WASPS Studios, Aberdeen hosted its annual open weekend, with a collection of artists from Eagle House and Langstane studios exhibiting and opening their studios. As a change from the norm, this year Lorraine Taylor, Wilma Dunbar and Mel Russell put forward the idea for each artist in the studios to collectively display an exhibition of small unframed works with a limited dimension, giving the public an opportunity to buy affordable art.
Over the two days of the WASPS Studios, Aberdeen Open Studios and small works exhibition visitors from all walks of life came to view and connect with the artists and makers and sometimes purchase a small piece of work. On my part...many collaborative seeds were sown to follow up in the coming months.
My initial response was to paint the detail of the rose flower head... I continued on this theme until the first Exposition of my Masters in Fine Art at Gary's School of Art.
After further sketching and writing text in relation to the war aspect of the artefact, by this summer I had decided that this work needed to be given more attention.
So this morning I created the following study to confirm colours before proceeding onto the two 1m x 1m canvases.
Later this month I will be opening my studio doors as part of WASPS studios small exhibition and open studios if you would like to see the progress. Link here
Last month I was invited by Philip Wilkie of the Garthdee Field Allotment Association (GFAA), Aberdeen to give a talk today about my MA project work after the annual AGM.
My background as a Graphic Designer and Botanical Artist was touched upon and how I came to be doing a part-time Masters in Fine Art to progress my art practice from working on paper with watercolour or ink and changing this to working on canvas with oils.
The MA project ...a response to plant growing and collecting in the First Word War and the aftermath that ensued... was mentioned with a focus on the research, artefacts and the artwork that came out of working on my small allotment for the recent Masters Show.
An overview of the other topics on collected and grown plants from my MA project was given, with one new artwork in particular, which is going from sketchbook to canvas tomorrow and will be previewed here in the coming weeks.
Below is a screen capture of the presentation given to the GFAA.
The talk seemed to go down well with those attending, with lots of good discussion and feedback afterwards, and very pleased to be given the opportunity to share my work.
Progress of my study into the growing and collecting of plants during World War One and the aftermath that ensued, has been diverse, covering many streams of study. The decision was made half way through my first year to commit my time to specific plants collected during WW1 and also the growing of food on an allotment.
This display at the MA show had two areas and was a work-in-progress exhibition of my current work.
Below is the response made to my time spent working on the allotment.
During the second and third semesters of my Masters in Fine Art I have been growing and collecting produce from the allotment.
The culmination of this experience was turned into an exhibition for the Masters Show in September.
A 'potting shed' display with seed packets with previous plant artworks and photographs transferred onto envelopes cascading through a collection of artefacts, collected seeds and herbs; a collection of photographs and art printed onto small wooden panels showing the progress of the allotment over this time; Sage plants that had been propagated from cuttings and were given out to visitors to the show.
The second depicts the start of an artwork in response to the foxglove plant. This for a botanical artist would normally be on paper with watercolour or pencil and depict the full plant with various parts in close up.
Utilising the shape of the flower spike I decided to create an artwork that was different to the norm, using many panels of varied sizes with each depicting a part of the plant in closeup. The installation shows some of the plant materials, photographs, plans, drawings, tools to be used and the blank wooden panels ready to be worked on.
You will probably notice that the work I am producing at the moment is in square aspect...my rational for this is the veer away from the standard ideology format used for botanical or landscape painting. My works produced in the coming months will be the foxglove and also a series of plant paintings, with each in a landscape from where it would be collected. I will also be revisiting sketches from the rose exposition and turning these into paintings. So for this and the other pieces I have made the decision to continue the 'square' for the duration of my MA studies.
Research into plants cultivated and collected during the time of WW1 and the interwar years has led me to look at plants that have helped heal in the battlefield. One such plant is Sphagnum moss.
In preparation for my second Masters Exposition in May I mapped potential Sphagnum moss locations (1) in the Northeast and information from other parts of Scotland.
Sphagnum moss, was collected from local moss bogs, thoroughly cleaned and dried and used as a packing for bandages and wound dressings for the troops in WW1.
After investigating plant growing and collection during the First World War in relation to my Masters, I thought I would get a useful insight by growing plants and harvesting them myself...and possibly with the help of the family and friends community around me.
My first foray into this was to see what allotment spaces were available in Aberdeen city, so I approached the city council to see if there were any allotments available to me...I sent in an application for the Garthdee allotments and found out I would have a two year wait. Not ideal as my Masters would be finished by then.
On further investigation I found out that Robert Gordon's University (RGU) has an allotment area in Garthdee which can be used by students. I contacted David of Go Green at RGU and met up with him just over a week ago.
David was very keen that the allotments were used and showed me around the space. There are 6 small plots, one is used for the Go Green initiative and the others are shared on a first come basis to students and staff at RGU. Depending on uptake the plots can be shared or sole occupancy. At the side of the plots there is an area where Aberdeen City Council supply manure and leaf mulch for anyone who wants to use on the allotment. There is also a herb garden, which is a little overgrown, but would be useful if reworked.
As part of the RGU area there is a polytunnel, a shed and plenty of water on tap and through rain buckets. He mentioned that the allocation of allotments for this year hadn't been done yet, but as I was to be using the plot as part of my studies I will be given a plot....just like that I am now 'almost' an allotment holder and starting to plan my plot. The scale is quite small only around 3x5m maximum in size if I am allocated a whole plot, just perfect for a newby plantswoman.
Love and Healing
While researching my MA project, plants grown and collected in WW1, I came across an artefact put up for sale of a dried rose and poppy which had been plucked in the trenches and sent to a loved one at home to commemorate and remember the loss of a child. The response to this comes in the form of my recent sketches and work for my first exposition at Gray’s. The work here represents the combination of a new process for me, working in water-mixable oils on linen canvas, and emphasising the negative space through painting in dark colours, to subliminally give the impression of white.
Exhibition space in the foyer at Grays showing finished pieces, with sketches.
The studio space at Gray’s was a challenge at times, due to its compact nature. As you can see from my work, I have kept it small for now and will work on larger pieces later in the year.
Rose attempt two was painted without drawing, which through happy accident worked well and was pleased with the end result.
Planning is key to a successful event. When it is more than one appearing to collide in the near future it is useful to keep holding onto to those reigns.
As you know I will be opening my garden studio doors for NEOS in September....and the week after running a workshop in Aboyne for the Upper Deeside Art Society...and because I like a stressless life. I am currently looking into doing an MA starting in the Autumn...all of which need planning.
As you can see in the photograph above. I have been mapping some plans today. I find it really useful to work this way as you can move items around and group them into a specific area...it would work equally well with a pencil, paper and rubber or creating bulleted lists.
For NEOS I need to plan what will be on the walls of my limited space,. When to get prints and cards made, down to organising the open event , putting up the yellow signs and remembering to invite people (ok it's a bit more complex than that but you get the idea). What if I want to run a demo....what will it be? Do I need pencils, pens or paint or all of them?
Well over this weekend the plan should be in place with a budget attached and timings. Will let you know how it goes.
Fiona Swapp lives and works in Aberdeen. She has over 30 years experience as a graphic designer and botanical artist.
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