Thursday, 14 February 2019

brollies and blessings

the Basilica viewed from between the trees
© Teresa Newham

Once again I'd been looking forward to the annual Parish Pilgrimage to Lourdes for Our Lady's feast day (11th February).  The twelve of us travelled light, but  packed for every eventuality; Lourdes sits in the foothills of the Pyrenees with its own micro-climate, so waterproofs and good shoes are a must.

nothing daunts the pilgrim to Lourdes
© Teresa Newham

This year we had a mixture of sunshine and showers; and some torrential rain as we prayed the open air Stations of the Cross.  The hairdryer in my hotel room came in handy for drying my socks and boots and gloves.  The sturdy rain mac I bought in Lourdes on an early visit covered the rest of me . . .

photo opp at Our Lady's statue
© Teresa Newham

We had daily Mass and, on the feast day itself, joined around 20,000 fellow pilgrims for an international Mass and a blessing of the sick, both in several languages. We went to the baths and to confession, prayed at the grotto and lit candles for the many people who had asked us to pray for them.

a priest, some nuns, a bemused onlooker
© Teresa Newham

The schedule also allowed for shopping; there are all sorts of shops in Lourdes, some of which sell the most amazing tat, often alongside beautiful religious artefacts.  I learnt long ago not to write off any of them; you'll find something, whether it's cheap and cheerful or of real quality.

shops crowded with religious artefacts and . . .  a Christmas tree?
© Teresa Newham

Finally, there was the torchlight procession: hundreds of pilgrims with candles, singing and praying the rosary as they followed the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes around the domain.  Coachloads of pilgrims departed overnight or the next morning as the shops and hotels prepared to close until Easter.

Ave, Ave, Ave Maria!

the rain stayed away for the torchlight procession
© Teresa Newham

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

an Inktense experience

experiments with Inktense pencils
© Teresa Newham

My Christmas reading included several art books, one of which recommended the use of Derwent Inktense pencils to add definition to watercolour paintings.  Keen to try out something new, I ordered myself a set of twelve.

exploring colours and techniques
© Teresa Newham

When they arrived I tried out the colours and made a quick drawing onto damp paper, to give me an idea of how they could be used with watercolour.  I liked the vivid hues, and the fact that once dry, the colours were permanent. This had possibilities!

is it drawing or painting?
© Teresa Newham

To find out how else to use the pencils, I took a look at several videos on YouTube.  One artist was using a water brush to produce some wonderfully delicate designs. Didn't I have a water brush somewhere?

Inktense pencil sketch by Teresa Newham

I did indeed - one which has sat ignored in my studio for more than ten years, since I bought it for my first short course at Central St Martins.  Now, as it started to come into its own, I began to wonder why I'd never used it for anything before.

getting to grips with birdlife
© Teresa Newham

I drew from photos I'd taken on the iPad, sketching an outline before teasing the colour from the Inktense pencils.  I was a bit tentative with the orchid at first, only relaxing into the mark-making once I got the hang of the technique.

colour palette informed by technology
© Teresa Newham

By the time I made the pigeon drawing, I was a lot more confident.  I even used one of the photos I took for this blog as an inspiration for the colours on the fence.  The sketches were great fun to do and another way of keeping some regular drawing going!

Blue Pigeon
Intkense pencil sketch by Teresa Newham

Monday, 14 January 2019

New Year, new camera . . .

January sky
© Teresa Newham

There are times when any decision is better than no decision.  I've been dithering about replacing my old compact camera for a couple of years - so much so that all my recent photos have been taken on my iPhone.

Winter colour
© Teresa Newham

Choice was my problem - far too much of it. Another compact? A CSC? A digital DSLR? And which brand?  Would I have time to learn how to use a camera which required separate lenses? I pored over articles on the Which website and checked out models on Techradar, but still couldn't make up my mind.

© Teresa Newham

It was Sue who pointed out that I would be unlikely to cart a DSLR or  CSC around with its various lenses.  She also reminded me that it's difficult to go wrong with a Canon. So I took the plunge and ordered their Powershot SX730 HS.

into the sun
© Teresa Newham

It's been a joy starting to get to know the features of this camera.  I probably won't get around to using them all - the online manual runs to 190 pages - but the 40x optical zoom has already enabled me to snap wildlife in my garden through the studio window, resting the camera on a handily placed ornament.

through the window
© Teresa Newham

It's small and light enough to slip into a handbag but powerful enough to enable some really exciting shots - on a walk through the nearby lanes I managed to capture a squirrel as he made his way from tree to tree.

travelling squirrel
© Teresa Newham

I've tried my favourite into-the-sun shots, pics of the sky, flowers on macro, and learnt that if I am patient and keep following him with my camera, eventually I will get a decent shot of that robin - although it might not be so easy if I wasn't behind a window pane!

cheeky robin
© Teresa Newham

I've also discovered that the blackbirds in my garden are making work for me, intent as they are on grubbing through the decorative bark of the borders.  Presumably they're after insects or worms as they happily chuck chippings all over the path . . .

caught in the act
© Teresa Newham

There's still a lot to get used to - the file sizes are HUGE, which means I can crop right in as I have done with some of the images in this post.  Other than that, they haven't needed much editing. I'm enjoying photography again!

towering pines
© Teresa Newham

Saturday, 22 December 2018

O Holy Night

O Holy Night
original linocut Christmas card
by Teresa Newham

Some Christmas Carols remind us of times past, perhaps a favourite from childhood.  Others affect us more as we get older.  O Holy Night is one of those, for me.  I don't remember where exactly I first heard it, but we now sing it often at Christmas with the church choir, and it moves me deeply.  It takes me back to all those starlit nights I remember from my youth, looking up into the sky in wonder. That sense of wonder is what I've tried to convey in this year's Christmas card:

It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth. 
Long lay the world in sin and error pining. 
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth. 
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, 
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. 
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices! 
O night divine, the night when Christ was born; 
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine! 
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!   

There's a powerful message which builds throughout the song, so please do click on the lyrics to hear the choir of Kings College Cambridge sing the full version!

Wishing you all peace and joy this Christmas, and a blessed and Happy New Year.

Monday, 10 December 2018

a drawing a day - what do artists do all day?

Parish Christmas Fair - from set up to take down!
© Teresa Newham

I blame Peter Jackson, or rather, the BBC programme "What Do Artists Do All Day?" The answer in his case seemed to consist of sprawling on the sofa in an editing suite looking at WW1 footage restored and coloured for the acclaimed documentary They Shall Not Grow Old.

daily life - it's not all glamour you know!
© Teresa Newham

How, I wondered, would I answer that question? "Not making much art" would be the honest answer, at least during the run up to Christmas, when church and family commitments and the shortening days don't allow much time and space for creativity.

church music features a lot at this time of year . . .
© Teresa Newham

That's when I decided to use an old half-empty A4 sketchbook to create a visual diary.  That way I'd be getting something down on paper most days.  Also I'd be able to answer the question in the unlikely event that anyone should ask me.

. . . but there's still (some) time for art!
© Teresa Newham

I've been keeping the diary for a month now - a busy month involving some art, but rather more music, both church and secular (it's that time of year), all of it wonderful.  I've tried to include everyday activities, too, and not just the special events - this isn't Facebook or Instagram . . .

a musical one-off
© Teresa Newham

I've experimented with Conté crayons and coloured pencil, as well as my favourite Zig pens, particularly on some of the coloured paper in the sketchbook.  This has had mixed results, as fixative has to be used on such drawings, which doesn't sit well on the paper.  But it was worth a try.

trying out other media
© Teresa Newham

Mostly I've drawn from memory, but also from photos. I've learned not to sketch when I'm tired or short of time, and tried deliberately not to make the drawings perfect.  This is a bit of fun, and the daily discipline is doing me good!

First Sunday of Advent
(lower sketch taken from a photo on Facebook)
© Teresa Newham

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

salt painting blues

the finished painting - or is it?
© Teresa Newham

I'm not sure why this one was such a a struggle, but the signs were ominous from the beginning: trying my chosen four colours on a piece of scrap, I found the French Ultramarine and Winsor Blue (green shade) indistinguishable, and the Cobalt Turquoise far too green. As I was almost out of Cobalt Blue, I dashed to Artscape and picked up some Cobalt Turquoise Light at the same time.  It wasn't a good start . .

I took a while to choose the colours
© Teresa Newham

I wetted a piece of 300gsm Daler Rowney watercolour paper and taped it to a board.  It dried thoroughly, and I laid down an initial wash of Cerulean and Cobalt Turquoise. But somehow everything became too wet - when I added the rock salt, it started to dissolve.

initial washes . . .
© Teresa Newham

So I did something I almost never do - chucked the painting in the bin and began again. I used Arches 600 gsm (no stretching required), laid down the initial wash for a second time, and sprinkled on the salt.  I can't recall now what I didn't like about that attempt, but it ended up in the bin with the first one . . .

. . . with salt added
© Teresa Newham

Number three ran into trouble almost immediately - but Arches is expensive and I couldn't bring myself to throw it away.  Besides, the bin was full.  So I wiped off the paint and let the paper dry - which gave me a chance to calm down and remember that salt painting requires patience.  I turned the paper over, determined to let things flow.

salt on the second layer of washes
© Teresa Newham

Finally I managed to get the colours down and the salt on without any drama.  When the paint dried, I removed the salt and added washes of Cobalt Blue and French Ultramarine. I sprinkled on more salt, and took that off when the whole thing was dry. I assume the painting is finished - I don't want to touch it again.  And I'd welcome any suggestions for a title - so over to you!

once everything dried, I removed the salt
© Teresa Newham

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

So much to see!

Snowdrops & Hellebores in good company on a feature panel
© Teresa Newham

There was something for everyone in Harpenden last weekend, and I found myself involved in quite a lot of it - a church concert, the Remembrance Day service at the war memorial, and last but not least the 60th annual Open Exhibition of the Harpenden Arts Club.  This year's exhibition featured the work of over fifty local artists, and there was a splendid variety of styles and media on show.

the purple wall, including Lavender Fields
© Teresa Newham

The exhibition was extremely well curated, taking into account not just subject matter, but also colour, style and framing;  there were two panels of poppy paintings to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of WW1, plus several browsers of unframed work for visitors to look through, and greetings cards for sale.

every inch of space was wisely used
© Teresa Newham

As usual, visitors were encouraged to vote for their three favourite pieces. I wasn't the only one to take quite a while to decide - in the end I picked three which I wish I'd painted or printed myself. I could easily have chosen more!

poppy paintings, including Poppy Summer
© Teresa Newham

The collection of sold and unsold items coincided with the BBC filming a drama at the venue, which could have been chaotic, but everyone worked hard to ensure it ran smoothly. It was quite surreal to see artists carrying their work through groups of actors dressed as police, but we were in good spirits - it had been an excellent exhibition!

the rest of my exhibits amongst colourful displays
© Teresa Newham

Huge thanks to the members of Harpenden Arts Club  who worked so hard to organise this exhibition.  You can find out more about the club here.

panels featuring monochrome and seascapes
© Teresa Newham

Monday, 29 October 2018

the magic of Autumn

October morning, Rothamsted Park
© Teresa Newham

The clocks have gone back and the nights are drawing in.  For the last few weeks I've been making the most of any sunshine: taking a walk when I can, hanging washing on the line for a few hours, coaxing the last of the tomatoes to ripen on a sunny windowsill.

turning leaves at the side of the road
© Teresa Newham

September may have been cooler than usual, but October started deceptively mild; then suddenly we had a cold, damp, misty day, all the trees and hedgerows dripping with moisture; and all at once I was aware that Autumn was definitely upon us.

elderberries in the lane
© Teresa Newham

Everywhere you look trees and plants are preparing for Winter; leaves are turning, berries are ripening. There's still plenty of colour. but it's gradually fading; squirrels are much in evidence as they gather food ahead of going into hibernation.

red berries in the hedgerows
© Teresa Newham

I spotted plenty of red berries on my walks: an abundance of holly, hawthorn and one other which I couldn't identify but which struck me as being potentially poisonous - White Bryony, perhaps?

ivy on the trees
© Teresa Newham

Ivy, too, is starting to develop its berries, which are an important food source for birds in Winter, while toadstools are showing through the undergrowth.  I had no idea whether they were edible or not, so I left well alone. Where's a forager when you need one?

toadstools near the golf course
© Teresa Newham

Monday, 15 October 2018

Sketching Sondheim

rehearsing the Liebeslieder
© Teresa Newham

The visitors leafing through my sketchbooks at #HertsOpenStudios were so encouraging that I determined to do some more sketching as soon as possible - but with such a busy schedule ahead of PBGS' production of A Little Night Music, I wasn't sure there would be time.

random rehearsal sketches
© Teresa Newham

The answer was to take my sketchbooks and pens along to rehearsals; as I only had a small part in the show, I spent a lot of time sitting out of the way, especially during the band call.  That's why so many of the drawings I did were of somebody's back view.

bass player at the band call
© Teresa Newham

That didn't matter too much, as the sketches were not intended to be portraits - just practice for the way people hold themselves and how the light falls on them.  Besides, I didn't want to upset anybody by producing a dodgy likeness . . .

at the band call
© Teresa Newham

I made some sketches during the tech rehearsal by slipping quietly into the auditorium and trying to capture any character I thought might be sitting or standing still on stage for any length of time - as it was a fast-paced production that didn't happen much, and I had to rely on my memory to get things right.

random sketch during the tech rehearsal
© Teresa Newham

By the time we got to the dress rehearsal and the performances, I had too much adrenalin flowing to make any drawings - and I didn't want to miss my entrances.  Luckily we have some wonderful photos of the show taken by Ralph at XM04 Production Photography, as you'll see by clicking here!

play within a play at the tech
© Teresa Newham