Okavango Delta Aerial

Okavango Delta Aerial

Monday, 31 August 2015

Exhibition Countdown -T minus 3 days

This last week or so has been a bit busy to say the least. Quite a few nights working up to 10pm or midnight. Funny how you think there is plenty of time and all these little jobs you know need to be done, won't take long at all!! Hmmm... Then life throws a few little spanners in to hold proceedings up a little too and before you know it you're chasing your tail trying to get everything done in time.

As it stand now, I've just got two last minute drawings to frame and wrap. All the other work is now wrapped in their individual bags as I thought that would make things easier to unpack and also as each bag is labelled with the painting's name it should be easier when it comes to repacking or finding a suitable wrap for a sold piece.

Most of the work all wrapped and ready to go

Once I have those two fitted, sealed, strung and wrapped then I can start on wrapping a couple of mounted drawings and the prints. After that there's all the display photo's to trim and stick to foamboard and the labels for them printed, trimmed and stuck on as well. 
There will, no doubt, be other labels etc that I will think of needing once the show is up and running, but as I am home for a few days each week... I can do those little jobs then.

Tomorrow is the big move day, when all the framed work goes up to Nature In Art. As the big elephant painting now has a frame... she wont go in my car. So I shall be borrowing my brother's van to take them all up . That should be fun.. not driven a big van for a long time. 

Feeling pretty shattered at the moment, my back problems have been somewhat aggravated by all the excessive activity on bending and lifting etc. But hey ho.... it will all soon be calmer and I can hopefully relax a little and sleep long nights. I have a short holiday of a week coming up after the exhibition is all over and I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to that.
I am nervous about the show... have I got enough work, is it the right work, will people like the show, will there be any sales? The usual things that fly around an artists head before a show...My fingers are crossed that all will be well and that the show does its job in raising awareness for the elephants, the work of the conservation research charity 'Elephants For Africa' and does the Okavango Delta and its wildlife justice.

If you can make it to the exhibition and I am there please come over and chat to me. 

Monday, 24 August 2015

T minus 10 days

The preparations have stepped considerably more and I've so far managed to hold the absolute panic at bay. My life is running off of numerous lists (too much to collate into one) There are lists for framing and mounts, paintings, prints progress, day countdown, computer based jobs to do, officey stuff, supply shopping and that's just the exhibition related ones! 
To cut costs I'm fitting all the framed work myself.... so my framer (who has been doing a sterling job) cuts mounts, glass, backboards and makes the frames and then I put it all together. I have just three paintings left at the framers, some more mounts to come and that should be it, bar one or two perhaps.
I have two paintings at the printers, which hopefully I should get back tomorrow.
I have one frame left to paint, the hangings for the batiks still to finish painting and put together, prints to put in mounts and wrap, paintings to fit to frame, paintings to varnish...... I know (maybe 'hope' is a more appropriate word) I will get there, but it is very daunting at the moment.

The production line of varnishing work

I had two paintings started and in need of finishing for the exhibition. I managed to get this one completed last night. It's something a bit different , as I thought that would be an interesting thing to throw into the mix of the exhibition. Livens things up and keeps the show from looking all too much the same.

This piece was an experiment, both in technique and audience reaction. Again using my developing looser approach I wanted to incorporate the image of the Okavango Delta into the exhibition, but not just as a map. So for this piece I drew the approximate shape of the Delta onto a 36" sq canvas and masked the outline and inner islands in copydex glue. I did this as I wanted to be able to paint freely across the white areas so there was no fiddly painting  around when I did the elephant and landscape. And that part worked really well.. I was able to paint easily across the glue to get that continuity through the image. However peeling the glue off afterwards was not as straightforward and 'clean' as I had hoped and it got really quite fiddly and messy so I had to do what I was trying to avoid, which was paint all the white areas in to tidy it all up.
The white areas represent the landmass of Botswana surrounding the Delta and the islands within it and of course the painted area of the elephant and landscape represent the waters of the Delta.

I had wanted to do a painting in a shape.. I could have done the shape of Botswana itself, but as this exhibition is specific to the Okavango Delta... that's the shape that I went with. I don't know how folks are going to react to this one, but it'll be interesting to see.

Last week I took a few of the exhibition paintings to the zoo where I work. I actually finished working there for two months (part of my annual 3 month unpaid leave) the week before. I felt I should show something of the exhibition there for any staff that might have been interested, as the zoo helped me fund the first phase of the project (to get to Botswana) back in 2010 through their Staff Development Fund scheme. 

The staff popped over during their breaks so for much of the day I was able to spend some much needed 'quiet time' to concentrate on my talk draft.

Anyhooooo... time for me to stop typing and get back to the studio and those demanding 'lists'!

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Exhibition countdown -T minus 22 days

It was my last day at the zoo today for 2 months (my annual unpaid leave) so it'll be great to be able to concentrate fully on the exhibition prep every day now for the next three weeks.

Had fun creating an 'event' on FB last night. Not done one before and I wanted to tie both of my FB accounts and my page into the same event so that each was a 'host'. Brain tired after some intensive photoshop work on an EFA item since I had got home from work, things didn't go as smoothly or quickly as I hoped. Hence after starting about 11.30 pm I didn't get finished until about 1am!! So, been a bit tired today :)

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Naya goes to the printers

Trying to fit a 40"x50" painted canvas into the back seat area of my car took a little wiggling and jiggling this morning. I had wrapped 'Naya' up in bubblewrap to protect her, but that also made the size of the package bigger so it took some careful manoeuvering to get her in safely. Still, she's safely at the printers now and will be scanned on Tuesday and a proof done for me to check hopefully later in the week. I am thinking of getting her printed at around A3 size... but will have to see what she looks like. Quite excited to get her done as a print.

Also another trip to the framer today.. seems I'm going there weekly at the mo. Hoping I can get all that I want done, sorted in time. Sooo much to think of!

Spent the afternoon in the studio, at last, but still no actual painting. Well, that's a lie because I was painting a couple of frames and cleaning up a few canvases ready for varnishing. Next week is my last week at the zoo before my two months annual unpaid leave. So hoping that will give me enough time in the run up to the exhibition to tie everything together by the end of the month.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Busy busy busy bee!

Sorry that I have not yet published the finished pastel piece I was working on at Art in Action. I have been caught up in a lot of other prep and promotional things  for the exhibition and not had a chance to get down the studio to paint or draw. I have hopes I can get to the studio later this week but also have a fair bit of running around to do for framing and prints. Fingers crossed I can get back to the artier side very soon.

First magazine article for exhibition

Kate just sent me the link for our first magazine article press release.  Hoping for a few more to follow suit and help promote our exhibition in September. Many thanks to Bristol Magazine Online for putting it in their online magazine.


Friday, 31 July 2015

Just a month to go now

Busy working on framing and computer work getting various things ready for the exhibition, the talk evening and the Activity Day... want to paint, need to paint but also need to get all this other stuff done. 
Dr Kate Evans and I will be doing a talk evening on the Launch Evening on Friday 11th September and there will be a Family Activity Day with various elephant themed activities on Saturday 12th September. So much to do and time is fast running out. Just a month to go now.. Yikes!

Monday, 20 July 2015

Art in Action July 16th - 19th

Art in Action is a big event - over 400 visual artists from performers, musicians, sculptors, painters and many other creators and crafts people along with art suppliers are gathered in the setting of Waterperry House and Gardens near Oxford for four days for the public to see and talk to. 
I was there at the invitation of Nature In Art Museum and Art Gallery along with 8 other artists who are associated with Nature In Art through their Artists In Residence Programme. Over the four days  the visitors asked us questions about our work, asked for advice on their own work or just simply watched whilst we worked. 


I decided to work on a pastel piece, as I am now needing to build up drawings in this medium for the exhibition and also it would smell less 'fumey' than oils and white spirits in a hot enclosed space. 

The giraffe (female) is a portrait and I drew her up freehand from my ref photo's at home, where I also transferred her to the UArt 600 pastel sandpaper that I was using for this piece. This was then stapled flat onto a piece of board with a same size piece of board taped to it for protection and for ease of transport.

Step one was the background - I wanted a soft muted backdrop and the original idea was inspired by the late afternoon sun and shadow colours of the Delta in March. I had a photo that I was using to get the colours - a wonderful mix of sunlit peachy pinks with shadows of purples, mauves and blues. The vegetation had warm orange and green where the sun hit it contrasting with blue jades and greens in the shaded areas. I loved the play and contrasts of colour but as I worked in with the pastels that was not working. So that idea will be saved for another day using oils. So I concentrated on the peach, pink and mauve palette.  

I have not used this UArt sandpaper before but as soon as I started applying the pastel I fell in love with it. I love the way it takes the pastel, layer after layer. The background suggestion of trees and vegetation became a late afternoon cloudy sky effect as I layered the colours on and blended them together to get that soft muted colour mix I wanted. 

Now the blending... using fingers to blend can be a problem because the natural oils from the skin can darken the pastel and affect how it takes to the paper in places. Also I foresaw me losing my fingerprints on the fine sandpaper surface and possibly drawing blood if I got too carried away with the blending!! 

So I searched for a suitable blending tool (as usual I had left this to the last minute) and out of desperation, after discounting various art and make-up sponges, I bought a £1 pack of toe separators (meant for when applying nail polish to toenails) but I have to say .... what a buy! They were perfect for the job. The foam was dense enough not to get affected by the sandpaper surface but soft enough to smooth and blend the pastel beautifully. So the background was done by blocking in successive layers of 3 or 4 colours of pinks, peach and mauves and then blending in each layer until I got the mix and effect I was happy with. 

I then tidied up the giraffe head shape- checking proportions and spacings of features refining the shape. Once I was happy with that I also used the pastel sticks to block in the light and shade areas on the giraffe head in pale peach and blue/mauve.

Then I switched to my Schwan Stabilo CarbOthello pastel pencils to plot the darkest areas of the nostril, eye, horn tips and ear recess; followed by the mapping of the spot pattern.
Once that was done I could then start on the detailing and texturing of the head. To help prevent smudging my work as I progress I am working from the mouth up over the front of the face to the horns then back down to the eye and cheek area before then going down the neck and mane. I'm also using a Mahl stick to support my hand above the surface of the paper.

For four days work I haven't progressed very far, but that was expected in the situation. There is invariably more chat than work, so I wan't concerned with the slow progress. I was actually quite pleased with how it was progressing. It's different than I had planned, but then sometimes that's the way the piece takes you and you just have to go with the flow of it. The reaction to it, from the visitors at Art In Action, was also very pleasing, so I am hopeful of the finished piece doing well for the elephant charity, Elephants For Africa, at the exhibition in September. I am also thinking of having her done as a print.

I will of course post more progress pictures of her - I hope to be able to crack on with her later this week when I return to the studio.