Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Frou Frou

It's always harder for me to concentrate in summer, I love being out of doors, whether it's doing jobs in the garden or putting up the parasol and lazing about, reading and dosing. Relaxing in the back garden is one of my favourite things, despite the constant noise from the main road and neighbours.

Quiet is really an under appreciated luxury.

I haven't really made much progress on my drawing on my 2 free days (I had leave from my day job), even a chilly breezy day like today was too much temptation, and I spent a nice portion of it reading The Children's Book, which draws me deeper into its web.

A web of words, a web of lines.

My pen nibs have been getting on my nerves though. They keep clogging up, chewing up feathers of paper that block the flow of ink, or choking on ink that dries too quickly in the sticky warm air. It's one of those times I wish I could find some other way to work in ink, but nothing gives a crisp, sensitive line like a dip pen. Nothing else has that air of danger. (As the yellow streaks in this close-up illustrate - mistakes once made are there forever. I need to tone down the yellow gouache I've covered mine up with, hopefully it won't be so noticeable then)

Monday, 20 June 2011

Visiting and enjoying the garden

What a lovely day it's been today. I've spent most of it in the garden, painting the fence, reading, listening to the cricket, reading AS Byatt's scrupulouly written The Children's Book (it really paints the era so vividly it feels luxurious and intellectual at the same time) and fitting in a little work, and much needed relaxation.

I've been working on Frou Frou, but progress is so excrutiatingly slow, I'll save posting work in progress until there's something worth showing.

I made another quick sketch of my beloved poplar tree, which towers so luxuriously (favourite word of the moment, it's a good job I'm not playing Just A Minute) over the garden. It's been a constant presence throughout my life, along with its partner which Mum employed a bunch of cowboys to lop a couple of years ago. They ended up butchering it, I have to try not to think about it, because I get quite upset.

Anyway, here's my sketch.

And here's an even quicker sketch of washing on the line.

Yesterday G and I visited the lovely, tranquil Moors Meadow Garden, which has recently been voted Most Romantic Garden.

It's very much a personal garden, no shop and no tearoom (though I think a tearoom would attract more visitors), and a little Googling found this sad piece. I hope the garden doesn't close to the public, it's such a gentle, beautiful place and utterly, deliciously quiet.

Thursday, 16 June 2011


The last time I visited Walsall Art Gallery it was housed in an uninspiring building above the town's library. Today I visited the New Art Gallery (though it celebrated its tenth birthday last year) mainly to see the Samuel Palmer exhibition.

The gallery is showing its age a little, just some wear and tear here and there, but it's still a striking place, the solid building towering grandly over the slightly run down surroundings of Walsall town (though there are plenty of shops and coffee shops, Walsall isn't taking the recession lying down).

Samuel Palmer's tiny jewel like work worships and romanticises a rural world far removed from the industrial setting that surrounds it. His self-portrait is out of this world. Astonishingly lucidly real, stand in front of it and you look back across almost 200 years into the youthful, intense features of a young man with a life of inspiration and disappointment ahead of him. It's such a moving picture, technically superb. The splodges of what look like spilled water that scar the bottom right hand corner are so poignant. These marks make me think of the neglect that Samuel Palmer's work suffered in his own day, yet at the same time, these flaws in the perfection make the work fresh, utterly free from the confines of contemporaneous time. Flaws like these, like David Cox's freewheeling birds born of flaws in cheap paper, make us realise that art is made of the most fleeting impulses, and comes about through the most precarious of coincidences. True art is both enduring and fragile.

On rainy, grim Sunday just gone G and I went to see my 2 pictures in the RBSA Prize Exhibition. I enjoyed the exhibition, but was embarrassed by my pictures. I didn't think they deserved to hang there this year. Despite the fact that I'd been pleased with them both when they were in the safe cocoon of my box room studio.

Afterwards we went to the Ikon, another beautifully rendered building, modern architecture really does suit the art gallery. Cavernous, clean spaces are ideal to show all manner of artwork, and the light that modern architecture seems to love is ideal for illuminating works of art. The Birmingham artist John Salt is the opposite to Samuel Palmer in many ways - Palmer is a ruralist who's imagination flourished in the rural landscape of his youth, while Salt travelled to America to find his muse - the vanitas symbol of the abandoned car and run down trailer park. He produces immaculate paintings done in airbrush of these mostly unpeopled spaces. Ironically, the thing that I really loved in Salt's paintings however, are the things he has in common with Palmer - the treatment of light - light bleeding through the branches of an autumnal tree, or diffused in the wintry air of big open spaces. And like Palmer, Salt was a teacher. Unlike Samuel Palmer however, Salt has achieved success, he has seen his work praised and cherished, hung on the walls of galleries, his art has been deemed saleable and valuable in his lifetime. Something which Samuel Palmer did not experience.

A couple of sketches I've managed to do this week in the garden of our remaining Poplar tree (which I love) and our decrepit old shed (which I don't love).

I need to work from life more. Working from photographs constantly is making me lazy.

Thursday, 9 June 2011


...held me green and dying though I sang in my chains like the sea.

My very favourite quote from a poem (I think I might have quoted it before on this blog. It comes to me from time to time, like an old friend). I learned it when I was 17 (during A Level English Language) and gradually it's dawned on me that it really is true.

Very little progress on anything creative this week. In fact, I feel so uncreative I can barely breathe or feel worthy of breathing.

I began a new drawing last week, it's going to take time as it's pure pen and ink. Rather frustratingly my ink seems to have lost some of its potency, I don't know whether it's becoming diluted with the water I use to clean my pen as I draw. But it's very worrying as the dilution will of course affect the lightfastness of the finished drawing.

So even that which we strive to make permanent has written into it impernanancy.

Best that I just post work in progress and go.

I'm calling it Frou Frou.