, I drew the porch at night and a few days ago on another windy walk, with wind that wanted to lift my chair into the air, the white caps, clouds scuttling by and white rocks beyond Preble stopped me in my tracks.

Low Tide and Red Flag

Night Paddock

Wind and Whitecaps

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Exploring light and colour in the Holiday House

Cocktail Hour
I learned from an artist friend when I was young and impressionable that looking for inspiration in the everyday was a way of being with the world.  The intrigue of shapes and colours side by side would keep my occupied, (confused) and curious enough to last me a lifetime. This project, contained within the space that is familiar, known and drawn often is proving that even when I think I know something or there is nothing left to draw, there is always more. And taking on the night light has enlarged things in a different, enchanting direction. Four pages left…
Artificial Light on Table
Flowers After Rain

Echinacea and Day Lilies

Lights on with Full Moon

Reading in barn (Toothache)

Night light on Barn and Shed 
While Listening to Rachel
Not Quite Lights Out

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The limitless possibilities of the Holiday House

After Dinner Bouquets
With my goal of three pages a day, I am ready to begin p 213 today.  I have made 22 drawings so far; that gives you an idea of how many pages I remove and glue together to make my altered sketchbooks.

My daily schedule has been packed so it has been usual to have one or two drawings to make after dinner. As I am in love with night light, this has been a welcome constraint.  Katy has leant me her head torch and the quality of light changes with this.  I have experimented in low lit places.  Light is thrown on objects differently as above (After Dinner Bouquets) and below, (Molly's Birthday Bouquets).

Before Dinner Structures
Sometimes, sandwiching a drawing between events means the light fades before I have finished…
Buddha and Birdbath
I carry objects to new places to create new worlds that are familiar but which don't actually exist.

Green Garden with Pink

Light Through Tree 8pm

Molly's Birthday Bouquets

Nightlight Over Trees

Petunias on Porch

Sunflower and Shade

Fog and Foam
I have three altered sketchbooks with me in Maine.  Holiday House is what I am focussing on but if I go beyond the curtilage of the barn and the house I get out my Maine Landscape book.  At Preble Beach the fog rolled across the view.  I am itching to complete the last four pages of 'Bouquets' while here in bouquet heaven.

The images in Holiday House are 15 x 10.5 cm while Fog and Foam is 15 x 14.5 and sits on a bigger page.