"There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion" Francis Bacon 1561-1626

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

A Slightly Improved Pig

I am thinking that a-print-a-day on this blog might be very tedious for my kind readers and this blog tends to be a mishmash of many things so I have decided to corral all the print progress pics into a different blog. I will put any new developments here too but I think 20 different versions of one print could be too much. It’s just interesting for me to chart the progress.

But if you would like to see what is happening go to PRINTDAILY. There is a link in the side bar too.

This was a better print today using oil based inks for the final black.

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Enthusiastic Pig with Acorns… 8” x 6”

Monday, 28 October 2013

Printmaking: Starting properly… with some pigs.

I am a very new printmaker. Yes I did a bit at college many years ago and some odds and ends since which I really enjoyed, but there is a lot to learn about paper, inks surfaces, tools and different combinations of all those things together. My first attempts here have been mixed usually due to rushing things so I am going to try to get stuck in this winter and really learn.. from basics up.

My very good friend Den over at Animal Art Blog pointed me to a group who have been posting prints throughout October on Twitter see (#printoctober.) There is some great work there. It’s a bit late for me to contribute but, duly inspired, I have rashly decided to try to print something every day for a while and blog/tweet it. #printdaily 

I had an interesting visit to the printmakers shop Intaglio on Saturday. I have to say that I feel very inadequate in these specialist shops. Other customers all seem supremely confident and knowledgeable, ask loudly for obscure things or are on first name terms with the staff. I sometimes feel an imposter..but hey.. you have to start somewhere. I came out with new inks and many unasked questions :)

Anyway continuing the the pig theme, I have been working on a small print with Chris’ Salute the Pig blog in mind and it may well fit into a new book/print project which is taking shape. I’m not concerned about making the perfect print, it’s all about experiment at the moment and a chance  to try different papers and inks and combinations of plates.

Some first prints..lots more to follow…

The prints are about 8”x 6” some hand printed,  some put though the press different papers etc etc .

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

The Complete & Utter Gorgeousness of Pig’s Ears

I have a few new projects going on at the moment but one is going to be particularly delightful; drawings paintings and prints of pigs.

Chris is writing about pigs in his new blog Salute the Pig blog. Chris likes pigs.. a lot. He was brought up on a pig farm and has an affection for them as both animals and providers of delicious food. I should say from the start that we are not vegetarians but we like to know where our food comes from and  part of the reason for the blog is to find pig breeders who are kind and ethical.

We decided to begin with the wonderful Mangalitsa pigs because, as a close relative to the old Lincolnshire Curly Coat pig, it is the only pig I know anything about.  I was introduced to the splendid and sadly now extinct Curly Coat many years ago when illustrating Lincolnshire Country Food.  I will write more about it as the drawings develop..but you can read about the Curly Coat / Mangalitsa connection over at Chris’ blog.

We had a very encouraging start with a visit to Brian and Sylvia at Rectory Reserve, based appropriately in Lincs, who breed Mangalitsas. They have a wonderful and charming bunch of pigs who live in an idyllic spot. I have not really been up close to pigs before but they are quite captivating. They watch you with bright attentive eyes, are lively and friendly and are extraordinarily lovely to touch.

At this stage I am just exploring what a pig looks like so these are my getting-to-know-you sketches but what struck me most about these Mangalitsas are their fabulous ears; long, floppy and wavy edged in the mature pigs, pricked and alert in the young pigs, some with curls and wispy ends… they are just gorgeous.

Initial Mangalitza Sketches

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Two sketchbook pages, pencil and pen and ink . A4

And Two Beautiful Ears ..

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A small study of the curliness. pencil  6 x6” in sketchbook

You will find lots of info on the internet about the Mangalitsas, also known as Woolly Pigs or (irritatingly) Sheeppigs.

They are handsome and very engaging…much more on these and pigs in general soon.

Friday, 18 October 2013

A Goldfinch Nest Sketch

In between learning more about printmaking, hatching plans and projects and ideas for next year I am getting back to some observed drawing.

I have to say that autumn is not my favourite season. The approaching  restrictions and constrictions of dark and cold just don’t suit me and I hate these darkening nights. But there are a few compensations, such as wonderful seed pods and fruits, beautiful curling dried leaves and the odd dislodged bird's nest.

Down by the reservoir I found this tiny little nest. There is nothing much to it really, just a shallow, carefully woven, dish with a downy centre. It's made from grasses and sheep's wool with a little moss here and there...and a tiny feather still attached.

I think it is the remains of a goldfinch nest.

It seems an impossibly small and insubstantial family home and as goldfinches apparently build their nests towards the ends of branches it seems even more precarious.

nest 2

Two small pen and ink sketches 4”x 2.5”


 nest bg

Goldfinch Nest Sketch: pencil and watercolour 10 x 5”

The goldfinches are delightful. We see them swoop from teasel to teasel in the late summer.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Some Thoughts After Scotland

Almost back to regular work after a couple of short breaks. One in Scotland…wonderful. If you are thinking of a gorgeous tranquil place for a few days try Seafield Farm Cottages. Just the most beautiful place even in the rain.

seafield s

Two days there then a few days driving up the West Coast which was a first for us, finishing in fabulous Glasgow.

I have had many thoughts since I returned and cannot help but compare the vibrant “makers” scene that I found there with the dreary lack of anything so interesting around here. I think this area has the problem of being too near and yet too far from centres of excellence and innovation.

As we travelled around we found many small producers of art, craft, food and drink. Excellent dedicated makers, not the vanity dabblers who assemble bits of things that others have created or do a step by step painting and call it their own. 
There is an interesting piece in Robert Genn’s last newsletter about the Dunning/Kruger Effect which “showed that unskilled individuals tended to rate their competence higher than average”.
It is a piece I would like to set in front of many artists I come across. But I think their level of self delusion would make them blind to its point.

Question everything…..

I subscribe to many online magazines from both ends of the “art”world and on the one hand I am depressed by the flimsy premise of most conceptual work and equally dismayed by the rising tide of dull if highly skilled renderings of lifeless fruit, cute children, and formula watercolours and oils. I struggle more and more to find work I really admire.
This is perhaps the result of years of questioning everything and not really coming up with any answers. My main guiding principal in life after all is “Nullius in verba”. 

……but carry on.

Applying all this to my own work sometimes brings me to a complete standstill. But making stuff, drawing and painting is an itch which has to be scratched and refuses to go away and I have to continue on this endlessly frustrating journey.
Every time I pick up a pen, a brush or make a print I hope for something better and sometimes, just sometimes, there is progress. A little glimpse of the summit appears, only to find more and more ridges in the way.

My position with my work, if I have to choose one, is that of Hokusai, whose words I  have quoted before.

“Nothing I did before the age of seventy was worthy of attention. At seventy-three, I began to grasp the structures of birds and beasts, insects and fish, and of the way plants grow. If I go on trying, I will surely understand them still better by the time I am eighty-six, so that by ninety I will have penetrated to their essential nature. At one hundred, I may well have a positively divine understanding of them, while at one hundred and thirty, forty, or more I will have reached the stage where every dot and every stroke I paint will be alive.”

I think I had better get a move on and just keep working!

Prints to come…..