I am really pleased to see one of my sketches featured in the article for my club's exhibition starting shortly at Salford Art Gallery.
This year it is a smaller exhibition because of ongoing building work and other mitigating circumstances.
Next year we are back in the main gallery for a much larger exhibition.
After two excellent portrait demonstrations at my art club in Salford, I was interested to see how these compared with the work on the Sky 'Portrait Artist of the Year' TV programme.
The two well known local artists, Anthony Ogden and Mark Demsteader, produced their work in just over an hour. We have several demonstrations a year at the club and it always amazes me how many talented artists there are. Although working in completely different styles, the two artists, produced high quality work in a relatively short time. You can see the quality of these from the pictures below.
I have painted portraits in the past and realize the problems getting a likeness can bring. On one occasion, I painted a portrait of a colleague at work, which she was really pleased with and asked me to paint her husband. I arrived to do the study and he was sat relaxed in a chair, with his hair falling onto his face . I thought what an excellent pose.
Unfortunately, she made him go and change into his best suit and comb his hair. He then sat in a less comfortable pose. When she viewed the finished work she thought his cheeks were too narrow. She wanted them the way they were before he lost his back teeth! I then had to change the painting slightly and she was pleased with the final results.
Having watched the TV programme every year, I often wonder why artists apply. Is it for recognition and a chance to show their ability, possibly to increase sales or get commissions.
The main thing I notice is that some of the submissions, although excellent, have taken up to a hundred hours to paint. Unless they have practiced a lot at completing work within the four hour time limit this should put them at a disadvantage. Also because of the time limit many of the contestants change their style. It seems odd that they are chosen for a piece of work and then complete a painting in a completely different style.
It's always interesting to see the range of styles chosen for each heat. These often range from traditional to unusual work. Although often superb, traditionally trained portrait painters often don't win the heat.
At the end it is interesting to try and choose the three finalists each week. Sometimes one artist's work isn't successful, but this can happen to anyone. I am reasonably good at picking the finalists and sometimes even the winner of the heat.
I loved the work of a previous winner Christian Hook and enjoyed the follow up programmes that they did of him. It will be interesting to see the rest of the episodes and see if I can choose a winner again.
Below are the winners of the first three heats. It's interesting to compare their styles and working methods. Also interesting is the number of times a photograph on a tablet is used to help capture the image.
Hetty Lawlor winner of Heat One
She is 18 years old and isstudying for her leaving certificate
I use Faber-Castell Polychromos coloured pencils and Liquitex Heavy body Acrylic paint
Leanne Mullene, winner of Heat Two
Her model was Daphne Selfe
Drawing is the core of her work either in 2D or 3D and she likes to paint the way she models clay.
Bríd Higgins Ni Chinnéide, winner of Heat Three
She usually sketches out the outline of the form in raw umber. It’s a fast-drying pigment with a warm tone that doesn’t contaminate the other colours too heavily. After that she usually blocks in the most obvious mid-tones and then adds dark accents and highlights. She tries to work across the canvas from the beginning, adding details and refining the form at the end. She works solely from life, when there is a model, so she is always looking back and forth at the sitter whilst painting
Looking at the awful weather, we were undecided whether to go to the exhibition in Saddleworth. However we eventually set off, pleased that the motorway traffic was moving steadily but there was continuous rain all the way. Turning off the motorway, to drive over the moors, we were faced with snow and mist and very wet conditions. Undeterred, we continued along the twisting road.
On arriving in Saddleworth, conditions improved but then we had the problem of finding somewhere to park. After trying all the car parks, we eventually had to drive a short way out of the centre to find a road in a housing estate to park on.
We arrived at the gallery but unfortunately had missed the speeches although it was still very crowded. On show was a wide range of work by ten artists, from the Manchester High School of Art; although you had to navigate the crush of people to see them. An interesting chance to see how these artists had developed individual styles after leaving the same School of Art.
I always enjoy seeing the work of artists I have admired on facebook and was impressed by Steve Capper's paintings.
The press release about the paintings:
OVER SIXTY YEARS have gone by since ten former pupils of Manchester High School of Art left school, but now reunited are set to launch an exhibition of their work at the Saddleworth Museum in Uppermill.
Ted Bates, Reg Calvert, Steve Capper, Neil Cochrane, David Edwards, Phil Hughes, John McCombs, Ron McSweeney, David Ralston and Harry Robertson are currently putting the finishing touches to what is hoped will be a highly successful show of their work.
Spokesperson and Uppermill resident, Phil Hughes said, “We all met at art school in the mid-1950s. It’s amazing after all this time we still have so much in common both in our memories of the school and our desire and enthusiasm to paint.” He added, “Putting on this exhibition is a way of showing our fondness for the school while acknowledging the role it played in shaping our various careers.”
The Manchester High School of Art, founded in the early 1950s, and later based in Strangeways, Manchester was unique among schools in the secondary education sector. Through its pioneering and charismatic headmaster, Ernest Goodman and dedicated and inspirational teachers, the school provided a progressive academic curriculum with a strong emphasis on the visual and applied arts.
Following changes to education policy and amid much controversy at the time, the school finally closed in 1984 and the buildings demolished. By then, the ten of us had gone onto various UK art colleges and eventually pursued careers in a variety of professions including advertising, publishing and teaching.
Ernest Goodman and Salford Art Club
This exhibition was of particular interest because of the founder of my art club was also linked to The Manchester School of Art.
In the autumn of 1947 Ernest Goodman was a young art teacher at Salford Grammar School and realised that the city had no Art Club.
Consequentially he had a word with the director of the Salford Art Gallery, Arthur Frape, about the possibility of forming a city - wide club for those interested in Art, Music and Drama. There was a degree of enthusiasm for this and a Salford Art Club was eventually formed.
After the viewing the exhibition and a welcome hot drink in a local cafe, we debated which way to return home. As the weather had improved we decided to return the way we had come.
The trip over the moors towards the motorway proved to be a revelation, after the poor conditions earlier. The sun was shining, low in the winter sky and the snow glowed in its light. On occasions like this you can only look on in awe and try to capture some of the scenes, as I have done here.
An interesting day that turned out better than we had anticipated and one of those occasions where we could have stayed at home, but were glad we didn't.
The exhibition is a chance for local artists to show their work in Salford. The Cornerstone is a welcome venue, even more so in this financial climate, as the existence of much needed gallery space for local artists is in decline. Anyone can exhibit their work, and it is always interesting to see who exhibits and be able to peruse a variety of styles and subject matters.
I tend to show my older or smaller pieces because of the limited space. Each year, The Art of Salford Group, exhibit a wide range of work ,showing the interest and skills of local artists and crafts people.
This year we have featured a section on a Salfordian soldier, Billy Unsworth, who lost his life in the first World War. A local man, Graham Walker, is writing a book about Billy and his time at Gallipoli. Graham, who contacted Salford Art Club, has asked its members to produce some illustrations that will be included in the published book. It will be interesting to see how this develops over the next few months.
I would also like to thank Tony Easom for his hard work in putting on these exhibitions. If you are passing the Cornerstone, Langworthy Road, why not pop in and have a look at the pictures.
The cafe there is excellent!
One interesting aspect of the art scene over the last few years has been the rise of the Urban sketcher movement.
One Drawing at a Time: Manchester and Salford.
A Temporary exhibition at Salford Art Gallery
Saturday 9 December 2017 to Sunday 10 June 2018
1. We draw on location, indoors or out, capturing what we see from direct observation.
2. Our drawings tell the story of our surroundings, the places we live and where we travel.
3. Our drawings are a record of time and place.
4. We are truthful to the scenes we witness.
5. We use any kind of media and cherish our individual styles.
6. We support each other and draw together.
7. We share our drawings online.
8. We show the world, one drawing at a time.
The 7th Urban Sketchers Symposium was hosted in Manchester, England in 2016 and I was fascinated to see so many artists sat around the city doing their drawings. I had become aware of this movement through Facebook and one of the art club members, but had not realised how big it was.
Considering it was only started by it's founder Gabriel (Gabi) Campanario, who is a Spanish journalist and illustrator living in Seattle, ten years ago; it is now a global phenomenon.
Although I am a member, I have not braved the elements to join the group yet on its visits to local sites. I do go out on occasions with the art club and find that it is not the buildings that interest me but the people sketching them or the people passing by. This movement has also inspired me to keep a diary sketchbook of my travels, fortunately often in warmer climates, and I have posted some of these in previous blogs and have started a page for these on my website. http://www.philipwestcott.co.uk/sketches.html
Other members of the Salford Art club have joined the group and post their sketches on line.
I believe this is a superb movement and a great way for artists to come together with a shared goal and an excellent example of a modern movement where a shared goal is more important than ability.
Having said that, the shear ability of some of these artists is now on show at Salford Art Gallery, where the local group are showing their sketches. I was impressed with how they manage to capture similar scenes in such a wide variety of styles.
An exhibition that is well worth a visit.
Sometimes it's good to do something different. On this occasion we decided to go to a Geek Christmas fair in Warrington. On a cold Saturday afternoon we arrived and following the Map found the event. The first impression of this was a little disappointing as there were only about five stalls on a small side street. Although, we did feel safe with the caped crusader watching over us!
In 1992, I had exhibited at Warrington Art gallery so we decided to have a look around it to see the present exhibitions. Whilst looking at the paintings on show, I was surprised to notice a poster telling us about an 1857 exhibition that took place at Old Trafford. This was held in a glass and iron palace; modeled on the Great Exhibition palace of 1851, at Crystal palace,
Apparently over the 22 week exhibition over 1.3 million people attended with great queues to see the works. On show were over 16.000 pieces of art including paintings by Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, Rubens, Constable and Turner.
It seems hard to imagine what this must have been like and I wonder what ever happened to this stunning building.
Wandering further around the room we found an exhibition by Hot Press, a group of print makers established in 1994. On show were a range of interesting prints by the members, showing a wide range of techniques.
, We climbed the stairs to see the exhibition on the balcony On show was the artwork of the Warrington School of Art, a group I had not heard of before.
It started in the art gallery and opened in 1857. The most famous members were Luke Fildes, Henry Woods, Edward Brewtnall, George Sheffield, sculptor John “Warrington” Wood and engraver Hedley Fitton.
As the membership grew they erected a new-purpose built school of art across the road from the gallery.
By 1861, they had 147 full time students and won 30 local medals and five national medallions. By this time it was the largest provincial school of art in the country with over 1170 part time students.
As I travel around the country, I find it fascinating when I come across the old schools of art. After visiting Staines (Yorkshire) and viewing the work of the group there, it was interesting to find out about this group as well. Several of the members exhibited with the Royal Academy and there must have been a thriving community at the time. You wonder why groups like this finally passed into history and its only by exhibitions like this that people find out about them.
Later, after our visit to the art gallery, we did find a wider selection of 'Geek' stalls in the indoor market but by this time they were getting ready to close. It was a shame that we hadn't discovered this sooner. Oh well there's always next year!
So, not an afternoon we expected but we viewed some fascinating exhibitions and we learnt a lot about our local art history.
Recently my art club has been involved with Lightwaves at Salford Quays on two of their recent projects.
For the first one we were invited to respond to the sculptures on the Quay side. Although, it seemed to be a fairly traditional subject of large endangered animal sculptures, the use of projectors to add images to the shapes was a contemporary idea and could not have been done years ago. It certainly added to the experience of visitors to the site. In this instance our responses were fairly traditional paintings and other groups produced dances and photographic displays.
Recently, we were approached, together with members of the local community, to send pictures for the latest installation. I was lucky enough to have three accepted and am pleased to have contributed to this art form.
The picture of my parents and that of my wife's now shine brightly among the others and they have become a small piece of a modern art installation. Exhibitions like these may not win the Turner prize but by involving the community; it opens art to a wider audience.
Alongside the canal was an overhead installation, which lit up in different colours as music was played and was an interesting visual display. Again this would not have been possible if not for the advance of technology, which enabled the creation of an entertaining piece of digital art.
This is an excellent way that art can brighten up an environment, particularly on a cold winter's day. The only downside to this exhibition is that it is only on for about ten days and finishes shortly.
I recently visited the Lowry art gallery to view their latest exhibition "Humans being digital"
Quote from Lowry Art gallery website:
'Engaging with art can be an emotional experience - performance, sculpture, painting or music can all touch us beyond words – yet technology is often considered mechanical, cold or inhuman. So how can artists show new perspectives on life, emotion and relationships by using digital technologies to connect human beings and digital?'
Here at last is something that should reflect a new approach. If art reflects the times then the use of modern technology should give artists a means to produce a new type of art. I looked forward to viewing their new concepts.
The first picture shows an artwork, which was installed in the Lowry gallery, where the word lights up and a message is given. The second image is from the recent Lightworks exhibition at Salford Quays. (see next blog)
Both could be seen as 'modern art' using a digital form to convey the artist's interpretation of a subject.
I have seen lighting installations like this before as well as messages being highlighted by them and I feel that as an art form it is dated. However, for it to be considered modern art, I would suggest that in this type of art work, it is the message that moves the concept forward rather than the physical structure.
Three other artists use humorous aspects of modern communication in their works, which involve emails, Instagram and Tinder respectively. This reflects modern lifestyles but is this an art form? One exhibition uses CCTV footage to create a curious environment that asks questions about technology and privacy. In my opinion, certainly relevant, but possibly more about society's misgivings rather than art!
A sculpture of human hair caught in a machine can certainly shock. A tiny bottle of perfume called Apocalypse, meant to awaken the senses and a video 'Housewives Making Drugs' are supposed to engage the audience's emotions and make them contemplate their own bodies.
In the case of the video, I have become anesthetized to televised artwork and so was therefore not interested in engaging my emotions! As for the perfume bottle, just because it was designed by digital artists, does it make it digital art! I'm no so sure.
The most fascinating images, to me, were the screens showing human organs digitized; they didn't really make me think about the body, as was the intention, but did give an original vision and made me stop and look. The colours resonating with the natural function of each organ, in my opinion created, a worthwhile piece of modern art using digital light effects to create movement.
However, I have to admit that I did chicken out of having myself scanned to see if I was 'hipster' enough to be allowed into the bar area of one exhibition!
I have previously visited exhibitions based on digital art at this gallery and have been disappointed at times at this use of modern technology. Galleries seem to be looking for new exhibitions and in my opinion, they like me, are not sure what direction to go in.
The use of modern technology is staring to influence artwork and it will be interesting to see how it progresses.
One artist, I researched, creates sculptures from digitized images created on a computer and the first picture shows an example of his work. It shows how technology can produce interesting new work.
Over the past year, I too, have embraced the digital arena and now use a stylus to draw on a tablet instead of a traditional paper art pad. The second picture, shows my work of a traditional subject matter approached, I believe, in a new way. Having had these accepted in a couple of international exhibitions in America, I did not need to send a physical painting. instead I emailed the image and it was printed at the gallery. A use on modern technology to produce the artwork.
Digital art is becoming more and more popular and recognisable, however, I would suggest that proponents of this type of art to edge on caution and not become too gimmicky, as these are often short lived in the art world. Plus, do the general public wish to view it in art galleries as it is often of an experimental and conceptual origin. It makes you think!
Below is a link that you might find interesting.
A fascinating evening at the gallery sketching the performers. A great piece of entertainment and a chance to improve our sketching skills with several 5-15 minute poses.
As well as the acts there were lots of competitions and prizes to be won.
The first performer was dressed in a traditional Chinese costume and she had posed for us. We did quick sketches of her before being treated to a dance. She then changed her costume to that of a Turkish belly dancer; here she did another dance using a piece of fabric as an accessory. I won a prize for my idea of where she had performed. At the last minute I decided on the Moon, Tony Easom, from the art club, won the main prize with his depiction of the Pyramids.
,After a short break for refreshments the second act came on dressed in a Harry Potter robe and proceeded to hammer a nail into her nose! Quite a start to a performance! She then ate part of a light bulb. She finished her performance with a jump up and down on broken glass before taking off the cloak and sitting on the glass. Again we had chance for a couple of quick sketches; the competition this time was for us to include a spell in our drawing. Having to sketch and think of a spell made the task a lot harder!
The final act involved the stilt walker and his puppet. An impressive dance sequence followed before they posed for a couple of sketches. This time I won the main prize and collected a series of goodies including some Avengers rubbers!
Another great evening out. I found my sketches improved as the night progressed; not sure if this was because of the practice or the alcohol!
Several Salford Art Club members attended and were among the prizewinners and all seemed to be having fun. Although it was not as busy as last year, there was a nice group of fellow artists and an enjoyable evening was had by all. I look forward to the next session.
I belong to an art club and one of the reasons for this is the discussions that arise during coffee breaks etc.
In this instance we were talking about the programme for the club for next year and how to make it more varied. A lot of members paint traditional work, landscapes and portraits. There are a few abstract painters and sculptors but we felt we don't always cater for these. We looked at ways of adding modern art practices into our meetings either as workshops or demonstrations.
This made me think: What is Modern art? The first definition I found didn't help:
Modern art includes artistic work produced during the period extending roughly from the 1860's to the 1970's, and denotes the styles and philosophy of the art produced during that era. The term is usually associated with art in which the traditions of the past have been thrown aside in a spirit of experimentation Modern artists experimented with new ways of seeing and with fresh ideas about the nature of materials and functions of art.
A second definition did not help much either:
Challenging the notion that art must realistically depict the world, some artists experimented with the expressive use of colour, non-traditional materials, and new techniques and mediums. One of these was photography, whose invention in the 1830's introduced a new method for depicting and reinterpreting the world. The Museum of Modern Art collects work made after 1880, when the atmosphere was ripe for avant-garde artists to take their work in new, unexpected, and “modern” directions.
Again a lot of this is dated, I visit a lot of exhibitions and artists seem to be desperately looking for something new. The public are no longer shocked by a pile of bricks or an unmade bed. Photography has been seen as a new medium but dates back to the 1930's. I have seen a number of photographic exhibitions and find that few impress me and it vexes me how one photographer is often considered better than another. With the modern camera numerous pictures can be taken and I have seen some superb results but are these art!
I have seen many installations like these above. The first one reminds me of when I let my year 11 stack the chairs unsupervised at the end of a lesson. Entering a room where everything has been painted creates quite a spectacle, but again, it is not a new idea.
The first image where sweets have been made as large sculptures has been around for a while and whilst amusing is not a novel idea.The second one links in nicely with several beaches I have visited where people have made sculptures from the pebbles and I quite like that idea of leaving something behind. Here people are enjoying a sense of the place without possibly any thought for the art they are leaving for people to see.
These are images I researched on the internet. The idea of a blank canvas has been a student joke for many years. Using work by Mondrian to create a sculpture is effective but in my opinion this is not an original idea. The idea of splash painting is another example where someone else's idea has been used. Both of these can create interesting art work but I would not consider them'a modern art'.
A modern concept takes modern art in an interesting direction. Here a skip on a London street is used as an exhibition space. Artists are invited to show their work in this and previews and viewings are held.
Skip Gallery was created by co-founders and creative partners, Catherine Borowski and Lee Baker, two London-based artists who take the mundane and everyday and try to re imagine them in new situation.
Artist Gavin Turk has delivered his own tongue-in-cheek piece for Skip Gallery, in London's Hoxton Square.
His work at the pop-up gallery "questions the very nature of a skip as a place to dispose of rubbish, and our relationship to what we choose to throw away".
He put an empty packet of Skips Crisps in as his contribution.
Who says modern art is rubbish? Turner-nominated artist David Shrigley's new work is housed inside a skip parked in London's Hoxton Square. Discover more about Look at This in a short film by Canvas Arts.
Are these just a gimmick to create attention? Do they portray any special artistic spirituality? Will they stand the test of time? What will future generations think about them? Or will they just fade into obscurity as have many other similar 'new' ideas have?
I suppose the answers to these questions depend on your own personal perspective and thoughts about what modern art in general is.
After all this I am no nearer to finding an answer. Throughout art history, artists have reflected on other people's work and have been influenced by it in different ways. The main difference is that the art they produced had a new vision. I think many artists are finding it harder to come up with a fresh movement or theme.
I recently went to the Lowry Art Gallery at Salford Quays, to view their present exhibition and this has given me an interesting concept to think about; 'Art in the digital age'.
I will look at this in my next blog.