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.



Ben Mottram said...

Hi Harriet,

This blog idea is a perfect compliment to your website - it allows the public a peek at your motivation and approach to your subjects which they just cant get from the website or Flickr.

I, of course, am at a bit of an advantage, but I hope people take the trouble to read your blog and gain a bit of background to your portfolio.


P.s. Like the colour scheme - it is anti-Flickr!

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