Thursday, 27 June 2013

John Piper: an introduction

John Piper was a product of his time.

In the early days he painted abstract paintings before becoming disillusioned and making representational work. This was typically full of searing colour. As time went on he diversified, being an early art pundit on television, collaborating to make books, designing stained glass and even vestments for churches, experimenting with printing and collage and designing a mural or two.

He is the sort of artist where bald facts aren't important, other than the fact he was born in Southern England in 1903 and so slotted in to the closest this country has ever come to a golden generation of painters. One thing a lot of these artists had in common was the pursuit of Englishness, an idea that has always fascinated me. The Great War and its industrial devastation had just robbed the world of its naivety. The rise of new countries and destruction of old empires that followed along with the beginning of the end of the class-structured society that defined this country meant no-one really knew their role in the world any more. Englishness would have been an obsession and a crisis. Artists sought it and defined it hither and thither. Stanley Spencer found it in the people. John Nash found it in the landscape. William Coldstream found it in the towns. John Piper found it in the architecture of stately homes and churches.

Thanks to the breadth of his endeavours and the length of his career, Piper can't really be pinned down to one style. One might say however that the two paintings above represent his most typical work, or at least the type of work he is best known for. For a more comprehensive view, try here.

This is arguably one of Piper's most important paintings. It shows Coventry Cathedral the morning after it was bombed during the Blitz, while the city was still burning. A harsh sky is half blue and half smoke. Parts of the ruins are black and charred, parts are red for both the colour of the stone and the colour of fire, parts are blinking in the sunlight. The building is filled with ash and rubble, not people. It is a human space made poignant by the absence of humans; they are elsewhere, fighting fires, tending the wounded, digging for survivors and wandering, dazed, searching for loved ones.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

What lies beneath? A real-world mystery

Here we have an idyllic English woodland. But what happens if we follow the path?

A woman's clothes. Tops. A pair of neatly folded jeans.

A black scarf. A sweater and a jar.

A belt and some fabric trimming.

A brush and some jars of spices.

A box of candles, some rope, cutlery and a sewing kit. I don't know what's going on. I do know it happened a while ago - I saw these at the tail end of winter (in fact, they're only just out of view in one of my paintings) and thought they'd make much better photographs with plants growing up, round and through them but the mystery remains the same. She is either a camper (there is a protest camp nearby) or a student (there are halls of residence at the top of the hill). She must have been going somewhere, not coming back - the jeans and the clothes in the tree roots were clean and folded when I first saw them. It seems strange she would throw away a scarf and a sweater in the middle of winter. Did she drop out of university and throw everything away in a glorious moment of joy? Did a fellow student play a prank and hide all her things at the beginning of term, only to forget where? Did a thief pause here to rifle through the bag he stole? Or is something darker also hidden here? The possessions are strewn in a trail up to the edge of a very steep slope; I didn't follow further. When I first found them I had a genuine moment of doubt - should I phone the police? I still don't know, but I've not heard of anyone having gone missing. It's too late to lose sleep over it, but stumbling onto the same site again today makes me wonder what happened all over again.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

New work: Runnymede Skylines, Runnymede Skies part 2

Here we have the second batch. Again they are all oil on 24"x24" box canvas.

Reading from top left they show the hedges and houses which line the Egham Bypass on a bright, cloudy day, the hill above the mead in persistent, gentle rain, the Runnymede on Thames hotel at dusk with London, the M25 and Heathrow sort of making a second sunset in the background and finally the Runnymede memorial itself at night. I racked my brain for so long working out how to treat the memorial. Mentally, it is the most important landmark on the mead; it is the only building dedicated to the Magna Carta. Physically however, it isn't much more than an umbrella so there was a real difficulty making it prominent in the landscape without cheating or straining the scheme; the fact that it is floodlit at night gave me a way to show it while staying honest. The fact that the burning colours of the lights could be made to match the afterglow of the sunset and can feed the imagination is a bonus.

I don't have much more to add at the moment, I've said a fair bit about the series both on the blog and my website. It has occurred to me that this is such a flexible format that, given how the mead is constantly changing from hour to hour and week to week, the series could go on forever. There are still types of weather missing, along with the the warehouse, the pleasure grounds, the restaurant, the river and so on. I might re-visit it in the autumn when the change gets dramatic again but for now I have enough other things to keep me busy.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Caution: contains gruesomeness

I headed out along the riverbank yesterday. Now that the set of skyline paintings are all over bar the shouting, I'm immersing myself in the river to get ready for a change of palette, aesthetic and texture. I'm not literally immersing myself; I'm a lousy swimmer and the current is too strong. Whilst I was just wandering then stopping then wandering again, just getting the feel of the riverbank and clarifying how I want to treat it, something grim but compelling caught my eye. Its at the bottom of this post so if you don't like spiders, don't scroll down past the swan.

Anyway, an interlude to protect the squeamish. I'm thinking in terms of a relatively abstract approach, majoring on texture and reflection. You might mention Monet, but I'd prefer it if you didn't as I'm coming from a very different place and working towards a very different purpose. I've been wondering about a focal point and whether I need one or not (for crying out loud, this part of the Thames has no waterlilies!) Every time I settled down to study a promising part of the riverbank, one particular Mallard  would swim upstream and start messing about by the far bank where I was looking. Every time I moved upstream, so did he. Sometimes you have to give in and accept your subject is trying to tell you something, so I will shortly make sketches with and without a duck providing a focal point.

Next up, one of the local swans, your final warning.

Ok, here we have what appears at first glance to be some perfectly normal clusters of blossom. Look closer...

This is what you find... talk about camouflage. It even has a marking on its back to look like the stamen and pollen. Theres no web to speak of, so I wonder if it just lurks in the middle of the flower head and waits for a bee to land on it. The bee had no damage but wasn't moving so the spider must have injected it with something. Imagine it in human terms: you're in the supermarket - you think you're picking up a bag of pasta but actually...

Thursday, 20 June 2013

4.52 am, 21st June 2013

I may be as predictable as the sun itself, but as tonight is the shortest night and tomorrow has the earliest dawn of the year I bring you Stonehenge, England's most famous solstice based site.

I'm sorry to say I won't make it there this year, but the details are here if anyone is going. Personally, I say wait for winter solstice and hope for clear weather.

The photo is by Bill Brandt, and the edition of the magazine is given over to questioning Britain and its future in the austere aftermath of the second World War.

For those of us in the Northern hemisphere it may seem a little contrary to be showing a snowscape in June. I have two reasons. From a pragmatic point of view, there are very few strong images of the place. It does not photograph well and many artists bypass it in favour of nearby Avebury instead so there is a degree of Hobson's choice. The other is that I have been questioning the role of photography in my practice. Bill Brandt was arguably the finest landscape photographer to have worked on these shores. There's a decent little biography of him on the V&A website. For me the most telling quotes is about his work with nudes: "Instead of photographing what I saw, I photographed what the camera was seeing. I interfered very little, and the lens produced anatomical images and shapes which my eyes had never observed." 

I am grappling with whether I can be persuaded to see my photographs as an art in their own right instead of just as a means to an end. This question has an increasing urgency now as I have a fair few pictures I have taken as prep work for upcoming projects which are breathtaking in their own right and I find myself asking again and again what painting them would add. In what way would that make them stronger, richer or more economical? This year I have begun to find ways in which photography can have a less impulsive, more considered and creative approach but I still think of them as pictures, rather than art. Sometimes, as he lets his camera surprise him before turning that surprise into collaboration in the darkroom, Brandt crosses that divide. The question is, can I?

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Alan the Impatient

I've just taken some snaps of the final four skylines paintings in their varying states of completion to show someone tomorrow and its no good, I can't wait, I'm too excited about the one that is unequivocally finished, so here's a detail from it. Just be aware its only had a quick and dirty colour correction applied, and your monitor won't be set up the same as mine. Why am I so excited? It is head and shoulders the best thing I have ever done from a colour point of view. Sadly, the photo loses all it's subtlety and delicacy, but you still get the idea of the way it seems to glow.

It shows the local five star hotel, the Runnymede-on-Thames which overlooks the mead, at dusk. The setting sun is off stage to the left while the lights from London, Heathrow and the motorway almost make a second sunset off stage to the right. It is so subtle in the flesh, from its indigo and umber clouds to the sky which seamlessly slides from a dusky salmon to a polluted pthalo blue, with the barest hint of white between the two. The buildings truly match the stucco, brick and tiles of the real thing in this light with the tonal variation between full sun, half sun and deep shadow carefully considered. Everything hangs together with a mix of simple forms, calligraphic brushwork (for parts of the skyline not in this crop) and the simplest hints of detail and, even if I say so myself, it takes a very plain building and some road signs and turns them into a thing of beauty. All this just deepens my frustration with the above snap, there will be a better photo in due course but this really is a see-it-in-the-flesh sort of painting.

As to the others, the one being tweaked - well by George, I think I've got it - now just needs some deeper shadows on one tree and a smoothing of one patch of sky, the final one is still on target for the weekend and as to the other I thought was finished, I have now identified why I was uneasy and know exactly which parts I need to finesse and how. I'm really looking forwards to seeing all seven together, finished, for the first time. Can you tell I'm excited?

Monday, 17 June 2013

Odds and Ends and the Jesus Duck

First up, sorry for the slowdown in updates lately. There are two simple reasons: one is that I am painting my socks off and the other is that it is Elderflower season so I am very busy "preserving" those.

The painting is overwhelming at the moment - I am all a-frenzy and rapidly approaching the end of my Skylines series. 4 and 5 are done and I am just sitting on them to be sure, 6 is a couple of tweaks away and 7 should be there by the end of the week. When compositions are as simple as #6 in particular there is nowhere to hide, every colour, mark and texture has to be perfect. It is just a couple of bands of colour, one of which is 5 closely related rainy, grey greens and some half defined shapes. Apart from a 1cm thick stripe and a couple of blobs it is almost completely flat tonally as well. I keep wanting to give it more oomph but that would destroy it. I have more respect than ever for Rothko now!

A quick follow up to the piece I did about discovering Pip Seymour paints: I emailed the company with a question about permanence and within an hour I'd had a detailed reply with a lot of extra technical information, sent by Pip himself. He sent me a follow up email as well. I also made a suggestion; I don't know if they took it up or they were already intending to do it but either way, its happening. That's the wonderful thing about dealing with small companies; if I contacted Daler Rowney what chance is there of being able to talk to one of the colourmen and someone who makes decisions to get a proper insight into the range? Proper customer service, so well done to them. If anyone is around Oxfordshire next month they will apparently be at Art in Action.

And the Jesus Duck?

Here we have a duck, not floating but standing about an inch under the surface of water thats about 2 feet deep so of course, one of the neighbours has re-named it. You can't really see from the photo but I promise all its feathers are dry. I'm not going to tell you it's secret!

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Prints by Giovanni Fattori

Another day, another artist who is new to me!

There are some Fattori prints in room 91 at the moment which fascinate me. The recent Italian acquisitions are opening up a whole new world for me, so forgive me if this is disjointed.

Fattori (1825-1908) was a painter from Livorno, Italy. As with Paglia, who's Lion I showed you a few days ago, he fought in the revolutionary wars of the 19th century so there was often a certain political charge in his work. He aligned himself with the Macchiaioli, a group of Tuscan painters who were determined to break away from the restrictions of the Italian academy and who understood that illusion is based not on detail and refinement but on colour, light and shade. As with the impressionists a few years later, they were ridiculed for showing work which looked more like sketches than finished painting. Although there is a lot of overlap with the impressionists, their goals were more politicised. Fattori's paintings were often either understated portraits or military scenes of soldiers at rest on the one hand, and large historical battle scenes on the other. The theme I will pick up here though is the peasant landscape. Again and again he painted animals resting, people trudging, haystacks and so on in a land of harsh sun and parching wind.  As he became more downbeat and dis-illusioned, so this work became ever harsher. Anyone who has read the Little World of Don Camillo will consider the landscape familiar. It is this world that dominates the little part of his printed output that I have seen.

 As he became more downbeat and dis-illusioned, so this work became ever harsher.

The early 20th century was a time of constant change in art and Fattori, who while never really having been in fashion had at one point perhaps been considered to be at the forefront of such change, was quickly left behind. He lived out his final years in a poverty at least equal to that of his subject matter.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Paul Nash: Three in the Night

The photo in my last post of the trees by the river after dark reminded me to show you a drawing by Paul Nash of three trees by moonlight. He drew these trees on more than one occasion so I have also put up a daylight version. He was an artist who saw the mystery and magic of the landscape and it comes through strongly in these pictures.

Ever since I spent a night doing prep work for the Runnymede memorial painting I'll be showing you shortly, I have been badgering away trying to work out my response to how the landscape in general and trees in particular change at night. This is Nash's.

I know exactly how I want my work to look but I haven't yet uncovered a medium which ticks every box. I've considered drawing and printing and photography and different types of painting and even papercraft and none of them tick every box. Frankly, its driving me up the wall! There is a very different sort of physicality, almost an anti-physicality, that I want the work to have. Nash's drawing reveals the other-worldliness of trees at night but in itself is worldly. I want the work itself to belong in the same, altered place as the trees. I want the infinitely deep colours of paint, the precision of drawing, the slick textureless-ness of photography and the "what the hell's that?" quality of printing or of subtle tricks made of paper.

When the moon is fuller and the skies are clear I'll spend another night on the mead and a night at Ankerwycke as that should be fascinating in the dark. That will give me enough raw material, but it still doesn't solve the more fundamental problem.

I think photography is the front-runner at the moment. There are concerns. The fundamental one is that deep down I view photos as informing my painting instead of being an end in their own right. Perhaps what I need to do is go through the process of drawing and painting and then go back out to take photographs informed by the paintings. I have a lot of thinking and doing to work through, but I am excited by what I'm holding in my head; I will find a way to let it out.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

The End of Spring

 I haven't had much wandering time lately but this week I've hit the mead again - an evening waist-deep in flowers and meandering home along the river bank, and a rainy afternoon in the woods. Over the last few months I have given you a taste of a Runnymede spring; this will be the last of these posts as we are now heading into summer. The official transition is still more than a week away, but I judge it by the elderflowers. They are now beginning to go crazy, so this year it is now more-or-less summer.

The grass in the meadow that is never grazed is now hip-height in places and even taller near the hedges. The colours change from part to part, with great swathes of white, red, yellow and green. In the meadow in the photo above, which is often grazed but hasn't been for perhaps two months, the grass is only knee high and the mix of flowers is still relatively springlike.

The riverbank is a truly special place in the twilight. Shapes that are familiar by day become strange and looming as you would expect as the light levels fall, but the effect is doubled by the reflections on the water which are perfect as the Thames has been relatively slow here lately and it becomes mirror-like when the boats stop.

From the woods, I have just a couple of curiosities for you as by and large I was seeking out raw material for some very particular images. The two things I wanted to show you are the largest nettle leaves I've seen in a long time (significantly larger than my hands - yet they look young enough to eat) and the picture below shows what has become of my beloved bluebells - strange green globes looking like paper lanterns. I think that's the next generation secured!

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Eleuterio Pagliano - il leone

The place I spent the most time in in London last week was the room in the British Museum which currently displays recent graphic acquisitions. Of this, the section which interested me most was the third given over to modern Italian printmaking. There are a few prints I particularly want to share with you but I seem very short of time at the moment so I'll just do the odd one here and there.

Today's is A Lion by Eleuterio Pagliano. Pagliano's dates are 1806 - 1903 and the print was made some time in the 1880s. An interesting thing about the artist was that he frequently volunteered to serve under Garibaldi in the various wars of independence and campaigns that led to the birth of modern Italy. This makes me wonder if the subject matter had a particular and personal meaning for him.

There seems to be very little information about this print. I have the notes from the display next to the print and a couple of paragraphs from the dealer who sold it. An edition was never made; this certainly appears to be a proof.

The key thing is that it represents a change in style for the artist; the vast majority of his work was in an academic or salon style. He started as a neo-classical painter before drifting towards Romanticism. His work appears to have been well done but dull. And in the midst of this context, this shaggy, mangy lion came ambling off the press.

The lion is far looser, economical and lively than much of his other work. You can almost feel the heat coming off his body, almost smell his stench. Such is the power of the print that when standing next to it that I wanted to swat away invisible flies.

It wasn't perhaps completely out of the blue; apparently his military service first drove the move from academia to romanticism and then urged him to move still further and, during the latter part of the century, his work became rawer.

This print is regarded as a an experiment. This I think is a shame. If he had pursued such experiments on a more regular basis perhaps he would be more remembered today.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

One day only!

Come and see me today at the Runnymede Art Society show at the Italian Concept restaurant at Egham, slap in the middle of Runnymede. We'll be there from about 10am until it gets too cold and dark. I'm only round the corner so if there are particular pieces you want to see I can fetch them. The postcode for your sat-nav or google maps is TW20 0AE. As of now, the weather forecast is sunny in the afternoon and sunny intervals for the rest of the day, with pleasant temperatures so if you want to make an afternoon of it we can point you in the direction of the various parts of Runnymede and the Thames. Eat at the restaurant or nearby café or bring a picnic. There is limited free parking along Yard Mead and a pay and display car park at the Runnymede Pleasure Grounds; the show is just a couple of minutes stroll from either.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Pip Seymour Oils

If you've recently been through a formal art education in the UK, Pip Seymour's work may be well known to you. He might even be a bit of a legend. He wrote one of several books that share the name of "The Artist's Handbook" which is a complete discourse on materials and techniques. Me? I was trained with reference to the Ray Smith equivalent so only know Pip's by reputation.

I first came across his products last time I was painting. I was in Atlantis and there were some reduced to clear glaze mediums and linseed oil and, frankly, it seemed rude not to given the price. They did everything they claimed quietly, efficiently and without fuss. So when on Thursday, as is my habit, I looked in the window of Cornelissen's on my way out of the British Museum I was intrigued to some tubes of paint bearing his name in a part of the display given over to professional paints like Michael Harding. I was even more intrigued when I saw what the colours were. Oxford Ochre? Hangman's Lodge Ironstone? What strange colours are these? The names suggested they might be English Earths.

On entering the shop I found a handful of colours, many of which had similarly evocative names. I read the labels, talked to the staff and bought a hand painted colour chart. After all, I have no frame of reference when it comes to colours with names like "Honister Green Slate (Pale)". They are indeed English Earth colours. They are from a range of paints known as "Early Oils". It turns out these are part of a larger - but still small - range of colours including many which have been dug by hand from specific named places before being ground and combined with oil. The range also contains some French earths and traditional colours. Many of these traditional colours aren't available elsewhere: for example I have never seen a genuine smalt in oils before.

But wait! the paint gets yet more intriguing. Many of the colours are left slightly gritty; even more so than the grittier Williamsburg paints. The shop staff showed me their colour chart, which had an explanation on the back. The colour given by the pigment changes according to how finely ground it is, and there a was a second colour chart on back showing just a few colours, each one mulled once, twice and thrice more than the production version to show how the paints lost their character as they became finer. Another fascinating thing is that Pip takes small batch production to an extreme. His website says that oil paints are made in batches of up to 1 litre at a time.

So we are left with textured colours, some delicate, some strong, many unique. There is a soft blue grey by the name of Lapis Lazuli Ash which I guess is self explanatory in every aspect except its beauty. The "normal" lapis is the most delicate I have ever seen. Hangman's Lodge Ironstone is like a very bright, semi-transarent yellow ochre. Plumpton Iron Ore is an a softer, more violet iron oxide. Oxford Mudstone is one of the colours of the Thames riverbank. The two Honister Green Slates are the colour of the English countryside in the rain, as is Woad.

Money prevents me from giving you any indication of what they are like in use, but next time I'm buying paint I will get that colour chart out again.

There is a colour chart of the wider range here. It seems the full range of Early Oils is only available at Cornelissens, but to confuse matters they don't appear to sell the more modern range.

The importance of presentation

As you know I've recently spent a serious chunk of money at my local, friendly garden-shed picture framer. This week I got to see the results.

Apologies for the picture quality but the frame was in my hands for less than 5 minutes as it was delivered to me at the submission point for tomorrow's show. Each of the linocuts are framed as above and then three of my Portrait of a February series are in a substantial moulding with a contrasting slip; these are not finished yet but I saw the first one for approval before he moved onto the others.

The transformation is remarkable. The walnut frames, as good frames should, have taken some flimsy, fragile leaves of paper and made them seem substantial. The other one took a painting that walked a line between raw and unfinished. I was always slightly un-easy about which side it belonged to and the frame removes any doubt about it; its rawness has faded leaving power, charisma and life shining through. As an added bonus the canvas feels so much bigger and more solid; it feels like its worth double.

As a finishing touch I have printed some cards with my contact information and details about the piece and pasted them on the back of each frame. I have done the same for some which he has mounted but left unframed.

John, the framer, mostly services two amateur groups of which his wife is a member. Framing is his hobby rather than his business. This has two implications. Firstly, his prices are very competitive. Secondly, almost all his clients want the cheapest mouldings possible. I gather he was really chuffed to be working with better quality materials which had been chosen for how well they suit the work rather than for how much they cost; I don't know whether that gave him extra motivation or not but he has done a cracking job. When your framer says he's keeping photos of the framed work then you know its turned out well.

Anyway the point is, my work when framed is so much more impressive that it will be easier to sell and should fetch a better price. There are places you can get away with compromise, but presentation isn't one of them.

PS To see my work and John's frames come along tomorrow to the RAS show at the Italian Concept restaurant at Egham, slap in the middle of Runnymede. We'll be there from 10am until it gets too cold and dark. I'm only round the corner so if there are particular pieces you want to see I can fetch them. The postcode for your sat-nav or google maps is TW20 0AE. As of now, the weather forecast is sunny in the afternoon and sunny intervals for the rest of the day, so if you want to make an afternoon of it we can point you in the direction of the various parts of Runnymede and the Thames. Eat at the restaurant or nearby café or bring a picnic.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Hot in the city

Another trip to London today, so as ever some first thoughts. When I've collected my thoughts and done a little digging I'll do something a bit more involved.

  1. Its darned hot today.
  2. It doesn't matter how hot it is, its not a good idea to walk up and down a high street wearing nothing but flip-flops and purple speedos, even if you are in one of the more "bohemian" parts of London.
  3. Actual art shops rock. The internet maybe cheaper, easier and better stocked but making art is a tactile process; once in a while you need to look and touch and smell while buying.
  4. I just found out that Pip Seymour, who has made oil mediums for a long time, is making paints as well now. I don't know how long this has been the case but there is something unique about them; so much so that I was willing to spend £10 on a colour chart... This needs some research before I write about it though.
  5. As ever, rooms 90 and 91 of the British Museum are fascinating. At the moment they have recent additions to the print, drawing and watercolour collections in one room, and Asian propaganda in the other.
That's all, I'm shattered. I've put in big miles in hot weather in proper London traffic on a bike in need of a service. I didn't get to look at much art because it was all about errands.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

It's the little things

I don't know about you, but the little things make me happy.

So do some of the bigger things...

Seriously, the goslings are almost the size of chickens already!

Apologies for the image quality, these were just grabbed with the phone

Monday, 3 June 2013

A visit to the dark side

I took another walk to Ankerwycke over the weekend, the National Trust land on the opposite bank of the river from Runnymede. I still can't either get over or articulate how different yet the same it is. Deeper, darker, danker. It is clammier. It smells different. It feels different underfoot. Unseen creatures are somehow louder, and there a few unfamiliar bird calls. The woods are denser and the meadows are smaller so they seem brighter. The mix of trees is different and there are ruined water channels everywhere. It seems ludicrous to be saying this in the 21st century, but Ankerwycke feels like a genuinely spiritual place in a way that Runnymede doesn't. Runnymede's magical, transformative powers come out to play at night but Ankerwycke's are there in broad daylight. As you can see from the pictures, its strangeness infects me.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Adventures in Linocut: Cooper's Hill Coppice

Ta-daa! The first two linocuts. They show the woods above Runnymede. Each is an edition of 12 with one artist's proof which I will be retaining. Each is 10cm x 15 cm and printed with a raw umber oil based ink on handmade mulberry tissue. They will be for sale either mounted or framed; I will decide on final pricing when I have seen them properly presented.

The one to the left is the first I did. It shows part of the bluebell glade in May and is a good illustration of the consequences of the particular combination of printing technique and paper I have chosen. The paper is very variable in thickness, texture and opacity and has the odd small inclusion (a little leaf or petal) and they were printed with an improvised baren (that is to say I placed the paper on the lino then applied pressure manually, one section at a time) so I have been able to vary the pressure in different areas. This gave me the opportunity to react to the particular sheet of paper in relation to the design and, by fitting the paper to the lino before I started ( thicker areas of paper over the the darkest areas of the trees, thinner parts where I wanted relative softness and so on) and then varying the pressure I applied. I have managed to get some areas very harsh and others softer, some very dark and others faded to try and enhance the effect of light dappling to the ground. I felt it important to point this out because it means that there are substantial variations between each print; although they share a design each of the 12 is effectively unique.

The one to the right shows a tree on the edge of the woods in April before it had been swamped in leaves. It is far harsher, bleaker and more wind-swept, just like this April was! I have used the same techniques to play with the tones but restricted the variation to the bottom right corner and the bulkiest parts of the tree trunks.

Provide the framing is done these will make their debut at the art society's Spring show next Sunday at the Italian Concept restaurant in Egham from 10-ish am onwards.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Back in the saddle

Well I finally did what I needed to; three complete days off, not even thinking about making pictures or about this place. I'll admit there was a little badgering away at some of this next batch of compositions and I did finally get round to sorting out some business cards but that aside I have been completely switched off. Its nice but so is immersing myself in art.

Anyway, I'm diving back in again today. I've stretched one canvas this morning and am now letting my fingertips recover before doing a second (I don't use pliers) in about two coffees time. While the size is drying then I think I'll go wandering and then get the primer out later. That means the paints come out to play again tomorrow. They'll be the next two in the skylines series, these two will show the American Bar Association memorial at night and the Runnymede hotel at dusk respectively; I'm doing them together because the palettes will be so similar. As you might gather from that the break I've had from the project whilst doing lino has given me a chance to re-evaluate the series and it has grown... the paintings won't just show different parts of the skyline in different weathers but also at different times of day and different stages of spring. The last paintings I showed here really brought it home to me that time is starting to muscle in on my paintings; I'm going to embrace it and see what happens.

Before I took my three days off, I finished the edition of my second linocut. Again there is an evolution as different parts of my practice inform each other. They are both small 10x15 cm in an edition of 12 + 1 proof and I'll get them photographed properly in-between coats of primer later. If the framer gets them done in time they will be on display at the local art society's outdoor show on Sunday 9 June at the Italian Concept Restaurant in Egham which, fittingly enough, overlooks Runnymede.