Saturday, June 30, 2007

Georgia O'Keeffe month: "O'Keeffe" by Britta Benke

Yet another Taschen art book to recommend to people! "O'Keeffe" by Britta Benke (subtitle Georgia O'Keeffe, 1887-1986, Flowers of the Desert) is a splendid and very informative book. It's also a complete bargain, being available for an amazing price whichever country you live in.

The book focuses on her life, her artistic career and the development of her artistic practice. It attempts to identify all those people and events which appear to have influenced her unique vision and practice.

I was particularly struck by how her work was both stimulated by notions derived by others from the art of other cultures and, at the same time, by contemporary notions shared by other artists in her circle. A number of them developed along similar paths although ultimately producing different work.

It also became clear while reading this book that, as suspected, the advent of photography and the scope for taking close-ups appears to have had an influence on her direction.

In brief, the book covers :
  • her early development including her abstracted charcoal drawings of organic and geometric forms. This highlights:
    • the impact of Arthur W Dow (as taught by Alon Bennet) and his argument for the adoption of simplified clear forms in order to bring out the essence of things and the importance of the relationship between light and dark - 'Notan'.
Keefe's interest was particularly aroused by Dow's emphasis upon the careful and balanced arrangement of all the elements in the composition - colour, form, line, volumes and space - in order to arrive at a harmonious overall design. (O'Keeffe page 10)
colour and form should no longer be indebted to outward appearances in nature, but rather to the feelings and 'inner world' of the artist (O'Keeffe page 10)
  • the circle of artists around Alfred Stieglitz, the photographer, gallery owner and her future husband, and his early influence of her career through exhibiting her work at his gallery. Stieglitz was always interested in photography as an art form and produced a photoraphic portrait of O'Keeffe over the years.
  • O'Keeffe became particularly attracted to the photographic work of both Stieglitz - who was increasingly emphasising the abstract quality of nature - and Paul Strand (1890- 1970) which she first saw in 1917.
Influenced by trends in Cubist painting, Strand photographed familiar objects very close up....the resulting effect of magnification dissolved the realistic forms into an almost abstract composition of geometric organizations (O'Keeffe page 23).
  • Magnification was something she has been experimenting with. As she explored magnification, it enabled her art to become separate from the conventional notions of what still life art should look like.
"It is surprising to me how many people separate the objective from the abstract. Objective painting is not good painting unless it is good in the abstract sense. A hill or a tree cannot make a good painting just because it is a hill or a tree. It is lines and colors put together so that they say something. For me that is the very basis of painting" Georgia O'Keeffe quote in 'O'Keeffe' page 28
  • a chapter devoted to flowers with some excellent colour plates of a few images of her flower paintings. She painted more than 200 flower paintings between 1918 and 1932.
In O'Keeffe's flower paintings....the entire canvas is usually filled by just one or two blooms. These are painted in extreme close-up, as a result of which the outer edges of the leave sand stems are often cut off.....The close-up angle permits a detailed examination of the individual structure of each bloom......O'Keeffe nade a number of these flowers the objects of a series of paintings, seeking to refine the motif in each fresh version. The series was a concept she pursued throughout her career and suggests a parralel with Japanese art, in which the same subject is treated again and again in new variations. from various angles and at different times of year. 'O'Keeffe pages 31-32)
  • two chapters focus on her life in the desert of New Mexico and her home, the landscapes and motifs associated with that place. What I was struck by is how often the geometric forms she finds most appealing (eg the triangle) are repeated in both landscapes and still lifes
  • late in life she began to travel widely and her art began to change - often reflecting the views she had seen from the aircraft in which she travelled
  • The book includes a very detailed timeline for her life and artistic career at the end.
I've included links below to the Taschen site and major Amazon sites but if you have access to a really good art book shop you should be able to find it there. What was rather irritating for me was that I'd already bought this given I was planning to do O'Keeffe and then managed to mislay it until nearly the end of O'Keeffe month - I need more bookshelves!

Looking forward - next month my focus is going to be on flower painting (after cacti and succulents proved to be a major distraction this month). I'll be highlighting a number of artists who paint flowers and I'll also be continuing to pick up on some of O'Keeffe's practices in this respect.....

...and finally, the last cacti is making an appearance tomorrow with the weekly round-up.


Friday, June 29, 2007

The Own Art Scheme: making art affordable

Tombstone Agave
30cm x 20cm,
coloured pencil on Arche HP

copyright Katherine Tyrrell
The Own Art scheme is designed to make it easy and affordable for everyone to buy contemporary works of art and craft including paintings, photography, sculpture, glassware and furniture. The Own Art Home Page
Have you ever heard of the Own Art Scheme?

The Arts Council set up this national art purchase scheme to:
  • enable people from all walks of life society to access and own original works of art - by having an affordable means of buying art
  • help artists to live by means of their own creative endeavour and output - by helping more people to buy their art
  • support galleries which sell high quality contemporrary art - and stimulate local and regional economies through promoting the small-scale gallery network in the regions – with a particular focus on supporting the tourist economy.
Helping to provide a sustainable income base for artists at all stages of their careers, supporting a breadth of practice and providing an economic stimulus for different regional economies are all laudable aims. So how does it work?

The Own Art plan makes art affordable and replaces the various regionally led schemes that were available previously. Essentially it's a loan scheme. Arts Council England runs the scheme through its trading company ArtCo Trading Ltd. HFC Bank Ltd, which is a subsidiary of HSBC, provides the credit.

Art buyers can borrow up to £2,000, or as little as £100, and pay back the loan in 10 monthly instalments - interest free*. The loan can cover the total purchase price or just be a contribution towards a more expensive piece. The only catch is that it has to involve the purchase of art from participating galleries.

If you're a contemporary artist then you might want to take a look at the galleries which have signed up to the scheme - you can find a list of those in England here. You can filter the information about the 159 participating galleries to identify those which operate in your region, town or exhibit the sort of artwork which interests you.

At the moment they're not accepting any new applications from galleries to the scheme. My only concern about the scheme would be the controls on which galleries get accepted and the impact, if any, on prices and commission.

Over 4,500 customers used the scheme between its launch and the date it was evaluated. You can read a copy of the evaluation report here (pdf file - published in March 2006) covering the first 18 months activity. This incoporates feedback from both customers and member galleries. It indicates that key findings were that
  • 29% of respondents to the customer survey where first time buyers of art or craft and
  • 98% of all respondents would use the scheme again.
In Wales, a scheme exists called the Principality Collector Plan - with around 80 participating galleries - and you can find out more about that here.

The Scottish Arts Council also has its own version of the Own Art Scheme - you can read more about this here.

The Scottish Arts Council has also published a guide - worth reading - on How to Buy Art (pdf file). It provides tips on:
  • how to get information about art
  • how to budget
  • where to find art
  • what to think about before you buy
  • some answers to frequently asked questions
  • what to ask about the art or the artist
  • information about limited editions
  • information about common media used in contemporary art
Guardian Umlimited and Own Art also run a microsite which helps people new to buying contemporary art to understand more about the process and places to look. Similarly the Arts Council Own Art site points to the Cultureshock Media handbook for people wanting to collect contemporary art.

Again, contemporary artists might want to take a look at the directions in which people are being pointed....


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Turner Watercolours with Hockney and Shirley

Castle in Middle Distance circa 1820
J.M.W. Turner
Gouache, pencil and watercolour on paper support: 501 x 390 mm on paper, unique
Bequeathed by the artist 1856
Tate Britain D17181 / Finberg number: CXCVI Q

There are two excellent new Turner exhibitions at Tate Britain - and part of one of them was curated by David Hockney.

On Tuesday this week I met up with Shirley (Paper and Threads) from New York who is on her last visit to London to see her daughter and family who return to the USA tomorrow. Shirley very much enjoys sketchbook drawing (do take a look at her blog - she has a wonderful sketchbook of places she has visited in London) and watercolours. We've visited different exhibitions and galleries in London on each of her visits in the last eight months - you can see links to all the blog posts about past trips below. It's rather appropriate that our this gallery trip should feature two motifs from previous trips - Hockney and the Tate.

We met up at Tate Britain so that we could visit two new Turner exhibitions. First the BP Summer Exhibition: Hockney on Turner Watercolours (11 June 2007 – 3 February 2008). I can't do better than use the gallery's own description of the exhibition (below) - which is simply stunning and well worth seeing in person if at all possible.
Dazzling, evocative and sublime, this exhibition provides a rare opportunity to see some of JMW Turner’s most spectacular works. Usually outnumbered by his grand oil paintings, around 150 of Turner’s beautiful watercolours are displayed, giving a comprehensive view of the artist’s astonishing use of watercolour, his techniques and his influences.

At the heart of the exhibition another seminal British artist, David Hockney, presents his own selection of Turner's unique colour studies or 'beginnings' and also provides commentary on the artist's techniques.

The exhibition tracks Turner's watercolour work through time. From architecture to topography, ideal and historic landscape to nature studies, and finished works to private sketches, the selection reveals Turner's extraordinary range as a watercolourist. At the same time, it shows the development of the virtuoso techniques that enabled him first to paint watercolours that could compete with oil paintings, and later to transform all aspects of his art by their example. (Tate Britain / BP Summer Exhibition - Hockney on Turner Watercolours)

What is particularly interesting is the quantity of colour studies on display - the works done by Turner in preparation for more finished works. I'm a huge advocate of making sketches and colour studies prior to developing a paintings and I love seeing exhibitions which display the artistic process.

For those of you who won't be able to visit, you can see the works selected by Hockney on on-line display here and all the works currently on display at the Tate here.

The second exhibition also focuses on the artistic process and is an interactive display in the Clore Gallery called Colour and Line: Turner's Experiments An (2 May 2007 – 30 April 2012. You've got lots of time to see this one!)

Discover how Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) revolutionised two different kinds of image-making: watercolour and print. Colour and Line: Turner's experiments is a two-room display featuring works on paper by Turner, with a variety of experiments and interactive displays exploring his working methods and techniques.....

See the changes in Turner’s watercolour palette as he travelled across Europe, responding to different light effects, and using newly-developed colours and paints. Find out how Turner worked, as well as trying some of his drawing techniques for yourself .
For those of you who won't be getting to London before 2012 you can actually see a lot of the latter exhibition for yourself online (see links below). I've included the links here as Turner is slated to be a Fine Line Artists 'artist of the month' later this year and I'll be referring back to this post at that time. Plus I'll be referring to them and studying them myself. That's when I'm not reading the three Turner books I bought!

Room 1:Room 2: these pages include some of the works from the different periods. Both Shirley and I decided we preferred his later watercolours which were much looser and more experimental.
For any watercolourist visiting London, I highly commend these two exhibitions to you. You'll learn more about what's possible with watercolour and be more stimulated by these two exhibitions than by almost anything else you see in London.

For those wanting to get stuck in to the links prior to Turner Month, there's lots to see in the Tate Britain links below plus they highlight where you can see a Turner - all over the world.....

....and for those of you who want to see what we did next, you need to visit Travels with a Sketchbook in......


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Sea Thistle blues

Sea Thistle
8" x 10", coloured pencils on Arches HP

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

More prickly plants!

I'm late posting today because BT had what my broadband provider was describing in a recorded message as a "major nationwide network outage". For nearly 12 hours. Normally I just go and do the washing up, put the laundry on, get the vacuum cleaner out etc - and by the time I've finished the network is back up and working again.

Not so this time. This time it went on....and on...and on. At the end of which I discovered that BT wholesale which sells network access to all the broadband suppliers does not deem it necessary to provide any information to the ultimate end user - such as how long the outage is expected to last.

I came up with an analogy for their behaviour. It's as if the Royal Mint forgets to supply any new notes or coins and there is not enough money in circulation. But they feel they don't need to explain what has happened or when the problem will be remedied. They leave it to the middle men to explain - the banks - or in the case of broadband, the broadband suppliers. It's all very silly. Pitiful even.

Anyway - it left me working on this drawing of Sea Thistle - for hours! I thought it was going to take ages - and I'm still not sure it's finished or I've got it the way I want it. I'd have liked to take longer over it......

Anyway - you'll just have to wait until tomorrow to find out what Shirley and I thought of the Turner exhibitions which we saw at the Tate yesterday!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Activities in London Galleries and Museums

Copying Poussin
pen and ink and coloured pencils

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

What do you do when you go to a large museum or art gallery? Just look at the pictures? Well, there's actually a lot of other sorts of activities going on in galleries.

First off, galleries are great places to meet people and I'm now quite used to arranging meetings or interviews in galleries - although these are generally art-related and are also generally in one of the eating/drinking/relaxing areas. Apparently I'm not alone - I attended a focus group at the National Portrait Gallery earlier this year. We were all Members of the NPG and virtually all of us used the gallery's facilities to meet up with people in our respective fields.

Last Thursday I was at the National Gallery meeting someone about a major project we're currently sizing and scoping. Afterwards I walked round the gallery and then sketched the activities I saw going on.

Drawing and Painting
There's lots of personal development and teaching that goes on in the Galleries too.

Photography or the use of a video camera is banned at the National Gallery (but not all museums - check first) however it is possible to sketch and/or copy paintings in the NG and some other galleries. Some of them (eg the NG and V&A) even provide sketching stools free! I sketched one woman who was copying a Poussin painting. Below are the instructions for people wanting to draw or paint in the National Gallery.
You can sketch throughout the Gallery. At busy times, we may ask you to move on. Please use a hand-held pad of paper with pencil, graphite stick or felt-tipped pens. Please do not use messy materials such as pastels, wax crayons, charcoal and fountain pens.

You may bring your own stool for sketching. We may ask you to move on if we feel you're in the way of other visitors.

Copyists who wish to use paint or other oil/water-based media can ask for an application form from the Information Department.

National Gallery Frequently Asked Questions
School Parties
I always seem to be almost tripping over school parties squatting or sprawled on the floor in galleries - you know how long the legs are of young people! ;). Last week, the class in the sketch below were having a full-on chemistry lesson about the nature of the pigments and the way in which they change over time as they become exposed to different things. Different elements which contribute to the different colours were identified and their action highlighted. Conservation and restoration processes were also explained. The quote from the chap explaining the detail of the restoration challenges and solution, which runs along the bottom of the picture, says
"The National Gallery probably employs more scientists than art historians"
The Chemistry Lesson
pen and ink and coloured pencil in A4 sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Education and Events
It's also worth checking the education sections of any gallery's website. They also list events (workshops, seminars, courses, gallery talks/trails etc) for various age groups and backgrounds. Some are associated with a specific exhibition while others are related to the nature and scope of the permanent collection. In London, some charge a fee and some are free.

Below are the education and events links for some of the most popular galleries and museums in London.
I'm also posting this entry in my Travels with a Sketchbook blog (so I can link it to my collection of London-related sketches) - so apologies to those of you who subscribe to both blogs.

Making A Mark in 2007 - the plan...and an update

Munstead Wood - Summer Garden
8" x 10", pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils in Moleskine sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I've been having a review of where I've got to with my plan for 2007 and this post is by way of signalling my intention as to themes for projects in the next few months.

Somehow or other cacti collared Georgia O'Keeffe month and I haven't done as many flowers as I intended. However, the output by the end of the month will be huge so it's having a positive effect on my objective of producing more botanical macro artwork in 2007 - even if they are mostly cacti!

I referred back to my original plan as to what I wanted to do this year and I've decided that I need to do more about following my plan to pursue flower macros and gardens themes which are very relevant to my existing body of work (see links at end). So my current plan is to focus my efforts in the next few months as follows:
  • July: focus on the theme of Flowers. This reverses the approach of previous months wheer the focus has been on individual artists. This time I was to extend my research and study various artists who draw/drew and paint/painted flowers. This will include on-line resources, resources in the art museums in London and visiting gardens to increase my stock of images (for the winter months). Some of the artists I have in mind at the moment are Georgia O'Keeffe (picking up from this month), Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Elizabeth Blackadder.
  • August: focus on gardens. This will work best if I'm doing it when it's possible for me to visit additional gardens which are only open one or two days each year - such as Munstead Wood yesterday. I'll adopt the same approach as for flowers and look at various artists who have drawn and painted gardens.
  • September / October: Monet This seems a logical progression since of course Monet painted gardens. My original plans were to focus on the following: broken colour, series paintings, approach to plein air painting, gardens, skies and water
I then want to fit in Turner (skies, water) and Degas (composition, series paintings, pastel techniques) before the end of the year.

People in the UK who want to follow the gardens theme this summer might want to take a look at the following sites:
  • the National Trust and its Garden Highlights Many of the NT properties also have extensive gardens.
  • the Royal Horticultural Society and the RHS gardens and the RHS garden finder
  • The National Gardens Scheme. The National Gardens Scheme Garden Finder enables a search of more than 3,000 gardens around the UK which open for charity. This last weekend I found the NGS website to be extraordinarily slow and very annoying - so much so that I ended up e-mailing NGS to tell them about it. It struck me very much as a site which has grown way beyond its server capacity or bandwidth availability for times when most people are doing searches as it was just getting stuck all the time. I had a very nice and very prompt response from the Chief Executive and hopefully the problem will be sorted soon. (Note - it's much faster this morning!) In the meantime - if you encounter similar problems I'd recommend either buying the Yellow Book and/or don't wait to do searches at times when it's likely to be busy - like the weekend!
The Pergola, Munstead Wood
8" x 10", pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils in Moleskine sketchbook

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

My sketches are from the visit I made yesterday (in the rain) to the garden at Munstead Wood in Surrey, the former home of Gertrude Jekyll and a pivotal focus of her collaboration with the architect Edwin Lutyens. Jekyll was a painter whose eyesight failed and she switched to painting in colour in her flower beds instead and became a much revered and very successful garden designer as a result. I'm going to be posting these images with a longer description of the visit plus some photos on Travels with a Sketchbook later today. [Update: now posted here]

I just wish it to be noted that I drew the top one and sketched in some colour one-handed whilst my other hand held an umbrella over me and the sketchbook! ;)

Links: My website - Pastels and Pencils

Sunday, June 24, 2007

24th June: Who made a mark this week?

Who forgot the sunblock?
8" x 8", coloured pencils on Arches HP
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Well the general consensus seems to be that this weekly 'round-up' post is a really good idea. This is the next instalment of my new weekly post that enables me to highlight a wide variety of websites and blog posts which have made their mark on me as it were and also to include things a bit outside my usual terms of reference - for example below you will find references to both quilting and sand sculptures!

I'll be playing catch up for quite a while with things which caught my eye in the recent past and sites which I've had on my 'to do' list for some time so not all of what follows belongs to last week.

And what do you mean - you didn't know you can have cacti that pink! I found these cacti outside the Cracker Barrel in Yuma, Arizona which is just off Interstate 8 (check the hybrid version of the map link) in July last year. We had stopped for brunch on the first day of the big road trip and these were right outside! It's another one for my new and rapidly expanding Plants and Cacti Gallery on my website.

Artists and Art Blogs
I find it pays to look outside one's comfort zone for visual stimulation.
  • I happened upon Lisa Call's blog - New Work and Inspiration this blog this week and saw some of the most satisfying abstract patterns I've seen in a long time as a result. Only then did I notice that she was blogging about contemporary quilts. She's also got a very informative squidoo lens about contemporary quilts.
  • Lessons in Art Appreciation is on hold as an active journal but nevertheless has a lot of entries worth reading in the archives - try clicking on a tag towards the bottom of this page. (Thanks to Casey for that one).
Art videos
I can see this becoming a regular feature of this round-up. Here's a couple I came across this week.
  • a number of people have tackled the challenge of setting images of Van Gogh paintings to the music of Don McLean's song 'Vincent'. I think Brendafohio's effort Starry Nights and Sunlit Days has got to be the one which maximises the number it's possible to see in the time permitted by the song. Many people aren't aware of some of the less well known paintings - I'd be interested to know what people think after watching this.
  • I visited the Velaquez exhibition at the National Gallery earlier this year but didn't come across the Waldemar Januszczak vodcast on the Velazquez exhibition at the National Gallery in London until this weel. Waldemar is the Sunday Times art critic.
Art Education: Websites, Books, Workshops, Tips and Techniques
I've been overwhelmed this week by posts in this area so you can expect some to turn up in future weeks. Leave a comment below if you'd like me to take a look at a blog post about a workshop you've done or want any tips about how to write one up.
While researching websites for Notan this week I came across a couple of very interesting websites
Business for ArtistsThis section includes anything techie to do with your website or blogging. This week I'm including a couple of posts from two of my regular reads.
  • Charley Parker has an excellent blog - Lines and Colors - which is one of my 'regular reads'.
    • He's also a professional web designer. He had a rant at the end of last month which really is a 'must read' even if it is somewhat barbed. So - for all those wondering about whether your website 'cuts the mustard' read How not to display your artwork on the Web........and the 108 comments!
  • Alyson Stansfield's excellent ArtBiz Blog had a recent blog post "Allow comments on your art blog" where she took issue with an article that recommends leaving comments off your blog until you've got established.
Two exhibitions in the open air this week (well it is summer!).
..........and finally the funnies
The Globe and Mail in Canada had an interesting story about canine art! Thanks to Gordon Leverton for that one.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Drawing a Head: 21st June 2007

Drawing a Head 21st June 2007
14" x 10" pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils on Lyndhurst cartridge paper
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Having done pen and ink drawings for the last couple of weeks I thought I'd try adding coloured pencil very much in the way I do when out sketching (as you can see in Travels with a Sketchbook).

Do you think I'm going through my 'blue period'? My excuse is she was backlit and wearing a lilac cardigan. I find it so much more rewarding to draw heads that have a full range of values. I can't think of anything more boring now than trying to draw a head which has 'full on' lighting and no shadows. I find I'm generally looking for no more than 10-20% highlights and about the same in deep shadow with the rest of the face having a lot of variation in the tonal values. I find I'm always drawing shapes and tones rather than features.

This took about 80 minutes as I skipped out of class early having had a very long day in central London in a meeting (about an exciting project!) and sketching in the National Gallery (of which more tomorrow). I did a full pen and ink drawing first - of the sort seen in previous weeks and then changed to the coloured pencils. Despite the apparent emphasis on blues and lilacs there's actually quite a lot of pale olive green in this. Click on the image to see a larger version which shows more of the detail.

The Lyndhurst paper loves this particular combination of media and I think I may need to get a smaller pad and try sketching with it when I want to do larger plein air sketches. The only problem with the pad is it has a soft back and I prefer not to have to carry a drawing board if I can help it.

For those new to this blog, you can see more drawings from previous classes in my website gallery devoted to Drawing People...and Artists.

Friday, June 22, 2007

A new owner for Wet Canvas

The reins have changed hands at the biggest global on-line art forum. F&W Publications have aquired Wet Canvas from Kerri Eustice. So what does this mean?

First some facts. The Wet Canvas Forum was founded by Scott Burkett in 1998.....
to help artists connect, collaborate, learn, get inspired, and sell their art over the Internet. (Welcome page - Wet Canvas)
Wet Canvas (WC) is one of the 100 largest bulletin boards on the net and boasts over 100,000 members although this number includes all those who've registered in the last 8+ years and many are no longer active. The announcement of the change is contained in A New Chapter for the WC Community and there's also a Meet and Greet thread.

F&W publications publish special interest books and magazines. Most of you will be familiar with some of their key brands such as
Their website indicates that their interactive media division is a growing and profitable area of their business - so the acquisition of WC must make complete business sense for them. Both the Pastel Journal and The Artists Magazine have recently started their own blogs ( see below for links - and, as an aside, I'm pleased to say that this blog was featured in the Pastel Journal blog's first post about other art blogs last week!)

Here's a link to a video of David Pyle, the Group Publisher setting out what it means from the F&W perspective, emphasising what he describes as a stewardship role and an initial focus on asking and listening. The page also links to an associated survey. Below is an extract of the text of their announcement - and another link to the survey seeking views. Three lucky respondents will receive a free subscription to The Artist's Magazine and a $100 gift certificate for North Light Books.
We are excited to share the news that WetCanvas! is now part of the F+W Publications family. WetCanvas! joins our Fine Art group which includes The Artist’s Magazine, Watercolor Magic, Pastel Journal, North Light Books, and the North Light Book Club. WetCanvas!, launched in 1998, quickly became the best-known site of its kind with a large, passionate community of more than 100,000 artists.

If you haven’t already, why not visit! now?

And if you are already a member of the WetCanvas! community, we’d be grateful if you’d take a minute or two to pass along your thoughts on what you love about WetCanvas! and what you’d do to improve it.

Please take our survey, now!

We will do all that we can to serve, support, and maintain the qualities that make WetCanvas! so compelling. We will also invest in the site, offering new content, events, and activities.

(F&W Publications)
I've completed the survey and it asks a lot of interesting questions. It suggests to me that there may well be a number of interesting new initatives in the pipeline. The interactive and video aspects look particularly interesting - speaking as somebody who already subscribes to both The Artist and The Pastel Journal and owns far more North Light books than I care to confess to!

The survey also wants to know our views beyond the questions asked - so what do I think?

I've been wondering about the future of Wet Canvas ever since the blogging explosion began. People continue to very much enjoy the community of artists aspect of WC and it is still an excellent starting point for many people who are new to art on the interent.

Here's what I think are some of the challenges that need to be considered by the new owners.

Traffic and participation - and the challenge of blogging

Although Wet Canvas continues to be active in overall terms, I think I've noticed the turnover of members increase in some areas. Statistical data about the number of active members is not well publicised but it must be much lower than the total number registered since typically between only 1,500 and 2,000 are online at any one time - although many of these freely confess that they stay on-line all day! It reminds me of the blogosphere where a vast proportion of people don't continue with their blogs after an initial taster. Nothing ununusal in that but it would be nice to look at the site stats in Google or Technorati currency terms (eg only counting links in the last six months).

In my opinion, some of the WC Forums have begun to look and feel a tad staid compared to the individuality and freedom offered by blogs. The blogging community is also very much peer driven rather than paternalistic (membership rules/moderated by others etc). Plus those who blog regularly and connect with some of the formal and informal blogging communities soon discover that there's an even bigger community of very active artistic bloggers out there.

A lot of WC members now have blogs and post on those on a regular basis AND on Wet Canvas AND also in other community blogs - and that's before taking account of any posting they also need to do on e-bay sites or other selling sites they also post on. My experience has been - and I believe this is shared by others - that once one has started to blog the tendency over time seems to be to switch more of your time and effort to your own individual blog. This inevitably tends to reduce input and exposure to Wet Canvas.

The nearest analogy to starting to blog is the buzz you get when leaving home for the first year at university. You start in a new place on your own and knowing nobody. Before you know it, you become part of a new community and end up going 'home' less and less. I know I've 'met' lots of really nice people through the medium of this blog (and theirs) and I've also very much enjoyed seeing some sorts of art which don't often surface on Wet Canvas. I now also get much more traffic for my art on this blog than ever happened on Wet Canvas.

I think the challenge for the new owners will be to recognise and cater for this new trend since it won't be possible to change it - growth in blogging and other similar sites is still explosive and exponential. Over and above the development of new initiatives not currently offered elsewhere in the Internet, I personally think that it might be interesting to explore the scope for the Wet Canvas site to host art-related (and free) blogs which would operate under the same membership rules as existing membership. It might be a really smart move.

Accessibility and ease of navigation - and a plethora of forums

Another challenge will relate to the number of forums which currently exist. So far as I am aware WC has "grown like topsy" and has never done much to rationalise its structure over the last 10 years. Would anybody design it "as is" if they started the site now? I don't think so!

According to Kerri's announcement
they have expressed to me their desire to keep all guides, moderators, and forums intact and to use their print publications and conferences to make WetCanvas! even better. A New Chapter for the WC Community
If I was taking over Wet Canvas, after a period of seeking views (complete the survey!) and getting to know the place, I'd be wanting to ask questions about whether the current forum structure actually maximises benefits for members, sponsors, advertisers and the owner. It's always difficult getting an optimal balance for all the different interests but I'd have thought that some of the forums which have a seriously low level of activity need to be reviewed and rationalised. Certainly the gateway into the different forums could usefully take account of the very different levels of activity.

Some of the forums are incredibly active(eg the Watercolour, Drawing and Sketching and Glass Art Forums). However the level of activity in some of the other forums has slowed to snail's pace (eg Illustration, Composition and Design, Studio Paintings from Plein Air Reference) while others can fluctuate quite wildly in levels of activity on a seasonal or daily basis.

I've also observed very many individual art blogs around the blogosphere (and I'm talking 'ordinary' bloggers here) being much more active than some of the WC forums in terms of posting and comments.

The plethora of forums also, in my opinion, makes navigation difficult and probably means it is less rather than more likely that people explore the site as a whole to find the bits that interest them. Members (and Moderators) remark from time to time about discovering bits of WC only after being members for a long time! So for me, the writing is on the door - the time has come to rethink the structure of the forums to make its navigation simpler and content more accessible even if that may cause some pain in the short term.

For example, would it be a good idea to recognise the biggest area of art which generates the most revenue for artists (landscapes)? Might it be sensible to have a dedicated area which links under one roof the existing landscape forum, the plein air painters, the plein air hall of fame, the people producing studio paintings from plein air references, those painting from photographs in whatever medium, questions about composition and design relating to landscapes, lessons from the master landscape artists of the past plus all the relevant sponsor forums? It could be a real powerhouse forum and yet at the moment all these related areas of activity are fragmented across the site as a whole.

So - what do you think?
  • Is this change good news - or do you have concerns?
  • What do you like about WC and what do you dislike?
  • ....and what would like to think about changing if you were the new owner?
[Note: I should add at this stage that my comments on the change and the questions posed here are wholly independent of both WC and F&W - it's one of the delights of being a blogger!]


Paul Emsley wins BP Portrait Award

Paul Emsley has won the BP Portrait Award and £25,000 prize with his portrait of Michael Simpson (which was featured on this blog last week in this post "View the BP Portrait Award 2007 and Travel Award 2006 exhibitions"). Paul wins £25,000 and a commission, at the National Portrait Gallery Trustees' discretion, worth £4,000.

The painting is oil on board and measures 1370 x 1120 mm and was completed in five weeks.

In recent years Paul Emsley has also won the Silver Award for Works on Paper (Art London 2005); First Prize in the Singer & Friedlander Sunday Times Watercolour Exhibition (2002) and Third Prize in 2003 and 2001.

The other BP Portrait Award prizewinners are as follows:
  • Second Prizewinner: David Lawton receives £8,000 for his portrait of Stephen which is painted in oil on canvas panel and measures 270 x 200mm. This was by far the smallest of the four shortlisted and effectively captures a very still and intense expression. Lawton previously exhibited at the BP Portrait Award in 2000 (with a portrait of the same sitter) and has also won the Small Picture Award, Manchester Academy of Fine Arts (2003) and the RSBA Prize, Royal Birmingham Society of Artists (2004).
  • BP Young Artist Award 2007
    Zusana in Paris Studio
    1300 x 1100mm, acrylic on wooden board

    copyright Hynec Martinec, 
  • Third Prizewinner: Johan Andersson receives £6,000 for Tamara which is painted in oil on canvas and measures 1000 x 734mm.
The Young Artist Award
This is a new prize - awarded to an artist aged 18-30 (following the change in the submission rules) and the first prizewinner is the Czech painter Hynec Martinec for his portrait of his girlfriend Zusana in Paris Studio (see right). He receives £5,000.

BP Travel Award

The BP Travel Award, an annual prize which allows artists to expand their horizons, goes to two winners. For the first time in its 16-year history it is to e split between two artists:
  • Timothy Hyman: In the 1980s artist Timothy Hyman (b1946), became friendly with a close-knit group of Indian artists – most of them now in the sixties. A few weeks ago he returned to India briefly, after a gap of more than ten years, and he now plans to spend more time there to portray each of these artists, and to make a large commemorative group portrait.
  • Artist Gareth Reid(b1974) is going to travel around the coast of Denmark, visiting some of the hundreds of Scandinavian "vinterbaderklubs" (winterbathing clubs) in Jylland, Fyn and Sjaelland and to paint their members who, during the winter months regularly, of their own free will, swim in man-made ice holes.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Georgia O'Keeffe Month: who else is posting?

Prickly Pear Profile
7" x 5", coloured pencil on Arches HP
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I've been most remiss in not making any reference as yet to the other people who have been following Georgia O'Keeffe month but have now remedied this omission. Here's a list of blogs and blog posts stimulated by study of O'Keeffe's work and approach to art - and we're very international this month.

There also some other interesting links......and a real treat at the end.

Rose Welty - living in North Texas and blogging about Rose's Art Lines has really got into Georgia and the Notan studies
Robyn - an Australian lady living in Tuscany and blogging on "Have Dogs Will Travel"
Chuck Law - artist, part-time florist, ex-floral designer and the man who knows everything about flowers - living in New Jersey and blogging on Chuck Law's Art Pages
Adam Cope - artist, painter, teacher, dreamer, living in France and blogging about Dordogne Painting Days
If I've missed anybody out or omitted a blog post please let me know and I'll include you in the next round-up.

In the meantime - here are a few more links (this time of blogs or from other blogs) to works by Georgia O'Keeffe

Thanks to the Dublin Community Blog for the link to the Irish Museum of Modern Art's exhibition of work by Georgia O'Keeffe earlier this year called "Nature and Abstraction". (I LOVE the painting of the yellow leaves - I had in mind to develop studies of leaves next - after I'd got the cacti out of my system!). The exhibition will travel to the Vancouver Art Gallery, Canada, from 6 October 2007 to 13 January 2008. For details of the catalogue publication see details at the end.

The Art Law Blog documents a major court case involving work by Georgia O'Keeffe.

Finally this is a link to a film posted by Kim Obrist on You Tube. It's a a film of 92 year old Georgia O'Keeffe talking about her life and her work at her home in New Mexico. The original source of the film is unclear (does anybody know where it comes from?) but I'd personally like to thank whoever made this film as it works better than any book at explaining some of her subjects and her paintings.


Jeanne Grant's blog is having a birthday

Grey green and pink in Yuma
7" x 5", coloured pencils on Arches HP
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Jeanne Grant makes me very proud.

Jeanne started sketching when I taught a sketching class on the Wet Canvas drawing and sketching forum - and she enjoyed it so much she hasn't ever really stopped since.

She now participates in sketchcrawls - even taking her granchildren with her on the first one - and has recently joined a plein air painting group and goes out with them on regular expeditions.

Today she celebrates the first anniversary of starting her blog and has written a piece about what she has achieved in the last year. She's been very kind about me in her blog generally and that post in particular. However I'm very clear in my own mind that Jeanne just needed to be shown the way in which sketching can improve your art - and everything after that has been down to her own constant wish to learn more and sheer determination and effort to see what she can achieve. Moreover she has really shown me how getting into sketching can change what you do and the way you live your life.

So anybody who values application, persistence and very real achievement in drawing and sketching, please go and celebrate Jeanne's blog birthday with her. You can visit her anniversary post here.

Jeanne lives in sunny Bakersfield in California so I hope she enjoys the cactus!

Note: I was greatly intrigued when travelling through the south western states last summer by how cacti act as sundials. This was one was outside the place in Yuma we stopped to have breakfast on the great road trip from San Diego to Albuquerque and back again.

Link: Jeanne Grant

Monday, June 18, 2007

Georgia O'Keeffe Month: Learning about Notan #3

Cactus #4
8" x 8", coloured pencil on Arches HP

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I've been finding it very difficult to reduce to just two value Notan. Although I understand the principles, it would appear my brain does not want to play!

Prior to my recent studies, my habit has been to test out the design of a composition and a crop either using a thumbnail sketch or PS Elements or both.

So, for example, in developing Cactus #4 (still awaiting a name!), I first of all developed a line drawing (see below for images of stages). The next stage was to develop the background leaving the cactus spikes undeveloped. This was supposed to be my equivalent of filling part of the design with one darker tone - but of course I started to develop it a bit by deepening some of the marks on the cactus!

It clearly indicated to me how much the introduction of colour can complicate design and makes me understand why Dow recommends focusing on two values and working in monochrome only to start with. If you look at my drawings of the head you'll see that in representative drawings I have no problem in working in mono and then hatching in lines to get tone.

I've also had problems reducing to just three values in the past and tend to want to blur edges between value shapes.

In developing Two White Irises (and three buds), I first of all developed a thumbnail sketch of the design (see left). This was meant to be a three value sketch but note the blurring........ The problem might be because I don't tend to do a thumbnail so much as use most of a sheet in my A5 sketchbook. Maybe I ought to try working smaller?

I'm going to say a bit more about Dow and three value notan later this week.

A new website gallery for Plants and Cacti.
I'm really rather excited about my cacti even though I know absolutely nothing at all about them - I just love the shapes, patterns and colours!

I've set up a new gallery on my website so they can all my cacti can be seen together. It's accessed via the 'Still Life' gallery and is called Plants and Cacti. I've also been rounding up all the cacti photos I took while travelling and sketching in the southwestern states of the USA last year. It's very exciting, I've got lots of good cacti shots and I find virtually all of them very stimulating - so this could be a big series!

I'd be really interested in what you think about how the four completed to date look together in the gallery.


Georgia O'Keeffe Month: Learning about Notan #2

"The Peacock Skirt", illustration by Aubrey Beardsley for Oscar Wilde's play Salomé (1892)

This post follows on from Learning about Notan #1. I thought I'd share something about what Dow has to say about Notan - the Japanese concept involving the placement of lights and darks next to the other to read as flat shapes on the two-dimensional surface - and harmony in two value designs and then how this can apply to compositions involving flowers.

Two value Notan
"Line melts into tone through the cluster of many lines. Direct study of tone-intervals begins with composition in two values - the simplest form of Notan" Arthur Wesley
Dow identifies Notan as a way of identifying visual harmony. Key learning points for appreciating two value Notan are:
  • start with avoiding representation at first. He recommends recommends checking out how simple black and white patterns are used in the decorative design of the world - and how they can found in the patterns used in tiles, textiles, (eg see Elizabethan coifs, lace and brocade quilts) wood inlay, inlaid boxes and inlaid instruments, fret work, page ornaments, seals and architecture (I immediately thought of Siena's Duomo and timber-framed buildings in England such as Little Moreton Hall)
  • focus first on ensuring that the line design works before beginning to darken certain shapes within the overall design with black
  • observe how each line design has the potential to generate several Notan arrangements (different arrangements of black and white). The arrangement which should be chosen is that which is most beautiful
  • note how a limited field of expression often stimulates greater inventive activity. An example he quotes is the artist Aubrey Beardsley who scarcely went beyond black on white - see the image at the top and more images here. (I've also included a couple of links below to a website about Beardsley with a lot more information and images and also Charley Parker's post about Beardsley).
Dow considers two value Notan at length - in relation to its application to textile patterns and rugs, gothic sculpture, Japanese design books and representation of the landscape.

Flowers and two value compositions

Katsushika HOKUSAI1760–1849
Peonies and butterfly c.1832
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

In relation to flowers and two value compositions, the focus is on setting the floral lines into a space in a fine way - and I finally begin to understand the impact of his book on the art of Georgia O'Keeffe. (This is also a quotation which is especially relevant to anybody who has ever struggled with backgrounds in drawings or paintings).
It is essential that space should be cut by the main line. A small spray in the middle of a large oblong, or disconnected groups of flowers cannot be called compositions; all the lines and areas must be related one to another by connections and placings, so as to form a beautiful whole. Not a picture of a flower is sought - that can be left to the botanist - but rather an irregular pattern of lines and spaces, something far beyond the mere drawing of a flower from nature, and laying an oblong over it and vice versa. Arthur Wesley Dow "Composition"
He provides an exercise for developing flower compositions. In essence this involves:
  • producing a fine line drawing of a flower with clear outlines
  • deciding the shape (eg a rectangle or square) which will provide the best shape for the overall composition
  • refinement of the line composition within the format of the shape
  • create further designs by painting areas of the design in black to produce opposing and intermingling masses of black and white
His examples highlight the crucial importance of cropping the image and the way in which cutting across a flower can produce a much more interesting picture than producing what might otherwise be called a vignette view or botanical art. I would love to show you the page of examples in the book and I'm looking for a website which illustrate his thought. Failing that I'll produce some notan 2 value drawings of flowers to show what he means!

[Updated to include the wonderful example of the Hokusai print - part of the National Gallery of Australia's Exhibition on Monet and Japan. This particular print was owned by Monet - part of his collection of over 200 prints.]