Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Nicholas Rena: after Matisse

I like the contrast between the simplicity of the pots
and the fussiness of the chandelier
The Holburne Museum in Bath is in the kind of grand building you can well imagine wealthy and socially well-connected people visiting during Bath's heyday as a spa town. Opportunities for swirling around the ballroom are a bit limited at the moment because there is a very interesting exhibition of ceramics currently on display until 17 May.

The Holburne Museum houses the collection of Sir William Holburne of which there are over 4000 objects. This was bequeathed to the people of Bath by his sister Mary Anne Barbara Holburne (1802-1882) with the intention of it forming the basis of a museum of art for Bath.

I must admit that I don't particularly share Sir William's passion for silver, porcelain, furniture, miniatures, books, coins and so on, although I'm always happy to spend some time with old-master paintings, so I was very glad to see there was some contemporary art on display.

Nicholas Rena has created this installation of new work specifically for this room and has made an interesting response to Henri Matisse's (1869-1954) still life paintings. He has evoked the colours and tone of Matisse's work but expressed them in a completely different medium. The sight of them in their imposing glass cabinet (known as a vitrine) creates a wonderful contrast to the items on display around the room.

From the front The Holburne Museum appears to be an entirely classical design but at the rear of the building a new, ambitious ceramic and glass extension was added in 2011 which was designed by Eric Parry Architects. This allows the museum to both look backwards to its classical roots and look forward by embracing contemporary art and architecture. Interestingly Nicholas Rena studied architecture with Eric Parry but has obviously found another way of expressing space and what you can do with three dimensions. This is the second of five contemporary interventions at the Holburne supported by Arts Council England.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Geese in Clissold Park

This post was originally published as 'Time for a wash and brush-up' on my blog Drawing my way round London blog on 26 November 2014.

I've decided that I've been treating this blog (Drawing my way round London) much like the cupboard under the stairs and have been ignoring it for far too long. So I've also decided that I am going to post random sketches that I have been doing in London over the last few months.

Here are two geese in Clissold Park where I met a few other artists at the inaugural outing of the Art in the Park sketching group back in April this year. I'm not used to attempting to draw wild life so this was a bit of a departure for me and I like the comical result.


Ornamental lake at East India Dock
 This post was originally published on my blog Drawing my way round London on 22 September 2013.

This weekend I was supposed to be selling my artwork at a gallery in Stoke Newington. I was very disappointed when the event was cancelled at the last minute and I found I was left with time on my hands and nowhere to go. So rather than mope around the house I decided I would jump on the 277 bus and stay on it until the last stop on the route.

I regularly use this bus route travelling north to Highbury and Islington and I have wondered for a long time where the bus goes, when travelling south, after Canary Wharf. And now I know.

The River Lea or Lee is London's second river after the Thames. It was very important for industry, hence all the docks, and became more-or-less redundant when we stopped being a manufacturing nation. The River Lea originates in the Chiltern Hills roughly north-west of London and Leamouth is the point where the River Lea joins the River Thames.

I think that my hope of getting off the bus at exactly where the two rivers meet was a bit ambitious but I was close to it. The bus route ends at East India Dock by an ornamental pond and the sketch above shows part of it. The only clue remaining of its original purpose is an impressive Victorian brick wall defining the perimeter of the docks. I imagine that this area was redeveloped in the early 1980's because the architecture within the dock area is looking very dated. There is one vast hotel and some shiny office blocks with strange detailing on the outside that are reminiscent of Tibetan temples. There was a fad for this kind of thing about 30 years ago.

Since it was the weekend I pretty much had the place to myself. While I was sitting on my bench drawing the view the silence was almost eerie especially as the dock is right next to a busy road with traffic thundering up and down it day and night. I did get to wondering what kind of businesses have their offices here. Whatever they do I expect their staff will be hunched over computer screens or having meetings in break-out areas in contrast to the manual labour of loading and unloading ships which arrived from ports in far flung places around the world. How times change.

Time for a bit of nostalgia

 This post was originally published on my blog Drawing my way round London on 9 March 2013.

I'm on a mission to fill my existing sketch books before I buy any more. I've got quite a way to go with this but today I completed one small book I inherited from my mum who made a couple of drawings in it before she lost interest. I thought, before I file it away with the other sketch books, I would look through it and of course I ended up remembering where I was and what I was doing when I made each drawing. So here are, for your amusement, a few moments of my life committed to paper.
At home, 14 October 2002
My mobile phone looks so old fashioned!
I like to pass the time sketching incognito
Life drawing class 16 January 2003

Dad died 13 February 2003. I didn't touch this book again until June 2010 when I got my job with the Liberal Democrat Party. The following drawing was completed at lunch time in Victoria Tower Gardens.
Trying out water soluble pencils
Woman on the train heading north
This drawing was made as the train was rattling along the east coast line before Christmas 2012 shortly after I had left my job with the Lib Dems. Sketch books are very like a diary and I don't normally show them to many people but you can, if you like, view a few other sketches from this book on my flickr page.

Painting from life

My restrained palette
This post was originally published on my Drawing my way round London blog on 21 January 2013.

Last Saturday I returned to art school for the day. I went on a painting from life course being run at Candid Arts in Islington, north London. I've always felt a bit nervous about life drawing because I find it very hard work and expect my efforts to go wrong. This reluctance stems from my first efforts at life drawing when I was a 16 year old student and I have felt like a beginner ever since. I decided it was time to 'get over myself' and spend a day under tuition learning how to mix paint and apply it.

Our teacher got us to start our study with a simple charcoal sketch where we laid down the building blocks for our painting. Now, using charcoal is something else I have a hang-up about. It's always too dark, I get it in the wrong place and everything all ends up a big mess. However when our teacher pointed out to me that the I needed to hold the charcoal stick from the end and not grip it half way down, allow the movement to come from my shoulder and not my wrist I discovered I could draw with it perfectly well. Later on in the day I found it was also important to use this approach when applying the paint. From this point of view the day felt like a long martial arts lesson in relaxation.

My tentative efforts at painting
Now for the paint. I chose to use acrylic instead of oil because it dries quicker. I didn't realise though that we wouldn't be adding any liquid to thin it down. If I was at home I'd be hurling water at the paint. I also didn't realise how little paint you need to cover quite a lot of paper. When it comes to mixing pink skin tones you start with white, add a tiny amount of red and a tiny amount of yellow. If this ends up too jaundiced you add a tiny amount of blue to tone it down. And tiny really means tiny (I'm going to have to practise this because I was going way too pink, yellow and then green). If you are aiming for brown you mix red with yellow and then add some black.

During one of our regular breaks
As the day wore on we were all becoming more tired. This was because we were constantly making decisions about colour, form, light and shade - it was exhausting and the time seemed to pass so quickly. My completed painting is below. It's not a work of art but it is an interesting study and I am confident that what I learned from this will feed into other work I do in the future and I am happy for you to look at it.

I didn't throw it away!

One page left

This post was originally published on my Drawing my way round London blog on 2 December 2011.

Yesterday I spent a few hours invigilating at an art exhibition. Since we only had a couple of visitors all afternoon I had plenty of time to complete a sketch in a book I'm keen to finish. Once I'd finished it I began leafing through it, having not looked at the sketches for a very long time, and this is what I found.

Several pages at the front have been torn out. Then the first image, a view of a park, is dated 26 April 1991! That's more than 20 years ago. I was obviously experimenting with oil pastel then because most of the drawings are in that medium. The next drawing is another view of the same park followed by a pot plant and then fruit in a bowl.

The book remained untouched for a couple of years when I took it up again. There is a run of drawings I made while staying with friends in Farnham in Surrey in summer 1993. These included a child's toy, some flowers in a vase, an unfinished drawing of Malcolm playing a guitar.

Then it's off to a visit to my parents in Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk during harvest time. The trees look like palm trees and the scene is so bright that the end result appears like something from the Caribbean. Then there are autumn leaves followed by a pair of scissors and so on and on. This series ends in Brixton on 31 May 1994.

And so the book remained unused until 28 July this year. After being ignored for 17 years I decided to work in water soluble pencils. Not surprisingly the subjects I've concentrated on are much the same as before. The first few are views of our local park, then a view of a shopping street near Waterloo and views of St James' Park at lunchtime.

Yesterday's effort was a pen view of a side room in Union Chapel. I have one page left and am wondering what I'll choose to depict.

Kennington Park: April 1991

Kennington Park, near where I lived in Brixton, South London
This post was originally published on my Drawing my way round London blog on 28 July 2011

I've been rummaging through my old sketch books and have found that quite a few of them have unused pages in them. So I have resolved to use these on new drawings before I buy any more books.

This is the first image in the sketch book I'm now planning to complete and here are the notes I made on the back of it when I got home:
View in Kennington Park, 26 April 1991. I had the choice of staying indoors and moping because I haven't got a job or going out in the sunshine to Kennington Park and drawing a picture. So that's what I did.

While I was drawing a young black guy stopped by, sat down and started to chat. We chatted and he watched me while I drew. From time to time I'd show him what I'd done. He'd compliment me. He told me that he lived in Brixton, not far from me. He worked at the post office from 6am - 2pm. He'd done this for three years and said initially it was difficult getting up for 6am.

At one time I showed him the drawing and said 'It doesn't look much like Kennington Park does it?' and he replied 'It's your view of the park, it's how you see it' and I found that very reassuring.'

It was nice to be reminded of that conversation and I would never have found it if I hadn't decided to fill the remaining pages up in this sketchbook.

The garden hose

I've decided to tidy up my Drawing my way round London blog so am copying some of the recent posts to Art on the Run. This was originally published on 17 July 2011.

It's been pouring with rain all day today so I made this sketch, using acrylic paint on paper, of our very wee garden. I left the french doors open and watched the rain bouncing off the roofs of the houses opposite and felt sorry for the festival goers just over the way in Victoria Park who'd paid good money to spend the weekend at the Lovebox festival.

I've signed up for the sketchbook 2012 project and it's been a few weeks since I did anything in my sketchbook so decided it was time to add another artistic effort. I have chosen the theme 'travel with me' and I am inviting the readers of my sketchbook to travel with me into a world of colour. I hope you enjoy it too.