For those of you within striking distance, you may like to know that the Norton Way Gallery in Letchworth is having it's annual spring show, with fresh new work from all the owner's resident artists on display to suit the season. I sent off another clutch of small birds and critters for the event, and the oak tree which appeared in a previous post.
The bullfinches are painted on 245gsm parchment paper from Shepherds Falkiners stationers in London. It's an interesting surface, less expensive than vellum of course, but with some similar characteristics. Including it's waxy texture, translucency, and unfortunately tendency to buckling -as demonstrated on the bullfinch (top left), where I appplied a drop too much mordant under the gold leaf. Caveat emptor. The third miniature in my 'Tsushigahana Dragon' series, the Fire Belly Toad, is painted on real vellum with calligrapher's gilding
The coaltits and long tailed tits are a a warm up for something larger, and are painted on Fabriano Artistic 600 gsm. This is a super-smooth hot press paper, so heavy it needs no stretching, which botanical artists love. Sadly I'm told that Fabriano have changed their process and the these days it has a slight texture, so when my little stock is used up I'm sunk. As these pieces are fairly rigid and intended for glass framing, I used some aqueous shellac in the painting of them. The recipe for this was given to me by Gloria Thomas, the artist who runs the Apocalypse Art Prize in the USA which I won a few years' back. She uses it as a sealant on paper to create a surface for oil painting, Naturally it needs a longer drying time than the smelly alchohol shellac solution you buy in a bottle.
This is the slowest moving series in the history of art, but every so often I feel like painting a wonderful old tabby tom just like the one called Tim which my grandparents had years ago. This sneaky fellow stalking in the long grass is waiting for a frame. One of his former incarnations is in Australia now, where he can stalk more exotic prey than ever frequented my grandparents' suburban garden.
More than seven years on, and mindful of the old adage about the cobbler's children going unshod, I decided it was time I made a crucifix for our own home. Most things I paint are commissions or are for sale elsewhere, so no sooner do we get used to something being on the wall than it disappears. I'm glad of that really, it gives me the chance to try again. Though I shan't be trying again with a crucifix unless I can buy a ready-made blank. I had forgotten how difficult a shape it is to cut without specialist equipment. Casting around the internet for my inspiration, I ran across some wonderful images from the Franciscan museum in Zadar, Croatia. Another one for the bucket list.... If you make it there before I do, please abandon the beach one day in favour of this place and report back. Croatia is a bit of a hybrid East-meets-West place, iconographically speaking. A largely Catholic country, but with many influences from the East. The 11th century cross which I took as my chief model shows Christ standing rather than hanging, calm and strong. He is not twisted and emaciated or smothered in gore. Instead of a loin cloth he sports a rather fetching sort of brocade kilt which I lifted wholesale. But what I really wanted - and failed - to recreate was the magnificent face of Christ in my second, black and white image below. Also from Zadar, from a nunnery destroyed by Allied bombing during the second world war, tragically this partial photo seems to be all that remains of this most haunting icon.
The view from my desk
Current work, places and events, art travel, and interesting snippets about Christian icons, medieval art, manuscript illumination, egg tempera , gilding, technique and materials.