Sunday, August 30, 2009

Summer School

20 – 24 July 2009

This was my second time as one of the tutors at the ‘Arts & Crafts Summer School’ held at Beaufort Community School in Gloucester, England by the Gloucester Arts & Crafts Group. Over the week a mix of 2, 3 and 5 day workshops are held covering all sorts of art and craft skills such as calligraphy, botanical art, pastels, oils, chair making, mosaics, glass engraving, beadwork and willow weaving to name but a few.

Once again I had a 5-day batik workshop to run and although I only had 4 students booked for my workshop it worked well as each student therefore had plenty of room to work in and around the waxpots. Three of the ladies, Del, Hazel and Jenny, were with me last year; it was lovely to see them again and as we now know each other that bit better it was great having them feel that they knew me well enough for a bit of fun and banter. Carol was new, so whilst I could pretty much leave the other ladies to forge ahead with their exploration of batik, this meant I was on hand to help her as much as she needed as well as do a couple of projects myself in between.

We started the week on Day One with basic skills of using the wax, brushes, tjantings (batik pens) and the silk paints. Those who had previously done batik with me had the option of cracking straight on with their own projects or refreshing themselves with the step-by-step basic exercises.
They opted for the latter and said they found it very useful as there were some important or useful tips/techniques that they had forgotten.

On Day Two I took Carol step-by-step through a pansy head design, whilst the others started their own projects. Carol was finding it tricky getting her head around the technique (as do most who are new to the medium); throughout the week she battled on bravely and produced some lovely pieces to take home. She did very well and I hope she enjoyed her first foray into batik, her last piece in particular showed great promise should she wish to do more.

It’s not unusual to find the medium hard to understand and think your way around at first; I have found that the ratio is about half and half between those that seem to pick it up straight away and those that need time (like a few days) to work it out. It can be difficult to understand the technique and process, particularly when approaching a piece of work more involved than a couple of colour and wax applications. An understanding of colour mixing helps enormously and being able to think of a picture in reverse and in ‘layers’ when ‘painting’ helps too. I find a 5-day workshop is great for those new to batik as it gives them time to get to grips with the medium and learn to understand the process and then when the penny drops they are ‘away’ and can have real fun with it. Doing shorter workshops of one day or even two days is pretty full on and there’s far too much to take in and get your head around if you are finding it tricky. Once the penny does drop it’s like an ‘Eureka!’ moment, and I love to see that happen and then see what the student produces after that.

Day Three, Four and Five the ladies concentrated on their own projects taking inspiration from images they found in books or their own photographs. Here's some of their work from the week.

Del, Hazel and Jenny were very productive, as I expected them to be having done batik before and it was great to see them getting more adventurous and experimental with their batiks. Salt was used quite a bit this year as they played with the differing effects you can get with both fine and coarse grain salt crystals.

Whilst everyone was busy and not requiring my immediate attention I did a couple of little projects to show them the sort of things you can do with batik to make them into something more than a picture to frame. I pinned two pansy head batiks to a cushion (perhaps I should sew them into a proper cushion cover!), did a chameleon batik on a cotton bag and made a ‘wrap round’ for a lampshade. I wanted to give them ideas and think beyond the square of cotton they were working on. Hazel took up the challenge of a bag with a lily head and I hope seeds of ideas have been planted for possible future use into all of their minds.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Elephants of Amboseli

This is my latest painting, I have provisionally entitled it 'Waiting for the stragglers'.

Oils on canvas on board - 36" x 11" (92mm x 28mm)

During a stay in Amboseli N.P. Kenya in 1999, we observed these elephants for sometime. They were some way off, but heading in our direction so we stopped and waited. I got my camcorder focused on them and just let the film roll and roll. I love to capture movement and behaviour, something obviously that can't be achieved with just a photograph. Re-watching the footage back home enables me to study the movement and behaviours and the sounds help to evoke memories of temperature and smells; stirring my senses. This all helps me to try and get the feel of the moment so that I can hopefully paint the scene better.

A little way off from us they stopped and I wondered if we were the reason - were we in the way? Should we move on? Pretty soon it was clear that they were, in fact, waiting for more elephants to join them, scattered individuals approaching slowly from far off on their right. Once they had all caught up the elephants moved off together, seemingly after the big elephant at the back moved first. Was she the matriarch?

They unhurriedly made their way towards us, all was quiet in the morning sunshine. A few birds could be heard and the occasional insect buzzed by, but hardly a sound came from the elephants. As they got closer, and with all in the vehicle in hushed awe and wonder, you could just hear the footfalls and sound of skin rubbing against skin as they walked. The littlest ones trotting to keep up at times with the huge languid strides of the adult females. It was truly magical. The only alien sound to ruin it were the whirs and clicks of our cameras, but that was inevitable as we were all trying to get as many photo's as we could.

At the time, as I recorded the video, I was thinking.. one day I'm going to paint this. And finally I have. I started the painting last year and as I have not been able to paint it continuously, it's been done in dribs and drabs. It's good to finally get it finished.

With any luck I shall get prints done of the painting and I would like to sell the original piece so that I can put a good portion of the money towards my Africa fund, to enable me to get out there and paint more elephants for the Elephants for Africa Trust.