Those of you who have read my sporadic blogs over the years will know that September is one of my favourite times of year. There is a slight bite to the wind on my morning walks and the smell of change in the air. After a very busy summer, Cornwall will begin to return to normality, with empty car parks and wild windswept beaches. I have avoided the crowds this summer and mostly stayed within a 20-mile radius of home, but with the arrival of autumn I will venture out again for long walks with Jess and Pea on the north coast and visits to Mousehole and Penzance.
The last few months have been some of the busiest I can remember in the studio. A massive thank you to everyone who has bought books, cards and prints and all the commissions.
The new edition of A Brush With The Coast has very nearly sold out - I have about 100 copies left of the full-colour book, and 200 of the paperback. If you were thinking of buying one as a gift for Christmas, or for yourself, don’t leave it too late. A huge thank you to everyone who has taken the time to leave a review for my books on my website - it’s much appreciated.
Looking forward to the next few months I am going update my website with a new set of cards, a new range of prints and a small collection of brand new paintings. I am also hoping to produce a new range of Christmas cards if time allows.
And next year? I am having a show at Red Rag Gallery in Bath with 15 paintings, and my postponed show at The Old Coastguard in Mousehole will be going ahead in July.
For the time being I am working on a collection of winter themed paintings for Red Rag Gallery's winter show:
I hope you are all well and bearing up ok. Let's hope this new month brings good news and good luck for us all.
There’s an eye-catching headline (more on that later)!
I’ve decided I’m not going to mention the C word, but instead am going to focus on what I’ve been up to recently from the comfort of my studio. Spring is always an exciting time of year, with the prospect of exhibitions, private views and a general upturn in sales. This spring I have had to change my expectations but there is still plenty to be excited about.
Finally, the most exciting thing of all, the author Bill Bryson, has happily agreed for me to use his superb quote "Sasha Harding is an artistic genius!" in reference to my book A Brush With The Coast. Being the legend he is, he even went as far as to show a copy of my book to his agent and publisher. I exchanged a number of emails with him and had to keep pinching myself that I was actually corresponding with BILL BRYSON!
Lots to be thankful for.
Stay safe everyone, I’ll try to blog a bit more - I don’t have an excuse not to now.
I watched a fascinating documentary on BBC Four last week called ‘The Forger Who Fooled The Nazis’. It told the unbelievable story of a Dutch artist called Han van Meegeren, who managed to fool the artistic establishment into authenticating a series of ‘missing’ Vermeer paintings that he had forged. For me, one of the most fascinating parts of the programme was when they showed his technique. This involved mixing Bakelite with oil paint to replicate the tough veneer of a very old painting, sourcing lapis lazuli and even baking the finished canvas in an oven.
The actual paintings were hideous, with none of the lightness of touch and subtlety of a true Vermeer, but he still managed to fool those in the know. After making millions selling the fakes to institutions and galleries, van Meegeren was eventually unmasked and served just one year in prison. After his death he became a folk hero in the Netherlands, celebrated for his audacious crime.
I’ve been recording my own process recently (no Bakelite involved) using time-lapse videos. Here are a series of images and a video, showing the different stages of one of my paintings. Once I’ve drawn out the image onto the canvas with a soft pencil I put a very thin wash of acrylic paint over the surface to fix the pencil and knock back the white gesso. Next, I block in the underpainting with acrylic paint. Using acrylic for the initial blocking-in means I don’t have to wait for it to dry over days, as I would if I used only oil paint.
And so to the best bit: adding all the details, tweaking the colours and refining the overall composition in oil. It sounds straightforward, and it is, sometimes, but more often than not a missing piece of the puzzle throws the whole process. It could be the composition, the colours, the tones, even my mood. For every painting that goes like clockwork there are three that end up facing the wall!
At least - unlike Van Meegeren - I don’t have the added worry of having to pop my finished canvases into a hot oven before persuading important-looking men with beards that my painting is a missing masterpiece by a 17th century Dutch artist.
Those of you that have read my blog over the years will know that September is my absolute favourite time of year. The first day of the month feels like a new beginning to me, a fresh start. One of my sisters explained that it was that back to school feeling that is so ingrained in us of all that brings on the thoughts of endless possibilities. I’m not so sure, I only remember feeling dread at the start of new term. Anyway, for whatever reason I am fired up and feeling really inspired as the leaves start to change colour and the nights draw in.
One of my latest paintings is a real departure from my usual coastal themes. Not only is the subject matter different but I’ve painted it in oils rather than my usual acrylic. Peanut and the Bull is an idea I’ve had for over a year. The bull is called Foggy and he is a familiar face on my morning dog walks. Although he is huge he has a calm, placid personality and I’ve grown very fond of him. I loved the idea of him and Peanut (my miniature sausage dog) looking at each other. I must say I am thrilled with how it has turned out and now I’m thinking of doing a series of the two of them.