Saturday, 21 December 2013

Light in the darkness

And glory shone around
© Teresa Newham
How fitting that, on the shortest day of the year, I have images to share which have a theme of light in the darkness!  The first is my 2013 Christmas card - a hand-printed linocut of three startled shepherds receiving the news of Our Lord's birth from the angel Gabriel.  Not that you'll see an angel here; I discovered fairly early on in the process that any attempt on my part to depict Gabriel in this scene resulted in something resembling an alien from outer space.  So I kept him out of shot, as it were - which led to an interesting meditation while I was working out the design:  what exactly does glory look like?

© Teresa Newham

Next, some watercolours which I plan to turn into Christmas cards for general sale - this one shows four candles burning steadily.  Are they part of an Advent wreath? a table decoration? or some other display? Whether you'll be burning candles for Christmas, Yule or just because you like to burn candles at this time of year, I hope these brighten your day!

Adeste Fideles
© Teresa Newham

The painting above features the little girl and her dog shown with a Christmas tree in my previous post.  I've come to the conclusion that she represents the way I felt about Christmas as a child.  This time she is carol singing - but her attention has wandered to the star, just as it did when she was in the woods with the Christmas tree!  I've called the Christmas tree pic O Tannenbaum, and this new one will be Adeste Fideles.  The cards will contain a verse in the original language of the carol, along with an English translation.  With a bit of luck there might be a third one (Stille Nacht) by Christmas Day . . .

© Teresa Newham

And finally, a dove of peace, carrying an olive branch.  It's quite a large branch because we need all the peace we can get in the world right now.  Whatever your religion or creed, I wish you every blessing this Christmas season and a joyful - and peaceful - New Year.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying,"I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8.12

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Festive Fun

Blame the holly.  Or perhaps Geoff Kersey's demo in the December issue of Artists & Illustrators. Either way, for the last few weeks I've been making watercolours, just at the time of year when I should be concentrating on getting ready for Christmas!

a watercolour experiment with masking fluid
© Teresa Newham
As regular readers of this blog will know, masking fluid and I don't get on, but I'd been meaning to give it another go.  Geoff's article had me reaching for a piece of scrap paper almost as soon as I'd finished reading.  Besides, it was a pleasant distraction from all the other things I was supposed to be doing, such as designing and printing my 2013 Christmas card. . . . this is the smallest watercolour I've ever produced, but I was delighted with the result, and resolved to keep trying with masking fluid.  And because the painting was small it was quick to do!

light on the lake
© Teresa Newham

Next, having practiced and practiced my holly demo for the visit to Manland School (see last blog post), I suddenly got the urge to paint some holly in the way I really wanted to - in layers which could be left to dry while I got on with something else.  The holly painting took a couple of days, but the time actually spent doing it was probably only a couple of hours:

how I wanted to paint the holly all along!
© Teresa Newham
At this point I realised that these small paintings could form the basis for some Christmas card designs - and that I should take advantage of the festive atmosphere around me to create some more, perhaps with a view to selling them at art fairs.  My next attempt was a tree.  I'm not sure where the little girl and her dog came from, but now they've arrived, you may well see them again!

branching out (not the name of the painting!)
© Teresa Newham
My most recent finished painting (yes, there are more in the pipeline!) is a robin.  I hadn't painted a bird since the Swan in 2009, but he's turned out quite a cheeky little chappy - just like the one in my garden!  (of course, some holly had to make an appearance too - and so did the masking fluid . . .).

watercolour of a very portly robin
© Teresa Newham
This is such fun, and it's good practice too.  At approx 7 x 5 inches each, none of the paintings are large enough to prevent me doing what really needs to be done in the way of Christmas preparations.  So I've decided to keep on with these little card designs for as long as the Christmas spirit moves me!

Monday, 25 November 2013

Back to School

A couple of months ago a Harpenden primary school asked some local artists to give a short talk to their pupils during the school's Art Week.  I went along to show Year Five some of my work.  They'd researched my website and had loads of questions - it was great fun and I was delighted to be asked back last week to judge their photo competition, which took as its subject 'Autumn Colour':

the photo competition
© Teresa Newham
All the photos were of an extremely high standard so it was difficult to choose a winner - eventually I settled on the atmospheric landscape in the third row above.  The budding photographer had got up early to take advantage of the morning light (one of the 'Teresa Newham photo tips' which had been put up in the centre of the display), and had captured some wonderful grasses in the foreground, as well as the mist and the trees!

watching runbacks
© David Lyness
The teacher had also asked me to do a demo which the children could follow.  The idea was that we would each make a small watercolour based on some holly which I'd taken along from my garden (enough for each table), ideally using just red and green.  I emphasised that we were not necessarily aiming to reproduce what was in front of us, but using the holly as inspiration for a painting.

different greens
© Teresa Newham
I painted my demo piece in stages - and, while each of these were drying, took a walk around the class to see how they were getting on, answer any questions and offer advice when the children asked for it. They used many different approaches: some of the pupils decided to experiment with a variety of greens; some worked in great detail while others had a much looser style.

my demo
© David Lyness
I'd used the visualiser on my first visit;  this time the teacher lent me his microphone headpiece, too, so that I could explain what I was doing while I had my back to the classroom.  All this equipment was a little daunting at first but I soon got used to it, remembering not to move the painting about on the table in case it disappeared from the screen!

shapes and shadows© David Lyness
I encouraged the class to try a variety of techniques:  wet-in-wet, lifting out, glazing, dry brushwork, spattering; this resulted in some very nice contrasts of colour and a variety of leaf shapes - having studied the holly carefully we noted that some leaves were remarkably smooth while others were spiky.

drybrush and spattering© David Lyness
After an hour we had thirty or so small watercolours - each one a personal vision of the holly in front of us.  As the children tidied up and handed their paintings in for safe keeping while they dried, I reflected: who had learnt more that afternoon - the children?  or me?

loose and atmospheric
© Teresa Newham

With many thanks to David Lyness, the pupils of Mercury Class, and the staff at Manland Primary School.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Into the light

from Valentia to the Skelligs (2007)
 © Teresa Newham 
It started with a sheep. Many years ago, now . . . I was still using my Canon Sureshot, powered by four AA batteries and weighing what seemed like a ton.  As we returned to the car after a late afternoon stroll on Valentia Island, Co Kerry, the sheep blocking our path obligingly leapt aside.  He was facing the sun, which was setting behind the distant Skelligs (they are just visible on the horizon in the above photo if you are looking at a particularly large print of it).  I raised the camera, clicked the shutter . . . and captured one of my most popular images, just like that.

ruin at Ballinskelligs beach, looking towards Waterville
© Teresa Newham
I've been fond of shooting into the sun ever since.  The "rules" say you shouldn't do it - and in certain situations it can be a disaster - but get it right and it can make the everyday seem quite different.  This photo, with the sun behind me, shows the ruin at Ballinskelligs beach, taken when I was back in Kerry just a couple of weeks ago.  It was mid-morning, unseasonably warm - barely a cloud in the sky!

ruin at Ballinskelligs beach, looking towards Ballinskelligs
© Teresa Newham
I walked a little further along the beach, then turned round to take a shot of the ruin from the other direction - into the sun.  The result , taken just a couple of minutes after the previous photo, looks completely different - it might be late afternoon.

bathers at Ballinskelligs beach, October
© Teresa Newham
I was dog-walking with my friends; and because I kept turning round to take photos I'd fallen a bit behind them, as you can see.  And yes, there really are a couple in swimming costumes further down the beach - even though it was almost Halloween!

bathers making their way back down the beach
© Teresa Newham
As we walked on, the bathers turned and headed back down the beach towards me.  I waited until they'd passed, turned, and took another photo as they neared the ruin -  a completely different effect, just by turning round!

the Skelligs - taken from Valentia
© Teresa Newham
I carried on throughout the week happily taking shots into the light.  Most of the places we visited faced South East, South or South West, so depending on the time of day, there was often no alternative!

Knightstown, Valentia
© Teresa Newham
The clouds in the  sky over Knightstown were too good a subject to miss, despite the amount of flare from the setting sun.

St Michael's Well, near Dungeagan
© Teresa Newham
When we visited St Michael's Well, I took a number of photos from all directions.  But the ones which best captured the atmosphere of this special place were taken into the light.  This time the clouds helped to filter the sun.  It was late morning.

the beach near Derrynane House, Caherdaniel
© Teresa Newham
This last photo was taken mid-afternoon at the beach near Derrynane.  Again, the clouds were wonderful, and the effect of the light has bleached a lot of the colour from the grasses in the foreground.  I like breaking the rules . . .


Monday, 21 October 2013

a drawing a day . . . some pencil sketches

a drawing a day - the kit!
© Teresa Newham 

 A new project, now that I have - in theory at least - more time on my hands, is to make a drawing a day -  or most days, to be completely accurate.  It's something which every artist is recommended to do, and I've been meaning to get round to it for ages - even putting aside a special sketchbook for it (a gift from last Christmas, with a lovely felt cover by local textile artist Barbara Weeks).  I've begun in pencil - not my favourite medium - and as it's my own drawing  project, I'm playing by my own rules . . . .

scribbled pots at the bottom of a larger, less successful sketch!
© Teresa Newham

Rule 1:  it doesn't have to be good.  Absolutely no point trying to make a 'work of art' every time!  Far better to put pencil to paper regularly without worrying about the outcome.  Pick a subject - any old subject, something knocking about the house or garden - and just get on with it.   Some part of the drawing will work!  The little pots in the sketch above were dashed off as an afterthought to the main subject (an indifferent rendering of my bird feeders).

money tree - incomplete in all senses of the word . . .
© Teresa Newham

Rule 2: it doesn't have to be finished.  So easy to spend ages on a drawing and thoroughly overwork it!  Fifteen minutes into the money tree, above, I got bored and decided to stop right there and then.   The money tree sketch is also a good example of Rule 3: it doesn't have to fit on the paper - although of course, it's better if it does . . . . !

a very quick impression of stuff on my windowsill!
© Teresa Newham

Rule 4: the quicker the better!  I'm trying to get to the stage where I can dash something off effectively in a few minutes - I imagine myself sitting at a cafe table in glorious sunshine, sketching passers by.  And to do that I'll have to become much quicker than I am at present!!  the little sketch above took five minutes and is a reasonable rendition of the subject, with very little detail.

a solid rendition of my solid dresser!
© Teresa Newham

Rule 5: it's good to have an object in mind.  The purpose of the drawing above was to produce something solid, in proportion,with proper perspective.  So I drafted it out on the paper first and worked it up from there.  I bought this dresser at an auction twenty-five years ago and I'm very fond of it, which brings me to Rule 6: if you have an emotional connection with the subject, it will make a better drawing.

brushes in a pot - fond memories of my Mum
© Teresa Newham

Rule 6 is demonstrated nicely in this sketch of some brushes in a pot.  The pot - and some of the brushes - belonged to my late Mum, who painted in watercolours later in life, having started out in oils.  So it was lovely to spend some time sketching something I use a lot which reminds me of her!

I'm hoping to carry on doing a drawing a day (well, most days).  Who knows?  I might graduate eventually to colour pencil, or pastels, or pen and wash.  But it's pencil for now . . .

Monday, 7 October 2013

a walk round the corner - August, September, October

the first field - August
© Teresa Newham
Regular readers of this blog might recall that there's country lane running close to my house - we've walked it many times but always on our way to somewhere else.  Eventually we realised that the dog walkers, joggers, cyclists and horse riders that use the lane must be doing something a little more enterprising than just going up and down it: which is when we discovered that if you cross the railway bridge there's  a bridleway along the edge of the first field you come to . . .

the last poppy of summer
© Teresa Newham
On that first walk the field was full of the last of what looked like beans - the weather was warm and dry and the day very drowsy.  The odd poppy brightened the fading crop, the hedgerows were high and it was difficult to believe that we'd just crossed the railway line!

high hedges and the old oak tree
© Teresa Newham

Leaving the first field we walked down another lane, and passed a field of wheat basking in the sun.  By this time we were completely hooked on the countryside which we'd found almost literally round the corner from where we lived, and decided to make the walk a regular one.

the second field - August
© Teresa Newham
I had my camera with me and took all sorts of photos: close-ups of insects and flowers, views of the fields and the trees  (some of the ladybird photos I took made it into the Open Studios exhibition);  it occurred to me that I could make a photo diary and publish it here every few months, to compare the changing seasons as they happened.

the first field - September
© Teresa Newham
To our delight, when we set off on our September walk, they were ploughing the first field.  The weather could not have been more different - it had rained all morning and was threatening to do so again.  The poppies had gone, of course, but the hedgerows were now full of berries:

berries - September
© Teresa Newham
Where everything had been cut back there was a real sense of the season starting to turn;  Autumn was well on the way, you could feel it in the air and see the evidence all around.

the old oak and the ploughed field
© Teresa Newham
The crop in the second field had also been harvested - it all looked rather neat and tidy compared with the straggly hedgerows.

the second field - September
© Teresa Newham
 Last weekend we did the October walk in gorgeous sunshine - a variety of dog walkers and horse riders were - like us - out taking advantage of the unseasonably warm weather:

the first field - October
© Teresa Newham
The hedgerows had died back even further, but were still full of all sorts of berries.  Just walking two fields was like being in Nature's larder:

berries - October
© Teresa Newham
The leaves are still on the trees but some are starting to turn.  Of course, if the weather turns stormy the trees could all be bare by the time we do our November walk!

the oak tree - October
© Teresa Newham
Nature appears to be reclaiming the two fields, and I'll be interested to see what happens to them over the coming months.  I reckon we'll need wellies for the next one . . .

the second field - October
© Teresa Newham

Monday, 30 September 2013

Acrylics at Artscape

Judi Menges, Pauline Ashley (front), Hillary Taylor and Sue Wookey (background)
 demonstrating at Artscape
© Teresa Newham 2013

It's been the busiest Open Studios yet for the five of us of us exhibiting as Artscape Arts - we had around two hundred visitors in total during the event!  I've really enjoyed meeting and chatting to those who came to see us  -  about my own art and photos, about my fellow exhibitors' work and about the visitors' own interest in art.

experimental acrylic minis: ABC and Lavender Fields
© Teresa Newham 2013
 In between all the chatting, I tried out some small experimental paintings, using tiny canvases and easels which I spotted on sale in Hitchin.  I couldn't resist them, and thought they would provide a good opportunity to dig out some ancient acrylics languishing in a tin in my studio - originally bought for one of the short courses at Central St Martins, and only used once!

experimental acrylic minis - White Boats at Warren Weir
© Teresa Newham 2013

I'm not a fan of acrylic - it's a bit too plastic for my taste - but I have enjoyed putting these together.  I began by working in a graphic style, and then tried using them as I would watercolours.  But the most interesting technique I've discovered is one which makes the most of that plastic texture.

experimental acrylic minis - using texture
© Teresa Newham 2013

By the time I'd painted up my fourteen mini canvases, I was all miniatured out.  I'll never love acrylic like I do watercolour.  But I'd like to give acrylic a go on a larger canvas some time, if only to use those paints up . . .

experimental acrylic minis - "September"
© Teresa Newham 2013

Monday, 9 September 2013

another opening, another show . . .

Artscape Arts exhibition and Open Studio - ready at last!
© Teresa Newham 2013

The past few weeks leading up to the start of Herts Open Studios 2013 have been a whirl of activity:  and at last the Artscape Arts exhibition is ready and Open Studios are taking place throughout Hertfordshire!! Leading up to the event the Harpenden-based artists have benefited from various bits of pre-publicity;  a window display in our local building society:

pre-publicity:  Harpenden Building Society
© Teresa Newham
A morning at the Harpenden Farmers market manning our stall and handing out brochures:

pre-publicity: stall at the Farmers' Market
© Teresa Newham 2013

And an exhibition at Wesley's Café in the Methodist Church in the High Street:

pre-publicity: Wesley's Cafe at the Methodist Church
© Teresa Newham 2013
Plus of course the five of us exhibiting as Artscape Arts have been busy preparing and hanging our own exhibition, helped as ever by Gurmeet, Chris and the team at Artscape, Harpenden's very own arts and crafts centre.  The upstairs studio at Artscape is now very light and airy, and the brand new hanging system saved us a lot of time and effort, and looks wonderful!

my paintings and prints, and an extract from this blog!
© Teresa Newham 2013
This year I'm showing four watercolours and a couple of prints (one of which sold straight away!), along with a set of photos created out of multiple images of insects, plants, seaweed and even rope.  Much of my part of the exhibition harks back to last October's holiday in County Kerry.   And as I didn't have time to make a workbook this year to show visitors how I go about things, I've put up a post from this blog on the wall (Skellig Morning, if you're interested!).

Sue's and my photos and cards
© Teresa Newham 2013
Sue Wookey is showing a selection of watercolours and photos -  you can see a few below, along with the digital slideshow which I was given as one of my retirement presents.  Such a thoughtful gift, and I will be able to use it when I'm basing paintings on my photos. Colours are so much more true to life on screen!

some of Sue's paintings and my digital slideshow
© Teresa Newham 2013

Pauline Ashley's part of the exhibition is all about ceramics and her work as a restorer, while Hillary Taylor is showing a variety of work: abstract calligraphy, world series drawings, sumi drawings and acrylics on canvas.

part of Hillary's and Pauline's display
© Teresa Newham 2013
Hillary has done a great deal of PR for the Harpenden artists taking part in Open Studios and has been heavily involved in setting up the Art Trail, which is a new venture this year.  The idea is to encourage as many visitors as possible to visit as many studios as possible within the Harpenden area, on the same few days, by co-ordinating our opening times.  Should be fun!!

more of Hillary's work
© Teresa Newham 2013
Judi Menges is showing some wonderful glass exhibits - wall mounted plaques, plates, bowls, coasters and jewellery - beautifully set off by a lighting system and illuminated display cabinet supplied by Artscape.

Judi's glass
© Teresa Newham 2013

I do hope you will be able to come along and visit us during Open Studios.  We will be there from 1pm - 5pm on Friday afternoons and 2.30pm - 5.30pm on Saturday afternoons throughout September, plus a special opening for the Art Trail from 1pm - 5pm on Wednesday 18th September.  The exhibition is open throughout September during shop hours (not Sundays or during classes).

See you there!