Thursday, 22 November 2012

On the move.......

I have made my blogging home here for the last eleven months. I've been very grateful for how easy Blogger has made it  for me to learn how to do lots of techy stuff that I couldn't believe at the start that I'd ever get my head around! I felt, as an artist, that I would really struggle to get to grips with all this 'technological' stuff, but as a teacher I had great faith in my ability to learn skills in an unfamiliar realm. I stuck with this belief &, when things got difficult, my faithful friend 'Google search' was always there to help & hold my hand!

Blogger also played an important role in enabling me to teach my first e-course pilot by hosting the private blog through which I delivered the lessons. Unfortunately, Blogger was not so reliable when inviting people who didn't have a g mail account & so I have decided to move over to WordPress.

I don't want to lose contact with any of you & really look forward to welcoming you over at the new blog site. I would also love to know what you think of it!

Click here to visit The 'all new' Watercolour Journals!

Thursday, 25 October 2012

BBC Your Paintings Project & my mother's work

'Your Paintings is a website which aims to show the entire UK national collection of oil paintings, the stories behind the paintings, and where to see them for real. It is made up of paintings from thousands of museums and other public institutions around the country.' (Source- Your Paintings website)

Pennine Road (1993) Vera Lowe (Private collection)
'Your Paintings' is a partnership project between the Public Catalogue Foundation & the BBC. The aim is to catalogue all the oil paintings that are held in the public collections around the UK & make all 200,000 available to be viewed online. Although it isn't just oil paintings that are being included, works in tempera, acrylic & mixed media that includes oil or acrylic paint will also be added. 

Tempera is one of the earliest types of paint  (made by blending egg & pigment), so this means that  some of the oldest paintings in the collection will be included. By contrast, acrylic first became available in the 1950s & so many of the works are comparatively recent.

In the early 1960s my mother, Vera Lowe, began to use the new acrylic paint 'Cryla', fell in love with its immediacy & continued to use it for the rest of her life. The paint was sympathetic to the northern landscapes she loved to paint.

 My sister & I have often talked about making a website & cataloguing her work, but it seems the BBC have beaten us to it! So far, three works have been included, but she also has work in the Manchester City Art Gallery, which has not yet been added.

Here is a link to view my mother's art on 'Your Paintings' : Vera Lowe

Whilst researching this post I found a lovely description of Vera by Sheila Gerrard

'Vera was a vibrant woman, passionate about painting.......her paintings were strong like her character.'

And also this account of a demonstration my mother had given:

'She said, addressing the ladies in particular, "leave the fluff under the bed, it will only come back again, paint instead"

Not only did my mother influence my art, but also my attitude to housework!

My new course for the New Year 2014 - Discovering Watercolour is an exciting new course for those wanting to explore this vibrant & inspiring medium - click here for more info.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

An invitation to experience my new drawing course for free

I have taught art in real life for over 15 years & ran a pilot version of the Exploring Drawing e-course with a group earlier this year, but this is the first time it has run online as a commercial venture.

I can understand that some of you might be hesitant about signing up. The first e-course that I joined as a participant took me around three months to take the plunge & sign up for it. The May version of the course came and went, and it was not until September that I signed up & paid.

I can appreciate your concerns as this is a new course. With this in mind, I have made the decision to invite you to experience the first two weeks of the course free and without obligation. Of course, I hope that you will then want to continue with the rest of the classes.

Everyone, who then signs up for the course, will be offered the opportunity to exhibit a selection of their work in The Watercolour Journals online gallery. As an added bonus I will be extending the opening of the gallery to cover the holiday & New Year period, so that you can invite your friends & family to view your work there too.

You may have been promising yourself that one day you will give yourself the opportunity to develop your artistic potential. I would like to invite you to take the first step toward that by joining me for the first two weeks (and beyond) of Exploring Drawing.

Best wishes


P.S. The course begins on the 15th October & this invitation will be open for two weeks. You will still have access to the whole course even if you join after the 15th.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Isadora in progress

I have now begun a larger version of the provisional sketch I made last week. I'm enthusiastic about the qualities that using recycled paper can bring to a piece. As the portraits I make are based on early photographs that are now fairly ancient & weathered paper & card  themselves, this use of paper that has a previous life feels like a perfect match.

This is the first stage of this piece. I now need to leave it in a place in the studio where I will see it when I am not expecting it. I find that this process of allowing work in progress to catch me unawares helps me to see work objectively & decide what needs to happen next. I find that this is a really helpful technique, particularly if I feel I am losing my way with a particular piece.

Have you tried this technique? I'd also be very interested to hear of any others that work for you.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Isadora Duncan - beginning a portrait

I have had little time recently for making art. My real life art teaching at college began last week & I have also been working hard on preparing & launching my new website & e-course.

Today, the heavens opened in Gloucestershire & finally, I had time to retreat into the sanctuary of my studio. I already had plans to continue the series of portraits I had begun making, drawing inspiration from early photographs of creative people & others within their circles. I love this portrait of Isadora Duncan, her beautiful almond shaped eyes & long white neck. My process is always to begin by making a number of preliminary sketches to help me understand the pose, the dimensions of the face & the expression of the subject.

I usually make my preliminary sketches on scrap paper & will often use recycled paper in the finished piece. This drawing was made using a roller ball ink pen.

I then used Conté crayon to add tone & was pleased with the way the dark background lifted the face forward. I'm sure there'll be many more sketches before I move on to making the final piece, but feel that I have begun to become acquainted with Isadora. 

The new website & e-course info can be viewed here. I'd love any feedback on the new site!

Other portraits in this series can be seen by clicking here.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Light & colour in Saint Cézaire, South of France

I have been away from here for a while as I have been in the South of France for a few weeks. I've been relaxing, enjoying the sunshine, absorbing some French culture & inspiration (all of this without internet access!)
One beautiful day, we drove up to the small town of Saint Cézaire. The sun rose high into the sky scorching the roofs, roads & surrounding countryside.

The water bubbled lazily from the fountain in the town square, as we took refuge from the midday sun close by in the shady pizzeria.

Later we visited this brocante, the French equivalent of a flea market. Often these markets take place on a particular day & sprawl through the streets of a town. This brocante was a single shop, but it had still managed to escape out the door & spread itself across the pavement! It offered many strange & wondrous objects for sale, including ancient door handles. We bought two pairs, one brass and, the other, porcelain & for only 10€ each. They are now installed & look perfect in our English Victorian house.

I love the creamy colours against the amazingly, blue sky & the play of the angles of the buildings & the curve of the road.

P.S. I have to admit to feeling rather pleased that I discovered how to type French accents & the Euro symbol on a UK keyboard!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The (almost) finished icon

Saturday was the second part of the icon workshop, tutored by Ian Knowles. As this was only a two day workshop and not long enough to complete an icon from scratch, the face was marked out from a template using red ochre powder. Each person then made the egg tempera paint from egg emulsion & ground pigment. The focus was on rendering the image by building up layers of tone & colour.
Here is the painting of the first few layers that I completed last week:

Below are the subsequent stages as the face began to emerge.

These are the group's finished icons (mine's the one in the centre). I found it fascinating how they all began from the same few inital markings and yet, seemed to have developed their own expressions & individuality.

For anyone who missed it before, here is the link to Ian's website, Elias Icons, where his beautiful work can be seen.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

The Holy Face

As a spiritual, rather than a religious person, I approach the subject of icons from an artistic perspective & I am drawn to their beauty. On Saturday, I attended the first part of a two week workshop to paint an icon using egg tempera.

It was the end of an exhausting week at work & I really didn't relish the thought of having to get up on Saturday at the same hour I would during the week - but it was certainly worth the effort.The workshop was tutored by iconographer, Ian Knowles,

In addition to the icons, the other aspect of this course that interested me was that we would be making our own paints. Regular readers of this blog will know that this is something I have tried before & the account of my previous attempts at this can be viewed here. I'm pleased to report that the results were much more successful this time. With support from Ian, we made our own egg tempera, a magical blend of egg, vodka & raw pigment. I have to admit that, for me, the vodka was a surprise ingredient!

Once the paint was mixed, the painting process began.....
Below is the icon so far. It already has 5 layers of tempera on the face, although the background will remain as it is, covered with one layer of variegated wash. The face is built up progressively, working from dark to light - it's fascinating seeing it gradually appear.

I am very excited about Saturday's workshop & shall be out of bed before the alarm this week! I promise to report back with an update.

Please take a look at Ian's exquisite work, which can be viewed at Elias Icons

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

A very small museum

I have a confession to make, I have a really unappealing habit, I'm trying to control it, but a lot of the time it gets the better of me.
This is my problem- I see things on the ground & have an uncontrollable urge to pick them up...
Sometimes they're beautiful natural objects, leaf skeletons, a soft shaped piece of turquoise glass smoothed by the ocean or a newly escaped polished conker.  Occasionally, the 'treasures' are not what they first appear & are hastily dropped to the ground again. My pockets are full of these impulse acquisitions, which often crumble to nothing before reaching my studio. For those that do survive the hazardous journey, superior accommodation awaits.

After a visit to the Natural History Museum in Oxford, I had this idea that I wanted to have a museum of my very own. My other favourite museum in Oxford is the Pitt Rivers Museum. One of the reasons that I love it so much is the eccentric classification system; exhibits are grouped by type, rather than the usual way, by geographical or cultural area

However, my museum is much smaller, being housed in a couple of glass lidded tea boxes that I purchased specially for this purpose. I have, however, contrived my own classification system.

The Pitt Rivers Museum has heavy drawers that can be pulled open by their brass handles to reveal hidden treasures. Some of these items are not that pleasant; I am thinking here of the 'sympathic magic' section. One item is a bull's heart, pierced with iron nails & found in a chimney in the New Forest, Dorset. None of my treasures are, thankfully, quite as nasty as that.

What links these objects, that they are similar shapes, natural objects or similar colours? I think it's nearly all of these things and yet, not quite any of them. 
I have lined the compartments with scrunched up tissue paper & plan to make a label for each, written in scratchy handwriting, detailing the contents.

List of contents left to right.
Top row: Bees extracted from the dining room chimney which contained a nest, coral gifted by an elderly relative, an unindentified fruit (collected from a path in a French forest)
Middle row: Ammonite bought from Natural History museum, Oxford, devil's toenail I dug up in my garden, black beetle, honey bee & section of exquisitely coloured butterfly wing
Bottom row: Owl feather (down) found on a walk by the river Severn,  piece of broken pink pressed glass dessert bowl (echoing the shape of the ammonite), foil wrapper that once held a chocolate ammonite, which my daughter gave me as a present from Lyme Regis.

N.B. No creatures were harmed in the assemblage of this museum

Monday, 28 May 2012

Iris & transience

I wait all year for these irises to appear. I brought them from my late parents' garden. Their joint enterprise; my father grew them & then, my mother would paint them.
Each May, I take many photos, but it's never the same as drawing or painting from real life. Yesterday, I grasped the moment, sat in the sunshine & recorded their beauty as best I could.

This morning they were gone, their remains like shrivelled, wilted paper left on the stem.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Leonardo at Bristol

There are not many displays of under a dozen exhibits that I would drive over 40 miles to see, but I made an exception for the latest exhibition at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery.
On show until 10th June, 'Ten Drawings by Leonardo da Vinci' is the main attraction & for good reason.

This exhibition, although light on exhibits, contains examples of all of Leonardo's major areas of work. He thought of himself as a scientist first & an artist second. Two of the examples are meticulous anatomical drawings, one of arms & the other of bones of the foot. Others include designs for clothing & sculpture.

I loved this drawing of Leda (below) & was fascinated by the techniques used. Leonardo had made an under drawing of black chalk & then a fine drawing of ink was made on top of this. It was amazing to see the marks made by his hand over 500 years ago.

This was my personal favourite, Scenes from the End of the World. Click on the photo to see clouds raining fire & skeletons rising up from the ground- an interesting subject for the leading scientist of the age!

I came away inspired to find out more about Leonardo & become more prolific as an artist!

 The drawings are part of the Royal Collection & are being exhibited as a Diamond Jubilee Celebration.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Light & the Great British Seaside

Summer is getting off to a slow start here in the UK. However, yesterday & today have been full of sharp, bright light & searing blue skies that, whilst there's still a nip in the air, whisper the promise of hot summer days to come.

I'm currently teaching an online drawing class & as part of the preparation, wanted to take some photographs of pebbles. I already have pebbles in my garden collected on previous excursions to the coast, but what I didn't have was the right type of light.

I decided that I owed it to my students to give them photographs of pebbles taken in situ on a beach in coastal light.  The nearest place, I could get to easily, was Clevedon on the south west coast. Technically speaking, Clevedon is at that point where river & ocean meet. The water contains silt washed down the river by recent heavy rain, & yet, it's tidal, has small pebbled beaches & a beautiful Victorian pier.

On the drive there, I was thinking about the fact that artists seem to be drawn to the light of the western coast & why this should be. For example, the St Ives artists in Cornwall & St David's in Wales is also a congregating point for artists. Is this just true in Britain or does this happen in other places too, artists creating communities to take advantage of the western light. Do you know of any others?

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Cotton Threads- Whitworth Art Gallery

During a recent visit to Manchester I visited the exhibition 'Cotton Threads' showing at the city's Whitworth Art Gallery. For me, one of the highlights was Liz Rideal's multimedia installation 'Drop Sari'.

The piece consisted of four lengths of fabric, which were moving slowly in a gentle breeze, onto which a series of film & images were projected. The images included fabric designs & sequences depicting the cotton manufacturing process in India.

This is the information about the piece given by the gallery:

Examining 'The Textile Manufactures of India', sample books of Indian textiles assembled in 1866 to demonstrate to British manufacturers Indian preferences for their clothing, was the catalyst for Liz Rideal's work in this exhibition and provided the opening animation sequence of the 'Drop Sari' film. Her work transforms familiar and commonplace objects into strange and seductive imagery, with drapery frequently performing as the subject of a piece.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Homemade paint

Since I wrote the post about Seraphine, I have made two attempts to make my own paints.

The photo above shows red onion skins bubbling in a pan. The water became a deep ruby colour & I was so excited to try using it.

My experiment, even after two dips in the mixture, did not live up to the deep red it promised & gave a very disappointing result. It had the appearance of a manilla envelope!

For my second brew, I boiled up skin from the less exotic brown onion. This turned the water a golden amber colour & held a depth of colour that the first concotion had lacked. I used this first homemade paint for the eyes of the cat below.

The drawing is the first sketch for a character from a novel that I am basing some work on. I used a British Blue for the model & was quite pleased with the resulting eye colour.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Sketchbook Project

I met my friend, cococita, a talented photographer, through an online course. She has a keen eye for colour & composition. When she asked, I was only too pleased to give some feedback on a sketchbook she had made. The work was part of  The Sketchbook Project 2012 .

Participants were asked to select a theme for their sketchbook. The one chosen was 'The first ever ...' and the sketchbook is entitled 'The Beauty of Simplicity'.

The sketchbook incorporates a number of different themes: accessories/clothes, pattern/graphics, bottles/pots & flowers. They are connected by the clean linear nature of the drawing & balanced presentation

I noticed the vase of white tulips in one of the photos with the sketchbook drawing of them and liked the way the shadows fell on the page, echoing the shapes. 

The artist seems to be interested in the relationship between objects & the space they take up.

I love the outline drawings of the vases & the way that real objects have beenplaced on top of & then photographed- the interplay between the real object & a representation of it. The work of the British artist, Ben Nicholson , explores similar themes. Some of his work was concerned with outlines & overlapping shapes of bottles & pots.

The work shows a keen eye for design & balance. 'The Beauty of Simplicity' was also an interesting title & was reflected it well in the pages. I really like the use of  collage combined with drawing (this is something I am also exploring in my own work) & enjoyed this aspect of the work. 

To view the entire sketchbook click here, here and here.

This sketchbook was produced as part of The Sketchbook Project

Registration is now open for the 2013 Sketchbook Project by clicking here.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Seraphine Louis

 View the updated version of this page by clicking here.

What would you do if you lived in a time or location where art materials were not readily available? I have spent some time considering this question & my solutions included burning wood to make charcoal, creating sculptures from natural/found materials & using natural substances to make my own pigments. One artist took this idea to the extreme.

Seraphine Louis was a French domestic and, unbeknown to many of her employers, a committed & driven artist. Due to her impoverished life, she could not afford to buy commercially produced materials. Her ingenious solution was to gather everyday substances, such as wine, soot & oil & transform them into vivid pigments which she used to depict her natural surroundings.

Yolande Moreau plays Seraphine in Martin Provost's 2008 film of the same title. This charming & gentle film reveals the artist's delight in the beauty of her natural surroundings. She is depicted as both grounded by her life of domestic work yet somewhat detached from the society in which she lives by her compulsion to paint.
The film centres on the relationship between Seraphine & Willhelm Uhde. Uhde was both an  art dealer & collector who had exhibited Picasso as early as 1908. He organised the first exhibition of naive art in Paris, which included work by Rousseau alongside those of Seraphine Louis & others.

Seraphine believed that the angels were commanding her to paint. One day she said that the angels had gone and she never painted again. Seraphine developed mental health difficulties & ended her days in an institution.

The film deservedly won seven French academy awards when it was released in 2008.

If you would like to find out more info about the film, the image above is a link to the film on Amazon.

Discovering Watercolour is an exciting new course for those wanting to explore this vibrant & inspiring medium - click here for more info.