Wednesday 23 December 2009

Merry Christmas!

© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2009

As Christmas approaches and the year draws to a close, it's time to take stock. Eight of my paintings are on show at b Gallery in Toddington; I have a raft of ideas for paintings in the coming months, which I hope to get started on once Christmas is over. And I've begun, tentatively, to make linocut prints; it'll take a while to get the results I want, but every journey starts with a single step, as they say!

2009 has been quite a year, both personally and art-wise; I feel that I've learnt a lot and will continue to learn more. And just as importantly, I've had a lot of fun!

I'd like to wish a Merry Christmas to anyone reading this blog; and may 2010 be everything you'd like it to be.

Blessings x

Saturday 5 December 2009

b-loomin' marvellous!

my paintings at b Gallery
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2009

I've just got home from the b Gallery Opening Day, and boy, has it been a success. There were a lot of people at the pre-launch party last night, mainly exhibiting artists and a few friends, and the trend continued today; when we arrived at lunchtime the place was packed with eager art-lovers. As I walked through the front door someone was leaving clutching one of my photo prints - let's hope that's a sign of things to come!

Demo in one of the downstairs rooms
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2009

The range of art is stunning. And there is so much; paintings in the hallway and up the stairs; fine art in reception where prints by Rolf Harris, Fletcher Sibthorpe, Beryl Cook and Jack Vettriano sit alongside wonderful jewellery, glass art and a variety of cards; paintings, jewellery, glass and more cards (including mine!) in a lovely relaxing square room beyond which we all agreed was so cosy we could live in it, and where today two wonderful artists were demonstrating their work; and even paintings in the small back room where Judi Menges was demonstrating glass art and Sara Wickenden was working in wax encaustic - and that was just downstairs!

A cosy corner downstairs at b Gallery with some of Judi Menges' glass art on the wall at the end
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2009

Upstairs is a huge room running the width of the building where at least thirty local artists have paintings, photos and prints on display. There are browsers everywhere full of tempting unframed pieces (and yes, I was tempted!). All in different styles to suit every taste. Today was also a great opportunity to chat to other artists and photographers - many of whom were doing demos too. There was even some art in the loo!

Watercolours and prints on display upstairs
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2009

The building itself is something of a star in its own right. Old and beamed, it has a distinct character which lends charm & intimacy to the gallery; to emphasise this Mel and Julie have cleverly created several cosy corners with seating throughout the building, which gives parts of the gallery the ambience of a mad art collector's living room. I'm so pleased to be associated with b Gallery and I hope today is the first of many successes for this amazing new venture!

Sue Wookey's paintings and another cosy corner
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2009

Monday 30 November 2009

b is for . . .

b Gallery will be opening in the Old Town Hall, a historic building in the centre of Toddington
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2009

. . Burnell (Melanie) and Boyle (Julie), who this weekend are opening b Gallery, an exciting new venture in the Old Town Hall building in the centre of Toddington. You can read more about it (and get directions) here. The Gallery Opening Day is this Saturday 5th December, from 10am to 5pm, and Melanie & Julie are promising collectable fine art, local crafts, jewellery and some of the area's finest local artists. There will be demos, turkey rolls & mulled wine and Father Christmas too!

a wide variety of work in the beamed upper gallery
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2009

I will have paintings on show there, along with some prints, photos, unframed originals & cards; I'm one of around thirty or so artists exhibiting and there is a wide variety of work in the gallery to suit all tastes, from the traditional to cutting edge. Sue Wookey and Judi Menges from Artscape Arts will also be there. I'm at b Gallery for at least three months, depending how things go.

And it's strangely liberating having so few paintings left at home. Almost like a clean sheet to start again!

Saturday 21 November 2009

Getting it Right in Black and White

marks using tin lids and card
monoprint © Teresa Kirkpatrick 2009

Well, I achieved one of my ambitions last Sunday when a friend and I attended a printmaking course at the Eagle Gallery, Bedford. Followers of this blog may recall that I discovered the lure of printmaking back in the Summer, when I watched a couple of demos at art fairs and fell in love with the whole idea. The one-day course was an opportunity for a dozen of us to try out monoprint, drypoint and linocuts and to find out which techniques intrigued us the most!

We spent a couple of hours on each one; I started with monoprinting, under the guidance of Mike Townesend. We rolled our our ink to the correct "swishy" consistency, made a few marks with bits of card and jar lids and - wow! instant artworks with a wonderful unpredictability about them. Mike showed us how to use newspaper stencils to create special effects; how to trace over a drawing to reproduce it on the paper; and how to put an image under the inking glass and paint it onto the glass to produce a reversed-out print. We were only a third of the way through the day, and I was inky and hooked!

A moody view of the Skelligs
drypoint © Teresa Kirkpatrick 2009

After a short break Eric Seeley showed us drypoint; scratching an image onto the surface of special plastic using a nail. It was hard work but produced the most beautiful effects; particularly if you took care when rubbing the ink away on the highlighted areas. Our images came out reversed but I've flipped the one above to show the best effect! The only disadvantage I found was that drypoint used oil-based inks, which were in my fingernails for a week. The water-based inks used in monoprinting and linocutting were far easier to deal with!

door, Cardinal's Wharf
linocut © Teresa Kirkpatrick 2009

Our final session was linocutting with Su Kiteley. She had various tips and hints - such as warming the lino on a radiator beforehand to make it more pliable, and painting its surface with white emulsion to show the design more easily. We used tracing and carbon paper to reproduce an image (the right way round). After a couple of false starts - and stern reminders to keep my fingers out of the way of the cutting tools - I really got into it and was delighted with the final result, which was only marred by my last-minute decision to include some shadows. At this point I forgot my reversed-out thinking and made them white, not black. Call it artist's licence!

It was a fabulous experience and I've had a go at home already. The results are looking promising . . . !!!

Tuesday 27 October 2009

London calling

Cardinal's Wharf
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2009

It's almost Halloween, and the last of the leaves are clinging bravely to the trees in a wonderful Autumnal display. At last I'm managing to get the rest and relaxation I need to recharge my batteries and my enthusiasm. It's been a busy time at work, and I've felt quite frustrated having to spend my days in an office rather than painting, but of course it keeps the wolf from the door. And London can be a wonderful source of inspiration; I'm lucky enough to work right by the Thames at Bankside, an area of the most amazing history for those who care to dig deep enough (sometimes literally!). So I've decided to use my experiences of the area to produce some London-based art, starting with the pen-and-wash drawing above.

Cardinal's Wharf nestles right between the Globe Theatre and the Tate Modern. I pass it every morning but of course it wasn't until I started to paint it that I really, really looked at it; began to wonder who lived there; what the significance of the flagpole & coats of arms are, and so on. Some of the answers can be found here.

Having made the decision to use my time on Bankside to produce some paintings, my ideas are starting to crystallise, and I'm feeling more optimistic. Yes, I'm painting again!

Sunday 18 October 2009

Here be there dragons

It's the middle of October and the nights are drawing in. My overwhelming urge at this time of year is to go into hibernation mode; I haven't felt like doing a great deal of painting recently, but last weekend I decided to cheer myself up by some doodling with gouache - a medium which I don't use very much - and found myself creating a dragon - my first, in fact. As you can see, he's not a scary dragon, but quite dynamic nevertheless. He's given me a few ideas; in fact, I have almost too many at the moment. Some I thought were fixed keep changing, too, which is making it hard to get to grips with anything new!

My First Dragon
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2009

It's only now I can take an objective look back at Open Studios and recognise how well things went. My fellow-exhibitors and I agreed that the best thing about it was the opportunity to meet and discuss art with the general public; our own art, each other's art, and - in many cases - the visitors' art. And this year I've had a taste of something less easily defined: the thrill you get when your work touches somebody. It's not shared vision, exactly - everybody's coming from their own standpoint, after all - but something in your work which resonates with them.

When one of my paintings struck a chord with people, their pleasure with it made me revisit it again in my mind; I recalled the scene which inspired the painting and the fun I had creating it. Someone bought a print of a favourite photo; reminding me of what I loved about it in the first place. So. although it's a difficult time of year for me, I'm keeping positive. The dragon, after all, is a symbol of life force and great potency. Perhaps I should frame him and put him on the wall to inspire me!

Wednesday 30 September 2009

Exhibitions are like buses . . .

Paula's Pansy - an early work!

© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2007

It's the end of September, and the final day of our exhibition at Artscape. It's been really strange with so few paintings in the house: apart from the ones at Artscape, one of my early works - Paula's Pansy - has been gracing the walls of Wesley's Coffee Shop at the Methodist Church in the High Street all month as part of a general Open Studios promotion in Harpenden. The Marbre Therese at Portmagee and Lavender Fields have just gone over to Letchworth for the forthcoming Open Exhibition at the Letchworth Arts Centre.

And last weekend I took three of my Tolkien paintings to the annual Tolkien Society Oxonmoot conference in Oxford, where there is a regular Art Exhibition. This year we were at Lady Margaret Hall. The event attracts a lot of Society members, many of whom visit the exhibition during the course of the weekend. Those of us exhibiting have the opportunity to hang our work alongside established Tolkien artists such as Ted Nasmith, Ruth Lacon and Jef Murray. The Oxonmoot Art Show is organised by Becky Hitchin, who also exhibits her work at the show. There were Tolkien-related lectures throughout the weekend, and the chance to catch up with old friends. You can read more about this year's Oxonmoot - and previous Tolkien-related events - here.

Exhibitions are like buses really . . . none for ages, then loads all at once. I'm still painting, though, and should have something new to post here soon!

Sunday 13 September 2009

A Room with a View

l - r: Betty's illustrations, my watercolours & Sue's paintings and Vanessa's acrylics © Teresa Kirkpatrick 2009

A Private View, to be precise. Friday night saw we five ladies of Artscape Arts nervously fluttering around in the upstairs room at Artscape, Harpenden's premier supplier of art, craft & office materials (and fine framing), taking each other's photos in front of our work and wondering how many of the invited guests would come along to see our exhibition, and how we were going to eat all the food we'd laid on if the turnout was low.

Judi's glass art display and a little something for the guests' refreshment! © Teresa Kirkpatrick 2009

We needn't have worried. Around fifty wonderful friends, relatives, fellow artists and other interested parties enjoyed the evening, including Rosemary Farmer, the Town Mayor, who, it transpires, is an art lover. There was plenty for everyone to look at, too: Sue's vibrant paintings inspired by ancient landscapes, Betty's amazing illustrations done for Vogue in the 1940s, Vanessa's bold, bright acrylics, Judi's beautiful glass pieces and my watercolours of Kerry and anything else which takes my fancy - I'm showing Swan and May Evening, Harpenden Common, amongst others!

The 'miscellaneous' wall: Betty's & Sue's watercolours alongside my photos and a life study by yours truly; and 'card corner' - Sue's above, mine below and Judi's to the side! © Teresa Kirkpatrick 2009

The main aim of the evening was for the guests to enjoy the art, and the food, and meet and chat to the artists - which they did - and during the course of the evening I was encouraged to find I'd sold some prints and cards as well. Preparing for this exhibition - and our Open Studios days on 12th, 17th - 19th and 24th - 26th September, when some of us will be at Artscape doing demos and chatting to the public - has been a long hard slog, but Friday made it all worthwhile.

Many thanks to my fellow artists Sue, Judi, Betty and Vanessa; to Jon the invaluable Artist's Assistant; and especially to Gamet, David, and the rest of the team at Artscape for their support.

Sunday 30 August 2009

Beauty & Fragility

August is drawing to a close, and what a wierd month it's been. It started with a much-needed holiday, and has ended in the chaos of pressure at work, preparations for Open Studios, and grief at the passing of a dear friend.

In the midst of all this I've managed to produce a painting. As it's impossible to paint anything properly without concentrating on it totally, for a few hours I've simply put my cares aside and wielded my brushes. And I've ended up with this - something totally unlike my usual style.

Somehow it seems fitting right now to reflect on how beautiful and fragile and precious life is. I hope this picture will help us all to do just that.

© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2009

Monday 24 August 2009

Out and about with the HVAF

HVAF stall at Sunday's Farmers Market, Harpenden
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2009

Half a dozen of us spent yesterday morning manning a stall at the Farmers Market in Harpenden to promote the Harpenden artists taking part in this year's Open Studios. This annual event, organised by the HVAF, takes place each September throughout Hertfordshire, and gives the general public the opportunity to visit artists in their studios (or other appropriate venues), discuss their work, and take a look at how the artists go about the process of producing art. The HVAF is a non-profitmaking charitable organisation dedicated to promoting and supporting the visual arts in and around Hertfordshire.

There are twenty-four Harpenden-based artists taking part this year: not just painters, but artists in glass, ceramics, jewellery and textiles. Five of us are exhibiting as "Artscape Arts" at Artscape, the local art supplies store in Southdown, throughout September, with Open Studios on selected days. Others are opening their homes or workshops for the event. The general public certainly responded well to our market stall yesterday; lots of people came over for a closer look and went away with a brochure. In fact we ran out of brochures, there was so much interest!

Further information on Herts Open Studios is available from

Friday 31 July 2009

Ducks and Days

The end of July has turned out to be as busy as the rest of it. The art show season is finished, but I'm now in the throes of preparations for Herts Open Studios - for further details click here. During the week I've had off work, I've wrapped & labelled photo cards & posters and mounted originals, painted and wrapped cards, and received so many art-related packages (including that linocut set that I wasn't going to bother with until later in the year . . . ) that I've started my own bubblewrap mountain! I'm also now the proud possessor of a card rack, folding camping table and two collapsible chairs, although that has quite a lot to do with a visit to the open-air theatre at Tolethorpe, which involved eating a picnic sitting on a slope in a howling gale. Luckily the play was excellent.

Flying Ducks
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2009

I haven't been entirely idle on the painting front in July, however. I finally got round to doing two cherished projects - my Flying Ducks, which is supposed to be a pastiche on the ceramic ones which everyone had on their walls in the 1950's - and The Days are now Short, which I first thought of doing during a performance of the Merry Widow at the ENO last year. I fell in love with the lighting and it has stayed with me ever since. It shows Elrond and Arwen in a scene which we don't actually see in Lord of the Rings: waiting almost desperately for the outcome of a battle in which they can take no part. The full quote is: "The days are now short. Either our hope cometh, or all hope's end." I like Tolkien's word-play here. Aragorn, who is fighting the battle, is also known as Estel (Hope).

The Days are now Short
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2009

I have plenty more Tolkien-related paintings in my head, and many non-Tolkien ones too. Eventually I will get round to completing them all!

Monday 20 July 2009

A Plethora of Printmakers

July kicked off with the Childwickbury Arts Fair, just up the road from us here in Harpenden. A great opportunity to meet with and chat to other artists - all those demonstrating were extremely accessible, and had lots of ideas to share. Within an hour of arrival we had a list of hints and tips! There was a great range of paintings, ceramics, woodwork, metalwork, jewellery, glassware (my friend bought a wonderful vase from Siddy Langley) and - best of all - a barn full of printmakers.

printmaking in the barn at Childwickbury Arts Fair

© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2009

Until now I haven't been particularly interested in printmaking but I found it fascinating to watch. Barry Goodman was demonstrating collographs and took the time to explain how he went about creating his amazing prints of retro verhicles. I decided that it's definitely a subject I need to find out more about.

Merlyn Chesterman inking a woodcut at Art in Action
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2009

Two weeks later we visited Art in Action at Waterperry. Despite the horrendous traffic queues outside - and the struggle through the mud inside - our trip (eventually) proved to be well worth it. With my appetite whetted, I made straight for the printmaking tent. Merlyn Chesterman was making huge hand-printed woodcuts - and encouraging her audience to join in - while Jason Hicklin drew an enormous crowd with his lively demo of etching. I had to smile when he said that the best bit was using the press - it's such a boy thing - and his enthusiasm was infectious.

So at some point - probably over the winter - I'm going to take the plunge, although I think I'll stick to small hand-made prints, at least to start with. Even my small box-room studio will accommodate a bit of lino-cutting!

Sunday 28 June 2009

Flamin' June

June has been a wierd month for me. I've hardly painted anything at all beyond a few experimental underwater landscapes involving enough salt and water on the paper to support sea life. I've simply had too many ideas (!) and not enough time. I've had four possible paintings on my project board (OK, scruffy bit of cardboard with some paper clips attached) all month and today I finally put two of them on the back burner and decided to go with the other two. When I find time to paint.

Part of the problem is that it's the season for art shows. I can't resist these; even if I haven't entered I like to go along and take a look at what other artists do and how they do it. First it was the Ayot Art Show, a lovely Palladian church crammed floor to ceiling with all kinds of artwork. Getting there was a bit of an adventure as all roads into Ayot St Lawrence seemed to be flooded, but it was well worth it!

The following weekend we had Art on the Common right here in Harpenden, in blazing sunshine. A wonderful range of paintings, photography, textiles etc, beautifully displayed for the most part in an assortment of gazebos (a sensible precaution given the vagaries of the English Summer), and a chunk of the proceeds going to charity. I must admit I came straight home and started hunting for a suitable gazebo on the internet LOL. This weekend saw the inaugural St Albans Summer Art Exhibition at the Town Hall. I did enter a couple of paintings for that one. It turned out to be an excellent venue, with lots of space to walk around and take a look at the stunning variety of exhibits on show.

I must get round to doing some painting during July. Although of course next weekend it's the Childwickbury Art Fair and a fortnight after that we're going to Art in Action at Waterperry . . . !

Sunday 7 June 2009

Time & Immediacy - two different approaches

Watching the Band
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2009

My two most recent paintings were done in one weekend. The first is one which I'd been meaning to paint for ages. Last Summer we visited a festival in the Bishop of Winchester's palace grounds, because a young relative was playing with a local youth band. While we were watching my attention was caught by a couple in front of us - he, sitting casually on the grass while she stood with arms folded, her red hair and green dress brightening an unfortunately dull day. I took a photo because I knew I would want to recapture the scene in paint at some point. Would it be pure watercolour or line & wash? or some different approach? I couldn't decide.

May evening, Harpenden Common
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2009

Then a couple of weeks ago we had some beautiful late Spring weather. Harpenden Common was looking its loveliest and I got the camera out, even going so far as to get my other half to park the car at a suitable vantage point on a busy road . . . I knew the shots would be no good as photos because the light was poor, but for reference they would be ideal.

That was the Friday evening. By Sunday night I'd reinterpreted the buttercups on the Common and finally got round to painting the couple watching the band (I even managed to sneak my partner's nephew into the top right-hand corner). I had photos of each in front of me but for general reference only - I prefer to let the painting take on a life of its own rather than faithfully copy a snapshot. The Common painting was almost done from memory - an impression of the sea of flowers and grasses stretched out in front of me and my camera. The painting of the band, on the other hand, developed a character of its own as I imagined what each of the musicians was thinking.

And of course, in my paintings the festival is taking place on a bright day and the Common is bathed in entirely fictional light. Isn't watercolour wonderful!!

Saturday 23 May 2009

The Meaning of Life Part Two

L in orange & blue
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2008

My second CSM course last year was a week’s worth of Life Drawing with Colour. The course was at Back Hill in Clerkenwell - not too far from where I used to work many years ago. First person I spotted inside was G, resplendent in a tartan yellow kilt (luckily he didn't recognise me). He and I appeared to be the only people over 25 in the entire building apart from the security guard. Hordes of slender trendy youngsters - mostly female - crammed the hallway. Eventually I spotted one or two women of a similar age to me - one of them came over for a chat (overjoyed to see someone else over fifty I think). Turned out she was doing a class with T so I was able to tell her what a great time she was going to have!!

Our tutor was R, whose Beginners Watercolour course I’d attended the previous Summer. The students included a lady from Cheshire who'd been travelling since 4am and two friends from Harrogate who'd joined the course together. Sixteen in all - three chaps and the rest girls, about half from abroad. Three Japanese (including a boy who barely spoke English), two Russians, someone from Turkey and a couple of others - several newcomers to Life Study. R told us not to worry about drawing (hurrah!) - to concentrate more on Colour and Tone rather than Line. We were working on Easels (ouch! my muscles after standing all day!) and started with a Drawing in Charcoal so that he could assess our skill level. The model (a young lad called L) struck his first Pose and we were off. On the whole most people produced good drawings but generally we had not used enough Tone for R. We had to try again using a Burnt Umber Pastel, and this time everyone did better! I went into the stairwell to Fix mine - T came past and was kind enough to praise them both. At lunchtime we went to a nearby Art Shop for more Pastels and Watercolours in Earth Shades. We spent the afternoon doing two more Pastels using a Limited Palette (three, then four colours), concentrating on Not Drawing, Mixing on the Paper and Getting the Tone Right. I decided to Forget Pastels and use Watercolour for the rest of the week - it's not dusty and there's no need to Fix it - plus I had more of the right colours. R was quite happy and suggested that I put my work flat on a Table.

Our Model on Day Two was a girl called M. I remembered to sit down whenever I could . . . R asked us to produce a picture using just Yellow Ochre, Ultramarine, Indian Red and Titanium White - the Watercolourists were to go about it in the same way as those using Pastels ie put the colour down and Mix it on the Paper, then use White to Kill a Lot of It Off . I wasn’t used to doing that but it worked and I managed to produce a pic of M sitting on a chair. We had the usual Crit - R thought we'd all done quite well but should be going for more Overall Consistency and needed to Remember the Background as well as the Figure (he'd sat M on an assortment of Vibrantly Coloured Cloths which some of the students had completely ignored). He liked the fact that I'd painted M Nice and Big on the paper. There was some muttering about using Smaller Paper and Doing Two Paintings at Once, which I ignored, along with the suggestion that the Watercolourists could use some Pastels for Emphasis - not feasible in my case as I'd taken care to leave my pastels at home LOL. Everyone's second pictures were an improvement - the whole class was starting to Move Away from Drawing and was now Thinking in Terms of Colour. For lunch I took a trip down Memory Lane (Leather Lane, actually, I used to visit it regularly when I worked nearby). Back at Back Hill (architecture: Minimalist Art School reception, Tiled Public Toilet staircase, Rabbit Warren classrooms) I got chatting to a Saudi Gentleman in my class who does Art courses whenever he can come over here. He'd done courses at the Slade, and at Chelsea, but rated CSM the highest!! R asked us to Just Use Red and Green (plus White) to create various Shades of Grey, and to do a Background in Pure Colour. I made a Cadmium Red body, added some Viridian Green shadows and made free with the White. - good enough to get a Very Well Done from R. Everyone had produced their best work so far and one or two had portrayed skin you could almost touch!! (but all in those nasty scratchy Pastels).

M in cool colours
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2008

Thank goodness for Crocs. Not the animal - the shoes. I wore them to Art School for Day Three. And they worked - no more aching back or legs! We still had 100% attendance - everyone was so keen - and our Model was L again. Luckily he preferred to be cold, as we'd left the windows open all night to rid the Studio of Pastel Dust. A couple of the younger students had moved on to Acrylics, with great success (one confided that she couldn't bear using Pastels any longer!). Our first task was to use Blue and Orange. R told me to mix them into a grey and start with that, but it was more of an olive green (mixture of Cobalt and Cadmium Orange) and went on darker, I think, than he would have liked. I added Ultramarine shadows, Orange lowlights and Tit White highlights afterwards (Not Forgetting the Background of Pure Colour). R said it was Terrific and he probably wondered why I didn't seem very animated but in truth I was terrified because this was all Experimental and I had No Idea What I Was Doing . . . oh, the pressure of success!! After the Break we moved on to Yellow and Purple (Cadmium Yellow and Dioxazine Violet, sounds like a prescription, doesn't it LOL), and, to encourage everyone to Deepen their Shadows we were also allowed to use Burnt Umber. L, who'd had his Back to me during the first session, was now facing me, so I laid him down (as it were) in a mixture of the two colours and set to work. This time it was a lot harder but the painting turned out far better than expected. To save my legs I went to a nearby Sandwich Shop and ate in the studio. I hadn't had time to do a Pure Colour Background on the last picture so I filled this in also. The two Japanese girls had chummed up and were sitting chatting - the boy with Minimal English was listening to his i-Pod, poor thing. The Saudi Gentleman, the Cheshire Lady and a Beginner were swapping tales of other courses they’d done. Our afternoon session was based on Cool Blues, Greens, Purples etc and R told us to let our imagination Run Riot. He replaced the Vibrantly Coloured Cloths with ones of Cooler Colours to encourage us. This was my excuse to paint L in my favourite Cerulean Blue, adding Ultramarine, Alizarin Crimson and Tit White for emphasis, with Violet and Green Cloths. R was encouraging again - "Don't say that, you know what will happen" I begged, and he agreed - "You won't be able to start anything!" (thanks, R). True enough, I immediately Deformed L’s legs (one was so bad I washed it out and painted over it later). As L kindly remarked when he wandered over during Break (wearing a dressing gown, I hasten to add), foreshortening is quite difficult, and he did have large feet. I didn't like to tell him that they were also extremely dirty, from the Studio floor (I hoped). On the whole I was quite pleased with my Cool Blue painting - various students came over and said nice things about it - but I spoiled it by putting in an Alizarin Crimson background. R said this worked although it didn't ought to, but part of me wanted to go in early the next day and put a blue wash over it . . .

Day Four saw me arrive with my Tube and a roll of Tinted Watercolour Paper!! Today's Model was M again and R asked us to use primary colours: Red, Blue and Yellow (plus White ), blending them on the body and using them pure as background. Everyone else was using brightly coloured paper and I had pretty pastel tinted sheets - it was lovely stuff though; the man at the Clerkenwell Art Shop (Stevensons) told me they don't make it in that size any more. It was somewhere between A1 and A2, 300gsm Bockingford, and it unrolled perfectly flat and lay obligingly on the board without buckling or anything . . . I thought I was in love (with paper?)!! My figure was fairly garish what with the Red, Blue and Yellow, but mellowed OK under a layer of White. R used the T-word again but I didn't like it, dogged by the feeling I‘d peaked too soon! of course, using different paper meant the paint dried more slowly and I ran out of time - as did several others. Everyone had improved - the Boy with Minimal English had positively blossomed (on paper at least) and all the work was really original and interesting . Next we had to choose a set of Complimentary colours - in my case Cobalt Blue and Cad Orange - and off we went again. R enthused about my painting - 'you're using the Watercolours almost like Pastels' - probably because he was teaching Pastels and I was following his instructions! For the afternoon picture we had to reverse what we'd done previously - the figure in Pure Colour and the background to be muted. I made a Viridian Green figure and chucked a load of Cad Red and Yellow onto it. I found myself using Watercolours like Oils!! The Saudi Gentleman was actually using Oils so that was another classmate who'd abandoned those Horrid Pastels. I asked M a bit about Modelling. She thought her hair looked a bit long in our paintings and was planning to get it cut!

L in cool colours
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2008

Everyone turned up early for the last day. I took the opportunity to ask R about the new CSM building at Kings Cross which is to replace the existing four campuses from 2011 onwards. Apparently the gorgeous Lethaby building (where I did the previous summer’s course) is going to become a hotel, and is listed, fortunately. We began the Class with a Crit of yesterday's final piece. I didn't like mine any better when I saw it again but it did get praise (and some constructive criticism). Both Models were Posing and I had a nice glimpse of Model Etiquette as M introduced herself to L, who tactfully moved to another part of the room while she stripped off. The brief was to produce at least one picture - L would hold his Pose all day while M would strike one Pose all morning and another in the afternoon. R had excelled himself with the Vibrantly Coloured Cloths - I counted fourteen!! I decided to paint L all day and do a second painting of M during the morning and possibly a third one of both of them in the afternoon. Of course, using Watercolour meant that I had to lug boards on and off my Table, make sure the colour didn't run when I propped them up (no room to put them flat to dry) . . . what a palaver!! Sadly our 100% attendance record didn't last as one of the Harrogate girls felt poorly and her friend took her home early at the start of the afternoon session. I couldn't face starting another painting and thought it best to concentrate on finishing the one of L. I'd done him in earth colours and the one of M in cool tones. They looked quite good at the Crit and R said how much I'd come on, apparently I'd captured something of L even though it didn't look like him. We both agreed that I needed to work large to avoid cramping my style (literally)! though how I was going to manage it in my boxroom studio I didn't know . . . everyone had done their best work. Some people had done both figures together and made some really interesting pictures. The Boy with Minimal English produced a superb drawing. A Beginner had started to loosen up. The Cheshire Lady's picture of L was almost anatomical. The Saudi Gentleman had done two wonderful oil paintings. During the Crit L grabbed some Charcoal and Paper and did a quick sketch of one of the Japanese girls. We headed to the pub, where I took my leave of everyone, thanked R and L, and staggered out into the Farringdon Road with my paper. It had been a great week!

Monday 4 May 2009

Memory & Imagination

Memory & Imagination: New River, Broxbourne
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2009

It might seem strange, blogging about a painting which I don't think anyone (apart from me) is going to think much of, but I really like this picture. Just after Easter I took a walk with a couple of friends (and a dog) along the New River at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. It was a lovely afternoon and I wished I'd brought along my camera. We saw a swan sitting on her nest, various other waterbirds such as coots and grebes, and (memorably) a brace of ducks using the long, straight river just like an aeroplane runway! One of my friends mentioned that he regularly brings his two-year-old grandson to the river to look at the waterfowl.

When I got home, I scribbled down my main impressions of the scene: the long, straight river vanishing in the distance, the swan on her nest etc. Three weeks on (with much happening in between) I finally got around to setting brush to paper. I wanted to capture the feeling of Spring, the drama of the straight lines, the green algae-filled river, the wonder of spotting that swan on her nest. No matter that I can't remember now if the tree roots she was settled in were those of a willow or something else, or that I've almost certainly left out a bridge or two. The man and the boy on the river bank might be my friend and his grandson, but they might not (the child in the painting is probably too tall for a two-year-old). It doesn't even matter that it's not a particularly good rendering of the scene. This one's for me - but I'm sharing it with you!

Friday 17 April 2009

The Meaning of Life - Part One

© teresa kirkpatrick 2008

I should have been on an Art Course this week at Central St Martins, but it was cancelled. As it happens I’ve spent the week usefully and done loads of painting, so perhaps life is telling me that I don’t need to go on a course right now. But last year I had such fun when I finally plucked up the courage to do some Life Study there . . .

I started with a weekly Beginners Life Drawing course in the Annexe of the Charing Cross Road building - famous alumni include Johnny Rotten. Twelve of us, mainly amateurs. While we were introducing ourselves the model arrived, wearing a short, flowered, pleated skirt, boxy little jacket and knee socks. A soft-spoken Scot, he was in his early sixties (at a guess) and called G. It was quite a relief when he took his clothes off . . . we chose Benches or Easels (these are tall so I used a bench) and set up. Our lecturer asked us to do four small Line Drawings - five minutes each - with G (who was on a low table in the centre of the room) changing position each time - and then we turned our boards to face each other for a Crit. Because we were concentrating on Line most of the students drew the equivalent of crash test dummies and I got scolded for including G's hair . We got tips on Proportion, how to size up angles by squinting at a pencil (I always wanted to do that!) and Negative Space (the shape where the subject isn't). After a break, G remounted his table and held two more poses for twenty minutes each while we deformed him in charcoal again, including Tone by smuding the charcoal - which you can do with a Putty Rubber or your fingers - did I mention how grubby it is using charcoal?

For the second session, I equipped myself with a sturdy black plastic Tube in which to carry my sheets of A1. Unfortunately it resembled a rocket launcher so I got some pretty funny looks from my fellow passengers on the train . . . Our lecturer was off sick and the class was taken by T, an affable middle aged guy sporting an Earring. He promptly got us sketching against the clock. Our model was a lady in her early thirties. T asked her to strike four Poses of five minutes each (phew!), then eight two-minute Poses holding on to a chair - we were supposed to draw each Pose on top of the one before to produce an effect of movement. Having loosened us up, T asked our model to hold one Pose for the rest of the evening and we had to use Pencil - the intention being to convey a three dimensional effect using Line only. Tone and Shading Not Allowed! Again I got told off for including facial features ("it's not a portrait class . . . "). I didn't like to say that blank faces in drawings give me the creeps . . . . . T showed us how making a line darker (not heavier) brings it forward. I knew the model was my kind of girl when she said "students, take note - this model likes crisps and chocolate", but unfortunately we'd already had our break so she didn't get any. Once or twice she cracked up laughing at something so the atmosphere was less intense than before. Time for the Crit . T praised the good parts of everyone's drawings and pointed out that you don't learn unless you make mistakes . . .

© teresa kirkpatrick 2008

I arrived late for the third session and all the Benches were taken so I had to attempt an Easel. T was getting everyone to set up for the main event of the evening: a drawing of model J lying down on the low table. When he said "use Charcoal and I don't want any Lines – just Tone" an audible gasp of horror went round the class. I eventually got a shape on the paper closely resembling a trussed up chicken - because I was late to Class I'd got the worse possible viewpoint to draw from; J's head, back, bottom and a bit of one foot. By now I was getting the hang of using the Putty Rubber to do Highlights and Blurring. T was keen on us getting the right amount of Light on J's hair – I was quite proud of my efforts but he took the Putty Rubber and swept a whole wide line of Highlight through it !! At the Crit it was obvious that some students just could not let go of those Lines!! But at least their drawings looked like a Model lying on a platform rather than an oven-ready Turkey. T said some nice things about my use of the Putty Rubber , mainly praising the Highlights in the hair, apparently forgetting that he'd put them in himself . . . for week four G modelled again. I paid special attention to what he was wearing: white trainers, blue ankle socks, a thigh-length flared brown skirt, a patterned short-sleeved shirt & a sleeveless cricket sweater. A sheepskin-lined flying jacket and a white peaked sixties-style Liver Birds cap completed the outfit. . . .he looked like an advert for Miss Selfridge. T asked us to cover a sheet of paper with a 50 percent Charcoal Tint and reproduce G by creating highlights with the Putty Rubber and putting in Charcoal shadows. No Line Drawing Allowed! Boy, was it messy . . .

By week five it was clear that "Nudey Night", as my work colleagues had taken to calling it, would continue to be taken by T. J was our model again: not only was she pretty & curvy (a pleasure to draw) and smiley & pleasant - she was the only one of the Models we'd used so far to come back into the studio once she was dressed to take a look at the drawings. We focussed on Weight – ie where J was putting hers – so you could also call it Balance. The Main Event was an hour's Drawing with Pencil using Hatching & Cross Hatching to Convey Tone – T went round drawing what looked like little spider's webs and nets in the corner of everyone's paper to show them what he meant. At the break we wandered round looking at the other Drawings. One or two Students were looking quite desperate and I wasn't sure I'd got the hang of the Hatching & Cross-Hatching either. Some interesting results - I thought the Boy Who Can't Let Go Of Lines would be able to cope with Hatching – which is Lines, after all! but no – he didn’t seem able to draw at all except in his own style. Our retired exec had obviously been struggling but at least he'd managed to Hatch & Cross-Hatch a bit, so his subject looked solid. Unfortunately it resembled nothing more than a man’s private parts, because he'd got the bottom way out of proportion . . . There were a couple of Oven-Readies and a mesh Dressmaker's Dummy but the others were really good. T reminded me not to Scribble when I was supposed to Hatch. He liked my rendering of the Cloth they cover the Mattress with.

On Week Six the ladies of the class were delighted to find we had a drop-dead gorgeous young hunk of a Model, all flowing locks, tanned muscles and Latino attitude. When he walked in we couldn't believe our eyes – or our luck! And what were we drawing this week? The face. So he kept his kit on. We did start with four quick poses to loosen up. These were full-figure and I perked up a bit but T told the Hunk there was no need to get undressed so I unperked again. The latecomers to class were somewhat bemused to see a clothed Model, but when T announced we would spend the next two hours drawing his Face the reaction was not so much disappointment as horror. We could choose Line, Tone or Hatching & Cross-Hatching and the brief was not to do a portrait but to interpret the shapes we could see. City Lawyer Girl had arrived late and was setting up behind me with a good view of his face – as soon as T mentioned faces she claimed not to be able to see from that position and moved next to the door, where the only view was the back of the model’s head. At the Break the model left the room so we were able to look at each other's Attempts. "Poor Guy" one girl was heard to murmur as she wandered round. It was evident that Faces were not every Student's Cup of Tea. Most of the students looked quite despondent, including Retired Exec, who’d abandoned his Easel in favour of a Bench after last week’s Fiasco. At the Crit, T as usual found Good Things to say about all of them. The Boy Who Likes Lines had broken with tradition and used Tone, and produced a bit of a mess. Ironically City Lawyer Girl had made a good sketch of the back of the head – it had Volume and Highlights. Features of other drawings included Cartoon Lips and The Boy who looked like a Girl (T’s words!). Again T reminded me Not to Scribble and to Curve my Hatching to avoid the result looking Too Flat.

For session seven we were drawing Hands and Feet - J perched on a stool with these much in evidence, while we pulled our benches and easels up close so we could see (not close enough as it turned out in my case). The brief was to spend an hour on a Foot (or Hand) and then another hour on a Hand (or Foot), either both on one sheet of paper or filling a separate sheet with each, and using Charcoal. I struggled away on J’s Foot and was quite pleased with the toes until I realised I'd given her six of them. I looked furtively around - had anyone noticed? No ! and rubbed them out immediately. Of course I couldn't draw the second lot of toes anywhere near as good as the first. If I was dissatisfied with my efforts, on my right Retired Exec was totally despondent with his Hand and took it off the board as soon as he could. To make matters worse, the Fashion Student on my left had drawn a really good Hand (she doesn't come to every class, why did she have to come to this one and show us up????). I tried to cheer the Exec up by telling him about the Six Toes but he laughed so much I wished I hadn't bothered . . . By the next drawing, T was laughing a lot and had to come over and rectify my Hand with a few deft Lines. There was no need to refer to it as a Claw, though, was there? . . . in the end I cheated by drawing in some background. Once the Claw (sorry, I mean Hand) was in context it looked a bit better but as a Hand Drawing Exercise it was only marginally better than my Foot (which I didn't bother to put into the Crit at all). The Boy who Draws Lines was so fed up he hadn't put his efforts out but T made him show his Foot. The City Lawyer had drawn a sort of Tube which was supposed to be an Ankle. Everyone else including the bloody Fashion Student had drawn really nice Hands and Feet. I wished we could do Faces again . . .

© teresa kirkpatrick 2008

Only ten students turned up for week eight – possibly daunted by T’s declared intention of getting us to reproduce our Model using only Circles, Squares and Triangles. Sometimes it's better not to publicise these things ahead of time . . . ovals and Rectangles were also Allowed. I decided to use Charcoal and sat there while I decided How to Approach the Subject. I wasn't the only one who was Stumped. The girl who normally sat on my left was staring at her paper with a glazed expression. To my right the Exec had started, but was sighing heavily already - not a good sign!! Eventually I began with J’s Cheeks, which are quite Round, and her Nose (a Triangle, obviously). The drawing took on an Abstract air as I continued. She was sitting on the platform with a Sheet draped behind and below her, and two upright Fan Heaters in front at each side, so I added them as well. T came by and said "Wow!! I love that!!" and encouraged me to colour in some of the Shapes, until I had to stop as I was in danger of Drawing Too Much. At the Crit, T was beside himself with Joy - everyone had excelled themselves. The Exec had gone Off Brief a bit by using Other Shapes but had produced a really interesting picture. T referred to mine as "Nefertiti with Ghetto Blasters" but I think he meant that as a compliment - he'd already enthused about the almost African style I'd managed (quite unintentionally) to create, and the fan heaters were exceptionally large . . . of course, the Boy who Uses Lines hadn't followed the Brief at all but he'd produced his best drawing yet. The Girl on my Left had produced a brilliant three-dimensional work!

As requested, we arrived at the Annexe for week nine carrying a copy of The Guardian, some Glue, & a Household Paintbrush. I set up on an extremely wobbly Bench; these are also known as Donkeys - mine was obviously due to go to the Retired Donkeys' Home any time soon. Unfortunately J was lying on the platform with her head to the wall and my Donkey was at the foot of the bed, as it were, so my view of her was Not Good. Still, I could see Shapes so I set to tearing up my Newspaper. I concentrated on Lights and Darks and started sticking pieces to the background paper almost immediately; some of the others did a lot of Tearing (Scissors were Not Allowed) before doing any Sticking at all. We were Not Allowed to use Coloured newsprint and I hadn't realised how much Colour print there is in The Guardian! T had specifically chosen it because of the range of light and dark Tones in the printing, most of which were coming off on my fingers. I spent a lot of time Tearing pieces to the exact Shape I wanted – unfortunately because I was re-creating what I could see, I forgot to work from back to front, which meant even more Tearing as I couldn't Overlap pieces like you should in Collage. We spent the break looking at each other’s work. Some didn't seem to make sense at all, although one or two were quite promising. We carried on and I decided to put in some Background but T thought I shouldn't have, so I attempted to Remove it. The result was a Sticky Mess of half torn bits of paper on the Top Left of my Collage only rivalled by the Sticky Mess of half torn bits of paper all over the Studio floor . . . eventually T took pity on us and announced the Crit. The Exec got a special mention for attempting to portray the Reflections in the Mirror, and one or two other Students had created interesting Collages – some had made the paper into pleats to get an almost Origami effect. I did get a Very Well Done but was not happy with mine. The Girl on my Left got praise but she didn't like hers either. The City Lawyer had produced a horrid mess all over her Collage so I felt a bit better. The Boy who likes Lines had managed to go right off the backing paper and had a sort of newspaper tail on his Collage.

Ten of us managed to struggle through the howling winds and driving rain to the Annexe for the final class – this time using Ink and Brushes. It was the first time any of us had used Ink – several Students immediately asked for advice & T suggested we dilute it a little – then off we went. I LOVED IT!! Applying it with a brush meant it worked in a similar way to Watercolour, apart from the fact that you can't correct mistakes (I think it was the Exec who described it as "a totally unforgiving medium"). So as we worked we had to live with everything we'd committed to paper!! T wandered around the class encouraging us to "Loosen Up and Let It Flow". To my surprise several Students came over to admire my efforts and T was also complimentary. I think I found Ink & Brush easier than most of the class because I use Watercolour. T put J in a Pose she was to hold for an hour . I was quite pleased with my sketch but it was still rather tight and I'd only used forty minutes of the allotted time. Others had also finished theirs quickly, and swapped places to do another sketch from a different Angle. I didn't want to move – but I remembered I'd packed a large brush and I had a spare sheet of A1 in my Tube – so on impulse I set up again and just Went For It using much bolder Lines, a bit of Shadow and a lot of Loosening Up and Flowing. This one took only ten minutes and was quite a lot easier because I already knew how J was sitting so avoided making the same Mistakes. T was Thrilled with the result – he said it was the best thing I'd done! At the Crit the ten of us displayed completely different styles – some Students had tried to use Ink like Charcoal or Pencil whereas the Boy Who Likes Lines and I had used it like Paint. His picture was terrific and T praised mine also. Everyone had got to grips with the new Medium – one girl had used Diluted and Undiluted Ink to get a proper range of greys. For the final part of the evening, T had asked us to bring in the sketch we Least Enjoyed Doing and the one we Learnt Most From. I cheated and brought in only one but most of the others had two. He did a sort of overall Crit for each of us in terms of development etc. To my delight the Exec had brought in the Sketch which made J look like Rude Bits and actually said "I won't tell you what it reminds me of" . . . It was Really Interesting hearing each Student's comments, what they liked and disliked, what they felt they'd learned. T said we should All Be Proud of Ourselves.

I was so sorry it was over I booked myself onto another Life Study course almost immediately . . . of which, more to follow!

Wednesday 8 April 2009

Lands of Enchantment

Had another Grand Day Out on Saturday at the Lands of Enchantment exhibition at Moreton in Marsh, Gloucestershire. This is an annual art exhibition organised by Andy Compton of ADC Books, who acts as the sole worldwide agent for the Tolkien-inspired art of Ted Nasmith, Ruth Lacon, Jef Murray and Peter Pracownik. It takes place at the Redesdale Hall in the centre of Moreton, which is decked out in banners for the occasion:

The lobby and staircase at the Redesdale Hall
© teresa kirkpatrick 2009

It was great to see familiar faces at the Exhibition; everyone welcomed us like old friends and we had several chats (and a cup of tea) before we ever got near any pictures. The two paintings of Ruth Lacon’s which I really liked were The Inescapable Wave - a Japanese style painting reminiscent of Tolkien’s recurring Atlantis dream, and which someone else liked enough to buy during the day - and Bilbo Finds Himself East of the Misty Mountains, which was full of air and space and had a real sense of distance.

As well as all the paintings, we were captivated by the appearance of a pygmy owl in the exhibiton hall. She came courtesy of the Cotswold Falconry Centre and didn’t seem at all fazed by the attention she was getting (which was considerable).

Pygmy Owl Close Up
© teresa kirkpatrick 2009

I hadn’t expected to like Peter Pracownik’s paintings (I’d caught a glimpse of a couple somewhere else and thought them a bit too Fantasy-based for my liking) but they absolutely blew me away when I had a chance to study them properly. I particularly liked The Way is Closed (based on Tolkien’s design for the entrance of Moria) and Middle Earth, which had a definite feel of a 1960’s album cover (King Crimson springs to mind) and Peter agreed; he was a musician for many years - in his heyday he played the Roundhouse in Camden with Hawkwind - as it happens, I was there!! Eventually he decided he could make a better living as an artist, although he still plays in a band now. Peter and his partner Nicola (also an artist) run a gallery in Tintagel, Cornwall, which you can find out about at He had a stall in the dealer’s hall where I bought some postcards and a fridge magnet (I can never resist a fridge magnet. This one has the Green Man on it).

Peter Pracownik at his stall in the dealer’s hall
© teresa kirkpatrick 2009

Ted Nasmith had a wide variety of paintings and prints on show - some large, some small. My other half would have happily taken several home with us - and so would I, but we would have chosen different ones! My favourite was Boromir’s Last Stand, although Luthien runs it a close second. Ted was exhibiting some tiny paintings, too - a sensible move in these days of recession. I was tempted by one of Frodo praying to Elbereth . . .

By now the hall was filling up with visitors. Becky Carter-Hitchin arrived with a wonderful design based on the emblems of the Noldor . It was absolutely fabulous and several of us - including Ruth - crowded round making admiring coo-ing noises over it. She had laid it on the floor for us to see and it looked like a sumptuous rug . . . we were so engrossed that when Angela Gardiner’s talk was announced we realised all the seats were taken. Still, standing at the back we had a good view!

Thanks to Chris Tolkien (Hilary’s grandson) a whole heap ( several heaps) of Hilary’s unpublished papers have been made available to Angela and she is in the process of writing his autobiography as she feels she would like to give Hilary his due place in JRR Tolkien’s life. The brothers were very close. Black & White Ogre Country is a lovely little book of Hilary’s reminiscences, which has been published as a kind of preview to the full biography. I was particularly struck by this extract: “We used to live a big part of the summer up trees, particularly a certain sycamore . . .” Angela showed us a Christmas card drawn by the boys’ grandfather, John Suffield (Mabel Tolkien’s father). He used to make one every year, and this sample had trees recognisably in the same style as Tolkien used to draw; and a tiny rendering of the Lord’s Prayer in a little circle. So that’s where JRRT got the idea of the Father Christmas Letters from! Interestingly, the book contains a small painting by Hilary in a similar style and apparently Tim Tolkien (I can’t remember where he fits in) also draws and paints in the Tolkien - or should I say Suffield - style.

Jef Murray had a huge amount of paintings on show - my favourite The Eagle of Manwe was there, along with a similar one Mearas - and his illustrations for Black & White Ogre Country went down very well - several had sold. I was chuffed when he said he remembered me liking The Eagle of Manwe - apparently he often recalls people by the paintings they prefer!

(Some of) Jef Murray’s display
© teresa kirkpatrick 2009

We nearly missed out on seats again for Ted Nasmith’s talk because by then we’d bumped into the major book collector Alan Reynolds, whose lecture we’d gone to at Oxonmoot. Amongst lots of other interesting stuff he told us how even today Tolkien’s views on language are being vindicated: for years Tolkien argued with “experts” that the Roman name for the town of Bath - Aquae Sulis - meant “waters of Sul” rather than “waters of Sulis” because - as every Latin scholar knows - “Sulis” means “of Sul”. All the experts pooh-poohed his idea. Then some relics were excavated in Bath clearly dedicated to the Goddess Sul. They really should have listened to the Professor in the first place . . .

Back to Ted’s talk. He told us that he likes to paint something beautiful in a picture even when the overall subject is grim - I think he likes the contrast, such as the horror of the Kinslaying in such a lovely setting. He talked about the dangers of overpainting (which struck a chord with at least one fledgling artist in the audience) and I was greatly cheered when he said that some of his ideas for pictures have come to fruition over many years. Hope for me yet then . . . Ted discussed the pleasures and pitfalls of being commissioned to do illustrations for The Silmarillion; for example, Christopher Tolkien objected to Ted putting trees and agricultural scenery around Gondolin because JRR Tolkien had described it as standing on a featureless plain; but logic dictates that the inhabitants would have had to grow food etc somehow. I think the discussions Ted had with CT must have been quite lively!

The Bell Inn, Moreton in Marsh
© teresa kirkpatrick 2009

By now we were starving, and headed to The Bell for lunch. There’s a strong suggestion that the exterior of The Prancing Pony at Bree is based on The Bell, similarities include the three storeys of the pub building (those little rooms at the top would be ideal lodgings for hobbits!) and its entrance via a courtyard, which you can just see to the right of my photo. I assume that it’s an old coaching inn. After lunch we wandered back to the Redesdale Hall, pausing only to admire the local bookshop’s window display. Full marks to them for noticing there was a Tolkien Art Show in town - that‘s what I call using your initiative!

Books on Art and Tolkien in the shop window
© teresa kirkpatrick 2009

Of course, once we entered the Dealers Room back at the Redesdale Hall I lost both the others immediately - my other half is particularly susceptible to random book-buying and by the time I managed to retrieve him, he had bagged a first edition of Owen Barfield on CS Lewis and a copy of Literary Converts by Joseph Pearce. Upstairs we were thrilled to find that the eagle - billed as Gwaihir - had arrived. I took loads of photos because you never know when you might want a reference so you can put an eagle in a painting, do you? Here’s the best one:

© teresa kirkpatrick 2009

We still hadn’t had time to get round all the paintings so we took the opportunity to do so before Ruth’s talk. On stage Ted Nasmith, Alex Lewis and Madeline Anderson were reprising the songs they had sung at the last Oxonmoot Ents and it made for a very pleasant atmosphere. Ruth’s talk was the last of the day. She’s now using more and more acrylic - she finds that she can get even more textural results than with oil paints and finds it good for introducing emotion into a painting. Sometimes she will try out a subject in gouache and do another version in acrylic. The reason she generally puts borders on her paintings is that they represent a safety line between our world and the sometimes strange and terrifying world in the picture. All her paintings are carefully researched - meticulously based on Tolkien’s texts, but also in other ways; for example the one of Beorn dancing with the bears has several distinct varieties of bears in it. She told us that she was careful to represent Wargs rather than grey wolves in her picture Fifteen Birds in Five Fir Trees because she was trying to get away from the idea of a Western European grey wolf. Although her paintings are not photo-realistic they are based on reality - hence the need for careful research.

By the time we drove out of Moreton past the Hall the doors were firmly shut for the night. Artists and organisers had all departed for an evening of beer and song at The Bell. And why not? They deserved it!

Sunday 29 March 2009

What does a Mallorn look like?

and other questions which arise when illustrating scenes from the work of JRR Tolkien!

Spring Surpassed his Wildest Hopes
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2009

Amidst the mad March flurry of painting (which resulted in seven pictures, only one of which has been consigned to the rejects pile) I've produced one Tolkien-inspired work which is good enough to take to this year's Oxonmoot. Spring Surpassed his Wildest Hopes is based on the scene in Lord of the Rings Book Six Chaper VIII (The Scouring of the Shire). The title is a quote taken directly from the book and Sam is standing in front of "the only mallorn west of the Mountains and east of the Sea" which has just burst into bloom in the Party Field next to Bag End.

For the layout I consulted a map of Hobbiton in Karen Wynn Fonstad's Atlas of Middle Earth - you might not be able to see the river running through the horizontal line of trees beyond the village, but it's there all the same LOL. The large house in the middle of the picture is The Grange. I decided to base the mallorn sapling on a silver birch which grows on the green in front of my house; Tolkien describes it as having long silver leaves and bursting into golden flowers in April. Elsewhere in LoTR we learn that full-grown mallorn leaves turn to gold in Autumn but they do not fall until "the new green opens . . . and then the boughs are laden with yellow flowers". So I figured the "new green" would be a bit like the silver foliage on our own garden plants, and that the sapling's original silver leaves would have fallen already . . . Oh, and the figure of Sam is based on me standing hands on hips with my back to a mirror. Although his legs are better than mine LOL.

I was really keen to portray a gentle spring day so I used the same colours as for my spring flower paintings: indian yellow, cobalt blue, alizarin crimson. I laid down a wash of raw sienna first so that the finished work didn't look too cold (I failed to do this with a previous Tolkien painting of Tom Bombadil's Wedding and have come to heartily dislike it!). During the couple of weeks I painted Spring Surprised we actually had some gentle spring weather which helped tremendously! For example, my first attempt at the trees in the background was far too green - I had to take a lot of the colour out and overpaint with yellow or pink to prevent it looking like Summer. And I knew this was necessary by taking a look out of the window!

A lot of the ideas I've had recently for Tolkien paintings have been based on his descriptions of colour rather than action in the book. Here's a clue to the next one . . . I've downloaded several photos of runner bean plants . . .!?

Sunday 15 March 2009

Swanning Around

© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2009

I've recently completed a couple of paintings which got me thinking about inspiration and ideas, and where they come from. This swan (of which I am inordinately proud) was painted from a photo taken over a year ago in the RHS Garden at Wisley. I had no intention of painting a swan; instead I did a less-than-successful depiction of some ducks on the ice of Harpenden Ponds. Although the painting didn't work, I discovered I enjoy painting birds - hence the swan. It's not like the photo in terms of colour - it was a grey day and I've rendered it in cobalt blue and raw sienna -but very like in form. And I've managed to paint water successfully at last!

© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2009

This little picture, on the other hand, was painted from life. The tall bloom at the back had flopped, and is held up by a stick. I sketched and underpainted it in the morning and when I came back to it in the afternoon, not only had the light changed but the flower on the right had grown! Having got the hyacinths & bowl how I wanted them, on the spur of the moment I mixed my three colours (cobalt blue, alizarin crimson and indian yellow) into a neutral beige and crudely overpainted the background - which had originally been pale yellow) - with a large flat brush. I like to think that not painting right up to the edges of the flowers has given them a backlit effect. I could pretend that I intended the horizontal strokes on the background to be a counterpoint to the vertical thrust of the flowers but, like a lot of my work, that's a happy accident . . .

I like the immediacy of this painting, but what you gain in vibrancy you lose in composition. I soon realised it was too close to the top of the paper (and slightly to the left) but having started, I didn't want to stop. Oh well!

Saturday 28 February 2009

Mo chridh Portmagee *

Portmagee from the Dog House
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2009

Booked plane tickets to Kerry this week. This will be my tenth visit to the annual Set Dance Weekend at Portmagee - we usually go for Halloween, too, and it always feels like coming home. So much so that two of my friends have moved there! The weekend itself is a mad rush of set dancing, céilidh, music sessions, wonderful food (fish fresh from the sea), fabulous Guinness, and whatever sightseeing we can fit round everything else - all based around the welcoming Bridge Bar, Moorings Restaurant and B&B run by Gerard & Pat Kennedy.

Over the years we have travelled in groups of five, sometimes ten (and once, unforgettably, seventeen) - on one occasion we flew to Dublin, intending to drive down, stay the weekend, and take several days coming back in order to see some of the rest of Ireland. We got to Portmagee and stayed there, dashing back at the last minute. That was the year some of us took the opportunity to take a fishing boat out to the Skelligs, the two amazing rocky outcrops in the Atlantic which are only reachable in the best weather. The smaller one is a bird sanctuary and the larger one - where you can land & visit - was once a monastic settlement: beehive huts at the top of an incredibly steep set of steps carved out of the rock.

The Iveragh Peninsula is a mixture of majestic mountain ranges & glacial lakes, craggy coastlines, sweeping beaches, stone age forts, fishing villages and bustling towns, with a surprise around every corner. We'd been visiting for years without realising that JRR Tolkien and his wife Edith had holidayed in Castlecove back in the 1950's; that Caherciveen, the nearest town to Portmagee, was the birthplace of the Liberator, Daniel O'Connell of Catholic emancipation fame; we discover something new on every visit. I just can't wait!

* Mo chridh = 'harp of my heart'. At least, I hope it does . . !

Monday 23 February 2009

The Wonderful World of Watercolour

Gandalf & the Balrog
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2006

As a child I was always drawing on scraps of paper. Alongside my mother I moved beyond painting-by-numbers into oils. She experimented and progressed, eventually choosing to work in the purity and delicacy of watercolour. I simply stopped painting. After she died, I suddenly had the urge to take it up again - not a gentle inclination but a sensation that I must do it, and start straight away.

I bought myself a starter kit (watercolour tubes, paper & brushes; and a wholly unsuitable easel - upright, watercolour runs everywhere!) and for lack of any other inspiration began painting scenes from JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. I posted the results to the members' art thread on Middle-Earth Journeys, receiving a great deal of encouragement and feedback. But it was obvious that after a gap of thirty years or so I needed to develop my technique, skills, ideas, vision - the lot!! One day at the office I found a discarded printout of short courses at Central St Martins, and on impulse booked onto the Watercolour for Beginners Summer School.

Now I'd done it! I got myself a Portfolio and a bunch of Materials and set off for Art School . . .

There were fifteen of us, a mix of art students (many from overseas) widening their range, and older amateur enthusiasts. One Student confided that watercolour isn't taught in many UK art colleges these days because it's "too difficult" (!). She was keen to try it, though! For a couple of days we learnt the basics: how to Stretch Paper, lay a variety of Washes (ah, the freedom of being encouraged to let them drip onto the wooden floor!!), mix Greens and Greys etc. I was revelling in the whole experience, particularly the chance to work in the wonderful Lethaby building, an Art Nouveau masterpiece in itself.

the Lethaby Building, Central St Martins
(originally the Central London School of Art)
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2007

On the third morning our lecturer showed us some ways to achieve Texture in our work, such as the use of Salt, Clingfilm, Splattering, Scratching, Wax and Mini Rollers. We crowded closer and closer, all keen to get our hands on the various items as soon as we could. The coffee break was forgotten as the room resounded to cries of "Who's got the clingfilm?" and "Can someone run out and get more salt?" I managed to Splatter myself, my glasses, the tabletop, the mobile phone of the Spanish girl sitting next to me, several brushes, a couple of palettes and a two inch square of paper (it looked very good). We also had carte blanche to try Acrylics (which I disliked immediately - too plasticky for me!) and Gouache.

Salt & Scratching, with Gouache
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2007

By Thursday, when we started painting from real life or photos, coffee and tea breaks were ignored and many of us were eating lunch in the classroom so as to get back to our work quickly. Nobody was keen to leave in a hurry at the end of the day, either! Friday brought Time Trials, three 30-minute versions of the same scene, in an attempt to get us to Loosen our Technique; in the afternoon we finished our paintings from the previous day and stuck them up on the wall for a Crit. I came away with the feeling I'd definitely be back!!

Room 214, the Lethaby Building, Central St Martins
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2007

Wednesday 21 January 2009

A Grand Day Out

Finally caught up with the Annie Liebowitz photo exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery last weekend. Awe-inspiring! Particularly liked her black and white portraits; the one of Mikhail Baryshnikov and Rob Besserer is particularly striking, and so is the one of her mother. And I thought the colour photo of Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash with their family was tremendous . . . we found time to look at some of the paintings, too. The Tudor and Stuart galleries are like a painted photo album of the great and good (I was delighted to spot John Donne, the metaphysical poet, and a young and arrogant-looking Judge Jeffreys). Amongst the more modern works there was a lovely depiction of Emmeline Pankhurst showing her as a feisty old lady, and one of Beatrix Potter done in the late 1930s when she was a pensioner in the Dales. Also a moving depiction of the late Mo Mowlam. Thanks to a demo outside in Trafalgar Square we were shut in for a while in the gift shop so I came away with more postcards than intended, plus one of Annie's books and a fridge magnet! it was a great day out.