Getting Ready for Oxford Artweeks

I can hardly believe it is that time of year again.  Emma Ablitt and I have exhibited together with Oxford Artweeks for the last five or six years so we reckon we have it down to a fine art (no pun intended!).  However, it still always takes me by surprise how much of one’s time is taken up with the peripheral things that aren’t actually making images – so, framing, mounting, signage, personal statements…the list goes on.  I have just lately been having a go at carving in soapstone.  I am really enjoying it but it brings its own set of problems – how will I display them and do they need attaching to their base in some way?  Decisions decisions!   Anyway, I have collected the last few of my pictures from the framers, added the finishing touches to my paperwork and then I should be pretty much ready for the big hang.  Artweeks are a great opportunity to show friends and followers what you have been doing through the year so I try to put a selection of all the different things I have attempted over the months.

Ground-feederThis year I have a handful of carvings, quite a few linocuts and monoprints, and some pastels.  I am generally reasonably pleased with the selection so hope people like them.  It is incredibly useful to get feedback from ones audience and if people are enthusiastic about one direction then I will often go back to the studio and pursue it further.

Setting up starts next Wednesday and we continue the exhibition from 15-25 May – please do drop by and say hello if you are in the area.  Details on the Oxford Artweeks website.

Blog from Venice

Venice in February, I can report with authority, is very wet. It hasn’t stopped raining since I got here and it has also flooded every day with the tides.  On the up side, there aren’t too many tourists so you can get about.  And, amazingly, it is still beautiful.  I am living here for a fortnight staying with a girlfriend who is a writer, which makes for a very peaceful co-existence.

What to say about Venice that hasn’t already been said?  Similar dilemma to ‘what to draw of Venice that hasn’t already been drawn?’  Some disconnected impressions then: my room is in the eaves above a narrow calle or street and, because there is no traffic noise, I can hear people’s footsteps and neighbourly chat, and the pigeons murmuring on the roof tiles. Most evocative, I can hear church bells which chime the hour and call dwindling congregations to worship.  The sound has a melancholy about it, just slightly out of tune.f

There are churches around every corner, over every bridge and they are large, once imposing spaces, some restored, some quite crumbly.  I went in to our local one on my way home yesterday and it is almost entirely decorated with amazing trompe l’oeil by Veronese.  Names that are hugely protected and cherished at home are just going mouldy on walls in damp buildings here.

More prosaically, apart from around St Marks, there are very few signs and the place really is like a maze so finding your way is quite challenging.  Yesterday’s visit was to the Guggenheim which had some wonderful Brancusi, and a magnificent Jean Arp which has provided me with great inspiration for some carving.

if there is anybody out there of a praying nature, could you please put one up for at least one fine day so I can go and visit some of the islands…

PS I will put some photos up when I get home as I can’t work out how to do it on my iPad.



Exhibitions coming up

It feels a lot like autumn already with the nights starting to draw in.  I have noticed quite a few really interesting exhibitions coming up so thought I would share them: close to home (for me anyway) there is ‘Bacon and Moore’ at the Ashmoleum, Oxford which looks to be fascinating.  I have been doing quite a bit of stonecarving over the summer so am looking at sculpture with whole different eyes!  That one runs from 12 Sept to 19 Jan.  Then at the Royal Academy from 26 October is an exhibition of Daumier’s work; his washy monochrome atmospheric paintings are a joy!  And the V&A are running a ‘Masterpieces of Chinese Painting’ also from October 26 which I imagine will be drawing on pictures from the vaults and should be really interesting.

Then I must not leave out (as I am now a Trustee and have been involved in the organisation) our very own West Ox Arts in Bampton is putting on an exhibition of costumes from Downton Abbey throughout September.  Bampton Gallery has lost grants this year because of the local council cuts so are trying to raise some funds with this exhibition which is a paid entry.  Bampton is the outside film location for Downton Abbey and Carnival Films have lent us the costumes as a thankyou for putting up with them.  Hopefully it will be a huge success and put some money in the coffers so we can continue supporting the arts locally.

Anybody gets to any of these exhibitions before me, I would love to know what you think!  In the meantime, I am off to Andalucía in early September for a pastels holiday.  I haven’t ever done one of these before and am really looking forward to it.  To be able to just paint all day with no chores hanging over you feels like a real indulgence.  Can’t wait!

Summer is here with a vengeance

I have just spent a dispiriting hour trying to remember how to add images etc to my website!  Serves me right for not having posted anything for so long – use it or lose it!

We had a fortnight’s holiday in France at the end of June when it rained and was chilly and cloudy and have come home to this heat wave so I am feeling a little cheated!  Still, I am endeavouring not to complain…

…I spent last Monday in Rabley Drawing Centre helping with the admin for the Sketch2013 competition which Meryl Ainslie runs.  I was lucky enough to be in the same room as the judging panel so could eavesdrop on their conversations as they poured over the 200+ entries and was impressed with how seriously they undertook their examinations of each sketchbook, and the discussions they provoked.  It is a very narrow line between a Sketchbook and an Artist’s Book and quite difficult to agree when/if one slips into the other.  As I have put work in the past into various national competitions, it was quite reassuring to see how closely they scrutinised each entry, because you do sometimes have the suspicion that this may not always be the case!  It does feel this is the season for big art competitions as I keep getting notifications through the post of another irresistible opportunity!  I do find putting work in is quite a good discipline as it makes me complete a piece rather than putting it to one side, with a view to coming back to it later.  But it is a bit of a lottery, and hard not to get your hopes up, only to be dashed when the ‘loser’ letter comes flying on to the doormat!

Currently, I am carving like mad – soapstone, so working with rasps rather than chisels. It is interesting to try 3D for a change; when painting you are producing the illusion of 3D, but it is a very different thing when you are actually trying to reproduce something in the round – there is no place to hide! You find your memory about the shape of things is nothing like as good as you think it is.  I am trying to copy a rubber duck from the bathroom at the moment – real fine art! – and its beak looks decidedly unconvincing…more practice needed!