This week we had a chance to go to another brilliant exhibition in London. This was at the Wellcome Collection in Euston. The exhibition was really lovely and something that Kea and myself thoroughly enjoyed. It was called ‘A Museum of Modern Nature’. The exhibition was all about modern nature and what it means in todays life and times. Londoners were asked to bring in things from nature that meant something to them. There were exhibits from all ages and all aspects of life. There were some really beautiful objects and some really bizarre things too.
One of the items that a graphic designer brought in was a load of hot wheel cars. He said how he always had this urge to collect them and put them into a pattern. He couldn’t quite understand why he was doing it and what it reminded him of. He then realised it reminded him of when he was young when he used to collect beetles and put them into beautiful colourful patterns.
Kea loved the idea of the patterns that could be made out of the cars and or beetles. He hadn’t really thought of the idea of putting his cars into patterns or even thinking of them in terms of colour. This inspired him to look at his cars differently. He came home and immediately started playing around with cars and patterns. This is what he created.
Cars are not just for racing and life is full of colour wherever you look.
Well its back to school now. I go to art school two mornings a week. It’s good to go to school so that someone can keep an eye on what you are doing ;). Everyone needs a little guidance now and then and someone to give you a good critique and get you back to basics if you are straying in the wrong direction.
This week my teacher wanted me to get back to basics again and make sure I knew what was dark and light, making sure I wasn’t being wowed by the colours and getting in a muddle about what was the darkest object and the lightest. I was only allowed to use charcoal and I brought in with me a pear, apple and a plum.
Charcoal pear, apple and plum. I was quite pleased with my charcoal handling which can often be a nightmare!
You can easily get in a muddle when you paint with colour because colours can be so vivid and saturated that you can often be tricked into thinking they are light. One of the ways to make sure you have the light and dark correct is by using your phone. Take a picture of the objects in black and white and you will soon realise that a lot of these colours that we see as bright colours we automatically think are light but actually they can be quite dark. A great example of this is to take a photo of a lemon and an orange.
The other lesson on Wednesday was to decide on edges. Which ones should be blurred and which should be sharp. Our eyes think we see everything very sharply but actually there is a lot our eyes make up. As I’ve said before this is something that Singer Sargent does really well. I love soft edges.
This week has been a little difficult as Kea has been really unwell with a stomach bug. He has been off school all week poor thing feeling rotten. Luckily in-between looking after him I have had a chance to carrying on painting while he has watched films or slept.
I’ve been concentrating on a portrait I said I would do for someone. She is called Ruby. I had to do this portrait from a photo as I don’t actually know Ruby. I was given a selection of photos to do it from and the one I chose was this one.
I double checked with her mother if there were any of the photos she didn’t like so much or one that she preferred and she assured me that she liked all of them. I chose this particular pose because I felt out of all the photos this was where she looked the most natural. I got on with the job.
I finished most of it and decided to send a photo of what I had done so far to Ruby’s mother and sadly I got a response asking if I could paint the arm out. Sadly it isn’t quite as easy as ‘paint the arm out’ as this would totally change the lighting and shadows etc and it would mean making up half of her face which is never easy to do. I can understand what she means as I know she would like a clean portrait of her daughter, but then on the other hand I rather like the arm, giving it a much more relaxed feel. It is more unusual to have a portrait like this but I think it gives it something different, a contemporary felt . What do you think about it?
I can’t paint out the arm and will give her the painting tonight. I hear that Ruby likes it with the arm, I just hope her mother won’t be too disappointed.
Sargent is a hero of mine. I find his work inspirational, exciting and so beautiful. Most of the work I have seen are of his oil paintings and its mainly his portraits that really float my boat. However this last week I have been to see some of his watercolours at Dulwich Picture Gallery.
Yet again I was blown away by his work. He makes it all look so easy yet you know that if you have a go just how quickly you can muck it up. His use of colour is incredible and the simplicity to the work was stunning, so effective. His work really shows you how important it is to remember that everything is a shape and that nothing is a line. His decision in what to define and what to loosen up is key to the work. One can be so tempted to define everything as our eyes tend to want to do that. This takes away the magic. When you see his work it makes you realise how much of what you see isn’t in detail and that you don’t need to see everything in so much detail, it is not important.
His composition is also very interesting. One has a habit of wanting to include everything but instead he chooses very small key areas of the subject which you can see here in the fountain that he did. The whole fountain is not included but that doesn’t matter, the cherubs are the beautiful part of the fountain – the rest is not so important. He also shows this with the background. It can be very easy to get caught up on the background of something you are painting, thinking that it is good to record everything. Here Sargent paints a really simple and washed out background because what he wants is for you to concentrate on the fountain. Painting in a really detailed background would just distract you from the main reason for the painting. This is what I really like about his portraits. Sargent is so clever at putting detail into the most important part of the portraits – the face. The rest of the portraits are so loosely done, with huge brush strokes giving the audience an impression. This really draws your eye into their faces just like you are really drawn into this fountain.
This exhibition is on at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. If you are near, I think its a great exhibition and a must see!
This week Christmas has come early. Its August and I have been continuing with my styling but this time on a Christmas theme. Its often the hottest time of year that I do the Christmas shoots for magazines which always feels a little daft. Yet again I was in a London house and this was the wreath that I did for the door.
The house was in some beautiful greys and so I wanted to compliment it using eucalyptus as the greenery with some classic roses and the soft pinks and greens of hydrangea. I really enjoy unusual wreaths and often like the use of vegetables or fruit in them. Artichoke can often be a good choice as the purple and the spikey leaves can compliment the softness of the flowers. Also pomegranate is a good idea as they are very much a Christmas fruit with a really lovely red colour and wonderful shape.
Be bold this Christmas and do something crazy. Its a fun time of year so its nice to reflect this in your wreath. Don’t be scared!
Look out for my styling and paintings in January’s issue of Homes and Garden (UK).
I have been sharing a room with my son for many years. There just didn’t seem to be much space. Thanks to a great bunk bed I have managed to move him out and so now have my own room – hooray! Time to re-decorate….
Kea wouldn’t let me get rid of his megaladon (shark) which he painting above the radiator so I had to find something that would work with it. I really liked the idea of wallpaper for something a little different. Once I had researched it all I was amazed at how expensive it was. I really wanted a fresh new look to my room which was also calming. I really liked the idea of mountains or a woodland scene and came to realise that I could easily paint one on my wall which would cost me next to nothing. People can be so scared of painting murals on walls but actually they are fun and can be easy to do as well as effective. I just used left over paint that I used in other rooms ages ago and either added some more white or some more black. I think the effect really works and I am chuffed with my new room which feels so calm. I have a way to go with the rest of it now but it feels like I am breathing in much fresher air.
My Backyard – oil on canvas board – 10’x12′ – £80
This week I have mainly been at home as poor Kea has been ill with tonsillitis. He has been feeling dreadful but is now on the mend. This has meant that I haven’t been out of the house.
I love the view from the back of my house from up in the loft and so I decided to have a go at painting it. Its the first time I’ve tried painting houses but I rather like the result. Its a little naive but I think it has some charm. I love the backs of the houses in London and all the different fun gardens you can look into. Luckily unlike most other houses in London my neighbours are quite far away. I love the colour of the bricks and the way the houses are higgledy piggledy. Its very easy to imagine Mary Poppins flying in for a cup of tea.