Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Contemporary painters of seascapes, beaches and the coast

Having looked at a couple of painters of flowers I like recently, I thought I'd look at some of the contemporary artists who paint the coast that I admire.

David Tress: http://www.davidtress.co.uk/

copyright David Tress

I love the abstraction of his work, forms dissolve into pure marks and drama. The wildness of the sea is beautifully evoked by the dramatic slashing use of the paint. This is how Cornwall was in the winter, where I lived as a child, the wildness, the weather and the danger are all there.

copyright Neil Pinkett

I love his use of colour and the way that he simplifies elements to the essentials.

copyright Kurt Jackson

I've mentioned his work before - just a couple of times! - but I love the drama and movement and terrific sense of place and the exciting use of paint and marks in his work.

image copyright Ross Loveday
I love the loose airiness of his work and the sense of light, the free, lively expressive brushstrokes evoking the wind and the sky and sheen of wet sand.
These are some favourites but there are a lot more, I may do a follow up post later on these.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Valerie Butters

copyright Valerie Butters

My own interest in flowers tends to be to close in on the centres, rather than to produce a still life set up - but I love the work of Canadian artist Valerie Butters. I'd like to own one of these :) (and a Shirley Trevena too please :) )

She works loosely in acrylic and produces large exuberant paintings, with drips and splashes and masses of energy and excitement. She often plays with perspective, distorting shapes and frequently taking a slightly offbeat view of her subject. Whilst they are loose, they are also well observed and she uses colours beautifully.

She has a blog where she talks about works in progress and her exhibitiions and you can see more of her work and links to galleries.


Sunday, July 29, 2007

Shirley Trevena

Having mentioned Shirley Trevena previously and not having done any work at all for a couple of days, I thought I'd talk a bit more about her and show you some of her work.

She uses watercolours in a very contemporary and innovative way. Her work is vibrant and colourful, it glows. She isn't interested in a botanical illustration of her subjects but in catching the spirit of them, the drama and the colour. Her compositions are offbeat with a geometric element superimposed on loose flowing subjects and the results are distinctively her own.

I love the way that, like me, she uses sticks and unconventional mark making tools to achieve the results she wants. One thing I learnt, reading her books was the technique of sandpapering watercolour pencils into a wet wash to make beautiful speckled marks - that's something I'll definitely find useful.

She's written 2 books on watercolours, illustrated with lots of her work, she takes you through a painting stage by stage - and it isn't the formulaic nothingness of so many 'how to' books - these are zinging exciting, want-to-live-with-it paintings :)

For all they are so free, they actually take her a long time to produce, days or even weeks and are thought out carefully stage by stage.

She's very generous with information on exactly how she achieves the various areas of her work, the speckling, the washing out, the flooding wet in wet, using watercolour pencils, masking tape, masking fluid, wax candles, oil pastels, collage and a lot more. Anyone wanting to improve their watercolours couldn't do better than buy both books.

books: Vibrant Watercolours and Taking Risks with Watercolour - both available from Amazon.

You can see her work on her website www.shirleytrevena.com

let me know what you think of her work?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Digital Images

We've been busy with my husband's family over from Ireland which means no painting, so I thought I'd show some digital images done using photographs and scans.

I like to use the computer to work through ideas for paintings and to create images that exist in their own right.

These images are part of a series I did on my daughter.

all images copyright Vivien Blackburn

The first one is about a time in her life when she had to decide whether to give up a hated psychology degree half way through and change direction in her life - a younger, more carefree Her looks on. She did leave and went on to complete a law degree.

In the next image she was working, doing a law degree and was constantly having to watch the time, timetable activities, meet deadlines in time .....

In the following one I combined a picture of her with part of a painting by Dante Gabriel Rosetti - integrating them and providing modern equivalents for the accessories shown. I'd taken a photo of her running her fingers through her hair - a very characteristic move! when I saw the Rosetti painting I couldn't resist trying this combination. I can't remember how many stages there were to incorporate portraits, photographs, objects and make them work together .... a lot!

and the last one I combined her with one of her favourite wall hangings :)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Empty Easel

a page from a sketchbook - nothing to do with the following post but I thought I'd put a picture in so it isn't all text :D

Dan, who writes the interesting and thought provoking blog, Empty Easel, has featured me this week - it seems to be my week for featuring! Leicestershire and Rutland Life, Making a Mark and now Empty Easel! Thank you Dan and for the real insight you showed into the Time and Tide series :D

http://emptyeasel.com/ anyone who hasn't discovered Empty Easel - do take a look, it's a not-to-be-missed blog full of interesting articles.

The Time and Tides have been delivered and the show starts on 4th August. I don't think I'll make the Private View due to other committments but I'll try to get over to see how they've been shown and take some photos.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Time and Tide update

Lavender Marsh, Dusk all images copyright Vivien Blackburn

I'm afraid these photos didn't come out brilliantly and they don't show all the colours. The first one is of the marshes when the sea lavender is in bloom and they have a lovely purple haze. There are sludgy greeny and mud colours in there that aren't showing well and nor are the subtler changes in the rain on the horizon. This was based on a time when I was there at dusk on a day with a wonderful towering threatening sky and an extremely high tide.

Jade, Misty Morning

This one is based on a day when we'd travelled over through thick mist, which started to lift as we settled to paint - it was a beautiful day once it cleared, this shows the last of it when everything is in soft focus.

This is the group I'm taking for the exhibition, final selection. The seasons change - cold winter mornings, moonrise, sunset, windy blue days, cool afternoons, sunny days and throught it all reflecting pools and the sea. Tomorrow I deliver them - fingers crossed that they like them.

And now I'm off to carry on reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows :D

Friday, July 20, 2007


Well Katherine your blog posts on Imagekind inspired me! it was such a gloomy horrible day with heavy rain and thunder and thick black clouds - and the light was lousy for painting - so I decided to make a start at Imagekind NOW rather than later! I decided that in for a penny in for a pound - the choice seemed to be between free or platinum - if I was going to pay then that was the best deal. So I've signed up for a platinum :)

I don't know how it will go - will I sell? time will tell. It does mean that images are affordable, I can include sketches and paintings that have been given as presents to family members and work whereI don't want to sell originals.

anway here is the link http://vivien.imagekind.com/ and there is now a shiny new button on the right hand column :)

my first glossy magazine article!

:D they'd promised to send me a copy of the magazine and it came today

Leicestershire and Rutland Life, a glossy magazine had asked me if they could do an article on my work and do this double page spread .... so here it is :D and the text by Becky Jones below, you can double click on the images below and it is then readable if you are interested :)

I have to admit I was a bit nervous about what the article would be like! had I made sense in the interview? I do wish now I hadn't given them that red clouds seascape as I think I want to change it a bit! it looks rather garish there? I gave them some quieter, moodier ones too but I suppose they were looking for lots of colour.

Today the weather is dark and rainy and the light is awful so finishing off the edges of the canvasses is on hold - there's severe weather warnings and more floods in lots of places - and all this after they said it would be a record breaking hot summer!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

an alternative approach to still life

Done on a full size watercolour sheet, so large

This is a VERY old still life from at least 15 years ago, before I did my degree, so I'm not holding it up as a great painting!

It was done in an adult ed class and the tutor had provided a pile of interesting objects on a table. We had to select one, take it away and paint it on a large sheet of paper - then return, select another and add it somewhere. It is NOT meant to read as if it was a set up arranged this way but as a collection of interesting objects which could be linked - for instance all art equipment - but needn't be.It was in response to the work of Elizabeth Blackadder who tends to work this way.

  • The objects didn't have to be to scale with each other
  • we needed to consider the final composition as we added each one - how to integrate them?
  • how to move the eye around the composition?
  • how to balance the composition colourwise, sizewise etc

I used the pattern of the cutwork cloth, one of the items, and the beads to link objects and the direction of lines and the flute thing to carry your eye in the direction I wanted, looping you back round to look at other objects.

You'll see that with some items the object wasn't to make it look 3D or realistic but to use the pattern and shape - like the way the vase trails of into a reduced pattern or the cutwork cloth is reduced to a pattern to link the other objects.

It's a fun and different way to approach still life and for myself I find it more interesting to work this way - if I do any still lifes now, they will be done with a similar approach.

I'm not a photorealist and anything done now would be looser, like my flowers, but still observational.

It's also easy to work on over a period of time, building a large painting and a set up doesn't have to left out for a long time - I work from life, not photos.

If I was to do it now there would be more lost edges, more overlapping and patterns trailing off/overlapping other objects and generally slightly more abstract elements.

I thought this approach might interest people as an alternative way of playing with still life? I'd be interested to hear what people think.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

what is a still life - part 2 looking at artists work - and a new seascape

Wild Day copyright Vivien Blackburn mixed media on paper

An unfinished painting I came across and finished off today, after painting the sides of some of those @&2+**@ canvasses - I HATE that job with a passion and usually keep up to date with them - but this time they were all 'in progress' and so all need doing :(

This was watercolour, oil pastel and coloured pencil, I added a touch of acrylic and it was finished.

Following on the last post I thought I'd look at contemporary still life that I find interesting and see what sort of objects they are using, what media and how they treat the subject.

First of all is Shirley Trevena - exciting, dynamic and vibrant watercolours with touches of mixed media. I love the excitement and buzz of her work, her glorious colours, her distortion of perspective, overlapping elements, tipping up tables or plates if it works to make a better painting - a delicious explosion of colour. You can see her work on http://www.shirleytrevena.com/ - I can highly recommend her books.

She uses flowers, pot plants, cut flowers, shoes, carrier bags, wrapping paper, windows and a zillion other things if they add to the composition, painting them loosely in settings with jugs, patterned cloth, nice china and geometric divisions - she uses colour and tone with great drama. Though the paintings appear so free and spontaneous, they may take days or weeks to complete.

I've never met her but her colourful hair and naughty smile bring to mind the poem When I am Old I will Wear Purple :) - she's practicing now :D.

Victoria Crowe at The Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh

Victoria Crowe, a Scottish Painter, incorporates objects/people and things that interest her in a very non-traditional manner, creating blocks and grids, simplifying and abstracting.

Elizabeth Blackadder, maybe best known for irises and cats, has done many very large still lifes, with a mix of articles, loosely linked, scale is abritrary - she paints them the size to fit her composition and not relative to each other. Each is painted separately, not set up and painted 'as is'. It's been difficult to find any of these online I'm afraid.

At the John Noott galleries in Broadway (Cotswolds UK not US!) there are colourful contemporary works by William Selby http://www.john-noott.com/artist/selby-rws-neac-rba-roi-rsw~william/selby-rws-neac-rba-roi-rsw~william.php , Caroline Bailey http://www.john-noott.com/paintings/paintings~subject~still-life/bailey-rsw~caroline/bailey-rsw~caroline.php, Nancy Murgatroyd http://www.john-noott.com/paintings/paintings~subject~still-life/murgatroyd~nancy/murgatroyd~nancy.php looking at the patterns made by colourful fruits, all of these are from their still life category online.

There are also a great many more traditional still life artists worth looking up there (and other contemporary artists) - but this is my blog and I'm writing about those I like! (and I'll sulk and take my ball home ..... ) one of these more traditional painters is Paul Seaton http://www.john-noott.com/paintings/paintings~subject~still-life/seaton~paul/seaton~paul.php who works in the tradition of Fantin Latour - old fashioned roses glowing off his canvasses.


Georgio Morandi paintings don't show up well on the web and need to be seen in person. He simplifies objects, using a palette of neutral tones, playing with cool and warm to create interest.

A few years ago I saw an exhibition of the work of William Nicholson, father of the artist Ben Nicholson and really liked his work - much of it very Morandi-like and subtle - I actually preferred it to Morandi

There are of course the cubist still lifes of Picasso and Braque - I much prefer the work of Braque, his use of colour and way of using paint appeals to me. A few years ago I went to an exhibition of late Braque paintings at the Royal Academy and they had a real glow to them.

These are just a few looks at the genre of still life and in particular how contemporary artists are using it.

And finally I said that I didn't set my students traditional still lifes - instead I ask them to bring in things that mean something to them and interest them.

This is, I think, I stunning little painting by one student, Helen, of 2 tiny glass birds - the painting is larger than life size, about 10 inches across, the birds were maybe 2 inches. This is the talented student who made a great painting out of her bunch of keys. You need to start with something that interests you in some way, a challenge, and then it's up to you to make it an interesting painting by how you treat it.

Helen Rae copyright

What do you think of still life? an interesting subject? boring? are there 'rules'? should there be 'rules'? (hint: correct answer to last 2 questions in my book is NO! ) Do look at Katherine's thread with a fascinating history of still life http://makingamark.blogspot.com/ and let us know what you think :)

Monday, July 16, 2007

what is still life? and some old work

What constitutes a still life? I've been discussing this with Katherine and others and there are several opinions from a very narrow view to more inclusive ones :)

Still life is a relatively new genre - it was a humble subject, reserved for items in backgrounds for most of art history, designed to show the possessions of the sitter for a portrait for instance. I won't go into the development of it because I think Katherine at http://makingamark.blogspot.com/ will discuss that and provide some very good definitions from various authorities - each a little different :) and links.

It tends to be one of the first subjects new painters tackle and is frequently used in beginners classes and there it tends to be done in a very traditional way, with formal set ups, worked on over several lessons. It can be imagined that this is all there is to still life - it isn't - Still life is incredibly difficult to define - it covers such a wide variety of styles, media, subjects and concepts from photorealism, through impressionism to cubism and beyond.

They don't have to be pretty - the trophies of a hunt - pheasants/dead rabbits or hares - are certainly not appealing to me but many paintings of such subjects have been made. An Expressionist painter, Soutine, painted dead meat hanging, beautifully painted but - ! Van Gogh's chair and boots - powerful images. Cezanne, tipping tables, playing with perspective, Morandi using simple shapes and incredibly subtle colours - so many aspects to the genre.

An old painting, a view of my studio at university, oil on board painted exactly as it was, some drooping flowers, a tin holding my brushes, paintings and painting shirts lying around and my locker behind, under the window. Nothing arranged, totally 'found' a bit over 2ft tall on board

On my degree 'Painting from the Object' a sort of contemporary look at still life, included such things as opening a cupboard/wardrobe and making a composition from what we saw, throwing a heap of shoes into the middle of the studio floor and again making a composition from it (this turned up some really fantastic work but I can't find a photo of it), shopping bags spilling shopping, kitchen windowsills of objects and pot plants (growing) - the best work came from the more unusual subjects and I did a series on the contents of garden sheds, which again included plants in pots, growing - so not nature morte! dead nature. All the pieces shown here were done for that module.

Guidelines are fine but do restrict imagination if too definitive. I only occasionally do still life subjects these days as a finished painting, they are more usually studies of items done as sketches for practice/fun (like the paintbrushes on the front page of my website or the mug on a recent post). I do think it's important not to confine possibilites but leave a great deal of room for imaginative and contemporary ideas. It's a genre that I have recently started considering again as topics for paintings - but not traditional set ups.

this is a painting in progress at uni - we were provided with a heap of disparate objects and had to take one at a time and paint them, adding a new object when we'd finished. They didn't have to be to scale, they could be in any position so the perspective and scale could be different - tiny shoe/giant matchstick. It was up to us to make a cohesive composition of it. I later did a better one which I may post another day when I can photograph it. These are old photos scanned so the quality isn't great, sorry. A1 size I was rather pleased with the paintbrush at the bottom of this one - it's better IRL

In the discussion someone thought only cut flowers permissible - not pot plants as they are growing and alive not 'morte' ! Cats or living things weren't allowed - I think someone will have to break the news to Elizabeth Blackadder that she's being doing it wrong all these years! as were Cezanne, Gwen John and a host of others.

For me still life is about looking at interesting 'things' and those things can be inanimate or growing - the distinction between cut and still growing flowers seems ridiculous! they could include a dozing cat, they can be formally set up or found, they can be pretty objects or unconventional, even ugly, but made interesting by the quality of the painting. The work shown here is early stuff so I'm certainly not saying this achieves it - but it's striving towards that. And at that point in my degree I'd hit the artistic equivalent of writers block so oh boy was I striving!

the contents of a shed - plants waiting to be planted out, bundles of string, plant pots, terracotta path edging slabs piled up, a hoe, a rusted supermarket basket, an overwintering geranium, a garden fork etc they are on the wall in my studio space ..... for marking ... oh the panic and rush of those assessments! the square painting is 36in square

Macro flowers were also ruled out by one person - yet they are merely closing in on a very traditional subject in still lifes! Distance from the subject matter is a choice for the artist.

With my students we don't do still life set ups - they bring in objects that interest them and they've done some amazing work. Helen painted her keys one week and made a fantastic painting that is now framed - she followed it up with a beautiful study of one of her necklaces, then a study of 2 lovely little tiny coloured glass birds - all imaginative and different. Another student made a sensitive series of studies of pebbles. Several have done amazing paintings of their children's teddy bears - all quite independently and unaware that a similar thing had happened in another class. The subject needs to interest the painter - and then something special comes through :) My favourite painting shown here is of the bundles of string :) shown below, the others are just stacked in a cupboard or swapped with friends.

For me Still Life needs to be inclusive. Contemporary Art isn't about rules and regulations. Narrow rules restrict creativity and are meaningless in the context of art - I have this rebellious feeling of 'says who?' when pointless rules are dictated to me!

more work done at uni part of a series on allotments, this series looked at the objects, vegetables, flowers, plants, plant pots, string, tools and all the clutter in sheds and greenhouses. The lower painting is 36ins square
The last one uses the orange netting used by builders - and recycled by allotment holders to keep the pigeons off their crops - as a grid to frame parts of items.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

playing with watercolours

all images copyright Vivien Blackburn

Today I felt like a break from the big canvasses and a 'play' with watercolour and flowers. The weather isn't good so I looked at my sketchbooks and worked in watercolour from sketches I'd done some time ago. I was in the mood for the lovely way that watercolour bleeds and flows, which is very much the way I started on the big seascapes.

I hadn't done much watercolour painting lately and I really enjoyed it :)

The first image is based loosely on a mixed media/collage painting which you can see here http://www.vivienblackburn.com/flowers.html - interpreting it in a different medium exploits another range of marks and possibilities. All of these images incorporate a little coloured pencil.

The third is from a sketch of an oriental poppy I did in a friends garden - I did a large mixed media version of it some time ago so the image may seem familiar.

I used a Chinese brush, bamboo pen (to pull out lines of wet paint and to scratch through wet paint, making darker marks), watercolours, a little coloured pencil and my solitary watercolour pencil in a deep blue, to draw through wet paint and to scrape little flecks to drop in the damp washes to create those little speckles.

Because I was only experimenting and not setting out to do a finished painting, they are simply on cartridge paper from a sketchbook and not on good watercolour paper.

I must do more watercolours, it's reminded me just how lovely they are to use :)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Scottish Painters

I've liked the work of contemporary Scottish painters for a long time and a conversation with Katherine about talking about those we like triggered this post. I'm sure she'll come up with a very different and equally interesting selection - and I know hers will inlclude Blackadder, so I'll leave Katherine to talk about this her work :)

The 16 seascapes I'm in the middle of are ongoing, you've seen the finished ones and the others are wet and still in progress (but very nearly done except for that horrible endless task of painting the edges :( )

S0 .... it seems a good time to look up those Scottish artists I like and provide some links.

The Manor House Gallery in Stow on the Wold specialises in Scottish painters and shows many of those I like.

http://www.manorhousegallery.co.uk/ - skim to the bottom after you've looked at the paintings shown and click on links to their other artists - they've got some lovely work - with this gallery I love the work of Ethel Walker, Nael Hanna, Georgie Young, Ruth Brownlee, Janet Kerr and Charles McQueen - I haven't put individual URL's as you can click on those and more on the gallery website :)

They are all landscape painters - they play with the colours, pushing them, becoming expressionistic - contemporary work still showing the influence of the Scottish Colourists - http://www.visitscotland.com/library/TheScottishColourists and http://www.exploreart.co.uk/artistic_styles_details.asp?ArtisticStyleID=4&loadType=1 - Peploe, Hunter, Cadell and Fergusson, who painted with the Impressionists and Post Impressionists and came back using heightened colours and expressive free marks.

Then there was William Gillies - the next generation, influenced by them but with his own style, I like his watercolours a lot but find some of his oils a little dead. http://www.scottish-gallery.co.uk/pages/artistIntro.aspx?artistID=35

I also like Hughie O'Donahue http://www.flickr.com/photos/robyeatman/69675043/, then there's Barbara Rae http://www.barbararae.com/.

At the Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh you can follow links to their artists David Bellany, John Brown, Gordon Bryce, Damian Callan, John Gardiner Crawford, Victoria Crowe and Stephanie Dees - and more.

Anne Redpath http://www.tate.org.uk/servlet/ArtistWorks?cgroupid=999999961&artistid=1821&page=1 was another gifted painter - simlifying forms and using colour expressively and subtly.

I like their use of colour from expressionist and vibrant to subtle and glowing, the expressive free flowing brushstrokes and marks and their sense of place.

There are so many others that I haven't mentioned and one whose name is nagging at the back of my memory that I really want to mention! - I've remembered! Joan Eardley, I love her work, waifs in the Glasgow tenements to landscape. Sadly she died young. http://www.scottish-gallery.co.uk/pages/artistIntro.aspx?artistID=33 and http://www.hi-arts.co.uk/Default.aspx.LocID-hianewkum.RefLocID-hiacfy00g001.Lang-EN.htm

so ... none of my work to show today as it's too wet to photograph but a feast of Scottish painters to look at :) and I know I've forgotten to inlclude many other favourites.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Memories and Influences

Oh dear blogger is really playing up - it won't let me title this post and I noticed someone else complaining about that a couple of days ago. (oh now it has). Yesterday it wouldn't let me publish - yet sent the post out to subscribers!

I wanted to call it memories and influences.

It's in response to an article by Lindsay http://straightlinesout.blogspot.com/ about the earliest influences on her art and the fact that she moved around causing her to have deep feelings about her area and put down roots in response.

I too moved around as a child. My father was in the RAF, in Coastal Command, and we lived in Gibraltar when I was small - my earliest memories are of sitting in my grandmothers garden in England when I was one. I can date it because it was before moving to Gibraltar. There are no words but I was sitting on the lawn on a rug in the dappled light from the tree and I loved it.

I remember the vivid blues of the sea and the flowers in Gibraltar and our street - one of those streets of broad steps. I played with the girl next door who spoke Spanish and I think only learnt about one word - Anda! - go away! I hated the way that the locals would ruffle my blonde curls and say 'Ahhh rubio, rubio' - redhead - and that was my polite response! oh dear! I was only 2.

Then we moved to Cornwall and stayed there for a very formative part of my life. We lived just about a mile from the sea, a couple of miles by road. http://www.bedruthanstepshotel.co.uk/webcam.html this is a webcam shot of our nearest beach - and we are staying there in a few weeks :) overlooking the beach with a view very near to this :) It's called Mawgan Porth (even if the webcam does say bedruthan - ignore it! that's the name of the hotel I think - Bedruthan is further up the coast).

I loved, and still do, the ever changing light and weather, the narrow flower filled lanes, the glimpses, through gateways in high banked hedges, of the sea or valleys and hills; going down 1:3 hills to little coves that were always different - tide in or out, sea calm or rough, blues, greens, wild surf ..... always lovely and always different.

There are tiny ancient stone walled harbours and high cliffs, dramatic winter gales, swirling mists and beautiful summer days.

I missed it terribly when we left. Especially as we moved to a very very flat area, East Anglia, over 300 miles upcountry with drainage dykes and rivers higher than the flat farmland - I hated it :( I can appreciate it now with it's huge skies but at the time I was deeply unhappy to have been uprooted from Cornwall that I loved so much. In Cornwall the high banks meant that every twist and turn of the road was a surprise view - in the flat countryside you could see for miles - no suprises :( , no sudden glimspes of the sea - just cabbages and potatoes and sugar beet. We were in fen country.

Next we moved to the north of Scotland, 30 miles from Inverness on the Moray Firth. There was a wonderful 7 mile sweep of beach on one side of the village and a small almost perfectly circular bay with a narrow mouth - a natural harbour - on the other. It was beautiful. It was far too cold for people to swim but a fantastic beach for walking and beachcombing. We lived just a few miles from Cawdor Castle, where Macbeth is set, and I was reading Macbeth for my English exam :) We also did a lot of border ballads and Robert Burns.

We explored the farthest north of Scotland and the beautiful west coast while we lived there (we lived on the east coast) - again a wonderful light and glorious colours.

Next was Malta - blue Mediterranean, heat, honey coloured stone, prickly pears, fresh grapes, oranges and melons, fiestas and fun. I did my 'A' levels there - 3 hour exams in blistering heat is an unforgettable experience! I loved it (other than that!).

All these places had their own special light and ambience and I'm so glad now that I had the experience - it was traumatic at times though, being uprooted from friends and familiar places and having to start again. I miss out on friends that date back to 'way back when'.

Both these paintings are Cornwall - the top is of Trevose Head, near Harlyn Bay (just a few miles from the webcam), showing the typical beautiful blues and greens of the sea on that part of the coast and the waves crashing on the rocks. The other is of Charlestown - a small stone harbour with an inner and outer section. The inner section contains tall ships and ancient offices and warehouse built into the rock - many films have featured it, including the series The Onedin Line.

Cornwall had, I think the strongest influence - as we returned home after visiting family in the Midlands the light would change once we were a few miles from the coast and we knew we were home :)

I'm hoping to be able to paint while we are there this year.

I think our ideas of what is beautiful in the landscape is very much affected by where we are in our youth. I love wild beaches, high cliffs, clean sand, pounding surf and rock pools, lonely and isolated with noone else there. The trees are bent out of shape by the prevaling wind off the sea, leaning to one side. There are woods inland, on the sheltered creeks of the southern side and in sheltered valleys inland but no forests. The spine (Cornwall is a peninsular) has some bleak wild moorland, which again I loved.

My father grew up in Hampshire/Kent and loves woods and forests and really doesn't like anywhere that lacks trees. He has absolutely no feeling at all for the coast and the sea and a great deal for trees, woods and forests. I don't like being in deep forests, though I like open woodland, well especially the edges of it - I long for a view over hills and fields or sea if I'm in the middle of a forest - he doesn't like rocky landscapes, I love them. My husband is harder to categorise, he's quite urban.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

interesting blogs and work

I've taken a few days off painting to catch up on a million and one other tasks so I thought I'd share some of the artists who blog and that I read regularly. I'm mentioning them in alphabetical order as they come up on bloglines. There are others but I can't list them all! As it is you can see that I spend too much time on the computer! .... well it's better than Wimbledon, football, racing, you-name-it that himself is watching.

First off Anita http://am-art.blogspot.com/ who does the most beautiful work in pencil and pastel. I was first amazed by the cutlery she drew in pencil and her current series of pastels, used in rather un-traditional way have an incredible presence and mood to them.

Patrice http://aquamarelle.blogspot.com/ who not only handles watercolours brilliantly but catches the excitement and drama and movement of sailing equally brilliantly.

Derek http://derekjonesart.blogspot.com/ who paints the figure and also recently has done a beautiful series on Venice, a beautiful use of watercolours and an interesting work in progress on a recent post.

Casey http://thecolorist.blogspot.com/ - an interesting read and juicy colourful work in pastels and http://summerartfair.blogspot.com/ a fascinating and informative blog about art fairs packed with great advice

Bridgette http://bgmartjournal.blogspot.com/ who works in mixed media and encaustic - I've never used encaustic and would really like to at some point as some of the results are just beautiful.

http://emptyeasel.com/ - a really interesting and informed read about all sorts of art related topics

Maggie http://greywarenart.blogspot.com/ who does some lovely work, has a wonderful sense of humour - even if she does have a strange taste in artists to admire sometimes - sorry Maggie I don't really like Maxfield Parrish!

Idle thoughts of an idle woman http://idlethoughtsofanidlewoman.blogspot.com/ another funny and interesting blog

http://inviaggiocoltaccuino.blogspot.com/ - in Italian, which I have never studied, so I get maybe one word in 20 based on French/Latin! but the work speaks for itself

Valerie http://valeriebutters.blogspot.com/ who is deservedly doing really well with her glorious huge free flower paintings.
http://www.inspiremethursday.com/ for challenges and ideas

Diane http://theitinerantartist.blogspot.com/ painter and printmaker - lovely printmaking and an interesting read
Julie http://julieoakley.blogspot.com/ I followed her mile a day blog and now watch her family portraits and other sketches here.

http://laurelines.typepad.com/my_weblog/ interesting topics and great sketches

http://www.linesandcolors.com/ interesting articles on artists, a good read

Katherine (you all know this one! but I couldn't not mention it, always good, well thought out, informative and well written - and with interesting art work too :) ) http://makingamark.blogspot.com/ and http://travelsketch.blogspot.com/

Maya http://ujwala.wordpress.com/ a very talented young artist

http://muddyredshoes.blogspot.com/ good work, interesting writing and she lives in such a lovely place too.

Lindsay http://straightlinesout.blogspot.com/ who decided to do a project on her local waterways in response to mine - it's been an interesting transatlantic discussion Lindsay and your landscape/city so different :)

Ellen http://pressing-issues.blogspot.com/ a printmaker with a lovely fresh way of working and a delightful sense of humour

Tina http://tina-m.blogspot.com/ beautiful atmospheric seascapes and interesting writing

http://web.mac.com/suncage/iWeb/Site/Suncage.html this is a great site but has no 'feed' so it's sadly impossible to subscribe :(

so ..... if you are looking for a good read, great work, and haven't already discovered them, I can recommend them all :)

or you could look at my website and help to up it's profile :) http://www.vivienblackburn.com/

Thursday, July 05, 2007

approaching storm

a different scale for this one :) it's only 15 inches tall in watercolour and coloured pencil - another in the Time and Tide series.


I need to do some work in pastel on the theme of Reflections . The Pastel Society have a show on the theme in August I believe and I need 2 paintings in pastel. We're allowed to use mixed media as long as the major part is done in pastel so I'll probably underpaint in watercolour or acrylic.

Reflections could be viewed in a lot of different ways - meditative reflection rather than simple mirror like actual reflection for instance - but it will suit me if what I do fits in with a body of work that I have ongoing, rather than an isolated image that won't be shown anywhere else, so it's likely to be either a waterways or seascape image.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Bird in collage and mixed media

Sorting out some stuff in my studio I came across this little collage I did ages ago and decided to use a little coloured pencil on it just to bring it together. I'm quite pleased with it and I'm going to mount it on canvas and varnish it to protect it. I think I'll probably paint the surrounding canvas black though - I'll leave a border showing like here. It's about 8 x 5 ins guesstimating.

Here it is on a black background - what do you think?

Fuchsia sketch and back to work on the seascapes

a quick sketch of a fuchsia in sepia ... and now it's back to the seascapes as himself has made me up 4 more long thin canvasses :)

I just want to do a few more in the series and then it'll be back to another format. I have some square and nearly square canvasses waiting :)

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Time and Tide - together :)

all images copyright Vivien Blackburn
This is the series that I have at the moment - they are all to scale and it gives an idea of how they work when hung. The tallest is 50 inches and the shortes 35 inches - widths vary from 8 ins to 12 ins.

Windy Day 12x42 inches
In this one I tried to catch a fine windy day, where the surf is pounding in and the reflections are broken by the incoming ripples - it's exhilarating to be on the beach on a day like this :)
I've still got some more to do and then it's on to slightly more usual canvas proportions.
At the moment they are propped on top of the TV, in front of bookcases and along a sofa in the living room so that I can see if anything wants adjusting - and all those edges need painting in a soft neutral creamy colour :>( - a mammoth task! ...... I wonder if my husband would ............................. no, I think that's hoping for too much! :>)