Monday, January 29, 2018

Basking in Doreen's Glow

Doreen, last drawing, 30 mins, pastel on paper 16 x 16cm
I was in Jane's seat today.  The table is a little small for my stuff but the light is good and the view was great today. I love drawing Doreen. I had prepared lots of pretty pieces of paper for pastel and watercolour last night. I had looked at Birdget Moore and Sargy Mann over the weekend so I was thinking in blocks of colour.  I felt more like myself.
Sue, before Doreen arrived, 5 mins, pastel on paper, 14 x 13cm

 Doreen was a little late so Sue sat for us briefly.  I could have carried on drawing Sue.  Her hair made a nice shape and her colours were delicious! 
a few mins, pastel on paper, 14 x 13cm
It was a bit ambitious to use watercolour in these quick poses but it made me work quickly and insisted that I really look for what was significant.
a few mins 2, pastel on paper, 14 x 13cm

a few mins 3, pastel on paper, 14 x 13cm

15 mins, pastel on paper, 14 x 13cm
I stuck to the same basic palette all morning but mostly avoided line unless it was absolutely necessary.
15 mins 2, pastel on paper, 14 x 13cm

Doreen moving slowly, pastel on altered book page
This was the first drawing of the day and rather than do lots of shapes as Doreen walked around the room I stuck to my initial first minute pose and tried to see the room around her in comparison to the colour of her skin. I think that set me up for my final drawing and was why the room came alive.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

From Dining on Plastic to Seasonal Plastic

In December I put all the plastic bags I collected from charity shops, museums, supermarkets and the cheese shop inside one of the bags  and stashed it under my work table with the idea that I am going to do a snapshot of the months in plastic over the year. Not exactly dining on plastic, more seasonal plastic.  I wonder whether the attitude about plastic will change it, whether marketing, colour, size will change as the year wears on?

I love that the Waitrose bag had a winter theme and I chose to put some complete writing on this piece in case I decide to use it for something I am submitting to. It says holiday, winter, joyful abundance to me.

I worked in a furious sort of way following ideas one after the other for a day and half.  These are not in order of making. 

Having just spent a long time working mostly in an observational way, I enjoyed playing with all the same elements but in an inutitve and differently restricted way.  Most of these are first drafts.  I may free float them, put them on a surface and use paint to make them relate to their edge differently.  


 I wondered about mounting this one directly under glass so you could see both sides.  Which is 
'good plastic'?

And is there a male or female aesthetic in collage, in plastic? 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Art Made Now

A Few Orange things
Sometime after the Christmas, in one of my shopping opportunities in charity shops, I picked up these two unusual vases.  They are streaky grey with orange splodgy spots in a few places. My studio is full of vases and if I never drew anything else, I could draw and draw my vases. I am a collector intending to use all of my objects sometime in some way in something I make. I'm a bit obsessed.

I have a few things I want to submit to (in a few weeks) and I'm sort of trying to make work for those. In a nod to a recent exhibition where objects were on display along with output, I set up my subject trying to do three things: use those vases, make art that is on my mind now and use colour differently.  This drawing is my standard 16.5 x 16.5 cm. It is mostly what I saw,  except the blue horizon at the top was parallel to the book spine and that didn't work.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The dance of the Hyacinth, getting to grips with bigger pastels and plants with minds of their own

Hyacinth Inclination, pastel on fabriano,  40 x 37 cm 
In order to understand the anguish I sometimes have to go through to finish a bigger drawing I thought you might like to see what I began looking at and what I finished looking at and how far my drawing departs from reality in order to make the image come together… if it does.
Below you can see what I saw when I began drawing on Sunday morning, late afternoon and  today, when I think I have finished.
when I first set the still life up

at the end of the first drawing day

when I finished drawing today
When I visited Peter Clossick in his studio with the NEAC, he showed me three books that he felt I should read.  The other morning I downloaded Aesthetics and Painting by Jason Gaiger.  Because my painting and drawing degree was practical above all and I love looking at pictures and consult them primarily for advice, apart from painting book essays,  and what I read for the art history part of my degree, I am not overly genned up on the philosophy of painting.  I am finding the book enlightening and it's making me think in different ways.  For example, that old query: 'what are you trying to say' has a different set of questions, or at least they are expressed differently and they are making me ask them of myself differently.

So when I came to the studio yesterday evening, after reading another slug of the book, quite dejected about the ten-or-so hours I'd already put into the drawing and how much of a failure it was, I was wondering about whether the world should be expressed as it is or in a perfected way.  Do I need to bother with the colour of what I actually see or is the still life a stimulus for something I want to see.  I know I used to think that way…The NEAC scholarship has pushed me towards being accurate in my observation and that means I hit this snag.  What if the colour doesn't work?  

That's what happened yesterday, the colour didn't work.  I hated the colour in places.  The composition was bitty and I was ready to give up. The book with its analysis of opposing viewpoints helped me find a way around the snag - I would simplify what I was drawing - not wipe it out as Peter suggests (that makes pastels muddy depressing)- erase and use the side of the pastel to reject what I see in order to see what else can work. As John and Mick and Peter would say 'it's not a copy'.

I found something similar to the colour so that I could find a different 'reality' I and draped it behind.  The picture would become a postcard and I'd let the hyacinth collapse and the tulips splay. When I was done and it was dark (9pm) the left side and the right side weren't speaking to each other. This morning after reading another few pages of Gaiger I was thinking about the marks versus the objects and how to create excitement in the marks which add to but are distinct in themselves. That thought helped me to bring the sides together.

Bigger pastels of live things are troublesome but perhaps that working harder is a good thing? Sandy Larkman asked for something big and colourful for Brushstrokes, a charity that raises money through art exhibitions. Maybe I'll exhibit this one.

Monday, January 22, 2018

January light

It's one of those reassuring January things when the flower of the hellebore appears. As you know, it's been busy around Nayland Farm and frankly amazing that I have mananged to do anything let alone a little painting on book pages. I wedged myself in the corner of the studio while Figgy and Jonny made monotypes for the week they were home. Over a few days, before the hellebore drooped and closed I worked in spurts. I made a conscious decision not to have any pattern and wanted a feeling of white so chose my objects with that objective. I would have painted on (but needed to teach Figgy to frame her own gorgeous monotypes) and I still could but there is a certain freshness that I suspect I will just leave. But what do you think, should I crop it to the edge of the painting or not, or should I crop it into a square?
Meanwhile, I returned to London on Friday to visit John Dobbs (WONDERFUL) and to draw, or in this case make monotypes with the NEAC drawing school. Kate sat for the full two hours and I made two prints and two ghosts.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Colour and nightlight

I've been talking about nightlight  and still yearn to make more night light drawings, but drawing at night is difficult if you don't have your head torch… Towards the end of 2017, while in London, I made a few evening drawings before going to a drawing session at the Mall. The cold, the fading light and just standing outside in the dark didn't have much to recommend it.  But I was still mezmorized by the light and the colour, so took a few pictures to remind me, with the hope of using them to trigger a memory to paint from later.

A few times a week I promise myself that I will get in a car and draw with my head torch. It's still just been too busy, so to date it's a wish not yet realised. Yesterday I found the images I'd taken on my phone and did some quick studies in my Silent Traveller in London altered book, to see where that idea went. 
Keeping on the theme of light and lack of it, this afternoon I went to Carol's to draw David.  Carol has a studio at the end of her garden and the light was a beautiful pink while it lasted. I thought about James Bland and his red ear and looked for the highest and lowest key colours. I didn't erase anything and feel the resulting drawing (above) shows that struggle a bit.
As the session wore on the light disappeared.  At one point we really only had a silhouette of David to work from. I was working in charcoal, trying to establish the darks and the darkers. Then we switched the light on .  The drawing is about the tension of light, colour and value, (and I think I lost).

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Urban and Rural Landscapes

Wet Field Combs, pastel on paper, 16 x16 cm
I sat in the landrover today and twisted myself into a position where I could see the view from the verge. There are signs all over that say CONSERVATION Keep off. This is new.  If I'd had my plein air easel I would have been able to position myself and to stand.  As it was I was cramped but warm and protected from the howling wind. 

The clouds raged across the sky and sometimes it was white and blue and sometimes it seemed to threaten rain and go all grey. I caught it somewhere between the two.  The unploughed field looked brown and red and blue and purple and yellow and then on the verge in front, there should have been grass but it was puddling and muddy in the middle. I kept thinking about Barbara Rae.

My mother loves the trees when they are leafless. Patrick and Juliet can identify them by shape.  I just find them a little sad.  I met someone at a preview in Colchester, not long ago, who told me he only paints unbeautiful things.  Today when I was drawing in the car I felt the view was so beautiful that no matter what, I was on the verge of schmaltz. Perhaps beauty is the curse of the rural landscape for this slightly cynical New Yorker?

Rainy Museum Day, pastel on altered book page, 9 x 12.5 cm 
Meanwhile, before Christmas I was in London nursing a rotten cold, visiting exhibits and hauling my supplies for drawing from pillar to post. At one point I sat in the National Gallery near a window and drew the wet weather.  It was a pencil drawing as I learned that you need special permission to use pastels or watercolour in the National Gallery. Using my sketch and a photo I took, I tried to evoke that November moment, today. 

I hate the idea of drawing buildings.  Perspective makes me a little sick, because I don't know any and all those angles overwhelm me.  I could read a book and learn but that would be at odds with my teaching, so I struggle… The thing is,  I love breaking the paper up with angles so it's a bit of a catch 22. And I guess city drawing can be less (on the surface) beautiful so you need to really commune with it to find something to say!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Line,colour and tone - quick studies at Sudbury Life Drawing

Emily, pastel on altered book page, 9.5 x 14 cm
Fig came with me to life drawing today.  It was a full house. Emily is a still, quiet and contemplative model. I had some new Jaxell pastels to try out but I was looking at tone, line and colour as I saw it today, so did't get a chance to use the bold deep colours. I looked over at Jo's musky unison pastels with awe. Quite partial to the drawing above, tried to find the essence, not particularly successful otherwise. 
Emily, charcoal on cartridge, 26 x 29cm
Emily, pastel on paper,12.5 x 21cm
Emily, pastel on paper, 16 x 16cm

Emily, pastel on altered book page, 9.5 x 14 cm

Saturday, January 13, 2018

New Year, new defiant start - NEAC Drawing School

 I ran into Mick from The NEAC drawing school at the Life Room exhibition at the RA. That bit of serendipity felt like a great beginning to my January in London - such a small town that I run into one of the only people I know! I'd already seen the Drawing Year exhibition at the royal Drawing School so I mooched around dragging my bag of tricks, a new bag of tricks until 5:40, having a tea here and happening upon an exhibit there. 

When I arrived at the Mall Galleries studio space at the back, ready to begin my second six months as a Drawing Scholar I felt puffed up and determined to BE MYSELF and produce work that isn't just jumping through hoops. NO, that's not fair… It has not been jumping through hoops, it has been back to art school and art school is about being open enough to do some things that you don't succeed at so well, trying things and gaining new perspectives and skills, to see where it takes you - to grow.  I've been doing that  and it's been great, but over the break I realised that I also need to apply this learning to 'my practice' so I don't just produce work that doesn't feel like me in the sessions and end up hating what I show at the exhibition in June.

Mick was wonderfully receptive and in the two hour session I made two prints and printed two ghosts. I brought my pastels but was so excited about the journey of the line and the pentimento that direct monotypes bring to life drawing that I never got there.  Perhaps next week!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Looking again - why I like after studies

Waiting for the Party, Oil on prepared book page, 10 x 15 cm,
When I began this blog in 2009, I had a basket of ten objects which I drew over and over in different situations. I learned through experience that objects are dependent on their context and become real through relationships. It's not surprising that the way I work, colour laid next to colour, helps me to find the reality of what I see in front of me. And perhaps this explains why I like to work from observation best of all. 

The image above is a little darker than the real thing.  It is another grey day here in Suffolk and I photographed a few minutes ago when the day is getting darker.  Still it gives the flavour of the slightly different arrangement  point of view, shape of paper (not canvas this time). The still life extension to the front.  The apple sits inside the spoon with the blue handle. When I came to paint, holding up my frame deciding on my point of view, I realised it would be better to omit that stuff in the front. I was moving in and cropping out. 

I like after studies because problems have been solved.  But this time I made new problems in version two which were equally difficult to deal with.  Luckily this little painting is small - 10 x 15 cm painted on a prepared book page.  But small is difficult in a different way.

I traded a simple orangey cloth for some of the pattern of the previous, but it was difficult to keep the colour from becoming insipid.  I painted and painted until it was believable. Each shift somewhere else meant I had to go back to it. That red vase is a devil! I picked two of them up a few days after Christmas. when I looked at them I knew their modern form would confound me but why not? My mum chivied me on. The pom poms make me think of a mexican hacienda.

Thiking about it, what I like about after studies is the same thing you like about a sequel -  the opportunity to connect with the subject in a different way so that it lives again in a new guise.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Christmas Relics

This January once everyone was off to their own homes, I decided to find a selection of objects that evoked this Christmas. Every November I try to say something about the coming of Christmas for my Christmas card.  This year I wanted to punctuate the holiday season by paying tribute to the colours we associate with Christmas while developing my theme of objects in conversation at a moment in time. I used mostly newly acquired Christmas gifts and focused onthe colour RED.

I am trying to synthesise some of my NEAC artist advice.  I keep hearing this voice saying 'What are you trying to say'?  I ask myself, 'is it consistent'?  Is the painting - brush strokes, areas of detail, focus interesting enough but tied together and convincing. Am I using enough paint.  should I glaze or not glaze.  Do Ibegin by drawing or by blocking colours next to each other.  It's a minefield of my own making!  

I nearly quit many times and stopped when I felt I had the balance right on most levels. Red continues to be a difficult colour to use and why do I always make such patterned and complex set ups?

Sunday, January 7, 2018

A New Year in Intense Colour

Yellow Figurine on Orange, pastel on paper, 16.5 x 16.5 cm
Due to the nature of the time of year and what it means to be me with my family around me, this little drawing was made over the course of a few afternoons as the light faded, inbetween jobs. I knew that I couldn't include anything living in the arrangement because who knew what time I would be able to snatch. So in the spirit of hope in a new year, my still life was all about infectious colour and an ethnic figurine regifted all the way from Boston via Orlando, one of my newest perfect muses. It is in that parallel universe where all the objects come to life and cavort.