Oddments – exhibition , watercolour , musings

Nine nude figures

Pendant in Egyptian style

Ceramic plate

Left – seated man . Right – dancing figure .

The exhibition at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds until February 18 is “Becoming Henry Moore” which shows many early works (1914-1930) juxtaposed with sculpture felt likely to have influenced him – contemporary , classical and ancient/non-Western – the British Museum category . I’ve only had time for a quick look as yet but I was intrigued by these early (1921) pieces :



















Firstly I have only ever seen sculptural designs and his famous drawings of people from WW2 in air raid shelters by way of 2d work before . Secondly I wondered why he largely gave up colour ? Anyway I’ll go again when I have more time .

The watercolour learning process continues . Well I hope that is what is happening . Here is my uncompleted sleeping cat , Memphis as it happens .

Sleeping because they stay still longest like that – I’ve never managed ‘action shots’ of any cat . Unfortunately I didn’t get enough detail on the initial crayon drawing and then got too interested in mixing the colours . She looks too gingery in this photo but it isn’t bad for the background to her tabby patches . I should have sketched out the decoration on the background cushion too – I was too pleased that I got the dark brown accurately of the velvet one on the right .

Since I have not succeeded (yet again) in being accepted for a PhD course I have been wondering why I keep trying ? Here are some possible reasons :

1 I’m still trying to impress my deceased parents – and competing with my father who never completed his .

2 I’m a glutton for punishment – you can spend months on application forms and drafting research proposals which is a waste if you don’t get in .

3 I’m not used to failing applications for courses – jobs are a different matter !

4 It would be an excuse for not getting on with work and trying to sell it ie spending 3 years writing 1000s of words which perhaps no one will read is less scary than exposing myself/my work to gallery owners .

5 It would somehow validate my choosing to be an artist at all .

Yes they all sound pretty bad !

Incidentally I cannot disrecommend York St John University enough . If they thought I was utter crap they could have told me at once instead of getting me to repeat information which I spent hours entering carefully on their online application form and depending on me to record their own email correspondence . So if you apply there keep screenshots of every page of the form and save all emails from them . It might save some aggravation . You might even get in and then be able to see their facilities finally !

Posted in Drawings, other artists, paintings, Plates | 3 Comments

….& downward – when it comes to watercolour at least

OK I did this some months ago while staying at my son’s place so I just had watercolour pencils to draw the leaves’ positions and the tiny box of Winsor & Newton half pans to complete them .

Sweet pepper leaves – Sept 2017    

I then also did this to try and get some control over merging and distinct colours . Perhaps a silly idea ? I can’t get the hang of ‘wet on wet’ and don’t understand how the layering works when it does . If I’m only doing this to provide myself with raw material for collages – my current obsession – maybe I don’t need to get the hang of anything . However my best collages have been put together from pieces which weren’t rubbish to begin with .

I’ve looked at others’ work and even the odd book – the last one actually said that painting was drawing with paint ! At least I’m clear on that – I know I can draw but not paint – despite endlessly being told by tutors that it is ‘just marks on paper’ – has that ever helped anyone , I wonder ? I was attracted by watercolours because of great familiarity with watercolour crayons (Caran d’Ache) and wanting to do backgrounds and colour mixing with the same or better brilliance & transparency . All I had at school were poster colours/gouache which were of course matte & opaque . Later at Art School we had the cheapest possible acrylics mixed only with water so they had a similar disappointing (to me) effect . At a proper Art Shop I realised that many different media have been developed for acrylics so that many effects are possible in fact . But watercolours are very compatible with the equivalent crayons so I went for that .

As to my idea of doing garden studies as the plants & weather changed , that really hasn’t worked out . I’m not good enough or don’t actually like what’s there that much . I got in the habit of taking snapshots rather than drawing anything . In the end I had more than 20 so-called reference photos but didn’t want to turn them into drawings or paintings . I’ve done one which probably exemplifies the problem .



I don’t know when I took this or why exactly . When I draw things I always start from the centre with whatever is the most important bit to me . A photograph shows up all the irrelevant bits which a drawing (and ideally any resulting work) would leave out !



As to the attempt to draw and then paint this – oh dear !





So photographs are not at all helpful to me in drawing or my struggles with painting . No more snapshots because it’s too cold outside or I can’t be bothered to get a chair out of the garage . Anyway what is our lovely sunroom for ? Not just breakfast !

Posted in Drawings, paintings, Uncategorized | 2 Comments


I’ve been meaning to post about an exhibition in York and my continuing attempts to learn how to use watercolours for some months . However a rather grim Autumn and winter culminated in a 2-week stay in bed over the festive (supposedly) bit and a currently slow recovery .

The Exhibition

Nash, Paul; Winter Sea; York Museums Trust

It was entitled ‘Paul Nash & the Uncanny landscape’ and curated by John Slezack . The best thing about it were the examples of work by Paul Nash and  his brother John in the left hand inner room . This included graphic work and photographs as well as the paintings which for both , followed on from their WW1 work . I wasn’t convinced by the association of the quotation from ‘The Uncanny Landscape’ (essay or book?) with Paul Nash or any other of the interwar British landscape painters . Landscapes are often uncanny , not because of war but because artists find what they are looking for in them as in all other subjects (cf Goya , Dali , Fuseli , Caspar David Friedrich) . And British landscape painters are not and have never been any more romantic or realistic than any others (NB Constable who was neither) . Slezack must have been chosen for his eminence (he cut up black & white photos of Hollywood starlets at the RCA in the 1960s) but I don’t see why he was particularly suitable to curate this exhibition -altho’ anyone would jump at the chance of being associated with Paul Nash , obviously .

Just look at these !

The exhibition continues until the 15th of April this year .


Don’t Forget the Diver – drawing with newsprint


  The Corner 1919

Harbour & Room 1930

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Berlin 2 : 2 museums and an art gallery

1 The Berggruen Museum

This was built especially to house the collection of its namesake . He was of German Jewish family and emigrated to the USA before WW2 . There he had a selling gallery and began to collect , partly through his friendships with contemporary artists like Picasso . He brought himself & his collection back to Berlin after WW2 once he had ‘made his peace with Germany ‘ . The nice thing is that unlike modern collections by millionaires all the pieces are room and house sized – you could imagine the 2D works hung in any normal room and the 3D in an entrance hall . They have thus arranged the works in smallish (for a gallery) rooms so that you can go all the way round and then on to the next room without getting lost . Once finished with a floor you are back at the attractive spiral staircase to decide whether to go up or down , all clearly signposted . I was pleased to see Giacometti’s cat .

Only it was actually displayed near the low ceiling so I was looking up at it – as if on a garden wall ?

The revelation was really the Paul Klees . I had not seen any of them in reproduction but then they were (with 1 exception) not in oils which seems to count for so much . So , ink drawings , lithographs , watercolours – floors of them so here is a randomized sample :






On the highest Paul Klee floor was this Alexander Calder mobile which demonstrated what I hadn’t ever noticed before – the obvious influence of Klee on Calder . At first I thought it was a Klee venture into 3D and wondered why I didn’t know about it !

2 The Pergamon Museum

This was in the throes of renovation like the Altes museum on the same square . As I understand it the Pergamon has archaeological stuff from the ancient Near East and the Altes ‘antiquities’ from Classical Greece & Rome but there was definitely Roman stuff in the Pergamon too . Anyway we were there to see the famous Ishtar Gate and something called the Aleppo Room . Here is the first :

I have seen photos before but they hadn’t prepared me for its size – so maybe this won’t either for anyone reading ! It is huge , beautiful and awe-inspiring . The facing is glazed brickwork in golden yellow , white , green , blue and turquoise – the last 3 giving the dappled effect to the background behind the animals . I was interested that the turquoise bricks were clearly the characteristic copper-alkaline colour first used in Egypt for faïence and later known as mohamedan blue for its ubiquity in Islamic pottery . I’m sure I read that the Babylonians didn’t have it then (~600BCE) , the technical brilliance exhibited by the glazed bricks being put down to control of firing . It would have been simple – they traded with Egypt and must have had copper salts available to get the bright green glaze which would have been high in lead salt based fluxes . To get the turquoise to sky blue you would use a much higher proportion of alkaline salt fluxes to lead . Attempting completely lead-free glazes is a very modern concern . Anyway the Ishtar gate was the southern gate of Babylon leading to a processional way echoing the design of the gate . This has been partly reconstructed as well ;

I can’t remember how long it was originally but it was 30m wide ! I don’t know who if anyone gave permission for all this and other parts of buildings to be moved to Germany but I guess they had as much right as colonial rulers like the British & French . Certainly German archaeology was very important in the Middle East in the late 19C & early 20C .





This is the ‘Aleppo Room’ which turns not to be part of a palace but of the house of a Syrian Christian merchant . I can’t remember the date of it (!) but it is painted wood with Biblical texts in Arabic . From the style I’d hazard 13C – 15C ? It has been reconstructed in a room with temperature and humidity control and then put behind glass walls so that you can walk right in and look at the work fairly closely although photographs are rather difficult as you can see .

3 Galerie im der Körnerpark

This was very near the Airb’n’b flat we were staying in in Neukölln in a tiny little park which nevertheless had a fountain and café which was just closing as we visited . The little contemporary art gallery is open until 8pm – most days I think .

Nika Oblak & Primoz Novak

This exhibition entitled ‘And now for something completely different’ – which I can’t remember seeing anywhere – consisted of a series of videos showing on the front of boxes most of which have elastic rather than rigid sides . In each video at some point the action on the screen escapes the box or attempts to . Eg in the above still the pair have unfurled the ‘reality’ banner onscreen and when they lift it up it appears above the screen as it is disappearing from the video space . The pieces here go all the way from fun to disturbing . My son’s rather good idea was that the first one done must have been when the pair try to escape from the box and you see perfectly synchronized stretched points appear in the elastic sides and top as they punch & kick . When she bangs on the front the glass does not move but you hear a ‘ting’ sort of sound . I think that video is the best &/or the most paranoid .

So just 177 museums/galleries to go for the next visits……

Posted in Drawings, Figurative sculpture images, non-figurative scupture, other artists, paintings | 2 Comments

Berlin 1 : 3 memorials

I was in Berlin with my son last week visiting an old friend who lives there and so was able to advise us on what not to miss – in only 4 days ! So here goes with the first instalment .


The first to be inaugurated in 2005 is that for the Jews killed by the Nazis ,








This was designed by the architect Peter Eisenman & the engineer Buro Happold and consists of 2711 concrete ‘stelae’ of varying heights covering the area of a city block . The ground they are on is not flat as you can see nor is the grid exact , although I did not walk far enough across it to notice the deliberate slight irregularity . The left hand picture shows the blocks nearest the edges where they resemble tombs and I was forcefully reminded that the death camp victims had none . As you walk further in it becomes like the right hand picture , more like a maze  . I was then reminded of b&w photos of the camps themselves – looming concrete buildings without windows , long corridors/passages going nowhere better . The overall effect of the place is both very grim and slightly off-kilter in the manner , I’m now reminded , of films influenced by German Expressionism or early Surrealism .

The next to be inaugurated in 2008 was that for gays killed by the Nazis . This was and is controversial but not to me . It was designed by Michael Elongreen & Ingar Bragset .







It is another concrete block set slightly askew with a window in it where a video is playing on a loop . This is apparently changed every few months . When we saw it there were various gay and lesbian couples kissing with abandon and affection including an elderly and an interracial couple . I loved this memorial . To me it said something about not being able to keep life & love down .

The most recent memorial (inaugurated 2012) is that for the Sinti/Roma killed by the Nazis .

This was designed by Dani Karavan . Outside the enclosure there is text explaining what happened to between 1/4 and 1/2 a million people usually known as gypsies . The ‘Sinti’ and the ‘Roma’ were the 2 biggest groups known to be in Europe at the time . The memorial takes the form of a black pool/mirror  with a narrow channel of running water encircling . At the edge is a poem ‘Auschwitz’ written by a Roma poet . The broken paving has some names on it , not many , and also names of the camps . The triangular centrepiece has a fresh flower put on it every day . This memorial seemed to me to be more about silence . Was this because the dead commemorated here left behind less written evidence ?

All 3 memorials are very near the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag – in itself impressive – think if the Houses of Parliament or Trafalgar Square had memorials to those massacred in the cause of Empire nearby ! Taken together I think these 3 very different public works are the most impressive I have ever seen . They affected me very much emotionally and I would recommend anyone in Berlin for even half a day to see them . I needed coffee afterwards to recover . Luckily in Berlin , as my son said , it seems to be illegal to make bad coffee !

Posted in non-figurative scupture, other artists | 1 Comment

Watercolour learning








These were the 1st two attempts at using real watercolours ie proper blocks with brushes & palette for plants in our garden . The photos are fairly bad – unfortunately I cannot remember if the flash was on or not so do not know what to avoid in future – and the plants unrecognisable . The 1st is some garden variety of narcissus with double inner , rather ragged trumpets in shades of red . It doesn’t look like the actual flower or what I remembered of them – by which I mean the effect I was intending to emphasise . The 2nd was a bush standing in a handy position for drawing/painting from the conservatory . The drawing is not too bad but the colours are wrong . I don’t have a black in my watercolour set of paint blocks so haven’t been able to get the leafy shadows dark enough or widen the range of pink/reds the leaves in sunlight displayed . So the contrast appears to be between only one pink and one green , with blotches . Actually the pink ranged from fuschia to maroon and the green from bright grass to black with an olive cast . Even on the actual picture there are 2-3 shades of each . Clearly I must go back to scanning everything directly into files . You get the best images of 2D work that way . And I was even given an A3 scanner as a present but haven’t set it up yet !

These three are courgette flowers based on photos . Even though the plants were all inside the conservatory I had to photograph them because the flowers close in less than an hour which is not time enough for drawing or painting them all . I quite like the results which have the   exuberance of colour with the look of having been carved into shape – like Art Nouveau lilies . In the 1st I tried to do a background – a mistake . Photos I take always seem to be full of irrelevant details and this time it was the background which was the distraction from what I was really interested in . Afterwards I took photos of the garden plants as they bloomed partly because they also tended to be at their best only briefly and also because I didn’t fancy struggling to draw/paint in a chilly spring & summer . Or maybe I was just lazy . Everyone else goes in for ‘reference’ photos quite successfully after all ! However I’ll try and use up what photos I have and do something else afterwards . Perhaps I could go back to my older idea of doing views out of each window or if I get more of the hang of watercolours do some more abstract stuff ? That’s what I did with trees and watercolour crayons for about 5 years – or was it less ? Anyway I’m more of a pattern maker than a ‘real’ painter , at least in 2D . And maybe all these will end up as fodder for collages like so much 2D before !

Posted in Drawings, paintings | 3 Comments

Ghisha Koenig – Machines Restrict their Movement

This is an exhibition in Gallery 4 (basically a small room) at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds . There are 7 small scale sculptures (up to ~ 12″ high with bas-reliefs up to ~ 30″) mostly in bronze with some terracotta and plaster plus a long roll of detailed drawings on paper labelled ‘Tentmakers 1977’ .

Calendar Shop I 1970

Teabreak 1972

The Tentmakers 1979

When looking up more information about her and her work I found that a lot of her works are listed under a variety of titles as well as dates – which last could be casting dates of course . I have used the information on the labels .

The title is a quotation from her on her observation of industrial workers . She said that even at rest they retained the bodily stances required by the machines they usually worked with . This is reasonably described as a humanistic view but it isn’t very historic . Even pre-industrially people had characteristic body positions and injuries according to their work . And machines pre-date the industrial era anyway . It sounds a little romantic but doesn’t look it . Clearly the works are based on her detailed drawings and are excellent 3d renderings of people in an everyday context . Particularly with the small scale they remind me of nothing so much as Ancient Egyptian tomb figures eg .

Model Carpentry shop ~ 2000 BCE

This is a very pleasing exhibition and is on until August 13 .

Posted in Figurative sculpture images, other artists | 1 Comment