You’ve been framed

Harpenden Arts Club is holding its annual exhibition next week1 and – for the first time – I have enough spare artwork floating around to participate.

You know what this means?

A framing nightmare.

Firstly, I have to remember to order the frames. This time, for a change, I remembered to order them but almost forgot to pick them up, culminating in a mad dash into town (followed by a very slow stagger back to the station). I’m sure each frame doesn’t actually weigh several tonnes, but somehow their awkward height – necessitating lifting to around ear level when walking – and their tendency to catch the breeze and passing pedestrians seem to make it so.

Once home and after sensation has returned to my hands, the framing starts.

Are the mounts the right size? Invariably no.

Some contrive to be too small, entailing brutal pruning of the artwork; occasionally more brutal than intended due to poor motor control and a pair of blunt scissors.

Almost worse, of course, is when the mount is just slightly too large, at which point vast quantities of card and tape are employed to try and disguise the fact. This never works, particularly at first.

… @____@…

Time to remove the backboard again, sore fingers quailing at each metal tag2, undo all the tape, redo part of the tape while lying on my back squinting up at two centimetres of mount projecting over the edge of the desk, realise I don’t have enough tape, dash out to buy some more tape, somehow get the new tape stuck on the wrong side of the artwork and spend several fraught minutes peeling it off and whimpering every time the delicate pastel threatens to fall off the desk onto my face, put everything back together again, realise the mount is in places now somehow at a lower level than the picture surface, take off the backboard again and break out the PVA glue…

In short, it ends up like an escapade of Uncle Podger’s in Jerome K Jerome’s ‘Three Men in a Boat’3.


  • Lesson i) Always leave a sizeable border between your actual image and the edge of the paper, because mounts hate everyone.
  • Lesson ii) Also always leave a good length of time – at least 2 weeks – between collecting the frames and having to hand them in for exhibiting, to allow for re-ordering anything (by which I mean mounts) that have gone wrong. Because they will have.
  • Lesson iii) Avoid framing stuff whenever humanly possible.

1Ooh, and one of my owls is in prime position on the slideshow advertising the exhibition ~^^~ #shamelessplug.

2If anyone knows of a painless way to bend back the metal tags holding the backboard in the frame (which does not result in a broken palette knife) please let me know…

3Well, perhaps not quite that entertaining: http://www.literaturepage.com/read/threemeninaboat-19.html

But should I call it Brexit?

In early October I visited a small informal group of artists, hosted and instructed by Brigid Marlin, in which I have been progressing my most ridiculously slow painting yet.

The technique being used is the mische technique – and for full details I again direct you to Brigid’s comprehensive website – which interleaves layers of white egg tempera (or a suitable and less capricious substitute) with transparent oil glazes of red, then yellow, then blue. On top of the blue layer, once dry, oils are painted directly but thinly… followed by yet more layers of white egg tempera (or substitute) and oil paint glazes which are used to unify some elements of the painting, pull bits forward and push others back. All rather more subtle and difficult to get the hang of than my usual method of bung-the-pastels-on.

Suffice it to say, it transforms the already time-consuming process of oil painting into something that takes me aeons to complete (I think I started it in January 2018). Given the time-to-achievement ratio, it’s probably not going to be a technique I specialise in – but I am really enjoying seeing this painting emerge…

Closed Studios

While a little off the beaten track, several visitors nonetheless managed to find my Open Studio and offer fresh insight into my work. Feedback ranged from the format and type of artwork that would be best to focus on, to which events and art societies I might participate in – a lot of thoughts to digest!

Belying my office-job roots, to help me sort out all the feedback I have resorted to that most mediocre of organisational tools, the homemade Powerpoint presentation – NB mediocrity was introduced by the creator, not the software:

181009 Herts Open Studios feedback img

Notably, little feedback was given on pricing, although I asked; people are unsurprisingly shy about this (it’s always a little awkward telling the artist to their face that their work is overpriced…)

Although several visitors were people I knew, some were completely new to me and making the rounds of many Open Studios, and one turned out to be a local artist only a few minutes’ walk from my house. Most heartening of all, a couple of commissions have come my way as a result.

I hope to take part next year as well, although I’m undecided about whether to opt for a more centrally-located group, or to try and enlist a few more local artists to create more of a draw to visitors in this area.

I might not bake quite so much next time though; only a few people availed themselves of the edible goods, so I had to demolish three tins of homemade shortbread, two tins of flapjacks and three loaves of focaccia bread* almost by myself… but I managed.

*ah wait no, I actually baked another loaf for a belated visitor today… and they ate some!

Open Studios

Well, Open Studios is more than halfway through, so time to share some initial impressions…

Negatives
I haven’t had many visitors. I wasn’t expecting many… but three out of the six groups of people who have turned up were either fellow artists I arm-twisted into coming, or were turning up anyway to pick up some artwork. I suspect some of the lack of footfall is down to:

  • My ongoing inability to handle social media in any form…
  • My house being a bit out-of-the-way for getting pass-by trips (though one musician called in who was on the lookout for an audio version of Open Studios – a thought for another year, perhaps!)

So, maybe next time I’ll try to participate as one of a more centrally-located group. Obviously this means I won’t be able to do any demos in my studio, but it also means I won’t have to do any special baking or house-cleaning (always a plus to one as lazy as I).

Also… yes I know, I know… I should get an Instagram account. Perforce, also a tablet / iPad of some sort.

Positives
From the visitors who have visited, I’ve had some interesting feedback – both for specific pieces of work and in general (leading to the rough-draft print pricing here).

Although I’ve been in my studio (nominally) producing artwork during most of Open Studios, I’ve managed to visit a few of the other artists participating in St Albans, with a couple more scheduled. So – lovely work on view at:

  • Marks & Tilt (artists Jonathan Emmerson, Jane Bottery and Gail Robins)
  • Angela Mellen’s printwork and beautifully decorated house
  • Trestle Arts Base cafe (artists Flea Cooke, Jo Stapleton and Linda Brown, plus more specific info on their Open Studios exhibition ‘Glimpses’ here)
  • and Hatty De Barnard’s gorgeous Nude Tin Can gallery (artists Dorienne Carmel, Liz Rogers, Emma Boote, Matthew McLeish, Stephanie Littlechild and Hatty herself).

Looking forward to seeing more of the OS artists next week!

Spot the difference…

The final owl commission, subtly different from the previous three owl commissions, and finished just in time for Herts Open Studios.

Also completed just in time were several shortbread biscuits (plain and lemon & white chocolate), flapjacks and some rather tasty focaccia bread ^^. I may even spend some time doing artwork tomorrow rather than baking…

[Edit: *smacks own wrist* also here is the credit for the owl source image:

Upcoming Open Studios…

OK. So. Preparation for my first attempt at participating in Open Studios (general info here) has started. Some might think that preparation should have started, say, several weeks back, but hohum.

Anyway, this is an event where various artists in Hertfordshire open their studios to visitors throughout September – all at different times and in different locations, so it’s handy to check the online brochure on HVAF’s website if you have someone specifically in mind to visit.

[Baked goods may be provided at my studio. I’m just saying. Hint, hint.]

Currently most of my preparation appears to be handing out leaflets (as per the above image) to try and increase publicity for this event… so lots of good, healthy walking for me tomorrow.

Aftermath of the SAAS Exhibition…

A mere 21 days after the end of the exhibition, I have scrambled on top of my backlog enough to actually post something about it… this bodes ill for my organisation regarding the upcoming Herts Open Studios, but more on that in later posts.

In summary, the St Albans Art Society summer exhibition went very well in general, with some rather spiffy pictures of it available here and here on the society website. It also went well for me personally, as I came out of it with my pastel of Cedar the Eagle owl sold and three commissions for more. Moreover the same owl got voted in as second-most-popular framed picture in an exhibition with over 200 entries; most flattering ^^. Owls for everyone!

Alas, my still life did not meet with the same success and has returned to its dust-gathering location against a wall.

My final entry to the exhibition is the oil painting ‘Thundercats’ featured at the top of this post. It took half of forever to paint and earned barely a glance, but hey, I like it. I would love to upload a good image of this into the website gallery proper, but my camera is simply not up to the task and the above offering (smushed together in the middle to edit out all the varnish reflections) was the best I could get.

St Albans Art Society Exhibition…

As a member of St Albans Art Society I am exhibiting a few pictures in our annual summer exhibition, as per the poster above. Details are as follows:

  • Entry is free!
  • Dates: Wednesday 25th July – Saturday 28th July 2018
  • Time: 10am – 6pm
  • Venue: Upper Dagnall Street Baptist Church Hall, St Albans, Herts, AL3 5EE

Further information can be found on the St Albans Art Society website (http://www.stalbans-artsociety.org.uk), or feel free to get in touch with me directly.