Sunday, 31 August 2008

I've been saving this one....

... didn't know why. But I suppose it was for today:

In a recorded interview with Joan Eardley from the early 1960s she speaks of her love for the back streets of Glasgow and the children playing in the closes:

" I have been painting them for seven years...they don't pose - they come up and say 'will you paint me?'... I watch them moving about and do the best I can...the Samson's - they amuse me - they are full of what's gone on today - whose broken into what shop and whose flung a pie in whose face - it goes on and on. They just let out all their life and energy... and I just watch them and I do try and think about them in painterly terms...all the bits of red and bits of colour and they wear each other's clothes - never the same thing twice running...even that doesn't matter... they are Glasgow - the richness Glasgow has - I hope it will always have - a living thing, intense quality - you can't ever know what you are going to do but as long as Glasgow has this I'll always want to paint." (Joan Eardley, Exhibition Catalogue 2007, p. 31f)

In the close
In the close
Mixed media collage in Moleskine
[Lorraine's Moley]

So, I'm back...

Some music to go alongside the bit of Eardley?

Try these... they worked well yesterday to drown out the noise of the Motherwell supporters who got on the train in Edinburgh:

OMG... so many to choose from...

Monday, 25 August 2008

This week's plan 1

... I've been looking forward to this for a while - since I stumbled into Tina Mammoser's explorations of lines for some of her coastal landscapes.

So, London for the rest of the week, and I'm sure I can sneak away from work for some of this:

... well, from today's location to tomorrow's...

For more of Cy Twombly at the Tate Modern, see here

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Things I cannot do

... sounds like the awesome new title for a series of posts - possibly even better than 'Paintings I like'.

While there is plenty I cannot do, the thing that kept bugging me for the past fortnight was - you probably guess right - a field. The field I see from my bedroom, next to garden. It's a corn field. Almost ready to be harvested, the corn sways in the wind, it's silver, purple, orange and green. Above all, it's bulky - well, 2 metres tall or so.

So, it is definitely not a meadow nor is it a grain field; a potato or sugar beet field it is neither. Yet - and here's the irritating bit: I am, for the life of me, not getting it to look like more than a grain field at best, most of the times it's looking like a flat meadow. And it's not that I haven't tried: plenty of sketches at any time of day, with or without sunshine, with or without wind or rain.

I am just not getting it. It's the bulkieness (?) that evades me - so, the field keeps teasing me, C'mon, Gesa, gie's another try.... I oblige, and then it becomes yet another meadow. Mind you, I do like my colour studies of it, so I get a sense about the difference of full sun at noon, or late afternoon, but: no chance for a corn field.

Corn fields at noon
Corn fields at noon x2, soft pastel in Moleskine

Corn fields late afternoon
Corn fields late afternoon x2, soft pastel in Moleskine

So, a plea to all the pastelists - because I think it's a technique with the medium that I cannot do: how does the field turn bulky, tall and swaying in the wind? The last attempt involved some ink, possibly not enough: I figure it's something to do with the strokes on the paper, maybe they need to be more systematic or so, so I tried some dark ink before I applied pastel, but it's not happening.

Cornfields or not
Cornfields or not, Ink and soft pastel in Moleskine, 26x21cm
[also obliging my Mum to do sth in orange]

Anyone any ideas?
So that I can come up with yet another series of 'The things I've learnt today'

Thank you!

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Rural romance

... or something like that.

My mum fell for my attempt at avoiding clichees. Well, she did for a wee while. She liked the high contrast foreground. I offered the sketch to her. She thought about it until yesterday afternoon. Then she says, "You know what, Gesa, I never really liked the view to Frau Fischer's garden all that much, I think I don't want that view in my living room. But I really do like something in orange.'

I smiled. And thought of Frau Fischer's son, my neighbour, known him for twenty years since we moved to this place. Last week, my friend I. visited for a couple of days, and we went for a walk at sunset and moonrise, to show her THE fields. Well, she's been here before, but it's a long time ago. Anyways, we were walking down the small road and some tractor's busy ploughing the fields. I was a bit annoyed, it's a field that figures in many of the winter sketches, it triangular in shape and is just awesomely pretty, so some bare soil just was not cutting it for the picture I had in my mind.

More moon

So, my neighbour was ploughing the field, late in the evening as the full moon was rising. My friend and I keep chatting, walking, more chatting, stopping, more chatting etc etc.... on the way back, we're near the tractor. My neigbhour stops: "OMG, Gesa, I haven't seen you for years, what are you doing here", so he goes. Well drunk, his plough not only hits the field but also the path, the bramble bushes, he narrowly misses the telephone pole. He keeps talking and then muses, with the rising moon, how sitting on a tractor is good, really good, in fact as good as sex, well almost, he qualifies with an afterthought.

Fields at sunset

Well, and on he went, across the path, the bramble bushes and the fields, ploughing as the moon rose. There you go, plenty of romance in the idyllic countryside. Now, where are my bags? Time for packing again. One more post tomorrow and then I'll be gone again. Who would have thought that almost three weeks in the middle of fields, tractors and plenty of mosquitos pass so quickly.

Fields at sunset

There's a PS for my friend M. who will get this in her email delivery. She will smile, remember last year's posts from the fields (like this one here) and think, yes, my dear, now it's time to go soon. I will. I did my homework while I was here.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Composition clichees, Take Two

Ok, ok... after having uploaded yesterday's creation I saw it too: while eager to avoid one clichee - a path leading youse viewers into the painting - I firmly, and head first (as per usual), fell victim to another one: a stupid, trite and really corny framing of the view by a canopee of trees. Well, my excuse was that it REALLY, REALLY looks like that - and is it my fault if the world operates with clichees???

Where's the shade #2, study
Where's the shade #2, study
Pen and ink in Moleskine, 26x21cm

Where's the shade #2, shadow shapes
Where's the shade #2, shadow shapes
Pen and ink in Moleskine 13x21cm

Na, in any case. This morning attempt no 2: keep the shadows, kind of lose the path and the leafy frame. A couple of studies were done to help me and then I proceeded on a slightly bigger board. This time a darkish blue meant that the world looked considerably more muted. There's more foreground, a bit (tiny, tiny) of the path and the shadow shapes. There is nothing to the right hand side other than a bit of emptiness.

Where's the shade #2
Where's the shade #2
Soft pastel on board, 34x24cm

And all along I am beginning to long for something bigger and most importantly more abstract. All these studies are nice, worthwhile if not worthy, and good fun, but: they are really needing to turn into something else other than a place in time. And with the sketchbook and some plein air sketching I am definitely not getting there.

I want some glue, some paper, some acrylics, some ink to spatter generously across something large... Studio space is what my heart tells me... it'll have to wait a few more weeks to be back home, but it's beginning to feel like something to look forward to. Well, in the meantime: there'll be some more fields...

Oh... and another thought: OIL PAINTS... the smell of oils, turps and the headiness that comes with a studio full of cheap turps... hach, soon....

Saturday, 16 August 2008

The world in high chroma

... a consequence of the limited palette but also a bit of playfulness. Late summer colours just shout cobalt and orange at me. So, I willingly oblige. And this is what I end up with. My parents don't recognise their world in my paintings, but that's probably quite alright, hm?!

The world in high chroma

Do you see what I did again: painted pages in my sketchbook. I think of 'Liar, liar...' and grin quietly to myself. Determination, heh, overrated... The colour I used was my old school posterpaint - kind of low grade gouache with little opacity, but ok. It doesn't rough up the paper all that much, but I just liberally add hairspray and it works pretty well, thanks again, Brian!

Where's the shade
Where's the shade, Softpastel on Colorfix

This scene was a spontaneous find this morning. Spontaneous only in that sense that it's a view I've seen thousands of times. The shadow shapes on the path intrigued me.
Do you see them? No? Well, they somehow got lost, didn't they? I'm never too keen on any of the rather obvious composition points like: lead the eye of the viewer into the painting by using a path... well, it becomes so quickly so generic, so I ignore them. And the shadow shapes got lost at the expense of the fields in the distance. I will need to try again, tomorrow morning, find another way to ignore the path and keep the shade.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

With all these questions

... there's a bit of searching going on. - As Vivien rightly says in her comment to yesterday's post... so: do it.

Well... The post got sparked off (quite literally) but the most fabulous glow in the sky I had seen in a long time. A thunderstorm at around sunset turned the sky into that iridescent grey yellow which in turn reflected throughout the garden and coloured everything green into a kind of glowy red/orange.

Thunder at Sunset

No chance for a photo of it, though I tried as you can see. I think my amateur photography skills were no match for it.

So I sketched. Attempt #1 yesterday didn't get the sky. But it got something of the heavy rain shower making the trees fade in the distance.

Thunder at Sunset 1
Thunder at Sunset #1
Soft pastel in Moleskine

But, again, I'm kind stuck with the texture of the sketchbook. It refuses to take more than 2 (max 3) layers of my soft pastels. Then I remembered Brian's explanation (scroll down Vivien's post to read his comment) of how he made the beautiful British Columbia landscapes in his sketchbook for the exchange. So I followed the instructions: one layer, rubbed in well with some paper, another layer, rubbed in, etc. And to use fixative (well, my mum's hairspray in this case) in between. And: hey ho... darker than before, more transparent then before and all in all enough to keep me happy.

Pastel transparencies
Soft pastel in Moleskine
Layering, rubbing and more of the same
Yellow, lime green, pale purple and neutral grey in various combinations

So, here's a bit of experimentation from today:
Note 1 - the transparency of the rubbed in layers
Note 2 - the depth of the dark pastels overlayed

Thunder at Sunset 2
Thunder at Sunset #2
Soft pastel in Moleskine

More skyline
More Skyline
Soft pastel in Moleskine

So, all in all not a bad day... and that's been on the painting front alone.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

How can you

... capture the fleeting rain shower on paper? You know, just that slight silvery mist that marks out the distance between you and those trees over there...
... get that iridescent yellow grey just before the thunder strikes? And don't forget about the ever so slight red purple glow in amongst them.
... draw the splash of a rain drop? And the reflections when it bursts.
... follow the line of the water overflowing from the rooftop? And don't forget the sound too: Drip, drop... drip, drop

You cannae really, or can you?

I wonder...

Monday, 11 August 2008

So easily pleased

... she is. Do you want to see why?

Field 1

Field 2

A few pictures taken just at the time at the sun hits the top of the clouds... That's all there is here. Nothing more. Oh: well, and of course a field of corn and some harvested wheat fields. Not much going on around here.

And now I definitely need to go looking for the turps in the barn to get some pastel ground prepared. I keep missing the mornings but the evening light is fab here. So much friendlier than what I remember from the winter sketches. Well: eight months and two seasons further on. And more than forty sketches and paintings on the subject in the meantime.

Sun on Clouds 2

Still surprises me how I end up circulating around these rather boring fields... hm...

Sunday, 10 August 2008

The Lock

A lock, somewhere on Berlin's Landwehrkanal

The Lock
The Lock, Pencil and neo ii in Moleskine, 13x21cm

Rise rise
Gushing water
Whirls. Gurgles. Gurns
We float
Breathing in
The Lock

Friday, 8 August 2008

Moley #5

... or #6? With being away, I haven't kept track of the consecutive numbering. In any case. The Eigg/Berlin travelog is pretty full. A few pages remain unused but it doesn't feel right to fill them now with having already left again. So, here's to a new one. Ordered it on Saturday, it arrived on Tuesday and now it's in full swing already.

It's just a year ago that I took up the sketchbook for everyday habit. And filling one within the space of two weeks is a new record for me. When I decided to use a sketchbook frequently I felt at loss at what to put in it - it's an important one, that one, don't you think so? It's similar to starting drawing/painting in general: where to find stuff to paint, draw, sketch in a world so full of stuff? It was similar with the sketchbook. And it's such a nice thing once everthing dull thing in this world seems worth a quick sketch.

I was keen on doing some abstract things, but sketchbooks just seemed for pretty illustration, and thus not for me. To counter that, I had planned to do some themed sketchbooks: one for a thorough investigation into different colours - or really: pigments; one to learn more about textures and mark-makings and one for travel. Somehow, only the latter got filled beyond the initial first pages; then I filled the textures one with everything, and now the one titled 'Colours' on its spine is really Eigg/Berlin July 2008.

Lesson no 1 to self: Have one sketchbook to take whereever and to do in it whatever. The media I've used expanded: from pencil/graphite/neo iis, they now also feature pastels, acrylics, oils and increasingly pen and ink; there's also plenty of notes on exhibitions, quick copy sketches of paintings/sculptures I like; a bit of general chit chat and my little attempts at word plays for seabirds, clouds etc.

Kalao Bird
Pencil and neo ii sketch in Moleskine, 13x21cm of
Great Kalao Bird, Wooden Sculpture
Museum Berggruen, Berlin

As a way of inspiring my sketchbook use I pre-treated plenty pages: with watercolour washes, and more often acrylics. Hm. That was such a bad decision. It really annoyed me throughout this last book: what on earth do I do with waves of raw umber when I want to sketch a Berlin skyline. Sorry. That was such a bad move. There were one or two lucky ones: e.g. lemon yellow underpaintings usually work with plenty of stuff. But grass green, and certainly a dark umber are completely different and most often did not work.

Lesson no 2 to self: don't do waves, splashes or anything in earth colours and green in any future sketchbook. EVER! A bit of lemon yellow is ok, maybe a pale grey/blue wash too. And if it doesn't fit, don't pretend it's not there, skip that page and go back to it. It does not look good, Gesa, seriously!

Just have a look here: yellow ochre's the culprit

Clouds over Rum
Clouds over Rum, ink and neo ii in Moleskine, 26x21cm

Monday, 4 August 2008

Some more island pastels

The sketchbook is still resting and I am starting to get used to night time closing in so much earlier further south, or is this just the general move from summer solstice to late summer? I've been doing some more cloud observations, across the fields and the garden, recognising the different light, colours and intensity of shade and sunshine here. It's a funny one: to observe closely the things one assumes to know so well, to know by heart and blind. That only means to discover new: after some absence the quality of light seems different, cloud formations that indicate a rain shower or thunder storm closing in to change subtly. Did I notice that purpley yellow in the skies before?

I swapped some colours in my pastel kit from Small Isles to Northern Germany. Notably: took out some of the neutral greys in favour of some neutral(ish) purples in different values. I think neutral grey, although useful it is, is not my neutral colour of choice, if that makes sense. I'm always going for the various shades of purple in different values. It's a funny one. When I first started with pastels, that darkish, slightly grey purple was one of the first colours I knew intuitively, and it's still a firm favourite. In addition, I included some bright cadmium orange, and two Schminckes: one a dark caput mortuum in a warm burgundy brown/red, and a green raw umber, also dark. I kept the turquoise - I'm sure I'll find some use for it. And took out some of the very dark Terrage sticks - they are too full on, I find. Useful but rather in your face they belong to a bigger set than my rather generous limited palette.

The support I took with me are the leftovers from the island hols: Colorfix board in aubergine, sand and pale blue. That is a distinct Scottish West Coast colour set and I don't think that either sand or pale blue will do me much good here. I need to go hunting for a bit of turps in my dad's various outbuildings and just sort out some warmer (yellow ochre, raw siena or so) underpainting by applying some pastels first and then washing over with turps. It's a bit wasteful to use pastels for this, but I left everything else I normally use for underpaintings (like acrylics) at home, so this improvisation will have to do.

Across to Moydart
Across to Moydart, Pastel on Board, 34x24cm

Above Kildonnan Bay
Above Kildonnan Bay, Pastel on Board 34x24cm

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Onwards again...

Travelling is good fun. My bags are packed again and my cosmopolitan interlude is again swapped (just typed swamped there... must have been a Freudian slip) for some rurality.

I'll go and have another look at the winter fields and my painting subjects for the past six months. I know those fields so well, and am all the same very curious what they will be like this summer.

The sketch book has been quiet over the last week but to be honest, I need to get a new one - this one has only a couple of pages left. Looks as if I'm saving them... but for what I wonder?

In any case... back to the countryside is a good chance to post another one of the Small Isles pastels - different feel, different summer, differen location: well: sea! But close nonetheless.

On Muck
On Muck, Soft pastel on Board, 24x34cm

There's nothing awfy analytical about what I'm doing here at the moment, a bit of summer breeze and that's it. However, a good few thoughts on ink, sketchbooks and the limited palette pastel kit are accumulating in the background. Just a little more patience.