Tag Archives: response

Favourite places

I returned to mid-Wales, a week ago, to visit my mother, join the celebrations of a good friend’s birthday and meet friends not seen for a long time. It was good.

The surf forecast proved reliable too, though with strong winds that made it hard actually to catch the lovely waves that break here more often than people expect. The water was colder than I’d experienced there for years, about the same as the North Sea!

The next day, before going to visit an artist friend, I sketched the south end of the beach :

I’ve caught more of it than I’d thought at first. something to build upon.

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Snow Tree

I’ve felt dissatisfied with my art recently, stuck, able to see where I’d like to be but not able to make the moves that actually take me there, or getting bogged down in the details or technicalities and losing the experience that caught me in the first place.

Last week, in a weather imposed break from work – heavy snow led to them shutting down for 3 days – I took a walk through the lovely woods nearby, returning along what remains of the Antonine Wall, trees growing where once were Romans.

A young but twisted birch tree caught my eye, the snow and light giving it a quality of appearance as if drawn. The wind was cold and another blizzard squall beginning. I looked at it, held by the colours and quality of it, took a photo and moved on.

It stayed in my mind, on the way back home.

I thought I’d done enough sketching, a few minutes before, hands cold enough to feel I could use that as an excuse.

Looking back at the photographs, I tried a couple of small sketches. Something was niggling my mind, just before bed, I did another study, pen dipped in ink, scratching the paper, watercolour quickly applied. .. A result I felt happy with, to sleep upon.

Now, this evening, again a little late, before bed, a study of myself in the big mirrors. Drawing pen, quick, then watercolour with a very limited palette. Allowing rather than trying to put into practice what I’d learned from the tree. .

First new step, maybe..

Goodnight.

Scotland – storms and light

It has been a wild week: low cloud, strong to gale force winds, regular bands of rain or slushy snow,  punctuated by brilliant sparkling sunshine and, on the last day, luminous rainbows framing mountains that I have not made time to climb on this journey.

On the way north, I caught the last ferry of the day, just, to the isle of Mull, which was hiding under a thick grey winter blanket with a cold wind raising a small choppy swell.

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I have achieved all but two of the main objectives that I had for this half-term break. I have spent time with friends not seen for too long, explored some new places, slept under stars and stormy nights in my oldest tent and on a boat, immersed myself briefly in the sea and made a number of paint sketches on most days. I had intended to paint more outside, but the general wetness of everything meant that the car was my main studio, if only to prevent the sketchbook from disintegrating.

Inspired by a recent presentation to the Wolverhampton Society of Artists, I had bought a brown card sketch book to experiment with painting quickly on a nearly mid-toned ground. I have enjoyed the results, in part because I  tried to loosen up my painting and catch impressions rather than details.

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At one place, the enigmatic Clava Cairns near Culloden, I felt a figurative sketch wouldn’t work. Instead I followed a more expressive approach, a response to what I perceived in the place: the sense of the geographical location, the feeling of a flow of something through the site,  the sense of presence I felt standing near some of the cairns and upright stones.

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I’ve been able to get used to using my reduced palette of acrylics in the outdoors or in the car, refinishing the logistics of deploying and stowing paints, water and a brush or two; all good practice for a possible trip further afield around Easter.

“Into an old, new land”

Here is a preview of a new landscape painting, inspired by recent experiences in Scotland as dramatic rain clouds rolled in over Creag Meagaidh , as well as other things seen in the Cairngorms, earlier in the year.  Unusually, for me, it combines elements from several experiences. This and other acrylic works are on the updated Acrylic paintings page.

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Into an old, new land – acrylic on canvas 76x51cm 2016

The inspiration for this painting ‘boiled up’ for me in the wake of the UK’s referendum on EU membership, added to what transpired to be a fruitless journey at short notice.  I felt the result in a very personal way that surprised me; I spoke to others who said the same. As the train rolled south on the day of the result, I felt I was returning to a land that was less home, more foreign, to me now.  The heaviness of the greys in the clouds, which I find beautiful and fascinating to watch, along with the strong contrasts and feeling of compression of the mountains, the gaps of light offering possible escape routes from the crushing presence of the rain-bearing masses.. all these had a resonance for me in the present situation.

I may add some finishing work to this, though not a great deal, it is essentially ‘done’.  I feel the sense of danger but also opportunity that changes bring; it is not an easy time.

 

Recovery and reconnaisance.

I had a setback, just after Christmas, when I was admitted to hospital with abdominal pains that led to me having my appendix removed; very tidily via ‘keyhole’ surgery.
This forced me to stop everything for a while but it also provided me with an opportunity to try out media and subjects that I’ve neglected for too long. I set up a simple still life composition and picked up some old Conte pastel pencils that I was given many years back.

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I had forgotten how pleasant it is to build up colours and tones slowly, without the urgency imposed by rapidly drying watercolour or acrylic paint. There is a pleasing feeling of control of the process with dry media that I find can help to deepen my observation of the subject. This is in turn beneficial when I decide to use paint.

My assortment of coloured pencils was not quite working for me though, each type had noticeably different characteristics, including the need for applying fixative, which I wanted to avoid.  I made the decision to clear out my stock, which I gave to the school art department for students to use, and invest in a new set of good quality coloured pencils. After trying a few different types out, I settled on the Koh-i-Noor Polycolour pencils, which have good quality colours and a nice softness without the powdery nature of pastel pencils.

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So now I am starting to explore and play with these nice new colours, it brings back that feeling I had as a child, the joy of simply making marks and building up areas of colour, even just in little thumbnail trials, as here.

I’ll post more in a while, it’s too late to photograph the other sketches just now and I have started back at work.

Classic Modern

Today I’ve been accompanying a visit by art students from the school to London and the Tate Modern. The long coach journey has limited our time there but they have still had an all-too-rare opportunity to see some influential and thought-provoking works. I will be interested to see, from the sidelines, what fresh ideas they bring into their work after this.
They are good, motivated and pleasant students and my role as ‘responsible (male) adult’ has been easy so far. Free of the burdens of teaching, I had the luxury of being able to make notes and sketches of my own and to use some reflection time to gain some ideas and even a few insights.
I like the Tate Modern, from its wonderful cathedral-like turbine hall to its range of exhibits and the wide range of :ordinary’ people visiting.
I found myself drawn to Mark Rothko’s deeply meditative ‘seagram murals. Ideas arose for me about colour and the responses that arise from immersing oneself in the experience of it. When I sit in front of these colossal canvases, I feel a deep calm that I encounter also in good meditation sessions. I also have a distinct feeling of a low, continuous, note, just on the edge of hearing. I ask myself why I have still not made my own attempt to work woth really bold colours, which I do use as base layers for my landscapes.
One of Joan Miró’s paintings also evoked something of this feeling for me, the deep blue field drawing me to stand as close as I was allowed and simply looking, feeling no need to imterpret or even ask questions, it was sufficient to spend time in the experience of the colour. Calm, nearly soporific, a feeling of deep space…. Was this the dream-like association referred to in the exhibition text?
Ideas sit, captured in the pages of my sketchbook and circulating in my mind.
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