Monday, April 30, 2007

Whistler and art for art's sake

Nocturne: Blue and Silver - Chelsea
James McNeil Whistler
Oil painting on wood
support: 502 x 608 mm frame: 685 x 825 x 45 mm

Bequeathed to the Tate Gallery, London by Miss Rachel and Miss Jean Alexander 1972

James McNeil Whistler is the artist of choice for the Fine Line Artists' Group Project in May
Art should be independent of all claptrap —should stand alone [...] and appeal to the artistic sense of eye or ear, without confounding this with emotions entirely foreign to it, as devotion, pity, love, patriotism and the like (Whistler)
Here's some links to kick off with:
Judging by the extent of the resources at the Freer Gallery I think we might be leaning on Maggie to pay a visit to the Freer Gallery.
The expatriate American artist James McNeill Whistler was born in Massachusetts, studied art in Paris from 1855 to 1859, and spent most of the rest of his life in London. As an art student,Whistler was strongly influenced by seventeenth-century Dutch and Spanish art, and by the realism of Gustave Courbet (1819–1877).

Whistler first achieved critical and commercial success as an etcher, producing meticulously drawn prints of working-class life in rural France and London. His earliest important oil paintings evidence Courbet's influence, featuring the commonplace subjects and vigorous brushwork characteristic of the older artist's work.........

Whistler's art changed dramatically in the 1860s. Influenced by Greek sculpture, Asian porcelain, and Japanese prints, he rejected the idea that the success of an art object could be measured by its accuracy as a representation or the effectiveness with which it told a story or suggested a moral. Instead, he became convinced that an art object was best understood as an autonomous creation to be valued only for the success with which it organized color and line into a formally satisfying and therefore beautiful whole. Abandoning the idea that paintings should create the illusion of pictorial depth, he developed the flatter, more purely decorative style for which he is best known...........(in the) early 1870s, when Whistler began to paint the moody night scenes and restrained portraits which made him famous. (Freer Gallery of Art)

I think that makes 4 artists out of 4 so far who've been influenced by the Japanese Prints which began to circulate in the late nineteenth century. Do you get the impression we're going to have to have a project about these too?

Exhibitions in which I've seen Whistler paintings include the 'Americans in Paris' exhibition at the National Gallery in February 2006 and the Turner, Whistler and Monet exhibition in the Grand Palais in Paris in October 2004 (on the left is the queue - it took us 35 minutes to reach the front of this). I remember being particularly struck by how many titles involved a colour.

Other resources I shall be using include:
  • the catalogue for the Turner, Whistler and Monet exhibition (Publisher: Tate Publishing (10 May 2004); ISBN-10: 1854375008; ISBN-13: 978-1854375001)
  • "Whistler's Venice" by Alastair Grieve - about his production of etchings, oils, pastels and drawings of the city of Venice. It contains much about his methods and techniques and is approach to being a topographical artist. (Published by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art by Yale University Press ISBN 0-300-08449-8)
I don't know where studying Whistler will take me - but I'm thinking that it's likely to focus on his drawing in pastels and pencils, his focus on colour and his paintings of the Thames.

As`with our previous projects, please feel free to join in if you'd like to. Just leave a comment on one of the Whistler posts in this blog or those of Maggie Stiefvater, Nicole Caulfield or Wendy Prior if you'd like to be included in the roll call of participants.

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In Memory......

"In Memory...."
10" x 8", coloured pencil on Strathmore Bristol Vellum

all text and images copyright Katherine Tyrrell

.....of innocence, lives lost needlessly, victims with no names and no memorials, security, feeling safe, clean air, forests, land, homes, trust, peace and all the other things tragically lost in our world.

A day of silence in the blogosphere has been proposed for today. The original proposal related to the victims of the Virginia Tech shooting. Tragic as that was, others felt that there were other bigger tragedies in the world. I can certainly think of any number of other events which have been much bigger tragedies and received much less press and TV coverage. It's all very sad.

Not everybody knows about the proposed day of silence and it's unlikely all blogs will be silent. The ones with the most links certainly aren't - I've checked.

Should people therefore feel as if they are disrespectful if they don't join in? I don't believe they should. At the same time I also support the notion that silence as a memorial is very powerful - when everybody joins in.

I'm not in any way opposed to bloggers contributing to a memorial - in fact I think it could be a very good idea. However I don't think it should be associated with one event or one date which has meaning for only some people. In my opinion, it that were to happen it can appear to disrespect others around the world and their own tragedies.

If this is a good idea then, in my opinion, it needs to be clearly about:
  • all victims and not just one set
  • all the people who have lost their lives needlessly
  • all those people with no other memorial
  • all the things we have lost which we should have valued more while we still had them.
It also needs to be about action and it also needs the support of those who are influential. Mighty oak trees grow from small acorns - maybe the proposal and the debate which has ensued will generate a force for good.

In the meantime - can I recommend you read two posts - one by somebody who is choosing to be silent today and another by somebody who is not - both for very good reasons.
  • Lorelle - a very powerful blog post about the power of silence as a memorial Silence is a Memorium - not a reason to stop blogging - very much a recommended read. Have you ever been moved by the power of silence?
  • Wendy - a thoughtful piece "In Memory" - about why we need to focus on changing the things we can, letting go of the things we can't and learning to understand the difference. Her response has been to create a new blog "Change Your World Today" to celebrate the positive things in people's lives and the postive energy which can be derived from focusing on the unsung heroes in our lives rather than those who conventionally get the memorials - those who go to war, those who protect us and those who are celebrated during our lifetime. Who do you know who needs to be remembered?
Thanks to Wendy for providing the stimulus for the start of this blog post.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Society of Botanical Artists - Flowers and Gardens Exhibition 2007

The annual Flowers and Gardens exhibition by the Society of Botanical Artists at Central Hall Westminster maintained its very high standard this year and reflected the Society's willingness to include a wide variety of approaches and media for the representation of botanical art including fruit, vegetables and fungi as well as flowers and gardens.

On display were 728 drawings and paintings, 11 Miniatures, and 26 sculptures. As last year, most of the artwork in the exhibition is executed in watercolour. Other media used included Pencil, Coloured Pencils (including watercolour pencils) Acrylics, Pastels, Ink, Oil, Lino Cut Prints and Gouache on black paper (Sally A Keir - very striking if rather unusual),

Prize winners are as follows:
  • The Joyce Cuming Presentation Award: "The Foxglove, Summer and Winter" Brigitte M Daniel SBA GM CBM 1997 ans 2006 (whose work on auriculas can be seen in a photo on my blog post about the RHS Winter Show here)
  • The St Cuthbert's Mill Award: "Dark Red Amaryllis" Christopher Ryland SBA - who provides courses at his studio in Sudbury, Suffolk (Runner Up: Marjorie Collins) I was struck how both winner and the runner up has produced very large works displaying very saturated colours covering the whole paper - but then this is an award by a company which would be keen to see artists demonstrating what can be achieved on paper.
  • The Margaret Granger Memorial Silver Bow: "Hippeastrum" (watercolour) Masumi Yamanaka SBA SGM - this combined a watercolour painting of two stalks and flowers with a pencil drawing of the bulb and roots
  • The Daler Rowney Choice Award: "Amanita Muscaria" Reinhild Raistrick SBA GM CBM2002 - who I had the pleasure of meeting and who teaches Botanical Art at the Cambridge University Botanic Garden - but beware courses get booked up fast and I think all 2007 courses are now fully booked.
  • Ling Design Greeting Cards Award: "Paeony 'Festive Maxima' " Elisabeth Sherras Clark AssocSBA ASBA SFP FCPGFS SM. Her "Rosa 'Heritage' " was the runner up for this award - together they make a nice pair in colour terms.
  • The President's Award for work in media other than watercolour: "Autumn Scrapbook" (Watercolour and collage) Jan Harbon AssocSBA SFP SGM CBM2006
(Note: GM means Gold Medal (RHS); CBM means Certificate of Botanical Merit)

In addition various artists were awarded a SBA Certificate of Botanical Merit for works which are strictly of botanical value with work being judged by an expert in the botanical field.

One of the things which struck me this year was how much thought some artists give to the composition and presentation of their work. Sue Vize (who is not a member) produced five very eye-catching pieces focused on seeds, pods, bulbs and nuts in pencil. Others chose less obvious botanical subjects such as the decaying leaves drawn very effectively by Carolyn Worby. I'd like to highlight the impeccable standard of the works on display. It's always very pleasing to see work which is well presented.

Orders were being taken for the new SBA book "The Botanical Palette" written by the Society President Margaret Stevens and to be published by Collins on 1st October 2007. This focuses on how to achieve the right colours and features 16 detailed step-by-step demonstrations, a number of helpful projects and a gallery of finished paintings. If this book is the same standard as Margaret Steven's previous book "The Art of Botanical Painting" then I predict that this will become a 'bible' as a reference source for botanical artists and students. Fans of botanical art may be interested in the image to the left - which becomes much larger if clicked and provides details about the book and order form.

Reinhild Raistrick's new book on African Violets was also available at the show.

The SBA website provides: Next year's Flowers and Gardens exhibition will be at Central Hall Westminster from April 18th to 27th 2008. The website provides information about how to become an Associate Member and how to exhibit.
Do note that the Annual Open Exhibition is as it states, open to non members. The Executive Secretary can be approached at the earliest opportunity for an exhibition information sheet and an entry schedule. Your request will be held until January when all schedules will be sent out. You may submit up to five works.
Note: The artwork on the front cover of the catalogue is "Three Strelitzias" by Susan Christopher-Coulson BA(Hons) SBA SFP GM CBM06. The work has been executed in coloured pencils andis for sale. Contact the SBA or the artist for further information.

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

10 Free Life Lessons on being a Professional Artist

My great friend Maggie Stiefvater has written yet another butt-kicking piece for all those people making excuses for why they're not more successful as professional artists.

Maggie is very successful - but then she does work very hard at it. Her most recent blog post contains 10 free life lessons for professional artists culled from her own experiences. You get the headlines below but you have to go here to get her explanation.
  1. Paint or draw every day
  2. Sketch everything everywhere
  3. Keep a huge inventory of all sizes
  4. Get yourself out there and I don't mean group shows
  5. Forget the idea that an artist paints what moves him/ her and paints when he/she is moved
  6. Professional artists look professional
  7. Get yourself a website
  8. Don't give up during the slow months
  9. Specialize
  10. Be Nice
"Cat with a Pearl Earring"
2.5" x 3.5" colored pencil on Bristol paper.
Copyright 2007 Maggie Stiefvater.
Click here to bid.


Maggie Stiefvater:
"Portraits with Character" - her online portfolio
"Greywaren Art" - her daily painting blog
Her e-bay store

Views from Rievaulx Terrace

View of the ruins of Rievaulx Abbey
11" x 11", pencil and coloured pencil in Daler Rowney A4 sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
"Everywhere peace, everywhere serenity, and a marvellous freedom from the tumult of the world."
St Aelred (1111-1167), the third abbot of Rievaulx Abbey
Rievaulx in Yorkshire has two major heritage sites - Rievaulx Terrace (looked after by the National Trust) and the ruins of Rievaulx Abbey (maintained by English Heritage) - the first Cistercian Abbey in the north of England, founded in 1132.

For more information about the sketches in this blog post visit Views from Rievaulx Terrace posted on my Travels with a sketchbook blog.

Rievaulx Terrace
11" x 16", pencil and coloured pencils in Daler Rowney A4 sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

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Friday, April 27, 2007

"One Mile from Home" finishes today!

The One Mile From Home Challenge
Walk a minimum of one mile from home. Record where you’ve been with a drawing, sculpture, photo or painting and then walk back. Every day for a year.
Today's the day. Walk three hundred and sixty five. For all of you who have been following Julie Oakley on her year long endeavour to walk "One Mile From Home" each day and sketch please note that today is the final day and the last walk - as Julie is moving on to a new project although not giving up on walks completely. At the time of writing Julie has not yet posted - but I'll be keeping an eye out for that final post. [Update - and here it is - complete with a painting of her home - plus an addendum]

Julie was was the winner, December 2006, of the "Get off your Blogging Bottom and Sketch Brass Plate" and has:
  • lost a stone and half in the last year of daily walking and sketching
  • refined her approach to 'what to take to sketch', and
  • acquired the perfect plein air accessory - the fishing waistcoat with lots of pockets for pens and pencils etc.
She's now planning a book which will record her endeavour much in the same way that Christopher Lambert did with 'Taking a line for a Walk'.

Kudos also to all the people who joined Julie in her endeavour, especially Alison and her bike of 5K Radius whose blog has given me a whole new insight into Canberra where my sis lives. Alison finishes her year on Tuesday - well done Alison!

Penny in South Australia (of With my boots and sketchbook ) still has two months to do and Hashi (of Hashiworks) in Los Angeles has committed to doing the year long walk and sketch routine over the next year - so good luck to her! I'm sure they'd love to have others along for the stroll if anybody is interested.

I miss the maps on Julie's blog - and I've included at the top of this post the very first map on Day 3 of One Mile from Home. I now feel as I know all the countryside around Julie's home of Sandridge. I feel like I should be driving up to Hertfordshire to cheer Julie over the winning line! I hope somebody's organised a suitable reward for all that commitment and diligence - in fair and foul weather - she deserves it!

Links to all the walking and sketching blogs:
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Drawing a Head class starts again

Drawing a Head 26th April 2007
pencil on HP (crop 10" x 7"), pastels on Frisk pastel board (crop 16" x 11")
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

My Drawing a Head class at the Prince's Drawing School started again last night for the summer term. This is the term when we get all the interesting lighting problems in the fourth floor studio - it can often be sunshine when we start and night when we finish. Which makes set-up difficult - with/without blinds and/or with/without overhead lights. We forgot - and I ended up at the end of the second session last night drawing almost in the dark then spent the third session correcting colours. I need to make sure I'm sitting near an overhead light next week.

The big news for the summer term, no doubt confirmed by that Private View on Wednesday, is that I need to practice using pastels for head studies as I haven't used them in class for a long time. So off I went to class with my Art Bin case with my travelling pastels.

I've posted both images I created. I did a pencil study for the first 45 minutes - that got me used to 'how to draw' this particular head so that when I started using pastels I'd already developed some knowledge of what relates to what etc. Although you wouldn't know to look at the pastel as the drawing is much more accurate in the pencil study. I then did a pastel study in 75 minutes (45 minutes + 30 minutes) - which was interesting. The study is very colourful - I'm hoping it will get a bit more subtle! A video podcast of the whole process would no doubt be fascinating - but I've not worked out how to do those yet!

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Portrait completed in 2 hours wins Ondaatje Prize

The £10,000 Ondaatje Prize for Portraiture and a Gold Medal has been awarded to Michael Reynolds RP for a portrait which took him precisely 125 minutes to execute. The announcement was made yesterday at the Private View for the Annual Exhibition for the Royal Society of Portrait Painters.

'Joan' is 17" x 13", painted in oil and was payment in kind to a model who had helped him with modelling for other paintings. The narrative accompanying the portrait in the catalogue says as follows...
We had agreed two hours for her portrait and when that time was up, I laid down my brushes. Joan assessed it and looked pleased but I was not content with the eyes. She said 'But we agreed on two hours.' I pleaded for not more than 5 minutes. She relented. In five minutes precisely, the eyes were re-painted to our mutual satisfaction.
I think if I were Joan I'd think I'd just got a very handsome reward for the modelling work!

The challenge of completing a portrait in two hours is one with which I'm familiar - except I do mine in pencil rather than oils. However it is amazing how creating a difficulty such as a constraint on time can enable artists to work both quickly and more assuredly on occasion. I'm not comparing myself to Michael Reynolds - who now has the distinction of being the only artist to have ever won the Ondaatje Prize twice - but I do think, in general, that less time and less 'thoughtful' deliberation sometimes means more instinctive drawing/painting and less fiddling.

It was strictly standing room only at the Private View at the Mall Galleries yesterday as we listened to Julian Fellowes open the exhibition and present the prizes. Those who know the galleries well will appreciate what I mean when I say that both West and East Galleries were absolutely packed out with artists, actual and potential clients, galleries, press and some of the celebrity subjects.

Prizes were awarded as follows:
  • The Ondaatje Prize for Portraiture awarded for the most distinguished portrait of the year - 'Joan' (oil, 17" x 13") by Michael Reynolds RP (previously won the Ondaatje Award in 2003 and was the inspiration and driving force behind the setting up of the Discerning Eye Competition)
  • The HSBC Investments Prize for the best portrait by an artist aged 35 years or under - 'Nina Cline' (acrylic, 37" x 23") by Emma Wesley (2005 winner of the De Lazlo Award)
  • The De Lazlo Foundation Award for the best portrait submitted by an artist aged 25 years or under - 'Inky' (oil on canvas, 63" x 47") by Patrick Bremer
  • The Prince's Drawing School Award for Portrait Drawing - 'Charlotte' by Saied Dai RP (who won the Ondaatje Prize last year)
  • The Changing Faces Prize for the portrait that is 'most powerful in the way that the subject communicates with the viewer beyond the canvas' - 'Sir Viv Richards' (oil, 72" x 72") by Brendan Kelly RP (previous winner of the De Lazlo ward in 2004 and the HSBC prize in 2005). You can see more of his work on his website
As ever I was interested in what John Ward CBE, 90 this year, was exhibiting by way of pastels on mid-toned Ingres paper. His works were displayed alongside an absolutely splendid portrait of Boris Johnson MP by Felicity Gill (which looks rather better in reality than it does on her website) . Despite Boris describing the experience as a privilege and "glorious ego massage", Ms Gill describes how it was quite difficult trying to pin him down at his offices at The Spectator.
"The sitting was constantly interrupted....eventually I resorted to getting him to climb out of a window onto a small roof where he sat, captive, in an old deckchair"
Such are the trials of a portrait painter! She also did a similar excellent job with her portrait of Joan Bakewell.

I'm sure that John Ward's oval painting in the middle of the sketch below (with half a Boris) is a nod in the direction of a self-portrait by (I think) a female artist of merit in art history, but can't remember which! Anybody got any ideas?

John Ward meets Boris Johnson at the Mall Galleries
8" x 10", pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils in moleskine sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Another artist who caught my eye with all three portraits exhibited was David Cobley RP, NEAC, RWA. All three made me stop and look more closely and "One man and his dog" was a hoot. Another really striking and amusing piece was Judith Barton's "Siblings in black hats".

It was also very pleasing to see so many portrait drawings in pencil, charcoal and sanguine. Lots of very accomplished work - both large and small - on show.

A couple of portraits seemed to have attracted attention from the press. Sergei Pavlenko's painting of the royal family gathering at Sandhurst is the first to include the Duchess of Cornwall in the picture. Michael Noakes RP is the only painter for whom the Pope has actually sat for a portrait and his study for the portrait of Pope Benedict, now hanging in the Vatican, is displayed at the exhibition. It's a portrait of a man of a good humour - I'm not sure whether it was the eyes or the mouth but something smiled back at me.

For those maybe interested in entering this competition/exhibition next year see this page on the RSPP website.

The exhibition runs until 13th May, entry £2.50, open between 10.00am and 5.00pm (except for the last day) and until 7pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

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Sutton Bank and "the finest view in Yorkshire"

The view from Sutton Bank
11.5" x 17", pencil and coloured pencil, double page spread in Daler Rowney A4 sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
"The finest view in Yorkshire" ('James Heriott')
This is the view from Sutton Bank which is a very steep escarpment separating the North York Moors from the Vale of York and the Vale of Mowbray which you can see in this sketch. The Pennines can be seen some 40 miles away in the very far distance. I had a lovely sunny day to do the sketch but the seat on which I sat to draw Hood Hill (or "one tree hill") and the vales was so exposed and 'breezy' that I was really glad I'd taken a layered approach to dressing for plein air sketching - all five of them! This sketch was a bit of challenge in terms of how many greens in the landscape and aerial perspective blues I could get with the coloured pencils I had with me.

Now if you'd like to hear more about the hill which kills caravans and HGVs which lies just below this, the lake with the odd name, the chalk horse, the iron age fort, North Yorks Moor, my car calamities and what James Herriott/Alf Wight has to do with all this - and how I found out about this particular view, you need to go and read the longer post on my other blog!

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Rill Garden at Wollerton Old Hall Garden in Shropshire

The Rill Garden, Wollerton Old Hall
11.5" x 17", pencil and coloured pencils
(double page in Daler Rowney A4 sketchbook)
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

This sketch is of the Rill Garden at Wollerton Old Hall Garden in Shropshire - a partner garden of the Royal Horticultural Society.

Wollerton Old Hall Garden is a real find. For me it's the nearest equivalent to Sissinghurst that I've ever come across in the north of England - and my mother and I are veteran garden visitors. Lots of small garden rooms - each with its own very distinctive personality. This is a link to the Wollerton Old Hall Garden website
Wollerton Old Hall Garden is a four acre plantsman's garden developed around a 16th Century house (not open) in rural Shropshire, England. Strong formal design has created many separate gardens each with its own character. It features intensive cultivation of perennials using planting combinations with an emphasis on colour and form, as well as many rare and unusual plants.
The longer post on 'Travels with a Sketchbook......" has some photos and more comments about both sketch and the garden.

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Travels with a sketchbook in......the north of England

The refectory windows at Fountains Abbey
pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils in daler Rowney A4 sketchbook

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I've started to post on my blog "Travels with a Sketchbook in....... " a series of plein air sketches that I did recently on my trip to the north of England. Over the next week or so I'll be posting sketches of:
  • The Rill Garden at Wollerton Old Hall Garden, near Market Drayton in Shropshire
  • The view from Sutton Bank - the finest view in Yorkshire according to 'James Herriot'
  • Fountains Abbey - part of a world heritage site in North Yorkshire
  • Views from Rievaulx Terrace, North Yorkshire
  • The ruins of the cistercian Abbey of Rievaulx, North Yorkshire
  • The centre of Helmsley in Ryedale, North Yorkshire
The sketches plus short versions of the text will also be posted on 'Making a Mark' - together with a link to the longer blog post on 'Travels with my Sketchbook' for those who'd like to know more about the location

I'll also update the summary post on both blogs with links to the main post about the sketch as I post them.

A link to the main summary post for the 'North of England' group of sketches is inserted into the "Travels with my sketchbook in...." section in the right hand column (this groups together all the summary posts for all the different places I've sketched). If you've not seen the series of sketches from my other trips before you might like to try checking them out (see below for links).

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