rust & stone…

Rusted artefact 1, mixedmedia on paper. © Mari French 2017

Rusted artefact 1, mixedmedia on paper. © Mari French 2017

I recently hit one of those annoying self-doubting phases all artists seem to experience occasionally, just wondering where I was going with my art, and what if anything is inspiring me now. I kept nagging myself that, since I returned from my two week art residency at Brisons Veor, Cape Cornwall in the spring, I hadn’t really explored all the rich inspiration I’d found, apart from the four canvases inspired by the rocky coastal coves that I’d produced for the mixed exhibition at Artichoke Gallery, East Sussex (till 23 September 2017.

To be fair on myself, part of the reason is that I was busy finishing/framing existing work and getting it out there to galleries – existing and new, and fulfilling various art commitments such as the Norfolk Open Studios. It’s been a pretty busy year for me so far for exhibiting. Something I really can’t complain about as it’s a big and exciting part of the job, or it should be!

But, of course, like most artists I’m happiest when I’m creating. So I decided to just play for a few days – experiment with different media, collage, etc. – and try to take the pressure off myself. And, as often happens (thankfully!), something started to click (and yes, you’ll have noticed I’ve been in this situation before!)…

Rusted artefact 2, mixedmedia on paper. © Mari French 2017.

Rusted artefact 2, mixedmedia on paper. © Mari French 2017.

Lo and behold, after messing about for a few days, I became strangely drawn to a lovely gold ochre gouache colour coupled with dark blue ink and collage. The limited palette and strong shapes reminded me of something.

 

I realised that the work I was creating was not only influenced after all, by the Cornish sea coves around Penwith, but more specifically was subconsciously referencing the old rusting fishing industry artefacts I kept coming across scattered around and embedded in rocks and boulders – winches, chains, mooring rings etc. Objects that are in the process of decaying back into the elements they were formed from. Of course the large circle might also be seen as referencing (albeit subconsciously) the Men an Tol, the Bronze Age hole stone near Morven, to the north west of Penwith. Circles figure a lot in my recent work!

So this is the latest theme I’m exploring. The works shown here are medium-sized (approx 40x30cm) on paper. If you’ve enjoyed this post and you’re interested in reading more of my art progress, thoughts and adventures, why not sign up for an email notification when I post to my blog.

Recognition & resonance: Venice (ii)

Venice lagoon series. Mixed media on paper. © Mari French 2016

Venice lagoon series. Mixed media on paper. © Mari French 2016

I had a creative block after getting back from Venice (see previous post here). Floundering around wondering whether I should be painting inspiration from my holiday or continue with the ongoing saltmarsh coast series. Seems obvious now, but anyway, as suggested by a facebook artist friend I cut up a pile of small pieces of Hannemuhle watercolour paper and decided to just please myself and experiment with whatever medium took my fancy, taking the pressure to perform/produce off and have fun.

To my surprise what emerged was a collection of abstract little jewel-like images in which, without too much effort, I could recognise imagery from my recent experiences of Venice and its lagoon. After a few days of experimenting like this I felt confident enough to work in a similar fashion on larger pieces of watercolour board. As you can see from the images posted below, there’s a lot of splashed about ink (acrylic and Quink), oil pastel, Posca paint pens, inktense stick and acrylic paint.

Mixed media on watercolour board. © Mari French 2016

Mixed media on watercolour board. © Mari French 2016

Around the same time whilst researching Venice’s lagoon online, I was delighted to come across the beautiful and evocative La Venessiana blog/website. Set up by Venetian resident Iris Loredana, it shares seasonal family recipes for Venetian food and perfumes and celebrates the seasons and secret places of the city and lagoon. One post particularly fascinated me, giving little-known (to me) facts and background on the islands of the lagoon and the lagoon itself. For instance, I had no idea that the sea lavender that I love to paint on the north Norfolk coast also grows on some of the quiet lagoon islands (plus many more unexpected and interesting connections and resonances for me between the saltmarshes of Norfolk and Venice). Recommended reading for anyone with an interest in authentic Venice and her environs.

Approaching Mazzorbo. Mixed media on paper. © Mari French 2016

Approaching Mazzorbo. Mixed media on paper. © Mari French 2016

see Emily play …

I had the privilege of attending an Emily Ball workshop last weekend at Cambridge Artworks. I’d been a fan of Emily’s work since picking up her book Drawing and Painting People – a fresh approach some years ago. Even though I prefer landscape painting, her emphasis on mark-making and developing your own visual language really struck a chord with me; I’d been aware of the need to develop and extend my own mark-making for some time. So when the opportunity was presented to me by an artist friend, I leapt at the chance.

There were ten of us all together, from different backgrounds and artistic experience, and we were worked very hard by Emily, eventually, I think I can say, producing very different work to our normal output over the three days.

Emily showed us how to unpick and reinvent the familiar, inventing our own marks to animate our work, till eventually the painting takes on a life of its own apart from the subject.

Some of the fun exercises included one I called ‘Hangman’, after the old pen on paper game. We were put into teams of two and took it in turns – one would make a mark on a large sheet of paper, the other would then step forward and add their own mark, relating to, reacting to, or obliterating part of our own mark; leading to much friendly cursing and wails as our ‘precious’ marks were changed beyond our control.

Emily was very generous with her time and materials and it was a pleasure and privilege to learn directly from her. She runs courses from the Seawhite premises where she has her studio as resident artist, as well as at locations abroad. I’d urge you to check them out.

The three day weekend workshop was full-on, tiring but thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying. Typically generously, we were each given one of her inspiring books at the end.