Well, this years open studio event at Leegate House has been and gone. Many thanks to those that made the journey to this little corner of southeast London. Thankfully the heatwave abated, just for the day, and we didn’t all melt in our studios.
These open studios events are a prerequisite for studio providers to maintain their charitable status – to demonstrate they’re “engaging with the community”. In my experience, many studio providers will only make a token effort, and most artists will see it as an inconvenience.
I’m pleased to say that Bow Arts treated this event with a lot more enthusiasm than some other studio providers I’ve been involved with; as did most of the artists here in Leegate House – it was the most enjoyable open studio that I’ve taken part in. Some of the nicest conversations I had were with local people who’d seen a flyer in the local Sainsburys, and thought “I must go along to that”. I spend most of my time locked away alone in this room on the fifth floor. It’s actually quite nice opening the doors to the public once a year.
Well, that was an experience. In the end, 900 people had visited Britannia Works, and most of them made their way up to our studio. Space Studios came good in the end, providing us with everything we needed to make the event happen. From what I heard from visitors, Britannia Works were judged to have put on a good show.
I made a mistake on Saturday, by trying to continue working on my Feast of Venus painting, and having it turned away from visitors. With no place to store it, I was reluctant to show it to people while far from complete. I changed my mind on Sunday, and it worked out well. It gave me an opportunity to discuss the meaning behind the painting, and why I’d spent so much time and money on this particular project.
Although it was a lot of hard work, the weekend was thoroughly enjoyable. It provided a great opportunity to discuss my work, and get feedback on my paintings. I learned a lot. I would like to thank everyone who visited our studio and made the event a success, and a special thank you to all those people who took the time to talk to us.
I shall be showing a couple of paintings at the forthcoming 24WA Studio Show in Southend on Sea, which opens at the end of May. Being an Estuary Fringe event, it will be free, and there is sure to be some live entertainment for the opening night.
Since moving into my London studio, I’ve mainly been using the studios at 24WA for my life drawing sittings, as it’s more comfortable for the models than a draughty Fish Island warehouse. But I worked on these two paintings there over the Christmas period, when I first moved in. They were started over a year ago, and I think they mark a defining moment in my art, when I set out to explore different ideas in my compositions, and introduced some classical elements into a few of them. The photos below just show details.
The 24WA Studio Show is an Estuary Fringe event.
“The Estuary Fringe was created with the aim of taking art back from the pretentious art elites who have somehow insinuated themselves into the borough, and hand it back to the local community, to everyone, where it belongs.
The first festival in June 2013 was incredibly successful. Organised in just 7 weeks with no money and no idea what we were letting ourselves in for, we were blown away by just how well it all went, so we have decided to keep doing it.”
I often wonder about the the creative process. and how best to optimise my working methods. I have tried to identify the most favourable environmental conditions – the best breakfast , the most suitable background music- and the most effective working practices; but the abandoned and incomplete canvases scattered around my studio are testament to the fact that my methods are neither efficient nor productive.
At any one time, I will usually be working on two or three paintings, and will have at least a dozen half-finished paintings leaning against the walls. What happens is that I have no problems working through the preliminary stages – finalising the composition and setting the tonal values – and then I hit a brick wall. I will set the painting up on the easel as usual, but for some reason my mind will go blank. No amount of staring, or not staring, drinking tea or walking the dog will remedy the situation. I will have no ideas about where to start working on the painting, and it will look to me like the work of another artist. No matter what I do, I can’t avoid this artist’s block. Instead, I just have to regard it as another stage in the creative process – a time for pause, for reflection.
The three paintings that I am working on now are a perfect illustration of how this problem affects my execution of a painting. Painting 1 is my most recent canvas. It’s based on drawings and photos from a sitting some nine months ago. I was pleased with how the painting was developing. I’m reasonably happy with the composition, and I think the poses are interesting to paint. However, when I sat it on my easel yesterday, I felt nothing. I felt no connection with this painting, and was at a loss about where to go with it. It’s facing the wall now. I will take a look at it in a month, and hope I will see it differently.
My time working on painting 2 has been a long hard slog. From a promising start, when I felt very enthusiastic about the poses and composition, I managed to spoil the painting with the finishing glazes. I ended up removing the offending glazes and sanding down the paint surface in order to start afresh. I’m now in the process of applying those final glazes again, but I’m happier with the effect this time around.
Painting 3 is a puzzle. It had become quite tedious working on the figures, and I was very unhappy with the composition. I abandoned this painting months ago, seeing no redeeming features in it. When I stumbled upon it yesterday, whilst looking for another painting, I saw it with fresh eyes, and a genuine enthusiasm. I like the poses, and can’t wait to start working on it again.
Producing a painting, recreating one’s vision upon the canvas, can be a difficult process, involving a real battle with the medium. Although often frustrating, these same challenges are the main attraction of painting. If it were easy and predictable, I don’t think I would want to do it every day.