Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Taking action after the bubble has burst

Yesterday it got bad.
  • The $700 billion bailout did NOT get agreed.
  • The Dow dropped by nearly 800 points.
  • Major banks in seven different countries either went broke, got bought up or bailed out by their respective governments.
  • Today the Asian and London markets have been in freefall.
Let's agree - the bubble has very definitely burst. The economy isn't working in the USA and the global financial system is now in jeopardy.
When the US president goes on live TV to say that the country's economy - and therefore the rest of the world - is in grave peril, you know that the stakes are about as high as they get.
The Guardian - Q&A: The US banking bail-out
Some financial analysts are comparing the current situation to the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and saying that this is worse. Why? Well, financial instruments today are a whole lot more complex and the overall situation is still very far from transparent. Lots of people are still very worried about what has still to be unearthed in terms of toxic waste. Current predictions are that things will get a lot worse before they get any better.

The bottom line is that we will all be affected in varying degrees during the long haul back to a sound economy. It's now time to take stock and regroup.

Where I'm coming from

The queue that got nowhere
(Northern Rock, Bromley 15.09.07 1.00pm)

11" x 16", pen and ink and coloured pencil in sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
- all rights reserved (see note at end of original post)

A year ago I was in a very frightening place as a bank in which I had money looked like it was going bust (it was nationalised).

Since then I know other people have had to face their own personal financial armageddons.

It's an extremely unpleasant experience when life trips you up but we all have to get on and deal with such situations as best we can.

As many of you know I'm a professionally qualified accountant and I've been a senior finance manager and business adviser in the past (although not for the financial services sector I hasten to add), hence why my knee jerk reaction is to move into 'let's get down to business' mode when the going gets tough as opposed to hiding under the covers until it all goes away. I wouldn't recommend that latter action right now - you could be under there for a very long time.

Due to my own experience last year, I knew the economy would get a lot worse before it got better.

That's why, since January, I've been writing posts about how artists can meet the challenges presented by the current state of the economy.
I'm proposing to
  • offer a bit of coaching for anybody who might be feeling a bit panicked right now. I'm not somebody who ever advises about personal finances - but I can advise in a generic and business-oriented way via this blog.
  • run through the standard recipe for how to manage risk and/or recover from a truly dire situation. Essentially it's a list of prompts which, in the current state of turbulence, will help you to get a fix on whether you're actually sinking or swimming and then decide what to do next.
I'm going to tackle this by creating a brief post for each of the recommended actions and then post links to each on this one when I've finished.

I'm also going to create an information site specifically for artists thinking about how to deal with a recession and an exceptionally difficult economy. I'll be including any helpful posts or articles by other people (eg by Alan Bamberger of artbusiness.com) - so if you've read any articles or blog posts anywhere else which you've found helpful do let me know - and please post links in the comments section below.

[UPDATE: Now created see Art and the Economy - Resources for Artists]

Then - if life gets difficult for you - you'll know somewhere to go which might have some relevant tips and outlines some approaches for tackling the challenges faced and taking appropriate action.

Time to get cooking - as in recipes not books! ;)

Monday, September 29, 2008

What are your reasons for working in a series?

I was very pleased to find out from a number of readers who responded to A Making A Mark Project - Working in a series that you're already 'working in a series' or are about too. Today I'd like to ask you a question!

I like to start all my art projects by thinking through a way of structuring an approach to what can be a big theme. That's just me - I like to try and see the big picture first in outline before beginning to work on the details. It's pretty much the same way I work when I create an artwork!

In this post I'm beginning to explore some of the reasons why artists work may work in a series as that might be one way to approach structure my exploration of working in a series.

On 1st October I've going to start a new poll about the reasons why people work in a series. This will hopefully provide some feedback for all of us about what you find are the greatest benefits to working in a series. Again I'm using this post today to think about some of the alternative options which could be offered in that poll. Your feedback is welcomed!

To kick off the poll I'm listing below some of the reasons I can think of for why artists work in a series - and I'm inviting you to comment about any important reasons that I've omitted or ways in which what I've said might be omissions or maybe a different slant or emphasis on the reasons listed.

I've come to the conclusion there are probably four main categories of reasons why artists work in a series. Within each category there are more specific reasons.
  • investigate and explore - subject
  • investigate and explore - technique
  • emotional response
  • business motive
Investigate and explore - subject

Subject matter is probably where most people start if they's thinking about doing a series.
  • Explore an object as subject - The subject is tangible and in front of you. Developing your knowledge of an object as subject might be about helping you to develop your artwork generally or it might be the reason behind the series you're developing. Knowing how something works is one step nearer to knowing how it can be represented in a more shorthand way if you work in a more abstracted way. Once you know your subject then it's possible to develop more imaginary treatments of the same subject. The range and size of your series is only limited by the limits of your subject. For example:
    • Tina Mammoser (The Cycling Artist) is working on a series of paintings about the coastline of the UK!
    • I've loved trees for a long time but, sad to say, I don't know as much about them as I would like. I then feel less confident developing landscapes because I don't know how to represent their different characteristics in a shorthand way. My current aim is to find out more about trees andSunday afternoon walks now involve us going out with my tree guidebook! I hope I may also get a series of developed works about trees out of this.
  • Explore an idea as concept - The subject is in your head, it's an idea and it may be philosophical and/or conceptual. What the artist has to say may be represented in any number of different ways - detailed and realistic or abstract and metaphorical - but if the paintings are 'on message' then they all form part of a series. Having them all in the same style may help to convey the idea of a 'series'. Developing a series based on a concept is akin to 'working through a problem' - and outcomes from developing a conceptual series can range from very positive and very negative.
  • Explore a story - The subject is known to you and may be tangible but can be an imaginary story or a story which has to be visually imagined. Well known ways of using a series of artworks to tell a story range from
    • history paintings associated with a particular place, event or person
    • portraits of an individual during their lifetime eg Velaquez's paintings of Philip II and his family
    • visual depictions of the stations of the cross
    • illustrations for a book or a comic
Investigate and explore - technique

I think this is a bit akin to a controlled scientific approach. In order to explore the impact of changes in one variable in an experiment you keep other variables the same throughout. Keeping the subject matter the same allows you to test changes in the variable which is being studied.

Series present a vast scope for exploring both design and colour. So, for example, in order for Monet to explore the colour of light at different times of say he painted the same subject over and over again - changing canvases as he worked through the day to the one appropriate for that time and that type of light. Using a series approach you can
  • Explore the impact of change on design by
    • arranging different multiples of the same objects in different sizes and positions or
    • using different values for the same design of shapes and lines.
  • Explore the impact on adjacent colour of combining colours in different ways. Josef Albers didn't paint squares - he painted different colours combinations which he always portrayed within squares.
The approach here is to work on developing an understanding about some aspect of technique - and to use one topic or motif to help you understand
  • Explore one motif - In exploring a motif, identify all the different ways you can portray a single subject or type of subject. Repetition within an artwork and across a series of designs lends unity to the whole. Single motifs are often associated with particular artists - while others can crop up in the work of a number of artists
    • Paisley patterns are one example of a pattern repeated within a cloth and also repeated in cloths in many different colours.
    • Islamic patterns often take one or two motifs and then repeats them throughout
    • Architecture often has motifs associated with particular periods of building or particular types of building
    • This is a list of visual motifs often used in patterns.
a motif is a repeated idea, pattern, image, or theme.
  • Explore colour - you can take one subject and explore its colour at then try different colour combinations (think Warhol and Marilyn) or you do as Monet did and explore light at different times of day and in different seasons. In my series on trees, I'm aiming to explore how their shape and colour changes through the seasons. I'm not expecting this series is going to be finished any time soon!
  • Explore design - explore the impact of different arrangements of values relating to one subject to asses the best design for a painting. This can be a technique which is adopted prior to starting any painting rather than an end in itself. For example, developing several thumbnails of different value patterns for the arrangement of big shapes within the subject matter. See Composition - why tonal values and contrast are important.
Emotional response

I think that to be able to get out of bed day after day and paint, one needs to have a feeling for a subject. It's really great if the subject continuously feeds your emotions and makes you feel good. Painting what you like best can then provide a jolly good reason for painting - period!
By way of contrast, some artists have to paint about the emotions which absorb them - and these can be obsessions. Whether they are good or bad obsessions rather depends on why they started in the first place.
  • Painting what you like best - you never get bored with a subject if you always paint what you like best. There is only one difficulty - deciding what you like best!
  • Feed an obsession - you're unable to paint anything else. You have to paint whatever is your obsession and that's the beginning and the end of it.
Business motive

Business motive might be a crude way of characterising this category - any suggestions for a better way of describing it?

This one is is essentially about achieving status, doing something which helps to make your work a more marketable commodity and creating a reason why people want to buy. These reasons might be subsidiary to the reason why you create the work - but they very definitely a legitimate part of the business life of any artist.
  • Achieve artistic credentials - working on a series can enable some artists to achieve a status which has value to them as artists and in terms of marketing their work. For example, the RHS only awards Gold Medals to Botanical Artists who develop a series of paintings about a specific species or collection
  • Develop an artistic identity - it's much easier to sell yourself to a gallery or a client if they know what you're about. It's just easier to describe and easier to market to clients who have a defined interest in your sort of work.
Exhibition of work by Tracy Hegelson (July 07)
her individual works are really great....
but the impact is multiplied when placed together
Exhibitions by Tracy Helgeson
  • Create an exhibition - exhibitions which have a big impact are ones which have themes for the work displayed. Works which are linked often work extremely well together when displayed. Combining paintings from a series in one exhibition often creates a very powerful visual impact.
  • Create a collectible - people like collecting art and a jolly good reason for creating a series is it makes it easier for people to collect your art. People like the subject and the way the artist treats it and may seek to make repeated purchases of anything they produce. There is a downside. Artists often cannot afford to stop producing such paintings - even if they now hate the subject matter - because of the financial benefits attached.
I was once given some very sound advice by a professional artist who was giving a marketing seminar to artists starting out. His biggest tip was never ever to start painting a series about a subject which did not absorb you. If it became popular and was linked to your name and became financially worthwhile you might have to paint it for a very long time to come!

Some questions for you
  • Why do you work in a series?
  • Are there any reasons which I've omitted or failed to explain properly?
  • How much does your style and way of working contribute to what sort of series you choose?
  • How much do series contribute to your style and identity as an artist?

Note: I've started my research to find hyperlinks to material about working in series. However, I can see that "working in series" is going to be a bit like "composition and design" - there simply isn't a lot of material out there on the Internet. Consequently, if anybody knows about good reference sites could you please flag them up by using the comments function - and thanks in advance if you do!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

28th September 2008: Who's made a mark this week?

September Scenes from RHS Wisley
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

This last week ushered in the autumnal equinox and, on a visit to RHS Wisley yesterday on a beautiful I could really smell Autumn in the air. The images above and throughout this post are various shots of Wisley yesterday. I can see me returning very soon to get some drawings of trees done for my new series on trees - the leaves have started to change.

How about a small competition for the best photograph of autumnal/fall trees? If you're interested let me know and I'll organise something and announce it next week. Advice on an end date would be helpful.

Art Blogs
September Scenes from RHS Wisley
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Art Business and Marketing
Etsy: The roll call of new esty shops continues

  • Paula Pertile (Drawing A Fine Line) has just opened hers for the yarn side of her creative self - plus her wonderful pencil drawings of yarn doing tangles. I love the name it's called tweedycrab and it's all looking very autumnal! (What's the 'fall' equivalent of 'autumnal'?)
  • Sue Smith has a new one called Paintings from the Oregon Outback
  • An Etsy Module has recently been developed for Squidoo Lenses - look for it under the A to Z list. You then need to enter your Etsy ID to fetch up to 5 specific items from your Etsy Shop. This is me - makingamark on Squidoo - if you get stuck.
Art Competitions - the AWS competition controversy
  • The President of the American Watercolor Society (AWS) has recognised that the Gold Medal winning painting in the 2008 exhibition, “Impermanence” by Sheryl Luxenburg has generated a huge volume of controversy and indicated the issues which were being addressed - namely the ownership of the image, the originality of the piece and even the authenticity of the medium. See Statement on AWS Gold Medal controversy from President.
  • Somebody from AWS even joined Wet Canvas as a member to reassure further the watercolour artists who've been discussing the situation now for a good month in a thread Copyright infringement at AWS? which has now topped 20,000 views! I can only imagine that this thread is being viewed by a very great number of artists around the country - and I can't reiterate enough that the issues this controversy highlights are ones which can face all art societies from time to time.
  • Sue Favinger Smith (Ancient Artist) also had an extremely intelligent discussion on the AWS gold medal controversy last Sunday in Sunday Salon: The Dust-Up at AWS and the Continuing Relevance of Duchamp
Art exhibitions
The show looks at the art Rothko produced in his final years, from 1958 to 1970. It is the first exhibition to focus exclusively on these late paintings, and the first to seek a fresh opinion of them.
Two's company by Dawn Benson
Bronze resin
  • I came across the Surrey Sculpture Society exhibiting at the RHS's premier garden at Wisley Yesterday. The Society has 300 members from Surrey and neighbouring counties. The sculpture trail had 73 exhibits in total and I saw only a few of them - but some of them were selling very well. You can see more on members websites here. It's the last day of the exhibition today - so not a great day to be posting about it - except it's been on all month so there is next year! Also sculptors who might like to think about whether their sculpture society makes the most of gardens which get lots of visitors.
  • Picture Gardens - an RHS Photographic Exhibition can also be seen at RHS Wisley. The exhibition is in the Glasshouse Gallery - which unfortunately doesn't seem to have any website URL - although it makes a great place for exhibitions of a botanical nature.
Art Projects
  • On Tuesday I announced that I'm starting a new art project on this blog in A Making A Mark Project - Working in a series. I've still to decide but I think it's quite likely that at least one of the series I'll be trying to develop in the longer term is going to be one about trees. I've already got a trees and leaves gallery on my website - but I need to do more work in this area.
  • The nice aspect is that just announcing the start of this project seems to have had a positive impact with a number of you commenting that the project has triggered you to think more about series - and get back to one/start one/get on and do one!
Art Supplies
The Regents Canal looking towards the Approach Road Bridge entrance to Victoria Park
pen and sepia ink, 6.7" x 9.25"
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
Arts Television
Botanical art and illustration

Tropical Sussex - a work in progress
8" x 10", coloured pencils on Arches HP
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
Websites, Blogging and the Internet
  • On the 7th September, I featured the fact that Google was having its 10th birthday. It incorporated on 4th September and registered its domain name on 15th September 1998. However it took until yesterday morning for the birthday celebrations to start on my Google.co.uk page (and it's gone again today)! Check out their 10th birthday site and their Google 10th birthday timeline. It's fascinating how much has changed in 10 years and how much has stayed the same. For example - it includes a link to the New York Times article Google Deal Ties Company To Weblogs (Feb. 03) about its aquisition of Pyra Labs, the people who created Blogger - and it's an interesting comment on where blogs were just 5 years ago. Or should I say weblogs! ;)
Our indexing system for processing links indicates that we now count 1 trillion unique URLs (and the number of individual web pages out there is growing by several billion pages per day).
Official Google Blog
  • For those using advertising on their blog or website here's a site I've only just discovered. Quantcast quantifies estimated traffic of different sites for advertising purposes which should be rather interesting for advertisers trying to validate traffic claims. It's very interesting if you try checking a few popular websites and then check out the difference between claimed traffic and estimated traffic. Has anybody tried using it yet?
  • Fancy entering the Webby Awards - then check out the entry FEES!!!! I personally don't trust any awards which involve payment - it's too easy for results to 'diverge' (or do I mean 'converge'?).
  • The Statcounter Blog has:
  • Twittering: Lorelle (Lorelle on Wordpress) explains How to Remove WordPress.com Ads From Your WordPress.com Blog. She's also experimenting with importing Twitter Tweets into her blog via Loud Twitter - personally I think it looks really awful! Keep blogs for blogging and Twitter for twittering! Clint Watson (FineArtViews Blog) wrote about A Spectacular Way to Avoid Doing What Really Matters but has given to comments and is giving it a whirl! See A Spectacular Way to Avoid Doing What Really Matters
  • Wired Magazine's blog ran an item Palin E-Mail Hacker Says It Was Easy. (caution - language). Then in How Sarah Palin's Yahoo mailbox was so easily hacked the Guardian provided some simple reminders about secrurity. And the moral of the story?
    • Never ever use any standard question for a security question.
    • Create your own question and make sure it has an answer that isn't publicly available. Apparently you're 90% of way there in terms of improving security for non-relative hacking purposes as soon as you use a non-standard question.
    • Most of all (say I) just think about how many bank employees know your mother's maiden name and how many accounts you have savings in............
and finally......

Maggie came up with this one up. Ever fancied drawing on your walls with a Sharpie? See what Charlie Kratzer, the Associate General Counsel at Lexmark got up to in his basement in Man decorates basement with $10 worth of Sharpie. Remarkable - plus I love the trompe l'oeil effects!

Plus sitting here in the UK I find it difficult to keep up with all the new female political candidates on the American political scene. But I was gobsmacked by the latest one Can Meg Whitman Turn Around California? So what's it to be folks? How about a nice auction?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Ways of seeing art on television

There's a bit of a surfeit of TV programmes about art and arts TV this week - but only if you live in the UK (I can hear the wailing now!). This is so all my readers who'd like to watch can make plans to take control of the remote control..........
Ways of Seeing
Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak.

But there is also another sense in which seeing comes before words. It is seeing which establishes our place in the surrounding world; we explain that world with words, but words can never undo the fact that we are surrounded by it. The relationship between what we see and what we know is never settled.'
John Berger - "Ways of Seeing": Based on the BBC Television Series
Ways of Seeing was a BBC TV series in 1972 before it was a book about art criticism by John Berger - it airs again on Sunday night on BBC4 at 7.30pm.
Published in 1972, with an accompanying TV series, Ways of Seeing remains Berger's most famous and widely read work, a slap in the face of the art establishment and an almost sacred text for the two or three art generations of students who grew up under its immeasurable influence.
Guardian - A radical returns (commenting on the book)

A BAFTA award-winning series with John Berger, which rapidly became regarded as one of the most influential art programmes ever made. In the first programme, Berger examines the impact of photography on our appreciation of art from the past.
Radio Times
The weird thing is I'm writing this with "Ways of Seeing" sitting right next to my laptop - it 'arrived' on the floor next to my feet yesterday after I'd misplaced it for a while! Really odd....


Good old Monitor - those were the days! After Ways of Seeing, BBC4 is broadcasting five Monitor programmes back to back - I wonder whether they'll have digitally enhanced the old film?

Besides interviews with Hitchcock and Betjeman they include:
The Art of Arts TV

Then at 10.00pm tomorrow a new series The Art of Arts TV kicks off with a programme about arts documentaries which focuses on the impact of the camera on ways of looking at art. Click the link to see when the repeats are on. There are two more programmes on the 29th and 1st October.
The Landmark Arts Series
Landmark arts programmes have been with us since the birth of civilisation. Literally. The very first arts "blockbuster" televised was Kenneth Clark's Civilisation in 1969. Since then we've got used to the splendour of high art being brought into our living room by the likes of Robert Hughes, Sister Wendy Beckett, Tim Marlow and (most popular of all in terms of viewing figures but wholeheartedly condemned by the art critics in this documentary) Rolf Harris. The last film in this satisfying series explores the monumental cultural impact of the arts programme on TV.
Radio Times listing: Wednesday 01 October, 10:00pm - 11:00pm, BBC4 (links added are by me)
Channel 4's Art Season

Following on from last week's programme by Robert Hughes, the second programme in the three programme series is 'The Great Russian Art Invasion'. This is on Channel 4 6.30-8.00pm - in direct competition with Ways of Seeing.
As he investigates the Russian boom in art acquisition, Marcel Theroux takes us inside the fortified mansions of a few collectors, and frankly they make your average Premier League footballer's place look homely. The marbled halls are bedecked with million-dollar paintings like so many Athena posters.
Radio Times
I'm really disappointed with the Radio Times - it's opted to give major feature status for the bling culture of the Russians as opposed to the 'seminal' programme of Ways of Seeing.

Finally though a lovely quote which I came across while researching the John Berger links.
when you are drawing something which is alive, you are drawing the traces of what has happened to it until that moment at which you are looking at it. I mean, the traces of how it has physically become itself.
John Berger - in conversation with Michael Ondaatje Times Online All creation is in the art of seeing

Friday, September 26, 2008

Gardens and Botanical Art

Tropical Sussex - a work in progress
8" x 10", coloured pencils on Arches HP
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Do you draw inspiration from natural forms? Do you like observing everything about plants? If you do you probably like gardens and you may have become interested in botanical art.

Speaking personally, I love trees and plants and flowers - and gardens, but I guess regular readers of my two blogs may have guessed that by now! I'm even thinking about doing a series about trees for my series project!

Plus I love visiting gardens where you can see them all to their best advantage. I find I sometimes look at a plant in a completely new light when spotting it in a garden I'm visiting. That's what happened to me this summer when visiting Great Dixter - I suddenly saw the leaves of the Canna in a wholly new light. It was like looking at some marvellous abstract sculpture - and I was hooked. I spent simply ages looking at them from every angle and observing how the colours changed every time the light changed. They then took up residence in my head and are demanding to get out - but it's a lot easier said than done!

Great Gardens of the World

What I want to do is share what I know about good gardens to visit and I'm very much hoping people with share with me which are the good gardens that they've visited.

One of the ways I'm doing this is by developing a series of information sites for those interested in great gardens around the world. Below you'll find a lits of the information sites for the first gardens - which have all been created on Squidoo - plus the group site which will hopefully include sites created by other people in due course. People familiar with my travels with a sketchbook will recognise a lot of the names. I've got a lot more in draft but thought I'd share these now with people who want to catch Autumn Colours somewhere new this year - or maybe just take a virtual tour!

What I'm trying to do with these is provide you with all the practical information about what's there and how to get there but also something of a taster of what it all looks like by finding sites which have photos of the gardens.

The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew

Over a million people visit the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew each year. The 300 acres of gardens and botanical collections are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which means they rank alongside Stonehenge, the Pyramids, and the Taj Mahal!

Sissinghurst Castle Garden - a great garden

Sissinghurst Castle Garden is probably the most famous 20th century garden in the UK. Find out more about this extremely popular garden whether you love Sissinghurst already or aim to visit in future, in reality or as a virtual visitor.

Great Dixter - a great garden

Great Dixter in East Sussex was created by Christopher Lloyd and is a garden which is extremely popular with gardeners who like plants and flowers. Find out more about this extremely popular garden whether you love Great Dixter already or aim to visit in future - for real or as a virtual visitor.

Bodnant Garden - A Great Garden

Bodnant Garden in North Wales is one of the most beautiful gardens in the UK and is world-famous. It comprises lawns, terraced gardens and is noted for its botanical collections and wide range of plants.

The Great Garden Guide

Visit the great gardens of the world to find out how they got that status! This site provides information about guides to the great gardens of the world.

HELP PLEASE: I have also included a section about Blogging about Great Gardens - so if you've done a blog post in the past about a great garden then let me know and I'll include a link!

Great Gardens Headquarters Whether you're planning to visit a great garden soon or just want to pay a virtual visit, this group contains links to some great gardens.

Botanical Art

I found out yesterday that Valerie Oxley, who specialises in botanical illustration and is a member of both UKCPS and the Society of Botanical Artists has just had a book published - Botanical Illustration.

Botanical Illustration by Valerie Oxley
Crowood Press (September 2008)

Valerie's botanical art credentials are impressive. Valerie developed the Diploma in Botanical illustration at the University of Sheffield, Department of Lifelong Learning (TILL). She's also the Vice-Chairman of the Northern Society for Botanical Art and the Chairman of the Florilegium Society at Sheffield Botanical Gardens.

Valerie also teaches across the UK and this book will be particularly welcomed by Valerie's past and present students who have been urging her to write about the subject for many years!

I've not seen the book yet - but I have taken a peek inside it here - and it looks very interesting.

You can read an outline of what Botanical Illustration is about and what topics it covers in this post on the UKCPS News blog Botanical Illustration by Valerie Oxley.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The new Icarus Drawing Board™

CPSA award-winning artist Ester Roi emailed me from the CPSA Convention in Seattle this summer to agree to an interview for this blog. Well this isn't the interview - but it's about the reason why we're doing the interview - her new Icarus Drawing Board™ (patent pending)

Ester Roi with "Into the Light"
photo courtesy Ester Roi

Ester produces work with absolutely brilliant saturated colours. One of those works "Into the Light" (see right) this year received an Award for Excellence at the Annual International CPSA Exhibition in Seattle

Ester lives in Southern California and I first heard about her and her coloured pencil artwork from my Californian friend Louise who told me how absolutely stunning her work looked. I've been looking out for it ever since and have also been pondering for some time how Ester manages to produce her work. You can see some examples of her work here. Finally news came of the answer - in the form of a heated drawing board - hence my immediate email to her inviting her to do an interview!

I guess a number of artists using coloured pencils have experienced that moment when pencils seem to have warmed to the point where they begin to melt and suddenly you find you're pushing pigment around the page in a completely different way. I found the experience rather intoxicating the first time it happened to me! I guess the thought of being able to do the same thing - at will - on a heated drawing board is going to be a very exciting prospect for some people!

Yesterday I received a note from Ester to say that her new Icarus Drawing Board™ is ready for launch and that her new drawing boards will start shipping out next week from the new company, Icarus Art Inc. which has been set up to produce and market the board.
Exploring the possibilities
  • Drawing and painting with the same medium
  • No need for solvents or water (heat is the solvent)
  • Reworking indefinitely
  • Less time and effort
Icarus Drawing Board™
Ester took three years developing her technique and encaustic-like approach to coloured pencils. Her primary intention was to create a true “colored pencil painting”. In other words artwork which has a similar color saturation and density of acrylic or oil paintings.

The Icarus Drawing Board - what it is and what it does
  • The Icarus Drawing Board is a portable drawing board with a large 20" x 26" drawing surface.
  • Its unique feature is that it has two built-in working zones, a warm zone and a cool zone underneath a tempered glass top.
  • The technique facilitated by the drawing board is based on the principle that when a wax based medium - such as a coloured pencil - is exposed to heat, it becomes softer or even melts. When returned to room temperature, it quickly solidifies.
  • Using the Board: In general, the warm zone (controlled by a temperature dial) is used for mixing pigments, blending, burnishing and reworking. The cool zone is used for line drawing, layering, detailing and finishing touches. By shifting the artwork between the two zones, the artist can take full advantage of the intrinsic properties of wax based media.
Suitable Media for use with the Icarus Drawing Board.
  • All wax based media, particularly colored pencils, wax crayons, oil pastels and encaustic sticks are ideal for the Icarus Drawing Board technique. (Note: Not all coloured pencils are wax based and you need to check the brands which can be used with this technique)
  • Papers of any variety, from drawing to watercolor and pastel paper,
  • Boards such as illustration, museum, canvas or wood boards,
  • Other media: fabric, glass, plexiglass and more can be
  • Tools used for painting with coloured pencil are simple and easy to obtain.
Some key benefits
  • It all takes significantly less time than some coloured pencil techniques!
  • Plus it's approved by the CPSA for submission to the Annual International Exhibition! (see News 07.11.07)
Practical points are that it consumes the same amount of electricity as a light bulb and is constructed around a metal frame with vent holes. As a result, it weighs 15lbs but has a built in carrying handle. Those interested in more information about safety and maintenance can find it on the website. One possible downside for artists outside North America is that the Warranty is applicable only in USA and Canada.

The Icarus Drawing Board is now available through Icarus Art and I understand that the first set of drawing boards will start shipping out next week. I've not seen one - other than in a photograph - and I've obviously not used one so I'm currently working on the basis of the information I've been supplied with by Ester and Icarus Art. However if one of my readers decides to get one I'd very much like to know what you think about it.

Finally - although there's a FAQs page on the website - the purpose of this post is to identify what questions readers of this blog might like to ask Ester and then we can try and address these in the upcoming interview.

So - this is a chance to ask a question to an artist who has created a genuinely innovative approach to using coloured pencils for artwork. What do you want to know about:
  • Ester's approach approach to her work?
  • How Ester developed her technique?
  • How to use the new drawing board?
  • How long it takes to learn new techniques?
It's your choice...........


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What is Cartridge Paper?

Do you know what cartridge paper is or why it's called cartridge paper?

I came across an article this morning (while writing a Product review: The Derwent Safari Journal - the Journal uses cartridge paper!) which explained all about it. It was so intriguing I started to look for more references as I always get questions from people in the USA whenever I use the term cartridge paper.
Basically I use cartridge paper to mean a reasonable quality decent weight (heavy) drawing paper.

I often draw in my drawing classes on good quality acid free cartridge paper. It typically comes in weights between 150gsm and 300 gsm. TN Lawrence & Co define cartridge paper as having the following dimensions 661mm x 534mm.

But here's the Free Dictionary definition
1. cartridge paper - thick white paper for pencil and ink drawings;
drawing paper - paper that is specially prepared for use in drafting
2. cartridge paper - paper for making cartridge cases;
paper - a material made of cellulose pulp derived mainly from wood or rags or certain grasses
Free Dictionary
...and this is the Inveresk definition
Cartridge paper: Tough, slightly rough surfaced paper used for a variety of purposes such as envelopes; the name comes from the original use for the paper which formed the tube section of a shotgun shell.
Inveresk - Glossary of Papermaking Terms
Plus here's the start of the article I mentioned which I found on the Griffen Mill website
The origin of cartridge paper is usually thought to have been associated with the manufacture of ammunition but this is not strictly true. The link between gunpowder, fireworks and paper is much older. Bamboo firecrackers, fuelled by gunpowder, became an important part of Chinese religious rituals and festivals from c.500AD. The Chinese though were well aware of the killing power of these explosive devices and quickly applied them to warfare. Within about 100 years, they were using gunpowder to create a variety of explosives, including bombs and "fire arrows" - bamboo firecrackers attached to regular arrows and shot at the enemy. It is believed that around 600 AD rather than using bulky bamboo stems, firecracker makers began filling paper tubes with gunpowder and inserting fuses made from tissue paper with a trail of gunpowder inside.

This application is the first known use of “cartridge” paper.
Griffen Mill - Miscellanea - The opening shot
Interestingly it also explains another phrase in common use
The cartridge paper supplied to the Board of Ordnance for muskets had to be made to tight technical specifications, as it had to perform several functions. The description of loading a musket makes this clear.

To load the musket the soldier held it horizontally, took out his paper cartridge & tore open the powder end with his teeth. (Hence the origin of the saying “to bite the bullet”)
Griffen Mill - Miscellanea - The opening shot
I've added the references into my information site Paper and Non-Canvas Supports - Resources for Artists.

Most UK suppliers can offer a range of pads of cartridge paper. You can find a range of sheets of good quality heavy weight cartridge paper on the Heaton Cooper website.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Making A Mark Project - Working in a series

Wheatstacks (end of summer) 1890-91 - Claud Monet
Oil on canvas, 60 x 100 cm (23 5/8 x 39 3/8 in);

The Art Institute of Chicago
Working in a series - looking at the benefits of repetition and developing a series around one motif; picking up on Monet's series paintings and other artists who've developed major themes and painted the same motif several times. I'll be looking to feature artist bloggers during this project and hope to do some interviews.
Making A Mark in 2008 - The Plan
My work plan for 2008 indicates a project about working in a series during September and October. I've been looking forward to doing this one as it's a practice I ponder on quite a bit - and hopefully it's going to get quite a few people who read this blog thinking about 'working in a series' too.

To some extent I think this project will pick up on and reiterate aspects of art highlighted during the earlier projects about composition, colour and Japanese prints. I'm hoping that focusing on specific artists and specific series might make the different aspects appear more like a coherent whole.

In this particular post I'm going to highlight some of artists and the series paintings I'm hoping to cover in the next few weeks - although that might be a somewhat optimistic hope! It maybe that this is a project is a series of posts with an indefinite end.......... It'll naturally finish when I've nothing left to say.

Claude Monet

Monet is a really great painter of series and had a number of themes at different times. His primary interest was in the impact of light on colour underpinned them all. He tended to paint the same subject matter repeatedly, recording how its appearance changed with the time of day
Nypheas by Claude Monet
Musée Marmottan

I might try and have a go at following in his footsteps and drawing the two London bridges he painted - both of which are very familiar to me.

Edgar Degas:

Series paintings by Degas tend to feature people, who are very often women.
This aspect will mean I'll also finally try and finish my draft of the information site for Degas in my Resources for Art Lovers series.

Vincent Van Gogh -sunflowers. I've already added in a new section to the Vincent van Gogh - Resources for art Lovers site and will be looking to develop that further.

Andy Warhol - paintings, drawings and silkscreen prints
Venice: There are a number of places which exert a huge draw on artists and generate very many paintings over the years. One such place is Venice.

A lot of artists have found Venice particularly inspiring across centures - including Canaletto, Turner, Sargent and Whistler - I'll be trying to highlight just some of them as well as looking at more contemporary artists who paint Venice - such as Ken Howard

The Balcony from "Second Venice Set," 1879-80,
11 5/8 x 7 7/8 inches, etching
by James McNeill Whistler

I think this may well be an interesting way of examining how people can portray the same subject matter as a series and still produce something which is entirely unique to them. I'm hoping this might provide some more pointers about creativity of vision and style eg what are the main ways in which a painter differentiates their style when making a painting.

Other artists
I'm interested in:
  • learning more about other artists who have also painted in series (maybe Wayne Thiebaud and his cakes and pastries) - although this might just develop as a list for the time being.
  • learning about examples of bloggers who have painted in series (eg Duane Keiser and the eggs and the PB&J sandwich; Tracy Helgeson and her barns) . If you've painted a series this is you, please leave a comment below and identify your blog URL and the series you've undertaken
I'd be interested to know which artist and which series paintings sprang to mind for you when you saw this topic?

Art project - overall apprach
As with all my Making A Mark projects, I'll:
  • try to find a sensible structure to order information
  • learn as I go by generating links to websites providing more information
  • produce a blog post synopsis of the main learning points identified
  • make a record of what I've found in a permanent site - and a summary of the relevant blog posts. During the course of the project, I'll develop an information site called Working in Series - Resources for Art Lovers as well as adding in relevant information to already existing resource sites.
I'll let you know when the latter is published and you are very welcome to bookmark and/or link to it. If anybody has suggestions for good sites which might be included in it please do leave a comment below.

Similarly if anybody would like to join in with this project and maybe do some research of your own you are very welcome. Let me know by leaving a comment.

I've no idea at the moment where I'm going to start - any suggestions?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Statement on AWS Gold Medal controversy from President

Below you will find the recent AWS Statement made by Jim McFarlane, the new AWS President, which has now been posted on the 2008-2009 Gold Medal Award page of the American Watercolor Society's website. It's reproduced in full below. This relates to my earlier post Art competitions and copyright - the AWS Gold Medal debate.
2008–2009 AWARDS

Founded 142 years ago, and the oldest watercolor society in America, the American Watercolor Society has had a proud history of promoting the art of watercolor and annually exhibiting the best contemporary watercolors by the best artists working in water based mediums. Our goal has always been to promote original art. Our prospectus clearly and emphatically informs each artist who enters our annual international exhibition that we do not accept “…copies, digital images or prints…” and that by filling out our entry form, they are agreeing to “…comply fully with the conditions and terms set forth…” in our prospectus.

Unfortunately, the Gold Medal winning painting in the 2008 exhibition, “Impermanence” by Sheryl Luxenburg has generated a huge volume of controversy. In question are the ownership of the image, the originality of the piece and even the authenticity of the medium. Many have questioned the American Watercolor Society's position on this problem and wondered in their communications to us whether our society is taking these questions seriously. Rest assured, while it is a difficult problem, from the time we received the first allegation we have been working to determine the truth. At this point an enormous amount of time has been devoted to sorting out the facts surrounding this work.

As the president of the AWS, I can assure you that we take any affront to our reputation very seriously and will bring the matter to a final solution based on a careful consideration of the accusations and the facts as we can determine them. Until that process can be completed, we are removing the painting from our traveling exhibition and from our web page. We are very grateful to those who have offered information to us and welcome any pertinent information that can assist us in fairly, professionally and constructively resolving this matter.

Thank you,
Jim McFarlane, AWS President
September 16, 2008
I predict that this will not be the last time we see a prestigious art society having to address this sort of issue.

I know others have had to do so in the past but, on the whole, societies tend to keep quiet about challenges made, investigations and outcomes. However, it seems that by keeping quiet, the AWS was also in danger of people thinking they were not taking the issues seriously and/or addressing them - and for that reason I very much welcome the statement which has now been made.

It's good to see that this matter is both being taken very seriously and that it is also being progressed. I don't envy Jim McFarlane one little bit. This must be a very significant endeavour. However I do know that there are methods and approach which can resolve with certainty the issues which have been raised in relation to:
  • ownership of the image,
  • the originality of the piece and
  • the authenticity of the medium used.
The AWS would do every other art society a very great service if, at the end of this process (irrespective of the outcome) they identify:
  • how they approached the issues raised
  • what specific actions they took - against a timeline
  • what lessons they learned en route
  • what they would do differently next time.