I’ll be sharing my secrets, tips, and techniques on how I paint at this week's Fresh Art fair.
“Do you do it from memory or just make that up out of your head?” I was asked this recently by a lady looking with admiring eyes at my latest horse painting “Waters edge”. I wasn’t quite able to explain in one sentence, but I’m going to try here.
There is buzz as I arrive at an art fair. Friendly, full of anticipation and the joy of seeing plenty people after a few months of flying solo in the studio creating new work. Many artists on the circuit know each other and have done for years. Whilst unloading our cars and vans laden heavily with canvases, sculptures and passpartout, there are hugs and kisses abound as everyone says hello and makes their way to their stand - Their home for the next few days.
There are some brushes I always reach for no matter how many hundreds of brushes sit on my worktop. There are some colours I always reach for the matter how many hundreds of tubes of paint there are and there are some canvases that I always seem to be ordering. So here are my top 10 materials that I use every single day.
All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small. - this artist loves them all!
Whenever I’m asked "So what kind of art is it that you do" I always say “Beautiful oil paintings inspired by nature”. That has been my raison d'être since becoming an artist.
Welcome to my garden studio. Click on the video below to watch me priming a canvas ready for an oil painting.
It's all too tempting, to click your way to re-stocking your studio.
But few pleasures compare to walking into a bonafide independent art shop. Seeing all those gorgeous materials laid out before you and getting excited about what you’re going to take home.
I’ve been chatting to Sharon Noble of Noble Art supplies in Salisbury and I’ve got 10 reasons why you should go shopping there.
1. You get to speak to a real expert!
Online there's no help or advice.
Sharon is experienced and can help her customers. "After the closure of Compleat Artist Salisbury was left with a gap and as there was still an obvious customer base still present I thought I didn't want to waste nearly 18 years in art retail and everything I had learnt about materials". And thus, Noble Art supplies was born.
2. You can do a custom order.
With accounts with the main suppliers and also 2 good wholesale companies, Noble arts are happy to order in special items for you. From canvas to paint, from pencils to brushes.
3. Get up close and personal with texture.
Sharon and I are agreed, there's nothing better than finding a good brush. Nothing compares to selecting that brush in real life!
4. You can browse while making up your mind!
Browsing online is nothing like as much fun! There's been a lot of fuss in the news about an independent book seller in Yorkshire charging people to browse. But Sharon tells me "I am happy for customers to browse. Also someone browsing is a potential future customer". So relax and enjoy yourself!
5. It's a chance to see just how many colours there are in the world! Walking into an art shop is walking into an Aladdin's cave of colour. Take your time and choose well!
6. It's a joy. a social event!
You'll find like minded people. You'll be able to discuss techniques. Art materials are tactile it's great to see the products you are buying
7. Keep your Highstreet vibrant and full of luscious shops!
There's a campaign called just a card which was started based on a gallery "If everyone who walked into our gallery and said it was beautiful had bought just a card- we'd still be open" So, what can we do to make sure Salisbury keeps it only specialist art shop open? The answer to this is simple; shop local!
8. It's a great place to dream! You can imagine your next masterpiece, you can picture the colour palette you'll use. You can plan. You can buy exactly what you need, nothing more.
9. You'll have access to local knowledge.
Sharon knows many of the Salisbury artists and the classes they teach. If you want to find out more about the art scene, she'll more than likely know what's going on. In addition, Plain Arts Salisbury members get a 10% discount!
10. Get some inspiration.
From the shop window displays, the array of paints, brushes and materials and the inspiring people who work and shop there, you're bound to see something that will get your creative juices flowing!
See you there!
From my workshops I've discovered that there are hints and tips that I give out that can end up being the real "wow" moment of the course!
Sometime, a little aside comment, can be the exact advice someone has been looking for all along.
So this week I have a little you tube video for you, showing you how you can solve the problem of a saggy canvas, and how to repair a little dent in a canvas after you've painted it.
The method is really simple.
It only takes minutes, you have all the things you need already and it isn't scary!
If there is something about art, creating art, collecting art, of anything about my art that you would like me to cover in my blogs, or vlogs, please let me know, I'd be delighted to share.
After reading that title; if you've tuned in to read a blog about the EU referendum, you're in the wrong place, this is all about art!
Whenever I’m asked "So what kind of art is it that you do" I always say “Beautiful oil paintings inspired by nature”. That has been my
The countryside and coast have been my inspiration from the start.
Most recently my animals have been a real hit; newly exhibited this year.
I have just returned from Reading Art fair and the first three original paintings to fly off the walls were all animals, the first three prints were animals too. Just as I began to think that a pattern was emerging, the next three where landscapes and seascapes so who knows?
The simple idea that nature is beautiful and artists want to capture it is as old as art itself. The cave paintings at Lascaux in France demonstrate art's purpose was not only showing the importance of the hunt and recording an event, but also the animals that were stalked or chased during the hunt. I remember very clearly the first time I opened Gombrich’s “The story of art” to see Albrecht Durer’s portrait of a hare and thinking how can it be possible that someone can create something so lifelike simply with a pencil? My hare is a different take on that beautiful and very popular animal. This hare was the second painting to sell at Reading at the weekend and I love him, I will be painting another hare but it will be different to this one: a different size, different canvas, a different background, a different expression but it will still be a much loved beautiful hare.
Various people looking closely at my work commented on how I had captured the essence of the animal with out being too realistic. I was delighted to hear this as that was the plan!
One of the big challenges for a painter (landscape, animal, anything really), is to work out what to keep in and what to leave out. What we leave out is just as important as what we put in. Most people tend to notice my vibrant use of colour in my animal paintings. A Stag does not have blue and turquoise in it, a hair doesn't have a blue nose or purple ears. I think I'm a natural colourist, I like adding colour. I'm a painter! I have to bring something to the party that is different to a photographer.
Interestingly I think my use of colour in animals has stemmed from so many years of landscape and seascape painting. Trying to capture that particular pink cloud in the sky can be a real challenge and it's led me to be able to use colour in really exciting ways even when I'm painting something that is essentially a series of browns and greys. I can add bright colours that really bring the animal to life.
I believe that artists can give the viewer a clearer sense of what they might be looking at in nature. The very selection of colour life and personality in each of my works is communicating something different to the viewer other than what I saw in the first place. It is the fine line between recording the event or the place or the person or the animal and bringing a story to any of those elements so that the painter provides the viewer with something more.
With each of my landscapes and seascapes I have always considered them to be your personal window on the world, the view that we wish we had from our kitchen, we have a painting to reminder us of that beautiful place we once visited. However with my animal paintings I think I'm bringing a different kind of joy to your living room.
Something I noticed this weekend at Reading, when people visited my stand was how many people put on a funny voice when looking at one of my animal paintings. Anyone my age will remember Johnny Morris and Animal magic and perhaps it’s inherent in us to put on silly voices when we think of animals; that level of anthropomorphism is very strong in the British psyche. I have heard so many young people making moo noises at my cow and squealing with delight when I saw a happy muddy piggy.
So what does all this tell us?
It tells me very clearly that I'm part of a long tradition of artists who have always been inspired by nature and inspired by what they see around them.
All of my landscapes (with perhaps the exception of the old picture of Venice or Paris) are of places I live near. All of my animals are also animals that I can see in Wiltshire, Dorset or the New Forest.
I like being part of the tradition. I like celebrating the British countryside and coast and the variety of creatures that live on our shores.
Oil paint - the breakfast of champions!
Or why I’m still an oil painter!
There’s no getting around it; oil paint is expensive.
It’s also a "dark art" with all those potions and bottles marked with “toxic”, all just for getting the paint onto the canvas and off of the brush!
And it’s smelly.
My most recent art supplies order contained a (small tube) of paint for £17.50. It’s acrylic equivalent would have been less than four quid! And the acrylic would be diluted with plain old water, and and brushes would cleaned with water too. Whereas my favoured solvent costs more than a tenner for just 250ml, and I buy it by the gallon!
No wonder many professional artists have left the favourite medium of the old masters behind them.
But not me.
I love love love oil paint.
I’m an oil painter and I’m proud. Here's why:
3. Control. Power is nothing without control. Oil paint is diluted with turpentine. Which dries pretty quickly. As you build up layers you mix the turps with linseed oil (which dries really slowly). You learn to have balance between turps and oil through the process. Like many oil painters these days, I have eschewed turps in favour of a citrusy version called Zest-it. It’s less toxic and smells lovely. Zest it makes its own oils too. Over the years I have learnt to understand the chemistry of zest-it solvent, oil and my paints, different pigments have different drying times too! It’s very hard to learn (which is one reason why it’s not favoured by hobby painters) but once learned, it gives me incredible control over how I paint.
4. Oil paint has so many techniques to its name. You can paint all in one go, known as alla prima, you can build up layers thick over thin and light over dark, you can add huge globs of it - impasto, you can blend layers that are semi-dry…
5.And that’s another reason why I’m an oil painter over acrylic - I’m all about the blend. Acrylic drys fast and is therefore great for crisp clean lines. But my skies need to be blended.
The variety of solvents and oil mediums means as your style develops you can manipulate paint accordingly. Fast drying mediums don't make oil behave like acrylic; it still takes a good while to dry, but you have control. There is an art itself to start understanding drying times. I can blend in a cloud when the underpainting of the sky is drying, but not completely dry. If I do it wet and I’ll end up pushing mud around the painting as all the layers merge together. If I do it complexly dry I’ll end up with a hard edge. Sometimes that’s just what you want, but for sky - I’m all about the blend!
6. Any colour under the sun. Oil paints have been going for so long, there isn’t a pigment you can’t buy…if you’ve got the cash!
7. Light fastness - actually not really a good reason anymore as top quality acrylic paint has good lightfastness too!
8. Go with the flow, I often use watercolour for sketching and in my workshops. I find myself saying thing like “let the water do the work”. In oil painting I can’t exactly say “let the oil do the work”, but I do try to go with the medium rather than fighting it.
And that’s really the key for any artist, finding the medium that works the same way you do, and you’ll start to produce better art. Fight and you’ll never truly be in flow with your work.
Will I ever change? Possibly, I use waterbased media for a lot of my sketching and planning, but when the final work begins- oil paint is the only thing between the brush and the canvas.
Creative clutter or tidy art haven?
Last week I was talking about letting go while creating art and letting go so that you can sell it. This week I'm focusing on letting go of the creative clutter that inevitably accumulates in any artist studio!
Broadly speaking since having a professional studio in Salisbury, all to myself, I have designated spaces for office and admin, storage, painting at easels and even delivering workshops; my studio has remained relatively tidy.
I have a good fortnightly routine where I give my surfaces a deep clean to prevent the accumulation of gesso, paint, dried up oil, and other detritus that can build up in particular areas.
However I have another area that has turned into one of those dumping grounds. Everyone has a dumping ground at some point in their life. In our homes it tends to be the cupboard under the stairs where mountains of shoes that we will never wear again, hot water bottles and random bits of carpet seem to congregate without anyone claiming responsibility for putting it all there!
In my studio my dumping area isn't the cupboard under the stairs but instead of peculiar space above the stairs! It's ideal for storing canvases, upright portfolios full of drawings and any unused frames yet to find pride of place as the rim of a beautiful painting.
I've let it go.
I know I've been naughty and when my studio receives it's fortnightly clean the dumping ground remains the same with piles of things, I even found some garden lights, and an old guitar.
So this morning, bright and early, before I even did my small daily painting, before I even checked my emails I started clearing out the dreaded dumping ground. It was just one of those things I had to do. I need to clear my mind and in order to do so I have to clear out the messiest bit of my studio. It wasn't even high on my list of priorities for today, even this week but I just had to do it. So armed with a strong cup of coffee I set to.
Here's how it worked.
1.If a canvas is dented, warped, rotting, or damaged in any way throw it out! It's simply doesn't matter what's on it or how good it looks. If the canvas is damaged it's no use, its not even of any use to hang up in your own house because the dent will drive you nuts.
Chuck it out don't even think about it, don't pause for thought!
2. Papers can be precious and you have to be careful what you throw out.
I discovered a big watch of heavyweight cartridge paper that had been slightly folded, there wasn't a crisp fold fold in them but it wasn't perfect.
Some of the papers I kept.
But they are now stored in a portfolio to keep them safe from damp and further folding.
Papers are incredibly useful I run workshops and I really like using lots and lots of paper to get people going. Having paper that isn't precious encourages a great habit of experimentation when sketching (see my blog from last week for more on that). However some papers simply won't going to be good enough even for practice sketches. Some pastel papers had become so warped when they have got slightly damp that they simply had to be thrown away. This is another good reason to buy paper in good firm pads as they tend to stay in better shape even when they stored badly. Loose paper nearly always ends up crumpled and useless if you haven't got a good storage habit. In the process of clearing out my dumping ground I now have a better place to store my paper.
3. Old frames mounts and other things that you think really might be useful and you ought to keep. This is a real problem territory and you need to go carefully and I did. So I have kept three frames out of the myriad of ones that I found in my dumping ground area. The three frames I kept where clean, not warped in any way and still had true 90° corners and they're worth keeping.
However I did throw away a further four frames that were simply no good, they were either damaged or simply won't work with the kind of work that I produce now.
Now that can be quite a brave decision to make throwing out something that might be useful one day, but if I hadn't have thrown out those things I wouldn't have had the space to store the things I really need.
4. Throwing out canvases that aren't that damaged.
This is really tricky. I threw out some work that were on canvases that weren't dented so why why did I make this decision?
I'm not as arrogant as Michelangelo to get rid of every sketch or anything I've ever done! If you are a student at the start of your career I urge you with all my heart to try and keep as many things from your early days as possible. I have three portfolios rammed full of sketches, pastel drawings and watercolours that record the way my style has changed and developed over the years. I value them and occasionally look at them to see how far I've come.
But in the process of my clear out of my dumping ground area I also threw out a good for five maybe six canvases varying sizes of work. So why? How could I possibly throw away paintings that actually were pretty good!
The answer is simple- neither the canvas nor the paint was of a high enough quality that I could put them with my current work. Again this might sound arrogant but it's really not meant to be. I pride myself on only painting on the high quality canvas only using the very best paints, Michael Harding, Old Holland all of those great names find their way into my work.
The work that I threw out simply doesn't fit with my brand. Okay you might be thinking but you could've given them away that might have been a lovely gift? Well maybe but it also might devalue what I'm currently doing. This isn't about throwing out anything and everything that I can't sell, I've kept a great number of pieces that I won't ever sell that are either sentimental to me or show a real turning point in the development of my art. And I'm very happy to keep those items.
I'm confident now that all of the work on display my studio, and all of the work that I will take to future fairs or exhibitions is of a standard worthy of a professional artist.
5. Donating. There is a nice little joke tootling around on social media at the moment that goes along the lines of "I will take these clothes to the charity shop but first I'm going to put them in the boot of my car and drive around with them for six months!"
This could be true of artists donating unwanted materials.
I urge you, particularly if you have changed medium, that you donate any materials that you no longer need to your local school. There isn't a school in the land nor an art teacher in that school that doesn't want your stuff! Note, they do not want your rubbish- but they do want your brushes, they want paper, canvas, they want paint, they want pastels, they want charcoal! So get it in the car and take it to the nearest school!
So now my dumping ground has had his little clear out, how have I used the spare space?
Well for a start, newly delivered canvases can now rest there safe in the knowledge they won't get dented with a load of rubbish.
Secondly my papers won't get damp and crumpled.
And lastly it means that I've been able to move some of the things around in my studio creating more space for some workshops that I'll be doing next week!
All in all it's been a pretty successful morning and I've now stopped for a cuppa.
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