Tag Archives: colour

I created this mixed media work using a process which combines elements of meditation and ‘stream of consciousness’ style drawing. In short, I attempt to clear my mind of all thoughts and distractions and allow my hand to do as it wishes with the pen.
In this instance I cleared my mind of all thoughts but one – Lucy – I thought about my experiences with her, her personality traits, her aura and how I perceive her, and allowed this to represent on the paper as expressed through the pen in my hand. I tried hard not to think about what might look good, I actively worked not to be influenced by learnt beliefs about what might work or not work, and aesthetic success. I am sure I wasn’t able to lose this element entirely, but my point is mainly that I did not actively ‘design’ the piece, but tried to allow expression to take precedence over formatting.
In terms of the watercolour element I assessed a few options, although I knew one of the main colours would be yellow – sunshine, happiness, positivity, strength, brightness, uplifting and mood enhancing. All qualities which came instantly to mind when envisioning Lucy. But I knew I also had to represent ‘the black’. Her dark place. Black didn’t feel right though. There’s no real blackness in Lucy, any dark places are just shadowed, less sunny elements of the yellow parts. Black implies a lack of colour, a lack of the qualities above, which isn’t right. Her dark parts are always colour underneath. Her soul, it seems to me, is made up of undulating waves, just colour and darker colour, no void, as black would suggest.
Dark blue seemed more appropriate. It captures the depth, of feeling and emotion; deep blue like a cool lake, beautiful and awe-inspiring but so deep that it retains an element of danger. It also reflects the light, rays of yellow sunshine passing through it and bouncing from it. Counteracting the darkness and revealing the depths. Without darkness there is no light, not one without the other. Both must exist in tandem. Ying and yang. Balance. The light is lighter than she thinks and the dark is not as dark as she fears.

I recently went to Sevenoaks Nature Reserve on an exploratory trip with my 2 year old. Miraculously I actually managed to get some nice shots, as my attention was drawn from following his ever-running footsteps, to some of the striking aesthetics born of the natural oasis I was travelling through.

Being November, the three elements which were on my side with regards to getting some great images were colour, light and texture. Sounds obvious, but winter in Kent produces remarkable conditions in which to appreciate the beauty of the situation around us.

The colour of the leaves as the season takes hold is of course a wonderful sight. Living in Kent, the Garden of England as they say, I see this every year and have done for 33 years. It never gets dull. It’s never assumed. It is always, without fail, an open-mouthed moment of delicious shock, at how a tree so recently full and green, can so quickly become a riot of flame and opulence.

Winter light is by far my favourite of all the seasons. Low and hazy, it casts a glow over the scene. In contrast to summer shadows, which are often crisp and glaring, winter shadows are long and inventive; invoking a new aspect of reflection upon their subject.

And of course, texture. Mud. Water. Wet. Crisp. Crunch. Slop. Slide. Squelch. Burn. Bite. Smooth. Wash. Mix. The tangibility of this seasonal effect is almost as extreme as it’s tonal effect. Every aspect evokes a dramatic physical reaction. The modern instinct tells you to avoid the slop, the squelch, the burn. But once engaged, the elements draw you in deeply, in a way saccharine summer cannot.

Rarely is such a thing more beautifully satisfying than a winter walk in the Kent country.

SHOWING NOW and for sale as part of a Dartford Arts Network exhibition at the Mick Jagger Centre in Dartford until 4th January

Images taken on a Nikon D5100 with 50mm lens

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Nature’s Sculpture

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John Everett Millais – Mariana 1851. Image courtesy of Tate

I am indeed a person of fairly strong opinion (to put it mildly). Certainly not closed minded, but generally responding to visual art instinctively. Liking or not liking. Interested or not. The Pre-Raphaelites at Tate Britain has caused me to buck that trend. To discover appreciation and excitement for something wholly unexpected, which must be one of the most rewarding means of discovery. It was this which I experienced as I herded my way around the exhibition at a (not very) private view at the Tate.

I must admit I knew very little of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. I have come across many of their paintings as individual pieces, but never happened to look at the group as a whole. The first room serves mainly as an introduction, linking with contemporary precedents such as William Dyce’s King Josh Shooting the Arrow of Deliverance, 1844. It’s bold clarity could be seen as using the subject as a vehicle for the painting of the figures and is in stark contrast to Lorenzo Monaco’s Adoring Saints 1407-9, sat firmly at the opposite end of the spectrum of influence.

William Dyce – King Joash Shooting the Arrow of Deliverance, 1844. Image courtesy of Fine Art America

Lorenzo Monaco’s Adoring Saints 1407-9

The Pre-Raphaelites emerged at a time of dissatisfaction with the industrial era. A group of like-minded painters who met regularly to discuss political and artistic climate and to practise their craft. A selection of individual portraits of the group in room one give an impression of a close, intellectual clique, bright-eyed and passionate. As a woman standing behind me put it, ‘a rather incestuous looking group’. The group went on to weather a number of internal storms, much centred around the loss and acquisition of each other’s wives. Tales of romantic drama can be loosely traced through their work, such as in The Order of Release, 1746 where we see Millais using Effie Ruskin (later to leave John Ruskin and become Millais’ wife) as a model.

John Everett Millais – The Order of Release, 1746. Image courtesy of Tate

Aside from group politics, the Pre-Raphaelites’ artistic aims were to hark back to a time of simplicity and beauty, an era before commercialism and huge industry had dulled the senses of the nation. They deliberately rejected the idealised representative narrative; the tale of military might or the glorification of god through idealised beatific figures and faces. The group believed deeply in the the realistic portrayal of the human figure; their grief, agony and pain. Their love, passion and sex. To deny the truth of humanity is surely an affront to the god you believe created you in his image? It appears the Pre-Raphaelites believed so, and went on to shock those who believed otherwise. That eternal section of the art world who will forever be offended.

The group resurrected medieval styles, using great swathes of pattern throughout the paintings and imbuing them with rich, explicit colour. The treatment of the medium was in itself seen as shocking, which seems strange considering the high-esteem in which society held great masters such as Michelangelo, himself an advocate of luminous hues. It is perhaps more likely that the colour was considered insulting in addition to the perceived sordid treatment of the subject itself; enhancing the vulgarity of images such as Millais’ Mariana, 1856, which showed a female figure in an un-idealised pose, pushing her hips forward with erotic undertones.

Their desire for naturalistic representation fed through literally and metaphorically into their art, as they embraced unconventional settings amongst gardens and woodland. The group would spend much of their time outdoors, painting from real life rather than in a studio, dedicated to capturing a true likeness of the world around them; a pre-cursor to the Impressionists who were to come later. They travelled widely, particularly to grapple with the landscape of religious subjects, in which they portrayed the subjects as explicitly human, eliciting strong protest from high-profile critics such as Charles Dickens, who accused Millais of out and out blasphemy for painting Mary as ‘horrible in her ugliness’ in Christ in the House of His Parents (The Carpenter’s Shop) 1849-50.

John Everett Millais – Christ in the House of His Parents (‘The Carpenter’s Shop’) 1849-50. Image courtesy of Tate

The Pre-Raphaelites insistence on challenging society’s conventions on what art should be (particularly attempts to gloss over human flaws in representation)  resonated deeply with me. Their belief in the beauty of reality; that deliberately false vision is not beautiful but dull and meaningless, is something we would do well to realise in these days of airbrushing, plastic surgery and advertising. There is no true emotion, no true feeling in idealism. Attempting to deny what is visually true only serves to rob us of a layer of humanity we seek to ignore; age, disability, asymmetry etc. It seems to me we are due a Pre-Raphaelite resurgence – bring it on. In the words of those Groove Armada – “If everybody looked the same, we’d get tired of looking at each other”.

Ford Maddox Brown - The Pretty Baa Lambs, 1851. Image courtesy of Tate

Ford Maddox Brown – The Pretty Baa Lambs, 1851. Image courtesy of Tate

William Holman Hunt - The Scapegoat, 1854. Image from Wikipedia

William Holman Hunt – The Scapegoat, 1854. Image from Wikipedia

John Everett Millais - A Huguenot, on St. Bartholomew's Day, Refusing to Shield Himself from Danger by Wearing the Roman Catholic Badge, 1852. Image from Wikipedia

John Everett Millais – A Huguenot, on St. Bartholomew’s Day, Refusing to Shield Himself from Danger by Wearing the Roman Catholic Badge, 1852. Image from Wikipedia

Henry Wallis – Chatterton, 1851. Image from


Dante Gabriel Rossetti – Lady Lilith, 1866–68. Image courtesy of Tate