Georgia’s workshop – Day 2, structured painting

There was even more information to absorb on the second day of our workshop weekend with Georgia Mansur. Her sample sheets of watercolour samples are mesmerising and fascinating and make me want to rush around my kitchen grabbing rinse aid and bleach so I can play with new effects.

Watercolour samples. Georgia Mansur
One of Georgia’s glorious watercolour sample sheets

After looking at these, we moved on to talking about gels and pastes, and once again Georgia has a brilliant set of examples to illustrate their textures and provide inspiration for their use. Georgia send out course notes and preparation work before we arrived. Even so, I found I was writing copious notes on all the additional ideas she shared.  She really is phenomenally generous with her knowledge.

Georgia Mansur elaborates on different gels and their uses
Georgia elaborates on different gels and their uses

As a follow up to our initial loosening up painting on Day 1, we were ready to paint a more structured painting on the second day.  Although much of what we learned was practical, technique-oriented work, perhaps the most valuable part of the weekend for me was the opportunity to reflect on the less tangible elements of painting. In that department, here’s what resonated most for me?

– Creativity is problem solving. Thinking about it in these terms really works for me. It’s part of what I love about the challenge of painting.
– Boundaries are liberating. Learn to see creative uses for every day items.
– Suspend judgement. Stop the negative self-talk from blocking your creativity.
– Allow time and space for the right brain to join in the playing.
– The time when you feel most frustrated may well be the time just before a breakthrough: persevere.
– Creativity involves all your senses. Pay attention to everything around you (I’ve always called this living consciously). So often we forget to do that as life overtakes our free time.

I’ve got so much wonderful material to work through and absorb. If the aim of a workshop is to push you to the next level with your painting, Georgia’s sessions do that, in spades!

Back in the studio, I’ve put the finishing touches to Meadow Flowers, and found a fabulous box in which to store my collection of treasure for use in future paintings.

Meadow Flowers (Mixed Media 40cm x 50cm)
Meadow Flowers (Mixed Media 40cm x 50cm)

I’ll put a photo of my Day 2 painting in tomorrow’s post.

Finally, a use for my elephant dung paper

I’ve just finished day one of Georgia Mansur‘s Seductive Surfaces workshop and my brain is buzzing! Georgia has so much knowledge to share and so many techniques to teach, I found myself making a list of new materials to buy, and my head so full of new ideas I don’t know where to start.

I intended to take lots of photographs, but I’m afraid I was so busy having fun with new materials that I kept forgetting to take pictures. So there are a few, but perhaps not as many as there could have been.

The day kicked off with a discussion about creativity. Georgia shared her tips for loosening up and building creativity. The tone was set for the day, allowing everyone to create our first abstract paintings without judgement. So often, we are our own greatest critics. We beat ourselves up when we don’t think we have done well enough. Today was about suspending all that negative self-talk and just playing with new materials.

A tiny selection of Georgia's texture samples.
A tiny selection of Georgia’s texture samples.

Georgia comes well prepared with plenty of examples and samples for everyone to look at. Given how much information she has to share, these form a fantastic resource. Samples of different watercolour and acrylic paint effects were in constant demand during the day as we all wanted more and more ideas.

The start of Georgia's demonstration. Work instinctively with interesting materials
The start of Georgia’s demonstration. Work instinctively with interesting materials

The real work started with a rummage through Georgia’s treasure trove of paper, twine, lace, fabric, pictures and much, much more. Her demonstration started with a period of intuitive composition with a selection of texture-creating materials. Once the composition feels ready, the individual items get stuck down with gesso and the painting is left to dry. Things to remember: non-porous materials won’t hold paint as well (or at all, if they’re not coated with gesso), and organic materials must be completely sealed to ensure they remain intact over time (and to stop your painting being attached by insects). On an impulse I added the contents to one of a teabag to my painting, so this was valuable knowledge.

elephant poo paper.
Yes, it is elephant poo paper.

In a moment of curiosity, I bought some sheets of elephant dung paper in South Africa last year. I wanted to try it for watercolour painting. As you can see from the photo above, it wasn’t a successful experiment. The paper is just too soft and absorbent. There’s not enough structure to hold the pigment well enough so I wrote it off to experience and left the paper in a drawer, thinking I wouldn’t ever find a use for it. I had a flash of inspiration when I was collecting the materials for this workshop and fished it out of the drawer to bring along. It’s got a great texture for this sort of work: at last I have a use for it.

Seductive surfaces workshop - stage one
Seductive surfaces workshop – stage one

At the end of stage one (composition and gesso application) my painting included fabric, fruit bags, rafia, tea leaves, leather shapes, plastic bag, (and indeed, a smattering of elephant poo!)

After lunch, once all the gesso was thoroughly dried, we started applying colour washes with acrylic paints, and watercolour pencils.

Seductive surfaces workshop - abstract painting work in progress
Seductive surfaces workshop – abstract work in progress

There’s more work to be done – detail to be added and textures to be emphasised. That’s tomorrow’s job.

We’re also due to work on a new more structured painting tomorrow and I’m looking forward to trying out some of the textured  gels and pastes.

Exhibition weekend

Friday morning found us carting loads of paintings, ceramics and wooden boxes to the gallery and starting the process of setting up the display.

– Clear the space

– Lay out the paintings

Exhibition setup
Exhibition setup

– Sort and group,

– Re-sort and re-group,

– Hang paintings (For anyone who hasn’t done it before – this takes a long time)

– Label the paintings,

– Print final painting list,

Exhibition: Ready for the preview
Exhibition: Ready for the preview

Sort out catering, pour drinks, print last minute labels, set out leaflets and cards, (and a million other little things) get showered and dressed up.

And breathe!

Exhibition preview
Exhibition preview

Exhibitions are hard work, but when they work well, they are a lot of fun.

Our weekend in numbers:

Preview night guests: Over 100 (based on acceptances)

Outside temperature: Sub-zero

Logs burned on the stove: Many

Paintings sold: Eight

Paintings commissioned: Two (and a further possibility)

Worthwhile? Oh yes! We all had so much fun with this, and based on their feedback, so did the visitors.

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Rhythm and energy

In a previous blog post I mentioned taking risks with a new painting. In fact it was two paintings. I think of them as being almost twins because I painted them simultaneously step by step. They are on two different papers (because I always need to experiment, of course).

I went back to my South African roots on these. And since there’s been such bad press about the country recently, I thought it might be time for this post.

These paintings express my feeling about African Rhythm

African Rhythm (multimedia 49 x 36 cm)
African Rhythm (multimedia 49 x 36 cm)

…. and African Energy. They both pervade the continent and cross geographical and political boundaries.

African Energy (multimedia 49 x 36 cm)
African Energy (multimedia 49 x 36 cm)

And if you have four minutes to spare, this is kinda fun too.

Staging an exhibition: Venue

As we go through the process of staging our exhibition, I thought it might be helpful to do a few posts about the process.

Once we’d had the idea to do a joint exhibition, the first thing to consider was venue. My initial approach was to ask other artists in the area for suggestions and then consider the following factors:

  • Location
    • Is it easy to get to?
    • How far will people on my mailing list need to travel to reach it?
    • Is there convenient parking
    • Access via public transport
  • The quality of the space
    • Natural light, if any
    • Wall space and scale
    • Size
    • Flow – is it easy for people to wander round the exhibition
  • Cost
    • How affordable is it?
    • What additional costs are there likely to be which are related to this venue?
  • The quality of the space
    • Are there good hanging facilities
    • Tables
    • Electric lighting
    • Comfort facilities (kitchen and toilets)
  • Manning the exhibition
    • Temperature (is it either too hot or too cold for comfort)
    • Location (if it’s very far away, how easy will that be)
Whittlesford gallery
Whittlesford gallery

There are loads of other things to think about that I’m sure I’ve not added here. In the end, we chose not to go for a gallery space in town. We chose The Whittlesford gallery which is 10 miles out of the centre of Cambridge but it ticks the box on many other features. The building is an old school house which has been used as a gallery for many years on and off. It has lovely high windows and, although the size is modest, it has a lot of charm. There is parking, but we will have to be creative about hanging facilities as it has not been used as a gallery for a little while. It’s close to home so manning it won’t be difficult and it’s cost effective so we can put more resource into marketing. Overall, we also like it because it has a history and doing something like an exhibition is good for the community and the neighbouring business.

And being 10 miles out of town doesn’t seem to have hurt us. We’ve already got almost 100 acceptances for our preview night between the three of us. It’s going to be a great weekend. Thank you, Sue, for the opportunity.

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Artists & Illustrators First Annual Exhibition

I had a real ‘joining the dots’ moment when reading Katherine Tyrrell’s Making a Mark post early in February. Naturally I had seen news online about the fabulous winning works in the Artists and Illustrators annual competition, and marvelled at the skill of the artists.

Katherine’s post included news of the exhibition of these works at the Osborne Studio Gallery, on Motcomb Street. That’s when I realised that the gallery is on my regular route during my weekly London days. I frequently make a point of stopping and looking in the window to see what’s on display.

Diary note to self: Go to the exhibition; which I did, today.

Until I read about this exhibition, I hadn’t realised that the gallery is spread over two floors. When you wander downstairs, there’s the added discovery that it has an enchanting little garden behind it. It’s a proper Aladin’s cave down there.  As you might expect, the winning paintings are indeed even more extraordinary in the flesh.

The much-written about Physalis II by Linda Alexander is gloriously large and vibrant. Looking at the images online has a Wow factor – even more so when the size and real intensity of colours can be seen.

(Side note: Please forgive the quality of my photographs. They were taken with my phone and do not do the paintings justice.)

Jenny Aitken's Shower and Sun Derbyshire (top) and On the Wall, Tintagel (bottom) - Acrylic on Canvas
Jenny Aitken’s Shower and Sun Derbyshire (top) and On the Wall, Tintagel (bottom) – Acrylic on Canvas

Another painting that grabbed my attention was Showers and Sun Derbyshire, an acrylic on canvas by Jenny Aitken. This and Physallis II are on exhibition but are NFS.  All the other paintings from the competition are available for sale, although I did see a number of red dots in evidence.

Although all the paintings from the winning artists have something special about them, I was particularly drawn to a few: The remarkable portrait of Len by Mark Fennel reveals a dishevelled image of old age, which elicits feelings of empathy and concern in the viewer. Two enchanting watercolours by Jan Harbon, Fall, and Jane Austen’s Garden are fascinating in their fine detail and beautiful delicacy.

Jan Harbon's Jane Austen's Garden (left) and Fall (right) - watercolours
Jan Harbon’s Jane Austen’s Garden (left) and Fall (right) – watercolours

The exhibition runs until Tuesday, 19th February so there’s still a full week to get in there if you want to see these exceptional paintings.

[On a side note, I was interested to see on the gallery’s calendar for the year, an upcoming exhibition of works by John Tierney who is described as being a ‘Criminology professor, musician and painter’. It’s great to see evidence that the world can cope with someone being analytical and an artist at the same time. Not only that, seeing an artist with a professional life outside of art, still being taken seriously by the art world is something I find quite encouraging. We can be multifaceted people, after all!]

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