Sunday, 27 December 2015

New Year's resolution

Being an artist isn't a 9 to 5 thing. Neither is setting up your own business so with both vying for head space over the last few months (and throw in an aged parent with dementia for good measure), there hasn't been a whole lot of etching going on. 

With Imprint 2 only a couple of months away though, it's time to get back to my core business.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Evelyn Dunbar: The Lost Works

A 1944 Pastoral, Land Girls Pruning at East Malling
Also on at Pallant House at the moment is a selection of work by WWII Official War Artist Evelyn Dunbar (1906 – 1960). The show consists mostly of paintings, drawings and illustrations found in the attic of a relative's home and not seen before. Mostly studies, these have been brought together with the finished works from public and private collections. These works are rarely seen also so it's a bit of a privilege to see them now.

Land Army Girls going to Bed

Dunbar was quite versatile and had different styles according to project in hand but it's the 'domestic' war scenes I really like. Part of me harrumphed that 'the little woman' had been kept at home and not sent to document the 'real' war stuff, but of course, the domestic was just as important to record as part of the war effort. These paintings are rather Spenceresque; the shapes of the figures, the composition and colours. 

Flying Apple Pickers
I think it's rather a shame though that Dunbar's work was squished into three small, dark rooms whilst David Jones was languishing in the more spacious upstairs galleries. Flying Apple Pickers, a painting I particularly liked, could hardly be seen as it was hung on a piece of wall sticking out into the space only a couple of feet wide - the painting just fitted.

Read more about the exhibition here.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Evelyn Dunbar and David Jones at Pallant House

David Jones ~ Garden Enclosed

Visited Pallant House last week to see the David Jones and Evelyn Dunbar exhibitions. Mostly it was the David Jones that drew me as there have been reviews nationally, but actually, it's the Evelyn Dunbar that's worth seeing.

A brief word about David Jones. Accomplished wood engravings heavily influenced by Eric Gill (Jones spent a lot of times with Gill, lived as part of his community in Ditchling and was engaged for a few years to Gill's daughter Petra); later paintings confused and insipid, looks like he never got to grips with colour. Disappointing. There are a few early paintings of big cats which I quite like; very spare in use of line and colour. I can see in these what his art teacher meant when he commented, “Look at that, you see, Jones leaves out everything except the magic.” 

There is a lot of Jones's work on display - five or six rooms in the main gallery. Evelyn Dunbar's  work on the other hand is squished into three small rooms downstairs. Much more varied and accomplished than Jones's. And she deserves her own post so I shan't tack her on to the end of this one.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Jane Joseph: Seeing the Space

Jane Joseph ~ Foot bridge and Tower, etching
Interesting exhibition of drawings, etchings and linocuts by Jane Joseph on at Southampton City Art Gallery at the moment. I like the large charcoal drawings.

The artist has also curated an exhibition of drawings from the gallery's collection which is more interesting (to me at least). A couple of Auerbach's in there.

Week 12

3 x 5 minute drawings
It was our last life drawing session of the term this week. I was hoping to sign up for next term but very sadly, the gallery is havng to move premises at very short notice so no more sessions until they find a new venue. Gutted. Going to have to have a swift rethink over the Christmas period as I don't want to lose the momentum I've built up over the last four months. And I've only just begun my painting adventure!

3 x 2 minute sketches
20 minutes
30 minute oil sketch

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Life drawing weeks 10 and 11

Quick oil sketch - 45 minutes
I don't have an awful lot to show for the last couple of weeks at life drawing as I have begun to paint in the sessions, and as I'm completely new to this, the results are somewhat ropey.

This first image is from the long pose at the end of the session, about 45 minutes, and is nothing more than a rough sketch in oils. The week before I had longer, over an hour, but what I produced was terrible so I wiped it all off and reused the board this week. It's going to take me a long time to master this I think but I'm really enjoying the process so far, even though the end product is no good.

I have been making drawings during the short poses to get my eye in and because there isn't really time to paint then.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Life drawing week 9

3 x 5 minute poses

Another good session at life drawing this morning. In the short warm ups, pose three melted into pose one as I discovered a particular crease on the model's back serendipitously ended up in the same place on the paper in both drawings.

20 minutes

1 hour
For the long pose, I tried putting tone on the paper before starting the drawing, again to pull the lights out of the surface. Not sure how successful it was... doesn't really look like one of my drawings. That's probably not a bad thing; stepping out of one's comfort zone and all that.

I shall be even further out of my comfort zone next week however as I've promised to take oil paint... gulp.

Another grumpy self-portrait

I made another A1 sized self-portrait last week, again thinking about Auerbach's techniques. This time I put a tone all over the paper with charcoal before I started the drawing and used a putty rubber to pull the subject out of the background. Well, to pull the highlights out of the background. I think it's fairly successful though of course, there are elements that don't work - like my left eye. More practice needed.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Life drawing week 8

1 hour 10 minutes
Another good session at life drawing today; feel like I made progress again. Rather overdid the foreshortening on the 1 hour pose but actually, I think it works okay. Managed to work the paper more (thinking about Frank Auerbach still) but much more to do. ALWAYS much more to do!

20 minutes

3 x 5 minute warm ups

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Self-portraits as historical records

Charcoal on paper, A1, November 2015

Inspired by Frank Auerbach's portraits, and feeling the need to practice more with charcoal, working big (how ridiculous that I've only discovered the wonderousness of charcoal at this late stage!), I made the above self-portrait this weekend.

Self-portraits are good exercise when you don't have another model around; and made periodically over the years, they provide a useful record of the progress of one's work and skills as well as a history of ageing / personal change. I'm rather ashamed of the drawings from 2009 - didn't think I drew that badly. I can't remember... maybe they were intended as rough sketches... Nasty. The regular life drawing is definitely helping my observation and drawing skills.

Graphite on paper, A3, May 2011 
Graphite on paper, A4, August 2009

Graphite on paper, A4, September 2009

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Frank Auerback at Tate Britain

Head of JYM II 1982
Friday was a good day, despite the rain. I don't get up to London to look at art very often these days so it was good to have the opportunity to go to Tate Britain to see the Frank Auerbach retrospective.

I've been craving a good exhibition of paintings for some time; and for me, that's what this is. 

The work ranges from the 1950s to present day with the same subject matter often repeated. Portraits of the same handful of sitters, paintings of the same scenes around Auerbach's studio, views of his own studio. These provide a good sense of the way his work has developed over the years; subtle changes from thick layers of brashly coloured paint built up in almost sculptural relief, scraped back to more subdued tones on a flatter surface. The paintings lose none of the energy and movement and noise of the earlier works though.
Self-portrait, charcoal on paper, 1958

Head of Catherine Lampert II, 1985
Interior, Vincent Terrace, 1982-84
In the Studio IV, 2013-14

 I love Auerbach's charcoal drawings - from the early self-portraits (see above) to the later, more abstracted ones. The marks and the energy are compelling, though I don't understand how he got to this point (yet... I bought a copy of Catherine Lampert's recent biography of the artist so am hoping to understand his working processes better).

I think the thing I like best about Auerbach's work is that it makes me work hard. I have to look at one of his paintings for some time to try and gain some understaning of it. I don't just mean to work out what's going on in the painting... I'm not explaining this well. I guess I get sucked into the painting - the rich colours, the indistinct forms, the light and shade... the mystery of it. These works hold my attention in a way that I don't really expect or understand. Not sure if that makes sense... Anyway, I left the exhibition thinking, thinking, thinking about the work and wanting to know more. That has to be one of the signs of good work.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Life drawing week 7

3 x 5 minute warm-ups
After the half term break, it was good to start life drawing again. I missed it during that week off.

Having felt that I was getting worse before half term, I felt I made some progress this week. My measuring was better so the figures were more in proportion, and I managed to get pretty much the whole figure on the paper in both the longer poses which I was pleased about. I really like half-drawn suggestions of figures and often, just part of the form works very well in the drawing. However, I need to be able to place the whole figure properly too.

25 minute pose
 Still a lot of work to do of course, but I feel like I'm moving forward again.
1 hour pose

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Live drawing at the Mayflower Theatre

It's been an arty week, what with one thing and another, the highlight of which was a Live drawing (yes, LIVE drawing) workshop at the Mayflower Theatre here in Southampton on Friday; drawing - or attempting to draw - the dancers of the English National Ballet who are performing Romeo and Juliet at the theatre. Interesting experience.

The workshop was led by visual artist Heidi Wigmore who talked first about what we would experience, the company class that we would sit in on, the dancers, strategies for drawing movement etc. She then had us do some really useful warm-up exercises without which I don't think we would have known where to start! Goodness, drawing movement is difficult. Didn't really get any useful drawings from the session; well, nothing that resembled a human form anyway. Mostly they were blind scribbles which may have some interest in themselves I guess... as mark-making.

I spent quite a lot of the time just watching the dancers actually, as it was quite mesmerising. A very interesting experience - I would like o try it again.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Maggi Hambling's drawings

I've been looking at a lot of paintings and drawings over the last few weeks (working my way through the art books at the library) and came across these lovely charcoal drawings of Henrietta Moraes by Maggi Hambling. Moraes died at the age of 67; the drawings were made during the last nine months of her life and just after she died. 

Hambling and Moraes (an alcoholic) were partners and their short relationship weathered Moraes's rapid decline including spells in a psychiatric hospital. It must have been an intense, tempestuous time; the drawings Hambling made of Moraes after death - from her dead form and later from memory - suggest a strength of the emotion and longing.

There's a great sensitivity in the drawings and a vibrancy that denies the fact that moraes was dying. I find them really quite moving.

Hambling M (2001) Maggi & Henrietta: drawings of Henrietta Moraes by Maggi Hambling, London: Bloomsbury

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Week 6 - got to get worse before getting better

3 x 5 minute poses
Again, another week of duff drawings - but I've worked out what's going on which is a relief. Apart from being tired from teaching printmaking the previous evening (I always enjoy it so much it takes me quite a long time to wind down because I'm buzzing; don't get to sleep until the small hours), I think I'm going through a 'have to get worse before you get better' phase. There's been a lot of new stuff to take in over the last six weeks. I was drawing more intuitively at the start and now I'm thinking about all the things I've learnt and am trying to apply those so thinking a lot more about what I'm doing. Lots of mental processing; looking, measuring, drawing with much more awareness. At first it's a bit of an overload but hopefully he more I draw, the more naturally these things will come and my drawings will be better. More accurate, placed better, better tone. That's my theory anyway...

1 hour pose

Friday, 16 October 2015

Week 5 - the mother of all stinkers

3 x 5 minute poses
 Oh dear. It wasn't a good week in the drawing studio for me. I was quite happy with the quick five minute starter drawings I did but it went down hill from there. The 20 minute pose was not good but the hour pose was a stinker. REALLY struggled with that one.

1 hour pose
20 minute pose

Don't know what to say other than I feel my progress has been something like this.

All must have data.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Ben Johnson, Spirit of Place: Paintings 1967 to 2015

Patio de los Arrayanes, 2015, acrylic on canvas, 220 x 220 cm

Went to see the Ben Johnson retrospective at  Southampton City Art Gallery this week. Many large, detailed, perfectly stencilled paintings, some of which are reputed to have taken 17 person years to make over a period of 18 months. 

I have to confess that largely, the photorealistic style leaves me cold, though I can appreciate the skill, concentration and sheer dedication to perfection and intricacy Johnson achieves in these works. This is extreme painting. Extreme painting.
Poolside reflection, 1984, acrylic on canvas, 159 x 217 cm
There are a couple of paintings of pools I like... they are a mass of layering of reflection and light and pattern which borders on abstraction. These are less straightforward representations of what the artists sees.

I won't beard on. Instead, listen to Johnson talking about his work here.
The Unattended Moment, 1993, acrylic on canvas, 184 x 243 cm

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Life drawing - week 4

24 minutes
Feel slightly reluctant to post this week's offerings... not such a good week. I really enjoyed the session but am not particularly happy with what I produced. My sense of proportion seems to be getting worse rather than better; not helped by the fact that I got so engrossed in today's long pose that I didn't step back to look at the drawing from a distance. Therefore proportion ALL over the place. They're not finished drawings of course, which doesn't help, and I'm tempted to continue tinkering with them to try and resolve some of the bits that are bugging me. Probably not a good idea though as I'm no longer in front of the model. Too much drawing what we think SHOULD be there rather than what's ACTUALLY there.

With the composite drawing of three short poses overlayed for the warm-up, I am trying to think more about how each image relates to the other, rather than drawing them over each other indiscriminately.

3 x 5 minute poses to warm up

40 minutes

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Dusting off the oil paints

I'm always saying I want to paint but manage about one painting every couple of years. I have actully dusted off the paints in the last couple of weeks though and have started to tinker using one of my life drawings as source material. The results of my tinkering are here. Not at all a good painting but I enjoyed fiddling with washes and layering the paint. Also trying to mix a convincing flesh tone - that's going to take some practice.

I think I like the earliest, roughest stages better than the later, more worked effect. This isn't a finished piece, just a warm-up exercise so I don't think I'll do any more to it. It is pretty awful really but there are bits which are approaching okay and I've learnt some things from it. Onwards and upwards. Just another 9,995 hours to go before I become an expert...