Thursday, August 30, 2007

BLOGGER ABORTS Gardens in Art: Arts and Crafts Gardens #2

Blogger has just malfunctioned and $%^&**!!! up in a major way and lost this post.

This post will be reinstated - but it will take some time as it contains lots of research, links and images

[Update: I've now heard that Blogger aborted somebody else's post today - so for those still to post, save as you go outside of Blogger and be careful. Mine aborted in the middle of some formatting changes]

Gardens in Art: Arts and Crafts Gardens #1

View of the garden at Hidcote Manor
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

There is one particular sort of garden which I particularly like and that is gardens associated with the Arts and Crafts heritage. I think it's because they are very much about the quality and integrity of the visual experience.

This blog post aims to summarise some of the features of these gardens - which one would expect to maybe see featured in any artwork associated with them.

Features of the Arts and Crafts Garden

This is a summary of the sorts of features associated with or found in the arts and crafts garden. I've used a variety of sources but Wendy Hitchmough's book, and the other websites cited in 'links' have been helpful.
  • The garden is the inspiration and canvas for design and visual art
  • Emergence of the artist/gardener; the owner is associated with the design and/or maintenance of the garden; gardening is seen as a pleasurable activity - particularly for women (for a modern equivalent - see this post by Laura on Laurelines)
  • Nature is a powerful force and forms the bedrock of national identity
  • Rejection of the styles of other countries and cultures in favour of features which are related to the local area and style of building
  • A determination for the whole family to live in harmony with nature - using the garden becomes part of the normal lifestyle
  • Open and dynamic relationship between houses and gardens
    • integration of house and garden in a symbiotic relationship. Design lines extend from the house into the garden and back again.
    • design features in the house are reflected in the garden and vice versa (eg at Mackintosh's home, the Hill House, there was a rule about what colour flowers could be used to match decorative features of specfic rooms)
    • the garden becomes an exterior room of the house
    • the garden itself may be separated into different rooms - sometimes following a sequence (eg Sissinghurst; Great Dixter)
    • clear architectural structures feature alongside natural/wild planting schemes - designed to show respect for nature and diminish the hard edges of buildings.
  • The garden celebrates nature and rejects artificiality and straight lines. Planting schemes aim for a 'natural' style (first advocated by William Robinson) or a cottage style and relate to the site and soil conditions, local identity, the changing seasons and how plants grow naturally. They are planted in drifts and are allowed to spill over hard edges. Plants are allowed to develop seed heads and self-sown plants are encouraged. The principles apply to gardens both large and small.
Design reforms reflected the changing social and political values of the age
Although the features identified above are specific to gardens, I thought that they also provide some scope for thought about how these principles might apply to other areas of the visual arts. What do you think?

Tomorrow I'll highlight some of the Arts and Crafts Gardens I've visited - and the images produced as a result - and the books I've read.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Six ways to get a more objective perspective - on artwork and beetroots

The Beet Parade
10" x 10", coloured pencils on Arches HP

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Why do I need to get more objective about beetroots?

First, because "The Beet Parade" is another one for the kitchen garden series I'm developing about vegetables. I think this one is finished but if anybody wants to suggest tweaks please pipe up - I've definitely got to that stage where I need a bit of objectivity. Such as in relation to whether or not a row of beetroots makes a good picture?

I've also been umming and erring on the ground/background for ages. I started off knowing what I was going to do, changed my mind half way through, then had another think and went back to the first plan - but with more trepidation - and some tweaks. Art can't always be a completely planned process - you have to be able to respond to a piece as it unfolds - sometimes it tells you what to do to finish it off properly.

(While I'm on the topic of drawing veggies - do take a look at a recent post in Richard Bell's Wild West Yorkshire Nature Diary - on the topic of a small single Veg. Bed - complete with drawings of his raised bed, carrots and spinach!)

Second, this post is about looking at some of the ways in which we can get a more objective perspective on our work.

People who just say nice things all the time (sometimes known as "kudos comments") might make us feel good but they don't always validate work or help the developmental process. A traditional way of getting an objective perspective has been to be a member of a small peer group of artists (traditionally operating offline) who would meet to discuss art matters and each other's work. Larger societies of artists can also be very helpful although some who have belonged to art societies dominated by one or two individuals may disagree! One problem is that lots of people are disinclined to say exactly what they think about a person's art in any form of public forum (online or off) or on blogs.

In my opinion, the development of our critical faculties and elimination of kudos comments is a very necessary part of anybody's artistic development. For that we need to have processes in place which help to provide objective input in a constructive and ideally well-informed way.

Six ways to get a more objective perspective about art

Here are six ways that I use to get more objective about artwork generally and my art in particular:
  • put a piece of art on my blog or a forum. It's always really interesting to hear people's perspectives on a piece - especially when you know something about an individual's own art. However, as highlighted above, due to comments being public there is always the concern that people try to find the positive but omit the negative; and/or
  • put artwork across the room within my eyesight but not necessarily in my eyeline. The general objective here is catch it unawares! As if I was seeing it for the first time in a gallery! Of course, this strategy is spoilt completely by the way I lean my head round the door in the morning, (having just woken up ie. post bathroom/pre dishing up cat breakfast stage) just to see if it really looks exactly the same as the night before or whether it has somehow metamorphosed into something so much better. Or to see if it has woken up too and is now speaking to me and telling me what to do. Always spoilt by my cats pointing out that I'm looking in the wrong direction and their cat bowls are behind me - and they're empty!!! A variation on this is to put something in a frame and hang it on the wall - it's amazing how different some pieces look when matted and framed; and/or
  • put artwork away or turn it to the wall. I do believe that whatever abilities we have in evaluating and assessing our own work sometimes desert us if we've been looking at one piece for too long. I find the acid test is to put the artwork away and then not look at it again for some weeks or months. I can then instantly see whether it is any good or not the next time I look at it - or how to fix the problem I couldn't even see. OK - so you win some and you lose some - but such is life! and/or
  • read and study objective assessments of the work of other artists that I'm familiar with or can see. It's one of the reasons why I find it very helpful to go to lectures, read books and visit websites and posts about other artists. Listening to or reading the views of a variety of people mean that I get to hear lots of different views - which can be both stimulating and, at times, confusing. However I do like knowing more about different perspectives and it does help me to develop my own critical faculties.
  • take workshops run by professional artists. I found this to be very helpful to start with and continue to value this very much when the workshop is delivered by somebody with good knowledge and judgement who can articulate what they see (which is not necessarily the same as liking my work!). However I do sometimes wish there were also more opportunities for groups of artists to get together for painting without tutors/with peer review; and/or
  • show my artwork to my Fine Line Artists cyberchums - On the whole, people are generally much happier to comment in private - especially when they know the person and their work and have seen its development over time. I know I value my (private) online art group very much. My chums are a fine bunch who come to the role of art critic with different backgrounds and from different perspectives. However they are not averse to saying (out of the public eye) exactly when, in their opinion, I've 'laid an egg'. Which means that I value when they say something is particularly good that much more! I know that both listening to more detailed views and needing to explain my views in more detail has helped me with assessing work. It's also made it easier to say "I like it but I don't know why!". I do recommend a private group of constructive chums who don't pull their punches in the art crit stakes as a very helpful adjunct to any process of development.
Do you seek an objective assessment of your work and, if so, how do go about getting the objectivity you seek? Do you do something I don't do that you'd like to share?

What do you think are the pros and cons of different approaches to getting a more objective perspective?

Note: This is another post in the Gardens in Art project and I'm listing other blog posts on 'Making A Mark' below.

Links to posts in the Making A Mark - Gardens in Art Project" (August 2007)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Gardens in Art: The Painter's Garden

The Painter's Garden
cover illustration: Paul Klee "Ohne Titel (vier Blumen)" Untitled (Four Flowers) ca. 1889
Zentrum paul Klee, Bern. On loan from a private collection

I have been delighting all month in reading - very slowly - "The Painter's Garden" a monumental catalogue of nearly 400 pages produced by Sabine Schulz and published by Hatje Cantz. I'd go so far as to say I've been enjoying it that much that I've been slowing down to avoid finishing it.

Artists featured (selection):

Max Beckmann, Joseph Beuys, Arnold Böcklin, Pierre Bonnard, Lovis Corinth, Camille Corot, Jacques-Louis David, Eugène Delacroix, Max Ernst, Fischli/Weiss, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Lucian Freud, Caspar David Friedrich, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Klee, Max Liebermann, August Macke, Édouard Manet, Henri Matisse, Claude Monet, Berthe Morisot, Edvard Munch, Emil Nolde, Camille Pissarro, Peter Paul Rubens , Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Thomas Struth, Antoine Watteau

The book has been produced in connection with an exhibition at the Staedel Museum in Frankfurt am Main in Germany called "The Painter's Garden - Design Inspiration Delight" (24 November 2006 to 11 March 2007). The text from the museum website expresses beautifully and far more succinctly than I could what the exhibition - and the book - is about. It gives a flavour of why I am so enjoying this book.

Gardens offer people protection, relaxation and inspiration. They are a place of retreat from the turmoil of everyday life, mirrors of the soul, a budding source of inspiration, and an inexhaustible store of ideas for new images. Over the course of the centuries, they have inspired artists to produce many masterpieces. This exhibition is devoted to the motif of the garden in fine art – spanning all epochs and genres – and presents its diverse portrayal with more than 200 exemplary works from internationally significant museums and collections.

The painted garden is as varied as its interpretations: the mediaeval garden of Paradise represents a magical sphere from which all evil remains excluded; Peter Paul Rubens gathers society groups at play in grandiose palace gardens; Jean-Antoine Watteau and Jean-Honoré Fragonard abduct the viewer into splendid gardens of love. The psychological interpretation of the garden began with the Enlightenment. Caspar David Friedrich sees himself as a mediator between man and nature, while Carl Spitzweg gives us an insight into small, bourgeois gardens. Finally, the studio windows of Adolf Menzel, Carl Blechen and Lovis Corinth no longer look out on small green refuges, but on narrow, neglected backyards - the first consequences of industrialisation

Impressionists such as Claude Monet laid out lushly planted, imaginative gardens in order to depict them in colourful images submerged in bright light. In the paintings of Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro and Eduard Manet, man and nature enter into a symbiotic relationship. But this close relationship may also be expressed in a different form, and Vincent van Gogh used the garden as a field of projection for his personal melancholy.

Foreign countries have always attracted artists and scientists to the same extent. Humboldt’s expeditions brought a wealth of plants to Europe, and subsequently these added a new opulence to palm houses, botanical gardens and private gardens. Paul Klee was also drawn to unknown lands. He permitted himself to be inspired by their vegetation’s variety of colours and forms and so arrived at new modes of artistic expression. The concentrated view of individual plants in studies by Georg Flegel and herbaria by Goethe or Paul Klee demonstrates not only an artistic interest, but also considerable botanical knowledge.

As a delightful sphere of experience, a place of peace and a source of inspiration, the garden has always been a productive topic in fine art, and visitors to the exhibition will become aware of its splendour and innumerable facets.

Staedel Museum, Frankfurt - The Painter's Garden

I'd very much recommend this book to anybody who enjoys European art and the notion of an erudite book devoted to the garden in art. This is a high quality publication which is a joy to handle as well as to read.

There are very many things I have enjoyed about this book - here are just some of them:
  • Drawings and paintings from very many different traditions and schools of drawing and paintings - from 1410 to the twenty first century, from egg tempera on wood to colour slides and C-prints.
  • The exhibition and the book contain more than 200 works - including paintings, drawings, herbaria and botanical folio editions. The book also displays the enormous success the curator has had in unearthing various works I've never ever seen before from over 100 different lenders - including a number of private collections.
  • The book includes intelligent, well informed and lengthy essays about the garden in art from different perspectives. The Editor is to be congratulated on the inclusion of contributions from various European academics and scholars.
  • art by artists whose work I've never heard of before and artwork I'd never ever seen before by artists I knew (I've tried looking for images of some of them on the internet and not succeeded - which I think maybe says something about how much we are used to looking at the 'popular' which I know isn't always the same as the 'good')
  • a page devoted to every artist and every work - with a detailed commentary for each work
  • Full descriptions and attributions are given for each work. For example, for a paper and supports fanatic like me, I'm overjoyed that it states what the work is on and not just what media was used to produce the work.
  • high quality production values and excellent colour reproductions
Sabine Schulz who came up with the concept and then curated the exhibition and edited the book has done a really excellent job and is to be congratulated. It looks and feels like a labour of love.

I don't know if the book is going to be generally available and I'd recommend contacting either Waterstone's bookshop in Piccadilly (which is where I bought it) if you have any difficulty getting holding of it or Hatje Cantz.


15th Worldwide Sketchcrawl - the results

The spirit of sketchcrawling in the sun?
The results are being posted - have you posted yours yet? Here are links to the results posted to date to the 15th Worldwide Sketchcrawl forum:
Some people seem to have problems linking their images. I find the easiest way is to load them into Flickr and then upload the URL for each image from there.

You can see the sketch I did on Saturday afternoon here. Plus here's another one from yesterday (and where it is here).

Sunday in the Park
8" x 10", pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils in Moleskine Sketchbook

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Sunday, August 26, 2007

26th August 2007: Who's made a mark this week?

Mullet Creek
(2007 Dobell Drawing Prize Winner)
Ana Pollak
(Dobell Drawing Prize exhibition, Art Gallery of New South Wales 24th August - 4th November 2007)

Congratulations to....
  • Ana Pollak - who has won Australia's prestigious Dobell Prize for Drawing worth AUS$20,000. Her drawing "Mullet Creek" (above) depicts an oyster farm on the Hawkesbury River and was drawn on rice paper. Her drawing is minimal and seemingly abstract. Reeds, water atmosphere are rendered with spare but delicate marks of charcoal. Ana Pollak studied at Byam Shaw School, London, Tom Bass Sculpture School, Sydney National Art School and Alexander Mackie College, Sydney. She is a painter, sculptor and printmaker as well as draughtswoman - and is currently a resident of Dangar Island on the Hawkesbury River. This article "Up the creek without a paddle; sketch takes prize" from The Sydney Morning Herald pictures her in front of her work. This is what the judge had to say about this work.
'This is an articulate and generous drawing that clearly refers to a river landscape. Also, the work says something about the general language of drawing through the quality of line - the juxtaposition of both relaxed and tense lines.'
Colin Lanceley, Artist and Judge
Art competitions

Two more competitions worth noting are:
  • The Lynn Painter Stainer Prize - with awards totalling £22,500. The First Prize £15,000 and there are 5 Runner-Up Prizes each at £1,000 and a Young Artist Award £2,500 for an artist who is 25 years of age or under on 3 September 2007. Artwork needs to be delivered to the FBA at Carlton House Terrace on 2nd-3rd September.
This is the third year of the Prize. The purpose of the Prize is to encourage creative representational painting and promote the skill of draughtsmanship. The 2006 Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize attracted nearly 700 entries from all over the UK, from which 71 paintings were selected for an exhibition held at Painters’ Hall, City of London in November 2006.

The Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize is open to living artists over the age of 18 on 3 September 2007, who are resident in the United Kingdom, Channel Islands or Isle of Man. Only original, two-dimensional works in any painting media, that have been completed in the last three years, and that have not been previously exhibited, are eligible. All works must be for sale, except commissioned portraits.
  • The Pastel Journal's 9th Annual Pastel 100 Competition is accepting entries - including online - in five categories but has a deadline of 4th September. Image files cannot exceed 500KB. The file format must be JPEG. See here for eligibility criteria and more details about how to enter and prizes worth $15,000 including a top prize of $5,000.

Great Comp Garden
pen and sepia ink and coloured pencil in Moleskine sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
(see Travels with a Sketchbook blog for yesterday's solitary
sketchcrawl sketch)

Artists and sketchbloggers

These are all new artists and sketchbloggers people that I came across for the first time this week.

First two artists with a keen interest in the natural world and great drawing skills.
More sketchboggers
Finally, last week I mentioned Vivien Blackburn and her blog post about doing art degree as a mature student. This week I'd like to give a bit of exposure to Sue Smith and her blog Ancient Artist: Developing an art career after 50. Are there any more ladies aged 50+ out there who are actively working at developing their art? And do we need a virtual club?

The Art Business

Tina Mammoser
( website and blog The Cycling Artist) has an online presence in various places - one of which is Etsy.
  • Last week she highlighted an article on 18th August "A virtual, virtuous revolution" by Jenny Dalton in the Financial Times about the indie handcrafted credentials of Etsy as an alternative to e-bay.
  • Tina also has the widget for UK etsy sellers who blog webring on her blog. I have to say I've always found the presentation and aesthetic of Etsy much more appealing than e-bay.
Websites, blogging and squidoo lenses
  • Anna at See.Be.Draw has got a poll on her blog which is proving to be very interesting (see below). I'm hoping Anna may have a few tips to offer the poll finishes of things to think about when setting up a poll. For me this one is currently proving the impact that participating in Everyday Matters has on blog traffic. (Anna also has a very interesting post about the processes of drawing and painting)
The polls just closed and the results are in! From the votes I learnt that the majority of my readers come from EDM, do not subscribe to this blog but visit regularly, and bookmark a blog based on contents and posting regularity. They are mostly interested in artwork, watercolors, the creative process, and other artists.
See.Be.Draw - The Poll Results are in

The Dobell Drawing Prize was instituted by Sir William Dobell Art Foundation to encourage excellence in drawing and draughtsmanship. The prize in 2007 is aquisitive and valued at $20,000. Entry conditions are as foll0ws:
Medium: Unique work on paper or other suitable support in any medium or combination of media. This includes those media and materials traditionally associated with the practice of drawing (pencil, pen and ink, charcoal, etc.) and those which are part of contemporary drawing practice, including pastel, watercolour, collage etc.
Other information: Applicants must have been born in Australia or hold Australian citizenship, and have been a resident in Australia for a period of 12 months prior to the closing date. Works are to be completed during the 12 months preceding the closing date.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

15th World Wide Sketchcrawl

Today is the 15th Worldwide Sketchcrawl.

You can find details of all the places where sketchcrawls have been organised at the Sketchcrawl Forum website. This previous post of mine explains what a sketchcrawl is.

You'll see that sketchcrawls are planned for:
  • North America: San Francisco; Berkeley, Los Angeles; Santa Rosa, CA; New York; Bowling Green, Kentucky; Troy NY; Amherst; Phoenix, Arizona; Detroit;
  • South America: Curitiba, Brazil
  • UK: London
  • Europe: Oslo, Norway; Ostend, Belgium;
  • Asia: Hong Kong; Sapporo, Japan;
  • Australasia: Auckland, New Zealand; Sydney, Australia
  • plus maybe a few more.......
To be alerted to the next International Sketchcrawl, suscribe to the Sketchcrawl Blog.

Sorry I forgot to post this reminder earlier - it sort of slipped off my agenda! I've been battling with some health issues for the last week or so which means that walking any distance is a bit of a problem at the moment - so the conventional sketchcrawl is out for me today. However, the week of grey skies and rain has disappeared and today is bright and sunny so I'm hoping that "He who must not be bored while I sketch" and I will be able to get out later today - probably to a garden with seats!


Friday, August 24, 2007

The Big Draw and the Big Drawing Book Review

This post highlights information about The Big Draw and announces the Big Drawing Book Review.

Every year in October, in the UK, we have The Big Draw - initiated and co-ordinated by the Campaign for Drawing. The eighth Big Draw launches on 30th September and then runs from 1-31 st October with a special focus on Saturday 13th October. With just over a month to go, I thought it would be timely to highlight the planned events around the UK and the scope for people to join in. You also have time to register an event.
The Big Draw, the Campaign's annual October showpiece, proves that drawing can be a public activity as well as a private passion. 1000 venues across the UK, from great national institutions to village halls, regularly join in to offer people of all ages the chance to discover that drawing is enjoyable, liberating and at everyone's fingertips....
Campaign for Drawing - The Big Draw
On 30th September, the National Launch of the Big Draw will commence with Big Draw East which is being hosted at venues near where I live in East London. The launch events taking place on 30th September are many and various - click here to see the full list and some outline details. Further details are available from the events listing on the Big Draw Database.
The themes are: Shape the Future - Designing for Sustainability (in partnership with the Royal Academy of Engineering); Changing Cities; Inside/Out; Body Science/Body Culture; and Drawing Differently.

For the month before the launch, children, students and adults will have opportunities to work with artists, designers, scientists and architects from the area, well known for its high density of art and design studios. Together with a team of celebrity 'drawers', these practitioners will lead workshops and other activities to ensure a lasting legacy of collective creative achievement.
Further Information
Every October, galleries, museums, science centres, heritage and environmental sites, libraries, archives, community and shopping centres, colleges, schools and art clubs host drawing activities for all abilities. They explore technical, scientific, architectural, archaeological or fine art drawing.

Participants of all ages are invited to help expand the definitions and uses of drawing - experimenting with pencils, crayons, charcoal, sand, clay, digital imagery, choreographed movement, vapour trails and fire drawings.
Big Draw website
Any visual art event taking place in October can be registered as part of the Big Draw programme. Organisers, click here for more information on registering, funding advice etc.

Would-be participants ahould keep visiting for events in your area (more are added each day to the "Event Search" - see left hand column of the website page - this organises information in geographic areas and lists all events).

I'd suggest that anybody who teaches drawing takes a look at the Database as it is full of innovative ideas for how to stimulate drawing.

What I'm interested in

I've got my eye on a number of events in London and the East End which are linked to the
Ruskin School of Drawing & Fine Art. (which is the fine art department of the University of Oxford). These are:
  • 30th September (12 noon - 1pm) Sarah Simblet, author of Dorling & Kindersley's The Drawing Book and lecturer in drawing and anatomy at the Ruskin School of Drawing and the Royal College of Art, talks about aspects of drawing practice. Draper's Lecture Theatre, Queen Mary's College Mile End Road, London, Tower Hamlets, E1 4NS
  • a series of 45 minute lunchtime talks in the Sainsbury Wing of The National Gallery on every Wednesday during October
    • 3rd October - Artist and author Sarah Simblet considers observed details to be the vocabulary of her drawings, while imagination is their grammar.
    • 10th October - Michael Archer discusses the seductive conversation between looking and touching in the art of drawing.
    • 17th October - Artist Deanna Petherbridge, Research Professor in Drawing at the University of Lincoln, examines the links and disconnections between preliminary drawings made for historical paintings and contemporary practice.
    • 24th October - Stephen Farthing, Rootstein Hopkins Professor of Drawing at the University of the Arts, London, explores degrees of accuracy within drawings made as records.
    • 31st October - Satirical cartoonist Gerald Scarfe looks back at his long and varied career, and demonstrates making a drawing from the first mark on a blank page.
The Big Drawing Book Review

I'm pleased to announce that I will be reviewing books about Drawing on this blog during the month of October . I possess a rather large number books about drawing and am now being asked to review drawing books. I've been wanting to find a way of reviewing them in a systematic way. The notion of a month devoted to drawing in October seems like an excellent prompt for me to get focused and complete a number of book reviews.

If people would like to join in with The Big Drawing Book Review, just let me know if you're interested by leaving a comment below and I'll be in touch about it before October. It would also be very helpful to know if people would like any tips about doing book reviews.

I'll do a blog post at the end of October which will list all books reviewed and the associated links to all the completed book reviews on all the participating blogs - and I'll then feature it in the right hand column of this blog and list it on my squidoo lens about Drawing and Sketching.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Gardens in Art: Are you a Veggie?

Cabbage Study
8" x 8", coloured pencil on Natural Stonehenge
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I bet you thought I meant "Are you a Vegetarian?".

What I'm actually on about is vegetables as subjects for drawings and paintings. I know this is going to sound really weird but I always get excited when I find a new vegetable plot or enter a kitchen garden - those rows of veg really get my creative juices going - and I'm not talking cooking here.

The Cabbage Patch - Study
10" x 4", coloured pencil on Rising HP

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

What you can see here are a couple of studies for me as practice for 'getting my eye in' on cabbages. They have great structures and lovely colours.

Where to find vegetables, kitchen gardens and a horticultural society show in London

This time of year vegetables are looking really good and I've been trying to tour round various kitchen gardens, vegetable plots and allotments trying to find good specimens to develop into drawings.

I have a particular soft spot for Kitchen Gardens. I think it's the combination of old brick walls and espalier fruit trees - but I also love the serried ranks of vegetables all being kept in good order. A decent well maintained set of allotment gardens come a good second.

The Walled Kitchen Gardens Network provides information and advice - and a downloadable file of their current register of walled kitchen gardens which can exist in the UK - most of which can be visited. They also recommend reviewing the data on the United Kingdom Database of Historic Parks and Gardens. One that I was particularly impressed with earlier this year was Helmsley Walled Garden in Helmsley in Yorkshire which had been rescued and reinstated. I'll be adding both of these into my developing Gardens in Art - Resources for Artists squidoo lens.

Two of the major botanical/horticultural gardens in and around London have good vegetables. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew give vegetable plots to its horticultural students with the aim this year of tackling how best to grow vegetables in a drier climate. We, of course, have had the rainiest summer on record! The Royal Horticultural Society at Wisley have a model vegetable garden with lots of different plants. This looks much more like a kitchen garden - it just needs old brick walls for it to be perfect!

Another good source of speciment vegetables is the local horticultural society annual show - with everybody showing off their carrot with the longest root and biggest ever onions. In East London we have The Spitalfields Show and Green Fair on 16th September (12 noon to 5pm) at Spitalfields Farm in Buxton Street, E1. This is an annual horticultural show of vegetables, fruit, flowers, home produce and handicrafts displayed in a large marquee, plus Green Fair with a wide range of stalls with organic food & Fairtrade goods. This show always used to be in the precincts of the Old Spitalfields Market - the traditional home of vegetables until it moved to its new home - and the old market became 'trendy' and Covent Gardenised.

Paper and Supports - Stonehenge

The outcome of my current exercise to develop studies of vegetable is a decision to go and order an awful lot of Arches Hot Press. I found myself fighting the paper I was using quite a lot of the time and not enjoying myself as much as I normally do. On the other hand, it did take an incised line particularly well.

Let me explain. I tried a sample of Stonehenge for the first work and some Rising Hot Press paper that I had (which seems to be Stonehenge also) for the second. I have to say I'm really not sure this is a paper I want to work a lot with anymore. Arches Hot Press is sized and harder than Stonehenge and allows me - with my technique - to achieve optical mixing of the colours on the paper much more easily. My approach is to hold a pencil fairly well up the shaft and to skim very fast in a hatching movement across the surface of the paper. In doing so I barely touch it. The Stonehenge paper just seems too soft for the way I work - however it is primarily designed as a printing and etching paper so we shouldn't be surprised by its softness.
Stonehenge fine art papers are 100% cotton, acid-free buffered with calcium carbonate to help protect artwork from contaminated environments. Created over 30 years ago, Stonehenge was originally created for a variety of printmaking techniques including etching and silkscreen. Over the decades it has become one of the finest papers for pastel, pencil, charcoal, acrylics and watercolor.
Legion Papers
Stonehenge is a paper that comes highly recommended by some coloured pencil artists. I understand it works well for those who burnish - which is a technique I only use rarely. Others I know are not fans at all.

My view is that artists should be open to different experiences and should try different papers and supports and find out what works best for them and they way they work as individuals. By all means follow recommendations - mine or other people's - but always make sure you evaluate as an individual - based on criteria which are important to you.

If you'd like to try Stonehenge for yourself then view the Legion Paper website for further details and lists of suppliers. A link to this page is included in my new squidoo lens for Paper And Supports.

Bottom line - always make sure that you use good quality archival paper from reputable suppliers for finished artwork. Working on good quality paper can make all the difference to your work - just make sure you find the brand which suits you and your techniques best.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Gardens in Art: Drawings and Paintings by Van Gogh

Flowering Garden with Path
Vincent Van Gogh
(Arles July 1888)
Oil on canvas, 72 x 91cm,

I've very much enjoyed doing the research for images, information and links about the drawings and paintings Van Gogh made of gardens - both public and private. He seems to have made gardens one of his prime and enduring motifs for experimenting with mark-making and drawing in both monochrome and colour.

This is the letter to Theo in which he writes about the painting above. It includes a sketch although this is the drawing "Garden with Flowers" (1888) which preceded this painting. He describe it in a letter to his sister thus..
I have a study of a garden one meter wide, poppies and other red flowers surrounded by green in the foreground, and a square of bluebells. Then a bed of orange and yellow Africans, then white and yellow flowers, and at last, in the background, pink and lilac, and also dark violet scabriosas, and red geraniums, and sunflowers, and a fig tree and an oleander and a vine. And in the distance black cypresses against low white houses with orange roofs – and a delicate green-blue streak of sky.

Oh, I know very well that not a single flower is drawn completely, that they are more dabs of colour, red, yellow, orange, green blue, violet, but the impression of all these colours in their juxtaposition is there all right, in the painting as in nature. But I suppose you would be disappointed, and think it unbeautiful, if you saw it. But you see that the subject is rather summery.
Van Gogh - Letter to Wilhelmina Van Gogh 31 July 1888
Gardens are identified as a favourite motif of van Gogh by the author of the book produced to accompany the great exhibition of Van Gogh Drawings which took place in New York and Amsterdam in 2005.
The small areas of planned nature to be found in villages and towns greatly attracted Van Gogh. Wherever he worked, he made pictures of gardens and parks and in Arles they were one of his favourite subjects. He cherished strongly poetic feelings towards these places..........

...His series of parks and gardens (in Arles, drawn between August-October 1888) starts with the impressive view of gardens that he sent to his brother in August. the lush vegetation, depicted with a broad range of pen strokes, makes the summer heat seem almost palpable in these scenes....

In September he often worked in in the park near his house and studio, better known as the 'Yellow house'
Van Gogh - The Master Draughtsman Sjraar van Heughten
Over time, Van Gogh drew and painted quite a few gardens - and they varied in style and colour as his location changed and his style progressed and refined.

Here are some on-line sources of information - there's lots more to look at for those who are interested:
Early drawings of gardens

Early drawings tend to be of cottages in the flat landscape of Holland. The gardens are bleak and brown - and it always seems to be winter for some reason. Examples include drawings such as Parsonage Garden (1884) (and associated painting), another more detailed drawing of the same subject and the painting of The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in the snow.

Gardens in Provence

Cottage Garden, 1888
Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853–1890)
Reed pen, quill, and ink over graphite on wove paper;
61 x 49 cm (24 x 19 1/4 in.)
Private Collection. Metropolitan Museum of Art - Vincent Van Gogh - the Drawings

Drawings and paintings changed in a dramatic way when he arrived in Provence.

One of the images I find most attractive is his reed pen and ink drawing of the Cottage Garden in Arles (note the size!).

You can see the painting he did of the same view here. Personally, I find the drawing to be the more attractive image of the two.
The little cottage garden done vertically is, I think, the best of the three big ones. The one with the sunflowers is a little garden of a bathing establishment, the third garden, horizontal, is the one from which I made some painted studies as well.
Vincent Van Gogh, Letter to his brother Theo, 8 August 1888 Arles
Garden of a Bathhouse is also delightful and is another reed pen and ink drawing - this time of a bed of sunflowers. It's thought that these are the sunflowers which then generated the paintings of sunflowers done in anticipation of Gauguin's visit.

Judith Bumpus in her book "Impressionist Gardens" includes a double page feature on The Garden of the Poets (1888) by Van Gogh.

This painting is of the public garden opposite the Yellow House in Arles - the 'Studio of the South'. It became a motif amongst his garden paintings and he does a lot of preliminary drawings of specific trees and bushes within the park. Here is a letter in which he writes about it - together with a facsimile of the letter which includes a preliminary sketch and the finished painting.

Vincent Van Gogh
Arles, mid-September 1888
Oil on canvas, 73 x 92.1 cm
The Art Institute of Chicago, Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Larned Coburn Memorial Collection, 1933.433

He invests the garden with great meaning and context. The title is explained in a letter to Theo dated 17th September 1888

Some time ago I read an article on Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, Giotto and Botticelli. Good Lord! it did make an impression on me reading the letters of those men.

And Petrarch lived quite near here in Avignon, and I am seeing the same cypresses and oleanders.

I have tried to put something of that into one of the pictures painted in a very thick impasto, citron yellow and lime green. Giotto moved me most - always in pain, and always full of kindness and enthusiasm, as though he were already living in a different world from ours.

And besides, Giotto is extraordinary. I understand him better than the poets Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio.

Letter from Vincent to Theo, 17th September 1888

Gardens in Auvers (1890)

During his time in Auvers, he painted the garden of fellow artist Daubigny a number of times. One version is now in the Hiroshima Museum of Art - but can be seen here.

The Asylum Garden - Saint-Rémy (1889-90)

Trees with ivy in the asylum garden, 1889
Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)
Reed pen and pen in ink (now brown), pen on cream wove paper,
62 x 47 cm Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Towards the end of his life many of the drawings and paintings were of the garden of the asylum at St Remy in Provence where Van Gogh stayed when ill.

The Van Gogh Museum website comments on the therapy of painting during the year he spent at the asylum
Van Gogh converts an adjacent cell into a studio, and although subject to intermittent attacks, he produces 150 paintings during the year he stays at Saint-Rémy. His doctor initially confines him to the immediate asylum grounds, so Van Gogh paints the world he sees from his room, deleting the bars that obscure his view. In the asylum's walled garden he paints irises, lilacs, and ivy-covered trees. Later he is allowed to venture farther afield, and he paints the wheatfields, olive groves, and cypress trees of the surrounding countryside. The imposed regimen of asylum life gives Vincent a hard-won stability: "I feel happier here with my work than I could be outside. By staying here a good long time, I shall have learned regular habits and in the long run the result will be more order in my life."
Van Gogh Museum
Here are links to a few of those paintings. If you click on the image you can often see a section of a much enlarged image - which enables you to see the brushwork up close.
  • Trees and Shrubs in the Asylum Garden () is a wonderful graphic drawing (47 x 62 cm) done using a brush and thinned oils and ink (now brown), black chalk on wove paper. Due to the transparency of the inks, using the enlarger you can see the initial marks and guides made on the paper followed by the individual marks made in different colours which build up the whole.
  • The Garden of the Hospital (the fall of the leaves) (1889) This particular composition has a high vantage point - as if done from a window of a room in a building - probably from the room used as his studio. It's a reminder that we don't need to go outside to draw and paint gardens.
  • The Garden of St Paul's Hospital (1889)
Another Squidoo lens - Vincent Van Gogh

This is probably a good post to introduce you to another new squidoo lens which is going to be the home for and a way of organising all the Vincent Van Gogh links I've found while studying his work. I've still not managed to include all those from the project on his drawings which I understook in February but they should all be included in the near future - plus the ones from this and other recent posts.

The name of the new lens is Vincent Van Gogh - Resources for Art Lovers and the address of new lens is . I'll be talking some more about this and other new squidoo lenses in a future post.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Have you got a style?

Artichoke series #1
7" x 5", pen and ink on Arches HP

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Have you got a style? Are you trying to find a style of your own? How does style develop? Do you even want a style?

It occurs to me at times that some artists may worry more about how they sign their work than how they complete it. In reality, from my perspective, your real signature is your style - the subjects or motifs you choose, the way that you see things, the materials / colours / processes you use to express what you see and/or feel and/or think and, finally, what you produce at the end of the day.

You may have a colour signature for example - only working from a specific palette of colours. This becomes very obvious when looking at a gallery of works by one artist who chooses to work with a limited palette. You can be renowned for only painting one subject (which seems to be one of the main ways people try to express their style) or perhaps working in a very specific way (Van Gogh's brushwork springs to mind) or having a particular concept of how you should produce your art.

When looked at in that context, for me how I sign my work will always be much less significant than how how I produced it in the first place.

Why style is important

When you have a style, your work is coherent in some way or other and you will acquire a clear identity as an artist - maybe even a 'label' (eg "the woman who does the fun cats", "the man who does those stripey paintings". People recognise your work straight away which can then mean that it's easier to
  • market your work
  • get accepted by a B&M gallery (because they know that you can produce it in quantities).
  • pitch your work to gallery clients - as galleries have something coherent to describe.
How do we develop style?

I can see a distinctive style most clearly in the artwork of artists who have been working in a very focused way - who have chosen a theme or a way of working and then explored it in whichever way they choose. When that approach has been developed over time, for me their signature style says something about their work having acquired a degree of maturity. Persistence = refinement.

It's interesting to look at the development of style in the context of a life cycle.

When young and immature - or starting out in art - we seem to be very curious. Being childlike can be very creative. It can involve lots of exploration, dabbling and enjoyment of doing lots of different things. As we get older and start to mature, our feelings abour our identity start to change. Teenagers become very clear about what they want to be associated with and what they don't want to be ("like our parents"). Teenagers for example tend to split between those who'd simply "die" if they weren't part of the 'in' crowd and those who'd simply "die" if they weren't seen to be unique and considered to be different from everybody else. As we get older again, we may have different roles but we also start to specialise - after all we need to have a career and get a job - or we need to understand what our share of the daily chores comprises. We get more accustomed to the notion of routine and steady application and working things through. However, as we get older if we don't stay alert to new things or enjoy change we can also become very staid and set in our ways.

I realise these are sweeping generalisations but it seems to me that what tends to be "true" in life also seems to me to underpin the way style develops.

We often start off curious and wanting to try out anything and everything. As people do more art some will start to aspire to being successful - a "name". Some may see the route to success as involving becoming part of the latest 'trend' - whether it's 'a painting a day' or whatever - while others insist that they will never ever compromise themselves and will always remain true to their own particular vision of artistic integrity. However 'making it' and survival as an artist can often mean knuckling down and getting on with the routine of life - at which point the 'stickability factor' comes into play. I've used stickability in the past to describe how people achieve success - but one might also apply it to how one develops style.
As is common in a number of walks of life, people's stories about how they achieved success tend to focus on what they did or what tools they used to become successful but skip the 'grind' that very often accompanies the use of those tools and which also preceded success. That 'grind' for artists is about hard work, practice and refinement. It's about 'doing' again and again and again until you get it right. Which means getting it wrong quite a lot of the time too.
Some people are better at others at finding the routine that works for them, at finding the style that works for them.

Style also changes

Style need not stay the same. Style can change. Those that remain happy to tread the same path day after day may well have success but they may also go 'out of fashion' over time and only have a limited audience for their style.

I'd go so far as to say that those artists whose work never ever changes become very boring in time. I've caught myself on a number of occasions walking into a gallery spotting a painting from a distance and knowing that "so and so" has done another one of their "whatevers". It has to be a subject which delights me - such as Elizabeth Blackadder's watercolours of flowers or David Hockney's drawings in coloured pencil - for me to then walk over and take a look straight away.

More importantly, the artist can get bored with their own style. If you become known for something and successful, then everybody may want a piece - and then it can be very difficult to walk away from the money that can represent. It's not been unknown for artists to have a style which generates the "bread and butter and then some" income and also to work on what they really enjoy doing at the same time - sometime even using a different name to show it - as for example Thomas Kinkade does. Personally speaking, I find nothing wrong with that. It's a neat solution to the challenge of generating some sort of steady income which allows people the freedom to experiment and develop their art and their style.

I was advised very early on to find out what I enjoy doing and to make sure that I enjoy doing it before settling on that as the subject to be associated with my name - by an artist who became known for his sunsets and now is unable to sell anything but sunsets! I do know of artists who have galleries who ask them for things like "another red one like that last one you did which sold quickly".

By way of contrast, what particularly delights me is to walk into a gallery and see something which echoes things I like but in a way I've never ever seen before. Drawing and paintings which make me want to walk over and inspect - only to find it's a favourite artist displaying new works associated with a new direction for their work. What I recognise was elemental qualities associated with their work - their style or signature if you like - explored in a new and fresh way.

One only has to look at really great artists - in all branches of the arts - to be able to see that their work develops and changes throughout their art career. Within modern art, from Picasso to Hockney, one can identify very clear periods where they were deliberately working in a particular sort of way - whether it's Picasso deliberately limiting his palette early on to Hockney exploring how multiple photographs could be used to create much larger images. It can be a joy to go to a retrospective exhibition of an artist's work and to be able to trace the pathways which run through their work as they change their way of working and their style. Only then do you begin to see some of their preoccupations and bigger statements about their art.

What's really interesting about great artists is their capacity and ability to reinvent themselves and their style and yet still be recognisably the same artist. One wonders whether they have somehow managed to combine the curiousity of the child, the determination to be unique of the teenager with the endurance and persistence of the middle years - in a fight to fend off the potential for becoming a 'boring old **** in one's later years!

Who knows? What do you think?

Interior, St Bartholomew the Less
16" x 12", pencil in sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

And this was supposed to be a blog post about the artist's garden - and then Wendy said that my artichoke reminded her of my church interiors. Wendy's comment slightly took me aback until I realised that what was similar in style between the drawings is the particular affection I have for drawing subjects with a strong structure - in both monochrome and colour.... and I started to think about style.

Alternative perspectives on style

After writing this I thought I'd have a quick look round to see what other people have had to say about style. Here are some links to articles which comment on an artist's style. The first couple link to the impact it has on marketing effort.

It's very clear that some websites equate style with art movement whereas I would argue they are different because artists associated with a specific art movement also have their own unique style.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Paper and Supports - Resources for Artists

Whenever I write a blog post about Squidoo - like "Do You Squidoo?" I end up developing yet more squidoo lenses for the "Resources for Artists" series!

Although I'd love to witter on about all of the ones I worked on over yet another grey and rainy weekend, I'm going to be try and be very restrained and do them justice by introducing them one by one - so here's the first Paper and Supports - Resources for Artists.

Paper and Supports - Resources for Artists
I'm very fussy about what paper or support I will draw on - and at the same time am very curious about new supports, particularly the ones my local art suppliers don't carry. When I go abroad, one of the first places I always visit is the local art shop and my jaw just keeps dropping when I realise what a huge range of papers and other non-canvas supports actually exist. This lens aims to extend my choice - and yours.
(introduction to squidoo lens "Paper and Supports - Resources for Artists")
I very much suspect I'm not alone in being somebody who is interested in the range of options open to me for surfaces to work on. I'm very much a self-confessed fusspot when it comes to paper - and speak as somebody who is unable to write or draw if the pen and paper aren't "right"!

This particular squidoo lens grew out of my frustration with not being able to source certain fine art papers in the UK and hence the need to look overseas for suppliers. I'm guessing I'm far from alone in this quest and hence it maybe that we can help one another in this respect. Although I've got a couple of books about fine art papers, I've also found it very difficult to find a website which provides a comprehensive overview of the different brands of paper and supports for visual fine artists who draw and paint and don't work on canvas - and the suppliers. So I thought I'd have a go at producing one! Or least try and produce one which gives me the sort of infomation that I want to know about.

I want to emphasise that the current lens is developed enough to be published but that it is still very much a "work in progress". More modules, links and text will need adding in the months to come - which I comment on further below. If you think you might use it as a resource in future and have got any suggestions for its scope and content I'd be more than pleased to hear from you - just use the comments function.

The aim of this lens is still a bit fluid at present, but here's my current thinking as to its scope. First off - it's not touching at all on canvas or any of the supports used by acrylic and oil painters (It's simply not my area of expertise - somebody else needs to develop a lens for that!).

This is very much a lens primarily for visual artists who produce works on paper. It will hopefully also be a good reasource for those artists who like an abrasive support. I want to:
  • provide information and relevant links about the nature of paper, how it's made, why it varies and the challenges it can present in terms of conservation
  • identify the major types of paper and other supports used by artists - and provide links to the manufacturers websites. (My current thinking is a module for each major brand name but it maybe that this should be each manufacturer - what do you think?)
  • identify the major wholesale and retail distributors of fine art papers around the world - and provide links to their sites. I'm going to be very open to suggestions here in relation to countries I'm less familiar with.
  • identify who provides samples for trialling - when you have to mail order, you simply don't want to commit to a major order before knowing whether the paper is what you want.
  • reviewing individual papers.
  • some guidance on who provides the best mail-order service. This may emerge as a result of a bit of interactive content - which might start via a poll on this blog or may start on the lens using one of the plexo modules. I'm essentially thinking along the lines of who provides the best choice and who does the best packaging/delivery. It maybe that these are two different questions/polls. However, what I am interested in doing is getting a consumer perspective on paper supply. This will only be as good as the numbers who respond and I'd love to hear - via the comments - whether people might be interested in me setting something up along these lines.
As you can imagine, there is lots and lots of potential for content here - much of which will also get discussed on this blog.

Save and share: If you'd like to bookmark, e-mail, print, bookmark ( or digg this lens then the icons for so doing are in the left hand column. I think I'd tend to suggest not choosing the RSS feed at this stage as when testing it previously I've found it's unable to identify the new items on the lens.

Those who have a squidoo account can rate any lens (just below the title) but you do need to be logged in. However it should be noted that according to Squidoo it's only a small factor in a len's overall ranking within squidoo. I certainly don't ask for or encourage rating swops just as I don't reciprocate links on this blog if asked. There's also a guestbook for comments and suggestions.

The Squidoo Firefox extension - a customised toolbar and menu

I forgot to mention in my last post that I update all my lens periodically - using the squidoo add-in for my Firefox browser which makes it so easy to add in a page link to any of my lens and any of the modules - or even create a new module!

A Customized Toolbar (with Squid!)

Still more shortcuts for Squidoo Lensmasters.

  • Use the "Lenses" button to access your lenses straight from the Firefox browser.
  • And click on the Squid with the plus sign for another, even more user friendly way to quickly add a page link (URL) to the lens of your choice. Think of it like Squidoo-to-go.