Tag Archive for: landscape

This week I have been looking again at the sketchbook work of Barbara Rae * – if you don’t know her work you are in for a treat!

Barbara Rae sketchbook Bay at Roy Well 2003

Barbara Rae sketchbook: Bay at Roy Well 2003

Which materials are right for the job?

Finding the right materials to work in sketchbooks can be a search. It’s all part of developing your process and also being aware of what information you want to record; what will help you decipher what you are seeing into a form that will be helpful later on. Pencils are immediate and easy, but I noticed that I tend to draw with line work – fine for developing mark making but sometimes not so good for colour or tone. For a while using watercolour has worked well for me; no fiddly lids, quick to mix and using alongside water soluble media has been my go-to sketchbook medium of choice.

However, I’m coming out of a spell of painting and watercolour suddenly feels too fluid and transparent. Possibly lacking a density and boldness which is what I rely on the other materials to bring.

An artist not afraid to experiment

Barbara Rae sketchbook Autumn Vines Oppeole 2010

Barbara Rae sketchbook: Autumn Vines Oppeole 2010

Density and boldness are certainly two words you could use to describe Barbara Rae’s sketchbooks; filled with strong, bright drawings done on location. She shies away from the description of landscape painter, but the importance of place and sense of location is very apparent in her work which often includes human impact on landscape in the forms of furrows or fencing. She works across multiple disciplines: large scale paintings and big, energetic monoprints. Scotland and Spain are favourite locations and the colours which vibrate upwards from the land are clearly visible and she is skilled at finding unusual and surprising combinations.

Barbara Rae sketchbook Kerry 2008

Barbara Rae sketchbook: Kerry 2008

Barbara Rae sketchbook Ceide 2003

Barbara Rae sketchbook: Ceide 2003

Barbara Rae sketchbook Fence at Dounpatrick 2002

Barbara Rae sketchbook: Fence at Dounpatrick 2002

To give you an idea of scale, her sketchbooks are usually A4 and she works in two at once to give the pages time to dry. Working outside, often in wild or hot conditions she uses watercolour alongside acrylic and combines drawn marks in charcoal, chalk, pastel. She has used wine to mix paint instead of water….(I’ve been caught out with this before, but I tend to have a flask of tea – I clearly need to up my beverage game!)

Barbara Rae Tomato plants Robion 2010

Barbara Rae sketchbook: Tomato plants Robion 2010

A few years ago I visited a London gallery which was showing Barbara’s work and bought the book of her sketchbooks (currently the best link to buy). The gallery owner said she had just nipped out to get a sandwich but would be back soon if I wanted to wait and have it signed… no further invitation needed! She was supremely encouraging, as you may expect from someone who has taught for many years, and thoroughly down to earth. What impressed me most was her continued enjoyment of her materials, an experimental approach to her art practice – she was then incorporating nail varnish within her artwork to bring a degree of luminescence.

All of sudden, using gouache seems rather tame!

Barbara Rae sketchbook Aultbea 2010

Barbara Rae sketchbook: Aultbea 2010

* Barbara Rae was born in 1943 and awarded a travel scholarship in 1966 which boosted her love of location drawing. She was elected President of the Society of Scottish Artists in 1983. She was made a Member of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1992 (ARSA 1980) and a Royal Academician in 1996.  In 1999 she was awarded a CBE. Rae lives and works in Edinburgh.

All artworks copyright Barbara Rae – you can view a complete PDF of 228 images from her website

 

How do you choose one image that represents all your paintings? If part of the process of painting is eliminating and refining ideas then one image simply can’t say it all.

This is what I had to consider earlier this month when the deadline arrived to choose an image to submit for our annual open studio event, Artists at Home. The only trouble is that the event isn’t until June; that’s six months away. Visitors need a representative image as they decide which of the 68 or so participating artists they will choose to visit – it’s simply impossible to see everyone so visitors use the website or the collectable booklet to make their choices.

The problem is I’m not sure how my work will develop over the next few months… and if this image will give them a good clue and a desire to see more, or will be quickly flipped over. It’s a snapshot of where I am now, not where my work will be in 6 months. And who can tell the future?

Alice Sheridan Blue Horizon: etching with chine collé. One of a series that uses collaged elements to create variations creating an invented landscape using a section of the damaged wall in the London Underground as a starting pointA few artists in the group solve this dilemma by showing some of their previous work that will be familiar to regular visitors. But my work has been very different each year I’ve shown, so reminding someone of last year’s work isn’t going to be very appropriate. Last year I was coming to the end of a period where most of my time had been spent exploring different printmaking techniques so the show was an assembling of a variety of approaches. Two years is nowhere near long enough for the sometimes painfully slow print process (so it seemed to me!). So I went ahead with the feeling that it would be a sort of “work in progress show”. To be honest I felt it wasn’t very well curated as I had been trying so many different things but I framed and presented the work in series as much as I could and felt that at least it would be an interesting show for anyone keen to see how ideas progress and transform. Over 300 people came in one weekend and it was a great weekend with lots of interest, and sales too.

So what to expect this year?

Alice Sheridan sketchbook drawing of Scorhill Down, Dartmoor

The sketchbook drawing done on the walk

Well, not so much printmaking for a start. I realised that I was trying to split my time too much. Working over the summer in sketchbooks had re-kindled my love of colour. Yes, I had been including colour within the prints I was making, but not that lush mixing of glorious colours as sage green turns to grey and is offset with the soft yellow of dried grasses…. Theses were the things my sketchbook is full of and the essentially monotone blackness of etchings is not the right thing. For now.

But as with any new series, it takes a bit of time to jump from sketchbook to finished paintings and much of my time in the autumn had been spent working on a large commission. So I just picked something I liked; a small progress painting done after a sketchbook walk through Scorhill Down in Dartmoor. I suspect it is too traditional, it still feels too straightforward. I suspect by June that my work will have changed. I know it won’t appeal to everyone, but as always that is fine.

Alice Sheridan abstract landscape painting showing river in blue colours

This is a section of the painting which was done as a steping stone to a much larger piece

Thankfully there will be a mini-site on the Artists at Home website where I can also show newer artwork. I hope previous visitors will return to see if anything tempts them into buying art this year. But however this series develops; into purer abstract colour forms, with added graphic elements, this is one of the starting points. Rather appropriately it shows a running river cutting through the landscape, making it’s own progress. Which is what I shall be doing too. I hope you will check back to see how things develop!

Artists at Home 2015 will take place in Chiswick, Hammersmith and Shepherds Bush, London from Friday 19 June to Sunday 21 June. Work is displayed within the artists homes and it is a fun and relaxing way to discover new artists and a great way to buy new artwork directly.