Edges in Still Life is a short video showing how to vary edges in your painting. It forms part of the Projects at Home zoom course.
Video Demonstration Robin in Watercolour
Hello everyone and I hope you and your loved ones are keeping safe, and sane, in these strange times.
Basil and I have been enjoying the lock down working in the studio (me) and going for walks (Basil). What a strange time it has been, I’ve really missed meeting up with people both socially and through teaching so I thought it was about time I touched base with everyone and tell you what I’ve been up to.
I was very fortunate at the start of lock down to receive a grant from Severn Arts to complete a project over May. My Project “The Sketchbook Project” contained work from both myself and others who put their sketchbooks forward. Principally I concentrated on things that were unique to lockdown; Basil, zoom dance classes and an unexpected bunch of flowers. You can read more about the project in an earlier news item. I was also fortunate enough to receive a commission for the lovely Bertie, the dachshund.
Whilst the impossibility of running face to face classes has been frustrating I have dipped my toe into the world of zoom and virtual learning (something I never thought I would do) and the two classes I now run have proved to be great fun and as one student pointed out participants get direct tuition in a greater quantity than in a normal class. Fortnightly is a general drawing and painting class Projects.
Every Wednesday evening is a portraits class.
As normal classes will almost certainly not resume in the near future please get in touch if you feel you would like to try a virtual class. That said I am hoping to organise some outdoor sketching and painting, with social distancing, so again get in touch if you are interested . Here is a picture from a session last year.
I have been busy working on my own work with new works in watercolour including some experimental ‘playing’ based on the works of Turner.
I have now linked my Etsy shop to my Instagram, there is not much on there at the moment but I will be adding more things covering a range of subjects and prices and following my Instagram page is the best way of keeping in touch with what I am working on so please feel free to follow me.
Finally, as a bit of a detour to my usual free flowing paintwork I have been working on some marketing material for some beautiful new homes in the Cotswolds. As you can see – not finished yet!
Keep safe everyone and keep in touch!
The final piece from my first Sketchbook. Inspired bymy unexpected gift of a bunch of flowers and the beautiful works of Elizabeth Blackadder. Watercolour on Two Rivers paper.
Sketchbook 2 is based on my faithful and hopeless studio assistant Basil. He has been my constant companion through the lock down period and he is thoroughly worth the replacement of chewed up studio equipment,
The sketches were taken from both life and photographs (as he cannot keep still. The one of him running is from memory. It has been my joy to see him run – he is very fast! Below are the paintings of Basil. All acrylic on board and 6″ x 4″ in old money.
Sketchbook 3 was inspired by the Zoom dance/keep fit Classes offered on line – I never normally get chance to do these – offered by Dancefest they involved 30 minutes of me flying around the studio in various, far from elegant, poses. The book is based on the first dance delivered from the lovely Lis Winter, from Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake. I will just add that the costume was added by myself.
Finally we come to the overall piece. This is my work that represents this time in lockdown and isolation with fear of the COVID 19 virus. It is a still life (no surprises there for those who know me) and to brings together the thoughts from my sketchbooks and how art has been used to represent society in history.
The Nature Morte still life tradition came into its own in the mid-seventeenth century. Later the French were to use the term to suggest layered symbolism and reminders of the transience of life, with its ever present threat of death. The dancer sketchbook reminded me of Poussin’s painting A Dance to the Music of Time the painting that also inspired Henri Matisse to paint dancers. So my painting started life based on the painting below.
The dancers were originally shown – maybe they will go back in at some point – paintings are never truly finished until they leave my keeping.
About the painting.
The flowers represent both the transience of nature and sharing company, recognising social distancing, in my garden. The bowl of fruit is indicative of normal life that will, in time, decay and this combines with the symbolised lemons, taken from a jug bought at The Range, shown beneath the flowers that will remain forever as an interpretation (Matisse uses the real and the represented in his work). The coffee cup and its surrounding rectangle, the latter the size of an iPad, represent my son in isolation in Aberystwyth. The carton of vitamin D pills (bottom right) represent my daughter who has had to stay indoors for this entire time. The chair (top left) with pink cushion represent myself and my dog set in isolation, hence the large space surrounding it. The rose pink box around the whole painting suggests an imprisonment that is not bleak or without future. Finally the dark blue square, behind the flowers, was added to balance the composition but perhaps it is a reminder that life shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Contemporary artist Nick Pace proposes that a still life should contain each of the following:
something ephemeral – flowers and fruit
something permanent – my studio setting
Something of low value, but great personal value – the coffee cup and box of vitamin supplements representing my children
something new – the pattern on the table cloth showing lemons was taken from the picnic jug.
I have been honoured and excited to receive a grant from Severn Arts and Worcester County Council to complete some work for their Creative Connections initiative.
The Sketchbook Project is a series of visual diaries that I will create in this time of COVID19. The sketchbooks are to record happenings in my day-to-day life that occur as a direct result of the physical distancing and isolation restrictions that have been required of both myself and others around me.
Currently I have three sketchbooks in various stages of completion but the project could easily be extended to more.
Sketchbook 1: Cottage Garden Bouquet
On my first trip to the supermarket since the public isolation was announced I was informed that the first hour was for NHS and key workers, I hadn’t thought to check the website. I had no problem with this and this was my first encounter with shopping restrictions as I had refused to join the panic rush of previous days. The store personnel also informed me that only thirty people would be allowed in at any one time once the store opened to the public. I decided to wait, something I have never done before. After the wait I was first in the line to enter the store and the assistant invited me to choose a bunch of flowers as a free gift. I was delighted.
The Cottage Garden Bouquet sketchbook is a recording of that gift of flowers, their beauty representing the fact that it is possible, even in these times of ugliness, to be both surprised and flattered by an unexpected present.
The initial sketchbook is hand made using a concertina design. This has the ability to be used in a traditional sense, page by page, or using a number of pages together to create a long landscape. The completed sketchbook can also be flattened out to create a patchwork of images and an abstract design in itself.
Once a sketchbook is completed then an overall art piece can be made that represents the concept. The final piece for Cottage Garden Bouquet is shown below.
It is a large watercolour on Two Rivers 400gsm rough watercolour paper measuring 790 mm (31”) wide by 570 mm (22” high). In the piece I have taken specimens from the sketchbook effectively isolating them from the bunch, representative both of the fact that in isolation beauty can become more defined and simple pleasures remain in times of hardship.
The next Sketchbook Project is based on my near constant companion and confidant, Basil the terrier. I think dogs are actually enjoying this lockdown period!
Also the Sketchbook Project is really easy for anyone to take part in. All you need to do is record life as it is, for you, in isolation via photos, sketches, notes, anything you choose. Instructions for making a simple sketchbook, like the ones I am using, can be found at Making A Sketchbook but you can record on anything.
So to take part:
- Make a sketchbook/visual diary over the period of isolation of your everyday life.
- Drop me an email to let me know that you are taking part.
- If you wish share your results as you go along via social media but please tag me in and say that they are part of the Sketchbook Project
At the end of May I will try and bring everything together in some form.
Making your own sketchbook is very satisfying and these simple concertina books are perfect for making long continuous drawings. These instructions are for a book that measures about 12cm x 10 cm when folded and finished and uses an A3 piece of paper. It is a perfect size to pop in your pocket.
Tip: Try the folding and cutting stages out using a test piece of paper before using better quality.
These are the things you will need an A3 sheet of good quality cartridge or watercolour paper. (I used a 420 mm x 297mm (A3) 140lb/300gsm watercolour paper)
- Craft Knife or scissors
- Bone folder or plastic ruler for creasing
- 2 x thick card 120mm x 100mm for cover (I used the back of an old sketch pad)
- 2 x paper for covering 170mm x150mm
- Steel rule to cut against if you have one.
- Ribbon 60cm
Remember the secret to successful bookmaking is accurate folding, keeping edges straight, and good creases.
Fold the paper in half lengthways and then fold each end to the middle. Firm the creases.
Open out and fold in half width ways and then each half again to the middle. Firm the creases.
Unfold the paper out.
Stages 1 to 3
Here you have to cut along the folds. I cut along the length of mine as I wanted landscape format. If you want portrait cut across the width.
First cut from the right side stopping at the first left fold of the first row. Then cut from the left along the centre fold, stopping at the last fold from the end. Finally cut from the right side to the first fold on the last row.
The diagram below from Deborah Walker’s article in April’s The Artist shows this much better than my photographs.
Fold the pages into a concertina taking care where the paper changes direction.
Take your card for the back cover. Cover one side with glue and place in the centre of your chosen cover paper. Press down firmly. Trim across the four corners of your cover paper at about 45 deg. Take care to not cut too close to the corner of the card. A space of cover paper of 2mm (as shown by the pencil) is about right.
Fold the cover paper over and glue. Repeat for the other cover.
Take your ribbon and glue it across the centre of the back cover. You need to have enough to go over the front cover and tie on the side.
Glue the outside page of one side of your concertina. This is to stick to the back cover so make sure that it opens correctly. Apply the glued concertina to the back cover keeping edges even and square. Open the concertina and press it firmly from the inside.
Now glue the top outside edge of your concertina and place the front cover on top. Again open the concertina out and press the page to the cover firmly.
Finally tie the ribbon!
Note! This video accompanies the Drawing Basil Project
Here is a short 10 minute video showing one way of how to approach drawing Basil.Drawing Basil