Tuesday, 10 October 2017

South Norfolk Sketchers and Becketswell

A low turn out for last Sunday's sketching morning - the on and off drizzle didn't help - but the six of us managed to produce some interesting pieces ranging from a small oil painting to an A3 page of pencil sketches of leaf forms.

I used line and wash to sketch the Abbey then painted a small (6" x 8") 15 minute gouache version of the same subject which ended up as one for the bin.

Wymondham Abbey from Becketswell Meadow
A4  Line and wash
Over coffee in the Garden House Cafe afterwards we discussed where to meet for the November sketching morning. The consensus seemed to be to find a woodland venue to try to capture autumn foliage colours before the leaves finally fall. Long's Wood, which is only a short drive from Wymondham and the surrounding villages, or perhaps Earlham Park might provide the answer.

It's Tuesday today so I am off to tutor by 'Tuesday Group' in a short while. They are tackling a project entitled "Things in Jars" and will be into week two this week. I am looking forward to seeing what progress has been made so far.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

It's been a busy summer

Well, summer is pretty well over and, after a trip to the States to catch up with painter friends and to deliver a lecture followed by a trip to Majorca for the second time this year to chill out, I'm back into the routine of teaching twice a week and preparing for my next one day workshop on October 19.

I only managed to produce half a dozen paintings during the summer months. I started off with the best intentions determined to paint every day, or at least every two days. What's the saying? Something about best laid plans? What with worrying about my sister who had to evacuate to get out of the path of Hurricane Harvey then Hurricane Irma, plus the inevitable visits to my GP to make sure I'm still functioning, walking three times a week to maintain some level of fitness, putting up with the joys of RyanAir - I could go on. Suffice to say the plans did not materialise.

Now I'm back into the tuition routine time spent in the studio will be even more precious. If, like me you've had a busy summer and now want to kick start your art, I have what the Americans would call a 'down and dirty' way of firing up those creative urges that is great fun and gets you playing with paint and creating images in a wonderfully free, loose way. It's called 'Connecting 7 Dots'.

Literally dot your surface seven times and get started connecting them with pattern and texture, colour and any kind of mark that comes out of you. All are welcome. Because there are so many possible directions to go with this project, I recommend keeping it simple at first by using only one colour or black and white to see how it works. Of course, you can always skip ahead to colour and then you take it anywhere you want from there. Think of the original lines that you make as part of a skeleton that you’ll use to build your composition. There are limitless possibilities for compositions that begin with just seven dots!

Have fun!


Sunday, 10 September 2017

The joys of sketching in Loddon

Only a six of us out today - perhaps the early morning fog or the distance from Norwich was the problem, who knows? Nevertheless, we knuckled down to some sketching with a couple of us choosing to work by the Church, the rest of us down by the staithe and the river Chet.

Years ago a tutor of mine used to say that "wherever you are there is always something to paint". I have always remembered this mantra so never walk far or spend hours looking for a subject. This held true today. Less than 200 yards down a footpath from the staithe, across a badly broken bridge that I was a little hesitant to cross, was this view across the water meadows.

I used my trusty Faber-Castell Pitt Brush pen to quickly establish the basic shapes then added a few watercolour washes to complete the sketch; in all perhaps 25 minutes work, at the most half and hour.

"Boatyard, Loddon"

Unfortunately, it was down hill all the way from then on. I thought I would use the sketch as reference for a small acrylic painting so opened my pochade box and started to squeeze out paint onto the palette. That's when I dropped an open, full tube of titanium white which went everywhere: on my hands, my coffee flask, the pochade box, the grass, my chair!!!

I then used up all the water and all the paper towels I had brought with me - which were meant for painting - to clean up the mess.

At that point I gave up and retired to the wonderful Rosie Lee's for a life saving coffee and a chat with my artist friends, most of whom had had a better morning than me, before the drive home. Hardly a successful morning but welcome to the joys of painting "en plein air".

Monday, 4 September 2017

Could you help me with the style of painting that would be best for me?

The above question from a student arrived in my in-box this morning.

How do I answer that question? How can I know what motivates that student to want to paint in the first place?

I know why I paint. I paint because it gives me the opportunity to express my personal vision. The process of applying colour to a flat surface enables me to explore, to discover, to share my view of the world.

Is that why this student paints?

Or are sales or gallery exposure or some other commercial consideration the motivator?

And what of the student’s painting knowledge and skill base? Does the student have a sound grasp of the elements and principles of painting, an appreciation of composition, an understanding of colour, an awareness of value, and so on?

I have found this question is usually asked by the student who is struggling to take on board and apply some of the basics and is seeking some sort of short cut to success or, alternatively, by the student who can’t be bothered to learn the basics at all.

These people seem to believe that “abstract” painting is the style they should adopt but, lacking the courage to say so, are looking to me to steer them in that direction so that their daubs might have some degree of justification.

For anyone seeking to hide behind the term “abstract expressionism” or “self-expressionism” as a way of covering up for their lack of knowledge, skill or application I remind them of the words of the creator and master of abstraction, Wassily Kandinsky:

"Of all the arts, abstract painting is the most difficult. It demands that you know how to draw well, that you have a heightened sensitivity for composition and for colours, and that you be a true poet. This last is essential."

This is usually enough to persuade them to knuckle down, to learn the fundamentals and to work - the sure and certain way of eventually finding their own style.

There is another, humorous quotation that I was tempted to use on one occasion but before I could, the student walked out telling me I didn’t know what I was talking about. It is from Fran Lebowitz, an American author and public speaker. I would like to share it with you now:

"Very few people possess true artistic ability. It is therefore both unseemly and unproductive to irritate the situation by making an effort. If you have a burning, restless urge to paint, simply eat something sweet and the feeling will pass,"

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Walking in the Tas valley

I was walking in the Tas valley a couple of days ago, an area I love with its unspoilt tranquillity and sense of history. This was, after all, where the Iceni lived and farmed and where the Romans came and built a town known as Venta Icenorum  - market place of the Iceni – on the river bank. Sadly, only the walls of the town survive.

I wondered whether I could capture the essence of that part of the valley and what it means to me from memory and have spent the last two days making a piece of art that attempts to do just that. I thought I would share it with you. Perhaps it might encourage you to visit this lovely part of Norfolk.

The Tas below Venta Icenorum

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Towards abstraction

I may have mentioned before that I went to art school in Cornwall where I was surrounded by, and influenced by, the work of Peter Lanyon, Patrick Heron, Roger Hilton and others who were working in St Ives at the time. Inevitably my own work evolved in an abstract or non-figurative manner. Another huge influence was Nicholas de Stael, in my view one of the most under rated painters of the 20th century, whose work I saw on a trip to Paris.

Whether the work was good or not was for others to judge. All I know is that not enough of it sold to bring in any sort of income so I used to spend time sitting on the harbour in Mevagissey painting small canvasses and selling them to passing tourists. As time passed, so my work drifted increasingly and inevitably towards realism (and eventually to soft pastel as “my” medium, but that’s another story) and I built a reasonable reputation in the UK and Europe as well as in the USA.

I am now at the time of my life where I don’t necessarily have to sell paintings to live and I have decided I can start moving forward towards increased levels of abstraction in my work, or perhaps it’s backward towards my roots. Whatever, I’m enjoying the journey and delighting in studying some of the many contemporary abstract painters around such as Irma Cerese and Sandy Ostreau. I’m also loving the work of Fred Ingrams who paints the Cambridgeshire fens in an incredibly powerful, semi abstract manner.

Anyway, here’s a  realistic abstract piece produced in the last month that I ‘d like to share with you. 

Field track
8" x 8"
Acrylic on paper
Your comments, critique, opinion - all will be welcome.

A morning with the South Norfolk Sketchers

After one or two false starts in terms of using Ketteringham Hall as a location for a morning's sketching, this morning we made it. A good turn out - more than a dozen of us - and pleasant warm weather ensured a good couple of hours sketching in the grounds of the hall. Most of us, however, chose to sketch the hall itself with its towers, tall chimneys, windows, crenallations - an exercise in perspective if ever there was one. Good coffee and get together on the terrace of the Piano Tearoom afterwards.

Here are some of the group's efforts.

I look forward to seeing you all next month when, subject to confirmation, the venue will be Fundenhall Church.

South Norfolk Sketchers and Becketswell

A low turn out for last Sunday's sketching morning - the on and off drizzle didn't help - but the six of us managed to produce some ...