- Online exhibition-extra paintings
The pictures in my online exhibition of small paintings are being snapped up really quickly. Thank you to all of you that bought one ( or more!). Most of them have been posted now. I decided to add a handful more paintings so have added some finishing touches to some that were not quite ready before and they are now in the exhibition. To see which ones are available at a glance look on the shop section then go to the online exhibition section for further information.
- The Arborealists
I came across the group called the Arborealists about a year ago and was blown away by the variety of incredible paintings, prints and drawings all linked together through a shared theme of trees. I made a mental note that perhaps I should contact them. I recently happened to meet one of the founder members who told me that if I was interested in joining I needed to act fast as it was complicated to join, that they had recently capped the number of members to 50 and they were almost full. I applied immediately and am thrilled to say was promptly accepted as the 48th member.
The Arborealists were formed in 2013, the brain-child of curator and artist Tim Craven after the critical success of Under the Green Wood : Picturing the British Tree, an exhibition he co-curated at St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery, Lymington, Hampshire. This exhibition was formed of two distinct parts. Part one was an historical review of artists who had occupied themselves drawing and painting trees and landscapes and included John Constable and Paul Nash amongst other 19th and 20th century celebrated artists. Part two, ‘Under the Greenwood’, featured 32 contemporary artists including a Turner Prize short-listee ,two Royal Academicians, contemporary artists such as Kurt Jackson and other artists who had given trees, forests and woods a special value. The exhibition showcased a great diversity of art practice, including scale, medium, style and philosophy, centered around the unifying subject of the tree.Under the Greenwood proved a substantial critical success and when the exhibition closed, many of the original group and other artists, including painters and printmakers formed together to become the Arborealists. Each time they have exhibited it has been to critical and popular success.
Trees provide a wonderfully versatile subject for artists, not only in terms of the incredible diversity of form, character and colour they provide, whether individually or collectively, but also in terms of the wealth of association, myth, folklore, religious and symbolic significance, which they have come to embody. I am absolutely thrilled to have become an Arborealist- particularly because of what the group stands for. It is not simply a showcase for trumpeting one’s own success. It is aimed at raising people’s awareness of nature. In these digital days we are becoming increasingly separated from nature and I think it is vital that we try and connect back to these roots in order to regain contentment. If through my paintings I inspire someone to go out into the countryside, breathe the air, stand and stare and listen to the birdsong I will feel I have achieved something worthwhile. The enthusiasm and ideas buzzing out from this group of artists in a sharing way is refreshing and I cannot wait to get started on some of the enriching projects that are lined up… more about these later.
The Arborealists are currently exhibiting at ‘Nature in Art’, which is the world’s first museum and art gallery dedicated to fine, decorative and applied art inspired by nature. I am not showing in this exhibition as I have only just joined the group but it is a fascinating and varied group of paintings and prints.
The Arborealists: A Celebration of Trees
April 11th – May 14th
Nature in Art
A38, Twigworth, Gloucester, GL2 9PA, UK
Telephone: 01452 731422
- So what have I been up to?
I have just handed over the artwork and text for a new book. It has taken ages to put together because for various reasons I have done a lot of the decision making and designing myself and it has proved to be a more complicated book than usual ( but in a good way I think) It is too soon to describe the contents as it takes a year from handing over the paintings and manuscript to it being published. This is largely to allow time for the printing and binding to be done in China and for the shipping……. So there will be no fanfare until next spring but I can assure you I will be shouting out the news nearer the time as this is my baby!
By June I should have the first layout to look through. By the end of the summer all the text will have been edited and I will have added all those bits I forgot to say and rewritten all the bits that made no sense! I am mentioning it all now because I have been a bit quiet online and I wanted you to know that I have not disappeared! I have in fact been as busy as a bee.
- Happy New Year. Happy New News!
Happy New Year everyone. There is almost a sense of relief to be saying goodbye to the old year and welcoming the new one in. It is strange how every January it always feels like the chance for a fresh start when in fact every morning is a new beginning. I have a busy year ahead although a lot of the work will not be evident until next year- which will be really busy! So here is a bit about some of the things happening:
I am currently working on- A NEW BOOK! This one will be quite different to most of my other books and I am really excited about it. Putting a book together takes a loooong tiiiime and is very slooooow. So I still cannot say too much at this stage as you will get bored hearing about it ! The images are mostly finished but I now have the writing to do. Then the publishers take a year to put it all together in time for Spring 2018! The only reason I am telling you this now is because I have been quiet recently and I don’t want you to think that I have been slacking!
Still in secretive mode-I have another project to work on as soon as my book is handed in that will keep me busy over the summer.
A lot of you have been asking about exhibitions. At the moment I am keeping images back for the book and some major shows next year. In the meantime there may be an online exhibition in 2017 or a studio exhibition. I always have work here though so do email me if you are looking for something and cannot wait that long .
Next: WORKSHOPS!! I am planning some workshops this spring. A newsletter will be sent out SOON with information and a booking form. I’m afraid that places cannot be reserved in advance as it is an automated booking package. People who have subscribed to the website newsletter will be given first notice that bookings and information are up and running.
That’s all for now. Happy January!
- Happy Christmas Everyone!
My Christmas tree is glitzy with decorations, standing on an ornate indian mirrored chest. It is sparkling with precious baubles saved from my childhood. The branches are hung with little felt sequinned shoes made by my children at playgroup over 20 years ago , tiny wooden toys bought from a German Christmas market , miniature knitted stockings, patchwork stars, dangly glass heart shapes from a broken chandelier; all kinds of diverse treasures carefully unwrapped and remembered each year. Nothing matches and there is no colour scheme or theme! The crowning glory at the top of the tree is ‘grubby fairy’ ,named by my husband as until this year she was still wearing the gauzy dress I made for her when I was 12 and looking slightly worse for wear. I decided this was a disrespectful title for a fairly elderly doll and decided to treat her to a new dress made from some pieces of victorian lace and rechristened her ‘lacy fairy’! The lace was rather reluctantly donated to the Christmas cause as it had been set aside for a yet to be planned collage. So now you know my guilty secret- I still play with my toys!
Well ,I guess the arty moral of this sentimental tale is to keep in touch with our playful childish thoughts and dreams. If we let our inner child shine through all those barriers we build around ourselves it is more likely that our true,authentic and unique artist voices will shine through in our paintings.
And now I must go and put a mincepie out for Rudolph…. or is it Santa who gets the pie? Either way…. have a wonderful Christmas and may all your dreams come true! X
- Magical morning
There have been some spectacular winter days recently and I have been out soaking up the colours and textures for inclusion in some atmospheric paintings. This morning I woke up early and could see from the window that the earth was frosty pale against the palest tangerine tinted sky. The valley was layered with wisps of of mist.I decided a walk before breakfast was in order before the frost melted and was so glad I did. It was simply magical.
I walked down a favourite track where the hedgerows grow wild up to several meters high. The intricate designs of their interwoven twigs and branches were emphasised by the frost and powder coated white. The shady side of the path sparkled silver but turned to gold where the sun filtered through to the other side. Light dazzled through tiny gaps in the shaded branches.
It was a huge tapestry of tangles and my eyes scanned the rich patterns for focal points. A few colourful leaves were still clinging and sang out from the pale glittering monochrome hedge. The ruby red rosehips were also sumptuous accents of colour against the dull pewters of the shaded hedgerow.
The bare skeletons of some hogweed beckoned me . Their fragile stems were linked into lacy patterns by frosty cobwebs sparkling with tiny beads of water. The leaves on the ground were deliciously crunchy. Their white rimmed abstract shapes reminded me of some prints I had made earlier in the Autumn . In the field at the end of the lane the sheep had similar bright halos -this time from the low morning sun . Long shadows were cast through the grass. Where the sheep had beaten a path through the icy sage green meadow the shadows of the tracks were the brightest blue.
- November update
Just in case you are thinking that I have gone very quiet I thought I would let you know that I’m beavering away in my studio. I haven’t forgotten you! I recently had a great photographer visit my studio to take shots of me working and I have been sorting through these as well as finishing off a series of Autumn pieces. I have a project in hand that I can’t say too much about yet as it’s such early days but will do so in due course.
The photographer decided that the portraits he took of me should have a watercoloury feel, a bit like one of my paintings with washy faded textured areas contrasting a more sharply focused bit – in other words – me! I like the way the colours are a bit pastel and ‘vintage’ especially the photo-shopped pink water jar. Never let it be said that I would ever let my water get so mucky- or that I would use such a ‘pretty ‘ pink!
I had been out the day before foraging for hedgerow material to paint from. There were buckets laden with sprays of blackberries, rosehips ,colourful leaves and sloes with lichen encrusted bark . I find it inspiring to be surrounded by such things even if I am only gathering ideas for colour and texture rather than creating an actual picture of them.
Photographs copyright Steve Russell studios 2016
Following on from my last post I thought you might like to see some photos. Here is me looking somewhat pleased with myself. We had just got married on the beach in the Seychelles. It was beautiful, with the sun sparkling silver on a turquoise sea and coral white sands. I like to think that I looked appropriate in my aqua silk dress with shimmering moonstone jewellry! :
Earlier that day we had been snorkelling. The marine underworld is totally inspiring and opens up whole new vistas of visual experiences. I had ‘splashed out’ on an underwater camera and was very glad I did . Even though I could scarcely see through my blurry snorkel I just kept snapping and it paid off. I will have to write a separate blog about the fish because the sheer variety, the colours and shapes not to mention the backdrop of corals and seaweeds simply blew me away. Actually, the current almost swept me away- it was very strong indeed.
One of the places that we stayed on our honeymoon was a tiny piece of paradise called Bird Island. Not everyone’s cup of tea as the million and half birds in a very small area definitely deafened you! But for us nature lovers it was utterly spectacular. White Fairy terns flit through the palm trees, black seabirds gathered in their thousands on bleached driftwood structures, humming birds sipped at bougainvillea. It was just amazing.
The interior of Bird island is a mini jungle and again, it was wonderful to be surrounded by such a natural environment with so many organic shapes and patterns. Now we are home and the holiday is over but I feel that the honeymoon has just begun. I can’t wait to get started on the next bit of my life and immerse myself in my painting again.
- Moving forwards
It is Monday and the party is over. The last guests have been dropped at the airport. The house and my studio have been tidied . The bins have been emptied. The washing is on the line. All that is left to do is write this piece. This blog has been something I have been hesitant about posting. I have rewritten it in my head a hundred times but it never felt right until now. Today feels like the right moment to share with you some of the journey I have been travelling through over the last three years. Writing it down feels like the last little piece of the jigsaw.
I will tell you more about the party later but at this very moment, I feel I am beginning a new and exciting phase in my life. I am sitting at my computer and I feel so very joyful! Sadly, the last few years have not been so happy. I feel that I want to explain why I have not been so ‘out there’ and why there have been fewer workshops and exhibitions, blogs and Facebook offerings.
I told everyone that I was ‘having a sabbatical’ which was something I did originally intend to do. After my mother passed way and another precious family member died unexpectedly soon afterwards I decided that I would take some time out. I would explore and develop further my artistic ideas and spend time feeding my soul. Days after making the decision to have a sabbatical I too was diagnosed with a serious illness and my world fell apart again. I won’t bore you with the details because so many of us have similar tales to tell- but it wasn’t much fun. I tried to focus on the positives and luckily was able to immerse myself in painting which was a huge solace. I had handed over my book ‘ Experimental Landscapes’ to the publisher the previous year and it was being launched in the Spring. I went ahead with a big book launch exhibition and the success of the book was the most incredible boost. It gave me the encouragement and motivation to continue painting and helped me through the blackest of times.
My story is not unusual and I know I am one of the lucky ones. I was given the ‘all clear’ quite a while ago but I still needed to work through a kind of emotional healing. I cleared my studio in a sell out sale last year. It was all part of the cleansing process. One thing I felt certain about was not to punish myself if – shock horror- I actually didn’t feel like getting my paints out. There were moments when for the only time in my life I felt that I might stop being an artist and tried to think if there was something else I could do? My way of dealing with this was to cut down the hours I spent painting and tried to concentrate on quality rather than quantity. I also spent time doing other kinds of creative things such as redecorating my dark, olde worlde house and turning it into a haven of light and colour. I enjoyed time in the countryside surrounded by nature gathering information for future work. Gradually, gradually I began to feel like ‘me’ again. And now I’m on top of the world!
There is a wonderful book called ‘Women who run with the wolves’ by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. One of the chapters is called ‘Clear Water : nourishing the Creative Life.’ It uses the metaphor of a river and clear water in relation to creativity, particularly within females. She likens the creative force to an underground river searching for outlets in our psyche. It flows, cascades, meanders in new directions, empties, rises and falls again in natural cycles. Even when the river appears to have run dry it may be quietly bubbling and simmering away, waiting to spring forth. Problems arise when the clear water becomes diverted, forced into dams and contaminated by all kinds of negative forces including illness. At that point we need to purify the water of its pollution so that it can flow freely again. One day I would like to write more about this as it is such an important aspect of our creative functioning. Being kind and patient with myself has been part of this process and now I feel the river is about to overflow again! I am full of ideas and enthusiasm and desperate to get painting after a recent trip away! I have some very exciting projects to plan and work towards.
And the party? It was a wonderful celebration with family and friends to celebrate Life, Love and Moving Forwards. And – getting married in the Seychelles! Photos and blog to follow!!
With love to you all and thank you for being there!
- Harvest home
It is still Summer but already there is a taste of Autumn in the air. In the rural village where we live the lanes are lined with the straw that has fallen off trailers piled high with bales. Our kitchen table is laden with gorgeous red and orange tomatoes , some small and some large and flouncy shaped. The victoria plums are plumping up by the minute and I can sense the wasps just sitting quietly on the sidelines just waiting for their moment to rush in and begin their buzzy annual angry tyranny in the garden. In the street, neighbours disappear back inside their houses when they see us coming with yet more armfuls of courgettes to give away. There are seedheads , seedheads , seedheads all over my garden. I love it. When the stems fall over or break I stick them in pots by my studio door so that I can still enjoy their shapes and they can still spread their seeds for next year.
Inside the studio I am also buzzing around gathering together paintings for inclusion in the exhibition that I have been invited to join as a guest artist. This is in the local market town of Chipping Campden with its honey coloured stone and charming high street. As the exhibition has been called ‘Fair Michaelmas’ I thought it only right that I include some seasonal subjects. Every year in the local hedgerows I watch the butterflies dancing through the blackberries. They never keep still for a moment and when I paint them I like to try and catch an impression of something shy and ephemeral, camouflaged amongst the leaves and patterns of the hedge. This year the blackberries are just beginning to ripen and it will be a really bumper crop so I am hoping there will also be lots more fluttery visitors . This painting of a butterfly in the blackberry patch is only little- but I have really enjoyed creating its sumptuous tapestry of colours.
‘ A butterfly in the blackberry patch’ will be exhibited at The Gallery at the Guild in Chipping Campden. My paintings will be shown from August 27th to September 15th. I will be at the gallery from noon to 4pm on Saturday 27th. Please do come and say hello and enjoy a glass of wine with us at the Meet the Maker afternoon.
- Irish idyll
We have recently got back from a family visit to Ireland, staying in an idyllic corner of Donegal. It is a wonderful time of year to go because the fuschia hedges are so vibrant and lush,edging and towering above small lanes by up to three metres in places. Honeysuckle and convolvulus wove their way through the swathes of deep crimson flowers and to add to the joy of it all , large clumps of rosa rugosa studded this glorious tapestry.
Harebells and heather entangled with many types of grasses fringed the dunes and rocks that edged the little beaches.
Seaweeds, pebbles and barnacles kept me entertained with their endless patterns.
As the emphasis of the trip was firmly on fishing for crabs and building sandcastles with grandchildren on a series of deserted sunny sandy beaches ( yes- sun- in Ireland!) I had to content myself with a few quick forays with my camera to sneak photos. You never quite switch off when you are an artist!
- Society of Women Artists
The Society of Women Artist’s annual show has started! It is the Private view today. I went last night to deliver a picture to the charity auction in aid of Breast cancer so was able to have a really good look round before it started. There is some really lovely work including some very interesting mixed media paintings. My two paintings are hung in the centre of the wall of the main gallery so you cannot miss them. It is always lovely to be given a nice position- I have had my moments of discovering my work in dark corners or at the back of screens and it is not so nice! I forgot to do a ‘selfie’ of me and my pictures- I’m hopeless at remembering these things! So here is one of them on its own:
For further details about the exhibition please look at
my events page or visit: http://www.society-women-artists.org.uk/annual-exhibition.html
- Artist magazine article
Well that was a surprise. My monthly Artist magazine arrived today and there I was! Of course I knew I had written an article for the July edition – I just didn’t realise it would be out so soon! In it I have discussed the idea that if we ‘think’ in a different more descriptive way it encourages us to loosen up and create a more abstract, and personal interpretation.
I have included a practical element showing how I developed a very abstract experimental exercise into this semi abstract interpretation of a tangly tree and crumbly wall:
So look out for the July edition of the Artist magazine. My article is called ‘Loosen up your thinking’.
- Back to nature
I am sorry I have not been updating my blog recently . I have decided to have a quiet year and replenish the batteries! I feel a bit selfish not sharing my activities but I am limiting my time on the computer just for the moment.
People have contacted me about the annual Patchings art festival to ask whether I will be demonstrating this year. The answer is that I have decided to do this every other year- so my next time will be in 2017. I am also being asked about workshops but I’m afraid that I don’t have any plans at the moment to do any.
My mission for the next few months is to feed my painting and creativity by immersing myself in nature, taking lots of walks with camera and sketchbook and ‘playing’ quietly in my studio with no aim other than to explore and see what happens. There are exciting plans rumbling under the surface however with ideas for projects simmering away- but nothing I can reveal just yet!
Last weekend we had an utterly inspiring time in Cornwall walking some of the coastal paths and visiting the fabulous Lost Gardens of Heligan. Here is a picture of me putting my head down and getting back to nature!:
The gardens were gorgeously beautiful and I found every square inch interesting so I was probably a nightmare to be with. Low walls were full of primroses and moneywort whilst richly coloured rhododendrons jostled for space with jungle like trees.
The coastal paths are so rich with plants and I love the three dimensional quality of looking up or down at subjects. Birds flying above and below, gorse growing out of the tops of high banks and walls, seapinks nestled in rocks and grasses on the clifftops.
I am back in my studio today and a chaffinch has spent hours flying in and out of the plum tree blossom, tapping on my window with its beak. From another window I have a close up, full view of our huge magnolia tree . It is extravagantly covered in flowers this year and it has been strange to see the petals illuminated in sunlight one minute and shimmering with hailstones the next. Blue tits flit through the branches sometimes sharing the space with a fat grey pigeon. Birdsong is tempting me back outside again and back to nature.
- Exhibition in France
I have just packed up a collection of paintings that I have prepared for an exciting exhibition in Normandy in France. I was invited to exhibit as the UK representative with a group of other European watercolour artists who have a range of styles. It looks like it will be a fantastic show and there will be a wide range of workshops, demonstrations and music. I am sending about twenty paintings in different sizes. Aquarellences is a non profit organization whose mission is the promotion of watercolour. For more information about this exhibition please visit www.aquarellences.fr. or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Best selling dvd!
I have been told that my dvd ‘Experimental Landscapes in watercolour’ was Townhouse Film’s best selling dvd in 2015! I don’t like bragging as it makes me feel uncomfortable so lets call it ‘blowing my own trumpet! Thank you to all of you who bought a copy and made it possible . I really hope you picked up some tips and if you haven’t already got it- it’s on my website shop.
- Back from my travels
I have just returned from a lovely trip to Essaouira in Morocco. It is an incredibly vibrant place with its ancient medina full of tiny medieval alley ways. It also benefits from being on the Atlantic coast. The fishing harbour is one of the most exciting I have visited in all my travels with an incredible display of colourful wooden boats and ships creating a chaotic jumble of shapes and pattern. The fishing folk gather around the harbour walls to display their catch in assorted collections of boxes, wheelbarrows and baskets. The Berber characters are immensely interesting with ancient faces wrinkled and distorted by the Atlantic weather. I find it really frustrating not to be able to photograph them. I do ask but they invariably wag their fingers sternly or hide their faces. They believe that having their photographs ’taken’ means that their soul is also captured. So I contented myself with soaking up the electric atmosphere as the sun gradually sank into the ocean spreading its orange glow over the water. The many noisy seagulls swooped and soared wildly above and around waiting to grab tasty titbits, whilst cats of all shapes and sizes prowled and watched more stealthily from hidden corners.
When I go abroad and see all these colourful scenes I am often asked how I will use them in my subsequent paintings. Quite often, I soak up these experiences but rarely use the information gathered in an obvious way. When you have an artists voice I think it will show through in whatever subject you choose to paint but personally I like to limit my subjects so that they are all linked to a theme. My Moroccan experiences are likely to influence my thinking but perhaps towards certain spicy colours , for example, or a magical oriental atmosphere rather than in terms of the actual subject itself . Some of these, like the fishing boats are outside the ‘nature’ theme that I am committed to at the moment. However, when away from home I am also looking out for familiar subjects with a different flavour. In Morocco I was drawn towards the light shining through gaps in the argan and olive trees, I photographed farm animals in country settings and textures in the landscape. It is just lovely to have a change of scene and come back feeling refreshed and invigorated.