Spark: twenty seven

A series about people that have influenced my creative path

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Pauline Prior-Pitt, abstract seascape, acrylic, 2013

I’ve mentioned previously that we visit North Uist each year for a family holiday. We nearly always miss the open studios, and sadly we did again this year. Luckily I bought this small painting a few years ago when Pauline was taking part in a local exhibition. She is most well know for her poetry, but I feel that her paintings capture everything that I love about the breathtaking beaches and ever changing weather that belong to the island.

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Inspired

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Each year we head to the Outer Isles for a family holiday. Whatever the weather we always have the best of times, and this year was no exception. Most days were spent on the beach, with my husband and girls investigating rock pools, the dog going mad in the sand and me soaking up as much of it as I can.

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I sketch and photograph whenever possible whilst I’m on North Uist. It’s my way of unwinding. There is so much to inspire and motivate – the colours and textures of the sea, shore, lochs and hills. Everywhere you look there’s something…

I also finally remembered to bring some pots with me to shoot amongst the landscape that inspired them…

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Spark: twenty six

A series about people that have influenced my creative path

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Jennifer Pettigrew, Changed Direction, unique print, 2011

I bought this picture at the Pittenweem Arts Festival not long after we moved to Aberdeen. I love the mark making used to build up an abstract image; and it reminds me of my early days of my degree at art college, when we were being taught drawing skills…

I turned up to our weekly life drawing class, taught in rotation by four tutors with very different approaches. As we entered the room that week we were given a large pot of black wall paint and a stick. Pinned to the walls were large (2m square) pieces of paper and there was a life model in the centre of the room. We were instructed to use the sticks to paint with, and that we would have 30 seconds for each pose. To start with our attempts were pretty dreadful, but as the time went on our confidence built, our observation improved and our mark making became more gestural and fluid.

I think I’d like to try it again.

Spark: twenty five

A series about people that have influenced my creative path

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Maggi Hambling, Summer Wave Breaking I, 2008
(image from David Case Fine Art)

I’m just back from a fantastic weekend spent in Glasgow. We’re normally rushing through to see family, but this weekend we spent three days exploring the city. Highlights were Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, GOMA and The Hunterian. At Kelvingrove I saw my first Lowry seascape. I had no idea he painted them, and I was taken aback at the simplicity and stillness of it. I spent a little time researching and discovered that I had missed an exhibition at The Lowry in Manchester at the end of last year… The Sea: L S Lowry and Maggi Hambling. What a pairing! I’ve been meaning to write a post about Hambling for ages and this reminded me how inspiring I find her work.

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Laurence Stephen Lowry, Seascape, 1950

True colours

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Any of you who have been following me for a while might know that I am a contemporary slipware potter… I use coloured slips (liquid clay with added pigment) to decorate my pieces rather than glazes. To date my work has been inspired by the breathtaking turquoise blue that I see each summer on North Uist’s shell beaches. However the sea can be a multitude of colours from blue, to grey, to green and for some time I’ve wanted to expand my colour range to allow for these.

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Until now I have been using ready-made slips but I’m finding this both limiting and expensive. To make my own there are two alternatives: to buy manufactured stains, or to blend my own combinations of oxides. One day I hope to do the latter but for the meantime I’m going down the stain route. I’ve been prevaricating about this for ages… Why is it that the things you think are going to be tricky end up being pretty straight forward? Maybe it is as a result of thinking about it for so long that I’d worked out most of what I needed to do in my head before starting.

First I made a series of test tiles out of clay slabs – each one with seven impressed areas to apply the different combinations of colour. Then I made endless pots of slip using measured amounts of dried waste clay, water and stain. These were left to slake overnight and then passed through a fine sieve to ensure a smooth consistency and proper mixing of the pigment. With each colour I did three tests –

Dilute: where incremental amounts of water were added to the slip to thin the colour
Lighten: where additional quantities of white slip were added to fade the original colour
Blend: fading one colour into another to create other colours

126 combinations in all.

There are some results that I really like, and some that need a little finer testing before I achieve what I’m after… but all-in-all not a bad first attempt.

Spark: twenty four

A series about people that have influenced my creative path

FENTONjulietmacleod2014Shoreline, abstract landscape, oil, by Margaret Fenton

Sometimes it is not only the work of an artist that inspires me but also the place in which they work. North Uist is breathtaking in its beauty and Margaret Fenton is lucky to have a studio in a particularly seductive place. It is in between Loch Eport and Loch Obisarry with fantastic views of Eaval, North Uist’s highest hill.

We are lucky to have two of her paintings.

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Abstract seascape, oil, by Margaret Fenton

Spark: twenty two

A series about people that have influenced my creative path

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Flock at Low Tide by Ishbel Macdonald

A couple of summers ago I met Ishbel Macdonald at her studio whilst campervanning around the north coast of Scotland. I bought a small pot and this gorgeous painting. The colours and details are wonderful, and the touches of gold are inspired. It makes me consider adding tiny amounts of lustre to some of my more decorative pieces. Oh to be back at the wheel.

Whilst the building work is going on and we’re making some big decisions, I’ve also been thinking a lot about finer details. I can’t help it. I’m looking forward to redecorating some rooms once the works are finished, and I have an idea about grouping this little picture together with some others on a wall in the sitting room… but then part of me would like it to look at when I’m working in the studio.