Hanzeclavecimbel progress

January 28, 2012

Classic rosette wreath around sound hole

The above photo is from a previous instrument painted in 2007 (made by H.van Gelder). The ‘rose’ is not yet added, the rose is a metal, usually gold-leafed, emblem of the particular instrument builder.

Because of the labour intensive nature of painting the harpsichord, I’ve not had the time/energy to blog. But I’ve got everything set up and am painting now, so there is a moment to touch in.

The above photo shows a fairly classical treatment of the rosette wreath around the sound- hole of these 17th century Flemish harpsichords.

Johan, my client (and new friend), wanted a slightly different take on it. Indeed, the whole harpsichord is shaping up to be firmly rooted in the best tradition, yet entirely of this age as well.

As I mentioned before, there are at least 3 of us directly involved with the hands-on birthing this instrument (plus there are many more supporters of this project behiind the scenes): Matthias Griewisch, the master builder/creator: Johan Hofmann, accomplished harpsichord player, musician, and teacher; and me, Sarah, the sound board decorator/flower factory.  And each one has their craft and input. The collaboration is fun and inspiring.  (Johan on left, Matthias on right).

Johan and Matthias in Matthias's workshop

As far as we (and music historians) know, this instrument has never been replicated before. It is a world premier and won’t be unveiled until the Peter de Groot music festival in Holland  this July. It has some surprising, unconvenitonal details, so I can only give you tantalizing glimpses of the work process.

Where this is all leading to is that the rosette wreath is done. On this instrument it is flowerless. Johan chose for bay leaf and ivy. Here it is,  Compare it to the one above, it has a whole different feel.

Rosette wreath around the Hanzeclavecimbel

Photos of harpsichords by Rende Zoutewelle. Photo in workshop, Bert Kiewiet

Working methods

January 12, 2012

One of the ladies from decoartuk asked me about my working methods, here is a reply:

Thanks for asking, none of my working methods are secret. Short answer, brushes, no palette knives.
Long answer: the latest painting is done like this (on canvas board):
  1. I coat the whole board very quickly with various acrylic colours thinned out with matte medium so they go on transparent.
  2. Working fast, I scratch in a trial layout (with a wooden saté stick-  like a long toothpick) of the bottles, then to not get too attached to it and to provide some scratchy background I turn the canvas board 90 degrees and scratch in another design perpendicular to the first one.
  3. Then I start wiping teh paint out of the areas that will be highights with tissue paper or a rag. Sometimes I use a damp brush. The acrylic is partly dry by now so it is interesting which parts come away, creating weird highlights and unexpected textures.
  4. At this point I usually start working in very thin layers of oil paints.  But with the latest painting I added a bit of opaque white acrylic and colour and started putting on glazes because it doesn’t take long to dry and I can keep that crispness I like from the underpainting.

By the way, you’d mentioned that one thing holding you back from trying oils was the drying time. I thought about that as well, but once you start to work with them, you realize that it isn’t about putting on one layer and then waiting a couple of months for it to dry before you can paint further 🙂 . Rather you keep working into areas and building them up. And the way I am working, with thin layers (using Zest lemon oil medium to thin with) I can paint over things in a day or two.

Check out this video of Liam who visits here once in awhile. You can see how far you can come in a couple of sittings.

Underpainting in acrylic glazes

Looking at the feedback for my new oil painting series, friends have been consistent in liking the underpaintings best. And a recent comment here concerning acrylics and oils made me think again. The only reason I’ve been working in oils over these paintings is because that is what I set out to do. But I notice that these underpaintings have opened a new way of working with acrylics for me. And actually I like adding transparent glazes layer by layer without covering up the scratchy, irregular first layer. This one has two layers so far. I’m going to continue in acrylics for awhile and see what happens.

thanks folks.

Here's one on the easel

I’ve been working on some oil paintings. I start with a thin acrylic underpainting and my intention has been to try to keep the scratchy spontaneity of the underpainting as I work in thin layers of oils over it.

Jars and bottles recur as a theme in my work, but one particular inspiration has been a fellow awgrad member’s photo’s of her bottle collection. She took some especially for my reference (see easel above). So this series is called ‘sandi’s bottles’.

Below is the first one done.

sandi's bottles 1

Here is the underpainting for the second in the series:

Acrylic underpainting

And here is the almost finished painting I did over it:

Sandi's bottles 2

I was less satisfied with this one as far as keeping the nonchalant quality of the underpainting. It is getting a bit too concerned with copying the photos, and I wanted to avoid that.

One place it does succeed for me, though, is the lovely warm highlights against the cool glass.

Ex-shop and oil painting studio ready for harpsichord

In December 2010, Johan Hofmann a respected Dutch harpsichordist and teacher, contacted me about an exciting project. He was having a new instrument made by Matthias Griewisch. Griewisch is considered by some to be one of the best period instrument builders working today.  My part in this would be to paint the songboard full of flowers as is traditionally done with Flemish keyboard instruments from around the mid-1600’s. The image below is of an instrument made by Herwil van Gelder for Jan Dirk Immelman. I painted it in 2007.

harpsichord decoration

I am deeply honoured to be involved in this project. In August last year I went to Edinburgh’s Museum of old instruments, St Cecilia’s and studied the original, unrestored version of this rare double manual harpsichord.

Ruckers double manual harpsichord circa 1638 photo St Cecilia's-

Johan and I (and Matthias via Johan) have been brainstorming about this instrument for a year now- how it would look, what we wanted to keep from the tradition, what we could change to reflect the times we live in as well as Johan and Matthias’ aesthetic preferences. And of course my sense of how this would all influence the sound board decoration.

It has been a fun and exciting collaboration so far, punctuated by dinner out on the terrace here, a pastry-filled birthday meeting, and climaxing in Johan and friend Bert’s return from Germany yesterday and the delivery of the ‘case’. (The case is the upper body of the harpsichord containing the songboard- the strings and keyboard will be added later).

It is so beautiful. It is just so beautiful. (I’ve been listening a lot to Aerial by Kate Bush, these words should be heard as music, they are about 45 seconds into the video).

It/she/he already has a soul. Here is a picture of him/her under wraps, awaiting adornment with garlands, flowers and arabesques. This will take about 6-8 weeks.

More will be revealed later.

Under wraps

Thanks from ArtCalling

January 1, 2012


I like practical, connected, and meaningful art. I am excited and inspired by the arts in healing and community art.  For the last years I’ve been committed to finding alternative paths for myself and other artists so that we have choices outside the traditional ways of exhibiting and exploiting art. I have done a lot of thinking about right livelihood in relation to art, so will be airing some of those ideas here.
Over the years my thinking has been inspired by other artists, writers and friends, and I look forward to sharing some of those sources.

Dear friends, with the above words in march 2007, I started this blog.
Looking through the past 5 years’ posts I’ve stuck pretty much to the original intent.  The main themes have stayed roughly the same.

Through airing ideas here and the dialogue that has followed, ideas have developed and gained clarity. Especially those concerning new ways to think about art and; the challenges of art and market.

I’ve shared my oil pastels, older oil paintings, and new craft work. Have shared my dreams and goals, my ups and downs, and generally let a little slice of my life show here.

I want to thank all of you who have been popping in here from time to time and especially those who’ve taken the time to comment. My life has been enriched by your thoughtful remarks and the contact with like minded-souls as well as those with other views.

Alpha, Michael monocle, Thea, Rachel and Phil have been the most active commentors.  Thanks so much folks.

13,037 people visited in 2011. Most of you are from the states, with the UK and Holland close behind.

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Thank you.