Friday, 31 December 2021

Betwixt and Between


old life and new in the garden
© Teresa Newham

It's a special period, the time between Christmas and New Year. Things are just starting to stir in the garden; the church is still celebrating Christmas Time, harking back to the old tradition of daily feasting and jollity during the Twelve Days of Christmas; some people call this week Betwixtmas and spend it watching Netflix in their PJs; and many of us fortunate enough not to be working have been taking time out to rest, contemplate, dream and plan.

all Christmas-carded out
© Teresa Newham

Since the excitement of Open Studios and the Harpenden Arts Club exhibition back in September and October, my art life has consisted almost entirely of printing up old Christmas cards to sell in aid of the church building fund, and creating a new one for friends and family. This week I put the few remaining cards into storage, freeing myself to think about other projects.

waiting since September
© Teresa Newham

I'm hoping to get started soon on a design for a linocut which has been sitting in my sketchbook since September.  As quite often happens, the delay in getting around to doing anything with it  has been a blessing, as several ideas have floated to the surface in the meantime.  I also want to see if I can adapt an old sketch and turn it into a Japanese Woodblock print or two - it's hard to resist the lure of the Skelligs . . . 

an old sketch to simplify
© Teresa Newham

Mainly, though, I've been content to relax and leaf through my books, including A Year Unfolding by Angela Harding, which I was given for Christmas.  There's a new Moleskin watercolour sketchbook which I'm looking forward to using outdoors when the weather improves. Laura Boswell's latest video The Twelve Gizmos of Christmas has given me a few ideas, and the February (!) edition of Artists and Illustrators dropped through the door this morning. Time to look forward to a Happy New Year!

enticing and inspiring gifts
© Teresa Newham

Tuesday, 21 December 2021

Mary's "Yes"


Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord
hand-printed linocut by Teresa Newham

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:38)

The subject of this year's Christmas card is the Annunciation - a feast which we celebrate on 25th March, fully nine months before Christmas, but which is central to the story of the Nativity. The angel Gabriel appears to Mary, a young girl aged fourteen or so and tells her that she is blessed and is to give birth to the Son of God. Mary wonders how that might happen, because she is a virgin.  The angel explains that she will conceive by the Holy Spirit.

At this point, Mary might have said no, or simply run away.  But she doesn't - she agrees to do what God is asking of her, and by her faith and courage she allows salvation to enter the world. 

On this, the shortest day of the year, I pray that we may all be granted the faith and courage to move forward, to celebrate Christmas as best we can in the circumstances we find ourselves.  Wherever we are, whatever our faith, may we be blessed with peace, hope and love.

Tuesday, 30 November 2021

It's beginning to look a lot like . . . Childwickbury!


the entrance to Childwickbury stable block, flanked by angels
© Teresa Newham

The last weekend in November means several things: it's the first Sunday in Advent; the Christmas lights are due to be switched on in Harpenden; and it's time to wrap up warm and head for the Childwickbury Christmas Market.  

Christmassy decor in the courtyard
© Teresa Newham

Even the fringes of Storm Arwen hadn't deterred visitors from descending on Childwickbury on the Saturday morning; the fabulous angels were in place, along with the tree, the lights and the Christmas garlands; everything was festive and there was plenty to see.

glass art by Siddy Langley (top) 
and Opal Seabrook (bottom)
© Teresa Newham

First stop was a visit to two glass artists - Harpenden-based Opal Seabrook who was in prime position near the entrance to the stable block with Siddy Langley, from Devon. Their work was attracting a lot of attention, but we did manage a brief chat.

artists and makers making good use of every inch of space in the stables
© Teresa Newham

Throughout the stables, a variety of artists and makers had set up shop, ranging from textiles to jewellery, pottery - and candles from another local maker, Handmade in Harpenden.  Paintings and prints hung from ceilings, cushions were piled high; every nook and cranny was pressed into service.

local producers selling their wares
© Teresa Newham

In what I think was once a cow shed, local producers selling everything from cakes to flavoured oils were doing a roaring trade, with eager customers snapping up bargains; it was like and yet unlike the summer Arts Fair, with spaces being repurposed, although several of the regular exhibitors were showing, including Childwickbury's owner, Christiane Kubrick.

floral wreaths and garlands
© Teresa Newham

I had a splendid, if chilly, morning, dodging the crowded areas and steaming up behind my mask, but it was well worth it - coming home with various purchases, and the distinct feeling that Christmas is well on its way!

visitors by the Christmas tree
© Teresa Newham

Monday, 15 November 2021

The joy of imperfection


a mixed hedge on the housing estate
© Teresa Newham

November is a wabi sabi time of year in this part of the world.  Much of nature is in a state of decay, and in many ways all the more interesting because of that; there's far more to see in the hedgerows now, for example, than in summer when everything is lush and green.

the last of the leaves
© Teresa Newham

It's been a mild, wet Autumn. A few leaves are still clinging gamely to the deciduous trees and shrubs in the gardens and fields, making bright patterns when they fall. The Tudors used to refer to Autumn as "fall", and the Pilgrim Fathers took the word to the New World, where it's still used to this day.

berries, gone over
© Teresa Newham

The birds have had the best of the berries but there are still plenty to be seen. Many are shrivelled and well past their prime, and definitely fall into the category of wabi sabi.  I wouldn't fancy eating them . . . 

a tree in the fading light
© Teresa Newham

The nights are drawing in so the sun is quite low in the sky when I take my afternoon walks.  There is a compelling quality to the light, as though the countryside is slowly putting itself to bed for the winter.

something not growing on a wall
© Teresa Newham

Before I get too maudlin, I remind myself that everything has to die back in order to come alive again.  Winter is approaching, but Spring will follow!

beauty in decay
© Teresa Newham

Sunday, 31 October 2021

Coffee, cards and amazing art


Harpenden Arts Club's new exhibition venue - the Trust Hall, Southdown
© Teresa Newham

It's a delight to be able to take part in this year's Harpenden Arts Club Annual Exhibition - the first in two years.  So much has changed, not least the venue - the Public Halls is now a vaccination centre and earmarked for demolition, so the club have relocated the exhibition to the Trust Hall right here in Southdown.

August I greeting visitors to the main hall
© Teresa Newham

At the hand-in there were forty artists - and most brought a lot of work.  I've taken full advantage of the maximum six pieces on the wall, six in the browser and thirty cards, and I'm not the only one; we have two year's worth of creativity to show, after all, and I've kept some back for next year.

March I echoing the colours around it
© Teresa Newham

I spent Friday morning serving coffee at the Coffee Morning Preview - a new addition to the format, it encouraged people to relax and provided a sociable alternative for those who did not attend the Private View. We had a steady stream of visitors all morning, despite the showery weather.

paintings, pottery and coffee on tap in the back room . . .
© Teresa Newham

I was stationed in the back room, where there is some art and sculpture, the greetings cards and browsers, and the sales desk.  The space has a lively, informal atmosphere and there's plenty going on without the space becoming overcrowded.

. . . along with a bank of browsers 
© Teresa Newham

When the coffee session was finished, I took a proper look in the main hall, where most of the exhibition is hung.  To my amazement, nobody at the club was quite sure how it was all going to fit in until they started setting up last Wednesday.  As usual it is really well organised.

Field, Cross Lane in distinguished company
© Teresa Newham

My reduction linocut, Fence, Cross Lane, sold at the Private View. It's a favourite of mine and it's always good to know that somebody loves something enough to buy it. Buyers collect framed pieces at the end of the exhibition this afternoon so I might even get to meet them.

Fence, Cross Lane with a red dot
© Teresa Newham

As always, I'm in awe of the way the volunteers curate the disparate artworks to make a cohesive whole.  All my paintings and prints fit in well with their hanging companions and to my  joy, Duck and Drake have been placed together as as set - the right way round.  Thank you Harpenden Arts Club!

Duck and Drake hung as a pair
© Teresa Newham

The annual exhibition closes this afternoon at 4pm so there's still time to go and see it! To find out more about Harpenden Arts Club click here.

Friday, 15 October 2021

Learning as I go


Japanese woodblock print of acer leaf on Shiramine Select
by Teresa Newham

Was it a good idea, I wondered, to demonstrate Japanese woodblock printing during #HertsOpenStudios?  I'm still learning the technique and hadn't done any for ages, but what better way of getting to grips with it again?  I could set up outside - ideal for the Covid-secure experience we were trying to create - and the weather, for the first few sessions at least, was forecast to be fine and dry.

setting up the demo table outside
© Teresa Newham

Working outdoors presented the usual challenges; any items likely to blow away in the wind (virtually everything on the table) had to be weighted down.  I began to print proof copies to remind myself what I was supposed to do.  This took longer than one session, which forced me to reduce the size of the damp pack to fit it into the freezer until the next time, when I defrosted and completed the proof prints. It was so absorbing that I forgot to take any more photos.

printing the blue plate
© Teresa Newham

Oh, the joy of doing this outside! I was able wet the blocks and shake the excess water straight onto the patio; neither the prints nor the damp pack dried out too quickly; it was the perfect environment.  In fact I had to take care not to get everything too wet.  By the third session I was confident enough to try printing on two types of Japanese washi from the Awagami factory.

printing the yellow plate
© Teresa Newham

Keeping things as simple as possible, I only made four prints, which would fit easily into a small damp pack (in case it had to go into the freezer again). The beauty of Japanese woodblock is that you can re-use the blocks to make more prints, even years later.  I remembered not to use too much paint and nori and tried to describe the process to our visitors, who were completely fascinated by it.

trying out bokashi shading technique
© Teresa Newham

I then had a go at doing some bokashi shading, which was a little fiddly for a beginner like me, but produced some interesting effects.  It would probably have worked better on a larger piece - so I'm thinking of going larger next time.  

finished prints in the damp pack
© Teresa Newham

I dried the prints between layers of thick blotting paper under heavy books as usual, and moved indoors to demonstrate different techniques as the weather deteriorated for our final few days.  When I went back to the prints I found that the Shiramine Select had produced the best result, which is just as well; I have a stash of it in my studio waiting for the next print . . . 

Japanese woodblock print of Acer leaf on Okawara Select
© Teresa Newham

I'll be demonstrating what I've learned so far about Japanese woodblock on Friday 22nd October at The Workhouse Dunstable, 5 Ashton Gate LU6 3SN  from 10am - 12.30pm, so do come and take a look!

Thursday, 30 September 2021

Fine and dandy


plenty to see in my studio . . .
© Teresa Newham

#HertsOpenStudios is well under way!  Sue and I have been welcoming people twice a week since 18th September, with two more Saturdays and the Wednesday in between still to go.  We've had a pleasing number of visitors and excellent weather so far.

. . . making use of all available space 
© Teresa Newham

The weather has been extremely important this year, as we are keeping everything as ventilated as possible, and sitting outside when we can, in order to give folk more space to browse. My own studio behind the kitchen is their first stop, where they can see most of the watercolours and reduction linocuts that I have made over the past two years.

Sue's display on my dresser, and her display board & browser
© Teresa Newham

Sue's work is laid out in my dining room as usual - a mixture of watercolours and drawings, and her lovely painted hearts.  Like me, she has made good use of her time during lockdown - but we are both absolutely delighted to be meeting people face to face again, some for the first time in ages.

more of Sue's work in my dining room
© Teresa Newham

I have some pieces in the dining room too, along with greetings cards.   Having kept so much of my work to myself for so long (showing it on social media isn't quite the same) I am loving the feedback, the comments, the insights and the interaction which Open Studios brings with it.

my dining room display
© Teresa Newham

We've both made some sales, and I've had the chance to try out my SumUp card machine for the first time - it works really well.  We still accept cash, of course, but it's good to give people the option because we want everyone to feel comfortable when they come and see us.

sketchbooks laid out on the dinner table - for now!
© Teresa Newham

Our demos have been taking place outside while the weather has lasted - although for the last three sessions we'll almost certainly be indoors. The watercolours Sue makes during Open Studios often become exhibits the following year. I've been printing Japanese Woodblock - but that will have to wait for another blog post!

Sue painting in the garden - well wrapped up
© Teresa Newham

Sue and I will be open again from 11am - 4pm this Saturday 2nd October, Wednesday 6th October and Saturday 9th October.  For full details of venue including directions of how to find us, click here.

Tuesday, 14 September 2021

virtually ready


the Wensley Arts page on the HVA website

It's almost time. I've framed my pictures and sorted out ideas for the online themes. There is publicity on social media and the #HertsOpenStudios section of the HVA website is full of information about all the local artists who will be taking part. Here at what we are calling Wensley Arts until 10th October it just remains to put the physical exhibition in place.

my studio, not at all open at the moment . . . 
© Teresa Newham

Not that you'd guess from the state of my studio right now.  To those in the know, exhibitions aren't just about paintings or prints; they're about easels, browsers, tables, display boards, card racks, signage, and all the other paraphernalia necessary to show artwork off to its best advantage.

. . . and in need of a good tidy up as well as an exhibition
© Teresa Newham

During the next few days my studio and my dining room will (I hope) be transformed into an enticing display of artwork by me and my co-exhibitor Sue Wookey.  Many other artists across the county are preparing their own spaces, shared or otherwise, or getting ready to join in online.

the dining room, similarly unprepared
© Teresa Newham

The HVA have retained and refined elements from last year's virtual Open Studios for those who do not wish to open to the public at this time. Those of us who will be welcoming visitors face-to-face are also taking part in the daily themes on social media - which increases the workload but also increases the fun. I've really enjoyed gathering images and putting videos together.

working in the small amount of space I have
© Teresa Newham

As if that wasn't enough, I am taking part on the second day of Art on the Common, which is happening the first weekend of Open Studios.  I'm sharing our usual pitch with Hillary Taylor, whose own Open Studio will be in the pop-up shop opposite Harpenden Waitrose from 4 - 10th October.

While all this is going on, I also have a couple of pieces in the Colourways exhibition at The Workhouse Dunstable, which runs until 9th October.  It's a busy time for artists and art lovers alike!

Monday, 30 August 2021

Summer's Lease

 Summer's lease hath all too short a date . . .  - William Shakespeare, Sonnet 18

Wildflower meadow, Cambridgeshire
© Teresa Newham

As summer draws to a close I'm taking a look back through my photos. I've been further afield than I remember, and you'd never know that the weather hasn't been that good: probably because I only get my camera out with real enthusiasm when it's sunny.  

wildlife at the Weald & Downland Museum, West Sussex
© Teresa Newham

In June, the wild flowers were out in force, thanks to a burst of warmth following a cold and protracted spring.  The wildlife photos were taken at the Weald & Downland Museum in early August. As for July, well, see my post about Childwickbury Arts Fair - it stands out as one of the few dry weekends we've had.

still life at the same museum
© Teresa Newham

I took the photo above in one of the museum's many reconstructed houses; I think this one was mediaeval.  I'd taken my DSLR with me and was delighted with this shot - I reckon it only needs a bunch of grapes and a dead pheasant to be reminiscent of a still life by a Dutch Master.

rowan berries in the lanes
© Teresa Newham

By mid month berries were appearing in the hedgerows and the chilly breeze showed all the signs of approaching autumn.  How could that be, I wondered, when we were still waiting for some proper summer sunshine?

Rosa Rugosa, Dorset
© Teresa Newham

Towards the Bank Holiday we spent a few sunny days in Dorset.  I liked this Rosa Rugosa so much, I'm trying to work out where I can put one in the garden.  The rosehips were enormous!  We were in the middle of farming country, surrounded by fields of sheep and cattle, and tractors pulling unfeasibly large loads of hay bales.

sheep, Dorset
© Teresa Newham

It wouldn't be right to finish this post without mentioning the hollyhocks, which have been absolutely everywhere this year. In every place I've been, including close to home, they've been blooming their socks off - so much so that I feel an artwork coming on. Maybe they've thrived on that dodgy weather? 

hollyhocks - everywhere!
© Teresa Newham