Friday, 23 September 2016

Tripping - a gallery day in London!

A few months ago I mentioned to some students that I was going to do a London Day, and said if anyone fancied joining me to visit some galleries, that would be nice... So last week seven good souls met me in London and we had a very jolly jaunt!
Three little maids from school at Tate Britain - Ruth, Mark and Sara
We started at the Tate Britain and took in the  exhibition Painting and Light, which showed Pre-Raphaelite paintings next to very early photographs (which had a lovely painterly softness). It also included some drawings, watercolours and photographs by John Ruskin which were really interesting.  
It was thought provoking and provided a great opportunity to appreciate the importance of composition in artwork. 

We had a preview, in passing, of a giant wooden structure which took up the entire courtyard of Chelsea School of Art (right beside Tate Britain), which was part of London Design Week. 

One of the things I love about London is the flower stall - always an uplifting burst of colour. This one was on Bermondsey High Street SE1
We met another student at The National Portrait Gallery, where we'd booked lunch in the upstairs restaurant, which has a brilliant far reaching view of the rooftops, from the Gherkin in the east, the dome of St Pauls, St Martin in the Fields, the London Eye across to the entrance to The Mall. The photo below shows only a small part of it, including Big Ben, Nelson's column and the array of rooves belonging to the National Gallery. 

A cloudy afternoon but still interesting

Students lunching! Ruth, Joanna, Dawn, Indya, me, Mark, Nisa and Sara
Lunch was... lingering and relaxing, and the afternoon afforded a brief visit to the portraits and a short look at some of the National Gallery next door. 

The weather brightening up, for my walk along the South Bank. 
After we said goodbye I crossed the river to the South Bank and visited the Watercolour Society Gallery. Next day I went to the Wallace Collection in Manchester Square - this is a bit of a gem. Amongst other things, the house has two large rooms full of amazing master paintings, including at least three Rembrandt's, some Titians, several Horace Vernet, Rubens and Frans Hal's Laughing Cavalier. It's well worth a visit, and it's just found the corner from The Conran Shop - also worth spending time there to feast your eyes on lovely stream lined design. 

The Laughing Cavalier - well, he didn't look to me like he thought it was THAT funny, but an amazing painting. 

Loved this motorbike with a Sidecar coffee bar! 
Creativity comes in many forms! 

Dappley London Plane trees along the South Bank

If you don't have good galleries in your local area, it's so worth making the effort to get to a city. While it's impossible to see everything in just a day or two, it's amazing how much you can cram in - two galleries can be enough in one day. The payoff is a connection with history, the opportunity for reflection and contextualising, for admiring many things and perhaps not liking others. 

I encourage you to get going!

Next up: Oils workshop, Children's classes, drawing and portrait workshops. For information email 

Monday, 19 September 2016

Composition - putting it all together with care. Student watercolours.

While it may look sometimes that paintings just 'happen' by themselves, the images that we find most pleasing to the eye are those which have been carefully considered and designed by the artist. Unfortunately, in many instances, this vital element in learning to create images is completely ignored. The word used is Composition and without understanding it to some degree, students will prevent their own progress. Without an appreciation of layout and design, the artwork cannot 'sing' and the artist will not have full control of how their artwork is viewed. Composition is just as important for one-off image making as it is for the narrative required in an illustration. 

A cluster of objects looks dauting, until we analyse it 

Good composition engages the viewer and invites them to linger longer. A poor composition feels uncomfortable and won’t encourage the viewer to stay. If you have not considered a picture in terms of ‘feelings’ then now is the time to start. 

Rowan, open and 'clean'
Rose hip - busier-looking because the leaves are broad and overlap.

Students arriving to a table full of berries and leaves is daunting, so in order to begin the task of composing a painting, we took time to consider the make-up of the subject. To do this we looked at individual stems from a variety of plants and noted that the patterns of leaves and berries was very different, and specific to each plant.  Look at the rowan above and notice how the leaves are ‘clean’ and ‘open’, and all come from a small stem off a larger branch. The berries hang in neat clusters at the end, like a hand on the end of an arm. The rose hip is very different. The thick leaves overlap which makes an instant analysis more challenging, but notice how there is great clarity in how the branches are formed - clean prickly stems with one large berry on the end. These observations give us the ‘anatomy’ or ‘design’ of the plant. The act of studying them like this helps us notice design in nature. Now our head is in the right mode! We are thinking about the mechanics of the object, rather than its beauty and understand the way it has been designed.

The students next task was to begin 'thumbnail' pencil sketches to design the layout of their page. They had to include at least two different plants, but the scale did not have to be proportionate. They were allowed only 5 minutes per sketch - this encourages fast thinking, and reduces the layout to the bare bones - in other words, they drew more of the ‘anatomy' of the branches, and were less concerned at this stage with the leaves. If the bare bones work, then it’ll work with the leaves on too! 

Work in progress, which shows lovely use of negative spaces, by student Lorraine L 

Working small allowed them to see how the ‘negative spaces’, the paper which has no drawing on it, are just as important as the drawing itself because the white areas are part of the ‘pattern’ being created. 

Work in progress, a beatiful composition by student Olivia. Rose hips and, under her hand, brambles.
Finally, they chose their favourite composition and drew it onto watercolour paper - partly observing the plant, but remaining totally faithful to their design. This meant that they left out some leaves, but had at all times to observe the anatomy of the plant - how did the stems attach to a larger branch, how does the berry sit with the leaves, etc?  In other words, they designed and created something unique. 
This compostition uses the background to excelent effect, by student Pat F.
You can see from the photos above and below that the result is not something invented, but, rather, designed. 

A triumph of design, by student Hilary J. 

Next up, Belfast workshops for adults in Oil painting, Drawing, Life drawing and Portrait drawing.
Also, occasional children's classes in observation drawing and illustration.

For details email or call 07730 560517.