Artyfacts - - my own work and the works of others; glass, enamel on copper, pastels, oils, watercolours, mixed media, sketching, composition and design, colour, the magic of light, form, tone, the illusion of depth, creating mood, techniques and methods, musings on art, items for sale.
When I have time (and am well enough - my health is a struggle right now) I read glassy posts on FB and even respond occasionally.
I saw someone say this, to a glass/landscape painter, and it prompted an idea. She said, while admiring a lake scene on glass "I wish I could see inside your brain as you work".
Well, the artist in question APPEARS to work very intuitively....she sees a lovely floaty background, and hey presto,a little while later it is a lake scene with fir trees, clouds, lake, etc.
It would be easy to think that this artist just simply "knows" how to paint this kind of image, was born that way and it just "comes" to her in a burst of inspiration.
Often, tho, what looks so quick and easy is nothing of the kind.
It is the result of EXPERIENCE, of that artist having looked hard, and having practiced and practiced. Tried and tried again. Having collected reams of information in a variety of ways....collecting photos, doing sketches, from life and from photos. Filling himself or herself with knowledge and information........ and experience.
When I was a student, I was encouraged (and I am encouraging you) to keep SCRAPBOOKS of inspirational imagery. Images cut out of magazines; sketches and scribbles, little painted, or charcoal, or coloured pencil pieces I had done and liked; photos I had taken.
I recommend, if you want to create landscape images, that you start a SELECTION OF SCRAPBOOKS of this kind. Sea images; sky images; tree images; distant hills images; foreground images.......each scrapbook will become a hugely important resource that you can use whenever you want to produce a landscape scene.
Alternatively, GO BUY A LOAD OF BOX FILES. Then, keep your collected images in those box files.....one box file for each genre. You will be starting a "library" of your own, resources you can use whenever you need them. THEY will fill you with information and inspiration. IT DOES NOT DROP FROM THE SKY INTO YOUR HEAD.............................
Come and find me on Facebook! just type in my name..............
website for images, tutorials and more: www.jackiesimmonds.com
Some years ago I visited Alaska, and during a walk on a glacier, I marvelled at the sights...in particular the "caves" in the ice, with deep, dark turquoise centres, shading out to beautiful icy greens where the light was able to penetrate the ice. It was quite magical, and has stayed in my memory vividly.
Then, some years ago also, I discovered a glass artist working with a technique called Verre Eglomise...gilding on the surface of the glass. I had done a little gilding, on picture frames, but working on glass was something new to me. I would have liked to attend one of her workshops, but she was in the USA, too far for me to travel . So I had to teach myself how to gild onto glass. I made a number of mistakes along the way, but gradually learned what to do, and what not to do.
Then, I found a glass blog showing how to smash and then fuse TEMPERED GLASS. Tempered glass is specially toughened, for use with car windscreens, shower doors etc. When it is shattered, it shatters into tiny squares of glass like this:
Finally, these individual bits of learning came together in my mind and I had some ideas about how to create my vision in glass. I made several of these wonderful bowls which were snapped up by eager buyers. This latest one is about 30cm wide, and I may sell it eventually, if I can bring myself to part with it and if someone will pay for its fairly substantial price-tag of £100 for which I make no apologies as it is very labour-intensive to make. In the meantime, I have produced a tutorial on how to do this, which I am selling from my website. I have all ready sold quite a few of these tutorials, to people from various corners of the world, so I just might keep the bowl for myself..................
If you are a glass artist and want to make one of these, just CLICK THIS LINK to visit my tutorials pages, and scroll down to find the ALASKAN INSPIRATION BOWL
Some time ago, I produced several images of autumn thickets...tangled woodland scenes. I sold quite a few, but this one stuck with me, and I had to admit to myself that it lacked punch.
I have been studying it for quite some time now, and suddenly I thought I might know what to do with it. Here it is:
Now, it is not that difficult to change a painting...depending on the material you have used, you can overpaint, scrub out, and generally adjust without a huge amount of difficulty.
But when you have created a piece of GLASS, fused solidly in a kiln, your choices are far more limited. And it is difficult, often, to know how glass will react in the kiln, so it is a good idea to test out your ideas before committing to them on an expensive piece of glass.
One way to do this, is using the wonders of modern technology...the computer.
Firstly, I went "on line" and collected a series of images that I enjoyed looking at. Tangly woodland scenes, some with autumn colouring. I also looked for images of leaf and fern shapes. I collected a few together, and popped them onto a single sheet to study. Here is my collection:
When using photos from the internet, it is best not to copy directly in case of copyright issues. So, I use photos like these for INSPIRATION rather then for any other reason. I get ideas about colour shape, form, placement of objects, etc.
Then, I put my original thicket image into Photoshop. I guess, if you do not have such a programme or have no idea how to use it even if you do, you could resort to using, say, gouache or acrylic paint on a paper print-out - but although I am not a graphic designer, I do know a little about using Photoshop, and am able to use SOME of its simpler features.
I decided that the image bottom left appealed to me the most and could be the most inspirational in terms of my glass piece. So I began to use the "brush" tool in photoshop, to add some silver birch trunks and branches into the image, together with some of those wonderful bright larger leaves, just a hint of them. I suffer with a hand-shake syndrome, so using the mouse for linear work is not easy for me, but never mind, I feel it adds interest to have a few wobbly marks! The greatest tool is the "edit" button...if I did not like a mark, I simply went back a step, and hey presto, it was gone.
Here is my finished Photoshopped piece. WOW...my original piece certainly has some punch now!!! My intention is to do this with the glass. How? is a question I am sure my fellow glassy artists are asking. Well...I plan to experiment. I could use glass paints/glass enamels. I could use carefully-cut strips of white opaque glass, perhaps pre-firing them having added some paint and/or powder for shadows..I could use wafers perhaps, and since I have never worked with wafers I thought I would try this - to make some ferns, leaves, and perhaps even tree trunks to add to the piece instead of paint. I like to experiment and try out new ideas, so this is an opportunity.
An email from a tutorial buyer has prompted this post. She said she planned to "use some outlines on the glass in order to create depth". It is really important to realise that in a pictorial scene, LINES will always attract attention, and often pull things forwards. In a sense, they CAN help to give the impression of more depth as a result, by drawing attention to the foreground for instance, but lines need to be used judiciously. For example, if you place a line up against a tree which is further back in the scene, it will bring it forwards. Same applies if you put an outline edge on a distant hill. It will suddenly stop looking distant! So...how to know quite what to do? Do it wrong on your glass piece and your heart will sink when you open the kiln. My recommendation would be to take a photo of your glass piece just before you plan to use any lines. Print off the image. Maybe even print off several copies. Then, draw the lines onto the print, to try out their placement. Hold up the picture, ideally from a little distance, and see how it is working visually. If you are computer savvy, you can also draw lines in a programme like photoshop, so you can produce an image, put it into Photoshop on your computer, and then play with the line work, adding and subtracting the lines very easily by using the "edit/undo" feature. In this way, by testing away from the glass, you will gain more information and more confidence about adding lines or outlines, for emphasis/drama/depth/fun or any other reason. A few examples to demonstrate the point. In the impressionistic image I created, the "bluebell wood" at the top of this post, I use some gold linear work, carefully, just to give a sense of life and light to the scene, placing the lines to one side of tree trunks, as if they were catching touches of sunlight. This had the effect of bringing attention, and light, to just a few of the trunks and branches. The gold lines pulled forwards in the scene. Alice Benvie Gebhardt uses line work extensively in her glass pieces. This one below demonstrates how an image can benefit from a few thoughtfully placed lines. We fully understand the slope of the land because of the lines used to describe it. Then, the lines on the trees not only provide a little definition, and hint at bark texture, they also bring those trees visually "forwards" in the scene and they echo the linear work on the ground, so that the trees, and the ground are visually connected...all singing from the same song sheet! Echoes work really well, pictorially. (bonus learning here).
In this next image, see how she has used a silver or white line on those dark right hand trees. Imagine it without the line...the dark trunks would melt into the foliage around them. And notice that she has not used the lighter lines on any of the distant trees, because I believe she knew this would be a mistake, as it would bring them forward and I am sure she wanted them to sit back in the scene.
ps how to draw lines on glass? Use an enamel "pen", or a Kemper Pen with enamel lustres, or a fine paintbrush with enamel, or any other clever idea for putting something liquid onto the surface.
Finally, let's look at what happens when I ADD lines to an image in Photoshop. The photo is untouched, then I added black linear work to a tree in the MIDDLE DISTANCE, but actually, it has the effect of drawing the attention straight to that tree. It certainly does not help to push it back in space, that is for sure. I hope you can see this.
By all means add lines, add outlines, have fun with lines...but be conscious of what you are doing before you commit to the lines in glass!!!!
The advice normally given when photographing items for sale is to keep backgrounds completely plain, particularly if you are planning to put the items into an internet marketplace.
I tried this............and was very bored with the pictures. Take a look at the ones which have the garden included. Somehow, for these cast glass objects, having a "natural" background, to my eye, suited them MUCH better. I have put these items into my ETSY shop, which you can visit if you would like to. I am slowly stocking it with small items which are easy to send out by post.
Here is a butterfly, photographed in a photobooth.
Here is the same butterfly, photographed with some natural surroundings. Much nicer!
Same goes for these dragonflies:
So, I am breaking the rules. But I so prefer these pictures. I hope they may encourage people to buy these lovely pieces. I make these gorgeous fused glass dragonflies from crushed
glass, which is heated for many hours in a kiln to transform the glass into
this beautiful object - the process is called "glass casting". Tiny flakes of dichroic glass in the
translucent wings, give added sparkle, especially in sunshine. Underneath the body of the dragonfly is a
fairly long length of copper wire, which you can use to suspend the dragonfly
from the edge of a vase, from a branch of a tree, from the side of a
flowerpot...or inside your home, you can wrap it around a plant stake so that
it seems to be hovering in amongst a super big indoor plant. If you want to position it firmly on, say, a
large rock to put on your garden table, you can curl up the wire, and glue it
to the rock, it makes a fabulous table centrepiece which will be much admired. Glass will not deteriorate out of doors, I
have one on my garden table, and it suffered the storms last week with no ill
The dragonfly totem carries the wisdom of transformation and
adaptability in life. the dragonfly is
connected to the symbolism of change and light. When the dragonfly shows up in
your life, it may remind you to bring a bit more lightness and joy into your
life. Dragonflies start to grow
in water and then move into the air and fly. When this spirit animal shows up
in your life you may be called to transform and evolve. Symbol of metamorphosis
and transformation, it inspires those who have it as a totem to bring about the
changes needed in their lives in order to go to reach their full potential. Butterflies have similar symbolic meaning. I have really enjoyed creating these lovely pieces.
If, like me, you have decided that craft markets are not for you, there is always the option of joining an OPEN STUDIO organisation (I am part of Harrow Open Studios this year) or organising one of your own, inviting friends, neighbours, family, and anyone else you can attract!
It is no easy task; it will involve finding a suitable space...I am lucky enough to have a large kitchen/diner which opens out onto my garden, for a variety of tables, on my patio I was able to erect a borrowed EZup for rain protection over another table, and I have my studio right by the house where I put out a few more pieces and work in progress. In case of severe wind and rain, I purchased a "fitted" tablecloth from Amazon, so no corners to blow around, and I have placed "outdoor" items on the table which are safe from the elements.
I could have relied upon the Harrow Open Studio organisation to provide me with visitors, but I have found that despite all their hard work on the publicity side of things, numbers are not great, so I also do my own publicity ...I put posters around the area, in carparks and on trees where I know dog walkers abound; I print flyers and distribute them widely. I use social media...local area groups, and I placed an advertisement for my Open Studio in a local magazine, having written an article for them too, so I actually had a whole page.
I will provide cold drinks, and nibbles, to encourage people to stay and wander; I am doing dances to the rain gods in the hope they will keep the rainclouds away for a week.
It has been hard work, preparing the setup which involves a certain amount of shifting of furniture; creating price labels and sheets of information for visitors to read, and laying out all my pieces. My back has complained mightily ... my back and I do not have a good relationship, I am firmly convinced I have someone else's back instead of the one I was supposed to have. It could, of course, be something to do with my age, she said, slightly bitterly......
Anyway, here are a few pics of my 2019 Open Studios. Previous Open Studios have been successful, lots of visitors and sales (sometimes too many all at once; make sure you have a payment and packing set up well organised or a plan to pack and deliver later).
Hubby's pond outside the studio...can you spot the duck?
"Social media" often attracts bad press, and would seem, at
face value, to be rather introspective, withmost people using the social media platform of “FACEBOOK” to simply talk
about themselves and share intimate details about their daily lives. It is
arguable whether this has any real value and not unreasonably it is viewed as
foolish or even dangerous.We have all
read horrible stories of young people being bullied on social media, so it is
not unreasonable to think of social media as an out-of-control monster and
possible blight on society.
In contrast, the Facebook groups set up by and for people working in a
specific field of creative activity, bring people together and provide
opportunities for those who generally work in isolation, with the opportunity
to connect with like-minded others.
On Facebook, there are various groups for people who like to work with
glass....."Fused Glass Enthusiasts"the largest British group, has more than 2000 members, while most of the
other similar groups have thousands of members from all over the world. One American group has 20,000 members! It is a wonderful way to showcase work and it is also a brilliant way to
interact with other artists from different countries, all of whom are
interested in, and encouraging to their
fellow group members. Conversations between members, on line, are often
lengthy and informative, members ask technical questions which others
answer; members show their work which other members comment upon. It is so helpful to get feedback from one's peers.
There is a Facebook group called "Fused Glass Tutorials and
Books", and every year they hold a competition called “Equinox”. Visitors to the page can vote for
their favourite piece of work entered by members, in a variety of categories,
and my Field and Hedgerow plate took first prize!
Winning the Equinox competition has brought me to the attention of many
people all over the world; I have made
lots of new "friends" through this extraordinary social media
vehicle. Although we only connect on line, I have found so many of these people
to be wonderfully compassionate and caring, providing me with much appreciated
support when I am struggling either with my work or for other reasons.
Social media may well cause problems in society, but it also has great value if
I am now an "administrator" for a Facebook group called "Fused Glass Digital Resources" where we share online information with others. I also have my own page called "Sketching Basics for Glass Artists" where I offer help to those who want to produce sketches in preparation for making figurative images in and on glass. I visit Facebook daily, and thoroughly enjoy it as an extension to my creative activities. It has kept me sane when I have been poorly, and unable to get out and about as much as I might like - I can work from my desk and still feel I am doing something useful!
I have been visited, during my Open Studios, by friends I have made on
line from other parts of the world – they have made an effort, when visiting
the UK, to come to to meet me personally.How wonderful is that.For all
its faults, “Social Media” has provided me with great value.
unique pieces of Glass, Enamel on Copper, Jewellery and 2D decorative and practical pieces can be seen at my home in
Bushey Heath between 8-16 JUNE 2019 as part
of the Harrow Open Studios event. Visitors will have the chance to visit the studio,
see the equipment I use, ask questions, and enjoy the pretty garden. Here are some of the pieces which will be available to view and purchase:
And now....the end is near....goodness, I sound like Frank Sinatra.... Seriously folks, the end of the year is really nearly here, and sadly, it has been rather an "annus horribilis" for me, (if that is how the latin is spelt) and a very unproductive one on my blog for which I apologise. I did spend most of the summer (2 months in fact) in hospital fighting some strange thing I have never heard of before - endocarditis - plus a few other bits and bobs. I am also now the proud owner of a stent and have the joy of worrying about the other artery which they could not unblock. BUT I am here to tell the tale, I just have to "keep taking the tablets", and as Winston Churchill said, I am doing my best to "keep buggering on"!!! Do hope this turn of phrase will not offend anyone - I blame Winston if it does. I do get out to the studio/workshop every so often, and even managed a small Open Studio at the end of the year, and was fascinated to see that every one of the images I have produced which are images created using glass as my medium, were much acclaimed and most were sold. So one of my new year's resolutions is to do more of these. It certainly makes for an interesting change to use a totally different medium, much as I love my pastels and also enjoy painting with other media...but to have some success with the glass has been a surprise and a joy. It is MUCH more difficult, much more of a challenge, but what is life without some challenges? Some more enjoyable than others, mind you.... I have also recently discovered that although once upon a time, it was incredibly expensive to produce Limited Edition prints, now I can. It used to be a long process of professional photography to produce a 6"x4" high resolution transparency, which was then used for the prints, which were so expensive. So I did not bother, and now, several years down the line, I can order beautiful archival quality giclee prints, produced to Fine Art Trade Guild standards, which are far more affordable, provided I have a decent digital image on file. So, folks, if you have admired and secretly yearned to own one of my images, perhaps now you can...I recently had this one reproduced, and sent over to the USA, the client is delighted:
I have opened at "Etsy" shop, and will from time to time put up an offer for one of my nicer paintings, to be provided as a print, in a short Limited Edition of hand-signed prints.
I will also do my best, this year, to add far more pieces to the shop, as I no longer have the strength to carry stuff to galleries, either glass pieces or framed paintings... so I will, hopefully, sell more on line.
I am always available to answer questions about painting - the teacher in me is still alive and well, I just do not have the strength to teach physically any more. I am always happy to help though. I am still experimenting a lot with glass, and might try a few glassy blogs, although talking techniques is not my strength - glass is a nightmare in this regard, the kiln is an active partner in the process and is often insubordinate. My fellow glassers say there are "kiln fairies" and if they are on your side, that's fine, but if they are feeling mischevious, that's when the problems start....
If you want to keep up with some of what I am doing, just pop my name into Facebook, you will find me in various corners there, usually showing recent work.
I wish you all - and myself - a happy and healthy 2019, full of challenges and successes.
Happy Christmas one and all
(Just fyi below are two of the glass pieces/paintings made of glass which went to new homes this year. "Breaking Wave" is made entirely of glass, using sheet glass, glass powders and crushed glass pieces called frit, and "In the Depths" is also made with glass powders, frits and glass enamels)
I have, at long last, managed to create a video slideshow for one of my tutorials. Given that I am not good with these things, nevertheless it does give viewers a taste of what I am offering.
you can find it here on YouTube - hopefully the link will work !
The tutorial, which can be found on my website, is in fact ART INSTRUCTION mostly for glass artists, but much of the information will also be useful to anyone wanting to produce worthwhile images with TREES as the main subject. Even if you are a painter, you may well find some good memory-joggers in the tutorial.
once again, I have to apologise for a long period of absence. This time, it is not because of apathy or lack of inspiration, it is in fact because I am now in my SIXTH week of a hospital stay.
I won't bore you with the details, suffice to say it was a sudden incarceration connected mostly with heart issues, which are almost under control now. I have a procedure on Monday to come still so am not totally out of the woods but feel now I am on my way at last.
Unfortunately, the condition has worsened my hand-shake problem, so was not able to while away time with sketching. It is an odd condition....I can type, as you can see; I can in fact paint, using pastels; it is fine detail that evades me now - writing, making linear marks using a pen or pencil, this is now extremely difficult. Yet I can cut glass without too many problems, and can make sense of wiggly marks by incorporating them in my enamelling work!!!! It is a question of finding out how to overcome obstacles, or working with the problems, rather than being too limited by them.
Perhaps this is a mantra for the future, as I am not getting any younger, and can certainly see a future full of potential issues and hazards and problems as my body gradually lets me down. Happens to most of us eventually. One thing that I am very grateful for is The Internet. For all its faults, I have to say it also is an amazing benefit.
I have been so supported through these past weeks by my so-called "friends" on the glass forums on Facebook. I have only met one or two of them, yet feel I know so many others purely from their words on a screen. They did not need to offer me words of encouragement and support - we usually just talk about glass-making - yet their generosity has been overwhelming. I know it only takes a minute or two to write an encouraging comment but please do know that if you hear about someone in hospital, or poorly, that the effort you make will be very much appreciated.
Also I have been able, via a laptop, to while away some happy hours learning, by watching tutorials and demonstrations on You Tube. This has been SO invaluable! It is fun and brilliantly time-consuming to watch how something is created; You Tube is an amazing resource.
Hopefully I will be home in due course and will be able to post some more useful blogs, but in the meantime, thank you everyone who still reads this blog, and thank you everyone who has been so supportive.
here I am having been allowed out to lunch at a local cafe. `notice the interesting costume jewellery.....!!!!
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.
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.
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.
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.