Three days ago, I received an email from the manager of Powderham Castle with the devastating news that the Fabulous Beasts exhibition will not go ahead this year. I am still in a state of shock!
“We have been hit by huge delays and financial burdens on the other projects that have been underway, and I am afraid that we do not have enough time or resource to get the spaces ready for the exhibition.”
The plug has been pulled soo late in the day – we were due to open on July 25 – and we are still reeling.
Janec and I also had to make the decision to pull out of Devon Open Studios – this bombshell came on the same day that the DOS brochure was being signed off to go to print.
As our exhibition was site-specific, we have decided to postpone the show to 2022, sincerely hoping that resources will be found to renovate the exhibition rooms as planned.
Still undecided about Marmite – the paint will be so thick by the time I’ve finished! I added the crumpled tissue background and tried a pale icy blue colour, but wasn’t happy with it. Then reverted to green but it’s still not the result I’m looking for.
In the past, I overheard a comment that my purpose in making a tissue paper background is to ‘cut corners’. This isn’t the case – it’s purely about finding the right solution for the piece. There is a texture to the tissue that adds interest. Sometimes a solid background of plastic ‘stuff’ overwhelms the picture. And with Marmite, there are fine hairs coming from the ears that would be lost against a busy background. But the hairs are grey and rather lost against the green anyway. (I’m just thinking aloud here!!)
The white colour of the middle of the 3 images is the most accurate. Right hand image – it’s the same as the middle image but looks darker: just experimenting with a few small circuit boards to add interest??? (Probably not!) Now I’m wondering if the original lighter green version (below) worked better (Aargh!) I think I’ll just live with the piece for a few days and await inspiration!
I’ve been looking at Marmite for a long time, wondering how to finish the background. The greens seemed too similar in tone to the grey of the ears.
This is a commission but the client has not requested any particular background colour. My only instruction was “Not pink”!
I decided to try a different background colour – orange – and immediately didn’t like it. I quite like the deep red of the beads (draped over the work in the image) but then wondered if the usual ‘solid’ background of ‘stuff’ would detract from the detail I’ve not put in yet, like hairs sticking out on the ears.
So now I’m thinking of going for a textured scrumpled tissue paper background (like on Timothy Tortoise) which will allow Marmite’s details to show up more clearly. Might also revert to green??
Since posting the Marmite picture, I realised there were issues with the face on the right side of the image. I’ve been working from a very small photo and it’s hard to see the shape of the snout. Finally, I think I’ve worked it out and have been making changes – still working on it but it’s definitely looking better. I love this problem solving process, and when things eventually come right, it’s immensely satisfying!
Here’s the latest work in progress – a commission of a dog named Marmite – I’ve never done a pet portrait before. Originally I thought it could be included in Fabulous Beasts as it (sort of) fits the theme. However, I think I have enough work for the exhibition space already. Some of the materials seen here have already been moved or removed – it changes all the time. Quite a few things are just temporarily stuck with ‘blutac’.
I’m not sure about the background colour at the moment – it may need more contrast as where the green meets the grey is all mid-tone.
The floor is a big mess where I pick over possible materials to fit (and that’s not even in my work room.) Fortunately, as I’ve said before, my husband is very tolerant!
I made some final adjustments to his wig today and took him to see Alec the framer to try out some frames – Alec persuaded me to splash out on an antique-style gold frame – very extravagant but fitting for someone of Sir Timothy’s standing, and for the grand staircase in the castle!
For our exhibition at Powderham Castle, Janec and are are each making one piece to go inside the castle, as a link with the designated exhibition room in the courtyard.
I’ve taken inspiration from the many ancestral portraits which hang on the blue rococo staircase (featured in the 1993 film The Remains of the Day, starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson.)
Here is the painting being (temporarily) replaced:
When my children were small, they loved visiting Timothy Tortoise who lived in the castle’s rose garden. Timothy died in 2004 at the age of about 160, having been brought to Powderham in the late 19th century after a career as a ship’s mascot in the Crimean War. Timothy was first discovered on board a Portuguese vessel in 1854 and later discovered to be female – (when named, it was not known how to properly sex a tortoise!)
I thought it would be fun to dress Timothy up as one of the Courtney family’s ancestors, complete with powdered wig. (I’m having great fun with this piece!) For the wig, I had the idea to use sheep’s wool found on the Powderham Estate. I put out an appeal on my village Facebook site for donations of scraps found while walking. By the time I discovered some pieces of sheepskin buried in my work room (which will be much easier to use), one of the local farmers had given me about half a sheep as they happened to be shearing!!
You can see quite a few shells and also some fossils (belemnites) on the face, which seem fitting for such an old creature. Obviously, the hair will need coiffing!!
I recently found this wonderful quote by Thomas Merton on the DAN website (see below.) How true it is!
“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time”
Devon Artists Network (DAN) promotes the visual arts, supports artists and runs events and exhibitions in the county of Devon, UK (where I live.) Every September, DAN runs a two week Open Studios event – Devon Open Studios (DOS) for both professional and amateur artists to show their work in a variety of settings. The Fabulous Beasts exhibition at Powderham Castle will be part of DOS this year (although we will be opening before DOS, from the end of July.) The DOS brochure is always a wonderful document – one well worth keeping!
Back to my art room now, to lose myself in the process of creating …