Flower painting in Steventon Primary School.

Finished my recent art sessions at Steventon Primary School and I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Year 3 pupils. The brief was to help students overcome a fear of painting as we all experience that ‘not wanting to make a mistake’ period in our art  journey. Dry media is forgiving (we can erase) but paint seems more a more permanent process. So as well as that I was asked to ‘play’ with colour, and using my sky scapes as a starting point we made a collage from colours they mixed themselves, then created a sunset in half an hour after a demonstration from myself. I was very pleased with the results and the flower paintings completed today were excellent. Again undertaken in half an hour, I asked pupils to put twio colours on their brush and paint in one stroke; of course they were nervous and defaulted to colouring in and overpainting. So I had to stop and reiterate the task which they eventually did and the result was an exciting, colourful, expressionistic painting based on flowers (from photos I took in my garden). I feel the brief was fulfilled in that pupils became more confident in painting, learnt about colour and mixing colours and painting in a gestural way: the results are here to see, and remember these are 8/9 year old children taking 30 minutes to paint these pictures.

Continued with drawing my new ‘Squashed’ picture, gun cartridges, which has taken 5 hours so far. Ready for my open studio tomorrow and this week end. Please feel free to visit if in the area.

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Opening evenings (Mine is 15th May, between 6.30 and 8.30, come along)

I have been to three openings evenings in ten days, two this week, and they all start off very slow, a few people nottalking to one another, just looking at the work, and artists know how to look at art on walls, you know, the foward/backward movement, glasses on/off, the correct number of seconds to look at the work before moving on (and a knowing glance back) before looking at the next piece. I just go up to people and ask who they are, are they exhibiting or know someone who is or whether I should know them. I found out a lot about many different things doing this. I met some nice people and some who have directed me to other exhibitions, galleries, given tips and who I should go and chat to next! I am pleased with the way my work is hung and stand close by listening to comments, sometimes introducing myself as the artist. Tonight at the Cornerstone Arts Centre in Didcot there was a session from ‘Moving Lines’, a group who draw ladies dancing. They are exhibiting in the summer and gave a demonstration of what they do; very interesting and innovative. At the Ovada the ‘entertainment’ was a performance looking at the meaning of life! A person dressed in Biblical dress reading books and drawing lines on the floor, not so impressive. Only olives and crisps to munch on and tea was £1.90. I never pay for that at the golf club (I take a flask for after the game) but I did tonight. It is good to have something in the hands while walking around a gallery, like I used to walk around school holding a bunch of paper to suggest I should be walking around school, when infact I was just wandering and popping into colleagues classrooms to have a chat or play a prank on them! So my next opening is my own on the 15th May, please come along between 6.30 and 8.30

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So many conversations and questions.

Okay David, I have been naughty not writing for a while, but it has been so busy and I have used face book for quick updates etc. However, it has been an exciting and varied few weeks where I am still learning and experiencing what an artist has to do to make ends meet as it were. I am fortunate in that I have some money coming in from my teaching days and few debts so selling work should not be a priority, I should be doing my art for art’s sake? This is one of many conversations I have had over the weeks, and even years, about the role of an artist: should we suffer and go without for our art or make a living doing whatever to allow us to do our art or go out to make a financial success because of our art? Being a commercial success, that is selling work regularly, has to be fulfilling and a recognition for what we do as artists. I could do lots of good paintings but never sell one and that, I believe, would eventually grind me down and make me depressed and put an end to my working as an artist. Selling work gives one a real lift which can last a long time, a reassurance of the hours put in. At the Ovada last night there were 25 artists chosen for the 6 Counties Open but no work was for sale, but it was still a sales opportunity, a shop window in a way, a chance for the public to see the work of artists, take down their particulars and contact them if need be. Hopefully sales will come from that interest. However, some pieces were not really purchasable, like the performance art or the floor pieces even though they were excellent in their own right, honest and exploring interesting concepts. So why do artists do that? It is such a question and as someone whose degree show was just that, a room of broken windows and glass, I had to move on to make a living as very few artists make a living doing such work, although they are the ones that the public and media get a hold of and become the stereotype artist, weird, other-worldly, not understood etc. Please discuss! Had a conversation about whether a painting conveys the personality of the painter and can an art work show the gender, age, cultural background of the artist. All conversations I do not get alone in my studio but good to discuss over an apple juice.

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So I have been showing my work at small art festivals in small towns, selling a small number of prints and paintings to a small number of the public. But it feels good. I have also been working on a mural, doing workshops, giving talks about my work and laying a patio for daughter #1. My studio has been given a clean and space created where I never realised there was space. Everything has been hidden in cupboards in the house until after the Art Weeks when the canvasses, portfolios, boxes and equipment will return to devour the walls and floors once again. I have also been contacting galleries in London and 3 have shown an interest and asked for details, images etc. Where this will lead I do not know but it is time consuming sending the applications off and writing my ‘artist’ CV, something I had not done and I had to recall all the exhibitions etc I had taken part in over the last 5 years or more. So showing at the RWA and other larger galleries, while not selling, become important for the CV and give credibility to ones role as an artist. I have been exhibiting at art festivals and the logistics of doing this is also time consuming. Taking work then collecting the unsold work takes a toll in many different ways, although I have been fortunate and sold at every show so far. This brings up another question; how much to sell ones work for. Some places people will not take £400 with them and/or expect to buy art for £15. So I have accommodated them by making posters of my work for £10 and getting 1000 greeting Cards made selling at £2 each; is this selling my art-soul? (That sounds wrong, but you know what I mean.) But people buy them and this leads some of them to buy a limited edition giclee print for £70 and to visit the studio to see other work, hence why I do Art Weeks, to get known,to be open and available, to be seen and to sell. There is more to being an artist than just painting or making and it is something I was told last night is still not being taught in art colleges!

I have had so many good conversations over the weeks, none more so than last night but will not go into them now as I have to go out and put up directional signs for the public to visit my studio, (hopefully they will not get taken down again). I feel things are moving in the right direction but need to get on with some more work. I have done 3 canvasses for this week but put them away feeling they were not resolved. I had rushed them for the show and that is not the way to create anything, it should be done with a desire not a need. But that is another conversation for another time

Great to be back in the classroom.

The workshops have progressed very well over the past few weeks with good feed-back and results. The adults on the industrial park were my biggest concern as they had more experience and ability than the primary school kids or the adults with learning difficulties.However, they all felt confident after the sessions and want to continue so at least I kept their enthusiasm going. Not knowing where to set the level I started with the formal elements and in particular shape and texture. The tasks were ones I have used successfully used in school previously so I had worksheets ready but I had to undertake some myself as I did not have any exemplar work (all left at school) but it was good to re-visit them and to see how much time would be needed.

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The primary school was great. I am working with year 3 classes and have chosen colour as my theme. The teachers wanted the pupils to overcome their fear of ‘wet’ materials so I entitled my 5 lessons ‘playing with colour’. They all created strips of primary and secondary colours rather than a colour wheel which meant keeping the colour tight within the lines of the wheel and was too small, so having bands of colour they could be as long and wide as they wished. They then made A2 sheets of purples, reds, yellows etc, mixing them on the sugar paper as they filled the page. With these dry, on the following week I showed images of skies, especially sunsets, and paintings I had produced on this subject.

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Then we went ahead and tore them into thin strips before collaging them into a sunset of their own. I always think it so different from secondary school when the pupils clap after the lesson (although it did happen occasionally but with year 7’s). We were all very happy with the work but again I was reminded of my school days when we had to tidy up afterwards, it was left to the teachers! Still, as is my habit I provided the kids with small chocolate eggs and the staff with a box of Lindt, and it is surprising how the smell of chocolate brings other teachers into the classroom.

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My biggest worry was how the adults at the day centre would over-paint the outlines I drew when they painted the Dr. Who mural. I composed and drew out the design and have given the shapes a black outline but the adults have painted everything, and I was so pleased to see it nearly complete this week. Everyone is so appreciative and friendly and we have some ‘mad’ moments, surreal banter and unreal happenings during these sessions (a book in itself) but have come up with a good end product. The size is 8 ft. x 4 ft. and sitting around a table did cause several pots to spill over, many hands to get paint on them and some laundry requirements afterwards. I love being back in the classrooms but have to get a move on with my own work now, more on that later.

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Art as reality show.

My blog on what an artist does on a daily basis seems to be a weekly submission now, with little notes dropped into face book during the week. For me it is like keeping a diary and I have to say that this week seems to be the least productive in a while, mainly due to getting pictures ready for show, submitting work, buying and preparing frames and generally doing some admin work, oh and tidying up my studio.

It started off with a meeting in Didcot for Art Weeks which was very productive and I got picked to bethe frontcover artist for the South Oxfordshire Trail Guide, as well as having an advert on the back (for which I paid!). There are so many good artists working at home in small studios or in single rooms or converted garages and all their work is of a very high standard, genuine and original, so please go out and visit us during May. There are to be several posters put up at Oxford railway station for the duration of this festival of art of which my Squashed Dice will be featured. However, I have been told that they tend to get stolen so they have two extra in place of which I will receive after the three weeks. Anna Dillon who oversees the South Oxon area is not showing this year as she has been commissioned to travel to the North pole with a group of scientists as their artist-in-residence, what a great opportunity, but what a limited palette!

I have collected my prints from Chromatech in Oxford, the ‘Squashed Sea-Side Toys’ for the Jam Factory exhibition, ‘Oxford’s Sea-View’ and several others for stock for the next few shows.

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I went to Bristol to deliver some work for the selection committee of a large show there and on my return played golf at Broome manor on what was a glorious March day, sun in the sky and chill in the air. Tuesday was also golf at Carswell, but I need these days to get my exercise (that’s my excuse). It is strange how casual meetings end up with potentially exciting outcomes, one reason why we should always be nice to strangers wherever we meet them. A teaching opportunity at Milton Trading Park has arisen from a visit last year to my studio in May, followed by that person seeing my work again in November and eventually, after receiving a bag of cracker toys, a purchase of a small landscape. In conversation we spoke about teaching and would I want to run a lunch time workshop for those interested in drawing etc. Who knows where this could lead but from small acorns etc…It is a good way to get known and publicise oneself, and that I believe is the hardest thing for artists to do.

The rest of the week has been tidying up, sorting out pencils/paints into order (there is a bit of OCD in all of us) and failing to create a successful mono print/collage. Both collage and mono print worked well, but not together. However, this experiment has inspired me to do more landscape mono prints this week.I did not succeed in getting into the RA summer show in London, but my mate Ken from Steventon has gone through to the next round; Art can be like a reality show at times.

Drawing to a conclusion.

I have taken the completed ‘Squashed Christmas Wrapping Paper’ to Chromatech in Oxford for digital printing, ready for up-coming exhibitions and of course at a later date to become Christmas wrapping paper and coasters. Am I selling my artistic sole? Either way it was a long drawing, taking 90 hours in total, unlike my first squashed drawing of this year, Squashed Seaside Toys which only took about 45 hours. The progress of the former was interrupted by the latter due to having to meet an exhibition dead line plus teaching in a primary art club and mural painting in an adult learning centre. Work has been very varied and busy the last week, with the first exhibition of the year, sending off submissions and getting accepted work framed and mounted. I am worried that my last order to the Ready Made Picture Framing Company will not arrive in time for an exhibition submission dead line of 13th March. I have to travel to Bristol on that date with the work but I have been told it will be tight. I am in the hands of someone else who does not have my concerns, ambitions or anxieties.

I  kept a record of the progress which I post here, from collecting the paper to signing the work, twice. (Can you see it?)

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With all this completed I got an enquiry into doing another art club in another primary school and a lunchtime art club on an industrial estate, so the work keeps coming in. I can now work on some landscapes for some other exhibitions where I show this side of my interests. I also want to undertake some mono prints which I have prepared, but I have started painting my Action Man painting in oils. I have decided to make this a triptych with paintings at the top and bottom and a large on in the centre, it will be in the portrait format.

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You can see the set up in front of me as I paint. This is just the under painting and some changes will already be made. I put the brown in because in Manet’s ‘Olympia’ he has a brown wall and green curtain in the background, but I don’t like it as it is too dark and not relevant to the story of AM that I want to tell ( more of that later). So that will go and and something else will replace it. I will also,at the end, tear through the final painting to reveal the collage beneath as I have done on other ‘Toy’ paintings. A busy and interesting week, with a much improved golf score after 2 very disappointing ones.

One of the short listed paintings

Admin work is all sheet…of paper!

Drawing has it’s dangerous moments, and going to scratch one’s face while still holding a sharp pencil is one of them. It seems funny now and would be laughed at had it been in a comic sketch on TV, but I realised at the last second and just said ‘Phew!’. I imagined if it had been a scalpel, one that I use to scratch into my drawing, and had to shudder a bit. Where was my health and safety policy? I have had to slow my wrapping paper drawing down the last few days as I have been busy working in a primary school and a centre for adults with learning difficulties as well as trying hard to organise myself by devising a project management chart. I am doing this because I missed a deadline for a major exhibition for the UKCPS that I had hoped to submit work to and there was no dispensation. I was so cross with myself for being forgetful (is this a bloke thing, age or just too many things to think about?) so I bought a large chart of the year and filled it in with the exhibitions I am applying for, submission dates, delivery, exhibition days and collection; I feel better now.

On exhibition has a delivery date of March 13th but the order I put in this week for frames and mounts may not be able to get to me by that date. Again I should have done this last week, so now I am in the lap of the Gods as it were, at least one God! Being an artist is more than just doing the work as I well appreciate, but it would be nice to have someone overseeing all the admin and day-to-day running of my life. I bet Sir peter Blake has a secretary!

Anyway,away from office chores I am preparing for a 5 week art club to be delivered to a Year 3 class. I spent some time with the teachers going through the project about colour. I am going to look at sunsets and the colours seen in the sky as a vehicle for exploring colour and painting techniques. There is no ‘correct’ sky I have found in my observations of skies, in fact if I painted some skies that I had seen people would say that they could never be like that; that’s the wonder of a heavenly palette. I am going to use some of my work to show them as well as photos and hopefully it will result in some lively, exciting paintings.

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I sold a small landscape to a very nice lady who saw it last year at Art Weeks, which is on again this May, so if you read this far please remember to come and visit. It was of a view towards Great Shefford from Fawley memorial and done with thick acrylic and a palette knife.

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I have also started this week painting the Dr Who mural, or rather the adults at the day centre have. I was right to have concerns about how they would paint what I had drawn, but the outcome (so far) has been very good and everyone enjoyed, one adult crying when he told me that he never thought he would paint a mural or do it so well. I cannot post photos of them engaged in the work, but I will attempt to get something next week to show the progress. It was fun, they enjoyed it, the staff were happy with the way the adults involved themselves and I hope the cheque arrives on time! Mercenary me.