Early Spring in Green Park (Day 1/30)

Watercolour Painting. Early Spring in Green Park
Early Spring in Green Park (Watercolour 11 x 15cm)

I started Day 1 with the inevitable ‘What should I paint?’ question. My Facebook friends supplied a number of suggestions and then I got an email request for a couple of paintings for the Running With Brushes project. So the decision for Day 1 was made: Daffodils.

My immediate thought was of a photograph I took when I was walking across Green Park in spring. Green Park has magnificent swathes of brilliant yellow blooms in early spring and it’s a pleasure to take that route on my way to meetings.

The other subjects suggested by my Facebook friends are now on a list and I’m sure I’ll get to them in the next 30 days. That’s quite a lot of painting.

Early Spring in Green Park will soon be available to buy on Running With Brushes – I’ll post it as soon as I’ve finished eating my supper.

My head is full of ideas for tomorrow’s painting already.


Exhibition fest week for me

What an amazing week. My head is full of the most wonderful images. Somehow, I’ve managed to visit four exhibitions this week. Summer seems to be a great time for exhibitions – probably July more than August when people are away on holiday.

Two of them were openings I was invited to attend on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings (one of the advantages of working in London in the middle of the week).  Both were very different collections, and both by very talented artists. And on Wednesday afternoon, I managed to fit in an impromptu visit to the BP National Portrait Award (how did that come around again so quickly?), and the Armed Forces Art Society exhibition at The Mall Galleries.

Although I would dearly love to include photographs of some of my favourite paintings of the week so I could share them with you, there are copyright questions, so all I can do is show you the loot I brought back in the form of catalogues. Although I haven’t done so in the past, I’ve decided these are worth keeping as great references when they are for an exhibition of an artist I admire. Fantastic inspiration material.

exhibition catalogues are great for inspiration
Exhibition treasure this week

I have, however, put in links to specific paintings where I can find them, and links to the artists’ pages where I can find those.

The Osborne Studio Gallery is showing the work of award winning Russian born artist, Valery Koroshilov until the 4th of August. This artist paints in big bold oils and breaks the rules of composition in some respects. His collection is very personal – paintings of his family – and in many cases, the background isn’t included which has the strange effect of characters seeming to be floating in isolation. But it’s very effective in the way that he’s used it as a mechanism to ensure the focus is entirely on the characters. The collection consists of paintings of his very striking wife and of children at play in the summer. Painted at his summer home on the Island of Samos, they really capture the vibrant light of summer and the carefree feel of holidays at the seaside.

The exhibition of The Armed Forces Art Society is on at The Mall Galleries until this Saturday (July 20th, 2013).  Until this week I was unaware of the society so had no idea what to expect. That in itself seemed a good reason to go. The work was diverse in subject and medium. There were a few artists whose work I have seen in other society exhibitions (SWA for example) and there were some paintings I found quite compelling. I’m afraid I ran out of time on this one and didn’t get all the way round, but it was well worth a visit and I will be watching out for their exhibitions in future.

The BP Portrait Award on at the National Portrait Gallery was, as always, surprising in many ways. I have to confess to feeling a bit uncultured when I find myself looking at some of the works and wondering what the judges were thinking when that was included. Clearly, they must have found some merit in the work, but for the life of me, I can’t see what it is with some of them. But equally, I always see a number of works that are fascinating and wonderful in this exhibition. And I always come away thinking how brilliant it would be to be able to paint portraits well. (One day I will be brave enough to try). I’ve also come to the conclusion that I am getting very bored with paintings in which the subjects gratuitously reveal their intimate body parts. I’m not saying I don’t like nudes. Far from it. A well painted nude is always lovely. It’s the paintings that aim to shock that I find boring. They’re not shocking at all – they just don’t say anything interesting. In my view, the artist who has really phenomenal talent manages to show something of the inner person in the eyes, the posture, and the expression on their face. Three paintings really captured that for me this year and I loved every one of them. So much so, that I still want to look at them and have a very clear picture of them in my mind:

  • Getting Ready, by Eric De Vree so eloquently captures his son’s quiet determination on the eve of his departure for military service
  • Turning Point by Richard Geraint Evans shows the singer’s almost uncontainable joy at her new found success. It’s in her eyes and her smile. I can’t help smiling for her when I see this painting.
  • Kholiswa by Lionel Smit is big and bold and speaks to my heart. This is a true South African story of quiet dignity in the face of adversity. The hard life she leads is clearly visible, as is her tiredness. But I also see her love for her children and her willingness to labour for them. His use of blue in the painting is striking and brave. It isn’t something the average artist would do, but it works very well here.

The last of my four exhibition visits was to the opening of the Danielle O’Connor exhibition at Clarendon Fine Art. Danielle’s work caught my eye some time ago when I was walking past the gallery and was so striking, I had to go in at have a closer look. At the time, there were only two of her paintings in the gallery so it was a real treat to go to the opening of her exhibition and see her collection en mass. Toronto-based Danielle manages to fuse her Irish, Canadian and Japanese influences into her big bold abstract florals in the most joyful and extraordinary way. I could write screeds about her work, but I think it’s far more impactful if you simply click this link and have a look at her work yourself. It’s a real immersion in colour and exuberance. Even better, if you can get to London before the 27th of July – go and have a look for yourself.

Repeat visits

I’m writing this blog post in between Open Studio visitors (Yes! I have actually had some. That made me smile). We’re almost 10 miles from the centre of Saffron Walden – possibly the furthest out of town of all the exhibiting artists, so I know we won’t get as many visitors as those who are centrally placed. But that’s OK with me. We spent last night setting up and can now be relaxed and take our time talking to visitors about the how and the why of my painting, and loval art in general.

For every artist, Open Studios is a different experience, and the goal is also very different. For some, it’s important to sell paintings because that’s how they make their living. I am in awe of their brave commitment to creating art full time. I just get a thrill seeing all my paintings displayed in one place. I’m always amazed at how many I have produced :-D.  It’s a good way to get a perspective on a range of your work, and a sale is a wonderful bonus. I do have the occasional crisis of confidence as well, but I think that’s all just part of the creative process.

I read a quote by Billy Connolly today that resonates with me:

“my art is pure and un-judged, I am creating for myself, it is personal and private”.

I can see why he says that.  While I get huge enjoyment from sharing my paintings, I find it’s important to remember that the fundamental point of painting is the creation of an image for it’s own sake.  I think the pleasure of art from the artist’s perspective has two distinct stages: First the thrill of watching the image emerge, and then you get to experience it again when someone else sees and enjoys the painting.

The process of preparing for Saffron Walden Open Studios has given me the opportunity to reflect once again on what I love about painting, and on how much I love seeing people get enjoyment from my work. That’s the real thrill of a painting sale too – you really know the painting is loved when someone buys it. Even more so when someone who already has one of my paintings comes back for more.

Road to Nowhere (watercolour - 38 x 20cm) SOLD
Road to Nowhere (watercolour – 38 x 20cm) SOLD
Flyaway Tree (watercolour -  39 x 29) SOLD
Flyaway Tree (watercolour – 39 x 29) SOLD

It absolutely made my weekend when I got the request from someone who wanted to buy these two paintings on the night before Open Studios. The lovely thing about it that they are going to join one of my other paintings already in the same house.

Today’s seems to be all about return visits. I tweeted a comment about how strange it is that Facebook page Likes seem to come in waves, rather like buses: a flurry and then nothing for a while. And got a lovely response from Susan  (@EarthWhorls) who tweeted back “your work is startling & beautiful – I would think you’d get lots of return visitors.”  (Thank you, Susan)

The evolution of the Shoe Collection

Weapons of Mass Attraction - red shoes
Weapons of Mass Attraction

High heeled shoes have been a girl’s best friend ever since they were first invented.

We love them. Men love them. There’s something very special about them.

My first shoe painting was a little sketch of the back of a single stiletto shoe on a mini card. That first little sketch has evolved into a series of paintings of shoes with attitude.

That little sketch evolved into the she collection: Girls’ Best Friends, at twice life size, seemed to have a personality all of their own. They couldn’t be ignored. Other shoe personalities started to join the group. Cinderella and Debutant are fairy tale shoes. They are a young woman’s dream shoes – impossible to walk in, but oh, so so flirty and girly. But whereas Cinderella is still a bit unsophisticated and naive, debutant is confident and assured: she’s ready to take on the world.

Blue Louboutin shoes reference for watercolour paintings
My Best Friends

Pick me and Little Show Off came to life when I thought about the purpose of the red soles on my reference shoe photograph. They really do say, Hello world. Look at me!”

The last two of my red shoe series are Weapons of Mass Attraction and Weapons of Mass Distraction. There’a one more painting in the pipeline and once that’s done, the shoe series will be done for now.

One of the most satisfying aspects of this series is the reactions it evokes. I’ve always wanted to capture a mood or an idea in my paintings. I want them to make people think, or feel something different as a result of seeing them. Reactions to the shoe paintings have included phrases like, ‘sexy’, ‘powerful’, ‘confident’, ‘she’s not wearing them, so where is she?’

For me, they represent the enigma that is womanhood. The shoes have gentle curves and sharp lines, just like women who are flexible and at the same time, focused. When seen from behind, they represent women taking the lead and knowing where they are going. They most certainly are powerful and sexy – just like the women who would wear them. For me they are a celebration of the best aspects of femininity.

If you want to see the whole collection together, take a look at the Shoe Collection gallery.

Five by Five: cat’s eyes

Cat's eyes in green and blue (watercolour sketch)
Cat’s eyes (watercolour sketch)

The end of a wonderful long weekend, and the end of my self-imposed Five by Five challenge. It’s been a great exercise. Firstly, it made me focus on painting every day, and on blogging every day, and it got me thinking about the things that make me smile.

My last five are:

– Horatio. I’ve posted photos of Horatio before and he has his own special category in the blog. Admittedly there are only two photographs of him so far, and neither could be painted because they would just look wierd. So, I did a little watercolour sketch of cat’s eyes to represent Horatio. He is on my list of subjects to paint and clearly (judging by this little sketch), I need more practice painting cats before I can do him justice.

– My job. I often bemoan the fact that I don’t have more time to paint. But that shouldn’t be taken as that meaning I want to spend less time on my work. (Rather that I just wish there were more hours in the day, or that I was more organised with the hours I do have). I love the work I do and wouldn’t change it for anything. My company works with great clients. We love dealing with every one of them. And on top of that, we’ve recently added investment research to the work that we do which is fantastically interesting.

– Knitting. I spent almost all of Monday sorting out thousands of balls of knitting yarn. No, that doesn’t mean I have a stash of yarn that counts into the thousands. Instead we’re closing down an online knitting yarn business we’ve had for the past two years. Perhaps once that has all been sorted out and put to bed properly, I’ll have time to get my needles out again. It can be a great way to relax.

– Aquilegias. They self-seed in our garden and come up again in early summer. They always bring the rest of the flowers following along behind them. This year I want a carpet full of aquilegias

– My sister who is was my first artistic inspiration and who can be relied on to always give me an honest answer to even the most difficult of questions. I would feel lost without her in my world.

Thank you for taking this five day journey with me. I hope it wasn’t too tedious. Tomorrow morning it’s back to work and the usual routine again. Hope you have time to paint something fabulous this week.

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Five by Five: Old friends and roses

Sally's Posy (Watercolour 20.5cm x 20.5cm)
Sally’s Posy (Watercolour 20.5cm x 20.5cm)

It’s only day three and I’m already regretting the impulse to find five things each day. It becomes progressively harder to find new things without becoming repetitive. So, here goes again:

– Long walks in the countryside. I don’t get to do that as often as I would like, but there’s nothing nicer than a good long walk in a park or the countryside. Being in the midst of trees and living things gives me the time and space to breathe deeply.

– Someone buying one of my paintings. There is nothing quite like the thrill of having someone love my work enough to buy it. I get a huge sense of satisfaction when that happens.

– My parents coming over on holiday. This August my parents are coming out from South Africa to visit us for a week. It’s been many years since they made the long journey and I am so looking forward to treating them by taking them to visits to some of the nearby places we love.

– Old friends. I consider myself enormously fortunate to have as many old friends as I do. People who share high school experiences with me, people who knew my sons when they were very small, people who shared their passions with me. I value their friendship so very much.

– Roses. Through the summer, there are almost always a few blossoms in a vase on my desk when I get back from my weekly trip to London. They’ve been picked from our garden that morning and put on the desk specially for me. I am very lucky.

This painting is for Sally, the friend who shared her passion for gardening, and taught me to love it too. Roses are a particular favourite of hers, and she always has beautiful white iceberg roses in her garden.

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Five by Five: Fathers and sons

The obligatory paint brush sketch
The obligatory paint brush sketch

My friend Karin Panaino Petersen posted a challenge of Facebook yesterday: State five things you are grateful for.

I’ve decided to tweak that slightly. For the next five days I am going to try to post about five things that make me smile, and if I can manage it, do a quick sketch of one of the five to post. This may be setting the bar a bit high, given my time constraints. But since 4 of these days are holidays here, I’m hopeful that I can make it work (if I paint the fifth ahead of time).

Here we go – in no particular order:

– Fathers. Sometimes, we don’t really focus on our parents as much as we should. They’re quietly there in the background, and if they’re not particularly high maintenance, life just trundles along. Today my Dad stepped into the breach for my sister in the most amazing way. He was my hero today, and it reminded me how many times he’s just quietly been there for all of us.

– Sons. Both of my sons made me smile today. Christopher sent messages from Vietnam where he’s on holiday. Lovely to know he’s having a great time. And Nic is coming home for the weekend.  Yes!

– Sunshine – it came back for a fleeting few moments a couple of times today. After such a long winter, even a tiny but of sunshine is fabulous.

– Four days to indulge in painting. (And I’ve decided that painting paint brushes is possibly a rite of passage for every artist. Here’s mine. Now it’s done.)

– Chocolate. I know, I know. Such a cliché. But hey, it’s Easter. It’s allowed.

If you fancy sharing your five, or playing along on your blog if you have one, pile in and join the party.

Hope you have a fabulous Easter weekend.

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Two birds – one stone

L'Art de L'Aquarelle
L’Art de L’Aquarelle

When I went to visit fellow One Hundred Wash artist, Olivia Quintin last year, she introduced me to the joys of L’Art de l’Aquarelle – a magazine which features the work of world-class watercolours. Olivia was one of the interviewed artists in an edition last year.

I was so bowled over by the paintings in the magazine and the inspiration of seeing such high quality work, that I asked for a subscription for Christmas. I was delighted last week when the first of my four editions arrived.  I hadn’t realised that this beautiful publication is also available in English, so I am receiving the French version. But given that I’ve been trying to improve my French to the point where I can hold a conversation with Olivia and Alain when they visit us in August – it’s dictionary-at-the-ready and I’m loving every page, even if it does take a while to read.

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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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History and Traditions

This post is more personal than my usual postings so please forgive me if you’re looking for insights into artworks. They’re not in today’s writing.

It has been an unbelievably busy weekend which has meant no time to paint this week – but it has been a fabulous couple of days nevertheless. I collected a load of framed and mounted works from Denise at Rosewood Studios on Saturday, and this painting was amongst them

Blazing London (watercolour 320 x 110)
Blazing London (watercolour 320 x 110)

This was my  January give away. The random.org draw brought up the number of  Dawn Denton who runs Legends of London, which seemed wonderfully appropriate. I’ve had the painting mounted for her and will be meeting her in London to hand it over. Collecting it reminded me to put it in my gallery, and also up on Red Bubble (so Dawn will be able to order cards to match her painting if she wants to).

Tradition and history have been a big part of this weekend. On Friday afternoon we drove down from Cambridge to Sandhurst to attend a dinner.  Friday night was the half way point in Nic’s year of training there. It has been a very tough half year with more to come, but it seems all the officer cadets think its well worth the hardship. They are a very impressive group of young men who embody the values of a military institution with a history of discipline and high standards.  You can’t feel anything but admiration when you look at these young gentlemen who are working so incredibly hard to earn the right to be leaders of men. They are an inspiration to us all.

Our first visit to Sandhurst was last July.  We attended Nic’s commissioning parade when he became an officer in the TA.  I wasn’t at my best that day. We had some distances to walk on site and I was battling with a fractured foot. This meant I couldn’t wear smart shoes, I wasn’t feeling particularly chic, and I was in some discomfort. After the parade, we had the standard photo session with various family members. Of course I had to have one taken with both of my sons.

Nic, me and Christopher at Sandhurst
Nic, me and Christopher at Sandhurst

Siblings in our family seem to have an almost uncanny way of knowing what the other is thinking. My sister and I do this quite often. We each know how the other will respond to something and can almost predict what they are going to say. The boys do the same thing and this time, they caught me unawares. Christopher just said, “Come on, Nic” – and without a further word, they reacted in unison.

They caught be completely by surprise.
They caught be completely by surprise.

This will always be one of my favourite photographs. It reminds me just how much I love having my family around. They know exactly how to make my day.

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