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.

Driven to abstraction: Venice (i) 

 

Cannaregio in the heat. Sketchbook spread. © Mari French 2016

Cannaregio in the heat. Sketchbook spread. © Mari French 2016

I recently spent 2 weeks on holiday in Venice. I’d assumed September would be more temperate, but most days were around 35C (in the 90s Fahrenheit, and I’m crap in hot weather). Unbelievably, I also got painful shingles the very first day. So this could have been one long lament of a post. However… I persevered and did lots of sketching in the second week, mainly among the less celebrated narrow streets (calles) and quiet squares (campos) of Cannaregio and Castello, away from the hordes of tourists and trinket shops.

The sketch above (Cannareggio in the heat) is an abstract impression of my first (short) forays into these areas as soon as I felt able. Completed at our apartment dining table in gouache, posca paint pens, oil pastel and inktense block. You can see, by comparing the sketch and the photo below, how I’ve ‘edited’ the image with white gouache etc, leaving parts of the underpainting to show through in places. The thicker gouache paint can then be inscribed into while still wet.

Sketching in the apartment, at rooftop level. © Mari French 2016

Sketching in the apartment, at rooftop level. © Mari French 2016

Grand Canal from Chiesa Santa Lucia. © Mari French 2016

Grand Canal from Chiesa Santa Lucia. © Mari French 2016

Venice from Giudecca. © Mari French 2016

Venice from Giudecca. © Mari French 2016

Above the shops. Sketchbook spread. © Mari French 2016

Above the shops. Sketchbook spread. © Mari French 2016

So, this year I made less use of watercolours in my sketchbook and more of gouache, Posca paint pens, oil pastel and inktense pencil. Some of this on top of collaged Venetian newspaper. These gave me a more robust repertoire for evoking the textures of the ancient buildings and to make more use of my recent experimental mark-making in mixed-media. I used a new concertina Seawhite sketchbook which I’d seen used to great effect on the blog of friends’ who’d shared a residency at Brison’s Veor in Cornwall. I have to admit I struggled with it a bit, although I almost always use Seawhite books, but the concertina is a format probably more effective for landscapes, seascapes etc. Having said that, it’s now really useful to be able to spread it out along a shelf in my studio and be able to view my many Venice sketches at once.

Sketching in the Rialto fish market. © Mari French 2016

Sketching in the Rialto fish market. © Mari French 2016

Rialto fish market, Venice. Sketchbook spread. © Mari French 2016

Rialto fish market, Venice. Sketchbook spread. © Mari French 2016

One of the things I found myself struggling with, was my determination to sketch in an abstract fashion, rather than depicting what was in front of me with too much adherence to detail and representation. This was so hard! I think I managed it in some respects, though. Much easier to achieve when back at the sketching/dining table. Although I think the effort of attempting this actually pushed my on-the-spot sketching further than usual.

Grand Canal, night. © Mari French 2016

Grand Canal, night. © Mari French 2016

Washing, Cannareggio. Sketchbook spread. © Mari French 2016

Washing, Cannareggio. Sketchbook spread. © Mari French 2016

Details, Campo del Mori. Sketchbook spread. © Mari French 2016

Details, Campo del Mori. Sketchbook spread. © Mari French 2016

Weathered door, Cannareggio. © Mari French 2016

Weathered door, Cannareggio. © Mari French 2016

Venetian abstract. Sketchbook spread. © Mari French 2016

Venetian abstract. Sketchbook spread. © Mari French 2016

 

Beautiful canal basin, San Polo. © Mari French 2016

Small canal basin, San Polo. © Mari French 2016

Fish graffitti, Dorsoduro. © Mari French 2016

Graffitti fish, Dorsoduro. © Mari French 2016

Rooftops abstract. Sketchbook spread. © Mari French 2016

Rooftops abstract. Sketchbook spread. © Mari French 2016

Towards the end of my stay I also discovered a fascination with the huge lagoon, in which Venice nestles like a gemstone among many other islands – some inhabited, some abandoned, some cultivated, some nature reserves – and the saltmarshes, reedbeds and sandbanks.

I’d need more time, with a boat, out there, to do it justice (who knows?). As it was I had to make do with staring avidly from the vaporetto motoring out to Burano and Mazzorbo, and greedily watching from the plane banking over the lagoon on takeoff from Marco Polo airport – the channels, fishing nets, ruined campaniles, boat wakes, bricola, all within the glorious mercurial sun reflecting off the water.

Venetian lagoon, taking off from Marco Polo airport. © Mari French 2016

Venetian lagoon, taking off from Marco Polo airport. © Mari French 2016

So here are some of the images and sketches from that two weeks and in the next posts I’ll show you how the experience has evolved so far in my subconscious and emerged in some experimental pieces, abstract photography etc.

thunderheads and stubble …

Stormy skies & stubble field

Stormy skies & stubble field � Mari French 2016

A few sketchbook spreads from a recent day sat at the edge of a local harvested barley field. I’d passed it earlier in the day on my way back from shopping, so when I got home I threw my sketch bag in the car and shot straight back (about 3 miles from home).

Dark impressive storm clouds were towering on the horizon. It was very humid, with bees buzzing, crows calling in a nearby field, warm wind, skylarks. Thunderheads massing but then dispersing away over the fields. Bronze stubble. 

Decided I’d try to be a bit looser than my usual watercolour sketches, so I used ink, gouache, posca paint pens and tried to evoke the movement of the wind and the birds and insects over the field.

Stormy skies & stubble field � Mari French 2016

Stormy skies & stubble field � Mari French 2016


Thunderheads over stubble field � Mari French 2016

Thunderheads over stubble field � Mari French 2016