Thursday, 15 October 2020

Fields and foliage

 

a field glimpsed through a hedgerow
© Teresa Newham


Summer finished early this year, with a damp and chilly Autumn taking its place. I continue to walk the surrounding lanes in almost all weathers, dodging the rain, with a camera at the ready.  The walks are so much more interesting at this time of year - as long as you have the right clothes - and shoes!


Autumn shadows
© Teresa Newham


When the sun has been out it's been quite low in the sky, throwing some wonderfully atmospheric shadows; when it hasn't been shining it's still been possible to capture some splendid foliage in all its glory. A great deal of timely rain during the summer has resulted in lush hedgerows.



foliage and fencing
© Teresa Newham


My favourite field (yes, I do have one) has changed in the space of a month; freshly ploughed and sown during September, it's now displaying the first signs of growth.  I almost always take a photo when I pass it or cross it, and have made various sketches of it; now I'm thinking it would make a good subject for a linocut.



my favourite field
© Teresa Newham


I've spotted a lot of holly in different stages of development while I've been out walking; all of it providing vitally nutritious food for birds as the weather gets colder and the nights draw in.  I realised with a jolt last week that it's almost time to put the clocks back - how did that happen?


holly in all its glory
© Teresa Newham

Ivy is a major source of nectar for insects right now - is it my imagination, or is it flowering more lavishly this year? We have plenty at home but there's even more in the surrounding countryside; it's good to know that the bees still out and about won't be going hungry this year!


flowering ivy
© Teresa Newham

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

An unusual way to spend September

 


taking over the dining room
© Teresa Newham


The annual September routine is now well-rehearsed: after a hectic August framing, mounting and labelling work for #HertsOpenStudios, we clear the dining room of ornaments, rearrange the furniture and set up our exhibition in there and in my studio. The bunting goes up on Saturdays and Wednesdays and we welcome our visitors.


mounted photos wrapped for sale
© Teresa Newham


But not this year.

Thanks to Covid, Open Studios has been online, with just a few hardy souls opening to the public in a handful of Covid-secure venues.  The participating artists spent August making videos for social media and preparing to post throughout September on the daily themes.  It has been just as hectic, but with a completely different emphasis.


I love using the tab driver!
© Teresa Newham


Should I even bother with mounting and framing, I wondered? Well, we will be able to exhibit again at some point, and in any case, I advertise pieces for sale on my website, so the work needs to be ready. And it gave me the chance to use my favourite bit of framing kit, the tab driver, when I put the paintings into their frames.


framed watercolours ready to hang
© Teresa Newham

So as things turned out, I've taken over the dining room this September, after all - just not in the usual way.  I've spread out in there and taken my time.  Paintings, prints and photographs are now securely in their frames or mounted for display. Everything looks lovely! I just wish you could see it . . .


prints ready for sale - two framed, one mounted
© Teresa Newham





Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Demo with dragonfly

 

dragonfly
reduction linocut by Teresa Newham

#HertsOpenStudios should be a time for having a chat and cup of tea with visitors, while showing them new work and demonstrating techniques.  Instead, I've been posting daily themes and finishing this reduction linocut, based on a photo I took of a female broad-bodied darter on a cane in the garden.


design drawing from last year's photo
© Teresa Newham

I took photos as I went along for a mini video for the theme "Metamorphosis", to show how the original photo became the finished print. On impulse one day I stood my iPhone upright on top of a biscuit tin and filmed myself lino cutting, and posted it to my Instagram and Facebook Stories:




Having never used Stories before, I was staggered by the response, receiving messages and likes from as far away as Colombia. So I took some videos of me printing, linked them and speeded them up, and posted a second video:



While I haven't gone live with my demonstrations, the videos are a great way of sharing the process, which is what the virtual Open Studios is all about.  Only just half way through the event, I've learnt so much about video as a medium - and done a demonstration after all!











Monday, 31 August 2020

Virtually ready . . .

 

HVA publicity - it's a significant year
© Herts Visual Arts

The countdown is nearly over! tomorrow the 30th - and first-ever virtual -  #HertsOpenStudios will begin.  Forced online by coronavirus, organisers and artists alike have been obliged to re-think how we do things, joining Instagram, learning new skills and having a shedload of fun in the process.


Powerpoint slides for my Artist at Work video - based on photos from this blog
© Teresa Newham


Throughout September, you'll be able to access the event from the comfort of your sofa via the Herts Visual Arts website , or follow the latest news on Instagram and Facebook. From 1st - 30th September, there will be the opportunity to explore a new daily theme each day, ranging from Celebrating Colour (1st Sept) to Past, Present and Future (30th Sept).  If you prefer, go straight to the HVA Galleries page to browse by artist, genre or theme. If you've missed a theme you're interested in, you'll find them here.  


stills from my studio tour video - even a piece to camera!
© Teresa Newham

Many of us have been busy preparing videos: of our studios, our work and what inspires us, and how we make our art.  It's been a steep learning curve, teaching myself how to use Powerpoint and video editing software; finding the courage to face the camera myself and the ruthlessness to edit footage so that my studio tour is watchable.


the Meet the Artist video was easier - I'd made two already!
© Teresa Newham

Our work isn't finished yet, as many of us will be posting on social media on the theme of the day; for me that means finding appropriate photos and making some short videos - my sketchbooks are still patiently waiting for their turn to shine!  The artists have also been set a challenge to put on some kind of live event during the month. I'll have to think about that one . . .!


sketchbooks - still waiting for a video of their own
© Teresa Newham










Saturday, 15 August 2020

Wabi Sabi

 


impermanent
© Teresa Newham


And what exactly, you may ask, is wabi sabi?  I came across the concept for the first time while reading Christine Valters Paintner's The Artist's Rule, but in many ways I've been attracted to it since I started taking an interest in photography.


disintegrating
© Teresa Newham


Wabi sabi is a Japanese term which refers to the melancholy beauty of impermanence, imperfection and humility; and if you're drawn to a photo of a scruffy shed door or a painting of an elderly fishing trawler, because they have more character than shiny new things, then you like it too.


incomplete
© Teresa Newham
Add caption


The exercise suggested for this particular chapter of the book was to "take your camera for a walk", and I found plenty of examples on which to focus - literally - in the local lanes.  Nature, after all, is in a state of constant flux . . .


ephemeral
© Teresa Newham


Spring and Autumn are particularly good seasons to find wabi sabi in nature, because they are times of obvious transition; and although it's still only the middle of August, there are clear signs that Autumn is on its way.


humble
© Teresa Newham


These two photos are among my favourite examples: the weeds next to a railway bridge doubly so, as the "perfect" photo wouldn't include that little triangle of blue sky, while the poppy seed heads in my garden are a daily reminder of the beauty of wabi sabi!


withered
© Teresa Newham







Friday, 31 July 2020

Duck




Duck
reduction linocut by Teresa Newham


Here is the companion piece to the new Drake reduction linocut, imaginatively titled Duck. As you may recall, I printed them alongside each other, so that I always had something to work on while the other print was drying.


printing the beak & feet
© Teresa Newham



Sorting out her beak and feet was a little complicated, as it involved some wet in wet overprinting. Once the base body layer was in place everything made much more sense, and the next layer of shadow  made the duck look reassuringly solid.   


adding volume to the body
© Teresa Newham


The most challenging part was cutting the feathers on her body and head, and I had to resort to a mirror to ensure the pattern was correct.  I wasn't trying to portray every individual feather, but it still took two separate cutting sessions to get the right effect.


cutting the feathers
© Teresa Newham


Printing the final layer was a joy, as the duck came completely to life on the page at this point. She looks as though she could hold her own in any encounter and I think she'll make a fitting mate for that drake!


printing the final layer
© Teresa Newham





Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Drake




Drake
reduction linocut by Teresa Newham


Time for an update on one of the two reduction linocuts I've been making during lockdown.  As a distraction project it's worked well - I've learnt a lot and had a great deal of fun.  And it's certainly kept me occupied!


feet & beak
© Teresa Newham


Having finished the background, I've been dealing with each piece separately, which meant I could work on one while the other dried in between layers.  I printed the yellow feet and beak of the drake first, adding in some extended shadow on the beak.


feet (again) & head
© Teresa Newham


I printed the orange part of the feet and the green head next, and added in some wet in wet shadow on the head at the same time.  As you can see from the photo above, things were beginning to get somewhat complicated . . .


base layer on body
© Teresa Newham


The next stage was to print a layer of flat grey onto the body to give some texture and to knock out any intrusions from the background. This was a straightforward layer, as was the next one, which added some subtle extended shadows with a sweep of the baren.


subtle shadows
© Teresa Newham


The final process was to add the brown and black feathers, which I printed together as one layer.  I was sorry to finish with this handsome fellow, because he's been so absorbing to work on - as has his female companion! More about her soon . . 



final feathers
© Teresa Newham








Tuesday, 30 June 2020

30 degrees in the shade






Sunflowers
watercolour by Teresa Newham



I've had no urge to paint for some weeks, preferring to concentrate on my linocut project; but the day after a hot and sticky print session in last week's heat, the thought of spending an afternoon cutting lino just didn't appeal.  Only some wet and splashy watercolour would do.



inspiration and initial wash
© Teresa Newham


With all the doors and windows open and a vase of sunflowers at my side to provide some inspiration, I put a variety of colours into my palette, laid down some washes on a sheet of Arches watercolour paper, and let the painting develop however it wanted.  It more or less painted itself.



the painting evolves
© Teresa Newham



Looking back, I realise I've painted the way I was feeling that afternoon, rather than the flowers; there was definitely some longing for Mediterranean sky and sea, the need for a cool drink and perhaps a little breeze.   And now the weather is cool and rainy again, I'm back to the lino!



the finished piece
© Teresa Newham







Monday, 15 June 2020

Life in Lockdown




Pfeil linocut tool
 © Teresa Newham


It started as a Facebook photo challenge - ten days, ten black and white photos about everyday life in lockdown.  My first was a shot of some hand wash and a scrubbing brush, and I joked I could have posted it every day; but once the challenge was over, I carried on taking pictures.


geranium cuttings
© Teresa Newham



These have become a celebration of the little victories of lockdown.  I've taken geranium cuttings and baked wild garlic into cheese scones;  I've sewn together a bagful of blanket squares and crocheted a border round them.  I set up the sewing machine and produced some scruffy but effective face masks.



cheese scones with wild garlic
© Teresa Newham


The recent repeats of the BBC series Retreat: Meditations from a Monastery have put me into a reflective mood.  Beautifully shot with no commentary, the programmes show the daily activities of monks in three Benedictine monasteries, where every activity becomes prayer, be it painting an icon or sweeping the floor. 



haberdashery
© Teresa Newham



I rather like the idea of turning everything into prayer, so that linocut tools, crochet hooks, kitchen utensils and garden equipment take on a new significance.  Simply lighting a candle before starting a printmaking session can help the connection to a deeper purpose .



rosary
© Teresa Newham


The Benedictine oblate Christine Valters Paintner reminds us in her book The Artist's Rule that life has specific rhythms of its own, that there is a time and a season for everything as Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 and the  popular 1960s song tell us. Now that we are starting to emerge from lockdown, I hope to be able to stay attuned to those rhythms.


knitting and crochet
© Teresa Newham







Saturday, 30 May 2020

Lockdown Lino




source photos and the design transferred to lino
© Teresa Newham

Since lockdown began, I've realised I need to find a way to make art in spite of my current inability to concentrate for long.  I've been watching some excellent YouTube videos by Laura Boswell and become really keen to try some of her tips and techniques (do check them out - she's into her second series now with a third one planned).


one of my new Pfeil linocut tools - a work of art in themselves
© Teresa Newham

Back in January I designed a pair of linocuts of a duck and a drake, tracing the outline of the birds from some photos I took on Harpenden Common a few years ago and adapting each one for printing. I got no further because I couldn't decide how to tackle the background.  Now seems a good time to experiment!


fun with colour mixing
© Teresa Newham

So far I've stained the lino to see the cutting more easily; prevented the carbon transferring to the print by curing it first; and painted some of the background onto the lino with watercolour before cutting it.  I just love the new Pfeil linocut tools I was given for Christmas, which are comfortable and easy to use.


painting the background before cutting
© Teresa Newham


I'm taking things slowly. It suits my mood to leave the prints a week or so to dry between each layer, giving me time to work out the next stage and how to approach it - some of the layers are more transparent than others.  It's complicated, but it's fun and it's keeping me occupied. If I'm happy with the result, I'll show you how the prints turn out!


sky, grass and shadow completed - now for the rest!
© Teresa Newham