Tuesday, 18 February 2014

What Do Artists Do All Day? - Little Cakes and Pastels

Well that's a very good question which I am frequently asked.  If you have been watching the fascinating occasional series What Do Artists Do All Day? on BBC Four you will probably have some idea by now.  Some of the artists featured in this brilliant (almost fly on the wall) series so far, where they are filmed during a typical day's work have been Cornelia ParkerPolly Morgan, Jack Vettriano and Norman Ackroyd.  I finally got round to watching the Norman Ackroyd episode last night after having recorded it months ago and on a typical day we see him enter his studio around 6.30 where he brews up a large pot of coffee. He lives 'over the shop' in his London studio so he only has to go downstairs where he works all morning on a landscape etching then breaks for lunch and has a mosey on over to Jose's, a sherry and tapas bar very conveniently situated opposite his Bermondsey studio where he is served a delicious looking plate of Iberico ham. He tells us he would normally also have a glass of wine but he doesn't want to risk being drunk in charge of his printing press in the afternoon. He returns to his studio for more etching, engraving and printing, more coffee and finally a very satisfactory first run print of Stac an Armin, in the St Kilda archipeligo in Scotland. 

Well that sounds like an excellent and very civilised way for an artist to spend a day.  So as an artist what do I do all day?  Well I certainly don't spend all day 'doing art' that's for sure.  I do live 'over the shop' so to speak as my studio/work room/sewing room is actually my spare bedroom but I find I am frequently making trips to the kitchen to carry out various mundane tasks such as doing battle with the never ending laundry mountain.  Laundry is my nemesis after all. 

Also, disappointingly there is no tapas bar opposite for me to go and have a quick fino and patatas bravas. However, there is an Ember Inn round the corner which I could always nip to I suppose for a ham sandwich but it doesn't really have the same appeal. Kind of lost in translation a bit. 

Anyway, today I have been experimenting with soft pastels. They come in stick form similar to chalk so can be very messy but give amazing results. The softer the pastel the more pigment they contain thus laying a better coverage of colour down on to the paper.  I have been using Daler Rowney  Ingres pastel paper which is a paper that comes in several colours and is specially for the use of pastels as it provides a 'tooth' for the pastel to grip onto, much better than ordinary paper. 

I work at the IKON gallery in Birmingham and coincidentally the current exhibition 3 Drawing Rooms by David Tremlett is a site specific installation where the artist along with many assistants and volunteers applied chalk pastel pigment directly to the walls of the gallery in geometric shapes using small pastel sticks similar to mine.  A real labour of  love, it took 15 days to install.  Click here to see a time lapse video of how the whole installation took place.


So on a break from my pastel drawing and on one of my frequent trips to the kitchen for a coffee refill and emptying/loading washing machine I got a bit sidetracked as I often do but it was Nigel Slater who caught my attention this morning.  He has been my constant companion in the kitchen for quite a few years now, long before his TV fame, back in the day when he was cookery editor for Marie-Claire magazine. I am currently reading his epic Kitchen Diaries II day by day so I will have the pleasure of his company for the coming year.  I just love the way he writes about food with such a passion and a feel for every ingredient. His cookery books have always been much more than just another recipe book by yet another TV chef. 

I don't normally make a habit of cooking his recipes on the actual day nor am I attempting to cook every single recipe in the book. It was just that I saw today it was Little Apricot and Oat Cakes which sounded quick, easy, delicious and for once I had got all the ingredients in the store cupboard. Except when I came to bake it I didn't have the dried apricots after all so I had to use dried mixed fruit instead.

So despite the lack of apricots in the Little Apricot & Oat Cakes they still tasted pretty good to me.  Ran out of muffin cases though and then had trouble getting them out of the supposedly non-stick muffin tin.  I need one of those silicone muffin tins that turn inside out and then the cakes just pop out as if by magic.  Oooohh I feel a trip to Lakeland coming on. 

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