A pleine aire

The warmer weather returns to co-inside with completing (still ongoing actually – but completed in the sence that it is resolved), a work trail in the studio. So I have time to go out and play.

On Sunday it was warm enough to sit out painting for over an hour. Until the rain I had indicated in the threatening sky came down on me

Drawing, sketching, painting outside is like I imagine the best form of meditation to be. All other thoughts are vanquished. I am at one with view in front of me and everything else in my head gets put into perspective .

Creating Chaos

The process I am describing is of Making a mess and then tidying up. Different ways of working are interesting to observe, thats why we like seeing artists studios in the raw – not all tidied up as they are during open weeks. (I might not bother to tidy this year if it happens! ) – what I do and how I do it may not be appropriate for other people. But maybe affirming for some.

I try to start with a clear space and the things I think might be useful close at hand. But once I get going it becomes a mess that I try to navigate through without loosing the thread.

Tidied after 5 weeks of messing.

I remember seeing Frances Bacons studio and was horrified. (it was a long time ago). That he could paint such fine orderly paintings (because they are not in any way haphazard), in such a confined mess. But he had a straight pathway through the piles of rubbish on either side, (mostly empty paint tubes), to the canvas. A clear view through the chaos.

That is the relevance for me, that I can keep sight of the possibility of the image. Or images. Confidence while creating and to retain that confidence still, even when looking at it in a tidy world.

The images are being stretched face down to flatten out bulges and crinkles.

Cut the flattered paper carefully away from the tape.

I Do, I Undo, I Redo. Louise Bourgeois made three monumental towers that represented the title. They were the first exhibit in the Tate Modern turbine hall when it opened. What I understand of that title has become my mantra. And I will be undoing and redoing this work again. And maybe again still.

Isolation learning…

A rare opportunity to learn something new presented itself to me today.

17th century barn purshaced as a flat pack.


This barn is being reconstructed by my future son in law. As part of the reconstruction process he needs in the region 800 hand made wooden pegs.

Richard showed me the process.

Personalised peg making stool.

He has made a stool with specialised foot clamp – which holds the wooden pegs firmly in place as they are stripped to shape with a draw knife. I learnt how to split strips of wood off a log and then trim them into one inch square sticks about 12 inches long. Like making kindling.

It was dark in the barn. But that’s the log I split slices off to make the pegs.
It is similsr to a ‘donkey’ drawing stool

I took about two hours to make 15 pegs. I was improving but was completely worn out. It was a most satisfying achievement, to make useful pegs that will be part of the barn structure for years to come …

Happy artisan.

The barn structure – so far.

Shape, versus Detail.

It’s all about the shape just now – for me – outline wins over detail. The obsessive observation of detail (and in this regard I am maybe thinking of hyper, photographic realism sort of detail) doesn’t see the wood for the trees. So drawn into the fine details that the bigger shapes are either lost or too dominant in the composition.

Snakes head

The shape is defining. The detail, though delightful, I believe to be secondary.

So a siluette can and often does encapsulate the object or idea. The loss of detail as happens with strong back light, is no hindrance to knowing what the subject is. It also allows room for the viewers imagination to play, wheras the super real is defining. A statement with less room for discussion.

Plover – Monotype

This plover image is a balance between outline shape and detail. The primary work, the siluette was complimented with most nessesary detail. White underside s and paddle shaped wings.

Sometimes –

Inspiration is a delicate, indulgence and sometimes we need to just work. It is a luxury to have inspired thoughts, ideas for creative working, they seem to come out of the blue – but can be traced., like dreams, to random connections of activity or events or notes, sketches, from long past or just this second. Ping.

Flowers from and in my garden.

This concertina sketch book is the second in a series, for painting observational studies of the flowers that grow in my garden. The first book took about five years to complete and was sold at a charity event last year. This one was hand made, by me, with good watercolour paper, to give myself another four or five or six years of inspiration free project. To work on and in when inspiration is absent. It is a relief to have a task ongoing that does not require that dammed elusisive inspiration.

Today. Anenome Blanding.

A versatile process…

When a drawing or painting is made onto a surface that allows it to be transfered to another surface – it can create a monoprint. If the surface that the drawing is made on is flexible, for example a plastic sheet. It can then be transfered to another surface, maybe a gesso board, or a canvas, a wall or a piece of paper. Size or surface is not restricted. This would not be possible if you needed to put the image through a press to get the print…

The ‘why’ is for you to fathom.

Perspex, plastic, glass.

I am going to use just my hand pressure to transfer the marks I make. The perspex and plastic could also be put through a press if I wanted, but the glass can not.

I used a sponge to cover the plastic with an even covering of ink. And the roller to cover the glass.

Rhythmic gentle pressure to cover as evenly as possible.

The subject, a seashell that I had picked up from the shore at Arbroath. I particularly like this object because it is not complete. Its sides are eroded to reveal the inner structure.

I am not using the press for these pieces so the process is entirely possible without big investment equipment. But it helps to have soaked paper – as that aids the transfer of the ink and better absorbs some of the detail. If the paper is too damp/ wet it can creat havoc. Just like with watercolours. The dryer the paper the more control and detail possible. But if the ink and paper are too dry you might get nothing shifting. And more damp encorages unpredictable, exciting effects and sometimes complete chaos.

Paper soaking in the sink.
The drawing on plastic.
The print.

The image is Lways reversed by printing, that is generally unforgiving of an unbalanced work. And of course makes the monoprint unsuitable for famous city skylines… Though there is always a solution. Draw the image onto tracing paper first, turn it over and use the reverse to create the monoprint. Any how, I never tire of what the mono print/ transfered mark does to a drawing/painting. It arbitrarily changes details and offers unexpected gifts, the smudges and accidental changes that occur through the process. Sometimes magical and delightful – and sometimes smeared and slippery rubbish, or even nothing, absolutely nothing at all.

Diciplin n solitude

This time of restrained activity has the potential of positivity and good working practice. But as always that requires self diciplin. It is so easy to be diverted on a mild windless day by the garden . There are so many enjoyable tasks to do out there. That is not to say I don’t thoroughly appreciate and enjoy working in the studio… I love being in there, drawing painting, preparing – but the affair is complicated. It needs my full attention, it is demanding and rewarding, frustrating and anxious – whereas the garden is much less complicated and an easier friend.

Isolation – consentration.

This could be a time to turn a difficult situation into time positive.

Time to practice things we say we wish to improve… But never find the time.

Drawing with crayons.

Maybe sketching using different materials. The same view or objects over and over. Observing more and translating it differently – being led by the varying qualities of the medium. Wet or dry, sharp detail or soft suggestion, full colour, black and white or monochrome.

Practicing takes the pressure off. But another good practice is to revisit past works. To see if they resonate or rekindle a dialogue. If not, edit out any good bits and disguard the rest. I find lighting a bonfire with them works for me.

The tulips continue- with friends…

A drawing and painting class. The last in the studio before lock down…

Painting by Tina – Not complete. But still… Lovely.

We started with drawings. Working toward a good composition that could be translated into watercolour painting.

Three tones… Plus pattern.

The drawings were really engaging and most people worked on them longer than I expected. Starting with a linear composition and adding three tones of shading. Looking for areas of close subtle tones and also counterchange. Light against dark to dark against light drama and contrast.

Then painting in monochrome.

It was a really enjoyable lesson. The most difficult part, translating the sketches to the watercolour paper was achieved well in most cases.

The progress through the last few week was quite visible. Still maintaining good flat and graduated washes. Wet in wet. All that, as well as more complex subjects and composition. They did well. (And had a good time.)

Basics continued. With tulips…

Watercolour terms such as Wet in wet, wax resist, transparent, Opaque or body colour, make the language that is specific to its subject – and can sound pretentious and rather inpenetrable. But like all language that is specific – it is actualy pure and discriptive and really essential to describe the activity, if you have the interest.

Flat and graduated washes. Wet in wet, soft edge and hard edge.

Over the last two weeks we have covered these basic watercolour techniques and this week we pulled them together with the help of some cheerfully coloured tulips.

Bloomin marvellous, ( that’s my opinion not a technical term)

Good practice, lots of clean water. Fresh unfussy colours.

Some managed also to translate reality to something more delightfully fansiful.

All three classes this week responded well to the brief.

Some were more personal.
Some literal.
Some delicate.
Or dynamic.

My challenge is to maintain and even raise the level next week.