Lockdown blues


Hi All – I cannot believe it is so long since I have written anything. And the world has changed immeasurably in that time.

It seems to me, chatting to artist friends, that people have either found lockdown gave them time to be creative and they have produced loads of work. Or it has had the opposite effect. Certainly it is a little dispiriting having no exhibitions in the offing but I have found myself busy in the studio and have found it curious what I felt compelled to make. To start with it was flowers. Yes, flowers.

But now I find myself painting and yearning for the sea. Living in Oxfordshire we could hardly be further away from the ocean. Usually we go down to Cornwall in the autumn but weren’t able to do it this year. So I am feeling starved of ozone, and wide horizons, and being on the edge of things so am living it out on the canvas.

It is so long since I posted anything that it all seems to have updated (ie changed!) again and I now have to work out how to add the images…if I fail then please go to the Gallery, Pastel Pictures and have a look at my latest work.

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!

Pastels workshop with Christine Russell

On Saturday 26 January I went to a one day Workshop with Christine Russell, run by Faringdon Art Society .  We had a really good day and learnt heaps.  For me, the learning was all about colour, and I realised when I looked at the landscape I had chosen to paint, that I mostly avoid colour and go

‘Cornish clouds and sea’ – Helen Pakeman

Happy New Printmaking Techniques!

Photo Polymer Gravure etching

Helen Pakeman Looking Out
Photo Polymer Gravure etching 260 x 180

2013 is going to be a good year – I can feel it in my bones. I have come and gone from the studio space in Witney – an experiment that didn’t work. It was too far to travel and I simply didn’t spend enough time there. Worth a try. So I have retrenched back to my artroom upstairs. Signed up for a couple of courses which is quite exciting. And just agreed to a couple of joint exhibitions; more of that later. I always find it helpful to have some kind of deadline ahead of me to keep me focussed and panicking!
I have booked further time at Rabley Print Workshop where I am learning Photo Polymer Gravure, yet another printmaking process: a kind of photographic etching – it gives amazingly detailed tonal values. I made a very simple etching plate last term which worked really well (illustrated above). This will form the background as if looking out through a window, then I will add a foreground, as yet undecided…still thinking it through. So this term I have leapt in with a much more tonally complicated photo of a wave breaking and am trying to convert that; ummm…not going so well…but early days. I have decided to do a workshop with Martin Grymmer who is the master of this printmaking technique. In the meantime I will learn as much as I can and prepare my list of questions.
I have also booked in with Christine Russell for some tuition in pastels – I have played about with them a little and love the effects so could just do with a bit of help from an expert. Christine is a member of the Royal Pastel Society, general winner of prestigious prizes and all round good egg (so I am told). Really looking forward to meeting and working with her.
So lots to look forward to and lots to learn, as always.
Today the weather is snowy and it suddenly occurs to me that the world outside is beautifully converted to black and white: make some pictures and print in white on black paper for snowy scenes. Just off to catch some pics before the light goes…once a printmaker…

New studio space in Witney

Dear Blog – sorry to have neglected you over the last couple of months but I am back now with my news so far:

I have just committed to taking studio space in Witney with a friend which feels like a big step forwards.  It will mean that I leave the house and go ‘to work’ and I am therefore less likely to get the interruptions that constantly occur when one is working from home.  These are not always of other people’s making you understand; I am as much to blame.  If I have something a little tricky to attempt – or even just a very blank sheet of paper that I have to spoil before I can start, then I am very likely to invent jobs such as ‘I will just clear up the kitchen first…’ is this a peculiarly female thing, I wonder?  I am hoping to attach a very exciting photo of me painting my new lovely white walls, but it may not happen because it is a little while since I have attended to my blog and there has been an update in the meantime which means I have to work out how to do it all again…technology, sigh!

HelenPakeman 'Painting my studio space'

HelenPakeman ‘Painting my studio space’

I have been working lately mostly in pastels, and have done a few small landscapes just to get a feel for the new medium.  Working small in pastel is quite hard as they are relatively clumsy sticks of chalk so I thought it might be an accelerated way to learn how to  control them.  I now feel ready to attempt some larger pieces.  We had a lovely week in Cornwall in September and I have been sketching and photographing seascapes with a view to making some big A1 size pieces of work.  If they are successful I will put them in to the Gallery for the world to see, if not…the other exciting news is that I have signed up for a Print course at Rabley near Marlborough – check it out: www.rableydrawingcentre.com so will post progress as it happens.  The person who runs it is Meryl Ainslie and she taught me life drawing when I was doing my degree.  I can honestly say I learnt more from her than from any other tutor; it wasnt always comfortable, but invaluable!

Think that is all for now.  It feels good to be back!