Rachael Herman

Tag: Colour

Lilac Wisteria (2013-4), R. Herman

DSC_0520

Hello friends.

For those of you that are interested, here is my latest piece of art: a commission entitled, ‘Lilac Wisteria.’ My client intends to hang this artwork in their kitchen; a light and airy space, perfect for this large, statement piece.

My next project is a portrait. I am tremendously excited to start this, as portraits are indeed my fave, so watch this space…!

Rachael.

P.S. Apologies for the low-budget photograph; I have not yet had the chance to take one in the bright spring sunlight due to painting it over the dark winter months

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Unique (2013), R.Herman

'Unique' (2013) R. Herman, oil on  canvas, 30 x 50 cm,

Unique, Rachael Herman (2013), oil on canvas, 30 x 50cm

Considering I painted this piece way back in October, this post is a little late off the mark, but here it is anyway…

This painting depicts a 16.1 Dark Bay Dutch Warmblood (or ‘quite big dark brown horse’ to those of us who are equinely challenged) and was a (slightly belated) present for the horse’s previous owner, Cat. Unfortunately the lovely horse, Unique, had to be sold, so the painting was intended to be a sort of commemorative piece. A pretty horse, I’m sure you’ll agree!

Rachael.

Hanging Basket #1 (11/07/2012), R.Herman

Hanging Basket  #1, 11/07/2012

Having returned home from work today nothing short of a bruised and battered war hero – yes, it is that glorious time of year when schools decide to send their pupils out to fun places, masquerading it as ‘curriculum enhancement’. Apparently I put my name down for paintballing?! Owie… – I thought what better way to ‘debrief’ than to soak up the tepid rays of the evening sun in the serene green of the garden. Paintball gun left firmly behind, I instead armed myself with preferred weapon of choice, the ol’ Nikon d90. (Results shown above^).

Weston (05/2012), R.Herman

Weston Rachael Herman (2012), oil on canvas, 800 mm x 700 mm

Please welcome my latest piece that I have been beavering away at for these past few weeks. Confined to my little bedroom, amidst the fumes of turpentine and frustration, I am happy to say that I have finally finished this study of Cat’s fabulous horse, Unique. It does appear to be devoid of a rider (soz Cat), as I wanted to portray the beautiful creature trotting about her meadow freely, as nature intended, or something like that. (Basically, I acted out of cowardice, as I was too scared to paint not only a horse, but a person atop the horse, as painting a horsey alone is a mighty challenge in itself!)

As far as the technical aspects of the piece are concerned, I was going for a more impressionistic approach – you know, all Monet and such. A prime example of this is demonstrated by the trees in the left of the scene, which accounts for there being less focus on form and more on colour and the interplay of light. This is a style I am thus far unfamiliar with in my own practise, hence why it probably looks terrible, but hey, I’ll put that one down to experience I guess… As far as the horse is concerned, I tackled that in my usual ‘blend the colours like there’s no tomorow’ approach – a failsafe when faced with one of those difficult equine shapes.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy it.

Rach.

Invasion! (05/2012), R.Herman

Invasion! Rachael Herman (2012), Oil on canvas, 406 mm x 305 mm

Adversary of the humble hay-fever suffer, this fiendish yellow flower has become the source of inspiration for my most recent painting. Entitled, Invasion!, this piece serves to commemorate that time of year, around late Springtime, when East Anglia is subject to a sudden onslaught from this seemingly unsuspicious beast. Noses astream and eyes ablaze from scratching, this foe sure a sinus’ worst nightmare.

Such a shame, as it is rather a delightful colour combination: the cadmium yellow against that azure sky.

Once Upon a Damp Spring Day…

A bit of a photo-tour around my soggy garden one afternoon, earlier this Springtime.

Snaps taken, as usual, with the old-faithful Nikon D90 and altered on iPhoto to give them that wonderous ‘Instagram’ edge.

Rhododendron in White (12/05/2012), Sheringham Park

Here’s a pretty picture of a flower to brighten an otherwise dull day :).

Hugh Todd Naylor Gaitskell (1957), Judy Cassab

Hello there bloggers, I’ve missed you. So, here’s a bit of news for you artistic types who may or may not appreciate this little success story of mine: I have finally been accepted onto the Art History MA that I have spent the last twelve months working towards. Happy days! It appears that all those posts waffling on about paintings may actually come in useful. Perhaps… Anyway, now that the mood is light and the time is right, I shall proceed by introducing to you the painterly stylings of none other than Mrs Judy Cassab, whose study Hugh Todd Naylor Gaitskell (1957) – who henceforth will be referred to as ‘Hugh’ or ‘Hughie’ for the sake of my sanity – will be the subject of this evening’s scrutiny. As usual, I will commence with a brief bio of said artist before diving head-first (or more likely bellyflopping) into discussion of the painting itself.

Hugh Todd Naylor Gaitskell (1957), Judy Cassab, oil on canvas, 914 mm x 756 mm, courtesy of npg.org.uk

Judy Cassab, born Judit Kaszab, was received into 1920’s Vienna to Hungarian parents. Now upon reading this, I was consequently certain that there had been a vital error in Wikipedia‘s information, as Cassab had been labelled as an Australian artist. How hilarious, I thought, that they have confused Austria with Australia. Bless their little encyclopedic socks. However, after further research (the National Portrait Gallery website) into this apparent geographical misdemeanour, I have in fact discovered that I had been a tad hasty in my mockery of our favourite online information station, and for that I must apologise. It seems that Judy emigrated to Australia in 1951, after studying painting in Hungary, to make a name for herself as a portraitist. During her stint Down-Under she held over fifty solo exhibitions, debuting at the Macquarie Galleries, Sydney in 1953, and was recipient of several awards, including the prestigious Archibald prize (she won that twice, as you do).

In 1957 Judy was to paint the portrait that eventually made its way to London’s National Portrait Gallery in 1972 and, probably her greatest achievement to date, onto my little blog here another 30 years later ;-). The sitter, Hughie, was a British Labour politician, whose role within his party ranged from Chancellor of the Exchequer to Leader of the Opposition (1955 until his death in 1963). It is apparent that he was a popular political protagonist, even regarded by some as “the best Prime Minister we never had”. His untimely death put paid to his ever becoming Prime Minister though, as I mentioned earlier he never saw past the year 1963 due to the tragically abrupt onset of autoimmune disease, Lupus erythematosus, Awful stuff.

Close up of Hugh Todd Naylor Gaitskell (1957), Judy Cassab, oil on canvas, 914 mm x 756 mm, courtesy of npg.org.uk

What strikes me most about the painting, as with most examples of portraiture come to mention it, is that heartening semblance of sincerity conveyed through the eyes of the sitter. This, in my opinion and I am sure that this is the general consensus, is a mark of a truly great portrait. To display such an obvious degree of warmth and approachability in the countenance of a political figure is naturally considered to be against the norm. In addition, the casual stance and playful tilting of the head, like that of an inquisitive puppy, team up to enforce this idea of honest charm.

 Moving on from the head to the shoulders, knees and toes (minus the toes), and in particular to Hugh’s relaxed downward pointing left hand contrasted with the firmness of his right, we can see a body abundant in symbolism. Taking a closer look at the aforementioned hands, we can read a man with two sides to his personality: a relaxed and casual left accompanied by a steadfast and controlled right. Furthermore, the composition of the hands, with the left being higher than the right (left hand denoting left-wing), could indicate Hugh’s political standpoint as he was viewed to be on the liberal end of Labour. His cross-legged seating arrangement is indicative of a preference for privacy; a closed-off awkwardness in being under the careful scrutiny of the portrait artist. More discomfort is present in the aslant positioning of the body, no doubt due to the unorthodox way the subject is seated on the chair, and again in the tie laying catawampus across the abdomen.

If we next turn our attention to the background of the piece, we can see that Cassab’s choice of yellow could again be interpreted as a nod to Liberalism. Likewise yellow, the shade of positivity and springtime, has a darker side to it: bearing both the burdens of illness (think jaundice, and decay) and yellow-bellied cowardice. In the case of Hugh Gaitskell, however, I believe the former to be true as opposed to the latter, mainly due to his popularity within the political realm. The other prominent colour featured is green, which in my mind equals prosperity when talking affairs of the state, and thus nods to Hugh’s time as Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is interesting to note, on the subject of colour symbolism and its reference to political preference, that there is no direct nod to the Labour party, ie. there is no real visible use of red in the painting. Strange.

Clara Serena Rubens (1618), Peter Paul Rubens, oil on canvas, 370mm x 270mm, courtesy of wikipaintings.org

In summary I think it is fair to say that Cassab’s understanding of colour is enviable. All she needs is the mere hint of a brushstroke in a particular shade and she has constructed a perfectly formed hand. It’s sickening. Each piece is alive with colour and movement, with every stroke placed only under the utmost care and consideration. For some reason Cassab’s style reminds me of a piece by 16th century Flemish artist, Peter Paul Rubens. The one I am talking about is what I would class as his most well known portrait, and it is the study of his then five-year-old daughter, Clara Serena, pictured above. Perhaps it is the similar expression on their faces; the twitch of a smile playing about their lips and the genuine innocence in their eyes, together adding to the whole child-like demeanour present in both subjects. Or, more than likely, it is the same attentive manner in which the sitters have been painted. As far as my own work is concerned, I hope to embrace this dynamic way of painting and to place more importance in the composition of the face and body, as this is very revealing when it comes to audience interpretation.

Thanks for listening.

The First (and apparently last) Day of Spring, Norfolk (30/04/2012)

Yesterday, here in fair England, we experienced what is more commonly known to the rest of the world as ‘good weather’. Naturally, I seized upon this happy rarity and hopped on board my bike; full of wretched determination to soak up every last ray of long overdue sunshine with my trusty d90. I was particularly keen on snapping that luminous yellow favourite, Oilseed Rape, as you can see from the images below. Oh, how it glows in that marvelous late-afternoon light!

Needless to say, the weather has of course reverted back to its usual dreary, watery self after this one glorious day of relief. Sigh.

Diana and Actaeon (1556-9), Titian: The Norwich Edition

Being somebody who is paid to teach children the very basics in literacy – with the most recent focus aptly being on those darned VCV words – AND something of a Renaissance-worshipper, the fact that I have been calling today’s featured artist ‘T-ee-tian’ – as opposed to the phonetically correct ‘T-i-tian’ – is no less than mortifying. I can only beg for your forgiveness and ask that you take me seriously for the rest of the impending spiel.

Norwich has undoubtedly upped its game in terms of artistic offerings. I mean a Titian, in sleepy, backward Norfolk – the communication black hole of the UK – amazing. (How did they physically organise this when the mobile phone reception and broadband connections are practically pre-historic?! ) But then, let’s be honest with ourselves, what else can one expect from the self-professed ‘Fine City’; the Venice of England? The painting itself, Diana and Actaeon was kindly on loan from the prestigious National Gallery, London to the more humble setting of the Castle Museum, Norwich. The Castle Museum is much loved by all in Norfolk, being a favourite destination for school trips, therefore the news of Titian’s attraction being temporarily housed inside those medieval walls filled me with unbridled happiness. I simply had to take a peak…

Diana and Actaeon (1556-9), Titian, Oil on canvas, 185.5cm x 202.2cm – courtesy of artfund.org

Determined to leave the masterpiece until last, I busied myself with the exhibition filler, which firstly provided a bit of background for Titian’s work; and secondly supplied alternative interpretations of Ovid’s great Metamorphoses. One of these alternatives was London-based photographer, Tom Hunter‘s recreation of the mythical scene, featuring a scantily clad Kim Cattrall. Classic Cattrall. Now I’m not really one for casual nudity but I must admit, however, that I did find the comparison between the attenuated figures of Hunter’s recent piece juxtaposed with the voluptuous forms of Titian’s age thoroughly engaging. A stark look at how the attitude towards beauty has undergone a dramatic transformation in the last 500 years.

As far as the background on the work was concerned, we were fed with the details on Titian and also the original poem that the piece had been derived from. For the benefit of those not so well-aquainted with the Roman poet, Ovid, I shall give a brief rundown of events. During a usual day’s hunt, Actaeon (just your everyday Roman chap) happened to stray from his hunting party. In doing so he stumbled across the secret bathing place of Diana, virgin goddess of the hunt, a most unfortuitous mishap. Now Diana, aka Artemis, did not take too kindly to this intrusion; so much so that she bestowed a wonderful punishment upon dear Actaeon, one that would involve his transformation into a splendid stag if he ever spoke again. For a huntsman, you can imagine that this would be quite inconvenient: the hunter taking the place of the hunted. Another lesson learnt for all of us there, courtesy of those barmy – almost wrote balmy there, whoops – Greeks. Saying that, the only lesson I can see here is that either Diana/Artemis was what some would call an ugly beast, therefore was inspired by humiliation to punish Actaeon; or more likely, Actaeon was not worthy to cast his eyes upon a beauty so divine, so pure that if he ever spoke of this encounter to anyone, it would be the last thing he ever did. Except for safety’s sake, Artemis extended the silence to any word that he spoke about anything, you know, just in case.

One of Actaeon’s hounds that would later turn on him, Diana and Actaeon (1556-9), Titian, Oil on canvas, 185.5cm x 202.2cm – courtesy of artfund.org

Once I had had my fill of the pre-painting palaver, I finally (and tentatively, for there was an oddly tense atmosphere surrounding the painting) sidled up next to an elderly lady who appeared to be the guardian of the painting. She was a heavily-cloaked creature whose nose was hovering mere inches away from the 450 year-old surface – as if sharing in a whispered secret from the oils themselves. Seeking to imitate this apparently satisfying method of painting perusal, I too peeked and craned as far as my little neck could manage from the spot I’d rooted myself to, near the left corner of the piece (I wasn’t as brave as the aforementioned dear in strolling casually in front of the painting, perhaps due to the bench of judging eyes behind me, regardless of how captivating the moue of Diana happened to be).

The painting itself was every bit as beautiful as I’d hoped. The highly saturated colours and angelic forms, painted with the utmost of grace and ease, are just two of the trademarks typical of the Venetian legend. Looking more closely at the colours present in the piece, we will notice that red is certainly one of the predominant shades, linking both protagonist and antagonist. We can interpret this to thus signify the impending bloodshed of Actaeon, as a result of his transgression against the divine lady.  Next we turn to the periwinkle enshrouding one of the nymphs which, reflecting the true blue of the sky, we can interpret as a clear representation of the purity and femininity present within a crowd as chaste as this. These blue hues, paired with the crimson, present quite a startling contrast against the neutrality of the earthy sepia and ochre.

Close-up of nymph, Diana and Actaeon (1556-9), Titian, Oil on canvas, 185.5cm x 202.2cm – courtesy of artfund.org

One aspect of the piece I personally deem to be the most interesting is the inclusion of the black female tending to Diana, hastily tugging at the cloth to ensure the goddess regains her modesty due to being uncovered. One wonders why Titian made the decision to paint the female attendant amongst Diana’s naiad-like aides, and the resultant significance this had on the Renaissance world. This calls for a separate essay methinks… In addition, the interaction between the pup yapping furiously at the heels of Diana and the haggard hound belonging to Actaeon provides a great paradigm of hostility and affront: the overall themes of the piece.

Close-up of Diana and female attendant, Diana and Actaeon (1556-9), Titian, Oil on canvas, 185.5cm x 202.2cm – courtesy of artfund.org

On the whole, it was a great privilege to be able to view a genuine piece of Renaissance mastery, and at somewhere so close to home. But to the neatly placed comments book, inviting us to simper a grateful thanks for our stay at Hotel Titian, I must say no thank you. It’s true that the Castle Museum should be applauded for their efforts in managing to eke an entire exhibition out of this one great painting, however, I do not wish to kiss their medieval bottoms over it. Maybe that’s a bit harsh… One thing that did make me chuckle, though, were the twenty people clinging to the only seat in the room – as if walking around such a small exhibition required this agent of respite – appearing  as an island of middle-age pretenders amongst a sea of Renaissance finery.