But is it Art?

I’ve had a Guest staying for the last few days – Carson, a bouncy 15-month-old black Labrador who normally lives in London. The family have gone on holiday to America and Carson is savouring a new life in the country. I wanted to amuse my grandchildren by getting him to write a holiday diary. Instead I found facebook more convenient, and more fun.

But there’s been a hugely enjoyable side-effect of having to get up and go out first thing int he morning, now that Summer’s come.It has really stimulated the creative response: the light, the shadows, the skies, the wild flowers, the harvesting…quite mind blowing, and inspirational, if I ever get time to paint!

Camera quickly followed in the dogbag, after the poo-bags, lead, treats…then, inevitably a sketchpad and pen – followed next day by my glasses:couldn’t see what I was drawing and contact lenses too fiddly first thing.

Carson has become well-known in the village, thanks to his  posts on facebook. But – Animal Alert – I thought I’d repost some extracts here, along with my photos. Note – I didn’t say ‘my photography’. I know my place.. So if you can’t abide  Dogs (or Cats) bear with…or ignore. This dog is only for a holiday!

Day 1

Rural reflections from a Dog about Town: yesterday I arrived from Clapham to spend 3 weeks in the countryside while my lot have swanned off to California. First impressions: there are a lot of quite big fourlegged things around – who aren’t at all scared of me. There are some white me-sized things who I suspect are, if I was allowed to test my theory. There are also double the number of cats than I’m used to and I’m not supposed to chase them. There are no kids and the people are nice but really rather boring. One takes me for walks but at home they sit down a lot. My people left me with food and toys, including a chunk of Antler Horn, but when it comes to recycling I must say I much preferred the dead mouse that one of the cat things left under the table for me. Yours somewhat baffled, Carson.

Anne Farmer's photo.

 

 

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Summer came today

…and that was timely because I attended Chandos Society of Artists  En Plein Air day at Steart Marshes,  at the mouth of The tidal River Parrett. This is a vast, atmospheric area where the Hinkley Point pylons have just started their hissing, crackling march across Somerset.

 

 

P1030632 Dry mud

No artwork worth displaying yet – just a couple of scribbles  and lots of photos and ideas. Some of the sights are enough to tempt the very deeply hidden abstract artist in me. This is the mud dried out on the edge of the channel.

There are many intriguing patterns here:

P1030635 The Grid

I walked over to the village of Combwich which presented itself almost as a french village in Champagne:

P1030638 Combwich Village

But, to stop me being fanciful, this is what I found – actual Glorious Mud!

P1030653 wet mud

And to complete the range of artistic possibilities, how about a bit of Sci-Fi with this Somerset Dalek?

P1030643 Combwich Dalek.jpg

To be continued….

 

 

 

May – just in time?

Just spotted the calendar (hi tech, me). So nearly failed to achieve my target of posting at least once a month.

I had to wait to publish my most recent work which is a painting of our local, the good old Ring O’Bells, Moorlinch. This was a wedding present for Trish and Clive the landlady and landlord, handed over at a wonderful party at the pub last Friday. I’m sure I was not alone in feeling I’d perhaps had too good a time on Saturday!  (Actually I typed ‘satyrday’. That sounds like the title for a Nancy Farmer http://www.nancyfarmer.net Painting so I must suggest it to her).

Anyway it was a while since last ‘did’ the pub and it was quite difficult to avoid being spotted, but I think I got away with it:

P1030425 Pub cropped

A couple of weeks back I finally decided ‘it is what it is’ , photographed my latest version of ‘The impossible View’  (as described in my April post) also known as ‘Looking out out over the Levels,’ and took it off the stretching board:

P1030438 cropped

I’m sure it won’t be the last time I’ll tackle this one!

I did discuss this project with a very sympathetic artist and her colleague who came to our Moorlinch Art Group and gave us a memorable workshop on creating sketchbooks: Sue Lewington and Jackie Hichens run excellent classes that really made us look differently on our sketchbooks   http://www.travellingartclassesandholidays.co.uk

I couldn’t resist buying one of their handmade sketchbooks and ‘christened’ it straight away:

P1030427
photo 4They brought masses of resources with them and we all got stuck in. Thanks Sheila Jones for organising!

 

 

An irresistible and impossible view again

Last Sunday, I found myself at the top of ‘our’ hill. After some very Aprilish weather, it was a day of huge sapphire skies with luminous clouds – oh, and beneath the sky the flat patterned fields with the mauve smudge of hills on the horizon behind the Levels.

And there’s the difficulty : the view is panoramic, miles wide from side to side….and from my point of view, holding up a pencil to measure, a mere six inches or so from top to bottom.  This is about half the panorama!

I’ve attempted it may times –  two years ago, later in the year, I did some ‘extracts’:

So I don’t know really know if I can add anything else. But I’ve started, as Magnus Magnusson used to say… but will I finish?

So far I’ve done two small sketches:

They’re about 5″x 7″.

The next step…will be reported…in due course!

Slow March

The title conveys my pace of work, not the fact that March has been a slow month – au contraire, we’re nearly at the end of it and I have been silent all month!

I’ve been enjoying the local lanes and hedges, in that period where everything is twiggy and you can see much further than when all the greenery bursts forth.

I’ve been particularly inspired, again, by the work of Rowland Hilder who excels at that kind of low key winter landscape. We don’t have any of his beloved oasthouses in Somerset but we do have the hedges, lanes , bare trees and wheelruts.

This selection is based on the subtle, rather than spectacular glimpses that are seen  by the farmers, walkers, riders, cyclists and motorists who use the triangular network of lanes between Moorlinch, Stawell and Sutton Mallet. Beauty on our doorstep!

 

P1030070 cropped

This view looks beyond Sutton Mallets to the Quantock Hills.

P1030079 square

The maize stubble is wonderful for showing the shape of the contours – this is sketched just past Fursedown Farm.

More lovely hedges showing how the lane loops, between Tapmoor and Sutton Mallet Farm:

P1030103 cropped

 

 

 

 

Highland Cattle

I can now ( I hope) reveal details of a commission I painted in January which was a surprise present and you can never be certain who’s going to see these things. Although mostly I’m certain it’s not many!

The required painting was of a highland cow and the request was passed on by my friend Sheila Jones who paints delicate atmospheric scenes on silk. But, as she says, she can’t do Hairy. She recalled a card design of mine which I forwarded to the potential customer:

Highland Cow version 2A

This Lady was in the Lake District and I took a couple of cards back to the farmer’s wife the year after I’d done the painting. Believe it or not, she recognised the subject from my painting – who says ‘seen one, seen them all’?

This was accepted as suitable credentials and I started some drawings (version one). Then I was asked to add a couple of calves. Now, I thought I had a photo of highland calves from a holiday in Scotland so I changed the format to landscape, added a couple and sent off the images for approval (version two):P1020846 highland cow cropped

I was a bit dismayed to read that the calves were not stocky or hairy enough – could I do anything about that? Watercolorists will realise the limited potential for change, particularly as I’d (over)confidently taken the paper off the stretching board. Sure enough, a photo of genuine highland calves (mine must have been cross-breds, maybe) revealed my error.

I brought the grass up higher to make the legs shorter and added quite a lot of hairy tufts and sent off version three.  There followed a tentative suggestion that the cow in the background might like to have horns too? I explained that it was intended to be a second calf which would not yet have grown horns.

I was thus spared a fourth version and I believe my customer went off happy with this:

P1020854 cropped

I’m reminded of a chef friend who used to say that the worst cooking job of all was that of a grill chef ‘because you invite the customer to tell you how to cook’. I think commissions are a bit like that – but hey –  The customer is always right!

January blues…reds…and yellows

It never pays to absent yourself from your blog for too long because while your back’s turned Word press comes up with some new editing wizardry to cause some brow-furrowing.

Anyway, enough of that. January has been unexpectedly busy (and profitable) on the Art beat, it turns out. I’ve had a couple of commissions, which I can’t talk about yet, and I’ve given my first workshop!

Just before Christmas I had a long, flattering and hence persuasive request to give a workshop to a local Art Group. Some members had visited my exhibition during Somerset Art Weeks and asked if I ever did such things and I replied that I didn’t – too scary, too difficult, too time consuming.

But this group has a very nice, friendly and encouraging organiser.  So this week on Wednesday I used my village Art group as guinea pigs and on Friday went out into the big wide world (well, Taunton) with my easel, paintings, paints, books, photocopies and tracing paper.

The group was interested in seeing and trying some of my painting techniques, so after discussion I decided to choose a simple image that offered lots of scope for messing about with paint rather than too many time-consuming problems of composition.

P1010059 cropped

I created a level playing field  – to be more accurate it was a snowy hillside with lots of hoof-marks – and provided everyone with an outline drawing to trace or re-draw. I thought they might be insulted at the prescriptiveness of the situation but most seemed happy to start from the same point. In true Blue Peter style I also provided a ‘step by step’ sheet prepared earlier to show  how I arrived at my result:

4 pony views

 

I explained and demonstrated that my method was to do as little palette mixing as possible, rather to let the paints (blue, red, yellow) combine on the paper and see what happened, starting with a bit of undefined background and foreground. Snow and snowy skies lend themselves to a lovely free, sloshy approach, and liberal use of a squirty bottle of water combined with kitchen paper (my two secret weapons!)

Later when everyone had got some paint on the paper I painted in some of the darks on the pony, adding burnt sienna to the mix.  I think they were quite surprised to see my palette at this stage as proof that you don’t need to do much stirring and mixing :

palette

The final stage was ‘finding’ a background in the swirls and lines that had emerged. But by then there were as many different versions of my original painting as there were artists in the room, which was exciting and gratifying too.  Here is a selection:

 

 

 

Christmas at Moorlinch

Long time, no blog! Meant to write about preparations for our Moorlinch Artists’ Christmas offering and now it’s happening anyway.

Print screen

I’m joined again by Sheila Jones, a resident of Stawell a couple of villages away (but we don’t hold that against her!) and Kez – Keziah Herbert to be correct – who has held the fort at our Moorlinch Art Group sessions where I’ve been notably absent for much of the year. Kez has just produced a beautiful Colouring Book for sale and is even now demonstrating what fun it is:

20151204_123723

I’m quite pleased with my  new product: boxed notelets featuring some of my black and white drawings. I have a regular supply of these as every month I illustrate the front page of the parish magazine and the back page of the Polden Post.  Here is my marketing approach:Black and white pollarded willows

And I learnt how to  make up boxes, too (eventually). This is me displaying my wares:

20151204_123827

So we’ve found time to take pictures:

20151204_125042Sheila

And finally, here’s our store of Christmas goodies on offer – the edible, as opposed to artistic,  kind. Merry Christmas!

20151204_125111Christmas goodies

 

 

 

 

The home straight

Well -that’s what it feel like, opening up the gallery for the Wednesday to Sunday finish to Somerset Arts Weeks 2015. Got a bit og a sense of deja vu, or rather deja ecrit as I’ve written this post once then lost it. I was trying to be clever, boasting that one of the things I’d occupied myself with in quiet times, and stuck with a laptop for company, was to open an Etsy shop. Then I tried to put in a link, thus: https://www.etsy.com/shop/ArtbyAnneFarmer Well, maybe that’s worked but I’m not risking it yet!

Other things I’ve done include updating my exhibition email list – tedious, there must be an easier way to do that – and buy shoes: that went well!

So back to SAW 2015: card sales have gone well. This is the 2015 Christmas card:Christmas 2015 version 2 cropped

This is a herdwick sheep, native of the Lake District. I love their teddy-bear faces, as if they’ve been embroidered!

I also busied myself with producing a drawing for the November issue of the Parish Magazine, mindful of the upcoming interest in the Staring activitis in these parts:

Room at the top: starlings on a pylon at Othery

Room at the top: starlings on a pylon at Othery