I have three recent paintings on show at the Angel Christmas Fair this year.
The Angel Christmas Fair is an annual affordable art and design fair featuring the work of various artists and designers. The event will take place in December 2016 and will comprise all creative disciplines; painting, photography, illustration, fashion, textiles, jewellery, glass, ceramics and furniture.
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.
So, I’ve been working with glazes this morning on one of my current paintings. When I finished, I thought that, instead of throwing away the leftover glaze and cleaning my palette, I would use it to try and finish this painting that has been lying around the studio for a long time now (I think I had the original sittings with the models in July 2013).
I do have a problem working on these older pieces. The sittings are usually from so long ago, that I can’t recall exactly what I had in mind as I directed the model. But most importantly, this painting belongs to a body of work that I was working on over a year ago. It’s only natural that my compositions and also my technique will have changed during this time.
At the moment, I have in my studio a collection of unfinished paintings; some of them started well over a year ago. Although anxious to resume work on my “Feast of Venus” project, I shall try and finish some of these pieces first. They are all important to me, and are only unfinished because of the wretched time I’ve had this past year in finding a suitable studio.
For the past few weeks I have been working almost exclusively on my interpretation of The Feast of Venus. I am getting to the stage where I can define the figures, and set them in space. I’ve made some adjustments along the way, and am happy with all the poses, bar one. The third figure from the left – the figure bending over and looking back over their shoulder – has been a nightmare. My last two sittings ended with the life models getting quite fed up with my instructions to “bend forward and curve your back!” Human anatomy being what it is, their backs just would not bend so, which leaves me with a compositional problem. That curve is essential for the composition, and at the same time the pose has to look mildly erotic. I think I may need to hire a contortionist.
I had my first sitting in preparation for my “Feast of Venus” piece. I have ten female figures in total in this painting. I’ve reserved the “erotic” poses on the left of the painting for a model who’s more experienced at glamour work. Today I worked through the poses for the central three figures (with Venus in the middle), and the two figures in the top right, which were the least defined of all the poses.
I’m very happy with how the sitting went, and quickly defined the poses for the top right figures. I’m undecided about whether I need to hire an additional model for any of these poses. I’m happy with how all these poses have turned out, but it might make for a more interesting painting if there was more variety in body-shape.
I’ve settled on a provisional layout for my Feast of Venus painting. Most of the figures are quite well defined for this early stage, but there are a few unresolved areas. I will have to make some decisions about the background in the top right, and the tree behind the central figure of Venus. So today I went out with my camera, photographing trees. I must confess that I’ve not spent much time looking at trees in the past, and to begin with I was amazed by the huge variety in form and texture….. After four hours, they all started to look pretty much the same.
I now have a selection of poses that I’m happy with, which I can present to the model when she arrives for the first sitting. This first sitting will just enable me to work on the layout to a greater detail, so I can make decisions about how I want each figure to look; then I can start looking for suitable life models.
I recently came across an interesting project by the artist Inga Krymskaya, where she is inviting artists to contribute their own interpretations to her ongoing project: “3045 Variations on The Feast of Venus…..an ongoing project by the Dutch artist involving the adaptation and reinvention of the Flemish Baroque painting by Rubens entitled”. I usually have absolutely no interest in creating pieces specially for themed shows. The pace at which I work normally excludes me from any such activity. The generous deadline for this project, 26th February, 2016 (nearly four months from when I write this), is still a bit tight, and I don’t expect I can get anything worthwhile completed to my satisfaction in that time…, but still I keep thinking about it.
What started as a casual perusal of this particular Rubens painting, turned into a more detailed analysis of the composition, and the treatment by Rubens of this subject. And then I started to consider how I would approach the same subject. Well, the Cherubs would have to go, as would the Satyrs; they just don’t have the same meaning in our modern artistic vocabulary. But the underlying themes of the painting are just as valid today as when Rubens put brush to canvas. I couldn’t stop thinking about how I’d like to arrange the figures in my composition, and spent a few evenings working through endless compositions. Eventually I settled on a layout that borrowed enough from the original, whilst being a continuation of my current work, and able to convey a meaning to a modern audience. By now I realised that I was working on my next painting.
It has been a few days now since I first came across Inga Krymskaya’s project, and I have barely worked on anything else. I have arrived at an initial layout, with alternative poses for most of the figures. The background is rather less defined at present. I believe I can make do with as few as three different models, and have already arranged a sitting with one model for the preparatory work; in order to work through most of the poses, so that I’ll have drawings with which to start arranging the composition on the canvas. It is only then that I can settle on the composition. From there I might have a better idea which models will best suit each figure, and I can only hope that I will finalise the poses for their figures with one sitting each. That 26th of February deadline is beginning to look very close!
For various reasons, I’ve ended up having a very difficult nine months, work wise. I’ve barely finished anything, and paintings that I started over a year ago have been stuck in an artistic limbo. A studio move earlier in the year did not turn out as I had hoped, and so I was not exactly full of confidence when I set up a new studio space just over a month ago.
I need not have worried. The new space is large, bright and quiet. It’s taken me a few weeks to get into the right frame of mind and to dispel that sense of gloom that has been hanging over me for so long, but I really do feel that I have found somewhere that I can produce some work. It is a great help that it’s a large and uncluttered space, allowing me the luxury of being able to view my work at a healthy distance.
The drawings above date back quite some months. I had a vague idea for a painting, with my life model Maxine posing with her arms out while in the background stood a male figure, possibly in a crucified pose. The two sketches on the bottom left were from the first sitting, where I tried to develop the ideas. As is usually the case, my original ideas for poses just did not work. The three drawings at top left were from the next sitting, where we worked through alternative poses. I was much happier with these, and put them up on the wall as soon as I moved into my new studio. I was trying to decide which pose to use for my painting, when one day it suddenly struck me that I could use all three poses.
Not satisfied with starting my first new composition for many months, I even managed to make a start on a painting I had originally planned when working with the life model Kaya. She brought along some wonderful masks to the sittings, and so helped me develop an idea for a painting that I have had for a very long time.
When I was looking for a new studio space, I had concentrated my search in London, thinking it better to be closer to the main “art scene”. I viewed a number of places there, but none were quite suitable for my purposes. I was somewhat disappointed when I ended up renting my present place in Westcliff-on-Sea, more out of desperation; my studio had been packed away for months, and I was desperate to find somewhere, anywhere, that I could start working again.
Apart from having the main requirements of a studio – light, space and quiet – I am beginning to appreciate now just how important the location is. Below is the view just twenty yards from my front door. It might be professionally advantageous to be located in East London, but it’s certainly healthier and more enjoyable to have the big skies and sea breezes of the seaside.
Being in the middle of a studio move, I’ve not had time to post anything about the New Artist Fair, in which I showed some work earlier this month. This was the first time I have taken part in an art fair, and it was quite an education. After observing how the crowds interacted with the works, and seeing how the more experienced exhibitors displayed their work, I soon learned some valuable lessons about presentation and “product placement”.
As for this particular fair, I found it to be very well organised – the organisers are very friendly and obviously interested in Art. The pricing is reasonable, and at no stage did i feel that I was being ripped off – there were no hidden extras to surprise you on the day. The fair was very well attended on each of the three days, which shows just how well the organisers promote the event.
Despite all my praise, I am not sure if I would take part in it again. When I booked, I was told there were only 2m spaces left, which is more suited to smaller works. The biggest problem with having such a small space was that I couldn’t sit or stand in front of my work without obstructing the view of half my paintings. The fair enjoyed a healthy number of sales over the three days, but most of them will have been for lower value items under £250. The only piece I sold was a smaller portrait at under £200 – I feel that the £400-£500 prices of most of my work are not that attractive to impulse buyers. I would only consider taking part again if I had a larger selection of smaller works that I could offer at more affordable prices, and perhaps some prints and drawings.
My lasting impression from this event was the pleasure of meeting such a nice group of artists, who were all so friendly and helpful, and helped make the fair such an enjoyable experience. A special thanks to Sam Gare,Precious Murphy, Pete Fraser, Frances Bloomfield, Tolu Magbagbeola and Ruby Lewis, who have restored my faith in the artistic fraternity.