Somewhere along the line the format of this template was changed and I’m now unable to insert pictures at their suitable sizes. So I’m thinking of creating a new blog with more versatility visually. Meanwhile, here are a couple of sculpture updates. If there is a new blog, I’ll put the details on here before moving on.
Following my preference for the small informal clay figure shown in the last post, I have been making more of them similarly, modelling the shapes quite roughly and allowing textures to occur naturally over the surface, just by the movements of my fingers and basic tools. Every pose is slightly different, I am aiming for about 30 of these which will then be given colour treatments.
I’m doing some work at a friend’s house (decorating – a brush is a brush, right?) and each time I go in I am surprised and pleased by a small drawing she bought from me years ago. It’s just a simple oil pastel sketch and there’s a freshness to it that often gets lost by overworking. I did many studies of this subject, based on a photo. I’m tempted to go back to it, it does have links to what I’m doing now, in my head anyway.
Usually, when I’m exploring a subject, I do a number of small and medium sized versions and typically end on a larger scale, at which point I will most likely feel I’ve gone as far as I can go. The painting I’m showing here came out of a desire just to work large, which I hadn’t done for a while, so some of the exploration that I do in the smaller scale work, which includes trying different techniques and mixing media, took place on this single piece of paper, which is approximately 4ft (1.2m) square. The photo shows some distortion as I just snapped this with my phone, and it’s hanging from clips on the studio wall, so you can see a distinct curve.
The theme is, broadly speaking, remembrance, and it draws together various motifs and images from earlier work, also from newspaper clippings and the cemetery photos I took in August last year (see blog posts for July and August 2013). It’s a complex and, I think, somewhat unsatisfactory piece. It evolved rather randomly and as it developed there were awkward spaces and a lack of colour coherence. Frankly, it was a struggle. But these shortcomings rather recommend it to me, as I can’t be coasting on something I know too well where this is concerned. I am working on a smaller watercolour painting based on this (the large one is acrylic and collage), and I’m looking forward to more work aimed at solving some of the problems this presented.
This is a really odd photo, giving rise to some equally odd paintings and collage. A friend looking at the recent work asked, ‘what is it you are trying to say about it?’ – ‘it’ being the fact that the people in my paintings are almost always dead – older relatives, ancestors, mummies. I’m giving this some thought, meantime questioning whether it is necessary that a visual art piece does have something to say?
Incidentally, there’s a non-dead person in there – on the right is my mum, currently still with us at 92. The others are my father and a friend (centre) and my uncle (left). I have three recent paintings based on this photo. I think I prefer the third, for its ambiguity.
Last weekend was spent in the printmaking studio of Ian Brown, local artist and teacher (www.volcaniceditions.com). The studio is small but excellently equipped and it was great to work really hard six hours a day, for two days. It’s difficult to keep up those habits in my own studio when life is so full of distraction, but I always find that booking a course is great for encouraging focus and physical involvement in the work.
I chose to do screenprinting because I haven’t done any since college – sadly that was decades ago. The process was less sophisticated then and the way it was taught to me didn’t suit my ways of working. I specialised in etching and lithography, and left screenprinting alone, but lately thought it would be good to try again and see how I might be able to use it. The print I made was quite carefully pre-planned, not my usual practice, and the positives for the six colours were painted and drawn in India ink on mark resist (a grainy, transparent plastic sheet material). I brushed on neat ink in places, then applied water to enable it to spread randomly, in some places breaking into texture on the surface. The keyline positive was drawn with a twig dipped in the ink, which creates a dynamic line, with a dip pen used in places where the drawing needed to be more delicate. The drawings are based on my sketches of the Palermo mummies.
Not knowing the technicalities I wasn’t sure how the tones would transfer to the screen mesh, so the spread of the colours contains accidental effects. Luckily this worked quite well in terms of how one colour sat against another and occasional overprintings. With a bit more knowledge, I would use the overprintings more another time to enrich the textural qualities and depth of the image.
I like repetition as a theme, I’ve used it a lot, but no doubt the screenprinting connection made me think of Warhol. With the method used it would have been difficult to work the image as randomly as I usually would in a painting, but I’ll be using a couple of the prints to add some more hand-done drawing, probably in oil pastel.
For the past few weeks I’ve been working on a project agreed jointly with another artist, we have a theme and are working in parallel. This is under the umbrella of an artists’ buddying group organised by Blue Monkey Network based in Eastbourne, UK. As my buddy and myself come from different backgrounds, working methods and experiences of art, we felt the joint project would give us a bridge to share ideas and technical information.
The theme of the project is ‘We are already forgetting you’. Steve provided a list of phrases that he had thought might inspire artwork, and this was the one I preferred. I spent some time thinking about it in technical terms, of ways of layering, diffusing and obscuring images. The work produced in this way was quite random. I then settled on the idea of a newspaper story that generates big headlines for a brief amount of time, but fades away as new incidents take over the media.
I had a couple of newspaper clippings from reports of serial murders that had been big news, and also some photos taken from the screen during a television documentary about the case. I produced a number of drawings, paintings and monoprints. Meanwhile, Steve and I were meeting weekly as buddies and sharing the progress of the project and other issues of interest.
The buddying group was a six-week pilot project, so we knew we were aiming for a final presentation. Running out of time, I put the work together for a review and to decide where it might go next. This photo shows some of the reference pictures and artwork in my studio.In review, I felt that the work replicated an earlier project, that artistically I was treading old ground. Also, in working through direct reference to the newspaper cuttings, I was uncomfortable about recycling a story that was not mine to tell and that would still have painful resonances for people personally involved (the crimes occurred in 2007 and there is a lot of information on the internet, though the murderer never confessed or gave his reasons).
It became obvious I should re-focus on the theme of ‘we are already forgetting you’ and could use some of the reference material and existing artwork in ways that represented a more abstract sense of how such news stories resonate in our own lives.One relatively incidental piece of work I had already done began to look more like a solution than a by-product, a small watercolour based on the visual research, but in which no identifying elements remained.This is a different beginning rather than an end to the project. I don’t know where it will go next, there are other possibilities. Today I visited an art exhibition at a school – the exam projects of 16-year-old students – and I felt I’d learned something from them about process. Not that their processes are so different from mine, based on enabling the images to evolve, but it suggested a different perspective on what stage of the process I might be in.
Having worked alone since leaving college – decades, not just years – it was interesting to be so aware of sharing the work with the buddy, and ultimately, in some way, with the whole group. Again, a new perspective, and one that takes me out of my comfort zone. Food for thought.
Painter and teacher, Brighton UK
My home is also my studio, I’ve been living and working in Brighton for 28 years now. The scale and activity of the town, together with the beautiful surrounding landscape, make this a sympathetic place to be – lively and lots going on but with access to privacy and peace. I work quite consistently on paintings, drawings, prints and collages. Though I don’t make a total living from painting, I also enjoy my work in adult teaching and mental health services in the Brighton-Hove area. The different aspects of my life feed each other and have enabled me to be included in networks of excellent people pursuing interesting goals.
In the past few years, life events have made it difficult for me to sustain regular working and exhibiting. This blog will be an opportunity to catch up with people who have previously seen and enjoyed my work, often at Brighton Festival’s Artists’ Open Houses, by introducing new pieces and work in progress as it goes on. Paintings and drawings done prior to 2010 can be seen on my website at www.judymartin.co.uk. In this blog I’ll be showing work since that date, right up to the present. In 2013 I will be opening my own house as a gallery on Sundays during May: work will be for sale and I’m lucky that usually succeeds for me. But the best purpose of the open houses is for artists to share the work and ideas with visitors, to maintain the art in the real world, to reveal our working processes and create a two-way involvement. One of my favourite quotes by an artist is from Willem de Kooning: ‘We just insist on being around.’
The subjects of my work can occur fairly randomly, sparked by anything from a single found photo to a specific experience in my life. Whether it’s about one image or idea or several, I produce many versions in a variety of media and ranging from very small to very large. Seen altogether, each series of work explains its own process and development. This is how I conceive and exhibit them, but then I may also get to see them as stand-alone images in the homes of people who have bought the work, which can give me a new perspective and sometimes suggest a different direction.
I use all sorts of media – this is a way of progressing the work. To go from a small watercolour or drawing to a large acrylic and paper collage necessarily changes the character of the image. A lot of the work is mixed media and I also use basic printmaking techniques. Especially if it starts from a photographic source, I am trying to get beyond the original appearance. This has been the case in a series called Family Photos, a title that is self-explanatory. I choose each photo for visual reasons, but the personal connection floats other ideas into the interpretation. A more recent series, The Significance of Bears, is based on the active experience of a trip to British Columbia to view black bears and grizzlies in the wild. I have photos, which provide some fixed elements, but also the memories and sensations of being there.
Where I’m posting new work, I’ll explain some of the thinking around it, and caption each photo with title, medium and scale.
Thanks for visiting.
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