Thursday, 27 September 2012

shell sketches

Open Studios is nearly finished for another year, and it's been a lot of fun.  And I've learned a lot; principally by demonstrating a number of techniques, some of which I hadn't used for some time!

shells - colour photo

I took as my subject for the demos two shells which sit, along with many others, on my bathroom windowsill.  I'd had a vague idea that I could do something arty with them for some time; and when I was casting around for something small and portable to take to Artscape, I realised they were ideal.  I started with photography (see above), but when it came to sketching and painting them I was careful to stick to the original still life.

shells - pencil

My first big discovery was that although I hadn't drawn anything for ages, I still had the knack;  my second was that I didn't dislike drawing in pencil as much as I thought I did.  This prejudice dates back to my life drawing classes;  it was always much easier to render the subject in charcoal.  For small items like the shells, however, pencil was fine;  better than charcoal in fact, as you can see from my next attempt below:

shells - charcoal

For my third drawing I'd dug out some chalk pastel pencils I bought for some course or other and never used.  I surprised myself with the result;  I'm not comfortable with pastels but still managed to produce a decent depiction of the shells.  Both the charcoal and the pastel sketches had to be fixed of course, and I hadn't done any of that for a while; I used enough fixative for a whole A2 drawing on each of my little A5 sketches, which resulted in me standing in the Artscape car park for some time, folornly waving two pieces of paper around (never, ever use fixative indoors if you can avoid doing so; and if you have to, make sure you're in a well ventilated room. At Central St Martins we used to use the staircase!).

shells - chalk pastel pencils

Three reasonable sketches in one afternoon did wonders for my confidence; for my second session I brought along my trusty ink pens.  This next drawing was quite a struggle, as I normally only draw outlines in ink;  but I managed to make them look reasonably solid by adding a shadow underneath, thanks to some constructive feedback from one of my fellow artists!

shells - pen

The second half of that afternoon saw me back in my comfort zone with a pen and watercolour wash of the shells.  You would have thought I was used to drawing them by now, but no;  I was cautious enough to do a pencil outline first before committing the ink to paper.  It took a while to get the paint right, too, but eventually I was happy enough with the result:

shells - pen and watercolour wash

For the third session I took along a watercolour block and my set of sketching hard pan watercolours. This time I drew straight on to the paper with my brush, and blended the colours on the paper.  Again and again, actually; I was lucky that the paper I chose will take multiple washes as I tried several times before I got the colours right!

shells - watercolour

I wasn't the only artist doing demonstrations, of course:  Sue has been painting some animal watercolours.  I'm fascinated by her palette, which apparently contains colour mixes of some antiquity!

Sue's palette

Hillary's been adding a high tech element to our exhibition by demonstrating graphic art on a small HP laptop.  Our visitors have been really interested in the resulting cityscapes and we're all fascinated by our fellow-exhibitors approaches to their work!

Hillary's high tech graphic art

Helen has been showing how she prepares drawings and cuts them into lino to make her prints - unfortunately I don't have any photos to share on this blog, but she explains a little of the process here on her website.

my shells  in various media

So, after three afternoons' work I was able to show seven treatments of my little shells, and I'd thoroughly enjoyed doing each one.  The fourth session will give me the chance to try one more medium; but I may not be able to share the results for a while.  We'll see!!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Arting at Artscape

Artscape from the upstairs gallery
For the fourth year running a group of us have been taking part in Herts Open Studios, exhibiting as Artscape Arts, upstairs in our local art shop, Artscape.  It's an Aladdin's cave of art materials, stationery, greetings cards and frames; Gurmeet and his team will frame items for you, too.  He gave the room upstairs a revamp this year; there's more natural light and more space, both for hanging and to move around in.  When we set up a couple of weeks ago, we were thrilled!

Pauline's ceramic restoration display with some of Helen's prints and Hillary's cards
This year's Artscape Arts exhibitors includes Pauline Ashley, who works with ceramics - creating her own pieces and also restoring broken pottery and glass for other people.  She has chosen to focus on the restoration side of her work for this exhibition.  It's Pauline's first time at Artscape but she has been a member of HVA and an enthusiastic supporter of Herts Open Studios for many years; Pauline gave me my first taste of Open Studios by allowing me to share the gallery she set up in her garden workshop for Open Studios 2008, and a lot of fun we had, too.

Helen's prints & browser in the alcove . . .

. . .  and in the main room
I was also delighted that Helen Brooks was able to join us again this year, having last exhibited at Artscape in 2010; I was bowled over by her skillful linocuts then, and I still am.  She designs and cuts her printing plates at home and prints them up using the University of Hertfordshire presses.  This year she's hung several colour pieces as well as her classic black-and-white prints.

Sue's paintings with our card displays
Once again, Sue Wookey has put on a wonderful display of watercolours and photographs, ranging from the spiritual to the quirky; and during our Open Studios sessions (Friday & Saturday afternoons throughout September) she's been demonstrating some lovely small animal paintings.  Pretty impressive, considering that she's also in the throes of preparing for her first London exhibition at St Martins in the Fields!

Sue & Hillary's photo exhibits 
Hillary's acrylic photo prints and her other wall display
The fourth member of this year's group is Hillary Taylor, who is showing photographs, mixed media and computer graphics, many influenced by her time in Japan and Australia.  I don't know how she does it:  over the Summer Hillary has managed to do all our Artscape publicity again, set up a local artists' group, organise the refreshments at the recent HVA exhibition at Harpenden Public Halls and set up her own part of the Artscape exhibition.  And that's just her art life: she runs a home, a family and a job too!

my own corner of the exhibition
As usual, I'm the mongrel of the group;  or in art-speak, I'm showing an eclectic mix of watercolours, photographs and linocut prints.  The three paintings on show represent my entire output of watercolours for 2012, while many of the photos were taken in my garden; that is, apart from Buxton Quartet, based on my experiments with Photoshop Elements earlier this year as discussed here on this blog.  It hasn't come out too bad:

Buxton Quartet
But my biggest success was a last-minute addition to the display;  a double linocut Birds In Winter, taken from a couple of photos of birds in the trees at the end of my garden.  As regular readers of this blog will know, I completed one of the elements a few weeks ago;  it was only when we set up at Artscape that I got my act together enough to cut and print the second design.  It spent a few days drying, and I framed both pieces up on the Friday of our Open Evening.  By 8pm it had been sold!

'Birds in Winter' - sold at the Open Evening!
In fact,  we've all been very lucky as far as sales have been concerned; but of course that's not the main point of Open Studios, welcome as sales are.  It's interacting with the public and explaining the processes involved in creating our artworks which gives us the most satisfaction.  I'm finding it easier to chat to people than I used to; but just in case I get tongue-tied I've created a workbook out of the bits and pieces I use when working out a painting or a print:

my workbook showing preparations for 'Two Hand Reel'
my workbook pages about 'Signs'
It's really good to see some of this stuff out on display and people have been very interested.  I've also been doing a little project of my own during our Open Studios afternoons (Saturdays only in my case, as I've been at work on Fridays).   It's highly portable, great fun and has taught me a lot already; and we're only half way through!  you'll have to wait for my next blog to find out what it is.

If you're in Harpenden do pop into Artscape to see our exhibition - it's open when the shop is, unless there's a class going on.  And we're there in person on Friday and saturday from 1pm to 5pm.  Hope to see you!