This blog is moving!
At last I have discovered a way to have my website and blog all in one place.
So from now on all new blog posts will be on my new website.
I'm still writing about the same sort of things, and you can still find the old posts on this page.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Father and Daughter at the Seaside. A Painting of a Perfect Moment.

Mary Kemp. Father and Daughter.

Sometimes you come upon a scene that is just right, it says everything about the moment. There are no puzzles, just a glimpse of a  part of life.

This was such a one , a special little tableau that I just had to paint. I loved  the patient watchfulness of the father and the total concentration  of the little girl lost in her own world of sandcastles and bucket and spade.
I hope when they see this they remember the day and look back on it with pleasure.

For those of us who paint I must tell you I painted this on a tomato red ( technical colour description !) ground using lots of Naples yellow, cerulean blue and of course titanium white. There's also some ultramarine violet and Venetian red in there and some yellow ochre too.

I hope you like my father and daughter painting.  I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments box below.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Day Trip to York, and How We Visited the Shambles and Found a Lovely Art Shop

Our day trip to York was always going to be a shopping trip, a bit of gentle sightseeing but primarily the shops were calling us.

We wanted to see York, The Shambles, the Quilt Museum, any shops that were on our way, and have a fantastic lunch.

And as seasoned day trippers we achieved all of our aims.

Our first stop was the Quilt Museum , a brightly coloured spot on a dull day, except of course it wasn't too bright , because as we all know sunlight degrades fabric. However it didn't take long for our eyes to become acclimatised and we were treated to an exhibition called Cabin Fever of traditional log cabin designs mixed with some newer interpretations of the concept.

When you see something as beautiful and visually exciting as this you are left with the thought is it craft or is it art? The older designs particularly may have been conceived in a naive sort of way, but does that mean they are only craft and art comes later when you say "I'm going to create a work of art." And is it craft because usually only women practice it? 

Lunch at Le Langhe

This was our next stop, a long lazy lunch at a restaurant recommended by the lady in the tourist information bureau, and what a good recommendation it was. Authentic Italian food served with the air that life is all about long lunches and there isn't a cold blustery world outside.
The restaurant was called Le Langhe.

But the high light of my visit was the art shop we found in the Shambles. It's called The Art Shop and  is at 27 Shambles, York, but I couldn't find a website for it.

Which is a shame because it was chock full of all the sorts of things you want in an art shop, plus craft and sewing items. But the star of the show was the owner, a women with a formidable knowledge of her stock and who talked us through the state of manufacturing in China.
I bought two lovely palette knives , made in Italy, and will think of her when I use them.

Two new palette knives.

So this was the result of our day trip to York and the lovely art shop I found there.

Click here for my website.

Monday, 24 March 2014

So, How Long Does It Take To Paint A Picture ??

All sat down with a cup of tea and a Kit Kat to hand, so I'm ready to make a stab at answering this question. Except of course it's unanswerable with any degree of accuracy. So the best I can do is share a few thoughts about the link between time and painting.

When people ask , after looking at one of my super magnificent works  and gasping with awe and amazement, " How long did it take for you to paint that masterpiece?" I usually look a bit embarrassed, shuffle my feet and mumble something like "Well I have several paintings on the go at once so I can't really say."
But it has me thinking and really I need a better answer, for those who ask, and for me and obviously for commercial reasons.
So here goes...start to finish.
You can't really count the time it takes to conceive the idea. Most artists say it comes to you in an unguarded moment. I suppose you could put aside a set time, but in practice I don't think that happens.
But once you've got your idea next comes the gathering of reference material , drawings perhaps long completed, sketches yet to be done. Photographic reference too.
Working out the composition can involved rough or detailed drawings, or areas of colour and tone, or a combination of both. I've known this to take longer than the actual painting.
Preparing the painting materials. We have to buy these things and although the internet has made life  easier I still find myself spending valuable time trawling through catalogues or visiting my favourite shops. See my post about where to buy art materials.  There's also work to be done preparing what you're painting on.
Marking out your surface, so you know where to put the paint - for some this is of utmost importance. Some just go gung-ho with no preparation at all.
Next comes the main course, painting, brush to canvas time, arguably the most important part and the bit we artists get the most enjoyment from. I need a lot of thinking time at this stage, paint a bit, step back, have a think. This all can go on for days.
Drying time doesn't involve much active participation, but framing does because even if you don't do it yourself framing is part of the process and has to be decided upon and arranged.
So how long does it take to paint a picture? I don't know because each one is different and I don't time myself.
But this is the process I go through and all the things that are involved.
I haven't answered the question, have I?
But thank you for listening!

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Tidal Surge at Blakeney Norfolk Fails to Solve My Mystery.

The trip to Blakeney last weekend produced some unexpected pleasures, as well as some bracing walks and frozen finger tips.
Over the past few years I have painted, drawn and photographed a certain boat and speculated endlessly over it's history, who owns it and why did it's renovation stop.
I first saw it in 2007 and no work seems to have been done on it since then.

"My  Boat " at Blakeney, Norfolk. 2014

Mary Kemp - Rusting Boat. 30 x 30 cms

It looks a bit like the Marie Celeste in mid re-fit. 

Mary Kemp . Detail Rusting Boat 2.
I thought the tidal surge that smashed  into Blakeney in December last year might sweep it away. The waves breached much of the causeway and left huge scars in the marshes. The powers that be are out there with heavy equipment repairing the damage so I was delighted to see that "my boat" was still in tact.  It looked a little untidy but in essence there was no damage. Strong ropes kept it in place, but nothing seems to have been done to clear up the debris surrounding it.

If any one out there knows the story of this beautiful boat please leave me a comment and solve my mystery.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Sketching in Adversity.

Look at this beautiful cold blue sky !

It might have been sunny with a clear blue sky but it was cold and the wind was blowing a gale. I had all my drawing kit, pens, coloured pencils, my best sharpener and a newish sketchbook.

But there was no way I was going to hunker down for a long session.

I tried getting out of the wind, but it was swirling around and much as I wanted to record this abandoned boat I couldn't hold my pen for too long without loosing the feeling in my fingers.

The boat had A NOTICE OF CONFISCATION on it. It had been blown up on the marshes during the great storm surge of December 2013 at Blakeney and no one had come to claim it.

Mary Kemp. Sketch of Boat.

So I decided to draw this sketch really quickly using the continuous line technique. This involves putting your pen on the paper and not taking it off until you've finished the drawing. It can lead to a very interesting connected drawing. It can also lead to wild inaccuracies of proportions, but it forces you to concentrate the mind and feel round shapes in a way that other methods of drawing don't.

This sketch took about ten minutes, the rest of the time I took a few photos and just felt the air and looked at the huge sky and walked amongst the marsh vegetation.

Now I think I've got a cold.

Monday, 17 March 2014

The New Revised Streamline Sketching Kit.

Streamlined drawing kit.

Spring is upon us and it's time to get out and about. I know I should be out drawing all weathers but I'm a bit of a fair weather sketcher.
We went down to Blakeney on the Norfolk coast at the weekend, and whilst it was still finger numbing cold despite the glorious sunshine, I managed to do a few sketches, line only, but I felt it was a beginning.
For this year I have revised my drawing kit yet again.
It's all done for lightness so the first thing I did was ditch two sketchbooks, keep the middle sized one and put everything in a rucksack. Pens and pencils are not very heavy , it's paper that weighs you down. The rucksack is also so much easier to deal with than a bag. It leaves your hands free when you're walking.
Photo Mary Kemp. Blakeney Sunset.
Of course it  all came to nothing when the sun went down and the sky was tsunamied with red and yellow and orange and florescent pink and my pens and pale coloured pencils were as nought and I was left just to gawp and soak it up, and take a few photos. Where are the oil paints when you need them?

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Recipe for Three Figures on the Beach. (Brancaster, Norfolk)

Here's another recipe for a painting.
This I painted from a quick drawing on the beach, but it looks nothing like the sketch !
Copyright Mary Kemp. Three Figures on the Beach.
Oil on canvas panel 40 x 40 cms.
I know it's figures on the beach again. Somehow I'm not done with that subject yet, and ideas get renewed with each seaside visit. We're off there again soon, but I don't think I'll be drawing girls in shorts somehow.
Sketch and a few photos.
40 x 40 canvas panel.
Watercolour pencil.
Assorted brushes (see photo). To be honest apart from the Pro Arte Sterling range, which I use both filbert and long flat of, I don't know what the rest are called.
Palette knife.
Oil paints : cobalt blue, ultraviolet blue, cerulean blue, buff titanium, Naples yellow, cadmium yellow, titanium white, Venetian red, cadmium red and burnt sienna.
Odourless turps. ( For cleaning)
Gamsol, odourless spirit. ( This is expensive so I only use it for mixing with paints)
Galkyd, an alkyd medium. Speeds up drying time.
Windsor and Newton Liquin Impasto. For texture.


I worked out the composition. Scribble on a napkin type of thing, a lot of it still in my head. I don't always paint in such an unplanned way but the idea was quite clear in my mind so I wanted to get on with it.
On the canvas I drew the main components in a watercolour pencil which is easily taken out with a damp cloth but does not dissolve in oil based paints.
Next comes a ground of fairly dilute ultramarine violet with a touch of Venetian red, transparent enough for the drawing to show.
Drying time.
I then added the stripes of the sand , sea and sky, using brushes for the sea and sky, and a palette knife for the sand. I also added Liquin Impasto to the sand colour for added texture.
I roughly blocked in the figures but felt that at that stage it was best to leave it to dry so as not to spoil the freshness of the background by smudging it.
Several days later everything was ready for the next phase.
The flesh colour was an ever changing mix of titanium white, Venetian red, burnt sienna, Naples yellow, ultramarine violet and cobalt blue. After that the figures fell into place fairly quickly, although I changed the colour of the girl's t shirt on the left from yellow to green to blue to violet.
My favourite bit is the red shorts and waist strip on the middle figure which I first painted dark blue and then roughly overlaid with red.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Do I Paint Better Now Than I Used to Ten Years Ago?

As I look at my art from the past decade I realise my paintings have evolved from quite a precise figurative style to a more Impressionistic way of looking at things. This has not been a conscious decision but one that seems to have evolved quite naturally.

Mary Kemp. Cabbage and Tulip
70 x 50 cms, oil on board.
It also seems strange to me that when I look at my sketch books there's little difference between 2004 and 2014, except the materials used have changed, but not a lot. So I still see and record things in the same way, but the resulting pictures are completely different.

I prefer my present way of working, although sometime I do go back to a more precise picture, but it leaves me unsatisfied and I feel I am definitely taking a retrograde step. All those tiny brushes and hours of eye straining back breaking work.

Mary Kemp. On the Rocks
Oil on canvas panel 30 x 30 cms.
Less is more is my mantra now. It usually  takes more thinking about and because there is less time  lovingly smoothing the paint onto the surface it's a much more intense process. You have to paint and run. I also realise that I paint less inanimate objects and more people, often figures on the beach.

But is it better? 

I don't know. But it is different.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Scrumptious Sketching. Why?

Why sketch?
Why paint?
Why make art?
Mary Kemp . The Cat and the Plum Tree.

Because it makes sense of the world.
Because it improves the world.
Because it makes you a better person.
Because you get paid for it.
Because it feeds your family.
Because it makes everything else worthwhile.
Because you like it.
So it was Sunday afternoon and I sat in the garden with a cup of tea . I started drawing the plum tree, then the cat plonked herself down at the base of the tree so I squeezed her in at the bottom, what the hell.
So why do I sketch?
A ballet dancer does exercises, an artist sketches.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Cerulean Blue, a Deep Blue Sky in a Tube.

Oh, how beautiful cerulean blue is !
It is the brightest, purist most uplifting colour in existence.
Here's the technical bit:
Cerulean is an organic synthetic mineral made by the calcination of tin salts and silica with cobalt sulphate. It's fairly new , having been created in 1805 , sold in Germany in the 1800's and introduced into the English market in the 1860's.

My tube of Windsor and Newton's cerulean blue.
How could you not like cerulean blue, a deep blue sky in a tube.
It is on the yellow side of blue and when mixed with red gives a dull purple. I think I ought to do a colour chart with it as the main ingredient.
Here are bits of my paintings that feature cerulean blue.

If you'd like to see more go to my website

Thursday, 6 March 2014

How to Stretch a Sheet of Watercolour Paper.

As all we watercolour artists know when paper gets wet it cockles  and does not dry flat , and the thinner the paper the more crinkly it gets.
So here for those who need a reminder is a standard method for keeping your paper flat.

  • Paper
  • Flat, waterproof board.
  • Gum strip.
  • Clean water.
  • Spray or brush 

  • Method:
    • Cut 4 strips of gum strip, slightly bigger than the paper dimensions. 
    • Place horizontal strips on one side, vertical on the other.
    • Wet the watercolour paper so it is thoroughly damp. but not soggy. There is a finish that you don't want to wash off.
    • Lay the paper on the board right side up ( the right side usually has more texture), and let it settle, but not dry, for  short time.
    • Wet your first strip of longer paper - a wide brush is usually best for this, and lay it along the bigger side, half on the board, half on the paper. Repeat this with the next piece of gum strip, and then the shorter pieces.
      Your paper will look crinkly,
      even more crinkly than this sometimes.

    • Now go away and leave it, paint something else and wait for it to dry. How long it takes depends on  humidity and temperature. You can use a hairdryer but sometimes the tape lifts.
    Then a miracle happens. It dries gloriously flat, like a taught bed sheet. When you wet it, it cockles again but it always dries flat in the end while it's taped down.
    Flat as a pancake !

    When you've finished your picture wait for it to thoroughly dry and then cut it from the tape.

    Monday, 3 March 2014

    Perfect Conditions for Productive Painting.

    If you call yourself a professional artist you must be prepared to produce art on a regular basis whatever the conditions.
    But it's helpful to know which of your own conditions make that dedication to continuous work easier.
    Mary Kemp. In the studio.
    So here's my list. It may well be different to yours.

    So Personal Conditions.
    • Not hungry or thirsty.
    • Not tired or hung over.
    • Not cross with any one.
    • Not expecting interruptions.
    • Not pre-occupied with what needs to be done outside the studio.
    • Focussed.
    The Environment
    • Warm and draught free.
    • Good light.
    • All materials to hand.
    • Sound that you want. e.g. music, radio, the wind in the trees.
    • Plenty of room to move.
    • No interruptions.
    And that is what happened on Sunday and I had seven glorious productive hours in the studio.
    Any ideas of what else I might add to the list.?

    Saturday, 1 March 2014

    Cuddly Cat Causes Creativity.

    Sometimes I just have to paint a cat. There's no rhyme or reason to it, but I must paint a cat.
    Mary Kemp. Bertie

    So this is Bertie, she's a female cat who decided we were to be her family and look after her every need. Shortly after she arrived it became obvious that kittens were on the way. At which point it was too late to change her name.
    This is a quick oil painting on a box canvas.