The work of Mary Beale (1633 - 1699)
Visit to West Lodge Park, Hadley Wood - 21st March 2017
We were made very welcome by Mr Andrew Beale the current owner of West Lodge Park, a Beales Hotel - originally a hunting ground for kings and queens. It is a family run hotel with a beautiful Arboretum and a heliport within its grounds. The main purpose of our visit was to see the collection of paintings and learn about his famous ancestor, Mary Beale.
Mary Beale (1633 - 1699) was Britain's first professional female artist. She had her own studio and painted portraits of high society figures of the day plus family portraits as well. She was both talented and prolific and at the height of her fame in 1677 she painted 83 portraits and earned the then considerable sum of £429. Unusually for the time, her husband Charles helped look after their children Bartholomew and Charles and he also kept accounts and booked sitters for his wife Mary. His detailed accounts are in note books that still survive in the British Museum today and in the National Portrait Gallery which gives insight into life in the latter half of the 17 century after the restoration of the Monarchy.
Some of Mary Beales paintings and others of note are located in various rooms at this hotel and Andrew kindly gave us a guided tour around their collection. They were mainly collected by T Edward Beale CBE, Andrew’s Grandfather.
If the people in the portraits could step out of their frames today many of them would know each other. King Charles would remember Lady Fairfax whose husband invited him to return to the throne of England, his Secretary Henry Coventry and his Loyal Courtier John Evelyn and his voluptuous mistress Barbara Castlemaine. In another portrait the King may well have cast an appreciative eye on his queen's Lady in Waiting - Margaret Blagge.
Quite a few of the portraits are painted in the oval as this was a popular surround of the time - examples below - and not all the paintings there are by Mary Beale. The one of King Charles II was originally painted by Peter Lely (a Dutch artist). It is said that Mary Beale also did many copies of this famous painting and sold them to many who could not afford the original - somewhat like the prints that we have today and can buy the copies cheaper than the originals. These artworks can be viewed on the West Lodge Park website.
The evening ended with tea / coffee and biscuits and all who attended this evening said they enjoyed it very much and some were pleasantly surprised that this treasure of a hotel existed so near to us in Herts.
Talk and Show - Mixed Media by Val Pettifer - 31st January 2017
Val Pettifer visited HAS on Tuesday 31 January and gave us an interesting evening called “Talk and Show” on Mixed Media.
The evening started with a large selection of materials and books laid out on three long trellis tables and a few examples of finished pictures in mixed media with a variety of finishes. She introduced herself as having a passion for art in childhood and after retiring this passion was rekindled. She did various courses with great enthusiasm over a few years before investing in the "Old School Studios” in Whittleford Cambridge - just off the M11 at Duxford. She runs various Workshops and Drop In days. These are very convivial surroundings and Val is encouraging and works to each individual’s strengths. She also has visiting artists leading some of these courses.
For this visit to us at HAS she showed us how to create a mixed media picture starting with a photograph of a scene from Venice and layering the canvass board by gluing on different bits of paper torn at random roughly matched in either colour or pattern to the scene at hand. Suggesting the use of crumpled tissue for a watery effect or cut out lace used to create a different end result. She poured different coloured inks over these spreading the colours with her fingers but maintaining a little distance between each colour so as not to smudge and mix the colours up too much. There was not enough time to complete this picture within our two hour session as time was needed to dry each layer in-between and she took time showing us all the different paint effects she uses in order to create an interesting end result. It seems a fun way to create a picture and Members thanked Val for an interesting and stimulating evening.
Birds of Prey - An opportunity to draw and paint four birds of prey presented by Kirsty Allen, Falconer - 24th January 2017
Pennine Falcons is situated in the heart of the Pennines and is led by Kirsty Allen; a young falconer who has been practicing the sport since 2007. She has had a lifelong passion for all birds, particularly birds of prey. She has experience working with the BBC and Silverback Films, Vogue Magazine with Helen Macdonald, has featured in the National Press and is highly regarded within the industry. Kirsty is the daughter of Member Denise Allen and we were delighted to welcome her and four of her Birds of Prey for this very different Members’ evening.
The birds were set up in the middle of the floor and were very calm. Kirsty introduced us to a Kestrel - Susie, (who fluffed up her feathers and was very relaxed all evening), a Peregrine Falcon - Bibs (who needed to be hooded later in the evening as she was calling loudly!), a rather stately Harris Hawk - Lucas and a very active Lanner Falcon - Nala with gorgeous plumage. It was a challenging drawing experience. Fortunately the birds would adopt the same pose every so often so a series of drawings was the order of the night. Some brilliant sketches, and even paintings resulted from two hours observing the birds at rest. They were alert and seemed interested in the proceedings. It was lovely just to sit and watch them and such a novel experience being with such beautiful creatures.
Kirsty and her team are involved in breeding these birds and gave us an interesting talk about their various attributes and habits. The Lanner Falcon can dive onto prey at speeds exceeding 200mph. She regularly takes birds across the border into Scotland for exercise and hunting. Do visit the website at penninefalcons.com for some spectacular photographs of birds in action.
This was an exceptional evening, very well attended and Kirsty was thanked for bringing her birds such a long way for our enjoyment and interest. We hope to welcome her back in 2018.
Tonal Values Workshop with Chris Christoforou - 12th November 2016
Chris Christoforou has been a professional artist for 30 years and has built an international reputation for his work, since he started as a commercial artist. He is well known for his depictions of wildlife, although he enjoys painting all manner of different subjects. He has written many articles for art magazines on various art materials, including his own painting techniques. He visited us on the “Critique” evening that began our Winter Programme for 2016 and when he was invited for a workshop with us he suggested the topic of “Tonal Values” as this subject had arisen during the Critique. Thus this was the subject for the day and it turned out to be a very interesting and enlightening tutorial.
The workshop began with monochrome sketches using photographs which the artists had selected as suitable for this exercise. To create an image with a clear foreground - middle ground - background in black and white for example you can use just black (ink or paint) and progressively dilute it to get a vast range of tones from initial black all the way through shades of greys by reducing the strength of it till it reaches no colour at all. This tonal range can also be achieved in pencil or charcoal. Chris suggested that we experiment (later) with creating a “Grey Scale” for our own use.
The same principles apply when using colour. To achieve the fine detail in his paintings Christ uses Chroma Atelier free flow acrylics which are liquid - he was involved in the development of this range of paints. He showed us a selection of his work and we were surprised to learn that he often starts with the darkest shades. We also learnt that it was better to paint in layers and dry each layer with a hair dryer, as acrylics are not as fast drying as one might think. He recommended working this way, adding colour, increasing the tone or decreasing it as required. Once the background is established by this method then one can approach towards the final details in order to create beautiful “Tonal” effects.
Having selected the image they felt best illustrated the desired tonal qualities, artists began working in their chosen medium on a larger scale with advice from Chris.
There was a special half hour devoted to observing Chris demonstrate what exactly each colour tube contains and why it is so important to know its content in order to achieve the required colour mixes. He illustrated this by using two bottles of each of the three primary colours (Lemon and Cadmium Yellow, Cerulean and Ultramarine Blue and Cadmium Red and Alizarin Crimson). He created a number of mixtures to demonstrate the properties of these colours. For example it is only possible to mix a true orange using Cadmium Yellow and Cadmium Red as these do not contain any blue pigment. This was a useful refresher on colour mixing.
It is possible to mix an “almost” black from Red, Blue and Yellow but if any of these contain some white one can never achieve a true black end product. Many colours contain white pigment - we were advised to select only those without a hint of white for mixing true darks. A combination of Burnt Umber and Ultramarine can create an intense Black. These and many more valuable insights on paint colour contents will hopefully help those who attended to improve their works of art.
All the participating artists said that they had learnt a lot within the four hours as we all had a good portion of individual attention from Chris as well - thus gaining hints and tips on how to begin and progress with our chosen pictures.
This was a very enjoyable afternoon which produced a dramatic range of work, focussing on strong tonal contrasts. Many thanks to Chris Christoforou for coming and giving us a good basic insight on “Tonal Values” and its importance to our art works.
The 19th Members’ Art Show and Sale
28th - 30th October 2016
For only the second time in its history, this took place at the Cowbridge Halls, Hertford. Once again the Members rose to the occasion and put on a varied and vibrant show of work of a very high standard. The light and spacious surroundings made this a show which was a delight to walk around and, of course, there was the lure of tea and homemade cakes at the back of the hall! Visitors have told me and other stewards how much they enjoy this show and what a credit it is to the Society. Thirty six paintings were sold and also many cards (always a popular feature of the show).
As always, the subjects of the paintings were many and varied but I did notice that the effects of light on the subject, be it landscape, portrait or still life, were a strong feature of this show. Atmospheric lighting was evident in all the award winners' paintings.
Award winners were:
There was great variety of paintings, in a range of media - something to suit every taste. In addition to the framed paintings, artists contributed unframed works and some 3D items. Our 3D artists are encouraged to contribute more of their work in future shows as the Cowbridge Halls is an ideal space to display sculpture and other 3D items.
Finally, our thanks go to all those Members who worked hard for their Society's Show, whether setting up or dismantling, stewarding or making teas (and cakes!). You are too many to name but we all know who you are and we all appreciate the time you put into making this show such a success.
Demonstration in Acrylics by Hashim Akib - 11th October 2016
Hashim Akib originally worked as an illustrator. This gave him valuable experience in developing drawing skills, conceptual ideas and various painting techniques. Throughout his career he has won many awards and exhibited in many prestigious galleries. His first book entitled ‘Vibrant Acrylics’ was published in 2012, has been translated into French, German, Italian and Dutch and includes a companion DVD of the same name. He has further books - ‘Cityscapes’, ‘Absolute Beginners’ and ‘Portraiture’ - in the pipeline. He contributes feature articles to many art publications and runs regular workshops.
Hashim asked the audience to choose from three portrait photographs and had prepared a large canvas with a turquoise ground in acrylic. He prefers to work with a vibrant ground colour on his canvasses, always has a selection prepared and chooses one to compliment the subject. He uses Daler Rowney System 3 Heavy Body acrylics for his demonstrations. Having worked with them in their relaunch of these paints he finds them most suitable for his style of painting. He has a palette prepared with a range of vibrant colours in deep pans and works with large flat Daler Rowney square head brushes and Liquitex paddle brushes.
The chosen portrait was of an elderly African woman, full of character, and Hashim began by dipping a 4” flat brush into a variety of colours - violet, yellow ochre, red, burnt sienna, green, magenta (Hashim is all about colour) and dragging the brush vertically down the canvass with the colours blending naturally and giving energy to the mix. He used darker tones for what would become the shadow side of the face, adding a little Titanium White to the mix to create pastel shades for the lighter side. The next stage added bold diagonals to indicate contours and features, still with broad strokes. Colour is key and the aqua ground glows through in places.
Hashim told us that he originally painted very realistically with each painting taking perhaps a month to complete - by which time he was pretty bored with the subject. The work lacked character and his quick “sketches” were much more exciting and were favourably received by critics. He changed his approach and now paints quickly, using strong colour and form.
Having broadly established the face, Hashim uses white mixed with a variety of colours to create the headdress and garments framing the face, creating the outline, again using vertical strokes. Using a corner of the brush, highlights are added with vibrant colours. He enjoys the beginnings of a painting but the final stages are vital to enhance the highlights and lowlights. “This is dangerous,” he said, referring to the point where final touches are needed. Bold darks and additional highlights are added and the face comes to life. The portrait is left “almost finished” so that Hashim could quickly demonstrate a landscape.
His chosen photo was an autumn scene with a dark bridge over a brightly lit river. On a lilac ground he applied bold orange, yellow and red strokes, dragged down and across for the brightly lit trees in the distance. Dark browns added for the middle ground trees and bridge. Bold angular touches are added with the edge of the brush, gradually building up rich tones of red, green and brown. Pale turquoise blue is added for patches of sky and highlights of pale green, aqua, gold and yellow ochre to bring light to the trees and reflections in the water. Finally strong dark blues exaggerate the trees, bridge and reflections and some zingy highlights in lemon yellow are added. This was a really quick sketch and from an abstract start the image became more defined.
The two pieces of work were quite different but both illustrated Hashim’s bold style and love of colour. This was an exciting, whistle-stop demonstration and showed what can be accomplished in a short time. Hashim’s strength is in the underlying drawing and awareness of the impact of the colours he selects. Each stroke of paint is the right tone and in the right place. This was a brilliant evening and Hashim was warmly thanked for sharing his exciting approach to painting with us.
Pastel Workshop - 27th September 2016
Following Les Darlow’s pastel demo the previous week we all set-to on Tuesday evening to emulate his bold, confident wielding of bright and dark colours. A large skyscape was projected onto the hall’s end wall and the lights dimmed at that end. Of course this had the side effect of making some of us work in near darkness with difficulty choosing colours. A couple of sensible members next to me got by with the use of torches!
Despite this and in the better lit end of the hall much excellent work was done including other references. Complete silence reigned for most of the session. The standard of work was quite excellent and, hopefully, much was learned from the exigencies of having to use a medium possibly rarely attempted.
Light, Energy and Movement - Demonstration in Pastel by Les Darlow - 20th September 2016
Les Darlow trained as a technical and scientific illustrator (with a 5 year diversion playing in a rock band!) and produced photorealistic images. His art was transformed when someone bought him a set of pastels. He found this medium perfect for painting freely and expressively, creating paintings based on light, energy and movement. He now considers himself an impressionist and loves the medium of pastel for its colour and intensity.
He showed us some examples of recent paintings, introduced us to his chosen materials and announced that he would be producing three paintings over the course of the next couple of hours. The audience was intrigued.
Many artists struggle with pastels and Les feels that this is, to a large extent, due to inferior materials. He often teaches groups where most of the painting ends up as dust on the floor. Having experimented with many different brands he now recommends Rembrandt and Jackson (hard pastels) and Unison (soft pastels) together with Canson “Mi-Tientes” pastel paper containing more than 50% cotton (which reduces absorption of pigments), comes in 50 colours and has one smooth surface and one with an “orange peel effect”. This also comes in a micro abrasive surface, Canson “Touch” (like fine sandpaper). Coloured backgrounds can be created on this paper using inks. He also feels that there is a temptation to use pastels too thickly - in his view “less is more”. The chosen background colour is important as, using his technique, this will be an integral part of the painting, setting the mood.
He loves painting skies and extremes of weather and often works outside. If he is working from a photograph, he spends time sketching the scene working out tonal values and balance in pencil or marker. He recommends Promarkers from Letraset (tones from light grey to black in easy to use marker pens) for quick sketches as these create monochrome drawings where the values (percentage of intensity) can be established. He then advises discarding the photograph and letting memory and imagination take over.
Les then embarked on the first image. On the smooth side of a sheet of warm dark grey paper he proceeded to lightly indicate the position of features and the tree line. He then applied colour to the sky area using the side of hard pastels (shades of purple, dark blue, turquoise, orange & yellow) working from dark tones below to brighter colours on top. The strokes were bold and directional, drawing the eye to a point on the horizon. The colours were blended by hand - one pass - and more colour added, particularly yellow to the setting sun. Winter trees were then added with vertical strokes of Prussian blue and dark brown for the shadow side and warm reds for the sunlit side, to echo the sky. If excess builds up on the paper, a towel can be used to remove this. Fine light strokes with the sharp edge of a hard pastel indicated trunks and branches. He established and constantly refined the forms, bringing out highlights on the castle and using dark blue and black for the shadow side. The snow-covered bank was established in light tones and the foreground was established with lightly applied strokes of purple and blue. He defined the edge of the lake with black (he loves black - not a colour often recommended). Reflections of the trees and castle were created with bold vertical strokes dragged down with the back of his hand and distorted. Softer pastels are chosen for more intense areas and with a few final touches the image is complete.
It was noticeable that Les worked methodically from top to bottom of the painting, applied the pastel lightly but boldly and didn’t fuss. The resulting painting was full of warmth and drama (and took about half an hour).
The following two paintings (both on the micro abrasive “Touch” surface, one on a soft blue-grey and the other on a rich dark red) used the harder pastels and followed a similar process of building up colour. This surface is rather hard on the fingertips when blending so plasters or gloves are useful. No blending was used in the sky of the last image, the colours really sing out. Use of these two different tones really illustrated the impact of the background colour on the finished painting.
The Canson papers are also useful for other media - charcoal, pencil, and tough enough for watercolour and gouache. Fixative may be needed for the micro-abrasive paper but the 50% cotton Mi-Tiente paper holds the applied pastel very well. As fixative can dull the colours, it is likely that some pure pastel will need to be applied to bring the colour back. Care should be taken not to “fill” the tooth of the paper.
This was a very exciting demonstration. Les answered questions and gave valuable advice throughout, talking us through the process. His main points were to keep the image simple, take away complications so that the viewer can take a trip around the painting and establish the values of foreground, mid-ground and background to give depth to the image. Light, energy and movement was the theme. This was certainly accomplished and Les was warmly thanked for an excellent presentation.
The Art Society will be having a workshop based on this demonstration. Many members are inexperienced with pastels and will have this stimulating demonstration in mind as they tackle this challenging medium. Les Darlow made it look easy. We will see.
East Herts Decorative and Fine Arts Society
For the last five years sponsorship of the award judged to be the best piece of 3D work at the Open Exhibition has been provided by EHDFAS – East Herts Decorative and Fine Arts.
The 2016 winner was "Queue of Life" Bus Stand - 7 Figures 7 Stories by Maria-Luisa Wilkings. Actually it’s 8 figures, I think Maria got carried away when she was submitting her figures. Each one comes with a short back-story documented in a mini-booklet accompanying the figure. Their future stories have yet to unravel: Maria says we may well be seeing what happens to at least some of them at a future exhibition. This saga could run and run.
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. Our most recent success has been this batik abstract (‘Lollipops’) entered by a 14 year old Sele School pupil into a National competition where the subject was ‘Edibles’. It won first prize in the 14-16 year age group.
Several members of the Hertford Art Society are members of EHDFAS. For more information on EHDFAS please visit their website.
Winners of Critique Sessions 2016-2017 season