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 . . .