Friday, 15 October 2021

Learning as I go


Japanese woodblock print of acer leaf on Shiramine Select
by Teresa Newham

Was it a good idea, I wondered, to demonstrate Japanese woodblock printing during #HertsOpenStudios?  I'm still learning the technique and hadn't done any for ages, but what better way of getting to grips with it again?  I could set up outside - ideal for the Covid-secure experience we were trying to create - and the weather, for the first few sessions at least, was forecast to be fine and dry.

setting up the demo table outside
© Teresa Newham

Working outdoors presented the usual challenges; any items likely to blow away in the wind (virtually everything on the table) had to be weighted down.  I began to print proof copies to remind myself what I was supposed to do.  This took longer than one session, which forced me to reduce the size of the damp pack to fit it into the freezer until the next time, when I defrosted and completed the proof prints. It was so absorbing that I forgot to take any more photos.

printing the blue plate
© Teresa Newham

Oh, the joy of doing this outside! I was able wet the blocks and shake the excess water straight onto the patio; neither the prints nor the damp pack dried out too quickly; it was the perfect environment.  In fact I had to take care not to get everything too wet.  By the third session I was confident enough to try printing on two types of Japanese washi from the Awagami factory.

printing the yellow plate
© Teresa Newham

Keeping things as simple as possible, I only made four prints, which would fit easily into a small damp pack (in case it had to go into the freezer again). The beauty of Japanese woodblock is that you can re-use the blocks to make more prints, even years later.  I remembered not to use too much paint and nori and tried to describe the process to our visitors, who were completely fascinated by it.

trying out bokashi shading technique
© Teresa Newham

I then had a go at doing some bokashi shading, which was a little fiddly for a beginner like me, but produced some interesting effects.  It would probably have worked better on a larger piece.  Since cutting these blocks I've realised that Japanese woodblock artists do not usually overlap their colours - I mustn't treat it like linocut! 

finished prints in the damp pack
© Teresa Newham

I dried the prints between layers of thick blotting paper under heavy books as usual, and moved indoors to demonstrate different techniques as the weather deteriorated for our final few days.  When I went back to the prints I found that the Shiramine Select had produced the best result, which is just as well; I have a stash of it in my studio waiting for the next print . . . 

Japanese woodblock print of Acer leaf on Okawara Select
© Teresa Newham

I'll be demonstrating what I've learned so far about Japanese woodblock on Friday 22nd October at The Workhouse Dunstable, 5 Ashton Gate LU6 3SN  from 10am - 12.30pm, so do come and take a look!

Thursday, 30 September 2021

Fine and dandy


plenty to see in my studio . . .
© Teresa Newham

#HertsOpenStudios is well under way!  Sue and I have been welcoming people twice a week since 18th September, with two more Saturdays and the Wednesday in between still to go.  We've had a pleasing number of visitors and excellent weather so far.

. . . making use of all available space 
© Teresa Newham

The weather has been extremely important this year, as we are keeping everything as ventilated as possible, and sitting outside when we can, in order to give folk more space to browse. My own studio behind the kitchen is their first stop, where they can see most of the watercolours and reduction linocuts that I have made over the past two years.

Sue's display on my dresser, and her display board & browser
© Teresa Newham

Sue's work is laid out in my dining room as usual - a mixture of watercolours and drawings, and her lovely painted hearts.  Like me, she has made good use of her time during lockdown - but we are both absolutely delighted to be meeting people face to face again, some for the first time in ages.

more of Sue's work in my dining room
© Teresa Newham

I have some pieces in the dining room too, along with greetings cards.   Having kept so much of my work to myself for so long (showing it on social media isn't quite the same) I am loving the feedback, the comments, the insights and the interaction which Open Studios brings with it.

my dining room display
© Teresa Newham

We've both made some sales, and I've had the chance to try out my SumUp card machine for the first time - it works really well.  We still accept cash, of course, but it's good to give people the option because we want everyone to feel comfortable when they come and see us.

sketchbooks laid out on the dinner table - for now!
© Teresa Newham

Our demos have been taking place outside while the weather has lasted - although for the last three sessions we'll almost certainly be indoors. The watercolours Sue makes during Open Studios often become exhibits the following year. I've been printing Japanese Woodblock - but that will have to wait for another blog post!

Sue painting in the garden - well wrapped up
© Teresa Newham

Sue and I will be open again from 11am - 4pm this Saturday 2nd October, Wednesday 6th October and Saturday 9th October.  For full details of venue including directions of how to find us, click here.

Tuesday, 14 September 2021

virtually ready


the Wensley Arts page on the HVA website

It's almost time. I've framed my pictures and sorted out ideas for the online themes. There is publicity on social media and the #HertsOpenStudios section of the HVA website is full of information about all the local artists who will be taking part. Here at what we are calling Wensley Arts until 10th October it just remains to put the physical exhibition in place.

my studio, not at all open at the moment . . . 
© Teresa Newham

Not that you'd guess from the state of my studio right now.  To those in the know, exhibitions aren't just about paintings or prints; they're about easels, browsers, tables, display boards, card racks, signage, and all the other paraphernalia necessary to show artwork off to its best advantage.

. . . and in need of a good tidy up as well as an exhibition
© Teresa Newham

During the next few days my studio and my dining room will (I hope) be transformed into an enticing display of artwork by me and my co-exhibitor Sue Wookey.  Many other artists across the county are preparing their own spaces, shared or otherwise, or getting ready to join in online.

the dining room, similarly unprepared
© Teresa Newham

The HVA have retained and refined elements from last year's virtual Open Studios for those who do not wish to open to the public at this time. Those of us who will be welcoming visitors face-to-face are also taking part in the daily themes on social media - which increases the workload but also increases the fun. I've really enjoyed gathering images and putting videos together.

working in the small amount of space I have
© Teresa Newham

As if that wasn't enough, I am taking part on the second day of Art on the Common, which is happening the first weekend of Open Studios.  I'm sharing our usual pitch with Hillary Taylor, whose own Open Studio will be in the pop-up shop opposite Harpenden Waitrose from 4 - 10th October.

While all this is going on, I also have a couple of pieces in the Colourways exhibition at The Workhouse Dunstable, which runs until 9th October.  It's a busy time for artists and art lovers alike!

Monday, 30 August 2021

Summer's Lease

 Summer's lease hath all too short a date . . .  - William Shakespeare, Sonnet 18

Wildflower meadow, Cambridgeshire
© Teresa Newham

As summer draws to a close I'm taking a look back through my photos. I've been further afield than I remember, and you'd never know that the weather hasn't been that good: probably because I only get my camera out with real enthusiasm when it's sunny.  

wildlife at the Weald & Downland Museum, West Sussex
© Teresa Newham

In June, the wild flowers were out in force, thanks to a burst of warmth following a cold and protracted spring.  The wildlife photos were taken at the Weald & Downland Museum in early August. As for July, well, see my post about Childwickbury Arts Fair - it stands out as one of the few dry weekends we've had.

still life at the same museum
© Teresa Newham

I took the photo above in one of the museum's many reconstructed houses; I think this one was mediaeval.  I'd taken my DSLR with me and was delighted with this shot - I reckon it only needs a bunch of grapes and a dead pheasant to be reminiscent of a still life by a Dutch Master.

rowan berries in the lanes
© Teresa Newham

By mid month berries were appearing in the hedgerows and the chilly breeze showed all the signs of approaching autumn.  How could that be, I wondered, when we were still waiting for some proper summer sunshine?

Rosa Rugosa, Dorset
© Teresa Newham

Towards the Bank Holiday we spent a few sunny days in Dorset.  I liked this Rosa Rugosa so much, I'm trying to work out where I can put one in the garden.  The rosehips were enormous!  We were in the middle of farming country, surrounded by fields of sheep and cattle, and tractors pulling unfeasibly large loads of hay bales.

sheep, Dorset
© Teresa Newham

It wouldn't be right to finish this post without mentioning the hollyhocks, which have been absolutely everywhere this year. In every place I've been, including close to home, they've been blooming their socks off - so much so that I feel an artwork coming on. Maybe they've thrived on that dodgy weather? 

hollyhocks - everywhere!
© Teresa Newham

Saturday, 14 August 2021

Framing, fun and far-flung flights of fancy

bound for far-flung shores - my two entries for AIMPE
© Teresa Newham

The last few weeks have been busy and extremely enjoyable, as I'm preparing for #HertsOpenStudios while continuing with ventures and projects begun earlier in the year. At the start of July I sent off my two reduction linocut prints to the Awagami International Mini Print Exhibition. Given the situation in Japan at the moment, I was grateful to receive confirmation of their safe arrival within a week or so of posting.

other prints in the two editions, framed up
© Teresa Newham

After this I turned to framing my latest work for Open Studios: two more of the prints created for AIMPE and some small watercolours.  The little pink cordless drill I got last Christmas proved invaluable when tightening D-rings (and unscrewing them when necessary) - and now I've invested in some proper wire cutters rather than struggling to cut the picture wire with scissors. Should have done that years ago . . .

framing small watercolours
© Teresa Newham

I then ordered some greetings cards from Redcliffe Imaging - which arrived promptly and beautifully printed, along with biodegradeable sleeves to wrap them in.  For sustainability reasons I don't really like wrapping cards, but they have to be protected against a lot of handling.  With marketing in mind, I got some smart new business cards and publicity postcards from Moo.

new greetings cards, business cards, postcards
© Teresa Newham

When I have had a spare afternoon or two, I've taken the opportunity to try out a calligraphy set which I was given.  Calligraphy is best done on a sloping surface, so I dug out my Mum's old easel to rest on.  It was fun to try something new. And I've made time to start reading Makoto Fujimura's excellent book Art and Faith, which was recommended to me.

Summer fun - calligraphy and art reading
© Teresa Newham

I've had work in two exhibitions at The Workhouse Dunstable during the last six weeks or so and I've enjoyed a couple of Friday mornings helping out there, too. The gallery is now closed until the beginning of September but I'm looking forward to showing more pieces there this Autumn.  In the meantime I have plenty still to do for Open Studios!

my work in two of the recent exhibitions at The Workhouse Dunstable
© Teresa Newham

Friday, 30 July 2021

Prepping and Painting


July I
original watercolour by Teresa Newham

My focus this July has been preparing for #HertsOpenStudios, which will run from 18th September to 10th October.  There have, however, been days when it has simply been too hot for framing or other prep; and that's when I turned to watercolour.

inspiration from my garden
© Teresa Newham

The flowers in my garden have been wonderful this Summer, thanks to abundant rain and hot sun.  The bright geraniums, lavender and marigolds prompted me to make some small July salt paintings.  It was worth playing about a bit with colours first, as not all the ones I thought I needed made the cut:

choosing colours 
© Teresa Newham

The thing about a salt painting is that you can't make it all at once - you lay down some washes, add the salt, and walk away until everything is completely dry.  I left these two overnight, although in the heat they were workable within a few hours.

salt working its magic on the initial washes
© Teresa Newham

As I built up the layers I experimented with ideas on the right hand piece and refined them on the left.  As usual, I now have one painting I like more than the other - the left hand one in this case, although it doesn't always work out like that.

July I and July II, finished, but still taped to the board
© Teresa Newham

A few days later, the cooler weather returned and I went back to my framing. I couldn't resist putting the new July painting into a frame to see how it looked. That's another piece for Open Studios!

July I - framed and ready to go
© Teresa Newham

Thursday, 15 July 2021

Art in the great outdoors

socially distanced in front of the stable block
© Teresa Newham

July kicked off to a great start with Childwickbury Arts Fair taking place just up the road.  This annual occasion was cancelled last year due to the pandemic, but returned this Summer - an ideal event for these times, as so much of it takes place in the fresh air.

making the best use of outdoor space 
© Teresa Newham

The organisers made use of every inch of outdoor space: every marquee had one side open to the elements, and where artists were exhibiting in the farm buildings all the doors were wide open.  Everywhere was light, airy and welcoming.

arts and crafts al fresco or as near as . . .
© Teresa Newham

I enjoyed the printmakers' section so much that I forgot to take any photos; it was great to chat to the likes of Laura Boswell, Tom Mitchell, Sandra Daniel and Vicky Oldfield.  You could tell that all the exhibitors were thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to meet the public again.

demo of raku firing by Simon Eeles
© Teresa Newham

We caught up with old friends, sampled some excellent South African street food, and basked in the sun which had unexpectedly come out despite the gloomy forecast.  We even treated ourselves to an icecream, to round off an excellent day. It was a complete delight to be attending a proper art event!

flowers and mannequins - Childwickbury at its best!
© Teresa Newham

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

Fence, Cross Lane


Fence, Cross Lane
reduction linocut by Teresa Newham

Wherever there's a field, there's a fence; and that goes for the second of the two linocuts I'm about to send off to the Awagami International Print Exhibition in Japan. I had to race to meet the deadline for this second print, as I wanted it to be completely dry before I put it in the post (you can see the first print here).

test printing on paper from my Hosho pad
© Teresa Newham

The second print did not turn out as I had originally envisaged. As soon as I began to make test prints of the first layers, I was captivated by the way the fence and foliage seemed to emerge, almost of their own accord - so much so, that I started to take photos with a view to making a timelapse video.

mixing greens
© Teresa Newham

As the print took on a life of its own, I discarded my initial plans and took decisions based on the results of the previous print session.  I partially inked each layer and wiped some of the colour away, to avoid over-inking.  The centre of the print took on a sort of glow, which I was keen to keep if I possibly could.

keeping track of complicated lino blocks
© Teresa Newham

I was terrified I might cut away the wrong bits of lino, and the more I cut away, the more difficult it was to keep track. The inking, too, became tricky - by the time I printed the berries and the final branches, I was using my entire work bench, two ink trays and a variety of rollers - some for rolling out the ink and others for applying it.

inking the final layer
© Teresa Newham

It was a relief to finally get the print finished; it has taken me on a journey which I had not expected but which I have thoroughly enjoyed.  I made the video too - you can see it here on my YouTube channel!

the finished print on Awagami Hosho 80gsm
© Teresa Newham