Recently I’ve been experimenting with caricatures, something I’ve never really gone into. My ability to capture likenesses is pretty poor – I’ve never really been into painting or drawing portraits so that skill remains something of a locked door. During the lockdown I’ve taken up my pens and paper and sketched characters from the TV. My thinking is that if I can capture the main features of a face, it might help me improve if I finally decide to do a few portraits in the future. Maybe not…!!!
It would seem to be the right time for settling down to do some artwork during this time of lockdown. Those who aren’t able to work from home might have quite a bit of time to kill, and all those occasions when we artists have moaned about not having enough time to paint have come back to haunt us! The problem is that now that most of us are stuck indoors and if you’re a landscape painter like me, there’s little chance of going out to roam around in the countryside or on the moors and setting up your easel. Even less chance of sitting out on the street and doing some urban sketching.
If you’ve watched his series on Channel 4, Grayson Perry thinks he’s got it sorted. We just stay indoors and paint portraits, or miniatures or something and that’ll keep us occupied through months of lockdown. The trouble for me is that I’m not that interested in painting portraits, or pictures of the garden, or views through my window. I’ve got plenty of landscape sketches that I’ve accumulated over the years but somehow doing something from these doesn’t seem to be quite as tempting now. The sketches I did on holiday last year, satisfactory as they might be, just don’t seem to be as appealing as going out into the great outdoors right now and drawing something in situ.
So I’ve spent a bit of time looking at inspirational paintings. Not just modern contemporaries but the real ‘biggies’! The real Masters. These are the ones I should be looking at and learning from, like the Rembrandt drawings above. There are many museum and art galleries around the world that show their exhibits online, some have been doing this for a while. So even if you can’t get to Amsterdam, New York or even London, you can browse the collections of some of the world’s most famous galleries. Now, because of the coronavirus lockdowns, it seems to be a great way of spending time and getting a bit of inspiration.
Of course, in every collection there are works that I don’t like, but every so often I come across a real gem. The other day I was looking at the exhibits of The Museum of Modern Art in New York. Its collection is almost too big to do itself justice, but whilst browsing its works I came across Christ’s Entry into Journalism by Kara Walker. The idea itself is so clever, yet Walker juxtaposes the complex elements of American history in a way that approximates a cartoon strip – on one level humorous and light-hearted, but at the same time serious and meaningful.
The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has a superb online collection. Obviously it focuses heavily on the Dutch masters but there are some fantastic works here. Also notable is their RijksCreative initiative in which artists create their own versions of Master paintings.
I’ve learnt a lot by looking at the drawings of Michelangelo, Albrecht Durer, Leonardo Da Vinci, Rembrandt, and even August Rodin. As much of my inspiration comes from looking at famous works of art as looking at nature and there are plenty of inspirational collections around the world to draw from. Check out the following galleries and museums:
It’s been a while since we last posted anything on the blog, but a lot has happened in the months since our last missive. The most important change of course, is the fact that we have moved the studio across Buxton to our new home at The Green Man Gallery, a former hotel in the town. It was something of a gargantuan task – a lot of heavy equipment to be moved, not to mention dozens of boxes of ceramic ware, both our own and that of our students. This wouldn’t have been so bad if we were moving to a ground floor studio. Hell, no! Our new venue is on the first floor… and there’s no lift! Everything had to be lugged up several flights of stairs – the wheels and equipment, workbenches, storage shelves and the rest. But we now have a great place in which to work, full of light and space.
Overall, the new venue is great. The Green Man Gallery is a not-for-profit art hub run by its twelve member artists, of which Amanda and I are two. The main ground floor exhibition gallery contains work by the members as well as hosting frequent guest exhibitions by other artists from the area. There’s also a shop which sells smaller items by the members, cards and smaller pieces of ceramic ware. Guest designer/makers display their work there too. The resident artists each share a studio on the first floor which means extra hanging space, as well the chance to see and chat to the artists while they’re working.
Many of the resident artists run workshops and classes in different kinds of art disciplines; a new influx of members in the last year has meant a whole new exciting schedule of courses were due to begin in the first few months of 2020. Our own programme of events began in mid-March with the first meeting of the Buxton Sketching Group. This was really well attended with over thirty people meeting up at the gallery before venturing out to the area around Buxton baths to sketch for a couple of hours. What was most encouraging was the number of beginners wanting to learn to draw. In fact, there were so many requests I had to plan a tutorial workshop on urban sketching before the second meeting. Unfortunately, the coronavirus lockdown was enforced before we could do this and we were forced to postpone. Also postponed were two mixed media painting workshops I was planning to run, and an expressive drawing workshop. Be assured these will run once the Green Man Gallery reopens. Workshops by the other member artists have also been affected. My colleague Jenny Mackenzie was planning to run several watercolour workshops which, sadly, had to be postponed. The Green Man’s annual Spring Gathering was cancelled and our pottery classes were affected too. Our students are now forced to wait until the end of the lockdown to complete their sessions.
All in all the gallery has suffered from the unfortunate consequences of the lockdown, but the miracle of cyberspace has saved it from being a complete washout. The Spring Gathering was shown online and there are several creative tasks which have recently been launched which visitors are welcome to participate in. Check out the Green Man Gallery website and Facebook page for details (www.thegreenmangallery.com). At least the lockdown has given all the artists a chance to produce some new things. I’ve been working on some mixed media paintings and have a series of instructional videos in the pipeline. My work is exhibited and for sale online at The Green Man Gallery and here on our own website. Take a look and see what you think.