Hello and welcome to this page
Teaching has always been important to me. At present I am teaching adults who are learning for pleasure - many of them having taken up drawing and painting after a successful career in other fields. Some are still working and manage to fit their art into an already busy schedule.
All my students start with an introduction to structural drawing and an understanding of tone. They then begin to develop their own interest whether it be working in watercolour, pastel, acrylic or oil paint on subjects which they themselves choose. There are numerous still life groups in the studio, students may bring their own material and if portraiture is of interest then we start with self portraits.
Some of my students have taken part in a sketching trip to Venice where we worked on outdoor drawing techniques and on building up a sketchbook, gathering material for future use. As you can probably gather from my own work, I regard Venice as a very special place!
It's always interesting when students follow up an idea and continue with the same subject matter - exploring it further or producing work in a sequence.
Peter Jewel has painted a second canvas in his music series this time using an orchestral theme and Ann Bench has produced a tryptich based on sunflowers. She has manipulated her original painting on the computer to develop the idea and use of colour.
Artists throughout the history of Western art have always used themselves as models - the two painters who most readily spring to mind in relation to self-portraiture are Rembrandt and Van Gogh. It’s always good to remind ourselves that Rembrandt did some of his most wonderful self-portraits during his later years!
When students are interested in studying portraiture, in order to begin to find ways of rendering the face and to try to understand its structure, we always start with a self-portrait.
Taking the face ‘straight-on’ is the simplest way to start and then as a student becomes more practiced, different viewpoints are approached.
The resulting drawings and paintings can look a bit severe but of course when one is concentrating hard it would be rather odd to have a smile on one’s face!
Portraying the figure in one way or another has always been always been popular and is a particular interest of mine. The layout of my studio is not particularly suitable for group life drawing however so when students are interested in working from the figure we have to think carefully how we achieve this.
Marianna Simpson works from the figure in an individual way - taking a very personal viewpoint and creating highly successful and original compositions. The watercolours are exciting and spontaneous, the acrylics more carefully rendered and are usually larger pieces of work.
As half term approaches we have had a number of works finished in various media. One of the most outstanding is Vaughan’s collage of “The Back of the House”. There is a detail of this work alongside the finished piece. It was taken from a fairly detailed pencil sketch that Vaughan made in situ, from which he initially did a gouache painting. He used these two pieces of work as a basis for this one.
It’s a very good thing when students develop their ideas and explore their subject matter, trying out various approaches and different media. It allows for improvisation and encourages development and creativity.
23rd January 2012
Venice is a very popular subject with artists - it is such a beautiful city and will always provide painters with a subject they can tackle in different ways. Here we have two very different approaches, Michele has taken an angular approach to the fish market featuring the sun coming through the red blinds in dramatic fashion and Jan has manipulated her idea on the computer to give a more rhythmic rendering, creating a feeling of the lapping of the water throughout the image.
Some members of our group have been out to Venice, sketching and gathering information which could be developed in the studio. The importance of drawing on site cannot be over emphasized - even if the drawings go slightly awry, actually being there and looking at a subject for a set period of time is invaluable when trying to recall the feeling of the place, the structure of the buildings, the mood, the light etc. Photographs on their own can be very limiting, although as part of the recording process they are invaluable. Below I have uploaded some pages from Ann Jenkins's sketchbook - the first image is a selection of some of the drawings done on site, the rest are further pages of her sketchbook worked from home. She can use this sketchbook for years as a basis for larger pieces of work and of course she can add to it as she thinks fit.
We have two very seasonal paintings just finished where the subject is snow, and here the artists have dealt with some of the problems of rendering white in a painting.
White reflects all the colours of the light spectrum so in order to paint it convincingly we must incorporate subtle colour and tonal changes, keeping the colour interesting while still maintaining the whiteness of the object. A useful way to understand just how much is going on in the surface of a white object is to hold a piece of white paper (which is catching the light) at arms length against the object - and compare the two. You will see just how the white object differs from your preconceptions.
We have different approaches to our work in the class. Although many students will use sketchbooks for preparatory work, very often students learn as they go along, developing their handling of the medium as they work. Below are two examples of ponds - one in watercolour, the other in acrylic. Both are examples of how a subject can lend itself to a particular medium. I believe it is important for students to try working with different media so that when tackling subject matter they can work in the most appropriate way for the idea they want to express.
A still life is usually made up of familiar objects, flowers, jugs, bottles etc. against a background that is considered alongside the subject matter. I usually begin with a theme - this could be something to do with colour - perhaps opposite colour, harmonising colour or clashing colour or I might try to evoke a feeling like delicacy or profusion. Reflection, distortion, decomposition are other popular themes as are subjects which conjure up a sense of place like the seaside, the garden or indeed an actual place - Morocco or India for example.
The objects themselves can be symbolic - lilies, skulls, musical instruments etc. or they can be used purely for their pictorial value - their shape, colour, texture, pattern and form and how that works in the overall composition.
Composition is crucial to any good painting and still life is no exception. A vase of flowers may be softened with a second smaller vase or students may want to crop the composition to make the shapes and spaces more interesting. I always consider the background, foreground and middle ground when I am setting the group up as this helps to give a sense of space and depth.
Once assembled, the groups can be used in different ways and painted in various media. We may change a background if it is to be rendered in watercolour or a student may photograph the group and manipulate it with the computer. Small details can be extracted or the group may be used as the basis for something more abstract.
Previous still lifes have consisted of quite challenging subject matter like the painting of the Chinese masks below. The painting on the right was a floral still life which was manipulated on the computer.
Structural drawing is a basic drawing technique whereby we try to understand our subject matter in terms of geometric forms such as the cone, the cylinder, the cube and the sphere. Thinking like this can help us simplify and render complex shapes and create a sense of solidity and space.
When students first start to learn to draw, we use a group of simple objects, concentrating on their basic structure, the relationship of their shape to the space between, the proportion of one object to another and on their tonal value.
This can lead to more ambitious work, like the painting on the right, where the understanding of the structure of the components in the composition has been a key element in the success of the painting.
We spent some time in the class looking at different ways of seeing. It was by studying the cubists and futurists (Feininger, Juan Gris, Braque and Picasso for example ) that some students found a way of expressing their ideas which drew on that epoch. We can see this in some of the examples on this blog. Other students have taken a more traditional approach to their subject.