Carleton Hill - An Obsession
The Hopeton Monument sits upon Byre Hill, part of the Garleton Hills in East Lothian. It serves as a visual cue to me on returning home that I have not far to go. The winding roads that lead to it from all around accentuate this rather modest hill and make it almost lofty.
From way back when, I have loved driving towards the Hill and its monument. This chimney type edifice was built to honour the Honourable John Hope, the 4th Earl of Hopetoun - he later became Lord Niddry. The monument is all of 95 feet or 30 metres tall and 132 steps take you to the top from where you can enjoy magnificent views.
Over the years I have spent a lot of time studying, sketching and photographing Byres Hill and the Monument. It has become an obsession. As to why I really cannot say. Perhaps it is something to do with being a personal landmark. Perhaps it is to do with the landscape in which it sits. Autumn and winter lay bare the fields so the plough lines are on display. The contours of these lines mirror those of the hedgerows and the road that travels on upwards towards the monument.
Today I finished an artwork based on all the material I have collated over the years. Intent on working solely in acrylic, I stuck to my guns until right at the end when I could not resist a signature collaged tree. Hopefully the whole painting - which is not large conveys the wonders of the East Lothian landscape; its rich autumnal colouring and its patterns.
New Block of Teaching at the PACC
This week heralded the return to the PACC in Haddington as a self-employed tutor. This is the fourth year as tutor in Mixed Media and the first in Painting Techniques in Oil and Acrylic.
I have six students in the Mixed Media class, 3 new and 3 returners. Their creative energy was particularly high and everyone enjoyed the first activity which was basically mark making using a mixture of media on brown packing paper. After five minutes or so of working on one area, the students rotated so they were then responding to someone else's input. This is a good exercise - blowing away both creative cobwebs and inhibition. Next week we will review the results; use them to encourage reflection and analysis and consider next steps.
The second exercise will be continued next week. This was mark making using stamps and other tools on tissue paper. This material will be used in collage in self-led projects.
There are four students in the Painting class. The humble leaf, autumnal in colour, donated forcibly by the trees by Storm Ali was the focal point for teaching. Each leaf was unique in terms of colour, pattern and structure, hence proved a good basis on which to discuss the ability of acrylics to emulate watercolours, choice of base colours, layering and techniques involving brushes, palette knives and sponges.
I have not taken a table at a fair for too many years to mention. Another life - another interest. However I have two fairs coming up too quickly and I need to ensure I have sufficient artwork - new and fun. The lovely garden variety robin hits the spot in terms of creative inspiration. Hopefully there will be a series of mixed media artworks depicting the robin in different poses, which in turn will give me festive cards to offer in packs. I simply love collage so I am in my element right now having lots of fun. Similarly with the titles - looking to give each artwork a music or dance based title so the brain is whirring away on many levels just now.
Different does not necessarily mean better - when to stop working on an artwork.
It is a common dilemma amongst all creative people - when to stop working on a set piece. At what point is the end reached... no more to be done. I remember four significant lesson points from my days as an art student, one of which arose out of frustration as to whether to continue changing a painting or leave as was. My tutor at the time said 'different does not necessarily mean better'. So I stopped with a real sense of relief. Wise words I now pass on to my students.
This posting arose from the workings of a small mixed media/collage I did as part of a working demonstration for my students who were keen to see my studio practice. At the time it was a good focus on process and as with all successful lessons, the more that did not work well proved great teaching discussion points.
Over the past few weeks I have looked at this artwork from time to time. It seemed to ask for resolution so that is what I have got round to do. The process started with paper weaving to produce a square 'cloth'. The colours determined the next steps. The background was a surface already painted. That part of the background that was behind the table never really worked so the most significant transition was in using a metallic acrylic over the top. The sheen matched the disc on the wall, and the red was still visible so tying in with the other colours. The other major difference was losing the stitch on the original vase. As a textured background behind the blue it worked much better than the fussy stitching. The fruit also did not read well, so replacing the objects with flatter discs helped keep the artwork uniform. A suggestion in this case works better than too much detail.
Now is the time to accept that different would not necessarily mean better and the artwork will now be elevated from the status of teaching tool to mounted artwork awaiting an outing to the exhibitions and fairs I have lined up later in the year.
Two days of hard work and the East Linton Annual Art Exhibition is taking shape. What a talented bunch of folk there are out there and every single artwork handed over is given every opportunity to shine. Good teamwork is essential as all opinions count but time is of the essence so agreement has to be found speedily. Along with coffee and homemaking - they definitely help. This year because of the 50th anniversary there are more works than normal so three rooms are now full. That is a lot to get right. Some fine tuning needs to be done but the cataloguing is now achieved so positions are very much fixed. My three framed artworks are in situ and are looking very happy amongst their contemporaries.
Onwards and Upwards
It is always interesting to note what sells. Very happily two small original mixed media artworks sold from Number 4 Gallery in St Abbs. A wonderful gallery stocked with very original and high quality items. Both were seascapes. Luckily I love doing seascapes so will be getting down to creating new works. The biggest compliment EVER is when someone chooses your own creation to take home with them. Can't get better than that.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of this art exhibition. An amazing event for a relatively small town and amazing too considering the history of the exhibition. This year also marks I think - the third year of my involvement. With prize money involved the take up of applications has been great so the amount of artworks to handle will be greater. I am looking forward to the challenge of having them all sit alongside each other, given equal weight and all singing.
I have also been working on three major pieces for the exhibition. One in oils which has proven quite tricky, the other two mixed media. The mixed media piece 'Portal: The Square window' has had an earlier outing at the Haddstock fundraiser event. Another 'Portal: 3 Urns' is a radical remake of an older work. The third 'Mother-in-Law's Tongue' is a new work on a section of artwork completed for the degree show in 2014. Of the three, the one I am most unsure of is the larger Portal piece. The other two seem to be more resolved but the danger is overworking the piece so time to let alone. The main thing is for the oil to be dry and for the piece to be given a protective coating of varnish for tomorrow evening and the hand-in. I also have to select three mounted works, but that will be relatively easy in comparison.
Carol E Duff