Pierre Bonnard at the Tate Modern
I went to see the current Pierre Bonnard exhibition at the Tate Modern this week and it was not as crowded as I had anticipated! Tickets were as usual quite expensive but I felt it was well worth the money though I'll have to be tight-pocketed for a while.
The Tate Modern have given the impression that this exhibition of Bonnard's work is about light and happiness and I must say I felt very different. It is about light and colour of course but I felt that it's also about a man who was rather lonely too and seeking something that was not quite tangible. I found it interesting that he kept returning to his paintings weeks, months and often years later to correct light and colour in them. His life long relationship with Marthe de Meligny who later became his wife seemed so devoted and yet tragic too. I felt that he reflected this in his paintings of her even though some are of her smiling and of their happy home together. His paintings to me had a rather melancholy feel to them.
As a painter myself, I remember studying Bonnard when I was in art school in the 1990's. I was at that time in my career, learning to hone my understanding of colour and light in my own studies of the life model so his work then held great fascination for me. Seeing his work again after all these years, I'm brought back to those discoveries I had during my time studying. I found myself trying to dissect some of his paintings to understand what he was doing. I wish we could have seen what his palette looked like as well as his brushes as that would have told even more of his story as an artist.
I love the small collection of photos that were included in the exhibition. They were like secret glimpses and very voyeuristic.
As an artist who draws and paints from life, I did find it very interesting to see another perspective into how Bonnard worked from memory. For myself, I'm dependent on drawing or painting or sculpting from a source in front of me. When I draw, paint or sculpt without a reference it is just from my imagination and not realistic to what I've been studying but Bonnard would apparently collect linear information in simple sketches beforehand and then work from these and use his memory when in studio. This method has always baffled and yet intrigued me too. It was interesting seeing a studio practice from a different perspective and hopefully this will give me a jolt in my own practice. Experimentation is always good and Bonnard is very inspiring!
The interesting thing for me as a now mid-career artist is that it was when I was young and just starting out that I loved his paintings of the human form and how he captured light so perfectly in the skin. Now I'm drawn to the layering of his paintings of his garden as I feel I can understand more deeply what he was trying to do with colour. His paintings of the human form still hold interest but the gardens are just wow in my eyes! His last painting of the blossoming almond tree outside of his bedroom window was so poignant for me.
Blossoms at the end of a life describing light and colour and devotion seems well suited as the perfect ending to an artists life such as Bonnard.
Wonderful exhibition and I think I will have to return for a second look before it ends. On returning home, I watched a few documentaries about Bonnard and also found a book I'm going to purchase about him on Amazon.
Do go to the exhibit if you haven't already. For artists, young and old, consider collecting a stool and sitting to draw. There were quite a few artists sitting drawing in the exhibition when I was there so next time I've made a note to remember my sketchbook.
I'll add one more of Pierre Bonnard's paintings at the end here as I bought a postcard of this one because it's so lovely! Its called, "Lane at Vernonnet" 1912.
*As always if you enjoyed this post and would like to see more exhibition reviews please stay tuned to this blog every Thursday at 9am UK time for more.
As an artist and teacher, I've often been asked by my students if they can use very cheap art materials instead of better quality materials from specialised art supply shops. So in response to this common query, I purchased watercolour pencils, a set of watercolour paints and a set of watercolour tube paints and watercolour paper in order to see how they performed. I went to a very cheap shop here in London, called, Flying Tiger and spent around and under £3 for each item.
I began with the watercolour pencils and I was immediately irritated as all the leads were broken and no matter what method I used to sharpen the pencils, the material they have used to make the pigment just crumbles away. So I used broken bits of the pencils to create the left side of the kiwi I chose to paint. The watercolour paper itself was strong but did buckle after adding some water. The surface of the paper is shiny which isn't very helpful when applying pigment and water so unfortunately the moment I added water to my watercolour pencil drawing, the pigment mostly washed away.
So I then used the top right section of the kiwi to try the set of watercolour paints which immediately generated more irritation the moment I added water to the paint cakes. The colour of the paint is utterly different to what it is once water is added so no matter how much you scrub the brush over the cake, you still have a very watery, slightly pigmented version of what the paint cake represents. The set does come with a small brush which was useless as the hairs all fell out so I used one of my own brushes instead.
I then tried the tubes of watercolour paint which had to be punctured by the reverse side of the lid in order to extract the paint. Some membranes didn't break at all no matter how hard I pushed to get the paint out. The paint I was able to use wasn't true to the colours stated on the tubes and then the result on paper was even more disappointing.
So I would say if you're wanting to use cheap art materials then you will not produce great artwork and the creative process which is an enjoyable part of making art, will be peppered with frustration at the inferior products. For just a few pounds more, far better materials can be purchased at art supply shops which will make a huge difference in the long run!
So to anyone purchasing art materials from Flying Tiger, I'd suggest only purchasing for casual gifts for people you don't admire or as objects to use in a still life. I plan to leave the materials I purchased out for the neighbourhood kids to play with.
I do love going to Flying Tiger as its a fun shop with other items of greater quality than their art supplies!
*To see more art materials reviews please follow this blog for new posts every Monday.
Artist Interview with Angielina Grass
I’d like to introduce you to my wonderfully talented and long time friend, Angielina Grass! We met during our time in the painting department at the Kansas City Art Institute, during the late 1990s. I’ve always loved Angie’s work, for as long as I’ve known her because of the way she uses colour and line to suggest a narrative in her work which always ensures my curiosity for the juicy backstory! Her beadwork is exquisite and compliments her drawings and paintings very well. They are rich in colour and so intricate and I feel so connected to nature and intrigued by her rich heritage when looking at her beadwork. Her regular posts of her work on instagram keeps my inspiration to create flowing. Since beginning the idea of starting a blog, Angie has been my first choice to ask for an interview because I’m so intrigued and inspired by her work and her work ethic!
So luckily Angie agreed to let me interview her about her work and this is the result of a series of questions to delve deeper into her work and her life as an artist and to learn more about her creative process. Enjoy:
Franceska: When did you know you would follow a career in the Arts? How old were you and what inspired you?
Angielina: i was a teenager (17) in high school when i wanted to become an artist professionally. i was constantly drawing and my bedroom wall was covered with my early works. my paternal grandmother was my early influence since her oil paintings hung in our house; she would gift us these paintings, mostly landscapes or still lifes.
Franceska: Where did you study and how has it helped your career now?
Angielina: i studied in college both in Oklahoma (Bacone College) and at the Kansas City Art Institute. they gave me the resources to constantly learn more about both my subject matter, various mediums to learn about and to constantly create something, good or bad. i’ve also learned how to self-promote online over the years since art galleries are not always in areas close to me these days.
Franceska: What are your absolute favourite materials to use in your creative processes?
Angielina: Beads, cell phone cameras, ballpoint pen & paper, and digital paint programs are my basic mediums.
Franceska: Were there any artists who you feel had a big impact on who you are today and how did they impact you and your practice?
Angielina: Frida Kahlo and Dorothy Sullivan has always influenced my drawings to a certain extent. Frida was always pushing the harsh realities to the surface of her work, which my own early works in college were attempting to do. whereas Dorothy was more about celebrating the Cherokee life of our ancestors through visual storytelling. i try to keep utilizing both of these aspects when creating any kind of artwork.
Franceska: Do you have a favourite colour and has it changed over the years?
Angielina: Purple is still my all time favorite color to work with, both in drawings and beadwork. in beads it’s a hard color to come by, especially when there are so many different shades of purple that often get discontinued by the manufacturer. it’s only varied slightly over the years since i usually compliment it with orange & red.
Franceska: What is a typical studio day like for you?
Angielina: typical studio day: make coffee & breakfast; eat while looking over the previous day’s work, then pick up where i left off if its incomplete or start a new project; check my etsy shop & FB page for sales/inquiries; photograph & upload new completed works to shop & Pages; keep working & drinking coffee until dinner time. if my eyes & hands are still able to keep working i may keep going until midnight. i have fallen asleep with artwork or beadwork in my hands a few times.
Franceska: What are your biggest struggles right now as an artist?
Angielina: my biggest struggles is a steady income through art/beadwork sales. i usually have to work a part time job to support myself as an artist; vendor fees and travel expenses to Native festivals do add up and if you’re lucky you break even on these events. one year i needed new glasses ($120) so my goal was to sell enough beadwork to pay for my glasses; i made $140 at that one event, got my glasses and used the rest for gas to get home from the festival.
Franceska: How do you come up with your ideas?
Angielina: believe it or not my fellow bead-smiths on FB and Pinterest inspire me to create something different than what’s already out there. sometimes i try their patterns to see if i can improve on it in some way. but for the most part i’m creating and designing what isn’t typical. i will draw out my designs either on paper or computer; it's easier and faster to edit the design before beginning the beadwork.
Franceska: Where do you do your work? Do you have a good space to work in?
Angielina: i work from home, both my living room and bedroom are my workspaces. it's very comfortable to work from home, keeps my creativity flowing.
Franceska: How have your ambitions changed since you graduated from university or have they changed?
Angielina: i no longer care about being part of the gallery scene like i did in college; it's too elitist for me now. the culture is very different among tribal festivals and native art shows compared to galleries, which i feel more at home with. it's more akin to folk art but in a different medium and tradition. plus online sites and promotions help me reach a wider audience along with the festivals which are peppered throughout the year.
Franceska: What are your goals for the future of your practice?
Angielina: eventually i would like to create beadwork full-time, including teaching locally to the next generation that wants to learn. that’s still in the developing stages. local bead suppliers are in high demand so i may look into becoming a supplier myself someday. i would also like to publish a book of my works eventually.
Franceska: If you could go back in time to talk to your younger self, when you were first starting your artistic life, what advice would you give, knowing what you know now?
Angielina: i would advise my younger self to practice more on my art; develop that strong work ethic sooner. and to come up with a business plan to market my work more efficiently.
Franceska: Thank you for taking the time, Angie to share your artwork and your artistic lifestyle with me and my followers. I know I’m still inspired and feel that your responses and your work will continue to inspire others especially those young artists just starting out!
Check out Angielina’s drawings here.
Support Angielina’s beadwork by visiting her Etsy Shop here.
Follow Angielina on Instagram here.
*If you would like to be introduced to more interesting artists then follow this blog for regular artist articles every Friday.
Heath Robinson's Home Life Exhibition
Very recently, I went with a friend to see the latest exhibition at the Heath Robinson Museum in Pinner, North London. The exhibition, entitled, “Heath Robinson’s Home Life” was intensely packed full of his whimsical illustrations and other decorated items like a collection of nursery china plates and cups. What’s really interesting is that I had this strange feeling that I’d known of his work before but from when I was a very little girl and after wandering around the collection, realised that it was from the book, “The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm”, written by Norman Hunter, where I’d first enjoyed Heath Robinson’s wonderful illustrations! The book had been a handed down, well read copy from my older cousins and which helped fuel my own fascinations in contraptions and fun inventions and is probably what inspired me to get into model making!
The illustrations in this exhibition are wonderfully quirky and funny! One of my favourites was the one with the woman who wanted to enjoy the outdoors but lived in a flat so was sitting suspended in a deck chair above the ground…..I think it was a woman! I was paying more attention to the contraptions than the people! Heath Robinson's illustrations spark that childlike imagination we all have of unexpected adventures to distant shores via strange homemade vehicles equipped with all your basic necessities and ready for all possibilities!
I’m so glad I’ve learned about this wonderful museum as their permanent collection is really interesting too as is the contents of their shop! It was a fun experience and totally inspired me to get back to my own studio and get creating!
In the permanent collection, there are a few of his actual models that move if a dial is turned. They were wonderful and I spent a lot of time watching how each part moved. I definitely look forward to visiting again as there are some upcoming exhibitions in the next month that look very interesting and I’d also like another in-depth look at their permanent collection of Heath Robinson’s work. The gallery also has an activity room which I'm most curious about so I expect I'll be visiting again soon!
The current exhibit, “Heath Robinson’s Home Life” will finish this coming Sunday, 24th of February 2019, so do go and visit if you have a chance before it finishes! Next to the gallery, in the house, there's a lovely tea shop too. It's a very nice place for a fun day adventure if you're looking to escape the noise of London!
Best Drawing Materials!
Welcome to my new addition to my website where I hope to review materials, artists and exhibitions locally and worldwide!
Commencing my first post, I'd like to share with you my recent love of a collection of drawing materials which I feel are the magic combination when drawing in pencil, or at least for me! Over the years, I've gone through many combinations of materials trying to find the perfect match to achieve the best results in my work. I've found several combinations for different types of drawings but lately, I've fallen in love with specifically Strathmore 400 series paper combined with Faber-Castell 4B pencils and a selection of Stumps - not the rolled Tortillions, but the actual compressed paper pointed stump that really helps to create super delicious drawings. I have experimented with all kinds of pencils but the best for me is Faber-Castell 4B because it just has the best consistency and the lead is soft but strong enough to survive multiple sharpenings. The paper is key, it has to be smooth and preferably off white as it just adds to the textures and tones in a pencil drawing. Stumps are so nice to use as you can sharpen them with a blade and they are far superior to the rolled Tortillion in my opinion. They offer a greater control over tone which I really like.
Best places at least in London to buy these materials is Cass Art. The only place I can find the paper is on Amazon for some reason. It's cheaper too but I wish it was easier to buy than having to wait on a delivery!
I've have a lot of messages from beginner artists wanting to know what I draw with so I hope this has helped in some way. The links I've added go straight to the materials on the Cass Art website as well as Amazon, so you can see easily how to get these materials for yourself.
*Please stay tuned every Monday for reviews on art materials, Exhibition reviews on Thursdays and Artist Interviews on Fridays.
My name is Franceska McCullough and I'm the owner and artist of Toothpickmoon. Here I will share my studio practice in all it's forms.
*Disclosure: The links I'm using on this blog will only ever relate to the products I myself use in my own practice.