I’ve been having a mini artistic adventure in Cornwall. I attended a two day class at Newlyn School of Art exploring the art of abstract artist Patrick Heron. The course was taken by the wonderful artist and tutor Gareth Edwards. I’ve always loved attending classes and workshops. There is something magical about learning new things, breaking out of the ruts and routines and of course meeting and being inspired by other artists.
I enjoy learning about other artist's philosophies and techniques. It can provide a useful lens through which to view your own practice and process. Heron was a pioneer of the aesthetic movement, which emphasised the importance of what an art work looked like, over what it meant. He embraced the decorative and relished the joy of how colours interacted. He allowed the viewer space to create their own meanings about his work.
Adrian Searle of The Guardian said about Heron. "His last paintings were full-on, risky, filled with bright squiggles, painterly flurries and cartoon doodles. They should have been chaotic and absurd, but they were instead open and vital, eye-rocking and beautiful."
There is currently a retrospective of his work on show at The Tate St Ives.
How I process artistic accidents
The long train journey back from Cornwall gave me the perfect chance to reflect on the course and what I had leant. We worked at pace on many different paintings at once. This fluidity created momentum and energy. It was liberating to not be wedded to the outcome, to leave behind any perfectionist tendencies and instead relish a sense of possibility. I often work on several paintings at a time in my studio, but I think I will try and up the art ante by working on even more pieces at once and see what happens.
I also learnt that I really quite relish the accidents and errors. Over the course of the two days there were so many times that I ruined a painting, by doing too much to it, over working it or adding detail which meant the original dynamism was lost. But it was a workshop and the whole point was to play and experiment so it didn't matter what the end result looked like necessarily.
Sensuality and beauty of paint
There is something wonderous about a palette of freshly squeezed paint and a blank page. A magical possibility. The ability to create something from nothing. I really enjoyed just playing with the paint and relishing its physical qualities. I experimented with different brushes, and enjoyed the marks they left behind in the paint. I liked using a plastic scraper, scraping the paint around to reveal the layer beneath. Spraying water at the wet paper and watching as the paint danced down the painting. There was something special and sensuous, about the drips, splashes and the way the paint played on the page.
Joy of colour
Two days of experimenting with colour is just joyful. I loved thinking about how colours interact with each other. How they effect each other. How they create contrast or harmony. We experimented with complimentary colours, the colours which create the most contrast together (purple and yellow, blue and orange, green and red) and thought about warm and cool tones together and the balance and effect of dark and light tones.
Cornwall provided a beautifully coloured and contrasting backdrop. My walk to class was a carnival of wild flowers and an ever changing palette of sea and sky.
Thank you to Newlyn School of Art and to our tutor Gareth Edwards who guided us through our paces with expertise and aplomb.