Tuesday 25 December 2018

Happy Christmas!

Happy Christmas!

and all the best for a safe, healthy, creative, and wonderful New Year!

Wednesday 19 December 2018

Christmas Craft Fair

The xmas craft fair at Signal Arts Centre is in full swing! This year I submitted a lot of the pottery I have been making over the past year on Thursday afternoons in the ceramics workshop. In this photo six of my glaze-painted tiles, two of my draped slab "galaxy" platters, two raku vessels and a number of my handbuilt bowls are visible. The step display that the tiles are on was designed and made by my husband, James Hayes, and some of his terracotta landscape vessels are also visible on the steps.

One of my floral wrap vases can be seen on this table, at the centre of the photo. Some of my husband's versatile mini platters (can be used for small amounts of sauces, hors d'oeuvres, chopsticks, used tea bags, oven-side utensil rests, etc) are on the left.

The craft fair is set up as a shop and there is a lovely smell of hand-made soaps on entering the gallery. Display cabinets have all been freshly painted. In this cabinet I can spot a few of my pieces: a floral vase and small ginger jar on the top shelf, a glaze-painted tile and handbuilt bowl on the lower shelf.

Several more of my floral wrap vases can be seen on another set of shelves. There is a huge variety of handcrafts in the fair, all reasonably priced. The annual Christmas Craft Fair at Signal Arts Centre, Bray, continues right up till xmas eve!

Wednesday 12 December 2018

Signal Studio - winding down

At the end of the seventh week in the studio, I finally finished my paintings. I was able to sign the larger one below a bit of scrim on the front, but for the smaller paintings I just signed the back as it would be impossible to paint my signature on the heavy texture which covered the canvas.

On the Monday of week 8, I used the last piece of grey paper on which I had been doing pastel drawings. Though I could have brought more of that paper in, I decided that it was a good time for me to refocus. Besides, all the pastels needed a spray of fixative - so I did this at the end of each day before I left.

I took down all my reference photos and pastel drawings and hung up the finished paintings (and the canvas on the right, which had not been painted!).

During the final three weeks I decided to stick to my routine of at least having three things that I would focus on daily. I continued doing a self-portrait in the morning and started a series of tiny watercolour pencil drawings. I had a small pad of Strathmore watercolour paper postcards.

I was thinking of doing a series of drawings where I would use an eraser to draw on a ground of graphite. However, the toothy Fabriano paper I was using did not allow for a solidly dark ground and made it impossible to erase back to white. Though I was happy with the final drawing of persimmons, I decided not to continue with a series at this time.

Instead, I decided my time would be better served by doing sketches for possible lino block prints -- a projected series for 2019. In order to get started, I taped several sheets of paper to each drawing board.

For the most part, I fitted two to-size drawings on each page. I realise that the more detail that is in the initial drawing, the more successful will be the final print. I am looking forward to continuing this work in the coming year.

Wednesday 5 December 2018

Signal studio - works in progress

I set up a mirror in the studio, so one of the first things I did every morning was sketch a self-portrait while drinking a cup of ginger tea. I took this picture recently, so a full studio is behind me. As well as a selfie, for the first seven weeks of the residency I did a pastel drawing and worked on my "Antibes Paintings" daily.

This is a November self-portrait in watercolour pencil. I have a tendency to squint when I attempt a smile at myself.

Before starting the residency at Signal Art Centre, I had prepared a number of canvases in advance with a heavy scrim texture and applied an undercoat of quinacridone violet. So I wasted no time in blocking my canvases once ensconced in the studio!

My paintings are always a slow build up of colour.

The largest canvas has its place on the large easel in the studio, but the small canvases would be on the adjacent table or hand held when I was working on them.

Wednesday 28 November 2018

Signal Studio Residency - working away!

I am having a very productive studio residency at Signal Arts Centre. One of the first things I did, on a sunny morning, was cut some paper, put on my boiler suit, and head outside to do some rubbings of the metal utility shores on the street. I taped these rubbings to the wall near the door and they have stayed there for the duration of my stay. A few of them can be seen in this picture.

My painting station, which takes up half the room, also provides me wall space to affix reference pictures and some finished pastel drawings. A moveable surface under the paints table provides a space for my pastels and I sit in a chair near the window when working on pastel drawings.

This area by the sink is also the selfie station. There is a mirror leaning agains the wall and every morning I do a self-portrait sketch in a sketchbook. I have been using a variety of media for these daily selfies - soft pencil, charcoal pencil, conté, pen, inks, watercolour pencils. I especially enjoy painting selfies with ink washes (I am limited to several bright colours and black) as I have to be loose in the execution. I also really like using my watercolour pencils for selfies and other small works. 

Every day I spend most of my time painting, with breaks to work on a pastel drawing and to do a self portrait sketch. I had prepared all the canvases in advance of arriving at Signal, applying scrim texture and a quinacridone violet groundcoat. At Signal I began the blocking in of the paintings in my first week there.

Although I placed the large canvas on the easel, I simply lay the small canvases on the table or lean them against the wall and pick them up when applying a specific colour. Here are several of them in progress.

Wednesday 21 November 2018

Barcelona 3

My last day in Barcelona was spent at the Fondacion Joan Miro. I was never a huge fan of Miro, but after spending a few hours immersed in his work and personality, I am a willing convert! As the Fondacion is on Montjuic and we took the funicular there, our first stop was the café to get our bearings. In the café several of Miro's large ceramic cones were on view and oversaw our snack. The sense of playfulness in Miro's work was immediate and welcome.

Although we could not enter this courtyard from the Fondacion, we could view the colourful piece from a variety of places.

The Fondacion also held a number of works by artists who were involved in Miro's life. I was particularly impressed by Alexander Calder's "Mercury Fountain".

The fountain was safely behind glass, but it was a pleasure to view the movement of the mercury, slower, more luminous, and more deadly than water.

The architecture of the Fondacion not only showed off the artwork of Miro, but the surrounding city itself.

The view from Montjuic is exquisite, and one can only gaze with this sculpture fountain on the terrace at beautiful Barcelona below.

I especially loved this expressionist triptych, which to me was so different from any Miro work with which I was familiar.

I did not know that Miro was experimenting with materials and meaning through attacking the canvas and exposing the structure. There was film footage of Miro working on this and other works in the series (i.e, aggressively mutilating and burning painted canvases) available for viewing on another floor of the Fondacion. I found this stunning!

There was a huge, colourful woven piece that could be viewed from both downstairs and from a second floor balcony. I was delighted to see that it was a true collaboration, signatures of Miro and Royo both appeared on the enormous tapestry.

One large gallery had a variety of bronzes created from found objects,

colourful monumental pieces and paintings.

There is a rooftop terrace that allows plenty of space for individual works

and their form and colour seems to belong in the sunshine. I highly recommend a visit to the Fondacion Joan Miro to anyone. It is a beautiful museum and the colourful, experimental work of this master is invigorating.

Wednesday 14 November 2018

Barcelona 2

A few weeks back (though it seems ages ago!), I was in Barcelona. This was my second visit to the beautiful city, but this time I was taking no chances on the Sagrada Familia -- bought my ticket online, well in advance. On my first visit to Barcelona in 2012 the queues to get in the fabulous Gaudi building were huge and daunting, so I just slowly walked around the building viewing its amazing exterior.

This time, though, I was able to see all the interior details. The bronze doors leading in to the church were intricate and fabulous. I love irises.

A Gaudi trademark salamander in bronze.

Gaudi was inspired completely by nature, and the columns within the church were like tall trees in a forest.

The stained glass was incredible and colour-themed for the time of day (i.e. pinks and yellows for dawn; yellows, oranges and greens for midday, etc.)/

A real treat, and worth every penny of the price, was an elevator trip up the Passion Tower (the highest of two visitor accessible towers). One took the elevator up and then walked down - 400 steps - with viewing stops along the way.

As well as being able to see architectural features and construction, 

the city and sea were on show.

"God's Easter Eggs". Gaudi paid attention to every detail - even features that could only be seen by the angels.

 The three dimensional mosaics were just gorgeous.

400 stairs down to exit into the church. There was a rail to hang on to on one side -- I did not look down that's for sure! Frightening, especially to one suffering from vertigo, but I did it with no regrets! I would definitely have regretted NOT seeing this!

Wednesday 7 November 2018

Barcelona 1

My recent break to Barcelona started with a walking tour around the Gothic Quarter. I had earwigged on part of a walking tour during my first trip to the city in 2012 and was so impressed that I hung on to the Travel Bar leaflet and simply looked them up once my recent trip was planned. I highly recommend the tour, and also the friendly bar that is headquarters to a number of tours.

It is impossible to walk through the Gothic Quarter without taking note of gargoyles; this picture features a unicorn and (middle right) an "elephant" -- crafted by someone who had obviously never seen an elephant before!

One lovely building houses a Moorish ceiling, a fantastic piece of architecture.

This same building, the Viceroy's Palace, is also home to a modern bronze door - also a fantastic piece of work. The St George door was created by Josep Maria Subirachs in 1975.

St George/Sant Jorda is the patron saint of Catalonia and appears in lots of carved embellishments around the Gothic Quarter. 

Rambling around the old city of Barcino history is written on its very walls: the various rulers made their mark by building on top of other buildings; the castle is a mish-mash of architectural styles and building methods. 

In the foyer of an apartment building one can view Roman columns that were formerly part of a temple to Caesar.

 The tour guide spoke of  festivals in Barcelona and how there was always a celebration of Catalonian sport -- castelling. During any festival their are competitions of "castellers", i.e. human towers. Although I did not see any castelling while I was in the city, I saw the gorgeous sculpture by Antoni Liena i Font, "Homenatge als Castellers" (Homage to Castellers), which commemorates the height of a human tower that was created in an adjoining square.

The stainless steel sculpture is 26.5 metres high and was unveiled in 2012.