New Directions part 2

My journey of change continued after my initial experiments (as described in part 1) with applying inks with seaweed, feathers, bamboo pens and anything to hand which could be effective. Viv and I have been doing work inspired by our visits to Cornwall for over 30 years and on a recent visit staying in Marazion we had a flat with a view looking down onto the beach. It was magic watching cormorants, oyster catchers, egrets and curlews feeding in the rock pools and the ebb and flow of the tide was totally hypnotic.

This is part of a series of paintings as seen from our flat trying to capture the ever-changing vista of water over rocks and sand plus the shifting light and atmosphere. They are part of a process which I want next to translate into working on canvas. So I predict more fun and mess ahead!

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New Directions part 1

 Let’s hear it for seaweed and bamboo!

My art has been stuck and seemingly going around in circles for several years now and all my attempts to move on have left me even more frustrated. Then a few months ago Viv sent me a Facebook link to a short film of an Australian artist who made her own brushes from materials found on her walks on the beach and in the countryside. Her brushes enabled some accuracy of marks but the huge variety of materials gave a wide range of different marks and alongside, random spats and squiggles from the often uncontrollable nature of trailing seaweed or springy twigs and leaves.

At the very least the idea looked like fun and as it was a lovely day, I set off down the beach in search of flotsam. Within an hour I had collected a bag full of likely materials ranging from twisted dried seaweeds and brightly coloured pieces of frayed fishing ropes to bird feathers and twigs.

Back at home I set up a table in the garden, got out a range of acrylic and other drawing inks and Tippex, and gathered together my new hoard of potential brushes and some home-made bamboo pens. Inspired by some apples still clinging to our trees, I began working in inks on large sheets of watercolour paper using twists of seaweed, feathers, bamboo pens and the glass droppers from the ink bottles. OH WHAT FUN! Drips, splats and dribbles everywhere. The mixture of control and accident was intoxicating if hugely messy!

I had not had so much sheer art joy in a long time. The results were not great art but very liberating oh and did I say FUN!

The first two works shown here were done in the garden of apples, but I then began to think how I could work on and develop existing ideas with this approach. I thought of the sketches I did earlier in the year in Greece so using a piece of three foot high cartridge paper I set off into the image of the temple of Nike using inks and Tippex applied with tufts of seaweed, bamboo pens and drawing and dribbling with the glass dippers in the ink pots. The result had all the energy my paintings had lost!

Then I cut five feet of paper off a roll of Fabriano and set off into a larger work. While staying in Athens, early one morning as the sun was rising, the full moon was beginning to go down but was hovering just over the Parthenon above the heads of the tired horses of the chariot of the moon goddess. OH WOW! So I started a work I call Moon-fall the first of what I think will be a series exploring that idea. My art is on the move again and that’s what matters

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Greek Odyssey

For the last 2 weeks Viv and I have been staying in a room with a view of the Acropolis in Athens. From our sunny balcony above the city noise we shared the air with swifts, swallows, sparrows, blackbirds, hawks and a small group of green parrots. We went partly to enjoy the Greek ambience but mainly to revisit some of the most interesting sites and art in human history.

Last time I took watercolours to try and catch ideas but ended up doing neat little pictures so I was determined to do different. A limited but versatile range materials is important, and weight is also an issue when you are carrying your stuff around sites and museums for several hours each day in the heat! . So I took and A4 cartridge pad and a small note/sketchbook and watercolours. As watercolour does not do naturally nice looking effects on cartridge paper I chose this awkwardness to help me stop doing pretty pictures. Also I decided to try and use the double page proportion approximately 3 to 1 as a base format.

The first work in graphite and watercolour was our view of the Acropolis with the end of the Parthenon and the Erechtheion against a clear blue sky. Yes it’s a picture but hey what a view!

There followed a range of work trying to catch a sense of place and light both in and around Athens. Below, the works are of a slice down from the fortress to the old Plaka village and the temple of Nike seen from a forest of olive trees.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the lovely temple of Brauron / Vavrona on the coast to the east of Athens the ruined tomb of Iphigeneia huddles against the cliff and is overhung with swathes of yellow flowers. There is calmness in this place. In total contrast, at Eleusis the home of the ancient mysteries, the feeling is uncomfortable and edgy. The painting is of the cave through which, reputedly, Pluto took Demeter’s daughter Persephone into the underworld.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also did lots of drawing in the museums and love the little clay horses which are either free standing or decorate the lids of large pots. There are masses of small clay and bronze figurines of horses, dogs, rams, pigs and deer. Some were votive offerings, stamps or toys for children. I loved the little figure jumping over the bulls horns from the Piraeus museum.

 

The next challenge is to, over the next few months, take all the information and ideas I have from this wonderful trip and start to produce more considered works which explore my experiences in more depth and to hopefully also move my art process on! Although I took quite a lot of photos, they are very tricky. I did a watercolour of bright yellow daisies in the Agora in full sun and cooked myself. The sense colour was intense yet the photos are bland and nothing like my experience – that is why I do art!

 

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The Way from Eleusis 3

As an artist I have felt stuck for some time and in my previous blog I talked about the difficulties and frustrations of that state which assails most artists at stages in their lives. Losing a close family member does not help and as I sensed beginning to come out of the emotional darkness from that event so finally my endeavours to move on in my art practice have begun to have more positive outcomes.

I began ‘The Way from Eleusis’ nearly two years ago and I have been trying to capture the magical feeling of being sat amongst the flowers on the ancient processional way from the mysteries in Eleusis to the acropolis in Athens, surrounded by light, colour, swifts, butterflies, bees and a sense of connection to place.

Since the summer of last year the triptych has been hanging in our living area nagging at me in terms of, ‘well I’m sort of OK but really you can’t leave me like this!’ I felt guilty about it but did not know what to do to sort it. Oh, I have lots of tricks and technical skills acquired over 50 years of painting in oils but, and it is a BIG BUT, I did not know how to bring the work to an emotionally satisfying conclusion and one which expressed what I felt about the sense of place until a couple of weeks ago. All of a sudden I had a new way in to the paintings. It may have been the short holiday in Venice which lifted my spirits or a chat with one of the famous bronze horses in the Basilica, whatever, something worked.

I decided to treat the three paintings as separate entities. I felt that the left hand one of the three was alright so I tackled the right hand one first as it had fewer issues and then finally moved on to the more difficult central panel. Experimentation with textures and overlays along with some decisions about which were the most important elements to focus on finally paid off and I have finished. The painting(s) now work in their own terms and I can let go of their need and my guilt just in time for my next visit to Keramikos to experience the place again with who knows what results……. Phew!

 

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The Way from Eleusis

At last! After a year of struggling with this 2×1 metre triptych I have finally brought it to a satisfactory conclusion. If you want to see the painting and more work, come to Paul and Viv’s studios at 7 Hythe Road, Worthing www.martinstudios.co.uk We are open this weekend 2nd 3rd July from 11am to 5pm as part of the Worthing Artists Open Houses.

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It is so hard trying to paint the feeling of being there – of sitting on the ancient way from Eleusis, where the mysteries took place, looking towards the Parthenon in Athens. There is a constant noise of tourists and the city of Athens all around, yet in Keramikos, I am sitting in a haven of comparative peace surrounded by swallows, bees, butterflies, flowers and with a huge sense of timelessness and history. Phew – I want to be back there….

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Finding my mojo in Florence!

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After feeling like I had been going around an art loop for so long, my perseverance, experimentation, thought and practice finally paid off. The pre-print or blot had in effect opened up a vision of new possibilities in mark and image making. I realised I had the potential of a new way of seeing and working and returned to the workshop with an idea to try. I wanted to work on a large scale to avoid becoming too fussy, so one of the tutors, Jane, found me a 1 by ½ meter transparent plate to work on and Viv said that we could join sheets of the Arches paper for printing. So I set off into a large piece related to my own ideas and imagery ‘falling horse’.

I drew out a full size cartoon, (in the original art meaning of the word) lay it under the transparent plate and began work. It took 3 ½ hours to work up the plate using rollers, pieces of card and brushes, to lay on the ink and draw into it. I printed it with Jane’s help and the result left me in awe. It was such a huge jump forwards for me. I worked on the print for another hour then Celebratory Prosecco on our hotel balcony, communing with the swifts.

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Fired up with my new way of mark making I set off into another meter high print relating to theme I have been struggling with for over a year – the sun chariot. I drew out a cartoon very quickly and set off into another plate for nearly 4 hours. The pre-print lifted a little too much ink so more work on the plate, then through the press to create ‘the bringer of light’. Oh Wow! Yes, the image is not that well sorted but the energy!

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The next day I added two more horses to the image on the cartoon, then using the ghost on the plate as a starting point, set off re-working the image. This took over 4 hours and an aching back and legs as most of the work needs to be done whilst standing.

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It is great when one gets to release a log jammed practice and I would like to thank Ron and Jane for their patience and help and the support and encouragement of Viv and my fellow workshop artists.

If you want to see the work from the Florence trip do come to our Open Studios as part of the Worthing Artist’s Open House Trail, at Martin Studios, 7 Hythe Road Worthing, June 18, 19, 25, 26 and July 2 & 3 from 11am till 5pm. Info on http://www.martinstudios.co.uk

 

 

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Seeking my mojo in Florence

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During the first two weeks of May, Viv and I went once more to refresh our art practice to Firenze on a monotype workshop run by the American master printmaker Ron Pokrasso pokrasso@shaening.com and Jane Pagliarulo.

As before, the workshop took place in Santa Reparata International School of Art right opposite our hotel, near San Marco and thankfully just outside of the over-touristed centre of the city. There were good working spaces, 4 etching presses, good computer access, very friendly and helpful staff and a friendly group of fellow artists mostly from the USA.

My art practice has been frustratingly stuck for over two years and I went not for the technical tuition but for the distance, difference, workshop facilities and good artistic company and challenge in which develop my art practice. Knowing Ron and several of the participants from the last workshop and working in a large side room with other artists helped foster the conditions for potential change.

For my first print I used a drawing of a Marini sculpture to get going. Laying my drawing under the transparent plate I worked on the plate using rollers and card to add the Akua ink and drew with the edge of the card into the ink. The print made on Arches 88 paper was fine but harked back to my previous work and was a little boring. So, I reworked the ghost image left on the plate, made a second print then used a roller and pieces of card to work on the piece directly and help burst the image out of the constraints of the plate edge across the paper.

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The next image of a diving horse and rider also came from a drawing I did of a Marini, heavily overworked on the paper breaking the boundaries of the plate edge to good effect but it still felt constrained.

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The following print I elaborated on the image giving the rider flaming wings and began thinking of developing a Prometheus theme. The image was worked over the plate edge after printing but it still felt a little tame so I tore the paper to reshape it to re-inforce the dynamism of the image.

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I was still disappointed in the result but knew that the important thing was to keep experimenting and challenging myself to change as an artist, so off I went to the Marino Marini museum again for inspiration and this time saw his work very differently. I was particularly interested in the mark making of his prints and paintings and on the surface of his sculpture and returned to the print room with renewed enthusiasm and thoughts.

After a couple of hours work the plate image was so heavily inked and drawn into that I had to blot it before it could go through the press or it would have just squidged under pressure. This method became known in our group as ‘the breath of Ron’ who showed me how to do it. I gently laid a sheet of newsprint over the plate and blew on it to help create a light contact evenly across the surface and thus remove the excess ink. Total magic! To my surprise the pre-print on the newsprint was far more interesting than the actual print! It had more of the drawing and interesting marks and I began to see a way forward to create more interesting and dynamic images.

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See part 2 coming soon for where my journey has taken me!

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