All my university exams and job interviews are in the past now and yet I can’t help feeling nervous just like on one of those days I had to sit Freshwater ecology essay back at Sheffield Uni. Today is the first day of the art fair and I can only hope for the best. After all, there is nothing more I could have done. All the preparations have been made, the artwork hung, the prints printed and the studio all glammed up for the visitors. But this is not the time to relax now, there’s loads to be done.
…until the Wimbledon Art Fair. The last few months have been hard work and I’ve certainly accomplished a lot in such little time. The ‘365 challenge’ turned out to be quite a wake up call from my previous procrastinating daily routines and taught me so much not just about drawing, painting, and printing, but about life itself and using precious time on things that matter to me. So please come and join me and other 150+ amazing artists at the Wimbledon Art Fair 15-18th November. You won’t regret it.
It’s been a long time since the last entry, however I can assure you (if there’s anyone out there) that I haven’t been skiving in the slightest manner. The Wimbledon Art Fair is creeping in slowly but surely and I have been busy producing work.
Despite what many may think, being creative isn’t an easy task…besides producing artwork we, the creators, face countless numerous inner battles. One day we think our work is good and on other days we call everything we make s%£! and call it quits. It’s natural, and better days do tend to come back. I’ve faced many such battles and the most recent one was to do with painting from life, which I haven’t done much previously. Before, if it was a still life for instance, I made up a composition, took a picture, and painted from it at my leisure. Recently, however, I’ve been trying to change that because I was no longer happy with my previous work. The three paintings above are my latest painting-from-life alla prima endeavours inspired by very well known artists I’ve been admiring for a long time. David Leffel and Daniel Keys, perhaps, taught me the most. Even though I haven’t met them in person, which I hope one day will happen, awoke looseness to my painting hand and bravery towards using colour and thinking about the subject. So thanks to them! I hope you like the paintings, and you most certainly might see some more of those in the future.
It's been 218 days since I've started my 365 drawing challenge. Today is not a particularly special day, neither it is a landmark. Today is just one of those days when I am lucky enough to come to my studio and do a full day's painting.
I've started to rent a studio space three months ago in hope to increase my productivity and focus on creating stuff without worrying about making a mess. At the moment the studio doesn't look like much, but it's got a desk (from ikea of course), an old kitchen table for printing, and some shelving that I found free to take by the entrance the other week (thank you kind person, my canvases no longer act as tiles on the floor). So far it's increased my productivity at least tenfold as I no longer need a whole month to produce a painting and I hope to keep up the hard work.
I think it was David Litchfield (Ted video) who originally inspired me to take on the challenge. It's not a new thing, lots of people are doing it and I didn't know where mine was going to take me. Of course, I have my goals and sooner or later I'm hoping I'll get there, but for now I have to focus on a particular event, which is giving me a lot of sleepless nights at the moment. I suppose the news is that I'm going to open my studio doors (or 1 door in this instance) to the public for the first time ever! The event is called Wimbledon Art Fair and it's going to happen in November 15-18. I visited the fair last spring just before I started renting the studio. I really enjoyed the atmosphere and of course couldn't decline the opportunity to participate. So for the past three months I've worked hard at making sure visitors have something to look at, and yet there is still a lot to be done. The majority of pieces I will display is the stuff I've been creating daily as part of the challenge, and also there will be a few older oil paintings as well. All the works displayed will be for sale, so if you fancied anything from the challenge you'll be more then welcome to buy it. This event is really important to me as I've had absolutely no idea I'd be doing something like this when I've starting drawing daily. Life...eh ?!
The little painting you see above is essentially my ticket to be able to participate in the fair. It will be displayed in the marquee near the entrance on one of the days and will also be on sale.
If you'd like to know more about the Wimbledon Art Fair, please send me an email or reply below in the comments. And of course you are absolutely welcome to come and say hello and see works of all the amazing artists working here.
As soon as I finished the drawing yesterday I sent to my mother for 'assessment' as she knows a thing or two being a very talented artist herself. "The drawing is good" - she started, - "but she looks really sad as if there is no hope left. Don't you think?"
I wasn't sure how far from the truth it was but it encouraged me to go back in time and discover the origins of this drawing and perhaps the idea behind it. The thing that originally nudged me to travel to Vietnam was a different mission altogether. Me and Ewelina went as part of the Paediatric Surgery team to Can Tho to help operate on children with various deformities. What I didn't know at the time is how big this issue was for these kids. They were all very sweet and well behaved, but these 'cosmetic' differences put them into a isolated place in society and formed a stigma around them which sometimes even prevented them from getting education, for example. It really touched me and inspired me to put this issue into and artistic content. I was so busy and dissolved in the new culture and working environment, which ultimately led to me not doing much about my inspiration. So when I left Can Tho, my deprived artistic imagination was looking for any subject to devour.
I suppose I chose this particular subject as it was the only other place I felt emotionally connected to despite all of the glory and beauty I've encountered while traveling through Vietnam. Now, back in the moment, I was just another tourist sneakingly taking pictures of the local tribeswomen as if they were aliens. The truth is they were interesting to me. Not just their clothes and wrinkled and sunburnt faces, but their way of life and culture as well. The whole thing was a bit bizarre. We were promised a gentle hike through the paddy fields, but none of us expected to be followed by a gang of ladies equipped with just a walking stick and a huge basket hanging of the back. They did help, and they did it well. We even got ourselves a souvenir in a form of a horse made of straw, and later on we also learnt what was hiding in those baskets. As the hike came close to an end, these ladies literally assaulted us with an endless amount of tiny woven handbags and scarves pouring out the baskets. We just couldn't shake them off, not that we tried very hard, but a simple 'No' wasn't getting us anywhere. These poor ladies followed us for miles through mud and rain just to sell some stuff for a couple of dollars? Does it really have to be that hard for them? Would life have been any different for them without Adidas tops and fizzy drinks from the West? Of course I don't think that's the only reason. The country has survived very harsh times. First, there were the French, than the Americans, and Sapa being so close to China takes it's suffering even further back in time. Was all of this inevitable? It's not the first time I've encountered the issue of deculturization (I don't know if you can call it that but anyhow), but when your guide tells you not to give money to children on the streets because they won't go to school, you really start to understand that things aren't really going that well.
P.S. I hope you enjoy the drawing.
I'm sure some of you might be wondering who all these ladies I've been recently drawing are. Well, now is not the time to tell, but I thought I just might share a little story with you, which will probably mention them in one or two places. I submitted the story a while ago into an adventure writing contest. As it didn't get published I thought I'd post it here for you ladies and gentlemen.
Like many others my partner and I have been seduced by the promise of epic views of the paddy fields in the areas surrounding Sa Pa in north-west Vietnam. As avid hikers, we never miss a chance of going for a ramble. Fresh highland air unfailingly works its magic and turns us into a couple of wild goats skipping up and down the grassy slopes. And so, bright and early we set out towards Lao Chai village with an appetite for adventure and picture-perfect views. Soon our hopes were destroyed as clouds have concealed the magical scenery and the rain has turned unpaved hill paths into mud-slides. Our group would have ended up at the bottom of the hill in a huge man-pile if the local Hmong women hadn’t come to our aid. We reached our destination with our spirits dampened and bums covered in sludge only to be raided by the horde of children offering some rather dusty-looking souvenirs. Cooped up in a van and ready to go home we could almost grab that glass of red awaiting at the hotel. But…it was not to be. We haven’t considered just how dangerous mountain roads were in Vietnam until the vehicle had come off the road into a ditch. So, there we were, trapped in the middle of nowhere with a few yards of shattered tarmac separating us and a steep drop to the bottom of the hill where pigs were carelessly treading through the flooded rice beds. The scene was joined by passing locals giving it their best effort to improvise vehicle-towing devices from rusty sewage pipes and timeworn ropes. As a bunch of pissed-off and clearly helpless tourists we were asked to step aside. Whilst obediently moving towards the edge of the road I suddenly heard a scream coming from my left where a few moments ago Ewelina was joyfully grinning at our rescuers. Now there was an empty spot and a lush view of the ladder-like hills I’ve desired for so long. I cried “Ewelina!!!” and dashed to the spot where a chunk of earth had come off. And there she was, holding on a few blades of grass, nails mucky and boots stuck in the dirt. “I’m O.K., Don’t worry!” – she yelled. How could I not be? I’ve never seen her disappear from my sight like that. As I was pulling the poor thing out of the newly made hole I thanked the universe for not sending her further down the slope into the sludgy abyss. We couldn’t help but laugh all the way back, which dissolved the tension because the rest of the road didn’t seem one bit safer as we slowly advanced through a thick cloud hanging above the mountains.
Going to Florence was not initially a long foreseen part of the 365 challenge. I booked the tickets a few months before I started drawing daily and it just so happened that I managed to incorporate 5 days of painting in Florence into my routine.
I don't how many of you are familiar with the work of Cesar Santos, but I knew that if I was to learn a few skills in portrait painting, he would be the guy to do it. It was an expensive venture at the time and I went there with a mindset to extract every possible benefit I could get my hands on. I must say I was a tad deluded thinking that somehow the trip was going to change my whole life and that I would come out of that studio knowing exactly what and how. I was determined to do well and that obviously followed with a fair amount of stress and self doubt. I know it was stupid to think likely, but it was important to me.
As I sat through the first few minutes of the lecture on the process of painting a portrait I realized why exactly I was there and that I couldn't be in a better place to do it.
This trip wasn't just about learning how to paint. Ever since I started the challenge I was making every single step on my own from the confinement of my living room. Of course there were a few followers on Instagram who often commented on my drawings and indeed those supporting colleagues at work and my darling wife. What I experienced in Florence was a true artistic freedom as I envisioned it. The studio was spacious and filled with creative air, those large windows alone looking out into the cobbled street with people chattering and an occasional horse cart swooping by was a source of inspiration. Our group got on very well with each other and I've never in my life talked so much about art. We all seemed to follow the same artists and the conversation never seemed to run dry. I've met some amazing people from different backgrounds. And we all came to Florence for the same reason - to learn, to get better, and to enjoy the experience.
Being in Florence made me think a lot about my art and my life in general. There was a moment when we were all vising the Angel academy where Cesar Santos trained himself. We were just talking to one of the students and I couldn't help but imagine myself in his place learning how to become a master. The image was intriguing...but do I want go through the same hardships, to commit three years of my life to this cause? Will it bring success? I didn't know the answers and I still don't know few months later. All I know for now is that I need to follow my own path and to enjoy every minute of it. Otherwise what's the point of pursuing this big dream of being an artist?
P.S. I want to thank Cesar Santos for his patient and insightful tuition, my wife for letting me go on this trip of self-discovery, Laura and Frank who kindly accommodated us in their wonderful studio, and of course all those fellow students I've met who made the experience a grand venture.
I’m relatively new to printmaking. Well…to be completely honest, I know nothing about it. In any case, like with any medium, I thought it was a good idea to give it a try. The idea seemed quite exciting – being able to make your own hand-made prints and sell to whoever fancies them. I immediately purchased a starter kit as I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I hadn’t. My first attempt was a sunflower (suggested by my wife), which was a fair attempt, although I did make a mess of it while carving since I couldn’t wait to see the end result. The deer in a boat, as seen on the logo, was actually my second run. Don’t ask me about the idea, my head is full of rubbish sometimes…may be it’s me heading into the horizon in a boat, or may be it’s just some crazy old deer who decided to nail his skills in sailing for a change. Anyhow, I was quite happy with it. The first print turned out ok and revealed some mistakes in carving, which I adjusted accordingly of course. Then my heart filled with joy tasting all the future victories of printing humongous prints! So I took it a little further making myself a little more skint for the month. I didn’t go too crazy, just bought a couple of proper carving instruments, inks, some bigger lino sheets and plywood to try doing it on a different medium. I even managed to find an old A3 line drawing from 2014 depicting a rather strange life cycle. I carved and carved….and carved until my fingers and elbows went numb. But something got the better of me and I decided that perhaps inking the previous smaller lino sheet would be a better idea to start with. And that’s where I really began to sweat. At first I thought it was the tile that absorbed all the paint so there was absolutely nothing left on a roller for the print. I put it aside and took glass instead laughing inside as if I knew I was in or a win. But no….I rolled and rolled and then added more ink and rolled more but there was nothing I could do to get a good result. Was it the ink? Or the temperature? I suppose I was a bit down-hearted as I sank into a state of defeat. “How could this happen? On Youtube it turned out just fine! Those lying bastards!’ That was the point when I sat down and started writing my first blog ever… My tile and glass should be dry by now, so I should go and try again!
P.S. I had another go at inking. I used cheap ink from the set and this time I was much quicker and used a lot more pressure with the barren. It turned out much better and not patchy like the first two goes. Gotta say, I have so much respect for printmakers...such a lengthy process and requires a lot of diligence, stamina and strength (unless you own a printing press ^-^ ).