How did it come to this…?

The question one asks as one sticks the 56th of 80 greetings cards (and its envelope) into its acetate sleeve, and realises that all the envelopes have been obscuring the card designs.

The question one asks as, juggling one heavy frame and two folders full of delicate unfixed pastels in one hand, and one ill-advised eco-friendly mug of coffee in the other, one’s trapezius threatens to part from one’s spine.

The question one asks as one totes a picture into an exhibition, weighed down physically but buoyant in spirit1, to replace a sold painting, only to find that the customer has brought it back again2, and the precious, precious sales money refunded3.

And so, I drooped off home to drown my sorrows in tea.

Fortunately, a kindly next-door neighbour salvaged my mood by dropping by to deliver some chocolate biscuits as thanks for mowing their lawn while they were away, reminding me that sometimes, pleasant surprises happen too, such as…

Finally, my cartoon featuring the Bricket Wood Art Club exhibition held in the Radlett Centre cafe (hence the inclusion of a tasty sandwich), a mere 5 months ago…

1

After spending the morning chatting to a fellow local artist and admiring their beautiful artwork

2

This also means that, tragically, my puns of the previous post were wasted, since it was the donkey painting which had been returned.

3

I’m glad to say that Bricket Wood Art Club nonetheless let me hang my replacement picture anyway, since I was on the warm and grumpy side after lugging it in and finding I hadn’t sold anything after all. I then made an ass of myself repeating to the staff all the donkey puns I could think of. Which makes them, of course, hot cross puns.

Bricket Wood Art Club – 2019 August Exhibition

Saturday 10th to Monday 26th August

Whoops. So. This announcement is over a week late now, but at least it’s not as late as my formal announcement of Bricket Wood Art Club’s first exhibition of the year, which finished at the end of March and has as yet received but a throwaway mention in February Update (part 1).

So. Come along to the lovely summer exhibition of Bricket Wood Art Club inside Burston Garden Centre, open from 10am to 6pm1. Entry is free, and there is a restaurant/cafe inside, open until 4pm, which I can attest does a decent cup of tea2.

The address is:
Burston Garden Centre
N Orbital Road
St. Albans
Hertfordshire
AL2 2DS

… Burston Garden Centre has a bit more info on its own webpage here… ooh, and apparently the parking is free too. I tend to forget to mention this, not having a car!3


1

…despite unfortunately and wide-reaching confusion of several stewards… all right, mainly me… which resulted in several people signing up until 5pm, not realising this left the final hour of the exhibition unattended!

2

Not that I spend all my time stewarding chain-drinking cups of tea, you understand.

3

I should probably also mention, not that I’m bragging or anything, that the Hee-Hawe-some painting of a Wonky Donkey at the top of the page was in the exhibition, but has now sold… which I’m very glad of, since it was a Bray-ve Attempt which took Donkey’s Ears to paint… OK, I’m done now.

St Albans Art Society – 2019 Summer Exhibition!

… AKA Mounting problems…

To be fair, the problems this year can mostly be ascribed to Acts of God, and have also mostly been inflicted on other people (a fellow SAAS committee member comes to mind, as does the person I go to for frames who, having received my order, promptly went into hospital with a collapsed lung1.)

However, this does mean that I spent this evening eyeing my newly-framed artwork, with its rather stark white mount glowing against the dingy backdrop of my pastel pictures, thinking….

Hm. Sure wish I’d had time to tint that mount.

In fact, given I’d finished all the artwork going in for this exhibition by the end of May2, it’s amazing how much time drained into the black hole of my life before I actually started getting the framing done. I’m sure there have been psychological studies done on this phenomenon. So sure, in fact, that I decided the best use of my time now would be to create a beautiful pie chart3 about the overheads on producing a piece of artwork4.

Having now tentatively signed up to Instagram as well @TraceysDrawings (#shamelessplug), I fear this overhead will only increase. I’m sure there’s something to be said about working more efficiently but, having spent the last two hours5 waffling on about nothing to do with St Albans Art Society, I shall now finally reiterate/return/wander back to the actual subject of my post, which is:

Come to St Albans Art Society Summer Exhibition!

  • Come to St Albans Art Society Summer Exhibition!
    • Entry is free
    • Open to the public daily from Wednesday 31st July to Saturday 3rd August
    • Time: 10am to 6pm
    • At Upper Dagnall Street Baptist Church Hall, St Albans, AL3 5EE

Further details6, together with a sneak-peak gallery of a few of our exhibits (including mine), are on the St Albans Art Society website.


1

…and still somehow managed to finish the frames. I can happily report they are now up and about again… and their efforts are very much appreciated *bows*.

2

The same cannot be said for the artwork going into the pending Bricket Wood Art Club exhibition at Burston Garden Centre in St Albans, which is due in less than two weeks, for which only four out of five paintings are finished, and for which I as yet have no frames… this is sure to end well.

3

Pie chart as beautiful (and accurate) as fifteen minutes of work could render it.

4

… case in point. NB the so-called ‘Daily Painting’ Challenge was a satisfying exception – but as a result, I now have a backlog of 20-odd paintings to properly process, fix, file and upload to various locations … on top of my previous backlog.

5

Yup, this took two hours. It was adding in the emojis to the pie chart that did it. The explanation for that black-hole effect is becoming clearer…

6

Well… in all honesty, the same details, repeated again.

The Daily Painting Challenge

OK.
So.
In a discussion with an artist friend, we decided it would be good for us to try and do a painting every day for a month (from 8th May to 8th June… yes, yes I know that was over a month ago now…).

After achieving my target, by dint of creatively redefining both ‘daily’ and ‘painting’1, I thought I’d better get round to posting them (in completely random order) before I forgot entirely2.

Several of the below were sketched while holidaying in Scotland, so many thanks to my hosts for generously lending their collection of shiny objects to the cause…

1

i.e. By dint of applying the following cheats:

  • Deciding completing a painting every *other* day would be more my style. Wouldn’t want to overdo it, would I?
  • Redefining ‘painting’ as ‘whatever I felt like’.
  • Adding on an extra day to my deadline, because I spent the entirity of two of them travelling between home and Scotland. Hm, really I should have added two on… missed a trick there.
  • And finally, counting the picture I *finished* on the day I started the challenge. Sadly, the Mouse did not in fact take only a day to complete.

2

As has apparently happened with the ‘Springtime Sketches’ posts.

Berkhamsted Art Exhibition

Just a quick post to plug the local Berkhamsted Art Society Exhibition1, which is running until 5pm this Saturday (18th May2). It is a beautiful exhibition of local artists held in Berkhamsted Civic Centre, open daily from 9am to 5pm.

I was very surprised during my stewarding slot to discover how few visitors the exhibition was getting – considering the attractive venue, the location bang in the centre of Berkhamsted (barely ten minutes walk3 from the nearest railway station), the free tea, coffee and biscuits on offer, and of course the quality of the artwork on display4.

So – do please come and have a look if you’re in the area over the next few days!

190516 Berkhamsted Map


1
Or, as I have affectionately heard it phrased, Berko.

2
And not in fact the 8th of May, which was the date I so cunningly wrote on some blameless visitor’s receipt today…

3
Or – as I discovered dashing for the train home – 4.5 minutes flat-out running with a heavy backpack.

4
Not just mine ;p.

Springtime Sketching (interlude)

… and what has the mouse to do with springtime?

Not a lot1. It just happened to be drawn in the spring, as part of a couple of postcard designs to go to Bricket Wood Art Club2).

Anyway, more seasonal pastel studies are below, with only minor photoshopping3, for your delectation and delight – or at least a distraction until I get organised enough to do a proper post4.

All spring sketches small

Alas, the glorious candyfloss blossoms are now mostly over – but at least I drew some of them this year…


1
Unless you count the tendency of rats to frequent our garden in pursuit of food put out for the young birds.

2
…which has recently suffered a very sad loss. I should probably not go into details here, but will ask whether a general announcement should go up on the website at some point.

3
Memo to self – download Gimp from Gimp.org. I like trusty Paint.net, but I could do with more functionality (and better auto-levelling algorithms >_<).

4
Best estimate: around midsummer at the current rate!

Springtime Sketching (Part 1)

On my way to celebrate Easter with my family, in between checking how badly the chocolate Easter eggs had melted1 and conversations about bubonic plague2, I began a recounting of all the different weekend workshops I’d been on in spring. It turns out there were quite a few…

Windy workshop

I made great efforts to attend my first Chertsey Artists lifedrawing session of the season:
WindyWorkshop

I chose a green background colour, the same as the one used for this lifedrawing, but it wasn’t quite as successful this time round; the previous attempt’s darker, more reflective-skinned model and directional orange lighting just look more dramatic.190424 The extended limited palette

I also managed to use too many colours in the drawing (as usual); perhaps next time I’ll pick a paper colour and a few pastels in advance of the session, and stick to them. Mind you, I say that every time…

Portrait of transport woe

Following the lifedrawing session, the next weekend I’d booked into a portrait class, again in Chertsey.

Now, I had a plan in mind for this portrait – in fact I’d been on at the tutor to tell me when this particular model was attending, and I would go to THAT session with THIS COLOUR board4 and THESE oil pastels, come what may…

Fortunately the gale-force winds had gone down by the time of the portrait class. Less fortunately, so had the trains, extending a 2-something hour journey to 3.5, partly via replacement bus.
ReplacementBus

However, once I had straggled in and sufficient coffee had been imbibed to combat  sleep-deprivation, it was a very relaxing, enjoyable session… the results of which are shown below (and many thanks to the other attendees for letting me post a photo of their work!)

Full Workshop

Guess which one is mine… (hint: the title is ‘Feeling Blue’)

Water water everywhere

OK, I lied – this one wasn’t on the weekend at all.
However, I was determined to be there, because one of my very favourite HAC artists, Sarah Poppleton, was giving tips on how to paint water…

SMALL workshop picture

Look. Loook. Loooooooooook…

Thanks also go to Sarah for letting me use a photo of herself and her artwork ^^.

One key point of the workshop was that drawing from observation was absolutely vital, which is a pity since I’m terrible at organising myself enough to go out and sketch from life – but there were still a couple of very useful tips for portraying water:

    • In reflections, dark objects will be less dark; light/bright objects will be less light/bright… overall, the contrast will be diminished compared to the original image being reflected.
    • The angle shown in a reflection may not be exactly the same as the angle you see the original image from – particularly true the closer you are to the image (and its reflection).
    • Sometimes you can see through the surface of the water to things beneath its surface. The further away you are from the water you’re observing, the greater the angle light has reflected through to reach your eyes, and the less it penetrates through the water’s surface… so there tends to be a gradation away from seeing through the water to seeing only reflections, the further the water is from the observer.
    • As a general point of atmospheric perspective (not just the case with water): darker, warmer colours tend to be in the foreground, and bluer, cooler one further away.
    • Sparkling water – pure white paint looks unconvincing; using a few different pale, warm colours, with only a very few dots of pure white, looks much better. Additionally, using a warm underpainting colour for the sparkles will really make them shine in the finished image.
    • Ruffled water scatters light more than a smooth surface, so reflections are much less perfect and often duller.
    • Waves – look for lines of movement (i.e. where the waves are rolling from and to) so the overall pattern makes sense.

1
In a break from tradition, the bank holiday weather was in fact seasonably clement.

2
Don’t ask.

3
If by ‘great efforts’ one means ‘being up and about before 10am’ and ‘walking through a moderate breeze with an art folder’.

4
In fact the blue background was created by mixing blue acrylic paint and pumice, alá the mountboard pastel grounds in this post.

February Update (part 2)

So, I asked my partner to look at my website and tell me what my posts needed. He looked. He pondered. He wracked his brains. And the answer was… clickable footnotes1. I should probably gen up on my html anyway, since I’ve apparently volunteered to take on Bricket Wood Art Club website. In addition to helping out with St Albans Art Society website and Treasurey stuff. Hmm. Well, I’m sure that was sensible and I will in no way end up overloaded.

Anyway, on with the update:

Pastel grounds.
In light of the expense of Pastelmat and other addictively velvety papers, which eat through pastels and money with equal gusto, a fellow artist from St Albans invited me to experiment with creating new and exciting DIY pastel grounds2. In between cups of coffee, we employed a washing-up sponge and some gimungous interior decoration paintbrushes to apply:

    • Roughly equal parts cheapo acrylic paint, white acrylic gesso and ground pumice to pale-coloured mountboard (no idea what grade the pumice it was but it looked very fine to me)3.
    • Liquitex clear gesso to black and red mountboard (memo to self: next time *don’t* slather it on by the bucketload; velvety surfaces are good for pastels; small mountains of paint, less so).

I’d like to give the DIY grounds a mark-out-of-ten, but… I haven’t actually started applying pastel to them yet. Give me another year and I may get round to it… Anyway, in addition to providing all the mountboard and Liquitex, my friend also loaned me a rather spiffy white seashell for my next still life, as shown below (mainly because it’s more interesting than posting images of blank mountboard):

ShellFIN

Pretty in Pink (2019)
Pastel & coloured pencil
18 x 23cm

Card designs
The end of February (yes, OK, I know it’s mid-March already) signals the end of the usual slew of Christmas/New Year/why-is-everyone-born-between-November-and-February-birthday cards and, this year, some sadder things.

Slightlymassivecardbanner3

Keith Hornblower’s workshop
St Albans Art Society ran this workshop on 23rd February. I love Keith’s work, and so jumped on the bandwagon even though watercolour boat-themed landscapes are… quite far out of my comfort zone. However, despite a rocky beginning, and taking forever to complete my painting as usual, I very much enjoyed the workshop and (goodness!) am even moderately pleased with the result. Points of note:

    • A big thank you to the lady who kindly gave me her photo (shown below next to the final painting) to work from, without which I would have been a bit stuck. Next time I will bring my own reference material JUST IN CASE4.
    • Also grateful to Keith’s suggestion about moving the middle boat to improve the composition. And the fact that he never changes the water he washes his brushes in either. Hah! I feel so vindicated…
    • Of course, all of my watercolour tubes have dried up. Again. I don’t generally consider this a problem because watercolours remain soluble5. However, since I was using a very large paintbrush and tiny, dried-up pigment containers, I couldn’t get very strong darks – hence the lack of contrast in the painting below. Oops…

FIN Keith Workshop

Chris Christoforou’s talk on ‘How to Sell Your Work’
I’m glad I made it to this one… quite apart from being entertaining, there was a lot of advice I’d not heard before in the mix, particularly geared towards trying to arrange and physically show your work, and then make a living off it.

    • Firstly, he advised specialising your style and subjects to a few key areas – because if you’re too diverse you won’t easily become known as a go-to person for a certain type of work.
    • Conversely, the range of products you offer – framed work, small sketches, greetings cards, prints and paraphenalia such as T-shirts (good advertising) – should be as wide as you can make it to try and cater to as broad a range of wallets as possible.
    • He also commented that – if you’re aiming to live off your art – you ultimately have to price your work against for the total overhead of ‘time spent living at home’ until the picture is complete. Good point. I’ve been charging sub-minimum hourly wage for the time directly spent painting my pictures because… it’s hard enough getting that to sell. But how much does one spend over a 12-month period? For a painting that takes a month to complete, it needs to sell for over £1,000 for most artists just to break even6.
    • So, if you’re making a living on your art, tailoring your subjects to wealthy clients7 with oodles of disposable income is a good idea. Suggestions included birds of prey, dogs, koi carp; exotic big cats; potentially portraits, maybe even flowers… music to my ears. However, getting good source photos for some of these without violating copyright can be tricky.
    • The next step is finding an event – country fairs can be a good – that might both a) show your work and b) contain lots of wealthy clients.

One of Chris’s comments – after a couple of throwaway lines about nearly getting eaten by some of the big cats he paints in a few of the catalogue of exotic countries he’s exhibited in over the years – was that we should aim to sell ourselves as much as our artwork, because artists are never boring. And there I was, thinking to myself about how I can’t drive, never fly; how I spend half my time baking8 and watching DVDs, and the other half asleep.

Ah well, we can’t all be eaten by big cats…

LIONS


1
Ta-dah!

2
May be less exciting than advertised.

3
In my role as experienced hypochondriac I actually went and looked up how hazardous pumice dust. Not very, apparently, although inhaling the dust is still a bad idea.

4
The tutor accidentally prepares for the wrong workshop and has no reference material to hand out. Not that this would ever happen, right?

5
Unlike my poor neglected tubs of student-grade acrylics which are slowly dying off one by one. Or perhaps that should read ‘drying off’.

6
Assuming roughly £12,000 yearly expenditure. And in my case, how much of that yearly expenditure is spent on desserts from the Pudding Stop? I shudder to think…

7
Apparently judging by one’s shoes is a good way to tell. Although – I’m not 100% sure I’d be able to identify a designer shoe, given my own choice of footware…

SHOES

8
Mmmm… sticky toffee pudding…

February update (part 1)

All right, yes, it’s March. But only just!1

To prove I’d not only learned nothing from my previous mass-framing escapades, but also had the capacity for new and exciting blunders, this month I had to co-ordinate (within a four-day period):

1)    Picking up unsold work from the Pastel Society2 in London.
2)    Ordering the frame for, picking up, framing, and safely posting a commission *bites nails*3.
3)    Ordering (from a separate place) a frame and mount – and then framing and delivering – two pictures to a local art exhibition courtesy of Bricket Wood Art Club.
4)    Attending an all-day workshop of St Albans Art Society’s by Keith Hornblower… more on this later. It was brilliant, but the workshop – and evening visitors – meant I clearly wasn’t going to get any of #1 to #3 done this day.

So. First issue. There wasn’t a lot of time left before I needed to post #2 (the commission), since it was a birthday present. In fact there was so little time I ultimately had to manage both #1 (collect pastelsoc work) and #2 (collect commission frame) on the same day. Logic dictated that I:

    • Zip to London in the morning to pick up the pastel soc work4.
    • Dump the pastel soc work at home.
    • Zip out again and collect the commission frame before the shop (Artscape in Harpenden) shut for the day at 5:30pm.

A good plan? Why yes. Except I overslept and had no time for step 2. My arms were pretty tired by the end of that day. And of course, due to the cunning location of Artscape (which keeps getting shifted further away from the Town Centre)…

Comic v2 FIN

…it made my arms feel even tireder.

To add insult to injury, I then had to run5 for the train on the way home (with three frames in my folder). Fortunately the running was all downhill. Less fortunately it was muddy. More fortunately again, I did not end up tobogganing downhill on the frames.

Second issue. Yet again, I did not factor in enough slippage time when ordering the frames for #3 (the local art exhibition). There was just over a week of delay after the estimated finishing date – not a huge amount, and hardly unprecedented – but it left me just two days to collect and frame the things. Also it so happened that the one day the frames were available for collection, I was on #4 (the workshop), forcing me to lean heavily on my long-suffering partner to drag the frames home for me (and the groceries. After all, if he’s going to the market anyway he may as well pick up the weekly veg).

However!

This time I did get all the frames and mounts the right size. So maybe I have learned something after all…


1 NB lest you think this post’s image is just a random tree, it is in fact the tree outside the Harpenden Public Halls, through which I walk to reach the awesome shop Artscape (see later whinging within this post). Well… at least there is a connection, however tenuous…

2 If it sounds like I’m name-dropping The Pastel Society into my blog at every opportunity; why yes, yes I am. Look – they even paraphrased me in one of their blog posts: https://www.mallgalleries.org.uk/about-us/blog/emerging-artists-pastel-society-exhibition-2019

3 It arrived safely! I was a tad nervous posting it, and therefore smothered the commission in several hundred layers of (probably not strictly necessary) cardboard and bubble wrap. But well, there is no kill like overkill…

4 While concurrently obtaining a bribe of posh tea for my partner in return for him picking up all my other frames on Saturday, when I was away due to #4 (the workshop).

5 All right. More like ‘waddle swiftly’.