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A well of inspiration: Art demos

I am a member of both the Petersfield Arts and Crafts Society and the Portsmouth and Hampshire Art Society. Apart from staging inspiring exhibitions, both societies offer regular art demos. I love the demonstrations that show a very different way of working and/or introduce me to new ideas and processes.

Last week I was spoiled with two art evenings.

On Wednesday I went up to Fratton to find our more about the work of blind artist Clarke Reynolds.

I have always loved the idea of artworks that engage different senses. Texture is particularly important to me. I have often stood in front of another artist's work and longed to touch it, yet restrained myself because convention says that artwork should be looked at but not touched.

I was recently inspired to see Chichester artist Catherine Barnes give a "finger tour" of some of her paintings to a visually impaired visitor.

I was very interested to experience how a blind artist would introduce us to visual art.

Clarke describes himself as a Braille typographer and has found a way to make Braille accessible for a wider audience. He showed us his first attempt at translating the Braille alphabet on a bigger scale - he sewed buttons onto a long fabric strip, with each sequence representing a different letter of the Braille alphabet. (You can see an extract from this piece at the top of this blogpost.)

Clarke then decided to colour-code each letter of the Braille alphabet to make it easier for those not familiar with Braille to engage with his messages. Visitors can apparently come to his studio and learn to write their own Braille messages and create their own coded artwork. It's something I would love to have a go at one day.

I loved Clarke's positive outlook on life and that he actively encourages exhibition visitors to touch and play with his installations. (Apparently, he was delighted when one of his artworks broke because an adult had played hopscotch on it!)

I was also intrigued that Clarke has found a way to keep visitors engaged with his art for long periods. (Clarke quoted some research that found that gallery visitors on average take 7 seconds to engage with a piece of art - I have definitely been guilty of rushing through an exhibition, trying to take in as much as possible, but then not remembering any details clearly...)

You can find out more about Clarke's journey and work on the website seeingwithoutseeing

On Wednesday I stayed local and attended a demonstration by mixed media artist Jenny Muncaster. I have traditionally had a playful, experimental approach, so the way that Jenny is working was very familiar to me. I was looking for inspiration when setting up a still life

My work tends to be dynamic and energetic, and I have found setting up my own still life compositions frustrating. I find proportional drawing tricky, though my tutors assure me that one day drawing will come naturally if I keep practicing. For now, I have been encouraged to stick with geometric objects.

Jenny demonstrated the interesting compositions that can be achieved with practice.

Jenny works with collage, ink and acrylics, and her approach cannot be directly translated into oils. However, just like Cezanne, her work showed me that a still life does not have to look static.

Jenny also reminded us that still life arrangements can be highly personal by choosing objects that mean something to the person a still life is painted for. Above all, still life compositions can be whimsical and fun.

You can find our more about Jenny's work and the courses she offers on her website.


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