Post cameraphone – A chronology of my plienair drawing and painting practice is on display at Hanbury Cafe from 12th April – 12th May 2019

Exhibitions

On display at the Hanbury Cafe in Spitalfields, London (E1 6LY) is a chronology of pleinair (landscapes) paintings and drawings made between 2017 and 18. Pieces range from early oil pastel studies through to final pieces, painted using acrylic.

I have been painting and drawing with intent over the past two years. What started as a way to complete the work I should have done whilst studying art at school is now in its third year and I thought it necessary for me to get some defining pieces of work up for the public.  A defining factor of my practice over the two years has been about throwing myself into things before I have thought I am ready. I have participated in 3 exhibitions at Candid Arts in Islington and dived into the world of the Art Fair at the Parallax event in Chelsea (Feb 2019). As I prepare to move to Bulgaria this exhibition marks the end of one chapter but I am in way intent on vanishing.

Works on display

Early Tenby sketches

Two early plienair studies, made in Tenby, Wales (2017).  It was during this week holiday I felt a flow emerging, which was working in parallel to me feeling a competency I was happy with.

‘Atop the Tenby cliffs’

‘Penally Beach’

‘Cheddar Gorgeous’

I visited my friends in Bamwell with the desperate urge to draw all the countryside all the time.  I was almost feverish with desire at this point.  Lucky for me my two friends were willing to draw with me and the weather was amazing.

Whilst on one of our walks we stopped at this stunning view through cheddar gorge and over the town of cheddar itself.  All three of up sat for an hour to capture the view as fellow walkers stopped and took pictures and drank in the scene.

 ‘Tree line’

‘Autumn dawns on the Islington canal’

My favourite haunt for drawing this year (2017) has been the canals of Islington.  It is on the canals that I can see vividly the battle ground between light and shadow.  It is where I have delved to the depths of representing the darkness of dark and the lightness of light.  This was my final outside, canal drawing of the year.  An image I feel is a good conclusion to the years’ work on capturing the beauty of this particular stretch of canal.

Kaoh Rung

On the Island of Kaoh Rung I managed to find a handful of opportunities to sketch. These two pieces were both made relatively close together but the conditions were very much different. Drawing from a pier by the shore was cooler and fresher compared to the insect laden air and  irritable humidity of sitting at a lagoon.

‘Aberystwyth’

Aberystwyth is etched on my being.  It has influenced my connection to landscape and the elements through my childhood with family holidays, my young adult life whilst at university and I have returned since regularly.  

My pleinair painting practice has roots in a souring relationship with mobile phone/device photography, digital imagery filtering and image effect/glitch application.  I am aware this may be down to my own mis-application of the technology.  When selecting a scene to paint I will focus in on these areas of frustration, usually looking through the screen first.  It is only when I notice this conflict that I settle to paint/draw.  Many things can trigger this but primarily it will be distant scenes or conflicts in light and shadow.  Choosing to approximate what I see I have been working towards rendering a truth.  

The view of Aberytwyth from the top of Constitution hill contains a dizzying amount of visual information. Due to the distance, capturing its essence photographically has always been a frustration of mine.  On the initial sitting of this piece I focused in on a small frame and but also took into account surroundings in the wider view in an attempt to capture the Aberystwyth I have failed to do so through photography.  Many ideas have been approached in this piece, all of which were underpinned by an intense few minutes of rapid mark making.  This helped me define the paths taken by the observer.  This work is steeped in memory, which has massively impacted my representation and its various points of focus.

‘Miss Me’

This boat has been present in Aberystwyth harbour from when I first lived there (2000) until when I returned to paint it (2018).  It is etched in my memory as unaged.  I have many photos of it, taken from my undergraduate life through to the present and it feels as if its a question from Aberystwyth itself but it’s more likely a command.

Whilst painting on location people always stop to talk to you.  During this sitting a group of walkers stopped and asked if I was commissioned to paint the boat.  On replying no I was told that it was in owned by an retired nurse who’s belated husband had owned it and that she had never wanted to remove it.  These are the wonderful splatters of existence that painting on location provide and what started as a study of form became something else entirely.  

‘Waiting for her to arrive’

This image of a Viennese canal, made as dusk crept in, was a treasure trove of forms.  I settled to create this so that I could be in the environment and study the water and the canals shadows.

I have taken a distant frame of reference, which my camera phone failed miserably to capture and pulled in my surroundings into that spot.

‘View into Graz’

Standing on a bridge looking into Graz I noticed this frame, which perfectly captures a lot of what I liked about this city but in the context of its very Austrian setting.  There is harmony between nature and architecture here, which pleases.  I want people to see this ideal.  Ironically, whilst painting this there was construction going on under me to narrow the river.  People walking past would stop and watch the work in progress and passing locals would exclaim their disappointment.  Some of this works impact can be seen on the right-hand side of the water, which is in contrast to the left side which is untouched.  I was lucky that the position of the sun that day enhanced the darkness form the construction side with the light of the non construction side.

‘Graz light’

Late afternoon I was out with a photographer friend in Graz, Austia and we both found the light and shapes in the square outside the Franziskanerkirche fascinating.  From my easel I selected a frame with a focus on the dome.  I found all points landed on it from my specific spot that and I set about laying triangles in homage.  As I lay paint my attention shifted from the dome to the lowering light, to a triangle of pure orange light basking the sun in the center of my composition.  As I have continued work on this piece my focus has shifted dramatically to the impossible colour and tone of this central aspect.  I wanted to bring forth this through the application of gold foil.

‘Tenby stacks’

In this scene we see the view of Tenby from the hill as an almost impossible patchwork stack. Painted at 10am through a light fog the colour of the buildings

still pushes through relentlessly.  Painted on location Tenby – Wales (2018)

‘Brilliant light’

South beach was raw that day as the wind swept across it at low tide.  I wanted to capture and expose the true beauty of the Welsh elements.

‘Landmark’

An iconic Tenby landmark, where there is so much to examine and represent.  I puzzled for a time at the tide levels and as a result shifted the rock to the right of the frame to paint the left waterline.   The beach to the left slopes downwards and my perception of the level of the rock with the waterline was so perplexing I decided to block the colours, leaving a thin horizon line between water and sky.

Painting the rock itself I hopped and skipped my brush over the light and dark created by the warm light and shifted this through to the cold of the rocks cave.  The cave is significant in the sense that this is where children hide from parents and explore.  There is a freedom in that cold light that I have perhaps now left in adulthood.

Post cameraphone – Solo exhibition (12th May – 12th Apr 2019)

Exhibitions

A chronology of plein air paintings and drawings by Ben Saunders between 2017 and 18. Pieces range from early oil pastel studies through to final pieces, painted using acrylic. Paintings are for sale.

Where > Hanbury Hall, 22 Hanbury St, Spitalfields, London, E1 6QR

When – 12th May – 12th Apr 2019

Few people rarely have the opportunity to show results of work so early in thir journeye and very few would dare at this stage in their journey.  A defining factor of my practice over the two years has been about throwing myself into things before I have thought I am ready.

Parallax Art Fair – Chelsea, London – 23/24 February 2019

Exhibitions

Confident that I have at least a body of landscapes that I’m happy with I decided to get some wall space at The Parallax Art Fair. With my commercial awareness hat firmly on I strolled into this with plenty enthusiasm. I came out the other side slightly bruised but warm inside nonetheless.

I have an immense fondness for the landscapes created in 2018, which you’ll see from the photos below. The limited addition 20/20 prints aren’t too shabby either.

The Winter Salon – Candid Arts Galleries – December 2018

Exhibitions

In December 2018 I took the opportunity to show three of my paintings made in Tenby of that year. It was great to finally get some of my new plein air paintings up on a wall for people to see and fitting that I can celebrate my transference to painting proper in the same year that I exhibited my 2017 plein air drawings

There was a nice turnout at the Candid Arts Galleries as-well

‘Tenby stacks’ – Acrylic on canvas board (42 x 30 cm) – 2018

In this scene we see the view of Tenby from the hill as an almost impossible patchwork stack. Painted at 10am through a light fog the colour of the buildings still pushes through relentlessly.  Painted on location Tenby – Wales (2018)

‘Brilliant light’ – Acrylic on canvas board (42 x 30 cm) – 2018

South beach was raw that day as the wind swept across it at low tide.  I wanted to capture and expose the true beauty of the Welsh elements.

‘Landmark’ – Acrylic on canvas board (42 x 30 cm) – 2018

An iconic Tenby landmark, where there is so much to examine and represent.  I puzzled for a time at the tide levels and as a result shifted the rock to the right of the frame to paint the left waterline.   The beach to the left slopes downwards and my perception of the level of the rock with the waterline was so perplexing I decided to block the colours, leaving a thin horizon line between water and sky.

Painting the rock itself I hopped and skipped my brush over the light and dark created by the warm light and shifted this through to the cold of the rocks cave.  The cave is significant in the sense that this is where children hide from parents and explore.  There is a freedom in that cold light that I have perhaps now left in adulthood.

THE NUDE – CANDID ARTS GALLERIES – MARCH 2018

Exhibitions

Dived into the opportunity to show some of the lifedrawings made in 2017. It was a great show with some fab takes on the male and female nude. A handful of my fellow Candid Arts trust lifedrawing regulars were showing to which made for a fantastic view into what goes on in my favourite shared studio.

The four pieces entered were from various lifedrawing session across London and demonstrate a developmental period of my practice were I transitioned from using oil pastels into using acrylic paint as a medium. Although still investigating light and form I decided to focus on natural tones at this time.

This was one of my final 40 min oil pastel pieces (made – Tim Allbrights lifedrawing in Aldgate) in 2017 and marked a hard stop in my oil pastel practice, which has continued to this day (Jan – 2019). At this point I felt I was capturing light and a perceived movement in a still form quite well. My lust to use brush and paint was too strong by this point but now I feel there may be a need to return to this one day.

Intended an hour at The Royal Drawing School life-drawing dropin. I had no idea I would be fortunate enough to get a chance for a 2 hour pose. I spent a bit of the time faffing around looking for an angle and drew some quick sketches so that my eye could find the best place. This was great , I’m finally using things that have been taught me and using them as parts of my whole approach. I put to paper, two quick 1 min charcoals from very different angels and then settled on this foreshortened pose

New to paint I went much slower but that was also a fault of knowing how long I had. The tutor was quick to inform people present that they should still approach the pose with the same fury they do on longer poses (so there’s a lesson for me)

I was struggling profoundly with colour these days but Adrian Duttons classes were starting to. One thing I felt about this exercise is that I still have a long way to go concerning palette control. The piece still resembles my drawing style. Thinking back now it might be nice to return to this.

‘As cold as the snow outside’ – acrylic on paper. I went to the Royal Drawing School in Shoreditch again. The weather was absolutely brutal for that time of year, so cold and it was snowing with a bitter wind.

The lighting above the was so bright, provided by a florescent tube and the cold light from a sky light. The model herself, as a result, almost shone, in contrast to the red of the sofa. Such was the cold light on the models flesh that I almost painted her blue and had to make a few dabs of paint for the sofa to understand the contrast. After an hour I hadn’t even got the sofa in and the pose was over

Wanderlust – Candid Arts Galleries – March 2018

Exhibitions, Uncategorized

2017 was the year I started to take my work outside. I choose to continue to explore my interest in the oil pastels, using them to articulate not just the light and colour in the human form but now also to relay the world around me. The result was a series of studies made in at Londons canals and on my travels abroad that year.

‘Autumn dawns on the Islington canal’ – Oil pastel on paper

My favorite haunt for drawing in 2017 was the canals of Islington. It is on the canals that I can see vividly the battle ground between light and shadow. It is where I have delved to the depths of representing the darkness of dark and the lightness of light. This was my final outside, canal drawing of the year. An image I feel is a good conclusion to the years’ work on capturing the beauty of this particular stretch of canal

‘Cheddar Gorgeous’ (Oil pastel on paper)

I visited my friends in Bamwell with the desperate urge to draw all the countryside all the time. I was almost feverish with desire at this point. Lucky for me my two friends were willing to draw with me and the weather was amazing.

Whilst on one of our walks we stopped at this stunning view through cheddar gorge and over the town of cheddar itself. All three of up sat for an hour to capture the view as fellow walkers stopped and took pictures and drank in the scene

‘Sweating by the blue hut on the lagoon’ – Kaoh Rung (Cambodia) – Oil pastel on paper

My trip with a group of friends in 2017 was an intense frenzy of activity. There were however 2 opportunities for me to draw that week. One of these opportunities was on the island of Kaoh Rung. Whilst my friends went for a leisurely row in the swamps I packed my oil pastels and headed into in search of drawing spots.

One such spot was on a walkway across a lagoon. Quickly I realised that the heat was going to be a problem. As my oil pastels melted unto paper my sweat dripped into the work itself and mosquitoes relished at the taste of my blood. One respite was the joy that my endeavour brought to passers-by. This image holds all those memories within it

Tenby Cliffs 1 – Tendy, Wales – Oil on paper

Family holidays since my childhood have etched Tenby onto my psyche. Many of my favourite childhood memories are there and it’s also where one of my first landscape/townscape drawings were made. I returned with my family in 2017, this time with a Niece and Nephew in tow. I was also very much switched on to drawing pleinair sketches with my Oil Pastels at this time. I recall now that my Niece protested at how I’d become boring, now that I was drawing instead of constantly building barricades and digging ditches. It’s ironic that it is the drawing and creative play we were both doing in the years prior to this trip are factors responsible for my current obsession with drawing and painting outside.

During this trip, I made a couple of oil pastel sketches from some the cliffs that I used to play on as a child. These sketches were then used back at the holiday flat when painting my first oil painting. This is a revolutionary moment for me

‘Morning Uber before Microsoft’ – 4th October – Lake Sammamish (Oil pastel on paper)

This one is messy but the real key is in the misty bit on the left where I really started to experiment with the oil bar

The nature of my full-time employment at the time meant that would will move from organisation to organisation for short periods. During the second half of 2017 I was placed in a position at Microsoft. Although this meant that I would commute to Paddington daily there was one visit to their head office in Seattle and I took the opportunity to pack a pad and my oil pastels.

I was lucky enough to get some good autumnal sunshine but there was one problem, work. I wasn’t particularly enjoying the project at this point which made the pull of the country side even stronger than it would normally. The only respite was that my workspace had a tremendous view of trees and mountains of Redmond.

On the third day, I could hold in my desperation to draw no longer. I had scoped the Microsoft campus grounds for potential lunchtime draws BUT there was nothing to inspire me to the level of the real nature that lay just beyond the well-kept grounds of the Microsoft campus. I woke up early in the morning grabbed an Uber to Lake Sammamish. The mist on the lake and the morning light took my breath away. I did not want to leave, I wanted to stay with the fishermen on the pier. I almost packed in work there and then. This experience has left a permanent mark onto my soul. Singularly the best thing to come out of my 7 months working with Microsoft.