inspired by Rose Hilton

Rose Hilton: Studio Table

I was really inspired by this piece in the Guardian this Saturday about the painter Rose Hilton. Surely nobody could have had less support or encouragement to realise their dreams, ambition and talent, and yet she is now painting happily and beautifully at the age of eighty.

Married to the St Ives big gun Roger Hilton until his death in 1975, she was discouraged from painting first by her religious parents and then by Roger himself, but ignored all this and did it anyway. I love her work, but more than that I love her story, which is an inspired fairytale ending for all creative women trapped by domesticity or lack of encouragement.

I am still loving my online art course which is now over halfway through. I am relishing the challenge of the assignments and resolving problems artistically once again. My dreams are full of paint surfaces, strange perspectives and the quality of line. I am struggling to produce work that I really like, but that is ok, because it is an age since I worked this way, and indeed I have never worked this way with the benefit of experience and maturity that the years since my art degree have brought.

I am beginning to wish that I had studied for a fine art degree instead of my textiles qualification, which majored in embroidery. I do love embellished surfaces and stitch, but I have never loved fabric in the right sort of way to make it work for me, and this is something I realised early on in my degree but never had the confidence to resolve. I can remember being directed towards embroidery by an enthusiastic tutor on my foundation course who thought that my giant tissue paper and pva daffodils showed a leaning towards textiles... of course I never thought to question her... but life has many different threads and there are all sorts of reasons for our decisions, and who knows what the pattern of my life might have looked like if I had not set out for Manchester School of Art in the autumn of 1985...

Anyway, here I am now, the person that I am with the life that I have. I am certainly no Rose Hilton, but I am enjoying painting and drawing again, and that is enough for now. Maybe one day I might be brave enough to apply for the MA that I have always wanted to do, but never have, and perhaps that's why... perhaps it needs to be in fine art, not textiles.


William Nicholson: White Orchids on Books 1916

Been thinking a lot about the qualities of still life and composition since my last post and thought I would share with you the wonderful Tumblr site Still Life Quick Heart which I've recently discovered. A constant stream of different images of still life in all its different forms, from ancient to modern, all through the day... fantastic inspiration.

I've been drawing this week and thinking about a close relation of the artist featured above... one of my all time favourite painters and a constant source of inspiration, especially his drawings and sketches. I particularly love the work he did in Cumbria when he was still married to Winifred Nicholson:

Ben Nicholson: Foothills, Cumberland 1928

And this is where I shall be (or very nearby) for the weekend, which makes me very happy indeed. Wishing you all a happy few days doing something you love... back next week.

still life

This week's drawing project: a still life with plants and objects from my garden, in gouache and pencil. The assignment this week was to think about and list the things we know and love, with the aim of finding a more personal creative voice. As you know, I adore this sort of navel-gazing exercise, but the discipline of having to produce not one but three pieces of work kept me from completely disappearing up my own backside.

The second part of the exercise was to reproduce the image as a collage:

And lastly to consider the tonal values by limiting ourselves to ink and paper:

I found the second two pieces very challenging but have learned such a lot from persevering with them. Successes and failures in all three pieces, but that's the whole point... to learn. I think what is interesting is straightaway I kind of knew what I might use again, and what I definitely won't... collage is tricky and slow... ink is fun after a bit of practice.


Pierre Bonnard: Work Table 1926-1937

I have long been fascinated by how we look and what we see. When I was in New York two years ago I went with the beautiful Frances to a wonderful exhibition of the work of Pierre Bonnard which has had a big effect on the way I look at painting in so many ways. His composition, colour and use of light is masterful but it is the overall way of looking that strikes me deep down. On the wall were some of his words:

"I'm trying to do what I have never done, give the impression one has on entering a room: one sees everything and nothing at the same time."

In contrast, the finely detailed work of the pre-Raphaelites looks at the world in a very different way to the impressionist work of Bonnard. Every inch of the canvas is painted with close attention to detail and in his review for the Telegraph in October 2008, Richard Dorment writes:

"...the eye tires of looking because Hunt didn't know (or didn't care) that in real life when we focus on an object in the foreground, the background and peripheral areas of the scene are blurred - and vice versa."

What interests me in my own drawing and painting is to be able to distil a scene to its essence, to remove everything that isn't relevant whilst layering on an even greater depth of interest and meaning. I want to produce work which will offer a sudden, intense view of a moment. To achieve what is in some ways the opposite of what Holman Hunt was doing but in other ways is a kind of nightmarish version: a sort of fever-induced close-up of Bonnard's first impressions.

I'm still miles away from all this of course.

snowdrop garden

Just a quick post to display this drawing I (finally) produced for the online course I'm doing. It's based on the walled garden photographs I took at Rode Hall last week, you can see some of these below and more on my Flickr page. It's a bit constipated and lacks technical expertise (I am out of practice) but on the whole I'm pleased with the work I've done over the last few days. Next week's assignment has already been posted so I'd better run.

spring boot camp!

Today I took a little trip out of the city to see some snowdrops and other signs of spring at Rode Hall, a lovely and rather nicely dilapidated big house deep in the Cheshire countryside.

I took my camera as I needed some photographs for the first assignation in the Pikaland Artists Bootcamp which began this week... I have been feeling for a while that I need a good kick up the backside to help me get going with making some art this year, and when I read the course description, this sounded like just the thing to get me motivated. It's a six-week course and we are starting by deconstructing what makes a good work of art. I'm loving it already.

Of course, snowdrops don't have to try too hard to look pretty...

Surrounded by lovely fat buds and fragrant spring flowering shrubs...

On your return you are greeted by the heady scent of gorgeous purple hyacinths and little pots of snowdrops 'in the green' to buy in the courtyard shop...

Just what I needed to blow away the cobwebs of winter on this lovely sunny day. Now the light is finally fading and the clear sky means a chilly night: time to bring in some kindling and logs and get cosy for an evening of deconstruction...