Saturday, 14 July 2018

Oh my darling . . . !

reduction linocut by Teresa Newham

Like so many linocuts, it started with a photo - of my friends' chicken, in their back yard in Kerry.  And like so many photos, it sat on my work bench (and rattled around in my mind) for several months before I even put the design onto paper.

source photo and workings out
© Teresa Newham

I was trying to work out how to do it.  I decided there would be five colours, but five full layers of ink simply wouldn't dry properly unless I could hang the prints up for several weeks in between each one. I thought I might be able to speed things up by printing two of the layers partially.

initial cut
© Teresa Newham

There were other new ways of working to consider - I've abandoned the bench hook in favour of non slip rug liner and invested in a new registration device from Laura Boswell - so it all felt rather experimental. It was a relief when I finally had a dozen partial prints in blue drying in the studio.

the blue base layer
© Teresa Newham

The yellow was easily printed as a full layer with the registration device, the lino now secured in position on the base board with double sided carpet tape to keep it from moving around. I soon got used to cutting the lino on the board.

adding the yellow . . .
© Teresa Newham

I printed the red as another partial layer, although the narrow roller I used turned out not to be quite narrow enough.  With the best will in the world I couldn't help but go over some edges while I was working, so a lot of wiping went on . . .

. . . and a little red
© Teresa Newham

Being a full layer, the brown was again straightforward, and I was getting quite excited as I now had a dozen well-registered prints of four colours, all of which looked remarkably like a chicken. What could possibly go wrong this late in the day? I was about to find out.

printing the brown with the registration device
© Teresa Newham

To my horror the lino moved on the base board while I was cutting the black layer. Perhaps carpet tape doesn't suit soft cut lino, or maybe my tools weren't sharp enough to cut without dragging.  I spoiled several prints while getting the registration back, so the final edition totals an exclusive seven prints - one of which I'm keeping for myself!

the completed edition
© Teresa Newham

Thursday, 28 June 2018

. . . and Festival Fun!

a visitor to our exhibition
© Teresa Newham

It was difficult to miss the Cultivate Arts Festival last week.  For four days there were huge flags outside every participating church in town, courtesy of Harpenden Churches Together; at Our Lady of Lourdes my bunting made its second public appearance in a month, and my newly-acquired A-frame its first.

signage everywhere!
© Teresa Newham

Each church had its own take on the Festival: the  High Street Methodist Church became Narnia for a production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; St John's had an installation about man's effect on the environment; the Quakers showed some paintings from New Zealand depicting the life of their founder; St Nicholas's put on a quilting display and a choral concert. There was photography, art and ceramics - and nobody wanted to miss any of it . . .

art in the Undercroft
© Teresa Newham

Our Lady of Lourdes' contribution was art and live music in the church and an art exhibition in the Undercroft, with our Summer Concert rounding off the whole event on the Sunday evening.  There's plenty of art in our church already - Stations of the Cross, icons, stained glass and statues - so we printed off some guides, set up our easels and tables downstairs and our mini exhibition and a keyboard upstairs - and prepared to greet our visitors.

mini exhibition in the church
© Teresa Newham

The Flower Group did us proud with a wonderful topiary display at the entrance to the church; inside, the choir had produced an amazing piece incorporating a music stand, a violin, a vase of flowers, a photo and a mobile of paper flowers and birds made from recycled hymn sheets.  In the entrance to the Undercroft we were delighted to be able to display some posters of works by the late Elizabeth Wang, a parishioner whose art enjoys an international reputation.

topiary, the choir display and art by Elizabeth Wang
© Teresa Newham

Our main exhibition was in the Undercroft itself, displaying the work of eight artists and several of their children.  I had no idea we had so much talent within the parish: oils, acrylics, illustration, watercolours and monoprints.  The Festival organisers had encouraged interest from non-churchgoing artists, too - a couple showed with us, while several more exhibited their work in Wesleys Cafe at the High Street Methodist church.

a variety of work on show in the Undercroft
© Teresa Newham

St Dominic's Primary School joined in with the art and the music. We were thrilled with Year 4's interpretation of the theme "Beauty Abundance Order" - a tree of clay tiles, each one representing an insect or other creature.  It made an excellent centrepiece and when the school choir came to  perform at the concert, they had great fun picking out their own tiles on the tree.

clay tiles on a tree made an attractive centrepiece
© Teresa Newham

I'd tried to find appropriate quotes to go with my watercolours and prints - some from the Bible, others favourite poems and hymns.  I'd popped the last print of  Morning Has Broken and the salt-spattered watercolour Cosmos back into frames for the occasion; they were so popular that I might have to show them again somewhere else soon.

my own display - old and new pieces
© Teresa Newham

The musical items in the church were a joy - I even managed to make a couple of discreet sketches while skulking at the back. The concert on the Sunday evening was standing room only. I was singing with the choir and bagged a seat behind a handy floral display so I could flop a bit when we weren't needed.  Everything was starting to catch up with me . . .

some sketching in the church
© Teresa Newham

All in all the first Cultivate Arts Festival was a resounding success, with our church receiving tremendous support from the parish - from the artists and performers, those who volunteered to help with refreshments or greeted visitors to the church, and those who came to look at the exhibition and listen to the music, and made such lovely comments.  Yes, it was tiring - and like most of the organisers from the various churches, I never did get round to see everything - but it was worth it!

the Bella Mamas' turn to entertain
© Teresa Newham

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