Playing with Scale

I have recently attended a couple of Alumi days at West Dean College.  They have been excellent – two tutors Kate Boucher and Mark Anstee have guided, assisted and otherwise inspire a group of us whilst we work on our own projects.  The day starts with a statement of intention and closes with a look at how each of us have got on achieving those objectives – a great opportunity to work with a group of like minded people all working on different projects in different ways.  I hope that we have many more opportunities to do this at West Dean.

I have already posted about the first of these days.  On the second day, I wanted to explore gesso so started by preparing a host of postcards by adding gesso.  This was either left to dry or was scratched and scraped into first.  Once day, I added ink and wax and scraped and scratched some more.  Here is an example of the outcome:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the end of the day, I was set two challenges – firstly, to try (for the first time) working with oil paint and the other was to think about working both very small and very large.

I decided to start with very small and an idea was borne!  Next year my husband and I will exhibit at the Oxmarket Gallery in Chichester.  As he is a photographer, I decided to set about creating a body of work responding to his photography by working in my own way using mixed media but utilising photographic equipment.  To date, I have acquired two ancient cameras (the box brownie brings back childhood memories!), a hundred plastic slides, several hundred slide holders and some lovely vintage spools.  Paper slide cases are on order and I shall have fun deciding how best to work with all of these.  Whilst the objects are not found, I like the ethos of re-using vintage items in a new way.  Here is a taster of what I have in mind:

I am creating a quantity of similar pieces to display in groups.

The next challenge – oils.  I have just three tubes of oil paint and some cold wax medium. Should be fun!

I plan to experiment with working big at College in July.

A few days in Eastbourne

Last week I did a second course with Debbie Lyddon.  I have long admired Debbie’s work and when I spotted a course with her, I jumped at the chance – twice!  I blogged earlier about the Winchester course so here is a little more about the course at Studio 11 (an excellent place run by Christine Chester right near the railway station in the town.  I would heartily recommend all concerned – Debbie was very generous in sharing her knowledge and Christine provided excellent lunches and all day drinks and biscuits and the studio has just about everything there for you to make use of if you have not managed to bring the kitchen sink with you to the course!

The first thing we did was to take a trip to Birling Gap.

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Birling Gap chalk

We took 10 minutes just to sit and take in the view, the atmosphere, and to look around at the cliffs, the shore and the sea.  We then spent an hour walking and collecting things that caught our interest.  I am always one for found man-made objects so was delighted to find a “rock-hopper” on the shore, and a special one at that!  I also collected an Evian rubber stopper and a couple of stones of particular merit, together with some dried seaweed, a piece of twine, a piece of fossilised wood and a lump of chalk.  These items were to form the basis of the course.

Back at the studio, we made sketchbooks and drew our chosen items first thinking about texture and then form. From our drawings, we then made a paper model of our favourite drawing.

 

The next step was to render the model in fabric.  I have yet to complete my Rock Hopper work but watch this space.

Debbie also taught us how to make vessels from fabric, rendering them firm enough to stand alone using home made gesso (from the chalk we had collected) and wax.  On the last afternoon, we returned to Birling Gap to photograph our makes in the place of their birth!

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My gesso vessel
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My three wax vessels
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Vessels in situ

Dungeness – Britain’s only desert

Dungeness, at the Southernmost point of Kent, is unique – no boundaries, a desolate landscape with wooden houses, power stations, lighthouses and expansive gravel pits. Yet it possesses a rich and diverse wildlife within the National Nature Reserve in one of the largest shingle landscapes in the world.Dungeness has been designated as a National Nature Reserve (NNR), Special Protection Area (SPA) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). It is home to 600 species of plants which is a third of all plants found in the UK. The National Nature Reserve stretches across Dungeness to encompass the vast RSPB reserve and is intended to help protect the landscape and its wildlife.

My husband and I visited for the first time recently and it is an extraordinary place.  As the introduction above states, it is desolate.  We were only there for a few hours and will return without our dog so that we can explore the RSPB reserve and spend more time walking.  Even if you were only to stay for 5 minutes you would be struck by what a special place this is and I urge you to visit NOW before the changes that are starting get a real grip.

The contrast between the decommissioned nuclear power station and the beautiful flora and fauna is quite shocking. The windswept 468-acre estate, on Romney Marsh,  has just 22 properties, mostly converted railway cottages, which are largely owned by fishermen. But change is happening – some of the old wooden property is being replaced by  mini “Grand Design” houses.  Although the new properties are fitting in well, being a modern version of their predecessors and remaining low-key and modest, I could not help but wonder if the replacements are owned by second home owners.  As the owner of two holiday cottages, I cannot be so hypocritical as to condemn this but, in such a small community, I feel that even a few holiday homes would have a massive impact.   I note that when the estate was put up for sale in 2015 at £1.5m, the agent said: “It has considerable potential for increased income from tourism on top of the substantial income it already produces.”  It is now owned by EDF Energy and a quick search today found 7 holiday homes there.

Before, During and After ….

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Flattened
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A new build in progress
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Grand Design

Having said that, Dungeness is far from ruined and there are few outlets for the tourist to spend his money.  Long may it stay that way!  So go, take it in, draw, paint, walk, photograph, and enjoy … while you can!

With apologies to my husband, Alan, I could not resist turning a few images into black and white – it so suits the place!

 

 

 

 

 

Time to Play

Yesterday was the first of what I hope will be many – a study day supporting individual practice at West Dean College.  I did not arriving knowing what I was going to do (unlike everyone else) but the word “respond” struck a chord and I decided to look at some of my found objects with that in mind.  Below is a lovely bit of metal that I found on the shore near my home – I find it beautiful in its own right and would happily live with it framed on my wall but here is my response to it.

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I used layers of acrylic ink and paint with wax resist to create a group of four:

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A useful tip is to work on top of a good piece of paper – you create a series of loose and unintentional marks that might just look good:

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The second found object was a piece of plastic found whilst walking along the harbourside at Bosham – on the back it reads “Discharge” and it was the top section of a plastic folder – something to do with copying I think.  Anyway, whatever it is, I like it!  Again I worked with layers and scratch marks to create a group of six small works which I was pleased with:

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It was a first for me to work this small and I will do so again.  I’d also like to try this really big …  and on fabric ….

 

Phew!

Alan's B & W Altar tableBeyond the BurnWiredThe Chichester Art Trail has finished!  For the first time, Alan and I opened our home for five days over the first two weekends in May.  We had a great time!  Whilst the volume of sales was not huge, we both did sell work and, what was just as important, received some fantastic comments from people who came round.  We had 194 visitors – some came to see Alan’s monochrome photographs including those of Chichester Harbour and church interiors; some came to see my found object and mixed media work and most enjoyed both.  Although our work is very different it does complement each other.  There is a similar colour palette i.e. simple, earthy tones – I describe his work as precise and perfect whilst mine is distressed, tattered and torn and yet the two seem to work together.

What did we learn from the experience:

  • The entrance display of my found lighters was a great talking point and so the idea of having something with impact that is not actually for sale is a good way of breaking the ice
  • Ensuring that the body of work to be shown is prepared in plenty of time so that publicity photographs are truly representational of the work is important
  • Our decision to invest in quality bespoke frames was well worthwhile
  • Some people come just to see what you do and “borrow” ideas
  • We chose not to offer cards or lower priced pieces of work this time but this may be something to consider in the future
  • Although tiring, we enjoyed meeting lots of new and interesting people
  • From the point of view of new artists, the Art Trail is a low cost way of testing the market for your work

And now …

Alan plans to continue to work towards a panel of work for his Fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society

Helen will maintain her love of found objects but look for new ways to work with them, maybe mixing the found with the made; maybe replicating the distressed surfaces on paper and in fabric; maybe considering more work with books as these proved very popular during the trail.

More posts will follow!