Thursday, 14 June 2018

Fun in the sun . . .

Harpenden Arts Club tent at Art on the Common 2018
pen sketch © Teresa Newham

It was quite a weekend!  At 8 am on Saturday morning around fifty artists arrived at Harpenden Common with gazebos, tables, banners, flags - and their artworks to display.  An hour or so later, most of us were set up and enjoying a chat or a coffee before the event officially opened at ten.

Saturday morning before the crowds arrive
© Teresa Newham

My co-exhibitors this year were artist Hillary Taylor and jewellery maker Susheel Rao.  We had drawings and prints, watercolours and linocuts, bracelets, pendants and earrings to browse or buy, and the chance for passing children to have a go at one of Hillary's colouring books - one of several opportunities for the public to join in the fun this year.

our set up
© Teresa Newham

By noon the sun had come out and everyone flocked to our side of the green to watch the Harpenden Carnival procession with its Wild West theme which was led by  a colourful display of Native Indian headdresses and totems.  The Mayor drove by in an old car, local dance schools strutted their stuff, and various Brownies and Cubs paraded. I particularly liked the plastic cacti and the random shed on wheels.

colour at the Carnival
© Teresa Newham

By the following morning we were dab hands at getting Hillary's gazebo up and down again - you forget during the year but it comes flooding back - and we had our display sussed, so there was time to wander round taking more photos of the various arts and crafts on offer.  Some folk had elaborate set-ups, others were selling from the backs of their cars.  I went over for a closer look at Tendayi Tandi from Zimbabwe, who was giving a demo of stone carving.

day two ~ demos and displays
© Teresa Newham

By late afternoon the shadows were lengthening and we were tired out from being in the fresh air for two days, chatting to our many visitors across the weekend!  Despite the full on interaction I'd found time to make a couple of sketches - we were opposite the Harpenden Arts Club tent which provided an excellent subject - and to hand out loads of flyers for my next event - the Cultivate Arts Festival, which is coming up on 21st - 24th June.  It's all happening  . . .

late Sunday afternoon sunshine
© Teresa Newham

Huge thanks to David Whitbread and the team from Harpenden Photographic Society, who organised the whole event, and to our many visitors whose purchases contributed to raise money for Cancer Research UK (15% of all sales).

visitors, including the obligatory dog
© Teresa Newham

Wednesday, 30 May 2018


linocut by Teresa Newham

For this mini linocut (it measures no more than 7 cm x 15 cm) I didn't need to go far for inspiration.  It was the beginning of April when I first spotted these pretty little flowers in a sheltered corner of the back garden.

violets in the garden
© Teresa Newham

I was working on other projects, so it wasn't until a few weeks later that I started making some sketches of possible designs of both violets and celandines, which were flowering at the same time.  I had intended to make a full size piece, but in the end I chose another subject for that, which is still in progress.

working out wildflower ideas
© Teresa Newham

At the moment I've abandoned my bench hook when cutting, preferring to use rug liner - the sort that prevents rugs sliding about on laminated floors or carpet.  I find I can turn the lino much more easily, which helps when creating curves; but as ever, I have to be extremely careful that the direction of the cut is away from my hand.

the cut
© Teresa Newham

The violets are gone from the garden now, as are the celandines, and other wild flowers are gracing our gardens and hedgerows at the moment.  I wish I had time to make a linocut of them all, but there's an unfinished project to be getting on with . . . !

the finished print
© Teresa Newham

Monday, 14 May 2018

Sunny and bright

Parish Church of  S Peter & S Paul, Kimpton
© Teresa Newham

The first full weekend in May means two things:  the Spring Bank Holiday, and the Kimpton Festival.   I had entered some works into the art exhibition in the parish church, which was looking at  its finest in the record-breaking warm weather.

Art and flowers
© Teresa Newham

Inside, the church was wonderfully cool, with beautiful flower arrangements amongst the exhibits, which filled every available space, including boards perched on some of the pews.  Some visitors were  wandering around admiring the art, others were sitting and listening to the choir.

glass, and more glass
© Teresa Newham

As well as paintings and photos, there was a whole side room devoted to glass and textiles, with ceramics and wooden items displayed separately in front of the stained glass windows.  Every inch of the church had been pressed into use.  My own pieces were easy to spot alongside the stewards' table.

every space was used for exhibits!
© Teresa Newham

Once we'd had a good look round, we ventured up the bell tower, where local bell-ringers were on hand to share their expertise.  While my husband tried his hand at ringing church bells for the first time, I was able to look down on the scene below.  As usual, it was a superb exhibition.

birds' eye view from the bell tower
© Teresa Newham

We walked around the village, admiring the knits which adorned every suitable object, and a wonderful display of paper flowers in a front garden on the High Street.  We had tea and cake in the Dacre Rooms and ice cream while we watched the falconry displayat the recreation ground.  It was a glorious afternoon!

knits and paper flowers around the village
© Teresa Newham

Saturday, 28 April 2018

A drawing a day - what happened to the weather?

out and about in Harpenden
© Teresa Newham

What happened to the weather? Last week I was sitting on a sunny bench in the town centre, drawing a street cleaner.  A crow alighted on the bird bath beside me, and obligingly hopped into a couple of interesting poses.  So enjoyable after my previous outdoor sketching session in Lourdes, when everyone was swathed in padded coats, scarves, hats and gloves . . .

as seen in Lourdes
© Teresa Newham

Of course, if I waited for good weather every time I wanted to practice my drawing, I'd never get round to it.  I often pick up my sketchbook when I'm watching TV; it's a challenge to capture faces when the camera angles keep changing, but it's fun.  I could freeze the screen, but I like the challenge!

sketches off the telly
© Teresa Newham

I know I should carry a sketchbook everywhere I go, but it's easier in some places than others - Gallery32, for example, is situated above the Fleetville Vintage Emporium, with plenty of opportunities during a three-hour shift to get something down on paper:

at the Emporium
© Teresa Newham

Sometimes it just doesn't happen - this Spring I didn't pick up a pen for ages.  I was inspired to start again when I read Ronnie Wood - Artist, which includes all sorts of paintings and sketches from his school days up to the present.  I took a good look at his meticulously crafted drawings and decided it was time to dig out a sketchbook or two.

windowsill sketches
© Teresa Newham

Many of my recent sketches have been made standing up, using the nearest sketchbook to hand - I currently have three or four on the go - and making the most of any sunshine; dappled light on the fences led me to make the drawing below, for example.  And when eventually the sunshine returns, I shall venture outside again!

corner of the garden
© Teresa Newham

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Second bite of the cherry . . .

Cherry Blossom II
mixed media watercolour by Teresa Newham

The cold weather continued right to the end of March this year, with snow on the ground in the South of England barely a fortnight before Easter.  The few blossoms which had dared to emerge on my neighbour's tree froze in the chilly wind.

this year's blossom
© Teresa Newham

The blossom is fully out now; perhaps not as spectacular as in some years, but still providing a welcome splash of colour as the gardens recover from what one of my friends described as "eternal winter".

the original Cherry Blossom watercolour
© Teresa Newham

That tree has inspired a couple of paintings in its time: last year it was a mixed media watercolour Flowering Cherry, and a couple of years before that a pen and wash called simply Cherry Blossom.

brightening up the background
© Teresa Newham

My favourite painting is always the next one, so when I do look back at my old work, I'm often pleasantly surprised.  Not with Cherry Blossom, however - it's never felt quite right - and once Flowering Cherry was finished, I knew it needed a re-think.

emphasising the foreground
© Teresa Newham

This year I embarked upon whole series of renovated watercolours, of which Cherry Blossom II is the latest: washed off and reinvigorated with Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Permanent Sap Green and metallic copper ink, and remounted. And at last I can say I'm happy with it!

revitalised painting in new mount
© Teresa Newham

Thursday, 29 March 2018

The New Covenant

the New Covenant
linocut ~ Teresa Newham

This year's Easter card is a celtic cross design - it has an unending knot pattern, and is roughly printed to add energy to the image.  The Cross stands for Jesus' sacrifice and the circle represents the sun (Son) rising from the dead.  The graduated tint refers to the first Covenant which God made with mankind, as described in Genesis 9:12-13:

And God said, "This is the sign of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth."

Another word for Covenant is Testament.  There are several more Covenants in the Old Testament - one of which, with Moses, institutes the Jewish Passover meal.  The Last Supper is itself, of course, a Passover meal, during which Jesus institutes the New Covenant.  You can read more about the signs and significance of the various Covenants here.

May you all have a blessed and peaceful Easter!

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

snowdrops & hellebores

Snowdrops & Hellebores
original watercolour by Teresa Newham

Snowdrops and hellebores are the first plants of the year to flower in my garden.  The hellebores start to push their way up by the end of January, reminding me to tidy away last year's foliage; the snowdrops - a relatively late variety - emerge in February.

source materials & initial sketches
© Teresa Newham

The snowdrops are particularly precious because I transplanted several clumps of them from my Dad's garden a few weeks after he died; they were flowering at the time of his funeral in early March. To me they are a sign of hope and a promise of better (and warmer) things to come.

laying out a design on Arches watercolour paper
© Teresa Newham

At one point our late winter weather was so inviting that I thought it might be possible (with the help of various layers and a pair of fingerless gloves) to venture outside and paint the flowers en plein air.  But then the snow came - several inches of it - and they disappeared completely from view . . .

basic washes of Transparent Yellow, Permanent Sap Green
and Cobalt Blue over masking fluid
© Teresa Newham

To my delight both reappeared again after the thaw; the hellebores in particular seemed to have gained a new lease of life, with so many stems branching up that I had to leave some out when deciding on the composition for the painting.

adding detail
© Teresa Newham

As ever, the final result says more about how I feel when I visit that part of the garden than any photograph could - the delicate snowdrops and the vigorous hellebores glowing as the days start to lengthen and the birdsong increases. Spring is coming!

the finished painting
© Teresa Newham

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Asters revisited

Asters (revisited)
original watercolour by Teresa Newham

Following the successful revamp of my Hyacinths painting, I turned my attention to Asters.  This is a favourite of mine, made as a demo at Open Studios a few years back, and I didn't want to alter it drastically; I wondered if simply remounting it would do:

trying the original version in a new mount
© Teresa Newham

I came to the conclusion that something more was needed.  The background looked distinctly wishy-washy and there was too much yellow; so I removed as much of the original colour as I could and strengthened the background with Permanent Sap Green and Permanent Alizarin.

playing with the background
© Teresa Newham

This worked well; I re-did the flowers with Permanent Alizarin, and they started to sing against the green.  The leaves and stems were going to need similar treatment.

bringing out the flowers
© Teresa Newham

The end result in the new mount looks subtly different to the original - so subtle that I sometimes have trouble telling photos of the two apart.  Which means I haven't ruined one of my favourite paintings!

the revamped painting
© Teresa Newham

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Lourdes in the light

view from the top of the Rosary Basilica towards the Domain
© Teresa Newham

It was wonderful to make the Parish Pilgrimage to Lourdes for Our Lady's feast day again!  The beautiful sunshine showed off the mosaics on the facade of the Rosary Basilica to their best advantage, and added a glow to the ones inside.

mosaics outside and inside the Rosary Basilica
© Teresa Newham

As we made our way from the Basilica towards the domain the trees were stark against the sky and dusted with snow, while flowers were already being left at the railings around Our Lady's statue, as thousands of pilgrims arrived from all over the world.

glorious views
© Teresa Newham

Along the steep path to the Upper Stations of the Cross there was a stunning view of the Pyrenees. Mistletoe crowded the branches of the trees above us, while in front and behind we could hear groups praying and singing in a multitude of languages.

the Crucifixion - one of the Upper Stations of the Cross
© Teresa Newham

The Stations themselves are large cast iron figures showing Jesus' path to his Crucifixion - the most dramatic sculpture of all, which was lit from behind by the setting sun.  We paused before each of the fifteen Stations in turn to make our own prayers.

© Teresa Newham

As the feast day drew nearer, more and more coachloads of pilgrims appeared, many with candles of various sizes, others with banners, flags and even a guitar.  The largest candles represent the prayers of a parish or a whole diocese.

pilgrims' candles at the Chapel of Light
© Teresa Newham

The candles were bound for the Chapel of Light - a collection of booths on the river bank opposite the Grotto. Pilgrims place their candles in one of the hundreds of candle holders with a prayer - for a loved one, a sick relative, a friend in distress.

pilgrims lining the river bank at the Grotto
© Teresa Newham

Perhaps because the feast day fell on a weekend, I have never seen such crowds at Lourdes before. As  I made my way through them I paused to add my own prayers at the Grotto to those of the thousands of people lining both banks of the river: Ave, Ave, Ave Maria!

the River Gave, looking towards the Domain
© Teresa Newham