Painting Stories 1: ‘Settlement’

‘Settlement’ watercolour on 300CP 19x28cm 2021

There is little contrast in the sky at this time of year. Clouds are often heavy with vapour, reflecting cool and warm tones depending on how they layer, or thin and let some sunshine through. Rarely the sunshine reaches us but nevertheless I find the skies’ soft pastels fascinating in November through to February. I like the challenge of remembering and creating the feeling those skies give me, of gradually, peacefully settling into the darker time of year.

There are technical issues to manage – allowing the colours to blend evenly means that the paper has to remain equally damp, but not too wet. It has to dry evenly too so preparation is essential and also I have to say somewhat satisfying. Brushwork is vigorous and the balance of pigment to water carefully judged. Too much water and the result will be patchy; too little pigment and will lose depth and tonal range.

The title came from sitting with the finished piece and reflecting on the elements in it. Often I try to express something of the deeper stories that emerge by describing the elements in relation to one another. But on this occasion, one word came to me: settlement. Settlement describes the sense of winding down, of compacting and layering like a soft blanket, but also the suggestion of humans inhabiting the landscape, of making a home there. In this space they are actively engaging in their surroundings, altering them and perhaps, one hopes, respecting the place they’ve come to inhabit. It raises the question as to how we settle on our land and what our responsibility is towards the existing, other living organisms with whom we share our space.

In this painting there’s the suggestion of the settlements along the North Wales coast on Deeside from Flint to where the coast turns sharply west at the Point of Ayr and vanishes from our sight here in Burton Marshes, Wirral. It’s not clear what they are, but in daylight there are many — industrial, farmland, open common, residential and protected natural areas. The scene reminds me of returning at dusk to my starting point after a long walk in the hills, gradually descending to meet the brightening lights of the settlement where I’ve begun. There’s nostalgia in remembering, and yet questions in the present.

Open Studio Sat 20 Nov 21 10-4

If you missed us in September’s Wirral Open Studio Tour, Marcus Leon Drummond and I are opening again on Saturday 20 November 10am-4pm and look forward to seeing you. As Yule approaches, I’ll be offering plenty of watercolours at studio clearance prices and Marcus will have his finely made furniture and smaller wood items for sale too. Accessible entrance available, washroom and kitchen bar providing drinks hot and cold.

3 Zig Zag Rd, New Brighton, Wirral CH45 7NY (map below)

Observing

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I love experimenting with watercolour as there are so many variables – type of pigment, wet or dry surface, granulation and transparency, degree of drying-ness of the painting in progress, brushes, tools and masking. Many of my sketches and experiments focus on playing with any of these, but recently I’ve been drawn to observational work. Continue reading

Wirral Open Studios Tour 2017

IMG_4124This year over 60 artists are taking part across Wirral in 36 venues – shared spaces and studios – on 10-11 June (Saturday 10-5 Sunday 11-5). You can download the brochure with listings and maps here or pick up a printed version from any of the artists or venues across Wirral. Continue reading

Athens: Platforms Project

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Platforms Project is Athens’ Independent Art Fair, open this year 20th – 25th May. Artist groups from all over the world are taking part, including SCI, a group which developed out of Liverpool Tate staff artists’ Soup Collective (SC).  The ‘I’ in SCI stands for ‘including other artists’, which is how I got involved.

IMG_7715SCI’s theme for the fair is consumerism and branding and the exhibition, titled ‘CODED‘ includes work from 22 UK artists in addition to Soup Collective’s six members. In keeping with the theme, artists have used food packaging as a basis for their contributions (which also seems apt, given the group’s name!). I found this an exciting proposition, given my concerns about the food industry, packaging, processing and environment. Continue reading

Experiments & Sketches

Watercolour is a feisty medium – I refuse to say ‘difficult‘, though it’s often said to me by those either keen to learn or keen to avoid it. I also refuse to talk about ‘rules‘ because that implies a power imbalance between the artist and the paint. It may begin that way but, like learning the rumba, eventually the dance starts to look and feel more sensual and natural. Continue reading