Northern Exposure: The Landscapes of David Milne

Northern Exposure: The Landscapes of David Milne.

Thank you Venitian Red and Liz Hager for this very interesting post and for bringing the work of David Milne to my attention.

David Milne, Dark Shore Reflected, Bishop’s Pond, 1920 Watercolor on Paper, 38.8 x 55.6 cms (Private Collection)

“Feeling is the power that drives art. There doesn’t seem to be a more understandable word for it, though there are others that give something of the idea: aesthetic emotion, quickening, bringing to life. Or call it love; not love of a man or woman or home or country or any material thing, but love without an object—instransitive love.”

—David B. Milne, “Feeling in Painting,” 1948

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Spurn point Artist in Residence

I was delight to recieve a message from artist Alice Fox. She has just started a six month artist in residence on Spurn point.

We seem to have much in common, textile processes and a love for the environment.

I am very interested to meet up with her soon as I have many questions to ask.

Click on the image for a link to the Spurn residency website which contains links to Alices blogs.

Alice Fox

Please visit her site, it would be great to support her and follow her progress over the next six months.

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Howard Hodgkin

Howard Hodgkin:
Keep It Quiet, 2000

He speaks of the secret life of the self in colours that conceal nothing. Art is more eloquent than a diary. Paint is more personal than language. Hodgkin’s ability to alarm colours by introducing them to one another makes his paintings uniquely fresh and unsettled: it is hard to imagine them ever going stale. They are exciting in the way that rain on a leaf in the morning light is exciting. Hodgkin paints in that British tradition going back to Thomas Gainsborough of aliveness to the colours of nature., Monday 28 June 2010

Exhibition: Anthony d’Offay, 1993
Article: ‘Painting from Memory’ by Richard Cork
Publication: The Times (02/11/1993)
“Richard Cork hails a ‘hugely enjoyable’ exhibition of paintings by one of Britain’s foremost living artists, Howard Hodgkin.

Modern painting is usually expected to be fast, impulsive and unstoppable. Spurning the prolonged gestation period associated with the art of the past, contemporary painters are supposed to stake everything on spontaneity. The norm, as so often, was established by Picasso, who in later life thought nothing of producing several large canvases a week. The myth of the artist as human cornucopia, letting images well up in the subconscious and spill out incessantly onto the picture-surface, retains its potency intact.

With typical obstinacy, Howard Hodgkin resists this cliché at every turn. Far from rejoicing in a prolific output, he produces sparingly. His latest, hugely enjoyable exhibition at the Anthony d’Offay Gallery is his first one-man show in London for five years. Many of the paintings are surprisingly small by the overblown standards of today. And several were begun almost a decade ago.

The danger with such along germination is that the finished image could look laboured. Ever since the Pre-Raphaelites, the most Puritan English painters have doted on dogged execution, regarding slowness and pettifogging care as a moral virtue. But Hodgkin has a healthy horror of plodding art. Although his Lovers took an epic eight years to complete, it looks as if he carried it out in a single, blithely sustained bout of work.

Among the largest and most commanding pictures in view, this eruptive image seems to have been made with dashing assurance. The swathes of orange and green pigment curving across the panel are so irresponsible that the y burst out of the frame. Their impact is orgiastic, and yet Hodgkin contrasts their glistening impasto with an undulating area handled in the thinnest manner imaginable. Reminiscent of naked flesh, at once glowing and vulnerable, this passage seems in places hardly touched by the brush. Bare wood plays as much of a pictorial role here ash the white canvas in a late Cezanne. Elsewhere, though, Hodgkin makes no attempt to disguise the layers lurking beneath the final application of paint. In The last time I saw Paris, a band of grey frames the scintillating radiance of the central image. But gaudy dots of scarlet or orange can be detected underneath this subdued border. Only at a late stage did Hodgkin decide to rid his picture of this festive edge, and we can still sense some of the conflict which led to the eventual act of alteration.

Diagonal ridges of overlaid pigment area likewise visible in the central part of the work, frankly at variance with the paint-flow applied on top of them. The contrast between these two states adds tension, accentuating the vivacity with which Hodgkin transforms his images. An infectious excitement with the act of painting is always conveyed, alongside a willingness to take risks rather than settle for the drab caution which English art so often relies on.

The outcome is consistently exuberant. Although London-born, and a student in the late 1940s at the notoriously restrained Camberwell School of Art, Hodgkin has fought against Anglo-Saxon reticence throughout his career. In one of the quotations which he’s has chosen to preface the handsome d’Offay catalogue, Anita Brookner describes the ‘happy few’ who ‘remain emotionally alive, who never compromise, who never succumb to cynicism or the routines of the second-hand’. Now over 60, Hodgkin clearly aims at resisting the tendency of so many senior artists to settle for an easy formula. And on the evidence of this engrossing exhibition, he has succeeded with aplomb. Far from lapsing into repetition, and numbing the viewer with predictable solutions, these sprightly paintings are still able to challenge and provoke. They are the work of a man vigorously caught up as ever in the endlessly fascinating attempt to define the essence of his memories.

Another quotation in the catalogue is drawn from this friend Bruce Chatwin, lamenting the fact that nothing can ‘bring back the things we loves’. It is a passionate, elegiac passage, terminating in the bleak belief that we cannot recover ‘the smell of the beanfields; the sweet, resinous smell of deodar wood burning, or the whiff of a snow leopard at 14,000 feet. Never. Never. Never.’ All the same, the charged and sensuous power of Chatwin’s prose offers a remarkable persuasive evocation of the experiences he has cherished.

The same can be said, in visual terms, of Hodgkin’s own art. He strives, each time, to arrive at an image which does justice to his rapt recollection of a place, person or event without resorting to literal representation. Sometimes, we can feel fairly confident about identifying a particular form within a painting. A round limp of pigment suspended like a blood-clot in Venice sunset can only be the flaring orb itself, descending towards the lagoon. More often, though, the work defies such interpretation. Patrick in Italy may refer to a memory of his fellow artist Caulfield on holiday, but the painting refuses to yield up its secrets.

If Hodgkin relies on recollections of the past, he ensures that his painting language brings us up against the forceful actuality of the wood. There’s nothing remote or nostalgic about his work. The gorgeous splash of deep blue and ultramarine floating at the heart of Fisherman’s Cove looks as if it has only just been flung there, with inspired impetuosity, As for Reading in Bed, it shows how Hodgkin regards painting as an intensely physical act. The blocks and bars of glowing colour seem to aspire to the thickness of the panel beneath. There is sturdiness about his work which looks built to last, countering the vagaries of memory with a fierce yet joyful affirmation that redeems the loss of the past.”

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The Curved Space

My work has recently developed this recurring curve in the composition.

Pencil sketch: Annemarie Tickle


This intrigued me and has prompted me to research further particularly when I came across this painting by Casper David Friedrich.

The Grosse Gehege near Dresden 1832 Caspar David Friedrich

What I have discovered is that this was a tool used by the romantic artists as a reaction against classical composition. They investigated the curved space or curvilinear perspective. The convex lines emphasis the panoramic view so that there is a feeling of expansion of the landscape, the curvilinear form is how the human eye sees. This gives a sense of the artist being surrounded by the space rather than removed from it. The landscape becomes the artists own private space, although in a bubble. “So as to become what I am, I must give myself entirely to my environment. I must melt into the clouds and rocks” Friedrich. Turner also believed he could only paint the power of nature by subjecting himself to it and making it the only thing his eyes could see.

Distorting the horizontal plane of a composition produces a sense of instability which has an unsettling effect on the viewer. Turner takes this effect to an extreme in paintings such as the one below.

Snow Storm - Steam-Boat off a Harbour's Mouth (1842) by JMW Turner

The curve has become a complete circle totally immersing the viewer in the raging elements. Here the curvilinear perspective gives the image drama and dynamism.

When I observe the landscape I feel as though it is totally surrounding me it is not just like a curtain draped in front of me. I place myself within it, part of it, enveloped by the elements.  The panoramic views of the Humber bend themselves around my peripheral vision so my drawing does the same, wanting to extend the already limitless horizons.

Reference: Gavin, R.G., The Arts, Society, Literature, Associated University Press 1984

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The Wave

When I came across this painting I nearly fell off my chair its impact was so powerful.

Gustave Courbet: The Wave 1870 Oil on canvas

“Two bands of equal height divide the space of the picture, the two parts separated by an absolutely straight line indicating the horizon. Water and sky occupy parallel spaces, but far from flowing into or interpenetrating one another, they stand apart as rivals in density and power.” ” The canvas is cleaved in half by the rivalry of the two systems, each of which comes forward in turn, depending on whether the viewer responds to the illusionistic shading (the clouds) of the physical presence of rich pigment (the waves).”

Clay, J., Romanticism, Vendome Press New York, 1981

This image and concept resonates so strongly with my own work where the horizon is a predominant feature. Also, in a previous post Curvature: Pastel, I have begun to separate out the elements of earth air and water into individual spaces.  I am interested in the dividing line of the horizon and particularly when elements merge in certain  conditions creating an eerie, mystical illusion where the eye has nothing to focus on other than the intensity of the atmosphere.



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Ways of working

"Mystic Stone" by David Blackburn 1993 pastel

“Each new work grows organically from the last one completed, the colours that surround him as he creates a new drawing based on the last finished work.”

“The trance-like state he falls into when working allows his ideas to find their way onto the paper as if automatically. “When the work’s going well,” he says, “you, and the paper, and the image are as one, it’s a complete union between you and the making of the image. You work and work, and sometimes nothing is going right, then the miracle happens, and you don’t know why but there the picture is.”

“But in all his drawings, the real world is just the point of departure. “The hills are necessary as a starting point, a mechanism for liberation. They are the door to enter somewhere else, but they are no more than the door.” Through using the landscape as his palette of motifs, he expresses his own feelings about being in the word, his place in it and his emotions. His mind houses his visions and, shut off from the world in his studio, he assesses them through the door in the landscape.”

C. Mullins, David Blackburn: The Sublime Landscape, Hart Gallery, London, 2002 pp 37, 38, 43

I love this description of how the artist works as it relates so strongly to how I approach my practice. I prefer to work alone listening to music which acts as a distraction to take me into a meditative state which enhances vision and encourages spontaneity. The landscape I immerse myself in has an emotional effect on me and I want to respond to it. Saturated by the atmosphere, the visions are a springboard to my creative process, exploring and reacting to the media in creating something which evolves organically.

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Drawings: The rain clouds


I have been drawing again today as it was such dramatic weather. The steely grey rain clouds drifting across the south bank of the Humber while the sun was beaming down and huge white towering clouds billowed on the north bank. This resulted in spectacular effects of light and tone over the vast expanse of space.

Pastel: Rain

The chimneys of the industrial sites across the water were engulfed in the rain clouds but still visible as shadowy blocks. I was overawed by this spectical but didn’t get anywhere near capturing it in the drawings but the vision is still clear in my mind to work on in the future.

Pencil crayon: Rain cloud

I like the contrast of styles in these two drawings. The pastel being lose and expressive, drawn with speed on location and the pencil crayon more contained and geometric, drawn later in the studio.


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John Constable: Cloud Studies

Today, as the weather was particularly vile, I went to visit The Ferens Art Galley in Hull city centre. I went to look at maritime paintings and landscapes to see if anything in particular grabbed my attention. I know the collection very well and think we are so lucky to have such an excellent gallery with a fine selection of art so close and free for everyone.

As I have been reading about the romantic artists I went to examine one of my favorite paintings, the Constable sky study with fresh eyes.

It is very intimate in scale and simple in composition and content, the sky dominates. The brushstrokes are very loose and fresh giving energy and a sense of movement to the scene. The sky is broody with the last vestiges of the good weather being engulfed by the swirling, darker heavy clouds. The hints of pink, reflections of the sun underneath the clouds, soften the feeling and add contrast to the green foreground.

Great Works: Study Of Clouds (1822) by John Constable

Tom Lubbock: The Independent,  Friday 21st November 2008

Clouds are complex natural phenomena, which challenge our capacity for accurate observation.

This Study of Clouds by Constable claims a strictly observational status. His vantage point is Hampstead Heath. The canvas is marked on the back: “31 Sept 10-11 o’clock morning looking Eastward a gentle wind to East.”

The structure is so elusive that it might have arrived with no deliberate shaping. Perhaps it appears in the painting simply because it appeared in the sky, and Constable transcribed it with unblinking accuracy from an ambiguous natural cloud formation. Or perhaps it materialised through an act of drifting painting, the brush improvising.

“You can’t be sure that the artist was doing any manipulation, or was even aware of the quasi-pattern emerging. So Constable’s own work ends up like nature itself – a phenomenon in which you can see shapes, but where no conscious shape-making has taken place.”

“Five years before Constable painted this picture, Keats was writing, in praise of a rare creative faculty. He called it “Negative Capability, that is, when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact & reason”. It happens when artists know how to stay back, leaving their work open, unsolved, holding unknowns. If you want to know what negative capability looks like in paint, it looks like this.”


In contrast I came upon a painting I had never noticed before which greatly intrigued me. John Selby-Bigge: Composition 1936

John Selby-Bigge: Composition 1936

I know nothing about this artist other than that he was associated with the surrealist and the British neo romantics such as Paul Nash. This painting struck me as being very odd, very stylised, part figurative and part abstract. It has a strong sense of foreboding, with the approaching danger of the rocks and imminent storm intensifying the vulnerability of the boat. I enjoy the strong colours, the mark-making and particularly the stylised rock shapes. The rocks and the foreground water have a strength and confidence in the way they have been rendered which makes the boat and the sky seem more naive in style.

Other paintings I found interesting were;

Ivon Hitchens: The path between waters 1937

Ivon Hitchens: The path between waters, 1937

Of all the paintings I saw today this one struck me as being closest to my own approach. It is spontaneous, gestural, loose and abstract but suggestive of landscape. I love the brooding, subtle palette and decorative quality of the mark-making.

Paul Nash: The Rye Marshes 1932

Paul Nash: The Rye Marshes 1932

I like the geometry and starkness of this painting.  Originally commissioned by BP and Shell for a poster which reads “Everywhere you go you can be sure of Shell” This was of interest as BP are very present in the industry on the Humber.

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Todays Results

I have spent a large part of the day producing new work and also reworking some pieces I produced last week to strengthen the compositions.

Large Curve

This piece is on silk and over a metre long. I used the seaweed based manutex as a resist. Some dye powder accidentally got into the manutex and produced a speckled effect which I liked and may experiment with again.

Night Lights: Barton

This piece is slightly smaller and on a silk viscose mix fabric. It has been through many different stages, sometimes it is hard to know when a piece is finished! I initially wanted the orange to be much brighter producing more of a glow but actually the more subtle effect I achieved has a sultry quality that satisfied me.

Still Morning

The above piece is on linen using a lighter softer palette. Again it is just ove a metre long. It has been painted with dye then folded and dried in the heat press. I have decided to leave the creases in to add interest and texture.


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John Ruskin

John Ruskin, Modern Painters I, Of Truth of Skies 1843.

I found a connection with Ruskin’s writing since I have been observing the sky in great detail and taking time to enjoy its fleeting  and unpredictable drama and beauty.

“…there is not a moment of any day of our lives, when nature is not producing scene after scene, picture after picture, glory after glory, and working still upon such exquisite and constant principles of the most perfect beauty, that it is quite certain it is all done for us, and intended for our perpetual pleasure. “

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Easington: Digital Drawing

Arch: Bands of Colour

I completed this digital drawing using a limited colour palette to reflect the muddy river and the hazy skyline. I was trying to capture the effect of shadows racing across the river caused by the fast-moving clouds on this breezy sunny day. The image has little sense of perspective and I am happy with the flattened effect creating an abstract arch of soft colour bands.

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It was supposed to rain heavily all day today but it was actually bright, sunny and breezy. I took the opportunity to go to a viewing spot at Easington, the last one before Spurn Point.

It was far too windy to sketch outside so I set myself up in the car. The views were immense, the photo does not give any sense of the vastness of scale of the horizon line and sky. I tried to capture the crisp clarity of the atmosphere through the use of bolder, brighter colours. The drawings emanated as bands of colour in sort of rainbow curve. I love that I don’t have a clear idea of how the drawing will evolve when I start, it just develops in an organic way. I will examine these drawings when I return to the studio and see how they can be developed.

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Continuing practice

Today I carried on in the studio. I washed and worked over some pieces I did yesterday.

This piece was a response to the pastel drawing I did the other week. I experimented with leaving creases in it making it an odd shape, I hope you can make them out in the photos.  The problem with this is it would be very difficult to find a way to display the work.          I don’t feel that I have got my colours right today, they look too garish, I will take more time to mix a new set of subtler colours.

Dye on silk

Dye on silk detail

Again I was working on 4 pieces at once, if I had more room it would be much more.         I also explored the qualities of Manutex (a dye thickener made from seaweed) as a resist which I haven’t tried before; I don’t know the results of this yet as I am waiting for the samples to dry before being washed.

I worked with my music on today which I find really helps to free my mind in a similar way to the automatic drawing of the surrealists.

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Time to focus on practice

At long last I have the time and space to get totally immersed in my practical work.

I spent time at college today setting up my workspace and staring on some silk pieces.

This photo gives an idea of the scale I am working on at the moment. I have been using dyes and discharge paste (a kind of bleach).

As this was my first session I felt a bit tentative and unsure of what I wanted to achieve. I am sure the more time I spend working my ideas will start to formulate and evolve. At the moment I just want to get some imagery down onto fabric and paper, experimenting with a range of media. For me the speed and spontaneity are proving to be of paramount importance, I was working on four pieces at the same time.

Dye and bleach on paper

The works on paper are more straightforward and quicker to produce whereas the fabric pieces are slower and more frustrating as the results are much less predictable.

Dye and discharge paste on silk

I  am going to explore working onto unprimed canvas to see if there is a happy medium to satisfy my need for speed with the desire to manipulate the surface.

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Sketches: Paull Holme Strays

There was a beautiful sunset yesterday so I drove out to Paull Holme Strays. This place was created by the Environmental Agency as part of flood management scheme of the Humber and a very important area for wildlife habitats. There are incredible sweeping wide-angle views and the sky is huge. It so tranquil and atmospheric there and usually isolated.

I am still trying to find an access place to collect some mud to use in my work (I thought this would be really easy) but either it is too perilous to get at or the tide is high.

I did a couple of quick pastel sketches while watching the sunset. I am starting to enjoy drawing on location much more now and am gaining confidence. I actually did not take any photographs this time as I caught the impression on paper instead.

Spring Sunset Paull Holme Strays

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Krakatoa sunsets, 1883 artworks , History c/o Science Photo Library

Krakatoa sunsets 1883
Willian Ashcroft

Krakatoa sunsets, 1883 artworks , History c/o Science Photo Library.

Thank you to the Science photo gallery (website above) for information about the artist William Ashcroft. I love these expressive paintings documenting the dramatic sunsets over London caused by the eruption of Krakatoa. They spontaniously catch the fleeting changing light through on the spot observations.

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Curvature: Pastel

I had already had these shapes as an idea before I can across the pastels of David Blackburn but his work has given me the inspiration to realise them in a different format.

The piece is quite large in scale 100 x 70 cm so was quite physical to work on but I enjoyed the process. I can see possibility in pushing these shapes further trying various media and scales, I already have ideas rushing around my head.

Curvature: Pastel
100 x 70 cm

Now it is finished I notice and am interested in how I have separated the 3 elements; air, earth and water, so each is contained in their own space.

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David Blackburn: Pastel Landscapes

David Blackburn
Landscape Vision 37
Pastel on paper 198 x 161 cm.

I came across this artist while reading the wonderful book “This Enchanted Isle” by Peter Woodcock.


Earth Triptych: Creation
David Blackburn
15 x 35.75ins



Blackburn’s landscape work has a mysterious and other worldly feel.  I think this is due to his masterful handling of pastel, a difficult and unusual medium which can produce a wonderful softness and blurring of edges.  He has a strong colour sense; perhaps as a result of his background in textile design at the RCA. These images intrigue me and I know I will be inspired by his approach when I get immersed in my practise.

I will now have to see if I can get hold of this book: David Blackburn: The Sublime Landscape by Charlotte Mullins.

David Blackburn
Beach Figure, 1977
pastel on paper
64 x 53 cm

This is a link to an excellent interview with him by Ron Phillips in 2002

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Luke Howard: The man who named clouds

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From Luke Howard's Sketch Book

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Joan Mitchell

Another artist I came across during my visit to The Tate Modern was Joan Mitchell. I had never heard of her before. This is not the painting in the Tate collection but one was particularly drawn to while researching her. I enjoy the playful, lyrical loseness of the brushstrokes, the horizontal format and the joyful use of colour in her work.

Minnesota, 1980 Oil on canvas (four panels)
102 1/2 x 243 inches (260.4 x 617.2 cm)
Collection of the Joan Mitchell Foundation, New York.

Joan Mitchell Foundation » Minnesota. This link is to the Joan Mitchel Foundation which has proved an excellent starting point to find out about her life and inspiration.

Here are some extracts from the introduction.

“My paintings repeat a feeling about Lake Michigan, or water, or fields…it’s more like a poem…and that’s what I want to paint.” The myriad things that comprised and moved within Mitchell’s world – water, sky, trees, flowers, weather, dogs – created images and memories from which she worked.

She observed her landscape intensely, and her acute visual observations of form, space and color in life are part of the visual memories she drew upon while painting.

Her paintings were built slowly and carefully; she would stand back and look at a blank canvas or painting in progress for long periods of time, decide where each mark should go, then approach the work to place paint quickly and confidently.

Mitchell’s process is informed by a range of emotional states, points in time, and positions in landscape, and her work is an affirmation that people experience landscapes, emotions and memories in a complex, interconnected way.

“What excites me when I’m painting is what one color does to another and what they do to each other in terms of space and interaction.”

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Sidney Nolan

Inland Australia 1950
© The estate of Sir Sidney Nolan. All Rights Reserved 2010 / Bridgeman Art Library

I have just returned from a weekend in London. I made a pilgrimage to Tate Modern to see the Rothko room but was very disappointed that it is not on display at the moment.

However all was not lost as I still enjoyed time looking around the permanent collection.

I was pleasantly surprised to come across this Sidney Nolan painting. I am unfamiliar with his landscapes having only seen his Ned Kelly works.

This is one painting of  series which document a period of travel across inland Australian  in 1948

I read that he was profoundly affected by the vast scale, desolation and silence of the desert, these are so close to the sensory feelings I get when viewing the Humber landscape.  Nolan also called these paintings a ‘composite impression’ by which he ment work that combined documentary observation with remembered and imagined elements. I also wish to work from both pure emotional and gut feelings applied directly to onto work in the studio and observed responses recorded during on site visits. Another interest in his use of unconventional media in his works.

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Curvature: Digital Drawing

Cherry Cob Sands: Digital Drawing

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Pastel drawing: Cherry Cob Sands – Hot Spring Day

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Paintings from Inside Cars

Gregory Thielker

“These images are born out of real experience and have a close relationship with the medium of painting: its fluidity, transparency, and capacity for layering, mixing, and blending.” Gregory Thielker

View through a rain-soaked car windshield

This view through a rain-soaked car windshield is an oil painting by Gregory Thielker
He writes:

These paintings became a way to explore how driving in weather shifts and changes the views outside the car as well how the driving experience informs our basic interpretation of environment. We easily understand how painting can mold cultural perception, which in turn influences landscape design to become more like .

The reason I am drawn to these paintings is because I am often sat in my car whilst viewing the landscape. I do walk a lot along the river but I also love to experience extreme weather from inside the car. Although I am removing myself from experiencing the physical reality of the weather I still have a sense of vulnerability and exposure to the elements. I enjoy the sound of the rain on the bonnet, the sight of running droplets on the windows and feeling the rocking of the car in high winds. So this is an all round sensory experience but I feel safe and cosy, like being in a bubble. These paintings are very photographic in technique, yet ths subject matter is highly abstract. I find all these contradictions stimulating.




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In an attempt to get organised I have put together a reflective list of words which sum up my primary inspirations for practice and research. I hope that this will help me find more easily texts connecting to my practice . The list still seems broad but many of the areas relate and can be grouped together.

Landscape, Environment, Light, Meteorology

Abstraction, Aesthetics, Colour, Minimalism

Immersion, Scale, Experience,

Atmosphere, Emotion, Reaction, Meditation, Sublime, Phenomenology

Spontaneity, Expression, Subjective

It feels good to have written this down to see the themes encapsulated like this. It does not however make the task of researching any less daunting. The more you read the more you discover you need to read ! It is all so interesting and thought-provoking, a lifetime of learning.

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“There is no formula, there are no rules. Let the picture lead you where you must go”

“Tha Landscapes were in my arms as I did it. I didn’t realise all that I was doing. I was trying to get at something – I didn’t know what until it was manifested”

Helen Frankenthaler

These quotes have a strong connection for me and how I approach my practice. To have an impression of the landscape in my head but allowing the medium to lead the final outcome.

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7th March 2012

This was my first tutorial since I received feedback from the last module.

We discussed how I already feel my proposal was far too confused and broad, and that my ideas have shifted; I am now much more focused on how I want to develop my work.

I talked about what I had been concentrating on since Christmas. I got off to a slow start for various reasons but getting the feedback has really given me a kick-start and helped direct my research.

I have written a list in my journal pinpointing the areas I wish to concentrate on both in research and practice. This has assisted me in being selective about the areas I choose to read. I am really enjoying the reading but am slow and struggle with the time needed to tune into the (often unfathomable) language of academic theory.

My supervisor seemed happy that I had chosen appropriate texts connecting to and underpinning my practice. She thought that I appeared more in tune with and spoke more confidently about the critical theories and how they connect to my practice and development ideas.

The practice side of things has not been very productive due to time and space/studio issues. I intend to concentrate on this in a solid block over the Easter holidays. I have continued to visit my beloved viewing areas, drawing a little but mainly recording photographically.

Minimal Morning Mist

It was established that the most important aspect of my interest in the landscape was light, illumination and a feeling of space. Celestial vaulting, related to the work of James Turrell was an area we both felt could be further investigated.

Another artist discussed was Monet’s water lilies as I had recently seen some of his later work in Paris. My interest is in the illusion of depth in the seeming flatness of the surface. Disorientation experienced by the viewer is due to the ambiguity of what is a reflection in the water, what is floating on the surface and what is beneath the water.

Jayne questioned me about the reasons for working with the specific landscape I am exploring. After reflection I came to the conclusion that my attraction is driven by emotional responses to the drama of the environment. In particular the power of nature, which dwarfs the huge scale of the industrial sites across the river. The landscape, although more or less the same from the various viewing points, is ever changing depending on weather conditions and time of day and year, this is endlessly fascinating to me. I am also drawn to the minimalist qualities of the environment, pared down to just a faint horizon line in certain atmospheric settings.

In my attempts to capture this light and space and explain my emotional reaction to it, my practice is concerned with the blurred edge between impressionism and abstraction. Using formal elements to describe an emotional response is important to me yet I still feel a need to maintain an essence of representation.

Another area of discussion was how my works could be displayed. I know the presentation of the work will be very important to create an atmosphere and to control the experience of the viewer. One suggestion was to work small to draw the audience in to something exquisite derived from a vision that is overwhelmingly vast. Although I can appreciate this as a concept I do not feel it would connect with my style of working.

Another consideration, inspired by the work of James Turrell, was to use actual light to achieve the luminosity I am striving for. This could be an area to look into after I have produced some larger scale work, I will have to see what the pieces suggest to me. I am wary of getting bogged down with the technicalities this might involve and the possibility it would interfere with the spontaneity of the work however I keep an open mind.

This tutorial was very useful and supportive. I felt assured and more confident about what I was doing.

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James Turrell

“In a lucid dream, you have a sharper sense of colour and lucidity than with your eyes open. I’m interested in the point where imaginative seeing and outside seeing meet, where it becomes difficult to differentiate between seeing from the inside and seeing from the outside”

James Turrell

I have always been drawn to the art of James Turrell since I saw a piece of his work in Barcelona many years ago. It moved me emotionally and visually as a huge rectangle in a white room glowed and emitted intense blue light. It appeared to have no beginning or end, the source of the light being ambiguous. It was so beautiful, tranquil and all-encompassing it took my breath away and has always stayed with me.

Years later I also visited the Deer Shelter at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park to experience the pleasure of viewing one of his Skyspaces. The event intimate, quiet and meditative. He literally ‘frames the sky’.

“The reason I started the Skyspace series was to get a situation where the sky was actually brought down in close contact – there’s long been an art where light is the subject, I want it also to be the material. How these things are brought close to you so that they become part of your territory is something very important to me” James Turrell

My interest in him has been heightened since reading the book “The Sublime” ed Simon Morley

The book has collections of texts from a range of people from different eras which are collated into chapters concerning different aspects of the sublime.

There were many interesting perspectives but the one I enjoyed most was; Spirit and Light and the immensity within by Lynn M. Herbert 1998 under the chapter Transcendence.

He makes the light we need but never fully appreciate, an experience. The work is very minimal, pared down to the pure essence of light; the light is purely the light he gives no references to distract.

“I want to create an atmosphere ………….. like the wordless thought that comes from looking in a fire” James Turrell.

The spiritual, meditative quality of his work connects strongly to Rothko, however with Rothko you are looking at an abstract sense of the light and with Turrell you are being immersed in the light. He also connects to the Minimalist movement with a pared down simplicity. It brings to mind the feelings I get when viwing the Humber, it absorbs and fascinates me, I never tire of observing it.

Of course I am also concerned with scale as an immersion tactic, and you cannot get more majestic than Terrell’s Rodin Crater Project. See the link below to find out more about it, the place I would most love to visit before I die.

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Stillness of the evening

The evening was so still as the sun set. There was no movement of the water and the moon was clear. The distant orange lights shone on the hazy river. The rich blue deepend as the coral pink faded, merging the land water and sky.

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Ross Bleckner

Untitled - Ross Bleckner 1989 - Mixed media on paper Ross Bleckner - Dome 1999

Ross Bleckner - untitled - oil on cardboard - 2002

I greatly admire the work of the artist Ross Bleckner. Although his theme of mortality is different to my own work,  I find a connection through the illusion of light he achieves. The illumination that shines out from his paintings promotes an awe-inspiring, ethereal quality. and masterful use of media to mixed media pieces. The glowing quality of his work is reminiscent of x-rays/photograms or a heavenly vault of exploding stars.  When I look at these pieces I experience a discord of  feelings, there is a sense of peace and tranquility but this is tinged with edginess and mystery.


Ross Bleckner - untitled 1988 - Oil on paper

” There is, however, one easily comprehensible element that is common to all of Bleckner’s paintings: light. Indeed, one could even go so far as to suggest that in this very element which has always organized his pictorial field – the most renowned case being the stroboscopic effect he achieved by running a number of dark vertical lines in front of a beam of light. Many critics have claimed that the intensity of such an effect suggests there is a metaphysical dimension to the work. But this is pure hyperbole. Sometimes light is just light – and Bleckner is a master at manipulating it.”

Maureen Paley – Interim Art London October 26 to November 26 

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Skeffling Clays

I drove to a new viewing site today with great excitment as I thought I had visited them all already! This one is at Skeffling, I tiny village just befor Easington and Spurn Point. There is a remote viewing area for The Humber Estuary European Marine Site. The Humber Estuary is one of the most important estuaries in Europe for wildlife and therefore protected.

The views from here are emense and spectacular. The visiblility is clear from the curve of Spurn Point and lighthouse, the windmills in the distance on the southbank, Grimsby Tower and docks, Hull, the flame of Saltend chimney and the gas terminal at Easington. The vastness of this panorama gives a fisheye lens illusion to the view which I tried to capture in these charcoal sketches I did there.

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I have just returned from a visit to Paris.

The first day was spent at Premier Vision, a textiles trade fair. This was interesting for professional updating as a textiles lecturer, but did not offer much stimulation for my MA practice.

The next day I visited Musee Marmottan which contains a comprehensive collection of Monet paintings.

I was struck by the expressive qualities of brush marks and paint application resulting in looseness of composition giving a feeling of movement in calm subject matter. I was also interested in the loss of orientation caused by reflections of clouds in the water and cropping of the composition. The flattening of the surface contrasting with the ambiguous  hovering lily pads produced optical illusions leaving me questioning the juxtaposition of depth in realistic composition and total abstraction.

“The motif’s essential is the mirror of water whose aspect is constantly being modified by the changing sky reflected in it, and which imbues it with life and movement.”

Claude Monet

The collection also includes this painting  “Impression Sunrise”

I have seen this painting in reproduction many times but seeing it in the flesh I was very pleasantly surprised. In reproduction the colour levels are far from faithful and are greatly enhanced. In reality the painting is in the most beautifully restrained pallet of soft coral pinks, lilacs and misty greys giving it the quality of a Turner watercolour of Venice. Definitely the highlight of my visit. I hope to take what I observed and absorbed from the study of Monets techniques as inspiration for my own practice.

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Brian Eno/John Cale

Lyrics to the track Spinning away

Up on a hill, as the day dissolves
With my pencil turning moments into line
High above in the violet sky
A silent silver plane – it draws a golden chain

One by one, all the stars appear
As the great winds of the planet spiral in
Spinning away, like the night sky at Arles
In the million insect storm, the constellations form

On a hill, under a raven sky
I have no idea exactly what I’ve drawn
Some kind of change, some kind of spinning away
With every single line moving further out in time

And now as the pale moon rides (in the stars)
Her form in my pale blue lines (in the stars)
And there, as the world rolls round (in the stars)
I draw, but the lines move round (in the stars)
There, as the great wheels blaze (in the stars)
I draw, but my drawing fades (in the stars)
And now, as the old sun dies (in the stars)
I draw, and the four winds sigh (in the stars)

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Phone Drawings

Here are some digital sketches I did during the long train journey from Liverpool to Hull.

The two below are responses to the majestic cooling towers of Drax power station looming out of the freezing mist amid the snow covered landscape.

Drax Blue and Grey

Drax Smoke Mist and Snow

This one is a memory of the Humber at night

Light Line

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Mary Mattingly: First Light/ Last Light

I came across these photographs on the website and they took my breath away. They have been superimposed to create a cross and are inspired by living in an isolated place. The isolation of some of the points along the Humber is something I enjoy experiencing. The stillness and quiet inspire a meditive viewpoint. The artist is concerned with responding to the environment and the idea of the sublime. I am also interested in capturing the power and beauty of dramatic light in a landscape and it’s emotional effect on the viewer.

First light / Last light

Click on the photograph to visit her website.


“The cross photographs are taken during the first and the last light of the day, on the Winter Solstice. I began taking these photographs to attempt to capture my experience with sublimity, while living alone in the desert of the American Northwest in the year 2001.” Mary Mattingly

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By focusing on the same subject through a whole series of paintings, Monet was able to concentrate on recording visual sensations themselves. The subjects did not change, but the visual sensations – due to changing conditions of light – changed constantly. 
Robert Pelfrey – Art and Mass Media (Kendall/Hunt, 1996)
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Raining: Night Lights

Painting with dyes on paper

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Working through processes

Processes and stages involved in working on a piece.

White silk pleated and folded in half. Elastic band around the top, near the fold to act as resist. One end dipped into a purple dye, the rest into a dark blue. Left to soak then dryed it off using the iron to creat pleating and variations in colour.

Unfolded the fabric.

Refolded it and painted on discharge paste (a bleach). Left to dry.

Adding the discharge through the folds makes the effect vary as it soaked throught the layers differently.

In need of more intense colours

Masking tape wrapped around the middle as a resist allowing the dye to bleed into the silk naturally.

Waiting for the dye to dry before seeing the results. This piece will go through many more layering, adding and taking way of colours and folding and resist techniques.

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Sky above Clouds IV – Georgia O’Keeffe

Painting by Georgia O’Keeffe

Georgia O’Keeffe – Sky above Clouds VI

Sky Above Clouds IV, 1965

Oil on canvas – 243.8 x 731.5 cm (96 x 288 in.)

This is one of a series of paintings by O’Keeffe when in her 70’s she took after her first ever flight.


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Studio Development

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Digital Drawing

Immingham docks from Stone Creek

Drawn on android phone using the free app Fresco Lite.

Storm over Humber

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Sample with folds

Sample using bleeding and folding on georgette silk/polyester fabric.

The folded lines enhance the diaganal composition.

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Len Tabner

Len Tabner: The Glory of the Morning

Len Tabner is of interest because he lives and works in the east coast of Yorkshire and is concerned with capturing the atmosphere and weather conditions at different times of day and night.

Click on the image to find out more about him.

” I’m interested in the wildness, ruggedness and grandeur of the landscape, the weather and the physical forms of the land.” “I can’t conceive of any other way of painting. If I want to paint the weather I want it in front of me, I want to feel it.” Len Tabner

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Two new pieces painted with procion dyes on large scale watercolour paper.

Light shaft

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David Hockney iphone drawing

<a href=” “Bridlington Dawn”

David Hockney lives in Bridlington on the coast about an hour from Hull. He has been focusing on painting the countryside around the Yorkshire Wolds on location and on a large scale. I saw this video of how he uses digital media for drawing and was inspired by it particularly the vivid colours and decorative qualities of his work.

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Stone Creek: Sunrise

Wishing to catch the sunrise I drove to Stone Creek, which is the point on the north bank of the Humber nearest to Immingham on the south. It is very remote and I treasure the isolation.

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Painting with dyes

Using dyes as watercolours for large scale work.

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Janette Kerr

Nightfall, Burnmouth 2006 - Oil on paper - Janette Kerr

I love the work of this artist, Janette Kerr, found whilst searching meteorological drawings. She is interested in being an active participant in the landscape, particularly during wild weather and even at night. This is very inspiring and relates strongly to my own ideas. Click on the image to visit her website.

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Andy Goldsworthy

“Looking, touching, material, place and form are all inseparable from the resulting work. It is difficult to say where one stops and another begins. The energy and space around a material are as important as the energy and space within. The weather– rain, sun, snow, hail, mist, calm–is that external space made visible. When I touch a rock, I am touching and working the space around it. It is not independent of its surroundings, and the way it sits tells how it came to be there.”

Andy Goldsworthy

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Mud Dyeing

Click on the image to link to an excellent article by Judy Dominic in The Turkey Red Journal describing the process.

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Heliographic Fabric Painting

Painting with light

Informative website with clear instructions.

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Large Bright Blue, Color Etching 1980 – Richard Diebenkorn

Large Bright Blue, from the group, Eight Color Etchings, 1980 – The AMICA Library.

Abstraction to represent landscape using goemetric format. The balance and proportions of the composition are very satisfying.

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River Humber Sunset

From Paull an incredible sunset and rainstorm over the south bank. I am so lucky to have such a wonderful view so near to home. The most beautiful purples, pinks and oranges and the huge sky completely dwarfed the distant industry at Immingham.

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Inspirational Drawings


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Turner and Colour

Click on the image to go to an article from The Tate website. It mentions Turner’s interest in Geothe’s colour theories.







“Turner relished the Sublime effects of darkness. Its mysterious and elusive charm could stir the emotions in passionate and disquieting ways, for example in his night-time scenes of Venice. While for Newton and Goethe darkness was merely a negation of light, Turner expressed it positively in his works using colour. Intense, matt pigments applied to paper with a reddish ground could be dramatically offset by touches of bright white.”

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Andy Goldsworthy: Sheep paintings

Sheep painting

A canvas laid down in a field underneath a sheep feeder, the mud on the sheep’s hooves make the marks, the empty circle left when the feeder is removed. Click on the image for an article from The Guardian about Goldsworthy.


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Andy Goldsworthy: Rain Shadow

Rain Shadow

A lovely short film of Andy Goldsworthy talking about creating artwork in and with the natural landscape.

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Comparing folds

Thank you to Liselott Johnsson for giving permission to post her very interesting essay comparing the use of folds by two contrasting artists of the Supports/Surfaces group based in France in the 1970s.

Please click on the image for a link to her essay and website.

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Small watercolours playing with depth and intensity of colour.

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