Sunday, 18 March 2018

The Artist Inside

Well, the wheel has finally turned full circle.  I thought that perhaps I had put painting "behind me" and had almost come to accept it.....but gradually the painter inside of me has taken over the glass work!!!

My latest piece was a struggle to achieve technically.......it has been to and from the kiln now about six times.  At one point, one of the shadows on the ground looked remarkably like the shadow of a chap with his arms in the air.  I did not spot it in unfired glass;  it was blindingly obvious to me tho when it came out of the kiln.  See if you can spot him:

He is on the far right, on the ground in the snow.  Some wag on Facebook said, when I showed this image, that it looks like he is either deliriously happy, or running away from something, which amused me enormously!   Anyway, once seen, I could not possibly leave it as is, and back to the kiln it went, with a final correction.  This is the end result:

"Snow Sun and Shadows"


To create this piece, I had to employ a mix of painting skills and glass techniques.  I used, in some areas,  glass "enamels", which are similar to paint except that used on glass, they are nothing like working on paper or canvas.  Glass is a slippery surface, and the paints/'enamels are thick, like thin honey.  It is challenging to use them on glass, to say the least. Together with these paints, I used small pieces of glass called "frit", in various sizes...fine, medium and large.   I also used glass powders, which are very finely ground.    The problem with all of this is that when fired, those elements often do not behave as expected;  early layers of paint and frit can virtually disappear if they are too tentatively or thinly applied, and often need further building up again.  Colours change with the heat too.  A blue I used, called "Steel Blue", lived up to its name by turning steel grey in the kiln!   However, the end result CAN look like an impressionist image, which was my intention.  I know I could do better with pastels on paper, but given that this is all glass,  I am not too unhappy with it!  I feel it does have life, and colour, and that lovely atmosphere of sharp, almost eye-aching brightness on a crisp cold day when the sun illuminates a snowy scene, making it sparkle.

Of course you are seeing a tiny image here, the piece itself is about 15" high.  Here are some detail shots, which show how interesting- and painterly -  the surface actually looks:




It certainly seems that even if I want to reinvent myself, and have perfectly good and valid reasons for doing so, the artist inside will pop to the surface now and then, to remind me that painting, in any medium, is still a joy.

And the teacher still lives and breathes too, despite my apparent retirement.  I have recently written a third tutorial, called CAPTURING TREES.  It is aimed primarily  at the glass artist, because I recognised a gap in the market there - so many people who turn to glass making have had no formal art training, and they do often need help with what to look for when creating pictorial images in glass. However it does not contain fusing instruction or kiln schedules, so could in fact be used by any artist working in any medium, wanting to create more believable trees. Details are available on my website, http://www.jackiesimmonds.com, on the tutorials pages.



Tuesday, 16 January 2018

TACKLING ADVERSITY

My last post was all about dealing with the unexpected.  How true that is....that lovely piece of glass, very large, lovely piece of glass, went back into the kiln to have some initials fired onto it.....and because of my inexperience, I used an incorrect firing programme, and the whole thing broke in two!  And nearly broke my heart.

And taught me that glass is a very unforgiving medium.  An intransigent medium, almost belligerent sometimes.  The kiln gods rule.  As a result of that experience I am now wary of accepting commissions, and instead, I will only work to please myself, and if my work pleases others - that is a bonus!   Reducing one's expectations is helpful too...he who expects little is seldom disappointed, it is said. 

And another issue has come along recently which has been equally challenging.  When I want to create, I like to pre-plan, to produce little sketches as I formulate ideas.  Now - I am NOT moaning, or wanting sympathy, this is purely FYI.,  I have developed something called Essential Tremor.  Not a fun thing for an artist to have.  It means I cannot draw a straight line!   This is not a joke actually, as my hand actually shakes and jerks when I try to do linear work and details!   I feel like a robot which is in need of a damn good service because the messages aren't getting from brain to hand!

So I have had to find ways to get around this problem.  I could of course put my feet up and retire gracefully.  Not my style, even tho I do possess the required cardi and slippers.  So instead, I am turning more to glass, to printmaking, monoprinting and screenprinting and using stencils;   and interestingly, I seem to have found ways to create images ...in glass, rather than just produce practical pieces like bowls and vases.  You may have seen some from me before, but these new ones are getting stronger, I think.   The glass powder piece below required a certain amount of control of my wretched hand (which seems to have a life and personality all of its own) but thankfully it is easy to add more powder when I accidentally brush off an area when my hand misbehaves.  (You gotta smile, or you cry.)  I use rubber shapers and brushes to remove the black powder from the surface and the end result is:

He is rather jolly, isn't he.
.
 Below is a screenprinted platter:



Also, I have been working on semi-abstract, impressionist woodland scenes in glass.  Here are a couple of examples:





Anyone heard the saying DLTBGYD?  (Dont Let The Bastards Grind You Down).  I am doing my best not to LTBGMeD.  I am soldiering on, despite the feelings of frustration and irritation, and although I may not laugh about it all, all of the time,  I can manage it sometimes.  It also helps to remind myself regularly that things could be a LOT worse, and remind myself how LUCKY I am to have, despite my advancing years,  the ability to get out into my studio, and still produce creative bits and pieces.

 you just gotta keep smiling....









Thursday, 14 September 2017

HAVING TO ADJUST EXPECTATIONS

We all live with little voices in our heads;  or little creatures whispering in our ears;     my daughter, a corporate trainer, calls them "Stress Critters".  These annoying little critters are often in command of our brains, telling us how to think, what to expect, even how to feel - and often that thinking is distorted.  "I don't think he is going to like this" (why not?  How do you KNOW this?).  "I MUST get this right" (Must it be right?  Really?)   "I cannot stand blah blah blah....." (Well, you probably CAN stand it, for a while.........)      

There is one that I battle with, and it is called EXPECTATION.  As an artist, letting go off "expectation" is definitely tricky - well, it is for me. In particular,  I have expectations of the end result when I start a piece of work.  This is often because I do a certain amount of pre-planning;  I try out a variety of thumbnail sketches, to investigate ideas.    While doing these thumbnails, I get a strong sense of how I hope the image will finally look.,....expectation.

Recently, as regular readers of the blog will know, I have been working with glass.  Not all my pieces are bowls, vessels,  dishes etc, many now are flat, 2 dimensional wall pieces.  I really enjoy the fact that I have to let go of expectations when working with glass;  it does not behave as paint does and I simply have to be prepared for surprises.  Yes, I can work out, with thumbnail sketches, a rough idea of what I might expect to achieve.....and often, the piece, when constructed, looks pretty similar to the thumbnail.........but then it goes into a kiln.  And the kiln gods take over.  The glass melts.  Unexpected things happen.  The heat changes colours unexpectedly and because of my lack of experience I often get a shock when I open the kiln;   shapes also disappear unexpectedly and others appear.    

Opening the kiln becomes an exercise in remembering to breathe!

As a painter,  having certain expectations means I often achieve exactly what I set out to achieve, and although that can be good, it also takes away the fun of the UNexpected, which might have been even better.

I suspect I need to spend a bit of time PLAYING with paint or pastels,  which will allow for some surprises and unexpected happenings, rather than allowing pre-planning and firm ideas to kill off any chance of spontaneity.

Here is the thumbnail I produced for my most recent glass commission, a wall panel, quite large, the client wanted an abstract piece with lots of greys, silver, gold and a touch of copper and pink.

BUT here is the finished piece, after several trips to the kiln.  It is difficult to photograph, as it has raised areas, and some of the glass is iridised and only shines gold from certain angles.  But you get the general idea, I think:


Working in an abstract way is a challenge for me.....and working with glass makes it even more of a challenge.  But I am secretly rather pleased with the result....although I do have to learn how to photograph iridescent glass, some of the beautiful sheen is missing in this photo.   always something more to learn!!!!   Including letting go of expectation.


Thursday, 29 June 2017

"Painting is a mysterious process, hovering strangely between a thought and a thing"

So said one of my favourite artists, Arthur Maderson.  And this resonates with me very strongly.  Painting can certainly be a mysterious process.  

Sometimes, when I look at the work of a painter who has produced a piece of work which many people would admire enormously because "it looks just like a photograph!", I don't feel any sense of mystery at all.....I can recognise the skill involved, but for me,  there is very little mystery when every i is dotted and every t is crossed.

So I like to hold onto the idea that marks made, in a painting, can indeed hover between a thought and a thing - or a thought, and reality.   Grabbing hold of that hovering, fleeting idea, and achieving it with paint, seems somehow special and unique and is something I will always aim for, even if I seldom achieve it.

Here are some images which DO achieve this mysterious quality.  The marks are MARKS, and I see them both as marks, and as marks which represent things  or ideas. 


This is one of Arthur Maderson's "looser" market scenes.  It is, on close inspection, more like the image one might see thro the lens of a kaleidoscope.  The marks are short, choppy and little more than straight fat lines....yet when you squint at the image, they coalesce into a hot, busy, light-filled market scene.  Hints of umbrellas, hints of shadows, hints of limbs and heads.  This hovers very much between idea and reality, between abstraction and figurative painting.  The more I look, the more I THINK I see.  I become aware that the foreground figure is glancing to her right, probably staring down at a table of goods.  Coming towards her is another woman, looking down too, perhaps pushing something into a bag. In the centre there seems to be someone holding up a child, perhaps?  Maybe yes, maybe no.   I am conscious of the light, and the atmosphere,  in the scene.   How this has been achieved with short, straight brushstrokes is a mystery to me.  But one I thoroughly enjoy.

Here is another, perhaps slightly easier to read:


It is as much a painting about the brightness of daylight illuminating the scene, as it is about a market.  Yet for me, it captures "market day" perfectly.  I do not need to know what the stallholder is selling by way of carefully painted detail.  I can get that from a photo any day.  Here, I see light, I see colour, I see bustle, activity, movement, I get a sense of time of day.  I can even feel the joy of the painter as he worked on those figures in the shade, figures made up of simple blocks of closely related tones, with just a hint of shape to "explain" them to us.  This is, to me, just delicious, like a scrumptious pack of licorice all sorts!  But with less of the black ones than usual!

And now for someone quite different ...and yet someone whose work also does the "hovering thing", providing me with that wonderful quality of mystery.  Peter Wileman.  

This image is called "The Gift of Light".  I know you will recognise that it is a seascape, that there is landscape, there is a headland,  boats, clouds. sun glinting on water...all sorts of physical "things" that you can relate to...but ...... if you had taken a photo of this scene, would it have looked like this?   If you had sat in front of the scene and created an image which was so true to reality that it looked like a photo, would it have had this magical quality?


I suspect not.  A photo may be stunning, so can a photographically-rendered image.  But will either offer surprises, or pose questions for you to answer? That is the magic of working with paint, when the paint, and the marks, even the colours, are allowed their own voice, and they speak in a language that the viewer doesn't always fully understand, but just simply appreciates on some difficult-to-verbalise level.

I am off to tackle some painting.  I plan to take a painting which has bugged me for some time, it is unsold,  lacking, somehow, the sense of light and colour I remember.    I am going to attack it with new vigour, keeping firmly in mind some of the ideas I have learned from these brilliant artists whose work I admire so very much.  Perhaps. with their help,  I will be able to bring my picture to life.  If I do, you will see it at some point, I will show "before and after" images.  Watch this space.





Monday, 26 June 2017

Working in Three Dimensions and a happy accident

Sometimes, we have "happy accident" things happen......

Having always painted in a fairly literal fashion, with lots of pre-planning, so that I have a fair idea of how the painting will proceed and what the end result will be, it is quite wonderful when working in three dimensions, with a new material, and suddenly surprises occur ....and happy ones at that.

Inspired by the glass "waves" of a talented artist I have found recently, I decided I wanted one of my own....a wave rolling over a rock. ( I havent got a rock yet so have used some driftwood for now) I have painted lots of waves and rocks...this is my first "sculpture".

My first attempt cracked.  I fused it flat again, added more glass over the crack, re-fused it, and finally created the curving form.  For some reason, during the process, some white cobwebbing appeared ...and looked exactly like seafoam, breaking up in the turquoise shallow water !  I have no idea how this happened and am unlikely to be able to create it again! I do think it looks rather lovely tho.


I also had a weekend trying out "glass sandcasting".  Bit like making sandpies on the beach.  Great fun.

I wont be able to show you the finished piece as I have to wait for it to come out of the kiln, but the progress images are interesting .

Playing with sand to create the starting shape:  Not easy, wretched sand keeps falling into the shape.......


My final image ...a blue door - glass powders added - door from the ancient town of Safad in Israel:


The tutor, and sandcastings awaiting the glass:

hot glass being poured into my piece:



Another of my pieces, glass added, and little fat Rabbi added in front of door, which should give the illusion of space between person and door as it was laid on top of the first pour, and then more glass added. He will be dark, ideally black, the door blue - all inside a piece about 2" thick.  However  We shall see what I get in the end!!!
Happy accidents notwithstanding!



Saturday, 10 June 2017

A CHANCE TO OWN A PIECE OF ME

Crikey, I think I have been watching too many good guys/bad guys tv shows!  "So - you wanna piece of me?"

You have to laugh.

The expression does have another context!  When an artist produces a piece of work, it is, actually, a part of them.  Their psyche.  Their unique vision.  Their knowledge and experience.  Owning an original from an artist is, in fact, rather special, since the original was made by the artist's own hands, unlike a reproduction.  That's not to say that you are not owning something of that artist. when you buy a print....you will, in fact, have something of their mind and their effort - but it is not the same as owning an original.  That feels quite different somehow.

However in these days of chronic austerity for many, owning an original piece is often something only to dream about.  Which is why the "affordable art" concept came to fruition.  Why many artists are producing small, affordable pieces alongside their larger, less affordable perhaps,  pieces.

Open Studio is drawing to a close for me, after this weekend, remaining pieces will gradually filter out to galleries, where they become less affordable because of the gallery commissions buyers have to pay.  And I know there are lots of people who might have liked to visit my Open Studio but live too far away.    So I am going to gradually offer up pieces for sale before I send them out to galleries, and if you would like one, contact me asap, I will pop a "red dot" on it and get it to YOU.

Here are my ENAMEL ON COPPER images.  No bigger than 10"x10" including the frame, and available for £85 / $100 plus postage.      No glass involved, so safe to send.  You will be owning something none of your friends will have, I make just a few of these from time to time, so very few exist in the world!

They are not "painted" in the conventional meaning of the word...enamel on copper is quite different to paint, which is applied with a brush.  Usually.   Enamel is GLASS POWDER which is sifted onto the surface of the metal.  The powders can be opaque, or transparent, and different effects can be achieved as the artist gradually applies layer upon layer and the piece goes into, and out of, the kiln, many times.    The colours can be brilliant, or subtle.  Areas can be masked off while the powder settles in the unmasked areas.  Lines can be achieved by either scribing into layers of powder, or pulling it along with some kind of instrument - a fingernail, a rubber shaper, a knife, sometimes even a brush.  The finished panel is hard and shiny, and I glue it to small block of wood which is attached to the back of the frame...so the panel sits slightly proud of its background.  People recognise it is not a painting;  they come up close and study these little panels, fascinated by what it might, actually, be made of.

"Winter Sentinels"

"Meadow Wildflowers"

"Winter Colour"


"Approaching Storm"



"Portrait in red"


If you would like to own one of these images, (which are ready to hang) just send me an email and I can send you a Paypal invoice.    jackiesdesk@gmail.com


Jackie

Monday, 15 May 2017

WORKING AFTER SURGERY!

"Silver cliffs "  framed glass panel

This year has been a tricky one so far.  I have had surgery on my hip, which meant weeks of sitting about interspersed with upright with walking stick, and exercising.  Gradually, I am getting back to normal but getting out into the studio, standing to work for long periods,  has been a challenge.  Nevertheless, I have managed to create some new pieces in enamels and in glass - some 3D, some 2D. 

One thing is for sure.  All the disciplines I have learned over the years, for my painting life, have proved useful to me even tho I may not be working with paintbrush or pastels. I have, instead, been "painting" with different materials - glass powder in particular - glass on glass, or enamel (which is glass) on copper. I have had to use heat instead of brushes.   I do have unpainted pastels in my head, but they just may have to remain unpainted for now, as I have run out of time!

In a couple of weeks I will be opening my studio for HARROW OPEN STUDIOS, from June 4-11.  Two official weekends, and then, during the week, I will still welcome visitors.  If you happen to be anywhere near, do pop in, I will happily show you current work, and also you can have a nosy around the studio, take a look at the kilns and all my kit,  and see how I produce the work on show.

Here are some of the pieces which will be available:

Enamel on Copper:
"Winter Sentinels"

"Meadow"

And here are some of the glass pieces:
 Entrance is FREE.   Come with friends!  Lots of pretty small items, including my gorgeous enamelled bowls, and some new pretty jewellery pieces too.



And if the weather is good, you can sit and enjoy the garden and the lovely pond.  And when you have finished enjoying my studio, you can wander off to see other Harrow Open Studio artists, all within a short drive from my Bushey home. Make a day of it.   There is even a working blacksmith to visit, 5 minutes from me.

Call me for more details or driving instructions:  0208 950 2343 

Sunday, 15 January 2017

APPROACHING GALLERIES - HOW TO AVOID THE FEAR!

I recently responded to a post on one of the forums I regularly visit - someone said they were "scared" to approach galleries with their work, for fear of being told that even tho their work was well-crafted, it did not have enough "artistic merit".

It is not the first time I have heard this............and I remember well my very first visit to a gallery, to ask them to look at my work.... I was shaking in my boots!  So I do have lots of sympathy for those of you itching to try but nervous to do so.

Many years down the line, I take a rather more pragmatic view of gallery owners, having met them in all their different guises.  I have met those who are helpful, enthusiastic, committed, and appreciative;  I have met those who have a sense of entitlement, who are snooty, who are rude, and who treat their artists like fodder.   I warn you - there are all sorts out there!

It is really important to remember that gallery owners are, first and foremost, BUSINESS PEOPLE, with gallery bills to pay.  They have to always remember this, and also keep their eyes firmly on the potential for profit.  They are not philanthropists, they cannot afford to be.

AND it is vital to remember that more often than not, a gallery owner's idea of "artistic merit" is coloured by this need to pay the bills.     And anyway - how to judge artistic merit?  Who is the arbiter?   Personal taste plays a part, this is inevitable.  For every person who does not like or appreciate your work, there is another who will think it is just great!   So rejection should not be taken too personally, no matter how unpleasant it feels at the time.  

Even if you are accepted, you may find yourself "flavour of the month" if your work sells well....and very much out of favour if it does not.  A pleasant gallery owner will not hold lack of sales against you, and perhaps will even thank you for allowing them the privilege of showing your work  !   And so they should.  

Why do I say this?  with emphasis?

OK getting up on my soapbox now. 

An art gallery is a retail businesses where the gallery owner receives stock on a sale or return basis.  Every other retail business that I can think of has to pay for their stock....and if it remains unsold, they have to have a sale, or have to find some way of disposing of the stock at a loss.  The large mark-up from "wholesale" to "retail" prices takes this into account.

Art, for some odd reason, does not fall into this latter category - we artists are expected to allow galleries to take our work on a sale or return basis, and be grateful for the opportunity.  I firmly believe that galleries should be the grateful ones! 

As I said earlier, there are wonderful gallery owners out there who really do understand and appreciate their artists, and help to promote them.  I am lucky enough to have found a few and I enjoy working with them and am happy to send them my work, and grateful to them too. 

So next time you think about approaching a gallery with your work, be professional, be pleasant, and remember some of the above.  No grovelling allowed!!!!   Let go of the fear...gallery owners are just tradespeople.  YOU are the creative one, the one without whom, galleries would have nothing to sell.
............................................................................................................

January Sale Offering
Both of these images are GLASS ON GLASS.  They are created with black glass powder, onto a soft-white glass ground.  They are 12" square, and can be displayed as they are on an easel, or on a black wrought-iron stand, or on the wall with stainless steel stand-offs, which looks really contemporary.

Usually £175 each, I am offering them at a January sale price of just £90 each!

  
  



Thursday, 8 December 2016

IN THE STUDIO - my enamelling corner

People are usually curious about artist's workspaces, and also about HOW they do what they do, so this little post is just to give you a sense of what I do and how I do it, with my enamel on copper.

Firstly ...here is a photo of the door into my rather crowded studio/workshop:  My workshop is in my garden, just a few feet away from my house, which is just great for aching legs, no climbing up into the roof any more!


This photo shows my "enamelling" table, at the far end of the studio:
Top left are all my  tubs of enamel powders.  These are special enamels made for use on metal.  Enamel is, in fact, ground glass, so the powders look like....well, powder.  Sand, ground ultra-fine in fact.
  The copper bowls are bottom right...two of them "cut" with a plasma cutter, to create interesting top edges, and even cuts in the body of the bowl, holes thro which one will be able to see the colours on the inside of the bowl.  Using a plasma gun is "interesting" to say the least - I have my heart in my mouth all the time as the beam from my gun cuts thro the metal - while I pray that I don't end up cutting thro fingers or arms at the same time.
The process of applying the enamel to the copper is quite complex and has taken a long time to perfect - in fact, I do get rejects from time to time, since the kiln, shown below, plays a very large part in the process and often the results are more surprising than expected!  And sometimes not what I might have hoped for!

  • Each bowl has to be carefully prepared - degreased - before the addition of the powder.  The cut bowls have to filed, to ensure that the edges have no sharp shards left from the plasma cutting. 
  •  
  • Then, the bowl is sprayed with a special adhesive, and enamel powders are sifted onto the bowl in a particular way.  Enamel powders can be transparent, or opaque, and they melt at differing temperatures, so experience is needed to have some sense of what might happen inside the kiln.  I have to say - even then, I get both nasty, and wonderful surprises sometimes!   Some of my fellow glassy artists call it "the will of the kiln gods"  !!

  • The enamel is allowed to dry and then sometimes, I will "scribe" patterns into the enamel.  Removing the enamel in this way means that the heat can attack either the metal below, or the colour below.  This will give varying effects, as does the addition of more layers of enamel.

  • The bowl is in the red hot kiln for a very short time - no more than a couple of minutes - for the enamel to melt onto the copper.  It is carried carefully to the kiln on a metal trivet, with a long-handled fork under the trivet.  This is a bit on the scary side! One hand needed to open the kiln, protected from the blast of intense heat;  the other hand, also protected,  balancing the bowl and trivet while carefully placing it inside.   Having a bit of a hand tremor is NOT helpful. 
  •  
  •  The time that the bowl is in the kiln will also affect the enamel...on the steep sides of a bowl, softer enamels often "slide" down and this creates the most gorgeous effects.  I try to achieve this, and control this as much as is possible

  • Taking a red-hot bowl, balanced precariously on a metal trivet, which in turn is balanced on the tines of a big fork, out of the kiln, is even scarier than putting it in.  But gotta be done!!!

  • This process is repeated numerous times, until I feel that the bowl is "finished".
Because of all the variables, no two bowls are ever the same.  This is part of the joy of this process for me. Colour ebbs and flows, often looking remarkably like flowing washes of paint.  The copper sometimes glows thro transparent areas.  The colours and effects are wonderful - and permanent.   Here are some examples of finished (available!) bowls:  prices range from £23-26
below, you can see the outside of the above bowl.  A soft white enamel is used under a harder green;  the soft white bubbles up thro the green, creating this lovely random texture


In this little bowl below, lines are scribed into white enamel, and the heat of the kiln turns the white to green in places - an effect I knew would happen.  The inside of the bowl has a transparent clear enamel allowing the copper to glow thro...imagine this with a tea light! Or three of them as a centrepiece of a dinner table!  I often put them onto round mirrors, which reflect the outsides...that looks really striking as a table centre. 




Finally, just in case you are interested, I have a few on ETSY too:


I am aware that many of my blog followers are painters,  ...but we are all artists, after all, and I hope you managed to find some value in this post!  If nothing else, my life as a painter has informed my use of colour with my enamels, and with my glass - and it is rather nice to be creative in all sorts of different ways!
Next post will show some of my glass, and the processes involved.  Still learning there!  In fact, still learning in every area.


Do feel free to ask questions - happy to respond.

Jackie


Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Feeling blue? not exactly!!!!

Sometimes, we artists are drawn to a particular colour..  Although I do  paint or create using a variety of different colours, something inside me begins to celebrate whenever I use blue, in all its varieties.  I love the richness of royal blue, the tranquility of turquoise, the lightheartedness of pale, limpid blue - all blues in fact.    I also enjoy  red...but there are certain feelings that red stirs in me, which are not always tranquil!  Ia am sure that many of you respond favourably to certain colours, and less favourably to others.  There has been much exploration of the psychology of particular colours and the human reaction to them.  This is just one small paragraph I have found about blue:

Blue is the colour of the mind and is essentially soothing; it affects us mentally, rather than the physical reaction we have to red. Strong blues will stimulate clear thought and lighter, soft blues will calm the mind and aid concentration. Consequently it is serene and mentally calming. It is the colour of clear communication. Blue objects do not appear to be as close to us as red ones. Time and again in research, blue is the world's favourite colour. 

It is good to have a favourite colour...but do be a little careful not to use it relentlessly or unthinkingly- I have seen many a painting, for example, where the shadows are all painted with the same shade of purple, regardless of the objects those shadows fall upon. Yet, shadows are transparent and therefore have to contain something of the colour of whatever they fall upon.  Using a favourite colour "for shadows" is simply using a formula.

Today I plan to show you a few recently-created pieces. All of them blue.  Or bluish.  Or blue-green.  Even the landscape - I simply do not like khaki green or yellow green or sludge green, so I lean towards the blue-green spectrum for my landscapes.

 These pieces are available for sale if any of them resonate for you - just drop me a line and I will give you a pre-Christmas sale price!

Here is a pastel painting just completed, one of my "foxglove" series.  It can be sent out unframed, rolled, covered in Glassine paper, so that you can frame it yourself or have it framed to your taste. It means I am able to provide an original for far less than you would pay in a gallery, so it is a rather special opportunity.



This chunky "Whirlpool" bowl of gorgeous turquoise blue glass, with its swirling bubbles trapped inside the glass, has a textured underside and a smooth surface inside.  It is 9" wide and about 2" high at the rim.  It is a one-of-a-kind piece, very unusual and very different.


I love this little enamel on copper trinket bowl.  The colours really sing.  On the outside, a fascinating mix of blue, white and turquoise, the colours flowing into each other like sea foam and ocean depths;  inside a soft, cloudy mix of gold and minty green.  It is 4" wide at the top, and 2.5" high.



Finally, here is a Lace Glass bowl...A bowl with holes - not so good for soup but great for just-washed grapes!!!  Wash the grapes, pop them onto this bowl, put it onto a plain plate and any remaining drips will fall thro the holes rather than sit in the bottom the bowl.   If grapes are not your thing, then you can use it for wrapped candies, or just leave it on a table for guests to admire - everyone wonders how the holes are achieved in GLASS!  It is really pretty, with flashes of rich blue and turquoise, along with soft white swirls in the glass. 9" wide, and just under 2" high at the rim.


Blue may not be the primary colour of Christmas, but a blue Christmas gift will always be welcome.




Sunday, 6 November 2016

"I love the light. How did you get that?"

to be more specific, the question asked was this:

"I love the light. This is unmistakably your elegant style and I'm interested to know how you achieve that with acrylics, which are very different to use than soft pastels."

I briefly answered this in the comments in my last post, but did promise to enlarge upon it, which I will try to do now while it is fresh in my mind.

Actually, there are two main things in that question which need addressing.  One is HOW TO ACHIEVE A SENSE OF LIGHT and the other is about STYLE.  The third issue is techniques in different media.

STYLE:
I will deal with this one first.  "Style" is a somewhat abstract concept, and has nothing to do with achieving a sense of light in an image.  Style is the artist's own "handwriting".  for example, Vincent Van Gogh had a very distinctive style - it was to do with the way he applied the paint, in linear strokes all over the surface.  Here are two totally different types of image - a portrait and a landscape - yet he used similar mark making in both:

 
 
 
We recognise who painted these images because of the style he chose to use....and because this style became his "signature" and his preferred method of working. The surface is kinda disturbing, very active, perhaps a deliberate choice on his part, perhaps instinctive and somehow reflective of his state of mind.   Sometimes, artists use different styles...depending on the mood of the image they want to achieve..or perhaps the subject matter.....they may alter their choice of mark-making - but somehow, when they have been working for a long time, their mark-making becomes recognisable...as does their choice of subject matter, and their overall approach to painting.  Their "style" become recognisable. 
 
LIGHT:
Achieving a sense of light in a painting is about a combination of choice of subject matter and close observation of TONES.  Failure to achieve this sense of light when this is what you wanted, is so often to do with flat light on the subject, and/or incorrect translation of the tone of the colour.
 
Here are two woodland paths.  One sunlit, one in flat light. The bottom one has no sunshine in it, just some hint of light in the far distance.  The path is therefore going to look flat and uninteresting in a painting.  The top scene, tho less interesting to me in terms of the shapes it offers - boring straight road - has the better light, and if I could find an image which would be a combination of the lovely light in the top one, and the interesting forms and echoing shapes of the bottom one..THEN I would happily tackle a painting.
 
 
I have noticed that often, students choose the subject matter because of the "things" in the scene, the place, the person, the objects........and they don't even think about the quality of the light in the scene. 
 
The quality of the light in the scene is what I look for FIRST.  It isn't always about sunshine and shadows, tho I do love those;  I also love soft light and have even painted rainy landscape scenes! My foxglove scene has a soft, gentle light...but I emphasised it with the light behind the flowers...they are backlit, with sharp light at the edges,  and this helped enormously to add just enough drama to ensure that the scene was not flat and monotonous.  You might think that the plants themselves would have done enough..but I promise you, this scene came to life when the tiny strokes of bright light were added.
 
 

The important thing for me always is that the LIGHT is as important as anything else about the scene....and often, it is the motivating factor for me.  I never tackle any painting without looking at the light in the scene as a subject in its own right.
 
And then, to get that light right, you need to get the tones right.  The right lightness, or darkness, of the colour. You have to continuously ask yourself "is this bit darker, or lighter than that bit?  How much darker or lighter?".  You need to do this all the time, guys.   That takes patience and practice, and if you struggle with this, it can be worth working just in black, white and greys for a while until your eyes become used to translating colour into tone.
 
ACRYLICS AND OILS VERSUS PASTELS:
 
The final part of the question.  Yes of course, paint and pastels are very different..but they are all made from the same pigments - pastels are just paint without the various binders that make pigment into liquid paint!    And you use a brush with paint, no brushes with pastels.  However, the same basic rules apply.  With oils, acrylics and pastels, you can work from dark to light.  You can "overpaint".  You can scrape off areas you are unhappy with.  You can start with thin areas, build up to thicker ones.  Watercolour is the medium which makes you think, and work,  differently because generally speaking, you have to "reserve" the lights, and work towards the darks! It is well-nigh impossible to "add in" lights at the end, or over darks, with watercolours.
 
So working with any opaque medium, whether you use a brush, or a stick of colour, all the basic painting principles are the same. 
 
You have to find your way with using a brush of course.....stiff hog hair brushes give you one kind of mark;  soft brushes will give a different kind of mark.  It can take a little time to find out how to make the kinds of marks that please you, or that give you the effect you want.  There are no hard and fast rules...mark-making with pastels also needs investigation and practice.   When painting grass - you are PAINTING grass, not growing it!  You have to practice to find a visual equivalent for grass - for water - for clouds - for skin.   Marks which explain the subject to the viewer.  Marks which feel "right" to you.  All of this takes time and practice.  Did I say practice often enough folks?
 
I do hope this answers the question that was posed.
Jackie