all in the detail…

Reedbed sketch (detail) 1 © Mari French 2017

Reedbed sketch (detail) 1 © Mari French 2017

Funny how the mind works isnt it? Just browsing through my current sketchbook wondering where to get my next inspiration from and of course it’s all there in front of me (which is the point of my sketches after all, apart from the enjoyment of exploring a place and training myself to ‘see’).

Reedbed sketch (detail) 2 © Mari French 2017

Reedbed sketch (detail) 2 © Mari French 2017

But although I paint abstract landscapes, I don’t find it easy to abstract from my own sketches, so I’ve come to the conclusion – why not photograph some of the details/colour combinations in my sketchbooks that most interest me and crop them down, in effect abstracting them further? Removing them from their literal context while keeping the colours and marks formed intuitively from studying the subject (in this case reedbeds). Thus creating fragments of inspiration and signposts from my own work, at one remove from my original interpretation, to lead me to my next abstract landscape.

Reedbed sketch (detail) 3 © Mari French 2017

Reedbed sketch (detail) 3 © Mari French 2017

Blindingly obvious I suppose to some, but sometimes I tend to miss the obvious (am I the only one?). Perhaps getting too bogged down in the well-known ‘must produce work for exhibition/sale’ scenario and forgetting the vital process of mining one’s own sketchbooks and workbooks for my own subconscious insights into a subject.

I prefer not to work directly from my sketches to develop paintings as I find myself getting bogged down in trying to replicate (even subconsciously) the freedom of marks and effects that give life to the sketch, inevitably resulting in (for me) a stilted overworked final piece.

Reedbed sketch (detail) 4 © Mari French 2017

Reedbed sketch (detail) 4 © Mari French 2017

Reedbed sketch (detail) 5 © Mari French 2017

Reedbed sketch (detail) 5 © Mari French 2017

Many of my sketches use watercolour, sometimes ink, wet-in-wet, a technique I love for the glorious random accidental effects that can occur, often suggesting landscape forms. Looking at the cropped details of sketches in this post, I can see how the wands of the reeds, white spaces of the paper showing here and there and feathery ‘bleeds’ of paint/ink now take on a more prominent abstract element in the composition. And that gorgeous granulation! Also interesting is how small details can suggest the larger landscape. (I must apologise here for one or two rather blurry photos).

Reedbed sketch (detail) 6 © Mari French 2017Reedbed sketch (detail) 6 © Mari French 2017

Reedbed sketch (detail) 6 © Mari French 2017

I don’t expect to replicate these effects, especially on a large scale, but, I’m reasoning, if I print out cropped abstract sections from my reedbed sketches I will be effectively removing the recognisable parts of the image, leaving myself with inspirational pieces of colour, light and atmosphere with which to influence my subsequent series of work; suggestions rather than templates.

Reedbed sketch (detail) 7 © Mari French 2017

Reedbed sketch (detail) 7 © Mari French 2017

I’m sure many artists will do this already, but I’m excited to fall upon this idea as a way of working to abstraction from my own sketchbook. I’d love to hear techniques you use to create looser/abstract pieces from your sketches, if you want to share them please do in the comments below.

ochre clay, pale stones, rusting metal…

Coastal erosion abstract, acrylics on paper, 18x18cm. © Mari French 2018

Almost chickened out of going to the studio today seeing 2 inches of snow outside and plummeting temperatures. But I’d been looking forward to painting having been busy doing other stuff for much of the past week.

So, quilted overalls on (of which my hubby is very jealous) and calor gas heater going full blast I actually had an enjoyable few hours working on 3 small pieces on paper I’d started last week. When fingers got a bit frosty I blasted them with the hairdryer I use for drying off acrylics.

Coastal erosion abstract, acrylics on paper, 18x18cm. © Mari French 2018

These three works continue the series I’m currently developing in response to coastal erosion on the North Norfolk coast (mainly around Happisburgh), which I wrote about in my previous post. I’m attracted to the colours of the crumbling cliffs and broken structures littering the shore – ochre clay, pale stones, rusting metal, concrete etc, set against the shadowy land slips below the fields above. For these small paintings I used acrylics, gouache and inktense pencil on watercolour paper – I sometimes use a smoother paper or board support, but here I like the grain exposed by the dryish edge of the dragged paint.

Coastal erosion abstract, acrylics on paper, 18x18cm. © Mari French 2018

My solo exhibition, from 24th March for one month at the Grapevine Gallery, Burnham Market, North Norfolk, will feature these three works alongside other larger pieces in the series and several new reedbeds paintings. Below are a few of the earlier stages of these small paintings.

Early stages of painting, coastal erosion works. © Mari French 2018Early stages of painting, coastal erosion works. © Mari French 2018Early stages of painting, coastal erosion works. © Mari French 2018

Coastal erosion at the Mall Galleries!…

I’m so pleased to announce that four of my artworks have been selected for exhibition at the Royal Institute of Water Colour Painters (RI) at the Mall Galleries, London, 6 to 21 April 2018. This is always an impressive and varied show of contemporary work in water media and well worth visiting if you are able to.

'Equinox', mixed media on paper. Selected for the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours 2018. © Mari French 2018.'Emerging forms', mixed media on paper. Selected for the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours 2018. © Mari French 2018.

'Byzantine waters', mixed media on paper. Selected for the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours 2018. © Mari French 2018.

'Cryptic shore', mixed media on paper. Selected for the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours 2018. © Mari French 2018.

The selected paintings: ‘Equinox’, ‘Emerging forms’, ‘Byzantine waters’ and ‘Cryptic shore’ (all shown above) are part of an ongoing series created in response to coastal erosion, which I have been working on over the winter. It’s a subject that has been in my mind since visiting Happisburgh, North Norfolk.

Although I’m well aware of and sympathise with the devastation such destructive erosion causes to the inhabitants of affected villages, my interest here was in capturing the energy and dynamism of the forces involved; of crumbling cliffs and bent and broken structures; the sheer power of the waves and the resulting twisted rusting metal, wooden and concrete forms.

I’ll be exhibiting more paintings from this series at my solo show from 24 March at the Grapevine Gallery, Burnham Market, North Norfolk, which will also feature artworks from my reedbeds series. This exhibition will run for one month, more details to follow.