helenic: (citylights; car window)

The delightful [livejournal.com profile] seph_hazard came round for dinner on Friday night. I've wanted to paint her for a while (ever since I saw this photo of her, in fact), and the original plan was to invite her and [livejournal.com profile] wildeabandon for dinner! wine! gossip! painting! (I figured that sitting for me would be less dull with someone to talk to.) Except [livejournal.com profile] seph_hazard had a headache, and then I didn't finish cooking until about 10pm¹, and then [livejournal.com profile] wildeabandon left and I was drunk and tired and we decided to do the painting the next day.

This was a brilliant plan. It worked out perfectly. I very rarely spend the day at home, cooking and drinking tea and fussing the cat and pottering. It was really really lovely. I had long chats with [livejournal.com profile] seph_hazard, we had a delicious breakfast of muesli with banana and strawberries, and then an even more delicious lunch of all the leftover roast vegetables from the night before chopped up with pasta and pesto and grated cheese. And I discovered that the local cornershop sells real beer! How did it take me this long to discover this? Anyway, they have Fullers ESB Champion and Honeydew in the fridge for £1.90 a bottle, and I had some with lunch, because it was a sunny Saturday at home and I could.

The sunlight was perfect: [livejournal.com profile] seph_hazard obligingly posed on my bed, bathed in light, and we chatted a bit while I painted. I kept meaning to take regular breaks but we'd suddenly realise half an hour had passed without me noticing. [livejournal.com profile] seph_hazard was brilliant at sitting and didn't complain even though her wrist and back were killing her. I painted her in about four half-hour sittings, possibly slightly longer.

28" x 18", watercolour on Chinese watercolour paper

Again my inclination was to shade with colour rather than black/white, although until it dried I had no idea the blue was that intense. I'm pleased with this. The anatomy is somewhat lacking - I've made her spine about six inches shorter than it needs to be - but I was having difficulty fitting her on the paper anyway, and if you didn't know she was taller it wouldn't necessarily be noticable. Given that I sketched in the hands and arms at the last minute while [livejournal.com profile] seph_hazard desperately waited for me to finish so she could rest her screaming wrists, I'm quite pleased with how they turned out. I've never done proper skintones in watercolour before and it was fun.

In fact, the whole thing was fun. I had someone to talk to: I had a beautiful naked woman to admire. Having a sitting model forced me to work fast and efficiently; I didn't procrastinate (although we took leisurely tea breaks), didn't fuss, didn't dawdle and didn't get bogged down in perfectionistic detail. I could never, never have painted this in four hours from photos. At least, I don't think so; watercolour is faster than oils so maybe it's the medium that makes the difference. But this was fun. I want to do it again. I want to try to do a life-painting session like this regularly if I can, making space for it properly, with a model all to myself and enough time to do them justice. I've already agreed with [livejournal.com profile] cyrus_ii that we should aim to do art together every week, so that when one or the other of us inevitably cancels we'll end up doing it about once a fortnight, which is about right. I don't think I'm up to organising a group life painting session (and I don't have the space) but trying to do something like this twice a month or so would definitely be good.

wittering about materials/technical difficulties )

1. It was good though. Garlic bruschetta with pesto and cream cheese; heaps and heaps of roast mediterranean veg drizzled in herbs and olive oil and balsamic vinegar (OMG courgettes: I always forget how nice they are. Also sweet peppers, mushrooms, red onion); cannelloni stuffed with feta and spring greens chopped and cooked in garlic and pesto; lots of garlicy tomato sauce; salad with cherry tomatoes and fresh spinach leaves.

Making the cannelloni was less easy than it looked: first I wasted a whole bunch of lasagne sheets by cooking them stuck together and not being able to separate them without tearing them to bits; then [livejournal.com profile] wildeabandon patiently softened each one for me in boiling water and olive oil and I still had trouble making the rolls without everything falling apart. I had some of the leftover cannelloni and sauce with olives and LOTS of salad tonight though, and mmmmmm good food with fresh ingredients. I should do that more often. Next time I make the cannelloni though I will use goats cheese, and probably mushrooms or spinach instead of greens. Greens are cheap and good for you but not as tasty, and even cooked they were a bit tough and stringy to be a good pasta filling. Possibly I should have steamed them rather than stir-frying them.

helenic: (elephant reaching to the moon)

Man, I've been rubbish at posting art here the last couple of weeks. On the other hand, I've been brilliant at actually doing little bits of art here and there despite working nonstop on hectic design projects during the day. I do still feel bad for not pressing on with Bast, but I will get back to her as soon as I've met these deadlines, and in the meantime it's good that I'm painting for fun, just little bits at evenings and weekends. Nothing so intensive or ambitious as to feel like work, and certainly not slaving away over photo references and composition studies on my own. Painting for fun is not something I have historically been good at. The key is, it appears, other people. :)

So! I've been spending quite a lot of time at Chris's new house since he moved his bed there, which has been great because I've got to hang out with [livejournal.com profile] steerpikelet and [livejournal.com profile] cyrus_ii a lot, and they're great. We spent an evening a couple of weeks ago playing with paint and ink. [livejournal.com profile] steerpikelet had been reading fairy porn (apparently: she has promised to do read us some aloud but we haven't got her drunk enough yet) and so was in the mood to paint a fairy. This is what we came up with:

detail )

Fairy (with Laurie Penny)
16" x 12, watercolours and ink pen on cartridge paper

Laurie was working in pen, I was working in paint. She started sketching and I followed her lead, adding shading and contours. I picked up on the stylised face-shape from her, but she seemed surprised by it, so I think it might have been one of those happy accidents of symbiosis. :) I normally paint realistic faces and I found doing a stylised one surprisingly pleasurable. But then, I very very rarely paint figures from imagination, and I'm not sure I could have done it without Laurie's practised sketching for guidance. The figure outline was immediately and confidently hers, and I just concentrated on adding colour and three-dimensonality.

I really, really like the combined effect of paint and pen, the decorative elements creeping into the painting, adding depth and detail and shadow. It's very much a feature of Laurie's style and I really like it. While we were working on this, though, I found it irrationally difficult to deal with. I'd paint a bit of skin until I was happy with the shading and colours and then Laurie would start inking over the top of it. Even though once she'd finished I'd invariably be impressed by what she'd done, I found myself getting annoyingly possessive about my painting. I'm not sure why this is a problem when my co-artist is working in ink, but it's not when both of us are painting. I guess I'm perfectionistic about anything I have sole control over, and it's a bit of an effort not to be horribly control-freaky when I'm collaborating, although I am getting better at not being. Having sole control of the colouring gave me the illusion of being in control, and then every time Laurie made a contribution I'd get all tense, which was tedious and unfair because everything she was doing was marvellous. Sorry, [livejournal.com profile] steerpikelet. Next time I will try to chill out more.

Next I painted [livejournal.com profile] cyrus_ii, who wasn't very well and didn't feel up to doing art himself, but kindly volunteered to sit for me while I painted him, with the intention of inking the painting once I'd finished. (If I finish my "bit" and surrender my painting to an inker, I reckon I'll be able to deal with it much better than when I'm trying to paint and surrender it simultaneously.)¹

16" x 12, watercolours on cartridge paper

He was sitting up on their lovely, silly chaise longue² while I painted this. He was also very tired. I haven't done life painting since AS Level, and even then we were never allowed colour. I therefore had great fun using colours for shading and forbidding myself white or black (although I did eventually succumb to black for the hair).

I am rubbish at hands. Twitch has since improved this immeasurably with his inking skills, particularly the hands, which is rather impressive given he's working without a model to look at. But I'm quite pleased with this, nonetheless. Mostly because it looks like a human being - in fact it doesn't look unlike Twitch - and it only took me half an hour, which is normally as much time as it takes me to get my paints out, make tea and check my email in a desperate attempt to not start painting yet, so it's definitely an improvement on my normal working methods.

1. I'm still not sure which part of a comic book production line I'd be best at. I don't have the skill to be a penciller - not fast enough, not good enough at figures from imagination. I'd need models to sit for each frame and I'm not sure I could illustrate a character to order, particularly not consistently. Ink, maybe, but it's not my medium; colouring sounds like it would be easy but it's mostly digital these days, I'd guess, which again is not my area of expertise. I'd probably end up doing the covers or something.

I do like the idea of doing art in stages, though: passing on a pencil or paint sketch to be edited, defined, pinned down by someone who can take your vague shapes and make them more confident. It's fascinating seeing what someone else picks up on, and I think other people have an immediate advantage in inking, in not having an attachment to the first stage of the drawing, being able to come to it fresh and make judgements about what works and what doesn't. I think I'd like to do more collaborative work in stages like this.


3. It's not really very long. It's actually quite short. We have, in fact, taken to calling it the chaise short.

helenic: (TG; dancing; glowy 2)

I never got the chance to write up the Happening Kristen and I did at Planet Angel in August. It was disappointing and successful in different ways. During the performance itself, it felt very strongly as if we were failing to achieve what we'd hoped. )

Except - afterwards, when we got home and I saw the finished paintings side by side in the dawn sunlight, all I could think was wow. They were - beautiful. I'd had no idea how bright they were. Vast, sunny swathes of colour swooped and soared across both canvasses, all in euphoric shades of pink and orange and blue. The name of the club was represented in images of a planet on one canvas and an angel on the other. A huge blue-purple dragon dived across the top of the picture, patterns streaming in its wake. I stopped and stared at the paintings for about ten minutes, realising that however uncomfortable and disorienting the experience had been at the time, we'd succeeded in our aim: we'd taken the Planet Angel vibe and put it onto canvas. And it was beautiful.

Because we'd stopped painting an hour earlier than we'd intended to, and because the paintings were going to be exhibited at K~nesis, Kristen and I talked to the Planet Angel organisers and agreed that it would be within the spirit of the event to do additional work on the paintings afterwards. The live painting experience was a kickstart, an inspiration, even if it didn't feel like it at the time; we then took the ideas we'd sketched in colour and ran with them. The two resulting paintings are tidier and less chaotic than the originals. We firmed up the structure of the composition, added more imagery. The underlying shape and tone of the two paintings was preserved, but re-imagined, turned into something new.
Works in progress: the paintings during and immediately after the live performance )

And the finished pieces:

Planet Angel I and II
Diptych; acrylic on two canvasses, each 32" x 40"
by Kristen Clatworthy and Helen Lambert
(click on each image to enlarge)

Not for sale
3 limited edition runs of 50 prints of available to order. Prints of each canvas should be ordered separately.

Some favourite things about these:
- The way each canvas stands alone as a balanced composition, but when you put the two together the shape and focus of them is completely transformed
- The fact that the planet and the angel are split between the two canvasses, framing the composition, and each with a mirror in its own half (the blue sphere to the planet, the eagle to the angel).
- The greater dragon head emerging from the background of the canvas on the right, to balance the two smaller dragons on the left; with its huge fiery eye and great blue snout, blowing flames beyond the smaller green dragon. This happened completely by accident, or else our instincts were more tuned in than our conscious thoughts :)

helenic: (TG; dancing; glowy 2)

Interactive Art? It doesn’t get better then this
Written by Pete
Tuesday, 24 July 2007

We love the mix of Art and Music, it’s a great way for people to express themselves and being creative is healthy we reckon... 

As you know, at the Party we always have the huge fluro painting canvasses for everyone to contribute to but we like to push the boundaries and this month we’re going one step further!

For the Happening this month, we’re pleased to present Helen and Kristen painting live in the Funky Lounge from 1am until 3am! They’ll be creating 2 or more separate works of art during the evening which are to be shown at an exhibition later this month.  The really cool thing is that everyone has a chance to contribute!

A sketchpad will be available for those with an idea for the paintings... Draw it out and Helen and Kristen will pick the best ideas that work with the theme, and paint them! Cool.

The paintings will be completely unique and probably a first ever, we can’t wait to see how they come out!

The canvasses will be shown at an exhibition by Helen and Kristen running at the Foundry from 21 Aug-2 Sept (with launch party on 22 Aug!) you can find out more about the exhibition and their work here.

That last link is to the shiny new K~nesis website, which was created last night with the help of my wonderful [livejournal.com profile] dennyd. Everyone should come to Planet Angel anyway, because it's the friendliest, most positive and creative trance club in London, but this month (that is, the Friday a week tomorrow) you should DEFINITELY ABSOLUTELY come, because:

1. [livejournal.com profile] mr_magicfingers is leaving the country immediately afterwards and it's your last chance to bounce around with him and smother him in hugs;
2. These two girls are going to be doing LIVE PAINTING, which is a completely new thing they've never done before, and is the most excitingest awesomest thing ever;
3. I heard a rumour that they're going to be wearing teeny bikinis and UV bodypaint and very little else.

If you still aren't convinced, here's the blurb from our new website:

Planet Angel is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to provide inclusive, inspiring, safe environments where like-minded people can create, participate, connect and have fun. It hosts a monthly trance clubnight in South London - the Party. Its ethos is strongly creative and interactive; each Party features craft workshops, painting and poetry walls, and participants offering bodypainting, massages, and other contributions. One unique element of the party is the wide variety of performances, or 'Happenings', which take place at various times through the night. In the past these have included live music, storytelling, juggling, and dance.

Helen and Kristen will be doing a live painting performance at the next Party, on Friday August 10th. During this they will produce an improvised collaborative artwork inspired by the Party environment. The artwork's composition and subject matter will be unplanned and spontaneous; they will respond intuitively to the music and energy of the party to create a single large-scale painting over two or three large canvases. The look and feel of the painting as it develops will alter the vibe of the room, sparking an interaction between the artwork and its social environment. A sketchpad will be available for partygoers to make suggestions and contribute to the creative process.

April 2016

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