Monday, 28 January 2008

Winfrith Heath



On Sunday I finished the painting of Winfrith Heath. The photograph above was taken indoors on an overcast day, and doesn't really do it justice. I will have it photographed properly soon, and get it up on my website.

The light on the heath is particularly spectacular, with some beautiful contrasting golden hues against the shimmery blues of the distance. One great thing about painting on the heath in winter is that the lack of foliage on the trees, and the fact that the long grass has died back, gives you longer, more panoramic views. Vistas that are obscured by heavy growth during the summer and autumn become visible. This is particularly noticeable when you sit on the ground, as I do.

Today, instead of having the whole of the day to paint, I found that I had blown that opportunity by leaving the boot of the car open overnight on my return from yesterday's painting trip. This morning the battery was flat. Then I had to wait for the AA.

Interestingly, having only an hour or so to spend on the heath today focussed me with a feeling of urgent determination. The lower picture shows the start I made on the painting during this short time. I'm pretty pleased with it - although it obviously has a long way to go. I'm very inspired by the view, and can't wait to get out there again. I love the feeling of being 'brought alive' by a view.

The 'F' Studio



I mentioned the Figurative, or 'F', Studio at the Slade in my introduction. I arrived at the Slade School of Art, University College London immediately after finishing my degree at Manchester in 1989, at the age of 21. For the next three years I worked exclusively in the 'F' Studio from the life model.

Even during the time I was there, I was acutely aware of the fact that such an education in life drawing, in observation, and in art was incredibly rare. During the previous two decades life studios at art schools around the country had become almost extinct. Prior to leaving Manchester I applied to the four London art schools. I was offered places at the Royal Academy and the Slade. I chose the latter because of the quality and rigour of its teaching, and the fact that there was a permanent life model for the whole term - every day. The Slade was unique in this respect.

Photography was frowned upon in the 'F' studio, but I'm glad I summoned up the courage to take out my camera during a break. In the lower picture I am sitting on a sofa second from left, with Miriam, Lynn and Stephanie.

Friday, 25 January 2008

By The River



Having posted about my trip to the river Stour today, I just received these photographs from my friend Lizzie.

They were taken as I was setting up, and so I'm relatively clean and free of oil paint.

I was in this position for about four hours. Considering it is January it felt unseasonably warm. In fact I think I have caught the sun a little on the left side of my face.

The worst part of the day was spilling lots of white spirit on my hand right at the beginning. It tends to burn the skin, and it left me feeling uncomfortable for the rest of the day.

AM / PM



I set off this morning to paint on the banks of the river Stour in Blandford. This was a continuation of a painting I started yesterday. This area is perhaps the place that I have painted more than any other over the years - and I feel that I know it so well.

My first ever landscape oil painting was of the river Stour at Charlton Marshall, where I was then living. I was a teenager. It was the winter, and I sat right by the river bank. I was transfixed by the cool blues of the water, and the reflections of the trees. Over twenty years later I still am. And that is what made me sit by the weir at Blandford in January for several hours to continue painting this view.

The first photograph above shows the painting as I left the house for this morning with my palette and painting bag; and the bottom one shows the picture on my return. You can also see it propped up indoors here.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Two Very Different Paintings



I've been working on two very different paintings.

Today I was in my studio, painting a life model. I find this work very intensive, in a different way to the intensity I feel whilst painting outside. I thoroughly enjoy the collaborative effort of working with another person (ie. the model), and here I am very lucky to have found a wonderful model who sits very still with few breaks - and who is an interesting and sympathetic subject.

Last week I started a painting on Winfrith Heath, which is near where I live. The rain has put a temporary stop to this, but I am hoping that tomorrow it will be overcast - and neither sunny nor rainy - so that I can finish it. The beginning of the painting can be seen propped on my kitchen dresser above.

Harriet

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

An Introduction

Painting "The Kite Flyers" at Ringstead Bay, February 2007

I am an artist, working mainly in oil on canvas. I am based in Dorset on the south coast of England.

This painting blog is a companion to my website at www.harrietbarber.com

The advantage of having this blog in addition to my website is that I can quickly add new images and videos - along with a chance to write in some detail about what I'm working on, my thoughts on painting, and more.

You will also have the opportunity to comment and ask questions if you wish.

The work that I produce is the product of a number of vital experiences which continue to shape me.

I grew up in rural Dorset, in an artistic family with a strong work ethic. My nascent talents were encouraged by my stepfather John Hinchcliffe (and here), who pushed me out into the landscape to draw and paint. On my return my efforts would be examined and evaluated.

When I went to Manchester for my degree I found myself in an institution which encouraged a completely independent approach, with an almost total lack of formal tuition. During this time I painted intuitively: landscapes, cityscapes, seascapes and portraits - spending as much time out of the studio as in it.

Here I swam against the tide of convention; taking my sketchbook and canvases outside the studio, and working wherever my subject happened to be - no matter how challenging or uncomfortable this might be. I learned to look, rather than learning to paint. It was the strength of the pictures I produced here that earned me a place at the Slade for my postgraduate degree.

The Figurative Studio at the Slade, where I spent the next three years working from the model, was a complete contrast. Here the tuition was intense, rigorous and academic. No moment was spared. The tutors, Euan Uglow and Norman Norris, would refuse entry to those who arrived even a minute late.

I was taken 'back to basics'. My paints and brushes were scornfully binned, and I was sent out by Uglow to buy sable brushes, lead primer, linen canvas to stretch myself, a plumb-line, and 'artist quality' paint. The small group of students who persisted in the 'F' Studio would fight for their position at the beginning of a pose that would last for the whole term.

Since that time I have held firmly to my commitment to working from life, in situ, despite the pressures to abandon such an exacting approach. I believe that this gives my work sincerity and strength. What I produce is 'contemporary' by simple virtue of the fact that I paint it in the here and now. This is particularly impressive in my cold winter seascapes: the experience of the bitter winds, damp sand, and numb fingers is somehow translated into the images, and this makes for truly convincing paintings.

I accept the sand that blows onto my canvas and mingles with the palette. The tough approach of blocking in colour and scraping and scratching into the layered paint makes the work initially appear abstract; but given distance when viewed, the pictures surprise, and one is rewarded by clarity and depth of information.

What I paint is a direct response to what I feel and see. I hope that you will experience the energy of the moment recaptured when you look at my paintings.

Harriet