Artist in Residence at Mid Wales Arts Centre

My residency at Mid Wales Arts Centre, run by Cathy Knapp, in beautiful North Powys.

I started the day with a slice of Cathy’s amazing cake. This put me in the mood for taking in my surroundings and breathing in deep. I’d brought lots of resources with me, expecting to take whatever direction felt right on the day, so it was good to sit in peace and think about things. It was warm and sunny and I primed some Snowdon paper and heavyweight Daler Rowney expecting to draw on these later.

Upstairs, the studio had a sink with a rather spectacular spider. He/she is very adept at climbing up stainless steel at high speed. There was also a small desk with chair, and a sturdy easel. I tend to work best with an array of things surrounding me, so I decided to use outside as my base where I could spread my materials out, and besides, the weather was lovely.

I placed my easel next to a half-timbered farm building that was full of character. There was a great selection of forms and structures to draw, and I had also brought along two vintage sheep shears as the forms fascinate me. I decided to lay down a network of fine lines guided by the sheep shear forms, and then laid down some heavier lines in paint. I worked into these with white paint, losing what I wanted to, and creating a mid tone of grey in places. I collaged in some gumstrip to provide an alternative surface to the primed one, and also to create a surface for one of the roof areas. I continued to work with adding black and reducing its impact, where needed, with white and grey. The piece incorporated several buildings and a repetition of the shears. I added some colour where this was necessary, in oil pastel. The piece was strong visually but did not particularly challenge me or take me in a new direction.

The second piece, A2, I worked with a spray bottle of Indian ink to mess up the paper a little and provide an interesting background. I then worked with pencil and orange crayon to depict the same shear forms. I also collaged the same forms, and those of the surrounding exhibits, using text pages from an old atlas. It became more painterly which I disliked at first but recovered. I didn’t leave it in a state of completion as I could easily have overworked it. I will take a look with a fresh eye tomorrow. I deliberately placed both pieces facing the entrance so they’re the first things I see when I enter the studio tomorrow.

Cathy, as always, was multi-tasking and providing a wonderful service. Her food in the Art Café was excellent, as was her hospitality. MWAC is a lovely relaxed place and people were wandering around the grounds, the sculpture park and exhibitions and taking lunch outside. I met some interesting people from the ‘Thursday Afternoon Group’, who were sculpting and working with clay in the workshop.

I’m hoping to try something new tomorrow, perhaps a new approach to the theme of drowned valleys that my pieces in the Hidden exhibition relate to. Or perhaps a fresh approach to the objects and structures of today.

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