Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sennelier in Paris

Watercolour postcard - 3 Quai Voltaire, Paris
(featuring Sennelier's new Forest Green)

As I was leaving for Paris last June, I received a box of Sennelier's new formula watercolours.  Since they were Impressionist Colours, I had to take them with me.

I spent a whole morning in the Musee d'Orsay and then walked along the Seine in the footsteps of just about every artist who ever visits Paris - to the little shop at 3 Quai Voltaire.  It is here that  generations of the Sennelier family have listen to what artists really want and then come up with the colours in every form you can imagine from oil to watercolour to pastels and acrylics. 

Today as you 'snoop around Sennelier' it's apparent that the family are still listening to artists, this tiny shop has everything you've read about anywhere.  I was particularly delighted to see that they have obviously been following the huge on-line community of sketchers because all the pens and inks and brush pens are available here.
Of course at its heart this shop is still about pigments.  And what wonderful pigments.  I could go on forever but really this is just a plea that if you go to Paris, 'rush to Sennelier'.
Any stay in Paris is way too short so can you imagine my delight when I arrive back in Italy to find another unexpected package from Sennelier.  
Sennelier A History in Color by Pascale Richard

This book tells the story of Sennelier largely through its relationships with famous artists but it reads like a book of friends.  

'For a painter, an artist's store is like a toy shop' - Amerian Artist Christopher Brown
'Here are the talismans, they are going to help me, to give me wings.' - Vincent Bioules

On page 190 of the book is a cartoon by Jean-Jacques Sempre which illustrates his privileged relationship with Sennelier.  
'One of the pleasures of the painter is to prepare his palette silently in his studio before starting to work.  Another equally strong pleasure is the ritual of shopping at Sennelier where you can find it all, even what you are not looking for!'  I couldn't agree more.

But I am giving too much away, buy this book and delight in discovering as I did that in David Hockney's The Grand Canyon one finds Helios Red and Chinese Orange by Sennelier.  He is another pilgrim to Quai Voltaire.

Obviously this book was a gift to me from Sennelier but I couldn't have been more delighted had I bought it myself.  I will always treasure the personal note inside from Dominique Sennelier where he acknowledges that 'we share a passion for colors'.  Sennelier makes the most humble artist feel special.

After the excitement of Sennelier I stopped at a little cafe in Rue Montmatre and made a quick sketch of Paris rooftops.

We are going back to Paris this year for a special Christmas.  Guess where I'll be heading.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Butcherbirds have flown....

Butcherbirds - watercolour

This watercolour was painted for Poppy who has been hand-feeding Butcherbirds and Kookaburras at his home in Queensland for years.  Now for some reason his Butcherbirds have flown and he misses them greatly.

When I was a child the Butcherbirds had a reputation from mesmerizing small cage birds then plucking them out through the bars.  Anyone with a canary or a budgie hated them.  That was long before I saw them sitting politely and patiently on Poppy's knee.

The Texas A&M students at the studio here in Castiglion Fiorentino have been making stencils.  Inspired by their efforts I had to have a go.

Now I'm fighting the urge to don a hoodie and spray a few Butcherbirds around Tuscany.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

DERMOTT - A life well lived


a.k.a. Terremoto

February 2000 - July 2012





Endlessly loved.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Egyptian Goose Watercolour

Egyptian Goose Step - 22 x 30cms Gouache on Khadi paper

The geese were developed from my watercolour sketch:

I have a passion for  Egyptian Geese but have only seen them at an agricultural show in Umbria.

Often the desire to paint birds means one has to beg, borrow or steal (never!) a photo reference.  This time I am extremely lucky to have a wonderful photograph taken by a good friend in Richmond Park, London.  I could go on painting it forever.

© Alison Staite 2012

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sennelier New Range of Watercolour Paints

 Sennelier's new l'Aquarelle Honey-Based Watercolours

In December 2010 I participated in some blind tests of watercolours for the famous French artist's colour manufacturer, Sennelier.  At the time I had no idea what an interesting and rewarding project it was going to be.

First of all a box of 51 little zinc paint tubes arrived - no names, just numbers.

In the tubes were different formulations of twelve colours.  For a colour addict, this was surely a feast.  My task, along with other artists around the world, was to test and rate the contents of each tube by their luminosity, pigment intensity, consistency, ease of application and appearance after drying. I was going to need a system.

Starting work on the Ultramarine Blues.

Well that's all a long time ago now.  I sent off my tests and voiced my opinion on the various colours.  Back came an amazing box of gifts from Sennelier; beautiful paper, pastels, watercolours and brushes.  But the story wasn't over.

Last month I was packing for a short holiday in Paris when a courier arrived with the beautiful box of Sennelier's new watercolours you see at the head of this post.  Since it was called Color Palette of the Impressionists I had to add it to my Paris sketching kit.  

I used the colours for the first time to paint a postcard of one of my favourite places in Paris.  The painting has been posted to my friend Pat Reese in California as my July contribution to our art mail exchange A Postcard from My Walk.  Once Pat has received her card I'll be able to show it here.

Meantime I've been playing with my new Sennelier palette.  The first thing I noticed and loved about the new formula is the way the paint re-wets on the palette.  I'm inclined to squeeze tube paint into a light plastic palette to take sketching.  Being able to bring it back to a soft, rich tube consistency with a quick spray of water is very important.

Look at that stunning combination of three reds at the top left.  I want to wear it!  I also loved the way the Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine Deep mix and granulate.  I'm very excited about  two greens - beautiful deep, rich Forest Green and Phthalo Green Light.  This introductory palette also has two very useful colours for sketchers, Warm Sepia and Paynes Grey.

Of course I'm only looking at 12 of the 98 shades now available in half pans, full pans and 10 and 21 ml tubes.

I have a great deal more to say about Sennelier but this is probably enough to whet your appetite for some delicious new colours. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Birthday Card Art

What a month June is for birthdays!  This year I've been painting cards for people I love.

Gouache & Brush Pen

Acrylic & Brush Pen

Solar Plate Etching

One of these birthdays took me to Paris but that's a story for another post.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Sketching Exercises

A while back I was fed up with my tight, fiddly work, so I pinned some very big pieces of paper to an easel and went to work with charcoal or Chinese ink. Putting my shoulder into it felt extremely liberating.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Venice Windows Watercolour

Watercolour 27.5 x 18.5 cm

Since I've been in a bit of an artistic slump of late, I've been tidying my studio.  I found this watercolour, abandoned two years ago, so decided to finish it.  I hate wasting paper.

The painting is too big for my scanner and it's not great weather for photography.  But it's done now and I can move on.

Editor's Note: I've replaced the original photo I posted as the colour was too saturated.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Sparrow sketch

This time last year I was embarking on the Every Day in May Challenge  which originated through the Every Day Matters EDM Group, it was a fantastic thing to do and I made lots of new artist friends of Flickr but I did find I was spending a lot of time on my daily sketch, so I'm not going to join in this year.  I will enjoy watching what Wendy - Quirky Artist - and the others do.

I'm going to try to sketch something every day this month because I can certainly do with the practice, I just won't be working from a list of subjects.

Day 1 is a pen and wash study of a sparrow.  He's loosely based on one of my photos.  I'm still not quick enough to sketch much but pigeons from life.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Bookbinding Themes

My growing desire to incorporate pattern in my paintings has led me back to Gustav Klimt.  I've always loved his art but there are amazing design treasures to be found in the detail of his pictures.  Of course I'm not the first to make this discovery.  His designs pop up everywhere.  I'm spending a lot of time just doodling with his recurring marks.

At the same time I've been trying to extend my bookbinding craft.  I've just completed a Japanese Album Accordion with a soft cover.  The red cardboard looked a little plain so I added a Klimt doodle to the first page of the accordion and cut a frame in the cover. 

This is such a simple little book with a very distinctive Japanese style.

I think I'll dedicate it to further studies of Klimt.

I've lost count of how many Reverse Piano Hinge sketchbooks our American students from Santa Chiara have made in the print studio in the past weeks.  It's been a wonderful extension of Rick Woodbury's  printmaking course because everyone has made a beautiful monotype cover for their book. 

For my demonstration book I used a beautiful piece of paste paper made by my Sydney artist friend, Wendy Shortland.  I'd never have learned to make these books without Wendy's help and now I am really keen to make my own paste papers covers.

Paste paper cover by Wendy Shortland

Monday, April 09, 2012

Tulips in the blue jug.

Watercolour & Gouache 35 x 35 cm

I love a gift of flowers and the beautiful yellow tulips we received on HWEM's birthday had to be painted.  They say yellow flowers are the most difficult to capture and you'll get no argument from me.  

This a piece of Khadi Indian cotton rag handmade paper.  It isn't a great ground for transparent watercolour as the size repels the moisture and the surface quickly breaks down with scrubbing but it loves thick creamy gouache, which I introduced at the end.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Solar Plate Printing with Wendy & Annie

Annie McMahon's sublime Sydney studio

I've been wanting to try solar plate etching using photopolymere plates ever since I acquired some of Wendy Shortland's Quirky Artist beautiful and intriguing prints.  On a recent trip home to Sydney Wendy and Annie McMahon treated me to a fantastically generous and exciting day in Annie's Sydney studio.  Now I'm totally hooked and have brought ten plates back to Tuscany for further experiments in this exciting chemical free method of etching.  In a future post I'll attempt to do a WIP for those interested in the process.  For now I'd just like to share my excitement. Click on the images for a larger view.

Dark Corner - two colour print

Dark Corner was etched from a pen and liquid pencil trace on drafting film from a sketch I made in Patonga (see previous post).

This is the image that was placed face down on the photopolymere plate and exposed in the sun for a couple of minutes.  The plate was then washed off with a sponge and water, dried and after another hour cooking in the sun was ready to print.

 Plates ready for inking

My second plate was an ink trace of an old sketch I had made in Castiglion Fiorentino.
First print inked in two colours

My sketch was too small for the plate which resulted in a dirty boarder when I wiped the plate so, when I got back to Italy, I cut the plate back to the edge of the image and printed it again.

All these prints are on Rives BFK paper, generously provided by Wendy and unfortunately unavailable in Italy.

'Quirky Artist' inking her plate which is held on a clever magnetic board
Wendy demonstrated the inking process on her own beautiful Gymea Lily plate and I got to keep the print!

Wendy Shortland

Then I got to ink one of Annie's plates and another beautiful print came home to Italy.

Annie McMahon

Charlie -The Studio Dog who reminded me of You Know Who
A perfect day of printmaking that I do hope I can repay one day when my Sydney mentors make it to Tuscany.
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