NEWSLETTER OCTOBER 2015

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1 NEWSLETTER OCTOBER 2015 Chairs letter What a jolly AGM and a record turn out! It was one of those experiments that worked. The venue, my studio, was packed. Every available chair from around the house, and a couple of back ups from the garden, had been called into service, canapés and wine were lined up and, somehow the cosiness of it all set the mood. We began the evening with the business and in my Chair s report I thanked the committee of Margaret Condon, Sheila Graham, Julia Hayes, Moira Lamont, Len Mackin and Tammy Woodrow, but reminded the membership that some of us have done many year s service for the local art community. Some fresh faces (or some we have seen before) will need to step forward to take responsibility for an aspect of the Association s activities in the coming months if we are to continue with a lively programme. Diary Dates FORTHCOMING MEETINGS IN OUR NEW VENUE: Tim Beer painting, ceramings and sculpture. 11th November 10.30am Craft Room Leamington Art Gallery AMA Autumn exhibition. The Jam Factory, Oxford. Announcements included Tea at the Jam Factory, to view and 4th November to 2nd celebrate our exhibition, and an introduction to our next speaker, December. the painter/sculptor/ceramicist, Tim Beer. You will find an invitation to the former and more details about the latter Tea at the Jam Factory elsewhere in this issue. (AMA Christmas Social Event) Sheila Graham presented the results and conclusions of her members survey thank you to all who responded. One of the Saturday 14th November clear messages was that many of you like consistency in your 3.pm 4.30pm busy lives, but don t like Sundays! The Sunday afternoon meeting experiment, supposedly the dream ticket of daylight plus non working hours (for most), did not work so I have booked the Art Gallery s Craft Room for nine, mid month Wednesday morning sessions for 2016 and have pencilled in occasions for evening studio visits, which, in the past, have proved lively and successful. A list of dates appear in this issue, but do keep watching the What s On column and the web site for further details. After the business, we had a fascinating talk by Tammy Woodrow, excellently reviewed in the following pages by Margaret Condon. Speaking to Tammy afterwards, she was delighted not only to have entertained and informed us, but to have picked up some useful tips and ideas from the audience. This, to me, is what AMA is about sharing our expertise and endeavouring to assist one another. If you would like to be part of this conversation, offering to join the committee, speak or Editors present your work at a meeting or simply need some help, perhaps physically getting to a venue or want to know how to do Katharine Barker & Len Mackin something connected with our work and lives as artists, get in touch. Katharine Barker Chair AMA 1

2 Jeni Neale Botanical Artist You know what it s like, you flick through the Open Studios brochure, looking for something different, and suddenly, there it is. The most wonderful tulip, painted in the manner of traditional botanical illustration. Some 20 minutes later I was wandering around Jeni Neale s sitting room in Long Itchington, looking at both her own work and that of her students. It was all impressive, a carefully controlled abundance of floral and plant forms. I was, therefore, delighted to be able to welcome her as our first morning speaker of the autumn season. Jeni Neal Jeni s interest in plant life began on her father s allotment as a small child and perhaps a first awareness of art came from her portrait artist mother. Later, she was fortunate to have as a teacher Anne Marie Evans, a well known botanical illustrator, who lit a flame. By the age of 16, she was doing plant illustrations and we were shown a sketch book with drawings of a rose. Being brought up in Leicester, it was not surprising that her artistic talents led her into designing for the knitwear industry and we saw sketches and colour swatches for a project with Kaffe Fassett, resulting in a Fair Isle waistcoat, which she admitted, her mother helped her knit! Jeni explained that plant illustration comes in various forms. Firstly there is scientific botanical illustration, which requires an academic knowledge of botany. The aim of this work is to enable plant identification and to record details, which it would be difficult to do in any other way. Despite modern technology, Kew Gardens still employs, on a piece work basis, a team of botanical illustrators. The need for speed means that work is not coloured and shading is of the minimum necessary to convey information. Jeni has done some work of this type and is a long standing member of the Chelsea Physic Garden Florilegium Society, whose aim is to record in paint and drawing, all the plants in the Society s garden. Jeni s contribution has been the Long Red Florence Onion. She is fond of vegetables and prefers them to flowers. Jeni s main way of working is as a botanical artist. This approach maintains accuracy and traditional white grounds, but allows a little more artistic licence and is less reliant on scientific knowledge. She will rearrange a plant to produce a more pleasing composition, but will always aim to inform by including the full flower, the back of the flower and a bud, as well as leaves and stems. Traditionally, using the Anne Marie Evans method, there was a strict approach in which paint layers were built up, beginning pale, gradually introducing modelling and then further colour in a seven stage system. Pages include colour notes and shade samples and are a collection of information about a plant. One of the difficulties in botanic art is that plants, in particular flowers, do not stay in the peak of condition for as long as the artist needs to actually paint them. In recent years, computer technology and digital photography has assisted with this, though colour accuracy has to come from the artist/observer. Jeni has created a large collection of annotated colour samples, worked on strips of heavy weight water colour paper, which she uses to match and record colours when they are at their freshest and to support digital records. 2

3 Jeni Neale Botanical Artist continued Jeni s large tulip paintings all begin with a photograph, but photography is not an instant path to satisfying composition and achieving the perfect image. Up to 100 might be taken in different lights and backgrounds, before the right image is achieved. As a group of artists, we were interested in the practicalities and basic tools of her work. Jeni uses sable brushes with a fine point, but a fat belly, Numbers 4 and 5, which hold a lot of paint. Raphael is her current preferred make. Her paints are mainly Windsor and Newton and she has experimented with Sennelier, but finds them a bit short on pigment. She is beginning to work with an American brand, QoR, which have a high pigment content and include a particularly pleasing transparent orange, which has brought fiery tones to one of her tulips. Her preference is always for tubes, rather than pans. Most of her colours are mixed, especially the greens, using a six colour system and complimentary colours. Some colours, pinks and purples, have to be bought. Traditionally white is not allowed in botanical work, but nowadays it is often used for tidying up edges and for putting in veins. One method of tidying is to use white acrylic ink, then over paint with watercolour tints, as needed, to match the ground. Traditionally, botanical work is always on white, but Jeni has been experimenting with coloured grounds. We saw a part completed artichoke on dark green board. Her usual white surface is heavy weight Fabriano Artistico. The very old herbals were worked on vellum, ie calf skin, which gives a distinctive glow to work as well as being of much greater longevity than paper. It is very expensive, around 100 per skin, but Jeni uses it from time to time. The only remaining producer is William Cowley of Milton Keynes, whose main client is the Government, as vellum is used for the archive copy of all Acts of Parliament! Different surfaces require a different approach. Fabriano will take a fluid, wet way of working. Board and vellum need a dryer method, preventing layering. One advantage of vellum is that watercolour can be lifted off, if something is not quite right. Where a wet approach is needed, ox gall is added to paint water, breaking surface tension. And, by this time, we had all taken in as much as we could at one session and it was time to gather round the stunning collection of work, which Jeni had brought with her and, of course, purchase her cards. Further reading: Jeni Neale s inspirational teacher was Anne Marie Evans, find out about her life and work here, Remember Kaffe Fassett, knitwear designer? Experience his rich colours and patterns. Fancy a visit to the Chelsea Physic Garden click here or want to know more about the Florilegium Society, Jeni s amazing orange paint comes from, Qorcolors and the last remaining vellum and parchment makers are, William Cowley ltd Jeni s more usual surface is from Fabriano Finally, if you missed the talk, check out Jeni here, Katharine Barker. 3

4 Tammy Woodrow Tammy is known to many members as a fine and thoughtful curator of AMA exhibitions, but not as an artist in her own right. The AGM gave an opportunity for welcome remedy and her small display of abstract sculpture drew an excited and interested crowd even before the meeting began. By the time you read this it will be too late to see Incunabula, her first solo exhibition, currently on display at the Rugby Art Gallery, but closing 15 October There will be, however, a permanent record which came about almost accidentally. For Tammy s most recent sculptures were all made with found objects, whose structural core and defining form was wood from a favourite but decaying tree, now Tammy at Incunabula felled. Small branches and peeling bark add up to a curatorial nightmare insects! Tammy belatedly realised that no gallery was likely to be prepared to exhibit her sculptural originals, and photographed them instead, settling after some experiment on a black background that further reinforced her existential message and elevated their abstraction so that the sculptures appeared to be floating in a timeless space. Tellingly, work from the exhibition has sold in both forms: sculptural originals, and photographic transformations that are artworks in their own right. Tammy began her talk with a very brief resumé of her art career and continuing inspiration. A graduate from Birmingham in 2005, two recurrent themes in her practice have been the passing of time, and the marriage and interplay between art and science. Add in the early deaths of both Tammy s parents, and you have a powerful undercurrent that is channelled in, but is not overt, in her art, expressing itself in the works dramatic tension and its play with metaphors of time. The death of her father resulted in some fragmented photographic images, produced from found photographs, of sufficient quality to be selected for two local but prestigious Open exhibitions. The trauma of the death of her mother, as well as the need to produce work for an already scheduled exhibition, was the catalyst for the present work. It began badly, as Tammy over thought and intellectualised the process. Earlier she had referenced artists who had married art and science, from classics such as Robert Hooke s Micrographia, an exceptionally beautifully scientific work of 1665 that reproduced the natural world as seen through a microscope, to Sigmar Polke ( ), whose paintings were intended to change with time through their use of chemicals. Such conscious approaches stifled Tammy s creativity at a time of more urgent need. She then allowed herself to play, and found her own sculptural language using materials around her a dead tree that was charged with personal meaning metal hardware discarded by the builders. The two were married, using her hands and instinct to guide her, and screws, bolts, and wire, to bind, constrain, and embellish. The sculpture became a vessel '21' by Tammy Woodrow 4 3

5 Tammy Woodrow continued for meaning. Interestingly intellectual content was not abandoned: but it emerged with integrity, as it interplayed with Tammy s love of language, and her play with the meaning of words. Even the tree whose material connotation was death was also connected to life family tree, family roots. A phallic looking sculpture was given a fish jaw: in a dream world teeth can symbolise death. Gingko leaves, from a still living fossil tree, married to earth materials (cement) and wood carry a message of peace, hope, and vitality. These were sculptures in tension, un named individually, and intended to be seen as a group. My personal favourite was a hanging forked branch, into whose most slender and twig like arm was screwed an array of window latches an unlikely rib cage, and perhaps a metaphor for breath. Several people could not resist handling the most substantial piece, a gnarled branch that could be read as the torso of a woman s body. 'Extra 6' by Tammy Woodrow To this, Tammy had fastened metal catches in the manner of sutures, holding together the two sides of a split caused by the drying of the wood. These were not sad pieces. Born of play, as well as grief, they drew the viewer in, and invited contemplation. The photographs and Tammy, aided by Katharine as ambulant easel, showed a few examples necessarily lacked the tactile quality and three dimensionality of the sculptures, but added new layers of meaning through mystery and dislocation, and qualities of abstraction. To an audience of artists, the way that Tammy approached her talk was as refreshing, revealing, and inspirational as the work itself. She set herself a series of questions essentially what, which and why that she then proceeded to answer in a way that stripped her practice back to its elements and added to, rather than detracted from, the meaning of the work. Interestingly her reflection on how her work stood in relation to art movements followed, rather than preceded the work. The sculptural language was entirely her own, but she found she could place it in the tradition of Arte Povera, with its use of humble materials. Some of the best work of artists such as Alberto Burri and Lucio Fontana has an almost shamanic power Tammy s analysis of her own work was not misplaced. 5

6 Tammy Woodrow continued Tammy ended her talk by answering the question Should you curate your own work? Her considered answer was Probably not! But she applied the same rigour that she has shown in AMA exhibitions more is not better, allow the work to breathe, look at the objects in the space, and think of what you are trying to communicate. Moira Lamont, who had actually seen the exhibition, could no longer contain her infectious enthusiasm, and shared it with the audience. Finally, what of the title of the exhibition? Incunabula is generally understood to mean books printed before Tammy invited us to think further, using the familiar incubate as a key to open up the wider meaning of the word incunabula is earliest stages, infancy, cradle, origin or birthplace all of which she could relate to her mother. The exhibition itself was dedicated to both parents, and some of the sculptural originals had incorporated or used her father s tools. Nancy Upshall, in her talk to the AMA about her paintings, had reminded her audience about the importance she placed on titles Tammy chose not to title individual pieces, but her striking choice of exhibition title was as organic to her practice as some of her materials, and absolutely integral to the work. This was a splendid talk, delivered (to its benefit) without the use of Powerpoint. The writer would like to add a postcript: a thank you to Katharine Barker for the use of her studio which, on a dark night, was a welcoming venue for both the AGM and Tammy s talk. Margaret Condon Our Next Speaker - Tim Beer 11th November 10.30, Craft Room of Leamington Art Gallery I first met Tim Beer as a fellow student on one of Neil Moore s painting classes. He had recently retired from a career in medicine and was aiming to develop his life long passion for creative artwork. Clearly there was a great talent waiting to emerge and members may recall his series of successful entries in the Leamington Open over recent years. His recent open studio included abstract landscape painting, sculpture and ceramics, so I would expect this to be a talk with wide appeal. Don t miss it! Katharine Annual Subscriptions Annual subs fall due at the end of the year. Get a job out of the way now, before the complexities of the festive season are upon us! Full / exhibiting members: 20 Associate / non-exhibiting members: 15 or by cheque, made out to Association of You can now pay on-line to: Midland Artists and posted to our Treasurer, Yorkshire Bank Sheila Graham, 73, Leam Terrace, Leamington Association of Midland Artists Spa CV31 1DE Sort code: A/C number: Please make sure you reference your payment with your surname, followed by initial. 6

7 East Meets West - Sachiyo Kawabe meets Sheila It s not often that English potters have the opportunity to meet their Japanese counterparts. Sheila Graham s early work was heavily influenced by Japanese ceramics and when I heard that Sachiyo Kawabe, a well known Japanese potter, was staying in Harbury, I felt I must get them together to discuss their work. Sachiyo brought some samples of her work to show Sheila and as she placed them on the table next to Sheila s work the talk was immediately about the clay and glazes they used. Looking at their work I was struck by the elegant forms of the traditional Japanese pot shapes we are so familiar with. Sheila s work was so different, it has evolved from Japanese influences to more inventive designs and glazes. Sachiyo uses a large outdoor hand built kiln to fire her work using wood as the fuel and only firing it once a year. Sachiyo s kiln had to be rebuilt by herself and her husband after the big earthquake of 2011, which destroyed it completely as she sat nearby on her pottery wheel. Sheila uses a small electric kiln which she pointed out is so quick end easy to fire at a moment s notice. Sachiyo then confessed that she now had an electric kiln herself as she knew that, without her husband s help, she wouldn t be able to fire her big kiln by herself. I had a fascinating morning admiring their work and listening to them exchanging ideas and as we left Sachiyo invited Sheila to come and stay with her in Japan. Are you saving up Sheila? Moira Lamont Kiln Opening Sheila and Sachiyo Climbing Kiln 6

8 Exhibitions, News and Events Jane Williams had a small exhibition at the Pump Rooms at the beginning of the month. She writes, It was about celebrating violinist Peter Cropper's life. He was passionate about sharing his vast knowledge of performing to young musicians. I developed some brief sketches I had made at one of his workshops in 2011 into ink drawings incorporating some of his comments I'll never forget it and hopefully the boys won't either! Thanks to AMA for loan of the lights made a huge difference. 7

9 Christmas Sale. A Pottery and Glass Weekend. Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th November am til 5.00pm each day. 73 Leam Terrace, Leamington, CV31 1DE Three AMA members have got together to display their work this Christmas. Potter, Sheila Graham who is hosting the event. Glass artist, Laura Schlotel and potter Moira Osborne. There will be lots to view, hold, chat about and, (should you feel inclined) to buy, in a very informal atmosphere. Mulled wine and mince pies will be served by the artists. When turning into Leam Terrace from the Willes Rd look out for the bunting. Sheila, Moira and Laura. DEADLINE: MONDAY 18 JANUARY 2016 The Royal Watercolour Society s annual Contemporary Watercolour Competition encourages innovation and experimentation in all water-based media and provides a platform for both established and emerging artists. This is the UK's only major watercolour competition open to international artists. The judges are looking for pieces that push at the boundaries of watercolour, promote water-based media at its most accomplished and ask audiences to see the medium in a new and contemporary light. Successful entrants will exhibit their work at Bankside Gallery, situated next to Tate Modern, which is at the heart of London's cultural quarter. Prizes include; 1000 cash prize, a feature article in The Artist magazine, studio time at The Heatherley School of Fine Art, art materials and many more. For further details regarding entry requirements, application procedure and important dates, please download the application pack. Most other questions should be answered in our FAQs. ENTER HERE - Good Luck! 8

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11 YOUR VERY OWN, CUT OUT AND KEEP AMA Events Calendar 2016 The following dates have been booked and periods of time pencilled in for AMA events in Further information and details of speakers will be announced as soon as they are confirmed. Please keep watching the web site and Newsletter for up to date information. All Wednesday morning meetings will be held in the Craft Room of Leamington Art Gallery. The main building, library, café and cloakrooms are all open from (or earlier). The Art Gallery/Museum, which doesn t open until 10.30, is, of course, open after our meeting. Parking, alongside the gallery, can be arranged for anyone with a physical need or disability Wednesday 20th January: Wednesday 24th February: Wednesday 16th March: Wednesday 13th April: Wednesday 11th May: Week commencing 23rd May: evening studio talk Wednesday 22 June: Fortnight commencing 4th July: evening studio talk connected with WOS Week commencing 22nd August: evening studio talk Wednesday 28th September Wednesday 19th October (this might also be the AGM) Wednesday 23rd November 10