Posts made in September, 2015

The Arts and Wellbeing

Posted by on Sep 16, 2015 in Discussion | 0 comments

The Arts and Wellbeing

I was talking with a group today about ‘The Wellbeing Journal” as a way of helping us to remember to use ‘The Five Ways to Wellbeing” (connect, be active, give, keep learning, take notice) to increase our chances of having the best mental and physical health we can. I was describing it in company  with a very creative GP tutor, who is a wonderful group facilitator and lead the session. She has introduced me to a wonderful website on health and illness developed by The Science Museum. It discusses how many of our ideas about wellness, and health are affected by our culture. For example,  in Pepys’ time most people were living with what we would now consider significant chronic ill-health. Pepys himself had bladder stones and had to undergo painful, major surgery (a vivid, harrowing portrait in Claire Tomalin’s wonderful biography) but continued  a busy working and social  (!) life  in spite of everything with which he contended. He also lived  under the stress of very serious consequences if he offended powerful people or even if he merely ended up on the wrong side with a change of regime (which of course happened). His resilient personality was matched with very different expectations of what he could expect from life. I was also reminded that we can influence our ‘genetic destiny’ by our behaviour – it is implied that the generation in their 50s and 60s now are possibly fending off frailty and cognitive decline because they are exercising (be active), and making an effort to keep their brains active (keep learning). It is worth making the effort to change our behaviour – which always feels artificial at first -to develop healthier habits that improve our wellbeing. We can get out of balance even with the ‘five ways to wellbeing.’ It is possible to ‘give’ too much, to exercise too much, to connect in a superficial way too much. I am increasingly persuaded that having a friend, or relative change their habits at the same time, provides not only mutual support but also a healthy perspective on what you are doing. One of my favourite passages on the benefits of changing to a more balanced way of life is from a book published by the Leaping Hare Press. ‘Expecting an epiphany – some single moment of insight that will forever banish the experience of fear, anger, neediness – may prevent us from noticing the slow and almost imperceptible ways spiritual practice subtly transforms us. With patience and perseverance out habitual reactive patterns slowly erode, until one day we find ourselves in a situation that had always made us anxious – and we notice it is simply gone.’ From ‘Saying yes to life (Even the hard parts)’ by Ezra Bayda quoted in ‘Happiness and How it Happens’ by ‘The Happy Buddha’ Leaping Hare Press, 2011 It takes...

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Drawing the tree

Posted by on Sep 11, 2015 in Discussion | 0 comments

Drawing the tree

I had to start a new post to put in a new image but this is the tree I was drawing. It was very helpful to be advised to do small thumbnails first and to set the image within a sketch that showed its relationships. I will write what we did next a little later but just learning to look more closely not only at something you want to draw but also what is around it and being helped to draw – to know that there are choices – composition, has inspired me to draw every day. I now have my sketch book (size to suit portability where necessary) with me everywhere and take the opportunity to draw what is around...

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What happened at West Dean?

Posted by on Sep 11, 2015 in Discussion, News | 0 comments

What happened at West Dean?

It is rather a shame that my linocut is next to the reference to William Scott and not further down where I discuss it. I will edit that when I do my next phase of website management. I thought it might be interesting to show some pictures of what we did. I have been careful not to show or discuss others’ work or their comments as they may wish them to be private. I will ask a few people on the next course I do if I can show their work. There was something about that weekend that has inspired me to draw all the time at the moment – and I have not drawn for at least forty years except when sketching a map to show someone a route. On the Friday night we went to the studio – which is The Orangery – with lots of glass as you might imagine. We started by all contributing paint (applied by a number of implements) to some lining paper stretched out on the floor, as we processed round it. I had done something similar at the National Gallery colour course (which was much shorter). On both occasions we looked at what we had produced and there were some startling differences in areas, we added wool cuttings and torn tissue paper and some squirts of paint. Then left it to dry. We were encouraged to photograph each stage the work. The next day we returned to the studio (by the way you eat, drink and live very well at West Dean) and then started to frame areas of the work to select these out and make them into a separate print using nine selected areas. It was interesting to see the selection that people made; all from the same source but all very individual. Some people strenuosity avoided using areas with wool, some wanted areas with tissue paper, some predominantly red and so on. We then moved onto drawing in the garden- selecting something to draw using, as Frances Hatch encouraged us to, what we found in the landscape. I was very sceptical about this but found a wonderful piece of wood that made bold lines – ideal for the tree trunks, which I have kept.          ...

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William Scott: abstract and still life painter

Posted by on Sep 9, 2015 in Discussion | 0 comments

William Scott: abstract and still life painter

Another artist that Dale Devereaux Barker mentioned in his final talk was William Scott – someone else of whom I previously knew nothing (I’m now embarrassed to say). He lived from 1913 to 1989. He is considered an Ulsterman though of mixed Scottish/Irish parentage and during his life lived not only in Scotland, Ulster, but also in France (where he founded an Art School before the war) and Bath (where he taught for many years). He had rather a difficult life in many ways,  his father being killed in an accident (trying to help others) when he was only about 14 years old, and experiencing the loss of his livelihood and many of his paintings during the war. It is interesting that he learned lithography during his service in the map department of the army. A completely different style from Morandi although many of the subjects are similar. Interesting to see how his paintings again transform mundane object and sights (they are not highly arranged still life collections like the Dutch paintings of the 17th and 18th centuries) but for example, two fish on a plain plate – the sort of thing you might take very much granted if it was in your kitchen. Again I am learning how we do not look closely at the everyday and overlook the richness that is there in the everyday.  I have also been more interested in landscape and portrait painters (apart of course, from printmakers) but now I am keen to learn as much as I can about still life. On the website curated by his estate, there is quote from William Scott in which he says he is interested in’….disconcertingcontours, the things of life.’  I am now noticing disconcerting contours – today I drew a butter dish (found it very difficult, the sort that has a lid) a tea cosy, an avocado pear and a vase on  a card of the silversmith Edward Mahony. Only the latter attempt has any beauty. Incidentally I would recommend  the BBC website (hyperlinked twice in this blog) ‘my paintings.’ It tells you a little about each artist, (information about William Scott from”Scott, William” A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art by Ian Chilvers and John Glaves-Smith. Oxford University Press Inc. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press), where you can see each painting listed and enables you to make your own list of favourite paintings. I shall be returning to it. linocut of Southwold Here is a linocut I did before I started the course : I guess I will always have a ‘naive’ style – this has been a print that has been liked by others (I have even sold some).   I will try it again, having learned more about drawing – drawing, as Dale said, not sketching.   Be bold. Here is a linocut I did before I started the course : I guess I will always have a ‘naive’ style – this has been a print that has been liked by others (I have even sold some) – I will try it again, having learned more about drawing – drawing, as Dale said, not sketching. Be bold. There is more to read in an excellent article in The Guardian written at the time of a retrospective in St Ives in 2013 in which Scott is quoted as saying he found ‘ beauty in plainness’ – perhaps as a result of his rather austere upbringing. He also says that fish was the staple diet, cooked in a ‘frying pan’ later the subject of several paintings.    ...

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Giorgio Morandi: still life

Posted by on Sep 8, 2015 in Discussion | 0 comments

One part of our final essay is to describe the work of other artists, particularly those who have influenced us. Dale Devereaux Barker mentioned a painter who concentrated on painting ‘still lifes’ (not quite sure if that should be ‘still lives’ ) – Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964) who rarely left the city of his birth, Bologna,  where he lived  with his three sisters.  His paintings were very simple in composition,  his subjects domestic objects like bowls and vases, bottles and pots. Their apparent simplicity (which of course shows his immense skill and insight) seem to give his paintings – even in reproduction on the web – a meditative quality. He was very much influenced by Cezanne  but also by much earlier artists such as Giotto. Dale Devereaux Barker reiterated a number of times how artists ‘steal’ from each other and I remember seeing a book of this name by Austin Kleon (I will get it and read it). I had not knowingly seen one of Morandi’s  paintings until we were shown one or two on Sunday but they made a deep impression.   I have now discovered images of others on the web and intend to go and see his paintings in the Tate . It was inspiring to see the complexity he discovered in simple objects that he painted again and again – finding something new in them all the time. Apparently this quiet, courteous modest man rarely travelled, worked as a teacher of drawing for many years and was accomplished at etching as well as painting oils and watercolours. I am sorry that I missed a retrospective exhibition in 2008 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art but pleased to have read the excellent article that reviewed Morandi’s work and the exhibition in the New York Times.  This article makes it clear that although he was utterly devoted to his work, and lived most of his life in the same place – he kept up with contemporary trends in art across the world, was widely known by other artists. His quiet way of life enabled him to devote the greater part of his energy to his work. Inspired by Morandi, today I drew (amongst other objects in the kitchen) a simple pewter...

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