A return to Chichester Festival Theatre Residency drawings

Observational drawings from CFT

Observational drawings from CFT


After a period of reflection (and recovery) after completing my MA last September I am making a return to CFT drawings, which resulted from my residency at Chichester Festival Theatre. The stimulation of imagery and architecture were quite overpowering at the time. I had to focus quite closely on the exhibition at the Minerva and on my degree show and so I had to ignore much resource material. I am now taking the opportunity to return to it as I prepare for a new period of painting. The Foyer continues to attract me visually and I have completed a ‘medley’ of small drawings which are 20 x 20cm.
A medley of small drawings from CFT residency

Minerva Exhibition

Minerva exhibition
Minerva Theatre Exhibition
The MA is now complete, the degree show has finished, all stewarding is finished and the work has come down. For me, I still have paintings on display in an exhibition, which has been so expertly mounted by Sophie Shaw and Harriet Rose in the foyer of the Minerva. I have two drawings and five paintings on display, showing some of the work completed during my residency, focusing on the production, The Rehearsal.
Minerva exhibition
One of the paintings on display is the one which I started in the Foyer of the main theatre, and shows the place which Luna had described to me as being a special place for her. You can find this painting immediately to the left of the Minerva Box Office.
Minerva exhibition
I am very proud to have my work shown in this prestigious location and I am endebted to the theatre and my MA tutor Dr Shirley Chubb, for their support and encouragement.
Come and see some Chekhov at the Minerva and see the exhibition for yourself.

Working in the Studio

I attended a four day intensive painting workshop led by John Skinner at Seawhite Studios, Partridge Green. This was a good opportunity to start some paintings from my collected resources from CFT. I chose to work with The Rehearsal as I had most information on this play.
The studio space, being shared with a number of other artists, was smaller than my own studio, so my large canvases felt quite cramped to start with, until I was able to organise the space better.

The Rehearsal Paintings

The Rehearsal Paintings


I like to have preparatory or reference material on the wall as I work.
Painting at Seawhite Studios

Painting at Seawhite Studios


I started two paintings, but I shall follow the path of just one of them for this post. The ground was already painted with a dark, dark blue. This is not my usual practice, but I am trying new approaches, whilst I am working out how to show the darkness of a theatre, brought to life with light and colour.
The first attempt to cover the canvas is always a challenge, but this is a good time to consider the composition of the painting.
The Rehearsal 1
I was working on an easel, not something I am accustomed to doing and probably not to be repeated if possible. It tips the painting up towards the light and makes it harder to see the colours when the paint is wet. With a lot of canvas to cover (1200x1000mm) progress seems slow at times. The advice was to emphasis something that we like in our source material. This was an easy decision for me. It was the odd shapes in my drawing of the flour de lys shapes on the set for The Rehearsal that had first captured my attention, so this is what I wanted to emphasise.
The Rehearsal - Set drawing

The Rehearsal – Set drawing


The Rehearsal 1

The Rehearsal 1


Painting is a process where marks are added and removed from the canvas at every stage. On reflection, I removed the red ribbon-like line where it crossed the light green ‘ribbon’ and this made a more cohesive composition, allowing two entities to exist in their own space in the painting. I spend quite a lot of time mixing paint colours, rarely using colours straight from the tube. when I do it tends to be for emphasis or highlights only. Once you have used pure colour you have nowhere to go to intensify your colour.
The Rehearsal 1

The Rehearsal 1


I continued to work on this canvas between working on another painting, back in the studio in artOne at the university, where I shall concentrate my work for the summer, giving my husband a bit more space in the studio back at Lavant.
I extended the red ‘ribbon’ down to the bottom of the canvas and removed the patch of light purple from the base of the painting. I liked the purple colour but didn’t feel it was in the right place. However, I was now faced with a composition which sits on the surface of the picture plane. This is again out of my comfort zone. I was tempted to change this to make it a painting that I would feel able to ‘walk into’. I resisted the urge to make the change and instead will take on the challenge of something more abstract than is my usual practice.
Still being in love with the purple, I added it to the right hand image, feeling that it worked well with the green, but being disappointed in the overall composition.
The Rehearsal 1

The Rehearsal 1


William Dudley had told me that he liked the way I had captured the chaos of the play and his interpretation of the set in my drawing. This wasn’t coming across in the painting. I needed to introduce some movement to this rather static painting. I tore myself some stencils and set to work to mix a brighter green. I left small interstitial glimpses of the purple.
The Rehearsal 1

The Rehearsal 1


Now it feels as if there is a conversation going on between the two images in the painting. By now the red ‘ribbon’ was a little the worse for wear and so I re-mixed the colour and re-instated parts of the line, where necessary. For the time being I shall leave the painting. Sometimes I need to live with a painting for a while before I know what to do next or simply decide to move on.

June 2015 Interim Crit

My time as Emerging Artist in Residence at CFT is part of a collaboration between the theatre and the University of Chichester’s Art Department. As an MA student approaching the last leg of her studies, I had to show my work to date for the final module in an Interim Crit with University Tutors and fellow MA students. Much of this work has been created in CFT and consists of drawings, some of which are exploratory and are perhaps preparation for paintings. Part of Interim Crit is to show the pieces of work that are significant to the development of my art practice within the MA programme. This has been a useful exercise for me, during this time of reflection on the material gathered so far at the theatre.

Interim Crit: lessons from the theatre

Interim Crit: lessons from the theatre


I made some notes on painted paper, about the issues that my time so far with the theatre have made me consider, both in relation to my practice as an artist in general and as a painter in particular. I shall put this ‘reminder’ list on the wall of my studio so that I can interrogate new work in relation to them. They do not represent rules as such, but I do want these elements to be evident in my current body of work.

Bringing light to a dark place is fundamental to the theatre and very much part of the magic of live performance, and so I have made studies where I start with a dark background and impose light areas or remove the darkness:

Set for The Rehearsal

Set for The Rehearsal


My palette has historically been light, colourful and even pastel. Bringing darker tones to my paintings has been a challenge for me.
Auditorium

Auditorium

Symmetry is very evident in the refurbished building of the main theatre, including in the Foyer area. Through collage and editing, I have taken two very similar drawings based on the stairs up to the auditorium, and played with the symmetry and mirroring which existed within them.

Interim Crit June 2015

Interim Crit June 2015

Repetition is an inevitable feature of the rehearsal process and eventually, the run of any show. I found the repetition of shapes within the set of The Rehearsal became magnified against the back wall of the stage,when the direction of the light source was changed. This was quite compelling. I am considering how repetition might be incorporated into my paintings.

I wanted to show Katherine Kingsley and Niamh Cusack very simply in my observational drawings of their rehearsals, whilst locating them within the intimate space of the Minerva.

Katherine Kingsley

Katherine Kingsley


Niamh Cusack

Niamh Cusack


By contrast I enjoyed the space surrounding Edward Bennett and Jamie Glover in this drawing, whereas there is a closeness and tension between them, in quiet conversation together.
Edward Bennett and Jamie Glover

Edward Bennett and Jamie Glover

On entering the theatre, any painter can find a multitude of subjects to work with. I have found the discipline of being forced to be selective in my gathering of material very helpful. The auditorium in particular presents so many areas of interest, even before the ‘set’ for the production is considered. The need for selectivity aligns with an approach that I have already introduced into some of my compositions, as in this painting from the Oaklands series.

Basement 4 Oaklands Park House

Basement 4 Oaklands Park House

The Rehearsal (Jean Anouilh) – Tech and Dress rehearsals

It is a great privilege to be allowed to observe rehearsals and I am grateful to Jeremy Sams, Director, Ba Penney, Stage Manager and the cast for making this possible for me. I was excited and very much challenged by the prospect of being able to draw not just the set for The Rehearsal, but to sketch the actors. I do not consider myself to be in any way a figurative artist so this was a real challenge to me. However, I focused on the costumes and outlines, which is my usual method of making observational drawings.

The Rehearsal set designed by Bill Dudley

The Rehearsal set designed by William Dudley


The set, designed by William Dudley, could not have matched my interests better – it was full of intricate archways, trellises, doors and hanging lamps. I could not wait to draw it. During the tech rehearsal there were several unexpected (for me) lighting changes, throwing up shadows against the backdrop and changing the dimensions of the spaces. It exactly replicated what I want in my paintings and drawings: repetition of shape and image, changes in scale and dark shapes set against light backgrounds followed by the reverse – light shapes against a dark background. I just couldn’t draw fast enough! Listening to the baroque(?) music also created an atmosphere as I frantically drew.
The Rehearsal - Set drawing

The Rehearsal – Set drawing

After lunch that day the actors rehearsed and so I sketched them, attempting where possible, to indicate where they were in relation to the set and the auditorium. At least the set and seats did not move, whereas obviously the actors did move for much of the time.

Niamh Cusack

Niamh Cusack


Simon Dutton

Simon Dutton


Katherine Kingsley

Katherine Kingsley


I snatched glimpses of them – hoping for a few minutes without movement. I was shuffling a drawing board and two sketch books, working on several drawings at once.
Edward Bennett and Jamie Glover

Edward Bennett and Jamie Glover


Eventually osteo-arthritis caught up with me, and my hand, now claw-like, had to be rested, which allowed me to enjoy the acting and plot, which had partly escaped me through the deep concentration of observing the cast. I find the theatre timeless and was desperately hoping that the parking warden for Northgate car park was equally timeless as I realised that I had long overshot my parking ticket.

I had a second opportunity to draw the cast on the day of the Dress Rehearsal – Still on a steep learning curve for this new way of working, I noted to myself not to sit above any lighting again when wanting to look down at the stage and still be able to draw. Even though for much of the time I do not look at my paper when drawing, there are times when I want/need to. I could see the stage well enough, but not my drawing board because of the glare from a reflection from the floor below me. I reminded myself that this residency is not just about the outcomes in drawings and paintings, but also the experience of being part of the inner workings of the theatre.

Niamh Cusack Dress rehearsal

Niamh Cusack Dress rehearsal


Dress Rehearsal

Dress Rehearsal

Way Upstream – Press Night

Attending Press Night for Way Upstream did not disappoint. The stage transformation to the River Orb was magnificent. I was so impressed by the physical capabilities of the cast, working in the confined space of the boat and teetering precariously over the water for much of the play. I particularly liked the ‘speeded up’ sections of the action, demonstrating again the skill of the actors and the vision for the play. Creating illusion is the stuff of theatre and this was supremely well achieved in all aspects of the production, not least the technical achievements achieved by the Technical team.

The night before Press Night I had attended the pre-show talk with Nadia Fall and Alan Ayckbourn. Ayckbourn discussed the creation of a character who was at first attractive and then totally abhorrent by the end of the play and this was admirably met in Jason Durr’s portrayal of Vince. Ayckbourn was also asked about the final quarter of the play – was it a meant to be a dream sequence? He ducked the question and perhaps with good reason. Several of the critics of Way Upstream seemed less than convinced about this part of the play (Theatre Cat;Telegraph; Chichester Observer)

Pre-show talk with Alan Ayckbourn and Nadia fall

Pre-show talk with Alan Ayckbourn and Nadia fall

Here’s the image I put on the front of the card for Press Night for Nadia, the cast and the creative team:
IMG_1546

CFT Password Protected Posts

If you see password protected on any of my posts, this is simply allowing me to write my posts directly onto the website and then ‘release’ them at a slightly later date, when the content is in a finished format. I have added Pinterest and Facebook buttons so that you can share the post on your own Facebook page

CFT Residency Way Upstream

I was invited to watch the building of the stage for Way Upstream which is going to be opening the Festival season at CFT this year. The design is a triumph and one which was equally met by the capabilities of the technical crew at CFT. Entire, fully grown trees were waiting outside the Stage Door as I arrived. The boat, originally called Avocet, had been delivered earlier in the week. Inside the auditorium the stage had been pared back to allow for the installation of the boat and the river, in which it will cruise.
For me, to arrive in the auditorium with drawing materials was quite overwhelming. The auditorium alone offers so much visual material for an artist like me, who is intrigued by spaces and light. I wasn’t going to ignore this, but the building of this stunning set was not going to be repeated. I was wondering “how on earth are they going to do that?” …but they did and it is fantastic.

Avocet

Avocet

A second drawing visit allowed me to make some sketches of the boat whilst it was moving – yes, the boat actually travels along the riverbank. This allowed me to do the free kind of drawing and multiple viewpoints (from a cubist perspective) that I like to get into my work, without me having to create this by, for example, turning the canvas through 90 degrees, which I quite often do.

Way Upstream and auditorium

Way Upstream and auditorium


IMG_1494
Building the riverbank

Building the riverbank


Avocet 'on the move'

Avocet ‘on the move’

I shall welcome some studio time now to develop some of these sketches for future use.

Drawing in the Foyer

I have had three sessions of drawing in the Foyer at Chichester Festival Theatre (CFT) now. It’s interesting how much more you see each time and also how the same things still draw you in.

CFT Staircase

CFT Staircase


From Bar to Dark Space

From Bar to Dark Space


Drawing in the bar

Drawing in the bar

This drawing shows multiple viewpoints of the same space.
Getting to grips with the ceiling CFT

Getting to grips with the ceiling CFT


20150319_141447

CFT Residency Induction

The residency has begun! I received an induction to the theatre, including a tour of the main building, but don’t ask me for directions yet – I need a bit more time to fathom it all! I have met a good number of the permanent staff at CFT, from all departments and I am looking forward to working with them. I’ve narrowed down the choice of productions that I would like to work with to Way Upstream in the main theatre and The Rehearsal in the Minerva. Way Upstream is going to open the season with a stunning production and will give me time to work on the material that I gather, ready for presenting my work for my MA at the end of August and the residency exhibition in October. The Minerva offers a more intimate space and I am interested to compare this to the main theatre. It is hard to believe that the stage in the Minerva is the same size as the main stage.

I am already excited about the space in the theatres and am looking forward to the transformation to the main stage ready for the opening of the 2015 Festival.