Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Picture, Painter, Printer, Framer

Framed work, paintings by Inky Leaves

Yesterday I didn't manage to do any painting. This is because I was officially exhausted. I've been overdoing it again, what with the garden needing a 'good old dig', the seeds needing a 'good old sow' and the bamboo needing a 'good old removal'. Plus it's been very busy at work and my other half has been poorly. I felt like I had been riding a wave and I pushed it just a little bit too much last week. It was time for a break and today I feel much better for it.

Framed work by Inky Leaves

So on my day off I went off to the printers to drop off Monstera problema and Chelsea Tulips. I don't think I will offer these two pieces as prints, but I like to have a scan as a record. Neither of these are as finished as I'd hoped, but I am keen to move on with new work. At least Monstera is alright not being perfect as that was the whole point. I painted this one at a time when I had an ovarian health issue going on and felt 'imperfect' and like I was missing something. I painted it because the leaf has egg-shaped holes and is itself missing bits... Problem was, I was in a fit of absolute upset when I started it. You know how it goes - you got to get what ever it is out of your system with a brush... I just had to paint there and THEN, but I had no paper big enough, so I grabbed some Intaglio printing stuff I bought a while back from the bottom of my wardrobe. What a mistake that was - this paper is great for Intaglio - but completely unsuitable for botanical art. The paint didn't really stay on the paper very well and the masking fluid took bits of the paper off. It was a nightmare. So this is an unfinished painting of an imperfect leaf on imperfect paper by an imperfect artist. It's finished - as an unfinished piece.

Then I went to the framer to check on my latest frames... "Hey nice going there framer - you did a good job!" - I am really pleased with the job so far. I see a lot of frames in my other line of work and this really helps me to see what shapes a piece well and what doesn't. Over the past year I have seen a lot of David Nash's work and he seems to have the same taste as me when it comes to framing. He uses either no mount at all or a floating one. What I like about this is it looks modern and gives a contemporary feel to botanical art. I'd like to think that customers feel like they are getting a present in a box. 

Kate Nessler at the Jonathan Cooper Gallery

At the Edge

24 April - 11 May 2013

Click here for the catalogue

Friday, 26 April 2013

Changes at the Gallery

Rory McEwen Leaf
 One of Rory McEwen's Leaves * 
(I want to know which shade of green he used to get this colour - ideas anyone?)

So it's all change here in the gallery this week! At 8am this morning I witnessed two of our David Nash sculptures leaving on the back of a lorry - The Sliced Cedars. A sad moment in the morning drizzle (below), and the end of a season. I am glad that the exhibition closed during Spring though, as it's a time of new leaves and colour and that makes me feel more hopeful.

Packing up the Nash exhibition, Kew

So less about what is going on outside the gallery and more about what's happening indoors! Like a chrysalis, there is a lot going on inside our walls. We've been having lots of deliveries... all paintings. The Rory McEwen show is starting to take shape as we get work from Kew, the family and from private collections. It's really exciting to be part of this. The paintings arrive all wrapped up in white opaque bubble wrap and we have no idea what's in them. Unwrapping each one if like unwrapping a very expensive and delicate chocolate truffle. It's a million Christmas' all at once. I have never seen so many beautiful pieces of work in such a short space of time. I felt like crying.  It's going to be an extraordinary show - real food for the eyes and soul.

Laying out the paintings for the Rory McEwen show
Laying out the paintings for the Rory McEwen show

As a point of interest, I feel that now is a good time to talk about frames. Many of the frames around Rory McEwen's work are now roughly 40-60 years old. Some are amazing - my favourite one is a bamboo piece which looks very 1970s! However, what I really wanted to talk to you all about is how frames deteriorate over time and what we can do as artists to prevent this.

Fritillary by Rory McEwen
 A close up on one of Rory's Fritillarias*

*Please note that these pieces might not be in the exhibition. We are still selecting work. This is how we work - we select a whole collection of work, and then lay them all out and decide which paintings work well together in each gallery space.

Now I know all us good artists invest in proper frames with acid free boards and mounts and a proper seal at the back. Rory probably did too. But something I have discovered since working in this show is what happens to frames over time and how badly they can age. I had a chat with a conservator about frames as I was interested to know more about them and how damage occurs. Apparently, the biggest killer is just neglect on the owners part. Even acid free materials don't last forever. This brought back memories of me working in a museum and the fact that we have to repackage objects every few years because acid free tissue paper loses its effectiveness. I guess the same goes for frames. 

Laying out the paintings for the Rory McEwen show

So apparently we need to check our frames every 5 years for damage and bugs. We need to pay particular attention to the seal at the back, the state of the mount and for rusty nails etc. Even if acid free board has been used, this still needs replacing roughly every ten years. So, if anyone owns a piece of artwork which they love and value, like a classic car - you need to maintain it. I think there is a bit of a mentality in many of us that once you have parted with your hard earned cash for a piece of art, one feels that they don't need to pay anymore. They own it and it's theirs, but like a classic car or a house - you need to keep injecting the cash now and then to keep it looking good and structurally sound.
Bugs are the worst problem - they get in all sorts of ways, but it's especially bad if the taped seal at the back is broken. Acid boards are pretty bad too, as are woods that emit a lot of acidic gas. Apparently pear wood is the best wood you can use as it emits less gas and lignins and isn't on a CITES list unlike other woods.

Rory McEwen Leaf
A close up on one of Rory's decaying leaves*

*Please note that these pieces might not be in the exhibition. We are still selecting work. This is how we work - we select a whole collection of work, and then lay them all out and decide which paintings work well together in each gallery space.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

New culitvar of Magnolia finished

Commissioned painting of a new Magnolia cultivar finished

I have he commissioned painting of a new Magnolia cultivar is now finished and will be posted today. Pretty pleased with it now it's finished, it just took me a while getting used to the acrylics after 2 years of not using them.

Monday, 22 April 2013

New website being designed

So Inky Leaves dot com is currently having a make-over. This is great news as the old site just suddenly got old (you know how it goes with technology - one minute fine, the next not!). I opened my website on an apple laptop about a year ago and the text was teeny tiny because the resolution of the screens has got so much better in the past 5 years.  Henry and I tried to make the page look more update by loading up some images of my latest work about 18 months ago, but it was the actual template that needed re-designing.

So here it is! Browse have gone for an 'all on one webpage' template which I really like. I'd rather have one page with lots of interesting things on it than lots of pages each with not very much on them. 

Hopefully it'll go live soon. In the meantime - he's the sneak peek.

TTFN, time for some gardening... then coffee...

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Tackling with the undergrowth again today...

Coffea arabica painting by J R Shepherd
Coffea arabica (Coffee) in it's entirety

Coffea arabica painting by J R Shepherd
Coffea arabica (Coffee) - close up on leaves

Coffea arabica painting by J R Shepherd
Coffea arabica (Coffee) - close up on it's leaves
For those of you who have been following my mum's latest creative adventure, you might be interested to know that the pots have just come out of the kiln

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

The Botanical Imagination at the Whitechapel Gallery

Karl Blossfeldt (1865–1932) is recognised for his extensive and unique collection of photographic plant  portraits that reveal the intricate forms of flora. His fusion of scientific observation, sculptural form and surreal composition pioneered an artistic style that forged new approaches to modern art and photography.

Working at the junction of Art Nouveau and Modernism, Blossfeldt developed a series of homemade cameras that allowed him to photograph plant surfaces in unprecedented magnified detail. Working as a tutor in Berlin from the late nineteenth century until his death, Blossfeldt’s works were primarily used as teaching tools and were brought to public attention in 1928 by his first publication Urformen der Kunst (Art Forms in Nature). Swiftly regarded as a seminal book on photography, Blossfeldt’s factual yet finely detailed imagery was praised by Walter Benjamin, adopted by the Surrealists and mass produced in magazines and books. 

Between 16 April - 14 June 2013, the Whitechapel Gallery will have an inspiring presentation of Blossfeldt’s work on show. The exhibition will consist of over 80 silver gelatin prints made and used during his tutorship. In addition, five rarely-seen large-scale prints will also be shown. These historic photographs will be accompanied by his original publications, a set of working collages made in preparation for his books along with a number of avant-garde writings that embraced his work, including a text by Georges Bataille.

Admission is free.

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Interestingly, Rory McEwen was a big fan of Blossfeldt's work and held a number of 'Homage to Karl Blossfeldt' exhibitions during this lifetime. They showed his paintings of enlarged growing points and buds of plants with misty Scottish landscapes behind.
We have one of Rory's 'Homage to Karl Blossfeldt' pieces on show in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art, Kew this summer. If you are based in London, or spending a weekend in the city, I'd recommend seeing both exhibitions.

Acontium Monk's Hood with Ailsa Craig II

Acontium Monk's Hood with Ailsa Craig II by Rory McEwen
'Homeage to Karl Blossfeldt' no. 5 1977' 
Watercolour on vellum 
Shirley Sherwood Collection

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Discussion: The Botanical Imagination

To coincide with their exhibition on Karl Blossfeldt, the Whitechapel Gallery is holding a lecture to explore the role of botany in art.

Friday 7 June, 2pm - 5pm
Booking essential. Tickets £8/6 concessions (£4 Members).

If you are interested in his work, blogger 'Crises et Chuchotements' has loaded up lots of stunning images.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Beautiful work by Lottas Träd

January Tree detail by Lottas Träd
January Tree by Lottas Träd - in detail

I came across this fabulous work by the Swedish artist Lottas Träd. I recommend having a look at the website. It's filled with images of delicate hand made trees which really feed the imagination. The work certainly makes me look at trees a bit differently... It's like genetic modification on paper - evolution by human intervention, and yet achieved using such a simple and beautiful technique.

August Tree by Lottas Träd
August Tree by Lottas Träd

The sense of experimentation and play give the work a lovely childish quality. they are also so new and refreshing to look at - it's like a breath of fresh air. I want one.

Hornbeam Tree by Lottas Träd
Hornbeam Tree by Lottas Träd

January Tree by Lottas Träd
January Tree by Lottas Träd

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Laying out Rory McEwen's Legacy

Agapanthus by Susannah Blaxhill
 Agapanthus by Susannah Blaxhill - My favourite painting of the show.
Stunning technique and gorgeous colours.

So we have started laying out the next exhibition at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art, Kew. This exhibition is Dr. Sherwood's and will open this Saturday. So if any of you are in London for the RHS and SBA botanical art shows this weekend and feel that you'd like to see a bit more art, then I recommend coming to the gallery (especially as the weather looks rather good for Sunday).

From Monday 15th we will start to dismantle David Nash - A Natural Gallery to make way for Rory McEwen The Colours of Reality which opens on 11th May. I will blog updates on this as they happen... I am very excited this show (can you tell?!).

Laying out the linking gallery for Dr. Sherwood's latest exhibition 
'Rory McEwen's Legacy' which opens on Saturday.

At the top of this post is a photograph of my favourite painting in Dr Sherwood's show. It's by Blaxhill and is absolutely stunning. The photograph doesn't give it justice - you have to see this gem in the flesh to fully appreciate the skill required to execute this Agapanthus in the way Susannah has. You cannot see a single brush stroke - it's incredible. She has used such delicious blues too and for me this picture really represents 'hope' and the 'budding' of ideas. It's unusual to see this species drawn in the way Susannah has and it is very different to  most traditional pictures, which might be why I like it. Pandora Sellers' Agapanthus, for example, is very different and captures the arching leaves and the 'floppy' the essence of the species incredibly well. We have a few pieces of Pandora's work on show in this exhibition also, but not Pandora's painting of an Agapanthus, which was on show in 2010 in Bulbmania.

Agapanthus sp. by Pandora Sellars

Agapanthus sp. by Pandora Sellars

Laying out the linking gallery for Dr. Sherwood's latest exhibition 
'Rory McEwen's Legacy' which opens on Saturday.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Inky Leaves will be showing at the Espacio Gallery!

I have just heard that some of my botanical paintings will be on show as part of the Chelsea Fringe Festival in the Espacio Gallery at the top of Brick Lane. Naturally I am ecstatic about this! The show will run from 22nd May to 4th June.Find out more here.

Outside the Espacio Gallery
 Outside the Espacio Gallery

This is the first time that my work has been exhibited by a gallery in London. It's in a cool place too as it's just off of Columbia Road Flower Market. Time for the Inky Leaves studio to get prepared! I will be posting more information about the group show as it trickles in, but if you like art with a botanical theme, then I recommend that you drop in.

 Inside the Espacio Gallery
 Inside the Espacio Gallery

Friday, 5 April 2013

Music Hiding In The Air by Christian McEwen

Music Hiding in the Air by Christian McEwen

I have just been informed that another book about Rory McEwen is due to come out this Spring! The book is a beautiful memoir about Rory McEwen and is entitled ‘Music Hiding in the Air’. It talks about Rory intimately and honestly. Christian really helps you to understand the man on an emotional level and it very touching in his words. The book comes with some family pictures and four or five reproductions of his artwork and talks about his musical career. It’s a small book and will be on sale from May, in the Kew store, to coincide with the show. If you like Rory's work, I recommend adding this little gem to your collection.

If you are interested in purchasing this book, here are the details:

Title: Music Hiding In The Air

Publisher: Bauhan Publishing. Distributed in the UK by Eurospan.

ISBN: 978-0-87233-166-2

Price: £9.99

At this point in time the book is not available through tax-dodging Amazon, but it will be available at the Kew retail store and an independent book seller can order it in for you. Or, you can order your copy personally through:

G. Heywood Hill Ltd, 10 Curzon St, London W1J SHH. Tel: 0207 629 0647.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Three more leaves on the Green Giant

Coffee Leaves on the side

This was the most difficult leaf (the one on the far right) and it isn't quite there yet  - almost though. I find leaves that are sideways on are always a tricky to do. It helps when they are shiny or curvy (like a Hosta or Aspidistra). In this painting the coffee leaves have the shine, but not so much the curve - more 'wave'! I need to cross reference some of my older paintings to see how I can get this fully three-dimensional. But it's almost complete. Lots of mauve in this leaf and French ultramarine.

The coffee plant - a work in progress

This is the whole botanical illustration of the Coffee arabica plant. I have only just noticed that there is a lovely hole in the middle! However, for once I do seem to be working the 'right way' across the board for a right handed* lass - left to right.

*When it comes to lifting things, cycling one handed and draining saucepans/drying hair I am predominately left handed.

Coffea arabica leaves with the light shining through them

A close up on another one of those coffee leaves... this one (again on the right - there definitely is a theme developing here!) has the sunlight shining through it (and on it) so it's really lurid. It's quite spectacular to see how lurid the green is on a coffee plant when it's in this condition, as the leaves are actually quite dark on the surface.

Coffee arabica leaf

Oh and this one is no-way finished... really tricky painting these highlights. They sort of did my head in a few times! I had to keep coming back to it. Unlike the leaves around it, this one has the light only shining on it, so it's pretty dark in places and the greens are full of Winsor blue and French ultramarine and Crimson.