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, 28 April 2014

How I Visited the National Portrait Gallery and Found Death.

Picture this:

Trafalger Square, full of tourists and a large blue cockerel dominating the architecture.

Titled Hahn/Cock, the 4.72m high piece is by
German artist Katharina Fritsch
and is on display for 18 months.
Two gleaming bright and innocent looking American young men asking me to take their photo outside the National Gallery. They were bursting with smiles and the joy of life despite the grey skies and drizzle. These boys have everything to look forward to.
Oh how I envy them !

But in contrast round the corner at the National Portrait Gallery things are different.

To mark the centenary of the start of the Great War the National Portrait Gallery has put on an exhibition:

The Great War in Portraits.  It's on until June 15th and entry is free.

Be prepared for a very sobering exhibition.
As you would expect there's lots of portraits of men in uniform, formal and informal, glorious and inglorious, good looking and ugly.
Many pictures depicting a soldiers' life.
But it's wasn't a hopeful thing to be a young man during the First World War.
You were as likely to end up dead as not.

When I stumbled on this exhibition  I was in a hurry to get  the tube. I'd only just popped in for a quick look around to see what delights the National Portrait Gallery held this time.
I expected interest and delight, not death.
But rounding a corner I was confronted by this large canvas. It stopped me in my tracks.
Death, real and  unglamorous.
It has to be said albeit expertly painted and a great composition.
But it was so much more than that. It was a man in the mud , dead.

Gilbert Rogers . The Dead Stretcher Bearer.
It's not often a painting has that sort of impact. My art is comfortable and makes you feel good, affirms life and is downright pretty. This is not. This is reportage of the highest order.
I couldn't help thinking of those fresh faced young men who's photo I'd taken. This stretcher bearer died in the wars to end all wars. Except it didn't.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Grace the Border Collie.

Meet Grace the Border Collie, sometime artist's model.

Grace a the Border Collie at the seaside.

This doggie bundle of dynamite is about two years old and shares a home with two adults, four children, a cat called Dizzy, two gerbils, one of which is called Donut,  two fluffy mice and several gold fish.
She likes:
Sleeping on the settee.
Long walks.
Doggie treats.
Drinking out of puddles.
Other dogs.
She hates:
Loud noises.
Grace and her owner.

Life was not always so good for Grace. She used to live with people who went out all day, leaving her alone and pining. She barked a lot and the neighbours complained.
Then Grace came to live with her present family who have a lot more time for her, including her in their lives and taking her for exhaustingly long walks.
Now she is happy.

When I go for walks with the family Grace charges about full of life and enthusiasm, livening up the landscape and the seascape.
(I tried to take some more photos of her at the weekend for this post but she was so very quick I only captured her tail. You're seeing pictures from the summer.)

It's no wonder this funny, affectionate, mad dog features so much in my paintings.
Mary Kemp. Grace the Border Collie at the Seaside.50 x 40 cms oil on canvas panel.
Mary Kemp. Falling Leaves. Click here.

Browse  my pictures of Grace on Etsy. Click here

Friday, 18 April 2014

Mission. Find a Printer

Meet Steve, the friendly printer.

I've only just found Steve Meadwell, but when I asked around I discovered that Steve had been producing fine art prints for loads of my painting friends, so he seemed the obvious choice to handle my artwork.

I had decided  it was time to share some of my paintings as  really nice prints, not the ones you make at home which can be ok up to a point, but properly photographed and printed to archival quality type prints.
After all the best art deserves the best reproduction !

So here's my journey: 

  • Found a printer. Word of mouth, always the best way,  led me to Steve. Here's the link to his website
  • Removed my paintings from the frames. They are oil paintings on board.
  • Took them to his studio and told him what I wanted.
Here's what Steve did:

  • Photographed my paintings. They're too bumpy to be scanned.
  • Printed same size reproductions of each image as giclee prints, and also proofs of each image as greetings cards.
This is what he used for the giclee prints.

  • Epson Ultrachrome ink.
  • Pinnacle textured fine art paper 310gms
Pigment inks on acid free paper to archival standard.

If I ever become famous you'll have a well preserved print that your grandchildren can sell.

What I did next:

  • Collected my prints and paintings. Approved the set up for the cards.
  • A few days later picked up the cards.
  • Paid the money.
This whole process took only a week and they look fantastic.
Thank you Steve. !

Take a look at the  prints on my website

Thursday, 10 April 2014

When Disaster Stalks the Studio.

Do you think this painting looks innocent?

Did you see it couldn't hurt a fly?

Mary Kemp. Grace the Border Collie

You're quite right.I think it means no harm to any one, at all. In fact I quite like it.
The red is a departure from my usual predominately blue palette, and Grace the beautiful border collie looks particularly fetching in the dying rays of the sun.

A morning's painting lay ahead, and all was well with the world.
And I was secure in the knowledge that if anything were to go wrong in the studio it would be tidiness related.
Nothing to worry about.
Here I was in a calm disaster free zone with music playing in the background and purposeful activity abounding.

But Monday was different, and the next thing that happened was just so silly and so stupid.

In order to add a bit of colour to the grass in the foreground I moved the painting onto the lip at the front.

And I'm sure you can guess what happened next.

Yes.  Bang! My beautiful, blameless painting slipped carefully off the easel, slowly, gently aiming for the floor.

Have I told you how sturdy mdf board can be?
Have I told you I wish I'd been wearing steel toe caps?

The board plunged onto my girly delicate ballerina shoes and homed like a heat seeking missile onto a very vulnerable toe.
I won't bore you with the gory details but I now have the most bruised toe you have ever seen, in shades of ultramarine, alizarin crimson and ultramarine violet.

It was suggested I fill in an accident form, but it seemed rather a waste of time because I'd have to give it to myself.

So I now know my studio is a dangerous place and I should wear sturdy shoes

The picture wasn't damaged, in fact I've worked on it since and it's looking even better.

I'll post it on my Facebook Page when it's finished.

More paintings of Grace the border collie.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Hunstanton Beach, a Painting.

The seaside excites me. (In case you hadn't guessed.)

I would live by the sea given half a chance and spend all my days walking on the sand and gazing far out to the horizon. I'd draw a bit, paint a bit, eat my sandwiches and feel free.

As it is I feel free but live 50 miles away from the coast !
We visit quite often, and I do all those things that I want to, but briefly.

Back at the homestead I've been working on this picture of Hunstanton, otherwise known as Peterborough by the Sea.

Mary Kemp - Hunstanton Beach
I like the idea of the breakwaters falling away, one after another, and it's a picture I've had in my head for some time now. Years ago I painted this scene in watercolour and with a fair result, but I now see other elements to it, particularly with  the added figures and the light out to sea, so it's ready for the oil paint treatment.

I know it's not true but in my book it's not a proper painting unless you've used oils. The fact that my watercolours fail dismally has nothing to do with it....honestly.

I've used a natural coloured linen stretched canvas and my usual palette of colours, Naples yellow, buff titanium, cerulean blue, cobalt blue, Venetian red, cadmium yellow, burnt Sienna, Payne's grey, cadmium red and titanium white - so far.

I've kept it all very dry, scrubbing a lot of it on. As I add the shafts of light I may mix the paint with alkyd gel and spirit. There's still a way to go.
I love this stage of a painting, all seems possible. Perhaps when I get this thought I should leave it there and add nothing more.

But the next step is refining the figures and balancing the tones of the sand. I need to leave it to dry. I've spoilt an awful lot of art by going in before it's dry.

Through out the next stage it's still important to keep in mind the feel of Hunstanton Beach, the bright air, the texture of the sand , even the feelings of the day, so that who ever looks at the painting can know the seaside that I know.

I shall post progress of this painting on my facebook page.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

This Artist's Play List, or Music to Watch Paint Dry.

What do you listen to in the studio? And how does it help, or hinder your work?
Does music help the flow or does it slow you down?
I got to thinking on this subject and did a quick shufty through the cd's ( I'm an old fashioned sort of person)  on the shelf in my studio and these are some of my favourite tracks.

  • Music from the weird 1990's television series Twin Peaks composed by Angelo Badalamenti. This rich full sound settles your thoughts for the task ahead.

  • The Beatles, Rubber Soul, starting off with the invigorating "Drive My Car" and then "Norwegian Wood" and a favourite Beatles song "Girl".

  • Bertie, whose challenge in
    life is to get into my studio.
  • The Levellers. Levelling the Land. "There's Only One Way of Life and That's Your Own". Fists in the air, in full flow. It's definitely going well because there's only one way of life and that's to be an artist. ( Have I told you that before?)

  • Joan Baez Debut Album, my favourite track "Silver Dagger" for the purity and inspiration of her singing. 

  • Ladymith Black Mambazo The Best of The Star and Wiseman. I first heard this on a Heinz tomato soup advert and it always reminds me of tea time and the comforting safeness of being home for the day. How this helps  on a painting journey I don't know. But it gets played a lot.

  • American V1: Ain't No Grave, was Johnny Cash's final studio album recorded after the death of his wife June Carter and shortly before his own death. His voice has lost it's power but there is so much power in these songs of love and loss that has nothing to do with physical strength.
It was difficult narrowing  down to 6 tracks but in the end I came up with an ultimate artist's play list, the albums that keep me company though thick and thin, masterpieces and disasters. 
Do you have an ultimate play list? Does it help you produce better art? All thoughts welcome, so please make use of this lovely comments box below.