This week’s experiences were a contrast to last week’s as I visited an art exhibition put together by local people, mostly amateurs and hung in a local community centre. Eight hundred plus works created in a variety of media and curated mainly into groupings by subject. I went around quickly scanning the works and when I got to the end I paused; I noticed how I had been subconsciosly grading them into ‘good’ and ‘bad’, or worth my consideration or not. Wow! harsh!
So I went around again, much slower this time and trying to give each work its due notice and consideration and this time I was aware of my judgements as they arose. Looking with kindness on these artworks brought a different appreciation. I noticed that each artist has the same problems, the struggle with colour and establishing a palette, the struggle with composition, the struggle with light, the struggle mastering the media and on and on, each problem needing a resolution.
I noticed the things that people felt were important, so important they spent hours of their time and much effort to try and express their experience of these things. I noticed how simple these things are; their pets, their homes, their villages, their food, their gardens, other people, plants, birds, trees, the ocean, machines, the landscape. Things that we all engage with every day and that have a profound impact on us. I noticed the differences in approach from those with colour straight from the tube laid on boldly with a flourish to those tentative and shy with the brush. I thought I noticed those with some formal training as opposed to those who were self taught.
Later, I thought again of my judgements from the first time around and remembered that I am a product of my own culture and experiences and that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that notions of what is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ change. Not quite sure where I am going with my ramblings, but I am glad I went to this show and took the time to try and see.
Back in the studio………..I have had my own personal struggle with colour, composition, light and use of media, but I have finished my first ‘composed’ picture and it is posted here for the record. Onto the next one………………the garden is bursting with material and today (Thursday) is my ‘art’ day so I shall take a little wander around outside to see what demands my attention.
How to decide what to paint? I would be interested to hear how others make their choices.
I obviously don’t get out much! But this has been an exciting and encouraging week, in which I have seen some quality botanical art, met a great teacher and met some new people. I am a member of the FaceBook page Botanical Art for Beginners, and I found out that a fellow member would also be at the RHS Botanical Art Exhibition in London. We arranged to meet and amazingly we found each other, in that great crowded hall. She introduced me to Ann Swan a pencil art teacher and author, who was coming to Dedham Hall (just down the road from me) to teach for a week, she was kind enough to let me gatecrash one of her classes so I did. Some wonderful work was going on, and Ann is a supportive and knowledgable teacher, everyone was really friendly and I have made contact now with a local group which meets monthly. The quality of the artwork at the RHS show was amazing, very inspiring and very varied, something to aspire to one day (in my next lifetime!)
Even with all the excitement of London and Dedham I did get some drawing done, and this week what interested me was our Clematis Montana coming out, it seems to be best ever this year, maybe all the rain last year helped. Petals again, oh dear, but practice makes perfect so I had another go.
So it is all very well being able to draw a plant fairly accurately, but what I realised at the exhibition this week is that accuracy does not an ‘artwork’ make. Well, that’s obvious, obviously but it had not really sunk in; but visiting this class I could see that although the plant material was there the students were using it as inspiration rather than a guide. So having done my preparatory drawings and photos of the clematis I thought I would have a go at ‘composition’. I therefore spent a happy few hours with tracing paper, IPad, drawings, scissors and eraser laying out my first composition.
What I had noticed when I photographed the plant was that all the buds looked like little faces searching for the sunshine, so I tried to get the feeling in my picture of the buds and opening blossoms straining towards the warmth. Not sure if it has worked but I am going to go with it, it is only small (a finished size of 6 inches square).
Deltoid – Triangular
My most recent drawing (Euphorbia Lathyris), a plant picked from my own garden; a plant not planted, a volunteer plant of a type that pops up on and off in the garden. A plant usually called a weed and ruthlessly pulled up. But I am looking at plants differently now, with new eyes, not seeing weeds or choice specimens but seeing and noticing shape and colour and if it is not too strange a ‘personality’.
I have been thinking about ‘style’ and looking at my work. I know that a ‘style’ develops and grows and it will appear (hopefully) of it’s own free will but I can’t help thinking about what will be the best way to nurture and encourage it. From my previous life as an artist in other fields I know that following my own interests and concerns brought me most satisfaction and ultimately led to a fruitful way of working. So I suppose this is how I will develop my botanical ‘style’; it will come out in the sort of plants that attract my interest, the sort of plants that make me want to engage with them the sort of plants that I choose to draw.
I am already feeling my way towards this, as I am attracted by the slightly strange, the little bit ugly and the oddly shaped, and I suspect the easy to draw……..
Caudate – with a tail like appendage
I never thought that botanical art would lead me down the dark and tortuous road of photography, but it has, and let me be up front about photography – I don’t like it. The camera does not see as I do and I am always disappointed by the results.
So I finished my drawing of the Photinia and of course I needed to photograph it – why? 1. to put in the blog of course and 2. as a record.
Arghhh! Lighting, getting it right is sooooo hard, lots of research on the internet and it all seems so time intensive and boring and even more nit-picking than even I can cope with. My research lead me to consider scanning – ah ha! much easier, the darn thing lights itself and I will just get some software to do a little colour correction. What a blind alley that turned into. Most of my images are bigger than scanner plate, so software would also need to ‘stitch’ several images together as well as adjust colour. More research and the dread word GIMP came into my life. Anyway – this is all way too boring but I have just wasted two of my precious days on this earth wrestling with GIMP and some esoteric things called layers – it’s all been too horrible and I’m done with it! The solution came to me when I was meditating – surprising what a little bit of stillness and silence can do, and it seems glaringly obvious now. My room has been rearranged, and in that rearrangement new lights were installed, which means the room is evenly lit enough for photography (at least for the standard I need). So I tested it out, and it works, YAY! Only problem was a support to hold the artwork, so a request to my resident woodworker resulted in a lovely new stand, with the addition of two elastic bands my Heath Robinson ensemble is good to go.
Seems to work alright, see photo of Photinia above (although I have not cropped it properly); I will experiment some more with a tripod and a better (bigger) camera, but not today……………………..
P.S. ………if you are still with me, dear reader, I did go back to it, like an itch you can’t help scratching. My later experiments came out really well and I am now HAPPY! I found out how to set the white balance on my camera, lower the ISO and use a tripod. I also used up about 500 calories going up stairs to take the photo and down again to put it on the computer, so I have had my exercise for today, which can’t be bad. Didn’t do any drawing though………..