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Table-top landscapes

Richard Pikesley, president of the New English Art Club, reveals the benefits of painting indoor landscapes in oils – still lifes that ‘connect with the landscape outside’

One thing that bothers me about the way painting is often taught is that it divides what we all see into categories. Paintings on the borderline between realism and abstraction interest me greatly – people that aren’t quite portraits, and records of our surroundings that could be landscapes or something else.

When I started teaching full time, the head of department at the school where I was employed gave me a guided tour of the art rooms. Amongst all the usual paraphernalia of a busy studio I noticed a number of wooden open-fronted boxes which, I was told, were for still life. There were lots of bits and pieces from which little tableaux could be constructed, mostly rather tired bits of pottery. These assemblages would be placed in front of a hapless pupil who would be required to draw it.

Now, don’t get me wrong, drawing is a good thing, a really good thing, but this way of teaching seemed to be a dismal way of going about it. I could see why it might be useful: the shallow depth and the fact that it could be placed out of the way of pesky sunlight to avoid any cast shadows meant it could be a sort of nursery slope. In those pre-health and safety days I sometimes used to take in live chickens as a subject for my drawing classes, and don’t recall using the still-life boxes much.

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About The Artist

Welcome to our January issue which looks forward to the new year ahead with our special 6-page guide to open competitions and exhibitions in 2018 and beyond, with all the entry details and all-important deadlines. We also include full details about our own The Artist open competition with fantastic prizes and the opportunity to see your work exhibited and published in the magazine and on our website, promoting your artwork to our massive international audience. Our inspirational, practical articles from this month's team of top-level professional artists and tutors include how to exploit extreme shadows in watercolour for enhanced light effects, watercolour techniques for capturing atmospheric weather conditions and how to improve your watercolour still life paintings. Equestrian artist Ruth Buchanan offers 10 top tips on how to draw the horse, NEAC President Richard Pikesley offers ideas on painting 'table-top' landscapes indoors when it's impossible to get outside to paint and Barry Freeman explains how painting from the heart is the key to loosening up in your work. With much more too, you will find plenty of ideas in this issue to keep you painting over the festive period. The team at The Artist wishes all our readers a happy, creative time and enjoyable new year.