Wednesday, 27 October 2010

It's all Greek to me...

The first unit in UWA is about Ancient Greece. Athens in classical times was a dominant power. It led the way in arts, learning and philosophy. Unfortunately visual arts from this period are not very well preserved. We have examples of architecture, pottery and sculpture; but paintings, textiles and wood carvings have not survived. Much of our knowledge is dependent on written sources and Roman copies.

Here are 5 facts that I didn't know about Ancient Greece:

  • The columns in the Parthenon are not equally spaced or perfectly straight. The architects used optical refinements to compensate how our eyes view the structure from the hillside.
The Parthenon, Acropolis, Athens, Greece c.447-432 BC
  • Inside the Parthenon was a huge sculpture of Athena created by Phidias. Records describe it as being made from gold and ivory, reaching forty feet tall. It was occasionally taken outside the building for festivities!
  • Although we see the statues as plain marble or brass, they would have been colourfully painted. Copper inlays were used on the lips and nipples, silver as eyelashes and glass inlaid for eyes.
Detail of the Delphi Charioteer c.470 BC
  • A statue of Aphrodite of Cnidus by Praxiteles is thought to be the very first life-size nude female sculpture in Greek culture. Her coy posture, concealing her groin with her hand, created an image of a the female nude that was to continue for centuries in Western art.
  • The word 'barbarian' comes from Ancient Greek. To Greek ears anyone who didn't speak the same language apparently made a bar, bar sound (probably like our blah, blah today) and was therefore given the term a barbarian!
My research so far has been from A World History of Art by Hugh Honour and John Flemming, Greek Art by John Boardman, and a trip to the Burrell collection to see some pieces firsthand. One of my favourite pieces at the Burrell was a jug for pouring wine, with grazing deer circling round. It is amazing to think that this has survived whole.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010


Today I am sharing samples that I wasn't initially happy with. Having been cast aside for a while, I tried adding something to them. Hopefully a change for the better. For once, less isn't more. Firstly green painted tyvek (a remnant from this), changed to blue and then metallic paints added.
After a quick iron, I think it has transformed into a moth.
A red and yellow silk painting sample, was machine stitched, and then black oil pastel, red ink and metallic paint added. Has it become a short circuit?
A chocolate brown flower card, tries to become bronze with the help of acrylic paint.
An ink sample, is covered with oil pastels, scratched into, flooded with red ink, and then the pastel removed. An alternative flag?
It hasn't just been samples today, I have been in search of some Greek Art for UWA, more of that tomorrow. But for now, here is a friend I made on the way!

Monday, 25 October 2010

Dreamscapes and doodles...

Yesterday was the fourth episode of The Genius of British Art on channel 4. Sir Roy Strong introduced landscape art, and discussed how land (and its ownership) is important in the English psyche. After all, an Englishman's home is his castle. I can understand this notion, as an English person living in Scotland, living in a flat is lovely, but I do dream of one day having my own flight of stairs and little garden (though probably not the white picket fence).

The program introduced me to Samuel Palmer (1805-1881), who was heavily influenced by Blake.
Early Morning - Samuel Palmer
Beautiful intricate dreamscapes, secret natural worlds, full of mystique.
The Magic Apple Tree - Samuel Palmer
Unfortunately Palmer was largely forgotten after his death, and much of his work was destroyed by his son. This makes Palmer's work all the more mystical.
The Flock and Star - Samuel Palmer
Meanwhile I was been making my sewing machine angry, by stitching into some lightly painted watercolour paper. I like the delicate doodles of stitch, and how shadows catch the loose threads.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Rage against the history machine

Long ago I went to Powell's. Powell's is a maze of rooms stacked high with books, situated in an entire block in Portland. You can (and we did) spend hours in Powells, justifying any excess baggage allowance that we may face. One of my purchases there was The Guerrilla Girls' Bedside Companion to the History of Western Art. A perfect introduction to UWA (albeit one that isn't on the syllabus).
Women have been largely written out of art history, so it was great to read a book that actually celebrates women who have pushed boundaries within art. The book has some jarring quotations, such as the following from Renoir: "The woman artist is merely ridiculous, but I am in favour of the female singer and dancer". Check out the Guerrilla Girls website for how to get involved. Reading these horrors made me quite angry. I used a page in my sketchbook as an outlet for my rage.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Apologies Tim Dowling.

Doodling with a pen is very unforgiving. No luxury or fall back of an eraser. Faces become caricatures. Every mark is permanent. I would like to point out these people all looked 'normal' in photos before I did my work! Firstly a lookalike of John Goodman from the Roseanne years.
Possibly a brother of Alf Garnett?
And finally Tim Dowling. Sorry!
Finally a photo from today walking through the city, the ever present traffic cone outside GoMA. It always makes me smile.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Quick! Urgent educational materials!!!!

I had to laugh this morning when my Understanding Western Art course arrived from the OCA, as the box was labelled URGENT EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS. I wonder if the postman ran up the stairs after seeing that message. He was probably a little disappointed to see that the person whom this very urgent package was going to, was still in their dressing gown at 10am. I'm sure I looked like someone who was not going to be doing anything in a hurry!

Well, I have now dissected my package, ordered new books (thank you Amazon marketplace) and spent some time trying to get to grips with the new OCA student website. Actual learning time = none. Though I did managed to find a music video that might possibly be coursework...

Yesterday I was filling my sketchbook with work on the theme of layers. Firstly layers of metallic paint and pen over an ink background.
Skeleton leaves layered over watercolour bird silhouettes and a twee bird stamp.
And finally metallic paints over an ink wash, over crayon and oil pastel.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Weimaraner photos and felt guinea pigs...

Today another trip across to the capital. Firstly stop was Paws Here, a pet rescue centre in Morningside. Today was their open day, which meant we got to handle some very energetic rats, stroke a few rabbits and cuddle a gorgeous lady guinea pig (don't tell the boyz!). I did my good deed and donated a dozen guinea pig Christmas tree decorations to help with their fundraising. Who wouldn't want a gp on their tree at Xmas?
Yarn lovers take note, Paws Here are having a on-line raffle with some great prizes: see ravelry. Lunch was spent surrounded by some pretty cool birdy prints from Pigeon Industries.
At the City Art Centre there are currently two photography exhibitions, the first is from William Wegman. Family Combinations is all about his weimeraners, these silky dogs trust Wegman enough to allow him to contort and pose them for the camera. The pictures are comical, sometimes absurd and the films (including some made for Sesame Street) are hilarious. But then you wonder how these dogs were trained? Do they ever rebel against their master? And isn't it slightly odd to be dressing a dog in a dress?

The other exhibition is from Edward Weston. Weston used powerful black and white photography to give new ways of viewing things. These bold images distorted my initial comprehension. What I thought was a bronze statue turned out to be a pepper, engineering parts were actually shells and steps were in fact sand dunes.

Wandering along the Royal Mile you can not help but notice the amazing buildings surrounding you. The light was still good enough to catch a couple of pictures.
Back at home, a quick practice at free motion embroidery. Using a scrap of lace that I had dyed, backed on felt, I attempted to outline the flowers, interestingly I think I prefer the back - though mind the birds nests!

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Post frenzy???

Second post in one day - wow, I wonder what has come over me! This afternoon I have been making a mess, I flicked watercolour masking fluid on to paper, slowly layering on progressively darker layers of watercolour paint.
Is the outcome a picture of a distant galaxy? When not flicking paintbrushes on the dining table (I do have a desk - but that is another story) I have been cutting and ripping papers to make a collage. There is something very pleasing about collage, it reminds me of applique fuzzy felt shapes. When creating collage I'm always slightly tempted to stick on a pasta shell!
This flower reminds me of the yellow submarine. It's not all play here, as I have just finished reading Ways of Seeing by John Berger. If you are interested, someone has kindly added the original TV series to Youtube.

Follow the gourd!

My sketching has been ignored for some while. To get back in to the drawing mode some quick 5 minute sketches on small pieces of paper (far less intimidating than big sheets!). Firstly a fine looking gourd in pen and pencil, and then aquatone pencils.
A three legged badger in pastel (I only just realised he was missing a leg!).
And finally some tiny acorns.
If you wish to learn more about following the gourd (or alternatively the shoe), see this classic Monty Python sketch.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Knitting & Stitching!

At the weekend I went to MK. On my arrival I found that my mum had knitted me a lovely pot of primulas!
I also saw some autumnal acorns and the finest bovine creatures.
Sunday was an early start, as me, my mum and my nan went off to London for the Knitting and Stitching Show.
There was lots to see and do and buy! I particularly enjoyed the knitted biscuits from Sarah Kelly, though I think if I saw giant custard creams in my living room, I would be constantly hungry! When it came to buying, I attempted to be restrained. I brought Vintage Gifts to Knit from Sarah Crawford, an east London craft guerrilla zine and a book of Sublime knitting patterns. The credit card however really took a hit when I got to the OCA stall and ordered my next course - Understanding Art 1: Western Art. Will be worth it though. Back home in Glasgow, I can not tear myself from the rescue of the Chilean miners, fingers crossed that it all goes well.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Printing & Partying in Edinburgh

An invite over to Edinburgh meant an excuse to check out some galleries. Off we went to Edinburgh Printmakers - a working studio, shop & gallery.
The exhibition was entitled 3D 2D: Object and illusion in print, from the centre for fine print research in Bristol. With 3D printing it seems the possibilities are endless, structures can be created that would be near impossible to create with other mediums. This film was being shown which explains the processes of printing 3D. The beautiful thing about this gallery, is that you look over the workspace below.
After this we popped along to The Royal Scottish Academy to look at New Works.
I particularly enjoyed the Health and Safety video by Anthony Schrag, taking urban climbing to its peak in Huntly. Getting in to the Halloween mood, we stopped off for a refreshment at the Jekyll and Hyde, cue playing with the food menus and admiring the bottles of strychnine.
After all this frivolity, it was time for some good food & some not so good dancing!

Friday, 1 October 2010


My wall hanging is finished, I made rope from embroidery threads, painted some dowel and backed with dark blue cotton.
I think I have interpreted the kingfishers plumage reasonably well. I like how the colours overlap and how they stand out against each other. The embroidery and beading add the glamour and sheen that a kingfishers coat has! Kingfisher photos from BBC Wildlife Magazine.