Last week I was writing about what I've been working on, and I've been working on some more art works this week too; it's been great.
But this week I'm going to tell you what I've been reading - The brilliant novel "The Muse" by Jessie Burton. When I go on holiday I nearly always try to find a novel set in the region that I have travelled to. It somehow helps create mood and atmosphere I enjoy reading books set in Italy when I'm in Italy! So what does an artist read when she's at home in Salisbury? It may come as no surprise to read a book about an artist, and about their Muse. This novel though is set in London and Spain. It nice reading about the sun while it's so cold here!
I don't think I've ever fully understood the concept of a muse; an artist only being able to create because one special person inspires them to paint; to create. Even with Valentine's Day coming, I still can't quite believe that creativity is dependent on one person!
But The Muse explores the concept of the muse much more fully, there is more of an element of thriller than romance about this novel.
There is a delightful passage in The Muse where one of the characters describes opening a package of art supplies that she has brought with her to Spain.
"She knelt before the travelling trunks like a pilgrim at an altar not one of her colours had burst in transit, all had powders intact, the sticks of pastel not cracked in half, that always been loyal to her when everything else was falling out of place"
Like many artists I get genuinely excited about new art supplies.
She goes on to describe how the paints were in more control that she was. Is if here hands were guided by the colours.
"I purchased this green, vivid grasshopper green and the shade of Scarlett, and oil called night indigo, a plum and silvery grey; all colours I've never used before. I just picked them up and put them on the counter and it was as if I'd known that only here would those paints come into their own and help me. That they would flesh out my fears and my dreams. But now it's done and out of me I can't help wondering that the paints didn't do it all on their own as if my involvement was nothing at all".
I remember buying some beautiful Charvin oil paints in a wonderful little art shop in Paris by the Pont Neuf. I adored that shop, an oil painters idea of heaven. I wanted to stay in there for an entire day. When I came home and started using my paints and new colours I couldn't believe the positive impact it had on my oil paintings. I still use some of those incredible Monet blues and pinks, even in my animal art. I've enjoyed using colour in surprising ways for many years
The novel the Muse is also in set into different time periods in 1937 and 1967 this was a particularly enjoyable aspect of the novel. Especially when it came to perceptions of women. Women in business and women as artists. Now that I am a female entrepreneur, and full-time artist I am able to understand just how fortunate I am to live in a time that accepts me in both of those roles, for it was not always so. It is very difficult to describe the power of the twists and turns in Jessie Burton's novel without ruining it for you so I will confine myself to a quote from a review and merely say it is well worth a read if you enjoy art and you enjoy history.
,,,"Burtons multi layered story is never less than engaging she has an undoubted gift for seizing the readers attention and holding it moving back and forth between the two periods, the story reaches a powerful conclusion. It has much to say about the search for authenticity in love and in art"
So now I've finished this luscious novel exploring art, artists and inspiration, I've got to chase something else and hopefully find something that will inspire me just as much.
But in the meantime, for the rest of the day I will be painting!
Back when Trivial Pursuit was fashionable and just about everyone was playing it I always plumped for the brown piece of cheese first!
Art and literature was my specialism, so it seems only appropriate to refer to Art and literature when thinking about my forthcoming exhibition at Waterstones in Salisbury.
My planning and preparation for this kind of exhibition is very similar to that of an art fair (more on that story later). In addition to preparing and packing your paintings I always create a hanging plan. It saves a lot of mucking about when you get to the venue. Sometimes I stray a little from the hanging plan and smaller pictures might find their way into gaps, or a centrepiece might find its way onto a different part of the stairwell, but broadly speaking I stick to the original plan, carefully choosing pieces that sit well together. You want to give each piece enough room to breathe, whilst still using wall space effectively so that you get to show off as much of your work as you can.
In addition I have fully stocked tool box, hooks, a stepladder, a drill, a screwdriver all ready to hang my work in precisely the right place. I have prepared laminated artist's statements, free postcard sized flyers and business cards all available for future customers to collect my details.
Is it all worth the bother?
Well of course it is, I go back to my first paragraph Art and literature always sat rather nicely together and I love the idea of people shopping and browsing in a bookstore, selecting a novel to take home and in the process being able to see beautiful, original oil paintings produced by an artist in their locality.
It's really lovely.
So I urge you over the next month to make your way to Waterstones on the High Street in Salisbury it's really lovely to buy books, real books, and I think it's rather nice to look at some art whilst you're there.
Next week I'll be telling you about future opportunities to see my artwork as there are plenty of art fairs coming your way in April and May.
Welcome to my garden studio. Click on the video below to watch me priming a canvas ready for an oil painting.
Art is good for you. It really is. So this year, why not treat yourself to a workshop to get those creative juices flowing once more.
Drawing from observation uses both sides of the brain.
Drawing as an activity is calming and contemplative, and can lower blood pressure and reduce stress.
Drawing can develop and enhance our appreciation of our surroundings.
Unlock the power of your creativty in 2017 on one of my workshops. You'll have a super time.
I have three lovely workshops coming up and places are going fast so book early.
On Wednesday 1st February I'm doing an all day workshop in my lovely studio called "Art for pleasure". It's my most popular workshop, and I simply love it.
Everyone has a great time and learns how to get back to their art and enjoy drawing and creating once more, even if it's been years (decades!) since they last picked up a pencil.
[I also have a few places left on Oil painting for absolute begginers on Monday 6th February].
Each workshop begins at 10.30 and ends around 3.30pm.
Bring your own packed lunch, I'll provide tea, coffee and squash all day!
We begin with drawing. A few quick drawings to start you off.
I'll teach you some great techniques to build your confidence and get you going. You'll be amwaied at what you can achieve.
You can work in a variety of different media - pastels have proved really popular in the past, when people have wanted to add colour, but don't want to head towards paint straight away. Alternatively, Watercolours are great to add a wash of colour to a drawing. I'm an oil painter by trade but I absolutely love to sketch in waterolours and lay down my ideas in this medium, so I can help with your watercolour technique too.
My workshops are hands on - you'll work hard and I'll do plenty of demos to help explain how you can take your art further. I wont draw all over your own work, I'll demo on separate paper, so you'll really be able to see your won work improve and develop without me cheating!
My courses are relaxed and enjoyable.
A Maximum of 5 places means that I can help everyone achieve better artwork.
Every course is always great fun, book your place on the next one!
There's more info on my workshop page or to a how to get started in in drawing
Don't delay, book today.
I'll send you confirmation and details of how to get to my studio.
Treat yourself, you'll have a great day!
If you've got any questions, please dont hesitate to email me.
All the colours of nature come to life in spring.
I absolutely love this time of year, how could I not? For an artist it's wonderful!
The view from my studio is spectacular at this time of year any time of year in fact, but as I move further down the garden I love seeing the bluebells in my orchard and the primroses on the slopes. Nature at its best; playing with the complementary colours of purple and yellow, springing and singing against each other- it's truly inspirational.
I’ve enjoyed seeing on the Internet and indeed on the news, the huge number of the fantastic photographs of bluebell woods in and around the area I live in. Three of the most spectacular bluebell woods in the whole of England are in the New Forest just a few miles from my home in Salisbury. Every year it welcomes thousands of visitors walking through a carpet of purple bluebells in dappled light. Everyone thoroughly enjoying watching the colours of nature come back to life after the cold dark winter months. Springtime in southern England reminds me a lot of when you return from a holiday and see the first glimpses of old Blighty from the air. We suddenly realise why it's called a green and pleasant land! The whole landscape really does become lush and verdant and as an artist I very much enjoy watching it the changing colour and light from the view from my studio.
In fact, the intro to my artist’s statement is ‘inspired by the changing colour and light in nature’. And it is at this time of year that that becomes very apparent. The evenings get longer and lighter and a fantastic pink clouds start appearing in the evening. In addition to the strong greens in the landscape as the trees start growing leaves again, and the ground becomes lush there are incredibly strong patches of yellow popping up on all around Wiltshire as the oil seed flowers bloom into life. It's also a very inspiring time of year for me and my animal collection as I get to visit farms or simply go walking in nearby fields and can see newborn lambs springing around in the field ready for me to draw them!
A recent article claimed that all we need to do for a long and happy life was to eat purple foods, go for a walk every day, and draw. Learning to draw is great fun and going for a walk is just marvellous at this time of year, you cannot fail but to find something that will catch your eye.
Simply seeing colour spring into life as an artist all I want to do is dive in and paint it. The winter months belong to my charcoal sketches, or working from photographs or archives of sketchbooks. But once the spring is here I get to go out and about! I get to draw in the open air and paint.
So this weekend, go and enjoy the sunshine, the bluebells and have the eye of an artist - notice the changing colour and light in nature.
Why Art is so good for you.
Looking at it, owning it and creating it.
It is good for you.
Grayson Perry has most recently described art as therapy. He commented that whatever is bubbling under the in the artist’s subconscious will come through in their artwork, and in turn will speak to the viewer’s subconscious. Art has an immediacy in its language all of its own, that kind of therapy simply can't be bought! And I’ve begun to wonder whether or not I, and other artists take it for granted.
I think there is something wonderful about wandering round a gallery and simply becoming absorbed in the art work that I'm looking at. Sometimes I might know the artwork well, it might be incredibly famous, or something that I have studied before. As often than not, as I get older, I become more and more drawn to things that I have never seriously looked at before! I am drawn to artists that I hadn't previously studied. Grayson Perry is right, art can communicate from creator to viewer in an immediate way. It's good for us to see and “feel” art.
Alain de Botton has even written and entire book entitled “Art as therapy”. It's brilliant and I heartily recommend it.
He refers to the idea that art helps us recall, remember and make safe our memories. The wonderful piece by Jean Baptist Regnault pondering the start of painting; depicting a young couple in love. The woman, so afraid she will forget her lover's face, traced his shadow with a pieces of charcoal. It's beautiful and touching, (regardless of its accuracy) it makes me think of how we often wish to make mental pictures and artists used to be the only people that could truly help with that!
One thing that really strikes us when we look at art is the view. The creation of a window on the world. In Britain especially we are drawn to enormous skies and seascapes; is this because we are an island race? a nation of sailors? who knows, but seascapes appear to be the paintings speaking to us when we visit galleries.
Most recently I have been working on a series of animals and these seem to speak to people even more than my landscapes and views. Again we are nation of animal lovers, we can't get enough of them. People seem to become very attached to paintings of animals very quickly they start saying “I love him” or “look at her she's so sweet” when looking at one of my cows, sheep or ducks. I think it is interesting how quickly we can engage in work of art, albeit a beautiful one, simply because it is speaking to us on a different level.
I also think the art helps us in our daily lives because it can raise our own sense of self and self esteem. This isn't simply about status and showing off at a dinner party, though a large oil painting in our lounge can well do that! But it raises our esteem by making us smile. Every time we walk past our painting we feel a little bit of warmth inside us, we might remember the place the work depicts or the lovely day we bought the work of art. Or maybe it's our own self conscious filling in the gaps and sending us somewhere else.
There is new trend in adult colouring books now, supposedly as a kind of art therapy or a kind of arty mindfulness. I don't mind adult colouring in at all in fact I think it's a lovely little hobby and can be calming. But creating art, or learning to draw is even better for you than colouring in. Last night there was a program on TV called “How to stay young” , they made reference to going to life drawing in order to help your brain stay young. Life drawing is an extraordinary activity and unlike constantly doing sudoko puzzles for instance, life drawing presents a completely different challenge every time you sit down to draw.
I regularly go to life drawing even though very little of my professional works are are figures, but life drawing keeps me fresh, there's always something to learn and is an artist it contributes to your skill. As a non-artist, if you attend life drawing classes incredible things will happen to your brain as both sides of the brain engage in the activity and create electrical impulses all across your brain. Even if there isn’t a life drawing class or art workshop near you, you can reap the benefits by drawing anything from direct observation. It’s best that you're not copying a photograph because the problem has already been solved - a 2D photo into a 2-D drawing. However sitting down and drawing one of the dining room chairs, or drawing the view through the door from one room can create an incredible exercise for your brain. You'll also find it wonderfully relaxing as well it's something you can do every day if you want to.
So I urge you this week, try to get some art in your life
Go and have a look at some art work in a gallery, even a small local gallery or pay attention to the art work you might see in a local coffee shop or restaurant and let some art in your life.
Draw. Just do a little drawing, don't worry about showing it to anyone. But do draw.
Because art is good for you.
It really is.
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.
My first visit to Reading art fair was last year and what a great fair it is. I sold well, met some great people and spent the whole weekend talking about art. It was great and I'd recommend it to anyone
Let me fill you in on what you can expect.
The Fair begins on Friday 22nd April for the Private view evening, and continues through the weekend 23rd and 24th April.
I have some Private view tickets available for you, and I have 2 for 1 tickets for the rest of the weekend, simply email me, if you'd like to come.
Last week, whilst listening to Six Music in my studio, painting away without a care in the world, I heard the most interesting statistic I've ever heard about art.
Only 0.5% of British homes have original art hung on the walls. Half a percent. Seriously?
[I'm guessing this doesn't include the kids pictures on the fridge].
I was shocked. But this was only half the quote.
78% of French homes have original art adorning their walls.
It didn't surprise me to know that more French homes have original art in them than British homes. But those numbers- 0.5% versus 78%: that really did surprise me.
Why is this?
The French are known for their style and their élan. If there is a choice the French will more likely choose elegance over efficiency.
But are our French counterparts so steeped in culture that they feel original art, over a cheap mass produced print is in their DNA?
Let's think about this for a bit - The French have the Louvre, the Musee d'orsay, L'orangrie and that's only Paris...
But we have the National, the Royal Acdemy, Tates Britain and Modern, and that's just London.
The French have some of the worlds most famous artists to their flag; Monet, Seurat, Rodin. I know there are countless more, but the British have some heavyweights too; Constable, Turner, Henry Moore...
We are right up there with our artistic culture! And have been for centuries!
So, we're happy to pootle about famous galleries, look at the most famous, beautiful, valuable and important works of art the world has ever known, BUT we can't summon up the courage and the cash to buy original work.
Well worry no more.
You really can have stunning, original, professional art work in your home.
You won't be ripped off.
You won't be made to feel like a fool.
You won't be bullied into having something you don't like.
Next week I'm going to give you my top tips for how to buy art if you've never done it before. But in the meantime, here's something to get you started.
In order to buy well, you must buy something you love.
So you need to work out what your style and taste really is.
So get out more!
Loads of artists exhibit in bookstores, cafes, pubs, restaurants, and doctors' surgeries. Start looking out for the things that catch your eye.
Something you can live with.
Get online and find artists in your area. Most are willing to arrange a studio visit. You are not obliged to buy, tell them the truth - "I've seen your work online, I really like it but I wanted to see it in person before I think about buying any" Most artists will respect your honesty and arrange a visit with ease.
Remember that some small galleries have changed the name 'Private view' to 'Open evening' or 'Preview evening', deliberately to encourage new people to come. They are friendly, fun, usually drop of wine is involved, and folks freely talk about the art in front of them.
Think back to when you were a teenager, or your university bedroom. I bet the walls were festooned with images that reflected things about you, things you loved, things that were cool.
Now that those posters are long gone, don't you deserve something better than a cheap mass produced print?
Start finding what you want on your wall...
Next week I'll give you my top tips on how to buy art and why you'll absolutely love it when you do!
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