Extra-curricular activities, May / June listing

This addition to my learning log is to recall and comment upon those activities relating to art but not directly to the OCA course.

Talks : Catrin Webster

I’ve already added a short blog about Catrin Webster’s talk.

TV : Next Great Artist

Each week I’ve been watching “Next Great Artist” on Sky Arts.  This programme follows a chosen group of young artists who are put through a new art challenge each week.  This week their challenge was to create meaningful graffiti art on 42ft sq walls in New York.  Another week they met a group of children who had each painted a picture.  Their challenge was to create a complementary piece of art work to the picture they were given.  Another challenge was to make art out of machine parts.

What I find interesting about this program is the way in which they are judged.  The team of judges is made up of a world-renowned art auctioneer, Simon de Pury who is also their mentor throughout each challenge; Bill Powers, gallery owner / collector / writer; Gerry Saltz, writer / art critic; China Chow who hosts the show and is one of the judges.  She has been an avid art enthusiast all her life and is involved in many art and fashion projects.  There’s also a specialist in the type of art the challenge is based upon.

They talk about what works for them and what doesn’t and why which helps me realise that art has to create an emotion within the viewer; that it is often best to leave something unsaid so the viewer can fill in the blanks; what makes art bland and uninteresting and what does the opposite.

This critiquing is a huge learning for me.

TV : Architecture School

This may seem an odd choice and, in fact, much of the screen time was given over to petty issues.  What attracted me yet again, was the feedback for the young architects.  Their challenge was to design a home in a devastated area of New Orleans.  They voted on which of the students’ designs would be built and then, with some supervision, they built the home themselves.

I learned some of the same lessons the students themselves learned. What they should have thought about before the project was:

  • Suitability to place / landscape / existing architecture
  • Suitability of use for the likely future owners
  • Function and form
  • Collaboration with the community in advance

I wonder how this might apply to art?  For instance if I were to take on a commission at any time, these would be important factors.  Where will the final piece be hung? What do the owners want to feel when they see it?

If I have a gallery exhibition in the future, the cohesion of the work will be important; the gallery’s ethos; the space available.  I’m sure there are many ways in which I could learn from this show.

Art Groups and Classes : Critique

I attend a local art group weekly.  The last group was a critique and I took one of my paintings which seemed a brave move since most of the artists are very advanced and some semi-professional.

The ‘judge’ was Leslie Dearne who is a local professional artist and she was staggered by the good quality of our work but gave feedback where she thought it could be improved.  Again, this feedback is essential to understand what works and what doesn’t.

Her critique was based on all the basics, colour, form, contrast, tone and even framing.  My style of painting is unlike other members and was enjoyed even though I could give myself feedback on what I had could do better!

I know colours can be distorted on screen but, if you are seeing the same colours as I am, I felt that the greens in the lower half of the artwork were not quite compatible with the upper half, especially the darker shade.  If I were to paint this again I would also make the alliums in the background larger – if not those in the foreground as well.

The techniques used were: molding paste applied to shape the allium flowers in advance.  Alcohol technique to create the tapestry of acid green leaves in the background, syringe to apply gold swirls and leaves.

Art Groups and Classes : Lessons

I attend a 2-hour art class each week.  We are nor formally taught; we are expected to bring a photograph, painting or idea to copy from.  I sometimes copy but often do my own thing.  Whenever we are stuck on a colour mix or a technique we are advised how to overcome our problem and in this way we learn.

I’m currently doing my third silk painting because I like the technique and wish to improve my skill.  I’m using gutta outlines and filling in with silk paint.


This month I’ve been working my way through the OCA material and How to Succeed as a Mature Student by Teresa Rickards.  I also read my Artists & Illustrators magazine from cover to cover every month.  I’ve just started on Sylvan Barnet’s “A short guide to writing about art”.  Looks good so far.


I have four paintings exhibited at the local Community Centre, one at the Traveller’s Gallery to raise money for the charity MIND and one at The Gate, Roath. I’ve only painted a few pictures that I like and the more I look at other artists, the less I like my own work! I know I’m a beginner though, so exhibiting is more about taking a leap of confidence than it is about expectation. The feedback I get is always complementary … which isn’t going to help me improve.

Wildlife Photographer of the year

My husband and I went on an Exhibition trail yesterday afternoon (Saturday 23rd June).  We started at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit at the museum in Cardiff.  Wonderful work, much of which was beautifully artistic.  This was one of my favourites:

Arthur Morris : Snow and Geese

I love the repeating patterns of wings and dangling legs.  The picture is almost monochromatic except for the touches of orange on the geese’ feet.  Some of the flock is almost obscured by snow and the snowflakes in the foreground give a speckled, ethereal feel to the work.  There is such crazy, frenetic movement that one expects the birds to collide into one another though, of course, there is a rhythm and order that we humans cannot fathom so they never will.

Impressionist Gallery: Cardiff Museum

We then went to the impressionist gallery which has many beautiful works.  I got up close and personal to Sisley, Cezanne and Monet, paying particular attention to their brush strokes, the thickness of paint, the background colours that showed through.

I was searching out Van Gogh because he was part of this month’s research and I wanted to see a real live painting rather than a photograph of a painting.

Below are my snaps of (1) the context in which the picture is hung; (2) the art-work “Landscape in the Rain” painted by Van Gogh in Auvers-sur-oise and (3) a close up of the beautiful brushwork:

Cardiff Museum with Van Gogh to left of archway


Landscape in the Rain : Vincent van Gogh

close up on brush-work

The closer I got to the impressionist paintings, the more I marvelled that they could possibly know what the effect would be to a viewer standing well back from their work.  Often the brush marks seem random or unclear and undescriptive and yet from a distance all becomes clear and descriptive.

The rain, painted in blue and white streaks across this work not only bring life and movement to it but also break the whole into fascinating sections, each with its own story to tell.

Three more galleries

It was a bit of gallop to visit three more galleries before they closed, but the purpose of the visit was to find out what’s available in the area and which galleries would merit another visit.  We also asked if they had an exhibition programme for future works and how often the gallery’s main stock was renewed or recycled.

The galleries we visited were the Martin Tinney Gallery, The Kooywood Gallery and the Albany Gallery.  Each of these galleries specialise in Welsh artists’ work so the Museum Gallery may be of the most use to me in the future since it has a wide variety of paintings and sculpture from several eras.

I had a fun and learning-packed afternoon and wonder why I haven’t visited the museum more often in my years living here though it is a half-hour away in the car and the cost of parking is prohibitive.  I rarely venture into Cardiff unless I have to but I shall definitely visit the museum and look at more of the work there whenever I have an opportunity to do so.

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