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










Sunday, 30 September 2018

Another day, another demo



Kurbits II
reduction linocut by Teresa Newham


The bunting has been packed away for another year and the dining room has resumed its' usual function.  #HertsOpenStudios 2018 is over!  Sue and I have had more than eighty visitors during the last three weeks, many of whom have been kind enough to share their own artistic adventures and aspirations with us, and allowed us to share our own experiences with them.


me, preparing to print - Sue's paintings in the background
Photo © Sue Wookey


I've been working on a design for a traditional Swedish kurbits -  we're putting on Sondheim's  A Little Night Music shortly, and as the show is set in Sweden I thought the prints might be suitable for  raffle prizes.  The Swedish artist Viveca Lammers has made an interesting YouTube video on the story of the kurbits and one on how to draw your own version.  I was entranced both by the design and by the music in the videos!




my take on a traditional Swedish design . . .
© Teresa Newham


The smaller version was a straightforward cut, which I printed between sessions, adding the gold embellishment by hand. Cutting the larger reduction version turned out to be a meditative process, as several of our visitors remarked; again, I printed this behind the scenes, as I couldn't run the risk of being interrupted.  An Open Studios demo has to be something which can be set aside at any moment, quite possibly for a long time.



Adding the gold to Kurbits I
© Teresa Newham


Meanwhile Sue was painting some much admired watercolours at the other end of the table, some out of her head and some based on memories of holidays in County Kerry.  On the final Saturday I did print 'live', making some of last years Christmas cards to sell at church.  Well, it was the feast day of the archangels St.Michael, St.Gabriel and St.Raphael, after all!


Sue demonstrating watercolour while I print up Christmas cards
© Teresa Newham


* A Little Night Music by Stephen Sondheim is a PBGS production and will run from 10th - 13th October at the Queen Mother Theatre in Hitchin.  For further information or to book tickets click here.







Saturday, 15 September 2018

A flying start!



my studio, reorganised for the exhibition
© Teresa Newham

What a start! #HertsOpenStudios is only a week old, and Sue and I have had more than thirty art lovers through the door already, across three sessions.


my cards and artwork in the dining room
© Teresa Newham

So far we have greeted a delightful mixture of old friends, new friends, newcomers to the world of making art and random passers-by who have spotted the bright yellow Open Studios bunting and come in to see what all the fuss is about.


Sue's acrylics and watercolours
© Teresa Newham

It's always a pleasure to discuss our work with people, sit and enjoy a cup of tea or coffee and some cake with them, or just sit quietly demonstrating watercolours or printmaking while they wander around.  We can usually tell who would like to chat and who would prefer to be left alone to browse.


more of Sue's work, including painted wooden hearts
© Teresa Newham

It's lovely when visitors like something enough to buy an original, print or card of a piece, but some of our most interesting conversations happen with folk who have just come to take a look.  Any feedback is most useful.

my photo cards, watercolour and printmaking
© Teresa Newham

Some folk are fellow artists, perhaps already doing Open Studios themselves or hoping to take part another year, or maybe just starting out and looking for inspiration and support.


my photos on the shelf between the kitchen and my studio
© Teresa Newham

So if you are in or around Harpenden on any Saturdays or Wednesdays for the rest of September, please do drop by and see us - and why not visit some of the many other studios in town while you're at it!


visitors always enjoy looking through sketchbooks
© Teresa Newham


#HertsOpenStudios runs until 30th September.  I'm sharing my studio with fellow artist Sue Wookey. Details of our opening times are shown on the side panel of this blog. Visit the Herts Visual Arts website for details of other Harpenden studios and the full county-wide programme.



Sue demonstrating watercolour
© Teresa Newham





Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Meadow Cranesbill



Meadow Cranesbill
linocut by Teresa Newham


Taking a walk one bright May afternoon I spotted some pink flowers amongst a patch of nettles.   They were intertwined so closely that I did a double take, recalling that nettle flowers are blue and grow in spikes.  Sure enough, the pink flowers had their own leaves, which looked familiar.


peeping through the nettles
© Teresa Newham

A little Googling and a look in my own garden confirmed that this pretty flower is Meadow Cranesbill, a relative of the geranium (that's a true geranium, not the cheerful red perlargoniums we tend to think of as geraniums).


sorting out the design
© Teresa Newham

A couple of months later I put a design together based on my photographs from that afternoon and traced it onto some softcut lino.  I had to be careful not to smudge the pencil while I was making the intricate cut.


the cut
© Teresa Newham


My first attempt at mixing a suitable shade of ink was so subtle that it barely showed on the paper.  As I wanted the linocut to reflect the impact the flowers had on me when I saw them,  I decided to match the colour of the veins on the petals.


mixing the ink
© Teresa Newham

Eventually I had a dozen prints pegged to my makeshift drying rack - ready just in time for  #HertsOpenStudios.  I'd better make sure I get it into a frame before 8th September!

#HertsOpenStudios runs from 8th - 30th September.  I'll be sharing my studio with fellow artist Sue Wookey. Details of our opening times are shown on the side panel of this blog. Visit the Herts Visual Arts website for the full county-wide programme.


drying the prints
© Teresa Newham











Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Lavender blues




Lavender Fields II
original watercolour & gouache by Teresa Newham


During my annual visit with my cousin to Hitchin Lavender, I found myself thinking yet again that I should use the photos I took there as the basis for a lavender painting. This year I went one step further and put something down on paper when I got home.


source photos and initial sketch
© Teresa Newham

I masked out some figures picking the lavender so that I could freely paint the various washes.  I built the image up in layers, adding in  some cornfields on the left horizon to balance out those on the right, painted in the figures, and stood back for a final look.


building up the painting in layers
© Teresa Newham


I didn't like it.

Some parts of the picture worked - I thought I'd captured the light on the lavender, and the sense of a wide open space - but oh, how I wished I hadn't included those figures.  They interrupted the sweep of the hill and just looked wrong.  I was going to have to put the whole thing in the bin . . .


the first version of the painting
© Teresa Newham


Except that I didn't put it in the bin, dear readers - because some of it did work, and I plain refused to give up. I painted out the figures, added more colour and spattered a lot of gouache in the foreground to give the impression of flowers.  After all, who's ever going to know? 😉


the final version is not all that it seems!
© Teresa Newham







Monday, 30 July 2018

Poppy Summer




Poppy Summer
original watercolour by Teresa Newham

This Summer has been all about poppies! The entry form for the SAA's Paint a Poppy challenge in partnership with the Royal British Legion dropped onto my doormat a couple of months ago.  The idea is to "paint, donate, remember" by sending in mini paintings 125mm square, which will be collated into an exhibition to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the first World War.


the SAA Paint a Poppy Challenge
© Teresa Newham

I painted Pink Poppies several years ago, inspired by some oriental poppies which used to grow at the end of my garden.  They have long since been replaced by a summer house, and I thought I could brighten up the original watercolour sketch and see if any of it could be used for the SAA's challenge.


Pink Poppies original watercolour sketch, and with colour removed
© Teresa Newham


I took the loose colour out by wetting the painting and blotting it with kitchen roll, then added a wash of Winsor Yellow Deep and some splodges of Quinacridone Red to get things going.   It was starting to look better already.


renovating the no longer pink poppies
© Teresa Newham

The leaves of the oriental pink poppy are not the same as those of the red poppies  growing in our fields.  This made it easier to cut up the renovated painting, as I loved the new colours and almost didn't want to take a knife to it. But I did, and trimmed it into two entries for the Paint a Poppy Challenge:


cut up for the Paint a Poppy challenge
© Teresa Newham

Inspired by the success of the renovation, I decided to make a new poppy painting based on the colours I'd used.  I laid down some washes on a piece of Arches 600 gsm with plenty of water, and let them flow where they pleased.  Then I had to make myself walk away until the paper was completely dry again.


base colours for the new poppy painting
© Teresa Newham


I took some clouds out of the sky with kitchen roll and painted several layers of poppies and grasses in the foreground.  It's a simple piece, hastily titled Poppy Summer. And I have no intention of cutting this one up -  I'll be showing it at #HertsOpenStudios!


the new poppy watercolour
© Teresa Newham

The deadline for entries to the SAA Paint a Poppy Challenge is 30th September, and you don't have to be a member of the SAA to join in.  So get painting!  For further details, click here








Saturday, 14 July 2018

Oh my darling . . . !


Clementine
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