Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Painting Provence - A view to Avignon

When I was little 'Painting Provence' was pretty much a life goal.  I was (and still am) a big fan of Cezanne and was in love with the idea of artists painting in the warmth and beauty of the South of France; it was just about the most desirable and romantic thing I could think of.  I suppose I'm a little bit more realistic about the desire and romance these days but I still hold the area, and all it evokes artistically for me, high on a pedestal.  I think this is what makes me feel so much for this painting, and the fact that I am actually happy with it... that takes a lot in my book!!! 

It has captured a moment for me, sat in this very tranquil garden absorbing the view towards Avignon from the Abbaye Saint Andre.  I am happy with the palette that I developed; trying to include the layers of green countryside interspersed with the pale sandiness of small villages and buildings, with those fantastically strong green Cypress trees, marked out against the range of greens around them.  I'm happy with the forms and contrasts within the landscape leading up to the wide expanse of blue sky and whispy cloud textures; the air cleared by the previous day's mistral.  The original premise of this work was abstract, I wanted to capture a moment that had resonated with me and I wanted to keep the painting process very relaxed with no definite outcome.   I had, however, been dreaming about this view to the city of Avignon and it would seem that this is the view and the moment that was meant to appear...  This is a place I would like to return to.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Quick Post Holiday Post.... Avignon

Seven years ago, my partner and our Mums had a weeks holiday (sounds insane right there I know but it works) in the city of Avignon.  Home to Palais de Pape, Pont St Benezet and some amazing food and wine (region famous for Rose wines... beautiful).  When the opportunity came up this year for a return visit of course we couldn't refuse...!  This time we would have our 3 year old little boy with us and unfortunately my Mum wasn't available to come with so we knew it was going to be different, i.e. swap a couple of tourist attractions for play parks and the luxurious self catering apartment for a campsite you get the idea but of course it was still a totally wonderful week.  

So of course we visited the Palais de Pape, this vast and imposing palace and fort, the papal residence in the 14th century and we visited the bridge and danced on the end singing ''Sur le Pont d'Avignon'' and we went on the tourist train, (literally a car dressed as a train with carriages for tourists) which all of us enjoyed, not just my little boy.   But we also got to know the city in a whole new light this time; and now I not only have the major tourist attractions in my mind, but a knowledge and feel for the older parts of the city; the cobbled streets made up of stones from the bed of the River Rhone and the location of art galleries and studios that we took such delight in discovering.  We visited play parks for Max and stopped for coffees and ice creams, we ambled around with a vague idea of direction but no sense of urgency.  We found the living city that wasn't just about tourists and Popes (although I thoroughly recommend reading more about this fascinating time in European history) and I would seriously consider a return visit to find out more, although maybe next time with better French!

I've sprinkled a couple of images below that for me sum up the holiday, and glancing through my holiday photos there are already a few more standing out as inspiration for some painting ideas.  Provence, or at least this part of it that we have explored, holds some key delights for me as an artist. Verdant green trees with strong forms, huge vistas sometimes backed with the looming lines of mountain ranges, clear air and warm and wonderful stone in the architecture (terracotta rooftiles!) again with interesting forms, geometric yet soft, set into overwhelmingly large landscapes.  I have been doodling and drawing these components since I was little, majorly influenced by a couple of holidays in Spain surrounded by mountains and hilltop villas and villages.

So now my painting is a more frequent part of my life, it will be interesting to see how this informs my work, I have already started a painting... just to play... just to express... just to produce... oh my goodness it was good to get the paint out :-)  

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

The 'Big Picture'

What a busy month this has been! Sometimes you just don't realise how much you've been doing until you sit back and take stock for a moment.  I've kind of resolved my winter season paintings (for now) and started looking towards upcoming events and preparations that I need to make.  I need to order some hardware and do some finishing touches tidying up edges but my biggest task will be curating what work goes where. I have quite a lot of paintings that I am interested to see out of the studio but also quite a variety of themes... one theme per show so there is a definitive identity to the work or mix it up so I show the different areas I work in...? We shall see!

Just to point out, there are actual shadows on this painting, it isn't a clever effect, I just loved how the morning sun was making the colours sing.

So almost to illustrate this point(!) the piece of work I want to show in today's post and the main painting I have been working on lately is this... it's a little bit different to my seasonal work of the last few months!  It's been a lovely personal meandering born from this sketch.  I just wanted to be purely selfish,  I wasn't necessarily setting out to convey a message or a discovery but I was exploring being in the moment. My moment. Just spending time on ideas that popped into my mind and enjoying the paint.  While it has evolved I have thought about storytelling and dreams and the parts of my world that are important, and opinions and people and the environment.  The painting has made me retrospective about my mental health, about the interconnectedness of things and the importance of colour.  Well, frankly on the one hand that seems like a bit of an odyssey but on the other I think that could be what any artist's mind is perusing at any time!   At the moment this is still a work in progress, there is fine tuning to do and there is more enjoyment to be had and I plan to write here again about some of the details in the painting but I feel it is winding down to a close.   I'm hoping it will come to a lovely finish in time to be released from my little studio space for some of the upcoming events this year... As I said, we shall see!

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Winter Collection - Paintings on Canvas

Good morning April!  It is a freezing cold start to the day, ice on the car and everything, but, it is a stunner.   The sun is bright, the air is clear and the sky (at the moment) is blue.  I feel that although we have breached April, the temperature gauge will allow me to post these last two paintings that I consider as part of my winter collection.  They are both on canvas and they are the paintings that I have been working on the longest in the last few months, and have been the main source of activity while the pictures from my previous few posts have surfaced.

They have both been inspired by winter days, that kind of mid-light that you get early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the sun is going down.  The temperature is crisp, the sun is bright, the colours are vivid.   The landscape is bare and much is sleeping but the core of our countryside is strong and powerful and deep down still working as the seasons move around.  I feel like I have captured the light and colours that I have been witnessing this year.  

Every painting is a step towards better understanding my eye and my practise.  With these two I have worked with oils and acrylic (respectively) there is also elements of ink and pencil to include the wonderful bone structures of the trees, often reaching through the mist or silhouetted in the night.  The first painting is calm and serene based on some photographs and sketches I took on the cross country route that I take down to the coast.  The second is a more expressive take on the stormier nights, with water and wind and movement.  I'm not sure that the first painting is really finished so the story will probably continue when winter returns and perhaps that is apt to follow the seasonal cycle.

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

A moment of clarity.

Sometimes we really need a little encouragement, it can be difficult to provide this for ourselves and so a nudge from others is often helpful. I hope this image does that for at least just one other person.  I wrote the paragraph below the image after a mindful and contented weekend.

Self assurance in a fleeting glimpse.

I am happy when we are calm and content, us three in our house, our home, our comfort zone.  We are family, we are friends.
I realise in a moment of clarity what a wonderful home we have. We are lucky to look out and see trees.
We have beauty and the rough, luxury and frugality, history and new ground.
In this moment I have clarity.  I can see and feel more clearly than usual and the misty veil that is usually present has cleared.
I look at my work and know myself.  I like it.  I may even know what paths I want to follow.  I know what is good.  I anticipate what can be achieved and I recognise that I am that person I want to be, always wanted to be, that which with a misty veil always seems out of reach.

The photograph I've used here is on my route to the coast.  I live on the borders of Somerset and Dorset and am lucky enough to be able to drive over the hills and through fields looking at beautiful views and be by the sea within an hour.  With an early start and a clear sky this is what a morning in January looked like.  The picture and the paragraphs above are actually from two different posts on my #instagram account but go rather well here together while I finish just a few more posts on winter. ❄

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Abstract sketches of Winter

In my first post about this collection, I mentioned a 'freedom to express through mark making'.  Some of my work can get quite tight the more I work on it and so I'm keen to get in the habit of exploring freedom of movement and expression and acting more instinctively.  I was working on a larger canvas where I was treading quite carefully around an idea and working one stage at a time but I also felt in the mood to create something where I wasn't going to be too precious with the paint or the outcome and just see what happened. And so these two little pieces evolved next to me. A bit like those in my first post.  I think I may have a thing about working in pairs... 

Similarly to the watercolour images in the last post the subject here is around the spindly tree silhouettes that I find so beautiful and iconic at this time of year.  I marked out some skeletal lines in pencil that I could leave open as well as paint over, and then let the paint have a more organic movement around them.   Then, addressing the colours I have chosen, I hoped to capture the hardness of the winter that I was seeing and that bitingly cold but ultimately refreshing and uplifting feel that I felt from stepping out into the countryside in the last few months.

Friday, 15 March 2019

Watercolour in the Winter Collection

Stripped back, Clear, Bare, Sky, Starlight, Spiky,
Glass, Darkness, Moonlight, Cold, Ice, Jack Frost, Spindly, Holly,
Firelight, Blankets, Log fires,
Night, Storytelling, Silhouettes, Crystal Blue, Crisp,
Night skies with clouds that are highlighted by the full moon,
Dark, Snow, Sparse, White, Empty, Mist, Frozen, Fresh,
Sharp, Wistful, Wandering.

I like to brainstorm words in my sketchbook and so I salvaged these from last year as I wanted to record them here in my posts about my winter works.  I think they go well alongside these two little pieces below.  I emerged from sleep one morning, dreaming of a smudgy, misty painting, using some of the colours that had been repeatedly showing up in my recent landscape photographs.  From the smoky, softly blended paint, I imagined the delicate and spindly bare branches of trees that we see all over our countryside at this time of year.  The most immediate thing I could do to record the idea was get out my faithful watercolour set, and in fact these two little compositions have captured my waking thoughts perfectly.  

Watercolours are actually surprisingly versatile (in my humble opinion). I love to have them on hand when I'm out and about and certainly for working in my sketchbook.  I'm getting a bit more practiced with them and although I don't think I'm using them academically, I am very happy with my outcomes.  Also there is the added aspect that this set was my Grandfather's and it's a bit like having him on hand to see my ideas and observations, maybe a bit soppy but its true :-)

Mixed Media on Paper Approx. 12cm x 14cm