Abstract Intensive.Reflection #1 Early August

Following the last blog which was in essence a review of the Abstract Intensive Course at Falmouth University www.falmouth.ac.uk this blog is much more of a personal reflection. More like a diary of how the course is affecting my practice

I accidentally fell into painting abstracts during my degree in Fine Art. Prior to my foundation course I was very much a landscape painter. The beauty of foundation courses is the requirement to try a lot of different styles and to form ideas on which direction to travel once on the degree. My first foray into abstraction came almost by accident, I was struggling to express my reaction to the events of 9/11 and found abstraction to be the easiest tool in my limited skill box.( An earlier blog Bloggers Block covers a similar theme) https://theoldmortuary.design/2018/03/15/blogblock-spring-clean Abstraction worked then and I’ve largely stuck with it.

Reading books about abstraction and following abstract artists seemed only to take me so far, and it certainly got me through my degree. It got my work into galleries and exhibitions, into people homes and serendipitously one of my pieces of work was shown at Tate Modern . With more time to paint and think I was thrilled to find a dedicated Abstract course not to far from home. Time to learn Abstract techniques first hand.

My particular interest is the interaction of man made structures on landscapes and nature’s constant bid to overwhelm and reclaim supremacy, Nature always wins.

This is the start of my first painting after the course.

It’s working title is Concrete Rock Pools. The Southwest of Britain is a rich source of concrete, built quickly during WW2, used only briefly during the preparation for the Normandy Landings. 80 years of weather and tides have broken it down leaving concrete and rusty iron that forms rock pools that are part natural and part man made.

This will be a different painting from one I would have done on the same subject a month ago, before the course. The impact of a week-long intensive course shows itself in this painting in small ways. Marginal gains is the sport psychology terminology for small improvements in performance.That phrase works equally well in Art. Measuring my own marginal gains may simply be taking time for recognising and reflecting and then developing confidence in those changes.

Having largely worked out my own methods of abstraction from practise, reading and observing other artists work it was great to have this book recommended at Falmouth.

I’ve been stealing an idea for abstraction for years from a completely unknown artist. I’ve always felt a little guilty about that. The author of these books, Austin Kleon cured me of my guilt. Both the book and the journal are well written with simple tips. I’m sure the strategies in these books are useful applied to many areas of life not just art.I bought mine cheaply from www.abebooks.co.uk

( My guilty steal happened at porteliotfestival.com A life drawing class was being taught in one of the tents. The model was posing, lit by some shafts of sunshine piercing through small holes in the canvas roof.There were some cracking images being created by the small group of artists. One artist however was writing a stream of descriptive sentences. Really beautiful words that were accurately reflecting the change of light,texture and nuanced shapes on the models beautiful body. I’ve used this technique many times when an image doesn’t quite flow from mind to canvas or when it is impossible to recreate natural beauty with a photograph, I just take some time out to write what I see and how it makes me feel. It really helps to get me out of a painting rut if I read these notes)

The relevancy of permission to steal to the above painting is all about fear really. I want to get both rust and and tiny sun bursts into this painting. The potential for error is great particularly when I’m happy with the first painted layer. Time to research abstract sunbeams and rust.

Falmouth Intensives, a personal view.

A collaborative painting- Abstract Intensivists 2018 I recently completed a five day intensive course in abstract painting at Falmouth University.I’ve done art courses most of my adult life, many of them at established, well-regarded art schools. Some on-line and some that would be regarded more as a leisure pursuit than as an intellectual expansion of artistic knowledge and skill.The Falmouth Intensive was the best organised course I have attended.At £500 for five days, it is not cheap but is certainly in line with other courses that are available.What did the Falmouth Intensives Course do to make me rate it so highly?The campus itself is eclectic and beautiful,especially with weather that was perfect. Falmouth is a dream destination for artists.Students/course members were treated as valued clients/customers. Our working accommodation was a large Victorian villa on Wood Lane, a leafy suburban street that merges town with gown. We were a group of 9 course members, with a choice of 11 well prepared studio spaces. Within the studio space area there was a communal kitchen that was stocked with complimentary tea, coffee, milk and biscuits, all branded products, that were topped up every day. The communal kitchen was shared by all the intensive course attendees, there were two other courses running the week I attended. This gave us the chance to mingle and share experiences. Food based ‘ break-out’ sessions happened nearly every day, not compulsory, they enabled artists from all three courses to meet whilst enjoying food, drink and some valuable time away from their artistic endeavours. This was a brilliant idea, artists can be insular creatures, to lure us out of our studios with the promise of free food was a genius plan. Falmouth Uni also wins a food diplomacy prize for serving scones a bit like a Victoria Sponge, (Scone-Jam-Cream-Scone). A simple flip made the scone ‘Cornish’ or ‘Devon’, keeping the scone purists happy.So, as they always say at the beginning of courses “that’s the housekeeping done”.The abstract course was not afraid of taking all participants back to basics. Our first morning was spent doing drawing exercises indoors and making observational sketches outside. Our two lecturers for the week were Simon Averill and Glad Fryer, a fabulous tag team of enthusiasm and knowledge. Both working three of the five days we were given the chance for ample informal conversations with one or both of them in addition to time-tabled ‘crit’ sessions and seminars. Both held sessions in which they shared their own working practices and experiences as active artists in the abstract genre. They also made the effort to bring in a good selection of their work and published materials. It is so helpful to understand other artists viewpoints and creative endeavoursWhat participants never know on these ‘selective’ courses is whether everyone who applies gets selected or whether there truly is a selection of suitable candidates. Either way, due to serendipity or selection, our group of students worked well together. All with a similar work ethic, we were surprisingly productive over the 5 days. Our one experience of working on a collaborative piece of art exposed us all to a new, to us, and unique way of creating art. With no rules or instructions it was left to the group to devise a way of working cohesively. That’s a tricksy ask of an established group of people let alone virtual strangers. I can’t say it was all ‘peace and love’ but the character and texture of the individuals in the group found a way to create an image together that gave us all something to think about.The Simon/Glad tag team, was an inspired choice as course leaders. Significantly different in character yet matched in the quality and style of their teaching, it is hard now for me to remember which one taught me which of the learning nuggets I have taken home.Their enthusiasm carried me through when my paint was recalcitrant and my technique shoddy. I’ve been home a day, had some sleep and time to reflect, undisturbed by swirling thoughts of ‘resolution’. I’m nearly ready to unpack the car and return my stuff to the studio. Next week I will paint abstracts again in a whole new way and with a lot more confidence.Thanks to everyone who plays a part in organising or delivering Falmouth Intensives. Thanks to my fellow intensivists. It was great to meet you.An abstract of this blog is not available.A feather that blew into my studio on the last day. I wonder who was visiting? #creativespirits #abstractthoughts