Back to the (spooky) worktable 

  
I’ve been away travelling about in the UK for two weeks so I’ve missed my beloved workspace although it’s be really great spending time with people I love and seeing some wonderful exhibitions too. I had to take care of a bit of business in London and then spent some time with my family up in Lincolnshire, with my friend the artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins and his partner Peter in Wales and with my dear pals and former neighbours Paul and Phil in Whitstable. I was also fortunate enough to catch Clive’s extraordinary exhibition Dark Movements at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre. The show blew my mind and will stay with me as one of the most beautiful, powerful and moving shows I’ve seen in a long time. You can read a post about the exhibition on Clive’s blog here and also browse other posts to see how the show came together. I started putting a post about the show together but It started turning into a book, I could go on and on, so thought it best to put in a link to Clive’s blog which says it so much better.

While I was in Whistable I was able to visit the Horsebridge gallery where I’m showing new work in Decemebr this year and have a good look at Gallery 3, the space I’m showing in. It’s very small, but I have it for a whole month and I can paint and generally modify it to make it more of an immersive experience. Thanks Phil for walking round with me and coming up with such interesting and useful ideas.

And I’m learning it’s good to have a break every so often; the chance to stop, step back and take stock has been really useful and mulling over work and progress with other people who I admire and respect is invaluable. I’ve returned with new ideas, things I want to try and lots of energy to get cracking again.

The first thing I’m doing this week is a complete departure for me; making models to aid the creative process, something I’ve never really done before. I felt I was getting a bit stuck in the way that I was working this year. It’s not that I don’t like the images I’ve made in recent months, I do, but I felt my worked lacked some focus, that is wasn’t quite sure what it was, and that the various collage elements I was using too often muddied the image a bit and sapped its energy rather than enhanced it.  I’d also lost the sense of what I wanted to do with form and volume, and I wanted to resolve this when I came back and not continue fudging it. Having talked it over with Clive while I was in Wales he suggested I try making models to draw from and to use as compositional aids to work out new pieces. I’d never have tried this if Clive hadn’t suggested it so I’m grateful and I’m already appreciating it’s possibilities. My first (very) wobbly model, made from a cornflakes packet and strips of gummed brown paper, is supposed to suggest a gatehouse (continuing the theme of portals I’d explored earlier this year) in the expressionist style evident in the designs of films like The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, directed by Robert Wiene in 1920, with amazing sets designed by Hermann Warm amongst others. I love the expressionist style in art and architecture, it’s full of emotion and I’d take it over the clean lines and elegant spaces of the more rational forms of modernism that evolved around the same time as expressionism any day.

The model making has been a useful exercise already. It’s made me really think about how shapes are put together and how they work from different angles. I made two models before I realised just how exaggerated and distorted the expressionist style was in those 1920s films and that it was impossible to overdo it, and that, to really give my model that feel, I had to push it much further. I remade the model, then remade it again, each time skewing the angles more, and my next models will go further still.

I also made a rough base for the gatehouse to sit in, and propped up a reject painting behind to act as a backdrop. The following photos show the model in natural light and colour and also with the ‘noir’ filter cranked up to try and give it that 1920s film feel. I’m having fun, so thanks Clive! Now I have to start making some drawings from the model and the photos and turn them into some paintings :-) .

   
    
    
    
   

Frosty odds and ends 

With all the wintry images I’ve been making recently there’s quite an accumulation of scraps and paper off-cuts under my desk. I thought I’d use some up today to make this winter hedgerow image – I do love a winter’s walk along a country lane with all the hedgerows and dead seed heads covered in frost, it can be quite magical.

I’m flying off to the UK tomorrow so away from the art table for two or three weeks. At this point I usually say I’m going to post sketches but never actually get any sketching done – I’ll try and do better this time! 

 

Jack Frost experiments

I’ve been experimenting the last couple of days with some new techniques to create a Jack Frost image. Not there yet, not entirely happy with anything so far, although some nice things emerging, just need to keep going till I nail it. Also some strange things happening; the dark sillohouette of trees on the right hand side is created with direct painting, using masking, but it looks more like a paper cut-out than the actual cut-outs elsewhere in the painting, hmmm, it’s all a bit topsy-turvy.

image

Midwinter

Midwinter, mixed media, 40cms x 40 cms, 2015

 image

As I’m making winter images in the middle of summer, I wonder if, come January, I’ll be painting hot, sunshiney colours and landscapes shimmering in heat haze. Anyway, to avoid last minute pressure I’m trying to get some work done for my December show at The Horsebridge now, so, after sunbathing and swimming down at one of the lakes here in Berlin, I come home to an art table shivering in deepest winter. Actually, it’s been quite refreshing as the temperatures here got a bit much over the weekend!

Snowflakes in June 2

Peterborough, acrylic and collage on board, 50cms x 50cms, 2015 

image

It’s the hottest day of the year so far and I’m painting more snowshowers, it’s not right! Anyway, this one is the facade of Peterborough Cathedral in Cambridgeshire. While the cathedral itself, glorious as it is, may not be as rich and fascinating as Canterbury or Lincoln, the west front is unparalleled for me, with those three spectacular gothic arches so dominant. I’ve painted it as originally planned, without the porch added to the central arch in the 17th century which rather muddies the simple grandeur of the original scheme.

I painted a study of the cathedral last year and will probably do it again and again, it captivates me.

Here in Berlin, the temperature is going to keep climbing till the weekend so I could do with a bit of snow to cool off in :-)

Snowflakes in June

imageI know it’s a bit perverse making images of snowy scenes whilst we’re celebrating the summer solstice but I’ve got to get cracking on my December show and the theme is going to be a kind of folkloristic take on midwinter and the Christmas season. Actually, summer seems a long way off here in Berlin with lots of wet, cloudy and cool weather over the last week which has actually helped; if it had been all flaming June outside I think I’d be struggling a bit!

I’ve had a long break from the art table and the blog after a month of traveling and then a week of procrastinating and inactivity after I got back. So i’m overdue to get my sleeves rolled up and start making again. This little image is a sort of ‘getting my eye in’ again piece, just making some wintery elements to collage together and get myself into the right frame of mind to develop the work for the exhibition. Ok, so no excuses this week, it’s heads down and back to work!

Travelling with a sketchbook

I realised this morning that it’s almost exactly three years ago since I started this blog. At the time I was just trying to get back into making artwork and it was a bit of an experiment to see if it helped motivate me and  if it worked as a way of sharing images for feedback. It certainly did those things and a whole lot more, bringing me into contact with amazing artists and wonderful people from all over the world.

I wish I had a new piece to post today to mark the anniversary but I’m travelling most of this month with little more than a sketchbook so not much to show, just this noodling with an inkpen that I did lasts night:

image

This is a hedgerow from up in Lincolnshire near the hamlet of Culverthorpe. Looking back at those early posts and I see that they cover some themes that are still with me three years on; hedgerows, green men, mythology and the wild places. I think hedgerows in Britain at this time of year are the loveliest things, and they give our countryside a unique charm and beauty. My fondness for them is the reason I chose the title for the blog – and the crows? The crows are actually ravens, to be precise, Hugin and Munin, who fly around the world collecting news and then coming back to sit on Odin’s shoulder and tell him what’s going on. I though the blog would be a way of connecting with the world and gathering and sharing news in a similar way.

A few other recent experiments from the art table to make this post a bit of a miscellany. Firstly a couple of acrylic on paper paintings of a woodland clearing in the Grünewald in Berlin where I like to go and sunbathe in the summer:

image image

The second photo shows some of the things that get taped to the shelves above my workspace to remind of things and fleeting ideas, and the pic also shows one of the little labels that are dotted around the flat to help with my German vocab!

And a quick collage of a chalice and Glastonbury Tor. The Holy Grail is one of the many myths surrounding this hill and I wanted to illustrate some of the stories:

image image

Well, off to the French Pyrenees for 8 days, then in Paris for 8 days so i’ll try and post some sketches before not too long, au revoir!