Birds of Prey - An opportunity to draw and paint three birds of prey presented by Kirsty Allen, Falconer
16th January 2018
We were delighted to welcome back Kirsty Allen of Pennine Falcons, a very experienced and knowledgeable falconry team and breeding project based in the heart of the Pennines. Kirsty and her team offer a range of experiences with birds of prey at various locations. She regularly takes birds across the border into Scotland for exercise and hunting. Her birds are very well travelled and have made several TV and film appearances. For this evening Kirsty brought three birds which she introduced:
The birds had been set up in the middle of the floor. They were very calm and not at all phased by being asked to pose for sketches and paintings. Fortunately they returned to the same pose periodically so working on several drawings at the same time seemed to be the way to go. It was challenging but delightful to observe the birds so closely, they are powerful, alert and designed to hunt. Their markings and colouring gave Members plenty to explore. The sketches and paintings which resulted captured the grace and character of the birds.
Kirsty had visited us a year ago, in January 2017, and, as before, this practical evening was very well attended and welcomed as a very rare opportunity to draw such beautiful birds. Kirsty was warmly thanked for providing such a memorable evening.
A talk on Hans Holbein the Younger and a review of the BP Portrait Awards 2014 by Clare Gittings
19th December 2017
Portrait painting is a risky business!
Bad enough that your subject disapproves of your efforts but when several of your sitters have been executed for disagreeing with your boss, it takes things to a whole new level!
In Clare Gittings excellent illustrated talk about Hans Holbein the Younger 1497 -1543 (Yes, there was an Elder) the life and times of this incomparable artist were brought to life with familiar and not so familiar images.
The painting of Thomas More for example ( just one of Holbein’s sitters who perished at the block ) is one most of us would recognise; less so is this beautiful drawing of one More’s daughters Ceciley Heron; a superficially simple study in black and coloured chalks which is so full of life one can imagine she is about to continue in conversation with the viewer after some momentary distraction. The sitter’s bodice has been loosened to reveal her yellow kirtle beneath, showing her to be pregnant. The drawing was a preparatory study for a group portrait of More’s family.
Hans Holbein the younger was born in Augsberg, Southern Germany and was taught by his father, becoming a member of the Basel Artists’ Guild in 1519. He was married with four children but having painted his wife with two of their offspring in 1528 never saw them again, dying of plague in England in 1543.
He travelled a great deal and in 1526 made his first of two extended visits to England where he became Court painter to Henry VIII. It is largely through his work that we have become familiar with the faces of the great and sometimes not so good of Tudor England.
After his marriage to Jane Seymour, Henry commissioned a huge mural to decorate his Whitehall Palace which tragically was burnt to the ground in 1698. The only record we have is a the fabulous “cartoon” hanging in the National portrait gallery and a poor copy made in the time of Charles II illustrating how woefully inferior even Court painters were in those days; Clare explaining to us that, not only was there a dearth of home grown talent but that, even the likes of Holbein were treated and paid in much the same way as craft and tradesmen!
The mural depicts Henry life size (6ft 4ins) and Holbein has made him intimidating both by exaggerating his physique but mostly by his expression – this is NOT a man to upset! Pity Holbein then when Henry commissioned him to travel to Flanders to capture the likeness of his newly intended, Anne of Cleves. Legend has it that on the strength of Holbein’s portrait, Henry decides she is to become wife No3 but when she arrives, Henry christens her the “Flanders Mare” and the marriage is dissolved in less than 6 months. Posterity does not record how Holbein got away with it!
Portrait painting is a risky business!
In the second half of Clare’s presentation we were invited to critique and judge some of the paintings from the BP Portrait Awards for 2014.
The annual exhibition regularly receives over 2000 submissions and the styles and techniques on show are as varied as the subjects. Unfortunately, due to copyright restrictions we are unable to reproduce any of the paintings here but you can find them at https://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/exhibitions/bp-portrait-award-2014/
Clare Gittings worked in the Education Dept at The National Portrait Gallery and is a regular, and very popular, guest speaker. Clare was warmly thanked for her presentation on the life of Hans Holbein the Younger and for her insight into the 2014 BP Portrait Awards.
Collage Workshop at Hertford Museum - 15th November 2017
This was the last in a series of Workshops, led by artists from Hertford Art Society, which have run throughout the year in the well-appointed studio at Hertford Museum, 18 Bull Plain, Hertford SG14 1DT. Sara Taylor, Museum Curator, presented some well-known images from 20th Century artists who have used collage in their work. Collage truly emerged as a medium in its own right in the early years of the 20th century with the Cubist experiments of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque who coined the term Collage (from the French: coller, "to glue). Many artists enjoy working in this medium and examples by David Hockney and Robert Rauchenburg were included in the presentation.
A still life had been set up using items from the Museum’s varied collection of artefacts as a source of inspiration. These included a globe and a Tutankhamen bust.
Participants began the session by sketching the still life set up with emphasis on bold forms and interesting contrasts and transferred their design to thick paper. Artist Kathy Burman gave advice on design, materials and techniques. Magazines and newspapers provide a huge range colourful and stimulating images and additional papers can be created using acrylic paint. Papers can be torn or cut to shape, layered and glued using PVA or wallpaper paste.
Gradually, interesting images began to take shape - some abstract, some with personal references. Unexpected results can result - using found materials in this way gives free rein to the imagination. The final pieces were colourful and exciting - referring to the items on display but in very personal ways. Some of the participants had experimented with collage previously - for others it was a new medium.
The earlier sessions in Watercolour, Printing and Clay Modelling gave participants an opportunity to gain new skills with guidance from artists and “try out” working in these various media. The Collage session was also very successful. A wide variety of styles and images resulted. These can be completed later and, perhaps, used as the basis of further artwork.
It is hoped that further art workshops will be organised in the future and there is always something interesting going on at the Museum for visitors of all ages. Check the museum website for details www.hertfordmuseum.org.
Deconstruction / Reconstruction
Workshop with Denise Allen - 7th November 2017
The principle of this workshop involved tearing up old paintings, rearranging and making a new image out of the pieces. The session was led by Denise Allen, an experienced artist who runs workshops and classes in painting with acrylics and watercolours.
Members were asked to bring along two or three paintings which they were prepared to tear up. These could be either watercolour or acrylic, preferably on paper. This was an ideal opportunity to reuse paintings which, for one reason or another, did not quite work out. The best paintings to choose for this are ones that have some structure in them. This could be buildings, people or objects. Also needed was a new piece of paper to work on, pencil or pen, Pritt stick or PVA glue, and painting materials, whatever medium the artist prefers.
Denise began by giving a short demonstration of the process, tearing elements of her chosen paintings and placing them with a view to composing an interesting juxtaposition of forms and shapes. These were then linked, imaginatively, with a fresh drawing. Paint was then applied to enhance the chosen colour scheme and bring the new image together.
Members then began to work on their own interpretation of this deconstruction/reconstruction process, enjoying the freedom to play around with selected parts of their own paintings and endeavouring to find a new, interesting composition.
Denise gave advice and guidance as the evening progressed. The resulting images were quirky and personal - with abstract qualities. Denise was warmly thanked for leading such an interesting session. This is certainly a good technique to utilise old work, either to make a finished piece or as a route towards a further painting.
East Herts Decorative and Fine Arts Society
Each year for the last 6 years EHDFAS has sponsored the 3D award at Hertford Art Society's Open Exhibition.
In 2017 the prize was awarded to Nigel Earle, a local ceramicist. The winning piece is titled ‘After GR’. This alludes to a living artist, Gerhard Richter, whose paintings and textures inspired Nigel to translate Richter’s 2D work into a 3D format. The images are Nigel's work, and one of the pictures that inspired his piece.
Nigel has a studio in Hertford where he creates highly original table-top ceramic pieces ‘that explore layers, recesses and hidden spaces’.
EHDFAS Members enjoy monthly talks at the Spotlight Centre in Broxbourne on a wide range of arts subjects well beyond the decorative and fine. Among other things we also go on visits to outstanding buildings and galleries, hold Special Interest days and sponsor Young Art in local schools.
Several members of the Hertford Art Society are members of EHDFAS. For more information on EHDFAS please visit their website.
Wildlife Painting in Acrylics
Demonstration by Marie Antoniou, Wildlife Artist - 17th October 2017
Marie Antoniou won the BBC Wildlife Artist of the Year 2013 and has been a finalist or highly commended in recent David Shepherd Wildlife Artist of the Year Exhibitions. She contributes to Artist magazine and runs workshops in Essex and elsewhere. Her unique depictions of wildlife have earned her numerous awards and accolades. She enjoys using acrylics as they allow her to explore traditional subject matter in a more contemporary way.
Marie introduced us to her kit. She uses a large lidded nibbles tray for her paints. This large tray is loaded with her chosen acrylics - 2 blues (Process Cyan and Cerulean), 2 reds (Alizarin Crimson and Cadmium Red), 2 yellows (Cadmium Yellow and Yellow Ocre) plus Burnt Sienna and Phthalo Green. The paint remains usable in this sealed tray for ages, she simply tops it up. Marie mixes colours on a large tear off palette and works with a variety of large flat brushes (both artist quality [Liquitex] and decorating brushes) from 4” to ½” wide. These give the expressive brush strokes which are her signature style.
Marie invites the audience to choose which image she paints and although the baby hippo was adorable, a photo of a barbary macaque was chosen. Her canvas had been primed with a strong aqua green acrylic. She has a variety of canvases ready to work on, all with bright or subdued primers - to avoid white and unify the finished painting where it is visible between brush strokes. She advises dampening the brush before use (to avoid the brush becoming clogged) and using very little water as this dilutes the paint. Using the edge of a 3” brush loaded with a strong dark purple, Marie marked the position of the monkey on the canvas with swift stokes and lines, indicating features and shadows loosely. With a larger brush the background was established with dark blues, purples and reds to vary the colours within the eventual shadows. Shadow areas were added to the figure. She added yellow strokes to indicate the position of the straw on which the monkey was sitting. Her approach is very much trial and error, risk taking and working with the surprises which result. Marie tends to use larger brushes to establish the groundwork and tones, with smaller brushes used as work progresses. She twists and turns the brush to vary the marks, working around and within the form of the figure, gradually building areas of light and dark. She leaves areas to dry, thus avoiding making the colours “muddy”. A crisp, fresh “portrait” of the macaque gradually begins to materialise. Highlights are added, defining the figure further while leaving the underpainting here and there to add depth.
Her working practices is to build up layers of marks, painting loosely and enjoying the process. She avoids using white as far as possible adding a chalky colour such as Yellow Ocre to the mixture. She begins with muted shades and “turns up the volume” later with bright tones and fresh clean brushes. Marie always works from her own photographs and regularly visits zoos and wildlife areas around the country, seeking out newborn rhinos or gorillas when the opportunity arises. She is passionate about the plight of endangered animals. In her work she tries to capture the essence of the animal and create something different, trying to express the wildness of the animal or bird, adding life to the painting with the large, lively brush strokes. Her bold use of colour gives a slightly abstract fe el to the work.
Marie finishes the demonstration by adding bright oranges, reds and purples to the straw and background, dark strokes to the shadows and adding white to the mixture to define the facial features of the monkey and final highlights to shoulder and leg, thus bring the image of the monkey forward. It really had great character and everyone enjoyed watching the painting take form.
Marie was warmly thanked for giving us such an exciting demonstration and for sharing her experience, knowledge and enthusiasm. Her painting style is brave and confident and should certainly inspire some of us to experiment with large brushes and bright colours in the future.
Abstract Art - What is it about?
Talk and Demonstration by Chris Tkacz - 10th October 2017
Chris Tkacz was welcomed and began the session with an illustrated review of Abstract Expressionism, the term applied to forms of abstract art developed by American painters such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning in the 1940s and 1950s. Many of these strange images were ridiculed at the time but have since opened doors in visual art.
The artists of the time drew on the work of previous masters. The world became smaller in the 19th century. Early 20th century artists were influenced strongly by the Impressionists, their lives and struggles. Van Gogh and Cezanne expressed themselves with bold colours and mark-making. Gaugin experienced primitive cultures. Primitive objects such as masks had a great impact on Picasso and his peers. Symbolic, spiritual influences from previously hidden places found a place in their artworks. Cubism emerged. Artists had a new language to explore. Mondrian took his initial tree sketches on a journey, abstracting them by degrees. They were simplistic but significant. Kandinsky, Malevich, Gorky explored in their art the rapidly changing new world, creating images about energy, force, colours, shapes, forms. In Britain, the work of Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Peter Lanyon and their contemporaries leaned heavily towards abstraction.
Abstract Expressionism was the first specifically American movement to achieve international influence and put New York City at the centre of the western art world. Post-war, there had been an influx of European artists into the United States. The scale and size of the US made a huge impact and these visual and emotional experiences were synthesised in abstract images.
Chris is Art School trained, an experienced art tutor, runs workshops from his Derbyshire studio and works in various media, including egg tempera. The Derbyshire countryside with its beauty and dynamism have been a great source of inspiration in his art. He continued his talk with his own feelings about the abstract paintings which he creates. These are often childlike. He doesn’t know where the image is going and has no “plan” at the outset. Themes reoccur. Landscape has a huge influence with occasional figurative influences. Childhood memories, feelings, smells - these all figure in his work. Chris brought a variety of sketchbooks and paintings to illustrate his current work.
He often begins with a series of sketches, done quickly in watercolour to distil the elements of a scene. He paints en plein air and in the studio and allows time for paintings to develop and be reworked (often months or years!). He works primarily in oils (recommends Mike Harding colours) and adds layers of paint (often thinned with medium to aid quick drying). He has no idea of the eventual outcome, just makes a mark, a line, a shape, a form - judging each one against the last. He adds and substracts forms and colour intuitively in a subconscious, reactive manner. Using the palette to create just the right colour and shade is an important part of the process. He loves the names of certain colours, they create feelings and his work is all about feelings and responses. The canvas is a theatrical space, the edges important. Shapes emerge, forms created by illusion.
While talking about his approach, Chris “doodles” on a large square canvas then puts it to one side. He takes an old painting (mostly green trees) and begins overpainting, following some of the shapes within the original. He blocks in what might be an intense sky, then rotates the canvas which gives a totally different feel. Returning to the original canvas he refers back to a watercolour sketch as a starting point then adds some line and colour. Forms begin to emerge. Warm and cool colours create perspective and distance. A horizon appears. Glazing medium allows delicate layering of paint as the underlayer dries quickly, almost like watercolour technique in places. Bold scratching integrates one shape with another and adds texture. He picks up one of the earlier marks and adds a dynamic wavy shape. Each additional line or colour changes the relationships within the image and forces the artist to make judgements and move forward. At the end of the evening he invited participants to make some marks on his canvas. Neither of the demonstration pieces was finished, they were just used to illustrate his approach and techniques.
Members thanked Chris for a very enjoyable evening. The short history of the development of Abstract Expressionism was key as it, together with a more romantic English landscape tradition, shaped his work during his formative years as an artist. His very personal approach to creating abstract works was fascinating and inspirational. .
Clay Sculpting Workshop at Hertford Museum - 27th September 2017
The third Workshop in the series by Members of the Art Society at Hertford Museum was to make a relief on a tile inspired by an exhibit in the museum. This Workshop was led by June Pickard, Artist and Sculptor.
After the introductory talk on what to look for in the museums artefacts and having been shown examples of what could be done at different levels, the seven members of the public who attended looked around the museum to photograph or sketch items suitable for a relief. On their return the various tools and how they were used were explained.
When they had decided which design they wanted to use the outline was lightly etched onto a flat tile they had made by rolling out and trimming the air drying clay. Once this was done the serious work began by adding small pieces of clay to produce a raised image.
There was a large range of abilities from one person with experience who had prepared her design the night before, to others who had no experience at all. As they got more used to the medium and what effect different tools produced some got carried away and made more than one tile. The designs were bold and exciting.
Everyone was very enthusiastic and even the organiser joined in. They all left happily with their pieces saying they would like to do more.
This is a marvellous way to further the popularity of the Art Society and, needless to say, mention was made of the Members Show which will be held at Cowbridge Halls, Cowbridge, Hertford on 27th to 29th October and the Collage Workshop which will be held at the Hertford Museum on 15th November.
Summer Painting Weekend - Rye and Camber Sands - September 8th, 9th and 10th 2017
The HAS annual art weekend away for 2017 saw us visiting Rye and Camber Sands. Having moved the weekend to the latter part of the outdoor painting season we had a slightly better response from Members.
Rye proved to be an ideal venue enabling a choice of marine or town subject matter, however, as the streets were narrow and busy with tourists the majority of us stayed in the Old Harbour area.
As I arrived at lunchtime on Friday I set up to paint in oils using the boot of my car as a cover to the impending rain (a good tip if you have a hatchback car) it was just the right thing to have done as light showers came and went most of the afternoon but still an enjoyable session of painting.
Friday night saw us in good mood enjoying a meal of fish & chips and talking of our choices in accommodation, the journey down and plans for tomorrow.
Saturday started with fine weather if a little breezy and I set to on an oil of the Martello tower from the flood barrier. The drama of a very high tide flooding the landscape and a flotilla of sailing boats taking full advantage of the breeze setting off to sea offered more choices than an artist could cope with and quite a few sketches ensued.
A fine meal on Saturday evening set us up for Sunday’s painting at Camber Sands. The wind was so strong it was like painting inside a sandblast machine! There's lot of gritty sand on my oil sketch which may prove useful for a future reference in a studio work later on.
Next year we are looking at Blakeney on the Norfolk coast, possibly in June, and members will be advised as soon as the possibilities have been researched.
Winter Programme 2017 - 2018
From September each year Society Members and visitors enjoy a Programme of talks, critiques, demonstrations and workshops. These sessions are on Tuesday evenings from 7.30pm to 9.30pm at Cowbridge Hall, Cowbridge, Hertford SG14 1PG. Approximately half the evenings in the Winter Programme are for Members to paint or draw either from still life arrangements or a life model. The remaining evenings are taken up with talks, critiques of paintings brought along by Members, demonstrations from a professional artist or workshops. Visitors are welcome to enjoy the non-practical evenings (marked with an asterisk).
Winter Programme 2017-2018 (pdf) - click here for more details
Summer Programme Review 2017
Each summer Hertford Art Society Members enjoy painting and sketching out of doors on Tuesday evenings at various venues in the Hertford Area.
This year’s programme included familiar locations around Hertford and Ware and featured (by kind invitation) visits to The Garden of the Mill - Westmill, Bengeo Hall, Essendon Place Farm Stables, Walkern|Hall Estate and Carnwell Farm - Much Hadham.
The weather was mostly kind (one rainy evening involved three hardy artists and a longer than usual session at the pub) and the variety of venues provided some exciting sketching and painting opportunities.
A new Member of the Society, Oksana Melenevska, comments:
Public Art in the City of London - Illustrated talk by Alexandra Epps - 18th April 2017
Alexandra Epps, a graphic designer, NADFAS lecturer and City of London Guide was welcomed back for a talk on Public Art in the City of London, concentrating on modern and contemporary art. The City has been her home for over twenty years and since qualifying as a guide she is keen to share the stories of its public art, iconic architecture, and fascinating history.
“The role of Public Art is to enrich the environment in which we work, play, learn and live” - Listing Team, Historic England.
Alexandra led us through some of the most exciting public art: sculpture, relief, wall decoration in this most remarkable square mile, the City of London with its two thousand years of history. Photographs (by kind permission of Art in the City) illustrate some of the works - others are easily found online.
Alexandra advised us that the Corporation of London is one of the largest sponsors of Art in the country and that a great deal of money was originally invested in public art in the Broadgate area. Each summer works are installed throughout the City in the Sculpture in the City programme and there is always something new, be it projected images onto the dome of St. Pauls (Martin Firrell) or Ben Wilson painting discarded chewing gum on Millenium bridge.
Alexandra was warmly thanked for providing such an exciting talk on the wide variety of art forms to be found in the City and acquainting us with the work of artists, some familiar and some new to us, whose artworks grace this square mile.
Haydn’s Mass and Te Deum - All Saint’s Church, Hertford - 1st April 2017
The Art Society was once again invited to illustrate Hertford Choral Society’s Spring Concert – Haydn’s Mass and Te Deum. This is a tricky score to illustrate – the works contain devotional phrases familiar to us all but few descriptive terms that readily transform to figurative pictures.
Persis Limbuwala did the sensible thing and painted an abstract of ‘Heaven and Earth full of the Majesty: of thy Glory’ - a Mondrian-style image of colourful panels edged in black which gives the picture a stained glass effect, entirely appropriate to its church setting.
The large scale pictures were much appreciated by a packed audience on the night of the concert and for a month afterwards as the vicar of All Saint’s Church enjoys keeping the pictures hanging in the church for her subsequent congregations to take in.
Winter 2017-2018 programme
Winners of Critique Sessions 2017-2018 season