Urban sketching with Liane Tancock

Dower House by Liane Tancock

Dower House by Liane Tancock

Tangles, twigs, feathers and nests make up much of Liane Tancock’s beautifully intricate drawings. Sketching and walking through the natural wild areas in and around Bristol, Liane captures a sense of the rural within the city. Trees often appear on her pages, but just as frequently it’s the smaller details that gain her attention, and so she

“I have loved art from an early age but growing up I didn’t realise that I could be an artist,” she says. “I thought artists were the famous people you see in museums and in books. I carried on pursuing my love of art undeterred.”

Seeing Karl Weschke’s Leda and the Swan on a trip to Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery fired up her determination to pursue art as a career. “I decided being an artist was the path for me – I was so moved by his painting that my course was set.”

Flight by Liane Tancock

Flight by Liane Tancock

Ooh, I just spotted the bee in the above artwork! Liane’s drawings are full of exquisite details to be sought out and celebrated.

Choosing nature as her subject came about just as instinctively. “Since childhood I have been fascinated by nature. My grandmother instilled in me a great love of the natural world. I spent a lot of time collecting objects off the beach and on our walks, and this is something I continued throughout my life into adulthood.”

When studying for a Fine Art BA, Liane regarded herself as a landscape artist working in oils, and followed this path for many years. “I spent most of my days painting on site on the coast at Barry Island. It wasn’t until years later while living in Devon that the collecting I had done since childhood and my love of the natural world would come together cohesively in my art.”

Nest in the Brambles by Liane Tancock

Nest in the Brambles by Liane Tancock

It was a stroll along a Devon lane that shifted Liane’s focus. “While walking my dog on a blustery autumn day, I found a fallen nest blown down from the winds,” she says. “I returned with it to the studio and decided I needed to return to the beginning and just start drawing. All the found natural objects I had collected over the years became my world.”

Liane believes that what she was seeking in her work “lay at the very beginning of my art education, the simplicity of finding wonder in all the objects people walk by every day, unseen, hidden in the hedges and in the leaf litter. And all the tools I needed were a pen and a piece of paper.”

Second Chance by Liane Tancock

Second Chance by Liane Tancock

Liane says that going back to basics in this way and celebrating the small, unnoticed objects was very freeing, a sensation only enhanced by the materials she uses.

“My tools are very simple,” she says. “I use Bristol board paper for studio work and sketch books for my sketching work. I use mainly dip pen and ink and occasionally Fineliners. For onsite sketching, I find fountain pens and Fineliners the best for catching the immediacy of a moment.  So much can be captured with just one colour and a piece of paper.”

Discovering hidden places is an added pleasure.

“I have found that Bristol has lots of woodland amidst very urban areas and places of such history amongst the hustle and bustle of everyday life,” she says. “It’s a city where you never know what you’ll find around the next corner. I find it exciting to not know what I will discover next to sketch.”

Being a member of an urban sketchers group has led to more discoveries. “It has shown me so much more of Bristol and has given me the opportunity to discover more sketching sites at places that I wouldn’t have immediately thought to go to sketch.”

Translating the atmosphere of a place onto paper takes a particular frame of mind.

“My studio work has its own pace and each drawing is a lesson in patience,” says Liane. “However my sketches are done quite rapidly. When I reach an area I wish to sketch in I take in all the elements around me.  Sometimes associations pop into my head – it could be a remembrance of a poem, a film I have seen or a beloved book. I find the right spot just hits you and I try to draw how a scene makes me feel.”

At My Feet by Liane Tancock

At My Feet by Liane Tancock

Liane is keen for the viewer to experience the scene fully. “I want the viewer to feel the canopy of trees reaching over their head, feel like they can hear the birds hiding in the bushes that they have travelled with me and are seeing what I see. I always write a piece on my artist Facebook posts to describe my adventures out and about, to take my audience with me on my sketching trips.”

Recently, Liane took part in an event raising funds for the Alzheimer’s Society. “I have been lucky enough to meet some wonderful artists while living in Bristol,” she says. “Wendy Calder is an amazing ceramicist who holds annual open studios and raises money for the Alzheimer’s society. I was honoured that she asked me to join her and some fellow artists to show at her open studios. Having been a care assistant for many years and having my grandmother suffer from Dementia, I’ve seen firsthand the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s.”

She describes the sadness of watching her grandmother “who was always such a strong figurehead in our family”, become unable to care for herself through memory loss and confusion. “Even her personality changed. Alzheimer’s and dementia makes you feel like you are losing a person slowly, piece by piece, as the person you once knew so well, changes before your eyes. Someone not recognising their own family is so painful for all involved. So I was deeply honoured to be asked by Wendy to take part and help in any way I could.”

Liane says that she can’t imagine her life without creating art. “I love feeling that I’m always at play with my subjects, and that I can create my own universe. I enjoy sharing my love of the natural work with others and seeing people start to observe the world around them in a different way – a rich, often overlooked world of leaves, bees, moss, feathers and lichen! My life is so rich, for having art in it.”

See more of Liane’s work and information about forthcoming events on her Facbook page www.facebook.com/lianetancockartist

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. I’m also happy to receive reviews of books, exhibitions, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com.

Repurposed natural history

Ken Scott Blue Heron in flight painting

Ken Scott Blue Heron in flight painting

Artist Ken Scott paints beautiful wildlife studies on the covers of old, broken-down books otherwise destined for landfill, and in doing so preserves something of history, culture and nature.

“I’m an artist and illustrator whose work has an intensely historical, even biographical, concept to it,” he says. “It’s conceived from out of the place where a number of important influences come together: my life as an artist, my reverence for history, and a personal study of the lives of explorers who travelled in Colonial America in the 17th and 18th centuries. As an artist, I see objects that I paint through the eyes of those travelling artists or naturalists.”

The resulting artworks are elegant and precise, with pencil notations and ornate lettering adding to the feel of discovering a page torn from an age-old travel journal – as Ken puts it, offering “an additional appearance of age and prior usage.”

He explains: “I’ve always been drawn to things that have a history and a story behind them, things that show signs of wear or age. ”My goal as an artist is to create items with a hint of having been loved and handed down from generation to generation, having been owned originally by a long forgotten person.”

Ken Scott Painted Lady

Painted Lady © Ken Scott

As a small child, Ken used to make sketches of the people and things he saw around him. “Art classes weren’t offered in the high school I attended. When I looked for a college, I found one that offered good sound art teaching. At Southern Illinois University I studied under some of the top illustrators in the area. These instructors were a tremendous influence in my becoming an illustrator and learning about the workings of an art studio. The classes were set up to function like a professional art studio with the instructors as the creative directors.”

Ken’s passion for nature developed gradually as he pursued in interest in American history, initially learning the art of leather work, and gaining expertise for making shooting bags and hunting pouches imbued with an impression of use and wear “for Colonial reenactors, both in the United States and other areas around the world.”

Ken’s artifacts have even been used in TV documentaries and as movie props. “I made the hunting pouch for Davy Crockett, played by Billy Bob Thornton in the movie The Alamo and also supplied a hunting pouch for the recently released movie The Revenant starring Leonardo DiCaprio.” Understandably, Ken has been named one of the top 200 traditional craftspeople in America three times by Early American Life magazine, with his leather art highly rated for its quality workmanship, fidelity to period design and construction techniques “by judges expert in museum-quality antiques and fine, high-end reproductions.”

Ken’s tangent into botanical art came about by chance when he was offered a residency at the T. C. Steele Indiana historic site. While there, he lived in a rudimentary cabin, with only a compost loo and no running water or shower facilities, for two weeks. ”The first night there I heard squeaking sounds coming from the stone chimney that I slept next to. My first thought was mice. The next morning, I checked with the site manager and found out that the place is overrun with bats. It also had a lot of wasps and beetles!”

As part of his residency, Ken taught workshops on developing nature journal sketchbooks. “In addition to the historical paintings I was doing while in this residency, I decided to do naturalist drawings of a wasp and a beetle, in the style of an 18th century naturalist, to discuss during these workshops,” he says. “They were well received, so I decided to do some other nature paintings of birds, and so on.”

His technique of using old book covers as the canvas for his nature work began with a fascination with Pennsylvania German fraktur documents. “These are documents from the mid-18th to the mid-19th centuries – the term fraktur is derived from a distinctive German script marked by ‘fractured’ pen strokes,” Ken explains. “Fraktur drawings were executed in ink or watercolours. Common motifs include birds, hearts, and tulips, as well as blackletter and italic calligraphy. I noticed that there were a lot of frakturs drawn in books or Bibles, and that a lot of schoolbooks had notations on the inside of the covers, so I decided to combine the two things. Most of my work is painted on book covers that have been rescued and repurposed as my painting surface.”

Ken Scott Bombus fraktur

Bombus fraktur © Ken Scott

Ken later visited the Indianapolis Zoo as one of fifteen artists invited to participate in their annual spring Naturally Inspired Paint In. “We painted plein aire and donate our paintings to the zoo. The paintings were displayed at the zoo during the summer and then sold via silent auction in August. I have been invited to participate in this for the last several years.” The two paintings Ken produced and donated in 2015, a butterfly and a hornbill, were purchased record-breaking auction bids.

Ken relishes being able to express himself “creatively and historically through my work, whether by completing a narrative painting or one that has a fictional narrative that I have created. I get great satisfaction from being able to start with a blank piece of paper or leather and create something that looks like it was made a couple of hundred years ago and has been lovingly handed down from generation to generation.”

Find more of Ken’s artwork at www.americanfrontierart.blogspot.comwww.kenscottpouches.blogspot.com and at www.pinterest.com/kenscottartist.

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. I’m also happy to receive reviews of books, exhibitions, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com.