Sunday, March 23, 2014

Watercolour Wizardry in Istanbul

There was a kitchen, a woodwork room, a room for making candles, an art room and lots of other facilities too. The special needs school on the outskirts of Istanbul was a large building with different classrooms set up to teach a variety of skills to young adults with special needs.

The Principal enthusiastically explained what the school was trying to achieve whilst we drank tea, then shortly after I found myself in a room with fifteen young adults with a variety of special needs eagerly awaiting whatever I was going to do. Keeping things informal I got the kids out from behind their chairs to surround my table. I had come prepared with a lightly drawn view of the Bosphorus on a piece of 300 gm paper stuck to a board and my rather chaotic pile of equipment ready to go. To add to the pressure the local artist's group that had invited me had turned up 'en masse' to witness what I hoped would not be too much of an anticlimax!

After establishing which football teams (soccer) the kids supported, and also making sure that they realised that whatever transpired on the paper was going to be as much a surprise to me as to them, we began. Creating a bit of atmosphere is essential so talking slowly and quietly I started by applying a little masking fluid much to the puzzlement of the kids. I then loaded a large brush with a light blue and soaked the whole page with bold strokes of the brush. The kids smirked to themselves that I'd messed that up “muaf oldu!” they giggled. From there on in I began to show them that with a few simple principals in mind, some carefully placed masking fluid, a lot of kleenex and a hair dryer one can come up with some fun pictures that aren't so bad!

I use a lot of water, a lot of splashing, dripping and tipping the board which I'm glad to say the kids found very entertaining. At one point the class teacher put some music on to enhance the atmosphere and after about 30 minutes I emerged perspiring with a picture that, though technically flawed, was worthy apparently of a round of applause. The crowning moment was when I peeled back the dried masking fluid revealing sparkly strips of while paper creating the effect of sunlight on the sea. I asked the kids to promise not to give away my 'magical' secrets which they called 'sihirbazlik' or wizardry and they winked in agreement.

I drove away with one of their home-made candles as a present and some satisfaction that I'd shown these kids that with a little practice they could do just as well as me and have a lot of fun. They were a great bunch of courageous young people with so much to offer, I hope they go on to do great things, as for me the whole experience was life giving!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Printemps Des Artistes

So it's exhibition season and here's one I'm involved in this coming April. This particular exhibition looks like it's going to be a a fairly well organised affair (not like our usual!).  Istanbul is beautiful in April and the Tulips will be out (did you know tulips were a Central Asian import?), so come on over and buy a painting or two, or three.

Also comments on my artist's statement would be welcome, let me know what you think (be gentle)….

Artist's Statement – March 2014

Why paint an old pair of shoes? Why paint a rusty bucket? Watercolour painting is often seen as the definitive way to portray awe-inspiring landscapes or city scapes, why abuse this medium to describe ugly, hum-drum objects?

I love and respect the long traditions of watercolour painting and have painted many landscapes. However, I'm also inspired by observing man-made, mass produced, functional objects that have been sculpted and painted by the hand of time, where the natural elements have woven their poetry round the cold hard demands of functionality and economy. I choose at the moment to work in a realist style, it's in the recognisable portrayal of everyday things that pattern, colour, form and texture can be most surprising and attractive.

It's difficult to determine at what point one of my art-works begins. After being drawn to a scene it can take some time before I put my thoughts down on paper as I think about the technical aspects of the creative process. After spending time drawing the image I apply masking fluid and then a number of different washes of colour to bring texture and depth. I use watercolour for it's versatility and ease of use. The process of one art-work can take hours or weeks depending on it's scale and complexity.

I want viewers of my art-works to see on a number of different levels. I want them to imagine and sense the story behind many of the objects I paint, the years of wear and tear through use by ordinary people living their lives. I want them to be intrigued by the mystery of the hidden pasts that surround us in the objects we pass by, the social history they witness to. I also want them to be charmed by the beauty of some of these scenes, beauty that usually eludes our busy glances as we rush through life. 

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