Tuesday, March 17, 2015

So stencil.

My stencil prowess lacks entirely. The last time I used a stencil was when I was about 12, using one of those awful alphabet stencils, probably out of boredom and the last time I made a stencil?....erm.....?...

So getting a blast of inspiration that required me to cut and use a stencil really was a bit of a double edged sword. I could see what I wanted to do but had no idea how to do it. A wee bit of thought and planning helped me to realise that 
a) I would definitely need a stencil for this
b) I would definitely need to draw and cut the stencil myself
c) I definitely had ruined my knife in a small 'craft frustration' moment and had none of the tools I needed

I acquired myself a decent craft knife and cutting board and set myself on giving Banksy a run for his money. It very soon transpired that a fancy drawing does not equal a good stencil. So drawing simplified, I went back to the cutting board but this time, getting further along in the process, I realised that there were a whole bunch of negative spaces that 'floated' and when cut out would just fall away from the stencil.

I solved the problem by linking up all of the negative spaces to the positive spaces. I was going to paint them in afterwards but eventually, I loved the overall effect so I left them in. 

My planning did not extend to card size so I ended up having to cut the stencil on two pieces of paper and stuck them together on the canvas. 

Fixing the stencil to the prepared canvas with some decorators tape, I was ready. The next, ahem, challenge, was to paint the stencil. I chose the finest kitchen scouring sponge lying about in our  cleaning cupboard and went about dabbing the paint on. It felt a bit Blue Peter to be honest and I could see why so many with street cred go with spray paints, but it seemed to be working well.

The eagle eyed (or stencil familiar) amongst you will notice another planning judgement fail. I had parked the drawing (and therefore the cut) right to the very edge of the card. There is no point to a stencil if paint can get on an area where you do not want paint. This move allowed that to almost happen. I am a moron still climbing that steep learning curve reserved only for those who scoff at proper planning. So it is in the interest of sharing my new found knowledge that I am telling you all about my mistake so you don't make the same one. You are welcome. 

Disaster averted, I completed the painting with no other stencils (although I did have to use this one twice) and have to say, I am thrilled with the results. The painting will go for auction later in the year for the SHARE Foundation (Sri Lanka) 

The SHARE Foundation has been set up to fund nursing projects for the poor and disadvantaged in the third world countries. Its purpose is to provide free nursing care for the infirm, elderly and terminally ill in the low-income groups. www.sharesrilanka.org

So proper planning saves silly stencil mistakes! And probably other stuff too...

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A New Place.

Hello Blog world! I have once again moved house, packed, unpacked and set up a new studio! Its been a mad 12 months, what with raising a baby (whose routines change on a weekly basis!), a high maintenance golden retriever, buying a house and trying to pack some creativity into the gaps around the edge. We are all pretty frazzled, but this blog post reassures me that we are well and truly back on the path again. 

The studio was one of my priorities - some of you will know how important it is to have your own space to be creative and to leave your stuff everywhere while you are mid-work. I think this is even more true when you are a parent / carer for another person. You really need to have your time away in your own space, physically as well as mentally. This is why I nabbed the second largest room in the house for my studio and set about setting it up before we had even assembled our bed. 

As the area was already carpeted, we used an adhesive plastic floor covering to protect the carpet and then stuck a tarp over the top as I tend to get a bit messy with my stuff...

Getting all my things out again was such a joy. I had forgotten about certain things and was able to finally organise things as I wanted them. Its still a work in progress (the next addition will be a desk in the opposite corner of this room, so I can undertake drawing work and fine detail stuff as well as some admin. I was so pleased that during their time in transit and storage, none of my work had been damaged or become mouldy, which can very easily happen.

Once stuff was out of the boxes, I was free to organise everything as I had always wanted. I still have some of my promotional posters etc to go up on the walls and I hope that my collection will only grow! 

I have already started on some new works - a bit different to my Alpine scenery but I'm enjoying it immensely. Now things are up and running, I hope to keep you all up to date on my progress, new findings and techniques, successes and failures.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Needs must!

Apologies for me being so slack with blog, I've been busy having a baby and moving house. It's been a bit mad and so my art (and blog!) have taken a bit of a back seat. It's only been 11 weeks since I had our little girl but it feels like years since I held a palette knife, got covered in paint or let myself fall deep into 'the zone'. The only zone I have been in lately is the parent & child parking zone. I am desperate to be creative again and put some stuff down on paper or canvas or anything I can lay my hands on! 

The problem is this: my studio lies packed up into around 17 boxes in the garage, waiting for me to find a place to rent or another house with more rooms and a moment without a screaming child or a wet dog to deal with.
The reality is that until we buy somewhere, I won't be unpacking my stuff, the house we are in currently just doesn't have space for me to have a studio. The paints are so messy, guaranteed it will get splattered around and any alone time I have away from the baby would be spent painting, not doing all the extra cleaning oil paints in a dining area would require. So, no. No oil painting for me for a while. Which made me sad, so I set out to do something about that.

I have discovered these 'oil sticks' which I hope will solve my temporary problem.
They are a lot less messy than oil paints as they are firmer, which also means they lend themselves to some different effects on the canvas, paper, board or whatever you are planting them on. This means I might be able to paint, sans mess, in my dining room, without the rest of my studio getting unpacked. It will hopefully introduce me to some new effects and techniques, which can only be good, right?  Because when a situation changes, you adapt. Why should art be any different? 

I fully intend to let you guys know how I get on on my new medium adventure. I forgot to gesso my paper today (no, actually I remembered but I had no time thanks to a certain golden retriever getting stuck in the river and a certain someone else getting rather clingy to mama) Watch this space.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Split Personality

So, I thought I'd just say how much I am enjoying the freedom and expression that some of my abstract work is bringing me. Its a different way of thinking and looking at art and in particular, a landscape. I still love to paint up a good old bit of landscape, one my mum can look at and go "Ooh! Thats a lovely painting of a mountain!" but sometimes as an artist you feel like there is a bit of an itch you need to scratch. An avenue, be it a technique, a style a process that you want to have a go at and try to get good  at. Picasso said' "I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it". A very good point of view if you ask me. Many people shy away from something that is unfamiliar, takes them out of their comfort zone or 

Husband doesn't get it at all - He finds the concept of abstract art a strange one. He, like many people, appreciates a wide range of art styles and types but abstract is not one of them. He cannot understand how recently a very abstract piece of mine sold online. I have tried to explain the abstraction to him and that just because it doesn't look like a photograph, doesn't mean its not a good piece. Some of my abstract works take longer to produce and even require more paint and other mediums, than some of my more traditional works. The techniques I use in some of the abstract stuff requires long periods of waiting for paint to dry, scraping back layers, sanding back others, re-painting and re-glazing. 

There is always a starting point, an inspiration, that sparks the piece. It could be a colour, an emotion, a place, an object but its always there and the piece wouldn't exist without it. Sometimes when you're trying to represent something intangible or perhaps a combination of elements, feelings, smells, colours, it's difficult to paint a picture of it and the best way to do that is to abstract it out; represent various elements with different shapes, colours and ideas. 

I love being able to flit between the two and expressing different parts of who I am. Just because I like realism, doesn't mean I can't like abstract also. That's the great thing about Art, it allows a person freedom in the way they express themselves but sometimes people are quick to pigeonhole you - that you are 'this' type of artist or 'that' type of artist. Why should it be that way? Art by definition demands an open mind and an appreciation that whatever piece is in front of you is someone's work that they had a spark of inspiration to create, spent time on and are (most likely) proud of. 

Most of all, art should be about surrounding yourself with pretty things, you don't have to over analyse it, some people hang a painting because they like the colour and it matches the rest of their room, not because it tries to say anything about them. As an artist, the more people I can get to like my work - any of my work - the better! 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A New Process

A while back, I talked about how the creative process can be a destructive one also - after all, thats how nature works, nothing lasts forever. Everything is eventually broken down and re-structured or re-made into something new. It might take millions of years, it might take minutes, but it happens every day, all around us. I started rubbing down canvases to try to re-cycle them and re-use them. This caused x2 problems:
1. Holes. If you rub a canvas with sandpaper for enough time, you will get holes in it. As the paint surface makes it uneven, holes appear randomly and without warning. You also have to be careful of the stretcher bars, they mark the canvas and where you rub and also can make it difficult to sand edges around the stretcher bars.  You can take the canvas off the stretcher bars however (apart from taking forever) it doesn't help that much and holes still appear around the edges where the stretcher bars were.
2. Dust. There is so much dust. Son of dust. You MUST wear a mask for this work, a decent one. Mask + eye glasses = FAIL. My glasses fell off consistently, into the dust. The dust then gets in your eyes, your hair, your clothes, your dog. 

I am not sure what the correct protective equipment for this work is but I am confident that it is completely out of proportion with the money saved from re-cycling a canvas. Therefore, sandpaper and canvas should only be brought together on the rare occasion that you want to actually use that look in one of your paintings. 

I must admit, I am a fan of this worn, aged look. we saw a lot of it while we were in India, in fact we stayed in an old palace and in our bedroom were beautiful old frescos, damaged by the years and the weather. When I started rubbing down my canvases, this is what I thought of, it reminded me of these scenes. How wonderful to try and cause this effect. I knew I wanted to give it a go.

With my India project, to start with, I approached it with my usual style. For some reason, with some of the pieces, it just wouldn't work. The painting looked flat and solid. I started experimenting with different styles and techniques on different paintings. It was amazing to 'have a go' at something new. If it didn't work, meh... what you learn during that experiment is useful information. Nothing is ever a 'wasted project' as you always get something out of it, even if it is something small. And what you might end up discovering, is worth the risk. 

One particular piece that kept bugging me was this water piece. We had gone for afternoon tea at this amazing house. It was for rent during the season (4 rooms and staff - I'd highly recommend it!) but we had gone there as we were staying at the sister hotel (the old palace with the frescos!) just for tea. It used to be the Maharaja's pleasure palace, built so he could hunt and enjoy the high life with his hareem. It sits in the fork of a lazy river, so lazy it looks almost stagnant, with long ropes of weed laying over the surface of it. It was sunset and the end of the monsoon season, so there was still a lot of humidity in the air and the heat, even at sunset, was pretty immense. It was very quiet, although locals were still going about their business, mainly shepherds, moving  their goats around and women washing clothes in the river. It was beautiful, so peaceful and serene, but wet and hot. 

This painting was not coming together, it just wasn't conveying how I felt looking over the rooftop of the old pleasure palace out to the riverbank. I kept leaving it and going back to it, hoping something would explode out of my palette knife and make it work all of a sudden. It wouldn't and I would leave it for another couple of weeks...months...
I felt like I was going over old ground again and again, just re-doing what I had already done. The colours were right, but at the same time, not right. I wasn't proud of what I had done at the end of each session and that always hurts. The paint layers were building up but nothing new was happening. I was getting frustrated as I knew the piece would work, I just didn't know how to execute it. Maybe thats the bonus of Art school, you learn things like that. Its less trial and error and more people to bounce ideas off. Me in a studio on my own, getting frustrated wasn't helping move the piece along. 

I was actually surfing online and came across this very talented artist Jessica Zoob (www.jessicazoob.com). Her paintings are like dreamscapes and I love how she uses glazes and colours. She says how she likes to scrape back and layer up the paint which got me thinking about my own work and my earlier experiments. I decided I would give it another go and see if I could turn this around in a new way, using techniques I hadn't used before and shrugging off my usual style, just let what happens, happen. 

I started by sanding off some of the layers of the paint that were already on the canvas (don't worry, I used all my protective equipment) which gave me that 'fresco' feel and evened up the paint layer a bit. It also took away some of the paint I had built up in frustration. After wiping a good deal of dust from the work, I decided on a palette and started to glaze. A glaze is where you mix a semi or transparent colour with an oil medium and paint it over another colour. It makes the paint runny and translucent. I decided to keep it 'loose' and allow the colours to run into each other. A complete departure from my structured work, with stiff, buttery oil paint.

As I went on, the paint found its way onto the canvas in its own way and I couldn't help but love the result. It started to feel right, to convey the damp heat just after sunset. I am not sure I have finished it just yet, I may sand back a layer once more and re-glaze for extra depth but I am already so so pleased with how it looks and feels. 

I have resolved to do more of this 'departure' work. Loosening up the paint and making the landscapes I paint much more abstract. I in fact, started on a snowy mountain version. This one is from scratch so it might have a different vibe to it than the India piece, and probably less structure, but I feel more relaxed about where it might go now and kind of excited to see where it takes me! 

Monday, April 22, 2013


A busy few weeks has seen me slacking with Blog, for that I apologise, I am trying to get as much work done before baby arrives. So I have been painting, printing and framing like a mad thing. A trip to Verbier to deliver some paintings, a trip to Abergavenny to get some prints made and a trip to Peterborough to get everything framed. I must say, it all looks lovely, I just need some sales now to help even out the finances! 

Craig at I-Pixel design did another fantastic job with the prints of 'On the way back down' - A Chamonix print (available for sale via my website www.stephanienoble.co.uk), although he did have rather a nightmare capturing it. When I collected it on Monday, I had not expected the painting to have destroyed his weekend entirely. 

The software would not stitch it together properly and Craig had spent most of Saturday and half of Sunday trying all sorts of techniques to try and get it to capture. His unblemished record of never letting a customer down in over 7 years was at stake and finally just as he reached the end of his tether, he managed to capture the painting. And I am so glad he did! On taking it to the framers (who also did a stellar job), I now have my very own Chamonix and Verbier prints hanging in my house! 

The crazy painting and framing of several new pieces took hold of my life for a good number of weeks, all in time to dash to Verbier and deliver them all to the Gallery. I am pleased to say that Nanuq gallery now has a wide range of original Stephanie Noble pieces, that should last well into the next season, unless there is a rush on S.Nobles. That would be nice. 

So now the gallery is stocked up! 

While I was there, I did a spot of hanging out with some awesome mates down in Chamonix. We had a spa day and everything. To top it off there was Champagne, an engagement celebration, a birthday celebration AND Wales won the Six nations in fantastic style. I also managed to grab a few lovely mountain shots which I hope to paint in the coming weeks, I have totally run out of canvas however and am hoping a sale comes in soon so I can reinvest and cram in a few more pictures before baby comes. 

While in Verbier, I did bring a painting back with me to enter it into a competition here, 'Lyskamm and the Twins' is a huge painting of a large glacier and three peaks in Zermatt. I am taking it down to London this saturday, along with 'On the way back down' for the selection process. I will let you know how I get on, watch this space! 

Despite this all keeping me very busy, I have also tried to shoehorn in some promotion, via social media sites. A little bit more labour intensive than I thought it would be and slightly too addictive. I find myself sneakily checking on my page to see how many new 'likes' and shares and 'people who have seen this post' notifications I have. But it is working and I hope to share my work with lots more new followers. Its hard to get your message out there without feeling like you are badgering people, which is something I am acutely aware of and try my best to avoid. A lot of marketing people will tell you you have to be pushy and persistent to get your message out there and stand out from the crowd. I am happy to agree with that, but find it a very unnatural position for me. 

To try and counter those feelings and give something back to the people who like and follow my work, I have launched a competition on facebook. In return for 'liking' my page and sharing the link, you get entered into a draw to win this mini painting of some Chamonix peaks. I dont think its a bad deal and I might do a few more of these competitions in the future as I have had a great response so far. If indeed, you are interested in this, please visit


'like' the page and share the link. I am going to announce the winner on Facebook and Twitter at 12pm GMT on Friday 26th April 2013. So get cracking and Good Luck! 


Monday, March 4, 2013

I am a believer!

Being an artist you often want to be able to produce more than you physically can, not just inspirationally and practically, but for financial reasons. Original art gets expensive, especially when a customer buys through a gallery and thanks to the world's economy right now, us artists are finding it difficult to sell original pieces. The odd piece gets sold but, its not frequent enough to pay the bills - especially as most artists will want to invest in more canvas, more paint and framing for the next original work.Decent quality canvas and paint doesn't come cheap - especially when you paint impasto like me....so you see, it can get a little financially sticky here in an artists world.

Thats where print reproductions come in handy. It means we can reproduce our work for sale in a more affordable bracket whilst the customer is still able to enjoy the artist's work. Up until the late 1980's though, artist's work had to be scanned and inkjet printed. A lot of the time, detail would be lost and the colours could not be properly matched.

So then, it is with glee and joy the artist welcomes Giclée printing!! Giclée, from the french verb gicler, means to squirt, or spray, describes the printing action for this process. It is quite different to inkjet printing and is normally only used for fine art and very detailed printing. The Giclée printing machine can print such fine detail, it makes it ideal for artists wanting to reproduce their work. The printing machine however is only as good as the guy running it and obviously needs decent input to get decent output.

I am not going to pretend I know anything about the software available that makes this process so magical and awe inspiringly accurate but I can summarise the process to you, as I was recently introduced to it myself by a lovely guy called Craig at I-Pixel design. I headed over to Abergavenny (a bit of a haul but I tell you, so so worth it to get the quality of work these people produce!) with my work for 'capture'. I was under the impression that the painting was scanned by a very good scanner, however Craig corrected me and told me that each 'capture' is made up of several (often into the tens) of high resolution photographs, which are then 'jigsawed' together again by the fancy software. 

The rest is then down to Craig who then uses his skills to adjust the 'jigsaw' so it is accurate and match the colours to as close to the original as possible. I have to say, he did a fab job as I couldn't tell the difference. Once he thinks he has it down, a proof is printed and everyone makes sure they are happy - if not, more adjustments can be made before the final prints are run. 

The Giclée printer is a whizz, printing 4 prints for me in the time it takes to drink a lovely cup of tea. The bonus is, I can order more prints whenever I like, so I don't have to tie up money in 30 prints that just sit in my studio, cluttering up the place until they sell. Brilliant! 

Whilst this is not the first time I have ordered prints, this is the first time I have had the quality of workmanship I have been after. I am so proud of these prints, I am keeping one for myself this time! Its still not a cheap process, however it opens up art to more people which is always a good thing. It is as much as an investment for me in someone else's skill and talent as it is for my customers, so in Giclée printing, I AM A BELIEVER! 

Big thanks to Craig at i-pixel design - www.ipixel-design.co.uk