Monday, 27 September 2010

On the last day of Automn Original painting by Rob Miller

On the road to Simonstone
Acrylic on Canvas
Finally finished this painting, well almost, unbelievable, its actually taken me nearly a full year,  beginning with working on the idea when I arrived back from Andalusia out in the fresh air on some clear late automn days, when I began looking at Lancashire through an Andalusian pinturas eyes. And, in that process began it when I was working in a shared studio in a  cramped, dark corner at the back of a old spinning mill, but instead of the clack of looms I  listened to sawing machines and  to rock fm. My two easels were situated underneath a large gas fired heater which dried the paint quicker than the Andalusian sun. I struggled here, I think with all the politics that one finds in shared studio space, and also within the limitations of the cramped working area,  it was difficult to work the painting on both vertical and horizontal planes without resorting to being a reborn hippy and squatting on the floor which of course I did not do...So  I think at the time I struggled to find in the the painting in the studio the same poetry that I had experiencd on that cold bright late automn day near Simonstone.
In the studio it was easier draw and paint the Thames in Black, White and grey and  more productive I did sell a couple of drawings that I made there though I was forced to wait a long time for my money and the person replaced the drawings in the folder mixing charcoal with pen drawings, luckily none was too smudged. The mill conditions led to a good atmosphere for deep winter drawings (I notice from a recent exhibition in Sussex that a colleague who shared the same space, who I shall not name, thought so to, she has made some strikingly similar black and white tonal works of London). 
 Luckily yesterday, I re found the Simonstone work  and within the hour had made changes. I like it now, it shows the airy light and demonstrates the higher quality of liquatex when mixed with a blending medium a quality that's starting to appear in the oil paints that I'm working on. Work is available at Artisan Fine Art Gallery Bolton 01204 844820

Friday, 17 September 2010

Painting grasslands words versus paint Rob Miller

Lancashire Summer 1 revisited

Painting in progress

Rob Miller

"And all this grounded in broad meadows, in motion but silent, the quivering landscape inhabited by anonymous flowers, a shudder of thin straight stalks, carrying their seeds, barely attached to the earth yet tied to its darkest depths. As if the earth were becoming purer as it rises to meet the pure sky, holding out these weightless offerings to it going to meet the rain, their sister.......This was all immediately noted.  Fully aware that I was building up one reality beside another or around it retaining a few of its features but concealing or distorting others and because of that I was discouraged from the start. Admitting to myself now and then that the very word grass or better still grassland was more expansive than this seeking for words which run the constant risk of preciosity" Green yes-but neither dark nor light, scarcely a colour at all, less distinct, more effaced or hidden than the green of trees"
Phillippe  Jaccottet May

This quotation from Jaccottets poem 'May', says it all for me about a landscape of grasslands; such is the nature of the Pennine meadows close to my home; places that I have stood silent in and studied, places that I have walked in and through and most of all places that I have drawn and painted; grasses of light sometimes lighter than the sky itself, I painted them, after a long process of finding the right marks to make on my canvas or paper, painted  as thin washes  layers of paint scratched into, stripped dripped and rubbed simplifying them to find the essence of their nature, Jaccottet does the same simplifying and reducing what he sees and experiences, tuning his carefully chosen words to hum at the same decibels as the grass blown in the wind,  

Are words better than images or mark making, at describing figurative things, beauty, awe, or emotional responses to them, is there an advantage of poetry over paint, a poem can be on many levels in many verses each being laid bare as it is read,  can a painting a painting do the same, 

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Londons Skyline - River Thames; Drawings by Rob Miller

Mixed Media
Londons Thames ain front of cranes and steel constructions

 Mixed Media Drawing
London Tower in front of new buildings with cranes 2010
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Saturday, 11 September 2010

Sketches on the Ribble by Portugese Artist Manuel Casa Branca

Manuel Casa Branca

Heres a piece from my colleagues and friends blog the artist and painter Manuel Casa Branca drawn just below Hurst Green.

Da visita ao Ribble Valley/Lancashire guiado pelo colega e amigo Rob Miller resultaram vários desenhos no Diário Gráfico/Caderno de Campo. Mas também resultaram frutos da conversa que fomos tendo ao longo do rio sobre a paisagem e sobre as teorias de Jonh Ruskin. este processo de contacto com a paisagem iglesa e as suas características foram fundamentais para compreender o livro que ando a ler há uns meses deste teórico da arte e aguarelista – The Elements of Drawing. este livro foi publicado pela primeira vez em 1857 e influenciou Monet e Seurat para os fundamentos teóricos do Impressionismo e do Pontilhismo/Divisionismo, respectivamente. Ruskin também andou por ali, e foi baseado nesta paisagem e nos percursos que fez na companhia da raínha Vitória de Inglaterra que determinou qual a unidade de paisagem representativa do ideal Inglês. Concerteza uma atitude pós-romântica que juntamente com as suas práticas e teorias do Naturalismo e ajudaram a anunciar o Impressionismo.

The visit to the Ribble Valley / Lancashire led by colleague and friend Rob Miller led several drawings in the Sketchbook. But also resulted fruits of that conversation we were having along the river on the landscape and on the theories of John Ruskin. this process of contact with the English landscape and their characteristics were essential to understand the book that I've read a few months of this watercolor artist and art theorist - The Elements of Drawing. this book was first published in 1857 and influenced Monet and Seurat to the theoretical foundations of Impressionism and Pointillism / Divisionism respectively. Ruskin also walked around, and was based on this landscape and rides that made with the company of Queen Victoria of England, who determined that the unit representing the ideal English landscape. Clearly a post-Romantic attitude that, together with its Naturalistic practices and theories helped to announce Impressionism.

Dentdale original sketch/drawings by Rob Miller

Upper Dentdale
Drawing Charcoal and Ink
Rob Miller
Scow Dentdale
Drawing Charcoal and Ink
Rob Miller
This is the second Dale that Ive been attracted to work in. Like Roeburndale, Dentdale is a Lancashire |Yorkshire hidden gem with a quickly changing 19th/20th century history. I've posted below an article that I've cut and pasted from a Yorkshire Paper and is a good read.... Im not sure which paper it came from, but the reporter is John Woodcock..
Yorkshire's secret dale might now be re-named Enterprise Dale. John Woodcock reports on some of the remarkable results .Ask a policeman, even a retired one, for directions and you don't expect confusion. "Where exactly are you?", I enquired of Tony Playfoot. "We're in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, we're administered by South Lakeland District Council, we have old West Riding milestones, and a Lancashire postcode – so you tell me where we are."
Ah, then that'll be Dentdale, a ten-mile heavenly ribbon but with something of an identity crisis.
The tourism department appears undecided on a suitable description, so in one leaflet they cover all the angles. "A peaceful paradise"; "the hidden dale close to the Lake District"; "the Yorkshire Dales National Park's secret dale". Hidden? Secret? It's a wonder anyone ever finds it, but they do, and sometimes with surprising results.  There was a group of people, unconnected to one another but for their own reasons looking for a change of direction. The motorways which took them away from Manchester and Reading, Cambridge and Warrington, Bristol and Hampshire, eventually led all to the two narrow lanes of Dentdale. Some still express surprise at what they've become beside the Dee, the stream which tumbles through the dale and which Tony Playfoot insists on calling a river, perhaps because he spent 15 years of his police career submerged in them. Of all the reshaped lives among the dale's incomers his is one of the more unlikely. Such is his gratitude, the ex-bobby now regards it almost as a duty to help promote the wider story. It's about Dentdale's struggle to protect its soul while embracing those who have introduced fresh ideas for earning a living where farming is grappling with survival.
Two examples. In Dent village a forge is still keeping company with the cobbled streets and colour-washed cottages, but today's blacksmith is young and female, with a degree in English – and Lucy Sandys-Clarke doesn't do horseshoes.Four miles away is a former Royal Navy helicopter crewman and coastguard, Brian Bannister. He grew to hate the sea's cruelty, returned to his roots and now makes walking sticks and runs courses on the craft beneath the Settle-Carlisle railway line on which his father was a signalman.And Playfoot? He was a member of an underwater search unit until force politics intervened. He was transferred to Salford, assaulted five times and twice put in hospital.
After 28 years in the police force, his disillusionment was such that when he and his wife Margaret were walking the Dales Way in 1992 they saw their future: a property for sale at Cowgill, at the eastern end of Dentdale. Within two months they'd sold up in Cheshire, bought the former Quaker meeting house, built in 1702, and with the remains of 250 believers buried in the garden, and Tony was looking for work.
On the manual side, there was plenty. He cut lawns and weeded, felled trees and dug graves. The next turning point came when he took up the cornet – the first instrument he'd ever played – and joined Sedbergh Town Band. He then discovered that when a trumpet's valves seize up, a trombone stops sliding, a tuba gets dented, or simply when there's muck in brass, finding a remedy isn't easy. He learned the skills and now is one of only four brass instrument repairers in the North of England.
"From playing my first note only six years ago, music has also given me a niche business. It shows what's possible when you take a chance and opt for a life-changing experience. There are other examples throughout the dale," said Tony, guiding us round a few as unofficial promoter of Dentdale's diverse business community. Traditionalists might sneer at the way things are going but Playfoot asks where the dale would be without tourism, second homes and new markets.  "Six farms have gone since we've been here. The challenge is to strike a right balance between the values and beauty which have brought and kept people here, and developing a local economy that benefits everyone. Without customers, there would be no shop, pubs, dry-stone wallers, or anything. The dale would die." Janet Browning felt her spirit was dying when working for the Legal Services Commission in Cambridge. "For me it had become a mindless bureaucracy I was desperate to escape from." She had discovered Dent through walking the Dales Way, and during a revisit in 2004 began asking herself serious questions, especially as she'd overcome breast cancer. "I wondered if I could manage to make a life up here rather than self-destructing in my existing one. I stopped hesitating and did it." Janet paid £365,000 for Stone Close tea room and guest house, a 17th-century listed building. Her approach? "Home baking and wholesome food – local, seasonal and organic produce. I don't do chips, and I don't make much money, not with a business loan to repay, but it's a lifestyle choice. It enables me to live in a fantastic place. I feel I've saved myself." Two of her near-neighbours have also revived themselves. David Bellis had been a shopfitter and decorator in Warrington for 20 years when he and his family decided to find a beautiful landscape in which they could a earn a reasonable income. In short, a "lifestyle business." They looked for their ideal from Devon to Scotland before deciding on Dent and the Meadowside Café-Bar. They had to overcome some negative village politics because not everyone shared their enthusiasm for a cultural shift. That apart, they couldn't be more content. Bellis has a theory. "Problems and traffic lights go together. Where they start, so do noise and dirt, stress and anti-social behaviour. Fortunately we're 16 miles from the nearest set. I'm all for progress, but not if it means spoiling things. Nowadays there are bouncers in Windermere. It's becoming like Leeds with a lake." If a bistro and other changes represent Dentdale's future, Jim and Margaret Taylor are catering to its past. Their farming backgrounds in the area go back generations and agriculture's decline prompted them to open the Dent Village Heritage Centre. It describes the lives and social customs of earlier Dales folk, and several of the exhibits were collected by the Taylors over 25 years. They tell an intriguing story about Dentdale. It used to have over 100 farms and, according to parish records for 1861, 20 shoemakers, an umbrella repairer, 44 knitters, 14 dressmakers, nine tailors, and 18 food and clothing shops. Plus another rarity of modern rural life – its own policeman.
A snapshot of Dentdale in 2007 would be equally revealing. The business directory lists a yoga specialist, stairlift supplier, designer, computer expert and furniture makers and highlights the extent to which tourists are pampered – Anthony Cheetham is offering the use of classic sports cars to his bed and breakfast guests – and also illustrates how arts and crafts are flourishing in the dale. Sheffield-born John Cooke gave up teaching art and geography in East Anglia to open a studio in Dent. Since then many of his paintings have been used in a commercial context as posters, cards, calendars and book covers. Through his landscapes, Dentdale has reached a gallery in Dubai and the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. After graduating with a degree in typography, Pip Hall lived in a city for 20 years. She moved to the dale two years ago and is now a stone carver and lettering artist. She says the tranquillity is inspirational.
Others share the sensation. Even when hammering mild steel on her anvil and producing gates, door handles, window catches, and ornamental work, Lucy Sandys-Clarke remains aware of the peace outside her workplace. It's one of the elements that keeps her in Dentdale. After university she'd considered London and a career in journalism until a visit to her grandmother near Sedburgh changed everything. She learned about metalwork from a blacksmith nearby and last August took over the Dent forge. he dismisses the clichéd view that its heat, noise, flying sparks and workshop clutter seems an alien environment for an attractive, cultured woman of 29. "I don't consider myself a novelty. I'm doing a serious and satisfying job, and in such a beautiful place. To leave the dale now would be the hardest decision

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Lancashire Sumnmer Revisited original paintings by Rob Miller

Works in progress 2008 -2010

60cm x 60cm

70cm x 70cm
Still very much works in progress, after their rescue from the store room at Bee Mill; these three Landscape paintings (only two shown here); of the  summer moorland meadows, are benefiting from not only a new look but also the advantage of new skills learnt. There is also a slight change in tonality created by muting down the cadmium yellows and a new range of blues on the palette. Far more careful paint mixing is going on now that I am working with new paint and mediums

The originals were  painted in a mix of Windsor and Newton Finity and Windsor and newton Galeria which I feel produces rather flat and  uneventful plastic spaces..With Liquatex heavy paint wand the benefit of added selected mediums I have been able to give the sky a great lift...the topography has yet not been spoken to though I have given these areas a quick hello wash of  raw seinna and a chalkier yellow to tone down the cadmium's as I mention earlier. As in my work in Spain and carried on in the Cotswold's I've also put more trust in allowing my drawings to come through which I think has started to add more definition and depth. So work work and more work does produce better results, the new studio space is also excellent. All this means that I scored a 100% from three independent judges which has enabled me to become a full member of the International Landscape painters  which is very nice..thanks guys...

Saturday, 4 September 2010

The elements of drawing John Ruskin

When I first read a little of Ruskin's work and walked past his school, and later, when I sat camera in hand looking out at his view near Kirby Lonsdale I must admit to a holding onto a sense of misplaced, uneducated, working class snobbery, and I ignored him; This ignorance was developed further in another misplaced way, my education in art at BIHE was largely based upon 20th Century Artists and I think  Ruskin was unfashionable  and mentioned in passing, so I paid scant attention to his dictat on the way to develop skills or of good practice in drawing, indeed I was to busy trying to draw my way; So as one does I looked everywhere else, mostly to European artists but also a lot in English art with the likes of Nicholson, Bacon, Virtue and others and I hope I learnt a lot:- strange then that Ruskin should be reintroduced to me by a Portuguese artist Manuel Casa Branca with whom I spent a number of great days drawing next to the River Ribble, albeit some miles below Ruskin’s view, better still to read the preface of Ruskin’s book by Bernard Dunston and this paragraph.........

"We read about Ruskin’s work with a set of ideas about drawing very different from those of his readers in the mid 19th can the Ruskinian method have meaning for us?...someone setting to draw a leaf or a leg with the intention of finding its structure or to discover how to express it clearly as possible that structure within the limits of a pencil and a piece of paper is not going to set about it that differently if he is 15th century florentine or soemeone today..." The best answerer of questions as Ruskins states is persaeverence and the best drawing masters are the wood and the hills"...John Constable couldn't agree more and after all he was maybe the start of the art we so love today...
In truth, I have grown to really like the guy and his writing, listen to this ode of joy on colour by the man himself :-

"You ought to love colour, and to think nothing quite beautiful or perfect without it: and if you really do love it, for its own sake and are not merely desirous to colour because you think painting a finer thing than drawing , there is some chance that you may colour well." John Ruskin in 'The Elements of Drawing'  Letter 111 on Colour and Composition. 1857.. Smith Elder and Co.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Kyfan Williams John Ruskin and Manuel Casa Branca and why painters who cant draw are missing the point of their art's a brief transcript of Kyfans life""Kyffin Williams painted powerful landscapes and portraits. He described himself as "an obsessive, depressive diabetic epileptic, who's apprehensive, selfish, intolerant and ruthless."Williams was born in Llangefni in May 1918. Seven years later Williams' family moved to Pentre-felin on the southern side of the Llŷn Peninsula. He went to a prep school in Anglesey before moving to Shrewsbury School. It was here that he contracted the disease polioencephalitis which later led to epilepsy.
Williams' career as an artist would probably never have happened had he not been diagnosed with epilepsy as a young man. A doctor advised him, "As you are, in fact, abnormal, I think it would be a good idea if you took up art". He followed the doctor's advice and applied for a place at art college, the prestigious Slade School of Fine Art, evacuated for the war years to Oxford. He was interviewed for a position by Professor Randolph Schwabe.  "The old prof said I couldn't draw," Williams said. "I was told I could come for one term only. There were few men around because of the war, so he let me stay for another two terms and then a year." In fact, Williams studied at the school from 1941 to 1944.
Manuel Casa Branca drawing of Oak trees 

"My greatest fortune was that I was ordered to take up art for the good of my health" Kyffin wrote in his autobiography, Across the Straits. "This presumed that I was not a born artist and therefore was able to paint naturally, in an uncomplicated manner, free from the pressure of the man who knows he is an artist and has to live up to it."  It was only later, when he found himself thrown out of his lodgings in St John's Wood, that Williams realised that this was his vocation: "Suddenly the idea of being without somewhere to paint seemed awful, and that was when I realised that I really was a painter." To pay the rent he took up teaching at Highgate School, but often played truant to paint on Hampstead Heath. "The headmaster was very nice about it. He said, 'By the way, you didn't turn up for lesson, you know it is awfully difficult if you don't'"
Nevertheless, he remained in the post of senior art master from 1944 until his retirement, at the age of 55, in 1973. In 1968 he gained a Winston Churchill Fellowship to record the Welsh in Patagonia where he stayed for six months. Williams carved a reputation for himself with his idiosyncratic use of the palette knife, and found that there was a popular appetite for his work. "I think I am the first painter that people in Wales have been able to relate to," he said. "In the past, ministers, miners and farmers couln't buy paintings, but thanks to getting a better education, their sons became professional people, and a whole class grew up with a love of their roots. "I, coming from the same sort of background, was painting the sort of places that they wanted to be reminded of, so that was terribly lucky." In his lifetime, Kyffin desperately wanted to see a home for the best Welsh art from the 18th century to 1950. He commented, "We are one of the only countries in the world that has not got a gallery for the nation's art."

Ruskins view of the River Ribble near to Kirby Lonsdale
which he said typified all that was right in a Landscape painting.
He was elected to the Royal Academy in 1974 and knighted in 1999, and used this elevated status to campaign for a national art gallery. Kyffin mourned the disappearance of traditional skills, such as draughtsmanship, from the curricula of arts colleges: "It's quite mad. If you can't draw, you can't sell anything. Students aren't encouraged to sell their work. If you go to any college the basic thing they should teach someone is how to earn a living, but it's not so in art schools.

Drawing is absolutely basic to it  "I'm extremely old-fashioned in that I love what I paint. That's how you communicate your love for a subject. If you love things and look at them and say 'that's beautiful', you must put it down, but you can't put it down unless you can draw.

"So what it really means is that these young artists don't love anything, except themselves. They love what goes on in their minds, and they don't react to anything that's beautiful."

Williams was the President of the Royal Cambrian Academy from 1969 to 1976 and again later from 1992. He was awarded the Medal of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion in 1991 and was made an honorary fellow at a host of Welsh institutions; University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, University College, Bangor and University College, Swansea in 1992, 1991 and 1989 respectively. Sir Kyffin Williams died on 1 September 2006 after a long battle with cancer.

Rob Miller Looking down onto Dentdale
I thought it good to include this in my blog, one because in Spain and before I went there; I had been ignoring, or I rather should say, putting to one side a lot of good modern landscape British painters who do not take central stage,  guys such as Kyfan Williams (except for looking at his palette knife work), despite being made a present of his book by my brother Andy for my birthday:- I put them to one side because I wanted to go on my own path and also because I wanted to be influenced by the Latino cuture especially that of Barcelona University; I do believe that my work developed from this excercise but could it have developed more if I had dipped my toe back into English artists. Maybe I should have made regular trips  it was I think the conversation that I had with my friend the Portuguese painter Manuel Casa Branca whilst walking alongside the River Ribble where we would stop at a point that we liked and draw, whilst drawing and discussing the merits of space and line what was re-awakened in me was the need fo me to re-embrace English painting theory and pratice, Manuel was reading and studying Ruskins book as we walked and he showed me his notatins and comments made on Ruskins work of which he was very respectful pointing out that in his opinion Ruskin was the cornerstone of how modern painting is debated;  Manuel and I dwellers in a world like Kyfan Williams,  far removed from the locations of the modernist painter...This view from the brow behind St Mary's Church is renowned for its natural beauty and inspiration on artists particularly Professor John Ruskin and J.M.W. Turner.Professor John Ruskin was an art critic and social thinker of the Victorian and Edwardian era. An account of his writings about the view and Lune Valley can be found in his book Fors Clavigera.John Ruskin was a great supporter of naturalism in art and subsequently of the work of J.M.W.Turner who had also painted the view from the churchyard circa 1818.

Today thats been reinforced when I met up with John Cooke in his Hill Studio Gallery in Dent village, looking at his work you can see in many pieces the accurate use of line and tone, whether it be undertaken by pencil, brush, charcoal stick or by digital means John at his age uses all media both modern and ancient with ease, furthermore some of his lines are intoned in a way that is almost from rote memory, learnt through a lifetime of holding crayons and pencils (Since he was three he said)