Monday, 22 October 2007

A private reflection

When viewing a photograph of a statue at the new War Memorial, I felt inspired to pick up my pen and write a few words of private reflection.
The Armed Forces Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum

A price paid
The sky hangs dark and heavy,
black smoke shields the sun,
bodies pushed beyond endurance
ache through lack of rest.
Feet heavy with blood soaked mud,
emotions torn to shreds,
minds numb and scarred for life.

A boy clings to his Mothers skirt,
looking, but not wanting to see
knowing, but not understanding.
Never understanding.
… a moments stillness
… a moments calm
… a moment to tend the wounded.
The body on the stretcher weighs heavy on heart and limb,
… another soldier on his way home
… another comrade fallen
… another husband lost forever
… another father taken away
… another price paid.

And on the wall, his name
and his name is followed by ten more,
and those ten, by a hundred more,
and those hundred, by a thousand more
tens of thousands of names,
… and we promise never to forget them?

And with perfect planning
and perceptive forethought,
blank walls await the names of thousands more,
thousands more ‘prices to be paid’.
…and we pray they wait forever.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Enjoy your art

As I have said many times here, on my web site, and in my forum, I am no expert and can only share my own thoughts as I see them. One of the things that I have come to realise is that many beginners take an untrained stab at doing a quick painting/sketch, don't like the end result and instantly decide they can't do it. Of course, these same people once stepped into a car, turned the key, jerked uncontrollably as the engine fought the gearbox, and then walked away concluding that they couldn't drive. Right?

The issue isn't that a complete beginner either can or can't paint but that they should want to, and want to learn. OK, so the very best of artists have an inbuilt talent that the rest of us can only envy. The sort of talent that cannot be taught. Likewise, most of us are incapable of driving a Formula 1 racing car, but that isn't what we expect of ourselves when we first sit in the driving seat. So why should we expect it of our painting?

We can ALL paint. Understandably, some will be able to paint better than others. Better? What is 'better'? Why does it need to be a competition? The answer is, it doesn't. The only thing that matters is that the novice artist wants to paint and enjoys painting. If the end result is a complete mess, so what? If the artist spent an enjoyable and absorbing few hours sketching it out and adding paint to canvas, then isn't that all that matters? Of course it's an added thrill when the end result is pleasant to look at, but that must be of secondary importance.

I posted some of my earliest 'disasters' on my web site in the hope of showing others that it's ok to make mistakes and there is always something to learn from every painting we do.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Making Art Fun

As I mentioned, I run an Art Forum. My members are all beginners or amateurs and we try to further our art by encouraging and supporting each other. To challenge ourselves and push ourselves outside of our usual comfort zones, we run a couple of projects. The first one, that has been running some time now, is a Monthly Painting Project in which one of our members, who is an excellent photographer and art critic, posts a photograph and we all try to paint it. It forces us to try subjects we would never dream of trying ourselves and everyone is learning a great deal through the process.

Art Forum projectAnother project is currently being done for the first time. We have chosen a famous painting, divided it into squares, and distributed the squares amongst the members. As each member completes their square so it is added to a grid so that the complete painting gradually takes shape. We are also learning a lot about each others styles by trying to guess who painted each square. Maybe it's a bit silly, but it is certainly good fun ... but the best bit of all is that we're practicing and learning as we go along.

The picture shown is linked back to the Art Forum so new squares should appear as and when they are added. Check back from time to time and watch it complete. Which is MY square? I'm not telling just yet ... you'll have to guess.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Pen and Wash

As a beginner I have not yet settled into any style or favoured medium. What I have discovered is that I enjoy drawing more than painting. Perhaps I should say, I always feel happier with what I've drawn than what I've painted. I often feel I have ruined a good drawing by splashing paint all over it. LOL.
A friend in my Art Forum recently posted a wonderful Pen & Wash painting of a farm yard scene and I was instantly struck by the combination of pen and paint. I just had to have-a-go. This effort was fairly quick ... 30-40 minutes tops ... but it was just a trial. I learned a lot from doing it, in particular that I need to use the pen much more. I tended to just draw the outlines relying on the paint for the detail but I think I need to do enough with the pen for the drawing to stand in it's own right, just allowing some washed in paint to provide the colours.
Still, I'm quite happy with the overall effect and shall try something a little more involved first chance I get.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Fuchsia's - the end of the season

I love to grow Fuchsia's and have about 60 different varieties. A drop in the ocean, but with 2 or 3 plants of each variety, as much as I have space and time for. We will soon be getting our first frosts and so it is time to lift them all up, put them into pots, and take them into the comparative safety of my greenhouse.

Watercolour of Fuchsia "Winston Churchill"Regrettably, the process of lifting them will set them back and most of them will lose their flowers and foliage. To avoid large amounts of dead and rotting leaves in the greenhouse it is best to defoliate the plants first, and this is an excellent opportunity to prune them back into a nice shape. It is a hard job taking a plant full of flowers and reducing it to little more than a woody framework but it is essential for its survival.

Because what gets pruned off is going to be thrown away, this also makes it an excellent time to take some cuttings. In my experience cuttings don't take quite so easily this time of year, but since there is no shortage of cuttings material, there is nothing to lose in trying some. For anyone not familiar with how to take Fuchsia cuttings I have some instructions, with photo's, on my web site.

How to take Fuchsia cuttings