Tuesday, 28 June 2011

The Twelve Trials of Herculese

Recently it was my misfortune to be called up on jury service yet again! My problems started on the first day, trying to convince the court official (despite having a letter from my accountant) that an artist does earn money and that I was entitled to compensatory expenses. I think it would have been easier to complete the twelve trials of Herculese!! After a long cross examination with many quzzical questions the official eventually summonded a superior officer who grudingly approved said claims after implying that I could have brought my easel and set it up in the Jurors waiting room! What was especially galling was that another juror was the wife of a builder who admitted to me that she was only down as an employee for tax avoidance purposes. She was waived through without even a raised eyebrow!
Being locked in a room with dozens of other bewildered members of the public felt like something out of Big Brother. However in this instance, we were all waiting hopefully for eviction. It didn’t help to observe all the Anti Flu packets lying around on tables and this being the time when swine flu was reaching pandemic proportions in Leicestershire. Living an isolated life, I usually manage to stay clear of coughs and sniffles.
You may have heard recently in the news that judges want more protection for witnesses on trials, and the problems of jurors illegally using the internet to sleuth on-line. So imagine my dismay when being called to jury that my name was clearly read out in front of the accused as I entered court! As my name comes up first on Google and this guy was a potential throat slitter, this didn't feel a good start!
Revealing that you’re an artist to fellow jurors at break times is also a mistake. Someone had a laptop and was soon distracted from sluthing the case and instead started  looking up my website http://www.timfisherartist.co.uk/. Next, people were asking me to 'prove' my ability by drawing things for them in the Jurors room between cases. I doubt if I had been a sewerage worker that I would have been required to demonstrate my craft! I related this story on the Jeremy Vine show on BBC Radio 2 by sending in an email. somehow, either by mistake or for sensationalism, Jeremy implied that rather than focussing on the case, I was drawing pictures for the other jurors during the trial!!
When it came to summing up time, guess who was volunteered to do all the drawing on the flipchart!!
Halfway through, I was struck down with what I thought was just a mild cough, which gradually turned into something much worse. Aching and shivering, I was pleased to be released a couple of days early as there were no more cases.
Come the new year, I was still suffering from Swine flu just as we are plunged into one of the worst winters since Peter Breugel and the last ice age. Feeling low, and not wanting to paint, I decided to embark on producing a series of instructional DVD’s. I am now plunged into a incomprehensible world of incompatible file formats, tape v digital, wide screen v 16:8. Trevor Lingard, who incidentally has recently written a brilliant article in the Leisure Painter has kindly given me some useful tips in postioning the camera so that you see the work and not the back of my head! and so my efforts start. Painters On-Line now offer a section where videos can be posted, so to cut my teeth and get used to all the stuff, I have decided to make some short films. Please have a look at my efforts and let me know what you think; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQUP1psvolk&feature=BFa&list=ULHNsDpUIplj8&index=12
ps My apologies for the Swine Flu sniffs on this otherwise exciting watercolour demonstration!!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Dennis the Menace's Paradoxical Hair

Over the years I’ve seen a constant consistency of approach amongst people who wish to improve their painting ability. A consistency that is not always conducive to improvement. I always try to send out a recommended list of materials to give people an idea of what to bring along to my workshops. I try to keep the recommendations broad so that people do not feel compelled to go out and buy that particular ‘special colour’.
After these preparations, I still sometimes turn up to see the organiser distributing lengths of decorator's  lining paper for members to paint on and some desperately trying to borrow watercolour and pastels from others because they hadn't been told by the organiser what to bring despite having my list!!.
So often I see people working on the cheapest paper available, saying “its only a tuition day…I’m not using the good stuff..”
It’s strange how paradoxical learning art can be. If I’d brought along a roll of Izal (wonderful for working coloured pencil onto by the way..American readers may wish to look this one up..) and distributed it as the painting surface, I would get some very strange looks, especially if I told them that as they improved, they could then move on to Andrex and then blotting paper!
The paradox here is that when you’re just starting your painting journey, you should work on the best papers possible(even for practise!). As you improve and become an expert, then you can work on the cheaper stuff because your skills have improved sufficiently to cope with all the problems that inferior materials give you. This is why when you go to an art show, a demonstrating artist can use their skill to make any product look easy to use.
Brushes are another issue, you only need a couple of decent brushes, yet most people bring a brush holder that rolls out two yards long and contains all the brush bargains from the last ten years of art shows, each one with bristles like Dennis the Menace’s hair!!
Finally, paint..I ask people how many colours a professional artist uses, “Umm, three? Six?, eight?”, Another paradox! How come the visiting tutor is assumed to work with only a few colours, yet each student will probably have two Walmart or Fine Fare carrier bags packed to the gunnels with tubes!
Part of the problem here, I think lays squarely at the feet of people who sell to students. The baited tubes that offer the promise of success, such as ‘Mist over the moors Grey’ and ‘Hawaiian sunset Pink’. Also the manufacturer’s who rename colours, so that you end up with several tubes of the same paint under different guises.
So my advice, use a good quality paper, get a couple of good brushes and limit your palette to just a few artist quality single pigment colours, three bright primaries and two earth colours should do for starters. It may seem expensive buying artist quality materials, but you’ll benefit in the long run and your grandchildren will be really pleased with the gift of paints brushes and paper that you eventually no longer need!