Monthly Archives: April 2011

Take five with… Helen Dougall, batik artist & painter

Welcome to a brand new series of articles on the Artworks blog. It’s called quite simply ‘Take five with…‘ – and it aims to be an engaging & informal introduction to each one of our Artworks artists. Without further ado, let’s ‘take five‘ with batik artist & painter Helen Dougall…

Firstly, Helen tells us a little about what inspires her as an artist and how she makes her batik paintings.

I have always been interested in landscape in all its diversity, after my childhood in Wales and now living in Suffolk, but also the visible effects that man has made, negatively and positively, on the landscape. Expressing “a sense of place” and my reaction to it is important to me. I paint and draw directly from observation, in an effort to capture the complete essence of landscape.

© Helen Dougall, Oil Seed Rape Field with Trees, gouache on paper

My drawings and paintings, mainly in gouache or aquarelle pastel are always done on the spot. These media have an immediacy which enables me to express my interest in space and colour. These ideas also have a particular affinity with the craft of batik, in the way molten wax can be painted or drawn across dyed fabric to produce textural effects.

To make a batik painting, selected areas of fabric are blocked out with molten wax and then the fabric is dyed. The waxed areas resist the dye, while un-waxed areas absorb the dye. The process of waxing and dyeing is repeated by waxing or blocking out areas on the dyed fabric after it has dried, then dyeing it a different colour.

Because dyes are transparent, the second colour is changed by the first colour e.g. a blue over yellow will produce green. Some of my batiks are immersed up to seven or eight times, usually starting with the lightest colour and progressing through medium tones, finishing with the darkest colours.

© Helen Dougall, Sand and Sea, batik wall-hanging

A particular effect of successive dyeing is the harmonious, layered combination of colours, i.e. apart from the first colour all the following ones are combinations of all the preceding colours. Another effect is the emergence of fine hair-lines within the design, caused by the wax cracking in the dye bath, or it is deliberately “crunched” to produce a subtle “crackle” effect.

Sometimes the dyes are selectively painted on rather than immersing the whole fabric in the dye bath. After the final dyeing the wax is later removed from the fabric by ironing & blotting between sheets of newsprint to reveal the final design. The piece is then dry-cleaned, washed, dried and mounted on a frame much like a canvas.

An awareness and sense of colour is obviously very important to you as an artist. What is your favourite colour & why?
A bluey-greyey-green, the colour of the sea on the west Wales coast. The Cardiganshire and Pembrokeshire coast are very inspiring locations in addition to the landscape of East Anglia. I am particularly interested in the effect of sunlight across stubble fields, or seascapes with wet, shiny undulating beaches or multicoloured shingle.

© Helen Dougall, Beach Watermarks, batik wall-hanging

So, for someone completely new to your art, how would describe it in just a few simple words?
Subtle, colourful, textural, feeling, atmospheric, and ‘landscape’ is a word I use quite a lot in reference to my work.

Why do you make art?
It sounds corny, but I need to be creative. So, how do you generate or develop the ideas for your work? Lots of drawing from observation, taking photographs and improvising, with different visual ideas.

Could you describe your studio space/set-up.
My studio is a converted farm building, a cart shed adjoining an old stable and barn, it’s long and low and it faces south, so we put in a north-facing roof-light, and it looks out onto a secluded garden.

Your studio sounds wonderful! What’s a typical working day for you as an artist? 
The morning is mostly devoted to domestic chores, paperwork and e-mails, sometimes dog-walking and looking out for places that are interesting to draw. Afternoon and sometimes evening, is when I retreat to my studio, or if the weather is good, I go out with my easel and paints. If I’m working in batik, after spending a long time painting and drawing wax on cloth, I soak the whole piece in dye. While it is drying, and before I can continue with it, I might go and hoe a row of carrots! What time in the day are you at your most creative, do you think? Around mid afternoon.  

And, what do you listen to while creating?
I listen to the radio and classical or jazz music.

Would you care to share what’s in your current sketchbook?  
Drawings of raised furrows across a field where I think onions have been planted.

© Helen Dougall, Preseli Fields, batik wall-hanging

Which living artist do you most admire and why?
Howard Hodgkin. Fantastic colour and being able to describe a feeling or place in abstract terms with such an economy of incredibly sensitive brushstrokes.  

So, that leads nicely to the question, which famous artwork would you most like to own, if money & space was not an issue?  
One of Howard Hodgkin’s paintings, possibly ‘Blue Remembered Hills’.

Howard Hodgkin, Blue Remembered Hills, oil on wood 2002-03

Could you name one work of art (contemporary or historical) that you don’t like – and why?  
Richard Hamilton’s ‘Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?‘. It describes an age I was trying to move away from, it makes me cringe – so I suppose it was effective in its intentions!

Richard Hamilton, Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing? 1956

Share something unusual you’ve learnt from looking at the work of other artists.
Nostalgia, such as looking at Eric Ravilious’s watercolour, ‘An Attic Bedroom‘, the camp bed in a bare-boarded, cluttered room; it reminds me of childhood summer holidays.

Eric Ravilious, An Attic Bedroom, watercolour on paper, 1932-34

Which artist (dead or living) would you fancifully like to invite to dinner and what question/s would you ask them?  
Berthe Morisot. What was it like being almost the only woman painter (of note), surrounded by so many men painters at the end of the nineteenth century in France? Also, what was her attitude to motherhood after her painting of ‘The Cradle‘ ?

Berthe Morisot, Le Berceau (The Cradle), oil on canvas, 1872

That’s a very interesting point regarding female artists in society. What do you think is the role of an artist in today’s society?  
To reflect good and bad things; I tend to go for the aesthetic.

Students of art might be reading this with great interest, so what single piece of advice would you give them to make it as an artist?
Keep following your hunches and learn many hand-skills, drawing, painting, printmaking, working in 3D, as many techniques as possible because art schools have tended to offer fewer in recent years.

© Helen Dougall, Snow Field, batik wall-hanging

And lastly, what is your personal motto (if you have one)?  
Get something done each day, however insignificant.

Thank you Helen, for a small glimpse into your creative world, and that’s a very good note to end on! I am sure our readers will be inspired. There is clearly a lot of time & skill involved in Helen’s incredibly detailed batik paintings and she explains the many stages of creating one her batiks, ‘The Snow Field‘ (shown above), on her own website.

Helen also runs short courses in batik techniques; further details can also be found on Helen Dougall’s website.

Helen Dougall studied fine art at Chelsea School of Art and then trained as an art teacher. She taught in London and then Suffolk for many years, pursuing her own art full-time from 1997. Helen is a member of the Batik Guild, the Suffolk Craft Society and Artworks.

Doug Patterson : travels in watercolour

Doug Patterson is a renowned archtitect & artist who, in his own words, says his feet have not touched the ground in the last six years!

However, he is also an artist very much with his feet on the ground – as his recent watercolour sketches demonstrate, revealing a unique insight into the locations, religious communities & styles of architecture that he has encountered on his extensive travels around the world.

Over the last six years Doug Patterson has been on a personal artistic crusade, retracing the journeys made by three 18th and 19th century travelling artists – Hercules Brabazon Brabazon, Vasileios Gregorovic Barsky & Samuel Davis – who between them recorded the three great world faiths – Islam, Buddhism and Orthodox Christianity.

Doug’s journeys in the footsteps of these three artists has included sketching and painting Islamic mosques and monuments in North Africa and India, Buddhist Dzongs in Bhutan and the Orthodox monasteries of Mount Athos and Meteora in Greece. This project, called Artists in Paradise, recently culminated in a well-received exhibition at the National Theatre, London in 2010.

The monastry of Hilandara, Mount Athos © Doug Patterson

Doug has visited Mount Athos in Greece twelve times, walking throughout the holy mountain and visiting all twenty Orthodox monasteries. Doug’s travels in Greece followed those of the artist and Russian monk, Vasileios Gregorovic Barsky, who in 1745 visited Mount Athos and recorded the life, landscape and architecture of the holy mountain. Doug Patterson’s Mount Athos portfolio consists of over 200 artworks, including sketches, water-colours and oil paintings. The Mount Athos series of works were recently exhibited in Saloniki in Greece, the exhibition then travels on to Athens and Istanbul, Turkey.

The Katholica, Hilandara, Mount Athos © Doug Patterson

Between 2005-2007 Doug travelled to Bhutan, the land of the Thunder Dragon, following the route of the artist, astronomer and director of the East India Company, Samuel Davis (1760-1819), who visited Bhutan in 1783. Doug’s Bhutan portfolio is a comprehensive contemporary collection of drawings and paintings of the landscape, life and architecture of all the 20 Dzongs (Buddhist monasteries) of Bhutan.

Jakor Dzong, Bhumthang, Bhutan © Doug Patterson

Buddhist Monks in Bhutan © Doug Patterson

Travelling through the region of northern India (of the Mughal Empire), Doug’s next series of paintings and drawings retraced the footsteps first taken by Hercules Brabazon Brabazon (1820-1904) who made numerous journeys recording the architecture of the Muslim and Christian world.

Jama Masjid mosque © Doug Patterson

Gurudwara Bagla Samib, Delhi © Doug Patterson

Doug Patterson is an artist who rarely stands still it seems! He has already begun a new travelling art project, called Sacred Places, in which over the next three years he hopes to visit twenty sacred locations worldwide. As Doug explains:

The first location in this project was the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya, India. The journey was by boat from Calcutta via the Hooghly and Ganges Rivers, first to New Farraka and then through the lock onto the River Ganges. We finally docked in Patna then went by road to Bodhgaya, finally to arrive at the most sacred Buddhist site, the Mahabodhi Temple, culminating in an intense spiritual experience. The various artworks illustrating this particular journey are now almost complete.

In November 2010 I then travelled to Albania to teach in the school of architecture and then I went on to Libya for Christmas and the New Year. This trip, first to Tripoli to visit Leptis Magna and Sabrata was astonishing, then on to Bengazi, and finally travelling 600km south through the Libyan desert to Gadhameson on the border of Algeria.

My next Sacred Place is an expedition for one month through the Canyons in Arizona, I will be travelling with an artist friend who lives in Flagstaff, we will walk and camp through Bryce, Zion, Grand Canyon and Monument Valley – the latter is the sacred place, and the journey is the Canyons.

Later in the year I am planning another journey (depending on current political events) to Yemen and Saudi Arabia, travelling overland from Aden to Sana and then to Riyadh. This journey, which follows the ancient Frankincense trade route between Yeman and Saudi Arabia, will include initial studies in watercolors (and then later as oil paintings in my studio) of the traditional architecture and mosques. My route will take in Aden via Tarrin, Kawkaban, Sana and the Wadi Dhahr Valley in Yemen, then crossing over into Saudi Arabia via Najran, Abha, Jeddah, Medina and Riyadh.

Artworks wishes Doug yet another  ‘bon voyage’ and we look forward to the seeing the new ‘Sacred Places’ series as it evolves. In the meantime you can listen to Doug Patterson talking about the ideas & inspiration of his earlier travels on BBC Radio 4’s travel programme, Excess Baggage.

Doug Patterson trained at the Royal College of Art, then studied Architecture at the Architectural Association, graduating in 1974. He established his own architectural design practice and has spent the last twenty five years working on a wide variety of projects, ranging from film sets to a 28-suite luxury yacht. You can view his comprehensive art portfolio on Doug Patterson‘s own website.

Penny Bhadresa linocuts featured in BBC Gardens Illustrated magazine

Exciting news! Penny Bhadresa was recently commissioned by the BBC’s Gardens Illustrated magazine to create a new series of linocuts to accompany Carol Klein’s forthcoming series of gardening articles in the magazine, ‘A Year at Glebe Cottage’.

© Penny Bhadresa 2011

Penny explains: In late December 2010 I received an email from the Art Editor of BBC Gardens Illustrated Magazine. They had looked at my website and asked if I would consider illustrating Carol Klein’s new series, ‘A Year at Glebe Cottage’. This was an opportunity both extremely exciting and deeply daunting as the brief was to create two linocut illustrations each month to accompany Carol’s text.

Penny was actually considering having a well-earned break after one of her busiest years ever, but this was an offer difficult to refuse as the subject had great appeal and it was a great challenge, so she readily agreed!

As Penny says: accepting this commission has given me a chance to work on subject matter I find inspiring anyway but the challenge of working to tight deadlines, I have realised, requires a highly disciplined approach because of the time constraints involved. A nail-biting deadline is always looming!

My first deadline for the February issue was already looming so I had to get my skates on, but I managed to get the two illos (as they call them in publishing circles) scanned and delivered in time. I thought my somewhat hurried first two linocuts looked quite nice in the February issue of the magazine, and now, looking forward each month and seeing my work published in this highly respected gardening magazine is the icing on the cake.

© Penny Bhadresa 2011

Penny explains the techniques in creating her original prints on her own website – here is a quick excerpt that aptly demonstrates the level of craftmanship that goes into each of her distinctive & vibrant linocuts:

Making limited edition linocut prints has become a central part of my creative work as an artist. I love linocut for the boldness and strength of image it produces. The process starts with drawing my idea for a composition, remembering that the image will be in reverse in the final print. I work straight from my imagination or combine this with visual references from photographs I have taken or sketches I have made. When I am happy with my design and composition I transfer it to lino using tracing and carbon papers.

Cutting out the design is done with different sized gouges and V-tools. Once the cutting is complete the lino is mounted on board to strengthen it and is then ready for inking. I prefer to ink up my lino blocks in one go, using different sized rollers and sometimes brushes for intricate areas for each separate colour. Sometimes a subject may be suited to the traditional reduction method of linoprinting which produces a more hard-edged quality in the final image.

I like to use linseed oil based relief printing inks which have great depth and luminosity of colour. For paper, I experiment with different types. I especially like some of the fine Japanese papers and find Imitation Japanese Vellum a superb all-round support for linocut prints. For most of my printing I use a small table-top relief printing press, although for larger work I sometimes use a Britannia press. I also like to hand burnish my prints to give greater depth of tone where appropriate.

The two linocuts shown here can be seen in the current April edition of Garden’s Illustrated magazine. This commissioned series of prints will appear as new illustrations each month in Gardens Illustrated and they will also be available to purchase as editioned original prints. You can see more of Penny Bhadresa’s linocuts on the Artworks website & on her own website.

Penny Bhadresa is a founding member of Artworks, its elected Chairperson since 2003 and she exhibits annually at the Artworks exhibition. Penny is also a member of Suffolk Craft Society & exhibits annually with Norfolk Arts, and she also participates in the very popular Christmas Craft Markets at Blackthorpe Barn. Her linocut prints are also available to buy at Smith’s Row Craft Shop, Cambridge Contemporary Art, Craftco, The Suffolk Craft Society – Gallery 2 and St Judes Gallery.  In addition to her limited edition prints, Penny Bhadresa’s linocuts have also been reproduced as a series of greetings cards – you can view & purchase the cards online at One Brown Cow.

Welcome to the ARTWORKS blog!

What is Artworks? 

Artworks is a dynamic group of thirty contemporary East Anglian professional artists. Each September we put on a special, annual showcase exhibition at the historic Blackthorpe Barn in Rougham, Suffolk, UK. Our artists come from across the East Anglian region, from North Norfolk down to Essex, from the East coast to the edge of the Fens.

Artworks was established in 2000 and the annual exhibition has proven to be an exciting and not-to-be-missed cultural event in the East Anglian art scene. All Artworks members are professional artists & well established in their creative fields. As a group Artworks is committed to promoting excellence and artistic diversity in the work of its members and delivering this unique asset of our group to the wider community.

You can read more about Artworks activities and view full profiles of all our exhibiting artists on the official Artworks website – but please do stay in touch with our brand new Artworks blog right here in the lead up to our next showcase exhibition in September 2011.

On the Artworks blog we aim to share a little more of what we do in the form of exhibition news & reviews, artist talks or workshops & other related events, more informal ‘take five’ style interviews with our artists, occasional stories from the artist studios and any other creative activities further afield! So please stay tuned & follow the new Artworks blog!

You can read more about Artworks history and view full profiles of all our exhibiting artists on the official Artworks website.