Showing posts from August, 2007

Time and Tide: sunset and pools at the beach

This is one of the recent ones in the Time and Tide series, a smallish one of just under 3ft tall. It's about those evenings where the clouds and colours are patterned and vivid, layers of different coloured clouds, delicate peach pinks, small fluffy clouds that are lower and the pool reflecting it all.

The pattern element was important as it was that sort of evening. It makes me think of Fairisle knitting! It works well with the others in the series.

What do you think?

Daughter and new son are both doing well and she's so happy :)

a grandmother!

My daughter had a little boy by emergency Caesarian section last night. They are both doing fine, I hardly slept last night!

I rushed the card into the post so I hope she gets it tomorrow. My grandmother was really special - I hope I can live up to her :)

Time and Tide continued, a patch of sparkling water

A patch of sparkling water, copyright Vivien Blackburn, approx 36 in highThis mixed media on canvas is based on sketches I did of the light sparkling on a small area of sea on a fairly calm day. Sometimes it's fun to zoom in and concentrate on just one small area. It hasn't photographed well I'm afraid with a bit of interference from the varnish :(Today I've been working on a couple of new larger canvasses, which will take a while to resolve.I'm hoping to get to a really good pastel exhibition at a gallery in a nearby market town. Work on show is by several artists who belong to the Pastel Society - I visited their exhibition at the Mall Galleries in the Spring and reviewed the show. Some of those I particularly liked have work there - Averil Gilkes is showing her beautiful seascapes and Ingrid Wilkinson her gorgeous abstracts. I know it will make me want to reach for my pastels again :) the gallery website

sketching at the beach

quick sketch of moving figures in watercolour, pencil, biro and coloured pencil copyright Vivien Blackburn
Yesterday I went to the coast to deliver the work to the Neptune gallery. My husband went with me and I decided to sketch - not a good idea! It's not the same as going with friends who also paint - I was conscious of having to hurry up so he wouldn't be bored, the beach was busy with bank holiday visitors, who constantly walked in front of me, moved, put up windbreaks or tents or took them down just as I was going to sketch them ..... not ideal !

So I only got this quick sketch done ... not good, a very bad composition as I just sketched people when they held a position long enough and they are both looking out to the left. I didn't have time to consider properly and even though I had my back to the seawall, people came to look, which is distracting. (excuses excuses!) I thought I'd post it just to prove that I did manage to get a bit of sketching done. :) I've …


webcam at Mawgan Porth

I wish I was there now - but soon :)

I'm absolutely exhausted so no sensible post today - but do look at the webcam link above of a typical Cornish beach, a couple of miles from where I used to live.

The colours today were lovely and changing with the light :) - click back through the times as it takes a picture once an hour and you can see the tide coming in, going out and the light and the colours changing at Mawgan Porth

I wish I was there now - but soon :)

I'm absolutely exhausted so no sensible post today - but do look at the webcam link above of a typical Cornish beach, a couple of miles from where I used to live.

The colours today were lovely and changing with the light :) - click back through the times as it takes a picture once an hour and you can see the tide coming in, going out and the light and the colours changing dramatically. webcam at Mawgan Porth

I wish I was there…

painting styles - should you have a style?

one of the Time and Tide series - about changing weather, time, season, tide and light at the beach copyright Vivien Blackburn

Katherine's post today is very interesting and is a subject that matters to me individually and as a teacher in adult/higher education. she talks today about artists developing a style.

Students often talk about finding their style and I tell them it'll happen. It's like your handwriting, it's unique as long as you let it evolve without forcing it and stylising it like calligraphy.

Whilst it's important for your work to be cohesive, it needs to be cohesive because it's your voice coming through and not because you have decided to be - for instance - cubist, or to churn out cutesy little cottages with orange lights in the windows (now who could that be? >:>) )

Great artists develop over time and often work through many 'styles' which are simply aspects of their development, a strengthening of th…

Seascapes for the next show

all work copyright Vivien Blackburn I've been busy finishing off some canvasses - they are still wet so I'll have to photograph them later and sorting out some framed work to take to the Neptune Gallery.

These are 2 of the framed works that will be going. Both done plein air in oil paint. They are on treated paper, so are framed as if for watercolours, with a 3inch matt and limed ash frame.

I love the different light and colour as the seasons, time and tide change. Nothing stays the same for long and it's necessary to paint fast. The first painting was the day after a really bad storm and high tide - there were intense deep blue skies and the wet sand was vivid colours, around us were damaged dunes and sea defences. The second was a warm April day, after a long cold early spring. It was bliss to be in the sun :)

I'm hoping to have some time to paint after I've delivered the work - so fingers crossed for good weather later this week :)

and now for something completely different :)

Russian Dolls: copyright Vivien Blackburn
I've been down to visit my daughter who is expecting her first baby in 3 weeks - so lots of excitement :).

So now I have a lot of finishing off paintings and organising to do to get some work ready for an exhibition and catch up.

This is a rough design for a card for her - it's her and her husband and their cat as Russian Dolls (they aren't at all that shape! - well she is at the moment but not normally :) ) - I haven't decided yet whether it will be a cut out to shape card or a square card with the image on. What do you think?

Someone already pointed out that it might be a good idea to have the baby larger than the cat ....... or else the baby fits inside the cat ...... oooops!

the language of painting and more about my degree course

Masquerade and Albertine (detail) copyright Vivien Blackburn oil on canvas approx 4 inches

Marion Boddy Evans in her newsletter (you can subscribe to it on ) showed this quote:

"My aim is to escape from the medium with which I work. To leave no residue of technical mannerisms to stand between my expression and the observer." -- Andrew Wyeth

It's so utterly opposed to the way I work and the artists why really appeal to me! :D Not wrong or right - just a very very different viewpoint. He certainly achieved his aims. His work, for me has a remoteness, a certain coldness, a lack of passion.

I love to see the marks, the language of the paint - exciting swirls, lines, blobs, splatters, free expressive marks that create movement and drama - but based on keen observation. I love the work of Kurt Jackson ( ) in a variety of media - he catches the spirit of place, the light and the colour of places in a unique way. Or the work of Sh…

doing a fine art degree

Undergrowth: copyright Vivien Blackburn 60 x 24 inches

People often ask if you can develop fully as an artist without doing a degree. I can't answer for everyone - but for me, I know I wouldn't have.

I'd done my Foundation Year on leaving school - a degree in Art starts with a Foundation Year, where you try all sorts of disciplines and experiment wildly :)

At the time I wanted to go into Fashion/Fabric design - but realised what a tough world it was, the visiting lecturers from London told us constantly! I decided I wasn't actually that tough! so I didn't continue to the degree years.

I married, had my family and started painting again. I joined an adult ed class where the tutor wasn't very good sadly, he didn't inspire, didn't know how to help beginners or those like me who were terribly rusty. I knew there must be better classes - and there were :)

I found a very good tutor, who worked on developing individual skills within a class, running it like a work…

Feathers - sketching

sketches copyright Vivien Blackburn
pastel pencils on sugar paper
I picked this feather up in the garden and sketched it in different media, experimenting with the different feel of each medium. I like the pastel pencil version best as I could look at the subtle hints of colour in a monochrome subject.
carbon pencil

With the carbon pencil it was harder to get the soft greys and the image is less subtle.

2B pencil

With pencil it was possible to get the subtler greys but it hasn't scanned as well :(

Now, shall I carry on and do some more in water soluble graphite and watercolour ? charcoal? mmm maybe when I have the time I will.

Exhibtion photos as promised :)

ok - so as promised, the paintings in the gallery, if you are on an email subscription and want to see the pictures you'll need to log in today, sorry - I've done a slide show of the exhibition - you can see it if you click here

They decided not to hang them together but to scatter them around the gallery so that they formed a repeating motif. I would have liked some of them hung in a group but never mind.

Colin Halliday was showing square seascapes, there were some nice textile pieces and there were interesting driftwood sculptures, pottery and some gorgeous jewellery, all with a sea theme - they were even playing sea mood music :D

and another portrait

copyright Vivien Blackburn

And another portrait sketch of my daughter, a little younger this time, leaning on the back of a chair while we had a drink somewhere - she could never sit still! - and wondering what to get up to next - it usually involved hanging from a high branch on a tree with one hand saying 'look at me' - eventually I stopped worrying!

One year when she was about 8, we were in Plymouth and there was a big event up on Plymouth Hoe (a gorgeous big grassy area overlooking the fantastic harbour entrance and right near the town centre). The army had a high climbing tower with tiny ledges widely spaced, that led onto rope walks and those high rope slides.

We stood and watched as much older boys struggled and took ages to climb it. She watched and wanted to have a go - the soldiers were a bit unsure but let her have a go - she went up zoom like a little spider, flew through the rope walk and the slide and left the soldiers, who'd been expecting to have to rescue her…


copyright Vivien Blackburn mechanical pencil in Moleskine sketchbook
Portraits as such aren't something I normally do - but last night TV was boring, what's new? and so I decided to work from an old photo of my daughter when she was younger.

She has beautiful hair and the pensive pose in this photo was just typical of her. Oh the tears and tantrums when that hair had to be brushed though :(

One of my favourite children's books set in my favourite place :)

The Mousehole cat(pronounced Mowzel - ow as in ouch!) is the enchanting story of a time of near famine, based on a true event, seen through the eyes of Mowzer, a fisherman's cat. Winter gales had prevented the fishing fleet from going out and the villagers were starving - one fisherman braves the gale to save them, taking Mowzer his cat with him.

The illustrations are absolutely beautiful and it's set in one of my favourite tiny fishing villages in Cornwall - well it's spread a bit nowadays but the original village is tiny, narrow alleyways and cottages snuggled up to each other against the wild weather that Cornwall can get.

The Guardian writes about it: An utterly magical picture book with rich, vividly coloured illustrations, friezes and borders that complement Barber's simple, almost severe telling of the dramatic Cornish legend of Mowser the Cat and Tom, the old fisherman, who brave the fury of the Great Storm Cat to save their village from starving.

The way the illu…

small seascape sketches

Stormy Evening copyright Vivien Blackburn

Looking through a sketch book I found these 2 unfinished works and finished them off - they are both mixed media (containing everything but the kitchen sink!).

This one is earlier in the day, the clouds starting to build up.

Those unfinished long seascapes on canvas are still sitting waiting to be finished off but I've been busy with other non-painting stuff :( .