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Off the Page

A new exhibition by the West Norfolk Artists Association opened today in the Red Barn gallery, King’s Lynn Arts Centre. The theme for the exhibition was works inspired by a piece of poetry or prose, and what a popular theme that tuned out to be. Nearly forty artist members submitted nearly seventy works.

The exhibition continues all week, until Saturday 29th March, although unfortunately not on Sunday. Otherwise it is open every day 11am – 4pm.

Painting of holkham Beach
Where the Wave Draws Breath. Watercolour 50 x 32 cms.
My own entry for the exhibition is this watercolour which I entitled Where the Wave Draws Breath. A poem by Algernon Swinburne was my inspiration, being a verse featured on an information board in the dunes adjoining Holkham beach. The painting itself is a little unusal as it had been on my pile of “the ones that didn’t quite make it” for nearly ten years. I unearthed it, completely reworked the sky, the sea (there was none) and the beach, and was quite pleased with the end result. Never throw anything away – it may take years for a work to finally be complete!

The verse that inspired the work is:

A land that is thirstier than ruin;
A sea that is hungrier than death;
Heaped hills that a tree never grew in;
Wide sands where the wave draws breath.

The Salt Marsh – Algernon Swinburne

Pen & Wash Demonstration

If you look back to my last post you’ll see that I recently ran an ink workshop at West Norfolk Arts Centre, Castle Rising. One of the participants on the course, Fay, very kindly sent me some photos of my demonstrations during the weekend, some of which you can see here.

I always appreciate it when people take photos or even video of my demonstrations, because I can’t, being at the coal face with brush in hand!

Pen & Wash Demonstration 1
Here you can see the inkwork before any colour goes on. I did this with a Faber-Castell Pitt pen, with a medium nib. The size of my paper is approximately 40 x 30 cms.

Pen & Wash Demonstration 2
I’m now applying the Rowney FW coloured inks, using plenty of water. You could do the same with traditional watercolour, but the inks give more vibrant colour.

Pen & Wash Demonstration 3
Nearly done, just a few more clouds. That’s a 3/4 inch flat brush that I’m using.

Pen & Wash Demonstration 4
Ta-da! A mount or mat round the work always helps.

A big surprise!

July is the month when the West Norfolk Artists Association hold its annual Summer Exhibition, usually in St Nicholas Chapel, King’s Lynn. This year was no exception and Wednesday 17th saw a team of us start the task of setting up the show. There’s a lot to do, with over 200 works being submitted, of which 155 were selected for exhibition. Nonetheless, we worked hard and by Friday lunchtime the exhibition was up and looking good.

Among the selected artworks were four of my own paintings, all of them in a combination of Indian ink and watercolour. Imagine my surprise when, at the grand opening of the show on the Friday evening, I was presented with the Inga Miller Award for a work selected by the committee of the WNAA. Inga was a dear friend of mine and a great supporter of the arts, who sadly passed away in January 2012, and the award is in her memory.

Steve with the Inga Miller Award
In my studio with the cup that is presented by the WNAA committee in memory of the late Inga Miller, who was a great supporter of the Association and the arts generally

I feel very honoured to receive the award and the silver cup that goes with it, which is mine to keep for one year. Then it will be passed on to the next winner of the award. My thanks to all the committee members who voted for my painting “Three Trees at Sunset” which you can see here. To coin a phrase from Last of the Summer Wine, “your cheques are in the post!”

three trees at sunset
Three Trees at Sunset. Ink & Watercolour 10ins x 10ins

Do call in to the Chapel and look round the exhibition if you have an opportunity. I think it’s one of the Association’s best exhibitions, with a wide variety of colourful and interesting work, plus the Chapel is a beautiful building. The show is open everyday 10am – 4pm from now until Saturday 3rd August. St Nicholas Chapel is in St Annes Street, King’s Lynn, Norfolk, PE30 1NH.

Something completely different . . .

One of the nice things about being a professional artist is being asked to paint a particular scene for someone, in other words a commission. Over the years I’ve undertaken quite a few paintings of subjects that I would never have dreamed of tackling normally, so there’s an added excitement, or terror, when one comes along.

At my December Open Studio, a lady asked me to paint a view of the locomotive ‘Mallard’ for her husband who is a steam enthusiast. Quite challenging, because it’s got to be ‘right’ and I did a good deal of research before starting work. But I felt that the end result gave a good feel of steam and power, as the Mallard leaves York southbound for King’s Cross. I used the original LNER colour scheme for the loco and carriages, so this sets the scene at around 1938 or 39.

steam engine mallard
The LNER Gresley A4 Mallard leaves York southbound for King’s Cross. Watercolour 15ins x 11ins.

This great locomotive, which still holds the world speed record for steam, is on show in the York Railway Museum, but I was fortunate in being able to find some useful photographs as my reference, to avoid a long research trip!

Art Trail Weekend

My thanks to everyone who visited my studio over the three days of the Dersingham Christmas Art Trail, and particularly to those who bought painting and other items. We’ve been out delivering paintings today, which is always a nice thing to be doing!

A total of ten artists and craft-workers took part in the Trail and I thank all of them for their support and the work that they put in to make the Trail a success. We will be back – probably on May 25th 2013 when the annual Norfolk Open Studio scheme commences.

Stephen Martyn Open Studio
My studio ready for the opening of the Art Trail, with as much work as possible on display!

If you missed the recent event then most artists will be happy to welcome you to their studios any time, providing you contact them first. You can find out all about the Dersingham Art & Crafts Trail by visiting
New artist are very welcome to join the Trail, but you must have your studio in or near the village of Dersingham.

A day at the SAA

Last Friday I was invited to spend a day with a group of fellow professional artists at the headquarters at the SAA – the Society for All Artists. The SAA exists primarily to promote art and particularly painting to those who have not yet started on the road to being an artist. If you join the Society you’ll receive a regular magazine full of painting hints and tips, and be able to buy your art materials by mail order at very reasonable prices. There is also a network of Professional Members such as myself, who are available to give tuition or to run demonstrations and workshops for Art Clubs.

If you already teach or exhibit your paintings, there is very comprehensive insurance for your activities available free as part of your SAA membership. In fact, that was why I joined originally.

art materials table
A selection of art materials that I had the opportunity to try

I had a very informative and useful day at the SAA. Meeting lots of fellow professionals and exchanging views, and hearing all about the Society’s plans to encourage even more people to take up art. I had an opportunity to try lots of different art materials too, and you can see some of them in the accompanying photo.

You can find out all about the SAA from their website which is well worth a look. If you decide to join – just mention my name!

New paintings for my Open Studio

Winter Trees at Sunset
The Edge of the Wood – December. Watercolour 14ins x 10ins
As I usually do at this time of the year, I will shortly be having an Open Studio weekend. An opportunity for you to visit me here in Dersingham and have a look at the studio and the paintings I’ve been doing. You can see one of them here, but I’ve got several others up my sleeve!
This year I have joined together with a number of other Dersingham artists and craft-workers to form the Dersingham Art & Crafts Trail. You can have a wander round seven different studios, plus see an exhibition of childrens artwork at the Dersingham Junior School.
The dates are Friday 7th – Sunday 9th December, 10am – 4pm each day. I hope you can make it.

A Lake District Scene in Norfolk

My weekly watercolour students have been working away during the two Thursday sessions that I tutor at West Norfolk Arts Centre, Castle Rising.
After the view of Wells-next-the-sea which we started the term with we moved on to the Lake District with this study of a painting by the artist William Heaton Cooper, whose family still run a popular gallery in Grasmere.
There’s always lots to learn from studying the work of masters of watercolour, and with this painting we paid careful attention to how Heaton Cooper’s brushwork described the shape and form of the landscape. Realistic but impressionistic at the same time.

A view of the Langdale mountains in the style of William Heaton Cooper
A view of the Langdale mountains in the Lake District, in the style of William Heaton Cooper

A day in Lincolnshire

I’ve been busy over the past week or so, running my courses at West Norfolk Arts Centre, and preparing new work for my Christmas Open Studio that will be taking place on the 7th – 9th December. Much more of that nearer the time, but on Friday of last week I travelled up to Unique Cottage Studios near Spalding to tutor a watercolour day for them.
The theme was bringing light into your paintings, and the group spent what was I hope a pleasant day sploshing watercolour freely onto their paper, making lively brush-marks and leaving plenty of light!
I did a demonstration painting during the day and you can see it here. A simple composition, based on one of Rowland Hilder’s paintings, but it included a decent bit of sky, some foreground, barns and trees, so it ticked most of the watercolour landscape boxes.

Demonstration painting at Spalding
Demonstration watercolour which I did at my recent workshop in Spalding

Incidentally, if you’re interested in Rowland Hilder’s style of painting, I will be tutoring a workshop on that theme next year. Friday 15th March 2013, at Windrush near Burford, Oxfordshire. More details on my website

Weekend Workshop for 2013

Today I’m planning my 2013 programme of workshops and other events, well thinking about some of them anyway! As before, I’ll be tutoring two weekend courses at West Norfolk Arts Centre, Castle Rising, Norfolk. One of them is a new workshop called ‘Let the Brush Tell the Story’ and it focuses on the work of Edward Seago, the well known East Anglian painter. Seago was a master of both oils and watercolour, but this course will concentrate on his watercolour technique.

Look at any Seago watercolour and you find yourself wondering ‘just how does he say so much with so few brush strokes’? The answer of course, is practise and a thorough knowledge of his materials and of the subject. The true skill lies in Seago’s ‘touch with the brush’, letting the brush and the paper react together and make a mark that truly tells the story of the subject. We might not all be able to paint like Edward Seago, but there are plenty of simple techniques that can be learnt by studying his work. During this weekend art course I will try to show you some of them, and tell you a little of the story of the man himself.

The dates are Sat – Sun 18 – 19 May 2013 at West Norfolk Arts Centre, Castle Rising, Norfolk, PE31 6AG. Cost £220 to include a comprehensive kit of art materials, including paints, brushes and paper of similar type to those used by Seago. Book by telephoning the Art Centre on 01553 631689. The workshop is suitable for artists of all abilities, except complete beginners.

Cottage near Stradsett
Cottage near Stradsett, Norfolk, painted by me in the style of Edward Seago