Visiting galleries with a critical eye, sketching and David Prentice

David Prentice a watercolour of the Malvern Hills

Yesterday I had a wonderful day in the Cotswolds at the opening of the new John Davies gallery in Moreton in Marsh. I travelled down 60+ miles from the midlands and Katherine travelled 80 miles up from London and we met for a coffee and a day of galleries, lunch and art-talk :>D the first image is from the Cowleigh Gallery in Malvern, where DP lives. It's a lovely friendly little gallery with some great work if anyone is in the area with a knowledgeable, friendly owner.

David Prentice English Air - Black Cap Pastel

a link to the gallery

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows how much I like the work of David Prentice! He's also a very genuine person, generous with information and insights into his work when you chat to him. (His wife is also a talented artist, working with textiles

For me, his work was head and shoulders above the other (very good) work in the gallery so I'm going to concentrate on his work here.

Katherine and I were discussing what first appeals to us in a painting - I react emotionally first. Some paintings just reach out and grab you :>) The first reaction is just WOW! the colour, the marks, the mood, the light, the sense of place all working together. Then the intellectual side clicks in - why am I reacting so strongly to this one? how is he/she using the these marks to create the effect ? How is the colour being used to create this ? the composition - how the eye moves around the painting. How are those marks and colours layered? what did he/she use to put them down? look at the translucency of that bit or the subtle glazes against the bold marks put down and left there ..... etc etc etc

For me a painting must be sustaining - something that I would never tire of, with a depth of painterly qualities and content. Some paintings I look at are good but don't have that quality. I look, see, 'get it' and that's it - I don't particularly want to see it again, nothing to make me look again and again and again, seeing new qualities in different lights or at different times.

I love the sheer range of DP's work - his early abstract grids don't interest me but current work varies from the beautiful observational and fairly traditional watercolours as above, to lovely loose drawings in sepia ink and a reed pen, sometimes with watercolour washes and sometimes without. (Katherine particularly likes these and plans to experiment - she bought the ink yesterday :>) so watch her blog! I love reed and bamboo pens to draw with. I like the variation of marks possible, bold lines with a heavily loaded pen and the drier softer marks as it runs out of ink). And back to DP - I especially love the bold pastel and oil studio paintings as below. He introduces the element of time, with weather systems passing, walkers moving up the hills and usually he changes the perspective, taking an aerial view as though floating in the air above the scene - again something I sometimes use as I long to get a higher viewpoint when I'm sketching.

For those who feel you need to have a 'style' and stick to it he's a great example of why this isn't so! You should be true to yourself and your 'style' is then there intact whatever medium you use or however you experiment. His work constantly evolves. He experiments. He keeps himself intererested and curious, working through ideas and not turning out the same thing repeatedly.

There will be a series of his paintings of the city of London at the John Davies gallery in March and we're planning to meet up again for that. These will be huge panoramas of London done from the tops of the highest buildings and the ones I've seen previously are fantastic, I saw some of the early ones at a previous show - a totally different subject from the quiet rural Malvern Hills. .

DP sketches daily while walking the Malvern Hills. He knows them intimately in all lights and weathers and this comes through in all his work from the plein air sketches to the huge studio pieces. Sketching, working around a subject, working in a series developing ideas and getting to really know a subject is so important. It leads to work with much more depth, the knowledge of place and subject comes through. Sketching from life allows deliberate distortions, moving elements a little to improve a composition (Constable for instance did this all the time - it frequently isn't physically possible to get the view that he paints) to change the viewpoint as in DP's aerial views, to see the subtle colours a camera doesn't; to translate the actual wind or sun and feel of day into the work - things that can't be done except by a very experienced painter, very familiar with a place, from a photo.

The other work on show is all well worth a look. Some disappointed me IRL. some just what I'd expected but do visit if you can or at least check out the website.

We also took a look at the Astley House Gallery where there was an exhibition of the work of Charles Neal, a modern day Impressionist with a distinct influence of Sisley. Atmospheric and worth a look.

The route I take to the Cotswolds is down an old Roman road, the Fosse Way. It's a lovely rural route. The Romans didn't build their towns on the main roads but off to either side so there are very very few villages to go through and no towns. It's a narrow 'B' road for most of the way, crossing the A roads and motorways, going up and down through patchwork fields and woods - very very 'English' countryside and absolutely beautiful with the long long shadows of early winter morning sunshine. I longed to stop and paint each time I reached the top of a hill - but there was nowhere to stop safely, even for a photo >:>( Most trees were bare but some - possibly beeches? - glowed in the sunlight.

We spent a LOT of time in the The Marshmallow, a lovely little Olde Tea Shoppe cafe with luscious cakes :>D - morning coffee, gallery, lunch, gallery and art shop - where of course we both bought supplies - and a quick drink and cake before the journey home! Out of the rain we lingered talking forever! Katherine even sketched the cake display so do check it out! I took my sketchbook but was idle :>)

incidentally, despite the recession there is still money about - apart from the contemporary paintings sold, a painting called Breton Shrimpers by Robert McGregor who died in 1922, had sold for £60,000 - double that for $$$$$ You can see it on the John Davies website.

what pulls you to certain paintings? the quality that 'gets' you?



Lindsay said…
I agree with you aboutDP's work. And your comment on staying true to oneself is wonderful.
I'm attracted first to emotional quality also but clarity of thinking is important too. All the design elements need to support the main idea/emotion of the piece so well, I ignore them and get swept away in the piece.
DPs wife's work is lovely alos. I'm adding it to my list of sites for my students to visit.
Making A Mark said…
Okie dokie - my sketchbook blog post of the day is now posted - and linking back to this one!

See Moreton in Marsh - galleries, cakes and tarts
vivien said…
I'm glad you like the work Lindsay :)

off to read yours now Katherine - and then sorting out a mock exam for the IT students :(
GREAT post, Vivien. I am not familiar with David Prentice — thanks for your introduction. I especially appreciate your paragraph on style.

A few days back I saved a draft of text I was not clear about where to post. I think it belongs here:

What do I look for in a painting? Ultimately, I want a spiritual experience. I want to be transformed emotionally, surprised visually or transported to another place. I want honesty, the genuine in a marketplace packed with contrived images or calcified style vying for dollar bills. Lofty, perhaps, but that's the truth.

The rest of the draft is what I look for in my own paintings but this comment is long enough!
vivien said…
that's really well put Suzanne and I totally agree :)

You'll find links to other interesting artists on the Links page of my website - there is some great work out there :)

and I'm in awe of someone who can keep up with producing a series of interesting blogs like yours!
I thought you might agree!

The only reason I can keep up with my multi-layered blogging is that I know that two of them have an ending, one of those two is only weekly and a third is a group blog just for fun. Apparently, I'm willing to sweat it out for a while.

Looking forward to exploring your sidebar links...

Just took a very quick look at your website. Now that I've done that, I reitterate with feeling, I Love your work! Beautiful website, too. You're in my sidebar now. Till next time....
vivien said…
thanks Suzanne :)
ZoĆ« Evamy said…
I've just rediscovered DP after being away from the UK for almost 10 years. I was drooling over the small jpegs I found online and a search for interviews with him led me to your BLOG - I'm envious that you've had the chance to view his paintings and meet him personally. Funnily enough (or maybe not) - I discovered Katharine's site a couple of days ago as well - you are both very informative and I've bookmarked your sites. What a great way of keeping up with news of what's being created across the pond. I now live in beautiful British Columbia.
vivien said…
Hi Zoe and welcome :>)

I'm glad you enjoy the blog - DP is a really lovely unpretentious man and the paintings IRL are absolutely stunning! They are huge and you are absorbed in them.

Katherine does an incredible amount of research and it's like an art magazine :>)
ahmed said…
I visited to this sied and i got a information that another sied visited before a month
Work from home

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