Water, vapour and light

Weston Pier by Ruth Ander

Weston Pier by Ruth Ander

I met artist Ruth Ander at Peter Ford’s beautiful Off-Centre Gallery and was immediately drawn to the cool, calm quality of her work. To me they feel full of clean air and miniscule water droplets. In fact, Ruth states on her website that her work is inspired by water, vapour and light. What would be more refreshing after a days of intense family time and over indulgence? Her paintings and prints offer a chance to stand still, breath deep and feel newly alive.

Sandbay Reflections by Ruth Ander

Sandbay Reflections by Ruth Ander

“For me it’s an emotional kick,” Ruth says of the urge to begin a new work of art. “Landscape, nature and the sea feed my emotions and inner life, and when the light and weather conspire to create those beautiful effects I just feel I have to express that somehow. I’m lucky that I’ve found a technique whereby I’m able to express that feeling well – though it took a long time to get there! I can create very thin layers of paint that can be equivalents to light and vapour, so now if a view inspires me, I find I will start deconstructing it into how I can convey it, Not sure if that’s a good thing though!”

Cadbury Camp by Ruth Ander

Cadbury Camp by Ruth Ander

As much as this may detract from Ruth’s own enjoyment of the views she depicts, each artwork provides a moment of peace for the viewer, captured through a process Ruth describes as painted prints, or printed paintings.

“Generally, I make pictures as mono-prints, which means a one-off print, a bit of a contradiction in terms.” She explains. “Basically, I’ll roll ink out onto a flat surface, manipulate it if I want to, then lay paper over it and press onto the back to transfer the ink. It can create wonderful unexpected marks and textures, but of course the downside is that once the ink is taken off the surface onto the paper, it’s gone for good and so can’t be reproduced as a multiple.”

Steep Holme by Ruth Ander

Steep Holme by Ruth Ander

Recently Ruth has had the chance to use the print facilities at Bower Ashton, one of the University of the West of England’s sites, as part of a scholarship programme. “This has been really exciting for me and allowed me to make etchings and screen prints mixed with my mono-prints to make, if not editions, multiples and variations on a theme.”

Brean Down from Birnbeck by Ruth Ander

Brean Down from Birnbeck by Ruth Ander

Ruth aims to reflect something universal in the scenes she recreates.

“I think light and weather are so fundamental to us as human beings that they’re bound to affect us,” she comments. “Certain landscapes in certain lights have an impact, and I don’t think I’m alone here, or I hope not anyway. Especially living on a wind and rain swept island, where the weather changes so dramatically and often.  It does seem to be a Northern European thing to use the weather as a way to express feelings.”

The opportunity to spend a day making things is deeply pleasing to Ruth.

“Absolutely nothing beats being creative and playing in the studio all day with no restrictions – time or otherwise.  Nothing at all,” she says. “It’s an incredibly satisfying and fulfilling feeling. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does I’m very thankful.”

 

Harbourside by Ruth Ander

Harbourside by Ruth Ander

Ruth’s work is currently stocked by Clifton Fine Art on Perry Row, Bristol and Tincleton Gallery in Dorset, as well as with Tinca Gallery in Portishead and Church House Designs in Congresbury. “Next year I’ll be opening my house for the Southbank Bristol Arts Trail and taking part in Dorset Art Weeks so keep your eyes peeled for more information.”

Find out more at ruthander.co.uk.

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Get in touch at judydarley(at)iCloud.com.

Shades of thought

Feature of Landscape1 by Clare Thatcher

Feature of Landscape1 by Clare Thatcher

The concept of painted landscape representing human emotions is intensely appealing to me. Stormy skies, wind-lashed fields and scenes verging on abstraction can all evoke a state of mind.

It’s a school of thought artist Clare Thatcher is fully enrolled in with her dark, contemplative layers of oil paint applied to linen or plywood.

Formation by Clare Thatcher

Formation by Clare Thatcher

“I’m a Contemporary British artist based in Bristol with a passion for painting,” Clare says. “I attended University of West of England from 2011 till 2014 graduating with a First Class BA Honours Degree in Drawing & Applied Arts, and then gained a MA Fine Art at Bath Spa University. Since graduating I’ve exhibited in London, Belgium, Nottingham, Bristol & Bath.”

It’s the psychological impression of a setting that she aims to capture in her paintings. “My work is deeply connected with a sense of place, taking influence from the idea of liminal space in landscape,” she says. “The locations I choose and the focus of my attention is highly selective, personal and resonant of individual landscape features and associated thoughts, emotions and reflections. The emphasis is upon the sense of contemplation within place.” Continue reading

Helena Park’s Shadowlands

Hinterland etching by Helena Park

Hinterland etching by Helena Park

Helena Park learnt at art college that self-motivation is key. “You must become your own agenda-setter,” she says. “Stay true to what you want to make and follow whichever direction it takes you in.”

It’s a lesson that has served her well as she’s pursued her aim of being a working artist.

We met at The Other Art Fair, where Helena was showing her beautiful yet unsettling etchings and monoprints depicting scenes of monstrous hinterlands.

Gossip etching by Helena Park

Gossip etching by Helena Park

“Books have always been my biggest resource,” she says of her inspiration. “When drawing a new series of initial sketches I usually spread out a selection of books around me and pick and choose imagery which catches my interest.”

Much of her work is figurative, so existing images of people with expressive gestures “like an Egon Schiele painting or photographs of dynamic movement” are key to her process. “Ancient art is another inspiration, in particular Mayan, Anglo-Saxon Christian and Ancient Greek artworks,” she says. “I find that there’s a visceral and expressive quality to such works which transcends time and remains relevant to contemporary life.”

Helena enjoys examining her ideas, while protecting their ambiguity. “My concepts for new work are always vague and I like them to remain so,” she says. “This leaves room for me to keep exploring ways of creating a tangible conception of those ideas. I’m drawn to other artists who create a world within their art that’ both highly stylised and immediately recognisable as the artist’s own. This is something which I try to channel and in my own practise.”

This instinctual yet informed approach offers a dark dreaminess to Helena’s work, which often seems to be capturing images from the shadowy subconscious. “Particular figures often reoccur in many of my etchings,” she says. “I like to repeat certain characters in order to test whether they have staying power. In effect, I’m developing a core cast of players in the work. I like the idea that viewers will be able to recognise reoccurring characters throughout the etchings and that through this repetition the characters gain a significance.”

The Conversation etching by Helena Park

The Conversation etching by Helena Park

She builds up images drawing from her own rich imagination as well as through close observational study of the human body.

“A good example of these different attitudes would be the etchings; ‘The Conversation’ and ‘Morning Light’,” she says. “‘The Conversation’ exemplifies my imaginative or stylised approach whilst ‘Morning Light’ comes from my desire to move away from just distorting the human body but rather to make a study of it in it’s true form.”

Morning Light etching by Helena Park

Morning Light etching by Helena Park

Helena created her etching Morning Light by tracing a photograph she’d taken onto a soft-grounded zinc plate. “A soft-ground picks up any impressions you make onto the plate,” she says. “I placed my photograph on top of the grounded plate and with a pen drew the lines of her body. This process is unlike using a hard-ground which requires you to scratch through the waxy layers in order to create a line which can later be etched.”

Other surface marks and textures were added using sugar-lift and spit-bite – painting with acid onto an aquatint. “Through these textures I could convey a damaged or corroded appearance to the girl’s skin which was suggestive of some organism growing on her or perhaps acts of violence,” Helena says. “This particular print led to my making a whole series of further etchings and mono-prints all of which used the same female subject.”

Helena’s core aim is to create a sense of another world, “within which exists a cast of characters I am constantly building on and adding to. The series of etchings entitled ‘Hinterland’ are my largest explorations to date of such an imagined world. I hope to keep exploring this concept in my future work.”

Life Study monoprint by Helena Park

Life Study monoprint by Helena Park

The palpable darkness in Helena’s work seems to be directly at odds with her sunny personality. When I comment on this, Helena is surprised.

“It’s gratifying to hear that you think that I seem cheery, but I admit to occasionally suffering from spells of hanger and that at the times when I have missed lunch my sunny disposition has immediately clouded over,” she exclaims. “In such moments anyone unlucky enough to have be in my vicinity has certainly caught a glimpse of my stormier side.”

As it happens, Helena doesn’t regard her work “as just being unremittingly dark or grotesque. I think that there is a healthy dose of black humour in the work. This comic aspect is very important as it is this sense of humour which I utilise as a vehicle to convey sensitive topics or my personal emotions in an accessible way.”

See more of Helena’s work and purchase art at www.helenapark.co.uk or on her Instagram account: helenapark_ where she regularly post updates on new projects.

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Get in touch at judydarley(at)iCloud.com.

The psychology of a landscape

Somerset Coast by Andrew Hardwick

Somerset Coast by Andrew Hardwick

Growing up deep in the north Somerset countryside played a role in shaping Andrew Hardwick as an artist.

In case you were wondering (I had to ask), saltings are grass land that are on tidal land, and are regularly flooded by sea water. Imagine that, a place occupied both by sea and land. My inner poet is in raptures.

These are among views that capture Andrew’s attention and inspire much of his art.

“I have a studio out at the farm and that enables me to collect all the things that are left over from farming,” he says, listing: “Decorating paints, PVA, plastics and pigments – soot and soils. I glue and cement it all together on canvas bound with wire.”

Valley and Wind by Andrew Hardwick

Valley and Wind by Andrew Hardwick

Becoming an artist was a process that gradually consumed Andrew Hardwick over a number of years. “It took quite a long time,” he comments. “The enthusiasm and fascination slowly built up, and before I knew it, it had taken over my life!”

Art classes and a part time foundation course contributed to his enduring desire to create. “I think when you go to art college they expect a level of seriousness and professionalism that cements it, that make you click and identify fully as an artist,” he says. “I’m now totally committed.”

In truth, it was seeded in his psyche from his earliest days.

The artworks themselves just come, Andrew says, “from doing lots of walks. They’re not immediate representations, not something I’ve seen and am recording in a straightforward way. Rather, they’re memories of a landscape, with lots of accidents in play in making the final artwork.”

The moods of his surroundings intrigue Andrew endlessly. “I’m interested in the psychological implications of a place, as I remember it,” he explains. “I do occasional works based on actual places – a recent exhibition was all based on Bodmin Moor, for example – but these aren’t pictures of specific views, rather the feeling of the view.”

Moor, White Sky, Sheep by Andrew Hardwick

Moor, White Sky, Sheep by Andrew Hardwick

Andrew enjoys the challenges of his work. “It’s all very personal and because of that it’s fascinating to do,” he says. “My passion for the landscape is a big part of it, but also the way I perceive it as mirroring my own state of mind. Finding ways to explore that is key to what I do – answering the questions in myself.”

He’s keen to dispel the myth that dark works are proof of a dark personality. “I work mainly around the estuary and Dartmoor so people might presume I’m a bleak person, but the opposite is actually true. I see my work as reflecting the power of nature and wilderness and the power of being alive. It’s wonderful being out in the rain with the wind blowing. It can be frightening, but it can also be spiritual – elemental.”

He adds: ‘I see a lot of joy in my work – it\s a celebration of life and living things.”

Andrew will be exhibiting at the RWA’s 165th Annual Open Exhibition from 1 October until December 3rd 2017. He will also be showing his work at the Totterdown Front Room Art Trail on 18th and 19th November 2017.

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Get in touch at judy(at)socketcreative.com.

A quality of precision

Clifton Suspension Bridge by Mike Rome

Clifton Suspension Bridge by Mike Rome

A pleasing sense of meticulousness arises from the artwork of Mike Rome. There is a crispness and clarity to the light captured in his oil paintings, and a confidence of line and scale that lets you know this is an artist who understands how to translate what he sees onto a canvas or page for all to appreciate.

Yet, Mike says, becoming an artist was for him less a conscious decision, than a consequence of experience, time and circumstance.

“I had an interest in and enjoyed drawing as a child, with, of course, no thoughts of a career at that stage of my life,” he says, “I was encouraged by art teachers at school, and during secondary education did consider going on to art college.”

Coming from a working class family, however, Mike had no choice other than to start work at sixteen, but this only put his artistic ambitions on hold briefly.

Bristol Steam Crane by Mike Rome

Bristol’s Steam Crane by Mike Rome

“My father found me a job as an apprenticed engineer, and after three years on the workshop floor my employers recognised my artistic ability and transferred me to the drawing office where after a short time I became a design and detail draughtsman,” he says. “Although I used a drawing board and technical instruments to create working drawings, I also enhanced the work with freehand illustrations to aid production, at the same time giving myself the opportunity to improve my drawing skills.”

In his mid-twenties, Mike made a dramatic career change into financial services, which he worked at for 20 years. “During this period I found the time to continue to draw and still had the desire to return to an artistic career,” he says. “I attended evening art courses and a basic graphic design course, eventually finding a position as a graphic designer – albeit on half my previous salary!”

In 2005 Mike felt ready to concentrate fully on his art, designed and launched his own website, and became a self-employed artist.

Broad Street Bristol by Mike Rome

Broad Street, Bristol by Mike Rome

“All of my paintings are oils, although I do draw as well,” he says. “I’ve experimented with watercolour and acrylic paint, but find the consistency and slow drying nature of oil far more suited to my style of painting – deliberate and cautious. I love the feel of working with the paint and the depth of colour one can achieve.”

Toward St Mary Redcliffe by Mike Rome

Toward St Mary Redcliffe by Mike Rome

Without a doubt, the style of Mike’s art has been influenced by his previous careers, which required him to produce accurate and representational work. “As a consequence, even my abstract works have a tendency to be tight!”

The majority of Mike’s paintings are created using photographs and grids “so as to be as true to the original as possible. I sometimes work from sketches, but rarely en plain air as this style is more suited to artists who work quickly and with a loose style, using watercolour or acrylic.”

The chosen composition can make the difference between a sale or no sale, Mike says, so he crops his photos “to create the desired layout before any painting commences. Sometimes colours are varied or elements changed to add emphasis.”

From MShed to Cabot Tower by Mike Rome

From MShed to Cabot Tower by Mike Rome

Mike usually paints on pre-primed canvases, occasionally opting to use board for smaller works.

“For the ‘photographic’ works I normally grid, draw, over-draw with pen, erase the pencil, cover with white to knock-back the pen, allow to dry and then proceed to paint by blocking in the darkest colours first to create the initial contrast,” he says. “I sometimes work purely with shades of grey to achieve the overall contrasts before adding colour and/or colour glazes.”

The biggest pleasure for Mike comes at the very start of a new picture, when all possibilities still remain open. “I love the creation process. Starting with a blank canvas, deciding on a subject, working with the paint and colours and producing something that people enjoy are all part of this.”

Clevedon Pier by Mike Rome

Clevedon Pier by Mike Rome

Knowing when to stop painting and setting the sale price can also be difficult, “as not only am I trying to produce a work I am pleased with and satisfied is of a sufficient standard to market, but I’m also attempting to sell the finished product at a realistic price for the work and hours involved.”

Mike’s aims for his art are straightforward, if not necessarily simple – to achieve “Realism, to the best of my ability, colour and impact in my abstracts, and beauty in all my work.”

Find more of Mike’s paintings and details of upcoming exhibitions at mikerome.co.uk.

Know an artist you’d like to see showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Give me a shout at judy(at)socketcreative.com.

Jamaican rhythms

II Treez in a Forest by Ebony G Patterson

II Treez in a Forest by Ebony G Patterson

Fancy feeling the heat this summer? Until 11th September 2016, Bristol’s RWA Galleries will be awash with Jamaican art, culture and politics thanks to a special exhibition.

Jamaican Pulse: Art and Politics from Jamaica and the Diaspora will showcase the diversity present in Jamaican art today and yesterday, with contemporary works exhibited alongside more historic pieces.

Artists featured include Ebony G Patterson, Andrea Chung, Kimani Beckford and Di-Andre Caprice Davis. Expect vivid colours amid works simmering with energy and emotion.

My Little Island V1 by Di-Andre Caprice Davis

My Little Island V1 by Di-Andre Caprice Davis

“While exploring the roots of modern Jamaican art and suggesting new links between past and present, the exhibition also explores the artwork through a political lens and considers how global attitudes to body, gender, religion, class and sexuality have impacted this small island nation.”

Find out more about the exhibition and connected happenings at www.rwa.org.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/2016/06/jamaican-pulse.

Writing prompt – savages

Feather tree cr Judy DarleyI recently meandered down a little used track, and discovered this scene. It made me recall how when seen through a child’s imaginative eyes, every old tree, fallen feather, discarded leaf and found stone has potential to become part of a savage land populated by pirates, vampires, dragons and more.

Make this the basis of your story, remembering to recast the ordinary as fearsome and the commonplace as potentially magical. Anything is possible.

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com to let me know. With your permission, I’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Writing prompt – influence

Boy meets the busker cr Judy DarleyIt’s my littlest nephew’s 3rd birthday this week, which means that any one of the many adventures he embarks on could well become his earliest memory.

On this day, he met a busker, stood transfixed, and then took the coins his mum gave him to drop into the busker’s guitar case.

The scene makes me think about the friendships that can form between the very young and very old – the positive influences each can have on the other.

Imagine your protagonist’s childhood. Who did they meet who helped shape the person they grew into? Alternatively, imagine your character very old – what small person might help them see the world with fresh eyes?

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com to let me know. With your permission, I’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Writing prompt – superstition

Wells Cathedral cr Judy DarleyI visited this impressive Gothic cathedral in Wells a while ago and was struck by a curious piece of information in the museum. Apparently back in the days when the cathedral was built (between the 12th and 15th century), it was traditional for a worn left shoe to be buried in the foundations of a new building to bring luck.

What a brilliant, random idea! Who might this shoe have belonged to? Why was it significant to the residents of that home?

I love the concept of weaving a piece of superstition like this into a story, making it the motivator for your protagonist’s deed – the more unsettling the better.

Find more superstitions-from-around-the-world here.

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com to let me know. With your permission, I’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Writing prompt – afloat

Whatever Floats Your Boat by Jimmy Lawlor

Whatever Floats Your Boat by Jimmy Lawlor

This beautiful painting is by Jimmy Lawlor and captures a moment of magic. So many questions are raised by this scene.

What here is real, and what imagined? If dreamt, what does it represent? Has this boy been abandoned, or is he on his way somewhere? Why are all the other boats empty?

To me there is a reminder here of the refugees currently spilling from Syria across Europe, but that’s just my interpretation.

Weave together your own invented answers into a work of fiction, and see if you can create a reflection in words.

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com to let me know. With your permission, I’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.