Istanbul Art – Echoes of the Ottoman Empire

This has been a weekend of Istanbul Art for me. I love travelling and these days, new places are quite often also a source of new visual inspiration. This was absolutely the case with Istanbul.

This is a city with so many facets. To start with, it spans two continents. We are staying in Eastern Europe, and last night, popped across the river to have supper – in Asia. I love the idea that this city has one half in Europe and the other in Asia.  And the two sections couldn’t be more different in feel. The European side houses the old city and features the historic buildings we all know about. The Asian side is buzzy and modern and features rows of contemporary pavement restaurants and English language schools. Both side are fun – in a very different way.

My Istanbul Art

We’ve had so many places to see in only a few days so my own art has consisted of a few sketches. There will be more when I get home though. My head is filled with image and ideas.

Istanbul Art - Grand Bazaar

The alleyways of the Grand Bazaar are festooned with bags, clothes and many-coloured wares of all varieties

The Grand Bazaar is worth a visit – but expect to be constantly asked to come and look at goods. Every shop seems to employ someone to stand at the door and entice customers in – and they can be quite persistent. Its not so surprising when you realise that there are around 5000 (Yes, five thousand. That’s not a typo) shops in the bazaar and many of them sell the same sort of goods.  The shops are sometimes no more than stalls, but every one is crammed with wares. This covered market dates back to 1461 and the vaulted ceilings are all painted with complex ancient patterns in yellow, green, blue and red.

Istanbul Art - Blue Mosque

Rough sketch of the blue mosque domes seen from the steps of Ayasofia

The Blue Mosque and the Ayasofia are both on everyone’s ‘must see when visiting Istanbul’ lists. And now that I’ve seen them, I can understand why.  We saw both on one day and my preferred one of the two was the Ayasofia, simply because it has such a fascinating and complex history which shows in the building.  In a busy day, I sat on the steps for 10 minutes after visiting these two impressive buildings, and tried to capture the imposing feel of the Blue Mosque in my sketchbook.

More about Istanbul art in a future post.

Wash a Week Challenge – Back to the Quinacridones

This is Week 5 of the Wash a Week Challenge and I’m exploring Quinacridone Purple and along with a different type of sponge for painting.

Enchanted forest watercolour on www.runningwithbrushes.com

Watercolour Plans and Explorations

This week has been one of watercolour plans and some explorations.

Watercolour plan 1 : Open Studios

Watercolour plan 1: The start of the week brought paperwork for Open Studios – and the requirement to make some commitments to painting fresh work and exhibiting. I’ve decided to do both Saffron Walden Open studios at the end of April and beginning of May, and Cambridge Open Studios in July. More on these closer to the time.

Watercolour plan 2 :  Artfinder

Watercolour plan 2: I took a decision to do a blitz sale on Artfinder to make space for new works in preparation for these exhibitions. This has proved quite successful so far and 5 paintings went over the past few days. It’s often quite difficult to see a painting go – we become attached to them somehow. But I’m excited about developing new lines of work this year and this will spur me on to get my brushes going.

Watercolour Exploration 1: Wash a Week Challenge

This week’s post explores Daniel Smith’s Lunar Blue. Here’s a little abstract treescape painting I did using only this colour. This will go up on the Running With Brushes site when I have time to post it there. (Life is overtaking me a bit at the moment.)

Watercolour exploration - wash a week entry

Wash a week – Week 4 – Lunar Blue

Following Last weeks Wash a Week post on Quinacridone Gold and Quinacridone Violet, I was asked how similar the gold is to Indian Yellow. I happen to have a tube of Indian Yellow I hadn’t yet tried. Perfect excuse to have a go so here’s the little colour swatch I did to see the difference. Separately, they do look quite similar because they are both strong colours. Put them together and you can see the difference.
Watercolour week yellow and gold comparison

Watercolour Exploration 2: Abstracts

On Friday evening I went to the monthly meeting of the Saffron Walden Art Society to see a demonstration of Abstract painting by local artist Joyce Crabb. I’m increasingly interested in Abstract art, and I think probably lean towards semi-abstract myself in some of my looser work. I’m not sure I’ll get comfortable with pure abstract work – at least not for some while, if ever. But I will be experimenting a bit more on the fringes I suspect.

Watercolour Plans 3: Tidying up the studio

I’m a book junkie (and a colour junkie as I’ve said before). I have a fair collection of art books and magazines in my studio. When I set up the space for my painting I insisted on having a corner with a sofa and table, as well as a bookshelf, so that I could sit quietly and enjoy dipping into this exciting reference material and inspiration.

Watercolour plan - tidy the studio

 

A year or so ago, I did a workshop in oil painting with Stephen Higton and decided to start doing a bit of work in other mediums, so I bought a large easel, amongst other things. Its fabulous to have it, but in a small studio, it was always a bit in the way. No matter which way I positioned it, the bookshelf was obscured and it became a mission to reach it.  Result: books not read, or books and magazines stacked all over the sofa and any other free surface so I could get to them.

This weekend I had a brainwave about repositioning things and got stuck in to moving furniture before I got started on painting. The result:

Watercolour plan - after the tidy

Space to read!

Quinacridone watercolours

My Daniels Smith quinacridone watercolours came out to play this weekend. Last weekend I explored the differences and synergies between Quinacridone Gold and Quinacridone Deep Gold. You can see my findings in the Wash a Week challenge.
Quinacridone Watercolours - Gold, Deep Gold and Violet

The nectarines on the kitchen table seemed an ideal subject for the colours I was working with for the blog. Once opened, the smooth, juicy, translucent flesh contrasted temptingly with the many folds and hard edges of the stone in the centre.

Quinacridone Watercolours blending on the paper

The perennial challenge for watercolourists is resisting the urge to be too fussy. There’s always the temptation to add one more brushstroke, embellish with a bit more detail, change an edge or a shape.

In this painting, I aimed to avoid this challenge by completing the whole painting with one flat brush. Painting a rounded shape with smooth edges using a flat brush makes it very difficult – almost impossible to get too detailed.

Using quick, energetic brushstrokes, my aim was to simply capture the essence of the fruit. My focus was specifically on the smooth quality of the flesh, and the area of rosy colouring where the hard stone emerges from the body of the fruit.

The combination of the transparent, single pigment quinacridone watercolours, and resisting the urge to fiddle with the paint once it’s been laid down on the paper, leaves the colours clear and translucent in the painting.

I’ll be sharing more quinacridone colours in future Wash a Week posts.

In other news, I’m starting the planning process for my 2015 exhibitions and Open Studios. There are a few visits to London exhibitions and a watercolour festival for inspiration. And I’ll be creating the opportunity for UK watercolour artists to attend workshops with two exceptional artists from Moldova and France. More news on these later.

Watercolour Journal & 2015 Wash Challenge

I’ve fallen in love with my watercolour journal and I’d like to introduce you to it.

Two years ago I was given a wonderful bound book of heavy weight Arches watercolour paper. It was so beautiful that it took a month before I could pluck up the courage to put brush to paper. And even after I had made my virgin mark on page one, I was still so worried about messing it up, that I was afraid to paint in it.

Now the Wash a Week Challenge is well and truly up and running (I’ve just published my second post) and I think I’ve found its purpose in life. My beautifully bound book as become my watercolour journal.

Inside my watercolour journal:

Watercolour journal red page

Reds and pinks – transparent and opaque

In no particular order, each week in the Wash a Week Challenge, I will be exploring colours I find useful or exciting, or those I want to learn about.  And from time to time, I will share the journal’s progress. If you want to see snippets of the journal’s contents, you’ll see how it’s being used in my week by week posts.

Watercolour journal blue page

Phtalo Blue – two manufacturers

Pages combine specific colour studies and references, with little sketches.

Watercolour journal yellow page

Exploring daffodils on a yellow page

And in some instances, just an opportunity to observe and record shapes, colours and tonal values.

QuinacridonesIn other news this week – I found watercolour treasure in my local art supply shop this week. I’ll be covering the Quinacridone family of colours. I’ve always loved Quinacridone Gold and when I discovered the Daniel Smith range of watercolours in the shop, the opportunity to fill up my palette with most of the rest of the range was just too much to resist.  Exploring them all is bound to be good fun.

Tomorrow I’ll be heading down to London for my first work meetings of the year. Perfect opportunity for a meeting with Doug Shaw at The Mall Galleries where the Artists and Illustrators Artist of the Year show is on starting tomorrow.

 

Wearable watercolours – the secret revealed

Wearable watercolours were the subject of my June post about a secret project I was working on.  Six months in the making, the final reveal happened on Christmas Day.

As with many such ideas, there were a few iterations along the way. The project started with a conversation about Christopher’s wedding. We were playing with the idea of creating a design and printing the fabric for the usher’s waistcoats or cravats. A friend, Cong, owns Textiler a business that does the printing part of it, and I was going to paint the image.

Ultimately, the decision about wedding outfits for the ushers was that a plain colour would be more appropriate. But by then, the project had grown and Christmas gifts were being planned.

Preparing for wearable watercolours

Four paintings were done to suit their particular recipients

Ross
Citadels, forests, mountains and misty lakes for the Lord of the Rings enthusiast (with his Elvish name incorporated into the design).
Harriet

Quill pens to make her words fly for the budding journalist and already-successful blogger

Gemma

Soaring flocks of birds reflect a love of exotic animals and the drive to fly high for the veterinary student in the family.

LoriThe wild abandonment of paint at speed for the artist who can’t resist the excitement of spontaneous little painterly masterpieces within the world inside a watercolour painting. Her favourite colour is indigo so it featured loudly in this celebration of paint.

The final results

On Christmas morning, every painting was accompanied by its lengths of fabric, all of which were as vibrant the originals. Now the next challenge begins. Four people have to decide what to make of their wearable watercolours. A waistcoat will almost definitely be in the future for one of them. A dress and a summer jacket have been under consideration for two of the others. I can’t wait to see the final results.
Wearable watercolours - paintings and fabrics

Wearable watercolours

Olivia Quintin Workshop Opportunity

Next August, UK artists will have the opportunity of joining an Olivia Quintin workshop.

Olivia Quintin Flowers 3

Sometimes a chance blog post read leads on to a long term friendship and some wonderful adventures. Towards the end of 2010 I read a blog post about the 100 Wash Challenge which was just starting.  I was fortunate enough to be accepted as one of the seven artists who took part in that challenge in 2011.

This is where I met Olivia.  The 100 Wash Challenge was a fantastic experience in many way. It was the perfect example of getting out what we all put in. The artists who were lucky enough to take part all put in the time to share their experiences 100 times each during that year. In return, we learned a huge amount about watercolours, and we became online friends.

Eight months after the challenge ended I travelled to Vannes to meet Olivia.  A year later, in September 2013, we spent another long weekend together. This time, Olivia came to Cambridge. Since the 100 Wash Challenge ended, Olivia’s reputation as one of France’s top watercolourists has led to her acceptance at the Bienniale at Brioude in 2013. After her popular exhibition and workshop there, she has now been accepted as one of the featured artists for the 2015 Brioude Bienniale. Olivia blogs at http://atelierpetitemer.blogspot.co.uk/ and has an official website where her works are displayed. She is a member of the Société Française de l’Aquarelle .

During a fabulous painting week on Belle Île last September, we developed a plan for Olivia to teach a workshop in the UK.  Today we announce the details:

Olivia Quintin watercolours

Orchard Art on Belle Île

I’m back from my trip and have just completed some another piece of  Belle Île Orchard art.

When we arrived on Belle Île the first thing that struck me was the glorious sunset. The following morning, I noticed the field across the road that was filled with meadow flowers. This is where the material came from when we started painting flowers from a French field. They were quite literally picked from the field a few minutes before we sat down to paint.

Orchard Art

Belle Île Orchard (watercolour 48 x 38 cm)

There were other subjects to paint during the week, some of which I will come back to. We saw sea, rocks, lighthouses, fabulously coloured houses and so much more. But the Belle Île Orchard art subject matter really captivated me. The field with it’s flowers seemed to epitomise the name of the place, and as the sunflowers and cosmos blossoms waved gently under the island sun, they seemed to invite more painting time. So I conceded and painted more flowers – just for now. The rest will come later.

Belle Ile Orchard Art

There’s a fascinating juxtaposition in this painting between the loose randomness of the meadow full of flowers, and the tidy, conforming lines of the Brittany house just behind the hedge. Even more so, when you consider the straight upright of the flag pole in the garden. The fruit trees in the orchard march neatly down the field in obediently productive lines.

Amongst all of this tidiness and order, the wild flowers display a delightful touch of nature’s rebellion against the order of the man-made world – creating their very own Belle Île Orchard art, at least during the summer months.

I now have a head full of other images that need to be painted so I’m off to the studio for a short evening painting session.  I may come out for supper.

 

Painting Flowers from a French Field

Painting flowers is always harder than it seems. It’s all too easy to make them stiff and un-natural looking.

Despite the fact that we see flowers all over the place, on a daily basis, it’s often quite difficult to capture the essence of a particular flower – the shape, the tone, the angle of the stem. It all adds up to making the general impression.

So why am I painting flowers from a French field?

About a year ago my friend, Olivia Quintin called to tell me about a painting week she was organising on Belle Ile. I would have jumped at the chance to paint on the island, and when she told me that the other tutor was to be Fabio Cembranelli, I was completely hooked. Fabio’s atmospheric painting style is one I have admired for some time, and Olivia paints with stunningly vibrant colour mixes. Fantastic combination of tutors and some dedicated painting time on a beautiful island. What could be better?

Painting Flowers

Flowers from a French Field (watercolour – 40 x 30cm)

This is the result of my second day of working with Fabio and I couldn’t be happier with the result. I’ve loved doing this painting and have now been spurred on to do more like it.

Painting Flowers from a French Field

The field opposite our little complex of chalets is a mass of wild flowers. There are sunflowers, wild crysanthemums, pink cosmos, white cosmos and cornflowers. Painting flowers is almost unavoidable when you have that much fantastic material on the doorstep. Here’s one bunch that provided inspiration for the artists who wanted to spend time painting flowers.

Flowers from a French Field originals

Fabio’s approach to painting flowers is not to slavishly follow the bouquet in front of him. Instead he uses the shapes and colours as inspiration, but takes artistic licence on the composition and in adding new flowers to bring in colours and form to enhance the original image.

Plein Air painting with Olivia tomorrow. What surprises will that bring?

Exhibition at Windmill Art in Linton

My next showing will be an exhibition at Windmill Art in Linton with Mark Judson.

Exhibition at Windmill Art Exhibition at Windmill Art - detail
Mark’sMark Judson's ceramics will be on show at the Exhibition at Windmill Art in Linton ceramics are well known in South Cambridgeshire where he exhibited for many years while teaching and heading the art department at The Perse School. I recently posted a photo on Facebook of the pot I decided I just had to have after seeing a picture of it. It was far too big to mail so we took a long weekend trip to France to collect it. It now stands proudly in our lounge and is a frequent conversation piece because of the beautiful delicate colours in the glaze.

Mark’s work can usually only be seen at exhibitions in central France where he now lives. This is a rare opportunity to see them on show in the UK again.

I will be showing watercolours themed by my travel experiences. Every country has it’s own special atmosphere and I aim to capture some of this in my landscapes. These are the works that will be on show in October.

Today I leave for my latest trip – a painting week on Belle Ile, France. I’ve been sailing in this part of the world before and some of the sights and sensations of Island life are bound to make their way into the exhibition at Windmill Art. There will be some paintings to see that are ‘hot off the easel’.

About the Exhibition at Windmill Art in Linton

Windmill Art is, as the name states, exhibition space in a windmill. The venue has ample parking and is close to the A14 and M11. For an invitation to the Preview evening, please sign up for my newsletter. The invitations will be going out very soon.  I hope you can join us at Windmill Art on the first weekend in October.

Painting darks – mushroom frills and shadows

Yesterday was a day for considering painting darks. There was one last tomato and a bag of glorious big field mushrooms in the kitchen when I was looking for my subject yesterday.  The mushrooms caught my eye.

There’s a lovely tonal contrast between the dark underside frills and the creamy top of a field mushroom that just invites the artist’s brush so I decided that painting darks was going to be the day 3 project.

I couldn’t leave the poor lonely tomato out of the frame so I added it just for fun. Next time I might go for a purely mushroom composition, because in hindsight, I’m not sure the tomato adds anything particularly fabulous to the image – and it’s not really in sync with the painting darks theme. You may also notice that I lost interest when I was painting the tomato vine. It seemed unimportant to my purpose – the painting darks thing.

painting darks

The Last Tomato (watercolour 14 x 9 cm)

Painting Darks

Despite its title, this painting really is all about the insides of the mushrooms (which, tasted fantastic when we ate them for supper, by the way).

Raw umber was the main colour for shaping and detailing the smooth edges of the mushroom. I deliberately chose two with quite different edge shapes so that I could work on capturing the juicy roundness of the fat specimen on the right, as well as the slightly tattered frill on the other.

Burnt Umber was my dark of choice. I added some lovely rich blues to emphasise the deep shadows under the upper lip of the mushroom, and some lovely perylene maroon in the nearer part of the frill to provide some warmth.

I was hampered for colour as I was just using a little box of paint blocks rather than my normal range of colours. So while I’m not under any illusions that this is a masterpiece, it’s achieved it’s purpose: I had a good play with painting darks.

The last tomato - painting darks