Portrait. Landscape. Life vs Photograph

I find it so difficult to find the ideal space in which to sketch people. Movement is constant – if only you could click your fingers and stop time for everyone else so that you could have the time you need – this is the advantage of photography but there is never anything so real as sketching from life. I have done many of both and I always find that it is the drawings and paintings done from life that are the best.

Cregannon
Cregannon Lak

My painting at Cregannon lake is a good example if this I think. Sitting in the bank of the lake, I felt the air and smelt the soil, hear the noises. When I tried to repaint a trip up Cader Idris from a photograph I felt that the result was less dimensional and held less character other than detail. Perhaps more work could alleviate this sense but I really felt the tension and urgency up at Cregannon.

 

Moroccan Jungle

The view from the balcony of a place I stayed in Morocco near Agadir. This was a rather rubbish strewn space, quite wide and uncomfortable to reconnoitre. Harsh rocks and thorny plants were strewn everywhere – but in amongst this environment would be meandering goats who would be searching out small shrubs and other tastey morsels.

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Cregennan Lake

Acrylic on Canvas. 2018

Sitting in front of Cader Idris painting down onto such a small scale is such an epic task. When you take in this rich landscape you notice that there is infact a great deal more detail than you can ever take down. It was a cold day, there were walkers to the left and above – none of them painting, but generally all of them talking amongst themselves, but I couldn’t capture any of the conversation. However, I did try and take noted of what I could see.

Cregannon
The rain put an end to this painting!

Ceramic Tiles

I recently attended a pottery workshop with my son. We had a great time making some stuff out of air dry clay but I was left with a thirst for more. I’d made a small pot, which came out looking a little African, Noah’s pots were fantastic, considering his age – using moulds and just playing with the clay with varying results.

I devised a plan to imitate some ceramic place mats I’d bought in Crete some years ago. I’ve now got some clay at home and I’m beginning to mass produce (with varying results). The plan is just to create the right rectangular shape and then to create patterns for each tile that are unique. These will then be fire using raku firing methods to develop a slightly cracked result. I’m not aiming to starve the oxygen to create a silver sheen as happens in many raku firings.

My first clay tile has warped as it has dried, so I’m starting to use compression in the drying process.

Some are easily more successful than others; I think I have started to get used to the technique that will carry most successfully. I began by using finger and pencil to score the marks into the clay, but have now upgraded to actual ceramic tools. It may be obvious which are which!

As it is my first firing I may just go with the flow and see what comes out – the potter Sue Barnes (no relation) will hopefully help me through this process which everyone keeps telling me is not difficult. First step is the biscuit firing, then on to the manual raku event.

An alternative to Raku firing is to use a cracked glaze. As I am not after a burning effect but simply a cracked colouration I have found a likely alternative matt crackle glaze for stoneware.

The pieces were fired after I’d painted glaze over them but problem was, I hadn’t realized that I would need several coats of glaze as they absorb or burn off unless there is a significant amount on the piece.

I decided to repaint each tile so that the colours would be more vivid.

Still they weren’t vivid enough. I’ve brought them back to the drawing table to add add add .

I quite like the fish tile so am leaving this one as is for the time being. The others I have been relaxing and am up to 3 layers now.

Some of these pieces are new experiments, such as the tree indentation tile and various pendants.

The St Johns Hall Gallery

Each month I submit a poster for St Johns Hall Gallery in Barmouth. It’s a fantastic space to display work, being an ex-church hall. It’s being refurbished over a period of time by Harald Gassner and is being run by Bernard Barnes and Reyna Rushton.

Each time I create a poster I add it to the top of this page.

August 2018
A local author, Jim Perrin, is putting on a lecture discussing Himalayan pioneers Eric Shipton and H.W. Tilman. A local pub has been named in Tilman’s memory and so this story is of local significance.

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The August exhibition includes a local art groups work of varying styles; it is a popular exhibition and more people tend to come to these than to others for pure power of the word of mouth.

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July 2018
In July, Glyn Baines introduced his award-winning artworks to St Johns Hall Gallery. His wonderful narrative and friendly demeanour was received with rapture by the audience on the open evening. If you’ve never looked this man up I would certainly advise you to. All his paintings have been created from scratch by the artist himself and have a very modern abstract feel – emphasis on colour and balance.

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June 2018
June brought two artists to the gallery. The poster was difficult to design but I tried to highlight the painting artist as she was going to take up the greater amount of space. Mary Blindflowers is an artist from Sardinia, now living in or around Cambridge. Her paintings are quite surreal dream-like images in bright colours. Her paintings can be short and quick moments in time or a vision into another universe. Sonja Benskin Mesher is a more local artist who creates, again, quite surreal artwork – perhaps modern abstract could be appropriate, but her work in this exhibition pulled meaning from history and there is a hidden narrative that can be extracted.

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May 2018
In May the artist was Alexandra Cook – she submitted a small number of bright and colourful artworks, mainly landscapes. These joined the resident artists collection and were open to the public throughout the week, except for Mondays, which I am sure you will agree is the worst day of the week for anyone to go to work.

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A great feature of the exhibitions held at the Gallery is that the night before they open there is always a party held – allowing for interested parties to see in advance of the official exhibition dates, a preview, along with a talk by the artist and a session of folk music.

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Bernard Barnes working on a painting for the gallery.

2017
Last year, 2017, I joined in the festivities at St Johns Hall Gallery with my own exhibition. Sharing with Reyna and Bernard, the resident artists and another guest, Sasha Barnes – who resides in the South of France.

Sasha is well known for her ink paintings of Bath but has now become more involved in landscapes, possibly inspired by her rural residence. She also now has works permanently displayed in the gallery.

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Poster from 2017 advertising an exhibition we had in the hall.

Punjabi Sikh Elder

Punjab Sikh
A local elder I met in the Punjab – always with a smile.

Acrylic on Canvas

A number of years ago I had the fortune to visit many beautiful towns and villages around Northern India. Perhaps the most memorable place I visited was the Punjab where we stayed in a small village. The locals welcomed us with open arms and I went to a wedding and met many people, this is one of the characters I kept bumping into.

sikh elder
A small paddock behind housed his buffalo

Because of the nature of the Sikh people, the men come across as warrior types – they wear turbans and have thick belts with knifes at their sides. Always I felt a sense of admiration for this culture, which seemed so authentic at its heart. On its suburb however, was the youth element, young men looking at me suspiciously and wondering what I was doing in their town. I had conflicted thoughts during my stay and the Bangra festival with its angry undertones and loud night time shouting made me feel really uncomfortable. The poverty of this place made me wearier than perhaps I needed to be, though to conquer this fear I took a few late walks and made myself accustomed to the winding streets.

 

Marooned

When the water is flat and the sun is out there can’t be many better places than out at sea. The air is gentle, voices carry far but light and you are far from the hustle and bustle of the town. Out here you can look into the blue-green water and see jellyfish floating by along with trillions upon trillions of tiny particles. Upon the buoy we found ourselves tethered when our engine failed, until later we were saved by local fishermen who bound us to their vessel and carried us home.

 

Aspirations

We all have something we are working towards – from the youngest person to the oldest – there is always some aspiration that drives us. My aspiration is to step back and take a good look at the world we live in so that I can react to it. Every day life rushes along and we generally have very little time to slow down and consider where we are.

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton