Friday, 15 September 2017

Welcome to Wensley Arts!

brushes and pencils arranged artfully on the studio windowsill
© Teresa Newham

#HertsOpenStudios has begun!  I can't quite believe that we are three sessions in already - this time last week my dining room was still a dining room, while my studio resembled the usual dumping ground for anything vaguely arty, including brochures and empty card racks and browsers.  I'd moved a few things around and arranged an eclectic mix of paintbrushes, pencils, plants and other bits and pieces on the studio windowsill, but that was pretty much it.

dining room and studio waiting to be transformed
© Teresa Newham

As Sue and I have done Open Studios here together twice now, we know beforehand how we're going to divide up the space and lay things out; it's just a question of actually doing it.  Which I finally got around to last Friday evening, having spent the afternoon finding temporary homes for a number of ornaments, a keyboard, three orchids and several chairs, amongst other things.

my work on display
© Teresa Newham

In this house, Open Studios isn't just about exhibiting art, or chatting to visitors, or offering cups of tea.  It's another enormous jigsaw - this time with pieces of furniture - or perhaps a treasure hunt would be a better analogy.  Where's the toolbox? in a kitchen cupboard.  Where's the wine rack? in the spare room. In my enthusiasm for creating space for art, I find new homes for things and then can't remember where I put them - last year two candle holders only saw the light of day again at Christmas.

Sue's work in the dining room
© Teresa Newham

Bit by bit, it comes flooding back - where to hide things, how to show things; where to dry off the soaking wet signage and bunting (well, we have had a lot of rain); which of our visitors prefer herbal tea or gluten free cake; who likes to chat and who likes to be left to browse.  I know that around 3.15pm every afternoon, Sue will declare that the watercolour she's been working on as a demo piece is only fit for the bin; by 5pm she thinks it might be viable after all; and by the time she arrives for the following session she'll be planning to mount and possibly frame it.

the living room is not usually this crowded. . .!
© Teresa Newham

Sue knows that I will be attempting to demonstrate some aspect of printmaking, and  I'll be making it up as I go along, convinced it could all go horribly wrong at any moment.  I rather enjoy experimenting during Open Studios, when most sensible artists will show the public something tried and tested and accomplished - and if things do go well I then have to find somewhere to dry the successful prints because of course my studio - where I'd normally dry them - is full of my exhibits.  So the prints go into the spare room along with everything else . . .

space for a demo on the dining room table
© Teresa Newham

There's been some lovely people through the door already - friends old and new, some regulars, some not.  We have three Saturdays and one Wednesday session left -  hope to see you here!

#HertsOpenStudios runs until 1st October - see the side panel of this blog for details of Wensley Arts and find the brochure here for details of other artists' opening times!

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Fun and games with mounts and frames

watercolours & mixed media ready for #HertsOpenStudios
© Teresa Newham

If it's August, it's time to get ready for #HertsOpenStudios - but this year it's been less than straightforward!  It started with the mounts. I checked, checked and checked again that I'd measured the apertures correctly - but some were out; and why did I ever think that waving a ruler in the general direction of a frame (or two) to determine the outer dimensions of the mount would be enough? It's fiddly to shave off that extra bit you don't need, especially if it's just 5mm each side; and if a mount is too short for the frame it simply won't work! Note to self: 16 x 12 inches is NOT the same as 40 x 30 cm, no matter what anyone says.

framing on the dining room table
© Teresa Newham

I took all this as a challenge and started problem-solving (problems entirely of my own making, you notice). As one of the frames I intended to use was now unsuitable, I looked for something else to unframe instead, wrapping it to sell as a mounted piece in the process. I tend not to throw undamaged mounts away - you never know when you might need to source a spare (see above).  At one point my work was popping in and out of mounts and frames like a huge game of musical chairs.

gotta love that tab driver!
© Teresa Newham

Talking of self-inflicted difficulties, can anyone tell me why I'd ever thought that mounting tape would be a substitute for professional backing tape?  Did you know that mounting tape is virtually impossible to get off the back of a frame without gumming up your fingers, scissors and any other implement you may be trying to scrape it off with?  Unfortunately this particular frame was the 16 x 12 inch mentioned earlier.  But I only found that out when I tried to insert the new mount . . .

framed prints & mini watercolours
© Teresa Newham

The fun continued when I took delivery of some frames from a popular home retailer: they arrived inadequately wrapped, half of them with the glass smashed, with nothing on the outside of the box to suggest the contents were fragile or contained glass. And when the store arranged to send replacements, only one turned up - but at least I got to talk to their lovely customer services team again. It was like chatting to old friends!

not what you want to see when you open the box!
© Teresa Newham

Another thing: is it just me, or is there an unspoken rule that the labels you print for the back of your picture will refuse to stick, curling at the edges prior to coming away completely, while unwanted labels already fixed to the back of a picture will remain firmly attached to it no matter how hard you try to remove them? Oh, and I recommend putting the correct name of the piece on said label, especially if that name is written on the front of the work. Doh!

a painting & some photos - something for everyone!
© Teresa Newham

Of course, it hasn't been all gloom and doom - I got to use my favourite studio gadget, the tab driver. Most of what I ordered has been fine, and I love seeing the work framed up - it gains an extra dimension somehow.   Now I have to decide how to display it all!

#HertsOpenStudios runs from 9th September - 1st October.  Take a look at the full brochure here on the HVA website.  I'll be sharing my studio again this year with Sue Wookey - full details on the side panel of this blog.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

A walk in the park

January frosts
© Teresa Newham

#HertsOpenStudios is less than four weeks away, and I should be in a frenzy of mounting and framing the various pieces I've made over the last twelve months, ready to exhibit.  Instead, I've been trawling through old photos and collating them for a piece I've called All the year round in Rothamsted Park.

Spring bulbs
© Teresa Newham

The idea began in September 2013, when I found myself wandering through the sun-dappled park at nine in the morning - a time when I would have normally been on the train to work.  Revelling in my newly-retired freedom, I began taking photos in the park whenever I had a spare few minutes.

trees in full Summer
© Teresa Newham

I soon discovered that the park has a regular rhythm of its own - as well as the changing seasons, the view is determined by the time of day - you can be elbow to elbow with joggers and dog walkers one minute, and disconcertingly all on your own the next - at least, it seems that way until the next person appears round the bend or at the top of the hill!

fallen leaves in Autumn
© Teresa Newham

Over the last few years, Rothamsted Park has been the source of several photos for the calendars I make as Christmas presents, various sketches, and one watercolour, which comes close to saying what I felt about the park that September morning without in any way excluding the possibility of making more paintings, perhaps of the park at a different time of year.

mysterious mist
© Teresa Newham

I've enjoyed putting together this montage of the park in all its glory all the year round, and I hope that visitors to my studio will enjoy it, too.  In the meantime, I have work to do.  I've just given myself something extra to frame, after all!

All the year round in Rothamsted Park
© Teresa Newham

#HertsOpenStudios runs from Saturday 9th September - Sunday 1st October 2017.  Full details of participating artists and studio opening times can be found here.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Art at the Accueil

Aime simplement avec un coeur universel et compatissant
- hospital stairwell at the Accueil St Frai
© Teresa Newham 

"Love simply with a universal and compassionate heart". These are the words which greet the visitor on entering the Accueil St Frai, the hospital which cares for pilgrims who need help while in Lourdes - the sick, the elderly and those with mobility problems. The stairwell, lit from above by a massive skylight, is hung with colourful stars and other cut-outs.

Holy Spirit image in the hallway at the Accueil St Frai
© Teresa Newham

It was a joy to find art displayed here - I was struck by this colourful, modern image portraying the Holy Spirit moving amongst hearts and flowers.  The St Frai is run by nuns, and each pilgrimage manages its own patients in the wing allocated to it.  The Westminster contingent included doctors, nurses and three teams of ward helpers.

Many hands make light work
© Teresa Newham

Pilgrimage is a full-on experience for even the fittest - there are Masses and other services to go to, visits to the Baths, the torchlight procession.  The patients knew how to pace themselves, deciding when to go out and when to rest.  One morning a banner was brought to our wing for those who had stayed behind to colour and decorate; some worked straight onto the cloth, others filled in paper templates of butterflies, birds and flowers which would be laminated and stuck on later.

Plenty of arts and crafts materials to assist the creation of the banner
© Teresa Newham

One of the patients had been a graphic artist, and coloured her flowers beautifully, outlining them with a fineliner for good measure, despite her arthritis.  It was wonderful to see everyone working together to produce this collaborative piece of art and craft; you could almost touch the sense of concentration round the table.  I added my contribution by colouring some berries and leaves . . .

Hospital patients and helpers colouring in
© Teresa Newham

The banner was paraded at the Grotto, where the Westminster Pilgrimage held its closing Mass.  The graphic artist in her wheelchair was positioned near the front, and I knew she would not be able to see the banner displayed to one side.  But Our Lady was with us - as we formed a queue to process through the Grotto we found ourselves right in front of it!

the finished banner on display at the Grotto
© Teresa Newham

Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee;
blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Small is beautiful

White Campion
linocut by Teresa Newham

For some time now I've been meaning to make some small prints using offcuts of lino from larger works.  Back in the Spring I was captivated by the white campion blooming alongside the bluebells in our local woods, and thought it might make a suitable subject:

at the woodland's edge
© Teresa Newham

I drafted out a design one Saturday morning when I was doing my monthly stint at Gallery32 in St Albans.  It's a great place for thinking about new ideas, what with all that contemporary art on the walls!

initial design
© Teresa Newham

As the design was a simple one, I decided to copy it straight onto the lino, without tracing it first.  And, as I like a challenge, I reversed the design while I was copying it . . .

straight to plate . . .
© Teresa Newham

The block looked pretty convincing once I'd finished the cut, so I was hopeful that it would print out the way I envisaged.  Now it was just a question of mixing a suitably Spring-like green.

. . . in reverse!
© Teresa Newham

The resulting edition of eight little prints, each measuring just 7cm x 15cm, is rather cute, and I shall get some of them mounted and framed.  Bigger isn't always better!

full edition
© Teresa Newham

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Summer sketching

statue and lavender
original pen sketch © Teresa Newham

Summer was a long time coming this year.  My sketchbooks show that I didn't venture outdoors to draw until early May, when I crept into the garden at the first sign of sunshine and made this little picture of a garden statue and some lavender. Because of the chilly Spring it was the end of May before I made the Acer drawing below!

new Acer
original pen sketch © Teresa Newham

I'd been encouraged to get to grips with regular sketching again after reading the book Sketching People, by Lynne Chapman.  Now, I realise the two black and white sketches above aren't actually OF people, but I was already putting some of her suggestions into practice: annotating, rather than just titling, sketchbook drawings to give a sense of time, place and memory; and bringing subjects forward by using a heavier line.

two women, Harpenden
original pen sketch © Teresa Newham

I did draw these women sitting by the fountain in Harpenden town centre - but it was lunchtime and quite busy.  True to form, they got up and walked off before I'd finished - and then continued chatting standing dangerously near me.  I dreaded the thought of one of them spotting my sketchbook . . .

queuing for ice cream
original pen sketch © Teresa Newham

I had to wait until a trip to Bournemouth before I found somewhere discreet to observe people.  We were seated at a bench in the Upper Gardens by an ice-cream kiosk, so I drew customers as they came up to make their purchases.  Everyone in the sketch above was actually leaning on the counter or standing right by it - I put them in a queue just for fun!

eating ice cream
original pen sketch © Teresa Newham

This worked so well I returned the next day and surreptitiously sketched a couple eating ice creams on the next bench.  Once again I only applied colour to the foreground, leaving the background black and white for context.  And I haven't coloured all the flesh, leaving some white parts to denote highlights (another tip from Lynne).  The flesh is my usual trademark orange Zig pen, by the way - the colour hasn't come out quite true on the scanner, although it probably looks more realistic . . .

Art on the Common 2017
original pen sketch © Teresa Newham

By the time Art on the Common came round I was quite happy to sit and draw whoever was sitting nearby - the boy and his father were way to the left of the group under the tree so this is actually two separate drawings.  It's been fun, and I'm hoping the weather picks up again soon so I can do some more!

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!

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