Sunday, 26 December 2010

...To Draw From All Created Things



To Nature

It may indeed be fantasy when I
Essay to draw from all created things
Deep, heartfelt, inward joy that closely clings;
And trace in leaves and flowers that round me lie
Lessons of love and earnest piety.
So let it be; and if the wide world rings
In mock of this belief, it brings
Nor fear, nor grief, nor vain perplexity.
So will I build my altar in the fields,
And the blue sky my fretted dome shall be,
And the sweet fragrance that the wild flower yields
Shall be the incense I will yield to Thee,
Thee only God! and thou shalt not despise
Even me, the priest of this poor sacrifice.


Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Monday, 20 December 2010

John Hinchcliffe 1949 – 2010




My stepfather and earliest mentor John Hinchcliffe died early this morning. He was 61.

His death was sudden and unexpected after a short, severe illness – and is a devastating shock to all who knew and loved him.

I wrote about John in my very first post on this blog, nearly three years ago. He instilled in me from an early age the rigour and self-discipline which has proved to this day to be the fulcrum of my own artistic practice.

He taught me that there are no short cuts when it comes to producing work of lasting quality; that you have to get out there and look at what you're painting – not to just imagine it, or glance at it from a window.

His approach was tough, even brutal – particularly for a slight teenage girl who would rather have stayed indoors. But I thank him to this day for the belief he had in my potential, and the time he took to nurture it. I am grateful that I had spoken to him of my appreciation for what he did for me. I just wish I could tell him again.

John's own talents were remarkable and diverse. I cannot think of any living artist who has mastered weaving and printed textiles, ceramics, block, screen and lino print, drawing, painting and photography as he did. He excelled in each of these individual disciplines.

Here are a few links to his work. There are many others which I won't list here.





I am certain that I will write more about John in the weeks and months to come. For now, my thoughts are with my mother, with John's daughter Georgia – and the rest of his family.

(photographs: John at the Craft Study Centre in 2006, animatedly explaining an aspect of his work; John with his friend and fellow artist Mike Geary.)



Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Osmington




Here are the two finished paintings from my time at Osmington bay earlier this month, described here and here.

It is interesting for me to compare the differences and similarites of the two. I sat at exactly the same spot for both of them. The canvases are slightly different sizes.

They'll be up on my website shortly, with prices.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Stour Power







Today I returned to one of my very favourite spots, on the banks of the river Stour near Bryanston.

I was hoping to have caught the last of the autumn leaves before they fell. In this I was disappointed. Not one leaf remained on my row of trees.

However, having painted here most recently in the freezing depths of winter in January, today I was grateful for the relative warmth of autumn.

This is not only a factor which impacts on my comfort and choice of clothing, but also something which fundamentally affects the light and mood of the landscape – and consequently the painting.

In my previous post yesterday I spoke about complexity and how this can affect the 'blocking in' and placing of shapes in relation to each other at the start of the painting process.

Today's painting shows a more typical start, where I have blocked in across the whole of the canvas.

That is not to say however, that today's painting was any less complex than my Osmington rocks – far from it. It doesn't matter how many times I paint this view, the structure and shapes of the branches as they recede in a row demands a great deal of scrutiny and work to make sense of.

Balancing this exacting information with the natural poetry and appeal of this beautiful landscape is both the inspiration and the aim for me.



Relationships





This week I've started a new painting on the rocky foreshore at Osmington.

Rocks are complex, so depicting them with so many forms jutting in the foreground and describing the space leading into the background – takes a certain energy and commitment that you have to be prepared to see through.

I feel the intense drawing experience of working with so many life models during Breast Cancer LIFE has helped me to take on the challenge of painting scenes such as this with a new perspective.

The photograph which shows the start to the painting is actually quite unusual in that on this occasion I've adopted an approach rather different from my usual one.

Normally I will give equal attention in the early stages to all areas of the canvas, relating the placing of shapes to one another in a very balanced way.

With this painting I was keen to spend longer fixing in place the marks in the foreground, which dominates most of the canvas. As this took a long time to work out it made sense to invest energy getting this exactly right before relating it to the more distant view of the bay.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Changes






I was back on the beach at Osmington today, taking advantage of a clear cold day after a week of storms and rain.

Having originally started this painting during an earlier period of clear skies – I found on my return that those very storms had changed the landscape of the beach, as they so often do.

So rather than simply finishing the painting off, I stripped back some of my previous work and depicted the new terrain of heaped stones and boulders as it now appeared.

I've written briefly before about how my landscapes and seascapes – painted over time, in situ – are so very different from those of artists who copy or work up from photographs they or others have taken of a scene. Sometimes, like today, I will be incorporating significant topographical changes. On other occasions it might be only the changing light as the painting progresses, and the effect of the wind moving grass.

Another factor today was that, it being half-term, there were quite a few more people visiting this usually-quiet beach than normal.

Many of course want to watch me work, or to ask questions and discuss painting. This, I think, will be the topic of another blog post.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Wild Horses





I was back on Winfrith Heath today, to finish my most recent painting.

The heath has a population of wild horses, which are very shy of human contact.

As I was hidden in the long heath grass I looked up to see a group of horses grazing very nearby. The horses saw me at the same time - and were as surprised as I was.

The lead stallion approached me nervously, and quite aggressively. I had to make a decision about whether to try to scare it away, or to stay still and not react. I chose the latter.

The stand-off continued for what seemed like a long time, with the stallion close enough to rear up and cause me some damage if it had chosen to. It champed and stamped quite threateningly, making it quite clear who was the boss.

It eventually decided I was no threat, returned to the herd, and continued to graze.

Shortly after this I packed up and left, gingerly.

I've had many encounters with animals over the years whilst painting in the landscape. This was certainly one of the most alarming.



Poundbury



My Breast Cancer LIFE exhibition moved to its second venue this weekend.

It will be at the Poundbury Garden Centre Gallery in Dorchester until 7 November. Full details are on the poster above - click on it to see a larger version.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Sunflower Seeds




I was in London during the week, and went to both Tate Britain and Tate Modern.

Ai Weiwei's impressive and beautiful Sunflower Seeds installation was in the turbine hall at the latter – and I would have been one of the last people to have got to walk on it before this was stopped.

I'll write a little more about the trip tomorrow.



Monday, 11 October 2010

Dorset Savanna






You might imagine that as we approach mid-October here in southern England that there might be a slight chill in the air.

It was certainly windy this morning; so much so that I decided against painting on the exposed beach.

Instead I went to Winfrith Heath, which is a short distance from where I live. I've painted here many times before, and made a series of short videos about painting outside last summer and the year before (here, here, here and here).

I knew I'd be sheltered from the wind, but had no idea just how hot it would get – the sheer intensity of the sun was almost overwhelming despite my peaked sun hat.

During my break I sought out the shade of one the few large trees on the heath. Had I not had this opportunity I don't think I could have continued painting all day.

It's not like me to sit in the shade.

[The very start of the painting itself can be seen in the bottom photograph]

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Makeshift Easel - 3




I've been making the most of the good weather this week, and have been back down to the beach at Osmington.

As usual, I have to find ways of propping my canvas up. On this occasion I found a polystyrene block, reinforced with a few stones, to serve as my makeshift easel. Because I work on the ground this kind of flotsam is usually perfectly good for the job.

Here are blogposts mentioning similar makeshift easels which I wrote in 2008 and 2009.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Time & Tide





Arriving at Osmington this afternoon I decided to set up in a position which, although close to the sea, was higher than the beach itself.

The sweep of shoreline where I'd chosen to paint has a narrow stretch of beach, which is almost completely covered at high tide. Arriving at about 2pm, I saw that the tide was coming in.

The light still had the warmth of early autumn, and although the skies were cloudy they had that beautiful yellowy luminescence which reflects in the sea.

It wasn't long before the tide had reached the beach just below me, and my palette was affected by spray as you can see in the photographs above. A combination of luck and judgement meant that I was in a position to continue painting until I was happy with the canvas.

Preliminary Study




Going through some old photographs recently I found these, from the late 1990s.

This shows my preliminary study for a competitive commission from the Jerwood Foundation. They were asking for artists to submit images of positive depictions of children for two large paintings for the boardroom of the Institute for Paediatrics and Child Health.

I sent them this watercolour along with some other sketches, and won the commission.

The paintings (over 10 ft wide) can be seen with some photographs of the unveiling here.

I am told that they now both hang in St Thomas' Hospital, opposite the Houses of Parliament, though I haven't yet seen them in their new home.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Showtime







After a year of painting and drawing, with twenty six different women sitting as models – the Breast Cancer LIFE exhibition opened today in the village of Plush in Dorset.

Many of the models were there, along with the wonderful Macmillan nurses from Dorset County Hospital, partners, sponsors, family and friends.

It was an exhilarating afternoon, and I wanted to say thank you to everyone who made it possible – particularly the models.

I will be back there again tomorrow, and the show will stay up at Plush until mid-October (viewing by appointment), until moving to Poundbury, Lyme Regis, Salisbury, Poole and then further afield.

[The photographs above are just quick snaps. I will post some better ones, and write more about the show, in the next few days.]

Thursday, 23 September 2010

By Appointment




Here are a couple of photographs I took this week at the studio.

This is of course my working environment, in which my setup frequently changes - depending on whether I'm working from the model, still-life etc.

It is also a place in which I can display my work for visitors, and the photographs above show the studio ready for such a visit.

If you'd would like to make an appointment, with no obligation to buy, simply contact me at harriet@harrietbarber.com

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Book




If you've visited my website recently, or noticed the badge in the sidebar of this blog, you'll know that I have a new book available of paintings and drawings I've produced during the Breast Cancer LIFE project.

It is 60 pages long, and contains paintings and drawings of all twenty six models who have participated in the project, along with a number of photographs of me working in the studio and outdoors.

I've used Blurb to produce it, and you can browse through it and order copies through the preview above.

The proof copy I've had back is excellent, and I'm really happy with the quality and colour reproduction.

As I write this I'm just off to the framer's to get the paintings and drawings from my last three sessions – Dot, Stephanie and Cheryl – framed up, ready for the launch at Plush on 25th September.


Thursday, 9 September 2010

Dot



Although the first Breast Cancer LIFE exhibition opens later this month I'm still continuing sessions with models.

Yesterday Dot visited again, and we had a very productive and intensive session – this time working in oil on paper.

Dot was wearing a wonderful pink hat by one of the Breast Cancer LIFE exhibition sponsors Elizabeth Houghton – Milliner.

Both of the paintings from yesterday's session can be seen here on my main website, along with previous drawings of Dot in pastel and pencil.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Stephanie




My model today, sitting for the first time, was an old school friend – Stephanie.

We spent ages chatting and catching up, and consequently didn't have much time for the session. It was a lovely relaxing day, and I'm hoping she comes back again soon.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Cheryl



I met Cheryl while we were both undergoing radiotherapy treatment in Poole two years ago. How far we have both come since then.

Cheryl was one of my first models in the Breast Cancer LIFE project, and this week she returned for a second session.

More pictures here.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Summer Break





I've been taking a break for the last couple of weeks, hence the lack of updates here.

That doesn't mean I've been idle though. In addition to making some trips around the country to visit friends and family (and Tate Liverpool as you can see in the photographs above) I've been sorting out art materials and frames, and preparing for the fast approaching Breast Cancer LIFE exhibition, about which more very soon.

I also have a model arriving first thing in the morning, so I'm going to have to get everything ready for her now.

Anyway, it's good to be back!

Friday, 23 July 2010

Plush 2010




I'm exhibiting again at Plush this year.

All of the work I'm showing is previously unexhibited.

These include a number of archive items, which I've just had framed up - and also some paintings from my most recent trip to Tresco in May - June.

The details are shown above, and you can visit the Art @ Plush website here.