Wednesday, 27 April 2011

How to Sell Paintings to Eskimos

For a lot of artists who also teach, this time of year means that thought has to be given to outdoor painting holidays. These are mainly fraught with a concern for the forthcoming weather conditions. One option is to listen to forcaster Michael Fish and then do the opposite. Over the years, I’ve become quite an expert on rain but I’m surprised we don’t have more words for it just as the Eskimos have a huge vocabulary for snow. I’ve worked in Wales and there is definitely Welsh rain, a particular type that falls in a continuous, half bored, vertical fashion for days. Northumberland rain always seems to fall at thirty degrees in a heavy blatter, Derbyshire rain, is a horrible, misty, curling thing that messes up your glasses no matter how big a peak on your hat. Now winds is another thing, many an easel I’ve seen sailing over the horizon, leaving its bomb load of pastels to dissolve in the soft grass. Working near water, it’s especially important to make a note of wind direction. I’ve been to Rutland water on a bright day in the summer but the northerly winds have made it almost impossible to open the car doors to get out on the south shore! This week sees me preparing for my my painting holiday which takes place at the wonderfully atmospheric smugglers inn, The Lifeboat, Thornham. The first time I visited, I arrived the day before to find subjects to paint. (It’s also important to have toilets and refreshments nearby) Burnham Overy Staithe is a great coastal location and I duly found a great spot to do a demonstration to my troops. On arrival the next day, we were met at the carpark entrance by children in canoes! I’d forgotten to check the tide tables and my demonstration spot was eight feet underwater, send for the snorkel someone!!
This year we’ve learned to do a number of things to avoid difficulties. One is to lock Rosie to cat in the studio whilst we pack. In previous years I’ve had to drive all the way back from Norfolk when our neighbour, tasked with looking after Rosie has found her staring out of the lounge window, locked in the house after she sneaked back in and hid!
Anyway, this year we are going to have a great time with a super painting group whatever the weather! The variable weather last year meant that we were able to visit one inland location (Bircham Mill) for a super day of outdoor painting followed an indoor session the next day. Roll on next year with new locations and new visitors!!
To find out more about this painting holiday and others I run, visit my website ;

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Onus Probandi

Art has been quite prominent in the news recently, going right back to the dawn of time, an eminent Italian archaeologist has concluded from bone scrapings that cavemen would take time out from their busy schedule of staying alive and adorn themselves artistically with feathers. Academics often seem to take facts and bend them to their own theories. Obviously the feathers were not used for fletching then!
As we come forwards in time, mysterious symbols have been discovered by an eminent Italian archaeologist (wonder if it’s the same one?) under the paint of the Mona Lisa. He has concluded that these allude to the fact that the Mona Lisa is not only a man but one of Leonardo’s favourite students and lover. Again the possibility that Leonardo was working on an early Reeves paint by numbers has been dismissed out of hand.
Nearer in time still and gallery owners worry that Van Gogh’s yellow flowers are turning brown. Scientists have confidently stated that oxidation reduction is affecting the lead white that he mixed into the yellow flower petals. This is strange as academics have always professed that he used Chrome yellow which has a reputation to deteriorate over time and turn a dullish brown. My own theory is that (a) Van Gogh was poor. (b) His paintings contain an awful lot of yellow, therefore he used a cheap affordable bright yellow, so maybe he used one made from animal bile, gall stones or even lizard droppings. A good yellow could be obtained from Mango leaf fed cow’s urine. Mercury, egg yolk and arsenic could also be added to offer a little je ne sais quoi. Maybe it was licking his brush that caused him to cut his ear off.
And so we come to the present day, Graham Nash is carving trees with wonderfully expensive Sthil chainsaws whilst learned men ignore what his trees are really saying and artistically bend their charts to fit their own theories.
Fortunately, it will be some time before learned men discuss what I was really thinking as I worked. Like Van Gogh, I’m also working on flowers for my new book How to Paint Flowers in Acrylic for Search Press, but I’m fortunate these days that technology has advanced enough for me to feel confident when I mix my arylide yellow into my titanium white.
I've just finished travelling back down the dreaded M25 for the final three day photographic session. In early March I've got to tackle the dreaded tarmac again in May when I’m running a Leisure Painter acrylics workshop at the Weald of Kent craft show. My biggest worry here is that it’s Wills and Kate’s wedding on the 29th April and they’re encouraging street parties everywhere, so I’ll probably be zig-zagging through tables and drunken revellers as I travel along what is normally the largest car park in the world and will now be the longest street party in the world!
If you would like to join me on Monday May 2nd, there are still a few spaces left on my day which excitingly combines lovely loose acrylic ink washes over which heavy body acrylics are applied.
Check out the details in this month’s Leisure Painter or this Painters-online website