Monday, 19 October 2015

Pip Seymour Paints

Pip Seymour

Last weekend (17th October, 2015) I went to a presentation by Pip Seymour and his partner, Rebecca. It was organised by Art Store in Glasgow where the products are stocked.

Pip and Rebecca have created a small company which makes paints of all kinds to the highest specification.  This does not mean their things are very costly, simply that the ingredients are pure, the pigments strong and the oil paint binder, cold pressed linseed oil, guaranteed to give the best results.

They have a thorough and deep experience of working with these materials at every level.  They are both artists and they are also craftspeople who are truly passionate about what they do. They experiment with different sources of pigments, including slate from a Cumbrian mine, Scottish granite, earth from French and Italian quarries, and they also use synthetic pigments. It was fascinating to see how the texture and weight of the paint varies according to the pigment used.

Every step of the painting process has been thought through,  from the right kind of support (linen cloth, not cotton or the commerically produced canvases) and ground (they make their own size, primer and gesso) to the best binding agents and mediums.  I tried preparing a piece of MDF (probably not ideal) today with their products and found that the oil paint sits clear and bright on it.

I hope they will be returning to Scotland soon to share their knowledge and inspiration.  Anyone interested should contact the Art Store in Glasgow. Pip Seymour paints and other products are only available via retailers, not normally from the company themselves.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

HENNING MANKELL Creator of Wallander

Henning Mankell
Here is the obituary of someone who lived a fascinating and, in my view, an admirable life.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Dr Rita Carter The Mind's Eye

 Talk at Edinburgh Printmakers 24th September, 2015

The Mind's Eye
How is visual imagery encoded in the brain?   Dr Rita Carter explains the unlikely processes which result in conscious perception of the world around us, and shows how our view is distorted by expectation, edited on a need-to-know basis and valued as beautiful or ugly according to the physical state of our bodies.  

Rita is a writer, lecturer and broadcaster who specializes in showing how brain science can help explain our experience of living in the world. Her books include the world-wide best-seller, Mapping the Mind, and the ultimate illustrated guide to neuroscience: The Brain Book.

What follows is a brief and sketchy account of Rita's talk.two weeks ago.  Anyone wishes to find out more could read her books.  

All our knowledge has a physiological basis in the brain, and seeing is an active and unconscious construction.   Language evolved to replace the intuitive process, but the subject/object relationship conceals an underlying homogeneity.  Every individual perceives differently (contrary to what we might assume), and language is too crude to describe this complex experience. There is also a variation between species.

Rita Carter explained that there are pathways and zones in the brain which interpret visual data in different ways - "where"(zonal) , "what"(verbal) and "who (friend or foe)" (emotive).  The paths travel to different parts of the brain and then meet again at the front and come into consciousness.

"Bottom up" activity involves the hand and mind and the emotions, whereas "top down" activity is concerned with learned behaviour and expectations.  Learning actually affects the way you perceive.  There is a relationship between these two modes of activity.

The "aha" moment of discovery and realisation has been shown to have a physical basis.  So, when I feel that a drawing or painting is complete, it may be because I have found a balance between the two kinds of activity - and moved into a new way of seeing, just a little.  The "aha" reflex can be learned and developed as well, according to Carter.

She also mentioned an autistic child who drew exquisitely from life from an early age precisely because her conceptual development was different, maybe underdeveloped.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Durham Lumiere Festival

I am looking forward to visiting the Durham Lumiere Festival this November!

Saturday, 26 September 2015


Yesterday I visited this exhibition by Korean artist Kwan Young Chun  at the Dovecot Studio
in Edinburgh.  These were wonderful pieces, painstakingly constructed by tiny parcels made of inscribed mulberry paper.

The artist, who now lives and works in Korea, studied art in the USA and for many years worked in the "style" of Abstract Expressionism, but began to find it had lost its meaning for him.  By chance, he saw some of the little traditional Korean mulberry parcels hanging in a shop and it reminded him of his childhood.  Mulberry paper has great significance in Korea, and the parcels reminded him of the remedies he took.

The pieces could be interpreted in many ways - as moon maps, relief maps of dwelling or cities, individual lives, maps of the subconscious or the interaction of nature and culture.  They had an absolute sense of truth.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

African art from DRC

Work on paper by Pilipili Mulongoy (1955)

Article in Guardian by the excellent Hannah Ellis-Petersen about an exhibition of art from Democratic Republic of Congo.

Bloomsbury set

I enjoyed this article about the Bloomsbury set.  I thought Zoe Williams wrote an excellent piece, particularly in her contrast between the Bloomsbury group and the Young British Artists of the 1990s.  

"Contrast the YBAs, the Young British Artists of the nineties, who had as much noise around them – perhaps not as much shagging, certainly as much of a feeling of a gilded clique, but rather an empty set of founding principles: that meaning was dead, craft was dead, purity was dead, business was inseparable from art and money was indivisible from worth. It had a certain internal coherence, and it made perfect sense within the age, shot with postmodernism, and – in the nonsensical framing of the day – post-irony; but we can already see that it had no legacy. Nobody will be talking about Damien Hirst in 2050 (my note: not sure if Zoe W is right here).

and the ideals of Bloomsbury

"From Virginia Woolf, they had the urgent duty of honesty, the truthfulness of having fully explored one’s own mind, rather than the more reputable, less interesting version of not telling lies. From Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and Roger Fry, they had the concept of applied art, so that there needed to be no distinction between high art, design, philosophy, poetry, tablecloths: that living a complete life meant bringing creative intellect to everything."

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

"In Praise of the Horse" - exhibition by Diana Hand at Real Wood Furniture Company, Woodstock

The Real Wood Furniture Company, Woodstock, near Oxford, make beautiful and individual pieces of furniture, from the traditional to the contemporary, as well supplying as a wide range of superb soft furnishings and unusual accessories.  Each of the fourteen showrooms offers new horizons and ideas for your home.

Diana Hand will be showing a selection contemporary equestrian prints and original drawings here until the end of October.

Saturday, 5 September 2015


Well into September and hay harvest not completed yet.  A spell of good weather now and hope it will all be finished.

Looked again at this painting, and worked over it quickly to catch light and add the rosebay.

Friday, 14 August 2015

The Inquiring Minds of Artists

I found this on Notes and queries page of the Guardian, 13th August in response to a question about art.  It is written by one Brian Smith, based in Berlin

"Art is hard, visual philosophy, a kind of research.  It progresses, learns and is a more or less systematic inquiry into the world, whose goal is knowledge as well as money, love and general world-changing"  

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Evelyn Glennie

Dame Evelyn Glennie

I spotted this feature in the Sunday Observer today.  I like what Glennie  says about knowing when she had reached her work limit and no longer gave into the temptation of saying "yes" to everything for the experience.

I also like her idea about being patient when you learn a new piece of music "It takes time to seep into the cells of your body".  I think this is the same when making a drawing or painting, or learning anything really.  She also remarks that when we lived in caves, "people used their whole bodies to listen, bringing all their senses together".

Anatomy at the Ruskin School of Art, Oxford

Here are a few drawings from the Anatomy course I did at the Ruskin School of Art in Oxford between 20th and 26th July, 2015.  The course was led by Sarah Simblet,
 and Eleanor Crook  and was an intense and thorough immersion in human anatomy.

The human form is a new subject for me, but understanding our anatomy gives a strong structure for drawing and developing ideas.  I am presently overwhelmed by information and grappling with everything that we worked on during the 7 days.  My first step is to review my notes! Now, here is a subject that is going to take a while to seep into the cells of my being.

New ideas for making drawings

I love this drawing (above) by Aurore de la Morinerie (see previous post), and I played around a little today with a similar approach when making up a few sketches on cloth.  I have rediscovered georgette as a fabulous silk which is also good to draw on - better than crepe de chine or velvet - and I love its lightness and transparency for scarves.

Also I do get a freedom when working on cloth, especially at this time of year when I am about to start displaying my work at the Edinburgh Fringe.  Here are some lighting sketches, which might eventually lead to a different way of making drawings and paintings.

Aurore de la Morinerie

I am loving these drawings by Aurore de la Morinerie, a French illustrator and artist.  These are drawings of clothes by Galliano, I spotted them in Vogue a few months ago, immediately tore out the pages and am now rediscovering.  I cannot find out much about de la Morinerie, for now her work will speak for itself.

I used the top drawing as a starting point for exploring a different way of drawing horses.
See next post.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Back to green OR Fifty Shades of Green

Today I resumed work on the painting course after about 3 weeks away from it due to shows.  I am still working on the view from the studio window, trying to get a sense of the movement and form of the landscape.  This twisting form on the right is a drainage ditch which often floods with water.  It is lined with hawthorn bushes.  A couple of  weeks ago I walked along it to get a better feel of the the lie of the land.  The hawthorn was in bloom at the time and it was magical.  

I like the pace of this kind of work, and the time taken to get to know the subject, which gradually reveals itself over days and weeks.  I like the challenges and surprises of translating it into paint.   Here is the image a few days later, a bit faded out on LH side due to phone pic.

Another go today, trying to get tree in foreground.  This is looking so traditional, but it is fascinating exercise in looking....!!!

Here is a fresh version, done in about an hour today.  I am getting to know the subject now, at last. So can start to take it further, not that I have here.  Colours are simpler and brighter, tree in foreground important.


Thursday, 18 June 2015


I am no expert on the thinking of Samuel Beckett (above), maybe sometime the light will switch on and I will get it.  But I was listening to Robert Wilson speaking on Radio 4 this evening about performing Beckett in Krapp's Last Tape currently at Barbican, London.

I was struck by what Wilson said about acting and what he learnt by meeting Beckett.
It is obvious, but so true, that "learning the steps" and "learning the form" is boring, but only when you "are totally mechanical" do you have the freedom to "fill up the form" and express feeling.

This applies in the visual arts, as well as in music and drama.  It is probably true of crafts as well and all skills.But the kind of feeling and expression varies.  Complicated. tbc

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Rethinking drawing and painting

Drawing blog

New blog to rethink my drawing

Painting blog 

Ongoing blog based on the splendid OCA text by Ian Simpson

Saturday, 30 May 2015

What Hokusai said about age

Japanese artist Hokusai (1760-1849) remarked that "All I have done before the age of 70 is not worth taking into account".

Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) said something similar.  "Before I was 85, I was not sophisticated to make such work"  (this might not be exact quote)

Monday, 25 May 2015

PETER LOVATT aka Doctor Dance

I went to a show by Lovatt in Edinburgh last month.  He had the whole audience on their feet immediately, simple movements, a lot of fun. He promotes the importance of dance for mental and physical health .. and just for pleasure.

Here's a quote from his other website Doctor Dance: 

"Peter Lovatt is a Principal Lecturer and a Reader in the Psychology of Dance at the University of Hertfordshire.  Peter set up the Dance Psychology Lab in 2008 and since then his research has looked at the relationship between dance and thinking, dance and Parkinson’s disease, dance and confidence and the link between our hormonal and genetic make up and the way we dance."

Saturday, 23 May 2015


Saw a performance by the Candoco Dance Company at Tramway, Glasgow tonight.  Very informal, deceptively so, a group of dancers, different ages and levels of ability/disability, all very casually dressed, moving and interacting to familiar pop songs orchestrated by DJ at front of stage.
I enjoyed the music and the warmth of the people on stage,l and their direct relation to the audience.  Like much contemporary art, the audience created the meaning as well as the performers.  At the beginning the DJ played several tracks with a darkened stage, and I wondered if it was going to entirely audience-generated.  But no..  They were performing a piece,  The Show Must Go On 2,  by Jerome Bel a French choreographer of non-dance.  Today they were in public discussion at Tramway.  Unfortunately I could not go. 

Also made a quick visit to the Hidden Gardens, a site behind Tramway which was landscaped in 2003.  It looks so different now, everything has grown, a lovely mixture of planting, some wild flowers, some cultivated.  There are some links to the local Muslim community, and the mosque is just behind this site.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Laikipia drawings

A couple of drawings inspired by visit to Laikipia, Kenya at Christmas.  More to come.    On full size Somerset 300 gsm paper, size 760 x 560 mm. 

Here's another one - unfinished.  Not sure about the tree in the foreground but that is what I like. I like the movement of the horse although he is grazing.  You can see his energy.

Finished version
Unfinished version

#4 Internal roof structure of the lodge

#5 Early morning at the camp