As is traditional, our final members’ meeting for the year, which will be held on Thursday 28 November, will be a fun, social evening, combined with the Eleanor Palmer Competition. For all the rules and regulations, please see the latest SASA newsletter.
Our October monthly members’ meeting was a treat! We had Laura Wenman – senior SASA fellow – demonstrating her marvelous oil technique, painting a portrait from a live model.
Laura started with a canvas already tinted in a pale green, which harmonised with her choice of colours – viridian is one of her favourites – and various pre-mixed skin tones, which made the process a little quicker.
The paint Laura uses is French-made and contains beeswax, which doesn’t mix well with our usual oil colours.
There was a great turnout and everyone got as close as they could to the action – no-one wanted to miss a single detail, as we watched the face emerge, from planning, through drawing, to application of paint and a very close likeness at the end of the evening….and her model was great – she didn’t move a muscle for two hours!
For the October members’ meeting, we are pleased to present Laura Wenman, Senior Fellow of SASA, demonstrating for us, in her lovely loose technique, a portrait in oil from a live model. Don’t miss this one!
On Thursday the 26th, at the SASA members’ meeting for September, we were lucky enough to have Marcelle Lyons – renowned artist and teacher in watercolour, oils and pastels – give a demo in watercolour.
From the selection of subject matter and paper, Marcelle took us through her steps and process. We saw how she produces one of her wonderful watercolour paintings from the stretching (or not) of the paper, through the blocking in of shapes with simple lines, the addition of layers of carefully-chosen colour washes with very large, laden brushes and sponges, to the final details applied with much smaller tools and brushes.
It was fascinating to watch as the piece took shape, emerging from the paper at it’s own gentle pace, from the soft pastel colours and shapes of the background to the stronger foreground forms.
Notebooks were filled with points to remember and everyone took with them some new bits of knowledge and techniques to try out at home.
Thanks Marcelle, for giving us of your time and knowledge. A most enjoyable evening.
On Thursday 29 August Marc Alexander and John Pace, two of our hard-working selection weekend judges, came to give us a critique on work submitted for selection and to explain their allocation of points. A seriously difficult task, as they’d had about 320 paintings presented to them for judging on the day.
What a pleasure it was to get their feedback and some positive criticism, which is always an invaluable tool for growth and improvement in the studio.
It also gave them – the judges – a chance to study the work more closely, bearing in mind that they only had a few moments to view each piece on selection day and give it a score, before it was whisked away and replaced by another.
The evening was well attended and our members took home with them some useful tips and insights. We get protective and attached to our work, so it’s always good to be forced to view it from a different perspective.
Slight changes in technique and composition, or even subject matter, can make the world of difference to an artwork. So, thank you Marc and John for taking the time to share your observations with us.
Members and guests had to brave rainy weather and bad traffic conditions in order to attend the SASA monthly meeting in the Athenaeum last Thursday, 25th July. Those of us who did so, were amply rewarded for our efforts, and treated to a very lively and informative meeting.
The meeting started with a short presentation by Di Metcalf from Art Sauce, who came to remind us about the 9th annual August Sketchpack Project which is an initiative to encourage artists to focus on something creative every day, by making a little sketch on any theme in the concertina sketchpacks. The project has a Facebook page to link to, and all completed sketchpacks will be exhibited at Art Sauce in October. Sketchpacks were available to purchase.
Traditionally, the July meeting is the time for the annual Landscape, Life, and Still Life competition. All entries are to be painted from life, in one sitting known as working alla prima.
We were given the opportunity to look at the entries, and complete the voting process. While the votes were being counted Gavin Winsen from Winsen’s canvasses spoke to us about the company, which was started 34 years ago in Johannesburg by his uncle and has remained a family business. Gavin brought samples of the stretchers and various cotton duck and Belgian linens available.
All the frames are made using sustainable Obeche wood from Ghana, which is a very stable wood that is not susceptible to warping. They are also all fitted with expansion wedges, are double primed and are available in various depths. Orders can be placed and canvases delivered door to door with no additional courier charges. Adrian Larkin thanked Gavin for the many canvases he has donated to SASA for outreach and prizes. Each one of us at the meeting were then given a beautiful Winsen canvas to take home and try for ourselves.
The winners of Landscape, Life, and Still Life were then announced, and cups and certificates were awarded, together with prizes donated by Art Sauce.
The winners were: In the Landscape category – first Beth Lowe, with “Reflections”; second Grazyna Janik’s “Kalk Bay”; third Lyn Northam’s “Noordhoek Beach”. In the Life category – first Grazyna Janik, with “Desire”; second Veronica Reid, with “Princess”; third Paramisiven Veeramunder, with “Family Driver”. In the Still Life category – First Marcelle Lyons, with “A Rose for Lawrie”; second Beth Lowe’s “Radishes”; third, Penny Steynor’s “Still Life with Plectranthus”. Well done to all our winners.
A chilly June evening did not deter members from attending the monthly meeting to hear Linda Austin from Artland giving a very informative talk on her recent trip to New York.
She was invited by Golden Products to tour their factory in nearby New Berlin to see how their products are manufactured, to experiment with their various mediums and see the exciting new developments in the field of acrylic paints.
The factory is situated in a beautiful rural setting, and it was good to hear that they are very aware of the environmental impact in the manufacture of their paints, and they adhere to strict guidelines for the safe use of art materials, and waste disposal.
The Golden Factory offer a three month residency programme to interested artists. Details are available on their website.
Linda had brought an amazing array of products with her and passed around a wide variety of charts and boards with many examples of colour swatches, gels, impasto products, and mediums. She also demonstrated the various drying properties of the 4 types of acrylic paints available: the original Heavy body acrylic, the Fluid Acrylic, the Open Acrylic and the High flow Acrylic. These have various consistencies and drying times.
Linda informed members that these acrylics have high pigment loads, and are tested for their light fastness. We were delighted to hear that Golden has a gripper tool to open those stubborn paint tube caps.
In addition, Golden have a range of high quality watercolours, including a very effective masking fluid. Golden also manufacture the Williamsburg range of oil paints, and these will be available from Artland.
Members kept Linda very busy with questions long after the meeting had officially ended.
On 30 May, Chris Reid will be talking about the International Watercolour Society of South Africa and the benefits for watermedia artists the society offers. As a bonus he will also be doing a watercolour demo for us.
The evening is a must for all waterbased media artists and those oil artists amongst us should also pick up a few useful tips from Chris.
The monthly meeting on the 25th April was very well attended by members eager to hear John Pace, well known as the winner of the 2015 Sanlam Portrait Award, give a talk on his experiences at the School of Art in Florence, Italy
John, in his relaxed conversational way, told us how his wife had given him the two week course as a gift for his birthday.
Using slides to illustrate his talk, we could see the beautiful studio in Florence where he spent many hours grappling with the sight size method of drawing, which he found very challenging at first, and ultimately very satisfying.
Drawing a sculptured bust to begin with, he progressed to working with the live model. Having finally perfected the drawing he then transferred that image from paper to canvas using tracing paper coated with oil paint to create a type of carbon paper.
While painting, he was instructed to continually ask himself:1) What colour is it? 2) Is it warm or cool? 3) Is it light or dark?
John brought all his drawings and the finished portrait for everyone to see.
An enjoyable meeting, finishing up with the usual sociable tea, coffee and eats.
Boniface Chikwenhere kept everyone fascinated as he explained and demonstrated his unique process for creating his wonderful sculptures. His gentle but assured manner of speaking lent great sincerity to his words as he told his audience how he takes a pride in using only very old indigenous woods for his work. This also helps him when he exports his sculptures, as he seldom has problems with the regulations governing the treating of insects in wood, as the wood is so old and dry. Because collecting the wood is time consuming, he has assembled a team of gatherers in various parts of South Africa and Namibia. They search and dig for old roots and pieces of trees and for driftwood. Many of the pieces are very old, hard and dry. He had some examples with him, including Mopani, Sneezewood and a small root of unidentified wood that looked almost fossilized.
Sneezewood is called that as the shavings and dust cause you to sneeze. It was used by early settlers for fence posts – one could still see the holes in the piece he had, and as a result, became extremely rare. Boniface explained that the most time consuming and important part of his process was deciding what animal or bird was to be created from a particular piece of wood, as he works in a semi abstract way, leaving large parts of the wood completely unsculpted, allowing the grain, colours, and textures of the wood to suggest the particular creature that he sees in it. This part of the process could take days, months or even years.
Once he has decided on a particular species – birds make up a large part of his sculptures – he then carves appropriate portions of the wood, using an instrument called an Adze. This is made especially for him, to suit his stroke and the way he carves. It has a very sharp flat metal blade on a heavy wooden handle. He held his audience spellbound as he used this almost clumsy looking implement to fashion the head of a water bird from the piece of Mopani wood, leaving the rough bark to suggest parts of feathered wings. The audience gasped in horror as a large piece of wood was chopped off the beak, but he laughed as he explained that he had intended to do it, as the beak was too long.
He wears safety goggles and a mask while he works, as the wood is extremely hard and pieces fly off in all directions. At times he also uses electrical grinders and cutters.
Once he is satisfied with a piece, it goes to his team of polishers, who use grinders and fine sandpaper to bring out the natural grain and beauty of the wood, he never paints or stains the wood, only using oils to enhance the shine and colour of the grain. He does use metalwork to mount the pieces, and sometimes to create legs for various bird sculptures.
He learned his craft from his grandfather as a very young boy in the rural areas of Zimbabwe, where he worked in soapstone. He now passes his knowledge on to others, including his brother and his children, but said that his wife has been his best pupil, her speciality is making small bird sculptures.
Judging by the many questions and the participation from the audience, it was a very successful and enjoyable evening.