A modern landscape artist's creative space

Hello! Where have I been?

Updated: 11 June 2016.

Note: A supplement to a newsletter for my galleries, about practical things I'm doing to become a productive modern landscape artist (again).

As some of you know, I've had to focus elsewhere for the last couple of years – or three! Life gives us few choices at times. So you've not seen a great deal of me or my art popping along to say hello and for this I heartily apologise and say a big thank you for your patience and support.

So what have I been doing? Have I been doing anything to progress my art practice and become productive again? The answer is most certainly: YES, a great deal. Most of it behind the scenes.

I've set about tackling some long term problems which I've identified as barriers to productivity in the past. In some ways, all this ‘time-out’ from my art practice has helped me see it with fresh eyes and that's always good. These are the improvements I've made:

A tiny but dedicated studio

My printmaking and painting studio is compact to say the least. On a positive note, it is very cosy and warm in winter. Last year I spent a lot of time replanning it, reorganising it and generally modernising it. The printing press is still in pride of place. A good quality fold-up bed has been jettisoned. This was hard to do as it was high quality, modern and nice, but it has released far more space than it seemed to take up, oddly, and the space is much more valuable right now. This means that my studio now has a corner dedicated to painting as well as one dedicated to making linocuts. Until now, this has never been the case. I've had to double-up, packing away painting materials and canvases, in order to print, and vice-versa. Now my studio easel is permanently set-up and I can't express how productive this has already been.

More supporting kit

As part of sorting out my landscapes prints and painting studio, I've been able to add a painters taboret. A repurposed IKEA kitchen island now provides a moveable unit for my pallette, oil paints and brushes. I've cut legs off to add two more wheels, and I'm currently seeking a means to add hanging bars to the sides and possibly some more drawers. It'll be quite a work of art itself when finished. Even before it's complete, I'm able to use it and position everything I need right at my elbow. Pure luxury!

creative space on the walls
My pin-board in my studio

More creative space, ‘à la Dr Who's Tardis’

I'm not able to take on a bigger creative studio space, though I did give it serious consideration. Renting space would be a big step, but it wasn't the money in the end that decided against it. Availability, convenience, security, ownership and the comfort of a modern home all added up. What was needed was some creative thinking about different ways to expand my existing artistic space. The result is that I'm spending about £100 pounds in July or August on notice boards for the walls. Every inch of wall will have a pin board on it. This is instead of horizontal layout space, which is what I was missing. I'll be able to pin-up all my linocut and painting ideas, photographic research, sketches, thumbnails and preliminary compositions so they're right in front of me. I know from my time working as a professional illustrator, just how this helps output. I already have a small notice board crammed with things, but it's never really been enough to support the early stages of both printmaking and oil painting development.

Shining a light on it

Light is both a bane and a blessing in a landscape artist’s life. In my small studio, it's most certainly been a problem. Particularly in winter when the days are short and daylight scarce. So after much research, I've spent over £200 on some professional daylight studio lighting, specifically for the easel, but also self illuminating magnifier for the table and a portable daylight desklight for sketching trips away. The difference the lighting makes is quite unbelieveable. I'm pleased I invested the time researching each one carefully, as they're all robust enough to take the knocks, infinitely positionable and give a fantastic strong ‘day’ light. I've now no excuse to stop work and can work through the night if need-be.

Some of my paintings…

A mobile-friendly, vibrant web presence

This has been a considerable investment (of time), but it was sorely needed. My previous website was about 10 years old, so prehistoric in web terms. It wasn't mobile-friendly, nor was it ready to be hooked up to paypal. It also looked a bit tired and was a bit tedious to update. I'd stopped updating it, some time ago, and the site has looked unloved as a result. So after many months of hard work, I've been able to relaunch my completely modern site, preserving Google listings and in an ‘ecommerce-ready’ state. I've also spent time sprucing up my Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook accounts as well as establishing a new Instagram presence. It's all DIY and a lot of hard work, but hopefully you're impressed with how professional and modern it all looks and how easy it is to use. Interestingly, since doing this, I've suddenly sold three prints after a gap of a few months. Coincidence? Perhaps, perhaps not.

The important thing about this work is that this website will now allow me to easily update and publish all my original linocut and oil painting collection in future, not just finished art, but small paintings and sketches too – as well as anything else I make.

Putting linocuts and paintings in the frame

I've made no small investment in learning how to frame art to a professional standard. Attending a two-day course last year (2015) which covered: classic glazed framing with a mount, professionally stretching a canvas and framing art on canvas. Discovering that I was actually quite good at it, lead me to take the decision to invest further, in the kit to do it with. I've begun to build up materials and research good quality frames. A long process, but I think it will be worth it. This July (2016) I will be attending another single day course learning how to add bespoke finishes to frames. The frame put around artwork is so important, I felt this was something I should do and that it would be a worthwhile investment in my activities as an artist. I'll now be able to completely customise framing to suit my landscapes, especially any paintings, if appropriate. There are other professional artists, such as Peter Beeson, who do this to great effect and they've inspired me to follow suit.

In front of the subject is the only place to be
A lone sketching trip. A scouting trip looking for new compositions for both linocuts and oil paintings in a familiar place. Cold, despite the sunshine.

Painting with oils and a clear, purposeful eye

Together with a dear artist friend of mine, we are embarking on a project to become serious ‘en plein air’ (outdoor) landscape painters. Despite both being busy people, we're both determined to make the time to do this. I'm keen to do it because I believe it will help me to develop purposeful ways-of-working to another level. Regardless of whether I become an adept outdoor painter producing finished paintings in the field or not, I'm convinced it will benefit my studio work. Not only this, but it will add yet more ideas for linocuts too, so: win-win. I've always sketched landscape direct from observation, but only as preliminary effort. I'm also going to spend a week at Bamburgh in July painting and sketching in that glorious place.

That's a whole heap of work on my art

It's always a tension between time spent producing linocuts and paintings, and time spent working on other things. Some might say: “the business-side of being a modern artist”, though only the website work and framing skills in the above fall into that category. The rest is all to do with making painting and printmaking easier to do. Time spent creating a proper well equiped modern space to work in, pays dividends down the line because the things that get in the way of productivity simply disappear for good.

All this means I can at last concentrate on developing an all new productivity mojo, which will hopefully result in some new landscape paintings and prints. I've so many ideas for new linocuts and oil paintings it's almost overwhelming.

Some of my linocuts…