Wednesday, 14 June 2017

shooting the breeze

battened down for day one
© Teresa Newham

Given that just five days previously torrential rain and gale force winds were lashing the country, I reckon we were pretty lucky with this year's Art on the Common.  True, there was a brisk wind - so brisk in fact that on the Saturday Sue, Hillary and I kept everything flat and our greetings cards in riffle boxes - but it was sunny and dry.


a Very Big Flag in the Carnival procession
© Teresa Newham

Situated as we were under the road sign by the A1081, we had an excellent view of the Carnival procession, and could hear everything going on at the sound stage outside the Public Halls.  Harpenden Light Operatic Society gave us a foretaste of their next show Sister Act and a rock band performed an eclectic mix of songs during the afternoon (Here's to You Mrs Robinson in the style of punk rock anyone?).


Serenaded by members of HLOS
© Teresa Newham

I was struck by the amount of people with dogs in tow until I remembered that the Carnival included a Dog Show. We saw all sorts - large, small and everything in between -  and so many of them appeared to be art lovers (well, perhaps not the one on the right).


doggy art lovers . . . or not
© Teresa Newham


By Sunday the breeze had died down a bit and we put on something more like our usual display, mixing up our pieces to encourage visitors to take a good look round, while we sat in the shade and relaxed.  We had spent the last twenty four hours putting up two gazebos and all our wares, taking everything down and putting it up again, after all . . .


new layout for day two
© Teresa Newham
We weren't the only ones. After the bustle of Saturday with the Carnival going on around us, everyone seemed keen to take things easy, lay out a picnic, chat to family, friends and visitors.  Even the dogs took a rest!



time to relax
© Teresa Newham




Monday, 29 May 2017

Geranium blues

blue geranium
original watercolour with watercolour pencil
Teresa Newham


It was my own fault.  Tempted outside by the hot weather, I spotted the blue geranium flowering brightly in its shady corner and decided there and then to make a watercolour sketch.  What with the dazzling bright sunlight and the colour drying on the paper faster  than I could apply it, it wasn't surprising that the result left a lot to be desired.  It would do, however, as the basis for a slightly bigger flower painting which, of course, was bound to be far more successful.  Wasn't it?


the geranium and the sketch from life
© Teresa Newham

Next day I set to work despite a stinking headache from the previous day's sun. Needless to say, things didn't go well and by the third day - when I didn't have a headache at all, just a stubborn determination to finish the dratted thing no matter how bad it looked - this painting was clearly destined for the bin.  Even a few scratched-in leaf veins once it was fully dry couldn't rescue it.


working up the bigger picture - or should that be over-working?
© Teresa Newham

And yet - I just couldn't let go.  There was a better painting underneath somewhere, and I found myself rinsing off all the excess colour under the tap.  I'd never tried that before, and it was cathartic; I taped the soggy sheet of 300gsm Bockingford crudely to a backing board and walked away.  By the following morning it had dried into something far more hopeful, and - just as importantly - completely flat.


all washed off!
© Teresa Newham

Some tonal contrast was called for, so I cautiously painted in some deeper green and waited for another twenty-four hours to give myself time to decide what else was required.  This turned out to be a little further definition with watercolour pencil - I stopped myself from doing anything more to it at all.


cautiously enhanced
© Teresa Newham

The finished piece looks best with a square mount, although it will also work as an A6 greetings card. You know what they say - you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.  But you can try . . .


trying out a mount
© Teresa Newham





Saturday, 13 May 2017

. . . and more bluebells!


bluebells
original linocut by Teresa Newham

I blame the weather, myself.  While the garden and the hedgerows were shivering in the chilly Spring, the bluebells were enjoying an extended season;  many were still in bloom at the start of May.  I just couldn't resist painting some more!

bluebells & white campion I
original watercolour by Teresa Newham

This time I chose to focus on the flowers themselves, rather than the woodland, and thought I would make a smaller watercolour for a change.  As things turned out, I couldn't decide on the format, so I ended up with two little pictures.


bluebells & white campion II
original watercolour by Teresa Newham

My final venture into bluebell-ness (this year!) was a linocut, which I sketched and cut before I realised I hadn't reversed the design.  I quickly cut a new design straight onto the block and printed it up in a hurry - the second print in a row which has turned out well when I don't over-think it.  There's a lesson there somewhere . . .


bluebell prints on the makeshift drying rack
© Teresa Newham



Saturday, 29 April 2017

bluebells . . .


Bluebell Wood
original watercolour by Teresa Newham

It's bluebell season once again! we've visited our local bluebell wood several times this year because it is truly spectacular.  There seem to be more bluebells than ever, and their subtle perfume is glorious.  It's ancient woodland and the atmosphere is very special.


I took loads of photos of bluebells and white campion
© Teresa Newham

The bluebells have been blooming alongside white campion and yellow archangel, and at the edge of the woods we've see signs of a badger sett.  My husband spotted a shrew; we've heard a pheasant screech and the call of a green woodpecker.  It's no surprise, then, that I've made another bluebell painting . . .


getting to grips with Bluebell Wood
© Teresa Newham


As I started to put my impressions down on paper, something took over; the painting I ended up producing is not the one I envisaged, but somehow it does convey the way I felt during those walks. That woodland must have made an even deeper impression on me than I thought.  I'm pretty sure there's more to say, though.  Somehow with bluebells there always is!


the finished painting - still more to be said?
© Teresa Newham






Thursday, 13 April 2017

Noli Me Tangere

Noli Me Tangere
linocut by Teresa Newham


For this year's Easter card I've turned again to John's Gospel (Ch 20 vv 1 - 18) and the image of Mary Magdalene encountering the risen Christ outside the tomb.   In her grief and distress at finding the tomb empty she mistakes Him for the gardener and begs Him desperately to tell her where the missing body is.  He replies "Mary" - calling her by name, as He does each one of us.

The moment when she recognises Him is pure joy; "Rabboni!" she cries ("Teacher!"), and reaches out  to embrace Him, as any of us would if a loved one had come back to life when we thought they were dead.  Many translations of the Bible render His reply  - the Latin  "Noli Me Tangere!" - as  "Don't touch me!" which seems strange, if not downright unfeeling.

A better translation from the original Greek, however, is "Don't cling on to (your old idea of) me", for having been resurrected, He is in his glorified body and has not yet ascended to the Father.  He is not the same as he was - indeed, nothing will ever be the same again.

Easter Blessings to you all!





Friday, 31 March 2017

Flowering Cherry


Flowering Cherry
watercolour & printmaking ink
© Teresa Newham

My neighbour's flowering cherry tree is a source of continual delight.  It provides shade in Summer, glorious colour in Autumn, and sculptural interest in Winter.  Birds shelter in it and squirrels climb it. And it heralds the arrival of Spring in a burst of pink blossom which lifts the spirits along with the lengthening days.


source photos & notes
© Teresa Newham

It seemed an ideal subject for another mixed media piece - the early leaves have a bronze cast perfectly suited to metallic printmaking ink - but it was only after I'd taken some photos and sketched out a possible design that it occurred to me I could use inks for the blossoms.


first stages
© Teresa Newham

I considered putting masking fluid on the branches but there were a lot of them and I didn't want to push my luck - so I painstakingly painted the negative spaces with a strong wash of Cerulean Blue.  I could have stopped right there and called it "White Tree" - I was tempted!


now it's getting interesting!
© Teresa Newham

I painted the trunk and branches with  Permanent Sap Green and Permanent Alizarin Crimson, at which point the tree took on an almost unearthly luminous glow.  The leaves were applied next, and finally the blossoms, which brought the whole thing to life.  Spring is definitely here!


the finished piece
© Teresa Newham







Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Mixing it up




Pussy Willow
watercolour & metallic printmaking ink
© Teresa Newham

I first noticed the contrast reflected in the television screen, of all things; the stems of pussy willow in the copper jug next to the fireplace were positively glowing against the red tablecloth behind them.  As I took some photos, the ideas were already forming for an experimental piece using just a couple of colours: include the pattern of the Turkish kelim on the floor and perhaps the flowered cushion, too?


source photos and initial layout
© Teresa Newham

I sketched out a design one morning while I was taking a turn stewarding at Gallery32, and soon realised that the vivid Quinacridrone Red background would be a lot easier to create behind those pussy willow stems if I masked them off.  Now, masking fluid and I don't usually get along - I've ruined more promising work than I care to remember while attempting to use it - but it occurred to me that I'd never tried it on the heavy Arches paper I've grown to love. So perhaps it was time to be brave . . .


masked - and unmasked!
© Teresa Newham

And it worked! So well, in fact, that I felt somewhat foolish that I hadn't thought to try it before.  Or perhaps I was just lucky.  Either way, I hadn't ruined an expensive piece of watercolour paper and I had in front of me exactly what I needed to progress.  I began to build up the painting with more of the red and some Burnt Umber, feeling my way into it as it's not in my usual style; it seemed appropriate to add texture to the rug and the pussy willow so I just carried on and hoped it would all work out!


making it up as I go along
© Teresa Newham

Finally I painted in the jug using Schminke copper printmaking ink mixed with pearliser, with some plain copper ink on top for good measure.  You can't see it in the photo, but that jug has a definite metallic glow.  And I'm already thinking about my next venture into the world of mixed media!!


the finished piece
© Teresa Newham






Monday, 27 February 2017

Lourdes sketchbook


Roofs & Windows, Lourdes
© Teresa Newham



This year I took my sketchbook to Lourdes more in hope than expectation.  Our itinerary, as ever, was packed; and art is not the priority, after all.  But Our Lady smiled on me;  on our last morning I found myself with a whole free hour before Mass - and the morning was mild and dry!


R. Gave looking towards the Domain, Lourdes
© Teresa Newham


The area around the Grotto was packed with pilgrims waiting for the next prayers, visiting the Grotto and the baths.  I made my way over a bridge to the far side of the River Gave, which is far more peaceful; some folk here were sitting in contemplation while others were on their way to light candles.  It was an ideal place to sketch quietly and take discreet photographs.


the Basilica and the Grotto, Lourdes
© Teresa Newham


Making my way back over the river I headed for the Domain, where pilgrims were scattered about chatting in groups or looking at the information board.  I was able to sketch people in turn while they stood reading it; for all that they look like a group in the drawing below, they came along at different times . . .


pilgrims near the notice board
© Teresa Newham



When I got home, I scanned and printed the black and white sketches and coloured up the printouts with Zig pens to see if colour would improve them.  To tell you the truth I'm still not sure!  What do you think?


Man on bench, Lourdes
© Teresa Newham











Monday, 13 February 2017

Mosaics and Mysteries


the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes
© Teresa Newham
The second week in February once again found a group from our parish in  Lourdes to celebrate the feast day of Our Lady. The Basilica of the Rosary, with its wonderful mosaic frontage, looked spectacular in the clear, cold, dry weather.

facade of the Basilica of the Rosary
© Teresa Newham
The mosaics on the front of the Basilica were added in 2007 to depict the recently-instituted Mysteries of Light, and glow with a life of their own; the mosaic work can be seen clearly in this section below:

mosaic of The Transfiguration
© Teresa Newham

Inside, fifteen chapels contain mosaics of the original Mysteries of the Rosary - the five Joyful Mysteries, the five Sorrowful Mysteries and the five Glorious Mysteries. Each chapel contains an altar as well as the mosaic, and provides a wonderful opportunity for contemplation and prayer.

chapels showing the mosaics of the Glorious Mysteries
© Teresa Newham
 The mosaics, designed by various European artists at the beginning of the 20th century and restored about ten years ago, are simply stunning.   The Annunciation, shown below, is one of my favourites:

the first Joyful Mystery - the Annunciation
© Teresa Newham

On either side of the Basilica are two enormous "arms" of arches, which seem to embrace the Domain beyond.   On the evening of the feast day, the pathways along the top of these arches were filled with people watching the torchlight procession - several thousand strong - as it made its way round the Domain, with candles held aloft everywhere as we prayed and sang:

the torchlight procession in front of the Basilica
© Teresa Newham

Ave, Ave, Ave Maria!

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Cravells Road

Cravells Road ~ pen & watercolour wash
by Teresa Newham

I can't remember the exact date.  But it was definitely January 1987 when I moved to the Southdown area of Harpenden, just a few days after passing my driving test (the thought of having to re-take it on a new set of roads concentrated my mind wonderfully . . . ).  Which means I have lived here now for thirty years!


source material ~ photos, sketches and layout
© Teresa Newham

What better way to mark the occasion, I thought, than by doing a painting of Cravells Road, where I first lived in Southdown?    As you drive over the brow of Piggotshill Lane opposite, the Victorian railway workers' cottages seem to cling to the side of the hill below the railway line in the most picturesque fashion, especially at dusk.


pencil undersketch
© Teresa Newham

I chose a more prosaic vantage point outside The Carpenters Arms, one of  six local pubs when I moved in, now sadly reduced to four.  The George IV, opposite, had a bad reputation in those days - it's since reverted to a private house - and round the corner the Rose & Crown is now a block of flats. At that time Harpenden, along with St Albans, boasted the highest proportion of pubs per head of population in the country!


the pen drawing
© Teresa Newham

These side-by-side georeferenced maps show Southdown (or Bowling Alley, as it was originally known) in the late 19th/early 20th century, with the cottages in Cravells Road clearly visible both below and above the railway bridge.  Not long after I moved in, somebody remarked to me (only partly in fun) that I was living on "the wrong side" of the railway.  Needless to say, I was delighted; and have lived on the wrong side of the tracks ever since . . .


choosing colours
© Teresa Newham

The day I moved in, I watched in fascinated horror as a man worked on the roof of the house opposite - I was convinced he would fall at any moment.  But not at all - it turned out that he was a fireman getting the place ready for his wedding, and well used to heights.  He even ate his sandwiches up there!


adding washes, little by little
© Teresa Newham

The day I moved out, I watched again in fascinated horror as a riderless white horse galloped down the road, having thrown its rider on the Common at the top.  The horse turned right at the roundabout at the foot of the hill without causing injury to itself or others, and was recaptured, appropriately enough, outside the bookies in Grove Road . . .


not quite finished
© Teresa Newham

In between there were a host of crazy happenings and great friendships made: and though I was only there a few years, Cravells Road holds a very special place in my heart.  I've tried to portray some of that affection and the quirkiness of the place in my painting - it's a long time since I've worked in such detail, and I enjoyed every minute of the making!


the magic of shadows!
© Teresa Newham