It is that time of year again and boosted by the successes last year I decided to give the Summer Exhibition another go. I entered one piece – a Screenprint of my great hero Leonard Cohen who sadly died in 2016. I feel like he sang the refrain to most of my adolescent years – deliciously depressing, haunting lyrics – no matter that they mostly didn’t make sense! Most of his songs are etched in my memory and he would definitely be on my Desert Island choice. So, the Summer Exhibition, like most of the big competitions nowadays, has a first submission by email. They have around 13000 entries which is astonishing, and they weed that down to 4000 for the next round, when you have to take the actual picture up to London. The final hang is about 800. I have just received notification that I am through the first round – yea!!! great excitement. So I have delivered the pic to the RA and await to hear if I make it through. Watch this space.
Meantime Oxfordshire Artweeks is coming up in a week and I am exhibiting with Emma Ablitt again in Longcot which should be fun. We are in a new venue, the Old Methodist Chapel, which is not the easiest space to manage so a bit of a challenge. But it is always an enjoyable week, meeting lots of people, talking about what we are doing and, hopefully selling some pieces as well. I shall have screen prints, linocuts and some carvings to show, plus a few photos from my New York trip – a bit of an eclectic mix to give a flavour of what I have been up to in the year. We will be open every day from 11-18 May so I hope to see some of you there!
I have always found entering some of the many Open Competitions to be a good way of giving myself a goal. And to make myself finish work if I am being a bit diletttante. It provides a new audience and who knows what might come of it.
So, this autumn I entered some pieces of work for various competitions including Bristol West of England Academy, Royal Society of Printmakers The Masters, and Oxford Art Society. And guess what – I got pieces accepted by all three. I must be on a roll.
As we all know, entering Open Competitions is a bit like playing the Lottery. There are so many factors governing the choice of work which have nothing to do with the quality of your entry. Does it fit with the other choices ie how will the hang look overall? How many entries were there? What percentage of new and emerging artists do they want? And, as with all art, it often comes down simply to the taste of the Curating Artist.
Knowing this does not stop it being desperately depressing when another kind rejection email pops into the box. Thus I was braced for disappointment but determined to give it a go. I felt my latest series of work had merit so time to get it out there. Imagine my delight when it was accepted by all three. Happy days!
I found myself hugely enthused by the Winter Olympics this year, particularly the Big Air and other snowboarding events. The mid air acrobatics were awe inspiring so I set up my camera in front of the Tv and then used some of the photos to create Screenprints. I am screenprinting in the old fashioned way: I reduce my photo to three or four tones, then cut a paper stencil for each of the colours. The tricky part is making the four screens register perfectly on top of each other – just a few mms out and it is spoiled. I have found making them quite compulsive and once I started I found I couldn’t stop! I have Open Studios (known in this part of the world as Oxfordshire Artweeks) coming up in May where I am exhibiting in Littleworth, just outside Faringdon so it will be nice to have a completely new set of work to put on display. I have attempted to set up a new Gallery in My Gallery called Screenprints to show off the new pieces – so far without success, but hopefully I will crack it in the end. Technology heh! I will add a couple of the pics here as a teaser while I sort myself out! Happy Easter!
Does anybody else get a little dissatisfied – a little disappointed – I am struggling for the right word…at this time of the year? Feeling a little bit aimless, not sure where I am going or what is the actual point of all this? It is partly I think because, other than the odd Workshop, I don’t have any deadlines ahead. In an attempt to give myself a bit of an aiming point I have entered work into a couple of the national competitions – which also carries danger if you are feeling slightly fragile about your work, as rejection is more likely than acceptance! At least I recognise this as a cycle and more to do with the time of the year, the melancholy of heading into autumn and winter without having had a decent summer.
Well, so what have I been doing for the last couple of months artwise? It is a great weakness of mine that I get easily seduced into new skills and screenprinting has been my latest indulgence. I have kept to screenprinting with stencils as I don’t have the equipment necessary to get involved in photo sensitive screens just yet but I have absolutely loved working at this new medium.
Helen Pakeman Screenprint
Screenprint Helen Pakeman
There is something delicious about the smoothness of finish you get from screenprint – it is so crisp an edge after the looseness of monoprint. Speaking of which I am revisiting the large portraits of refugees etc which I worked on a few years back. They were quite intense so I needed a break for a period but I do find them engrossing. In fact I have entered a couple of them in the Monoprinting Masters competition run by Royal Society of Painter Printmakers – wish me luck and I will let you know how I get on.
So, 2017 is a ‘taking stock’ year for me. I have been looking at my accounts – one way of measuring what one has done – and find I took nearly as much money from my cards as I did from my pictures, carvings etc which is astonishing. I do very much enjoy making cards and try to keep them all as original works rather than reproductions so that, at £2.50, they represent decent value for money. So here are just a few examples:
Linocuts: I use linocut a lot for cards as it is a relatively quick way to reproduce an image, depending on how complicated you make it and how many colours you try and introduce. Birds seem to work rather nicely so here are a couple of examples:
Jenny Wren Card
Blue Tit Card
I mount them on previously marbled paper which sets them off well I think. Sometimes I use old music paper as the mount.
Potato prints: these I use to make a comedy range of ‘birds with attitude’ with a real feather :
Guinea Fowl Card
Bird with Attitude Card
They are so much fun to make as they come out with a variety of expressions – but
mostly they seem to be quite grumpy which probably says a lot! The Guinea Fowl on the right is part of a new range that I am designing for a wonderful garden in Clanfield called Friars Court (www.friarscourt.com). They are opening their beautiful gardens to the public within the National Garden Scheme – the yellow book and wanted cards which would suit their venue. Lovely commission!
Complacent Cat Card
Playful Cat Card
Collage: finally I was messing about the other day and put together these cat cards made from material – now these are time consuming! But I can cut them out in front of the TV. I think I was rather missing Sid, my cat who was run over just after Christmas….although he was grey, not blue with white spots.
And finally I have agreed to take on Christmas and Greetings cards for Wells For India again after a break of a few years, but cant show you those yet as I haven’t started them.
It seems as if cards are chosing me at the moment which actually suits me very well. I know they are a bit ‘throw away’, but they reach to unexpected places and can give great joy – what’s not to like?