Monday, 10 December 2012

Nuns can be a bit of a card at Christmastime

Early December sees the conclusion of my workshops and demonstrations for the year. Occasionally I do a Christmas' demo which often involves a painting containing lots of snow and other festive things.I look forward to these as mince pies and other nibbles are often produced by the group at half time. Merriment and chatting then goes on for so long that sweat pours down my santa hat as I rush to finish the painting in the remaining ten minutes! Sometimes full consternation is shown by the organising sectretary when I turn up with a photo set in the height of summer! After reassurances, the required snowscene is duly produced! This is also the time of year when I carry out my festive studio clean out. Drawers are tidied, artwork is filed and rammel removed. Long lost missing items are discovered behind the radiator.. Emptying my correspondence folder, I recently stumbled upon some instructions I had been given for a commission long long past. I had obviously kept it because it tickled me. Many years ago, I was regularly commissioned to produce Christmas cards for a publisher. Detailed instructions and photographs of how the end product should look would start arriving through the post from May onwards. Most paintings went off without a hitch, though it was sometimes difficult to visualise what lay beyond summer trees in full leaf as some of the photographs depicted.
As I said, this was many years ago, but I did keep one particular set of instructions which I will share with you verbatim;
“Add light snow, lights on inside church. Add people walking towards shrine entrance (to right of picture). Include three nuns. NB These are nuns based at xxxx Description; 2 tall and thin, 1 short (& more rounded) of Afro/carribean (sic) origin. Picture of this lady on bottom RT corner of sheet Enclosed from a video box, please therefore include outline impression of these three nuns with others walking towards shrine. Highlight the two stations of the cross (shown in picture with brick pillars and tiled roof). Add winter flowering colour – winter heathers? & shape of Lavender bushes – not in flower. Note : photo faces east so afternoon sun could be shown on picture.
Remove: crop foreground – bring shrine, gardens & peope (sic) a bit closer. Take out summer flowers & leaves from deciduous trees”
One of the least exciting places I painted as a snow scene was Hemel Hempstead high street, which I leave you with. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all, especially from nun of the above.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Beware of Toilets!

Since my book ‘How to Paint Flowers in Acrylics’ came out and with my recent TV appearances on Sky Arts, demand for demonstrations and workshops for art groups has increased somewhat. Venues can vary greatly from such places as the magnificent pork pie hall in Leicester to the Palmer-Tomkinson building which is like stepping onto the bridge of the starship Enterprise. Some venues are incredibly small, no bigger than a garage, where as you stand back, you end up sitting on the ladies lap on the front row. Others are either very grand with the plushest of Axminster carpets, or quite run down, falling apart, covered in wriggly tin and with the rain and wind blowing through the gaps. One of the problems of arriving at an old venue in winter is that there’s no heating and the room’s freezing cold. This can make it quite a challenge when trying to pick up pastels with numb fingers, so now I take a hairdryer to warm my hands up. Fire stations seem popular with art groups too.. I’ve painted in a couple of those. When going to the loo in one, I noticed that there were colour swatches above the urinals showing a range of earth colours from raw sienna to cadmium orange. Mentioning this to the group when I returned, they informed me that they were in fact colour charts to tell the Firemen if they were dehydrated or not! Loos can be quite a problem, Louise managed to lock herself in one recently and not wishing to show herself up, stayed quiet. Half an hour later at the end of the demo when it was time to go and I noticed she was missing and had to stage a rescue attempt. I quite like to have a comfort break prior to a demo and at the same time fill my water pot. Going into the loo recently, the lady organiser said “I can do that for you…” I remarked that it wouldn’t be very hygienic. “Nonsense! She said, I can do it in the sink for you”.. I then realised she meant my water pot! The other problem with loos is I nearly always forget to turn my microphone off and so the audience are usually treated to waterfall impressions during the break!! Food is another interesting demo phenomena.. around the Birmingham area, a splendid, lavish buffet is often provided at the half time break though this can eat into the time I have available to paint for the group.. My friend Tom won’t mind me mentioning that his group provides one of the finest at Burntwood, making that visit an even greater pleasure. In fact, the foods so good, some artists just book themselves in and tell Tom when they’re coming!! Christmas demos are also a great treat as food is nearly always provided at this festive time. At other places, there’s usually a half time break with tea and biscuits. I only went to one where the group weren’t allowed a break because they the organiser said they talked too much, with me alone getting a cuppa half way through, it made me feel quite guilty and sorry for them. This spring has been one of my busiest ever, but now things are quieting off and it will soon be time to start thinking about the Patchings Art Festival, I hope you will come and join me there and say hello.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Damocle's dangles

It all started a while ago when fed up with watching rerun after rerun of the X Files, I looked around for something a little more cerebrally challenging. Then I spotted it, a series called Big Art. Now ever since Alwyn went off the air, apart from the occasional appearance by Rolf, decent art programs are about as common as hen’s teeth.
The program opened with the presenter having his Gee Wiz car remodelled by a famous, world renowned artist/sculptor (never heard of him). By some piece of convoluted logic the presenter then deduced that his car was now a work of art. I wonder if the sculptor had cooked him breakfast, he would have eaten it or framed it! Now I know many people have a strange view as to what constitutes a work of art. My understanding is that a work of art is something that has no practical purpose other than to elicit an emotional response from the viewer, a bit like a member of parliament... so I suppose wind turbines would also fall into this category and hence why said MP's allow them to be built.
Anyway, Like Ronnie Corbett in his comfy chair, I digress, The idea of the aptly named Big Art show was to follow a community in its efforts to erect a large carbuncle on the edge of their conurbation, something that many a Betty Page wannabe had tried and failed to do.. The residents were interviewed and one said how nice it would be to have a large monument somewhere locally to save keep travelling tup'north for artistic enlightenment..(cut to Angel of the North). Monument? I thought that was something that was a target for scrap thieves. We are now introduced by the program makers to a potential contributing artist. He/she (I'm not sure which) is mentioned and quoted as being someone who’s art was so radical he/she wasn't awarded a degree (must remember that excuse…I wonder if he/she was doing representational stuff!).
The residents were then kindly whisked off to Germany to view a depressing piece of ‘big art’. It wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Stanley Kubrick oddessy with monkeys throwing bones at it. Some local monkeys had tried to brighten it up by spraying their ‘tags’ all over the base which had improved it somewhat. By now I was bored and switched back to the X-Files…
I’m not sure about big art, I like Anthony Gormley’s work, though I think Crosby beach was a better place without his contribution. I just worry that communities and councils are jumping on a giant Angel of the North bandwagon and despoiling our beautiful countryside with these arrogant erections. Not all art produced by an artist is good, even if they do have a well known name. If you want to sell a larger piece of work to hang over the mantelpiece instead of a small one in the toilet, the choice of subject and the content of the painting has to be carefully considered. I just wonder if some of the big art accepted by communities is toilet rather than mantelpiece work. And don’t get me started on safety, what with the problems of inflatable versions blowing away, killing people and rusting spiky things giving a Damoclesian kill threat to passers by.
So I say let’s not put up another big white horse or chalk maiden in the countryside and just enjoy nature’s natural beauty.