I’m at home, looking at my newly blank diary for the next three months; abandoned shows, cancelled contracts, delayed commissions. It is worrying but I am trying to view it as an opportunity for me to get into the studio and really get to work on creating some new paintings. The two new paintings I am launching here are the culmination of many months work, I hope you enjoy them, and that they provide some light relief from the watching the news… I plan to do an accompanying piece to the The Night Prowler, McCaw parrots I think. I will of course have the children off school, but here’s hoping we all settle down to a creative routine! (Wishful thinking?!)
The Night Prowler came from a concept sketch I produced for a couture design studio who wanted to produce a jungle print on silk. In the end the project didn’t come off but I wanted to develop the sketch and after some time studying tropical foliage at Kew, and securing some reference images for jaguars I finally came up with two planned compositions. I’ve loved creating the more atmospheric background, and this is definitely an area I want to explore further.
The Sable of Fables I heard rumours of the Giant Sable antelope while I was last in Africa, but really so few have ever seem them. The tiny population inhabit a small territory deep in Angola, and this sub species was thought to be wiped out in the Angolan Wars. They are enormous, magnificent antelope, the bulls horns can curve nearly two metres over their backs. There is now a dedicated team working for their conservation, and a percentage of profit from the sale of this original, or prints will go towards supporting their efforts.
So, dear readers, artists and galleries, if you’ve got this far down the page – please look after yourselves, and your families, and I am sending you all the love and strength I can. It’s going to be a testing few months for us all, I just hope that from the enforced quiet time I can at least create something worthwhile. If any of you are artists, and would like help, advice or for feedback on projects, please don’t hesitate to get in touch here. There are some incredibly inspiring projects, ideas and community art sessions springing up on social media. I will definitely be taking part in a few of them.
In other news…I’ve started doing a few portraits recently , and am really enjoying it after a fifteen year break! Read more here »
My other plan for the next few weeks is to get my long neglected YouTube channel up and running again. This link will take you to a time lapse of me painting a still life for the first time in about decade. A lot more practice needed, but I think I should have some spare time now! There are a few videos up there already and I will load lots more from the archives over the next few weeks.
There is no point in standing still as an artist, if we continue to paint same things over and over, sticking to the same formula, however successful, our work quickly becomes stale, and we tire of producing it, which in turn shows in the works produced. As we lose our passion the work lacks its fire.
You may know that I trained at one stage as a portrait artist, and for a while did commissioned portraits until my love of animals won over and I went back to painting subjects that couldn’t offer an opinion.
However, I’ve been dicing with figurative art for a year or two now but have not found it easy, much of the work has found its way onto the bonfire, or been tossed, crumpled, into a corner of the studio. I often find that the way out of a rut, or off a plateau is to step out of my routine and studio, and stretch myself a little harder; an etching course, life drawing or in this case an intense four day portrait workshop with a painter I hugely admire – Felicia Forte. She has that effortless style that makes you want to lick the painting, an ease and confidence in her work that is sorely lacking in my portraiture.
I considered joining her at the fabulous London Fine Art studios, but it’s close enough to commute, and I wanted to escape, albeit briefly, my domestic ties, so I could think of painting and nothing else. I signed up for the newly formed Raw Umber studios in Stroud, set up by former pupil of a LARA (a school coincidently I helped found, but that’s a story for another day)
Felicia is everything one imagines an artist to be; engaging, quirky with an absolute passion and dedication to her craft. (It irritates me that I feel I look so little like an ‘artist’, years ago a friend of my mothers told me I looked like a headmistress, I haven’t spoken to her since such was my fury, it touched a nerve as I suspect she may be right.)
We watched Felicia demonstrate a 3 hour portrait the first morning. She set out her deceptively simple formula for creating an accurate likeness. Drawing, shadow shapes, average tones, then work out from one area. Suffice to say it was considerably harder than it looked, and my first attempt that afternoon, though a reasonable likeness was a pale, chalky, muddled mess. My drawing skills are poor, rusty from over reliance on technology in the studio.
Day 2 was a full day painting, and I was allocated the same model all day. I spent a lot longer crafting a more considered drawing, and initially made a good start, but as the day wore on I tired, lost the simplicity of my tones, began to muddy the palette, and over work areas. The end result was ok, but not what I was hoping to achieve. I found myself using tiny brushes, dab dabbing at the same spots…
Day 3 saw another demo, this time, three portraits in three hours. An hour, 40 minutes, and 20 minutes. Watching Felicia, every brushstroke carries a considered conviction, rather than my more slapdash approach. She mixes the values and applies them with sparsity and economy but with a very definite confidence. No dabbing with tiny brushes… I took a quick trip to Pegasus art, a mere five minutes away, and equipped with a wolverine hand of large bristle brushes set to with the triple portrait challenge.
I learnt an incredible amount from this exercise, each short session revealing something new, and can see a real progression within the canvas of three heads. I think by the last I had finally begun to observe and mix correct colours, rather rely on preconceived ideas of colour. As I grew in confidence I painted faster, so although the third sketch is in less than half the time of the first, I got almost as much information down. A nugget of information from Felicia was that the head tends to get cooler as you move away from the light, so the upper tones are yellow, the middle tones red, and lower third cooler. We were using a ‘Zorn’ palette, which is restricted to Cadmium red, Ivory black, Titanium white and Yellow ochre. It’s been ages since I used a restricted palette, and it was fascinating to find the ranges of tone and colour you can achieve. My plan is to eventually move towards a very extended palette, and colourful portraits but it has been a useful exercise slowing down, and really taking the time to observe & mix the correct colours within the face.
Most of the class went for dinner that evening, though we resisted the nightlife of Stroud as day 4 was an extended pose, 6 hours on the same model. I was pleased with my mornings work, the drawing coming more naturally by now, and managing to find mostly correct tone and value for a challenging pose of strong shadow and highlights. I changed for the afternoon, to other extreme of light and half tone on the other side of the face, it my focus and stamina were flagging, and although it is a reasonable job, my mind was beginning to wander towards the following week, and the return to my family and home.
It was truly a privilege to study with Felicia, to have a few days (thank you Peter/Jane!) to focus solely on my beloved painting, and I feel I have learnt an unbelievable amount in a short space of time. It has come at an opportune time for me, as I was struggling with working in solitude, and after a relentless few months of commissioned work was in dire need of a reboot of inspiration and passion. Art is an odd career, I am often told how lucky I am to do what I love for a living, and I agree, I am. However it is a blessing and a curse, as in order to make a living, your passion must also become your job, and after a while any job, if you do for long enough, starts to feel, well, like a job, and less like something you love to do. Sometimes stepping outside the box (or studio) gives you a fresh perspective and in this case has definitely re awakened my passion for painting.
I can’t wait to get back into the studio this week, I must just find some socks for my son….
It’s been a very busy few months – I’ve finished a series of racehorse portraits, and am finally able to share a couple of them with you! I’ve so enjoyed doing these this year, they have been a welcome challenge in many ways, and a steep learning curve. I have spent many, many hours learning to paint silk, the nemesis of fabric for an artist (although tartan comes a close second…)
I have also had a complete refurbishment of the studio, which is incredibly exciting.
The original and prints of Saxon Warrior, winner of this year’s 2000 Guineas, are available to buy through my website.
I am now taking commission bookings for Christmas, so please book early if you’d like one completed in time.
Isobel Burns, the founder of Online Social Media Marketing & Training, and I have teamed up for a ‘Business for Artists’ workshop on the 25th September
My latest work ‘In a twist’
This elephant measures 40x50cm
He is available for sale £1500
My website is back up and running!
It’s been a frustrating year, with endless website woes, but it is finally up and running properly again. All my prints are now available to purchase online, and there is selection of originals too.
I have created an exclusive code for my newsletter readers of ARTYFARTYwhich will give you 15% off across all prints and originals.
This video of my portrait of my sister’s collie proved incredibly popular. I have condensed many hours of work into under two minutes – if only I could paint that fast!
LEANDER Rowing Club 200th Anniversary
I am very honoured to be selected as one of the artists to receive a Leander hippo to decorate. In the company of the likes of Theresa May, Clare Balding & several Olympians, any ideas are welcome! You can follow our progress on instagram#hippo200
Leander are the UK’s most successful sporting club, this wall being their Olympic roll call – nearly 150 names! The hippos a fantastic project and will be auctioned in late summer for charity to support clean water, rowing, education, and wildlife (including Hippos) on the Zambezi.
The perfect presents for men, those who ‘have everything’ or a just hard to find presents for. I have a selection of prints available to buy on my website, starting from £45. We can produce them on their own, mounted or framed. I also now offer bespoke canvas prints, in any proportional size up to a maximum width of 3 metres, which fills a LOT of wall space (but probably won’t fit in a stocking!) Please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org for pricing.
All the Giclée prints are produced using lightfast ink on acid free 360gsm art paper, individually signed and numbered. Each edition is a run of 250. They take around ten days to produce and frame, although possibly longer as we get very busy in the run up to Christmas. The order deadline is the 12th of December, after we cannot guarantee production & delivery in time for Christmas day.
For those who cannot choose between the prints I have also produced gift vouchers. These are embossed, and gilded, and make a wonderful present to give to someone to redeem the blue of your choice against originals artwork, prints or commissions.
I have a horrible feeling this may be similar to last years resolution, but I am full of hope that this year I will stop neglecting my blog and write a weekly post. I will spend less time watching ridiculous videos on Facebook and construct witty prose packed with my weekly news…
Jump for Joy
Talking of Facebook..
I have finally got to grips with FB advertising, and we were caught completely on the hop by the success of our pre christmas promotions, scrambling to process and ship all the orders in time. Thankfully we succeeded, and now have a fantastic system in place so everything should proceed smoothly from here on out. The biggest sellers by far were ‘Razzle Dazzle’ and Jump for Joy’ Two of my favourite paintings, I think they capture a sense of fun, and humour, and I hope give you as much pleasure looking at them, as they gave me enjoyment in their creation.
January sale “ARTSALE17”
The 25% off promotion will run until the end of January, please use the code above for 25% off all works on my website, prints and originals.
In the studio.. or not
The studio has become such an uphill battle to heat I have now moved inside, setting up in our garden room. I can’t tell you what a pleasure it is to think I’ll be able to work during the day without being cold. In fact I overstoked the woodturner so much I had to wear only a T-shirt yesterday. The dogs are also thrilled as they become markedly reluctant to ‘come to work’ over the past few weeks.
On the easel
I am working on various commissions this month, as a bit of backlog has built up. On the easel are two portraits of same yellow labrador, a client has commissioned one for each of her sons which rather lovely, but presenting its own challenges.
I’m also working on a series of local landscapes, my first landscapes in a decade. We had a period of spectacular light in November and every school run was, at best, meandering as I stopped to take photos.
One of the most common questions I’m asked is “how long does it take?” So, I thought I’d quickly run through the process of the creation of a recent piece – “Razzle dazzle” Painting zebras is always a bit of a headache inducer – all those stripes, and five together was ambitious. I started with a small sketch 25x25cm, which went well, and was pretty straightforward.
So, an expensive sheet of 70x50cm paper is clipped up onto the easel and I start on a big version.
But soon joined the growing pile of rejects on the floor…
There were several versions of charcoal on white paper, each more disastrous than the previous. I just couldn’t get the light as I envisaged it. Finally, I scrapped about £30 worth of paper into the bin and tried on a dark grey paper. This version I was pleased with, the zebras really standing out from the background. It’s hard to keep the looseness of the original sketch, but working from drawings rather than photos really helps.
Then I moved onto the oil, the background took ages to get right, I started with an ochre/blue/pale cream combination, but then changed the background to red which I felt conveyed Africa a bit more, that red dust. Also the ochre was too similar to the foreground colour. The blue doesn’t really show up in the photos, as it is so close in tone to the top layer, but it’s very clear in the flesh so to speak.
This is meant to be my quiet time of year, when I can footle about faffing about working online in my warm study, instead of freezing in my draughty studio, spluttering in the temperamental warmth of the log burner.
I really wanted to produce some big works, that would have an impact in the Mall Galleries, and work well together as a group. Tom Way was kind enough to give me permission to use some of his lion photos to work from. Safari with children is magical but not really conducive to producing much in the way work!
Young lion at waterhole
The moon, swallows and springbok
Male lion, North Pride
Working to such a tight deadline is always stressful, although a friend did say, with raised eyebrow, “It’s not like you haven’t known about it for twelve months…” I know, I know, but I only got back from Africa at the end of December and it’s tricky to conjure up decent wildlife in Berkshire!
The past few weeks have been spent converting the sketches and photos into paintings. I hope I have a strong body of work to submit, and that at least a couple get chosen! Here’s a peek at a two of them.
Wildlife Artist of the Year
Dawn Ascending, Oil on panel. 24×18″
Lion 75x55cm charcoal on paper
So, hopefully, the last works should be finished this week and then photographed in time for the deadline on the 13th feb!
Art Dubai 2016
I’m also working on some equine paintings for Art Dubai 2016 which takes place in April. Signet Contemporary Art are taking them, so I’m looking forward to working with them. I did contemplate a trip accompanying them to the sun, but maybe next year!
Finding myself at a loose end over half term I booked myself and the kids into a hotel in Bournemouth for a couple of days. I wouldn’t really recommend the hotel but my main reason for being there was to visit the Russell Cotes house and gallery. It is fabulous, like the home of some wonderfully flamboyant old uncle, perhaps an immensely wealthy Monty for Withnail, who has stepped out and let you in for a wander. The house is a work of art in its own right, the couple of lived there clearly had no budget restraint and went to town, every room a homage to decorative arts.
I was not familiar with this artist, but this huge – 8 foot square – canvas is extraordinary, it’s such an incredible study of light and pattern. Looking through his body of work, he clearly was drawn to abstract light patterns, and his painting of seagulls in late evening light ‘Silver Wings’ is stunning. His paintings seem remarkably contemporary for his time.
I know Maud from her prolific dog portraits that adorn many a country house, but this is the first big painting I had seen of hers. A stunning composition, very unusual having cropped the deer in the foreground.
Ah, Munnings, I don’t see any in the flesh for a while and fall out of love with his work. He’s a one trick pony, endlessly repeating the same composition, the paintings seem crude and slapdash. Then you see one and remember why he is so justifiably famous and revered. They are extraordinary in real life; the size, the fury of the application of the paint and the insane use of colour, yet you stand back and it all falls into a harmonious painting with an exquisite handling of flesh.
Dod Shaw on Patrick 1912
Brushwork up close. Mental.
And the rest
We ended up spending four hours there. they have a fabulous cafe and programmes for children. This is the sort of place art should be viewed with none of the sterility of modern museums. It’s when you works like the one below that you realise this is how they were designed to be displayed, not on a white wall under harsh spotlights, look at that wallpaper!!I urge you to go and have a look, their website is pretty basic with little info but it is worth the trip. I saw paintings by Farquharson, Lavery, Landseer, Henry Moore, and many more. Here’s a few more photos – but the BBC ‘Your Paintings’ collection has a comprehensive catalogue
Summer is fading, and the kids are about to start back at school, including my youngest in her slightly too big pinafore and pristine white socks. I feel sad to see her go but it does mean I will now have five days a week to work, uninterrupted. Five days!! It’s been a long time since I had that.
Horses have taken star billing this summer, kicking off with the Society of Equine Artists, who posted their selection at the end of July. I’m delighted that all three of mine got in, initallialy being exhibited at the Sally Mitchell Galleries and two were cherry picked to go onto the Osborne Studio Gallery in Knightsbridge for an exhibition of Equine art in September.
The Midas Touch
I was hugely honoured to have the opportunity to go and photograph the “Golden Horse” Pearl of Peace at his yard, along with two other stallions. This extraordinary stallion is one of a kind, with an incredibly rare genetic combination that gives him his reflective, metallic gold colouring. He is still a youngster at three but such a character, and a real performer, clearly going to love the spotlight his life will entail! I am hoping to create a series of paintings from my time there, and will post progress on my FaceBook page.
I am currently framing “Monkey Business” in order to present it to the final selection for the society of wildlife Artists in mid September. I was pleased, and a bit surprised to have a piece accepted at the first round, as their emphasis seems to be heavily in favour of bird paintings, particularly those in a natural setting. Fingers crossed for the final round at the Mall Galleries!
So back to the grindstone in a few days, I’m looking forward to really getting my teeth into a new series, I feel as though I have been away from my studio for too long!
I’m slowly getting to grips with making short videos, and the timelapse ones seem to be the most popular. Here’s a link to a recent painting of a dark grey arab. YouTube video of Catherine painting
I have to replace my old easel. I first picked him up in Florence, part of a job lot being replaced by the Charles H. Cecil Studio where I had been studying. I was setting up a realist summer art school with James Napier, in London, and we bought them for a pittance, and, I presume, jammed them into our cars to get them back, I can’t imagine I flew them back, even in the heady days of limitless baggage on easyjet.
Charles H. Cecil Studio
They did service at the summer school, which rolled on for a year or two, eventually developing into the now enormously successful London Academy of Realist Art (drawpaintsculpt.com) which these days is run by James and his sister. I hung onto my easel (sorry James!) and its done a decade or so with me. A year or so in the punishingly expensive studios of London, a thankfully short while sharing what was basically a cave with James in the London Bronze Foundry and then more recently in my studio here.
The old easel with a work in progress
Old age has got him finally, in the end. He shakes and shudders, arthritic in every joint, and is also incontinent, leaking onto my feet (or the spaniels sleeping below) various noxious fluids I use in my work. I had a moment of madness, shopping late night on my ipad and bought a beast from Jacksons Art, a beechwood Chippendale of a model by Mabef. I’m pretty sure it cost more than my first car. It rolls, extends, lays flat, has drawers, but part of me will miss my old, paint encrusted easel from Italy, who knows how many students, and how many works have been created in his rickety wooden embrace?
I recently watched this Ted talk by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of the bestseller ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ It touched a nerve, as I really empathise with her subject, that an artist does not have to be a mentally unstable genius in order to create brilliant work.
Art is a job, a job like any other when you have good days, bad days, days when you want to do nothing but work, and days when you wonder why you are there at all. Success is dependent on turning up and sticking at it. I suspect we do have steeper peaks and troughs, but it’s a temperamental business. There is no barrier to being both creative and business like, which artists and buyers are waking up to, harnessing the selling power of the Internet.
Two of the most common questions I’m asked are ; “where do you get your ideas from?” and “How do you price your work?”
I get my ideas from every day, I see ideas every time I leave the house, in every programme I watch, every book I read. For example I visited Windsor Horse Show yesterday and was flooded with ideas for paintings, this photo I took would make a fantastic sketch for example.
Sadly I have to balance every idea, with whether or not I think will it sell, and how many people will it appeal to. My art is a business, and I have to approach it as such, so sadly this idea will be condemned to the closet, as it will have too narrow an audience to make it commercial. (By the way, big congrats to my sister who won Champion Polo Pony with her little home bred mare, Tinx)
I do think there is such a thing as ‘talent’ there are some days when that elusive genie really does just show up, but talent is nothing without hard work. I am listening to a new song in the studio at the moment – ‘Bills’ by Lunchmoney Lewis, I know how he feels, and the video is hilarious! Bills Video
I’ve just finished this piece, and I’m pretty sure the genie was on my shoulder for this one.
The doors opened on Saturday morning and a sure but steady trickle of visitors flowed through the doors until Monday evening.
Studio looking stunning in the early May evening sun.
I have to come clean here, for the previous six or so years I have always thought of opening the studio as a pleasant exercise in meeting local folk, and other artists but never as profitable endeavour.
Inside the studio looking super clean
This year however I decided to put in a lot more effort, and have a wider range of art for sale, something for every budget. We renovated the studio, bought a trade stand and installed a gallery hanging system. I invested in prints, framing and print browsers and rather a lot of sundries besides…
My lucky horseshoe
It paid off, or, at least, paid for itself. We sold a lot of prints, cards and several large oil pieces. It was as ever great to meet all those who had made the effort to visit and fascinating to watch them react to the work on the walls.
Jazzy keeping watch.
I did a demo piece over the course of the open weekend, something which was very popular, and it sold on the last day.
“Conquest” oil on natural linen
The Maidenhead advertiser wrote a lovely piece about the trail featuring a photo of yours truly. In all well worth the effort, and now we have the artists after party to look forward to!
Tina & Dolly – sure that the HENley arts trail was all about them
Buying art can be daunting for many people, so here are some suggestions!
Visit the artist
Painting is a solitary occupation and we are only too delighted to break for coffee and a chat with anyone who’s vaguely interested in our work. You will get a first hand look at where the work is created, the process and often be able to pick up pieces that would otherwise not be up for sale. The Salt Studio shop is an excellent example of a collaboration of artists selling preparatory or non gallery work.
Open studios are a great way to visit artists in a much more casual atmosphere. I am part of the fantastic Henley Arts Trail which runs for three days next weekend, and typically we have about a thousand people through over the bank holiday (this year is the 2-4th May). It’s fun, there are plenty of venues, and an enormous variety of art and artists to see.
Look at artist or gallery websites. Decide what you like then you can either visit the artist or the gallery to view it in person. I find a lot of people buy prints online, but most prefer to see originals in the flesh before committing to a purchase.
Ask them their advice! Tending a gallery can lean towards being a bit dull if no one talks to you! Most gallery owners or managers will be only too delighted to help find something to suit your taste and budget. There isn’t the pressure of engaging with one artist and the gallery owner will have a broad knowledge of art, able to source work outwith their current exhibition or published list of artists. Penny at Oil and Water does the excellent ‘try before you buy’ scheme, meaning you can take the work home, live with it for a day or two and then decide. A lot of galleries are signed up to ‘own art‘ meaning you can pay in instalments, from as little as £10 a month until the work is paid for. Most artists are also happy to do this, several of my original sales or commissions are paid in 3-6 instalments by standing order.
The Affordable Arts Fair and similar are the best way to immerse yourself in the art scene without the obligation to engage with galleries or artists. You can browse thousands of artists, glass of wine or coffee in hand, until you find work that captures your attention. My work will be at the Hampstead Affordable Arts Fair June 11th-14th, showing with Eduardo Alessandro Studios
Such a grim time of year to be an artist, especially if you are tied to the UK by school children or other commitments. Clearly if you aren’t its fantastic as you can sugar off to another, sunnier, continent and ‘work’ there. (If this is you please don’t contact me until spring)
For those of us in the UK it can be hard to motivate ourselves to brave a freezing cold studio, so this is my personal motivational list:
*Work somewhere else. For me this is the fantastic South Hill Park which not only is heated but has a fab cafe buzzing with people. I’ve been doing all my etching in the print studio there.
*Submit to new galleries. They probably aren’t that busy either as its a very quiet time of year for all in the art world, so its a good time for artists to send out submissions.
*Visit galleries and shows. I get too busy later in the year to do this, so have booked a few to go and see.
*Work out your competition schedule and submission deadlines for the year.
*Plan your advertising budget and placements.
*Plan work. I can do this in my comparatively warm office, and then I’ll hit the studio once the heaters have kicked in.
Easier said then done in this weather but I have managed to get a surprising amount done this month, and am pleased with my first equine work for a while. It’s a large piece 36×30″ which reminded me how much I enjoy working on this scale. No title as yet, so ideas welcome!
Oil & Water are hosting a Birds, Beasts and Butterflies exhibition this month which features several of my works, and we are also a doing a solo show at Wedlake Bell in the city. Invites are available on request.