Monday, August 18, 2008

Artist in Residence at Nature In Art

After a couple of weeks of preparation – printing and packing my greetings cards, flyers, labels and stuff… I’m setting off for Nature In Art in Glos today. Although this wonderful place is not open to the public on Mondays; artists’ in residence usually set up their work and arrange the studio to suit their needs on this day, so that they are ready for the visitors on the Tuesday morning.

Again this year I shall be doing my 6-day stint with my very good friend and fellow artist Julie Askew. During the week we are put up in a lovely farmhouse B&B about 3 miles away, which I always look forward to staying in. I kind of look upon this week as a bit of a holiday… well, more like a busman’s holiday really. I shall be painting every day, intermingled with a lot of chat to the visitors and my friend of course, but the general atmosphere of both Nature In Art and the B&B is very relaxed and calming.

The plan is to get on with the elephant painting I am in the middle of. I had some very favourable reaction to it when I was a stand-in artist in res last Friday at the same place. It is of a group of elephants walking towards the viewer in a long postbox format composition, set in Amboseli, Kenya.

I saw the scene in 1999 and took about 15 mins worth of video of the ‘action’, because at the time I knew I wanted to paint it someday. Now that day has finally arrived and it’s taking me right back to that time and place, each time I work on it. What a lovely feeling that is. I doubt I will finish the whole painting, but it would be really nice if I could get all the ellies painted in this week…. that is my target. I shall post a piccie soon of it to show you, hopefully when there’s more of it to see.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Artist in Residence

As I write this I am shortly to leave for sunny Gloucester today. I am spending the day at the Nature in Art Museum and Art Gallery as a 'stand-in' artist in residence, as the chap doing his stint there this week cannot be there today. So, as a last minute thing, I was asked if I could be there just for today so that there was someone for the visitors to see and talk to. Of course, like a shot, I said yes... it's a great opportunity to be there to paint and meet people.
So I am looking forward greatly to spending a day working on my ellie painting that I have recently started. let's hope I get to finish this one as the last two I have started are still waiting for me to get round to finishing them!

I am at Nature In Art all next week, from Tuesday, doing my own stint as artist in residence, with my good friend and fellow artist Julie Askew.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

National Exhibition of Wildlife Art- 18 July- 3 August

During the exhibition I kept an eye on the website and the online gallery of work, as from there I could see which paintings had sold each day. As the exhibition wore on I was becoming a little more resigned that neither of my two pieces would sell. However, I am pleased to say that the very welcome sight of seeing the bold letters SOLD, where the price had been next my heron painting, greeted me on checking the website one evening.

It's always a thrill when a painting sells and although there can sometimes be a little sadness when a certain piece goes, it's not too much - as you paint with a mind to sell, as bills have to be paid. There is one painting that I will never sell - it's of a very cherished cat that came into my life and enriched it beyond words - and that stays on my wall at home.

I kind of liked this heron piece; when I looked at it I could still feel the cold January air on my face as I watched the bird hunt slowly and carefully, moving across a very brightly lit patch of water into the almost black reflected shadow of a dogwood bush. It was a reminder of a perfect end to a lovely, though very chilly, day spent at WWT Slimbridge, Glos.

But I'm glad that it has found someone whose appreciative eye persuaded them to buy it. I wonder where it has gone?

The image can be viewed in the June 23 2008 post

Friday, August 08, 2008

Gloucester Summer School 21-25 July

From the limit of an hour and a half at the Art in Action workshops, I was positively basking in luxury with the prospect of a 5-day workshop. And it was something I had been looking forward to, for over a year.
This week-long event has been held annually for 28 years and was another ‘first time’ for me. It should have been my 'second time' doing this event, as I was to tutor here last year, but the awful floods in Gloucestershire at the time, meant the whole event had to be cancelled for the first time in all the years it has been run. Thankfully, despite not having a great summer weather-wise so far, the rain did not fall like the deluge of 2007 and everything went ahead as planned this year.

Having 5 days meant I could take time to go through the basics with the students, which was an unbelievably lovely feeling and would benefit them enormously. Rather than trying to rush people through the preliminary stages, so that they could get on with their finished piece, I could set a series of exercises to familiarize them with working with the melted wax, brushes, tjantings and colour over the first 2 days. On Day 3 they had moved onto trying their hand at 'flying solo' on their first ‘proper’ image, and then once they had done that, they were free to do whatever they liked.

I had a lovely bunch of 7 ladies to start with, two of which had been to previous workshops of mine. As was usual for this event, throughout the week, students from all the workshops tended to wander around in their tea/coffee breaks and lunchtimes to see what everyone else was doing and perhaps to decide what they might like to try the following year. As a result of this, another lady joined my group on Day 2; she had decided to swap workshops to have a go at batik.

‘My ladies’ were a fantastic group, of whom it was a pleasure to meet. They were great fun and coped with my sense of humour and teasing admirably. As several of them have been regular participants for numerous years, they also looked after me very well for my first time at the event.

Doing workshops such as these I find I get much enjoyment out of seeing them progress and achieve and always find I end up learning something too. The results, of having such a wonderous amount of time to spend as one workshop, showed in the work produced and those that were not picking up the concept straight away had time to go at their own pace rather than having to rush. And those that were getting on well could try a bit of experimenting, which was great to see.

Though it was a relatively relaxed week for me, it was quite a heavy week for them - doing batik in a more pictorial style demands a lot of concentration and planning and I did feel for 'my ladies' when they compared how tired they had felt at the end of each day. But their enthusiasm and eagerness rallied them through and I hope they felt it was worth it.

Towards the end of the week, as I started putting their work up on the wall for all to see, I found I was smiling a lot. There were some fantastic images produced and I was really proud of what they had done and I hope ‘my ladies’ got as much fun, enjoyment and benefit from the week as I did. Several of the designs could be made into very nice cushions and, indeed, one lady in the group demonstrated how great they could look by spending two of her evenings turning two of her batiks into lovely cushions. I think this was a great inspiration for the rest of the group.

The event is held at a school in Gloucester, which is taken over for the week and 25 workshops were held there, either as 5 days or 2/3 days, this year; covering a diverse range of arts and crafts including whittling, botanical art, calligraphy, chair making, glass
engraving, stained glass, mosaics and lace making. I had been told that this was the first time that batik had been one of the workshops offered. Or perhaps they meant that it has been a long while, as I find it hard to imagine in 28 years no-one has done batik there before. Anyway, I hope to be able to go back and do another workshop at this event next year; signs are good that I may be able to, as there seemed to be a lot of interest generated and enquiries made for another batik workshop.

Whilst I had looked forward to this event, I also had a fair amount of trepidation of how I would fair over 5 days, knowing how exhausting a 2-day batik workshop can be. But I found having the week meant the pressure was reduced to get them through everything and produce a finished piece of batik, so the experience was a lot more enjoyable and almost relaxed. I thoroughly enjoyed the week and I'd like to thank my friend who told me about this event - opening up this opportunity for me, the organiser for taking the chance and booking me as a tutor and lastly, my lovely group of ladies who made the week so very enjoyable.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Art in Action 17-20 July

This annual event is held at Waterperry Gardens, near Wheatley, Oxon, UK. It has been going since 1977 and attracts thousands of visitors who go to see the demonstrators and take part in any of the practical workshops of fine music, dance, arts and crafts and perhaps to buy some goodies too.

This was the first year I had ever been and I went under the banner of The Nature In Art Museum and Art Gallery, who were there for their second year. I gave two batik workshops on the Friday, which were well attended and drew quite a crowd, both times, who stopped to watch.

It was challenging to come up with a format for adults lasting just an hour and a half. Most people who turn up to workshops have not done batik before or ‘had a go a long time ago but done nothing since’. So not only did I need to go over the basics of just what batik was and how the process worked, but there is the concept of working backwards on your image from the highlights first through to the dark tones in what I call a ‘suicide method’. If you go wrong… there’s nothing you can do to correct it, especially in such a short amount of time. This concept can ‘drop into place’ instantly with some people whilst others it takes longer and until you get a grasp of this, batik can be a complete frustrating mystery.

So I had to try and think of something that could be done easily and quickly, but was fun and colourful as a finished piece… something they would be happy to take away. I decided not to bother with tjantings, as they can take a while to master, so with time against us, I selected a few choice brushes and the plan was to get them to do a simple design of leaves or flowers.

The first hiccup we had was the electrics. There were only a couple of sockets and so a hunt was made for extension leads. The second hiccup was that all the sockets, and hence extension leads, led back to one source of power. So that we didn’t risk blowing a major fuse somewhere and causing a heap of problems for many other people who were relying on a power supply, I had to limit the electrical equipment I could use. I had 3 waxpots, an iron and 7 hairdryers… far too many items, so we cut back on the hairdryers… this meant the process of drying was greatly slowed as the people who participated had to wait in turn for the hairdryers. Adding to the drying problems was the relatively cold damp weather we were having. Consequently, we didn’t get as far along in our colour layers as I would have liked them to have achieved in the time we had during the morning session. So for the afternoon’s workshop I revised the project and we managed somewhat better.

The space we had to work in was rather compact for 7 or 8 people trying to work on batiks, get to hairdryers and the iron around the table. But everyone was great and mucked in dealing with the situation very well and seemed to enjoy the workshop. I hope they went away having had a bit of fun, learnt something and had with them a finished piece of work they were proud of.

Although I had a few hours between workshops I didn’t get round to looking at the rest of the marquees and tents, apart from a sculpture tent. This was quite disappointing as I'm sure there was lots to see and take in. I was also greatly disappointed to find I missed out on the Pimm’s tent… if only I had known it was there…. but perhaps that was just as well.