Sunday, 28 February 2016

Getting Back to Blogging...

Spring... a time of renewal.

It seems that cycles of writing regular blog posts interspersed with weeks/months of being incommunicado affect many bloggers, and unfortunately I am no exception. Apologies. It is not due to being inactive on the art front... in fact the pause often happens initially because of a very active phase and not having the time and energy. Then it becomes harder to get going again. So a very quick update and then I will move on and re-commit to this blog as I do love the way it can act as an online diary and record of a life in art, while at the same time inspiring others, hopefully.

If you pop onto my page for Art Events & Teaching you will notice that I am running regular classes and workshops throughout this year at Norfolk Creative Arts, an exciting new venue in Grimston, West Norfolk. There are a wide variety of tutors, subjects and media so if you wish to investigate visit and there is sure to be something to tempt you!

Spring Term Wednesday Weekly Mixed Media Classes
at Norfolk Creative Arts are now in full swing! 

Aside from all the planning for these classes I am also busy with personal artwork as a joint exhibition with another artist is looming on the horizon in May. More details will follow in the next few weeks but we are both creating mostly new work for it and the beautiful village hall in Thornham is quite spacious, so the pressure is beginning to mount.

Some images of work that may be included in the upcoming exhibition...

Woodland (North Wootton) in compressed charcoal & white pastel © Tod Evans

Barn Owl, using limited watercolour palette and charcoal pencil
- a quick animation here to show you how it built up...

Close crop of Teasels in pencil, white gesso and acrylic 
© Tod Evans

Views of seascape in watercolour, gouache & Inktense pencil
as it built up © Tod Evans

Roydon painted in acrylic with palette knife
© Tod Evans

The beach at Old Hunstanton in acrylic © Tod Evans

So a little sneak peak at some of the contenders to be included, there are works still in progress (not shown) and I am excited about work yet to be created! Will keep you posted on new developments but if you are in Norfolk over the weekend of 14th and 15th May, 2016 we would love to see you at our exhibition Into the Woods & Beyond to be held in Thornham Village Hall, PE36 6LX.

Sketchbook work continues as well, and possibly may be included for perusal...

Sketchbook work continues...

Finally, a recent exhibition visited by myself and family was Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse at the Royal Academy in London. There was (and is) a close connection between many artists and their gardens and it's natural that they wished to explore ways of depicting the colours, shapes and features, often working in them as outdoor studios. Monet is the key artist in this fine exhibition but there are examples by Caillebotte, Pissaro, renoir, matisse, Van Gogh, Klimt, Bonard etc. Also some artists I had not encountered before, Joaquin Sorolla being one and I plan to research more about him. It is Monet, however, who resonates the most and the work inspired by his lily pond is sublime. Despite over exposure on packaging and household items over the years, to see the paintings in real life is to fall in love with them all over again. The fusions of colour, the abstraction of motifs and the free brushwork is totally absorbing. The finale, the triptych, in the last room is breathtaking - the sheer scale - so that as a viewer you are compelled to move up close and study the fragmented textures and colours before stepping back right back to appreciate the whole again. Like a little dance forwards and backwards we go repeatedly, drinking in the artwork with the senses. I really did not want to leave that painting and having visited Monet's garden in Giverny it is as relevant today as it has ever been.

Superb exhibition, well worth a visit.

The exhibition runs until April 20th so I encourage you to go and see it if possible!

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Sketching Birds at Pensthorpe

Yesterday I had the pleasure of being a student again on a workshop at Pensthorpe Natural Park tutored by Mark Boyd for the company Art Safari It was a small group so Mark was able to give each of us plenty of support and encouragement, plus he was extremely knowledgeable about the species that we studied. He suggested we first look for the oval head shape and direction of the beak, then at the body which he likened to the shape of an avocado pear. He touched on the subject of bird anatomy so we could envisage the fact that most of the leg was within the body and what we consider the knee is actually the equivalent of the ankle. It was important to observe closely the leg positions so that our drawn birds would convincingly stand up with their weight balanced. Quite tricky when many birds at rest or dozing stood on one leg!

I started my sketches in an 8 x 8" hardback sketchbook using a stick of charcoal.

For the next page I switched to a black Inktense stick as the smudgy charcoal
irritated me. The avocets were stunning and so elegant.
Also was delighted to catch sight of the bearded tit in the dense reeds,
but no chance to try sketching these small elusive shy birds. 

Over the page again and now using a graphite pencil stick,
 holding it with an overhand gentle grip and broad sweeps before
adopting the traditional 'writing pen' position for more controlled fine
lines to add definition to the shapes in selected areas.

Continued with the graphite pencil stick.
The long spindly legs of so many of the wading birds are fascinating. 


Here I was looking at movement and in the lower right half of the page
I attempted to record various positions of a single avocet preening.

I switch medium again and try a black brush pen for the bird on the far left.
It felt a bit scratchy on the paper so changed to an Edding pen but that too
didn't flow smoothly and seemed a bit dried up.

At this point it was lunchtime and we all retired to the spacious cafeteria for hot drinks and a meal. It was only on stopping that I realised how chilly I had become while sat in one position on a little sketching stool, despite being well dressed for the overcast weather. It was enjoyable chatting and getting to know one another a bit better and to find out more about our different backgrounds and art experiences.

After lunch we moved back out and chose a different area to work in
with other bird species. We were encouraged to work with wet media
in the afternoon and I had fun loosening up by using my new black Elegant Writer pen.
It is really a fibre tip pen for calligraphy but is increasingly being used by artists
as when water is introduced to the penwork beautiful greens and pinks appear
as the pigments separate, an effect reminiscent of my much loved Quink ink.
(Thank you Sue and Kay for introducing me to these pens).

I loved these storks standing on one leg with their powerful long beaks
nestled into their long white chest feathers.

Bar-Headed geese with the Elegant Writer pen,
water was introduced with a water filled brush pen.

It was now time to move into more colour... initially I tried Inktense sticks
but for the afternoon I had decided to work in an A3 watercolour ringbound sketchbook
and the pigment caught on the texture of the paper and was reluctant to soften and dilute
smoothly even when water applied with a paintbrush.
There was only one thing to do - bring out the watercolours!

Unfortunately I didn't make a note of what this duck/goose is,
but the watercolour is a composite of several birds as they assumed the same position
while milling about right at our feet. The other little pencil drawing
was of a single duck who promptly disappeared towards the lake, not to be seen again!
As it was the vibrant splash of red on his beak which attracted me I put that in to remind me. 

Back to the stork, in watercolour this time.
A light drizzle caused little starburst speckles in the drying wash,

As my eye tuned into the smaller compact shapes of some of the ducks I decided
to try capturing their shapes purely in watercolour, no pencil drawing first. To finish
off we were encouraged to think about showing a group of birds and I returned
to the speedy pencil lines to do this, see lower left. 

What a fabulous day. We absorbed lots of information and remained focused as we tried to record our observations of the shapes and movements of a variety of birds. To close the day we gathered together back in the cafeteria. Hot drinks all round again as we discussed our experiences and then Mark quickly showed us some of his work to reinforce some of the teaching points but also to encourage us to consider different ways of working even when outdoors and working from life - collage or even monoprinting. 

Maybe you will be inspired to look more closely at the birds visiting your garden, or on a local village pond? Get the sketchbook out and give it a go. I know I will be attempting more bird drawings very soon, hopefully now with more success than in the past.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Experimenting with Colours and Techniques

A new enthusiasm and energy has taken hold recently with regards art making. There seems to have been a shift in my vision and a freer approach is emerging... I have been experimenting with new colours and foregoing detail in completed work in favour of expressive mark making. This is exciting!

I spent one afternoon playing with some new watercolour paints...

Winsor & Newton watercolours - Transparent Orange
and Sapphire Blue

Daniel Smith watercolours and W&N Cerulean Blue plus Sapphire Blue again.
Bottom half of painting had some cellophane draped over while paint was still wet,
and then left to dry. 

Winsor & Newton Gold calligraphy ink
(fortunately lightfast - beware, not all calligraphy colours are) with
Daniel Smith Undersea Green and Violet gouache.

Tricky to photograph so the gold shimmer
is apparent!

The potential of the new Daniel Smith colours is very inspiring as they granulate readily and the colours separate out into their component parts.

I have also been studying a new book by Debora Stewart and her techniques for abstracted art echo what I have been moving towards. The untitled (as yet) work shown in the stages below is a step in the right direction with a loose beginning, and I tried to keep the drawing spontaneous rather than laboured and exact.

1.  Compressed charcoal was stroked energetically
across mid grey Canson Mi-Teintes pastel paper.
Water was swished over this with a large flat brush
in multi-directions. As the work was upright on an easel
drips were encouraged to flow down the paper. You can see where I then
started the line drawing in white pastel pencil. 

2.  Once the basic composition was in place I began to
introduce some of the lightest / darkest tones and established
the insect as the focal point.   

3.  More light areas are built up with white pastel pencil and
a few more hints of ochre placed.

4.  The stamens of the top bloom are now in place.

5. Finally the stamens on the primary bloom are suggested
and the brightest sunlit areas are strengthened with touches of
a white Unison pastel stick. 

This drawing was very enjoyable to do and three elements helped to keep it fresh and loose. First, I stood at an easel to work which aids larger arm movements; the initial layer of large sweeping marks contained an innate liveliness and lastly I held the pastel pencils well away from the point, so relinquishing some control. Also, the limited palette works to keep the focus on the insect and small touches of ochre elsewhere lead the eye around the composition.   

Today has surely been one of the hottest so far... and I spent most of the afternoon and early evening in the studio. I would normally wear an apron when working with pastels as they are one of the messier mediums but couldn't bear the thought of an additional layer and didn't bother. Using a photo I took in Holme-next-the-Sea of pink Mallow as a starting point, I worked on a painting that focused on mark making and layering to try and capture the essence. 

A loose wet-on-dry application of watercolour
was the starting point for this painting. The base colours were encouraged to fuse and again drips were integral as I was stood at the easel.

Although the support looks white in the photo it is a warm cream Art Spectrum Colourfix paper. The slightly gritty surface happily accepts watermedia and there is plenty of tooth for soft pastel in subsequent layers. 

Once the initial paint was dry a very loose drawing in charcoal pencil was 
established. Again holding the pencil nearer the end furthest from the point helped prevent 
a tight rendition. Also pushing up, rather than pulling in a downward motion, and gently rolling the 
pencil between the fingers as drawing enabled more random marks to be made.

The next step seems counter productive, but I did it anyway, and 'lost' the drawing
by dragging a flat brush with diluted gesso across the surface in multi-directional strokes. 
This is a technique favoured by Debora Stewart but with hindsight I realised she uses 
compressed charcoal so a little more of the drawing remains intact! 

The drawing is then re-established with charcoal pencil and even if more of the first drawing 
had been present this second one would have been superimposed, and slightly offset, to 
enhance the feeling of layered media. My eyes are really enjoying what is beginning to happen in this work and I'm almost tempted to stop at this stage.

I push on however and introduce more colour using soft pastel sticks. 
I limit the colours and tonal range to try and avoid confusion. 
When I pause to assess how the work is going I feel a little disappointed. Close up there is plenty to engage the eye but move a short distance away and it blurs into a generalised mid tone.

Something must be done to redeem it...

 Taking yet another risk, I lightly block in the negative spaces in the top two thirds of the painting. 
I use a white pastel pencil and hold it low so that the side of the point catches across the gritty surface and allows the under layer to still play a part. 

I finally stop and take stock again. After a few extra dark punctuations 
with the charcoal pencil I feel it is finished. 

Did I make the right choice?
Too early to tell. I need a bit of time to pass to assess it as a whole again.

What do you think?  


Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Photo Essay - Catching Up News...

Aaagghhh... busy, busy, and trip to France is imminent, but I want to quickly catch up with the news of recent activities! So, here is an edited photo essay...

Tried some more nature printing. This one shows the ferns laid on acrylic inks,
which should have resulted in a lovely print. You can also see the rock salt particles
sprinkled on, intended to leave interesting textures when dry and brushed off.
However, the ferns just stuck fast in the acrylic and broke as I tried to prize away from the
dried inks - although a failure I learnt something at least!  

At the same time I was repeating the exercise with ferns and rock salt with watercolour.
This approach worked much better. The feather at the top was created with black printing ink
and the work felt very unbalanced as this dominated the image. After the addition of some black
coloured pencil in select areas around the ferns it seemed to come together.  

I also cut up some heavyweight cartridge paper to print on and made them into cards.

Social Sketchbook event in June at Castle Rising. Well attended and finally some
reasonable weather. An area worth visiting again as there is much inspiration. 

This double page spread is pure watercolour, no pencil drawing first, and was
also completed at Castle Rising. It took about 40 minutes, is very sketchy but a memory of
looking across to Babbingley.  

Selected sketchbooks by the group at castle rising. We all completed several
sketches each so going with the intention of drawing is certainly productive.

My five paintings at Welborne Arts Festival with other members of
West Norfolk Artists Association. A well organised and supported festival but weather
was sunshine and showers. Lots of families, interested in our artwork but not looking to
buy art on a fun day out... Difficult to see the work in this photo due to reflections
on the glass, apologies.
I was treated to a marvellous day out at Mundesley on the North Norfolk coast
by two friends and we sketched on the beach. This is watersoluble pencil over a
pre-prepared gesso base tinted with acrylic. Lovely company, great scenery and
fantastic food - once again "thank you" Kay and Sue!
Social Sketchbook event in Old Hunstanton earlier this month.
Hottest day of the year so far! 

Pen and wash sketch looking towards the famous Hunstanton cliffs.

Looking out to sea. Watercolour washes then dip pen and walnut ink to capture some
of the figures.  

An amazing hollyhock that has grown outside my studio this year. It must have
been a amongst the wildflower seeds I sprinkle each year (usually in vain).

Charcoal drawing from the hollyhock.

Loose variegated sweeps of neocolour crayon and
charcoal pencil line drawing on top. Yes, the hollyhock again. 

I'm feeling happier now, we are all up to date. Note to self: try posting shorter entries but more often!

Please feel free to comment on anything in this blog, I would love to know your views or if you have any questions. In the meantime, France awaits so - Au Revoir!