Monday, 26 September 2016

Starting Oil Painting - The Importance of 'Palette Control'



Earlier in the year when I was  'Reading a Paint Surface' at City Lit, apart from the challenging exercises of  making art in a variety of different and unusual ways, I  reported on the struggles of using oil paints for the first time since 'A' level art at school!  
So ahead of a 10 week advanced painting  course, I booked a 2 day course on Starting Oil Painting  and had the first session on Saturday.
We started out with preparing surfaces  by sanding and applying layers of primer to pieces of hardboard  and  doing sketches  in charcoal and then oil paint on paper of a simple still life of apples and kiwi fruit.

Pinned on the wall, the different viewpoints and approaches  by the group of the same subject was interesting. The main focus though was on the actual techniques , with emphasis on 'palette control'  

 I'm used to working with acrylics and  the difference between fast drying acrylics  and slow drying oils dictates a  completely new approach which took some getting used to. Only a small amount of paint was squeezed out on the palette at a time and using different palette knives for each colour, small amounts were transferred to other parts of the palette, the 'control' element keeping dedicated areas for red or blue. 
Rather than using water or mediums to thin  paints, only tiny amounts of the low odour thinner were used. Most importantly, this was not used to clean brushes etc , instead we  kept hold of the brushes and palette knives  used for different colours , only cleaning them at the end of the day.  While I managed to keep  my palette in reasonable order, the same could not be said for my brushes resulting in  some strange colour combinations! I will do better next week 

'Sketching' with oils on non-primed paper was surprisingly satisfying, almost like doing watercolours, with the advantage that you're using the identical  colours for the actual  painting. We started with just white, Indian Red and Ultramarine, using the red to sketch out the mains elements and then introducing darks with a grey mixed from the red and blue moderated with white , producing essentially a tonal study. Only then was yellow ochre added to the palette for highlights.  

After  repeating this study on the board itself (below) in preparation for next week , we then did another quick oil sketch on paper using complimentary colours ( above) of 'Red' ( Indian Red with a touch of yellow ochre) and 'green' ( ultramarine with lemon yellow)
I really like this use of a restricted range of colours, it means you concentrate on contrast in shape and tone and less likely to get 'mud'.


 The downside is that it takes quite a while to clean up ( not helped by  the small  studio not being one of the usual painting ones so higher standards required!)
I  could have done without Holborn station being closed : an  additional half hour walk to St Pancras  trying to control  a carrier bag containing a wet painting is  not what you want at the end of a tiring day. I revived later when Ian met me from the train and treated me to delicious Tapas at Jittermugs .

Next week we will be building on our underpaintings , I'm already regretting my initial painting being so strong as it limits the changes I can make. But that's all part of the learning process, knowing how you would do it differently next time!


Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Drawing Roman Glass and Studio Makeover (again!)


We spent the weekend clearing spaces in the house and garage for the arrival of our goods from storage next Tuesday  (they've been in since May2015!) With the arrival of more shelving , I wasn't able to go sketching in London  this week so rather than 'Drawing Tuesday' ,I had 'Drawing Monday' at the Roman Museum in Canterbury while I waited for new lenses to be fitted in my specs.
A small museum, hidden in a back street, you go downstairs to find  the Roman mosaic discovered  during WW2 with reconstructions of shops etc built around it and excellent interpretation linking finds to  where they were discovered. It's very popular with families and school groups  but was very quiet  when I visited. No sketching stools but the steward kindly found me an office chair - luxury!
 Lots of Roman glass , how could I resist the flagon below which was found in Faversham!

 Yesterday, in between waiting for the doorbell for deliveries, I was sorting through my stash, repacking it into bigger plastic boxes ,making discoveries,  moving bookcases, constructing more shelving.  The scene before (above) and after (below).  
 The 'Phoenix' cube storage system from Argos bought because  the shelving was discontinued looks like it will be prove to be very useful - there's another set of 4 to go where the boxes are in the picture above .  I really like Ikea Ivar shelving and boxes but the quality has declined drastically since  these I bought 25 years ago hence the search for alternatives (the temporary black  plastic shelving has gone out to the garage). I might finally get my African textile pieces on the wall - having inspiring but neutral coloured artwork in the studio works well for me.  
 These fabric covered shelving units are proving useful for smaller boxes. I can construct one in 20 minutes now and as  I add to the row, my aim is to drop the covers down,  and use as the basis of a design wall ( along with boards propped up on Ikea wooden footstools, that indispensable studio item)The sewezi tables are also proving indispensable - I can quickly set up my sewing machines in all kind of positions in the room and it adds flexibility to changing studio space.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Drawing Tuesday: Making,Unmaking at Camden Arts Centre

 A  new venue  for Drawing Tuesday this week: Camden Arts Centre with it's cool galleries and shady garden  was a good choice on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year! We started out in the garden with coffee , explored the fascinating exhibition Making , Unmaking  then had a leisurely lunch. I only made one drawing ( above) in my  A4 'museum' sketchbook, using instead my A5 'exhibition' sketchbook where I made my usual notes and scribbles on pieces of work I liked (no photography was allowed) .

Several of us were fascinated by the cabinet containing plates from the book 'Tapis modernes' 1928 H Ernst , if I'd had more time I'd have copied some of the designs. I loved a poster of 'Faccine' by Boetti  exploring the elongated hexagon as a face - definitely quilt possibilities there! This version was black and white but it looks like an early example of a 'colouring in' poster

Polly Apfelbaum  Blue Alphabet

Polly Apfelbaum  was a new name to me but what interesting work she has on her webpage  , including several photos of the exhibition as a whole.  I loved the spray painted alphabet, and it's juxtaposition with some antique African textiles. In the photo below you can see  a large new painting by Lisa Brice in different tones of blue with  glimpses of figures and counterchange of lights and darks , very effective.



In a more subdued palette, there were several interesting and thought provoking pieces hung alongside paintings and weavings by Ani Albers ( whose work  was a revelation  in the 'Adventures of a Black Square ')
Brice Marden Window Study #6
I loved the subtle textures of this painting by Brice Marden, with glazes over a textured ground drawing it really made me look ( I got the proportions wrong!
Simon Fujiwara Fabulous Beasts
This  is actually a shaved fur coat which I have  very mixed feelings about but the lines where the pelts were sown together makes a  strong abstract piece. His other work looks intriguing too

I spent some time drawing this piece by Rebecca Ward with it's painted thread and subtle tones of canvas and the shadows of the canvas stretchers showing through. On her website, it's hung the other way which gives a completely different  feeling.
Rebecca Ward  Stilted

Mrinalina Mukhertjee
This monumental hemp sculpture was also unsettling - her work is new to me but again worth exploring  further.

So much to see and enjoy , I can see why Margaret C has been 3 times but it closes this weekend. It included lots of old African textiles - I've got quite a few myself, including kuba cloth  and reminded me I must hang them back in my studio for inspiration and attempt to draw them , it's  the best way to analyse the patterns and structures

But today I'm off to Margate  to see last days of exhibition at Turner Contemporary ( thanks to Olga for the review and prompt). I was going to take my new bike on the train as it's quite a trek from the station but with torrential rain forecast, perhaps not...
(UPDATE: Margate plans abandoned due to  rain - got wet through halfway to station! Maybe next week )

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Anatomy of an etching: 'Prologue' by Elizabeth Frink

When Margaret C.  and I  visited   the Beaney House of  Art and Knowledge in Canterbury last week, among the paintings and prints  with a link to Canterbury  and Kent, we were both drawn to this etching  with aquatint by Elizabeth Frink of the  Prologue to Chaucer's  Canterbury Tales. It's one of a series of 19 etchings   published by Leslie Waddington in 1972.

What I liked about it:
- the composition and use of space
- the rhythm of the horses legs
- the balance of dark and light
- the variation in marks and texture
- the contrast between a small very detailed area and suggestions of shapes.
- 'less is more'  and the way the eye fills in  the gaps.

It reinforces what I learnt on my painting course , particularly about not have the same degree of detail across the whole surface.
Thinking of  what draws the eye, the  'centre of interest' an interesting letter this week  on the Painters Keys on the pattern of language.


15 Principles of Wholeness
A Pattern Language” by Christopher Alexander


Sunday, 11 September 2016

SAQA Benefit Auction


 My  donation to SAQA's Benefit Auction is featured today on the  SAQA  Regional  Blog.  It's already been included in several ' Dream collections' which is very gratifying.  Details of how the auction works are here.


 This piece was started at the same time ( 3 years ago!) as my larger quilt  shown above  for  the TVCT exhibition 'Halfway Between' and  a detail of the stitching was used in the Knit and Stitch brochure !   A lot of people think that there's  rust dyeing but its mainly African kola and indigo with some of my own indigo shibori fabrics  and photos of sand ripples manipualted in Photoshop printed on fabric

 My last Benefit Auction donation ( above )  sold for $350  so I hope this years is equally successful.

Friday, 9 September 2016

A week in Kent: Quilts and Hops


 Snapshots of a busy week! Last Thursday  I got a lift   to Hever Castle  to set up the CQ Journal Quilt display as part of the  annual quilt show. Building the 'booth' with poles and sheets on uneven terrain to support the very clever hanging system of hooks straps and rods was challenging - I was very grateful for the help of all involved .
 Maybe not the neatest display ever but the best in the circumstances and I heard they generated a lot of interest in the variety of techniques, a contrast to the mainly large , more traditional quilts on show.

On Saturday we had a joyous day at Faversham's annual Hop Festival  which involves the whole town. Everyone  including babies,  dogs, policemen, mayors and dignitaries ( who formally opened proceedings welcoming the Pearly Kings and Queens)  wore hop crowns.  We had lunch at 'The Yard' and nearly everyone was sporting  them like it was everyday headwear - quite surreal. There were a variety of music on offer at 5 stages and other venues;(music hall, punk, folk and everything in between );  20 or so different morris sides and dance troupes  and  a funfair and other activities for children. And of course lots of food and drink !


 We caught the parade on Sunday morning on the way to the train station  into London
 Lunch at ASK, a quick visit to the Islamic gallery at the V&A , then afternoon Prom with the fantastic, lively,  Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra

 We got back to Faversham around 9PM,the  only evidence of hop festival was full bins,  stalls being dismantled and  the last few revellers - as we got off the train  a steward was attempting to get an armful of 2 tiddly, giggly  buxom girls onto the Ramsgate train. All very good natured.

I had my first choir practice since  June - a lot of catching up to do as we have our concert in 5 weeks time! It was dark when I returned home( sign of the changing seasons), lovely shadows of the plant borders on the path thanks to the security lights.



I've not had much studio time this week but I've got into making  6 x 4inch sized postcard compositions mainly from offcuts  left from trimming down quilts plus other scraps . The backs are bondawebbed colour catchers so they're firm enough they could in theory be sent through the post. I share photos on Facebook group  'Sketchbooks and Experiments for Textiles' and its' lovely to receive comments and see what other people are up to   

 Yesterday I met up with Margaret C. in Canterbury ( she'd come for the day to see her artists book in the Prescriptions exhibition at the Beaney  museum. ) We started out with coffee and lunch at the wonderfully old fashioned café of C&H   ( 3 floors of fabrics and haberdashery), comparing our scrap creations : my postcards and her vessels destined to be cast in ceramics.  


 I'd  spent a long time looking at the Prescriptions exhibition the first time I'd  seen it , but it was good to  view it again with Margaret as she knew quite a few of the artists.  In the gallery at the Beaney there were paintings associated with Kent and Canterbury - some of which I will do a separate post on, but I leave you with hop picking equipment and a painting by Laura Knight of a hop picker!


Sunday, 4 September 2016

Festival of Quilts 2016 : Linear Structures

I'd forgotten I still had a draft  on FoQ still to post!  One of the trends that interests me is the move to having more structural works or those that aren't a traditional rectangle. This  was more evident in the white wall gallery spaces , it doesn't fit in so well in the competition categories apart from 'quilt creations'  which is a bit of a mixed bag and doesn't tend to show work to best advantage.
I particularly liked how  Cas Holmes work in the Art Textile : Made in Britain   gallery reflected the shapes and folds of the landscapes that inspired it.  

Sarah Welsby's work is always interesting  and  her piece in the Art Quilt Masters was displayed on a plinth which gave it a sculptural presence, being able to  look at it from multiple viewpoints.

Terry Donaldson's piece in the   Quilters Guild challenge (176)  was simple but effective made up of several varying  lengths and widths of different textures, a personal response to walking on the beach.

Back in the Art Textiles:Made in Britain gallery , I liked the combination by Jenny Rolfe  of her  neat orderly quilt  with Thermofax printed images of the Colesseum contrasted with the  more organic form next to it made of the offcuts.  

In the gallery showing work by the 'Quinary' textile art group, I liked the stitched African strip cloth of Jean Kirk referencing old pathways ( and the shadows they cast)  and the loops of silk cloth.  
I've had the idea for a long time of making  'winding cloths'  of meaningful scraps and offcuts  ( a sort of linear travellers blanket) and I now how more idea  about how I might construct them.