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Monday, 24 October 2011


Exposed K Howell 2011 Pastel on Paper 14 cm x 21 cm
     I was looking for a still hour. Maybe two. No radio, no internet, no bloody words. Stone seemed a likely option...
     A kindly passerby asks me what I'm painting. I point at the exposed gritstone and he scrutinises it for awhile and then says, "What, just the rock?"
     That is what I'm facing, there is nothing else here. I nod.
     "Do you really see those colours?" he asks me.
     Now this is where I feel a little exposed. What shall I say?  No, I'm just using up superfluous pastels, really. But he seems genuinely perplexed when I say, "That Is How I See It."
     "Looks like brown rock to me," he says. "But have a nice day."
     If only we could all own such tolerance...

Monday, 17 October 2011


Metamorphoses K Howell 2011 Pastel on Paper 28 cm x 28 cm
     The cold is descending slowly. Perfect weather to visit the beech. This is one of my favourite trees. Depending on the direction of approach, it has many aspects,  its identity constantly shifting. Today, this tree scuttles. As though it has woken up, found itself lying prone, and is trying to work out how to mobilise itself.
     The closely-grained, smooth surface of beech wood used to be made into tablets for writing surfaces. Old English bōc and Old Norse bók both have a primary meaning of beech and a secondary meaning of book, and this is the source of our modern word book.
     Sitting on a load of beechmast, I try to forget about writing, but you see, I've come to the wrong place...

Monday, 10 October 2011

Out of Season

Window onto Winter II K Howell 2011 Acrylic on Paper 14 cm x 12 cm
     This blog is a year old. Thanks to everyone who has dropped by! I've really enjoyed reading other blogs and seeing what people are working on. A 'blogs to visit' sidebar will be coming in the near future.
     This tiny piece is out of season, but I've been putting together a series of Very Small Paintings to submit for a winter exhibition. I enjoyed the challenge of confined space and tried to go for truly microcosmic pieces, based on ice and snow collecting on a hawthorne tree.
     I did some studies last winter exploring structure, and used these as the basis for some miniscule work. Working small is very inhibiting, but this was an exercise in limitation. An experiment. Having completed seven, four of which are 6 cm x 8 cm, I think I'm suffering from some kind of repressed brush syndrome. I was going for jewel-like, and if nothing else, the paintings are small. Terribly portable.
     Anyone else tried working ridiculously small? Any lasting damage?

Monday, 3 October 2011


 Birch Outstripped by Shadows K Howell 2011 Pastel on Paper 28 cm x 28 cm
     I like shadows. They are rich and full of mystery. Often, they are extreme; a dense pool of dark at your feet, an elongated exaggeration of your height, stretching effortlessly over uneven ground. In a wood, the patterns become entrancing. Actual trees and shadow trees connect and overlap in fascinating rhythms.
     Shadows are the places light doesn't reach. Obviously. They give the world definition. An intriguing wealth of colour goes into the illusion of their solidity.
     When I was small, I developed an obsession with the word penumbra, which is harder than you might imagine to use in conversation. But the sound of it was (and still is) magical. Almost shadow. A word that is evasive, vague, yet exact. I had to make do with umbrella, and translate it in my head as an epithet. Shadow-maker.
     It seems the right time of year to wax effusive about shadows. For the Impressionists, it was all about painting light. Today, I chase shadows.