in the zone …

Byzantine winter. Mixed media on paper. 25x55cm. © Mari French 2017.

Byzantine winter. Mixed media on paper. 25x55cm. © Mari French 2017.

Well, having decided to go for blue autumnal sky colours with dashes of gold etc this week inspired by clear days at the coast, I found myself in the studio yesterday, messing about mixing up moody bruise colours – enlivened with coppers and bronzes. Sometimes it’s as though something else takes over and says ‘no, we’re doing this today’.

I was completely in ‘the zone’, that fabulous desirable state all artists crave but which doesn’t happen often enough! I was completely running on instinct and my subconscious, with a handful of brushes loaded with pigment and lots of hands-on pushing the paint around with the side of my hand and fingers. Crucially, I then slowed down and moved in close, taking my time with tender considered marks, enhancing the shapes and ‘openings’ in the paint.

This time the work above emerged and I had that delicious feeling of ‘just right’ as I stepped back from the easel. What a lovely change from the feelings of frustration that are all too common when painting (or creating anything).

Byzantine winter (detail). © Mari French 2017.

Byzantine winter (detail). © Mari French 2017.

All too often I skip that last stage, the slowing down and considering. I usually have a tendency to go all for it, with lots of energetic paint application and markmaking, which can often make for exciting work and I love it. Sometimes though, I have a feeling I’ve just gone that little bit too far and unlike in digital painting there is no ‘undo’ function. It’s all part and parcel of learning through constant work of course. But when you get that ‘oh’ moment… it’s wonderful.

The trick now of course will be to continue in this vein, to get back into that ‘zone’, because I want to produce more of these.

an artist’s journey …

Creative online platform Fleur and Arbor regularly share their space with selected photographers and female artists. I was approached by them a month ago to see if I’d be interested in featuring on their website. I was and this week I am delighted to be their guest artist.

Completing their questionnaire about my work, influences and how I came to paint abstracts was interesting and useful. I’m convinced that it’s beneficial for artists to occasionally take stock and consider how and why they do what they do. You can read my own responses to these considerations at the Fleur and Arbor website on the link below:

Q&A with Mari French

York: stone, wood, copper…

Autumn is a perfect season to visit the beautiful ancient city of York. A recent week’s break there had me exploring the medieval streets, riverside, and old hidden churches. I took a small sketchbook and brushpens with me, and of course a camera, not anticipating much sketching, but was compelled by the soft seasonal light on the old stone and statues.

For me one of the challenges of a popular tourist city like York is finding the hidden quieter spots to relax and sketch. So it was a pleasure to discover the (free) beautiful garden of the Treasurer’s House at the back of theMinster, where I spent a relaxed hour sketching the various statues and luminous white swathes of cosmos flowers on a convenient bench (the artist’s friend!).One day we stumbled on the old church of St Martin-cum-Gregory in the Micklegate area, which happened to be showing a completely stunning exhibition of the sculpture of Harold Gosney. Unfamiliar till now with his work, this was a beautifully curated retrospective (by the Stained Glass Centre) in a beautiful space. Gosney has worked in stone, riveted copper and wood for the past 60 years, mainly capturing the essence of horses, birds and the human figure. His work is also on display at Ripon Cathedral. More on Harold Gosney and his work here. Images below are © Harold Gosney and greatnorthartshow.co.uk (copper sculpture).

We also spent a few hours wandering through the peaceful space of York Cemetery just outside the city walls, on the recommendation of an artist friend. The cemetery is run on a nature conservancy principle with paths winding through the flowers and shrubbery and semi-hidden angel sculptures among the treees. I found (another) bench in the sunshine and sketched the light through the autumn foliage, trying to push the limits of effects and colour blending possible with my brushpens.

Another place we passed several times without realising it, was the entrance to Holy Trinity Church, off Goodramgate. This is a real gem of a medieval building, which still has the original box pews. Well worth finding but wrap up warm, it’s freezing even on a sunny day. I loved the fleeting play of sunlight on the pews and the colours of the worn old stone.

And, last but not least: a visit to my friend Lesley Birch, an excellent abstract landscape artist who I’d previously only ‘met’ on social media. Her art studio is in Pica Studios, part of the Quacks printers building on Grape Lane. The studios house several artists/makers and are open by appointment. Contact them on this link. Below you can see myself with Lesley in her busy studio.By the way, if anyone can tell me how on earth to add captions to photos on the recent WordPress versions I’d be very grateful. It used to be straightforward, but they seem to have changed it for some reason (on the app anyway!). Thanks.