David Hockney – The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020

I was very excited to go to my second art exhibition of the summer – The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020 by David Hockney at the Royal Academy, London. I’ve been a fan of Hockney’s work for quite a long time after seeing another exhibition several years ago and was inspired by two of his pieces in particular when I began to create my own artwork; Pacific Coast Highway and Santa Monica (1990), and The Road to Thwing (2006). I really liked his use of mark making to give the impression of these landscapes and the way the paintings can be appreciated from both far away and close up. 

This exhibition was a collection of 116 works created between 11th February to 4th July 2020 with the express purpose of exploring the changing of the Normandy landscape as it moves from winter into spring and even summer. Hockney began using an iPad to create artwork back in 2010 and produced all the paintings included in this collection using an app that had been developed and adapted for his specific requirements. The exhibition itself felt quite small, covering only three rooms of the gallery, but the paintings were hung close together and not always in chronological order. Some had been placed in groups all showing the same view allowing a direct comparison between the stages of spring. 

No. 316, 30th April 2020

For me the enjoyment of each painting was two-fold, firstly enjoying it from a distance and appreciating the scene as a whole and then getting closer to each one to really see what kind of marks had been used to form each element of the piece. I particularly liked all the different ways Hockney depicted the grass whether it be long, short or freshly mown. 

No. 323, 13th May 2020

Another technique I really liked was the paintings in which it was raining. The straight lines Hockney uses across the top of the painting to represent the rainfall seem so basic and almost child-like, but are actually really effective and the paintings showing the rain falling into the pond made me smile. 

No. 346, 22nd May 2020

I think the ones of the pond were my favourites because I found it very impressive the way he managed to capture the reflections in the water. They really brought the painting to life for me and gave the impression of depth and perspective. The other thing that Hockney managed to capture well in all the paintings were the skies. No matter if they were clear blue, heavy cloud or somewhere in between it gave you a strong sense of how that day or night felt and you could tell if it was a crisp early morning or a blazing hot afternoon.

No. 340, 21st May 2020

The exhibition is on until 26th September, so if you are in London I would highly recommend it. The Royal Academy is on Piccadilly so is very close to other things to see and do and as it was such a small exhibition it only took us around 45 minutes to look round. We’ve got tickets booked for the Summer Exhibition in September and I already can’t wait!

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Craft Box Club – Pink Beach Houses

My second painting project this month, as I mentioned in my previous blog post, was the Pink Beach Houses kit from Craft Box Club. I liked the nostalgia around the theme of this kit as it brings back memories of trips to the seaside when I was little.

Included in the kit was:

  • Wooden house shapes x3
  • Brush
  • Sponge
  • Earth paints
  • Twine
  • Glue
  • Wooden decorations
  • Strip of fabric
  • Sandpaper
  • Paper house template

The first step was to sand down the wooden houses to ensure they were nice and smooth round the edges. As always every effort has been made to keep the kits as eco friendly as possible and the houses were cut by Love HeartWood, a wood turning business specialising in sustainable wooden gifts and toys using FSC wood. I love that a small business has been used to supply these crafts kits to support the creative industry, rather than purchasing them wholesale from a huge supplier.

The earth paints come as a powder and you mix them up to the right consistency. The pink colour was created by mixing the white with a tiny bit of red and it was really easy to apply with the sponge and still let the grain of the wood show through to keep the rustic look. It was very important to let the paint dry between each layer, otherwise it would have smudged together. One of the good things about earth paint is that when it dries out you can just grind it back down to a powder and rehydrate it with a little water again. I smudged my black when I was adding some of the window details, but I revived the white and pink paints and managed to hide the mistake. I’m still not a huge fan of earth paint, I find it still comes away on your hands when you touch the painted pieces even though it is dry, but it does give a nice effect for this project and is of course eco friendly!

Once all the painting is complete the finishing touches were added. I liked the way the twine was used to give the effect of a roof texture and the addition of the bunting was really cute. I definitely felt as though I needed to sit on the beach with an ice cream after finishing them!

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Makerly – Mandala Dotting

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been slowly working my way through the mandala dotting Makerly box from last month. This craft trend seems to have completely taken off recently and it seems like a lot of people are doing it at the moment. It certainly has quite a mindful quality to it, whilst at the same time requiring concentration and precision. 

Included in the kit was:

  • Dotting tools
  • Paints
  • Paintbrush
  • Stencils
  • White pencil
  • Black card
  • Round mandala canvases
  • Plastic stand
  • Self-adhesive acrylic gems
  • Rock

The first step was to try out all the different sized dotting tools and have a play around with positioning the dots to create patterns. I much preferred the ball shaped metal tools to the flat plastic ones. I found the flat ones left a texture on the dot, whereas the ball ones gave a much smoother, more precise dot.

There were several stencils included in the kit of varying sizes and spacing which were very helpful for creating even patterns. For my first test pattern I drew lines in the template but I then found that the lines were still visible as I didn’t completely cover them with my dots and they didn’t rub out nicely, so for my next designs I just made dots at each of the intersections. For my second design I ‘dotted’ but then joined the dots with a pattern I copied from the instructions as I knew that if I didn’t have the lines I would make a mistake.

In a typically ‘me’ fashion my first design actually turned out to be my best! Although I did like the design I ended up with on my mandala canvas, especially the limited colour scheme, I managed to go a bit wonky which kind of spoils the effect of the whole piece. 

Lastly I painted my rock. This seems to be the biggest craft trend at the moment, but now I have a painted rock I’m not really sure what to do with it! I started by painting a black circle on the rock and then once it was dry I did my dotting. I kept it quite simple as it’s a lot smaller than the card or canvas and kept to a limited colour palette as well. 

I’m not sure if this craft is for me, but I’m really glad that I had a go at it. I will definitely be using the basic principles of mandala creation for my future embroidery projects and I think the tools will come in handy for other projects too.

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‘Pretty Painting’ MakeBox

Ok, it’s confession time… When I found out that the September MakeBox was going to be watercolour painting I was not exactly enthusiastic about it. I had a set of watercolours when I was younger but I never really learnt how to use them properly, preferring the bolder, thicker acrylics and oils. I’ve watched loads of videos of people painting with watercolours on social media and I’ve always been full of admiration for the artists because it looks so hard! However, the whole point of me starting this journey was to explore and experience different forms of creativity and push myself out of my crafty comfort zone, so I went into it with an open mind (although I did put off doing it for a few days because I was scared I’d be rubbish at it, ssssshh!).

Inside the box was:

• Watercolour paint set
• Paintbrush
• Pencil
• Rubber
• Sketchbook
• Two sheets of watercolour paper
• Picture frame
• Postcard to embroider
• Embroidery thread
• Needle

This month’s box was created in collaboration with Emma Block, a freelance illustrator and author. The instruction booklet was well laid out, taking you through the basics first. Emma advised to begin by painting swatches of each colour to get a feel for how they would come out. After that I had a go at mixing some colours together and using varying amounts of water to change the shade. I was amazed at how I could create pink with a very diluted red, no need for white! Emma then went on to explain how to create skin tones using burnt sienna and adjusting the amount of water to create paler tones or adding yellow ochre for a more golden skin tone. She also suggested painting a basic colour wheel as a reminder of the primary and secondary colours.

There were two main projects, first to paint the ‘Girl With Mug’ portrait and secondly to paint a leafy wreath with your initial in the middle. The portrait was built up step-by-step from a pencil drawing, adding the washes of colour and then finally adding the fine details like the eyes, nose and mouth and the pattern on the jumper. The nice thing about it was that it was easy to personalise. I did mine with a pale skin tone and blonde hair to represent me, but it would have been easy to adapt for anyone.

The leafy wreath was my favourite part of the box. I was feeling a lot more confident with the paints by this time and this project involved a lot more detail, which I prefer. The design was built up in a similar way to the portrait, starting with the stems and then adding each type of leaf or flower. I particularly enjoyed painting the tiny oak leaves! To finish off the wreath you were supposed to paint your initial in the centre, but mine is really boring (C), so I decided to be ambitious and do my whole name! It came out pretty well, but I was a bit off centre so I added a bee on the end, it is my emblem after all. I chose the wreath to put in the frame as it came out much better than my portrait.

Lastly there was a cute postcard which you could embroider with the green thread, highlighting the grass around the crafty little fox. A nice quick project to finish with.

So, I’m still not sure watercolours are my first choice when it comes to creating art but I’m really pleased that I’ve learnt how to use them properly and I would definitely consider using them if I was making a special card for someone. I feel like I could even attempt a spring wreath!


Van Gogh and Britain

I recently visited the Tate Britain to see the ‘Van Gogh and Britain’ exhibition currently taking place. The exhibition explores Vincent van Gogh’s relationship with Britain and the time he lived here in London.

The first half of the exhibition looks at the artists and images that influenced him when he lived in London from 1873-1876. This was before he was an artist and he worked for an art dealer, Goupil, which was how he was exposed to a lot of the pieces that he found inspiring. I didn’t realise but Van Gogh didn’t actually become an artist until after his return to the Netherlands. He first tried teaching and preaching but eventually turned to painting in 1880 and continued this for the last ten years of his life.

Whilst he was in London he immersed himself in culture, visiting as many galleries and museums as he could. Throughout the exhibition you can see examples of work by various artists that influenced his work from subject matter through to form and style next to Van Gogh’s own work that he produced later on in both the Netherlands and France.

The second half of the exhibition goes on to demonstrate the impact Van Gogh’s work has had on both his contemporaries and more recent artists. It also looks at the exhibitions of his work in Britain, most notably ‘Manet and the Post-Impressionists’ in 1910 and the showing of his work and publication of two biographies and his letters in the 1920’s. Many people linked Van Gogh’s mental health with the genius of his work and this led to a lot of interest in his paintings.

A selection of postcards showing some of Van Gogh’s well known paintings.

I thought the exhibition was well laid out and clearly showed the progression of Van Gogh’s life and work. The descriptions next to the work were very informative and I felt like I learnt a lot whilst I was there. They had several of his famous pieces such as Starry Night over the Rhône (1888), Sunflowers (1888) and some of his well-known self-portraits. It is a very popular exhibition as Van Gogh is a well-known artist and the rooms were extremely busy, with queues forming in some places to see certain works of art. I was also surprised that Tate Britain were allowing people to take photographs of the work. I found it quite distracting as it meant people were spending a lot of time lining up their perfect shot or getting really close to the paintings to photograph details. It seemed like many of the people there were just interested in photographing it all and were not really appreciating the art in real life. I saw several people going round photographing the painting and the description next to it, presumably to read later. For me this seems to defeat the point of attending an exhibition. They might have been better reading up about Vincent Van Gogh on the internet!

My favourite painting: Pollarded Willows, Arles (1888)

Tate Britain is a five minute walk from Pimlico tube station or a 20 minute walk from Victoria station. For a non-member the ticket cost £22. It took about an hour and a half to go round the exhibition and afterwards we sat down for a drink in the Djangoly Café inside the Tate. The exhibition finishes on 11 August 2019 and I would say it’s well worth a visit.


Seaside Cottages Craftiosity Box

I had a lovely surprise recently when I received an email to say that I’d won a free Craftiosity subscription box in their prize draw! I was entered into the draw by signing up to their mailing list and my box came in the post shortly afterwards.

As you know I spent a long time deciding which subscription box to sign up for so I was excited to be able to have a trial of the Craftiosity boxes. The boxes normally cost £22.95 per month but with free UK delivery. However, you can’t just subscribe at any time, you have to sign up to the mailing list and wait for them to open subscriptions for the next box, which is how I ended up winning my box but also one of the reasons I ultimately decided not to choose them as my regular subscription box. I was too impatient to get crafting to wait around!

The theme of this box was seaside cottages and the project was to make a decorative hanging of little wooden huts. Inside the box was:

• Four wooden houses
• Wooden baton
• Wooden beads
• Acrylic paints
• Paint brush
• Paint pen
• Thread
• House templates
• Tracing paper

The idea was to paint the little houses, giving them a weathered look and then add details with the paint pen such as windows and doors using the templates and tracing paper to transfer the designs onto the painted wooden blocks. Once they were all painted and dried you could then attach them to the wooden baton using the thread so they hung down. I found tying them on a bit fiddly as it was hard to keep the baton and house still to estimate the correct hanging length. A second pair of hands probably would have been helpful at that point!

This wasn’t my favourite craft project I’ve completed, but looking back at some of the past boxes on the Craftiosity website (https://craftiosity.co.uk/) they have done some really exciting looking projects previously. I suppose that’s the joy of subscription boxes, you never know what you’re going to get and it’s always good to try something new, otherwise how will you know if you like it or not?

I’d like to say thank you very much to Moira, the founder of Craftiosity for picking me as the winner!