Monday, 13 February 2017

Mosaics and Mysteries

the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes
© Teresa Newham
The second week in February once again found a group from our parish in  Lourdes to celebrate the feast day of Our Lady. The Basilica of the Rosary, with its wonderful mosaic frontage, looked spectacular in the clear, cold, dry weather.

facade of the Basilica of the Rosary
© Teresa Newham
The mosaics on the front of the Basilica were added in 2007 to depict the recently-instituted Mysteries of Light, and glow with a life of their own; the mosaic work can be seen clearly in this section below:

mosaic of The Transfiguration
© Teresa Newham

Inside, fifteen chapels contain mosaics of the original Mysteries of the Rosary - the five Joyful Mysteries, the five Sorrowful Mysteries and the five Glorious Mysteries. Each chapel contains an altar as well as the mosaic, and provides a wonderful opportunity for contemplation and prayer.

chapels showing the mosaics of the Glorious Mysteries
© Teresa Newham
 The mosaics, designed by various European artists at the beginning of the 20th century and restored about ten years ago, are simply stunning.   The Annunciation, shown below, is one of my favourites:

the first Joyful Mystery - the Annunciation
© Teresa Newham

On either side of the Basilica are two enormous "arms" of arches, which seem to embrace the Domain beyond.   On the evening of the feast day, the pathways along the top of these arches were filled with people watching the torchlight procession - several thousand strong - as it made its way round the Domain, with candles held aloft everywhere as we prayed and sang:

the torchlight procession in front of the Basilica
© Teresa Newham

Ave, Ave, Ave Maria!

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Cravells Road

Cravells Road ~ pen & watercolour wash
by Teresa Newham

I can't remember the exact date.  But it was definitely January 1987 when I moved to the Southdown area of Harpenden, just a few days after passing my driving test (the thought of having to re-take it on a new set of roads concentrated my mind wonderfully . . . ).  Which means I have lived here now for thirty years!

source material ~ photos, sketches and layout
© Teresa Newham

What better way to mark the occasion, I thought, than by doing a painting of Cravells Road, where I first lived in Southdown?    As you drive over the brow of Piggotshill Lane opposite, the Victorian railway workers' cottages seem to cling to the side of the hill below the railway line in the most picturesque fashion, especially at dusk.

pencil undersketch
© Teresa Newham

I chose a more prosaic vantage point outside The Carpenters Arms, one of  six local pubs when I moved in, now sadly reduced to four.  The George IV, opposite, had a bad reputation in those days - it's since reverted to a private house - and round the corner the Rose & Crown is now a block of flats. At that time Harpenden, along with St Albans, boasted the highest proportion of pubs per head of population in the country!

the pen drawing
© Teresa Newham

These side-by-side georeferenced maps show Southdown (or Bowling Alley, as it was originally known) in the late 19th/early 20th century, with the cottages in Cravells Road clearly visible both below and above the railway bridge.  Not long after I moved in, somebody remarked to me (only partly in fun) that I was living on "the wrong side" of the railway.  Needless to say, I was delighted; and have lived on the wrong side of the tracks ever since . . .

choosing colours
© Teresa Newham

The day I moved in, I watched in fascinated horror as a man worked on the roof of the house opposite - I was convinced he would fall at any moment.  But not at all - it turned out that he was a fireman getting the place ready for his wedding, and well used to heights.  He even ate his sandwiches up there!

adding washes, little by little
© Teresa Newham

The day I moved out, I watched again in fascinated horror as a riderless white horse galloped down the road, having thrown its rider on the Common at the top.  The horse turned right at the roundabout at the foot of the hill without causing injury to itself or others, and was recaptured, appropriately enough, outside the bookies in Grove Road . . .

not quite finished
© Teresa Newham

In between there were a host of crazy happenings and great friendships made: and though I was only there a few years, Cravells Road holds a very special place in my heart.  I've tried to portray some of that affection and the quirkiness of the place in my painting - it's a long time since I've worked in such detail, and I enjoyed every minute of the making!

the magic of shadows!
© Teresa Newham

Thursday, 12 January 2017

calendar memories

bluebells, Thames Wood ~ April 2016
© Teresa Newham
Making a calendar to give for Christmas helps me review my year in photos, some of which have been posted on Facebook or exhibited, but have not made it onto the blog. So the New Year seems a good time to share those here, starting with some April bluebells to remind us that Spring is just round the corner!

Along the Bog Road  ~ May 2016
© Teresa Newham
Along the Bog Road was taken on a visit to County Kerry during the May Day Bank Holiday and shows an approaching storm over Caherciveen.  The weather there can be particularly interesting at that time of year - or any time of year come to think of it . . .

Classics on the Common  ~ July 2016
© Teresa Newham
For July I chose a shot from Harpenden's annual Classics on the Common.  It's a huge event with hundreds of cars on display, but this Morgan really stood out thanks to its gorgeous colour - by far my favourite of the day.

Autumn, Rothamsted Park ~ November 2016
© Teresa Newham
The local park provides a lot of photo opportunities - this autumnal scene was a breathtaking sight, as the path had disappeared under a carpet of leaves.  I hope the picture will be a reminder of the glorious Autumn of 2016. . . .

motorbikes, Barcelona  ~ December 2016
© Teresa Newham
Motorbikes is one of several pictures I included from Barcelona - such a photogenic place, and I love the juxtaposition of old and new.  I had great fun putting the calendar together and I'm looking forward to making next year's already!

Friday, 23 December 2016

Hope in a troubled world

Holy Family III
linocut Christmas card by Teresa Newham

When I planned my 2016 Christmas card I already knew that I wanted to depict the Holy Family again.  Burning a candle for inspiration, I found myself doodling a heart shape on the paper - and everything flowed from that.  Imaginatively entitled "Holy Family III", the image shows the Virgin Mary and St Joseph cradling the baby Jesus while the star (which always foreshadows the cross in my designs) shines above.

As a Catholic, I celebrate the birth of Jesus as a sign of hope, a light in the darkness; as the Gospel of John says: The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world (1:9).  And although in the chaos of our everyday lives we may forget that light, or choose not to see it, it is still there - the light of love, joy and peace - burning brightly for believers and non-believers alike.

So let's be kind to one another - not just to family and friends, but strangers on the bus, in the shops, on the street.  Let us reach out to help other people, both at home and abroad.  Not just at Christmas, but always.  And let us remember to hope.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, 12 December 2016

card crazy

A6 greetings cards just received from the printers
© Teresa Newham

My artistic activity at this time of year is focused almost entirely on cards - mainly, but not exclusively, the Christmas variety.  Making them, sending them, selling them; the studio becomes a printmaking card factory -  it's just as well that I enjoy it!

a few remaining 'Adoration of the Magi' linocut cards
© Teresa Newham
Most years, it begins right after Open Studios finishes at the end of September.  For several years now I've designed my own hand-printed black and white linocut Christmas card to send to friends and family and re-printed it the following October to sell on behalf of the church building fund.This year, I needed to re-stock the greetings cards I'd sold during Open Studios, too - waiting for the Moo Autumn sale before I placed the order.

the new design for Christmas 2016 drying on every available surface in the studio . . .
© Teresa Newham
Then it was time to design my Christmas card for 2106 and print it up.  The cards take about a week to dry, and cover every available surface in the studio and the dining room.  I'd sold quite a few regular cards at the Harpenden Arts Club exhibition, so another order went off to Moo as soon as they announced their pre-Christmas sale.

. . . and the dining-room!
© Teresa Newham
 All the cards have to be labelled on the back, and I write the name on the linocut ones and sign them in pencil on the front  (muttering to myself as I do so that I really should choose a shorter title next year . . . ).  Cards to be sold have to be wrapped and priced, too.

I'll need to print up some more of these . . .
© Teresa Newham

This November most of my 2015 Christmas card Adoration of the Magi sold at church, along with what I had left over of the three previous years' cards. My next card printing job will be making more of those three designs.  And my entire stock of leaf print cards is now at Fleetville.  So as soon as the leaves come out on my Acer next Spring, guess what I'll be doing?

. . . . and these - but not until next year!
© Teresa Newham

Monday, 28 November 2016

First time in Fleetville

the gallery entrance inside the Fleetville Vintage Emporium
© Teresa Newham

Last week I made my first visit to Gallery 32, a new art collective which has been set up in the roofspace of the Fleetville Vintage Emporium by resident local artist Debbie Knight.  I'm one of the artists within the collective, and I was keen to see what was going on!

top of the stairs 1: art on the staircase
© Teresa Newham

Just climbing the staircase is a treat, as every inch of space has been utilised for contemporary art.  From the landing, the visitor gets a tantalising glimpse of even more:

top of the stairs 2: peeking into the gallery
© Teresa Newham

Once inside, there is a wonderful range of pieces large and small: canvases, framed items, glass and ceramics - something to entrance every art lover and suit the pocket of those who come to buy.

smaller works on the gallery shelves
© Teresa Newham

The gallery is a welcoming space with a distinct 'studio feel': there are canvases stacked against the walls at floor level, the odd browser, and vintage boxes used to display greetings cards. I found my two pieces on a cleverly-positioned gridwall which provides even more hanging space:

my work (alongside others) with the studio in the background
© Teresa Newham

Art lovers are welcome to take a look in Debbie's studio if one the artists is there - she had been working on this large canvas when I did my shift, and each of us will be taking the opportunity to make our own art when we are covering for her:

visitors are welcome to the studio if somebody's there!
© Teresa Newham

Of course, I couldn't resist taking a look round the emporium itself.  All sorts of different items are displayed, from books to clothes to furniture and ornaments:

the ground floor 1: some stalls in the Fleetville Vintage Emporium
© Teresa Newham

This stallholder had laid out their display to resemble a living room; there was a new delight round every corner.  So I'm sure I'll be coming away with something every time I do a stint at the gallery!

the ground floor 2: my favourite vintage stall
© Teresa Newham

Artists showing work at the Gallery32 collective currently include: Sandy Andrews, Sandra Berti, Jannah Britt-Green, Anne Hignell, Elspeth Keith, Debbie Knight, Judith Moule, Teresa Newham, Clive Patterson, Opal Seabrook, Graham Saunders, Morag Saunders, Linda Smith.  If you are a participating artist and would like your name displayed here, please let me know.  The Fleetville Vintage Emporium is open daily from 10am - 5.30 pm (Sundays and Bank Holidays 5pm) behind the site of the former Emporium premises at 221 Hatfield Road, St Albans AL1 4TB. 

Monday, 14 November 2016

Drawing in the dark - flamenco in Madrid

anticipation at Cafetin La Quimera
© Teresa Newham
Something must have got lost in translation, because we arrived too early. Would we mind visiting the bar across the road for half an hour?  As it turned out, we didn't mind at all; as complimentary plates of shrimp, patatas bravas, olives and potato salad arrived with our drinks, some of our group were tempted to spend the evening at the bar and not bother with the flamenco. . .

it starts with the song . . .
© Teresa Newham
Just as well we did go back to Cafetin La Quimera, however, because we were in for a treat.  The place was packed - mainly with locals, which was a good sign - and our table for sixteen was ranged along one wall.  Drinks, bread and olive oil were handed round, along with the best Spanish omelette of our trip.  Time for the show!

the dancing gets under way . . .
© Teresa Newham
Flamenco originates from the song, not the guitar or the dance:  so there was singing and clapping before the first dancer got to his feet.  As I don't eat meat I was ignoring the breaded chicken on the table but in any case I was too busy watching and listening to eat, taking the odd photo without missing anything that was going on.

. . . the atmosphere is intense . . .
© Teresa Newham
I was seated in a dark corner, and the rest of the party were now tucking into a meat stew, so I had the chance to make a couple of quick sketches. I drew the first two dancers with extra arms because their positions kept changing - resulting in the sort of thing that's referred to as 'lively' at life drawing classes!

.. . . and so are the performances!
© Teresa Newham
When the third dancer took the stage, he moved so quickly that I had to put the sketchbook down.  There was always the second half of the show for the opportunity to do some more sketches, I thought.  Meanwhile, it was time for some paella during the interval.  And at some point, I recall, there was a wonderful vegetable stew . . .

drawings made in the dark . . .
© Teresa Newham

I'd love to show you some photos and sketches of the rest of the evening.  But there aren't any, because I became completely engrossed in what was happening on stage. Sometimes it's better to be in the moment than to be recording it!

. . . and coloured up when I got home
© Teresa Newham

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Art and eccentricity in Madrid

Half term found a group of us in Madrid, on a short break with a packed itinerary - Old Town, Cathedral, Royal Palace, the Prado; there was going to be lots of art.  Would the city turn out to have a whacky side, too, I wondered?

the bear and the strawberry tree - symbol of Madrid
© Teresa Newham
At the Puerta del Sol  we paused for photos by the statue of the bear and the strawberry tree - both symbols of the city which have featured on its' coat of arms for centuries.  Then it was off into the narrow streets of the Old Town, where we spotted this automaton moving above a watch shop:

the clockmaker plying his trade
© Teresa Newham
Art was everywhere on the streets in the Old Town, as well as in the museums and art galleries.  We had a good view in the glorious sunny weather, which showed the buildings off to their best advantage.

highly decorated buildings in Madrid Old Town
© Teresa Newham
In the Plaza Mayor we found official and unofficial statues, the latter being very keen to engage with us.  At least the official statues didn't move . . .

statues living and traditional in the Plaza Mayor
© Teresa Newham
The relatively modern Almudena Cathedral was a striking mixture of plain white walls and colourful works of art.  Luckily I remembered to point my camera at the ceiling, which was a work of art in itself!

stunning artwork on the ceiling of the cathedral
© Teresa Newham

Moving on, I spotted this model on a balcony near the old market. Who thought of putting it there? (I would like to thank them).  Why did they put it there - was it to find out which of us look up as well as around? When it rains, does she hold an umbrella?

a mannequin on a balcony
© Teresa Newham

In the part of the Royal Palace where photos are allowed, I was looking up again, at this very Spanish ceiling (while trying not to fall down the staircase at the same time).  This wasn't just Art - this was  Culture, with a capital C:

stunning artwork on the ceilings at the Royal Palace
© Teresa Newham

And I couldn't resist snapping these, which are shop mannequins and not the living statue variety, unfortunately.    Madrid may be a capital city, but you can't accuse it of taking itself too seriously!

street mannequins near the old town
© Teresa Newham

Saturday, 15 October 2016

the frog - revisited

the green frog
reduction linocut by Teresa Newham

As soon as I'd finished printing The Golden Frog, I knew I wanted to have another go at the subject.  I started planning it out during our last Herts Open Studios session - trying to make the markings more - well - frog-like, and eliminating some of the problems I'd encountered previously.

working out the design
© Teresa Newham
My stickiest issue was the background - I discarded the idea of leaves and tried boulders and pebbles, but I couldn't get it right.  Until one of our Open Studios visitors, browsing our charity bookstall, said: "Oh look, there are some frogs here, on lily pads".  So a glance at my own book would have given me the answer!

getting the first colour right . . .  or not!
© Teresa Newham
Once the white was cut I set out to print the first yellow layer.  That's right - yellow.  Except it didn't work out like that, because I mixed this lime green colour first, and fell in love with it.  The prints sat for a week on my clothes airer drying rack until I found time to move on.

first colour, printed & drying
© Teresa Newham
The next plate had to be a mid-green.  I hoped it would work, and tried to build some texture into the print when I cut the leaves out.  Because I was transferring the design plate by plate using a pencil, I kept getting confused, and was pretty apprehensive when I came to do the actual printing.

now for the second colour . . . .
© Teresa Newham
I needn't have worried - the two colours printed together worked well.  The markings were there, the white outline was there (on most of them anyway), and even on the odd print where the registration was slightly out, it didn't seem to matter.

. . . which looked encouraging!
© Teresa Newham
I repeated the process for the next (and what turned out to be final) colour - brown. I'd originally intended to print black onto the water and the pupil of the eye, but came to the conclusion I didn't need to - the brown and green are fine as they are.  So glad I had another go at this little fella!

the final print
© Teresa Newham