Friday 22 December 2017

glad tidings of great joy

glad tidings of great joy
© Teresa Newham

The idea of putting an angel on our 2017 Christmas card came to me early in the year, but I had no idea how it was going to work, or indeed what the angel would be doing.  It only really came together when I researched the wings.  This angel would be Gabriel - sweeping across the sky, blowing his trumpet for all he was worth!

For the title, I turned again to one of my favourite carols, While Shepherds Watched their Flocks by Night:

"Fear not," said he, for mighty dread 
Had seized their troubled mind, 
"Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind."

It's a reassuring message - the shepherds were no doubt terrified - and Gabriel makes it clear that this Good News is for everyone.  That's everyone, at every time -  as Catholics, we believe that Jesus is born anew in the human heart each Christmas, if we are prepared to receive Him.

That's some gift, isn't it?

Wishing your all peace and joy this Christmas, and a happy and blessed New Year.

Monday 11 December 2017

. . . a creative space

original pen drawing © Teresa Newham

Looking back at my previous blog post about Gallery32, I realised how much I've benefitted from my monthly Saturday morning sessions there.  As with Open Studios, my time is completely given up to art, without any distractions apart from visitors - who are there to look at and discuss the art anyway!

ideas for mixed media and linocuts
original pencil sketches © Teresa Newham

I've tried to use that time creatively, and many of the pieces I produced this year were originally put together at Gallery32.  I usually have my A4 and A6 sketchbooks and some pens and pencils with me, and I access source photos on my phone.

drawing practice at Gallery32
original pen sketches © Teresa Newham

Being surrounded by so much contemporary art has encouraged me to try new things, such as incorporating metallic printmaking ink into some of my watercolours.  I even spent one happy morning laying out chalkboard designs for a wedding!

original sketches & designs
© Teresa Newham

There's always something new to see, both in the gallery itself and in Debbie's studio, which has given me the opportunity to practice my sketching.  And if I feel like doing nothing more enterprising than sitting with a coffee and an issue of Artists & Illustrators, why not? That's "art time" too!

artists' clutter
original pen sketch © Teresa Newham

Monday 27 November 2017

One year on . . .

 Two of my bird monoprints displayed alongside printmaking by Susan Edwards,
acrylics by Clive Patterson, glass by Opal Seabrook, ceramics by Elspeth Keith.
© Teresa Newham

It's been a year since my first visit to Gallery32, the artists' co-operative situated above the Fleetville Vintage Emporium opposite the Rats Castle Pub in Hatfield Road, St Albans.   Last Saturday I went there for my regular shift at the gallery, and took some pieces along which I'm looking forward to seeing hung.

cards and smaller items by various artists
at the entrance to the Gallery
© Teresa Newham

A lot has changed in a year - there are glass cabinets containing jewellery and other small items at the entrance, and a wide variety of greetings cards in the rack - plenty to tempt the casual visitor as well as the more committed customer!

browser items by yours truly and Hillary Taylor, oils and monoprints by Debbie Knight
© Teresa Newham

There is even more art hung on the staircase now, and a few pictures are currently displayed on gridwall just inside the door of Debbie's studio, which itself gives people the opportunity to see an artist making something - even when she's not there, there is usually a work in progress to take a look at.

artwork by Debbie Knight and Susan Edwards,
ceramics by Elspeth Keith, glass by Opal Seabrook
© Teresa Newham

Alongside paintings, drawings and prints there are glass pieces and ceramics - truly something for everyone.  And if you enjoy looking through vintage items there are many, many stalls in the Emporium itself.  So if you're thinking of coming to take a look, I'd allow a little time . . . .

colourful stalls in the Fleetville Vintage Emporium
© Teresa Newham

Tuesday 14 November 2017

Highly Strung

Flowering Cherry displayed with some lively pieces
© Teresa Newham

As the annual Harpenden Arts Club exhibition drew near, I began to wonder if I had bitten off more than I  could chew.  Buoyed with enthusiasm after #HertsOpenStudios, I'd entered six framed works and four items for the browsers - now I had to ensure they were ready!

White Campion and other cool greens contrasting with yellows and oranges
© Teresa Newham

Two or three pieces needed to be strung with picture wire, for which I used framing clips attached to strong backing board specifically made for use with the clips.  This method is extremely effective but involves blood, sweat and occasionally tears - luckily the blood wiped off without leaving any traces behind . . . .

Green Frog alongside a variety of fauna
© Teresa Newham

My next challenge was how to get six framed artworks to the hand-in.  As I certainly couldn't carry them any distance all at once, I cheated and asked my artists' assistant (that's my husband, to those in the know) to come with me.

Cravells Road - part of an eclectic mix
© Teresa Newham

The hand-in process itself is always extremely efficient; given the sheer number of artists involved - nearly sixty - I had expected some delays; but we were in and out again quickly, with everything left in experienced hands for the hanging.  

Bluebelll Wood and other flora
© Teresa Newham

This apparently takes a whole day, and I'm not surprised - 260 pieces were curated into a wonderful exhibition.  Real care was taken to hang pictures together by theme and colour and the result was a vibrant display of local talent across all media.  Just fitting them all in must have taken some doing!

visitors enjoying the exhibition
© Teresa Newham

Once again there was a wide choice of greetings cards on sale, with some smart  new signage.  I did my stewarding at the card table and was delighted that so many people who came to look through the cards on their way in and out of the Record Fair in the hall next door took the opportunity to visit the exhibition itself.

some of the huge choice of greetings cards
© Teresa Newham

All in all it was a most successful weekend, and when Mr N and I returned to the Public Halls to collect my artwork I was delighted to find that I'd made some sales.  It was the icing on the cake!

Huge thanks to everyone at the Harpenden Arts Club for organising this year's exhibition.  Visit their website here for further information about the club and its activities.

my Bluebells linocut found a new home
© Teresa Newham

Saturday 28 October 2017

in Kerry with a camera (or two)

getting a dog to pose . . .
© Teresa Newham

We've enjoyed a few days' lovely late Autumn weather and some wonderful photo opportunities while staying with friends in Kerry.  My companions got used to me lagging behind as I juggled my iPhone camera and my old Canon digital Ixus compact, encouraging their dog to pose briefly for a scenic shot or two. 

. . . is a doddle compared to a chicken!
© Teresa Newham

I had less success with the chickens, who tended to run towards me in expectation of food every time I stepped out of the door; most of my photos show only part of a chicken as a result.  This is probably the best one, and might end up as a linocut!

ahead is all blue . . .
© Teresa Newham

I enjoy experimenting with photos: on one of our beach walks I turned first one way, then the other, to make the most of the effects of the sunshine and clouds.  These two photos were taken within moments of each other, but facing in opposite directions . . .

. . . behind is slate grey
© Teresa Newham

It's also a good idea to look down from time to time, and not just with a view to keeping your footing; there are some little wonders lurking on most beaches, not to mention some unexpected colours!  Seaweed holds an endless fascination for me, as do pebbles of all kinds.

the beauty of small things
© Teresa Newham

Looking at the photos afterwards, I've been struck by the difference between those taken with the Canon and those where I used the iPhone (all the photos shown here are iPhone shots).  I definitely need to get a new camera; whether it will be another compact or a DSLR-type remains to be seen!

hidden treasure
© Teresa Newham

Saturday 14 October 2017

Poppies & Lavender

Open Studios demo - poppies & lavender
© Teresa Newham

For our last couple of Open Studios sessions I made a reduction linocut mini-print based on some photos I took back in July at Cadwell Farm, home of Hitchin Lavender.  I wanted to bring out the contrast of the red poppies against the lavender fields.

the initial cut
© Teresa Newham

I simplified the design to use as few layers of colour as possible - it was quick to cut, ideal for a demonstration.  I cut away the white cloud and wiped the blue ink off the poppy petals with a cotton bud before printing the first plate.  Caligo Safewash Relief ink can be thinned with extender to make it more transparent; I started with a squeeze of extender and added a tiny amount of blue ink to it!

the first printing - Phthalo Blue
© Teresa Newham

During the week I printed the Rubine Red plate, this time wiping off any areas intended to be green.  The plate was still the original design with just  the white cloud cut away.  The image was registered upside down, as the path area would include all the colours and would not be removed.

the second printing - on the same plate!
© Teresa Newham

The following Saturday I cut away the parts I wanted to keep lavender-coloured, and printed Arylide yellow over the rest of it, avoiding the sky area.  This produced a vivid lime green, but the poppies themselves were at best a disappointingly weak orange:

the third printing with Arylide Yellow
© Teresa Newham

Time to experiment! I cut off the whole of the top of the plate - this somehow felt wonderfully liberating - and applied Napthol Red to the poppies and the path area with the small brush I use for touching-up wayward prints, before printing as usual.

the fourth printing and the cut-down plate
© Teresa Newham

The result is an edition of some lively little prints - some, shall we say, livelier than others - with interesting textures where the various layers have interacted - it looks as though the lavender is interspersed with wild flowers.  And the whole process has given me a number of ideas for the future!

the final result!
© Teresa Newham

Thursday 28 September 2017

prints, prints, prints!

cutting the design straight to plate
© Teresa Newham

#HertsOpenStudios 2017  is nearly finished -  Sue and I will be open this Saturday 30th September (see side panel for details), and the event ends completely on Sunday.  We've already had lots of visitors and are looking forward to welcoming more on our final day.  The Open Studios brochure clearly states that demonstrations will be done at Wensley Arts - so here's a peek at what I've been doing so far!

printing up the design in plain green
© Teresa Newham

People like to see printmaking in action, so I decided to make an olive branch print on an offcut of softcut lino. Ignoring the design I'd drafted in my sketchbook, I made the cut straight onto the plate, allowing for the reversing out of the image.  This year I've been doing some actual printing while our studio is open; space is limited but the design was small and I was quite pleased with the first results:

the design in green - and in silver
© Teresa Newham

At this stage I had no idea which way up the print was meant to be, but one of our visitors reckoned portrait, so who am I to argue? I cut some out some of the leaves from the plate, printed over some of the silver prints in rich olive green, and also inked this second cut onto plain white paper - all while meeting and greeting our guests.  Note the essential tools of the trade: ink, rollers, palette knife and that ever-present cup of tea . . .

getting a little more complicated . . .
© Teresa Newham

At this point quite a few different sets of prints were littering the house - usually they dry in the studio, but it's full of exhibits. Visitors passed the ones I was working on drying in the living room as they came through to our studio in the dining room beyond; by now I had cut some more of the lino away and was overprinting in a darker shade of green:

. . .and even more so!
© Teresa Newham

I've ended up with four versions of the olive:  two shades of green on white, two shades of green on silver, one green on white and one green on silver - in addition to the plain green and plain silver ones (which now look very plain indeed).  And I have another demo up my sleeve for Saturday . . . Sue and I would love to see you if you can make it!

a variety of results
© Teresa Newham

Friday 15 September 2017

Welcome to Wensley Arts!

brushes and pencils arranged artfully on the studio windowsill
© Teresa Newham

#HertsOpenStudios has begun!  I can't quite believe that we are three sessions in already - this time last week my dining room was still a dining room, while my studio resembled the usual dumping ground for anything vaguely arty, including brochures and empty card racks and browsers.  I'd moved a few things around and arranged an eclectic mix of paintbrushes, pencils, plants and other bits and pieces on the studio windowsill, but that was pretty much it.

dining room and studio waiting to be transformed
© Teresa Newham

As Sue and I have done Open Studios here together twice now, we know beforehand how we're going to divide up the space and lay things out; it's just a question of actually doing it.  Which I finally got around to last Friday evening, having spent the afternoon finding temporary homes for a number of ornaments, a keyboard, three orchids and several chairs, amongst other things.

my work on display
© Teresa Newham

In this house, Open Studios isn't just about exhibiting art, or chatting to visitors, or offering cups of tea.  It's another enormous jigsaw - this time with pieces of furniture - or perhaps a treasure hunt would be a better analogy.  Where's the toolbox? in a kitchen cupboard.  Where's the wine rack? in the spare room. In my enthusiasm for creating space for art, I find new homes for things and then can't remember where I put them - last year two candle holders only saw the light of day again at Christmas.

Sue's work in the dining room
© Teresa Newham

Bit by bit, it comes flooding back - where to hide things, how to show things; where to dry off the soaking wet signage and bunting (well, we have had a lot of rain); which of our visitors prefer herbal tea or gluten free cake; who likes to chat and who likes to be left to browse.  I know that around 3.15pm every afternoon, Sue will declare that the watercolour she's been working on as a demo piece is only fit for the bin; by 5pm she thinks it might be viable after all; and by the time she arrives for the following session she'll be planning to mount and possibly frame it.

the living room is not usually this crowded. . .!
© Teresa Newham

Sue knows that I will be attempting to demonstrate some aspect of printmaking, and  I'll be making it up as I go along, convinced it could all go horribly wrong at any moment.  I rather enjoy experimenting during Open Studios, when most sensible artists will show the public something tried and tested and accomplished - and if things do go well I then have to find somewhere to dry the successful prints because of course my studio - where I'd normally dry them - is full of my exhibits.  So the prints go into the spare room along with everything else . . .

space for a demo on the dining room table
© Teresa Newham

There's been some lovely people through the door already - friends old and new, some regulars, some not.  We have three Saturdays and one Wednesday session left -  hope to see you here!

#HertsOpenStudios runs until 1st October - see the side panel of this blog for details of Wensley Arts and find the brochure here for details of other artists' opening times!

Wednesday 30 August 2017

Fun and games with mounts and frames

watercolours & mixed media ready for #HertsOpenStudios
© Teresa Newham

If it's August, it's time to get ready for #HertsOpenStudios - but this year it's been less than straightforward!  It started with the mounts. I checked, checked and checked again that I'd measured the apertures correctly - but some were out; and why did I ever think that waving a ruler in the general direction of a frame (or two) to determine the outer dimensions of the mount would be enough? It's fiddly to shave off that extra bit you don't need, especially if it's just 5mm each side; and if a mount is too short for the frame it simply won't work! Note to self: 16 x 12 inches is NOT the same as 40 x 30 cm, no matter what anyone says.

framing on the dining room table
© Teresa Newham

I took all this as a challenge and started problem-solving (problems entirely of my own making, you notice). As one of the frames I intended to use was now unsuitable, I looked for something else to unframe instead, wrapping it to sell as a mounted piece in the process. I tend not to throw undamaged mounts away - you never know when you might need to source a spare (see above).  At one point my work was popping in and out of mounts and frames like a huge game of musical chairs.

gotta love that tab driver!
© Teresa Newham

Talking of self-inflicted difficulties, can anyone tell me why I'd ever thought that mounting tape would be a substitute for professional backing tape?  Did you know that mounting tape is virtually impossible to get off the back of a frame without gumming up your fingers, scissors and any other implement you may be trying to scrape it off with?  Unfortunately this particular frame was the 16 x 12 inch mentioned earlier.  But I only found that out when I tried to insert the new mount . . .

framed prints & mini watercolours
© Teresa Newham

The fun continued when I took delivery of some frames from a popular home retailer: they arrived inadequately wrapped, half of them with the glass smashed, with nothing on the outside of the box to suggest the contents were fragile or contained glass. And when the store arranged to send replacements, only one turned up - but at least I got to talk to their lovely customer services team again. It was like chatting to old friends!

not what you want to see when you open the box!
© Teresa Newham

Another thing: is it just me, or is there an unspoken rule that the labels you print for the back of your picture will refuse to stick, curling at the edges prior to coming away completely, while unwanted labels already fixed to the back of a picture will remain firmly attached to it no matter how hard you try to remove them? Oh, and I recommend putting the correct name of the piece on said label, especially if that name is written on the front of the work. Doh!

a painting & some photos - something for everyone!
© Teresa Newham

Of course, it hasn't been all gloom and doom - I got to use my favourite studio gadget, the tab driver. Most of what I ordered has been fine, and I love seeing the work framed up - it gains an extra dimension somehow.   Now I have to decide how to display it all!

#HertsOpenStudios runs from 9th September - 1st October.  Take a look at the full brochure here on the HVA website.  I'll be sharing my studio again this year with Sue Wookey - full details on the side panel of this blog.