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.


1 comment:

  1. Katherine, these are pretty developed for studies. I know that you did them to "get your eye in" on cabbages. Do you regularly do such large studies? Or just on new subject matter?

    Did you used to have more veggie work on your website? Similar to the "Tomato Tubs"? Maybe I've mixed you up with someone else?


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