where the ink flows …

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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

Playing catch up…

New Autumn sunflowers series. © Mari French 2021

I can’t quite believe it’s so long since I last posted in this blog; where has the time gone? The past few months have been a particularly busy time for me in the studio, not least creating three new series of work:

new Cornish paintings inspired by a sketching trip to St Ives, Cornwall in April (see previous post), some of which were exhibited at Gallery East, Woodbridge, Suffolk this summer;

a fresh take on my salt marsh obsession, in acrylic inks and soft pastel. This time I’ve been inspired by the mirror-like pools and creeks scattered over the salt marshes and grazings. I exhibited several at Norfolk Open Studios in September/October and four are currently on show at ’Littoral’, a group exhibition (until 21 November 2021) at Little Buckland Gallery, Broadway, Cotswolds, a new gallery (for me) and one I’m very excited to be showing with;

and last, but not least, my current series inspired by a local field of fading autumn sunflowers, one shown above, which I’ll tell you about in my next blog post soon!.

Below is ‘Cradled sky’ one of the new salt marsh works in acrylic ink and soft pastel, at Little Buckland Gallery, and below that ‘Unfolding coast’ which sold from my open studio. Check out more of this series on my website here.

‘Cradled sky’, ink/pastel on paper, 29x29cm. © Mari French 2021
‘Unfolding coast’, ink/pastel on paper, 21x29cm, SOLD. © Mari French 2021

Another event that took up lots of time was preparing for Norfolk Open Studios. I opened to the public for three long weekends in late September, early October. This was the first time I’ve opened my ‘new’ studio at West Raynham airbase to the public and I’m happy to say it was pretty successful, with the sale of several paintings, collagraph prints and lots of art cards.

I really enjoyed meeting art lovers, artists, friends and neighbours, plus new collectors of my paintings! So much so that I’ve now decided to offer to open by appointment – just email me at art@marifrench.com if you’d like to visit. The studio is at West Raynham Business Park, near Fakenham, North Norfolk, UK, NR21 7PL.

At my open studio in September/October, Norfolk Open Studios 2021.

Going back to the Cornwall work, I later produced a set of five collaged panels that also developed from my sketching break in and around St Ives, in April this year. I loved working on these cradled wood panels (25x25x3cm), they take multiple layers of media very well and don’t need framing. In these I’ve made extensive use of collage elements; cornish newspapers, tide tables and my own calligraphic notes to add texture.

The proximity of water © Mari French 2021

I love the contrast of the wild Penwith coast with its small rocky coves and energetic tides crashing in and out; a contrast to the usually calmer North Norfolk coast close to where I live. I haven’t exhibited them yet and all five are still available. You can see the full set on my website at www.marifrench.com

Sea language © Mari French 2021

Last of the gold …

Inspired by glorious remnants of glowing colour in the woods on the way to my studio…

Bronze beeches, silver birch and sycamore. A carpet of copper leaves, drifts of small gold birch ‘coins’, blazing metals against charcoal branches.

Since early November I’ve been responding to the ever-dwindling autumn colour in the surrounding woods and hedgerows, by experimenting in my studio workbook; simplifying, abstracting, finding ways of suggesting what I’ve experienced. Then with ink, acrylic, collage, calligraphy etc on individual works on paper.

Mari-French-studio-workbook
Mari-French-abstract-collage
Mari-French-abstract-autumn-woodland

It’s been enjoyable using a variety of my own calligraphy, collage and various ways of mark making, plus limited metallic touches. I like the way the lettering is also reminiscent of the bare branches of the increasingly denuded trees. As the autumn has given way to winter, the sparks and flickers of gold, deeper in the woods where there’s more shelter from the wind, have become all the more precious.

While I’ve enjoyed creating these works and spreads, I’d like to take the ideas further into abstraction. The simple collage in the photo of my studio workbook above top, although somewhat subdued, is the one I actually find most satisfying in it’s minimalism and use of space. It would be interesting to work on similar versions on a large scale at some point.

Top: photo by Irina Iriser from Pexels Above: photo by Abraham Braun from Pexels

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