Tuesday, 13 September 2016

pictures, pictures, pictures . . . cake!

photographs and watercolours jostling for space
© Teresa Newham
With more than forty visitors through the door already, it's difficult to believe we're less than half way through this year's #HertsOpenStudios.  The teenager considering doing Art 'A' Level, the elderly woodworker, the printmaker from Northern Ireland, friends old and new: so many interesting conversations and excellent feedback! 

rediscovering my sketchbooks . . .
© Teresa Newham
This year I've put all my sketchbooks on show; some I'd forgotten I still had.  The little one below, for example, is three-quarters empty, and definitely worth keeping out once Open Studios is over. I can't quite remember why I put it away in the first place . . . 

. . . some of which are only part-full!
© Teresa Newham
Sue and I are opening on seven days during the event, which lasts until 25th September.  But it's not worth taking everything down in between; so effectively my long-suffering husband and I are living in a gallery for three weeks or so.  My studio is crammed with stuff, and the kitchen is full of cake, biscuits and crisps for our guests!

now . . . how do I get to those drawers?
© Teresa Newham
The dining room ornaments have been stashed away in the most unlikely nooks and crannies, to be replaced by all sorts of artworks, such as  Sue's photo of her hand, which is displayed to full advantage on the dresser, along with some of her other pieces:

my dresser, Sue's paintings and photos  . . .
© Teresa Newham
The display board is dismantled at the end of each session, which means putting away Sue's lovely paintings - I do like that tiger!  But at least we can get to the bureau behind it when we need to . . . 

. . . and her display board
© Teresa Newham
I'm really pleased with my new linocuts in their cream-coloured frames, and I've managed to put virtually all my greetings cards out on display.  Sue also has masses of cards, and a whole range of unframed original watercolours.  So there's plenty to see.

the new linocuts and a lot of greetings cards!
© Teresa Newham
Once again we're raising money for St Luke's Hospice in Kenton, who looked after my Dad so well during his final illness.  This year we're selling second-hand art books, some which were my Mum's and some of mine.  So if you know of any art lovers looking for books on watercolour, drawing or calligraphy, send them round - and let them eat cake!

books old and new - on sale for charity
© Teresa Newham

Details of our #HertsOpenStudios sessions are shown in the side panel of this blog.





Saturday, 27 August 2016

Slow with the pen, fast with the brush

So much for plein air . . . too hot - too cold  - too wet - too busy - no opportunity to get the sketchbook out - my excuses are endless!  Luckily, while leafing through some old art books one unsuitable afternoon recently, I was reminded that there is an alternative.


watercolour sketching from the invaluable iPad
© Teresa Newham

The book was Big Brush Watercolour by Ron Ranson, one of several I inherited from my mother.  Ron was a hugely popular artist and tutor in his day but I must admit I find the colours he used a bit dull.  And from the looks of her sketchbooks, so did Mum - she copied many of his pieces to improve her technique, but with a brighter palette.


R Stour at Sturminster Newton
© Teresa Newham

In this particular book Ron was encouraging his students to loosen up by using - you've guessed it - a big brush; one which makes detail impossible.  He recommended making simple tonal watercolour sketches to establish light, dark and mid-tones.  And had no problem with working from photos, even in a pre-digital age . . .


R. Stour at Sturminster Newton, pen sketch
© Teresa Newham



I'd just completed a pen sketch of the River Stour at Sturminster Newton, where we spent a few days at the beginning of August.  I'd loaded one of my photos onto the iPad, and worked slowly and meditatively, at the same time trying not to reproduce every single leaf or blade of grass.


R.Stour @ Stur, tonal watercolour sketch
© Teresa Newham

A watercolour sketch was the logical next step, in French Ultramarine with a one-inch brush - Ron's was a hake but he was working on much larger paper than A4!  He also advised using any old paper to free up his students from worrying about the result.


the River Ouse at Bedford
© Teresa Newham

I enjoyed this exercise so much I repeated it, basing my next go on a picture taken in Bedford a couple of weeks ago.  Drawing slowly paid off again, and the watercolour sketch which followed (in Permanent Sap Green) was a joy to do.  In fact, I think it took less time than the drawing . . .


Water's edge, Bedford -  pen sketch
© Teresa Newham
Ron, of course, wanted  his students to produce lively paintings using the tonal sketch as a guide, rather than slavishly copying a photo.  I don't know whether I'll work up either of these into actual paintings - but it might be fun to try!


Water's edge, Bedford - tonal watercolour sketch
© Teresa Newham



Sunday, 14 August 2016

a walk round the corner - hedgerows & horses

the first field, full of wheat
© Teresa Newham
We're still walking the fields near our house - and our stroll last Sunday prompted me to share these photos. We could scarcely see the new fence along the edge of the first field for the vegetation which has sprung up, even though the ground had been completely bare the last time we wandered that way!

the old oak, silhouetted
© Teresa Newham
The old oak was in full leaf, rustling and swaying alarmingly in an unseasonal wind, which was also moving the wheat beneath it; while the crop in the second field was so high that the trees at the far side were barely visible:

lush growth in the second field
© Teresa Newham
Perhaps thanks to the wet Spring, the hedgerows were almost completely blocking Mud Lane - which was so dry it should have been renamed Dust Lane.  It was almost completely free of puddles!

Mud Lane - sunlight & shadows
© Teresa Newham
Amidst all this abundance some berries made a bright splash of red amongst the green. Mother Nature is giving us a little reminder: although August is still officially Summer, Autumn is definitely on its way . . .

first signs of Autumn!
© Teresa Newham
Thames Wood looks very different at this time of year.  Parts of it are difficult to access through the undergrowth, although my favourite trees are still visible.  It's a special spot, with what looks like a badger sett nearby.

Thames Wood in summer sunshine
© Teresa Newham
As a couple of riders came ambling past, I gave thanks that we have such lovely countryside round the corner for everyone to enjoy.  And made a mental note to get out more in the future . . . !

riders enjoying the afternoon
© Teresa Newham




Friday, 29 July 2016

. . . and Dandelion Clock



Dandelion Clock
original linocut © Teresa Newham


Having had such fun creating Cow Parsley I decided to make a second linocut print using the same materials. I already had some field sketches from Harpenden Common, and I also looked at photos of dandelions on the web, before roughing out some ideas:


drawing dandelions
 © Teresa Newham

I drew a design onto the block with pencil, but soon abandoned that in favour of 'going with the flow' and trusting what came to me as I cut into the lino.


the design taking shape
© Teresa Newham

Soft cut holds ink very well, and the block looked attractive before I'd even pulled a print, inked up with Naphthol Red and Light Orange Caligo Safe Wash Relief Inks:


the lino block inked with two colours
© Teresa Newham


I dried the prints on an old clothes airer - a low tech solution to the age old space problem - and I'm looking forward to framing them ready for Herts Open Studios in September.  That's only a few weeks away, so it's time to get organised!


finished prints on the makeshift drying rack
 © Teresa Newham




Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Cow Parsley . . .

Cow Parsley
original linocut © Teresa Newham

It began with a walk on Harpenden Common, where this year the Cow Parsley (or Queen Anne's Lace, as it is more elegantly known) has been blooming profusely in the damp weather.  I made some little sketches, took photos, and drew up a design or two at home.

original sketches & photos
© Teresa Newham

My idea was a quick and simple monoprint - roll out one or two colours onto the inking glass and draw the design straight into the ink as we'd done in the first ever printmaking workshop I attended years ago.  Place paper over the ink, apply the usual pressure to the back of the paper and Bob (as they say) would be your Uncle.


rollering ink for the experimental monoprints . . .
© Teresa Newham
Except it didn't quite work out like that.  Maybe I just hadn't recalled the technique correctly; or perhaps I was expecting too much. I either produced pieces of paper so heavily inked that no design was visible, or with a background so faint that the images were almost useless.

. . .  which didn't work that well!
© Teresa Newham
But not quite useless, because the design was there.  Several designs, in fact:  so I cut my favourite into a piece of softcut lino I've had lying around the studio since I retired nearly three years ago (as happens so often, I'd never quite got round to trying it out).  The block itself looked pretty good, especially after the prints had been pulled . . .

the design carved into a lino block
© Teresa Newham
. . . and the prints themselves were just what I'd been trying to achieve!

the final, successful prints!
© Teresa Newham







Wednesday, 22 June 2016

view from the cash desk . . . .

the Alban Street Festival, seen from the cash desk at our pop-up Open Studios
© Teresa Newham
To everyone's relief the sun came out for the Alban Street Festival last Sunday.  Along with a dozen or so other artists from St Albans and Harpenden, I was in a marquee outside Waterstones - a pop-up Open Studios to encourage folk along to the main event in September - and great fun it was, too!

the HVA marquee, with some of Sandy Andrews' oil paintings
© Teresa Newham
Some of us had set up our work on a gridwall along the front of the marquee -  I managed to cram nearly a dozen paintings and prints into my space, including some old favourites I haven't shown for a while.

part of my display in the marquee
© Teresa Newham
It wasn't just about watercolours and oils though - as visitors made their way round the gridwall they found stalls showing examples of illustration, textiles, jewellery and glass.

artists' stalls inside the marquee
© Teresa Newham
Opal Seabrook of Starburst Glass was working on stained glass throughout the day, while Hillary Taylor was weaving paper for one of her mixed media pieces.  There was also silk painting, and I managed to produce a sketch or two during my stint at the cash desk!

Opal demonstrating stained glass
© Teresa Newham
The Festival itself was an eclectic mix of music (there were two sound stages), some amazingly varied street food, children's activities and much more, all flagged up by the cheerfully painted signs which proliferated the length of St Peter's Street.

signs advertising the various events
© Teresa Newham
Venturing out with my camera, I was nearly mown down by Garden City Samba - that's twice in the space of eight days - my own fault for getting in their way!

Garden City Samba . . . again!
© Teresa Newham
The performance highlight for me - and for many I suspect - was this amazing wheel made from recycled materials, which was moved to music up and down the roadway.

performance wheel made of recycled materials
© Teresa Newham
Fighting my way through the crowds back to our tent - the streets were packed by now - I found our interactive area in full swing, with children making and decorating cut-outs for the I Love St Albans collage.

HVA artists helping children make street art
© Teresa Newham
We had many, many visitors to our marquee during the course of the day and it was lovely to chat with them about Open Studios and art generally.  Well worth doing!

manning the cash desk - with my cards behind me!
© Teresa Newham


Monday, 13 June 2016

forewarned is forearmed . . .


Saturday - two gazebos with home-made bunting!
© Teresa Newham

. . . and we were certainly forewarned about the 'traditional' June weather expected for this year's Art on the Common.  This year more than forty artists were due to spend two days exhibiting just by the Park Hall in Harpenden - it was going to be a much bigger event than usual!

our work: L-R:  Sue, Hillary, me
© Teresa Newham

Three of us were sharing a double pitch - myself, Hillary Taylor and Sue Wookey.  Thanks to Opal Seabrook of Starburst Glass, who lent us a second gazebo, we were confident that we'd be able to keep everything - including ourselves - relatively dry. According to my mobile phone, the Met Office were updating their rain warnings every couple of hours as heavy thunderstorms crossed the whole of Southern England.

colourful costumes in the Carnival Parade
© Teresa Newham
But - on the Saturday at least - we were lucky. Once again, we were running alongside Harpenden Carnival, and our pitch was next to the main road.  So we had an excellent view of the colourful parade which wound its way from Lydekker Park to the Carnival showground onto the Common proper.  There were plenty of people about, and even a heavy downpour at lunchtime didn't deter the crowds - or us!

Sunday - this ceramic artist has everything under cover . . .
© Teresa Newham
The Sunday, however, was a different story.  It was chucking it down from the moment we arrived to set up. Some artists had decided not to turn out but there were enough hardy - or should that be foolhardy? - ones prepared to give it a go.  The weather was supposed to improve, and crucially there was very little wind. So up the gazebos went again.  This time we kept everything well away from the edges, including ourselves, huddling damp and chilly behind a table of greetings cards.

. . . . our neighbours didn't worry!
© Teresa Newham
Our neighbours didn't have a gazebo, but their pottery was robust enough to withstand the constant rain.  Everyone else did what they could to keep their art dry - towels, dust sheets, even a shower curtain - and it was worth it; at first a trickle, then (as the weather cheered up) a steady stream of visitors arrived.  At one point the sun came out . . . I even put up my home-made bunting!

exhibitors stayed cheerful despite the weather . . .
© Teresa Newham
Having recently started to use a new supplier - Moo.com - to print greetings cards of my paintings and photos, I was keen to gauge the reaction, which was most encouraging.  One or two cards of new paintings had slipped into the boxes by mistake (I usually keep them back until the paintings have been exhibited) and proved to be popular!

. . . some just relaxed with their dogs!
© Teresa Newham
All together I believe the event raised over £2000 for Cancer Research (commission and pitch fees).  And there were some excellent sales.  So it was worth hanging on in there!


the rain did not keep visitors away
© Teresa Newham

Special thanks and congratulations to David Whitbread and the rest of the team from Harpenden Photographic Society, who organised this year's Art on the Common.