Saturday 1 March 2014

March 2014 part 1

Mad as a March Hare - I shall be out looking for boxing hares this month as Bella and I take our early morning walks. This is such a brilliant photo - most likely they are German hares and also, not alas taken by me but from -
Spring seems to have arrived here in Devon, the trees are changing colour, fiery oranges and moody purples and sometimes when the early sunshine makes pools of light, even pale creamy beige is made magical against grey and indigo. The Ash trees are calling to be painted. I love the young ones with droopy spiky dried leaves and again in the Spring when they are tinged with purple. 

In my imagination, I can see a row of them leading from an old wooden gate into a meadow and down a valley to the sea. The early morning air is soft misty lavender, the grass in shadows is icy frosted but the tips of the Ash trees are holding both last years dried seeds and the new year's purple new buds - all blending, shifting and dispersing in the air like an aura. 
I live deep in the Devon countryside and love to follow the river Dart from high up on Dartmoor at its quiet beginnings -
all the way down to the point where it finally meets the sea -
Now is the time of wild primroses, violets and celandines
snowdrops and wild daffodils
wood anemones
pussy willow -
and catkins
And painting outside without freezing or being soaked to the skin.
I've been driving up onto Dartmoor in the early mornings and the late afternoons to paint. The first day I forgot brushes so used the tip of the watercolour and gouache tubes as the way of applying the colour, just gently squeezing the paint to the tip. The metal edge also adds marks - delicate traces. White acrylic gesso was applied with fingers.
I've made brushes from twigs and moss previously when I forgot brushes but then I had tubes of acrylic or pots of ink with me. I really like the results and see the work will take me further into my own signature style that has been evolving over the years. Again it reflects my interest in fragmentation, which doesn't surprise me.
So I took a look on the Internet to see if anyone else was on a similar tack. I couldn't find anyone painting with watercolour tube tips but really using oil paint sticks, oil pastels and/or chalk pastel can take you down a similar path. It was here that I rediscovered Wolf Kahn

“The object of art is not to reproduce reality, but to create a reality of the same intensity” -  Alberto Giacometti
Review by Stephen May
Addison/Ripley Fine Art, Washington, D.C.
Still going strong at 86, Wolf Kahn continues to work from nature, intent on representing its universal elements while imbuing his canvases with a specific sense of place. While repeatedly depicting familiar New England landscapes—verdant fields and forests, serene horizons, and sturdy houses and barns nestled among rolling hills—Kahn handles each subject with an appealing spontaneity that keeps every composition fresh. This show brought together 30 oil paintings and pastels, most of them created during the last few years, all of which proved that the German-born American painter has lost none of his flair for intuitive, sensual color.
Kahn’s unconventional use of color often involves brilliant hues that appear to result from rays of sun filtering through stands of spindly trees. In Long Yellow and Silvery Gray (both 2013), chalky trees contrast with a light-suffused, yellow-green setting. Wooded Slice of Nature (2011) features purplish trees set against a verdant backdrop of greenery dappled by sunny patches beneath a grayish sky. In each canvas, the eclectic color combinations and luminous light capture the essence of the landscape, drawing viewers into a world that is both recognizable and ethereal.
And these are rather lovely shots from his studio -
When I am working, especially late into the evening, I love to play this piece by Richard Addinsell.
You may or may not know that I also make lots of free video tutorials for my YouTube Channel. I hope that they will enable you to share in my creative adventures. My method is simply to record what I'm doing as I'm working in my studio, or where ever I happen to be, explaining to you as I go along as if you were with me. There is minimal planning and quite a few experiments that usually work out well plus a few mistakes that are par for the course. As yet I still haven't worked out how to edit so it really is how it really is!
My banner - above - is a photo I took in Pompeii of a deer in flight from her hunters. I feel a deep empathy with her as I am sure that many creative and independent people do too.
I have tweaked it quite a bit in photo-shop to brighten the colours to the point where I think they would have originally looked. Actually I think that they probably look better here than they would have originally as there is also the added beauty of ageing and its inherent patina.
My own work sometimes follows a similar line as below
in that I love layers, flashes, twists, swirls of colours that hardly touch the surface and yet in fact are emerging from the depths. I also love fragments - that process by which I for one have understood this world. 
We gather information in bits, quite literally nowadays. We each try to make sense of all these fragments of information, of personal conditioning and try to construct a whole by which we define our lives.
It is simply because of this understanding that I break down my own paintings into fragments and make them into jewellery. I like the fact that they have lives of their own now after being bought or received as gifts and that they are scattered throughout the world.
Fragments once more, doing their work, suggesting and reminding people of their own understandings and their own sense of wholeness.

This 'whole' is constantly evolving if we are lucky and keep our eyes open, otherwise we can get enmeshed in dogma and stop developing our own unique blueprint.
My background image - the so called skin of my blog is from a poster for an exhibition I saw in the South of France. It appears to have been painted in gouache.

I love everything about it - the dreamlike subtle narrative, the Japanese two dimensional and slightly impressionistic quality and most of all the palette  of faded, sun bleached Mediterranean colours - so important to consider and know your palette before painting. McNeill Wistler knew this only too well and would always teach his students that considering your palette before you paint is the most important step.
As I said, I've been driving up onto Dartmoor in the early mornings and the late afternoons to paint. The colours above reflect the colours early mornings that are slowly coming into being there - misty and muted but full of the promise of life.
The weather has been irresistible and I feel I can take the time out from my studio work as I'm always awake early, often well before 4.30am. That's usually my time for writing, reading, researching, social media etc but showered, dressed and tucked back up on my bed with the cat and my laptop but as soon as I hear the first notes of the dawn chorus
through the open window I'm out of the door.  I like long days, the longer, the better. 

When it was raining such a lot last spring I took some photos through the car windscreen of the trees and fields beyond. Reminders for how to look at landscape for me for later.


Whilst in London after a disappointing visit to the Saachi Gallery I noticed these Plane tree seeds. I was collecting them to make molds for jewellery and additions to bowls. Inspiration at my feet.

At the Courtauld, I took a series of detail close ups or in my vocabulary - fragments. It is such an intimate gallery and so friendly and I do appreciate being able to get so close to the brush work and take photographs. Great cafe too.

Daffodils - narcissus is one of my favourite fragrances - bunch of at The Selvedge Magazine exhibition at Chelsea Town Hall and cast metal beautifully stylised bunch seen in a cafe window in Newlyn in Cornwall. Need to research who,when and how this/these were made.

Cast metal tree with birds - blackbirds singing in the dawn or evensong perhaps that I found on a cottage wall on The Lizard in Cornwall.
I've been busy making batches of papier-mâché pulp and forming Plaster of Paris molds for workshops. This is yet another process that I find I love doing. Again there are all sorts of variations in how to go about it. Not being particularly fond of precise measurements, I use a method that I learnt at Art School many moons ago, called The Island Method. I will ad my own videos but in the meantime these cover the basics very well.

 photo by meldenius

) Then when the molds are dry they must be sealed with a few coats of Shellac. When working with papier-mâché, simply because we are using copious amounts of glue, the plaster batts do need to be sealed. When working with clay, they are left unsealed in order to help absorb moisture. I also use a release agent.
Reuse of uncontaminated plaster of Paris can be accomplished by breaking the set plaster into small pieces, placing it in an old roasting pan and reheating it to its melting point -- 325 degrees Fahrenheit -- to remove water. When the material can easily be crushed into powder it is ready for reuse. Complete the process away from other projects and follow recommended safety precautions - wearing goggles for eye protection, a face mask to prevent inhalation of dust particles and gloves to prevent skin irritation.

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