where the ink flows …


This is proving to be quite some year as far as trying to keep up with my art is concerned – and writing about it (or not!). Between family stresses, health problems (minor but a nuisance), and other issues many of my good intentions have fallen by the wayside. Never mind, I’m lucky to have been able to get to the studio at times and produce work, though not as often as I would like. Travelling out sketching too has had to be put on a back burner till now. I’m hoping with the Autumn though I’ll be back up to speed. So in this post I’m writing about the best art-related event that has happened to me this year…

Portal. Acrylic ink on paper, 24x35cm (image size), framed in black. £850

Back in February I wrote a post about the acrylic ink series I was developing (here), based on my impressions of and reactions to the pools of water in the saltmarshes and grazings of the North Norfolk coast. What I didn’t mention was that I was also working on 6 pieces in this series as part of my application for Candidacy (and hopefully, Membership) of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours (RI).

Altered space. Acrylic ink on paper, 24x35cm (image size), framed in black. £850

Well, much to my delight, disbelief and astonishment I was not only accepted as a Candidate for Membership of the RI with four of the works (shown in this post) exhibited at their exhibition at the Mall Galleries in April, but a few days later I was informed I’d been elected a full RI Member. It’s still sinking in! This has been an ambition of mine since I started getting work accepted for the RI annual opens in 2016, and it’s such a thrill and an honour to at last be a part of such a well-regarded and prestigious society.

Light levels. Acrylic ink on paper, 24x35cm (image size), framed in black. £850

Each of the four works shown in this post are available via the Mall Galleries website here. The others in the series will soon be available from my website www.marifrench.com which I’m currently updating.

I want to continue developing this Marsh Pools series, but will also be working on other themes in other media, including abstract florals, which will appear in later posts and which you’ll also be able to see on my website (see link above) or on my Instagram account @marifrenchartist Or why not sign up to my newsletter to be kept informed of new work and exhibitions etc.

Tide memory. Acrylic ink on paper, 24x35cm (image size), framed in black. £850

Ink to make you blink…

New light. Acrylic ink & collage on watercolour paper, 26x34cm. © Mari French 2022

Right now I just love working with acrylic ink on watercolour paper; the medium is perfect for using wet-in-wet, with a dry brush, making marks, or layering translucent areas. I’ve used acrylic ink before as part of mixed media artworks, but lately it’s become the leading player in my painting. It seems particularly suited to my current obsession with the pools and creeks of bright water on the North Norfolk coastal salt marshes.

These are a few of my latest abstract ink works. The limited palette, the washes, bleeds and back runs really appeal to me. I’m trying to capture a sense of the mercurial light on these areas of water on the marshes; mirrors of the sky which fill and empty with the highest tides.

Salt and sky. Acrylic ink & collage on watercolour paper, 26x34cm. © Mari French 2022

It can be quite meditative building up the layers of ink, the combination of control and serendipity, and I just love the way the ink reacts to the grain of the watercolour paper and the sparkle that results from the brush skipping over the texture.

Although I still add a little collage to the works, I’ve also started to apply calligraphy directly instead of onto tissue paper first as I normally do. The words come from my impressions of the location on the day I’m there, often from my sketchbook notes. Like a meditative chant, they evoke the weather, atmosphere, elements and my thoughts on the landscape that occur while I’m sketching on location.

Reflections. Acrylic ink on watercolour paper, 26x34cm. © Mari French 2022
Sketchbook pages with acrylic ink © Mari French 2022
Thornham creek and salt marsh © Mari French 2022

Below are a couple of larger ink works on paper in a very limited palette, which may be the next stage I’m working towards, or perhaps a valid part of the same series. I’ve altered one of my location photos (above) to show one of my favourite areas of inspiration – Thornham creek and marsh, on the North Norfolk coast, and you can probably see where these last two paintings are coming from.

The creek fills with light. Acrylic ink on watercolour paper, 42x60cm. © Mari French 2022
Angle of light. Acrylic ink on watercolour paper, 42x60cm. © Mari French 2022

Some of these works are available on my website www.marifrench.com Do let me know if you are interested. In the meantime let me know if you enjoy working with acrylic ink too.

Towards the sun …

Turning year. Mixed media on paper 46x60cm © Mari French 2021

Happy New Year to all my readers and welcome to my first post of this year. I hope you had a beautiful festive season and wish you a healthy, peaceful and art-filled 2022. Thanks so much for following my blog.

As the year turns, like many artists I’m reviewing my work and thinking about where to take it next. I’m now looking forward to Spring, towards the sun. In my previous post (here) I mentioned my new series of autumn sunflower paintings and wanted to share with you some of my creative process.

What caught my attention about this beautiful field of faded sunflowers as I drove past last October, was how they looked like a subdued congregation deep in thought, or a gathering of dark suns, faces now turned to the earth. I took photos and gathered a bunch of the flowers to sketch and paint back in the studio.

Work in progress on the easel © Mari French 2021

Above is one of the autumn sunflowers series still in progress on the easel, in acrylic and ink on paper. I love to paint intuitively like this – obscuring and revealing layers of acrylic paint, scoring through or spraying with water, to create lively marks – so that the result is a complex accumulation of shades, hard and soft edges, ephemeral suggestions of shapes. Sometimes these are created by wiping through the paint layers with a damp cloth. Inevitably, much of the earlier stages will be covered up (or wiped away), but this is necessary for me to create the web of colour and texture I like.

Detail of work in progress above © Mari French 2021

In the closeup crop above you can see the soft luminous light this process gives to parts of the painting. Texture is also added with the use of drier brush marks, which contrast with softer blended paint (often done with the side of my hand – it’s great to get hands-on sometimes!).
This work in progress isn’t finished yet: I want to see less of an obvious separation between the creamy yellow areas and the lower blue/green ones; the sunflower heads are spread too evenly for me and some of the smaller ones higher up need ‘knocking back’ a bit to make it less busy; and I want to bring some of that lovely subdued pink in elsewhere to balance it.

Below is ‘Constellation’, another in the series in progress, in the studio, and the finished work below that.

‘Constellation’ in progress on the easel. © Mari French 2021
Constellation. Mixed media on paper 46x60cm © Mari French 2021

Many of my studio visitors and collectors tell me that they love that they can keep coming back to an artwork and still see more in it, sometimes even after years of owning the work. This is part of what makes it worthwhile for me.

Autumn encounter. Mixed media on paper 46x60cm © Mari French 2021