Friday, November 25, 2016

current exhibition, paintings from Wales, Cornwall, Leicestershire, the Cotswolds and Yorkshire

My work on the wall at the Atkins Gallery, Lower Bond Street Hinckley until Saturday 3rd December





Work currently on show at the Atkins Gallery in Hinckley (car park opposite, next to the museum).  There are 16 pieces of mine plus the work of 5 friends.

Oils, mixed media, pastels, charcoal, ink .... and more :)

And the Leicester Society of Artists exhibition is on at the museum in New Walk until 3rd December as well (I have 3 in that)

Plus 4 in Glenfield Gallery, Glenfield

I've been busy!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Near South Stack, pastel plein air

South Stack, near Holyhead, A3 pastel plein air 


This is at the framers at the moment,  in preparation for an exhibition, along with lots of other work from the week painting in Wales.  It will be going in a lime washed frame.

Vivid memories of a lovely day sketching on the cliff with friends somewhere near, doing their own views - that's a steep drop down via the path and then another steep cliff edge.  One friend was working down there, another much higher up looking way down at the lighthouse (just out of sight on the right).  What did we do before we had mobile phones?  so easy to coordinate coffee breaks and moving on when we spread out and aren't near each other.

I used a sheet of Sennelier sanded paper for this and the Rembrandt and Inscribe pastels I'd thrown in at the last moment.  Oh dear, I did NOT like the Sennelier paper - luckily I'd swapped a sheet with a friend as she didn't like it and I got to try it without having to buy a pack.  I am also not a fan of hard, flaky Rembrandts so it was a battle to persuade the materials to behave as I wanted.  I like my Unisons - and Inscribe are good for a cheapie pastel, nice and soft.  And so it's back to Fisher or Colourfix for the paper in the future.

I've been juggling getting work ready for 6 exhibitions that overlap, plus images and statements, along with the lung infection from hell  for the last 3+ weeks and feeling very sorry for myself.   Dizzy, nauseous, pains all over, lungs sounding like bagpipes with every breath, coughing, nystagmus one night - where lights wouldn't stay still and moved sideways quite a distance no matter how I tried to keep them still and my eyes focused, a little diorientating!  So I'm now on a  second dose of antibiotics and steroids and a new tablet for asthma - and the steroids and new tablet have horrific possible side effects listed on those worrying little leaflets.    Need to zap it fast and stop taking them,  Feeling much better than I was but still very tired.

Looking forward to collecting them on Friday and seeing them with a fresh eye with the frames setting them off.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Another from the Ogwen Valley, low clouds on the mountain tops


Ogwen Valley, Low cloud on the mountains, A3 mixed media

After the charcoal sketch done in the morning my friends walked up to a higher lake, I painted quietly on my own.  So peaceful with the clouds drifting by, the steep hills cut with tumbling waterfalls and the single track road winding up and down throught the rocks.  I love the drama of the contours of the land and the rocks, barely covered by soil.

We really didn't only have rainy days!  though the mixed weather meant beautiful skies and challenges.

Big black Welsh cattle with their huge hooves lumbered by, followed by calves scrambling uncertainly down those steep hillsides.  I'd always assumed that this was the old, original road (main road is across the valley) but a lovely friendly lady told me it was built by a lord of the manor so that his guests had a scenic carriage ride when they came to stay.

Just as I finished this, the friends phoned to say they were back down the mountain and we joined up for coffee and cake at the National Trust cafe.  A lovely day.


Thursday, August 04, 2016

Ogwen Valley revisited - later in the week, 7 go to Wales

Ogwen Valley in the mist, charcoal, a bit bigger than A3

Ogwen valley in the mist, charcoal plein air


We revisted the valley later in the week.  The clouds were low over the tops of the mountains and the distance melted into whiteness.  The little river Ogwen wound its way across the valley floor and the single track, switchback road disappeared off over the side of the mountain.

All the recent rain meant the waterfalls were beautiful.  I did a watercolour/mixed media with one in the afternoon, while the group climbed up to a higher lake.  Next post ........

Monday, August 01, 2016

7 go to wales - sketching in north Wales

Ogwen Valley and the little river Ogwen winding through, watercolour/mixed media


The Ogwen valley, watercolour and mixed media sketch


I'm just back from a week painting in Wales with friends.  Wales + mountains means we knew there would be rain - but it made for some lovely atmospheric scenes to sketch.

Friend Ros, that I travelled with, and I stopped on the way in a beautiful valley I last saw about 20 years ago when my daughter was at Bangor university,  I was determined to get there to paint again.  Nigel another member of the group met up with us there and we all got thoroughly wet and bedraggled sketching.

The end of the valley was lost in rain/mist and the little river Ogwen tumbles through the valley from Llyn Ogwen (Lake Ogwen) above.  The narrow, single track road goes up and down like a switchback along the side of the mountain.  The waterfalls were beautiful with all the rain we've had.  Welsh black mountain cattle ambled by, with hooves like dinner plates, massive, looking reproachfully at us blocking what must be their regular path (even though there was space the other side to get by).

I painted another view near here later in the week - to follow ..................

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Summers sort of here so of course I'm painting snow

snow ......

I've neglected my blog - I'll try to post slightly more often.  The warmer weather is here - so of course I get interested in snow.  It started because of a trip to the Cotswolds to see a Kurt Jackson exhibition in April - there was incredibly late snow on the hilltops looking wonderful.  That led to one painting and made me revisit sketches I did of a very early snowfall one November and work further from those.

 November Low Sun, EarlySnowfall

approx 15 inches square, pastel


This is from the sketches done when we had and unusual very early snowfall in November, when there were still hints of autumn colour.   As I looked at the field a flock of birds took off,  The light in the sky was glorious and the patterns of the ploughed field - everything just added up to one of those perfect moments.

Dusk, November, Early Snowfall

tiny one, approximately 5 inches square, coloured pencil

The birds have flown and the light is fading in this one.

And the one that set me off looking at snow again ....


Late Snowfall, April

approx 15 x 17 inches approx


On both occasions it was the special light that appealed and the colours - the evening sky in November, the patterns of the fields, the birds - and in thespring image, the light again with us in sun and just below the snowline and the wonderful threatening sky ahead, with the acid spring greens against the snow.

and there's more .... but I'll put them in another post.


Tuesday, February 03, 2015

another in the Harlequin/Columbine series, this time a digital variation

Digital image:  Harlequin and Columbine series

This is another in the series, working out ideas for large paintings.  I see these on 4 or 5 foot canvasses.   Playing digitally with colour and shapes.

These are abstracts based on the costumes of Harlequin and Columbine but about the patched and ragged fabrics, stage lights and time passing in the long history of the Commedia del Arte.

What do you think?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Sketching 365 by Katherine Tyrrell

Plein air sketch by Vivien Blackburn in Sketching 365

My friend, Katherine Tyrrell, spent time last year writing this excellent book, now published.  It's packed full of tips, advice and techniques.  Not only suitable for beginners but for those with experience wishing to try other media or develop their work.

There are 55 artists - all good - to show examples of a wide range of approaches.  Several are friends and others known to me as people I admire.

My plein air sketch of Sennen Cove, from the terrace of Rose Cottage, sharing a page with Felicity House

 I had proof read it online but nothing is quite like holding the actual book in my hands, flipping back and forth and seeing images by friends and artists I admire.

It's not one of those 'do as I do' books, producing clones,  but one that sets out to make you think of alternatives, observation, composition, materials to use, tone, marks, pattern and much more - all the kind of things I tell my students to consider. 

As someone who detests those art magazine articles or books that suggest blobbing with a sponge will automatically give you amazing trees - in what universe???????? - examples shown are usually awful! - her insistence on good underlying observation gels with me.  No matter how loosely you work, the observation underpinning it is essential.

Artists shown work in a wide variety of ways and using different materials and they are good.

My sketch of Shilmoor in Northumbria. on a moody day,  sharing a page with Katherines glowing picture of snow and sunlight on trees

It's also a keeper - one to dip back into over time, unlike some books that are a one-time-read only, too shallow to last.  It can't go into great depth on each topic there are so many, but gives  really good concise pointers and enough information for readers to make a good start and to research further, look at other work by the artists shown and carry their own ideas forward.

I will certainly use it in my teaching (adults painting and drawing).  It's just the information students need, backing up nicely what I tell them and packed with advice.   That 'Travel Light' on the page above is one I sadly haven't learned!  being of the 'but I might neeeed it' school ;>)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Drawing over a boring previous sketch and playing with mixed media: Trees

Sketch in acrylic ink, tinted graphite and a touch of coloured pencil

I currently have all my classes looking at trees at the moment - considering the individuality of them, looking at various artists past and contemporary.  Contemporary includes some friends and also artists I don't know but admire , these include Bridget Hunter. Glen Heath, David Parfitt, David Prentice, David Tress, Kurt Jackson, Shirley Trevena, Cheryl Culver and lots more. I don't have time to add links, sorry,  but google them if you are interested?  Past includes Mondrian, Klimt, Van Gogh, Monet etc etc etc  I really like Mondrian's trees and Klimt too.

There was a page in a sketchbook where I had experimented with tinted graphite, doing a moody image of rain approaching across the bay.  It was just a tester and was quite boring.  I decided to work over it, keeping it as background and working in grey and white acrylic ink (plus a little more tinted graphite and a touch of coloured pencil).     The page is a bit more interesting now :>)    

In an S&B Alpha sketchbook.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

New Year, flu and the Harlequin/Columbine project

Columbine, digital variation

I had flu immediately after Christmas and am only just recovering - I have never been so ill!  it was vicious and in the end needed antibiotics and high dose steroids.  But Christmas itself was lovely :>)

So ..... the blog has been very neglected.  Here is an update on one of the Harlequin/Columbine series.   They are playing with the the idea of time, ragged and patched fabrics and stage lights.  This is a digital variation on the previous monochrome.  I'm thinking of including these prints as something in their own right, apart from them being a sketchbook stage in thinking ideas through.  I've done further work in a variety of media that I will upload, including scratchboard in black over copper, something I don't think I've used since school!  so more to follow .....

And Happy New Year

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas!

An old one I'm afraid as life has been really really mad.

Merry Christmas everyone :>)

Friday, November 28, 2014

abstracting ... working around ideas

A new project, working around ideas with ink

I'm revisiting an old idea and developing it.   Some time ago I did a couple of abstract paintings based on the idea of the Harlequin costume from the Comedia del Arte.   One shown below is a 30x40 inch canvas.

The one above was also trying out my new Sailor Flude pen - which I really like.  It's odd curved tip allows me to draw with the pen quite upright or tip it to make broad marks- the thickness of the lines in the sketch above were all done with the one pen, just angled differently.

Harlequin.   Mixed media on canvas 30x40inches

This time I'm looking at Columbine as well - her costume sometimes echoed the pattern of Harlequin's.   Costumes - the Comedia company were travelling players - costumes were often ragged and patched, which was the origin of the diamond pattern now seen as traditionally Harlequin.   I have got hooked on the raggedness as well as the patterns of patches in the current series.. 

I'm interested in the idea of stage light on fabrics, the glamour vs the tawdry reality, the fraying edges, stitches and patterns and time, layers of time and history.

I plan to use a variety of painting and drawing media and in some experiment with incorporating actual fabric.  I've been given a fragment of exquisitely embroidered fabric that was £120 a yard - I'd love to work that into something.

On some pieces done so far I've used actually stitching on paper and collage.   Lots of playing and thinking around ideas to go.  I see finished work being on canvas, paper and some digital images too.

And I need time to work from the sketches done in Cornwall and Northumberland .....   I need minions.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Derwemt Inktense website and my image

My commissioned  image on the Derwent website

I was asked to provide an image using Inktense for Derwent, who were revamping their website.  It's now live.  :>)   .... and they forgot to add my name!

It's about flowers rather than being any particular flower.  There are elements of poppies and Queen Anne's Lace and heaven knows what else in there.  Purely imaginary.  It's based on a large canvas I did some time ago.

The original much larger canvas

Inktense is one of my favourite Derwent products (alongside the XL tinted graphite and tinted charcoal).  I love the vibrancy and yet it is also possible to mix them to obtain subtle colours.   They are more transparent and luminous than ordinary watercolour pencils and because they dry waterproof I can build glazes and work over layers below as in my image that they used.   I use the pencils and the blocks.

It was great to be asked - they previously used an image of mine for the first year of the Derwent Art Prize and seeing it in all the art magazines for months before, in full page spreads, was fun!  It still catches me unawares sometimes - like last week when a student had brought in a past magazine and on the back, facing me, there it was again  :>)  That  was done with Artbars.


 I've been incredibly busy with work and family so haven't been updating my blog regularly.   I've got a few projects on the go - an abstract project, developing paintings from the sketchbook filled in Cornwall, a series of drawings and more -  so will show those soon. And Christmas is looming as well ....books for the grandchildren?  card designs?  presents?

to be continued!

Monday, September 08, 2014

Towards St Ives, watercolour and mixed media sketch



St Ives from Gwithian Towans. sketch in S&B Delta sketchbook, watercolour, mixed media

Another plein air sketch from the recent trip down to Cornwall.   Moody days are so much more interesting to paint sometimes than blue skies.

Done in the S&B sketchbook with watercolours and Derwent tinted charcoal pencil, which is water soluble.

I wish I was there now!  There is a grass that grows on the clifftops that goes the most beautiful scarlet at this time of year, I'd so like to be sketching there.

More to follow ......

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Dagi Pen Review: sketches using a Dagi pen with Sketch Book App on an ipad


A new 25mm brush drawn  with a Dagi pen, using the Sketch club app on an ipad

When these kind of pens for digital tablets came out they were very very expensive and I didn't feel I could justify one.   The Dagi pen has come down to an affordable, justifiable price now  and I've been playing, seeing how good it is.  Mine is a pretty frosted green :>)  It's good!  I don't know how robust it will be, time will tell.

 The plastic disc is there presumably to protect the screen, it comes with a few spares,  obviously it is easily damaged.  The fine point means precise placement.


The images shown were all drawn in this app on the ipad

For accuracy in placement of the tip of the pen when drawing on the tablet, it feels just like normal pen/pencils - you can see precisely where you are placing the tip, unlike the normal rubber tipped stylus.

The paintbrush was drawn on a single layer, flipping between pen and brush and several shades of grey.

The bottle of gum arabic below was drawn on one layer in pen, then the brush was used on the layer below to add the washes.  Multiply was selected on the pen layer so that the washes come through. 



Then I experimented further, using multiply on this layer and going to the layer below to add washes of colour with a brush tool in the app.  So, the colour shines through.   It's rather like using glazes with paint but with the ability to add them beneath as well as above current work.




And a tea cup below - again using layers and multiply to add colour below a drawing, in which I hadn't originally planned to use colour (so too much pen). 


Adding washes on a different layer means that if I don't like it, I can simply delete the layer, preserving the drawing.  Line also comes through cleanly and isn't smudged or altered by the washes - sometimes that's good, sometimes not.  In the teacup it would have been better done on the same layer I think but it was only an experiment - not fine art :>)  It was the first drawing I tried with this stylus, so feeling my way.


A previous sketch with a normal rubbery tipped stylus - of one of the rubbery tipped styluses (stylii?):


 So, it's perfectly possible to draw without investing in one of these - but placement of the tip is less accurate and the Dagi feels so much more 'real' in its response and use. 

Incidentally as I said previously - I really like the text option, that allows you to draw with text (Sketch Club App)  - speeding up and slowing down alters the size of the text as you draw.  More here and here.

OK back to analogue :>)   I have lots of  'real' paintings on the go or in my head so I need to get back to paint - coast, flowers and mixed media collage all bubbling in the brain and partially on the paper.