Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Gallery Visit

Applying paint has been low on the list of priorities this last few weeks for one reason or another. Last weekend I had the opportunity to get away for a couple of days, good boys get pass outs! I'd been keen to see the Turner and the Masters exhibition that is currently at Tate Britain.

The basic premise on which the exhibition is based is that Turner was an artist who publicly engaged with artists of the past as well as contemporaries in producing his work on his journey to the unique works that result from his innovative approach and desire to explore the very nature of Art.

Suffice it to say that the experience of seeing Turner's work hung next to that of his influences and competetive contemporaries is fascinating and the best I can do is to urge anyone who can to get there before the exhibition closes at the end of January. For those who can't the catalogue is a worthwhile buy from the Tate web site. The text is well researched and insightful, I won't try to emulate it here but advise that it is well worth your time and money to investigate this exhibition and its curation.

It was interesting to visit Tate Modern after a first viewing of the Turner exhibition. Here the main exhibit is called Pop Life and explores the relationship between art and art as a business. The theme was inspired by a Warhol quote, 'Good business is the best art'. Artists as brands underpins the selection of exhibitors, Warhol, Hirst, Emin, Lucas, Koons, Murakami are some of the people represented. Work varies from obvious commercialism to some challenging pieces that question taste and morality.

After that visit it was fascinating to return to the Turner exhibition and soak in his work along with the Poussin, Claude, Van Ruisdael, Rembrandt, Girtin, Wilkie and others.

The pictures I have posted are a very limited glimpse of the contents of the exhibition.

My reason for choosing the first one is twofold. Firstly, the building is one of my favourite places on earth and secondly it demonstrates the exquisite draughtsmanship of Turner early in his career.

Durham Cathedral - J. M. W. Turner

The next is one of the most influential pieces that Turner used for the purposes of learning, emulation and as a yardstick for his own work. The lessons from Claude's work prompted the exploration of atmosphere that was to become a Turner hallmark. (Apologies for quality of image).

Seaport - Claude Lorrain

The remaining images exemplify Turner's growing command of the atmospheric effects and vagaries of weather and it is easy to see the continuing influence of Claude as well as the work of the great Dutch painters of the sea, Van Ruisdael, Cuyp and Van de Velde.

Abingdon - J. M. W. Turner

Squall - J. M. W. Turner

Dutch Boats in a Gale - J. M. W. Turner

Sun rising through Vapour - J. M. W. Turner

Regulus - J. M. W. Turner

My final selection is the painting that is used in the Tate publicity material and is one that never fails to transfix me when I stand before it. It grabbed me for a good hour on this trip. The progression that took Turner from being a precise draughtsman to the visionary that could represent the elements in such a rendering is one of constant fascination. It does my soul good to have the chance of wallowing in such visual delights.
Time to get out the paints.

Snow Storm, Harbour Mouth - J. M. W. Turner

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Madeira Coast - Adjusted

Today I had another session with this canvas. In the wake of comments left here and on Wet Canvas I have made some adjustments. Some of them are subtle, probably as a result of my tentative efforts. For the record the first thing that I tried to do was to reduce the impact of the rock in the middle ground on the left. I mixed a bit of the base burnt umber with a touch of gray and white then judiciously applied it, then added a few highlights to help with the modelling. The next job was to soften the horizon line, done by adding a lighter mixture of sea colour and then blending it in. Other jobs done include the addition of some extra light wave colour, soften some rock edges and deepen some shadows. There is no doubt that these changes have been improvements, whether they go far enough or not I will decide after sitting on it for a few days.

Madeira Coast - Oil on canvas board 20" x 16"

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Madeira Coast - Work in Progress Part 2

I had another session with this and began to introduce some more detail as well as adjusting some values, in particular in the rear cliff. Hopefully the next session will see it finished but it will have to wait a day or two as domestic duties are about to intervene. It'll give some of the paint the chance to tack up. Anyone with suggestions as to ways to improve the image are welcome to make their comments.

Madeira Coast - Oil on canvas board 20" x 16"

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Madeira Coast - Work in Progress

This image will be familiar to regular readers in that it is a result of 'sound practice'. No, I'm not being boastful but making reference to the sort of process that most of us should go through prior to committing to a studio piece. The sound practice that I refer to is providing oneself with the best bank of information on which to base the ensuing effort. The first and most important stage for me is creating in the field sketch information that reflects observation on the day and the watercolour sketch that I made on site was published in previous post. The other thing I did was to photograph the scene and the shot is published below.

Getting into what I laughingly call a studio, the back kitchen at home, my first job is to create a 'block in'. Here I attempt to establish relationships between the various elements in the picture that reflect the relative values and colour hints for later detailed work. Therefore what you see here is a Work in Progress. I posted it as such on Wet Canvas, hoping that colleagues there would make suggestions as to how to approach the detailing. One comment that emerged was from a very helpful artist, who has made many positive contributions to my development, Michael McGuire. He spotted that the value shift between light and shadow sides of the rear rock are not great enough. So when I start work tomorrow the first thing I will do is try to darken slightly the shadow side. This will be a delicate task as it will be easy to overdo it and ruin the effect. After that the detailing can begin. I will post the results when they are nearer completion.

Madeira Coast WIP - Oil on canvas board 20" x 16"

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Backhouse Park

After a few weeks without much opportunity to dip into the turps I managed a couple of hours in the local park hoping to produce my autumn masterpiece. Foolish me. What a struggle? Whilst not my usual subject matter I thought lessons learned elsewhere might aid the process but to no avail. Choosing such a complicated scene without simplifying and editing sufficiently well did not help the progress of the piece. However there are signs that some of the lessons along the way have not been totally forgotten. I am starting to achieve better feelings of depth in some of my work. Painting is like many other activities, the more often you are able to do it the more comfortable you are with the tools. Moral - get out more often and if not possible to get out then paint indoors.

Backhouse Park - Oil on canvas board 12" x 10"

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Another Sea Stack

Recent works in watercolour have interrupted my trips to the beach, but true to form I found time to head out and select one of the many stacks along our coast as a subject. The result is below.

Returning to the same subject matter is providing me with a wealth of material from which I can make judgements about any development that is taking place in my painting and this latest example has given me lots to think about. There is a better range of values in this piece and areas like the sky and the foreground read much better than in some earlier works. I put this down to taking a greater degree of care in blocking in prior to beginning the main painting. It was particularly helpful in establishing the value range and foreground detail. Clearly another set of lessons learned.

Sea Stack, Souter - Oil on canvas board 12" x 10"

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Joseph Skipsey

If you have been reading regularly you will know that one of the exercises we did when working with Charles Reid was to use old photographs of people to hone our figurative work. Having brought that idea home I decided to start a little project whereby I would continue to practise in similar fashion but to use images that had some relationship with the local area. So off to the library to seek out source material. It was easily found, pictures galore of the working people of NorthEast England. As you can imagine mining features strongly in such imagery and I decided to start with something from that industry. I discovered a rather haunting image of Joseph Skipsey, known as the Pitman Poet, and used it for my first effort.

Joseph Skipsey, Pitman Poet - Watercolour on Not paper 14" x 11"

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Holiday Sketches

We've just returned from holiday, a week in Madeira, our first time on the island. It was a strange week in terms of weather. We had the expected sunshine and the first rains since February and boy does it rain when it comes. The combination of warmth and the wet ensured that conditions were humid. This is the first time I have tried painting watercolour in such humidity and found that it presents interesting problems. For a start the paper, once wet, seems to remain damp for a long time making it much more difficult to judge when to apply new washes. Almost everything becomes wet in wet and whilst that is great fun it isn't always necessarily what you want to achieve.

Enough of the gripes, I did manage to get a few sessions where I could sit down with my sketch book and run on some paint. The small watercolour box and a sketchbook were the only gear that I had with me but it is enough when time is tight and you have to fit it in amongst the travelling around to familiarise oneself with a new holiday venue.

So on with the pictures. All of the shots below are from the sketchbook and represent rapidly executed, unfinished pieces. Even though they aren't finished they do represent a much better memory of the experience than the inevitable photographs.

The first picture was painted across the double page spread to encompass the distant headland of Sao Laurenco. Raindrops provide some of the spatter evident in the sea and there are traces of paint transferred from one page to the other as it was rapidly closed to avoid the arriving storm.

Machico - Watercolour on Not paper

Another mixed day, some bright light, some cloud and rain but the anglers, like elsewhere in the world are not deterred by the weather.

Ribeira Brava - Watercolour on Not paper

At last a morning of sunshine and a trip out to the extreme Eastern end of the island. Fabulous cliff top scenery. Regular readers will know this to be a particular weakness of mine.

Porto Sao Laurenco - Watercolour on Not paper

The next picture shows a lady working at lifting vegetation left after cropping. In the background is one of the 'A' line houses typical of the area around Santana.

Santana - Watercolour on Not paper

As painting becomes increasingly important to me the challenge of ensuring that travel incorporates the opportunity to paint looms larger. Next year we intend taking a longer trip over an extended period and whilst carrying watercolour kit is not too difficult, I'm trying to get my head around the logistics of getting oil gear away with me as well. Anyone with bright ideas about the travel problems of oil painters would be welcome commentators on the blog.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Back to the Beach

Didn't have time to load this prior to spending a week away. Went off to the beach again and carried on with my knife experimentation. There are aspects of this that I like a lot and others that still need refinement, in particular the precise tonal relationships between different promontories and the intensity of hue in the sea. Nevertheless many of the values read true so I'd have to consider it a step in the right direction.

Seaham Stack - Oil on canvas board 12" x 10"

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Charles Reid Workshop - Final Day

Last day, why does a week like this seem to fly? Daily lessons in the importance of all aspects of technique have a real intensity that tires, stimulates and turns the brain to mush as we try to assimilate the wealth of information imparted by a teacher of Charles' talent.

The final demonstration was to be another still life using many of the elements from the previous day. As in previous days empahasis was laid on correct use of the brush and the first photograph shows the technique of using the middle/ lower part of the brush to make the stroke rather than wear away the point on the abrasive surface of the paper.

Brush stroke

The next sequence of pictures show the progression of the latest painting.

Still Life - Contour drawing, Charles Reid

Still Life - Charles Reid, first stage of bouquet

Complete Bouquet - Charles Reid

Work on other elements - Charles Reid

Still Life - Charles Reid

Another top class demonstration, leaving us all wondering how we can emulate it with our own still life efforts during the afternoon.
The last session was in the evening when the opportunity to purchase the demonstration works was set up. Each work was priced and everyone had the opportunity to express an interest in any of the paintings. Where there were a number of expressions of interest a draw was made to determine who would have the painting. Needless to say all of the paintings attracted interest and none of them were going to be responsible for excess baggage charges on the way back to the States. We then had the opportunity to view all of the works done by students during the couse of the week, an impressive exhibition.
Workshops like this one are fairly intense affairs and can be difficult if they are not organised in a sensible fashion. Fortunately this one had two outstanding organisers making sure that things ran smoothly. First of all, Jane Duke who had assumed the responsibility of putting the whole thing together, ensuring that access to the oversubscribed workshop was done in a fair and equitable fashion and then doing all of the background organisation/ administration that is essential if participants are going to have a trouble - free experience. Suffice it to say that she achieved all of this and managed to deal with the inevitable day to day wrinkles without losing the smile and enthusiasm that are her trademarks. Secondly, Charles' wife, Judy, who organises him so that he can concentrate on what the participants want. She makes certain that everyone feels they have had sufficient and appropriate individual attention, even down to creating rotas for front row seats at the demonstrations. All in all, a formidable back up team.
And lastly, the participants themselves. Getting a good mix of people together is not always an easy thing to do, even in circumstances where it is possible to hand pick the group. In a group like this where they are gathered on a first come, first served basis it should be nearly impossible. This group defied expectations in being cohesive, friendly and serious about their work - a great bunch of people. So a few shots of them to wind up proceedings.

Latifa and Gill

Jane Wright

Suzannah, Astrid, Betsey and Ingebjorg




You will have gathered by now that this was a week to savour. I can think of no more appropriate way to sign off than leave you with an image that encapsulates the experience for me, the palette of the Master.


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Monday, 21 September 2009

Charles Reid Workshop - Day 5 - Part 2

After lunch it was decided to introduce an optional session. Urchfont is not far from one of the most spectacular ancient monuments in the British Isles, Avebury. The fascinating collection of standing stones spread over a number of fields make the largest stone circle known and for numbers of course participants, particularly our Norwegian and American friends the opportunity to visit this monument was too good to miss. Others more familiar with Avebury were happy to spend the afternoon working at their still life.

Charles kits up for Avebury

For me the opportunity to make a light hearted watercolour sketch of Charles at work seemed too good to miss, so I positioned myself behind him as he worked.

Charles Reid at Avebury - Mick Carney
Followers of Charles' work will know the importance he places on his sketchbook work and this was a unique opportunity to watch him at work in his sketchbook. An ability to record landscape in this fashion is a great boon to the artist who works in the studio. The effective noting technique that the sketchbook provides gives the painter more useful information than photographs and should be a cornerstone of our practice.
Peering into Charles' sketchbook is an education and the first piece below is his sketch produced while I sat behind him.

Avebury - Charles Reid

Unable to resist the temptation to look through the sketchbook I came across the picture below. It had a real resonance for me having had the pleasant surprise of the subject sitting down to dinner next to Sheila and myself on a recent holiday in Venice. The subject is of course another painter and a painting friend of Charles. He needs no introduction from me.

Tony Bennett at work in his studio - Charles Reid

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Saturday, 19 September 2009

Charles Reid Workshop - Day 5 - Part 1

Part 1, you ask yourself? Well this day was to be split into two distinct segments, one inside and the 0ther outside. The other reason is that I have to go away for three days and Sheila is waiting with the packed bags at the back door. So get on with Mick.

Still life is a favourite of Charles' admirers and no course of his would be complete without at least one session and so it was to be. If you've been following this blog then you will know the routine by now. A few pictures to show the development of the piece then the completed work. So, here goes.

The Set Up

Contour Drawing - Charles Reid

Importance of correct brush strokes to place petals and leaves

First thoughts on bouquet - Charles Reid

Intermediate - Charles Reid

Still Life - Charles Reid
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Back next week for Part 2

Friday, 18 September 2009

Charles Reid Workshop - Day 4

Up early to another beautiful day and the prospect of working outside again. The venue today was to be the village green in Urchfont. Urchfont is a beautiful place full of thatched cottages and charming properties, many of which date back to centuries long gone. It is like stepping back in time to wander around this gem of a village. This also gives a stimulus to the sort of exercise for today's study. As mentioned in a previous post, Charles has a collection of old photographs showing residents of Urchfont from some time ago and what he decided to do was to introduce one of these into a landscape chosen on the day.

The first part of the drawing was the introduction of one Fred Dowse into the foreground. Charles can be seen using one of his source pictures to complete the drawing. Note also the shade provided by the brolly erected to beat the glare from the white paper.

Initial Drawing

Next stage was the initial application of paint to the foreground figure. Interesting to note here is the fact that Charles does not always complete drawing across all of the paper before starting to paint.

Fred Dowse - Charles Reid, First passage of paint

Next was the drawing and painting of the immediate background to the figure, establishing all of the important tonal contrasts.

Fred Dowse - Charles Reid, intermediate stage
Background shapes are established next.

Fred Dowse - Charles Reid, background shapes introduced

One of the joys of working outside is the serendipitous meetings that take place. George Heath is one of the oldest residents of Urchfont, having lived there all of his life. George joined us and the pleasure to be had from listening to his recollections is immense. The old photographs depicting residents were a great prompt to his memory as he knew many of the individuals and had a fund of stories about them to lighten our day. As he sat talking I managed to make a small sketch on a new piece of watercolour paper with the intention of using him as foreground interest for my work to follow. A magical interlude.

George Heath

Charles moved on to the completion of his piece.

Final touches

All done

Fred Dowse - Charles Reid

Demonstration over, it was time for us to get to work.

Charles moves amongst the students dispensing wisdom.

Another great day.

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