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Hanna-Mae Illustration

Illustrator & eco clothing designer

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Catch him while you can!

Last week I finally visited the ‘Leonardo da Vinci: A life in Drawing’ exhibition at the National Museum & Art Gallery in Cardiff and it just so happened I was visiting on the actual day of the 500th anniversary of his death.

To mark the anniversary art galleries across the UK from Cardiff to Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester (just to name a few) held a simultaneous exhibition of some of his fascinating work.

As I walked into the building I was met straight away with the sight of a large banner advertising the exhibition, showing just a glimpse of one of the pieces that I soon found out was on display. What became evident to me almost immediately was that our native language was also used (and I’d soon see more of this throughout the entire exhibition). I feel the National Museum & Art Gallery value heritage and encourage visitors to be curious about our past culture. In the gift shop you’ll find a host of treasures giving a nod to Wales, from traditional gifts such as Welsh love spoons, to Welsh language books.

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The exhibition itself was situated in a somewhat small room off from the main gallery and was guarded carefully by a member of staff. Tickets had to be bought before-hand in the gift shop and punched before you could enter (adult tickets £5, £4 concession, children free). Although I’m personally happy to support educational public spaces such as libraries, museums and art galleries, I wondered if some people may be put off by the price, particularly given the fact that we were given a limit of half an hour to view the pieces. That being said, I feel the majority of the visitors to this exhibition understood that to see first-hand some of da Vinci’s work is a rare opportunity. I should also mention that purchasing a ticket in Cardiff meant half price off your ticket if you visited Bristol Museum & Art Gallery.

The layout of the exhibition was fairly well thought-out given the slightly cramped space and it was nice to see ‘extras’ such as a corner dedicated to books on da Vinci, an interactive board and activity booklets for children (or big kids like me!). I feel like the exhibition was curated for a wide range of ages, though perhaps not very young children.

Whilst we were there we encountered a group of school children enthusiastically trying to re-create some of da Vinci’s pieces in their sketchbooks and I liked the fact that they were free to pick up magnifiers and activity booklets (though the magnifiers were so badly scratched it did very little to help see the pieces clearer). However, as there were a lot of people in the room it was very crowded and small queues had begun to form around paintings. I feel it would have been better for large groups to have been able to book in advance to avoid this.

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The free booklet managed to pack in several suggested activities, whilst also revealing a bit about da Vinci and the way in which he worked. I felt this was a good way to get children participating in art and engaging with the exhibition. The reverse side of the booklet was in Welsh.

In addition to the pieces on the walls there were two plinths, one with a piece showing a technique da Vinci used, which was described in the information board below. I feel there was the right amount of information throughout the exhibition, with small descriptions next to each piece, but larger boards giving more in-depth details, such as da Vinci’s background and most interesting to me, the materials he used.

Although the 12 nationwide exhibitions have now finished it’s not too late to see da Vinci’s precious works. From the 24th of May to the 13th of October over 200 of da Vinci’s drawings will go on display at The Queens Gallery (link).

Overall, whilst things were a little cramped, I’m glad I saw this exhibition. I feel as a former art student (though still a student in some ways as we never stop learning) this was one exhibition I shouldn’t miss.

 

 

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Art vs Craft

There’s nothing new with me dividing my time between art and sewing, but as I’ve been working towards a deadline (in this case a birthday) the balance has been significantly tipped, and I’ve been dedicating as much time to embroidering and sewing as possible.

The giftee owns a camper van and is always complaining of cold hands (yet refuses to wear gloves!) and so the little grey cells in my head set about providing a solution…

Introducing the cuddly camper cushion! A personalised cushion to keep in the back of your van, with a pouch to store reusable hand warmers.

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And as I’m so fond of recycling/upcycling, I made use of fabric left over from December’s inspiration board tutorial and utilised studs rescued from a handbag destined for the landfill.

artyWhen I’ve had the chance I’ve been sneaking a few hours here and there to work on an illustration using graphitint, putting the pencils through their paces ready for next month’s review. The piece was inspired by some old books I came across whilst sorting through my grandmother’s belongings. She, like myself, has always appreciated the beauty of nature. One book in particular caught my eye – The Hamlyn Animal Encyclopedia. It may have a dingy, stained exterior, but inside lies a treasure trove of detailed illustrations.

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For my piece I chose animals and fungi native to Britain that I thought would compliment the limited colour palette of the tinted graphite and not deduct anything from their natural interest/beauty; the shape was as important as the palette, with the curved backs of the Pine Marten adding to the symmetry – something I use quite often in my work, particularly my paper cuts.

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Pine Marten’s used to be a regular sight in Wales in the past, but during the 19th and 20th century became all but extinct. However, conservationists are trying to prevent this, and in 2015 the Pine Marten Recovery Project (part of The Vincent Wildlife Trust) attempted to recover numbers in Wales by transporting some from Scotland.

Finally, as my regular readers will know, I like to discover and share inspiring artwork and artists, so this week I leave you with a mini collection I’ve named ‘Wonderful Wildlife’. Click the icon to be directed to each artist gallery/profile. Click image to view full-size.

Mountain Bluebird‘ by Pamela Earleywine

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About: Caroline’s Deviantart gallery is full of beautiful nature/wildlife inspired art work, as well as exquisite portraits and sketches.

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White Lies‘ by Tess Garman.

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About: This gallery is packed full of impressive use of colour, with animals being a core subject. She captures expression so well and there’s a boldness to her work.

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Fungus Study’ by Ruvell Saylon Ates.

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About: Ruvell’s gallery is an interesting mixing pot of studies such as the one above, fantasy, and the occasional photo. I’m especially keen on his fungi studies, including ‘ Black Morel Study‘.

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Coming next month: Special crafty tutorial to mark St David’s Day.

 

A confession…

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I have a confession…one that may surprise those who have never met me…I struggle to eat. What most people would find appealing, and indeed class as ‘every day’ foods; noodles, toasties, curry, spaghetti, you name it, I probably don’t eat it. But in the interest of my health, which determines how much energy I have to work on what I love – art & design – I’m embarking on a quest (yes, this challenge feels so monumental that I feel justified in labelling it in such a way!) to challenge the compulsion that finds me reaching for the exact same foods every day.

I’m inviting you, my readers, to follow me on my journey to discover and create nourishing vegan recipes to support both body and mind. Veganism and vegetarianism has always been an influencing factor in my life, fuelling my interest in creating eco-friendly clothing, and using our natural world as inspiration for a great deal of my artwork. In next month’s ‘tutorial’ spot, I’ll be bringing you the first recipe instalment – vegan sushi. In the mean-time, here’s a list of some inspiring and useful vegan-related sites:

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Vegan Huggs – A blog packed with recipes, reviews, and more!

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Wear Your Voice – A website I’ve mentioned before where a passion for art meets a passion for animals, with truly unique illustrations printed on to t-shirts.

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Vegan Supermarket Finds UK – A super useful facebook group run by vegans, for vegans, where you can share your surprising vegan finds, as well as get some great tips on where to find all manner of vegan goodies!

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In the interest of keeping myself distracted whilst re-building my strength, I’ve been revisiting a seascape I began last year, yet lost the motivation for. Well the itch is back! and I’ve been compelled to dip in here and there. The tones of blue in the sea are proving to be a source of intrigue, as they’re not as straight-forward as they may seem; in order to achieve one elusive tone, I found myself cautiously mixing phtalo blue, cobalt, a tiny dot of ivory black, and an atom of yellow ochre, before deciding to substitute the black for burnt umber.

The relationship between colours and how they combine fascinates me! Explaining to those who don’t practise art that a blue can contain  brown, black, and even ochre, feels as though I’m revealing some clandestine key.

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Whilst my home studio is a base for all my inspiration and tools – my pattern folder, old art/craft magazines, art postcards etc, over the years I’ve grown fond of inhabiting a quiet corner of a library – a haven from home. This week I’ve been squirrelling away in the reference section (often good for exquisitely illustrated nature books) trying out Derwent Inktense pencils and making notes for next month’s review.

Costing £29.99 in the Range (£40.75 on Derwent’s website) for a tin of 24, it;s understandable you’d want to ‘try before you buy’, which is where I’ve done the work for you! Look out for the full review next month, which as always will be straight to the point and up-front.

 

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Finally, I want to tell you about the Winter Exhibition at Y Galeri Caerffili, which is displaying a whole range of styles and mediums, and at which my piece ‘One For Sorrow’ is currently on show. The exhibition will run all this month and directions can be found on their facebook page: Y Galeri Caerffili facebook. If you can’t make it in person, you’ll find some images of the artwork on display on their page and on the website.

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‘One For Sorrow’, graphite & oils, Hanna-Mae Williams

 

Monthly Review: ‘Your Gallery’ Newport

What: ‘Your Gallery’ exhibition

When: Now – 20th January 2017

Where: Newport Museum & Art Gallery 

Admission: Free

About: This summer the public were invited to choose their favourite pieces from the gallery’s stored collection, which is comprised of over 200 pieces of artwork. The choices were put together to create the ‘Your Gallery’ exhibition, including a ‘young choice’ section.

What became blatantly obvious to me was that this was such an eclectic mix of styles! From the more traditional, idyllic scenes by the likes of Stanhope Forbes, to more contemporary and risque pieces such as ‘The Foolish Virgin’ by Gerda Roper, and Mary Fedden’s ‘Maltese Town’ which displays shapes and colours so bold and in contrast with the more reserved offerings. This can only be a good thing, as the collection is not tailored to one specific taste, but offers a plethora of variety, making it appeal to a wider audience.

For those who appreciate technical skill, there are a number of works that demonstrate precision and explore perspective. ‘Newport from George Street Bridge’ by John Meredith is the perfect example of painstaking still life work, with the shapes of the buildings and bridge almost being an homage to architecture, rather than the cityscape. However, one painting which I found myself unsure of was ‘Balloon Barrage’ by George Phillis. This piece in particular fixed my attention. Whilst the shapes boast of accuracy and obvious care, with structures being easily recognisable for what they are, there was something peculiar about the perspective that I couldn’t quite put my finger on; there seemed to be almost a flatness to the lower half of the painting, adding to the slightly surreal angle put on what would ordinarily pass as an ‘ordinary’ scene. The fact that Phillis uses an interesting colour gradient in the sky (orange to yellow, ascending eventually to vibrant blue) combined with a sight we’re not used to in our modern world (Barrage Balloons were commonly seen during the war over cities) makes the painting more than just an observational painting, but conjures some extra depth.

Phillis’s work isn’t the only to make use of colour though, with a particularly striking piece called ‘ Rhondda Sunday’ by Nan Youngman being a prime example of how tone and colour can be used to create an atmosphere. Youngman uses muted tones to convey with perfection the depressing atmosphere of the street. You can almost feel yourself stepping into the soaked street.

In addition to appealing to varied tastes, I also liked the inclusion of explanations on why each piece was chosen. I found it particularly pleasing that one was chosen by someone who had studied at Newport’s old art school, which has now been converted to apartments. I also feel the inclusion of a ‘young people’s’ area was a lovely touch, particularly as I feel art and creativity should feature more in education.

Elsewhere in the gallery (which is limited in space, yet makes the very best of it) there’s the unmissable video/audio space which shows the work of artist David Garner. His exhibition, titled ‘Respond’, was inspired by coins in the museum’s Chartism area. His piece titled ‘Pennies for the People’, which is a chandelier made using two pence coins stamped with words relating to austerity, is shown hanging in the Chartist Cave, Llangyndir, accompanied by admittedly the most unique and offbeat harp music I have heard to date. Rhodri Davies uses music to convey feeling, and I was not surprised to learn that the piece was improvised. Truly from his feelings.

David Garner’s coin chandelier can be viewed downstairs in the museum in the Chartist area, a choice which I feel to be beneficial (as opposed to being on display in the gallery area) as it encourages the viewer to enter into the history of Newport and fully appreciate where Garner is coming from.

Although the exhibition is one of the best I’ve seen in Newport over the years, there were small details that I felt were missing. It would have been valuable to have included the mediums used in each piece (although it’s always fun to look at the textures and make a guess!) and information leaflets like those used to describe David Garner’s work would have been appreciated. However, the desk staff are always more than happy to talk you through the exhibitions and a brief description is displayed on a wall.

Unfortunately if you’d like to purchase a souvenir of the exhibition you won’t find it. As a self-confessed art postcard hoarder, I would love to have been able to bring home a reminder of the wonderful work as I do when visiting any gallery. The exhibition is small and you will only need to put aside an hour to have a real good delve into the art and museum. However, if you’re passing, or visiting the city, it’s worth a look.

 

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