Wednesday 23 December 2015

How many Kings?

the adoration of the Magi
hand-pulled linocut Christmas card
© Teresa Newham

On this year's Christmas card I've chosen to depict the Three Kings - or Wise Men - or Magi, as they are often known.  Their story strictly speaking belongs to Epiphany (6th January), as Matthew's Gospel (the only Gospel in which they appear) does not state exactly when they made their journey - some commentators date their visit as late as two years after Jesus' birth.  

Originally I was going to call this little linocut The Three Kings.  This verse from The First Nowell gives a clue as to why I didn't :

The Three Kings also happens to be the name of one of my favourite pieces of Christmas music - a hybrid of two other pieces, Three Persian Kings from Lands Afar and  How Brightly Beams the Morning Star (click on the lyrics to listen to it).  It captures beautifully our response to the joy of our Saviour's birth:

May you and your loved ones have peace and joy this Christmas, and every blessing for the New Year.

Thursday 10 December 2015

Never too late to change your mind

Summer Storm at Reenroe ~ watercolour & gouache
© Teresa Newham
Some paintings go down onto the paper so easily they seem almost to paint themselves.  Others can be a bit of a struggle - which is the case with my latest piece, Summer Storm at Reenroe.

the beach path at Reenroe
© Teresa Newham
I wanted to depict the profusion of wild flowers which greeted us when we embarked on a wet and windy dog walk at Reenroe one rainy July morning last Summer - the last day of my Kerry holiday.

early washes
© Teresa Newham

For this painting I chose Winsor Yellow Deep, Burnt Umber, Permanent Sap Green, Cobalt Blue, Quinacridone Magenta, Titanium White, and Yellow & White Gouache.  The early washes were fine, and I was quite pleased with the way the mountains emerged from the misty rain in the distance.

adding definition
© Teresa Newham
The grasses and fence posts didn't present any problems either - I only started to run into difficulties when I tried to lay down the flowers themselves.  As we'd walked through the rain towards the beach the wet flowers had seemed to leap out at us, but spattering didn't give quite the right effect, so I tried dotting them in with a fine brush.

adding the flowers . . .
© Teresa Newham
Too late, I realised that this was a mistake.  Never mind, I thought, Arches paper will take a lot of punishment; so I took some of them out and dampened down others.  Trouble was, every time I made a change, something else looked wrong!

. . . and adjusting them
© Teresa Newham
By now, the painting was completely overworked, but I ploughed on, unwilling to be beaten. Some areas got softened, some things changed completely.  A new path appeared, running from left to right.  I kept changing my mind, until even I was forced to realise that you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.  It was time to stop.

the finished painting
© Teresa Newham
You've probably gathered that I'm not terribly happy with this painting.  Even putting a mount over it doesn't cheer me up.  But the amount of work I put into it has made it impossible for me to look at the picture objectively.  I need some feedback . . . !

improved by a mount?
© Teresa Newham

Tuesday 24 November 2015

Kerry memories

the view from Geokaun Mountain
© Teresa Newham
Because I visit Kerry so often, I'd forgotten that I haven't shared much of its wonderful scenery on this blog unless I've painted it! I never get tired of the panoramic view from Geokaun Mountain on Valentia Island (above) taking in Portmagee, the Skelligs and Bray Head; and although we've driven through the coastal town of Waterville many times, we've never seen surf as it was when we were there in October:

white surf at Waterville
© Teresa Newham
The colours, especially in Autumn, are a wonderful range of greens and golds - I think of them as typically Irish.  I took this photo during a walk along the Bog Road, the area which inspired the painting I blogged about earlier this month:

the colours of Kerry
© Teresa Newham
Autumn colour was very much in evidence at Kells Bay Gardens, where a choice of walks leads through a primeval forest and a bamboo glade; fallen logs have been turned into dinosaurs and the atmosphere at the riverside reminds you why so many tales of fairies are popular in the Kingdom!

Autumn, Kells Bay Gardens
© Teresa Newham

Further along, the path climbs higher to these trees.  They're not the largest or the most spectacular in the Gardens, but for some reason I can't put my finger on, they are my favourites . . .

trees, Kells Bay Gardens
© Teresa Newham
Near our base at Portmagee, an enterprising landowner has given visitors the opportunity to view the Skelligs from the Kerry Cliffs;  this photo was taken at a fairly low level, but if you've a head for heights it's definitely worth going to the top!

the Skelligs from the spectacular cliffs
© Teresa Newham
And finally, a walk along Reenroe Beach, where the sky was a subtle pinkish gold colour - which has shown up unexpectedly well in this photo.  The Iveragh Peninsula never ceases to amaze me.  Is it any wonder I keep going back?

Autumn light, Reenroe beach
© Teresa Newham

Tuesday 10 November 2015

Time to Play 2 - Bog Cotton

Bog Cotton - watercolour & gouache
© Teresa Newham
If it were possible to be in love with a watercolour paper, I'd be smitten with Arches Aquarelle 640 gsm.  No stretching, no buckling - you just take it out of the drawer and get on with it.  Which is exactly what I did when I painted this picture, inspired by the landscape around what my friends on the Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry refer to as the bog road.

the bog road
© Teresa Newham
We'd walked their dog there back in June; and although the day was overcast and the colours flattened, I knew straight away that the scenery had worked its magic on me and that I'd make a painting of it.  As often happens, I even had the title: Bog Cotton, the nickname for the white flowers growing profusely amidst the peat.

reference photos and sky washes
© Teresa Newham
When I played with the photo on the computer I was excited to find that all sorts of colours were lurking in there; blues, yellows, golds, browns and a whole host of greens.  The colours I chose for the painting were cobalt blue, raw sienna, burnt umber and terre vert.

laying the foundations
© Teresa Newham
As I laid down the initial washes I tried to use my atomiser to create some interesting effects, but it produced a disappointing spurt of water rather than the fine spray I was hoping for . . . I carried on without it, letting the colours speak for themselves. Gradually the landscape (and the way I felt about it) began to emerge.

the middle ground takes shape
© Teresa Newham
Exuberant use of a fan brush to depict the grasses in the foreground had me wiping spots of paint off the surrounding equipment,  reference material and a nearby radiator.  Oh, and my face. I'm still finding them in the studio now - but it produced the effect I wanted!

foreground grasses
© Teresa Newham
At this point you might have been forgiven for thinking that the painting was complete.  I was keen not to over-work it, but there was no getting away from it: call me old-fashioned if you like, but if a painting is called Bog Cotton, there needs to be at least some bog cotton in there . . .

er . . . something's missing, isn't it?
© Teresa Newham
I should have painted the flowers before the foreground - but it was too late for that.  So I laid paper over the parts of the painting where I didn't want flowers, and then I splattered.  I splattered with white watercolour.   I splattered with gouache. I splattered with a toothbrush.  I splattered with a paintbrush.  And I scratched, with a palette knife and then (more successfully) with the point of a compass.  And then I was happy.

the finished piece
© Teresa Newham

Wednesday 21 October 2015

Time to Play 1 - Millennium Cross

Millennium Cross - watercolour
© Teresa Newham

Recently I decided to add to the palette of colours I use.  It's all too easy to get into a rut, and I was looking for a little inspiration - so I pored over the Winsor & Newton colour chart and ordered myself some new paints.  Then I made my own chart from the old and new colours and put it in my paintbox.

my personal colour chart!
© Teresa Newham

Keen to try some of the new shades out, I took as a starting point a photo taken at the Millennium Cross in Rosedale, North Yorkshire.  It was a favourite place of my mother's, and we'd made an emotional visit to it in August - I wanted to capture the atmosphere and how I felt when I was there.

the original scene
© Teresa Newham

Still in the spirit of experimentation, I'd also bought some 640gsm Arches watercolour paper.  I'd never used such a heavy weight of paper before - it didn't even need stretching, and certainly soaked up the initial washes. I  wet the sky with my new spray bottle to create some clouds, before layering on more vivid colours to depict the hillside.

getting the right colours down (eventually) . . .
© Teresa Newham

I immediately regretted my choice of  Perylene Maroon for the heather, but it didn't matter - this paper is so good that I simply wiped the offending colour away and replaced it with Quinacridone Magenta (the other colours I used were Sap Green and my beloved Raw Sienna and Cobalt Blue).

 wiping out a ghostly cross!
© Teresa Newham

This grade of Arches is popular with many artists because it will take a lot of punishment -  just as well, as I needed to remove some of the hillside in order to paint the cross itself.  The effect was quite ghoulish for a while!

the cross taking shape
© Teresa Newham

A little more work to the foreground, and I had the painting I wanted. This picture takes me straight back to Heygate Bank and that lonely cross on the moors.  I really enjoyed playing with the new paper: and as I have a few sheets left and some unopened tubes of paint to explore - watch this space!

the finished result
© Teresa Newham

Tuesday 6 October 2015

Autumn Leaves

the colours of Autumn captured on paper!
© Teresa Newham

September has been chilly, and despite last week's sunshine it's clear that Autumn is upon us.  So I thought I'd better make some more leaf monoprints before the leaves I needed dropped off my Acer tree - as I'd sold all the prints & cards I'd made before!

the obliging Acer
© Teresa Newham

In the past I've fiddled about with templates for the background, but this time I simply applied the roller straight to the paper, making sure to keep it straight and even.  Then I layered the leaves on the top, using red, gold, silver and copper inks in different combinations depending on which colour lay behind them.

layering with metallic ink
© Teresa Newham

I love the shape of these leaves; they are a work of art in themselves, and sturdy enough not to break when the ink is applied.  The technique is completely different to my other printmaking - the ink is water-based and applied with a brush.

inking a leaf
© Teresa Newham

For the greetings cards I mixed some shades of base colour that I hadn't tried before, keen to see how the metallic inks would contrast - some shades simply don't work!

greetings cards with a single leaf print
© Teresa Newham

The biggest leaves made a wonderful design just as they were . . . but I couldn't resist doubling up some of the smaller ones, just to see what they looked like:

experimenting with double layers of leaves on some of the cards
© Teresa Newham

I used various sizes of leaf for the prints, and let the larger ones spill over onto the white paper. So the prints have turned out bigger than the ones I've made previously - luckily I've found some big mounts to show them off . . .

finding a suitable mount
© Teresa Newham
Each print and card is unique, because the leaves are positioned randomly.   I like to think that they evoke the spirit of Autumn and of my little Acer tree!

Saturday 26 September 2015

Coloured pencil sketchbook

My Mum's coloured pencils
© Teresa Newham
Clearing my parents' house earlier this year, I brought home some artists' coloured pencils which had once belonged to my Mum.  Rather than practice quietly with them away from the gaze of the general public, I ended up using them for my demonstration pieces at this year's Herts Open Studios.

Millennium Cross, Rosedale
© Teresa Newham

There was method to my madness -  I needed to use a medium which wouldn't dry while I was chatting and which I could keep half an eye on while listening out for yet more visitors. As well as the pencils, I'd found a book which detailed some techniques, so I started my first drawing - Millennium Cross, Rosedale - with a graphite underdrawing, before layering the coloured pencil on top.

War Memorial, Harpenden
© Teresa Newham

The problem with using graphite is that it has to be sprayed with fixative to prevent it smudging when the colours are added.  I use fixative as little as possible, and knew I would have to spray the finished drawings to keep them looking fresh; so for War Memorial, Harpenden I did an underdrawing in a red coloured pencil.  This gave it a lively feel, as did the layers of other colours which I built up bit by bit.

Ballinskelligs Beach
© Teresa Newham

I was using a studio pad bought at Childwickbury back in July from Two Rivers Paper at Frogmore, which is a collection of different types and shades of paper they produce.  The next few sheets were tinted a pale blue, so an Irish beach scene seemed appropriate.  For Ballinskelligs Beach I did no underdrawing at all, which turned out to be a mistake - but I quite like the reflections of the two men walking along the beach!

Another view of St Paul's
© Teresa Newham

So for the final demonstration - Another View of St Paul's -  I made a loose underdrawing in Prussian Blue, adding layers of different greens, browns and yellows to create a variety in the foliage of the trees which grow in the cathedral garden.  I shall carry on filling this sketchbook - it's good drawing practice, and an opportunity to experiment with various pencil techniques!

A big thank-you  to everyone who helped to make our Open Studios such a success this year - Sue Wookey for sharing the studio with me, my husband for making the teas and coffees, Caroline for baking some lovely cakes and last but definitely not least, the 93 visitors who beat a path to our door and left us such wonderful comments!

Tuesday 8 September 2015

Open Studios has begun!

my paintings & cards making a colourful display
© Teresa Newham
So Herts Open Studios 2015 is finally under way. It's particularly exciting for me this year because for the first time I am opening up my own studio - alongside fellow artist Sue Wookey - and over our first weekend we've had thirty visitors!

my studio has been transformed . . . .
© Teresa Newham
The studio itself (aka the room behind the kitchen) is home to some of my paintings, photography and printmaking - plus a little exhibition of how multicoloured linocuts are put together.  I'd forgotten just how much arty stuff I have, so the browsers are in here too . . .

. . .  and has its own printmaking exhibition!
© Teresa Newham
I've overflowed into the dining room, where Sue has put up her display board and a whole bunch of other exhibits.  And of course, there's all our cards. Nobody - but nobody - is going to complain that there's not enough to look at!

The dining room's had a makeover, too . . .
© Teresa Newham
It's quite a transformation - two days previously I was still framing pictures, and only set up the space on Friday evening, with my husband's help.  Almost every item of furniture has been pressed into service - we managed to squeeze in a couple of extra tables, too.

my old dresser makes the perfect foil for Sue's smaller pieces!
© Teresa Newham
Sue & I have been doing demonstrations at the dining room table. Once again I'm trying out a medium new to me - coloured pencil.  It's a technique my late mother perfected and in fact the pencils used to be hers - which gives a sense of continuity to what I'm doing.

Sue painting a watercolour Sun Horse with my sketchbook in the foreground
© Teresa Newham
We've had some great comments in our visitors' book and many people have remarked how lovely it is to see the artwork in an informal setting.  There's the opportunity to sit and chat over a cup of tea, too, and guests have enjoyed leafing through Sue's sketchbooks.

. . . and there's even space for Sue's display board!
© Teresa Newham
A big thank-you to those of you who came to see us last weekend.   We'll be open again over the next two weekends and on Wednesday 16th September (see the side panel for details) - so if you haven't been able to make it yet - or would like another look - we'd love to see you!