Towards the sun …

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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

Art in another barn!

Last Friday’s private view of ARTWORKS annual exhibition at Blackthorpe Barn near Bury St Edmunds was mobbed! The general consensus from visitors on the night (and in the visitor book since), was that this is the strongest ARTWORKS show yet.
ARTWORKS are a group of 30 East Anglian artists who exhibit here each year. I’m one of the new ‘guest’ artists and have eleven pieces of work on display and several unframed browser works, plus cards. The barn is a huge impressive space and there is a wealth of contemporary art and stunning sculpture on display. There’s also a great little cafe selling tea/coffee/cakes and a shop with art cards and small items of artworks, jewellery etc. for sale by the artists.
The exhibition is on every day (10am to 5pm) till 1 October, with demonstrations by artists most days and is well worth a visit. Blackthorpe Barn, Rougham, nr Bury St Edmonds (just off Jct 45 of the A14).

emerging blooms …

Mixed-media on canvas, 100x100cm. © Mari French 2016

Mixed-media on canvas, 100x100cm. © Mari French 2016

After struggling with a couple of canvases this week, I was beginning to lose the plot with this one. Remembering what I’d recently been advised* – ‘Don’t let your painting know you’re scared of it’ – I threw caution to the wind and began editing the image by vigorously covering certain areas with paint, then adding a variety of marks with oil sticks, paint pens and ink pencils. 

Some marks were robust, some delicate and twirling or meandering. Several of the latter seem to be suggesting etoliated, wiry but fragile blooms? I love this colour palette, luminous, soft and atmospheric.

Standing back, I’m quietly excited by this one.

 

Emily Ball, artist & tutor.