Visit to #VernonMill thoughts on #WoodendMill and memories of The #LanternGallery #TheNailMaker'sHouse #Worsley
Yesterday, we needed to go to Stockport to visit a garage and on the way, we passed Vernon Mill. We had been meaning to visit the mill for ages but the last time we tried everywhere was closed.
After going to the garage, we drove to the mill; parking is not easy outside so we drove across the road to park.
On entering, we followed the signs for the third floor, where we found the work on display from the wide range of artists who have studios there. Being a quiet day, not many of the artists were there at the time, although we did get chance to play 'throw and fetch' with one of the artist's dog. It took an instant liking to Sue, who spent a few moments throwing a soft toy teddy bear for the dog to fetch!
A fascinating place with lots of superb art work on show. Unfortunately, like many of these old mills its in need of some work, as it is starting to show it's age. Also several of the studios that were open didn't have heating so the large spaces were quite cold, although a couple of artists working on the day were well wrapped up.
Over the last few years, we have also visited Woodend Mill in Mossley, where there are several floors of artist's studios. A couple of artists, I know, have studios there. Again, it's great to see where the work is produced and there is always a wide range of styles to appreciate. There is also quite a nice atmosphere on open days. These studios are a lot smaller and seem in better repair and certainly warmer. There is also a nice garden centre café in the grounds.
I have sometimes wondered what it would be like to have a studio in one of these places. Would you work more not having other distractions or would you be constantly chatting with other artists?
I actually had a small taste of this when I joined with four other artists in the early 80's and we ran a studio in what as the old Nail Maker's cottage in Worsley. It was called The Lantern gallery and overlooked the Bridgewater canal.
One artist was a wood carver, another did sewing and painting, one did Pyrography and the other specialised in watercolours.
Looking back, this was an enjoyable experience in many ways. We shared manning the studio and mainly opened weekends. We were on the middle floor, upstairs had been another exhibition space and on the bottom floor was a local photographer.
The setting in Worsley was stunning and we had a steady flow of visitors. To pay for the rent I needed to sell one painting a month, which was quite achievable but I did finish up having to paint a lot of local scenes, particularly the Packet House, a local landmark. This did become a little tedious.
Unfortunately, the landlord decided to double the rent after a year and this made the venture not cost effective. We had enjoyed the experience and even looked for a new venue but these were all too expensive and we drifted into different areas.
Below are three pictures from that time. The first one is of Ernest Duffield, the superb woodcarver, who was part of the group. The second one is a small painting I did for a Christmas card and the last one is a poor quality image of a Winter scene of the area.
It's always interesting to visit the mills etc to see the work on show, particularly when I follow some of the artist on Facebook. I am lucky to have a studio in my house and am able to interact with other artists at my local art Club, so have the best of both worlds.
I have sent paintings through the post before, but mainly in the UK. When a client asked could he arrange for one to go to Australia there didn't seem to be any problems. He was paying for the packaging and the company to collect and deliver the painting.
I arranged with a local hardware store, on Irlams o' th' Height, to make a suitable container and the painting was encased in bubble wrap and then placed in a large plywood box and delivered to my house.
The delivery company sent me the paperwork to be completed at my end, all five sheets of it, and shortly afterwards collected the box.
Then, in mid-November, they rang with the first small problem. Apparently, I had not given them certain information, which, when I checked the form, there was no mention that this information was needed. I explained this to the company that if I hadn't been asked for it, how could I have given it. This seemed to be too much for the agent I spoke to but needless to say, it was eventually sorted and a new form with the relevant information was sent.
About two to three weeks later, I was pleased to hear that the box had arrived in Australia. Here, the client just needed to sort out a couple of things before delivery, which, after several emails was also arranged.
The last week in December we had a short break in Iceland. Whilst we were away, a card was pushed through the door about a parcel not being able to be delivered. Being Christmas we had ordered several presents and this was not a surprise, so I rang up and arranged to collect it.
The next day, a van arrived and as I looked out, the driver was trying to deliver a large box which looked exactly like the one I had sent only a few weeks ago! He told me that this had been sent to me from Australia!
I then had to tell him that I had sent it to Australia and that was where it was meant to be. He spoke to someone in the office .
I wondered if it was the confused agent I had spoken to previously. However,he agreed to take it back to the depot.
Several phone calls later and having to explain the mix-up to different people each time, I hoped something had been sorted. Talking to the client, he was obviously upset, as he had emails from the Australian branch of the company, saying that everything had been resolved.
Next, to my surprise, I got an invoice from the UK company asking me to pay an import duty for the painting sent from Australia. You can imagine my disbelief! A few more telephone calls land eventually, they agreed to look into this.
Then, not having heared anything for a few days, I got a text from the client saying that the painting had eventually been delivered to him.
The funny thing about all this, is that when I looked at the tracking, I noticed that the first time it travelled to Australia, it took a couple of weeks to get there, yet only three days to come back!
This was certainly a learning process and I'm glad to say that at least the UK company have cancelled my invoice for it's arrival back here. I know one of the men who works at the Hardware store, who made the box for the painting and keeping him updated, has kept his workmates amused with the on going saga.
Hopefully, the client and his family like the painting, after all the trouble it has caused, and can enjoy it as they sit at the dining table. A nice reminder of England as they enjoy the warmth.
As for me, I think that it looks good1
Whenever I go to Manchester I try to call in at the Art gallery, especially if there is a new exhibition on. Unfortunately, like many galleries, because of cut backs these don't tend to change as often as they used to.
The present exhibition by mother and daughter Caroline Broadhead and Maisie Broadhead is one that I hadn't seen before.
"The exhibition presents new works in response to historic paintings of women by famous male artists who are represented in Manchester Art Gallery’s collections, including Lord Frederic Leighton and John William Waterhouse.
The artists interrogate how the pictorial conventions of historic paintings and their elaborate frames affect our perceptions of the women depicted. By blurring, transgressing and stretching the frames and edges of images, the artists disrupt the relationship between the picture and its surrounding. These interventions raise questions about how the women have been represented and create dialogues between the past and the present."
Maisie uses Digital photography to reference historical paintings and distorts the frames hoping to raise questions about how the women have been represented and create dialogues between the past and the present. The use of these misshapen frames certainly makes the exhibition unique, but begs the question, 'Is this just a gimmick?' This obviously is up to the viewer to interpret for themselves.
In some cases the melting effect of the frame works well and helps the intended interpretation but in others I feel the photograph stands well enough on its own and the frame can distract from this. I liked the pictures best that show a modern interpretation of the historic paintings; others looked very similar to the original era depicted.
However, nowadays, with the difficulty of being accepted by galleries, if one takes a more cynical view, and considered this unusual way of framing to be more of a contrivance to catch the attention of galleries, I wondered if more artists would re visit their own framing techniques!
Caroline uses, "beadwork and found objects to make enigmatic three-dimensional objects which investigate physical and psychological aspects of the paintings."
It was harder to see how some of these related to the historic paintings although the beaded portrait was impressive and must have taken a great deal of time.
I thought that it would be interesting to see this style as an original portrait rather than a copy of an existing piece.
The photographs were impressive and I could have easily believed that they were painted by the Pre Raphaelites. The 3D work was interesting and worth seeing, as is much of the work in the gallery.
Another worthwhile and thought provoking visit.
After a busy couple of weeks since our return, it was interesting to reflect on the visit. As well as the trips out, the most memorable impression was the light during the day. The sun was only up for about four hours but the light in the morning and late in the afternoon, was awe inspiring.
Admittedly, we were lucky with the weather, during our time in Iceland, with no rain and mainly clear skies. During our walks along the sea front and trip back from the Blue Lagoon, the sky had a wide range of colours from reds to purples; oranges and blues and these changed at different times of the day.
As well as the Solfar sculpture, shown above, there were interesting stone sculptures made by visitors, to which we added one of our own. There were also ones around town using the natural stone from the area.
As we explored further, we found several more sculptures. The first one is a modern religious interpretation found in the Hallgrimskirkia church, a sculpture in itself, where you can get a lift to the top for stunning views of the city. The second figures were outside the Perlan Museum, that again had excellent views of the city from its rooftop.
As we wandered around the streets, there were also several impressive murals, which seem to be appearing in many major cities now and, if done properly, I believe can enhance the area.
There were also several art galleries, although for some of them you could only view by appointment. It was interesting to see how the environment influenced several of the artists who produced almost abstract interpretations of the landscape in the area. Others introduced portraits, sometimes influenced by the local folklore. In the UK we are lucky to have such a diverse subject matter to interpret.
A great week in the town apart from one poor Chinese meal, we even ate Icelandic Tusk, a local fish, we had never heard of!
Sunday arrived all to quickly and it was time to leave but on the coach we were informed that there was a three hour delay on our flight. Rumour had it that this was because of the drone problems earlier at Gatwick. Having such a long time in the airport, it was a shame that I had packed my drawing equipment in my case. I finished up having to buy a pencil, at a slightly inflated price and managed to do a few quick sketches in a small art pad that I found in my carry on bag. This helped to pass the time. Eventually, our flight was called and we were on our way home.
After this short, but extremely enjoyable break, it was back to reality and the preparations for Christmas day.
After a short stop there, we were on our way to our next viewpoint at The Gullfoss waterfall (Golden Waterfall). After a nice lunch of Icelandic lamb stew, followed by chocolate cake, we made our way down to view the waterfall. Again, this was an impressive sight and well worth the trip. The force of the water was slowly enlarging the valley into which it flowed. Unfortunately, the sun wasn't in the right place on this occasion and so the reflections from the waterfall were a little subdued.
Our final destination was at the Þingvellir National Park rift valley. The park lies in a rift valley that marks the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the boundary between the North America and Eurasian tectonic plates. We admired the view and setting sun before walking down the rift valley between the two plates.
A superb day out and still the Blue Lagoon to visit.
We decided to visit the Lagoon on Saturday morning which meant an early 7am start and a cold wait for the coach, but we were soon on our way. We were full of expectation, not knowing what to expect and as we arrived and made our way in the dark to the entrance, the first feelings of excitement filtered through our thoughts.
After a thorough shower, Sue and I met and descended into the water, which was shrouded in darkness and mist. Low lighting lit up the area and shapes slowly emerged; some with white faces looking like zombies! Fortunately for us, they were wearing silicone face masks, which were full of minerals and designed to cleanse and purify the skin. We made our way around in the hot water looking for the drink area and after a drink, we decided on a face mask ourselves and set off in the mist.
We were a little disorientated in the dark but managed to find other people wearing masks and so asked for general directions. After applying the masks, we set off to explore further.
Eventually we found the therapeutic waterfall and let that massage us for a while, before exploring further. Finally, our time was up and we had to find our way to the exit, which was still shrouded in the mist and dark. After changing, we had time for a quick look round before leaving.
In our minds, this was an experience not to be missed. Sue managed to find all the hottest areas and didn't want to move, I found these a little too hot for comfort. The darkness and mist added to the surreal experience and because of this we would recommend going in the dark.
On reflection, we may have preferred the 7pm slot, as when we arrived back at the hotel, we were really relaxed and could have slept straight away!
Also, talking to people who went on the evening trip, they also had the added bonus of seeing the Northern Lights on the way back to the hotel.
This year, instead of buying presents for each other, we decided to take a trip to try and see the Northern Lights. When we looked at ways of doing this, we were surprised to find that TUI did a tour in Iceland, with two trips included in the price.
On arriving in Reykjavik, we were pleased to find that our hotel was in the centre of the town. Being too early to book in, we set off to explore the area and get something to eat. We were looking forward to the evening coach trip into the countryside to see the Lights.
After unpacking we started to add a number of layers of clothing but were surprised that it wasn't as cold as expected. Although our hotel was central, it did mean that we had to be picked up a short distance away. As we set off to see the Lights, the guide informed us that the chance of seeing them was a Level 3 on a scale of 1-9.
It didn't sound too promising. However, we just had to wait and hope that this level was good enough. As we approached the look out area, we were informed that those with an iPhone wouldn't be able to take pictures of the Lights, unless they had downloaded a special app, and anyone with a Samsung S7 or above needed special settings to take pictures. Anything less than a Samsung 7 had no hope of taking a photograph! Unfortunately, Sue was unable to do this on her phone.This seemed to be a piece of information that we should have been provided before we set off.
On arriving, the guide informed us that from the top of the hill we could see an arc of light grey, stretching across the sky; this was our first sighting. To our surprise this just looked like a grey cloud. I tried to take a photograph but wasn't successful. Fortunately, I happened to glance to my side where another young man had taken photographs with the shape showing it's green glow. I was lucky that he showed me how to change the settings on my phone. Looking at my photographs in my gallery, I could at last see the green and blues in the sky; something that wasn't visible with the naked eye.
After about an hour stood outside, we didn't think that anything else was going to happen, and we were due to leave, so we made our way back to the coach. As we sat waiting to leave, the driver suddenly cried out, " Get out of the coach! Quickly; look at the sky!" There was a rush to the doors. and once outside we were treated to two Light shows from two directions.
Again, we couldn't really see the colours, but it was impressive watching the grey shapes dance in the sky. Here I manged to get a few photographs but not of the quality that a few people with better cameras achieved.
A fantastic end to the night and talking to several people, later in the week, we had been very lucky. The Northern Light Hunt had been cancelled on the following nights and were not as impressive on others.
Talking to the guide, who had lived there for many years, she had only ever seen one category nine Light show and said that she had just lay in the ground for an hour totally awestruck. Maybe, if we go again to look for them, we will see such a show.
As an artist, I wouldn't try to capture the images in a painting because I find that with sights such as this; nature can't be beaten!
Having watched all the previous programmes in this series I was interested to see who would be chosen this year. I had looked into sending off myself but I was going to be away on some of the dates they were filming; also I would probably have chickened out anyway!
Watching the series I was surprised to see that my youngest brother, Barry, was on one of contestants on the second episode at the seaside resort of Broadstairs. Talking to him afterwards proved quite enlightening.
The two previous winners had been quite traditional painters and this made me feel that landscape painting was again being recognised as a worthwhile subject to paint. Would it be the same this year?
As usual, every episode featured a range of artists and styles. As I have written in a previous blog, it seems silly to me that someone sends in a picture that took several hours or weeks to produce. On the day you only have, in theory, four hours, so if you can't produce the same quality in that time you are really not doing yourself justice. Particular instances of this were artists who collage or sew their pictures. In some cases their submissions were excellent but their final pieces were often unfinished.
At times, the conditions for painting were difficult because of the weather conditions; with changes from heavy rain and wind to bright sunshine and on one instance, the scene being covered by mist for most of the day. Still all the artists produced a wide range of work.
Watching each program. I always like to try and pick the finalists and the winner. I have been correct a few times but often the judges surprised me with their choices. Obviously, they have different criteria by which to judge the pieces, especially with a £10.000 commission prize on offer!
It was interesting as the series progressed, to see how the artists adapted to the scene. Some of these seemed more challenging as they weren't traditional landscapes. There were a couple of seaside scenes, a dockyard and in one case a virtually completely green landscape.
The semi final produced the three finalists and I thought that these three were a fair representation of style and technique. I was interested to see what they would have to paint in the final. At this stage any of the three could have won it!
The final scene, overlooking Greenwich Park, was one that wouldn't have appealed to me. Everything was too symmetrical and although the distant skyline was impressive, the building at the front loomed large.
The artist Allan Martin, who had produced the superb dark, moody, tonal painting for his submission, decided to face the other way and paint the observatory. His superb handling of tones seemed a little lost when colour was added and his piece completed in the studio, of the lighthouse, although an excellent painting, was, I feel, a little too romantic for the judges.
The second artist Greg Mason, who I felt produced one of the best paintings of the series in the semi final at the docks, did a more traditional composition looking down at the scene. This again, I think, was not what the judges were looking for.
Finally, the winner. To me she had been the dark horse of the competition. I was never really sure whether I liked her work, but she continued to produce her interpretation of the scenes in her own style. Where she was really successful, was finding an angle that others missed.
The final scene was quite difficult but she captured the essence of it and whether you like the picture or not, it was true to her way of thinking and painting. However, I think what really swung it for her, was her picture of the pier at Brighton, which again, in my opinion, was one of the better pictures of the series.
What I hadn't factored into my choices, was the landscape for the commission painting. When I heard the criteria for this painting I understood more clearly why the judges chose Jen's style of painting.
The winner of the competition had to go to Greece and Macedonia to create an artwork to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War. I felt that the commission didn't want a traditional painting of the landscape but one that linked the modern scene with the past. It needed to evoke a mood, which would empathise with the fact that the battle scene was a tribute to the men who had fallen and still lay covered by the soil and vegetation. It would probably not have been fitting for a pretty, representational picture.
To me, this was possibly, in the back of the judges minds, and if I'm right, then Jen was the correct choice. Her work had been consistent and each scene had been a personal response painting not just a straightforward traditional view.
The final programme brought back the realities of war, showing scenes from the landing and hike into the mountains, carrying all the supplies, and the final battle, where so many lives were lost.
It seemed strange, to me, that when arriving at the viewpoint, the landscape now seemed so peaceful.
Jen's final picture of the scene.
On entering the studio we immediately got down to work. John had decided we would do a painting in Sepia. Unfortunately, he hadn’t added it to our list and didn’t have much left of his own to give out. Fortunately, another artist had some and this was shared out. This is quite a powerful medium and not a lot was needed.
We drew out the scene and then followed John, as he talked us through building the picture up tonally; starting with some light washes, then adding darker tones. We had to be careful to make sure that areas dried properly; using a hair drier where needed.
Slowly the picture came together and we picked up several useful tips, such as how he did the water on a pond. Again, he emphasised the use of shadows to bring the picture to life. He even walked us through the scene, as if it was real, talking about the people going into the pub and general village life.
Another fascinating session that will prove useful in future paintings and a chance to work tonally without having to worry about colours.
After lunch I decided to leave early so as not to have to negotiate the narrow country lanes in the dark. I arrived at my stop over hotel early and this gave me a chance to finish the sketch of the boathouse I had done the day before. Using my memory and the colours used in the studio, I was able to complete the painting. I even had some paint left, so did a quick painting of the pond at the end of the lane near the studio.
On reflection, this was a fantastic experience and if I decided to attend one again, I wouldn’t be as apprehensive. The hotel was excellent,as were the facilities and food. You could not wish for a better location, especially as we were so lucky with the November weather. The hosts couldn’t have been any more helpful and even the owners of the nearby cottage came and complimented our work. The other artists were a friendly bunch and we all got on very well.
There was a range of abilities amongst the people who attended but everyone learnt something and came away with renewed vigour to carry on painting. It was interesting to see everyone do the same scene but with different results because of their personal styles. I wasn’t used to using a large brush so freely and did tend to resort to a smaller one for better control at times.
Two of the artists had attended one of John’s courses before and they produced excellent results all the time . Others of us found it hard to always get the right colour even though we were using the same mix. It came easy to John, after painting for over thirty years, and even though he told us which colours to use, his experience meant that he got it right all the time. Another artist was working quite small and when switching to larger paper started to really understand John’s style and develop his own.
To sum up a couple of things I would change, mainly to the list of materials sent out. Otherwise, you couldn’t wish for a better tutor or place to stay for a painting course. I was very lucky to win this as a prize and was very grateful for the experience.
Going into the studio this morning, we were excited to see what lay ahead of us. John had decided to show us how to use the pen that he provided us with. This was a matchstick, stuck in the end of a piece of cane! No expense spared in this instance, and we got to keep them!
We went outside, just down the lane, where he sat and sketched a cottage whilst we watched or did a quick pencil sketch of our own. This showed his draughtsmanship, as he sketched the scene straight away in ink without any pencil guidelines, something I wouldn’t fancy doing.
,We went back and followed him as he first drew the scene and then added colour. It was interesting to see his composition as most of us had concentrated on the cottage, whereas he had considered the whole scene and how it would work as a picture.
We started to draw from the left side, so as not to smudge our work, using the tool to create a range of marks. It proved a useful piece of equipment and meant that you could get a range of lines without it being too uniform. I found it an enjoyable experience and will look forward to developing this style in future.
It was interesting as he told us several things to help us with the composition; like where he added a car on the road to stop our eyes from going off the page, or the use of figures to add scale. Another important thing was the use of shadows to give a structure to the painting, something he always emphasised.
I was quite pleased with my first attempt at this style but felt I had overworked the tree on the left, before I got used to the mark making.
After lunch the weather had improved and we set off again to Burnham Overy Boathouse. Again, we picked our own scene to sketch. I liked the view from the carpark. Unfortunately, as I started working, the sun came out and I was staring straight into it. This made sketching quite difficult, as I had to keep squinting into it. I did manage a quick pen and ink drawing, using a pen, as I didn’t fancy sitting with an open ink bottle! With my luck, it was likely to spill over my clothes. I also managed to do a quick pencil drawing using the same viewpoint as John.
,Upon returning to the studio we then watched John paint the scene he had sketched. We could follow him or use our own sketch. I decided to do a little bit of both. It was fascinating to see him remember the colours, making slight adjustments to tone etc to bring the painting together.
Again, I was quite pleased with my finished picture but was impressed with the slightly different viewpoint John chose, as the affect was quite dramatic. Also, it was interesting to see what he decided to leave out or add to the picture.
A busy day and there was still another session the next day to look forward to.
We were lucky that the weather was quite good for the time of year and we all set off for our first attempt at using our acquired knowledge to paint outdoors. We soon arrived at a small coastal seafront. As we looked out over the mud flats, boats, water and buildings ,the decision became what was the best composition. Having painted buildings earlier, I decided to use this theme again, as well as to include some of the landscape.
After quickly sketching it out, I started by adding the sky. Fortunately, it didn’t fade too much this time. Using broad brush strokes, I then added the foliage and water before carefully painting the buildings and a boat. This all went quite well and I was pleased with the result.
It was soon time for some lunch and we went to a local pub for some food. After a large breakfast, the simple homemade soup was welcome. We then returned to the studio for a quick appraisal of our work. I was pleased that John also thought my painting had been successful and only needed a couple of quick tweaks to finish it off.
Once we back at the hotel, it was time for another paint along session. This time John used a sketch he had drawn on the trip and we painted along with him. This went reasonably well until the end when ,feeling quite tired, I added a sign-come- lamppost on the left, which seemed to keep growing. I wasn’t pleased with this painting, but even John admitted that he wasn’t as keen on the subject matter he had chosen either and his painting was far superior to mine!
I have to admit to being envious at how he manages to find and mix colours from his paint box. However, after thirty years of painting in this style, it must be easy for him. At the moment though, it is beyond me!
A couple of days later I added pen and ink to it and on reflection would cut the picture down to size to remove part of the left side.
At the evening meal we had a chance to discuss the day and the atmosphere around the table was enjoyable with lots of shared experiences. It was interesting to find out about the other artists' work and interests. It was then time for an early night, as we would have a busy day ahead of us.