Open Studios is nearly here..!

A belated blog post I’m afraid! However, I have been busy creating and working away and with the Stroud Valleys Artspace weekends coming up I will have a whole range of artworks, drawings, sketchbooks and cards for you all to enjoy. More details can be found on the Stroud Valleys Artspace website http://www.sitefestival.org.uk/whats-on/site-festival/ or by clicking the online directory http://www.sva.org.uk/sites/default/files/Open%20StudiosDirectory2017Web_0.pdf

427e93b610795c95494b2eec73321fb6There will be 102 artists opening their studios for the Weekends 6th-7th and 13th-14th May (including me!) and we’re all hoping for some glorious weather and lots of visitors. If you can’t make it to all the artists studios (there are quite a lot..) then why not come to the taster exhibition? The opening night is this Friday 5th May 6-8pm in 39 Kings Street, Stroud and the exhibition continues the 6th-14th May. This will showcase a piece of work from every artist exhibiting for the two weekends, to give you a flavour of all the art that is buzzing in the Stroud Valleys.

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This last month of my painting practice has had a ‘plein air’ feeling to it. Sometimes when I come across an old sketch or painting, I can distinctly remember whether it was painted outdoors or from a photograph, so I wanted to rekindle the looseness and freshness of my mark-making that would hone my artistic voice. Working from life is such a challenge as it really exposes your artistic ‘handwriting,’ such as the marks, dots, scribbles that you use to symbolise the observed subject. An intense week spending time drawing and painting on the coast of Tenby, Pembrokeshire, got me to think about honing the intentions of my artworks and think about my mark-making, whilst having a cold slap in the face from the icy wind and being cast a spell by the sea mists.

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Sometimes the light was so fleeting and transitionary, I often had the sense it felt right to just stop painting and let the artwork remain as raw as the subject was.

Rome Fragments

Aside from my plein air work, I also had the urge to capture some of the Roman fragments I had frequently photographed during my trip to Rome. At the time, I was also playing around with some collage and liked the idea of tearing up a complete image to make a new composition, and I felt that the was naturally done by the museum curators fixing all these fragments together to explain something about its original state. Whereas the archeologist might look at all these fragments and clearly establish that it was part of a fresco, I feel they are just as interesting in their odd array in display cases. I often look at the fragments and try to make sense of the story or era that they come from through paint.

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A few weeks ago I finished my intensive four day paper making course at Bath College, taught by Elaine Cooper, who learnt the Japanese craft of paper making for 10 years in Mino, Japan. I had attempted paper making at home before, reading a few books on it and having a go with recycled paper, kitchen blender, and a crudely made mould and deckle, but I was sincerely disappointed with the results. Having failed at that I thought I must give it another go…under instruction! And what pleasure I got from the course! I learnt both the Western style of paper making, using a metal mould and deckle with cotton fibres, to the (difficult) Japanese method with a bamboo mould and deckle with Kozo fibres. It was so useful for me to learn by the true master -everything was taught from how to make a strong sheet of paper by moving the mould and deckle (in a certain way) to knowing the right consistency of pulp to water. Quality paper making can only be achieved by fully knowing the fibres that you are using.

I decided that my final project (which we did on the last day of the course) should be a series of handmade books inspired by the theme of nature and the materials that I used throughout the course. I love both the natural patterns of nature and its imperfections. Rather akin to the concept of ‘wabi-sabi,’ I dropped natural fibres into my paper mixture to achieve random effects. I also enjoyed using the skill of lamination, where I can layer in leaves, or other material, in-between the layers to make one single sheet with interesting textures. Above are my books, soon to be finished, bound with linen thread, and hopefully I will be inspired to write and draw into them. This is a rather beautiful video that shows the Japanese process, from collecting the raw plant material to making beautiful paper: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swiu0YGU38Q

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I returned from my few days immersed in paper making to catch some of the beautiful sunlight that April has offered. It has given me a taste of summer! A few smiles from my neighbours who see me clamber over the stile for the fields in my painting smock, portable easel, palette and brushes. I often find inspiration just around the corner from home, being so lucky to be in the countryside, and means I can have a tea break too!

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This snowdrops piece is now finally finished. It needed a lot of attention to give layers of  paint for the effect of frost and snow between the grasses. Again, having the looseness of the brushwork becomes more and more important to me, as it breathes life and energy into the subject, and sometimes I feel the energy of the subject fluttering in the wind or changing position.

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A busy week ahead for me as I get the studio tidy and presented with all my work for -not just one- but two open studios weekends! Really excited for this event and hope to see some familiar, and hopefully new, faces at the exhibition opening night this Friday and in my studio over the next two weekends.

 

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