Monday, 24 September 2018

More A to Z - I, J, K L, M & N

I is for Inspiration (and for Improving)
Obviously I am inspired to paint by horses, but I am inspired to paint and draw BETTER by the work of artists throughout art history. I’m not talking here about the wonderful mentors and co-mentors I am lucky enough to know or have known, though they certainly play their part, but the ones in the books on my studio shelves. I remember exactly where I first saw their work. The artists that have inspired me the most work in different mediums, different styles and with different subjects (interestingly very rarely horses) but all have a quality of light capture, brushwork, mood and atmosphere, economy of mark or something intangible that speaks to me. Looking at their work has helped me out of many a painting quandary and many a painter’s block. So (among many and in no particular order) here is my list of go-tos: Edgar Degas, Franz Marc, Marc Chagall, John Singer Sargent, Horst Janssen, Katsushika Hokusai, Käthe Kollwitz, Ralph Steadman, Frank Auerbach, Egon Schiele, Felicien Rops, Joseph Zbukvic, Günter Grass. Which artists inspire you?  

J is for Just A Card. 
Designer Sarah Hamilton’s 'Just A Card' campaign started when she saw a quote from a recently closed Gallery’s owner saying that if everyone who had complimented the gallery had bought just a card they would not have had to close down. I can’t remember how many times I have said similar at a show! So if you like a gallery or artist and want to keep seeing their work then make a purchase at their shop, a show, or from their website to support them. Even small purchases add up so . . .  If you want to see or purchase my published work, you can at or for more information about the campaign:

K is For Kismet. 
 ‘Kismet’ is my best selling print. The original (sold long ago) is a pastel study that I completed in 1995(!) using my friend’s mare Kizzy as a model. At the time I had not seen a painting or photograph that focused exclusively on the eye, but have seen many, many since. This does not stop me working on eye paintings and studies, but just makes me want to look for a different way of looking at the subject. The focus on the eye in 'Kismet' was not really deliberate on my part - I ran out of paper! You can buy the print at

L is for Life drawing. . .
I think anyone that knows me would know that in my world L is for Life Drawing (working from a nude human model). Anyone who thinks there is anything sexual or embarassing in that only needs to attend one class - they will very quickly get over themselves. Good Life Models are very skilled at what they do, often have an interest in art and usually have quite an Art Collection of gifted drawings by (often famous) artists. if you think it is easy, then try sitting still and holding a pose with energy and interest for 10 minutes. Some Life models can do that for over an hour. 
I have a passion for drawing and Life Drawing is THE BEST DISCIPLINE. From three minute, two minute or one minute warm up sketches and gestural drawings (see the top line of drawings) to 2 hour poses, it teaches proportion, mark making and helps to find a natural style. Life drawing, especially quick pose gestural work is very good practise for drawing animals, who have a tendency to not keep still, however much you ask them to. It helps to be able to find a good weekly class and I am lucky to have Andres Jaroslavsky @yorkcornerstudio nearby. Andres helped restore my confidence and has become a friend as well as a great tutor/mentor, knowing exactly when and how far he can push me to do better or go 'Faster Ruth, Faster!" (say in an Argentinian accent for the true effect). Life Drawing is my meditation, my mindfulness, my playtime, and my experiment zone . . . And we get chocolate with our cup of tea at halftime.

M is for Muse.

I have several muses for my art. In fact, of the nine muses in mythology, there is not a painting, or even an Art, muse - that role was down to a god(ess). For reference, the nine muses and their roles are:
Calliope - epic poetry
Clio - history
Erato - love poetry
Euterpe - music
Melpomene - tragedy
Polyhymnia - sacred poetry
Terpsichore - dance.
Thalia - comedy
Urania - astronomy

Mythologically speaking (at least in greek mythlogy) I work under the auspices of the goddess Athena, but am comforted that she was one of the most venerated of the Greek deities. Athena represented intelligence, creativity, enlightenment, and 'the arts', among many others that also included law and justice, strategic warfare and mathematics. The latter two I would say definitely feature in being an artist. Hephaestus, who was the Greek god of artisans and sculptors, did not see fit to include painting in his portfolio, though he did work as Blacksmith for Olympus. So us painters have to struggle on under a general 'the arts' goddess, However, I can probably claim Euterpe as a muse because I listen to music almost always when I paint or draw. My favourite band to paint to is . . . Muse (see what I did there?!). I do have pretty eclectic taste though, and a range of artists and musical genres feature in my itunes library. I have playlists for different stages of a painting: for bold, expressive brush-work; for smaller marks for detail work; to just get me going in the first place! Tapping into the music helps me to tap into the ‘zone’, where thought and feel work on a more instinctual level and the medium takes a larger role in the conversation between me and the paint. I have had people suggest that I have some synesthesia, which is the ability to see colour triggered by sounds. I am not sure I am that special, but I know that my best painting happens when I can over-ride the logical part of my brain and get into 'the zone' - see: Strategic Warfare.

N is for Narrative.

Some of my paintings and series are straightforward observational pieces but some have levels of narrative. This is planned out in great detail in my sketchbooks and preliminary work. I like books, films, music and artworks that work on different levels. In my own work, because the story and motivations are very personal I don’t like to force them on the viewer. Also I like the viewer to have their own relationship with the painting. The series ‘Innocence & Experience’ is a narrative series so let me show you a story . . . Just remember that Fairy Tales work on many levels! 

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

E, F, G & H - the second part of my A to Z Art Glossay

E is for Editorial
When I am not drawing or painting (not been riding much recently due to lack of horse!) then I am most often reading or writing. 

‘The Artist’ magazine published two of my articles early in 2018 following a previous demonstration article in 2014, and am currently working on a series of articles on drawing and painting horses and other animals to be published next year. Keep following my social media pages for updates. Facebook and @ruthbuchananart on instagram.

The online Art Magazine the ArtistsNetwork commissioned a general drawing article which was published in August 2018  . . . Oh and I have the long-term aim of writing a book . . . Or two . . . Or three! 

F is for Framing.
My good friend and mentor, Les Packham used to say that a good painting deserves a good frame and a bad painting needs one! It is true that the framing can make or break a painting. I am lucky to have worked with The Whole Picture Company in Harrogate for many years, having earlier experimented with cheap framing which is just a false economy. Art glass is now affordable and makes a huge difference to the clarity as well as being anti-reflective and UV protective. I use fine art grade lightfast materials and my prints are professionally printed using light fast inks but any pigment will fade over time in direct light. 

G is for Great Yorkshire Show. .

For the past few years I have been invited to exhibit in the Art Show, a gallery space on Avenue H. The gallery is staffed by the artists so people can also meet and talk to the creatives behind the exhibited artworks. We also get to have arty chats amongst ourselves and I have made some great artist friends through exhibiting at this wonderful opportunity.

We all owe a large debt of thanks to Judy Packham who has organised the Art Show since the start, originally alongside her husband Les.

Encouraged by Les and Judy, I did my first demonstrations at The Great Yorkshire Show and Les was always front and centre to watch, give me feedback and encourage me. Les was a fantastic watercolourist, a wonderful mentor to me and is hugely missed, though I still have his picture watching over me as I paint in my studio.  My image (above) shows my 2018 demonstration - a watercolour of a horse's eye. . . painted without reference!

H is for Horse Trials. 

I must have a thing about the letter B - I have sketched, painted and exhibited at Horse Trials at Burghley, Badminton, Blenheim, Burgham and Bramham (amongst others not beginning with B!).

The combination of dressage, cross country and showjumping set in beautiful parkland with the backdrop of stunning architecture has made a heady cocktail of inspiration for me for many years and I have shown some of the results of that around the picture of my Bramham Tradestand. Can you identify any of the horses or venues? No prizes, but feel free to answer in the comments.

Exhibiting is also a wonderful opportunity to meet the people who follow my work and make sales and commission bookings that will provide for me to keep on painting. 

Keep following - more  in the A to Z next week.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

A to D in an A to Z Glossary of My Art Business

My blog has been quiet for a while but now I am back. . .

Earlier this year I took part in a #smallandsupercharged social media group A to Z about my business. Then I got really, really busy and it was sort of abandoned at T. I have since revived it, but thought I might post the whole A to Z (in manageable chunks) here for people to refer back to. So here is the first installment -  A to D:

A is for Art.
Some of my earliest memories are of something I made or drew, or a painting that captured my imagination and made me want to learn to paint. There is always more to learn and that is a great motivation. I have taken side-trips along the way, but the same things that inspired me then still inspire me now. 

Here are two examples. 
I destroyed most (over 100) of my sketchbooks but one survived the cull so you have drawings from 1982 of a polo player and a French street scene, and paintings of the same subjects from my more recent art practice. 

B is for Buchanimals. 
My own companions often act as model and muse. These are three much missed boys who shared our lives, and all of whom we lost in 2015/16. 

‘Whatever’ (top left) is our beloved Parsons Jack Russell, Riley, my studio companion who we lost far too early aged 11. 

‘Hawa My3a’ (bottom left - literal translation, ‘our muse’) is Boris. Just the most generous horse ever and whose huge heart finally gave out when he was 27. 

‘Counting Sheep’ (right) is my cathartic painting when I knew that my boy Atlas’ legs were failing after 20 years of a hugely active and enjoyable life together. I knew I had to let him go aged 23. 

We had all too short a time together but they live on in these paintings and our memories. Now the following generation of Buchanimals are providing the continued inspiration for paintings and making new memories. 

C is for Commissions.

Here I am not talking about the 40-70% commission that most Galleries or Agents take from a sale, but when someone asks me to paint their horse, dog . . . goats . . . cows . . .

This is my main income but also an inspiration and privilege in seeing first-hand, (and hopefully expressing in my art), the bonds between humans and their companion animals. 

I predominantly work from my own sketches and reference photos (plural). As well as the final painting, my clients get to keep the drawings they see to choose which ones goes forward to a painting. Most also have these framed as artworks in themselves. 

D is for Demonstration.

This image is my watercolour demonstration painting from a workshop in York. I still find demonstrating difficult - to focus on painting while being watched, and talk about process and technique at the same time - a big ask for an introvert more used to working in isolation! It is getting easier with practice and accepting that the painting will be looser and more akin to my painting from Life rather than my studio painting has helped.

The pencil below is a bit of the value sketch for this artwork. 

My thanks to Les and Judy Packham for encouraging me to demonstrate and teach. Les is much missed but his photo watches me paint in the studio and I know he is there in the front row (in spirit) every time I paint in front of people as he did in Life. 

Keep following my blog for more in the A to Z next week, and please comment below if you have enjoyed this post or want to have your own say, ask a question etc.