“What made Turner’s first seascapes stand out on the [Royal] Academy’s crowded walls? … Rather than competing with the works of other artists for size and eye-catching effects (a tactic for which Turner later became renowned), these temporal coastal scenes demanded a close kind of viewing. With an understated drama and subtle variation in light and colour, they [offered] a respite from the visual cacophony around them…”
— Richard Johns, “Charted Waters” in Turner and the Sea, page 25
I’m doing Alan McGowan‘s Anatomy for Artists workshop again, over two weekends (read about the first time on my blog and on Artist Daily). This time round, I’m finding the info is really consolidating and, to my delight, I’m seeing it [the theoretical knowledge] more readily on the life models. My drawings are mostly a record of what I’ve seen, full of annotation. I’ve been working small (25x25cm sketchbook) to help me concentrate on looking and seeing rather than getting distracting with “making a nice life drawing”. Here are a couple of examples:
As before, Alan McGowan is creating a large, layered drawing as he teaches. Here’s a part of it, along with one of his skeletons:
This detail from a Turner oil painting of Venice, first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1833 over a decade after Turner visited the city, shows Canaletto painting one of his magnificent views of Venice. As the wall label in Tate Britain (where I came across it) pointed out, Canaletto’s canvas on his easel is “already improbably framed”. This tiny detail in the painting, so easily overlooked, makes me smile every time. The rest of the painting doesn’t do much for me; I prefer Turner’s wilder pieces where he paints mostly the atmosphere and weather.
When it’s bluebell season, the colours in woodlands changes yet again. In some places the flowers carpet the woodland floor, influencing the colour of everything you see, almost as if I’m wearing turquoise-tinted glasses. This painting is a compilation of memories of walking and sitting amongst bluebells in different woodlands. The dominant colour used was a phthalo turquoise, a strong, staining colour that easily takes all your mixed colours on your palette if you’re not paying attention. It also teaches you to clean a brush properly because if there’s a little left in a brush, you’ll know about it!
This detail from the painting is about life size. As you get closer and closer to the canvas, the pieces of paint start dissolving into a colourful chaos. It also reveals the different colours in the dark background, created with various glazed layers. The variation in colour showing through is created by working with a big brush and not meticulously covering every millimetre but letting there be ‘missed bits’.
This commissioned painting requested sheep standing in a landscape with an autumnal feel, dominated by reds and browns. I will have another few rounds with it, but first it needs to dry completely. I already know I need to add white to the sheep, some ‘pure white’ to sit on on top of the wet-in-wet mixed colours, and work on the sea more. I also need to decide if there’s too much red, whether it wants more autumnal yellows and browns. That I’ll decide by looking at it in various lights, and once the sheep have another layer of wool on them.
Here I am
grinning manically smiling cheerfully on my stand at my first trade fair, the Scottish Spring Trade Fair at the SECC in Glasgow earlier this month. The LG on the stand number refers to “Launch Gallery, a special section for new exhibitors. Cards and earring-cards on the left; original painting in the middle; prints on the right; wirework, wearable art, and small originals on the shelves. As to why I chose orange as my “signature colour”; besides being a favourite colour and helping to make my stand stick out amidst the crowd, it’s also the complementary to all the blues in my seascapes.
Thanks to everyone for your support, encouragement, enthusiasm, and conversations ranging from the working with dripping paint to domains names after Scottish independence.
It’s a big weekend for me! I’m exhibiting for the first time at the Scottish Spring Trade Fair at the SECC in Glasgow. My brain feels like a checklist loop: paintings, samples, cards, pricelist, hooks, pen, stapler… but fingers crossed I’ve remembered everything. I’m offering cards and prints of my paintings, plus originals, wirework sculptures and accessories, and my Wearable Art.