Well, today was meant to be a studio day. But you know how it is, at 8.30 this morning I thought I would just check my emails before getting started, the next thing it’s nearly lunchtime and I haven’t managed to pick up a paint brush. However this afternoon I got myself focussed and did a small acrylic painting of a pussy willow from along the canal towpath near where I live.
Following some pretty wet weather the bluebells are out at Linacre. This time of year is one of my favourites for the stunning beauty of the beech woods and the carpet of bluebells that seem to hover a few inches above the earth, below glorious bright green canopy of the trees.
Each year, as soon as we reach the middle of April I start looking out for those telltale spots of blue that give hints of the glory yet to come. This year has been no different. The wild garlic is showing with those wonderful white stars, the anemones with their delicate petals and leaves and the bluebells with a heady scent that fills the air on a warm day. My inspiration for painting is from moments of peacefulness and connection, bluebells are a favourite of mine, something I love to paint and I never fail to be stirred by them.
I’ve completed a few paintings of bluebell woods, using various techniques. Its been fun experimenting, finding different ways of expressing the experience and communicating what I see.
This is an early painting. I was interested in contrast between the dark in the foreground under the trees and the light in distance between the trees and the remains of last year’s leaves still on the ground, the orange complementing the blue of the flowers.
Experimenting with a palette knife, enjoying the texture of the paint and building up the paint layering it on thickly.
And my most recent work this year, acrylic on board.
What an amazing place, of contrasts, drama, inspiration, frustration, people and of course heat and rum.
We had 10 days and travelled from Havana, to Trinidad on the coast and then back across the island to Vinales in the north, a place of absolute stunning natural beauty. I have written before in this blog about how my inspiration for painting comes mainly from the landscape, in Cuba I found myself wanting to paint buildings and people as well as landscapes. I think it’s impossible to experience the place without having a connection to these things. The mixture of crumbling, elegant facades with the newly renovated. The old cars. The people who are warm, friendly and welcoming. These things are so very much a part of what the island is about, along with the politics. This was our second visit, we were there about 6 years ago, and things have changed. There is yet more renovation and a different energy, a positive, vibrant buzz about the place.
So will I paint Cuba? Well so far, I’ve mostly been painting scenes where I feel a deep connection, or a sense of peace and they have been places from here in the UK. I have felt that peace on my travels, but what I hadn’t quite realised until I went so far afield is the very deep connection to the land in I feel here at home in the UK. So although
I had my sketch books with me, and in between walking and sight seeing found some time to sit and do some painting, in some ways they feel like my holiday scrapbook. Here’s a selection and whether in the end I use this material for a new collection I don’t know. But Cuba was inspiring, stimulating and incredibly interesting, perhaps not that peaceful but maybe this will take me in a different direction.
The interior of our hotel in Havana. Lovely balcony open to the sky, filled with plants and a great place to sit and sip a cocktail after a long day seeing the sights.
A couple of sketches from the beach near Trinidad. The Old Pier (l) and a hammock slung in the shade of the trees.
Distant mountains and boats on the shore. And a couple of much needed shady umbrellas for sitting under watching the world go by.
Below, two sketches from Vinales, possibly the best view in Cuba. Stunning.
I’ve been invited to donate a painting to this exhibition and auction this year. Made my decision today, as the show will be in Sheffield it seemed appropriate to choose a local landscape scene. I settled on Trees on the Horizon. An acrylic on box canvass painted using a knife. I have used strong colours to represent the shifting tones and hues in the way the grass and hills stretched in front of me to the trees on the horizon. And here it is.
I’m really excited as I’m showing my paintings and having an official launch this weekend at my studio, on Friday 27th and Saturday 28th January. My Blue of the Scillies collection will be on show, paintings from Seasons Ending, a new series of paintings exploring autumn colour and texture and other work in oil and acrylic.
I decided that this would be the year I would give some time to devoping as an artist and see if I could sell my work commercially. So, I’ve a number of events going on this year, beginning with an Open Studio. It’s at my home which is where I paint, although my studio is actually upstairs, I’m going to show my paintings in my downstairs study. To support and encourage people I decided to have a sale at the same time – who can resist a bargain after all, so some work is reduced by up to 50% and I will also have some new cards and prints as well as over forty pieces of my original artwork.
Even if you don’t think you want to buy a painting, I’m hoping people will come along to see what I do and have a chat about my work and plans for this year.
I had a really interesting conversation recently with a couple of people, both artists, about the impact on an artist of taking a commercial stance to their work. The question of whether to sell or not, and what happens to artistic integrity if we begin to take a commercial approach to our work.
I have a background in marketing and as well as being a part time artist I am a psychotherapist and this dilemma reminds me of similar one when I first began to market myself as a therapist in private practice. How to maintain my integrity as a therapist and be effective in selling and marketing what I do. The basic principles of marketing are about finding out what your customers or clients want and then providing it. But I think this becomes a difficult proposition when it comes to something as deeply personal as art, which for me is about a creative expression of my experience of an aspect of the world.
As a therapist I resolved this dilemma by deciding what was most important was, that I was true to myself and what I thought about therapy, regardless of any need to “sell” myself. So, for me, the role of marketing in therapy was to find a way to be as transparent as possible. I use a website, Twitter, Facebook and I blog, these are the marketing tools I use to let people know about my approach and who I am, so that they can decide if they wanted to meet me and possibly work with me.
So, how does this relate to being an artist? I think it is possible to retain our integrity and be commercial in our approach as well. I think the commercialism is about what we do with the work once we have created it. What then becomes very important is knowing about our potential markets – the people who may be interested in what we have to say creatively and making effective use of the various means that are available to communicate what we do to those people who may be interested.
What do you think? I’d be interested in hearing experiences of the impact of how selling your work has impacted on you.
Winter skies fascinate me. There seems to be so much more going on in terms of light, energy, cloud formation, colour. So much to explore. The intensity of a blue summer sky with a bright, bright sun is lovely and I also find something very compelling about a winter sky. At the moment I am spending considerable amounts of time gazing up and noticing the impact it’s having on me, and I’m reminded of EM Forster’s descriptions of the sky in a Passage to India “the overarching sky” and the question of what is beyond the sky and what beyond that?
So, winter skies are in the ideas bank and I will include some paintings in my Seasons Ending collection, focusing on moody colours, dramatic clouds and the land in silhouette. I think the fascination for me is because I am very interested in open spaces and the sky, in some ways, is one of the biggest open spaces there is.
I’ve just uploaded a new painting to my website. I’ve been working on this for a few months off and on. It’s inspired by a walk I took earlier this year at Withernsea on the Yorkshire coast. It was a thoroughly breezy day, yet with a clear sky, the sun still felt warm enough to be on the beach. Not long after I came back I did a small 20×20 painting in acrylic that I was never that pleased with.
More recently I went back to the photograph and thought I would try a different approach using a palette knife to get more movement and drama into the painting. It felt like a dramatic day with a stiff breeze, a very low tide leaving the beach exposed with huge swathes of water lying on the sand reflecting the light of a beautiful cerulean sky. Although closer to capturing the feeling of the day, I wasn’t that happy with this version either, it was too broken up, not enough integration between areas and colour. So it sat on the wall for another few weeks while I occasionally gazed at it and wondered what might come next.
What came next was oil paint – I was looking at it one day and thought “I wonder what would happen if…….”
I love those moments with a painting – clearly something had been going on in my unconscious. I’m finding it increasingly important to have the patience to wait and see. To live with a bit of uncertainty not knowing where to go next, yet be willing to see what will emerge. What does emerge is often surprising and in this case a different result to what I would have got if I hadn’t been willing to wait.
I’ve been working on a series of paintings called Blue of the Scillies, based on a couple of trips to the Isles of Scillies one in spring 2010 and again this year at the end of the summer. What a truly lovely place. Peaceful, quiet, unspoilt all the tourist information is right. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, walking the islands, St Mary’s, Tresco, St Martins and St Agnes.
I took my sketch book with me, completed a few sketches and took lots of photographs to work from in my studio when I got home. Sketching in situe I begin to get more of a feel for a place, a sense of how the landscape works which makes it easier when working from photographs later. And I like it, finding a quiet spot, sitting down and making a sketch, sometimes just in pencil, sometimes pen and watercolour.
I like to paint scenes where I have made a connection, where there is something about the the light or the energy which touches me in some way. I’m someone who is deeply interested in our relationship and connection to nature. I know I feel most peaceful when I am looking at a beautiful view, whether its calm quiet scene or something wilder and more dramatic and I paint those places where I have made such a connection.
A late evening sketch at Old Town, it was a chilly evening and I was thinking of dinner and a glass of wine! Its a lovely spot with the tide out, the bay is often full of boats and on a warm day people shrimping. Not this evening though.
I was trying out some new water soluable pencils with pen and ink – quite liked the effect and easy to use.
Another sketch in pen and water soluable pencils. This time at Innisgden, which feels slightly mysterious to me. The Iron Age burial mounds looking out over the sea. I sat and felt a sense of history.
And here is the painting – oil on box canvass.
Some of the other pencil sketches from my walks around the islands. The hottest day at Bar Point I had the beach to myself and when I reached Porthloo, I sat on a bench, with a quiet mind, tired feet and enjoyed the view.