Paper houses

June 27, 2013

paper houses 1

paper houses          photo Rende Zoutewelle

I had the painting on the landing outside my studio, and when I cleaned up my drawing table, I put the little paper houses there temporarily for lack of a better place.

I kept passing this little composition enjoying how the painting and sculptures complemented each other, meaning to take a picture.

Evidently Rende had been thinking the same thing. I’m so glad he did it. His photo has all the poetry I’d imagined, and I doubt I would have been able to capture it as well as he has.

More about paper houses here.

yellow coffee pot oil on board

These two paintings were done recently, after a realistic series, to regain some of the freshness of my work in other media. I also kept as much of the scratchiness of the acrylic underpainting as  I could.

orange in blue bowl, oil on board

Right now I’m working on another painting of the lilies, it is much juicier and is moving in the general direction I want to go. It is quite rough when you look up close, but holds very well as a realistic painting from further away. And there is more attention paid to the paint surface rather than just trying to get the objects right.

After a long period of working quietly on my own projects,  my professional life is becoming active again. Here’s what’s up, and some of them will merit  a separate post later on:

  1. My book, Chocolate Rain will be published in German!
  2. I’m also in negotiation with a Dutch publisher about the Dutch language rights, and if it works out with them, the book will be out in Dutch as well. If not with the present one,  I really feel it is only a matter of time before some publisher here picks it up.
  3. John Killick’s wonderful new book is out, Playfulness and Dementia, a Practice Guide, Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
    I’ll be reviewing it here before too long.I have a chapter in it.
  4. I’ve been invited to take part in a symposium on art and dementia in Newcastle UK in November as one of 11 practising professionals in the field. This is sponsored by several organisations including National Association of Writers in Education, and  ArtWorks, a 3 year project on participatory arts in Britain.
  5. When I’m in England for the conference, I’ll be speaking to Susanne Burns,  the project director of ArtWorks, exploring ways I can work with participatory arts  here in Holland.
  6. Once in a blue moon I accept a straight up calligraphy commission, this is a diploma for my friend Brother Hugo who will be taking his vows as an officially certified religious recluse in the Roman Catholic church.
  7. In the works- restoration of a 100 year old sundial in a heritage garden here locally. Another lettering job in collaboration with colleague, painter Ties de Vries.

Meanwhile  I have a nice full group of oil pastel and drawing students here at home once a week.
One unfulfilled wish of mine is a course space here, but for now the dining room and part of the living room will have to do.

Charcoal drawing on acrylic background

This is a really big guy- 50 x 70 cm (about 20″x 28″), the biggest painting I’ve yet attempted (aside from murals).

I don’t use a projector, so I did this drawing (from a photo of Rende’s) by drawing a grid on a low quality print of the photo and a corresponding grid on the painting ( you can just make out the central axis lines) , then transferred the shapes by eye.

Blocking in some of the first areas

I really enjoyed this stage of the painting, it felt free and sketchy, and the contours of the drawing are strong enough to hold it together.

Starting to take form

This was the result of about an hour’s session.

Interim result of painting sessions over several weeks

I could have perhaps stopped here. But what I loved about the original photo of Rende’s (we took all the bottles outside in full summer sunlight for a photo session), was the watery, sunshot quality of all the glass together and their reflections bouncing off each other and the surface they were on. So I wanted to work with it until it contained more of that liquidy light.

A final stage, lots more lights brought up

I thought I was done, but when I looked at it this morning there were still a couple of things I wanted to tweak.

Sunshots 1 Sarah’s bottle series

Done. What’s changed?

– more light added in the left hand jar, rim defined better
-whitish reflection in the middle of the glass in the foregound better defined
-on same glass, bent the blue reflection to follow the curve of the glass better (inside of glass, middle right toward the lower rim of the oval opening).
-highlight added to lefthand dark part of green bottle
-extended black line on left through back of reddish purple bottle

Well one could go on tweaking forever, but there is nothing more that I feel I have to correct or adjust, which is usually the best way to find out if a painting is finished. Don’t forget this is big, the bottles are all about 1 1/2 times life-size, the enlargement gives it an extra impact.

A friend asked if I just copied R’s photo’s literally. The answer is not exactly. I choose the photo because it inspires me at some level, it has a quality I wish I could paint. There is longing there an a feeling of excitement and challenge. In this case it was the wonderful clarity of the reflected light. I wanted to see if I could let opaque oil colours shine in a similar way to the glass.  Rende feels so far, that the paintings really go beyond the photos, and I think this is true. They expand on a quality already there as well as adding their own. I’m not a fan of working from photos usually, but that seems to be the flow I’m in right now and there is a lot to discover.

Dirty painting

May 21, 2012

This morning, to experiment with applying paint thicker, and to jolt myself out of the perfectionistic path I was travelling, I decided to copy a Morandi. The composition is straightforward as is the matter of fact application of paint.
(There is nothing wrong with my previous series, I’m satisfied with it, but I miss the playfulness and abundant colour from my other oil pastel and mixed media work).

I mentioned in a previous post that the, ‘De Ploeg” paintings I’d seen at the Groninger Museum looked quite ‘dirty’, not in the smutty sense, :-)but literally full of bits of dirt and sand, and who knows – studio floor sweepings!?  And I loved the texture it added.

So when scraping off the remains of old paint from my palette, I decided to mix those in with the paint I’d use for the Morandi copy.

old oil paint shavings

I gave myself about an hour and used thick paint and large brushes, and I didn’t allow myself to correct and smooth. There are ‘mistakes’ but I loved working this way.

Copying Morandi’s composition and subject

And here is a close-up of the painting surface with all the bits of old paint mixed in.

Detail of surface of painting

Bead feed

May 18, 2012

When I’m at ease, free of deadlines,  then before too long, the craft supplies come out.

The annual bead and jewelry fair was in Groningen last weekend, I thought I held back fairly well.  In one stall, there were about 400 (!)colours of size 11 seed beads to choose from! Here is a portion of my purchases, filling in the pink, hot red colurways. And a beautiful range of sage greens, metallic and frosted forest greens, as well as some misty greys and pearls.

fun at the bead fair

And below is a part of my existing seed bead collection.

Mostly tending towards blues, purples and aubergines

And what do I do when I’m let loose on all these gorgeous materials? Below, Evelyn’s necklace in progress.

Multi-strand necklace in progress

My aunt wears a lot of beiges and pastels. My sense of the colours was an antique, cameo feeling, soft golds and ochres, and shell purple and dusty pinks. I finished the multi-strand, then including some hand blown glass beads from Eastern Europe, made a separate strand to wear with it or separately.

Finished necklaces

Here below is my current project, inspired by bracelets I saw at the stall where I got my seed beads, for Dutch readers, Monique’s website is definitely worth a visit. I purchased the directions from her, I”ve never done this particular type of beadwork before and am enjoying the meditative work of threading this (late) mother’s day gift for my mother-in-law.

Some of the bracelets on display were fairly bling bling qua colour, I chose smokey blues, greys and irridescent blacks instead.

Tanny’s bracelet in progress


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Photos of the museum by Rende. Other photo credits: de Ploeg paintings – Groninger Museum. Fashion photos- site of Iris van Herpen

I spent yesterday morning in the Groningen Museum.  It is an edgy, internationally acclaimed building and collection. It is very competitively positioned and run as a status symbol for this northern city, which is considered inferior by the culture gurus in Amsterdam. Maybe that is why most of the exhibitions, chosen for the wrong reasons (commercial and status)  in my mind, rarely speak to me.

But Thursday, I went especially to see the Jan Altink paintings, he is a member of the ‘Ploeg’ which was mentioned in a previous post.

While there I also saw two other featured shows, both having to do with fashion. I wouldn’t have normally gone out of my way to see these, but they were both inspiring. This vimeo of  the opening of the Azzedine Alaia show gives an impression of this fashion artist’s mastery. He designs, cuts and sews each piece. The craftsmanship is to die for, and the details, materials, and ingeneious handling of materials were so inspiring.

The entry into this show was in a dimly lit room, showing off his black evening dresses on a round platform. You can see this in the above mentioned vimeo. They were all body hugging exquisitely feminine pieces in luxurious velvets and silks, shown on nearly invisible plexiglass forms, and draped impeccably.

The other show was of a young designer very much in the picture here and internationally, Iris van Herpen. Her work is more sculptural than wearable, in my opinion. I like it as art, it is fresh, and as exquisitely crafted as Alaia’s. She uses all kinds of materials and techniques from 3D printing to casting. She thinks alot about things and each collection is based on an issue that is up for her. It was impressive to see this work in real life.

Finally, I spent the rest of the time with the Altink paintings. Ate luch at the beautiful museum café overlooking the large canal, and went back for another hour to see a selection of the Ploeg collection.

The paintings are so messy!! Not just the tossed off strokes, but the surfaces! They look like they’d been dragged through the dirt, or at least as if the brushes with paint had. Close up all you could see was gritty colours, step back and there was a reasonably harmonious whole. Totally not my way of perceiving or working, but intriguing all the same.

Holland is kind of progressive in some areas. (The Dutch tend to think of themselves as very progressive, to some extent they are, but not as much as they would like to think. How progressive is a society that is cutting the art budgets to suicidal levels and at the same time elevating the sales tax on art from 6% to 19%, and in 2013 to 21%!!) later: as of July 2012, this has luckily been reversed. Praised be!

Anyway, there is a new feature in the museum I really like. You get a memory stick type thing on a key ring when you get your admission card. Every exhibition has selected works with an electronic box beside it. If you want to ‘collect’ that work, you just put the stick up to it and a little green led flashes on the box to show that piece has been added to your images. When you are ready to leave, you just go to a computer and send your collected images home via e-mail and turn in the stick.  You can see mine here . My collection starts with the dresses in the banner across the top of the page. Just click on each image to see a larger version.

Journey in paint

May 2, 2012

First stage, roughly indicating the colors

Almost there

A good stopping point

I’m fairly pleased with this result. One can go on endlessly refining, but for me it is a discipline to stop before that point.
It is acrylic, by the way, I wanted to work fast adding layers while the other oil painting I started was drying.

I like the looser brush strokes and thicker application of paint.  I’m pushing myself out of the familiar territory of just rendering because I love how some of the painters capture objects in a few thick strokes. When seen up close, they look purely abstract, and when you step back, wow- an onion (lemon, face, hand, etc).

What I worked on, among other things, between stage 2 (middle photo) and stage 3(above),  were the bottoms of the bulb shaped bottle on the left and the squarish one on the right.  I really liked the thick, painterly strokes on the right one.

When a painting is at a stage where it looks good, it is always a risk to continue developing it and risk ruining what you have. This is a constant decision process in painting, you’ve put down a spontaneous series of strokes you like, but when you change something in another area of the painting they no longer work. It is difficult to bring yourself to paint over these.

In this case, I decided to change the rest of the painting to accommodate the spontaneous strokes. 🙂

I’m now working on the oil painting I started a while back and let dry so I could work on it further. This one is getting exciting, new stuff happening, looking forward to showing new developments in the next few days.

Paintings in progress

April 26, 2012

Painting in progress

This painting is just being started. It is in acrylics and painted much more loosely than the previous ones- I’m getting closer to my goal of working as spontaneously in oils paint as I do in oil pastels.

Before this one, though, I started one in oils, it is going well, but I have to wait for it to dry before going further. That’s why I’m using acrylics on the one above.

I’ve got some tips for working with acrylics which might be useful, I’ll make a short post of those, (scroll down to the post below this one).

Here is a peek into the process of the oil one. By the way, these are, for me quite large- 50 x50cm or about 24″x 24″.

The study below is in acrylic and is only about 20c x 20cm, 8″x8″. I purposely limited my time working on it to about 25 minutes and didn’t correct or improve.

Study for painting, acrylic on board

Below is the underpainting in acrylic for the large format oil painting.

Acrylic underpainting

I wanted to catch the colors that still glow out of the bottles when their real colors are added.

Here is this one in progress:

Oil painting in progress

van Gogh still life taken by me standing in front of the original

No, sadly enough the above image is not my new still life. It is an early van Gogh.

I treated myself to a midweek excursion to a museum I’d wanted to visit for years, – the Kröller Müller  in the Veluwe area of Holland. It is a 3 hour train journey from up here in the north. I found a good hotel deal and took off on Thursday.

It is a lovely museum, if you are into museums. I don’t know what was wrong with me that day, but all the glass, white walls and modern art were oppressive. (Whereas in England and Scotland, the often historical buildings which house their art museums are magical just to enter.)

I went mainly for painting inspiration. I wanted to be taught by 19th and 20th century masters how to handle paint in a more spontaneous way. Well, the only moments of awe or magic I had were in front of the van Goghs.

Helene Kröller-Müller started collecting his paintings early on, and these less known works are just so beautiful. (Amazingly, this museum allows you to photograph the art as long as you don’t use flash. I think they just gave up the fight, how can they take everyone’s iPhones away?!).

So the photo above was made in front of a real van Gogh, the canvas bearing the marks of his hand and eye and heart. It was extremely moving to be in the presence of this work, it is so sensitive and full of love for the object, for life, for colors.

The way of working is delicate but strong, and the strokes, though stylized have not yet evolved to those whirling impasto strokes characteristic of his later work. I must say though, that some areas of some of the paintings were so thickly applied, they looked sculptural. This is completely alien to my way of working,  I really have to get my head around it before I can experiment with it myself.

Luckily I just signed up for a full day workshop on how to handle paint more spontaneously. I’m looking forward to loosening up!

Glass collection painted

March 24, 2012

Sarah's bottle collection,oil on canvas board

Inspired by friend sandi’s collection of glass bottles which I have been painting from photographs the last few months, I began browsing second-hand shops for my own bottles to paint.

They look lovely lined up in the sunny window sill in my studio. I tried photographing them because at this stage it is easier for me to work from photos, but my shots didn’t capture the incredibly beautiful transparent colors.

Enter Rende, the Real photographer, and voila.

photo by Rende Zoutewelle

Some of the bottles are from our kitchen, some from second hand shops. And the lovely amber bottle on the left (just a humble beer bottle) and the small flask with the black cap I found filled with dirt, buried in a field. They cleaned up nicely and are now two of my favorites.

Don’t you just love that jewel-like clear blue!

This was an interesting exercise for me because up until now I’ve not been inspired to paint any of my husband’s beautiful photos. My reasons being that he had already made all the aesthetic decisions and there wasn’t much for me, as a painter to add.

But in this case, it was my vision he photographed, and his expertise made it possible for me to then take it a step further as a painting.

I like the result, I’m still aiming for a less finished, more painterly look.  For me, the amber bottle at the far left comes the closest to that ideal.