Preposterous – a review

A lot has happened in the last 6 months. A sentence that explains and excuses the hiatus in my blogging. The thing I have been able to stick with, in that time, is my lessons in the dark-art of water colour painting. Apart from holiday dabbling there have been forty years between my serious attempts at watercolour. In those years there has been sculpture, pottery, land art, oils, acrylics, palimpsest and collage.

Fish from Plymouth’s historic market. http://www.plymouthmarket.co.uk unfinished

Inevitably, I’ve had to buy some supplies and this is where the preposterous comes in because , with only six months experience,I’m going to review the products I’ve been using. I’m a bit of an abuser of watercolours, I do have brushes and I’m desperate to learn all the traditional watercolour techniques but I also apply the paints with all sorts of non- standard devices including twigs, feathers, sticks, sponges and fingers.I have a fabulous teacher in Shari Hills and my fellow students have years of painting experience. My ears stretch in all directions to gather the wisdom they casually drop while creating mistresspieces, masterpieces and vicarpieces ( an extraordinary number of watercolourists have God’s number on speed dial )

My suppliers are mostly independents. The one exception to that is a brand that bombards me on Facebook.

http://www.theartside.co.uk/

https://www.cornelissen.com/

https://www.jacksonsart.com/

https://www.isaro.be

https://arteza.co.uk

https://www.docmartins.com/

My products of choice are Isaro Watercolours. Handmade in Belgium by Isabelle Roeloffs a colourwoman with generations of experience. Her story can be found on the Isaro link above. I buy them direct from her or from Jackson’s art supplies.

Dr PH Martin’s Hydrus Fine Art liquid watercolour. I can order these at Plymouth’s fabulous art supplier The Artside or from Jackson’s on-line or their own site, link above.

The last of my trio is Arteza watercolour pens, bought direct from Arteza via Facebook.

Any papers, sketchbooks, putty rubbers etc come from The Artside. They also provide a great printing service.

Let’s start with the actual watercolours by Isaro. I love these paints, partly I admit, because of the romance of their production but also because they perform beautifully when used traditionally. What blows me away is that they are robust enough to use with unusual applications. Let’s not pretend these are as tough as acrylics but they go from subtle to vivid with ease . Wet on wet can be magical especially with unusual colour pairings.They respond superbly to the watercolourists guilty secrets, cling film and bubble wrap. The special effects can be subtle and vivid within millimetres of one another.

Talking VIVID as we were moments ago Dr P H Martins Hydrus watercolour is the go-to for pop and glaze. I loved the effects I got with it when I painted the views of the walk home from a hard nights on-call at BartsHeartCentre.

After On-call https://www.bartshealth.nhs.uk/cardiovascular

I use Dr PH Martin’s when I’m a bit timid about saving a painting when it is heading in the muddy direction. A quick layer of Hydrus can make a painting sing, and get me back on track.

MUDDY leads me nicely to the woe that is the lot of a novice watercolourist . Watercolours can go from manageable to mud in an instant. I’ve found that when I hit the mud zone a quick swap to the Arteza Watercolour Pens can resolve the problem. Not every time, of course, muddy can quickly slip into a quagmire and for those occasions only a bin will do. I have not yet used them exclusively for a painting

Fabulous paints are one part of the story, skill and technique are the things that need to be honed now. I’ve had some lucky breaks but fruits that look like a fanny and a sheep that could be a rockstar are moments to reflect on. Loose is the word most often bandied about in watercolour classes. By taking a slightly mixed format approach I think I would use the word serendipity alongside the ‘L’ word. I love to watch these slightly different watercolour formats jostle with each other on the paper. Sometimes they do half the creative work for me.

Figs from Plymouth’s historic market http://www.plymouthmarket.co.uk/

Rockstar sheep https://greyface-dartmoor.org.uk/

And finally an old school friend , Fred, we knew each other years ago when I was first taking tentative steps into watercolours. Social media keeps us in touch, I painted this from a photo on his Facebook page, this portrait is the first I have attempted since my delayed return to the medium. this was painted just using Isaro watercolour in Sepia.

Drawn to the Valley, Drawn to London. Artists of the Tamar Valley.

As someone who has spent their entire adult life actually being drawn to the Valley and then drawn to London, on repeat, and loving both equally, this was always going to be a ‘ not to be missed’ exhibition. The Valley in question is the Tamar Valley, the natural border between Devon and Cornwall. Beautiful, spectacular and largely undiscovered this vivid corner of England is home and sometimes muse to a vibrant gathering of artists. Some of whom belong to the collaborative group Drawn To The Valley.

The group has over 160 members, thirty-five of the artists have brought their work to Pall Mall.

The exhibition which runs from 22-27th October at The Royal Opera Arcade Gallery is an eclectic mix of art, some very representational of the area from which the group hails and some inspired by world travels or fantastic imaginations. This exhibition has something for everyone. West Country expats will love seeing familiar landscapes rendered in so many different ways, while those who are quite unfamiliar with the area will be exposed to its charms by the skill of artists who really love the place they call home. Not all the art here is representational, there are some amazing abstracts and 3D pieces. London and other world locations have also inspired this talented group of artists. Some pieces are pure creativity and inspiration.

Invigilators or gallery assistants can be a huge part of setting the tone of an exhibition. It’s not an easy job to gauge how much interaction gallery visitors want. Drawn to London benefits from having the artists themselves as invigilators. During my visit everyone was warmly welcomed and conversation about the art flowed freely and enthusiastically.

The ‘Hang’ at this exhibition, which covers three floors, is whimsical. Not unlike the Royal Academy Summer Show. Works that look good together, hang together. Maybe this style is not for everyone but I think it adds to the really happy feel of this exhibition.

I hope I can get back for another mooch around, I can’t recommend this refreshing exhibition too highly. If you have a blank wall there is almost certainly something here that would fill it nicely.

www.jeannineallen.co.uk

www.nickybeaumont.co.uk

www.janet-brady.com

www.jenbradleydesigns.wixsite.com

www.martinbush.co.uk

www.martinclarkart.com

www.dartmoorlandscapes.com

www.monachorumgallery.co.uk

www.melanieguy.com

www.artgallerysw.co.uk

www.pippahowes.com

www.tessajane.co.uk

www.clarelaw.co.uk

www.nsltextileart.co.uk

www.mawdsley.co.uk

www.jillianmorris.co.uk

www.clarknicolart.co.uk

www.karennicoltextileart.ipage.com

www.sallyoneillartist.co.uk

www.glenrockstudio.co.uk

www.ianpurvisart.com

www.charlottesainsbury.co.uk

www.angelasmithsart.com

www.katystonemanart.co.uk

www.saatchiart.com for Marianne Sturtridge

www.callingtonartschool.com for Tessa Sulston

www.riichardsunderlandart.com

www.tinatianart.com

www.markwigginsart.com

www.annette-wrathmell.co.uk

www.simonyoungart.com

www.drawntothevalley.co.uk

Creative Port- Linda Winter talks to theoldmortuary

theoldmortuary is a place where artists and creative people come to talk. Creative Port is a series of conversations with artists and makers who have a connection with Plymouth, Devon, UK. Plymouth, the Ocean City, is a creative city of arrivals, departures and settlers.

Linda Winter is a regular at all three. She will be exhibiting at Bens Farm Shop, Yealmpton soon.

Coming from a family of creatives, it would have been easy for Linda to become a painter. Creativity is in her blood, descended from an East End tailor, her mother was a woman compelled to make the intricate and fabulous, if not always useful, fabric creations. Her brothers are Art School trained and successful. Christopher Stevens is a painter of note and Head of Painting at Brighton School of Art. William teaches art in Bristol. However, and perhaps perversely, Linda avoided the art school route, her work is solely the product of her innate ability. Sibling rivalry may have made her pick up a paintbrush initially but it did not lead her along a traditional route.

Linda had an uneventful education and then ran away to Cornwall and had a family. Her rebellion was short lived. Three young children, little money and a house on the edge of Bodmin Moor meant that she was thrown back on old painterly habits to keep her sane.

Using Gouache on Arches paper, she painted large vibrant semi abstract boats that quickly became her signature style. Selling though the Barbican Gallery in Plymouth helped to establish herself as an artist. In Plymouth in the 1980’s and 1990’s, being a female artist was a struggle. So, in spite of having numerous one woman shows, Linda went to University to learn how to teach. Again the rebel surfaced, instead of studying art, she studied Psychology and is now teaching Psychology in London, but she still comes home to the sea most weekends and holidays.

One eventful afternoon with only a small canvas to hand, she noticed some beetroot on her kitchen table that had been purchased the day before, (She paints in her kitchen). The leaves were beginning to wilt in the sunlight. The purple of the bulbs vibrant against their fading glory. She picked up her brushes and an idea was born. Although a classic still life subject, fruit and veg were not an obvious choice for an artist as vivid as Linda. The Fruit&Vegetable Series however made a serendipitous connection when Linda had a chance meeting with the Management from Ben’s Farm shop in Yealmpton (where the Beetroot came from). A unique exhibition will be held in the newly extended eating space at Bens, featuring paintings of her naked organic vegetables. The exhibition is special, following a conversation over coffee about the difficulties some families have in affording quality food, it has been decided that the commission, 20%, of each painting sold will go to the Trussell Trust and Plymouth food bank. Organisations’ that Ben’s already support. In addition, Ben’s will also donate a proportion of the afternoons takings from Food and Drink sales. Unconventionally, the opening, at 3pm will be a family event with kids painting, burgers, the paintings and Linda telling her story. Regular adults not accompanied by children are also very welcome. The fruit and veg show opens at Ben’s farm shop on the first weekend of June.

Festive Wreathing written for Made in Plymouth

Festive Wreaths with Miranda Hackett Flowers

By Juliet Cornell

Miranda Hackett Flowers

Day courses are a fantastic way to get a taste of a new creative interest. A good course is one that builds on the initial interest and gives attendees the opportunity to take home a competently produced finished product. The very best, enable you to not only create something lovely on the day, but also equips you with the skills to reproduce beautiful items in your own home, building and developing a new talent with confidence.

Festive wreath making with Miranda Hackett is definitely the latter of those options. Meeting Miranda is like meeting a force of nature; creativity and confidence crackle in the air as she talks about her passion for Artisanal Floristry. She moved to the South West from Berkshire a year ago and brought her creative floristry business with her. With a portfolio of London and Home Counties commissions, she has also spent three years creating floral beauty in Slovakia, the universal Latin language of flowers helped enormously with the inevitable language difficulties.

Miranda has already done a turn at The Makers Table at Ocean Studios and loves the beautiful, historic buildings and the fantastic creative buzz the Ocean Studios generates. On 8th December she will return to Ocean to teach Festive Wreathing, this time in the light filled Making Spaces; rooms designed specifically for creative courses.

Miranda Hackett Flowers

Miranda Hackett Flowers

What I personally loved about Miranda’s attitude to floristry was her adaptive approach. She was as enthusiastic about foraging for materials as she was about producing large, highly prestigious commissions. Enthusiasm for her craft just bubbles out of every conversation.

Miranda’s style is loose and flowing, organic in development with seasonality in the locally produced blooms and foliage at the heart of her creations. In her new home here in Devon she now has the space to develop her own nursery to grow native blooms for her future work. Since her arrival in the west country, she has developed a great working relationship with many local producers and growers and has found suppliers from Devon and Cornwall far more open, flexible and innovative in business dealings than she has previously experienced – a little of the west country friendliness we’re so famous for.

If you need any more convincing then last years Festive Wreathing course was held at Heston Blumenthal’s Michelin Starred Restaurant in Bray and a review from that event says everything.

“ I just wanted to say a big thank you for the superb wreath making…it was a wonderfully inspiring day, your ideas were incredible and the quality of your greenery and products were really top class. It was so enjoyable to be in your workshop with like-minded people. Your instruction was so good, I will be enrolling again on your next course”

Booking for the upcoming Ocean Studio event can be made direct with Miranda via her website or by telephoning 07789553921, the workshop cost is £55 and runs from 10.30am.

If the 8th December doesn’t suit but you’re eager to get your hands on a little of Miranda’s enthusiasm then there are two more workshops before Christmas held at The Oyster Shack, Bigbury on Wed 6th and Saturday 9th December, again starting at 10:30am, the course fee of £90 includes a two course lunch and a glass of wine. Booking for these two dates is via The Oyster Shack 01548 810876 bigbury@oystershack.co.uk.

Plymouth Literature Festival 2017

JB Barrington at the Hutong Cafe

Plymouth has an established and vibrant Performance Poetry culture. For Plymouth Literature Festival 17 there is a new venue on the block. The Hutong Cafe, which opened earlier this year, is building a reputation as an intimate location for evening events. Saturday saw the arrival of JB Barrington, a performance poet from Salford, a particularly interesting area of Manchester, he was supported by two local poets and a surprise extra poet from Hull.

The evening kicked off with Antonia Raine, a local poet who flipped misogyny on its head, shining wit and humour on the cliched comments and behaviours of some men that really piss women off. She was followed by another local wordsmith, Andy Blackwell who weaved local and carnal knowledge into brilliant and narrative poems, told in a range of accents that were superbly accurate.

The surprise extra of the evening was Jim Higo, a poet/ comedian from Hull, as a salve to the pride of Plymouth which lost the chance of being City of Culture to Hull he suggested that the only perceptible change in his City, now it is cultured, is that there has been an increase in the street price of heroin. Jim’s set was lively and left me an earworm that was hard to shake. His rant “ I Hate a Floating Voter” was a polemic, and although I didn’t completely agree with it, I was hooked by his performance. His incomplete Ice House Road, a tale of prostitution, left me wanting more and the poem about a lonely aged boxer cadging drinks in the pubs of Hull was unexpectedly moving. He told us that his mum thought that a Plymouth audience wouldn’t ‘get’ him when he told her where he was performing. She was wrong, the audience at Hutong definitely ‘got’ him, his tales of deprivation and humour struck a local nerve.

Wearing a brown Mac and clutching a carrier bag of stuff, the main man, JB Barrington wandered to the front of the room for the third part of the evening. He cut a stylish figure with steel grey hair and modish good looks. The previous night he had performed at the 02 at Sheffield with the Sleaford Mods, and tonight 50 lucky people at Hutong had a much closer encounter.
JB is from Salford, an award winning performance poet known for his satirical, lyrical, ‘working class’ poetry. His poems feature dole and debt, dockers and unions, proud men, strong women and the love, fun, misery and fragility of normal life where he comes from. His mum is a huge source of inspiration. Things Me Mam Used to Say might be the words of a Salford woman but the motherly advice and discipline all seemed pretty relatable. Nostalgia conjured for humble icons like the Spanish dolls that resided in countless Council homes depicting the glamour of European travels long before Easy Jet. JB points out the obvious things that it’s all too easy to overlook and forget; yet these are the things of recent social history.

You Had Me, is the tale of an ex lover-note to many, never upset a poet you might become a performance! Truly I was lost for words, it was such a great evening. Not only because it featured poetry from a man who is such a high caliber performer – I don’t know why did he agree to perform in such a tiny venue a seven hour drive from his home but I am glad he did. JB Barrington came to Plymouth Literary Festival, he was brilliant and incidentally brought another wonderful poet with him and they were both ably supported by some seriously good local talent.

Plymouth Art Weekender / Articles written for Made In Plymouth

 My Plymouth Art Weekender trilogy #1
This year was the third Art Weekender in Plymouth but having only recently returned to the area this was my first experience and I was impressed! The quantity and quality of the art was astonishing. Despite having one of the few dedicated Art Schools in the country and a well respected Arts faculty at Plymouth University, when I left 10 years ago Plymouths Arts Community was not hugely visible to mainstream Plymouth and beyond.

But things are changing and Plymouth Art Weekender is a vibrant sign of ‘Artsy’ Plymouth. I’ve attended week-long festivals which haven’t had such a voracious and high quality itinerary as PAW17. It didn’t pass me by that Art Weekender exhibits started popping up well before the weekend, and I hope some of it will hang around a bit as well. For me the weekender has been a case of ‘so much art, so little time’. I’ve written about the exhibits and events that really stood out in my weekend but there were many other wonderful pieces I would have loved to write about.

For me the first event was live music at Hutong Cafe. Hutong Cafe cuddles up to the outside of the main entrance of The Royal William Yard and is the evolving brainchild of George, Jack and Emma who opened the Cafe earlier this year. Diamond Family Archive are a Lo-Fi psych folk duo and they filled this intimate venue. The music was mesmerizing, the music swelled and grew to the point that it seemed impossible that only two men were creating it. Ambient sounds, seemingly plucked out of the night air were woven into the performance. Coupled with good wine and food, this could be the new way to enjoy live music.

Ocean Studios played host to JoJo’s photography exhibition before and during the Weekender. This exhibition features couples who have committed to life together alongside single mothers with their children. I posed for Jojo 10 years ago in his first Plymouth Uncovered book and know from experience what a charismatic photographer he is so I felt a particular connection to this exhibition. His empathetic approach to his photography gives it the quality of painted portraits, evolved over a far greater timeframe. Faces, but also hands and feet are expressive at a deeper level than in a usual portrait because of some special magic that Jojo manages to infuse into his sessions. Some of the photos in this exhibition ache with the amount of information they are trying to convey.

I was lucky enough to talk to the artist after seeing the exhibition, and told him some of the sentiments I had picked up on from his images. Ever the consummate professional he said nothing indiscreet about his sitters but I’m sure his eyes agreed with some of my thoughts. I’ve been back a couple of times to enjoy his exhibition; it is well worth the time. This diligence has nothing to do with the great coffee and cake that can be bought at The Ocean Studios Cafe next to the exhibition…

 
My Plymouth Art Weekender trilogy #2

Saturday saw bright sunshine and driving through Plymouth early in the morning I could sense there was something arty in the air. As I drove around the city I caught sight of what can only be described as human sized litter, performing strange activities. I arrived to my first venue of the day, Ocean Studios Open Studios. This event took up way more time than I had planned for and the event blew me away. It was like visiting a massive advent calendar. Every time I took a peak behind the door of a studio I had no idea what I was going to experience. The ground floor, larger, studios of ceramicists and other makers were alive with the chatter of children’s workshops.

Space was at a premium as the peripheries of the rooms were filled with proud and attentive parents who marveled and photographed the skills and achievements of their offspring. Chunky stone stairs led me upwards to smaller spaces. My nose led me in the direction of an artist who was using oil paints, brilliant jewel like colours shone off canvasses, coupled with the smell it was a heady mixture. Sadly the artist was missing, (everyone needs a wee sometime).

Teresa Pemberton was in the building and her big bright canvasses bring a smile to anyone’s face. Talking to Teresa it was easy to discover the value of working as a lone practitioner within a collaborative space like Ocean Studios. Mosaicist Emma Spring works was working on a brightly coloured commission in her studio space.Emma has been creating Mosaics a long while, examples of her work adorn the streets of Saltash and she is also closely associated with Flameworks in Plymouth. I’ve recently taken more interest in mosaics, it was great to meet her and see the process as a contemporary practice.

So far so familiar, and that is not a bad thing but on opening one of the doors I met a woman who Free-style embroiders on a machine. Who even knew there was such a thing! Ewa Morawski has recently relocated to Plymouth and lives close to her studio in Royal William Yard. She studied textiles in London and has had commissions from some interesting organisations. Her creations are stored in clear crystal boxes and as her work tumbles out it is hard to believe that the flimsy, beautiful objects are not petals and blossoms just plucked from a bush. One recent commission had her making delicate orchids for the Royal Horticultural Society; they were better than the real thing. She works on an old Singer sewing machine that looks just like the ones that retailers use to give their interiors retro credibility. Ewa creates flowers for brides and corsages but not all her work is soft and sensitive. She rocks punk sensibilities when she recreates tattoos in fabric and her version of a Remembrance Day poppy is vibrant and jazzy.

As I came to the end of my journey I connected with Shayne House. Shayne and Sarah Smalldon share a studio, Shayne is a digital marketing expert and creates wonderful prints with Letterpress and Silk Screen. Sarah produces prints and exquisite house portraits. Perhaps most importantly after four hours of poking my nose in Studios they had a lovely squashy sofa to rest my weary art tourist feet.
My Plymouth Art Weekender trilogy #3

Sunday, I planned to spend the whole day with one topic – Commit This To Memory. Jessica Wright had installed QR codes at each of the 32 sites identified by Plymouth City Council as ‘at risk’. My interest in this project was that each of these sights was already known to me from years of hunting down old bits of Plymouths history, however I have neglected them for the ten years I’ve not lived in Plymouth. The project aims to get Plymouth people involved and interested in the architectural features that Plymouth Council consider to be at risk of becoming unsustainable, to preserve their history. As a family and group of friends we love finding ‘Old Plymouth’ and the conversations and happy memories that spring out of an old piece of Plymouth architecture are precious.

In Jessica’s words- The project is about the here and the now, engagement in the present and the infra-ordinary – the little things that go unnoticed. Scan the QR codes on the stickers to find out more about the sites included in the project and use the hash tag #cttmplymouth to get involved on Instagram. Follow the project @cttmplymouth.

Following the project on Sunday got more and more unpleasant as the rain tracked down my neck, and photography became impossible. The great thing about this Art Weekender experience is that these artifacts have been around a while and will last even longer with love and respect from the city even if this particular project is transitory. Sunday’s weather defeated me but Monday, saw sunshine and climate induced enthusiasm. I popped out to three of my favourite sites on CTTM. And in the spirit of the project shared some of our familial memories.


Thanks to Jessica Wright and her project, I’ve had a great Sunday/Monday. As my personal conclusion to Plymouths Art Weekender, CTTM beautifully illustrated how art enhances life. Just visiting these architectural locations makes me enthusiastic to learn more about each of them and to experience and talk about them with other people.

The 3rd Plymouth Art Weekender, what a blast!

  

Private View, Breaking Through, PCAD

IMG_0052.JPGEarly June is the perfect time to hunt for contemporary art. Art Schools and Universities showcase the best that their art students have to offer. Usually held over a week or so the Graduation exhibitions are vibrant , eclectic events. Last night I went to Plymouth College of Art and Designs Graduation Showcase, Breaking Through.,  Plymouth is one of the few remaining independent art schools. It teaches an eye watering number of creative courses and the end of year show reflects the huge diversity of subjects. The standard of these shows is always high . Proud parents, tutors and graduates rub shoulders with interested art lovers and talent scouts from the creative industries. Bargains can also be found and I’ve bought some lovely pieces from Degree shows around the country. One or two pieces have turned out to be a great investment as their creators become well respected and successful as their careers progress.

The following black and white images are a snippet of my experience last night.  The show closes on 22nd June. There is ample time to see these lovely things in full colour and in their entirety before the show closes. Go to the PCAD website for times and details.

 

http://www.plymouthart.ac.uk

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I’ve given you an extra serving of tissues with your coffee.

9BB38BA8-C91E-4978-B03F-762EDA799358-6471-000006471DE03962In writing a style and arts blog, I consider I’ve dodged the awkward ball of having to write a critical review. If somewhere isn’t stylish, I can easily choose not to write about it and when reviewing creative subjects, there is nearly always something positive to pull out of the experience. I’m grateful this is not a foodie blog because I don’t know enough about the subject to be interesting. However, I am very aware that style/ decor/ ambience is something that is very important to most people, particularly when considering repeat visits. Style is also about how things are served.

Before I go any further, I will say the food at this establishment was lovely.

While on the rural eastern edge of Plymouth, we went to a Farm Shop that is well-considered locally but appears to have recently changed its name; it charges premium prices. We ordered lunch and coffee, to be accurate a flat white. Our drinks were slow to arrive and the flat white arrived not with the usual almond biscotti, but with an extra serving of tissues. The waitress explained that she had slopped so much of the coffee in the saucer that we would need extra tissues!

She hadn’t actually slopped a flat white, because that was not what was being served. She’d slopped, at best a latte, and at worst the sort of white coffee elderly relatives give you.

Premium prices should go hand in hand with quality, expertise, pride and a good knowledge of your subject. Without that, customers are unlikely to return. Nationally, the bar is set pretty high for these types of establishment. Daylesford comes to mind and somewhat unexpectedly the motorway services at Gloucester. Perhaps I’m being picky but I don’t see a side serving of extra tissues as a reason to come back.

Thankfully that was the worst experience of the day. Onto more positive things soon…

A little late

IMG_9808theoldmortuary website and blog is a little over a month old. This was the first person to want to follow us but he has only just got here. Follow us to see all the cool stuff that thrills a snail and a few other people who love the stuff we love.