Thursday, November 7, 2019

I do like Atkinson Grimshaw!

Last year I did a blogpost - Little things that are making me happy- One of those things was an artwork-a-day desk calendar, I loved it so much I got another one this year, and this was the artwork for the day a week ago.

I love the little surprise each day when the new artwork is revealed, and this one made me say 'oh gorgeous'. When I looked more closely I found it was painted by John Atkinson Grimshaw (1836-1893), an artist I'd dismissed as a teenager. Grimshaw was from Leeds (like me), and there are several of his paintings in the Leeds Art Gallery. When I used to visit I'd walk quickly through that room in search of something more 'modern', wishing there was a Matisse or a Gauguin in the collection!!

Grimshaw was a Victorian realist, mostly painting urban scenes often at night or evening, big canvasses in oils of gas lit streets and misty waterfronts, they seemed very old fashioned to me.

This painting is watercolour and gouache on paper, which is different for a start, and it's a country scene not the city. But what grabs me is that wonderful sky and the bare winter tree on the right. It doesn't feel old fashioned to me, if anything it feels timeless, and it makes me want to go out with my paints and capture the sky at dusk and the shape of trees against the sky.

Apparently this painting is in the Leeds Art Gallery collection, I don't know whether it's on display, but hopefully next time I'm in England I'll get to see it in the flesh.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Sketching wet season skies

Hello blog friends..... Wow, it's a long time since I posted. I never meant that to happen, it makes it hard to jump back in. Why now? There's nothing special to write about, but I'll just write something and hopefully get back in the habit.

One of the good things that happened last wet season was sketching regularly at the beach... For years and years I've said I want to paint the wet season clouds, skies can be so dramatic at that time of year. About 10 years ago I bought myself a beautiful moleskine A4 sketchbook for this exact purpose. Needless to say it was too beautiful to use, and is still on my shelf it's plastic wrapper unopened!!

So what made it happen this year? One thing was the terrible weather - it was relentlessly hot and humid with little rain to cool things down. Usually I go to the beach to walk, but I realised I was getting home so drained I was worn out for the rest of the day. I thought I don't have to punish myself like this! But I still wanted to go to the beach so I took my sketchbook and a chair instead!

The other thing that helped was sorting out a small sketching kit that worked for me - an aquabrush (no need for a waterpot and extra brushes) a couple of watercolour pencils and a dried up watercolour palette - I squeezed out tube watercolours onto a small palette rather than taking a big watercolour set.

I went sketching a couple of times a week from Xmas to the end of March,  and made around 30 sketches. They are tiny 10x15cm in a little cheap sketchbook. Some are good and some are not so good, and that's ok because it was really about the process; about spending time looking, about playing with watercolours a medium I rarely use, about going back again and again for another try, and in the end achieving something I'd wanted to do for a long time.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

I'm still here!!! And new lino prints!!

I can't believe it's three months since I posted here, I didn't mean to leave it so long.

I haven't done any more of the life book lessons, but by the end of July, and the end of the index card a day challenge, I had some inspiration of my own, and started chiselling my first lino in over a year. I've done 4 new linos so far and started making them into cards. They are all inspired by plants in my garden, ferns and flowers. I've played around with some multicolour reduction prints, as well as hand colouring black and white prints. It was so exciting to peel back that first print, it felt like coming home. I've added a couple of my new cards to my Etsy shop, and I'm hoping to do an Xmas craft fair this year!

I'm trying to keep the ball rolling by making small actions each day - they might seem tiny or pointless but they gradually add up. For example, I got started by going hunting for a packet of coloured card I'd bought over a year ago. The next day I worked out what size I wanted the cards to be and cut up a few sheets, the next day I cut up a few more sheets. It was a few days before I sat down and drew a design onto a piece of lino.

I feel like the universe is giving me a helping hand too. In June I was made permanent part-time at work, so my hours are much more predictable than when I was casual, it makes it much easier to schedule in time for art making.

I feel like there's much more to say, but I'd better post this before another month goes past. I am posting some of my art and garden photos on Instagram @fernyhoughkate, but I don't want to stop blogging... hopefully it won't be three months til the next post!!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Getting stalled and getting restarted

Since I last posted I have ground to a halt with lifebook - the yearlong online art course I'm doing. I did a couple more lessons, week 12

And week 14.

Then I jumped ahead to week 20, because it was a lesson with Mystele Kirkeeng an artist I've followed on Flickr for many years. I was really keen to get some insight into her art making process. It was a lesson with lots of layering and markmaking, using lots of different materials to build up a wonderful abstract underpainting. I loved the freedom of this part of the lesson, but when I got to the point of trying to find a figure in all that wildness I was really resistant to covering up what I'd done and losing it. I worked on 2 pieces, doing one while the other dried. It took weeks to do all the layers, just spending half an hour here and there on it. Then there was a week or 2 of wrestling with myself about the last part of the lesson, and wondering if I was done or not...

By then I'd lost all my momentum, not to mention feeling like I'd failed at the lesson I'd had the highest expectation about.

In the meantime it rolled around to the month of June and the index card a day challenge (ICAD). You can find out all about it at daisy yellow blog or on Instagram @gypsy999. It's a really doable challenge of doing 'something's on an index card everyday through June and July. So 61 cards in the end. It only takes 5 or 10 minutes to doodle a mandala, or collage some bits and pieces from a magazine. Getting back into a creative habit is much more important than the pieces of work.

When my kids were little I used to make time in the evenings to sit at my desk and do a bit of drawing or writing after they went to bed. Now my oldest is 20 - still living at home - and the twins are 15, they all stay up later than me!! And there isn't really a time of quiet - unless I make it happen. It has to be said that the internet especially Instagram can be very distracting/time consuming, and though I don't usually watch a huge amount of tv, I'm hooked on the current season of (Aussie) Masterchef, which is on 5 nights a week and gobbling up too much of my time!!

Well enough of the excuses, here are some of my index cards, many are drawn from paused YouTube and Iview videos. The musicians are from NPR's tiny desk concerts. (I used to dream of coming back in my next life as an opera singer, but now I want to be a Scandinavian violin player!!) The tv shows I've drawn from are Gardening Australia and Endeavour. It'll be interesting to see where I grab inspiration from for the last couple of weeks.

Here's a little thing I wrote about the lifebook lesson that stalled me.

Lesson 20

The artist says
take an emotion
and express it with paint
on paper, then a layer of pastels
then collage, more paint
then wet it and scrape it back.
Hold on, I think,
I'm attached to that patch
of turquoise and that circle of red
and the dark blue that bled
with spidery marks
I've been careful not to
cover up.
All this layering and losing it.
How can I hold it lightly.
How can I take it seriously but carelessly
let it go.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Little things that are making me happy

Here are three little things that are making me happy.

Number 1. An artwork-a-day desk calendar. I bought this half price in the January sales and it gives me so much pleasure. I'm being super strict about not peeping ahead, so everyday there's a little surprise. Some days are an old favourite like this - Vermeer's Girl with a pearl earring - but often it's an artwork I've never seen before by an artist I've never heard of. I love the contrast too, one day a sentimental Victorian painting of a child and her dog, the next day a hard edged abstract piece... I'm also looking forward to when the year is over and I can glue the pictures into journals, cut up, collage and use for inspiration.

Number 2. A pot of flowers at my front door. This time last year I was in England in spring, the tulips were out and blossoms on the trees. We saw some gorgeous gardens in York and at Harlow Carr in Harrogate. When I came home I was discouraged about my overgrown, chaotic, tropical garden. I longed to have an English flower garden. I don't really think that's achievable! But I can have a pot of flowers by the front door and enjoy them every time I go in and out. These are vincas, the come in a range of pinks and reds, right through to dark purples, the are very hardy in Darwin's hot sun, and handle my not very green fingers!!

Number 3. Fruit in the park. The dry season is here,  (that's  a BIG reason to be happy, not a little reason!) The temerature's dropped a few degrees and the humidity is way down. So instead of rushing home from work to collapse under a fan, these days I stop at the park for 5 minutes and eat a mandarin, and try to relax and notice whatever's going on.

The dry season means more things are happening around town. This Saturday is the Seabreeze Festival, with stages and stalls all along Nightcliff foreshore. Then the last weekend in May is Wordstorm the writer's festival. I'm hoping to get to both!

Saturday, April 21, 2018

How I'm going with lifebook - April 2018

This is my 2nd year of doing the 'art course' Lifebook, I wasn't sure whether to take it again as last year I pretty much dropped out of the second half of the year. The thing that swayed me was lifelong access to the lessons, so even if I don't complete things through the year I can go back anytime and watch the videos and have a go.

One thing I'm doing differently this year is I'm not visiting the facebook group or posting my work to it - though I am posting on instagram. So I'm less influenced by the work other lifebookers are doing, and I'm not comparing my work to theirs. This year I'm much more on my own journey. Sometimes I follow the instructions closely. Sometimes I watch the first video and then go off on my own tangent and never watch the end of the lessson!! What matters to me is that I'm doing some art and trying new approaches.

I'm lagging behind, I've just started my week 12 piece, when the week 16 lesson is now available, and there are lots of lessons I've missed, some because they needed equipment I don't have- a gelliplate, or encaustic wax materials - some because another lesson grabbed my attention more. Some weeks there are 2 lessons. So as the year unfolds there's a real smorgasbord to choose from, you'd have to be very dedicated to do them all!!

The week 6 lesson was one where I went my own way - A heart full of happy with Tamara Laporte- was a whimsical girl in w/c and markers. The face was in 3/4 pose and I have a photo of my mum in that pose on my desk, so I used that as a reference for my piece, and it turned out very different in style and feeling to the lesson. Sometimes I think I'm just contrary, and that if the lesson had been to work from a photo of a family member I'd have decided to do something completely different.

The week 9 lesson - Friends are the flowers in life's garden with Effy Wild- was one that I followed closely except I left out the lettering.

Week 10 was a lovely lesson with (Aussie!) Laura Horn, laying down a loose background and then drawing in natural elements in ink using a satay stick. I loved the unexpected expressive mark making that reults from drawing with a stick, and I've been inspired to make some cards and do some sketchbook work based on this's exciting to feel inspired!!!

The week 11 lesson was Grateful Heart with Annie Hamman. Annie was probably my favourite teacher from last year, and this was another lovely lesson. It's a very simple composition, but the texture and layering bring such richness to the piece. Her philosophy is to allow the piece to unfold, that once you start intuition and the expression of feelings will change the direction the work goes in. As she says - let's be brave and go ahead.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Cyclone Marcus 17th March 2018

Last Saturday a cyclone hit Darwin, it formed on Friday a category 1 (the least strong). One of the girls at work described it as kite flying weather, and we laughed about customers who were rushing in to buy torches, gas bottles, tarps...

BUT on Saturday it strengthened to a category 2. I started the morning sitting on the verandah watching the rain and trees buffetting in the wind, feeling grumpy about missing out on my morning walk. At 10.30 the power went out, and by 11 I thought I'd better go inside as the wind cranked up and branches snapped off trees and palms in our yard blew over.

The track of the cyclone passed right over Darwin, winds of 130km were recorded the strongest for 30 years. The worst of the storm was for about an hour in the middle of the day. It quickly calmed down, and when I ventured out to the end of the street mid afternoon, I was shocked to see so many trees down in every direction.

I feel stupid that we were so unprepared - I used to have a cyclone kit but the tinned food and bottled water got too old, I threw it out and never replaced it. We had cheese sandwiches for dinner that night!

We were lucky that our power came back on the next morning, some suburbs were without power for 5 days. We were lucky that I had a little radio so we could listen to the news updates, and that we had torches batteries and candles kicking around the house. We were lucky that I'm a bad housewife!!! The fridge needed defrosting and had a big lump of ice up the back that kept the milk cool.

These photos are of the aftermath of the cyclone. My walk to work takes me past two parks, I'm not much of a photographer but I wanted a record of these fallen giants. I know that in a few months the memory will fade, I'll forget how extreme and frightening the storm was. Hopefully these photos will remind me of how powerful the cyclone was and to take the next one seriously.