Monthly Archives: February 2014

Early Morning Walks

Italian track

Morning Mist

Every morning, nice and early, I take to two dogs out for walk. Along the damp white road we stroll, shrouded in mist with a pale sun poking through the cloud. Past the crumbling farmhouse, the delapidated barn and the swirling ford. At present this is a torrent of muddy water, after the recent spell of rain.

Wood shed

Wood shed

Beneath the rusting, iron bridge, we turn and continue along the railway line.  Where you can just making out the rickety wood shed and then we are out amongst, the now empty tobacco fields and the knarled old grape vines.

grape vines

Ancient Vine

Late winter at this time of day is lovely. There’s normally a light mist and a slight bite to the chill morning air. It wakes you up nicely, focusing the mind and helping to set out the day ahead.

Italian train

Rural Grafitti

Occasionally the muted landscape is cut by the noise of a grafitti decorated, train, In the morning light it is loud, bright and brash against the subtle green of the Umbrian countryside. And just as suddenly as the clattering of the train arrives, it is gone, leaving a calm, tranquility for the three of us to walk.

Damp Tobacco

Damp Tobacco

All photographs are available to buy as greeting cards here

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Painter Inspired Lyrics

Artists take their inspiration from a variety of sources, the play of light on water, a dramatic street scene or a simple collection of household items. What about painters themselves? Has their work ever caused a musician to pick up their pen and write a lyric extoling a particular artist?

Vincent_van_Gogh_Starry_Night

Starry Night

The two obvious ones that spring to mind are Vincent (Starry, Starry Night) by Don Mclean waxing lyrically as he sings “paint your palette blue and grey”.

Then Brian and Michael wrote the familiar (at least to my generation) “Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs” in 1978. The song is a tribute to the painter L.S. Lowry who famously painted matchstick figures in his pictures.

Matchstalk Men

Matchstalk Men

One of the most comical composers between the 1970s and 1990s was the talented Neil Innes who has many credits to his name and worked on such programs as Monty Python and The Rutles, a take off of the Beatles. After having studied fine art at Goldsmiths in the 1960s it’s no surprise that he penned “Cezanne Says Anne” a musical tale of a girls love of the painter. “I like Cezanne, says Anne” while listing Renoir, Modigliani, Rembrandt, Bruegel, Botticelli, Ernst and Braque. As the song says, surreal.

Botticelli gets another mention by Joni Mitchel in “The only joy in town” and the Counting Crows’ “When I dream of Michelangelo” talks of the masters painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Continuing inside, The Manic Street Preachers pay homage to Willem de Kooning in “Interiors”.

Rothko

Rothko

Jay Z has listed a number of artists in his lyrics, Picasso first in “Friend or Foe”. In the 2013 album “Magna Carta” he titles the painter in “Picasso Baby” where his list includes references to Rothko, Koons, Condo, Bacon, da Vinci, Basquiat and  Warhol. Although, rather than being inspired by the artists canvas, merely talks of his desire to own their works, seemingly for their status and worth, rather then their artistic merits.

Probably one of the most mentioned artists is unsurprisingly Andy Warhol and his pop culture art and 15 minutes of fame quote have ensured he is not forgotten. Along with Jay Z; David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Paul Simon and lesser known acts XV, Lousy Robot, Yo La Tengo all refer to Warhol.

Chagall and Fish

Chagall and Fish

Salvador Dali is one of the most recognised names from the art world and Kate Bush talks of a gallery owning Signora Dali, while even Kanye West is aware of the artists melting images in his song “Mercy”. Meanwhile in Todd Rundgren’s song “Just Another Onionhead, Dada Dali”, he paints a musical picture worthy of the Surrealist artist’s canvases.

I started out with a few songs in mind but have discovered that hidden away in the back catalogues and rarely listened to tracks are many references to famous artists. Not all the tracks are good or well known, a number of the artists like Weepies who sing about a Chagall painting are completely unknown to me. However, it’s nice to find that artists are still inspiring musicians and in turn creating more great works.

Your turn!……….. What have I missed? 😀

Tenby – Dinbych yn Pysgoed

Wales Harbor

Tenby Harbour
Watercolour 30cm x 50cm (Sold)

Tenby or Dinbych un Pysgoed in Welsh, meaning the Little town of the fishes is one of my favourite places in Wales. Nestling amongst the rugged coastline is the gorgeous little fishing village, complete with pastel coloured houses and ancient town wall.

Tenby

Tenby

Standing out on the promontary are the ruins of the town’s 12th century castle and remnants of the town gates and towers can be found all around the streets.

During the early Victorian period it became a popular holiday resort and people would come from miles around to take the waters. There are also two lightboat houses that jut out into the sea, the original 1902 cream building and the later 2008, modern construction.

It’s beautiful unspoilt beaches and wide, rambling countryside make it a great destination for summer holidays. At low tide you can walk out to St Catherine’s Island with its Napoleonic defences or take a boat trip across to visit the Cistercian monks on Caldey Island.

The painting is a watercolour and ink study on cartridge paper measuring 30cm x 50cm and has a cream mount.

Quality prints available here

500 Years of the Selfie

World's first selfie

World’s first selfie

 Although the phrase “Selfie” is a relatively new one, the idea of creating an image of oneself is a lot older. The first artist credited with a self-portrait was Caterina van Hemessen. She was born in Antwerp in 1528 and lived until 1587, and although not the most accomplished of painters, her, self-painting is the oldest surviving example of a selfie.

Portraits in frescoes
While a number of artists sat themselves in front of a mirror and painted their reflection, others chose to preserve their image for posterity by including their faces in the characters of commissions. They rarely take centre stage, appearing in the fringes or behind the lead figures. Ruben’s put himself in the frame in “The Four Philosophers” (1611 -12), Piero della Francesco is a sleeping soldier, Gozzoli joins the Medici Parade and Botticelli is in the crowd at the Adoration of the Magi.
Arnolfini Mirror

Arnolfini Mirror

Hidden selfie

It is also suggested that Jan van Eyck is one of the reflections in the mirror of the famous Arnolfini portrait. Where the artist can be clearly seen with the sitters backs to the mirror. One of the oldest, young selfies was of a teenage Albrecht Durer in 1484 and Leonardo da Vinci captured his own likeness in 1512.

Artemisia Gentileschi

Artemisia Gentileschi

Baroque Self-portrait

One of the most elegant and stylish self-portraits has to be by the Baroque artist, Artemisia Gentileschi in the 1630s. Dressed up in her finery, palate and brush in hand, sleeve rolled up and standing in front of her easel. This has to be one of the most overly dressed painting occasions, complete with a flouncy, satin dress and gold chain. Artists just don’t make an effort in their studio these days.

By the 17th century it was becoming more common for artists to paint self-portraits and Rembrandt produced a number, as did the famous 18th century portrait painter Sir Joshua Reynolds. Rococo artist, Roselba Carriera was another painter who pushed forward portrait painting and was one of the first artists to use pastels. She was a favourite of young men on the Grand Tour when they stayed over in Venice and is said to have done a fine trade in under the counter saucy material for the boys on tour.
Van Gogh Self-portrait

Van Gogh Self-portrait

The artists portrait

Someone who was never shy of putting his image down on canvas was Vincent van Gogh, he painted thirty seven selfies during the late 1800s. Egon Schiele was another who was happy to paint himself and in a variety of explicit poses too.

The 20th century saw art and portraiture taken to new levels with the Dadaists, Expressionists and Cubists all producing an array of interesting figurative likenesses. Picasso loved to put himself into his art and some of the more subtle renditions came from the hand of wan and soulful Amedeo Modigliani. The protagonists of Pop Art also took to using their own images as subject matter with Andy Warhol creating his brightly coloured sets of crazy hair photo prints of himself.
German photographer BingThe photo selfie itself dates back to 1839 with the first recorded photographed self portrait being of Robert Cornelius. A faded, ghost like image of the Philadelphian amateur chemist and photographer. One of the most stylish self photos has to be the one take by chic photographer IIse Bing in 1931, a wonderful use of lighting and mirrors.
Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol Modern Era

Modern era portraits

So while the word selfie in 2013 made it into the Oxford English Dictionary and Ellen Degeneres at the Oscars took the selfie to new heights, artists have been capturing themselves for over 500 years.

Although fashions may have changed, we have still been given everything from the naked artist in repose, to those dressed up for the ball. They have given us a snapshot of their private lives and an inkling of how they viewed themselves, all at an arms length.

Painting the Medieval Landscape

Late Byzantine

Late Byzantine Fresco

Up until the 14th century there was little, if any, representation of the countryside and its buildings in frescoes. Vegetation and architectural features were just used to decorate the borders of the religious panels.

Lorenzetti3

Lorenzetti 1285 – 1348

There were early renditions of landscape by Giotto and Lorenzetti around the 13th century but in the 1400s Protestant artists in the Netherlands, free from the constraints of a papal paymaster, were able to explore natural representation.

van eyck

Van Eyck 1395 – 1441

Artists like Van Eyck and Brughel started to hint at the luscious landscapes around them in the backgrounds of their paintings. The northern European art was soon to influence Italians, Massacio and della Francesco and landscapes began a common theme in the frescoes of the Mediterranean.

It is claimed by many that the landscapes of the late Byzantine and early Renaissance periods were fantasy or symbolic representations of real locations. Over time landscapes change, new buildings appear, trees are felled and roads constructed. However, what we can see in these old master’s pictures are elements of today’s scenery in their images.

Fra_Angelico2

Fra Angelico 1395 – 1455

There is a familiarity to the gentle curving hills, the many tall trunked trees and the aimlessly winding, tracks. There is also the blue Renaissance sky and the verdant greenery of the area, particularly around the valleys of the Tiber. Here Perugino, Signorelli, Raphaelo, and Michaelangelo all lived and worked, recording life and the surroundings.

Before this time nature had been relegated to the role of decorative foliage. Now though, the hills, forests and rivers played the part of a painted stage on which the artist’s characters acted out their stories.

Processionofthemiddleking

Gozzoli 1420 – 1497

One of the grandest of these is Benozzo Gozzolio’s enormous series “The Magi’s Procession” painted from 1459 to 1461. It testifies to the new importance placed on the landscape in the artist’s designs. The journey, is as familiar today as it was then and anyone who has walked around the countryside of central Italy will immediately feel at home.

In these frescoes you can see the artists discovering and inventing the conventions of perspective used today. As they battled with the notion of creating three-dimensional spaces, the rules about vanishing points, size difference and colour degradation were all experimented with in representing distance.

masaccio2

Masaccio 1401 – 1428

It is with the founding of these rules that the great landscapes of the 18th and 19th centuries would later be painted by Gainsborough, Canaletto and Turner. However, despite their simplicity there is an innate charm about them and a beautiful clarity about the world around.

Other noteable artists of the age –

Konrad Witz 1400 - 1446

Konrad Witz 1400 – 1446

  • Giotto 1267 – 1337
  • Fillippo Lippi 1406 – 1469
  • Paolo Uccello 1395 – 1475
  • della Francesco 1415 – 1492
  • Botticelli 1445 – 1510
  • Bosch 1450 – 1516
  • Brughel the Elder
  • Ghirlandio 1449 – 1494
  • Signorelli 1450 – 1523
  • Perugino 1448 – 1523
  • Dieric Bouts 1415 – 1475
  • Van der Weyden 1399 – 1464

How to Wash Your Artwork

How to Wsh your Artwork

 

Artwork Washing Instructions

How to Wash your Artwork

Advice on caring for and looking after your treasured paintings and artwork.

Occasionally my mind goes a little “off piste” and I have ideas, which I really should ignore. The “Cleaning tag” is one that made it to the sketch book.

Cleaning tags

Looking back I love the perfect madness that in a world, where it is essential to offer care and washing advice for everything, a “cleaning tag” for paintings makes sense. Personally I advise washing in fairy tears and drying with a unicorns tail.

I have used the notations in some of my sketchpads and notebooks and I admit it is great to look back on the weather and emotional state when I was working. Maybe it can even explain the reasoning behind the pictures and how they came to be.

Care for your paintings

However, what started out as a humours post turned more serious when in discussions with a fellow artist we talked over fading and damage to paintings further down the line. So in retrospect having how to care for your painting instruction is not such a mad notion after all.

If I was to redo my “Washing instructions” label I would include the following advice

  • Check on hanging mounts, to make sure they are not frayed or loose.
  • Periodically inspect the frame and the tension of the canvas, making sure no keys have fallen out and so loosen the stretcher.
  •  Do not hang in bright sunlight as this can cause the painting to fade.
  • Do not hang the painting above a fireplace or radiator as the heat and soot can cause damage.
  • Never store paintings in damp or humid environments such as lofts, attics or basements.
  • Lighting with incandescent is a good idea, halogen or fluorescent bulbs can fade paintings.
  • It is advisable to dust paintings with a natural brush or soft cloth but not if there is any sign of flaking paint.

This should ensure a life time of enjoyment and avoid any unnecessary damage occurring to your painting. Remember if in doubt always consult a professional conservator.

Pen and Ink Drawing of St George’s Church

Wales, church

 

This is another last century picture, going back to 1999 and is of St George’s Chruch in the Vale of Glamorgan. The design has lots of happy memories andwas used on our wedding invitations. It has a nice bold quality making it ideal for reproductions. 

Drawings of St George's

St George’s Sketches

It is around this time that I started to develop the idea of playing around with perspective and foreshortening, taking inspiration from old 15th century German block prints, Byzantine paintings and the early frescoes of the Renaissance. I’ve always liked the stark black and white contrasts of ink drawing and love it as a medium in which to work.

For me less confusing than using colour and no where near as messy as oil painting.The church is over 700 years old and features an ancient walled yew tree at the centre of the graveyard, believed to ward off evil. The pig skin bound, church register that you sign when getting married is at least 250 years old and had entries going back to 1768.