Burlesque!

Yes, burlesque!

I’m not sure quite where this started, but guess it’s thanks to parents with some fairly eclectic tastes and a piano for entertainment and I’m about to confess – I’ve always liked musical theatre! There you, go, done, it’s out there…..I like musical theatre! Not as a performer of course! I was always a shy kid with uncontrollable curly hair, so not for me the spotlight and greasepaint…I only went to ballet and tap on a Saturday morning because I got pocket money for a bag of crisps and a 7 Up and it provided a chance for a giggle with my sister – I’m sure she took it more seriously than me really, cos she was the pretty, girly one with the hair that could be moulded to satisfy any of the latest fashions. I would have liked to dance and dance well, but it just wasn’t meant to be I was just much better at playing Peter Bonetti in the Chelsea Goal or goalscorer Peter Osgood – In later years my dance teacher at college could only praise me for having nice teeth!

Despite my own shortcomings though I always enjoyed the rythms of tango related dance, the sensual imagery of life after dark, the black and red imagery in the musical Chicago and the sensuous stacatto dance scenes in Cabaret, including of Liza Minelli and that chair and all that jazz, and of course the opulence and feathers of La Cages aux Folles at the London Palladium.

When the chance came up to produce some of my own work, with a short gap between commissions and an invite to the Holmfirth ArtWEEK exhibition, I was desperate to head for a wider colour palette than I had been working in of late and thought ‘what better way to celebrate life and all it’s colour than to turn to some of my favourite things’. Add into the mix my recent viewing of the film Burlesque (yes, the one starring Cher and Christina Aguilera amongst others – cheesy I know, but sometimes a girl just has to let her hair down) and the germ of an idea for my burlesque series was born.

With a range of reference pics from a couple of friends and a clear idea in mind that I wanted to use the black and warm Mediterranean reds reminiscent of those Chicago pictures I opted for the statement sized canvas. If you’re not sure…that’s the one that’s just big enough to be spotted in a sea of paintings at Holmfirth ArtWEEK (hopefully – it would be great to get invited back next year as a professional artist).

The canvas is also:

  • big enough to prevent you seeing the whole picture without stepping away from the easel once in a while
  • greedy enough to take up a full tube of Ultramarine Blue  and Burnt Sienna when mixing a chromatic black background for 2 pictures.
  • Very expensive to frame as it measures over 10 ft round the edges!

It’s also great to work on that scale once in a while though and so much more physical than working up to my more usual A4/A3 size – it means you paint with your whole body and being, rather than from the wrist, great fun!

OK, so in retrospect, I wonder why I set myself the challenge of two such highly detailed paintings – opting for feathers in both was certainly a decision I variously celebrated and regretted in equal measure as I felt alternately that I would and then wouldn’t meet my deadline for the framers.  Fortunately my A team (Pomfret Gallery in Pontefract) came to the rescue with a cunning plan to measure and cut the frames whilst I painted in the finer detail, which bought me 2 more days…a solution I will be forever thankful for! It’s great when a small business personalises their service for you and pulls out the stops to alleviate your stress, not to mention the impact of their job well done – thanks guys!

I have a clear favourite between the two pictures, which I will keep to myself for now. As you might expect of any self-respecting artist I also have some clear ideas about where and how I would improve my art, the bits I am highly satisfied with and thoughts about how my ideas will be modified in future.

That said I am generally pleased with the results and felt a tear welling up when they came home from the framers and a certain surge of pride when they were handed over to the team at the Holmfirth ArtWEEK venue. I have enjoyed my short journey into the world of burlesque and painting in a pop art style and would love to see them sell and swell the charitable coffers of Macmillan Cancer Support, however I wouldn’t be entirely unhappy to have at least one of them come home as the place is quiet without them!
Burlesque 1 and 2 pictures

You can see Burlesque 1 and 2 at Holmfirth ArtWEEK from Sunday 7th to Saturday 13th July. In the eventuality that they don’t sell – they will be available from this website from Monday 15th July.

Wentworth Woodhouse Reflections

Well, it was great to be back at Wentworth Woodhouse, 29 years after I left there as a student, if only in the outside area of the stable block!

It proved to be an interesting and costly weekend – only five minutes into setting up our gazebo, and just as we were adding weights to the legs, a freak gust of wind picked it up and slammed it back down, at the cost of only one leg. As you might imagine one leg becomes quite important to the stability of a four cornered gazebo – and to my own stability as it turns out…my response was rather impolite and subsequently just a little emotional. Oh and of course I now owe my baby brother the cost of a new gazebo to replace the loan one!

Oh well, fortunately we were able to negotiate the use of some shared space elsewhere, provided we helped to erect what must have been a 25 ft gazebo, which my bro kindly did on my behalf while I cleared up the mess we had already created elsewhere.

Interesting fact: 25ft gazebos also fly really well and to a height of approximately 6ft from the ground when approached by large gusts of wind travelling in the right direction!

Plans for layout had to be adjusted on the hoof but we looked pretty smart when we set up for trading on day 1 if I do say so myself (some others said so too).

KLArt at Wentworth Spring Fair

Day 1 was slightly overcast but brought a few expected friends, including visitors from the other side of the Pennines (thanks for visiting Max), whilst Sunday saw the sunshine a very noticeable shift in spirits and more visits from friends old and new – fortunately this is the kind of weather that brings visitors to Wentworth Woodhouse for a Sunday afternoon walk.

It was great to spend a couple of days chatting to other stallholders, making new friends friends from complete strangers and of course picking up some sales and new business, not to mention a couple of very special leads. It was also great to receive some really positive feedback across the whole range of items on the stall (and some disappointment that a couple of the larger items were for demonstration purposes and not for sale).

I also received a good deal of feedback about the portrait of the Queen – on the stand only to illustrate my services for portraiture, but well timed to coincide with the furore surrounding the Dan Llywelyn Hall “Spitting Image” portrait revealed only a week earlier. This certainly generated plenty of conversation including shared stories with service men who had proudly met the Queen in years past, some who had turned out to wave flags during royal visits and others who despised all that monarchy stood for. By far the most amusing response by a lady who refused to stop at all:

Huh! Who’d want to buy that to hang on their wall!

- Who was it who said you can’t please all of the people all of the time?!

…that was a rhetorical question of course, the saying is generally attributed to Abraham Lincoln, but was adapted by him from a quote by the English poet and monk John Lydgate 

Would I do it again?

The exercise certainly kicked me into bringing forward some new ideas and paintings I’d been considering for a while, so I certainly increased my productivity in the run up to the event. That also means I now have a new body of work to take out to local outlets/galleries as planned, so the fair proved to be a good incentive for personal discipline!

On the down side it’s taken me over a week to clean the dust from my stock, where it clung for dear life to the static charged cellophane wrap on my prints and cards and I could swear my little family of wildlife animals are still in shock from their short flight whilst attached to the large gazebo – they haven’t said a word since we got home anyway!

All in all I met some lovely people and shared some really interesting stories – you wouldn’t believe how many people said they used to paint or draw but gave it up because they didn’t think they could do it very well, or because life simply got in the way. Some even left determined to go and drag their tools back out of the cupboard and give it another go, great news!

I’m not sure if I’ll do it again in this (dusty) environment at the moment, but I recognise the decision to be here was based on nostalgia and it was great to be back temporarily and seeing some progress at least in the attempts to revitalise this most wonderful estate.

From a business perspective I am at least considering a couple of indoor events and events on grass in the coming months and right now I am very excited about the myriad of other opportunities out there for me. I am equally excited to be on the verge of starting up some tuition with a young person right at the start of their creative journey and really look forward to seeing where that big adventure takes us!

Life Drawing Adventures 1

Hurrah! It’s here! Saturday morning and I have a lovely day lined up in a pub in Wakefield. This isn’t going to be like any other day or evening in a pub, where I force myself to imbibe far more alcohol than is good for me, but a life drawing day!

OK, so I am looking forward to having a pint with lunch, but the focus of the day is a luxurious 6 whole hours of life drawing. I haven’t been doing this for long – it’s something I started when I left my job last year, and it’s something I’ve really enjoyed since I decided to give it a try.  It’s strange how people react when you say you’re off to do some life drawing – odd, “knowing” looks and sideways glances and questions like “ooh, aren’t you embarrassed” and “what’s it like”?

What it’s like is a whole day of quiet contemplation – two models, great lighting, a little chit-chat early on and over lunch, but otherwise a peaceful day stood at the easel, listening to quiet music on my i-Pod as I draw what I observe.  OK, so it starts a little less quietly…easel legs creaking into position, pencils rattling and rasping as they are sharpened in eager anticipation, masking tape gently tearing as paper supports are quietly taped to drawing boards and water quietly stirred in jars as everyone sets up their own work space There is something very peaceful and serene about the room once the initial set up is complete.

We’ll start with two quick warm up sketches – there is a flurry of activity as the models adopt their first pose and we have 10 mins to “get our eye in” and persuade any tension to leave our bodies to create the space for our creativity to enter.

I start left-handed – my non-domminant hand. The results are “interesting” – out of proportion, crude and quite ugly, but Im already starting to relax and I feel some sense of creative emotion is released in me.

Female nudes sketch 1

Female Nudes sketch 1

Feeling more relaxed I attach a second sheet to my easel for the second pose – again we have ten minutes to capture the essence of this pose and the juxtaposition of our two models.

Female Nudes sketch 2

Female Nudes sketch 2

Working right-handed this time I’m feeling much more comfortable and confident already. The result this time is a much better proportioned picture and a sketch I will undoubtedly refer to again at some point in the future when looking for inspiration in my painted work. The outside world is almost disappearing completely except for the warm glow of an autumnal sun that brings a halo highlight to the models and a stark contrast of tonal values.

I set myself up for the longer pose that will last for the rest of the day. I love the light texture to the surface of my pastel paper and the warmth of the brown sheet I select from my portfolio.  A close squint at the scene before me and I am able to pick out and capture the deep tonal values with my dark charcoal and the highlights with a white charcoal pencil. Very quickly the scene before me starts to emerge loosely from my paper. Key lines noted in outline I have captured the scene and lunch beckons, including a refreshing pint!

This short break presents a chance to reflect and my decision is made…I will focus on working the detail in this picture for most of the rest of the day. Usually sessions become a race against the clock, but today’s session presents this rare luxury of an opportunity to work a picture with a finer level of detail. The afternoon passes by with relaxed satisfaction and I create a picture that captures the mood and I feel proud of…

Image of two female nudes seated

Two Female Nudes, seated £45.00