Saturday, 14 October 2017

Poppies & Lavender

Open Studios demo - poppies & lavender
© Teresa Newham

For our last couple of Open Studios sessions I made a reduction linocut mini-print based on some photos I took back in July at Cadwell Farm, home of Hitchin Lavender.  I wanted to bring out the contrast of the red poppies against the lavender fields.

the initial cut
© Teresa Newham

I simplified the design to use as few layers of colour as possible - it was quick to cut, ideal for a demonstration.  I cut away the white cloud and wiped the blue ink off the poppy petals with a cotton bud before printing the first plate.  Caligo Safewash Relief ink can be thinned with extender to make it more transparent; I started with a squeeze of extender and added a tiny amount of blue ink to it!

the first printing - Phthalo Blue
© Teresa Newham

During the week I printed the Rubine Red plate, this time wiping off any areas intended to be green.  The plate was still the original design with just  the white cloud cut away.  The image was registered upside down, as the path area would include all the colours and would not be removed.

the second printing - on the same plate!
© Teresa Newham

The following Saturday I cut away the parts I wanted to keep lavender-coloured, and printed Arylide yellow over the rest of it, avoiding the sky area.  This produced a vivid lime green, but the poppies themselves were at best a disappointingly weak orange:

the third printing with Arylide Yellow
© Teresa Newham

Time to experiment! I cut off the whole of the top of the plate - this somehow felt wonderfully liberating - and applied Napthol Red to the poppies and the path area with the small brush I use for touching-up wayward prints, before printing as usual.

the fourth printing and the cut-down plate
© Teresa Newham

The result is an edition of some lively little prints - some, shall we say, livelier than others - with interesting textures where the various layers have interacted - it looks as though the lavender is interspersed with wild flowers.  And the whole process has given me a number of ideas for the future!

the final result!
© Teresa Newham

Thursday, 28 September 2017

prints, prints, prints!

cutting the design straight to plate
© Teresa Newham

#HertsOpenStudios 2017  is nearly finished -  Sue and I will be open this Saturday 30th September (see side panel for details), and the event ends completely on Sunday.  We've already had lots of visitors and are looking forward to welcoming more on our final day.  The Open Studios brochure clearly states that demonstrations will be done at Wensley Arts - so here's a peek at what I've been doing so far!

printing up the design in plain green
© Teresa Newham

People like to see printmaking in action, so I decided to make an olive branch print on an offcut of softcut lino. Ignoring the design I'd drafted in my sketchbook, I made the cut straight onto the plate, allowing for the reversing out of the image.  This year I've been doing some actual printing while our studio is open; space is limited but the design was small and I was quite pleased with the first results:

the design in green - and in silver
© Teresa Newham

At this stage I had no idea which way up the print was meant to be, but one of our visitors reckoned portrait, so who am I to argue? I cut some out some of the leaves from the plate, printed over some of the silver prints in rich olive green, and also inked this second cut onto plain white paper - all while meeting and greeting our guests.  Note the essential tools of the trade: ink, rollers, palette knife and that ever-present cup of tea . . .

getting a little more complicated . . .
© Teresa Newham

At this point quite a few different sets of prints were littering the house - usually they dry in the studio, but it's full of exhibits. Visitors passed the ones I was working on drying in the living room as they came through to our studio in the dining room beyond; by now I had cut some more of the lino away and was overprinting in a darker shade of green:

. . .and even more so!
© Teresa Newham

I've ended up with four versions of the olive:  two shades of green on white, two shades of green on silver, one green on white and one green on silver - in addition to the plain green and plain silver ones (which now look very plain indeed).  And I have another demo up my sleeve for Saturday . . . Sue and I would love to see you if you can make it!

a variety of results
© Teresa Newham

Friday, 15 September 2017

Welcome to Wensley Arts!

brushes and pencils arranged artfully on the studio windowsill
© Teresa Newham

#HertsOpenStudios has begun!  I can't quite believe that we are three sessions in already - this time last week my dining room was still a dining room, while my studio resembled the usual dumping ground for anything vaguely arty, including brochures and empty card racks and browsers.  I'd moved a few things around and arranged an eclectic mix of paintbrushes, pencils, plants and other bits and pieces on the studio windowsill, but that was pretty much it.

dining room and studio waiting to be transformed
© Teresa Newham

As Sue and I have done Open Studios here together twice now, we know beforehand how we're going to divide up the space and lay things out; it's just a question of actually doing it.  Which I finally got around to last Friday evening, having spent the afternoon finding temporary homes for a number of ornaments, a keyboard, three orchids and several chairs, amongst other things.

my work on display
© Teresa Newham

In this house, Open Studios isn't just about exhibiting art, or chatting to visitors, or offering cups of tea.  It's another enormous jigsaw - this time with pieces of furniture - or perhaps a treasure hunt would be a better analogy.  Where's the toolbox? in a kitchen cupboard.  Where's the wine rack? in the spare room. In my enthusiasm for creating space for art, I find new homes for things and then can't remember where I put them - last year two candle holders only saw the light of day again at Christmas.

Sue's work in the dining room
© Teresa Newham

Bit by bit, it comes flooding back - where to hide things, how to show things; where to dry off the soaking wet signage and bunting (well, we have had a lot of rain); which of our visitors prefer herbal tea or gluten free cake; who likes to chat and who likes to be left to browse.  I know that around 3.15pm every afternoon, Sue will declare that the watercolour she's been working on as a demo piece is only fit for the bin; by 5pm she thinks it might be viable after all; and by the time she arrives for the following session she'll be planning to mount and possibly frame it.

the living room is not usually this crowded. . .!
© Teresa Newham

Sue knows that I will be attempting to demonstrate some aspect of printmaking, and  I'll be making it up as I go along, convinced it could all go horribly wrong at any moment.  I rather enjoy experimenting during Open Studios, when most sensible artists will show the public something tried and tested and accomplished - and if things do go well I then have to find somewhere to dry the successful prints because of course my studio - where I'd normally dry them - is full of my exhibits.  So the prints go into the spare room along with everything else . . .

space for a demo on the dining room table
© Teresa Newham

There's been some lovely people through the door already - friends old and new, some regulars, some not.  We have three Saturdays and one Wednesday session left -  hope to see you here!

#HertsOpenStudios runs until 1st October - see the side panel of this blog for details of Wensley Arts and find the brochure here for details of other artists' opening times!

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Fun and games with mounts and frames

watercolours & mixed media ready for #HertsOpenStudios
© Teresa Newham

If it's August, it's time to get ready for #HertsOpenStudios - but this year it's been less than straightforward!  It started with the mounts. I checked, checked and checked again that I'd measured the apertures correctly - but some were out; and why did I ever think that waving a ruler in the general direction of a frame (or two) to determine the outer dimensions of the mount would be enough? It's fiddly to shave off that extra bit you don't need, especially if it's just 5mm each side; and if a mount is too short for the frame it simply won't work! Note to self: 16 x 12 inches is NOT the same as 40 x 30 cm, no matter what anyone says.

framing on the dining room table
© Teresa Newham

I took all this as a challenge and started problem-solving (problems entirely of my own making, you notice). As one of the frames I intended to use was now unsuitable, I looked for something else to unframe instead, wrapping it to sell as a mounted piece in the process. I tend not to throw undamaged mounts away - you never know when you might need to source a spare (see above).  At one point my work was popping in and out of mounts and frames like a huge game of musical chairs.

gotta love that tab driver!
© Teresa Newham

Talking of self-inflicted difficulties, can anyone tell me why I'd ever thought that mounting tape would be a substitute for professional backing tape?  Did you know that mounting tape is virtually impossible to get off the back of a frame without gumming up your fingers, scissors and any other implement you may be trying to scrape it off with?  Unfortunately this particular frame was the 16 x 12 inch mentioned earlier.  But I only found that out when I tried to insert the new mount . . .

framed prints & mini watercolours
© Teresa Newham

The fun continued when I took delivery of some frames from a popular home retailer: they arrived inadequately wrapped, half of them with the glass smashed, with nothing on the outside of the box to suggest the contents were fragile or contained glass. And when the store arranged to send replacements, only one turned up - but at least I got to talk to their lovely customer services team again. It was like chatting to old friends!

not what you want to see when you open the box!
© Teresa Newham

Another thing: is it just me, or is there an unspoken rule that the labels you print for the back of your picture will refuse to stick, curling at the edges prior to coming away completely, while unwanted labels already fixed to the back of a picture will remain firmly attached to it no matter how hard you try to remove them? Oh, and I recommend putting the correct name of the piece on said label, especially if that name is written on the front of the work. Doh!

a painting & some photos - something for everyone!
© Teresa Newham

Of course, it hasn't been all gloom and doom - I got to use my favourite studio gadget, the tab driver. Most of what I ordered has been fine, and I love seeing the work framed up - it gains an extra dimension somehow.   Now I have to decide how to display it all!

#HertsOpenStudios runs from 9th September - 1st October.  Take a look at the full brochure here on the HVA website.  I'll be sharing my studio again this year with Sue Wookey - full details on the side panel of this blog.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

A walk in the park

January frosts
© Teresa Newham

#HertsOpenStudios is less than four weeks away, and I should be in a frenzy of mounting and framing the various pieces I've made over the last twelve months, ready to exhibit.  Instead, I've been trawling through old photos and collating them for a piece I've called All the year round in Rothamsted Park.

Spring bulbs
© Teresa Newham

The idea began in September 2013, when I found myself wandering through the sun-dappled park at nine in the morning - a time when I would have normally been on the train to work.  Revelling in my newly-retired freedom, I began taking photos in the park whenever I had a spare few minutes.

trees in full Summer
© Teresa Newham

I soon discovered that the park has a regular rhythm of its own - as well as the changing seasons, the view is determined by the time of day - you can be elbow to elbow with joggers and dog walkers one minute, and disconcertingly all on your own the next - at least, it seems that way until the next person appears round the bend or at the top of the hill!

fallen leaves in Autumn
© Teresa Newham

Over the last few years, Rothamsted Park has been the source of several photos for the calendars I make as Christmas presents, various sketches, and one watercolour, which comes close to saying what I felt about the park that September morning without in any way excluding the possibility of making more paintings, perhaps of the park at a different time of year.

mysterious mist
© Teresa Newham

I've enjoyed putting together this montage of the park in all its glory all the year round, and I hope that visitors to my studio will enjoy it, too.  In the meantime, I have work to do.  I've just given myself something extra to frame, after all!

All the year round in Rothamsted Park
© Teresa Newham

#HertsOpenStudios runs from Saturday 9th September - Sunday 1st October 2017.  Full details of participating artists and studio opening times can be found here.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Art at the Accueil

Aime simplement avec un coeur universel et compatissant
- hospital stairwell at the Accueil St Frai
© Teresa Newham 

"Love simply with a universal and compassionate heart". These are the words which greet the visitor on entering the Accueil St Frai, the hospital which cares for pilgrims who need help while in Lourdes - the sick, the elderly and those with mobility problems. The stairwell, lit from above by a massive skylight, is hung with colourful stars and other cut-outs.

Holy Spirit image in the hallway at the Accueil St Frai
© Teresa Newham

It was a joy to find art displayed here - I was struck by this colourful, modern image portraying the Holy Spirit moving amongst hearts and flowers.  The St Frai is run by nuns, and each pilgrimage manages its own patients in the wing allocated to it.  The Westminster contingent included doctors, nurses and three teams of ward helpers.

Many hands make light work
© Teresa Newham

Pilgrimage is a full-on experience for even the fittest - there are Masses and other services to go to, visits to the Baths, the torchlight procession.  The patients knew how to pace themselves, deciding when to go out and when to rest.  One morning a banner was brought to our wing for those who had stayed behind to colour and decorate; some worked straight onto the cloth, others filled in paper templates of butterflies, birds and flowers which would be laminated and stuck on later.

Plenty of arts and crafts materials to assist the creation of the banner
© Teresa Newham

One of the patients had been a graphic artist, and coloured her flowers beautifully, outlining them with a fineliner for good measure, despite her arthritis.  It was wonderful to see everyone working together to produce this collaborative piece of art and craft; you could almost touch the sense of concentration round the table.  I added my contribution by colouring some berries and leaves . . .

Hospital patients and helpers colouring in
© Teresa Newham

The banner was paraded at the Grotto, where the Westminster Pilgrimage held its closing Mass.  The graphic artist in her wheelchair was positioned near the front, and I knew she would not be able to see the banner displayed to one side.  But Our Lady was with us - as we formed a queue to process through the Grotto we found ourselves right in front of it!

the finished banner on display at the Grotto
© Teresa Newham

Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee;
blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Small is beautiful

White Campion
linocut by Teresa Newham

For some time now I've been meaning to make some small prints using offcuts of lino from larger works.  Back in the Spring I was captivated by the white campion blooming alongside the bluebells in our local woods, and thought it might make a suitable subject:

at the woodland's edge
© Teresa Newham

I drafted out a design one Saturday morning when I was doing my monthly stint at Gallery32 in St Albans.  It's a great place for thinking about new ideas, what with all that contemporary art on the walls!

initial design
© Teresa Newham

As the design was a simple one, I decided to copy it straight onto the lino, without tracing it first.  And, as I like a challenge, I reversed the design while I was copying it . . .

straight to plate . . .
© Teresa Newham

The block looked pretty convincing once I'd finished the cut, so I was hopeful that it would print out the way I envisaged.  Now it was just a question of mixing a suitably Spring-like green.

. . . in reverse!
© Teresa Newham

The resulting edition of eight little prints, each measuring just 7cm x 15cm, is rather cute, and I shall get some of them mounted and framed.  Bigger isn't always better!

full edition
© Teresa Newham

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Summer sketching

statue and lavender
original pen sketch © Teresa Newham

Summer was a long time coming this year.  My sketchbooks show that I didn't venture outdoors to draw until early May, when I crept into the garden at the first sign of sunshine and made this little picture of a garden statue and some lavender. Because of the chilly Spring it was the end of May before I made the Acer drawing below!

new Acer
original pen sketch © Teresa Newham

I'd been encouraged to get to grips with regular sketching again after reading the book Sketching People, by Lynne Chapman.  Now, I realise the two black and white sketches above aren't actually OF people, but I was already putting some of her suggestions into practice: annotating, rather than just titling, sketchbook drawings to give a sense of time, place and memory; and bringing subjects forward by using a heavier line.

two women, Harpenden
original pen sketch © Teresa Newham

I did draw these women sitting by the fountain in Harpenden town centre - but it was lunchtime and quite busy.  True to form, they got up and walked off before I'd finished - and then continued chatting standing dangerously near me.  I dreaded the thought of one of them spotting my sketchbook . . .

queuing for ice cream
original pen sketch © Teresa Newham

I had to wait until a trip to Bournemouth before I found somewhere discreet to observe people.  We were seated at a bench in the Upper Gardens by an ice-cream kiosk, so I drew customers as they came up to make their purchases.  Everyone in the sketch above was actually leaning on the counter or standing right by it - I put them in a queue just for fun!

eating ice cream
original pen sketch © Teresa Newham

This worked so well I returned the next day and surreptitiously sketched a couple eating ice creams on the next bench.  Once again I only applied colour to the foreground, leaving the background black and white for context.  And I haven't coloured all the flesh, leaving some white parts to denote highlights (another tip from Lynne).  The flesh is my usual trademark orange Zig pen, by the way - the colour hasn't come out quite true on the scanner, although it probably looks more realistic . . .

Art on the Common 2017
original pen sketch © Teresa Newham

By the time Art on the Common came round I was quite happy to sit and draw whoever was sitting nearby - the boy and his father were way to the left of the group under the tree so this is actually two separate drawings.  It's been fun, and I'm hoping the weather picks up again soon so I can do some more!

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

shooting the breeze

battened down for day one
© Teresa Newham

Given that just five days previously torrential rain and gale force winds were lashing the country, I reckon we were pretty lucky with this year's Art on the Common.  True, there was a brisk wind - so brisk in fact that on the Saturday Sue, Hillary and I kept everything flat and our greetings cards in riffle boxes - but it was sunny and dry.

a Very Big Flag in the Carnival procession
© Teresa Newham

Situated as we were under the road sign by the A1081, we had an excellent view of the Carnival procession, and could hear everything going on at the sound stage outside the Public Halls.  Harpenden Light Operatic Society gave us a foretaste of their next show Sister Act and a rock band performed an eclectic mix of songs during the afternoon (Here's to You Mrs Robinson in the style of punk rock anyone?).

Serenaded by members of HLOS
© Teresa Newham

I was struck by the amount of people with dogs in tow until I remembered that the Carnival included a Dog Show. We saw all sorts - large, small and everything in between -  and so many of them appeared to be art lovers (well, perhaps not the one on the right).

doggy art lovers . . . or not
© Teresa Newham

By Sunday the breeze had died down a bit and we put on something more like our usual display, mixing up our pieces to encourage visitors to take a good look round, while we sat in the shade and relaxed.  We had spent the last twenty four hours putting up two gazebos and all our wares, taking everything down and putting it up again, after all . . .

new layout for day two
© Teresa Newham
We weren't the only ones. After the bustle of Saturday with the Carnival going on around us, everyone seemed keen to take things easy, lay out a picnic, chat to family, friends and visitors.  Even the dogs took a rest!

time to relax
© Teresa Newham