Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Please Comment

Jack, Oliver and Charlie are coming to the end of their Silver Arts Award, please can you leave comments for them here: Gallery, here: War Art by Thomas Hennell
and here: Bronze Exhibition and Visit to Twinwood Museum

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

SAW  at Highlighting History - 26th & 27th July 2014
Part of the Festival of British Archaeology

Come and catch up with SAW at their excavation at Priory Country Park on Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th July, between 12.00pm and 4.00pm. This excavation is in its fourth year, looking for evidence of past uses and occupation of the park site, specifically searching for further evidence of  Roman presence.

Visit the dig site, see the latest finds and find out more about SAW.

We hope to see you there!

STOP PRESS: Saturday 26th July FREE guided heritage walk around Bedford River Valley Park at 1pm.
The walk should last around 2 hours. More information from Priory Country Park rangers 01234 211182

You can also find out about other Heritage sites in the area of Bedford River Valley Park, at Willington and beyond. Visit the exhibition in the Priory Country Park Visitor Centre.

For more information visit: http://www.priorycountrypark.co.uk/park_info.html

Friday, July 18, 2014

War Art by Thomas Hennell reviewed by Jack

Visit to RAF Hendon to view war art by Thomas Hennell

On  the 11th of April I went to RAF Hendon to see some of Thomas Hennell's war art. He worked in Asia (namely India and Burma) as well as other places such as Iceland and the Netherlands. Most of his work at RAF Hendon is from his time in Asia - especially in India where he recorded many airstrips being constructed.

In  this picture Indian troops are constructing a British airfield using out-of-date machinery such as the steam roller in the background. Due to the nature of his subject and the fact that they were constantly moving, Hennell had to paint extremely quickly using  loose brush strokes. In most of his pictures he has not used pencil to mark out any shapes. However, when he does use pencil it is only to show position and outline rather than detail. As is shown in this painting the heat was unbearable and was only relieved by a monsoon. Both of these types of weather would have hindered Hennell as he tried to paint. On these primitive airfields shelter was rare so  Hennell was often rushed to do his paintings and therefore his work  appears unfinished; as is shown in this picture by the seated figure in the foreground. By the time the storm on the horizon had passed this figure would have moved so the painting could not be completed.

In this piece of artwork Pioneers are laying an airstrip in Mingaldon, June 1945. This shared airfield housed both American and British Dakotas as well as American Liberators. In this image Hennell has used very suggestive colours that you would not expect to see in a normal scene.  In this particular painting Hennell has put varying shades of pink in the foreground and blue in the middle-ground. These colours create a sense of movement and action within the scene because of their loose and inaccurate personality. He has used various contrasting techniques in this piece of art such as wet-into-wet and dry-brushing. In the central foreground yellow ochre and mid purple have been dry-brushed together leaving speckled white areas which again add a sense of movement. On the left browns and yellows have been used wet-into-wet to create a fading look which has aided perspective. The planes in the background are also very suggestive which means that they compliment the scene without detracting attention from the Pioneers.

Many techniques have been used in this picture such as dry-brushing and the addition of neat water droplets. Hennell appears to of laid down a wash and then leaving it to semi-dry before adding water droplets.  These drops have created a pale starburst effect which helps to  add texture to the ground. Another method of adding texture is through the use of dry-brushing. He has left large expanses of white paper showing after laying his washes. In these spaces Hennell has added dabs of colour or dry-brushed colours across the rough paper. These two simple effects come together to create a convincing suggestion of rough ground.
To create the effect of rain in the sky, Hennell appears to of flicked on water again and has also dragged colour across the sky. It seems that he has used the equivalent of a fan brush in order to streak the 'rain' across the grey wash of a sky. Along the base of the picture Hennell has added horizontal brush strokes of varying shades of brown. the horizontal nature of the loose strokes means that they show the contour of the bare soil extremely well along with the corresponding washes. 

In this picture, Hennell has portrayed an American airfield under construction. The Americans exported much more sophisticated equipment and therefore they worked much faster. As a result Hennell had to paint faster. This resulted in a much more liberal and loose painting style and a lot more suggestion.  This is shown by the only outlined tractors  which contain very little detail.
Overall, Hennell has a very unique painting style in which he uses unexpected techniques to create varying effects that help to add character to his paintings. The fact that he paints so quickly using these impressionist techniques means that his paintings have a sense of movement and a                                                                                                    reality that is not immediately portrayed.

Whilst I was there I also saw some works by Stafford-Baker - an un-commissioned war artist.  Stafford-Baker's style is very much like my own, he pays very close attention to detail and colour as well as how the light reflects off of different surfaces. The detail on the relatively small Beaufighter in the background is precise - right down to the hair-line panel recesses. The foreground Beaufighter with the engine cowling removed also portrays exquisite detail within the engine bay.  Despite the limited light Stafford-Baker has shown the prop boss and pistons extremely well using light and shadow to show shapes. Stafford-Baker has used wet-into-wet techniques to show light and dark without obvious transitions. Overall this study is amazingly
detailed and, if it had been finished, would have made a fine painting. 

I like Stafford-Baker's work very much because he uses various techniques to create a realistic painting that appears to be alive. However, I feel that Hennell paints movement into his paintings much better - probably owing to the hurried nature of his paintings. Despite this Hennell has not included much detail in his paintings and therefore I find it hard to relate to them like I can to Stafford-Baker's. My painting style is more like Stafford-Baker's  and therefore I think that I prefer his work - even though they are both equally as impressive. This article focuses mainly on Hennell because his paintings use interesting techniques that I can use and I can therefore aspire to create paintings like his (only with a bit more detail!). As mentioned previously, Hennell has also used various colours within his paintings that you would not normally expect to find, which creates an interesting effect that I would like to try on my paintings.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Twinwood Tour 17th May 2014

Thanks to Robert Allen and all the volunteers at Twinwood Museum, we had a fascinating morning listening to and seeing how a World War 2 airfield site and buildings have been restored and developed into a successful and popular museum.

We heard about the renovations to the Control Tower and how the display has been improved over the years and will change again to try to re-create the conditions when the Tower was in use. Many of us didn't know that the windows which now give a splendid panorama of the airfield site would have originally been blacked-out, which of course makes sense during war time.

Downstairs in the Tower the airfield's connection to the World War 2 bandleader, Glenn Miller is told by way of photographs, uniforms and models, overlaid by the sounds of the tunes made popularly his Big Band.

Many of the group found the recreated wartime house interiors and shop scenes, in the Aviation Museum most engaging. Everyone stopped still to the sound of the air raid siren.

A special thank you goes to Jack for showing members of SAW around and explaining about the work behind the scenes.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

'Much Larks' at Mountfitchet Castle

Castle Village
The Daily Grind

In April SAW participants made a group visit to Mountfitchet Castle in Essex. This is a reconstructed wooden castle on and original motte and bailey site. Complete with live animals, smoky fires, skeletal prisoners, hanged criminals and torture pit, it gives both and engaging and lurid insight into Medieval life.

Punished for having too much of a good time!
You can try your hand at heaving the grinding mill-stones; kitting yourself up for riding in the slips; try on a helmet or two and wear some very heavy chain mail.

Let battle commence!

The fallow deer, ducks, geese and goat are all keen to get close for a free feed, if you buy a bag on your way in.

There are trails to follow and windy stairs to climb for a good view out over the area. You get a good idea of how defensible this site was and yet the castle was eventually taken by King John in 1215?

The reluctant goatherd!
A few nibbles...

Following the visit, I asked what members of the group to send me comments on: 
  • what they particularly enjoyed at Mountfitchet Castle and,
  • from an archaeology point of view, did they think it is a good idea to build a replica castle on top of the actual site of a castle...?
Liva said:
I thought the great hall  was exciting because I liked the models, and the information was interesting.  I also liked the pretend gallows because it showed that life in some parts of history was tough. The herb garden was good too because it was beautiful. 

Also from an archaeology point of view it would be good to build the replica on top of the original castle because if you discover any new things in the ground you can add it to the collection at the castle. Which is important to see things in their original background.

Malthe said:

For the first question, I enjoyed feeding the animals because it was funny when the animals were chasing me to try and get the animal food. For the second question, I think that the reconstruction is good, but they should have built the reconstruction somewhere else so that people can enjoy the original castle and the reconstruction of the castle.

Matthew's mum, Julie said:

It is really difficult to pinpoint what we particularly enjoyed as it was all so good.  The village scene with its wide range of exhibits, the individual buildings and the gallows (which both the boys were a bit wary of (lol!) all provided a great experience for the boys and not forgetting the wildlife freely wandering around which just made castle village life all the more real. 

There was such a lot to see and do and without you guys organising the morning SAW session I don’t think we would have got so much out of it.  

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Shells and snails and muddy blob tales...

Environmental Archaeology - why mud and microscopic animals are very important!

In January, participants at SAW found out how important microscopic evidence is to archaeologists. The types of snail and seed that you can only see with the help of a microscope help to tell archaeologists and those who study past environments, what the climate of a particular place used to be like and the sorts of plant and animal species would have lived there.

This in turn can help to explain the kinds of activities the past inhabitants have undertaken and the help explain the sorts of man-made objects the archaeologists might find.

Archaeologists routinely take mud and soil samples from their excavated sites to sieve and study. We got to sort through the residue from buckets of muddy water. It's amazing what you can find, someone even found a miniature sea urchin!

Apart from anything, we just love getting muddy!