Total Art Soul - for artists

" The power of imagination makes us infinite "
John Muir
Tags >> artists

There are few things, for me, that are as engaging as talking to creative people about their passion for art or crafts and so it was with much excitement and anticipation that I headed towards Lee, a small village in Hampshire. . I had been invited to attend by Janet Langford an extremely gifted lady whose miniatures defy belief in their detail. Janet is the wife of Alan Langford a respected member of the society of equestrian artists. Janet is a lady who is accustomed to “life in miniature” having been a biological researcher for thirteen years. I had met the couple at a similar exhibition in an equally unobtrusive location near Lyndhurst, Hampshire some months before.


English summers are renowned for being unreliable in delivering consistency when it comes to perfect weather.  Saturday however was an exception and as I fastened my crash helmet and fired up my cruiser I decided that this would be one of those rare and perfect days. My home is only ten minutes from a main artery which feeds the east bound traffic onto the A31 and into the morning sun and towards Lee and an unknown group of artists.

After a short and very pleasant trip up the A31 to junction 3 I geared down and slowed sufficiently to negotiate the narrower secondary roads of the Hampshire countryside. The route to the exhibition hall was well signposted, a welcome asset as the small parish church hall is very well hidden.For those who are used to, and indeed prefer glitzy high street exhibitions, the sight which greeted me may have screamed “amateur exhibition” but while the exhibition was held in modest surroundings, the quality of the work was anything but amateur.

A friendly and sincere greeting at the door, where a cover charge of £1 was suggested, ushered me into a hive of creativity activity. The exhibition was very much focused on “working artists” which meant that each artist sat at an easel or table working at an unfinished canvas, board, paper or work with a display of their work behind them.

I walked from stand to stand within the exhibition chatting to each artist and enjoying watching them, each pouring their skill and passion into their work. The magic of visiting live working exhibitions is that you have the opportunity to view the artists alongside their work and techniques, a rare privilege. One is also able to talk to the artists about their work, their techniques and their dreams and to hear, first hand, their reasons for allowing creativity to control their lives.

I really want to showcase the artists which time allowed me to meet and chat to. Let me introduce those who I did meet and who were only too happy to chat about their art and their creative inspiration. First up was Alan Langford who I introduced with his associated link in the beginning of this post. Next was Jenny Morgan who had some lovely portraits to show. After a nice long chat I wandered over to David Pritchard a man of extreme detail and patience. His work is, well, amazing; judge for yourself.

One reason for visiting exhibitions where there are artists in res is so that one can connect with the art through a personal narrative given by the artist, Marina Stuart is no exception. Marina is a deeply spiritual lady who loves to talk about her faith and the way is effects her work and life.

Tony Clegg was so busy talking to other people that I only had a brief time to chat during his lunch break. As you would expect from a confident artist, he was willing to talk about some of the amazing washes he creates in his work, thanks for the tips Tony.

Next was Barbara Rousseau a pastel artist who is also only too happy to share tips and ideas about where to start when contemplating pastels as a medium. I was very inspired by her work and the strong way in which she used her colours, especially a particular work with a strong sky (I love sky’s).

As someone who has always avoided pastels, talking to Barbara Rousseau and Colin Courtice made me want to rush out and buy my first set of pastels. Colin offers classes and judging from his relaxed manner, I may just consider a class in the New Year.

On the “craft” side I met Janice Fry a designer and maker of pottery. Janice displayed a number of lovely pieces and after talking to her I was convinced that she was well placed to assist the creative students, who attend her courses, to discover the adventure which awaits all those who “touch the clay and potter’s wheel”.

If time had allowed I would have gladly spent more time with the other great artists at the exhibition but the English summer outside the hall was proving it’s self an unreliable travelling companion. I did not pack a rain suit and wanted to get back to Bournemouth before getting drenched. I left the exhibition inspired and encouraged  with the knowledge that “creativity demands expression” and I was en route back to my own studio and the canvas on my easel which awaited my attention.

I look forward to the next invitation and another opportunity to indulge my love of mixing with creativity at its best.

Beginnings:  the initial wash...

When I was in eastern Montana last fall I took a 100 mile + drive south and west of Miles City, following the Tongue River about 50 miles and then heading north on dirt roads about 40 miles to Rosebud where I got back on I-94 to Miles City. I took a bunch of photos along the way of the river, the fields and whatever looked interesting. Once I got on the dirt road with the warning signs posting "this road is impassable when wet", I was following near Rosebud Creek. There were these beautiful sandstone cliffs with a lot of pine and juniper. I have long been impressed with Albert Handel and Richard McKinley's paintings of such cliffs and rocks, so I shot a bunch of photos of the area and thought that one day I would do some paintings of the rocks and brush.

A side note..."road not passable when wet" is a reminder to me of living in eastern Montana and when it rains, the earth turns to gumbo...not the culinary delight - but a mud that is sort of clay like and as you walk in it; it collects on your feet until you can hardly lift your mud encased appendages. It is really like can actually form 3D items of art with it. My mother used to sculpt with it for fun. You couldn't go out and hike around until it dried; so one might as well spend some artist time and make things out of the mud!

Fortunately in October there is little chance of rain and had there been a cloud in the sky, I would have turned around and retraced my tracks back to Miles City on the gravel and asphalt roads.

So today I painted a second painting of the rock cliffs and shot some images as I progressed through the painting...I chose a piece of Art Spectrum paper and toned it with some reds washed with alcohol. Once this was alcohol wash takes minimal time to dry...I roughed in the sky and tree line.

Then I added more detail to the trees and basically finished them before tackling the rocks. I used Unison, lonelier and Mungyo pastels for the trees, starting with a dark lavender for my base, then adding some dark blue and the dark green.. Once I had the darks in, I sprayed the trees with some workable fix lightly to allow some of the tooth of the paper to come back so I could add some highlights to the tree branches.

So once the trees are in I can start to work on the rocks. Before I leave the trees, I make sure to have highlights of the branches visible and some light peeking through the branches as well. Now I start with the rocks; putting in some general masses, some hints of color and definition. A light spray of the fixative will help to create texture in the rocks, then more color and definition. Next the rocks get to share space with a "cow trail" that meanders down the hillside and more definition of the rocks take place and a bit of vegetation - weeds- sage, etc sprout up near rocks and trail.



I like to sometimes leave some of the initial wash showing through for interesting texture and color. The goal is to invite the viewer to think the scene is interesting enough to want to get on that trail and hike to the top of the rims and see what's on the other side of this ridge...and wonder where that trail goes...they almost always lead to water, to shelter or...

Hope you enjoyed the "demo"....happy painting!


Cats and artists

Posted by: Aitch

Tagged in: thoughts , poetry , pets , Oscar , Mavis , cats , birman , artists , artist , animals , animal , Aitch


As I think I've probably mentioned elsewhere previously, it's interesting how often I discover that artistic friends are more inclined to have a pet cat or just like cats than non-arty friends. I have always adored cats, can't imagine my life without actually owning one or two, and I make a bee-line for them wherever I see one.

I remember having to recite a poem as part of my drama lesson when I was about 12 - normally I wasn't that interested in reciting poetry, but this one involved cats and made me smile, so I thought I'd bring back those memories and try and get some photos to accompany it. I'm sure all cat owners will agree it's certainly true!

Cats sleep anywhere, any table, any chair.
Top of piano, window-ledge, in the middle, on the edge.
Open draw, empty shoe, anybody's lap will do.
Fitted in a cardboard box, in the cupboard with your frocks.
Anywhere! They don't care! Cats sleep anywhere.

Written by Eleanor Farjeon (1881 - 1965)


To prove my point, here's a selection of my cats sleeping in various places:

This is Oscar sleeping in one of his "proper" areas - a specifically bought cat shelf!

Here are two sleeping beauties on the decking a few years ago.

This is our previous Birman, Thelma, sleeping underneath our old scanner.

Oscar's favourite place at Christmas!

Oscar when he was 17 weeks old, curled up on top of a tool box....

Mavis deciding our curled up washing line makes a good bed!

Oscar, on the other hand, prefers the dirty wash basket!

This, however, is his usual position every evening, on Keith's lap.

Aren't cats just ace?

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