The Importance of Composition
 
Bright Spring Morning - acrylic on linen on board - 2ft x 1ft.jpg

I am back in residence at The Yorkshire Arboretum after the hurly burly of York Open Studios. It was cold but sunny as I made my way into the woods and everything was lit up. It was like walking into my recent painting 'Wonderland.' It struck me that walking around the Arboretum is like walking into different worlds. At the entrance you are in Ancient Beech land and just over the hill you walk into fruit Blossom land and just before that is the mature Birch circle land. Then there are the sweeping vistas where buttercup hills can be spied, long straight paths and meandering white lanes surrounded by dark mysterious bushes. There are clumps and stalks, round squat rows and tall endless ancients. World upon world of glorious beauty and good company. The company of trees.

This is all preparation, the planning of my next body of work. It is both exciting and frightening. I always wonder how I am going to begin something so immense. How I can possibly do justice in paint to what I see and experience. First I walked and then I took the camera. It was too cold to sit and sketch and whilst I don't approve of working from photographs, a camera is a great resource for contemplating composition. Snapping away enables you to catch the startling effects on landscape of the fleeting English sun. It helps you frame a picture and pick out the images that are strong. Trees that sit together in a particular way in a certain light. I realise that composition is about relationships and juxtapositions, different shapes, strong angles. Gatherings of disparate parts that together are strong enough to make a good story. With this in mind, these are some of my visual insights of the days work and the foundations of the paintings to come.

 
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Flower Power
 
 
Love Flowers  ii - 2ft x 2ft - Mixed Media on board.jpg
 

Life has moved on since the beginning of the Flower Bomb series and my last blog. There was one and now there are five. They were hard won. The making of them extended from the end of winter into Spring so while I was working on these abstract florals I was longing to be out of the studio and into the landscape. Winter work was sneaking into summer. (optimistic I know as we are all still freezing) But nature has proceeded regardless. Suddenly the hot colours inside my studio weren't right as I noticed the gentle brown pinks, greys, lime greens, clean yellows and white blossom of the emerging March landscape outside. It was landscape time and I was still painting florals. I persevered and the resulting paintings were worth it. They are beauties of colour, technique, style and surface.

Colour was not the only way in which I was bringing summer into winter when I was working on these. I now have three flower presses in which to preserve leaves and flowers as they come into season. They are then used as stencils on my winter paintings. So although these are 'inside' paintings as opposed to the plein air landscape, the outside world of fauna and flora is still coming in via my plant press along with the preserve of other seasons.

Bellissimo  - Mixed media on birch ply - 2ft x 2ft.jpg
Blue Haze  - Mixed media on birch ply - 2ft x 2ft.jpg
Scarlett O'Hara  - Mixed media on birch ply - 2ft x 2ft.jpg
Welcome to Flower-Bombs and Colour is back
 
Flower Bomb i - Mixed media on birch ply - 2ft x 2ft.jpgF
 

There is something about the winter in England that makes me long for hot dynamic abstract colour combinations. This has given birth to the new Flower-Bomb series which I am soooo excited about. A delightful medley of mixed media combinations which include the use of actual dried leaves and flowers. These paintings are adventurous and designey and are set to break out of predictable conceptions of Still Life.

Concerned primarily with experimental colour combinations and mark making, Flower-Bombs are set to break new ground in style, mark making and composition. Most exciting of all is the plan to incorporate their random rule breaking into my summer landscapes including those created in my Artist in residence at The Yorkshire Arboretum.

Imagination and the Impact of Colour
 
Another Land - Acrylic on Canvas

Another Land - Acrylic on Canvas

 

The depths of winter in England always makes me long for sunny climes and I find exotic tropics begin to emerge in the studio. January in North Yorkshire is HOT. I can’t get enough orange red and fuchsia pink. Lined up in my mind are all the lovely white, black and brown Yorkshire landscapes and bare sculptural trees if I can only tear myself away from the comfort of abstract florals and remembered midsummer Spanish landscapes.

This brings me around to the impact of colour and the fact that it has a mental emotional impact. I think I will bring some of this longing for heat into the winter trees in the Yorkshire Arboretum paintings and the winter landscapes but meanwhile what emerged today was 'Another Land'.

The Importance of 'Surface' and 'Mark Making.'

As well as colour, composition and content, attention to surface is an essential element in a good painting. Each brush stroke and mark becomes important.

Increasingly I like my surfaces to be smooth and free of lumps. This is achieved through a combination of sanding, scratching out and polishing with tissue or a dry soft cloth.

When colours are applied in layers they have quite a different effect than a single coat. Something of the 'past lives' and earlier ideas are still often present in the finished work even if it has changed a great deal from the initial sketch. The finished works have history and patina. The story of the evolution of the painting is in its layered marks; in what has been added and taken away; the washes, scrapes, destruction and creation. This history must be tidied and balanced in the completed work. In the final pulling together every mark becomes considered and intentional. The balance between chance and deliberation, chaos and order, produces a final rich patina that would be impossible to achieve if the painting hadn't gone through this journey.

Trying To Find A Way In...

Trying to find...a way in as Artist in Residence at The Yorkshire Arboretum.

I am starting to find my way around The Yorkshire Arboretum; to find a way in to the residence. How do I describe this special place? I have spent hours walking, looking and sketching. The trees have a powerful presence, awe inspiring and comforting at the same time. I am struck with two types of tree groups. The same type of tree planted numerously and the effect of very different species planted in close groups.

The logistics of transporting heavy large boards, paints, water and brushes around 120 acres of parkland are challenging but I want to paint in situ. To capture the feeling of being there in that space and that moment. I am under pressure to capture this fleeting time in the calendar when there are still leaves on the trees but the structure is beginning to show through and there is glorious colour juxtaposed with intimations of the stark nakedness of winter. Another week and this could all be gone. Procrastination must end and commitment of action begin.

Emma George
A Year In The Yorkshire Arboretum

I am delighted to be Artist in Residence at The Yorkshire Arboretum on the Castle Howard Estate for the end of 2018 and throughout 2019 I will be recording the landscape there throughout the seasons.

Award winning Yorkshire photographer Lucy Saggers has already captured me making some preliminary sketches for a series of large paintings to be started in October and Filmmaker Emilie Flower will be filming the work as it progresses.

Two workshops will take place as part of my residence as well as an exhibition at The Arboretum and The Helmsley Arts Centre at the end of 2019. 

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Emma George
Painting Course in Morocco with Laura Harwood & Tessa Pearson

Recently I spent a week in Morocco, painting in Marrakech and at the Kasbah du Toubkal in the High Atlas mountains. We visited and sketched in the Bahia Palace, the Jardin Secret, Musee de la Palmeraore, the Majorelle gardens and the garden of Yves St Laurent. The colours were incredible and I am really looking forward to developing all these ideas into paintings.

Marrakech-from-the-rooftop-of-Riad-el-Assafir.jpg
Emma George