Monday 23 December 2019

Last Blog Of The Decade

What a poor year it's been for blogging.  I'm afraid I have fallen short of my aspirations.  Instagram is much quicker and easier to do and I think I've been distracted.  However, I can't let the year draw to a close without one last effort.

It's been a busy year and I've filled many sketchbooks.  Observational sketches of trees and landscapes. But every interruption means that I lose my train of thought - and so I end up going off down various avenues - heathlands, hills, seascapes, woodland.

I think my main inspiration this year has been Victoria Crowe.  Having seen her work at both the Scottish Gallery and the City Art Centre in Edinburgh in the late summer it has come home to me just how much hard work one must do to produce any meaningful work.  There really is no shortcut - as she says, there are no easy solutions or quick hits. There is only hard work, overcoming difficulties, and things that emerge from the process, the process of making art.  I realise that I should try to be more 'process-driven'.  It's that stage from sketchbook to finished work that is so important.

I thought I might focus on woodland or gardens for a bit, (a theme from the start of the year) and set about some work after an autumnal visit to Attadale Gardens.  I enjoyed loosening up the colour and thinking about bringing a figure into the picture. I came up with these two paintings which I quite liked. 

However, this avenue of thought was interrupted by a trip up to Poolewe - more sketching of amazing landscapes and beautiful colours. The Autumn colours were particularly lovely this year.

And then another trip to Edinburgh was looming and I was keen to prepare some new printing plates at Edinburgh Printmakers, so I had to set to work on some finished drawings on film, ready for exposure.

 I've been thinking too about how to add some colour to my prints to make them more interesting.  I have a few colours of etching ink, and I can print plates with more than one colour, but it doesn't always turn out well.  Also, thinking about Victoria Crowe's approach, she often brings in a wash of colour as a compositional device. I liked the idea of chine colle as a way of introducing compositional colour, so I read up on the technique, sent away for some Japanese papers and I've now had a go at it with some of these new printing plates. This was my first attempt using a paper with wavy line patterns  - I thought it was kind of interesting.
And then I tried a copper plate - experimenting with different colours and different arrangements.

It makes the printing process even more exciting - you never quite know how it will turn out! You have to take time to think it through before you make the print. It's certainly something I plan to try further - I have lots of ideas and I'm thinking about subtlety and boldness and what works best.  Or maybe there is no best....just different.

So as usual, there is much to consider....

Sunday 9 June 2019

Verona Reflections

Back from a fab sketching trip with pals to the wonderful city of Verona at the start of May: now trying to make something out of my sketches.

My aim was modest - to do SOMETHING from my sketches.  However, I set myself a challenge....not just to reproduce one of my sketches, but to play around with motifs and details and try to come up with something a bit more interesting. I also set a time limit - 2 weeks.

I started by scribbling and working things out in my sketchbook.  Thinking about composition, really, but also thinking about the essence of the city - what did I love about it?
What I found particularly fascinating was how the city has adapted itself through time - Roman details in mediaeval buildings, the preponderance of brickwork, and the dominance of the Adige River...and so on. But already I was forgetting things, and the trip was taking on the feeling of a dream
Anyway...initially I did some small watercolours.

Then trying larger ideas in acrylic.

 Thought I'd try to combine different motifs on one picture plane.  
However, this one looked a bit too busy

So I cropped it....and refined it, but it probably needed more space.

 I then decided to play around with a few details to enrich the picture-making. Not just brickwork and castellations!  I referred back to photos I had taken of details and drew these out with a dip pen. Hard work!
Then back to painting, thinking about using some of the details.

But convinced myself that a double-arch motif didn't really work in this one.

And finally decided to simplify by losing the main arch and adding a bit of shadow.
This is where it is now.

Then I had another idea, based on arches and statues, from memory.
And then I refined this, referring back to a very quick sketch I had made at the theatre colonnade - trying to get the proportions better. And I wanted to make the statue a bit dreamier. So this is how it looks now.  Interesting to compare....maybe the first version was better...
But I really didn't think I had achieved what I had (somewhat vaguely) set out to do.  And, in a flash of inspiration, I thought I'd have a go at making a couple of monoprints...well three actually.

I think these are kind of interesting and they're closer to achieving the 'dreaminess' of Verona that I was trying to capture.
And it has taken me 3 weeks to get here, so I think I probably have to move on now....
Comments welcome!

Saturday 9 February 2019

New Studio! Up and running!

My big project at the start of this year has been to get a wee studio built. I've been planning it for a year and have had a few setbacks for one reason or another.  Eventually I decided to build a posh garden shed, or rather a 'garden room', courtesy of  a firm called Bridge Timber

Doing a building project in this part of the world in the month of January is not an easy task, but the guys set to it very cheerfully, despite freezing temperatures and days of never-ending rain. Within a few days this was how it looked....
 and within two weeks it was fully finished, like this....
I still have a few externals to do, like proper steps and a bit of landscaping. But the internals have been more of a priority.  The space looked so big at first - a lovely empty space - and it took several days to paint it.
But by the time I got the printing press installed and moved the rest of my stuff in from my temporary studio, the space had filled up quite a bit.

It has filled up even more since this point - I suppose a bit of creative clutter doesn't go amiss, but I'm trying very hard to be organised. In the past I have allowed clutter to build up and I found it very frustrating, distracting and bad for creativity: now I have a chance for a new start and I'm determined to be more organised.

At last I've been able to get on with some work. Here's what I've been up to.
Doing a bit of printmaking. (Here's my reflection in the velux window...a kind of arty photo!)

And doing a bit of painting.  Trying to keep my palette simple (not too many colours... and choosing those colours carefully).
I've also been thinking about themes to focus on this year.  I'd like to create a body of work and not be all over the place. The trouble is that the themes that interest me are a bit challenging for picture-making.  Themes such as environmental armageddon - maybe that's too depressing, anyway.  So I'm thinking about metaphors for loss, change and impending doom (nice, eh?)....motifs like abandoned villages, stormy weather, damaged landscapes.  Perhaps my most recent photopolymer print - Skyburst - is along the right lines. Something to build upon perhaps.

 Anyway, I have some themes and ideas, I have the materials and I have the working space, so I really have no excuses now.  I just have to fight off the siren forces of distraction and procrastination.  As you know, life can so often get in the way of art, and that's the biggest challenge of all.

Tuesday 1 January 2019

Sketch Book Review

I have been reviewing my 2018 sketchbooks.  I think this will help me to think about what I'm going to do next year.  Once again I am resolved to do more blogging this year - I find it helps me to keep focused on my work and work things out in my head.

Trying to see if there are themes emerging from my sketches. Like the landscapes of home.

Lochcarron and Kishorn.  The sea and the hills.  Rocky foregrounds which I haven't quite perfected yet.  I like rocks and want to keep sketching these in order to get the right look.

And other less familiar landscapes, such as those above in Mallorca.

Then there are the trees at home and abroad. Like this Mallorcan pine tree perched on the edge at the top of the Barranc near Soller in Mallorca.

I was particularly attracted to the exotic shapes of Olive Trees in Mallorca.

 But any tree with character tells me it wants to be sketched, including an old apple tree in Colonsay.


And then there are buildings, groups of buildings and structures.  Like the steading at Balmacara.

 Quiet lanes in Edinburgh's New Town.

The narrow streets of the Alfama in Lisbon.
 And monumental buildings, such as the Belem Tower
Not forgetting the architectural details of buildings in Soller, Mallorca.

And bridges are a favourite subject, including this one nearer home at Duncraig Halt on the Kyle Line.

These are just a few of my sketches from 2018.  However, it's one thing to sketch but quite another to create paintings, and I know I have to spend more time in 2019 playing with sketches and creating pictures. That's probably my resolution for 2019.  Happy New Year!