Here’s the third and final painting of the kitchen table. This one features Josh, the cat we brought north with us to Scotland; a young half-starved semi-feral cat when we adopted him from North Staffs RSPCA five years ago.
His description stated to be prepared for a lot of time and effort before he would be ready to trust anyone. I was fine with this and left him to settle in. Within days, he was quite curious about what I was doing – which was drawing streets in Eccleshall, and he jumped up to see what was going on.
This is the same kitchen table and chairs! It didn’t take long for Josh to work out that he was in a safe place.
Another key component of our kitchen table is the teapot.
I don’t think I’m the only one partial to a brew! This tea pot has featured a few times in my sketch book too.
The last key component of this drawing/triptych is the beautiful Burleighware jug which my sister Anne bought for me from Middleport Potteries in Stoke, whilst on a visit from Australia.
The Scrib Tree made quite an impression on our first visit: beautiful interior, locally-sourced food and outstanding artwork on the walls by Carol Taylor, who has her studio next door.
It’s located in the ancient village of Douglas with records dating from the 13th century and set within 33,000 acres of the Douglas Estate.
You can imagine how delighted I was to be offered the opportunity to hold an exhibition there this Spring 2021, with the town as my subject. The offer came late last summer when lockdown in Scotland had temporarily eased. I went straight there to spend time walking through the town and start the thinking process.
Douglas is intriguing. I became absorbed by the narrow streets, the variety of the buildings, the unexpected views and the intricate street plan. There were thin spaces between buildings and edges which concealed fragments of church towers and roads that disappeared over the brow of a hill.
I knew I wanted to push myself and present an exhibition of my experience of Douglas which would reflect the times we are living in.
I began to crop my photos to find interesting compositions and then began a thumbnail sketching spree. I stuck a row of sketches up on the wall and chose the ones with the strongest composition of shapes, shadows and light to work on.
Keeping in mind what I’d learnt on the Composed Landscape course at Paintbox, I simplified the subject by using a thick soft pencil – trying hard not to get distracted by details – something that’s quite a stretch for me!
The name of the body of work was there waiting for me as I walked around the town: ‘Around the Corner’.
With all the depressing events globally and nationally, I wanted to express things as they are now but with hope for something brighter, something different, something imminent. There has been such heavy news this last year, on top of already heavy news. I can’t ignore it and yet I always hope for the best.
I love all the phrases associated with ‘Around the Corner’, for instance ‘at hand’, ‘in the air’ or ‘looming’. This became the key focus of each study.
I settled on a square format, all the time working to simplify the view to focus on the corners and the atmosphere of anticipation.
I already had my palette in mind, but I will talk about that in my next post. In the meantime I will leave you with a couple more of the studies to give you an idea of this old Scottish village.
Sometime last October I embarked on a course run by Paintbox tutor Owen Normand. I’ve been exploring ways to express the landscape where I live in the hope of being able to capture at least a fragment of how it feels to live here in old orchard country.
The course lasted ten weeks, was based outdoors and I could fill ten blog posts on what we covered. However, for now, I want to touch on how it was to become the unexpected foundation of a new exhibition going up next month. The work is quite a change for me and I hope you will keep me company as I tell you about how it all evolved.
You know how much I love detail and how it’s an integral part of Drawing the Street. However, I want to develop my work and push into unfamiliar territory so it was a revelation to learn about many new artists to me including the work of Felix Vallotton and his approach to painting. It was his painting ‘Moonlight’ that captivated me and drew me to this course.
Owen’s invitation to the course stated:
‘The composed landscape course is all about mood over accurate representation.’
We began with sketching outside and apart from sketching a few trees, I lapsed back to drawing buildings as part of my landscapes.
‘Try to edit, simplify and arrange the elements of your scene to create paintings that are memorable and have a lasting emotional impact on the viewer.’
One corner had caught my imagination as I saw a small triangle of light set between dark shadows beside the corner of a high wall. After several different studies, it was this subject that I chose to prepare a monochrome paint study.
Owen kept reminding us – What was our painting about?
‘Focus on making compositions with the intention of communicating emotion or mood and trust that an imaginative design can trump painting technique.’
For me it was simple: it was that slice of light between the shadows that was drawing me in and wanting me to explore what was beyond the wall.
It’s one thing knowing what you have to do, but another thing altogether getting your paintbrush to oblige! However, those words ‘trust that an imaginative design can trump painting technique’ have been a lifesaver!
I didn’t realise at the time but this teaching has provided a solid foundation in getting my new body of work together for an exhibition in the Scrib Tree Dougas, from 1st march 2021.
I wanted to do something different, something to reflect the times we are in and my feelings about it all now. The pandemic has touched us all and I have to reflect our situation in some other way than my previous work.
I will be sharing how this body of work unfolds in my next few posts and hope you will join me here.
I will leave you with a flavour of the next post…my first thumbnail sketch of Douglas and the name of the exhibition…
A new exhibition went up in the Tolbooth Lanark last weekend, titled ‘Coasts and Rivers’. This is Lanark’s invitation for local artists to participate in Scotland’s 2020 celebration of:
‘Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters, a year that will spotlight, celebrate and promote opportunities to experience and enjoy Scotland’s unrivalled coasts and waters encouraging responsible engagement and participation from the people of Scotland and our visitors’.
It’s a step away from my usual buildings but for the past couple of years I’ve been exploring ways to express the beautiful landscape up here through attending a variety of art classes.
I’d been attending a year long drawing/mixed media course held at Paintbox School of Art in Cockenzie until lockdown threw that curve ball. Some of the classes went online so I signed up for their artist’s retreat and one of the morning meditation classes had the theme of oceans.
It involved filling a dozen or so sheets of A4 paper with a whole variety of fluid marks, the movement of ink on wet paper flowing to the sounds of the sea shore. I used three inks – Paynes grey and two blues, plenty of water for misting, sticks and feathers and the bottle dropper to make marks.
I set aside the papers to use as collage for the entry to the Oceans exhibition, thinking about the image of the Hebridean sea that I photographed on our way to St Kilda a few years ago. I wrote about it here.
Some weeks later, I prepared a surface with broad sweeping brush marks in similar colours but using acrylic paint to form a foundation layer, adding in some textured medium. I then tore a few sheets of the collage paper into narrow curved strips and layered them on to the base layer.
I then used inktense sticks to add highlights and deeper shadows.
Finally, to add the metallic sheen to the highlights, I added silver gouache using a cocktail stick held on its side to create irregular fillets of light.
Here’s the finished artwork. I did a double check on the tonal values by seeing how it looked in black and white and was happy with the result.
‘Hebridean Waters’ framed and ready for the exhibition! There’s a wide and interesting variety of work up in the Tolbooth, I think the subject has been appealing and just what we need to get us back in the flow!
Thanks for reading and if you live near Lanark, hope you can come along. The subject has generated some really beautiful and soothing art.
There’s something great going on this weekend for anyone living in and around the Potteries. Some of you may not know that Drawing the Street began in David Brammeld‘s drawing class not far from my home here in Newcastle-under-Lyme. Dave’s passion for drawing and painting the older parts of the Potteries has been a terrific example for me.
‘This special exhibition features works by distinguished artist L.S Lowry and his local counterpart Arthur Berry together for the first time. It reflects their passion for urban life and highlights their individual styles. These two working class artists who portrayed the world around them were unpretentious and their work showed the beauty and humour in the everyday.’
When I first joined the class, Dave encouraged me to dig into the character of the area that I was drawing, and told me about the book ‘ The Vanished Landscape‘ by Paul Johnson who wrote about growing up in the Potteries during the thirties. Johnson recalls Lowry visiting his father, the head of the Burslem School of Art, during his childhood – the book’s a great insight into the life and character of the Potteries and the people.
I feel very lucky to attend Dave’s drawing class. He’s a dedicated teacher, patient with his students and there’s a great atmosphere as you can see here as we spring a surprise toast to one of David’s big art moments. I’ll be going to the exhibition and demo on Sunday. Hope some of you can make it too!