Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Countdown to China!

View from London Bridge towards the east
In 48 hours I will be on the flight from Amsterdam to Beijing. It feels rather unreal how quickly the days have passed since the time I found out that I am one of the lucky artists who have been invited to Beijing for 4 days for the Opening Ceremony of the 7th Beijing International Art Biennale.  I still can't believe it. This will be my third trip and my second participation in the Beijing Biennale.  Unlike the first time, I know what to expect and how organised our reception and schedule will be for the four days. I have already been sent the schedule and printed it off today.

On Monday I went back up to London to collect my visa. It was a wet day. The trains from Tunbridge Wells to Cannon Street (nearest station to the China visa office) were non-existent so I had to walk from London Bridge station across London Bridge to Cannon street and then to the visa office. Suddenly rain pelted down and I was without an umbrella! 
View from London Bridge to the west (St Paul's Cathedral to the far right)
Though I already had a visa in my passport from last year's trip to China, I had to get a new one because the purpose of this trip was as an invited artist (with an official invitation letter from the Biennale) so I needed an 'F' category of visa.

This time we are staying at the Qianmen Jianguo hotel, which looks really lovely. I believe that there are about 200 invited artists. I will meet a few old friends from last time and make new ones! It should be exciting and also very inspiring. I am going to take a small sketch book with me.

On Friday morning I fly first to Amsterdam and then on to Beijing. I arrive at 6.15am local time, and we will be collected from the airport and taken to the hotel. I leave at 9.30pm on Wednesday 27th September, and my journey is rather an odd one because I travel first to Guangzhou airport (southern China) and then have a horrendous flight (near 14 hours) to Heathrow.  I don't really like flying at all, I like my feet on the ground, but will think about Art. Last time I watched a marvelous film about the artist Soulages and that kept my spirits high because I began imagining my next paintings. I am hoping there may be similar art videos.

My next posting will be on Friday 29th September and will include the first installment of photos of the trip!

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Writing a Blog (part 2)

Fiona with 'The Silk Road and Human Exchange,' before it went to China
When I first began my blog in 2009 I had no idea how to write a blog. My first posts were slightly negative, with whingeing about rejections, and later I modified them!  I decided that my blog should include some information about my process and ideas as well as giving some advice and encouragement to those artists who might find it in the vast cyberspace of the internet.

My advice has always been never to give up.  Being rejected is part of the territory and I know of many renowned artists who were rejected from everything before finally getting an opportunity that was career-changing.  I have had quite a long road but I always try to generate new skills and to improve my work along the way. It is important to see yourself, your work, and your blog as a work in progress.
'Fiona's World,' oil and acrylic on canvas, 60 x 45 cm
To help myself with marketable skills, in case my art career needed some financial back-up, (as artists often need at times) I did a typing and business course for a year before I went to art school. It has really been a huge bonus because I was able to type my own thesis at college, and to type all my art related information for statements, CV and websites. It has also allowed me to get jobs at certain points. Then some years after I returned to the UK from Cyprus, I completed a computer course (ECDL Level 2) which was quite hard but I enjoyed the challenge and it is one of my best decisions. Now I am computer literate, I have been able to do many applications for residencies and opportunities that I used to ask family members to do for me. I have friends 10 years older than me who are unable to get to grips with this and as a result they miss out on digital platforms to showcase their work. Everything moves so fast these days and you need to keep an awareness of what is going on. The internet is one of the best ways.

'Paphos Walk,' oil and acrylic on board, 40 x 30 cm
Gone are the days when artists posted 10 photos with an SAE to a gallery, in the hope they would be returned with an offer of representation! Rarely were the photos returned and often there was no response. Much time is saved now because you can email website links to galleries and if you have a web presence, then galleries and collectors can find you.  Having a presence on social media also helps and I have received opportunities and a residency through my work being seen on Facebook

One of the aspects of blog writing that keeps me writing is that it allows me to evaluate my direction and to contemplate how my work may be evolving. My blog shows me that the work has evolved and will keep evolving. It is also really encouraging to know that people follow you and then click the link to your website!

Friday, 8 September 2017

Writing a Blog!

'Mutianyu Valley Memory,' acrylic and ink on canvas, 70 x 50 cm

This week I helped my niece set up a blog as part of her new college course. It caused me to reflect on my blog and the reasons I started it in 2009. At that time I knew nothing of Facebook or Twitter and I was very isolated as an artist, and writing the blog became my way of expressing my ideas and thoughts. It made me feel less isolated. I have always loved writing and enjoyed regular posting. I think it also gave me the chance to let off some steam about rejections and the struggles of being an artist.

Since that time I have discovered the diverse artistic communities on Facebook and Twitter and this has extended my own artistic practice and allowed me a great deal of support. I have also discovered some fabulous blogs by other artists either about their art and ideas, or advising artists on the complex aspects of exhibiting, finances, marketing, and discussing the evolving strategies for showcasing your work.  I continue to learn through these blogs and one of my most recent discoveries was a blog entitled: making a mark:

This blog is one of the most comprehensive blogs for useful and important information for artists.

'Traces of My Thoughts,' acrylic and ink on canvas, 50 x 40 cm
 After I set up my niece's blog, I decided to check my own and for the first time in 7 years I went right back to my first posts and read them. It was a strange feeling because it was as if I was reading someone else's blog. It also pointed out to me that I have done a lot of writing over these 8 years!

At this moment I am getting ready for my trip to Beijing for the 7th Beijing International Art Biennale. I have received my official invitation letter, booked my flight, my visa appointment is in a few days time, and two weeks from now I will be on the long flight to Beijing. It is only a short trip but I know that it will be exciting to see my large painting in the National Art Museum of China and to meet the other artists. This Biennale will feature work from 109 countries with 652 artworks on display. It will also give me a chance to pop across the road and buy more calligraphy brushes, ink and rice paper!

Friday, 18 August 2017

Packing Work for China, a new skill!

My husband attaching polystyrene to the back of my canvas
My husband and I were up very late on Monday night and into on Tuesday morning, packing my painting for its air trip to Beijing! It had been quite an effort to get the MDF box made up to the specific size (having contacted 10 carpenters, only two were willing to make the box), and to get the painting framed. We were unable to find the correct packing foam so had to use a combination of bubble wrap and polystyrene. The depth of the box was only 7.5 cm and we had to pack the painting so it would not move about while in the box. 
The painting, bubble wrapped, with me
It affirmed how good it is to learn new things because two years ago we packed a much smaller painting for the 6th Beijing International Art Biennale, and that seemed hard at the time, and here we were packing possibly the largest painting I will ever send abroad! Next time we will know exactly how to do it. I don't like to feel daunted by things so I am glad for the experience.

My husband moving the painting out to the van
After we slotted the painting into the box, screwed it up, and stuck on the labels, we had the boring job of brushing up hundreds of particles and scraps of polystyrene from the carpet! Then I had 3 hours sleep before getting ready for the shippers to arrive for collection of the work. But they had made a mistake about the day and did not come until the next day!

The box was very heavy so my husband helped carry it up the stairs to the waiting van. The driver told me that it was being taken straight to Heathrow and by the next day it would be in China. As I watched the van drive off down the road and turn out of sight, I wished my painting luck and hoped it would not get damaged in transit.

Ready to go into the van

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

You need to have a prolific output!

'The Silk Road and Human Exchange,' spray paint and acrylic on canvas, 120 x 160 cm

As artists we have to be prolific in our output because so many paintings either get lost or damaged during our lifetime.  I try to keep key paintings either tracked or hold on to them myself as sometimes you need to be able to show your most important pieces again, especially at prestigious exhibitions. There are pieces I will never part with, and I know other artists feel the same about some of their work because either it is a favourite painting or it was pivotal to a new direction. I learned to hold on to pieces because some of my key paintings were damaged or lost in the past and I regret that!  A favourite piece was destroyed during a fight between the owner and his wife. Yet another large and very beautiful painting was put out to the rubbish collectors after a close friend received it and her then husband did not like it and secretly threw it out. She told me that he did not like the fact it contained nudes! I only found this out years later! My thought was; WHY did you not give me the option to take it back?  My hope is that someone decided to hang it in their home.
'China Revisited,' acrylic on canvas, 22 x 30 cm

Not all artists can be prolific, if their process is a lengthy one, (and depending on the hours they have to paint) but even so, I am guessing that either they hold on to some of their work or they keep track of customers so they can borrow work back if necessary.
'Fragile Landscape,' acrylic and ink on canvas, 30 x 40 cm
My good news is that I had a large painting accepted for the 7th Beijing International Art Biennale!  The painting is posted at the top of this article and it is a translation of the Biennale theme, which was 'The Silk Road and World Civilisations.'  I painted my landscape as being like a piece of yellow silk - especially I imagined the sky as pieces of yellow silk blowing in the wind - and various traders are seen along the lower edge of my painting. I loved painting this!  Mostly my work verges towards abstraction but I have always at times painted figures and animals.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Remembering a Place and Time

'Falling Stars,' ink and acrylic on canvas, 30 x 22 cm

When I am not painting, I am always thinking about my work to try to evaluate where I have been and sift through where I would like to go next. It is not possible to be too fixed when thinking about painting because, with the way I work it is very spontaneous and I rely on the intuition of my hand and brush. But I do believe that thoughts influence how I paint when I pick up my brushes, and it is always good and positive to evaluate the work. 

Paintings constantly influence each other, both past works and current works. Ideas branch out in to new directions while all the while taking the most relevant aspects of my current ideas.

The painting posted above is about a memory from my time staying at the Brickyard Retreat, next to the Great Wall of China (during my Fellowship) last August. Every night I sat outside the restaurant, next to a small pool of Lotus,flowers and watched the moon rise above a forested hill to the east. It was a much appreciated quiet time after the heat and being in the studio every day. That area is very rural and the sky held the brightest stars I have ever seen anywhere! The hill to the east was near where I was sitting and it was covered in a dense forest which appeared jungle-like by day and night. As the moon rose very slowly, I watched it illuminate parts of the hill and the stars almost appeared to be falling and sparkling. This painting incorporates ink and as I worked it suggested this place and time.

Friday, 9 June 2017

New Work

'Looking For a Friend,' acrylic on canvas, 45 x 55 cm
This past month I have not been able to write this blog because I have been preparing work for shows and also making more paintings. On my Birthday at the end of May I delivered my two paintings for participation in the NOT THE ROYAL ACADEMY show, at the Llewellyn Alexander gallery in London. I am preparing work for a group show in August and a joint show in November. It's always a case of marking in advance which paintings may go to each show, so there have to be enough available!

'The River,' acrylic and marker pen on canvas, 40 x 30 cm
For this post I am including a few pieces of new work. I feel fortunate that I have been able to carve out time to work and to push ideas through.

'A Place to Dream,' acrylic on canvas, 45 x 55 cm

'Feeling My Way Through the Land,' acrylic on canvas, 30 x 22 cm

Everything also has to be signed, varnished and labelled on the back with title, etc.
'Vista,' (2) acrylic and ink on canvas, 30 x 22 cm