Thursday, 15 April 2021



March I
watercolour, salt & metallic printing ink
Teresa Newham

As regular readers of this blog will know, I have a great artistic relationship with my neighbours' flowering cherry tree.  The source of much inspiration over the years, it has been the subject of paintings (Flowering Cherry, Cherry Blossom) and photos, as well as making the ideal perch for gangs of goldfinches and great tits.

a sketch made on my iPad
© Teresa Newham

Last August, all its leaves fell off; we feared it had died. So you can imagine my joy when I noticed signs of life in mid March, around a month later than last year.  One evening I was praying the Rosary while a blackbird sang to the dusk in its branches; I gave thanks, recalling that I'd sprinkled some Lourdes water on the tree last October. 

laying down initial washes with salt
© Teresa Newham

I had planned to do some printmaking in the run up to Easter; it never materialised.  The tree, by now flowering more splendidly than ever, had become an obsession. When I found myself making a little sketch of cherry blossom on my iPad one evening, I knew I had to get it out of my system - and there was only one way to do that . . .

flowers and foliage
© Teresa Newham

I began with some loose washes of Permanent Alizarin Crimson and Permanent Sap Green, with plenty of salt sprinkled over them while wet. Once these had dried, I used the shapes made by the salt to show me where the flowers should go, then painted in some branches with same colours, this time mixed together.

adding the background
© Teresa Newham

I used Cobalt Blue for the background and enhanced the centres of some of the flowers before picking out the stamens with titanium white and adding final touches with metallic copper printing ink.  The cherry blossom is fading now and the leaves are taking over, but that's OK - the tree is out of my system for another year!

March II
watercolour, salt & metallic printing ink
Teresa Newham

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

The Empty Tomb


The Empty Tomb
linocut Easter card by Teresa Newham

So she ran, and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple,
the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them,
"They have taken the Lord out of the tomb ,
and we do not know where they have laid him." 
Peter then came out with the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first;
and stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there,
but he did not go in. 
John 20 : 2 - 5

As Easter approaches, I find myself musing on the rollercoaster of emotions the experience of Christ's Passion, death and resurrection must have had on His disciples and followers.  They have seen Him arrested, beaten and scourged, and crucified; Peter has three times denied that he ever knew Him.  Mary Magdalene and John (the disciple who Jesus loved) have stood at the foot of the cross as He died, and Mary has just discovered that His body is no longer in the tomb where it was laid to rest.

Sometimes we wonder why the disciples didn't understand instantly that Jesus had risen from the dead; after all, He had been trying to tell them that this would happen for some time.  But this is something completely new to them, and its full meaning is just beginning to dawn on the disciples as the sun rises on the empty tomb.

This Easter, unlike last year, many of us are able to attend Mass in person and meet up with friends and family, albeit with restrictions. Whatever your current circumstances, I hope and pray that all of us, too, are beginning to experience a new dawn.

Wishing you and yours every blessing at Easter.

Sunday, 14 March 2021

Driven to distraction


sorting out ideas for future projects
© Teresa Newham

Lent is supposed to be a time of quiet reflection, but with my teacher husband working from home and the impending easing of lockdown, the last few weeks have been unsettling.  Luckily I've found time to fit in some art, as well as contemplation, to help me to cope with my anxiety.

working up an initial design
© Teresa Newham

One thing I've been doing is to decide which piece or pieces to work on next, and in which medium.  I'm not short of inspiration - I have enough ideas to keep me going for a couple of years - but there are some subjects which I'm not yet skillful enough to render in Japanese Woodblock, for example, so I'm trying to be realistic.

cutting lino has proved an excellent distraction . . .
© Teresa Newham

Lent is also the perfect time for designing and printing an Easter card. This year I've deliberately made it more complicated than usual by introducing a second layer and followed Laura Boswell's guide to adapting her registration device to make small prints.  I don't want to spoil the surprise so I'm not revealing the result yet . . .

. . . as has printing it
© Teresa Newham

Finally, I'm taking part in the Herts Visual Arts Big Maker's Fair, which is running throughout March with the theme 'Objects of Desire'.  Around seventy Hertfordshire artists are showing work in the exhibition - I've had fun choosing three Spring-themed pieces as my contribution - and a variety of live events are planned for the weekend of 19th - 21st. Why not check them out?

the exhibits I chose for the Big Makers Fair 
© Teresa Newham

Sunday, 28 February 2021

Creatively cropped


Amaryllis - or should it be Hippeastrum?
from a watercolour sketch by Teresa Newham

When I planted up the bulb given to me for Christmas, it soon took over the windowsill in our small front bedroom; a splendid Amaryllis (or Hippeastrum, according to the RHS).  It was a great subject to paint, but far too large to move. I would have to do some location sketching in my own house . . .

the inspiration and the whole sketch
© Teresa Newham

I really enjoyed getting my watercolours out again after so long and sloshed away with abandon.  I could easily have put the sketch in a drawer and forgotten about it, but I realised that I could crop it into a piece which I might be able to frame. I could certainly make it into a greetings card.

My Mother's Roses
watercolour sketch by Teresa Newham

I first learnt this lesson with My Mother's Roses, a watercolour sketch which lives my studio (read the story behind the painting here). It's one of my favourites - I smile every time I look at it. I framed Purple Crocus (below) in a hurry to fill a gap after I sold a piece during an Open Studios.  It went to a new home itself shortly afterwards.

Purple Crocus
watercolour sketch by Teresa Newham

This jolly yellow frame was another Christmas present and needed something lively to fill it.  So I leafed through my old watercolours again, and now these cheerful daffodils brighten up my dining room. You can't go wrong with a bit of creative cropping . . .

watercolour sketch by Teresa Newham

Saturday, 13 February 2021

Learning to love Japanese woodblock


my second Japanese woodblock print
© Teresa Newham

I recently had another Japanese woodblock print session, after tidying up the original blocks from the first one.  They'd scrubbed up well, but it was obvious when I looked at the registration prints from my original attempt that I needed to clear away some more.

evaluating the blocks after the first print session
© Teresa Newham

That done, it was time to prepare the damp pack. Luckily I had plenty of notes to check in case I'd forgotten something vital  -  whichI did several times throughout the whole process, because the Japanese woodblock technique isn't second nature to me yet . . .

preparing a damp pack
© Teresa Newham

I used gouache as the print medium. Even while I was making trash prints and taking impressions on newsprint to check the colours and the registration, I could see that the colours were truer than I'd achieved with watercolour.

the colours were definitely truer with gouache
© Teresa Newham

Despite my best efforts, I still managed to over-ink the blocks - although I did use less ink than previously.  I'm too keen to get results straight away, and will have to get used to the idea that bright colours are best achieved by printing one layer a couple of times.

printing the various layers
© Teresa Newham

Finally I had six prints on three different washi papers. To dry, they go between sheets of clean newsprint for an hour under a light weight, and then under a pile of books for a few days, layered between sheets of blotting paper, which is changed daily.

placing the prints between layers of clean newsprint
© Teresa Newham

It's true - everything about this process is a faff, but I shall do more. At the moment, however, I have lots of ideas for linocuts, too, so I will set Japanese Woodblock aside for a while. Just as well I made those notes!

the finished prints on three different types of washi paper
© Teresa Newham

Saturday, 30 January 2021

New Year, new technique


my first ever Japanese woodblock print
- scope for plenty of improvement!
© Teresa Newham

As usual, Christmas took up most of my attention during December; so it was good to set aside a couple of afternoons in early January to finish cutting the blocks for my first ever Japanese woodblock print, listening to various podcasts and jotting down a few notes as I went along. 

a cosy afternoon cutting the rest of the blocks
© Teresa Newham

The thought of actually printing the blocks, however, was completely out of my comfort zone. I re-visited Laura Boswell's book and YouTube videos on the process, and carefully laid out everything I thought I'd need in what I told myself was a suitably Zen state of mind, but really it was displacement activity.

gathering everything I needed to print
© Teresa Newham

I made up a damp pack the evening beforehand;  the proofing and editioning papers are wetted with a water brush and left in damp newspaper or blotting paper overnight to absorb the right amount of moisture. Usually proofing and editioning are done in separate print sessions, but as this was an experiment I was keen to go through the whole process in one go.

first steps: mixing nori, watercolours and making trash prints
© Teresa Newham

On the big day I mixed up some watercolours in pots, and diluted some ready-made nori (rice flour paste), which is combined with the watercolour on the block to turn the paint into a print medium. I used Quinacridone Red and Cobalt Green (Yellow shade), and made a second, darker quantity of the red by adding a tiny amount of Sumi ink.

colourful blocks and a trash print to check registration
© Teresa Newham

I wetted each block  and brushed in some nori to condition it, before inking it and taking trash prints on dry scrap paper. I checked the registration by taking an impression on dry newsprint.  At this point I could have cut away some of the chatter from the blocks and adjusted the colours, but I wanted to move on to the editioning stage so I could compare results on the various washi papers.

printing proof prints and edition prints
- the damp pack is inside the John Lewis bag
© Teresa Newham

The prints dried between sheets of blotting paper under a weight for a few days before I assessed them. I'd forgotten Laura's advice that in Japanese Woodblock, less is more; I'd used too much nori and ink, which has affected the colours and - along with the chatter - made the prints messy.  But that's the thing with multi block printing - I can clear out that chatter and have another go!

final prints on three different washi papers from the Awagami factory
© Teresa Newham

Friday, 15 January 2021

Calendar memories


January & February
© Teresa Newham

Every November I put together a calendar of my best photos as a Christmas present.  I hang one in my studio, too, to remind me what I was doing this time last year.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 version turned out to be very, very local . . .

March & April
© Teresa Newham

Apart from the January pic of the countryside near Ware (actually taken at the very end of December 2019 but I can't imagine that the scenery changed much in 48 hours), this year's crop of photos were taken within half a mile of our house; in the garden, the nearby lanes, and on our housing estate.

May & June
© Teresa Newham

A few, such as February's cherry blossom and August's close-up of Agapanthus flowers, are my experiments with the Canon EOS DSLR I bought myself last January; the rest are purely opportunistic  iPhone shots, of which July's apple tree is my favourite.

July & August
© Teresa Newham

I'm hoping to make a linocut based on September's picture (one of several projects I have in mind once I've taught myself the basics of Japanese Woodblock) and I'm already gathering images for the 2022 calendar;  I could do one of views of my favourite field alone . . .

September & October
© Teresa Newham

The November image is one of a series of photographs which inspired my watercolour Harpenden Common in Autumn, taken back in November 2019 while walking to the station on my way to a meeting in London about the January 2020  Journeys in Hope exhibition.  How long ago all that seems now!

November & December
© Teresa Newham