Tuesday, 13 March 2018

snowdrops & hellebores

Snowdrops & Hellebores
original watercolour by Teresa Newham

Snowdrops and hellebores are the first plants of the year to flower in my garden.  The hellebores start to push their way up by the end of January, reminding me to tidy away last year's foliage; the snowdrops - a relatively late variety - emerge in February.

source materials & initial sketches
© Teresa Newham

The snowdrops are particularly precious because I transplanted several clumps of them from my Dad's garden a few weeks after he died; they were flowering at the time of his funeral in early March. To me they are a sign of hope and a promise of better (and warmer) things to come.

laying out a design on Arches watercolour paper
© Teresa Newham

At one point our late winter weather was so inviting that I thought it might be possible (with the help of various layers and a pair of fingerless gloves) to venture outside and paint the flowers en plein air.  But then the snow came - several inches of it - and they disappeared completely from view . . .

basic washes of Transparent Yellow, Permanent Sap Green
and Cobalt Blue over masking fluid
© Teresa Newham

To my delight both reappeared again after the thaw; the hellebores in particular seemed to have gained a new lease of life, with so many stems branching up that I had to leave some out when deciding on the composition for the painting.

adding detail
© Teresa Newham

As ever, the final result says more about how I feel when I visit that part of the garden than any photograph could - the delicate snowdrops and the vigorous hellebores glowing as the days start to lengthen and the birdsong increases. Spring is coming!

the finished painting
© Teresa Newham

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Asters revisited

Asters (revisited)
original watercolour by Teresa Newham

Following the successful revamp of my Hyacinths painting, I turned my attention to Asters.  This is a favourite of mine, made as a demo at Open Studios a few years back, and I didn't want to alter it drastically; I wondered if simply remounting it would do:

trying the original version in a new mount
© Teresa Newham

I came to the conclusion that something more was needed.  The background looked distinctly wishy-washy and there was too much yellow; so I removed as much of the original colour as I could and strengthened the background with Permanent Sap Green and Permanent Alizarin.

playing with the background
© Teresa Newham

This worked well; I re-did the flowers with Permanent Alizarin, and they started to sing against the green.  The leaves and stems were going to need similar treatment.

bringing out the flowers
© Teresa Newham

The end result in the new mount looks subtly different to the original - so subtle that I sometimes have trouble telling photos of the two apart.  Which means I haven't ruined one of my favourite paintings!

the revamped painting
© Teresa Newham

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Lourdes in the light

view from the top of the Rosary Basilica towards the Domain
© Teresa Newham

It was wonderful to make the Parish Pilgrimage to Lourdes for Our Lady's feast day again!  The beautiful sunshine showed off the mosaics on the facade of the Rosary Basilica to their best advantage, and added a glow to the ones inside.

mosaics outside and inside the Rosary Basilica
© Teresa Newham

As we made our way from the Basilica towards the domain the trees were stark against the sky and dusted with snow, while flowers were already being left at the railings around Our Lady's statue, as thousands of pilgrims arrived from all over the world.

glorious views
© Teresa Newham

Along the steep path to the Upper Stations of the Cross there was a stunning view of the Pyrenees. Mistletoe crowded the branches of the trees above us, while in front and behind we could hear groups praying and singing in a multitude of languages.

the Crucifixion - one of the Upper Stations of the Cross
© Teresa Newham

The Stations themselves are large cast iron figures showing Jesus' path to his Crucifixion - the most dramatic sculpture of all, which was lit from behind by the setting sun.  We paused before each of the fifteen Stations in turn to make our own prayers.

© Teresa Newham

As the feast day drew nearer, more and more coachloads of pilgrims appeared, many with candles of various sizes, others with banners, flags and even a guitar.  The largest candles represent the prayers of a parish or a whole diocese.

pilgrims' candles at the Chapel of Light
© Teresa Newham

The candles were bound for the Chapel of Light - a collection of booths on the river bank opposite the Grotto. Pilgrims place their candles in one of the hundreds of candle holders with a prayer - for a loved one, a sick relative, a friend in distress.

pilgrims lining the river bank at the Grotto
© Teresa Newham

Perhaps because the feast day fell on a weekend, I have never seen such crowds at Lourdes before. As  I made my way through them I paused to add my own prayers at the Grotto to those of the thousands of people lining both banks of the river: Ave, Ave, Ave Maria!

the River Gave, looking towards the Domain
© Teresa Newham

Monday, 29 January 2018

what happens if . . . ?

Hyacinths II
original pen & wash by Teresa Newham

A number of mounted watercolours have been knocking around in my browser for a few years now, and are starting to look a bit tired.  What would happen, I wondered, if I tried to tart them up a bit?

Hyacinths I - before the makeover
© Teresa Newham

My least favourite is Hyacinths - the composition and colours have never felt quite right to me.  I thought perhaps a bit of cropping might be in order, but that wouldn't help with the colours . . .

selecting a crop
© Teresa Newham

I needed to practice on something, so I wetted the painting and carefully took off as much of the original colour as I could.  When it had dried, I mixed up strong washes of Transparent Yellow, Permanent Sap Green and Permanent Alizarin and threw caution to the winds.

have I gone too far?
© Teresa Newham

The result was intriguing - the green granulated wonderfully and a beautiful orange appeared as the Alizarin mixed with the yellow.  I painted the leaves with the green wash, added Cobalt Blue to a few of the flowers, and left the others as pale as possible.

leaves and flowers adjusted
© Teresa Newham

I'm pleased with the final result and keen to try again with a different painting.  I have specific ideas for revamping one or two others, so I'd better not let my enthusiasm run away with me!

cut down and mounted
© Teresa Newham

Friday, 12 January 2018

The Dawn of Time

The Dawn of Time
© Teresa Newham

For some months I've wanted to make another rock salt painting along the lines of Cosmos - something simple and tasteful in Raw Sienna and Cerulean Blue, perhaps with a touch of Cobalt Blue and some gold printmaking ink. I even had a name for it: The Dawn of Time.

the most difficult part - getting started!
© Teresa Newham

This week I gave it a go, using 300lb Arches watercolour paper.  I lobbed on a lot of water with a big brush, plenty of colour, and a great deal of salt.  Then I added some more water with a spray for good measure, and walked away to let everything dry off.

the first layer
© Teresa Newham

When I scraped off the salt the next day, I realised the Cerulean Blue didn't work on its own, but would add depth to any washes on top of it; so I added more water, more Cobalt Blue and so much salt I could almost taste it . . .

more Cobalt Blue and salt
© Teresa Newham

Once again I left the painting to thoroughly dry overnight.  When I prised off the second layer of salt - not an easy job, as it was clinging tenaciously to the paper - I realised a transparent green was needed. The only one to hand was Viridian, so I wetted the paper yet again, added colour, salt and spray, and stood the painting upright for a while to see what would happen.

Viridian enters the mix
© Teresa Newham

The following day I applied another, weaker Cobalt wash and did a lot of spraying and waving the whole thing about to get the final effect (no need for printmaking ink!). The original title, The Dawn of Time, is vague enough to mean almost anything.  So I kept it -  because I have no idea what this painting is about . . .

the final result
© Teresa Newham

Friday, 22 December 2017

glad tidings of great joy

glad tidings of great joy
© Teresa Newham

The idea of putting an angel on our 2017 Christmas card came to me early in the year, but I had no idea how it was going to work, or indeed what the angel would be doing.  It only really came together when I researched the wings.  This angel would be Gabriel - sweeping across the sky, blowing his trumpet for all he was worth!

For the title, I turned again to one of my favourite carols, While Shepherds Watched their Flocks by Night:

"Fear not," said he, for mighty dread 
Had seized their troubled mind, 
"Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind."

It's a reassuring message - the shepherds were no doubt terrified - and Gabriel makes it clear that this Good News is for everyone.  That's everyone, at every time -  as Catholics, we believe that Jesus is born anew in the human heart each Christmas, if we are prepared to receive Him.

That's some gift, isn't it?

Wishing your all peace and joy this Christmas, and a happy and blessed New Year.

Monday, 11 December 2017

. . . a creative space

original pen drawing © Teresa Newham

Looking back at my previous blog post about Gallery32, I realised how much I've benefitted from my monthly Saturday morning sessions there.  As with Open Studios, my time is completely given up to art, without any distractions apart from visitors - who are there to look at and discuss the art anyway!

ideas for mixed media and linocuts
original pencil sketches © Teresa Newham

I've tried to use that time creatively, and many of the pieces I produced this year were originally put together at Gallery32.  I usually have my A4 and A6 sketchbooks and some pens and pencils with me, and I access source photos on my phone.

drawing practice at Gallery32
original pen sketches © Teresa Newham

Being surrounded by so much contemporary art has encouraged me to try new things, such as incorporating metallic printmaking ink into some of my watercolours.  I even spent one happy morning laying out chalkboard designs for a wedding!

original sketches & designs
© Teresa Newham

There's always something new to see, both in the gallery itself and in Debbie's studio, which has given me the opportunity to practice my sketching.  And if I feel like doing nothing more enterprising than sitting with a coffee and an issue of Artists & Illustrators, why not? That's "art time" too!

artists' clutter
original pen sketch © Teresa Newham

Monday, 27 November 2017

One year on . . .

 Two of my bird monoprints displayed alongside printmaking by Susan Edwards,
acrylics by Clive Patterson, glass by Opal Seabrook, ceramics by Elspeth Keith.
© Teresa Newham

It's been a year since my first visit to Gallery32, the artists' co-operative situated above the Fleetville Vintage Emporium opposite the Rats Castle Pub in Hatfield Road, St Albans.   Last Saturday I went there for my regular shift at the gallery, and took some pieces along which I'm looking forward to seeing hung.

cards and smaller items by various artists
at the entrance to the Gallery
© Teresa Newham

A lot has changed in a year - there are glass cabinets containing jewellery and other small items at the entrance, and a wide variety of greetings cards in the rack - plenty to tempt the casual visitor as well as the more committed customer!

browser items by yours truly and Hillary Taylor, oils and monoprints by Debbie Knight
© Teresa Newham

There is even more art hung on the staircase now, and a few pictures are currently displayed on gridwall just inside the door of Debbie's studio, which itself gives people the opportunity to see an artist making something - even when she's not there, there is usually a work in progress to take a look at.

artwork by Debbie Knight and Susan Edwards,
ceramics by Elspeth Keith, glass by Opal Seabrook
© Teresa Newham

Alongside paintings, drawings and prints there are glass pieces and ceramics - truly something for everyone.  And if you enjoy looking through vintage items there are many, many stalls in the Emporium itself.  So if you're thinking of coming to take a look, I'd allow a little time . . . .

colourful stalls in the Fleetville Vintage Emporium
© Teresa Newham

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Highly Strung

Flowering Cherry displayed with some lively pieces
© Teresa Newham

As the annual Harpenden Arts Club exhibition drew near, I began to wonder if I had bitten off more than I  could chew.  Buoyed with enthusiasm after #HertsOpenStudios, I'd entered six framed works and four items for the browsers - now I had to ensure they were ready!

White Campion and other cool greens contrasting with yellows and oranges
© Teresa Newham

Two or three pieces needed to be strung with picture wire, for which I used framing clips attached to strong backing board specifically made for use with the clips.  This method is extremely effective but involves blood, sweat and occasionally tears - luckily the blood wiped off without leaving any traces behind . . . .

Green Frog alongside a variety of fauna
© Teresa Newham

My next challenge was how to get six framed artworks to the hand-in.  As I certainly couldn't carry them any distance all at once, I cheated and asked my artists' assistant (that's my husband, to those in the know) to come with me.

Cravells Road - part of an eclectic mix
© Teresa Newham

The hand-in process itself is always extremely efficient; given the sheer number of artists involved - nearly sixty - I had expected some delays; but we were in and out again quickly, with everything left in experienced hands for the hanging.  

Bluebelll Wood and other flora
© Teresa Newham

This apparently takes a whole day, and I'm not surprised - 260 pieces were curated into a wonderful exhibition.  Real care was taken to hang pictures together by theme and colour and the result was a vibrant display of local talent across all media.  Just fitting them all in must have taken some doing!

visitors enjoying the exhibition
© Teresa Newham

Once again there was a wide choice of greetings cards on sale, with some smart  new signage.  I did my stewarding at the card table and was delighted that so many people who came to look through the cards on their way in and out of the Record Fair in the hall next door took the opportunity to visit the exhibition itself.

some of the huge choice of greetings cards
© Teresa Newham

All in all it was a most successful weekend, and when Mr N and I returned to the Public Halls to collect my artwork I was delighted to find that I'd made some sales.  It was the icing on the cake!

Huge thanks to everyone at the Harpenden Arts Club for organising this year's exhibition.  Visit their website here for further information about the club and its activities.

my Bluebells linocut found a new home
© Teresa Newham