We all need something beautiful, gentle and real to cling onto during these difficult times. We all need to be reminded that just because there are those who shout out their hate and lies into the world……there is still so much beauty and love that we can share with one another.
In this post, I pay homage to the American poet and writer Mary Oliver (1935-2019) whose soul and spirit live on in her beautiful and evocative words.
She asks her reader
‘Tell me what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life…..’
She reminds us that material stuff clutters our lives.
“I have a notion that if you are going to be spiritually curious, you better not get cluttered up with too many material things……”
We are reminded of the importance of giving time, power and…
When I change one tiny section of a ten meter mural…everything is changed. The rhythm, balance, composition, everything. The same is true for life.
The other day I watched a documentary about Clive James (Australian critic, broadcaster and writer.) Filmed in 1991, London looked like a different world to the one we are inhabiting now. Much less crowded….no one carrying i phones….generally speaking a seemingly more manageable place.
Since 1991 many things have served to change the rhythm, balance and composition of our beautiful world. So much has changed in such a short period. Far too rapidly for we human beings to assimilate in a balanced fashion. Today we find ourselves with leaders who clearly have no understanding of interconnectedness, rhythm, harmony and balance overseeing and governing our collective futures. We wake each day alert to what new form of madness, they have imposed upon us!
Meanwhile, our beautiful world becomes more and more unstable……and mental disease more prevalent in humans of all ages.
So many feel a deep sense of frustration and loss. How can we make a difference? How can we help to bring some form of equilibrium back into our lives…..?
There are ways as individuals we can make small but significant differences…
For the last two evenings, I watched The Choir: featuring Gareth Malone and the inmates of Aylesbury Prison. Not only was it uplifting and moving, it showed how differences can be made. I highly recommend anyone who hasn’t seen this to watch on BBC 2 I Player.
Gareth Malone did more in a short period of time with minimal funding than all of our politicians put together. The power behind Gareth’s work is of course creativity….in his case music.
Anyone who has followed my blog will know that I am constantly talking about creativity being the key to emotional, physical and spiritual well being. In The Choir we see the creative process achieving these goals. And so my friends, at the beginning of a new year and decade, I suggest that everyone find a form of creativity that works for them. Something that calms and heals the mind and body.
Then think of the small ways you can make a difference…….
I found this on FB yesterday.
And of course don’t forget the unseen energy that magical hummingbirds show us.
On Friday I gave my first live workshop since lockdown and it felt wonderful to be with a group of real human beings…:)
I mentioned in a previous post that during lockdown something quite magical was unfolding where I am based in Hampton. A wonderful centre called THE INSPIRED HUB – http://www.theinspiredhub.co.uk was being transformed and so it was there that I held the workshop.
After our small, socially distanced group met in the relaxing garden….we moved into one of the rooms within THE HUB.
I always begin with warm up exercises and give demos throughout.
In this simple warm up I ask participants to explore what their brushes can do. Using a mix of BURNT SIENNA and PRUSSIAN BLUE – I encourage everyone to PLAY. Several people did some beautiful warm up pieces on brown wrapping paper and newspaper.
With the Prussian Blue/Burnt Sienna mix many different tones can be achieved. The only way to discover these joys is to PLAY and PRACTISE. I never use black in watercolour, but rather make my darks using this mix,
These were the tools I used for demos. One large brush, one rigger, a Tomboy water soluble pen, knife, Burnt Sienna, Prussian Blue, and some marigold yellow.
As I have said many times on this blog, by PLAYING and WARMING UP on newspaper, envelopes, inexpensive wall paper lining, fear and anxiousness is removed and consequently people tend to do their best work. Most importantly it gets the juices flowing and brings us both physically and emotionally into the room.
Using a mix of Burnt Sienna and Prussian Blue I make marks with my large brush and small rigger brush. I use a clean wet brush to pull out colour……Note I have scraped out colour using the knife.
In this rapid warm up the darks are the mix of Prussian Blue and Burnt Sienna. The Yellow is Marigold Yellow….and again you can see where I have pulled out colour with a clean wet brush…and scraped with a knife.
My second demo – was to do a simple exercise that uses basic watercolour techniques.
In this instance I am working on white paper.
I begin by adding water to the sky area….and then introduce colour into the wet. I then allow the colour to run (bleed – do its own thing). The beauty of watercolour is the spontaneity it brings to an image. If the paint begins to puddle simply hold up the paper, move it around and allow the paint to run.
I then add some colour along the bottom of the sky line to indicate trees in the distance. Where it is wet, the paint will bleed.
At this point the bottom of the picture is still DRY WHITE PAPER.
To finish I add some juicy paint to the dry area at bottom of the picture (this iscalled DRY BRUSH, because I am now working on a dry surface) It’s important to leave some DRY WHITE AREAS. This brings a sparkle to the painting. I then take my knife and scrape out colour while the paint is still wet…..
Remember to look at your warm ups in many different ways….also cut them up..use them for collage…the important thing is to PLAY.
My third demo was taken from a photograph I took in Portugal. I prefer to work from life, however we are not always in a position to do that…and so working from photographs, preferably ones we have taken ourselves and using them as a JUMPING OFF POINT is fine. I prefer that people don’t copy photographs verbatim. Be creative.
In this instance, using watercolour and gouache, I worked from an ORANGE GROUND (note that any orange you see in the picture is dry paper). Because I am working from an orange ground any opaque whites you see are PERMANENT WHITE GOUACHE
My fourth demonstration was of lilies, emphasising the NEGATIVE SPACE – the space that surrounds the subject.
As artists we need to train our observational skills so that we automatically see the NEGATIVE SPACE in everything rather than focusing purely on our subject. Remember everything in life is interconnected.
in this instance there is no detail, just the simple shapes of the lilies surrounded by rich colour. The colour in the NEGATIVE SPACE – REVEALS the flower heads.
This was one of my watercolour/gouache paintings we used as the JUMPING OFF POINT for this exercise. Note how the colour in the negative space, surrounding the lilies REVEALS the subject.
The workshop lasted for three hours which seemed like a lot when we began…however as always the time flew by……..
I definitely plan to do more workshops at The HUB and hope to do some portrait demonstrations. Watch this space.
Please scroll through my posts to see other demonstrations….
For now stay safe, keep painting and always remember to WARM UP
Part of large symbolic mural commissioned for a public building in the States thirty years ago. When I was commissioned to paint this mural, based on the theme that all of life isinterconnected, climate change and many other elements that have become part of our daily conversation were rarely discussed.
We believed that if we put a border or line around something, it was contained.
Artists of all disciplines understand that when we change one small part of a creation, the whole is changed and so it is true for life in general.
Today we see how an unseen virus has dramatically changed the world we live in. A virus activated by an ever growing and unsustainable population with disregard for the laws of nature.
This week I received a beautiful hand made gift from my dear friend Kat Ranalli – who I met in the States in the early seventies. The gift is a symbolic reminder that we are all connected BY THE THREADS THAT BIND US…….
When Kat and I first met in West Chester Pennsylvania…our world was very different. I am not imagining it when I say things were simpler and calmer – (definitely not without problems) but nevertheless a healthier and happier time to be alive.
On the same day that I received this beautiful gift my daughter Christie Reed, who was a baby when Kat and I first met, wrote a blog entitled LIVING LIFE IN BLACK AND WHITE – 5 which taps into this subject of there being no lines or borders around anything very eloquently. I am also proud that she has chosen to use one of my watercolours to demonstrate her point. (please read)
This morning’s headline notes that DAVID ATTENBOROUGH MAKES A STARK WARNING ON EXTINCTION.…
Attenborough, a man who has been actively involved in the care of our environment for sixty years. We must listen to him and the others who have been working tirelessly to educate and warn us.
It seems that we have been sleep walking as we have doggedly plodded on destroying so much in our collective paths.
Bigger cars, bigger houses, bigger planes, bigger resorts, bigger hamburgers, bigger cruise ships, big containers to ship all the crap that we have and continue to consume….and the list goes on and on….and then we are
STOPPED BY AN UNSEEN THREAD THAT HAS NOW CLEARLY BOUND US TOGETHER in ways that we could never have imagined.
It is my sincere hope that we all learn from the virus. That we wake up to our vulnerabilities and at the same time wake to new and wonderful possibilities.
CHANGE is NECESSARY
We must recognise that we really are all interconnected and that we need to support and cherish the fragile threads that bind us.
I see Kat’s gift as a metaphor for a new way of thinking and being.
I first mentioned the inspired hub two months ago on this blog in a post entitled ‘CREATIVE THINKING, PERSONALWELLBEING AND COMMUNITY.’ The HUB is proving to be a wonderful addition to the Hampton (SW London) community.
Using watercolour, and beginning with playful exercises the workshop will focus on spontaneous painting and loosening up.
Watercolour is a beautiful medium. There are a few basic techniques to learn – each one taking time and patience to master. Allowing ourselves to play with the medium will help build confidence and ability.
In this instance I have sketched out two cala lilies – using yellow ochre. I am working on a Saunders and Waterford Hot Pressed – heavy paper. (more about papers at end of blog)
Having sketched the basic image I add ‘juicy tube paint’ into the negative space (the area surrounding the lilies). I am using a mix of Daniel Smith Perylene Maroon with Winsor & Newton Winsor Violet and a little Winsor & Newton Cadmium Orange.
When we add paint to the negative space – we automatically reveal the subject…..Using very small amounts of pigment I begin to add colour to the lily. For this I use Winsor & Newton Green Gold and a touch of Windsor & Newton Cadmium yellow. For the dark green in stem and shadow I mix some Winsor & Newton Burnt Sienna with a tiny amount of prussian blue and Gold Green.
All the whites are dry white paper.
I begin to build depth inside the lily using small amounts of pigment – making sure to leave dry white paper for highlights. As I build up the colour I am mindful of bringing the background colours into the Lilies. Everything is connected….nothing is isolated. By moving colour around a painting we bring a sense of harmony and rhythm.
It is important to note, that when we change one fraction of a painting – (no matter what the size) we change the whole. This is true for everything in life. The finished watercolour is an observational exercise revealing the subtlety of nature….. and at the same time honing watercolour technique. I hope that there is an element of energy and movement. The most important thing is to PLAY and warm up. This can be done on any paper including newspaper…..The key is to release any fears or anxiety about messing up a good piece of paper. Ultimately this is a freeing up mechanism.
When purchasing watercolour paper – it is measured by weight and surface quality….Cold Pressed for rougher surface. NOT (meaning not hot pressed) is smoother and Hot Pressed is very smooth. My analogy is that using cold pressed is like roller skating and hot pressed like ice skating – NOT is somewhere in the middle.
When we purchase a piece of lb140 weight paper – this simply means that the ream of paper (500 sheets) weighs lb140 – and of course the same applies for all weights. It’s a good idea to purchase a sample pack of papers.…and again PLAY.
Another example of where I have used strong colours in the negative space to reveal the image. After I add colour to the flowers – leaving dry white paper for my whites.