Thursday, August 02, 2007

Bankside Sketchbook

"Leaves from a Sketchbook"
- a view of part of the exhibition at the Bankside Gallery

Yesterday I visited the current exhibition at The Bankside Gallery. "Leaves from a sketchbook" shows how work progresses from the sketch to completed artwork - as print or watercolour painting and as exemplified by the working processes of members of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers or the Royal Watercolour Society.
Leaves from a Sketchbook
Mon 16-Jul-2007 to Sun 12-Aug-2007

Learn from artists prepatory sketches how original prints and watercolours develop from an initial idea into a flawless work of art. A unique chance to gain an insight into the skill of the artist, which is rarely seen in our modern mass-produced culture.
'Sketch' has a number of meanings. This post last year about my visit to "Under Cover": an exhibition of sketchbooks at the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard university suggests that a sketch may be used for:
  • Observation: this focuses on the documentation of the external world and includes many such travel and nature studies and sketches recording an artist's travels.
  • Invention: this follows the artists' digressions and internal journeys as they develop compositional ideas
I noticed that rather more printers seemed to use a sketchbook for sketches than the watercolourists. This seemed somewhat odd until it occurred to me since the thinking process which has to go into the making of a print is rather detailed that this could promote the use of a sketchbook - as presumably sketches are very helpful to that process. Pieces by watercolourists seemed to either be developed from quite careful pencil drawings or conventional plein air sketches in watercolour.

There were also some lovely pen and ink sketches of figures by David Paskett RWS which were used as source material for a quite complex watercolour painting which featured sihermen mending nets.

The Vice President of the Royal Watercolour Society, David Firmstone, has chosen to frame two of his sketchbooks and was showing them in relation to the work they stimulated (the large picture on the far left of the photo of the exhibiiton in the gallery).

Most completed works and associated sketches were priced to sell. It was interesting to see how many sketches had sold which suggested to me that there is a definite market for the less well resolved work. However prices which were rather less than the completed works might also have had something to do with it!

It was also interesting to see some artists happy to sell the finished work but not so happy to part with extracts from their sketchbook or their drawings of their original idea. Tobias Till ARE was responsible for a very impressive large print overview of London City Airport (and the City of London) - but was not selling the original pen and ink drawing that it came from. Check out his website for equally impressive large works of places and views around London.

I had a chat with Frank Kiely ARE while I was there and then went off take a photo of his work (see below) and then to look at the exhibition. By the time I came back there was a "red dot" on his print from his Gulliver series (the picture on the top left below) because it had just sold! Frank's work is interesting because his sketchbook is his camera. He takes lots of photos as reference material from which he then extracts composes and assembles the constituent parts of his final image which is planned in advance of this photography.

works by Frank Keily - in the exhibition
copyright Frank Keily

One of the things I particularly liked about this exhibition was the fact that the label to identify the work of every artist also included a photograph of the artist in the studio or working plein air in addition to their name. I though this was a great idea I don't want artists to be anonymous names - I like to know something about them - even if it's just what they look like.

As a result I also learned how Annie Williams works with her still life set-up which was very interesting (the photo showed her sat down with a drawing board rested against a ledge on which sat a small plinth on the top of which sat the still life - which then made it at eye level.) I liked the way we also saw three versions of the same still life by Annie Williams - as a pencil drawing, a proof - aquatint and wash and as a watercolour painting. It neatly demonstrated that one composition canwork in a number of different ways.

You can see what future exhibitions are at the Bankside Gallery by consulting the menu under Bankside Gallery on their website. These tend to focus on exhibitions of watercolours or printmaking and artists' prints.

An aside: As I came over the Millenium Bridge from St Paul's to Bankside, I noticed that the high tide seemed to be very high indeed - probably due to all the flood water from the Thames at and around its source in the west country reaching London at last.

This was the scene outside Tate Modern - with the waves from passing boats splashing up to the top of the bank level with the walkway used by people walking along the South Bank.



  1. I would have loved to have seen this show.

    wow! the Thames was high.

    I went to Stratford on Friday and the water was incredibly high there.

  2. That is a high tide. Glad you stayed dry in "sunny" London :-)

  3. Oh how I wish I could have seen this show! I followed the link to look at Annie Williams online gallery and what struck me the most about her paintings is the overall color scheme each painting displays, which are each different from the others. From a warm, glowing orangey-golden themed painting to one that is all cool pinks and grays, to rich blues and yellows, each one is sumptious.

  4. It would be great to see more art societies doing shows like this. It's my belief that this sharing of process enables more people to find art and art-making more accessible.

    Jana - Annie Williams' work is very popular over here. I've also noticed that the overall colour theme approach is also one which Shirley Felts (see the Flowers in Art: Contemporary Artists #2 blog post)has used - it certainly seems to make work very marketable in terms of licensing for commercial uses eg decorative art, fine art cards etc.

  5. Thanks for your post on this exhibition - I read it last week and went to the gallery on Saturday. I really enjoyed it and even bought a sketch by Angie Lewin.

  6. Wow - that's a first! :D

    Glad to hear you enjoyed it.


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