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

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Work for the Winter

In the last two weeks I have been taking some time to reassess work and winter projects. Three weeks away is quite disruptive but perhaps in a good way. Some things that seemed a great idea before Japan now seem not so interesting and I also had a good studio sort out which has made me see some old work with new eyes. I mean really old work, going back some 16 to 30 years. Having some distance has been really useful.

What do I want to do?
As a commercial artist you generally do as you are told. Teaching generally involves looking at the talents, aptitudes and desires of your students and guiding them to fulfil their potential. But what about me?

I am really happy to be working on the bees and the pigs and the careful observed drawing, all of which tend to be crowd-pleasers, so instant ego gratification!

But when I look back at my casual sketchbooks and exploratory drawing from many years ago there is an energy which can get lost in carefully rendered and necessarily designed work. There are also subjects that I want to explore but never felt I had skills in the right medium. Learning printmaking over the last few years has definitely helped but now it’s time to really see what I can do. It may also be that the years are ticking by!!

How to do it?

Sometimes the answer to problems is blindingly obvious. In my case it is "just draw with a different tool". So I am temporarily banning pencils and just working with brushes and felt tips.

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A couple of brush sketches for Diana the huntress from 2000

I found some small sketchbooks from about 8 years ago where I was looking at "notan". I was making Small sketches from paintings or the garden, with just 3 felt tip pens. It was mainly for teaching puroses.

But looking again they are so full of possibilities that I have decided to go back to this simple sketching form.. alongside the commercial work on the pigs, the books and the bees and the careful drawings.

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The tiny sketchbook notes. The books are only 4 inches square.

So that's what I will be exploring… :)

Sunday, 21 October 2018

“By emphasising the Light the Darkness is described”

I have been mulling over my experiences in Japan; the everchanging land and cityscapes, the daily kaleidoscope of unfamiliar foods, sounds and customs, visual delights of every sort, and the kindness of strangers.

Sitting at home in the rural quiet of a grey English October and letting some of those things find me again, its interesting to see which experiences stay with you or pester you with a creative itch that will have to be dealt with fairly swiftly. While I saw less in the way of Japanese prints than I thought I might, the prints I did see were inspirational.

One unexpected find was a little museum in Osaka, Kamigata, http://kamigata.jp/kmgt/english/.

“This museum exhibits ukiyo-e paintings produced in Osaka in the Edo period. Most of the ukiyo-e paintings made in Osaka were portraits of kabuki actors.”

The exhibitions change but when we visited the prints explored how light and dark are portrayed.It was fascinating to learn more of the conventions of the depiction of light and dark both in the prints and the theatre and how they inform each other, the many different sorts of light, candles, lamps and fires and the concept of black as being “invisible”.

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“By emphasizing the light, the darkness is described”

The museum is small and quite dark to preserve the prints but they will issue you with a LED torch which enables you to get very close and see the gorgeous details and the quality of the surface. Here the beam of light brightens the colours rather than bleaches them out.

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The embossing of parts of the prints, almost impossible to see without a raking light, gives an added dimension to the print and the use the “light”.

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My, not very good, photo taken with the aid of the torch.

As I said, inspiring!

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Beautiful Gifts from Japan

Its been quite a while since I posted and not least because I was lucky enough to have a three week trip to Japan.

Chris and I travelled around from Tokyo to Onomichi, across the Inland Sea to the Island of Shikoku, back to Kobe, we sat out typhoon in Osaka, on to Kyoto and then back to Tokyo.

One of the nicest things was to be able to catch up with my lovely artist friend Azusa Sato, (see her beautiful delicate work here http://www.s-azusa.com/ ). We met up in Tokyo at the beginning and the end of our trip and on both occasions she gave me lovely gifts.

They were so thoughtfully chosen.

A box of little pressed birds in origami packaging.

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A box of charming Owl biscuits … all different. I have no idea how they are made.

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A Kintsugi gold mended dish which she had made for me. I love this respectful repairing of broken pottery and am so pleased to have this mended by a friend, which makes it more special.

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And, most exquisite, a tiny hand made book she had made which opens into a series of individual little faces; happy, sad, singing? and sleepy. The envelope is sealed with a tiny handmade bird.

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It is so beautiful and I am very very lucky.

Thank you Azusa!!

It was a fascinating trip. I am just trying to process all the images and experiences..my work may change a bit as a result of experiencing, first hand, some of the fabulous design, printmaking and craftwork. I rather hope so! And the garden may sprout a small temple and some large rocks … well in my dreams.