We had a visit from Debi Keable to our class last week. She is a local artist, that attended Hull College who came to tell us about how she makes her living.
After finishing college Debi was invited to join something called the Hatch Scheme where new/young artists submit a realistic business plan and receive business support, accounting advice and studio space in order to kickstart their career.
The advice she had to give was very helpful. She recommended that we get to know the ‘art scene’ and attend as many events as possible, saying that once our name is known, further work will come our way. If we sign up to as many artist newsletters, websites and blogs as possible we will begin to know what is going on and be able to attend events. She said that even if we don’t feel like going out, we should make the effort and attend as you never know when a new contact may lead to work.
We were told about the Cartwheels Workshops (CERTA, Skills for Community Arts Work Course) which are hosted in Hull by Artlink. The eight week course enables you to run art and craft workshops and at the end you are included on a database that has provided Debi with work for groups all over Hull.
Other ideas that Debi suggested included crowdfunding for arts projects, approaching local businesses to help with materials and sponsorship and using social media and particularly Twitter for networking and linking with others.
I thought it was very useful to meet Debi and in response I have emailed Artlink to see if they know of anyone who provides the course on the Humber South Bank. I have also begun to follow Debi on Twitter and Instagram.
John Constable was born in the Suffolk village of East Bergholt on 11 June 1776, the son of Golding and Ann Constable.
Plaque at the site Constable’s childhood home.
The original house on this site was burned down some years ago.
Golding Constable inherited Flatford Mill from his Uncle, Abram Constable, who didn’t have any children of his own. The family also had a part ownership in the mill at Dedham, a family farm at the back of the house at East Bergholt, two windmills, one at East Bergholt and one at Brantham, two briggs – ships that sailed around and into the Thames Estuary, one called Telegraph and one called Balloon. They also manufactured Lighters, the name for the barges used on the Stour and other canals in East Anglia, each capable of carrying 13 tonnes and towed by Suffolk Punch horses for a distance of some 23 miles between Manningtree and Sudbury. The lighters were used for carrying grain and coal along the Stour which during this period was a busy trade route. These lighters were to feature in many of Constable’s canal scene master pieces and would have been a familiar sight in Constable’s day.
Constable’s early life he was spent around some of East Anglia’s most idyllic countryside. This was to have a lasting impression throughout his life and was to become the main subject of his most notable works of art.
Constable’s older brother, also called Golding, had special needs. Unable to take over the family business he became a gamekeeper at Bentley woods, Suffolk. He was known to be ‘a fine shot with a gun’ and would occasionally supply Constable with a ‘feathered subject’ for him to sketch.
As the next male son John Constable’s destiny to become a miller and take over the running of the family business was almost fulfilled when he started work in one of the family windmills. This gave him an appreciation of the weather and cloud formations, all important for the operation of a windmill that needed to be turned into the wind in order to operate efficiently.
The windmill itself was to provide Constable with his earliest canvas as the earliest known work of art from Constable is in fact a carving depicting a windmill which Constable scribed with a pocket knife on to one of the beams at Brantham.
Constable’s neighbour in the village was Mr John Dunthorne, the local glazier and odd job man, who was Constable’s earliest influence. He was an amateur artist who shared Constable’s passion for painting, despite their class differences, the two were to become unlikely companions.
Coming from a wealthy family who owned much of the land surrounding Flatford Mill gave Constable free access to the countryside where he and Dunthorne would go out to find suitable views to paint.
Constable’s passion for painting was further encouraged by two influential people, Sir George Beaumont, a member of the Royal Academy whose mother lived in nearby Dedham and Dr John Fisher, the Bishop of Salisbury who had, as part of his diocese, the small church in nearby Langham village. These influential supporters gave Constable the opportunity to be considered for entry into the Royal Academy. An artist was a relatively new occupation for a gentleman and the suggestion that Constable would like to go to the Royal Academy for training was not greeted with much enthusiasm from his father. However, Constable’s persistence prevailed and he was allowed to set off for London to join the Royal Academy in 1798/9.
Upon arrival, Constable set out what type of artist he wanted to be; he was a painter of landscapes – a subject which was not considered to be of any great value or worth at this time. To add to this burden Constable chose not just to paint any landscapes but landscapes that were meaningful to him, landscapes of his own places.
“Still I should paint my own places best; painting is with me but another word for feeling, and I associate “my careless boyhood” with all that lies on the banks of the Stour; those scenes made me a painter, and I am grateful; that is, I had often thought of pictures of them before ever I touched a pencil, and your picture [‘The White Horse’] is one of the strongest instance I can recollect of it.” Letter to Rev. John Fisher (23 October 1821), from John Constable’s Correspondence, part 6, pp. 76-78
These subjects were to be Constable’s passion however they were not to be a source of income and he was forced to paint portraits in order to make a living as an artist, like many artists at the time. His early years at the Royal Academy were against the backdrop of the rise to fame of his almost identical contemporary, Turner, who achieved great success very early in his career, achieving full academician status soon after his arrival. Constable was to only achieve the same academician status at the age of 50 years and only then did he get admitted by 1 single vote. His ambition to achieve recognition in Britain was to be the driving force of his artistic career.
Each year Constable had the opportunity to exhibit his most valued works at the annual Summer Exhibition. The first of his so called 6ft canal scenes depicted a white horse on the bough of a lighter, yards from the family mill. The subject of local working class lightermen, farm buildings and cattle was unique and revolutionary for the time and it would take the British public a number of years to fully appreciate them. This scene, painted in 1819, entitled the White Horse was to become the first of a series of canal scene paintings that are known as the constable 6fters.
So in Constable’s time the Summer Exhibition was at Somerset House in rooms which today form the Courtauld Gallery. With space at a premium (every inch of wall space was covered with paintings) Constable realised that he had an additional challenge. With so many artists painting portraits and, naturally in a portrait aspect, when Constable arrived with a 6ft landscape painting it was hard to place his works alongside the others as it would be disruptive to the symmetry of the display. As such his paintings would often be positioned by the hanging committee in the less desirable ante-room, a smaller room which led off of the great room where the most prized positions were. This would cause him great anxiety and was to influence him to paint a number of landscapes in an upright portrait format later in his career, e.g The Lock, The Cornfield.
Another influence on Constable’s art was his personal life and the beautiful Maria (pronounced Mariah) Elizabeth Bicknell.
Constable was known as the handsome miller and is known to have wandered around the area in a white coat which was ‘quite becoming of him.’ On one occasion Ann Taylor, who composed Twinkle Twinkle little star, went to visit him with her sisters. His mother is said to have asked them “Do you want to go up and see him one at a time, or en masse?”
But it was Maria who stole Constable’s heart. Although 12 years his junior, Maria would often stay with her grandfather, Dr Rudd and it was at the local church, just along the road where Constable lived that they first met. They had an on off relationship for a number of years, restrained due to her families disapproval as a struggling artist was not the upper class man they had hoped for their daughter. The Bicknall’s were lawyers to the admiralty and moved in circles with royalty. Despite the Constable’s relative wealth their standing in society was not quite up to the same level.
The Bicknell Family were tolerant of Constable’s interest in Maria to begin with however when it became clear, after a number of years that things were a little more serious, the immediate family and to a greater extent Dr Rudd, played a more decisive role in influencing the course of true love. It culminated in Dr Rudd threatening to cut Maria out of his will with an ultimatum that she was to cut off all ties with Constable. Despite clear mutual affection Maria, while staying with her half-sister Sarah Skey in Worcester, wrote to Constable to end all ties, telling him not to contact her, speak to her and that “We both must be realistic,” putting the cause of the break-up down to “cold hard cash, something that neither of us have.”
Constable received the letter while in bed with flu, broken-hearted, he took a carriage to Worcester where he requested an audience with Maria. His gamble paid off, supported no doubt by Sarah Skey’s fondness of him and Maria relented and they decided that no matter what, they would indeed get married with or without the family’s blessing.
Maria though, was in constant poor health. Constable’s subjects of Hampstead Heath and Brighten are largely due to the doctors at the time recommending Maria take country and sea air. Her poor health was not helped by giving birth to seven children. Eventually Maria succumbed to tuberculosis in 1828, just 12 years after they were married. Although short, Constable’s marriage to Maria was a happy one and it is during this period that some of Constable’s greatest works were produced, including The Hay Wain and The Cornfield.
A year after Maria’s death Constable finally achieved full academician status at the Royal Academy, an honour that grieved him as Maria was not there to share the success with him. Constable’s paintings after this take a noteable turn in direction with rainbows featuring and stormy skies becoming more prevalent. Constable’s dearest friend Rev John Fisher also passed away around this time adding to Constable’s gloom.
In 1821 Constable planned to exhibit a scene of Waterloo Bridge at the Royal Academy’s Annual Exhibition, a subject quite different from his typical chosen landscapes, upon showing this to Joseph Farington, an influential member of the Royal Academy, Constable was persuaded to continue with his canal scenes. Valuing Farington’s opinion highly Constable set off immediately to begin a new canal scene. With limited time Constable had to set to work with great haste in order to complete the picture which he exhibited under the title Landscape Noon, a picture that was later to be referred to as The Hay Wain. The Hay Wain was received positively at the Royal Academy but it was not until 1824 when a French dealer took the painting together with two others (View on the Stour near Dedham and Yarmouth Pier) to Paris to be exhibited at the Paris Salon – the French equivalent of the Royal Academy. With Britain having been at war with France over the preceding years the French were startled to see the style and subject of this most English painter. The stark contrast of Constable’s works against the classic French works was significant enough to receive the Gold Medal from Charles X. Constable had wowed France and received the highest accolade from them. This recognition however gave little comfort to Constable who still continued to doubt his abilities based on his persistent desire to achieve fame in his home country. Constable would not even travel to France to collect the medal.
Constable went on to lecture at the Royal Academy and died in 1837 at the age of 61 from heart failure.
Anthony Bailey, A Kingdom of His Own
Constable in Love, Martin Gayford
Constable Letters, Suffolk Record Society, edited by Beckett
Memoirs of John Constable, Robert Leslie
Thank you too to Mark Cable, National Trust Guide at Flatford, Suffolk.
Last week I met up for a chat with local landscape painter, Stuart Parkin.
I began by asking him to tell me how he got started as a painter and he explained that he had always had an interest in drawing. He remembers enjoying drawing at junior school and then when he went to secondary school his art teacher was one of those inspiring teachers that encouraged him to develop his natural talent.
He decided to go on to art school but was encouraged by his dad to think about a more reliable career and to do an apprenticeship first. Then if he still wanted to go to art school and things didn’t work out he would have something to fall back on. So Parkin began working at the steel works, which was then British Steel. Then life just kind of happened and he met his wife and started a family. It was when he turned 40 that he finally signed up for a degree course at Hull School of Design and Architecture as it was then.
I asked why he found himself drawn towards landscapes and he told me that he has always had a love of the outdoors and for many years spent a few weeks each year in the Cairngorms. Parkin says he loves looking at the light in the countryside, the way it changes colour and the way it falls on the landscape. And you can certainly see this in his paintings which focus on shapes and colours in a scene.
Parkin said that an abstract style was a personal choice developed from an interest in mark-making (different ways that you make marks on a canvas). Coming from an engineering background Parkin’s early paintings were very detailed but his college tutor encouraged him to change styles, draw bigger and even use a charcoal attached to a stick to help loosen up. Although he has painted some 6′ x 4′ industrial landscapes he now tends to paint much more manageable 4′ x 3′ canvases.
Parkin’s influences include Turner, particularly his later work that focuses on light and atmosphere, Pierre Bonnard for the colours that he uses, the contemporary artist Hughie O’Donoghue, the expressionist works of John Virtue and Mark Rothko. We discussed the work of John Constable and Parkin explained that he prefers Constable’s paintings that focus on dark and moody seas and skies.
Parkin has recently been widowed and we talked about how that has affected his art. I imagined that painting would be a good way to express his feelings and help work through the grief but he appears to have lost some of his enthusiasm for painting. Once he gets started he tends to lose himself in what he is doing but right now, in these early days, he finds it difficult to get started.
We talked further about Parkin’s Christian faith and how that influences his paintings. He explained that it wouldn’t always be obvious to anyone looking at his artwork but that he usually tries to paint something meditative or reflective and that looks towards something better in a dark world. He likes to give his paintings a name that could be interpreted in different ways, e.g. ‘Towards Home’ is quite a comforting title for most but for a Christian it can indicate a view towards Heaven. He likes to think that his paintings have hope in them and the vision for a better world. He says it gives him a unique perspective and allows him to see things differently when he is out.
Parkin does sell a lot of his work, mostly through entering open competitions locally although he is also beginning to enter competitions in London. He has held exhibitions at local galleries including Abbey Walk Gallery, Grimsby, The Ferens Art Gallery, Hull, Studio Eleven, Hull, Rope Walk, Barton-upon-Humber, Caistor Arts and Heritage Centre and 20-21, Scunthorpe. Although he does have a website, he hasn’t updated it for a while and doesn’t engage with any social media. We had a bit of a chat about it and I offered to help him out if I could.
As we moved on and talked about my project Parkin suggested that I look at the work of Kurt Jackson who makes notes on his artwork to remind him of the atmosphere around him as he is painting. I quite like this idea, particularly after my Destroyed project last year, although I’m not sure that it is suitable for my FMP.
Parkin also suggested that I overlay an image of the original painting over my photograph. I had thought about doing this before and had dismissed it but I’ll think about it again.
Finally I spoke about how one of my tutors had told me to loosen up and not crop my photos quite so tightly and Parkin advised that I look at the blank spaces. He said they are all shapes and I should compare and contrast how they sit alongside one another, that they can harmonise or build tension and where I crop an image will emphasise that tension or create harmony. I thought this was good advise and will try to consider this when I am next taking some photos.
Yesterday we called in to look around an exhibition in Hull Library called The Stranger’s Tale by Quentin Budworth. It included photographs of refugees, asylum seekers and migrant workers, their stories and volunteers at Open Doors, an organisation that supports them.
The exhibition is part of an ongoing project called Untold Stories that tells the stories of ordinary people in Hull in the run up to the City of Culture.
The photographs were of individuals with various illustrations relating to them or their country of origin photoshop’d in the background. The photos themselves were quite interesting although some of the photoshop work could have been a bit better.
The accompanying stories were printed at the same size as the photographs and took quite a long time to read. So long in fact that I gave up reading them part way round the room. Most of the stories were from very genuine people who were escaping real danger and looking for a safer life. A few however left me a little disturbed they were from men who had left Syria and Iran because it was too dangerous for them to stay there. They seemed to be quite content to leave their wives and children behind in such a dangerous place though. Another man had left China because of the one child rule, his wife was too ill to go through the sterilisation operation and because he didn’t want to be sterilised himself he had run away to England. Apart from their appalling attitude towards women, I was most disturbed that each of these men had been granted leave to stay in the UK.
The exhibition was certainly thought provoking and started a good discussion. I’m not sure how much benefit the project is or how much it might contribute to ill feelings towards asylum seekers. When I asked Quentin Budworth about his view on this he was very quick to say that it wasn’t for him to put a spin on the exhibition. He just took the photographs, told the stories and allowed us to make our own mind up.
Budworth told us that the project began back in April. It is only in recent weeks that the topic has become so hot and at the beginning he took the decision to simply tell the stories. He likes the idea of narrative with imagery. The long texts were written, often without names as people wanted to remain anonymous. The short text underneath the photographs was from spoken interviews, some remaining very short as they were happy to have their photograph taken but didn’t want to give much information away.
The images used in the background of the photographs came from a variety of sources including wiki commons. The photographs and long texts were printed by Scribes and mounted on foamex. Budworth had distributed leaflets himself and through the local libraries as well as setting up a dedicated website, facebook and twitter accounts to accompany the exhibition.
When asked about how he makes a living Budworth explained that he received some funding for this project although there was limited profit within the funding. He took this on because he wanted to do something to support Open Doors. When pressed further he was very adamant to say that he would never give his services away for free. He is an artist and if someone came to him and commissioned him to do something he would expect to be paid fairly whether they were a charity or not, otherwise he would not accept the commission.
Budworth went on to tell explain a little about his next project Chavocracy which sounds a lot more fun.
Tina, by JH Lynch is a familiar painting to many people who were around in the 1960s and 70s. If there was not one of these reproductions in your own home, then there was probably one in the home of someone you knew. Originally bought, complete with cream plastic frame, from Boots or Woolworths, copies can now be found in junk shops and car boot sales.
Despite the fact that copies of his paintings sold in their thousands, very little is known about Joseph Henry Lynch. We do know that he was born in Britain, he died in 1989 and, frustrated with his lack of recognition he gave away, donated many of his paintings to charity or destroyed them before he passed away. Those that are left are apparently in the possession of his nephew.
Although he did paint some urban scenes and a portrait of Winston Churchill, many of Lynch’s paintings are of beautiful, sultry Spanish women in front of simple backdrops. Tina is probably the most familiar of his paintings but Tina (Green Dress) is much rarer and therefore more valuable. Interestingly the position of Tina’s head is almost identical in the two paintings suggesting that he painted one and used that as a basis for creating the other.
It has been suggested that Lynch was inspired to create some of these paintings after seeing photographs of well known actresses like Jean Shrimpton, so I thought it would be fun to recreate one of Lynch’s paintings as a photograph. I initially considered Tina but when I couldn’t work out how I might get a tree trunk (or even a log) into the studio I thought again and chose Tina (Green Dress).
I arranged for a model to come to the studio and found a green gypsy top for her to wear. I also found a nice blue and yellow backdrop that I could use. To reduce the amount of work I needed to do in post production I arranged for her hair and make-up to be done.
I set the studio up using three lights, two to evenly light the background at f5.6 and one to the left of the image at a 45 degree angle to the model at f8. All of the lamps had softboxes on them to give a nice soft light.
The light in the painting is very soft so, after a few test shots with the flash, I chose not to use the flash and simply to use the modelling lights with a reflector to reflect some light back onto the model.
To ensure that I was slightly above the model so that she could look up to the camera I asked her to kneel on the floor before directing her into the position that I wanted.
I had my camera on a tripod set at f4.5, shutter speed of 1/10 sec, ISO 100 and a focal length of 35mm. It meant that the model had to be quite still but I liked the effect I was getting.
In post production I cropped the image from landscape to portrait and used the clone tool to disguise some skin blemishes. I increased the blue saturation and decreased the red saturation to cool down the skin tones. Then I used the adjustment brush to darken some areas across the chest. This is the final image.
I am quite pleased with the final result, I think I have managed to reproduce the lighting and the general scene quite well but am disappointed that I haven’t positioned my model’s head at the correct angle. I think that if I did this again I would try to quickly view the image on a larger screen, that way I would be better able to see the picture that I was making and compare it to the original.
This simple style of portrait lighting is identified by a triangle of light on one cheek. It was of course named after Rembrandt Harmenzoon van Rijn, the 17th Century painter, who used this style in many of his paintings.
In this style, the shadow caused by the nose touches the shadow caused by the cheek creating a small bright triangle that is about the same size as the subject’s eye and nose respectively.
When using this style of lighting it is important to create a catchlight in both eyes otherwise the eye on the shadow side will appear a little lifeless.
It is best to turn the model away from the light slightly and ensure that the light is higher than the model so that the shadow from the person’s nose drops towards the cheek.
The lighting diagram shows a set up for recreating the Rembrandt lighting technique but the window can be replaced by a studio light, and some people will use a reflector to add some highlight and texture to the shadow side of the face.
This is my photograph of a classmate using the Rembrandt style of lighting. The triangle is extended a little longer than the nose, but all in all it isn’t a bad attempt.
In the two parts of this video, Rankin takes inspiration from Rembrandt and tries to recreate four of his paintings. He doesn’t refer to the detail of this style of lighting particularly but it is a very interesting video to watch.