Drawings Gallery Archive

Courtauld Artists At Work: Nadine Mahoney

With the opening of Artists at Work in our Drawings Gallery we thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to shed some light on the artists among our colleagues at The Courtauld. Here we have Nadine Mahoney, Artist Educator in our Public Programmes team discussing her practices.

 

Could you tell us about your practice – what media you work in, what subject matter you focus on, what inspires you?

My practice is very process driven. I love the stuff of paint, and made my own paints from oils to watercolour and acrylic, on a range of supports from aluminium to canvas and panel. I am interested in identity, perception and the human condition. Working between abstraction and figuration, the history of portraiture is a big source of inspiration from lockets, to old masters, death masks and instagram selfies.

Tell us about your working environment(s).

My studio is like a second home. I have a collection of pigments in various old jars, piles of drawings, rows of unfinished paintings. I work on many paintings at once, so tend to have works in progress on the floor, the walls and my table. It’s an organised chaos.

Do you work anywhere other than, or in addition to, a studio – and if so, where?

I need my studio. When I became a mother I hoped I could work on the kitchen table but I just couldn’t paint or draw that way. It made me realise just how sacred the studio is to my practice.

How does your working environment affect your art (if at all)?

Environment and routine are important. I am a creature of habit, so need to have a regular workspace. I am currently working in a studio in Brooklyn New York, and it took me at about 4 months to get the studio working properly.

Are there any particular tools or objects you feel particularly passionate about and/or are central to your work?

I make my own paint, from watercolours to oils. This process is central to my practice. It started of as a way to have high quality materials inexpensively but now I can’t imagine making the work I do without it. My collection of pigments in glass jars are essential. Making the paint in the mornings offers a type of meditation, it helps me switch into studio mode.

How do you deal with creative block?

My practice is anchored through an obsessive curiosity of materials, so I’ve never really had creative block; there is always something I want to experiment with. Also, I work on multiple paintings, so if I get stuck, I’ll just move onto another one. That doesn’t mean all paintings are a success!

Discover more of Nadine’s work:

www.nadinemahoney.com

Instagram: nadine_mahoney

Artists at Work
The Drawings Gallery
Until 15 July 2018

 

Courtauld Artists At Work: Grace A Williams

With the opening of Artists at Work in our Drawings Gallery we thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to shed some light on the artists among our colleagues at The Courtauld. Here we have Grace A Williams, Research Forum Digital Project Officer in our Research Forum discussing her practices.

Could you tell us about your practice – what media you work in, what subject matter you focus on, what inspires you?

I’m an interdisciplinary artist with a focus on photography and installation. I often work with archival and found material to explore feminist power dynamics in the history of magic, mythology and the occult. I have collaborated with some of the world’s leading specialist collections to uncover hidden or maligned female histories, including the psychic mediums photographically documented manifesting Ectoplasm in the T G Hamilton collection at The University of Manitoba, Canada and the legacy of Sally Ryan within the Jacob Epstein Archive at The New Art Gallery Walsall.

Tell us about your working environment(s). Do you work anywhere other than, or in addition to, a studio – and if so, where?

My working environment greatly varies depending upon the project. I had a studio in Birmingham before moving to London and now I work from temporary studios for larger projects. I often work on site-specific projects, so in the next few months my studio will be a preserved 1920s National Trust Property!

How does your working environment affect your art (if at all)?

I enjoy the flexibility of working in different environments but having a permanent studio is something that long term I would like to establish. My husband is an architect and together we’d like to have a space that can be functional for both our practices.

Are there any particular tools or objects you feel particularly passionate about and/or are central to your work?

I couldn’t live without my laptop, working with lens based and digital media means I’m constantly running Adobe suite. In total contrast to this I also collect early analogue technology from the history of photography and film. I have just purchased a number of traditional magic lantern projectors that will feature in my next solo show at The New Art Gallery Walsall in August. I’m fascinated by early approaches to creating spectral images and I’ve had a long term project that explores the Nipkow disc as the basis of television broadcasting.

 

How do you deal with creative block?

I tend to work on several projects at the same time which keeps me inspired and motivated. If I ever feel a little slumped, going to the cinema, walking and sleeping help – surprisingly I have solved several major project worries at night.

 

Discover more of Grace’s work:

Grace A Williams: Intermission
The New Art Gallery Walsall, 10 August — 11 November 2018

www.grace-a-williams.com

Twitter: @GraceANagle

Artists at Work
The Drawings Gallery
Until 15 July 2018

Courtauld Artists at Work: Millie Nice

With the opening of Artists at Work in our Drawings Gallery we thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to shed some light on the artists among our colleagues at The Courtauld.

First up we have Millie Nice who is an Educator working with our Public Programmes team.

Millie Could you tell us about your practice – what media you work in, what subject matter you focus on, what inspires you?

I’m an illustrator so the I use the media that responds best to the job; it can be digital, coloured pencils, markers or an enormous painted mural! But at the centre of it I just really love to draw so anything that I can make a good line with suits me. When I started I would only ever draw in pens or markers that wouldn’t allow me to hesitate or change my mind and I still tend to make work this way. It often means you have to draw something multiple times to get to the right one! I use my History of Art background a lot in my work, re-drawing objects and artworks from the past. I’m inspired by history but I like to bring in as much humour and character as I can and encourage people to laugh and have fun with artworks from the past.

Tell us about your working environment(s).

I have a small studio at home with a drawing table, a scanner and a computer; it’s very simple but I can be fairly messy so the less space I have the better! I also work from a print collective studios in south London which has been brilliant for working alongside other creatives. Being freelance and working from home is a fairly intense experience so it’s great to be able to work with other people and support each other in the ups and downs that come with making what you love.

Do you work anywhere other than, or in addition to, a studio – and if so, where?

Because I draw from museum objects and artworks a lot I often end up in museums in galleries; I will always draw from life where I can. It’s easier to absorb more of an object’s character if you sit with it for a while and I love watching other people react to the artworks in the gallery; I suppose it’s like a kind of audience research for me!

How does your working environment affect your art (if at all)?

When I was young it affected me in a very practical way; I was an art student working part-time as a museum steward and I would draw in the galleries when I was at work. I could only ever use pencils and I worked in small notebooks that I could quickly slip in my pocket and not get caught! I still carry a small notebook and pencil with  me all the time and they are mostly full of quick little ideas I might come back to or work up in the studio. Over time I realised I’d enjoyed drawing at work the most out of everything I’d created while I was studying and it taught me to love all the strange and unexpected things that happen when you’re drawing quickly on location and to appreciate all you can do with a simple pencil.

Are there any particular tools or objects you feel particularly passionate about and/or are central to your work?

I try not to get too attached to any particular material, I like to be adaptable and I enjoy that you can make a drawing with even the simplest of tools. I feel pretty passionate about my phone as a creative tool but only because I think it’s terrible! I often have to work from photographs as reference material and it’s never as engaging as the real thing. When I first got my phone I was constantly taking photos of things I didn’t have time to draw but I never ended up going back to them. Now I operate a strict ‘sketch it or forget it’ policy!

How do you deal with creative block?

I find a good deadline sorts that out fairly quickly! If I get stuck it’s usually because I’m worrying about details so I try to make things as simply and quickly as possible. I try to give all my ideas an immediate rough try like a sketch or a small test. If an idea is weak then a quick rough is all it really needs and then I put it aside; the stronger ideas are the ones I enjoy and I want to keep working on.

Discover more of Millie’s work: 

www.millienice.com 

Twitter @millieknice
Instagram @millie.nice

Artists at Work
The Drawings Gallery
Until 15 July 2018

 

Behind the Scenes in Prints and Drawings: Auditing the collection

The Courtauld Gallery’s collection of prints numbers over 26,000 individual works. While that doesn’t make it the largest such collection in the UK – to put this in perspective, the British Museum has over two million prints – it’s still an impressive number and a challenge to keep track of.

So how do we do it?

Dr Rachel Sloan, Assistant Curator of Works on Paper, and Rachel Hapoienu, Drawings Cataloguer: IMAF Project

May Fortune’s Faerie Barque by Wind and Wave Be Wafted Thee, hand-coloured print, Jessie Marion King (1875-1949)

Everyone who works with the print collection on a regular basis – curators, conservators, registrars and our team of postgraduate Print Room assistants – endeavours to be as careful as possible about returning prints to their correct locations when they’re taken out for study, conservation or loan. But every couple of years, we set aside a few weeks and undertake a survey of the whole, or a large portion of, the collection – an audit.

We recently completed an audit of our 11,000-strong collection of British prints. This was actually the first time we were able to survey our entire holdings in this area, as cataloguing was only completed two years ago. As usual in such a tight-knit team, many people pitched in to work through the boxes in pairs, checking their contents against what’s recorded on our collection database.

It might not be glamorous work, and reading off endless strings of numbers can swiftly lead to a condition we jokingly referred to as ‘print audit brain’, but not only is it necessary for the proper management of the collection, it can turn up unexpected delights – for example, some lovely hand-coloured prints by Scottish illustrator Jessie Marion King (1875-1949), a contemporary of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. It’s always good to be reminded of exactly how many treasures we have in store.

By Dr Rachel Sloan

William Henry Hunt: Country People

Mention William Henry Hunt to most watercolour enthusiasts and you’re likely to hear something along the lines of ‘Oh, the one who did all the birds’ nests.’ Not for nothing was Hunt (1790-1864) nicknamed ‘Bird’s Nest’ Hunt; both during his lifetime and after, he was best known for his luminous, richly detailed still lifes of flowers, feathers and bird’s nests.

However, there’s another side to Hunt’s work, every bit as fascinating, that’s overshadowed by the birds’ nests: a remarkable series of single figure studies of rural labourers produced mostly during the middle of his career, in the 1820s and 1830s. William Henry Hunt: Country People (on view in the Gilbert and Ildiko Butler Drawings Gallery until 17 September) sheds light on this important aspect of his work. At the heart of the show are two works in The Courtauld Gallery’s collection, one of them exhibited here for the first time, depicting two gardeners on the estate of Hunt’s patron, the Earl of Essex.

The cast of characters – gardeners, gamekeepers, farmers, millers, kitchen maids and more – might strike us as appealingly nostalgic, capturing a lost golden age. In fact, the English countryside was undergoing tremendous social change while Hunt was painting its denizens, and some of these tensions are apparent in his choice of subject matter. Among the prosperous-looking gamekeepers, we find a poacher – a figure who undermined the age-old order the gamekeeper represented.

Hunt’s portrayals of country people are notable for their sympathetic dignity and their meticulous detail. Many of them come across as portraits of distinct individuals, but in some cases we now know he worked from a costumed model: sometimes the same figure appears in different guises, as in The Kitchen Maid and The Orphan, both modelled by his wife; in another instance, a ‘gamekeeper’s’ incorrect (and dangerous!) hold on a gun reveals that he is more likely a model than the professional of the title.

Whether records of actual rural workers or studies of a posed model, however, all of Hunt’s watercolours suggest a close encounter with his subjects. Disabled from birth and unable to work as freely out of doors as his peers, Hunt made a virtue of necessity by concentrating on figures and still lifes, closely observed in indoor settings. He insisted on working entirely from life and the vivid naturalism of his figures suggests his tireless engagement with the world around him. John Ruskin, a great admirer of Hunt’s work, called his watercolours ‘virtually faultless’. Come to the Drawings Gallery and see for yourself!

By Dr Rachel Sloan