Saturday, June 25, 2011

Kendal, UK

Another post from my travels in Britain. While visiting my parents in Kendal I went with my mother to the local art museum. Considering it's location, (i.e. Kendal is a small northern town) it really gets some great exhibitions; I remember a Lucian Freud and a Walter Sickert exhibition as examples.

The museum this month hosted the work of Sheila Fell (1931-79). She spent most of her life painting the local landscapes and I imagine was aided greatly in her success by her friendship with the artist LS Lowry (famous for his little stick figure 'naive' style art). I was unfamiliar with Sheila Fells work, and it was a great discovery.
Skiddaw 1964

She painted the local 'Lake district' countryside which can be stunning with it's rolling hills and patch-work of dry stone walls, small cottages and plentiful lakes and rivers. It does rain a lot in this area, and that I felt could be witnessed in her work, since many were quite brooding and dark with an emphasis on tonal painting.  She seemed to me to have two strong techniques or styles. One with heavy impasto painting and another a lighter thinner brush with more careful considered placement.  Both styles where extremely competent and she deserved all her success.

Her work also offered me a realization that there are a wealth of post-war British painters who's styles and techniques of work I am immediately drawn too. This realization has been quite an epiphany for me, because though I would always have listed one or two artists from this period as influences, I don't think I'd ever been aware of just how many artists within this era created work that inspires me. 

Large Wave, Allonby

A final little comment - The exhibition rather ominously stated that she died from 'an accident in her home'. I confess this kind of statement really sparks my curiosity, perhaps I have a bit of Agatha Christie in me? You see I can't help but ponder a variety of ridiculous and unlikely artist accidents that could occur in the home; -  'falling of the roof while trying to paint the view' or perhaps 'tripping over with a brush and impaling a vital organ'. Agreeably these are unlikely accidents to have occurred, and I suppose a google search would sate my curiosity; but too lazy to do so, for the moment I'll be left with my ruminations.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Visiting the' Watchie'

As some of you will know, I've been enjoying a few weeks vacation back in Britain. Primarily a family holiday we've been on a frantic schedule of traveling up and down the country visiting friends and family. I debated at great length whether or not to take my painting materials with such an aggressive schedule but in the end opted to simply pack a sketch book and my camera.

Catterline Harbor (or Harbour, when in the UK)

Despite this lack of art creation it's an impossibility for me not too sneak in a little art viewing here or there.  As luck would have it my brother now lives in Catterline a small village just below Stonehaven, (south of Aberdeen).  Catterline is an important location for the history of Scottish post war art scene, chiefly because my favorite Scottish artist Joan Eardley spent much of her life living and painting there.
Beehives at Catterline
J Eardley

Children & Chalked Wall
J Eardley 

Eardley,  painted in the area for roughly 20 years and produced a great array of paintings, known in equal measure for her depiction of Glasgow children and the rugged seascapes and landscapes of the Catterline area. While in the village, my sister-in-law (Kathryn) was fantastically thoughtful, and arranged for me to visit a home of a collector who had two Eardley works, an oil and a lovely pastel. Later we dined in the lcoal pub, which houses the communities Eardley painting. But best of all was the village to 'the Watchie'.

An artist painting the Watchie

The Watchie is a beautiful, little cottage with very basic amenities stuck out above the harbor on a rocky bluff. The building is called the Watchie because it was originally used by the coastguard to keep watch for Smugglers. Eardley spent much of her time painting from there and the surrounding area. Since her death in 1963 a number of other artists have worked in the Watchie, and in recent times it has had a number of artist residencies. For the last 5 years the Scottish artist Stuart Buchanan has worked there, he also lives in a near by cottage that Eardley at one time also owned.  Kathryn had again come to the rescue and arranged for me to visit Stuart and the Watchie.

Stuart was fantastic and a great guy, he gave me hours of his time and we enjoyed talking about the history of the place and our own painting lives. Stuart was a graduate from Glasgow's school of art and he produces very thoughtful work often from his imagination, painting solitary or grouped figures  in sparse environments, that convey a sense of atmosphere and solitude.

 Stuart in front of his easels in the Watchie

The other view of the room.

One thing you are struck with at the Watchie is that there are no distractions. There's power for lights and a wood burning stove for heat and that's about it. From the windows you can see the wild garden and the ocean and ever changing light on the cliffs and ocean. It must be a fantastic place to live and work and impossible not to change and be affected by such an atmospheric environment.  It's a far cry from my kind of studio and views from my window!

Stuart and I talked for hours and I would have loved to have stayed longer, but I was probably getting annoying!   Stuart has a forthcoming solo show in Berkshire during October at the “Modern Artists Gallery” ( ), so if anyone is in the area his work is well worth a look or purchase?

Stuart Buchanan
oil on board
17 x 24 ins.