Saturday, 22 December 2018

O Holy Night

O Holy Night
original linocut Christmas card
by Teresa Newham

Some Christmas Carols remind us of times past, perhaps a favourite from childhood.  Others affect us more as we get older.  O Holy Night is one of those, for me.  I don't remember where exactly I first heard it, but we now sing it often at Christmas with the church choir, and it moves me deeply.  It takes me back to all those starlit nights I remember from my youth, looking up into the sky in wonder. That sense of wonder is what I've tried to convey in this year's Christmas card:

It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth. 
Long lay the world in sin and error pining. 
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth. 
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, 
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. 
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices! 
O night divine, the night when Christ was born; 
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine! 
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!   

There's a powerful message which builds throughout the song, so please do click on the lyrics to hear the choir of Kings College Cambridge sing the full version!

Wishing you all peace and joy this Christmas, and a blessed and Happy New Year.

Monday, 10 December 2018

a drawing a day - what do artists do all day?

Parish Christmas Fair - from set up to take down!
© Teresa Newham

I blame Peter Jackson, or rather, the BBC programme "What Do Artists Do All Day?" The answer in his case seemed to consist of sprawling on the sofa in an editing suite looking at WW1 footage restored and coloured for the acclaimed documentary They Shall Not Grow Old.

daily life - it's not all glamour you know!
© Teresa Newham

How, I wondered, would I answer that question? "Not making much art" would be the honest answer, at least during the run up to Christmas, when church and family commitments and the shortening days don't allow much time and space for creativity.

church music features a lot at this time of year . . .
© Teresa Newham

That's when I decided to use an old half-empty A4 sketchbook to create a visual diary.  That way I'd be getting something down on paper most days.  Also I'd be able to answer the question in the unlikely event that anyone should ask me.

. . . but there's still (some) time for art!
© Teresa Newham

I've been keeping the diary for a month now - a busy month involving some art, but rather more music, both church and secular (it's that time of year), all of it wonderful.  I've tried to include everyday activities, too, and not just the special events - this isn't Facebook or Instagram . . .

a musical one-off
© Teresa Newham

I've experimented with Conté crayons and coloured pencil, as well as my favourite Zig pens, particularly on some of the coloured paper in the sketchbook.  This has had mixed results, as fixative has to be used on such drawings, which doesn't sit well on the paper.  But it was worth a try.

trying out other media
© Teresa Newham

Mostly I've drawn from memory, but also from photos. I've learned not to sketch when I'm tired or short of time, and tried deliberately not to make the drawings perfect.  This is a bit of fun, and the daily discipline is doing me good!

First Sunday of Advent
(lower sketch taken from a photo on Facebook)
© Teresa Newham

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

salt painting blues

the finished painting - or is it?
© Teresa Newham

I'm not sure why this one was such a a struggle, but the signs were ominous from the beginning: trying my chosen four colours on a piece of scrap, I found the French Ultramarine and Winsor Blue (green shade) indistinguishable, and the Cobalt Turquoise far too green. As I was almost out of Cobalt Blue, I dashed to Artscape and picked up some Cobalt Turquoise Light at the same time.  It wasn't a good start . .

I took a while to choose the colours
© Teresa Newham

I wetted a piece of 300gsm Daler Rowney watercolour paper and taped it to a board.  It dried thoroughly, and I laid down an initial wash of Cerulean and Cobalt Turquoise. But somehow everything became too wet - when I added the rock salt, it started to dissolve.

initial washes . . .
© Teresa Newham

So I did something I almost never do - chucked the painting in the bin and began again. I used Arches 600 gsm (no stretching required), laid down the initial wash for a second time, and sprinkled on the salt.  I can't recall now what I didn't like about that attempt, but it ended up in the bin with the first one . . .

. . . with salt added
© Teresa Newham

Number three ran into trouble almost immediately - but Arches is expensive and I couldn't bring myself to throw it away.  Besides, the bin was full.  So I wiped off the paint and let the paper dry - which gave me a chance to calm down and remember that salt painting requires patience.  I turned the paper over, determined to let things flow.

salt on the second layer of washes
© Teresa Newham

Finally I managed to get the colours down and the salt on without any drama.  When the paint dried, I removed the salt and added washes of Cobalt Blue and French Ultramarine. I sprinkled on more salt, and took that off when the whole thing was dry. I assume the painting is finished - I don't want to touch it again.  And I'd welcome any suggestions for a title - so over to you!

once everything dried, I removed the salt
© Teresa Newham

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

So much to see!

Snowdrops & Hellebores in good company on a feature panel
© Teresa Newham

There was something for everyone in Harpenden last weekend, and I found myself involved in quite a lot of it - a church concert, the Remembrance Day service at the war memorial, and last but not least the 60th annual Open Exhibition of the Harpenden Arts Club.  This year's exhibition featured the work of over fifty local artists, and there was a splendid variety of styles and media on show.

the purple wall, including Lavender Fields
© Teresa Newham

The exhibition was extremely well curated, taking into account not just subject matter, but also colour, style and framing;  there were two panels of poppy paintings to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of WW1, plus several browsers of unframed work for visitors to look through, and greetings cards for sale.

every inch of space was wisely used
© Teresa Newham

As usual, visitors were encouraged to vote for their three favourite pieces. I wasn't the only one to take quite a while to decide - in the end I picked three which I wish I'd painted or printed myself. I could easily have chosen more!

poppy paintings, including Poppy Summer
© Teresa Newham

The collection of sold and unsold items coincided with the BBC filming a drama at the venue, which could have been chaotic, but everyone worked hard to ensure it ran smoothly. It was quite surreal to see artists carrying their work through groups of actors dressed as police, but we were in good spirits - it had been an excellent exhibition!

the rest of my exhibits amongst colourful displays
© Teresa Newham

Huge thanks to the members of Harpenden Arts Club  who worked so hard to organise this exhibition.  You can find out more about the club here.

panels featuring monochrome and seascapes
© Teresa Newham

Monday, 29 October 2018

the magic of Autumn

October morning, Rothamsted Park
© Teresa Newham

The clocks have gone back and the nights are drawing in.  For the last few weeks I've been making the most of any sunshine: taking a walk when I can, hanging washing on the line for a few hours, coaxing the last of the tomatoes to ripen on a sunny windowsill.

turning leaves at the side of the road
© Teresa Newham

September may have been cooler than usual, but October started deceptively mild; then suddenly we had a cold, damp, misty day, all the trees and hedgerows dripping with moisture; and all at once I was aware that Autumn was definitely upon us.

elderberries in the lane
© Teresa Newham

Everywhere you look trees and plants are preparing for Winter; leaves are turning, berries are ripening. There's still plenty of colour. but it's gradually fading; squirrels are much in evidence as they gather food ahead of going into hibernation.

red berries in the hedgerows
© Teresa Newham

I spotted plenty of red berries on my walks: an abundance of holly, hawthorn and one other which I couldn't identify but which struck me as being potentially poisonous - White Bryony, perhaps?

ivy on the trees
© Teresa Newham

Ivy, too, is starting to develop its berries, which are an important food source for birds in Winter, while toadstools are showing through the undergrowth.  I had no idea whether they were edible or not, so I left well alone. Where's a forager when you need one?

toadstools near the golf course
© Teresa Newham

Monday, 15 October 2018

Sketching Sondheim

rehearsing the Liebeslieder
© Teresa Newham

The visitors leafing through my sketchbooks at #HertsOpenStudios were so encouraging that I determined to do some more sketching as soon as possible - but with such a busy schedule ahead of PBGS' production of A Little Night Music, I wasn't sure there would be time.

random rehearsal sketches
© Teresa Newham

The answer was to take my sketchbooks and pens along to rehearsals; as I only had a small part in the show, I spent a lot of time sitting out of the way, especially during the band call.  That's why so many of the drawings I did were of somebody's back view.

bass player at the band call
© Teresa Newham

That didn't matter too much, as the sketches were not intended to be portraits - just practice for the way people hold themselves and how the light falls on them.  Besides, I didn't want to upset anybody by producing a dodgy likeness . . .

at the band call
© Teresa Newham

I made some sketches during the tech rehearsal by slipping quietly into the auditorium and trying to capture any character I thought might be sitting or standing still on stage for any length of time - as it was a fast-paced production that didn't happen much, and I had to rely on my memory to get things right.

random sketch during the tech rehearsal
© Teresa Newham

By the time we got to the dress rehearsal and the performances, I had too much adrenalin flowing to make any drawings - and I didn't want to miss my entrances.  Luckily we have some wonderful photos of the show taken by Ralph at XM04 Production Photography, as you'll see by clicking here!

play within a play at the tech
© Teresa Newham

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Another day, another demo

Kurbits II
reduction linocut by Teresa Newham

The bunting has been packed away for another year and the dining room has resumed its' usual function.  #HertsOpenStudios 2018 is over!  Sue and I have had more than eighty visitors during the last three weeks, many of whom have been kind enough to share their own artistic adventures and aspirations with us, and allowed us to share our own experiences with them.

me, preparing to print - Sue's paintings in the background
Photo © Sue Wookey

I've been working on a design for a traditional Swedish kurbits -  we're putting on Sondheim's  A Little Night Music shortly, and as the show is set in Sweden I thought the prints might be suitable for  raffle prizes.  The Swedish artist Viveca Lammers has made an interesting YouTube video on the story of the kurbits and one on how to draw your own version.  I was entranced both by the design and by the music in the videos!

my take on a traditional Swedish design . . .
© Teresa Newham

The smaller version was a straightforward cut, which I printed between sessions, adding the gold embellishment by hand. Cutting the larger reduction version turned out to be a meditative process, as several of our visitors remarked; again, I printed this behind the scenes, as I couldn't run the risk of being interrupted.  An Open Studios demo has to be something which can be set aside at any moment, quite possibly for a long time.

Adding the gold to Kurbits I
© Teresa Newham

Meanwhile Sue was painting some much admired watercolours at the other end of the table, some out of her head and some based on memories of holidays in County Kerry.  On the final Saturday I did print 'live', making some of last years Christmas cards to sell at church.  Well, it was the feast day of the archangels St.Michael, St.Gabriel and St.Raphael, after all!

Sue demonstrating watercolour while I print up Christmas cards
© Teresa Newham

* A Little Night Music by Stephen Sondheim is a PBGS production and will run from 10th - 13th October at the Queen Mother Theatre in Hitchin.  For further information or to book tickets click here.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

A flying start!

my studio, reorganised for the exhibition
© Teresa Newham

What a start! #HertsOpenStudios is only a week old, and Sue and I have had more than thirty art lovers through the door already, across three sessions.

my cards and artwork in the dining room
© Teresa Newham

So far we have greeted a delightful mixture of old friends, new friends, newcomers to the world of making art and random passers-by who have spotted the bright yellow Open Studios bunting and come in to see what all the fuss is about.

Sue's acrylics and watercolours
© Teresa Newham

It's always a pleasure to discuss our work with people, sit and enjoy a cup of tea or coffee and some cake with them, or just sit quietly demonstrating watercolours or printmaking while they wander around.  We can usually tell who would like to chat and who would prefer to be left alone to browse.

more of Sue's work, including painted wooden hearts
© Teresa Newham

It's lovely when visitors like something enough to buy an original, print or card of a piece, but some of our most interesting conversations happen with folk who have just come to take a look.  Any feedback is most useful.

my photo cards, watercolour and printmaking
© Teresa Newham

Some folk are fellow artists, perhaps already doing Open Studios themselves or hoping to take part another year, or maybe just starting out and looking for inspiration and support.

my photos on the shelf between the kitchen and my studio
© Teresa Newham

So if you are in or around Harpenden on any Saturdays or Wednesdays for the rest of September, please do drop by and see us - and why not visit some of the many other studios in town while you're at it!

visitors always enjoy looking through sketchbooks
© Teresa Newham

#HertsOpenStudios runs until 30th September.  I'm sharing my studio with fellow artist Sue Wookey. Details of our opening times are shown on the side panel of this blog. Visit the Herts Visual Arts website for details of other Harpenden studios and the full county-wide programme.

Sue demonstrating watercolour
© Teresa Newham

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Meadow Cranesbill

Meadow Cranesbill
linocut by Teresa Newham

Taking a walk one bright May afternoon I spotted some pink flowers amongst a patch of nettles.   They were intertwined so closely that I did a double take, recalling that nettle flowers are blue and grow in spikes.  Sure enough, the pink flowers had their own leaves, which looked familiar.

peeping through the nettles
© Teresa Newham

A little Googling and a look in my own garden confirmed that this pretty flower is Meadow Cranesbill, a relative of the geranium (that's a true geranium, not the cheerful red perlargoniums we tend to think of as geraniums).

sorting out the design
© Teresa Newham

A couple of months later I put a design together based on my photographs from that afternoon and traced it onto some softcut lino.  I had to be careful not to smudge the pencil while I was making the intricate cut.

the cut
© Teresa Newham

My first attempt at mixing a suitable shade of ink was so subtle that it barely showed on the paper.  As I wanted the linocut to reflect the impact the flowers had on me when I saw them,  I decided to match the colour of the veins on the petals.

mixing the ink
© Teresa Newham

Eventually I had a dozen prints pegged to my makeshift drying rack - ready just in time for  #HertsOpenStudios.  I'd better make sure I get it into a frame before 8th September!

#HertsOpenStudios runs from 8th - 30th September.  I'll be sharing my studio with fellow artist Sue Wookey. Details of our opening times are shown on the side panel of this blog. Visit the Herts Visual Arts website for the full county-wide programme.

drying the prints
© Teresa Newham