Order in Chaos

The studio is a mess, without the focus of weekly classes, it piles up untidied. Lock down time has no perimeters, no deadlines or dates to brace and girdle. Weekdays, weekends, all days merging.

January 1st 2021

It seems that last year managed to pass like a rudderless boat. A year which had no direction was becalmed by uncertainty.

Now – with the new year 2021, I am putting structure into my days that assumes that uncertainty, closures and cancellations will continue. Instead of bobbing aimlessly on this ocean of time, I will use the space it gives me more positively.

January 2nd and 3rd 2021

I am making sketch books from my stash of card, paper and scraps. Painting the view from my studio window, and progressing ‘Locked In Friendship’. (series of monoprints depicting friends, family and colleagues.)

It’s a start. And a continuation…

‘Birds and Leaves’. (Beg Borrow Steal) Concertina book made from one sheet of paper.

Each day, with different light, the trees demand different composition. Once started the conundrum takes over, it is an ever changing puzzle of colours, tones and shapes.

A Tale Of Unexpected…

There is – what I refer to as the glory hole, it is the place where I stash stuff. (You know what I mean, those tings, might be useful,.. Someday.) It is a big space, the size of a horses stable and stuff has been stashed there for many years. Enough years for it to be a few years since I realised it was so crammed, that I couldn’t get into it to retrieve anything useful.

So on a sunny day in November, the beggining of another lock down, booted and gloved and masked (it being very dusty, bird pooed and home to spiders). I set too. With courage and the intention to burn anything flammable or tip anything dumpable and thereby to make the space accessible.

In the course of the day I looked over drawings and paintings – some to save but many to destroy. Equipment that could still be useful, a wooden rug weaving gismo, a trestle table, picture frames and many rolls of paper. Boxes full of bubble wrap – (How I dislike that ‘stuff’.)

I found a small screen printing bed which Fiona Chance (fine printmaker and all round talented creative), gave me at least 15 years ago. It has been sad and unused all that time. I toyed with putting it on the fire pile, but instead, without any real conviction I put it in the studio to clean.

Forward two weeks – I had a call from friends in London. Excitedly talking of an idea they had to give a print as a present to key members of their workforce. This Team that has been challenged beyond imagining to adapt, re-invent, create working solutions to keep their business ‘Wallaespace’ afloat. The theme of the commission to be ‘Python’. (The uk government have ‘Cobra’)

Pythons are not a subject that I have ever even pondered. I am not drawn to or interested in reptiles and I have certain never considered that I would accept a commission relating to a snake. But I stirred by Roy and Renata’s enthusiasm and found myself considering the brief. Firstly in a pragmatic way. How could I create 15 or so images, using the same technigues, so that each one was original, of the same quality, but not nessesarilly totally unique. It had to be a production line of sorts to fulfil the brief in a relatively tight time frame. (Christmas oh blighted Christmas)

Three Colour monoprint.
Another monotype with wash off technigues and ‘gold finger’ resist
Watercolour, wet in wet.

I sent these suggestion off on Saturday, three days after the initial discussion. Sort of at my wits end. Thinking I had tried all the technigues that I could confidently repeat. But really I wasn’t happy with any of them and nor were the commissioners. I don’t know why I even sent the images, except maybe I needed to be told I was on the wrong track.

My mind continued filtering ideas as I went to bed, like index cards popping up – what about this, reject, what about that. I woke in the night with the wooden screen printing bed in my thaughts and a new drawing, stencils, two colours. In the morning first ting, I cleaned the dust and cobwebs off the screen.

Python drawing. To use for stencil registration
Stencil 1.
Collage addition.
With orange – (Trust me, I can do this) . Image sent on Sunday Pm…

And – They liked it. It was a leap of faith and I was excited by the image potential now.

Controlled chaos and happy accident came to play. Not surprisingly as I am completely inexperienced with the art and craft of printmaking – I cut the stencil using a robust thick cartridge paper – it was too thick. So I had to use a load of ink to squegie through its depth. Then with such a thickness of ink I was concerned about how long it would take to dry, so I placed another piece of paper (Tonking) exactly over the first and got a reversed image (monoprint). The process effectively halved the ink load and also squished the ink, softening the rather sharp stencil formed edges. Delightful.

After the second stencil of orange. Which then also had to be monoprinted onto a reverse image by lining up the papers as a basic registration. Each one was then resolved individually.

Counter change is a key ingredient in my work and it was an important feature in resolving each piece. Reversal of tones, light against dark and dark against light. Positive and negative. It didn’t matter to me by then if it was a python or a woodland full of trees.

It was a trail of painting pleasure and creative solution in the depth of covid gloom. This the stuff of life.

Dip into the past.

Egg tempera – the words are heard and evoke past times for painters. In the BP portrait show this year there are at least two works with media – Tempera.

Over the years I have given my classes very few occasions to try this media. But this week, responding to a couple of people visiting the BP portrait show in Aberdeen art gallery and seeing the term Tempera as media for the paintings, we responded by making and working with our own egg tempera.

Socially distanced paint mixing.

We drew roses.

We drew roses and then mixed the pigments, (lemon yellow, crimson, scarlet, cadmium yellow and ultramarine blue) with distilled water and egg yoke. Using super fresh eggs laid by my chicken the previous day.

The tempera media is like painting with velvet. It is an effort to make, but is so forgiving to work with. Whether thinned with water or full intensity you can create smooth areas of paint. It covers rough or hot pressed surfaces and it is colour fast. It paints a matt, opaque colour, covers the surface well and can be layered – light over dark or dark over light. It is delightfully versatile… But mix it and then use it.. The downside of the medium is that it does not keep. So concequently it has gone out of favour and we have sold our souls to convenience. Paint makers have created more convenient paints. Acrylic paint was produced to solve all the problems of oil, and tempera paints. All that troublesome mixing and use of solvents, turpentine, cleaners and long time drying (oil paint), short shelf life with tempera.

Now most people paint with plastic c..p. For convenience. Quick drying, mixes with water and is oh so easy. And in my opinion, totally unsatisfactory. ACRYLIC. Of course some people make fine works with it…

Look up Lorna Crawford art on Instagram. She has posted a lovely piece of tempera painting.

Continuity…

Just over thirty years ago on 4th July we, (the Duley family), piled ourselves into our VW campervan and boarded the ferry from Stavanger, Norway back to the UK, landing at Newcastle. We had lived in that lovely country for over four years and were going home to Woking in Surrey.

We lived near Randaberg and my daughter Ellie was born in Rogaland Sykehuset and I had painted a lot of watercolours. Mostly landscapes, notable towers and landmarks, scenes of the old town, Gamle Stavanger and some of the new landmarks such as The three swords, Ullandhaug, and oil rigs – during the day and lit up like Christmas trees at night. There was a rusting old boat in Tasta harbour that was a real gem. I really learnt a lot about painting with watercolour.

By way of commissions, I did farewell gifts – the view from a persons window. They were often spectacular. I created paintings of scenes that were turned into greetings and Christmas cards. And Linda Jackson asked me to do a portrait of her newborn baby boy. As seen above. Looking at it again now, it is like another person did it. But I can admire it and am pleased it is my work.

I created the ink and wash likeness from a photo and packed it up to take on the train to St Andrews where I was going to stay with Stephanie Wright (her parents lived there) – my closest friend – she still lived in Stavanger and would take the portrait back with her. Unfortunetly in a flurry of children and baggage, excitement at meeting up with Stef and all, I left the picture on the train and it was never seen by me again.

So I did another. Which I sent by post. It was well recieved and I then was asked to do a pencil sketch of Linda’s father as well.

All this so long ago. Maybe would have been more likely forgotten – had it not been for the train travel tale and the lost work.

Two weeks ago I recieved an email, out of the blue, from Linda. Would I consider doing a portrait of her new grandson, Dylan, newborn to the wife of the wee toot I had drawn all those years ago. It was such a lovely request I could not refuse even though I really prefer not to do commissions any more. (They can be so tricky… ) But this turned out to be an uncommon and most gratifying task. It has been now created, sent, recieved and glad to say, has given satisfaction. Relief and pleasure for me.

Dylan.

Small Start – but safe.

The white fuscia

After seven months the studio is open for classes again.  Don’t get over excited –  there are only two people attending at a time, but it’s so valuable to me. The stimulation to deliver an idea to others, to stimulate their interest and hopefully inspire.  I could not find motivation to use online platforms – but being back in the studio with others is a much a needed invigoration.

Red and white.

The lesson was based around two fuchsia plants I have, still flowering magnificently in the garden.  Which watercolour techniques and methods would be appropriate to illustrate the contrasting tones and the challenge of creating white, on a coloured ground?

Compositional sketch.

After doing detailed tonal sketches of the flowers, we did some loose composition drawings.

Colour Study.

We coloured our paper with washes – sort of randomly placed wet in wet, using colours that related to the subject.  (we did discuss which colours would enhance or compliment each other and those that would present. problems.)

Autumn Garden.

The last two attendees added  vitality to the mix. Drawing new compositions and painting with confidence.

Ignore the shadows…

Lyrical light touch – dancing flowers and stems over a colour filled stage.

A nicely open ended start.

My own work became rather a tight bundle of knitting, but showed different water colour technique and method along the way.

Autumn heralding winter.

Timing is…

The cottage above morecombe was booked long before corvid bore down on our lives. Then and even through the lock down period, we did not fear that we would have to cancel. The end of September, surely things will be better by then.

And they were – in August. But, as the time to pack and drive approached, the second wave was gathering momentum. So I decided to take the van, a slower drive, but with space and ameanaties – we could more easily be self sufficient and isolated from others.

No burgers, just good coffee.

There are many pleasures when sketching and painting with friends. Sharing time and enthusiasm and exploring the varied layers of landscape in a different place. All of us seeing it differently and interpreting it with our own eyes.

Given the circumstances of gloomy news and growing concerns, along with increasing restrictions, we are most fortune to be in such a remote location.

Morecombe Bay

The van provided shelter to sketch in colder weather, but we have had good days out and about.

The Knott.

Last day today. So reflecting on the shape of the week. Time is needed to mature any ideas and I personally am not sure when or even if anything more will come from the sketches I have done here. Time spent with like minded friends is the best of time. We are most fortunate to have tucked this precious time away within this world changing period of time.

Day 3.

It has been unsurprisingly quiet, but a few brave souls have ventured out.

A careful, tidy studio.

I have managed to research and create a couple of images. Time is valuable, never wasted, though sometimes difficult to focus if you are ‘waiting’ for someone, any one, to arrive.

Swim.

I came across an image of a ‘Wild” swimmer, (while preparing to light the fire) and combined it with some Gelli plate messing, (the background). We don’t always know from where inspiration will strike!

Xianzi #metoo China

And – While tidying the studio I found a two year old colour supliment dedicated to women who had – Made A Difference. I was fearful to Google them in order to see where they stood two years later – (task ongoing) . Our sound bite world had highlighted for me their achievements in 2018… But maybe were less rigorous about any follow up stories .

On The Beach.

Closer to home. This image is of my sister in law and friend, Jo. Taken when we swam off the shingle shore near Bognor, the day before her fathers cremation.

My pleasure has been in finding, that although I thought I had the measure of this mode of image making, i have actually found myself slipped into an unexpected other gear. Much more potential and unexplored possibilities – its like digging the ground for a root of potatoes. Pure pleasure.

NORTH East Open Studios – 2020

It feels like the first time, the terrain is so uncertain. I have been here so many times before but never with the cloud of covid hanging over all.

I have put in a one way system to keep distance and to be able to sanitise after people have wondered through. A lot of the work has been exhibited before but this event is an opportunity to refresh, review and remove.

I will get on with some work and maybe some folk will want to come, and share some time with me.

Front to Back

Neos Time Approaches

As I sweep the floor, mend the walls, clean, put filler in the pin holes, paint, repaint, reduce, edit, assess: I think about years past. The years with Gabi and Phil and the many others who have shared the spaces. The first year was bathed in sunshine while we twiddled thumbs. There was a year of ripe plumbs and red admiral buttereflies, more years of plumbs and apples falling. The year of 2000 visitors (my dad keeping record), and a better year with an audience totaling 79. (It’s not about the numbers.)

And this year. Already exceptional – face masks, disinfectant spray and hand gell.

White.

I have work planned. Visitors can join in. Monoprint, draw or paint, The time is valuable to share or to get on and work alone. It’s time allocated for Open Studios.

Work table…

I have chased the mess from the back door to the front, in the same direction as the one way route I have devised for any visitor. The flow is heralded by broom, mop and hoover.

And paintbrush.

I like this time. For what ever follows, the studio is primed and ready.

Paintings Delivered.

Today, I drove the picturesque roads from Kemnay to Ballater. Delivering paintings to Larks Gallery. In these unprecedented times, to have a deadline for delivery of work is a much needed focus. This year seems to be passing in a blur of destructure, the parameters that help stabilise my (our) days have been severed. So I am grateful for those people who have tried to keep doors open and have worked to continue to present creative work to a smaller audience.

Plover

Framed at short notice by the ever patient Leslie Mckensie. (Frameworks, Clinterty).

Ghost Arum
Bursting With Colour

The works looked more splended than I had hoped.

It’s such mixture of emotions for me delivering work. I want people to see them and maybe appreciate them enough to purchase. But there is also the fear they will be passed by or

rejected.

It’s done. They are there now. No more for me to do but pick them up again in months time .