Easel 18 - Winter 2007


Another year passes and our AGM will soon be upon us. So, are you getting ready for the Spring Exhibition? I have been pleased with the response to my plea for items for The Easel. Please, keep them coming. I am not so happy with the lack of response to my publicity requests in local papers. Christine Richards has volunteered to be our Publicity Officer. My gratitude is boundless! I hope that you will find this issue interesting as well as challenging.

Allan Davies

Encaustic Painting Demo

Forgive me if I wax lyrical about the October demonstration given by Barry Moulton. Barry was an articulate demonstrator and, although he denied vehemently that he was an artist, his finished articles gave lie to this claim. He was skilled and imaginative.

He started by listing the basic equipment required viz, beeswax colours, a small travel-type iron, and the special glossy card (although he had also used a block canvas, watercolour paper and canvas board). 

Here comes the history bit, so look away now! The art of painting with coloured beeswax was known more than 2000 years ago by the Romans, Greeks and Egyptians. One can only wonder at their skill at a time when there was no electricity only fire. 

We were stunned by the results he achieved and he made it look simple. He showed us how to apply wax to the plate of the iron and spread it lightly and randomly on the sheet. It dried surprisingly quickly and then, by applying the iron again, very lightly, he achieved amazing foliage effects. Applying the iron more heavily moved the drying wax around producing rather abstract impressions. Barry also dotted wax in various colours on the foot of the iron and, applying gently, accomplished the effect of flowers and birds. He showed us how to use the edges of the plate to drag vertically forming stalks and trunks. Producing reflections in water looked like child’s play but probably wasn’t. Images could also be transferred from card to cloth — a useful aid for the embroiderers among us. 

After tea break, he showed us other tools of the trade, the main one being what looked remarkably like a Hostess trolley hotplate. (A word of warning: Gentlemen, don’t try this at home without the owner’s permission). By laying paper on the hotplate and letting it warm up, wax could be applied direct to the card and fascinating effects appeared using everyday objects such as a small paint roller. 

At one point Barry looked concerned. We had all gone quiet and he thought we were bored. He asked if anything was the matter and one member replied, succinctly,“We’re gobsmacked!”  Those members who were unable to attend missed a truly ‘gobsmacking’ evening.

Jill Reardon

The Open Exhibition 2007

October, St. George’s Church, Beckenham

A lovely but expensive venue. We sold 16 paintings and 9 ceramics - not a lot but rather expected nowadays. The standard of work was very high - congratulations to all you exhibitors.  

There were no real problems although having a preview at the same time as the France vs. England Rugby match was rather unfortunate - Friday evening was not available. Let us hope for better times. 

Please, all of you, keep an eye out for local popular venues where we could exhibit for a week at a time. I now don’t think that such a venue exists in Bromley but miracles happen!


Letters - To Frame or Not to Frame

Currently the trend for unframed canvases seems to be led by places such as B&Q, Homebase and so on where you will see pictures/images or even sometimes just reproduction of their wallpaper, ready to hang on your newly decorated walls at low prices.  Definitely not works of art more just a decoration, which because of it’s low cost, can be disposed of when the  purchaser tires of the image or redecorates.  So unframed canvases are the in thing.  

Another new trend is framing and mounting fossils, ammonites and the like, which I saw on two stalls at a recent Craft Fair at Penshurst Place. For us artists it means just more competition for wall space in people’s homes.  

Michael asked about water-colours and I am sure it is possible to produce watercolour paintings on canvases as there are fixative sprays to help prevent colours fading  so perhaps we need to just give it a go and report back on the results.  

For me the mounting and framing give the finishing touches to my watercolour and ink painting whilst greatly enhancing the overall presentation and I won¹t be without them.I have even started framing some of my mosaics, which I feel sets them off splendidly and adds to their appeal.  No mounts; I use the mosaic tiles to produce a border.  This process is not suitable for all my mosaics but I think it works well, as those who visited our Open Exhibition in October will have seen, so I plan to continue. Vive la framing. 

Ann Holdway

The decision on whether to frame your paintings for exhibition I feel depends partly on firstly the type of painting and secondly who you hope to sell to. Pastels obviously have to be framed behind glass, so no question. Watercolours and other paintings on paper or card need at least to be mounted, but I would have thought they could then be attached to a thicker backing so they could be hung, and the backing removed afterwards so the buyer can choose their own frame. With oils and acrylics on canvas the decision is much harder. This is where who you hope to sell to applies.  

If you look in any gallery or professional art show, or look at typical rooms in estate agents’ windows, you will see that most paintings are unframed or in very basic wood or metal frames. This is the look that most younger people have in their homes and these are the people who are going to buy more modern paintings. So if this is the way you paint, frameless or basic frames is the way to go.  

If you need to mount the painting make sure the mount is to a standard frame size and you can buy an off the peg frame at a reasonable price. Neilson make some excellent frames. If you paint in a more traditional manner, then I expect you need to frame, but you need to take great care when framing. A decent painting in an old, obviously second-hand, frame will detract from the painting and make it much harder to sell. I've seen some good paintings in terrible frames which really makes them almost un-sellable. Though it seems that some of our members do not like modern paintings at all, at the recent Horniman exhibition  it was the modern paintings that were  the best and quickest sellers. The first two paintings sold were both unframed abstracts. Even with the postcards it was the modern works which seemed to be selling.

Bernard Victor

Coming of Age of American Art, 1850s - 1950s

14 March - 8 June 2008
Marine paintings by Winslow Homer, portraits by Thomas Eakins, genre paintings by Eastman Johnson, landscapes by John Singer Sargent and James McNeill Whistler, and abstract art by Jackson Pollock will be among the famous works in this exhibition about  American art. Over the course of the one hundred years from the 1850s to the 1950s, American art and culture came of age, evolving from the provincial to the international.

The Mona Lisa's Eyebrows

Is there no limit to what science can reveal to us? In yet another leap forward, this week a French inventor, Pascal Cotte, established after numerous tests that the Mona Lisa originally did have eyelashes and eyebrows. Dan ‘Da Vinci Code’ Brown must be kicking himself for missing that secret!
Detail - Eyes of Mona Lisa

In 2003, Professor Margaret Livingstone of Harvard University suggested after extensive study that ‘the elusive quality of the Mona Lisa’s smile can be explained by the fact that her smile is almost entirely in low spatial frequencies, and so is seen best by your peripheral vision.’ In 2005, another scientific study deciphered that smile using emotion-recognition software and concluded that the Mona Lisa was ‘mainly
happy’. Last year, a forensic scientist called Matsumi Suzuki was even able to use voice-simulation programmes to ‘reproduce’ la Gioconda’s voice.

What is it that drives scientists back to re-examine a work of art with more and more elaborate techniques? While most of us just want to stand and appreciate a painting, scientists, it seems, would rather ‘discover’ something about it – prove that what we see is not what was originally created, or scrutinise, dissect and explain our reaction to it.

People of a scientific bent have a different way of encountering the world. Recently, I visited Tate Modern in the company of an economist. Not a fan of the art on display, he took the opportunity instead to time how long people spent looking at each painting (3.5 seconds on average) and reading the accompanying notes (likewise, 3.5 secs.). A total of seven seconds to take in a piece of great art, its composition, development and importance, before moving on. Would it ever have occurred to you to conduct such an experiment?

Perhaps, like me, you hadn’t noticed that the Mona Lisa today has no facial hair. Nevertheless, an important part of our Christian discipleship lies in developing a playful inquisitiveness that encourages us to look closer at the world and ask the question, ‘What is missing from this picture that may be revealed?’ So that, as G K Chesterton suggested, we can ‘contrive to be at once astonished at the world and yet at home in it’.