Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Sunday, 25 January 2015

How to wrap a painting for an aeroplane...

So the time has come where the London Plane Tree needs to get to England from Spain via Monarch Airways. This is the day I have been dreading. I hate to even think about the journey it's got to go on, and yet top-end galleries are always shuttling paintings around the world. I was going to courier the piece to London, but with return flights priced at 50 euros on Boxing Day I decided that at that price I could do the couriering myself. I am now wondering if that was such a bright idea...!

Wrapping up Russell in cellophane
So last night (and I am so glad I started this last night as it's taken forever to do) this is how I packed the painting:

Step 1: Choose your portfolio and buy some skinny plywood and get it cut to the right size

Step 2: Wrap the painting in cellophane being careful to make sure no dust gets in the first layer (I use a feather for this)

Step 3: Wrap the painting in cellophane twice again sealing all of the holes

Step 4: Stick the painting to one side of the plywood

Step 5: Offer the other bit of Plywood up to make sandwich and stick together

Step 6: Wrap the plywood sandwich in cellophane (can you tell I am nervous of condensation?!)

Step 7: Put the sandwich inside the portfolio

Step 8: Don't do what I did and sell a print that's bigger than the board the day before...!

Step 9: Because I sold a print that is bigger than the board, I had to wrap this in three layers of cellophane

Step 10: I then had to line my portfolio in bubble wrap and Bristol board and make a bubblewrap 'wedge' to prevent any bending over the smaller piece of plywood

Step 11: Zip up the portfolio and wrap it in clingfilm (mum's idea in case of rain)

Step 12: Label the portfolio in English and Spanish 'Muy Fragil' etc...

Step 13: Pray it gets there in one piece.

Step 14: Have a meltdown when you have to unwrap it all and actually take the art works out. Maybe invent a pass-the-parcel game?

Sticking the painting onto the plywood
After all of this and with the residue of almost an entire roll of transparent parcel tape behind my front teeth, I am now as ready as I will ever be.  I am slightly worried that this adventure is happening during a mercury retrograde cycle, but can't be helped. I am just focusing on the fact that by doing it this way I can at least bring back some sheets of my favourite paper. 

Dusting my cellophane. This job is an OCD sufferer's nightmare. Cellophane attracts EVERYTHING!
I am guessing that a  lot of you might think that the whole cellophane thing might be a bit overkill, but I can explain my logic... When I worked at Plymouth City Museum we'd often freeze our natural history specimens to prevent pest outbreaks in the stores. It's an essential part of curating any historical collection really. One of the things that happens once the specimen is inside the freezer is that condensation would collect on the specimens. This would damage the collection if we didn't do something to prevent this from happening. What we would do is double wrap every item in plastic sheeting and seal all of the holes using a piece of equipment that would melt the plastic together. I remember it was a tedious job - often given to volunteers - but it was essential. So this is why I am concerned about condensation... We are, after all, going a long way up in the atmosphere.

Portfolio fully 'clingfilmed'

With labels....

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Nicholas Johnson in A Crazed Flowering

So while I continue to camp out in Fuengirola (or as my mum likes to call it, 'Fuengir-effing-ola' - no idea why, I rather like it here) on a mini break, I am busy planning things out. I've been planning out my next body of work, planning out exhibitions and today I decided to plan my trip to London next week. As usual I have back-to-back appointments, so I can't squeeze much in, but I feel one has to make full use of the opportunity of being in the capital. I have in the last few years, however, often found myself feeling fairly disenchanted by the larger shows that London has to offer its visitors, so this time I thought I'd peruse the internet to see what shows are on in the smaller, more private, galleries. It was then when I came across the work of Nicholas Johnson.

Nicholas Johnson ©

I just love the intense, explosive energy in Nicholas' paintings. I love the use of the bold colours and the chaos. They remind me of how I felt when botanising in the jungle. One can almost hear the noise from all the insects and birds. I realise that these paintings won't be everyone's cup of tea, but they are certainly mine. If you are interested in Nicholas and want to read more about him there is a great article about the painter here on Young Space.

Rather frustratingly, I will miss his show by 24 hours... (I guess it happens to us all)! However, if you are in London this weekend and are wondering how to spend your time, this is your last chance to see this little exhibition before it closes.

A Punk Smelling Flowers at the End of His Life, acrylic, string, canvas scraps on paper,
140 x 208 cm, Nicholas Johnson © 2014

The show, which is inspired by J. G. Ballard’s dystopian novel The Crystal World, is called A Crazed Flowering and is on show at The Frameless Gallery in Clerkenwell. Curated by Dazed contributor Kate Neave, the three week-long show’s roots sprouted when artist Nicholas Johnson’s fascination with The Crystal World grew alongside his fellow exhibitor and Royal College of Art graduate Freya Douglas-Morris, as they completed their degrees together.
“The novel's inventive assortment of notions of botanical overgrowth and types of decay including petrification, crystallisation, overgrowth, damp and drought had captured Nicholas' imagination,” reveals Kate Neave. “Whereas Freya was more concerned with the rich environments Ballard imagines and his play on time and space in the novel.” The trio of artists on show is rounded off by Chelsea College of Art graduate Lucy Whitford, who concentrated on interpreting the book’s narratives and mythologies in her work.
A Crazed Flowering runs until January 24, 2015 at London’s Frameless Gallery.
Click here for more information.

Nicholas Johnson ©

Kerry Miller Reimagining the Book

Kerry Miller © 
It seems a little sad to cut up beautifully illustrated books, but I rather like the way Kerry Miller creates her work. She gives forgotten books a new lease of life. She alters them and concentrates their personality into three dimensional pop-up 'stages'. She works on lots if different books, but I thought I'd post some examples of her natural history sets. 

Kerry Miller ©
Karen Miller describes her work "as a means of distilling the essence of a book, whilst releasing the images and allowing them to reach a new audience. She views it as a collaboration, a partnership with the past, giving new purpose to old volumes that may otherwise never see the light of day or simply end up in recycling".

Kerry Miller © 

Saturday, 17 January 2015

A Portrait of Russell

Russell Platanus Acerifolia is born!

'Russell Square London Plane Tree' (Platanus acerifolia)
Watercolour, 56cm x 76cm, Jessica Rosemary Shepherd 

Date of conception: 22 December 2014 at 14:54 hours

Birth: 17 January 2015 at 12:00 hours

Birth sign: Capricorn

Sex: Male

Hours of labour: 160 hours

Number of cups of tea drunk: 110

Number of painting blocks: 4

Number of times I lost my nerve: 10

Hours of walking in the campo: 30

Total number of days off: 3 

Top 5 albums played:

Philip Glass: Metamorphosis & Violin Concerto 
You just can't seem to stop painting when this music is playing - great for blocks. Recommend.

Current 93: Thunder Perfect Mind
Pure escapism, pretty dramatic lyrics that are good when darkening the layers

Ennio Morricone: The Best Of
The Spaghetti Western tracks are great for overcoming blocks and fear. I especially like 'The Ecstasy of Gold' as it makes me feel like I can achieve ANYTHING.

Yann Tiersen: Amelie Soundtrack
I played this towards the end - it was like a celebration

Other albums played:

Bowie and Ennio meet Glass: Heros Low Symphonies
Philip Glass: Metamorphosis, Violin Concerto, Koyaanisqatsi
Calexico: Feast of Wire
Pink Floyd: Atom  Heart Mother, Meddle Trance Mix, More
Jack White: Lazaretto
The Black Keys: El Camino
Leonard Cohen: The Essential Leonard Cohen
Simon and Garfunkel: The Best of Simon and Garfunkel
Nick Drake: Way to Blue
Jose Gonzalez: Veneer
Gravenhurst: Flashlight Seasons
Current 93: Thunder Perfect Mind
Cerys Matthews: Explorer
Death in Vegas: Dead Elvis, Scorpio Rising, Trans-love Energies 
Enya: Paint the Sky with Stars
Ennio Morricone: The Best Of
Ennio Morricone: The Mission
Wolfgang Mozart: Clarinet Concerto
BBC Radio 6 - Mark Radcliffe and Maconie - sometimes you just need a laugh
BBC Radio 6 - Nemone's Electric Lady Land
Pink Floyd: Atom  Heart Mother, Meddle Trance Mix, More
Yann Tiersen: Amelie Soundtrack
Satie: Piano works
Guns and Roses: Guns Greatest Hits - I play 'Welcome to the Jungle' a lot when I loose my nerve
The Rolling Stones: Forty Licks
Bob Dylan: The Ultimate Collection
Bob Marley: Bob Marley and the Wailers
Jimi Hendrix: Axis Bold as Love
The XX: XX
First Aid Kit: The lions Roar
Fleetfoxes: Fleetfoxes
The Doves: The Last Broadcast
Flaming Lips: Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
Dr Alimanado: Best Dressed Chicken in Town
Rutts DC vs. Mad Professor: Rhythm Collision Dub
Unitone Hifi: Wickedness Increased
Chopin: the Best of Chopin
Enya: Paint the Sky with Stars
Patti Smith: Banga
Joy division: Permanent
Madonna: Music
The Very Best of Euphoria - I often have to play the trance late at night to keep me going
Sash and Digweed: Communicate, The Northern Expeditions - ditto
Helix: Abyssus Abyssum Invocat - ditto

Monday, 12 January 2015

Conker Shells

"Oh my goodness! How I have missed your smoothness you gorgeous little piece of vellum you! You are my world and I love you very, very much"... I squeal as my brush caresses the skin with the most delicate of touches. The quiet plucking of harp strings gently fills the space of the darkened room. Tiny beams of bright light shine through the partially closed window shutters forming little stairways to heaven all around my desk. One stairway dances with the plumes of steam rising up from my large tea cup. Travelling in opposite directions they meet in the middle and embrace. 

Conker Shells (Aesculus hippocastanum) on vellum

I rapidly clap my hands and shriek in delight! Another brief moment of ecstasy as a moist blob of paint takes its journey across the polished surface flawlessly. I am home alone, and feel as though I can make as much noise as I like. No one will ever know what is happening in my darkened bedroom. Shutters down I am in a world of my own.

Conker Shells (Aesculus hippocastanum) on vellum

Today is a particularly sunny day. The frosty lawn in the garden below is being hastily thawed and the withered Wisteria at the foot of my window pane is exhausted. In it's last breath it has decided to shed it's seeds all over the driveway. Between brief silent interludes one can hear a loud cracking sound from the other side of the glass veil as the pods crash to the floor, releasing their seed in an explosion of utter desperation. They look like Galaxy Minstrels, but are probably poisonous as ricin. Days like this are glorious, but the intensity of the white light is too difficult to paint in, which is why the front shutter is partially closed. The aperture on the eastern facet is open however, bestowing not only the right type of light, but also revealing a breathtaking view of the Sierra Nevada.

Conker Shells (Aesculus hippocastanum) close up

The snowy peaks trickle down the harsh jagged slopes like milk. From the peaks, the energy of the ice seems to radiate out until it touches the roof tops of the houses that are about 30 minutes closer. Olive wood smoke rises from a chimney and smothers the summit in a shroud of filthy Turner's Yellow. 

Conker Shells (Aesculus hippocastanum) close up
"Yellow! That's what it needs..." I realise as I busily mix the greys for my velvety conker shell. Capturing the textures and colours that cover the walls of this concave vessel has been particularly gruelling, but raptured by the tussle, I am taking much delight in the slog. 

Entering the last dimension

So it's all hands on deck now as I go for the final push in trying to get the London Plane Tree finished before Friday. I have to say I have hit a few walls in the last few days and that is in itself interesting to talk about. One night I just couldn't for the life of me get to sleep - my eyes were just completely switched on (as was my brain) and my throat was sore (I am fighting a bug). I think I managed to grab only a couple of hours that night which meant the next day I felt pretty rough. In the back of my mind I knew that the 'painting programme' I have set myself didn't allow me to have 24 hours to be bone idle, but I knew in my heart that to have picked up a brush at this point would have been a really silly thing to do. My mind starting picturing me dropping my brush or knocking something over the piece. With all these mini-catastrophes popping up in my overly tired mind I decided to leave the studio, go to my bedroom and write in my diary instead. In this case, taking a day off was the best thing I could have done, as the next day I felt as though I was not only physically more able to paint, but that I actually (and more importantly) wanted to. No point in doing it if you don't enjoy it is there?
London Plane Tree (Platanus × acerifolia) - a work in progress
On the other side of things, yesterday I hit a bit of a wall after my afternoon walk. I came home BOILING hot, as it was really warm yesterday here in Granada and I had far too many layers on, and sat at the easel and just froze. It took so much will power to just pick up a brush. After mixing a shade of green, I again froze. My eyes glazed over the greens and everything was blurry. I felt a little nauseous and couldn't pick out the bits the of the painting that needed attention. This is definitely a consequence of getting tired and as I said to my mum yesterday, I have begun to reach that point where I often stop on a piece of work and call it 'finished'. As a consequence of this 'glazing over episode', a lot of my work is never really fully done. I often hit a wall like this and feel like I am just dancing around with the layers after a while and not really achieving anything. I feel I am reaching that point now - it's like entering another dimension. Time warps, nerve pulses slow down and it all gets a bit dreamy.
London Plane Tree (Platanus × acerifolia) - a work in progress

Unlike with my other work, I have decided to float around in this bubble with the Plane tree as it is important that I do really finish it. I am doing to saunter with the top layer of paint for a while longer without trying to muddy the pigments or damage the paper. I really want this commission to be fully polished. As a result of this, I put on my Philip Glass (who always gets me out of a block) and got painting.  Sometimes you just have to crack on, even if it does feel like you've entered another dimension and are walking through treacle.

London Plane Tree (Platanus × acerifolia) - a work in progress
So a busy few days ahead! Must get on with it. Today I am having to completely change track and finish the conker shells for the BBC who are now (rather excitingly) doing the final edits on the Rory programme. I haven't got a broadcasting date yet, but I have asked the team so we should know soon-ish. So as a result of this I am going to be really stretching myself by reverting back to vellum today before then going back to paper for the final push. Talk about a busy week, but then I secretly love it. It's better to be busy than not.

London Plane Tree (Platanus × acerifolia) - a work in progress

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Society of Botanical Artists Annual Show 2015

In Pursuit of Plants

17th to 26th April 2015

Westminster Central Hall, London

Apologies for being rather slow on the uptake... this news has probably been out for a while now and members must have known for ages, but I have only just noticed that the dates for the SBA annual exhibition are available. I blame my lack of speed on all things 'exhibition-based' on the fact that I am no longer working at Kew Gardens and am rather busy knuckling down in the studio. I have accidentally shut myself away from all of these outside influences... I only just spotted this after taking a sneaky peak on the SBA website after publishing the post on the Jonathan Cooper Gallery as I wanted to see if I could see both shows on the same day/week. The good news is that it appears I can, so that is pretty good news and probably not just for me, but for you too.

So for those of you who want to know more the SBA annual Exhibition: It will be held  from 17th to 26th April and those who wish to enter the receiving day for works is 23rd February. 

See you there!

History of Botanical Illustration with Tania Marien

On January 29th, cultural and heritage educator, Tania Marien, will lead a class on botanical illustration at the Fullerton Arboretum.

The four-hour course, titled “History of Botanical Illustration,” will focus on how to create personalized sketchbooks of arboretum plants. Excitingly, class participants will get the chance to explore the garden and do some sketching. After which, they will then have the opportunity to turn their sketches into print-block carvings.
Pre-registration for this workshop is encouraged and participants must bring a mixed media sketchbook at least 9 by 12 inches. No previous sketching or botany experience is apparently necessary however.
“This is a fun, educational activity that is related to plants,” Marien said. “The goal is for the artist to explore and become familiar with unfamiliar plants.”

Marien, a member of the National Association for Interpretation, is founding editor of “The Southern California Botanical Artist.” She has presented at conferences like the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators and the American Society of Botanical Artists.

When: January 29th from noon to 4pm
Where: Fullerton Arboretum, 1900 Associated Road
Cost: $40
Information: 657-278-3407 and www.fullertonarboretum.org

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Celebrating 25 years of the Shirley Sherwood Collection

Work from Botanical Artists in the Collection of Dr Shirley Sherwood OBE

Celebrating 25 years of the Collection

A selling exhibition at Jonathan Cooper Park Walk Gallery, London

23 April - 30 May 2015

Greater Knapweed, by Rosie Sanders
I am delighted to announce that the Jonathan Cooper Park Walk Gallery will be holding a selling exhibition of new works by botanical artists in the collection of Dr Shirley Sherwood OBE. The exhibition will unite 18 outstanding contemporary artists, all selected by Dr Sherwood, who is celebrating 25 years as a collector and supporter of botanical art this year

The gallery is open: 
Monday – Friday 10am – 6.30pm and Saturday 11am – 4pm. 

 Jonathan Cooper Park Walk Gallery, 20 Park Walk, London, SW10 0AQ.