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How long does it take to paint that?

The age old question.. “how long did it take  you to paint that?” 

It’s a very valid question and often the first and most obvious thing people want to know when striking up a conversation, but it’s taken me a while to formulate an answer.  

I could just think about it in terms of physical painting time and this probably wouldn’t be as long as people think, but what they are less aware of is the hours spent mulling over ideas, the space in between, the walking away and letting it sit for a while while I work out where to go next. 

 I now work on more than one piece at a time, and whilst some think you need to keep the focus, it works better for me. The downtime allows my subconscious to sit with ‘the other piece’,  develop new ideas, methods and direction which I find far more exciting.

In the lead up to the exhibition, I spent many nights going over plans, thinking up new paintings and often had to get up and make notes for fear of losing the connection. 

So now when someone asks me how long it takes to paint a particular artwork, I usually say something along the lines of ’50 years, lots of sleepless nights and sitting on a beach gazing out to sea’. 

 I truly believe my creativity is in part a gift, but also 75% thinking and probably only 25% putting paint to paper, and of course some technical ability and skills and experimenting which have been learned over the years. 

I think this is where having the studio space at Wooda has been such a rewarding fruitful experience. The peace and calm has given me total focus, sometimes to the point of obsession and not having to think at all about emptying the dishwasher, how much laundry is in the basket etc.  Thank you Don ;-) .

 

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2015 in Art diary

 

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Bamboo pen and Indian Ink

When I was  in Italy last year, a parting gift was a bamboo pen from Marcus.  It has proved my absolute best tool for drawing and complements my style perfectly.  It doesn’t hold much ink but picks up water nicely to give a variety of tone and breadth of stroke.  It scratches and  flicks dots of ink as it catches on the paper.

It’s impossible to hold like a real pen as it is chunky, thick and long, but hold it near the end and it encourages loose drawing marks and random hit and miss.

This can be further exploited by dipping it into water, or spraying water, dripping, flicking and using a watercolour brush over the surface.

Quick drawings in situ can be completed in ten minutes or take half an hour with more time spent looking at the subject rather than the paper.  It forces you to decipher the scene; pick out what is important and leave the unnecessary.

This was one such day at Northcott Mouth and the resulting work hanging in the exhibition ‘Colours Of A Tangled Coastline”

  northcott mouth . suereadart  
    

 

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It wasn’t just the coastline that was tangled!

Seven weeks ago I thought I was going to have to call in past commissions and sold paintings to help make up the numbers for the exhibition at the Castle. The  Willoughby Gallery is a large space with lovely white walls and huge windows, but for the meantime this was just the back up plan.  I had to see how the next few weeks panned out.

I never saw myself as the temperamental artist, but the strong focus distorted my usual day to day life as the guilt of not pulling my weight at home against the pressure of time and sorting the tangle in my brain took over.  However what did really work for me was having the new fresh uncomplicated space at the barn studio.  It is impressively lofty and incredibly peaceful, so when there I could entirely focus on the job in hand.

Another dilema.. this isn’t supposed to be a job. I didn’t want to paint to please the public, but remain true to myself and paint what I felt but as someone pointed out, it’s a vocation and Graeme letting me use the space has helped me fulfill this and I DO KNOW how lucky I am. This deliberate stance to paint what I felt mattered to me at that moment meant there were lots of varied styles as well as different surfaces, sizes and framing and this all sort of came back and bit me on the bum when it came to hanging, but after four solo shows I’m getting the hang of it now.

What some might call pressure I think I might call, shutting off the world for moments; letting others take responsibility and allowing myself  the time to really focus the ideas; work out solutions and let new ideas breath and develop.  And boy did they come!  I have to say at this stage that my husband might not agree with this as I certainly put a ‘load’ on him, but it needed to be. I now understand the solitude of art practice and how the creative mind is so underused but also so vast if it’s allowed to breath.  It really felt like it was 75% of my brain in a very physical way.

It was still very important to me to get the full experience from my surroundings, so I was up some days with first light and out with the ink sketches which enables me to lose the unnecessary, but focus on the important structure of the painting and sift through the finer detail.  Having the ideas, I needed the studio space to work how ways of how to express what I saw and felt and each piece required a different approach for me which kept it fresh, lively and exciting. I used oil on board, acrylic like watercolour mixed with inks on canvas, bright flourescents,  lots of different mediums, sprays, rollers, sponges, and of course my hands.

The resulting exhibition was made up of over 20 originals, some ink sketches and a selection of my art prints.

Read more about this in following posts to come. Purposely omitted any pictures here. The words were too important.

 
 

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Nothing like a challenge

I get an email from a friend who works for the National Trust with an idea.  How about I make a short film for you in exchange for some drawings for a project I’m doing?

I like the film idea. To have something visual to show people how I work and who I am would be invaluable to add to my website in these days of the web being where it’s at, but could I draw an impression of a  medieval longhouse with cut outs. My gun ho attitude kicks in, ” yeah, I can do that for you”.

I’d been wanting to hone my drawing skills and had been working with ink pens making daily sketches to try and get information down quickly, but this required more precision, without it looking like bad architect had tried to draw it.

A little research ensued along with a visit to Tintagel Old Post Office to meet with Rhodri, the manager to discuss the history, pick up some information and get an idea of what they wanted.  The three drawings were to form part of a two week long interactive archaeology festival looking at how the post office would have looked 600 years ago.  No pressure then.

It was such a different project for me, I’m up for a challenge and I really enjoyed working with more intensity which required a lot of patience too. When it came to drawing a replica of the fireplace as it might have been, I used ink washes to give some depth and shadow.

I visited Tintagel today and it was incredibly interesting. Just the enormity of the age of the building, it’s history in it’s setting,  how it has survived and also been looked after. It really is a gem and North Cornwall so very lucky, which was measured by the throng of people there from all over the world.

More information here The old post office, Tintagel

The old post office, Tintagel

The old post office, Tintagel

Sketch by Sue Read Old Post Office Tintagel as medieval longhouse

Old Post Office at Tintagel as a medieval longhouse. Pen Sketch by Sue Read copyright of the artist

Byre information Old Post Office Tintagel medieval longhouse

 

Old Post Office Tintagel Medieval Longhouse. Sketch copyright of artist Sue Read

The Old Post Office at Tintagel as a medieval longhouse . Pen sketch copyright of artist Sue Read

Information on the Old Post Office Tintagel medieval longhouse

Garden and back of Old Post Office Tintagel as it is today

 
 
 

 
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Posted by on July 13, 2015 in Art diary

 

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An Italian visitor

A bonus of having the studio where the public can pop in, is that you get special days when someone really makes your heart sing.  An Italian family are staying for a week and absolutely love and appreciate what Cornwall and we are all about.

Their daughter Agathe bounded into the studio yesterday with the broadest smile and returned today for a half hour little painting session when I let her loose with some of my watercolours. I thought she might want to paint the sea but she wanted to do animals, so catto and cane it was.

She could speak some English,  we managed really well to converse with added sign language and lots of smiles, and she confidently picked  the biggest brush and we had great fun mixing colours.

She even pulled the big chair over, sat in it in front of a large painting I’m working on at the moment and directed me to paint.

What a delight to have such a lovely free spirit with a love of creating and her father said she thought I was better than Van Gogh which really made me smile.

  
     

 

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Losing my marbles and finding them again 

The pressure, mostly from myself; the expectations, the doubt, the self worth, the ego. Working with the creative mind is so full of uncertainty, dipping and diving , losing focus, a mist of ideas as the mind jumps around with nothing coming to the fore. Sleep doesn’t help. Nobody can help and everyone suffers. I  think madness is sinking in, but I’m stronger and better than this so I decide to go back to meditation. 

Up early, I get the rug and sit in the decking with legs crossed, arms resting gently on my open knees with the fourth finger and thumbs just touching and find some inner peace until I take a deep breath…. Cat piss!!!! Think the cats are marking their territory in our garden and the early morning sun has warmed it nicely to perfume the lower levels of the garden. 

Oh well, it was a good try and even 2 minutes meditation was enough to bring some calm and inner strength. Onward and upward. A timely post from a friends blog made me realise I’m not alone or going mad. 

I’m writing this in the studio, having had a very productive two hours painting and nearly finishing two pieces and wondering what the hell yesterday was all about ….until the next time. 😋

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2015 in Art diary

 

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Putting the studio together in 2 days

Last year I was lucky enough to have some space in the barn studio at Wooda Farm Holiday Park.  I was born there and my brother kindly allowed me the space for the summer months.  Over the winter, the barns and the barn I was working in were transformed.  A lot of work took place over the whole courtyard area.

I approached the modern changes with a little trepidation as there was so much charm working in such a rustic setting, but the reality of it was there was poor light, it was draughty, cold and dusty.

The other reality was that in the end I only had two days to make a completely blank pristine space into a working studio/gallery.

Ordinarily it would not have mattered, but I had an interview and photographs with ‘My Cornwall’ magazine for an August feature to coincide with my exhibition, which was too good an opportunity to miss and this was the latest date possible. This also alongside all that had to be done for Baamfest, a local arts and music festival and our Its Not Rubbish Art Show which was happening two days later.

Looking back, I still don’t know quite how I pulled it out of the bag and would not have been possible without the help of family and friends. In fact Don (husband) and Annie (sidekick for INRAS), I couldn’t have done it without you both.

 
Preparation was key too and I had already mapped out the space. The end for the studio, prep area and the front as a gallery space. Graeme had acquired some old trestle tables made 80 yrs ago. Reminiscent of the french market communal eating tables you see, they have a wonderful aged patina and at over 4 metres long were perfect to fill the space.

A small storage unit was transformed by Don with nail heads for paints, tin cans for brushes and castors making it a moving work station. A large stirling board mounted on the wall means I can add ideas and drawings with a pull down roll for quick notes and sketches.

 

I have to confess that dust sheet at the back did have a quick flicking paint job in the back garden the previous weekend to give a little authenicity along with some dirtied and coloured jars of water to make it looked lived in and used.

Phew!  Done.

Sue Read Studio Bude

Barn Studio completed

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2015 in Art diary

 
 
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