My First Commission

Following the success of Café Oswald’s, I was absolutely delighted to be asked to create a bespoke painting of a good friend’s family caravan. It was a bit trickier as beforehand I could choose the features I wanted to play a part in the painting, but here I had to stick much more to the truth. I still used my artistic licence to play around with a few things but tried to stick to what was there. A big part of the painting we discussed was the river. We really wanted that to feature on the image even if in reality it was much lower. The caravan was in particular bad spot to photograph from the front but a few sunset shots helped me out greatly. (And climbing over a few fences helped too!)

Doris and Her First Bike

As I mentioned in the previous post, the images shown above have been playing in my mind for a really long time now. Before making the piece for Greystoke I asked my grandma to see if she could find any photographs of my great grandma living in Cumbria. The photographs where so beautiful, and they were such a great source of inspiration for the piece. The one that really stuck out for me was this one above. My great grandma stood proud with her bike. With written detail on the back- Doris Watson (her maiden name) her first Bike. Bought by uncle Tommy Berrier £5. She looks about a similar age to me now. I felt a real connection with the photograph as I’ve recently gotten into cycling myself and bought my own first proper bike- which I absolutely love. I felt it only right to have my own proud bike photograph to match. I’m still unclear how I want to proceed with this set of images, I feel like there’s much more potential, just not sure what.


A Happy Coincidence

As well as that exciting news from Rheged I also had a rather exciting meeting with a lady called Christine Hurford that opened up yet another opportunity for me. Whilst volunteering with Jo at C-Art, I was told there was an exhibition on downstairs in the Old Fire Station. (The office space for Eden Arts is located in the Old Fire Station- Penrith.) I went along and was really surprised to find the exhibition displayed eerie photographs of a previous obsession of mine- abandoned buildings. I began talking to one of the Artists- Christine about how she gets into these buildings- from previous experience I know the difficulties you can be faced with. It’s well worth it though. The photographs were fantastic- cleverly mounted onto fencing well recognised as a symbol to keep out. The images Christine Hurford and Jane Peet exhibited in ‘Dereliction’ complimented one another’s investigation into the unknown brilliantly.

As the conversation went on, Christine became interested in my own art practice and later revealed she’s soon to have another exhibition at Greystoke Church- which she wondered if I’d be interested in showing some work. I was, of course, honoured to be asked- having something to work for gives any artist the drive to start making again. So as I set off up the stairs with a spring in my step, I became even more excited when I then remembered something that’s been playing on my mind for a while now. A family member of mine had posted something on Instagram about my Great-grandparents (her grandparents.) It was a newspaper clipping commemorating their 50th Wedding anniversary- and what church where they married in? – None other than Greystoke Church, Penrith. What are the chances? I’m not from Cumbria; I move here for work each summer and it’s only recently that I’ve found out that my ancestors lived here in this area. I’ve been considering making some art about this happy coincidence- and well now I have no excuse.

Chelsea’s New Home

Can’t believe I haven’t mentioned this yet! I recently received the best news! My mum only happens to work with the women who’s moved into my grandmas old house! I was so excited about this!! Mum spoke to her about the photos I’d already took and what I was doing. I couldn’t believe it when mum explained the lady was planning to strip the whole place and paint it white!! Just what I’ve been saying! She was also kind enough to say she would take some photographs for me! I was over the moon. The pictures above show the extreme before and after! What a contrast. Those memories and moments stripped away to make room for new ones. The room has been forever removed from the present. Without the picture evidence I would forever imagine that fireplace the way it was when my grandma had it, but with these images it’s evident the room has moved on; moved on into new times. I would like to say a huge thank you to Chelsea! It’s ever so kind of you to let me use these photographs. Wish you all the best in your new home!

The Home of Nobody

As a follow on from the previous post, I’ve chosen to title this entry as The Home of Nobody. I think it could be a good working title for this series of photographs were I’m photographing these almost empty homes- their occupants gone. These photos have actually been taken from my Grandmas home. Thankfully my grandma is perfectly alright! However I helped her move home this weekend so it was a great opportunity for me to take photos in that “mid move” stage. It was a really insightful experience! As my grandma had A LOT of stuff! It was so interesting to see what she had chosen to take with her and what she left behind. Some really expensive things which it seemed my grandma had no need for- we found some expensive tea sets in her wardrobe which we’d been told to leave. It really highlighted how much material rubbish we hold on to in our homes. The mirrored wardrobes were a particular interest to me. As I found out my grandma had had these wardrobes for over 40 years- imagine all the “private and vulnerable moments” those wardrobes had been witness to! And now she was just going to leave them- (the new house had fitted wardrobes.) This just seemed so monumental in everything I’m considering at the moment whereby our objects are witnesses to our most private moments however in the end they are  just left unwanted.

What’s the point of Painting if you can just take a Photograph?

As a response to my painting workshop I’ve created a hybrid of my own. I have used the references I took to the workshop- Turner and Shaw and used them as a basis. I have also incorporated the notion that my practice is questioning: Whether or not there is any value in painting when photography is so easily accessible? By including a photograph I hope to ask this question. I have extended the image beyond the photograph; creating an extensive viewpoint? I think including the image in this painting has been a lot more successful than the Lisbon painting. I feel those images got lost in the painting, where as with this one I feel it has blended in well. I have tried to use a Turner style sky within the painting. I also used wood, getting back to a surface I really enjoy working on, much better than canvas in my opinion. Also I thought I couldn’t paint skies! Not a bad attempt I don’t think!

Yelena Popova

I had the privilege to spend this Monday just gone enjoying a painting workshop put on by Yelena Popova.  Before the workshop we had been told to prepare 3 images to show the group-

An image of your favourite painting before 20th century.

An image of your favourite painting after 20th century

An image of your own painting.

I found it quite a challenge to select each one; particularly the pre 20th century painting. On a course like mine, where art history is spoke little about, it was nice to think about it within my practice. I began thinking about all the great painters; Van Gogh, Picasso, Rembrandt, Monet etc… Then William Turner sprang to mind! I have always admired his ability to create such incredible skies. I had a tab open with Gerhard Richter’s work up and I noticed how similar Turner’s work; his painting style, compares with Richter’s contemporary style.  It wasn’t a Richter painting I chose for my favourite 20th century image, although he came close, it was my all time favourite: George Shaw. I have always admired his skill and his ability to paint the human presence without using any figures in the painting. The one I chose of my own was the painting I feel has spurred my painting style to date. I remember my tutor at foundation first dripping the paint over my precious and carefully detailed image. I was mortified. I think that was one of the most important influences in my painting now!

At the workshop itself it was exciting to be discussing art history alongside contemporary. It allowed me to further ideas I’d been having regarding the reason why we paint when other methods can be carried out so much easier. We discussed the process of making paint, how that has developed throughout history. What paint is more suitable. When discussing the two images we brought in of our favourite paintings, we were asked to create a narrative between the two. It was interesting that Yelena pointed out that both my artist’s are considered great painters of British landscape. That obvious link hadn’t even crossed my mind. They represent their time. I had concerned myself with the two painters painting unpeopled images with the hint of their presence. I obviously enjoy great British landscape painters!

An important thing I took with me from the morning of the workshop was Yelena’s way in which she thought we should think about a painting. Giving us these questions to ask:

  • Year it was made?
  • Materials?
  • Size?
  • Who is it for?
  • Subject Matter?
  • Where it’s been installed?
  • Artist’s intention?
  • What is happening at that time when it was made?

It was interesting to think about these things. Especially what was happening when the work is made. It can have a huge impact in what the artist produces. Shaw and Turner are representing the time they live in.

We later began talking about Hybrids (A thing made by combining two different elements; a mixture.) Yelena explained to us how she felt hybrids could be used in contemporary art by repainting old masters, like artists before us have, such as Picasso after Monet and stain glass painters Gilbert and George. An artist I was really interested in was Sigrid Holmwood. She paints traditional images but transforms them into contemporary images by using florescent colours! This is a really interesting way of working! I was also reminded of Hockney’s work I saw at the Guggenheim. His work looking at classic religious painting and transforming that into contemporary painting.

In the afternoon we were able to visit Yelena Popova’s studio space! It was amazing! Such a huge space to work in, so organised and reflected the artist herself so well. We saw her minimalistic paintings, whereby she uses diluted paints onto linen canvas. She explained that the linen provided a such nicer surface to work on in her opinion. Some things I noted down in the space: “Most organised artist I’ve ever seen,” “I’ve got this board.. That’s not a good way to work” and “It’s better to do 50 bad drawings instead of 50 bad paintings.” Yelena was very keen to draw before painting. In her minimalist paintings drawing is an important process. However when we began to draw, in preparation for a hybrid we wanted to produce, I found it a strange process for me to start with a drawing. It had been a long time since I drew a detailed image without just slapping the paint on. At the time I began to draw an image on my tea/dinner; relating to the ideas I’d been having earlier. I thought I would use the time to draw that. It turns out it’s quite a long process to draw pasta! I compared my hybrid to still life images of fruit bowls.


What’ve you had for your tea?

Another obsession I’m beginning have, now I’ve begun to Facebook stalk to the extreme, is the amount of images people put up online of their tea/dinner! (I do this too I’m very hypocritical!) The question my work is beginning to ask, on a basic level, is whether or not there is any need for the medium of paint now the world of photography has become so accessible? The question I asked in my presenting context presentation was whether; if the 11th century man had had the means to take a photograph rather than spend painstaking hours on a painting would he have opted for the camera? It is an interesting question because obviously even now in the 21st Century artists still prefer the medium of paint. By painting an image make it more valuable? This is another question I am throwing around in my work. So flipping this again I then I ask the question; if we did not have the means to photograph our dinner/tea so easily would we then sit down and create a painting of  it?

Some Photography After Work

Yesterday I had a really inspiring lecture from painter called J.A Nicholls then went to an inspiring photography exhibition at The Malt Cross Gallery called YOU ARE HERE.

I felt  some of the ideas really connected with my practice from the exhibition:

  • The housing cliché fills our streets with a monotonous aesthetic. The mass production of the suburban house refines our economy.  As a culture, individuality is often seen as essential, expressed through our homes to avoid this cliché. We yearn to be different.”
  • A house reveals how it has been shaped and lived in over the years; my images turn ‘the ordinary’ into a stage in which invites the audience to have an insight into another person’s life.

I wanted to get out there and take some photographs today. I’d been looking at some of my old work, including the painting I did of “The Velvet Lounge”, an abandoned strip club. With this in mind, after work today I set out taking photographs of any abandonment/deterioration I saw. Here is the pick of my favourite ones of the day.

Following Nicholls lecture I’m considering working with some of the images using collage to create an almost surreal image then creating a painting from this. I might also use other images of houses and warp them together in a similar way.