Sunday, 7 August 2016

Can I Make My Own Frames?

The high cost of getting work framed these days can push the price tag of our paintings quite high. While this may not be a problem for established artists who can command a good price for their work, it can be quite a problem for us lesser known amateurs.

The last work that I had professionally framed, though quite a small painting, cost me more than the overall value of the price tag that I could put on the work! I mean, don't get me wrong, my current framer makes a fantastic job of framing my artwork, but maybe I should look at doing some things differently?
I have on occasion bought second hand frames from car boot sales and re-painted them, with some success, though to be honest, most frames at a car boot can be in a pretty rough state, and getting one the right size, often difficult.

My other line of thinking was, could I make my own frames from scratch? Whilst I am pretty handy at woodwork, this could prove quite a challenge. In fact, it really did with my first efforts!

Fig1. Cross section of how I frame my oil paintings done on board
The kind of frames that I thought that I might be able to make myself, are the ones that house my oil paintings done on 6mm MDF board. Not sure what these type of frames are called, but they are made from simple lengths of timber with a rebate down one edge, where the board is inserted at the front.

 My first two attempts to cut a rebate from a length of timber failed miserably! First using a router, then using a hand rebating plane - nearly took my finger off with the router and couldn't keep a straight cut with the plane! The resultant length of timber went back in the garage and I thought that it was time to give up.
A couple of days later, I had a brainwave! What about the wood yard just down the road - surely they have the equipment to rebate a length of PAR timber? My thinking turned out to be good, as the young lad in charge of the woodworking equipment was only too happy to help, and in about five minutes, had done a perfect job for me with a 3.6m length of timber. The charge for this at the till was an amazing £4.00! Fig1. shows how the softwood was cut to accommodate the board.

Fig2. frame pieces cut ready for assembly.
My next task was to cut the timber to the correct lengths using a mitre saw. Fortunately, I have both a power and a precision hand mitring saw, though the power one didn't have a fine enough blade, so had to do this by hand. It took some practice to make a satisfactory cut at first, but a few lengths later I'd got it weighed up. See fig2.

With all the frame pieces cut, how on earth was I going to hold all this together? I could just glue the ends together, use some sort of clamps maybe, but how strong would that be? Time to look on t'internet I thought. After a while, it was Amazon to the rescue - within a couple of days, a super-dooper, all bells and whistles, picture framing kit landed in my front porch! What a fabulous piece of kit - within a few minutes, after making a test corner, I had the first frame made, with lovely wedges driven into the corners and glued for good measure.

The finished frames
The initial rebate proved to be slightly small, but a few days later, I had several lengths made with a modified rebate and framed some more paintings. These frames were given two coats of gesso by brush, followed by a good quality, white spray paint.
I have to say that the finished frames look super and easily good enough for exhibition purposes, so the answer to the question "Can I Make My Own Frames", is for this type of frame yes.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

The Ewe in Oils

At the end of first stage
 I usually complete one painting about every 1 to 2 weeks, depending on the size of the support or type of medium used. If it's a request or commission, maybe a a little longer.  My latest work is this painting of a ewe in a barn with straw on the floor. Like a lot of my work, it's based on a photograph. In the original shot is also a lamb, who apart from looking a bit sorry for himself, is looking down and away from his mother so I decided to leave him out and go for a straight, profile view of the ewe.

The Ewe: Oil on board 30x30cm
 Unusually for me, I am using a black colour mixed with Purple Dioxazine for the background and darkest parts of the sheep. In the first picture, I've sketched the subject in pencil and used a background wash of yellow ochre mixed with burnt sienna thinned with white spirit and dried with the hair dryer. The background has been painted first - another anomaly with me, and the eye carefully completed in one go. This was the most colourful part of the work and very satisfying to do.
The first clumps of wool are now in place too, after weighing up the hue of the wool - the first assumption is that it would be generally white, but on closer inspection, there are many variations of tone and colour in the fleece.

The finished painting reflects my current style with oils; that is to try and make every brush stroke count - not going over any painted area again if possible. This in my view, helps to keep the painting looking fresh. When we start to push paint around, this is when the colours start to look muddy. The support I use now mostly, is 6mm MDF board, which is cheap, lovely to work on and shows up brush marks beautifully, also allowing me to give form to the image.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

New Paints

Self 2015 Oil on canvas paper 30x40 cm.

One year in the early 1970’s I attended an evening course learning how to paint in oils with local tutor Edna Bull. Being in my mid-twenties and a family man, I just did the one-off course where I produced several paintings, most of which (bar one) have long since disappeared. Since that time, I never looked at oils again, in fact until 2010 (except two years learning watercolour), didn’t do hardly any painting.

Nowadays, I’ve used quite a number of different media, but never oils until I watched Peter Barker do a demonstration with alkyd oils at the Oadby Society of Artists one evening. Although Peter has done some fabulous work (see his blog below), this particular seascape painting was quite simple, but he did show us the virtues of using this type of oil paint. Winsor & Newton Griffin Alkyd oils have a much faster drying time than conventional oils allowing the artist to paint over work done less than an hour earlier in the session. Another bonus is that these oils work out less expensive than the conventional type!

Spurred on by Peter’s demo, I bought the paints and started my first oil painting in 40 years! Not wanting to splash out too much on a media that I might not use again, I opted for just three primary colours (cadmium yellow light, cobalt blue, permanent rose) and Titanium white. It’s possible to get most colours that you would need from these.

After first session
After several months of using acrylic, these oils were a dream to use and blended beautifully (something hard to achieve with acrylics). My subject matter was the self-portrait shown here and the paint was touch dry soon after each session, allowing me to transport the work home from the painting club without fear of getting paint all over the car!

This painting took around ten days, and I did quite a detailed sketch in pencil first before laying on some of this lovely medium. It took me more time to do the shirt than it did my face! I think I am hooked on these paints now, and will probably stick with them, for the time being anyway.

Check-out Peter’s excellent blog here:

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Le Nonne

Le Nonne
The main reason I paint these days is for my own personal pleasure and not what many people like or want to buy for that matter. Come to think of if it, I haven't sold a painting since last November! It is however, nice to be able to be relaxed when painting and not worry about meeting any deadline or pleasing anybody I guess.

Although I have several different styles going at the moment, I still occasionally try something a bit different, suddenly and spontaneously changing the way I work. Often it doesn't work or I get stuck or fail to portray what is going on in my head. But just occasionally something clicks and I think "oh, that actually works" or then I think that I've done something that is obviously different and not sure if it has worked or not.

The painting "Le Nonne" is one such work, something quite different for me. Friends that have seen it say they like it, but you are never quite sure about what they are saying because a lot of folk don't want to offend you and will say something is good when they may really feel otherwise. Any way, this work is based on a black-and-white photo my daughter took when on holiday in Italy last year. As I knew nothing about what the true colours of the scene were, I decided that rather than do a black-and-white work, I could get some earthy colours going - you know something like Rembrandt would go for. The resultant limited palette turned out something like sepia tone.

Just on the off chance, I thought that I would submit this painting a bit further afield than our small, local events. I've done this a few times over the last year or two, but always been rejected. Imagine my amazement then, when I got an email saying my submission has been accepted! So now, from March 14th - May 4th 2015, this work will be on show at the Leicester and East Midlands Open Art Exhibition 2015 to be held at the Newarke House Museum. Wow, what a result!

Friday, 1 August 2014

We Visit the National Portrait Gallery

People near Fountain. Pen & Wash 20x20 cm
Members of our art club were fortunate enough to have a coach trip down to London to visit the National Portrait gallery yesterday. The BP 2014 Portrait Exhibition was the star of the show and work exhibited was just incredible to see!

I later got the chance to sit in Trafalgar Square for a while and sketch some of the people sitting amongst the fountains just soaking up the sunshine or having a packed lunch and stuff. I was a bit nervous at first with so many people around me, but I soon got lost in my work, occasionally chatting to interested people, especially two American ladies who seemed delighted to look at this and former sketches in my book.

Lovely atmosphere, lovely time.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Italian Cyclists

Italian Cyclists - acrylic 30x40 cms
Isn't it funny how you read all these articles in art magazines by competent artists who give you step-by-step instructions on how to create a masterpiece like theirs in several easy steps, then when you try it, it turns out to be utter rubbish that goes straight in the bin!

after 2 hours
Well for once, I followed one such artist's advice and tried a method of painting that was mostly alien to the normal way I do things, and I was actually quite surprised at the results. "Italian Cyclists" was definitely NOT the way I usually do things and scared the pants off me as it was mostly done at a painting club I belong to, and under much scrutiny from fellow artists.

Working from memory using a stretched canvas and acrylics, the first instruction I followed was to give the canvas an under-painting of red. Not sure what to do after that, I sketched the scene from a photo loosely with a small brush using burnt umber. Normally I would have meticulously sketched the scene in pencil first, though come to think of it, the last portrait I did was done initially in a similar way with a fine brush. The rest of the painting was done mainly using larger brushes, applying the paint in a fairly dry manner so that small areas of the under-painting showed through. I had much difficulty in stopping myself from going into more detail as I knew that I had to keep this one down to an impression.
after 4 hours

The painting took around three 2-hour sessions.

In conclusion, the resultant work that had a continuity about it and a feeling of a warm sunny day. This has set me off on a new course in the wonderful world of painting.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Great Bowden Village Boxing Day Meet

Great Bowden Boxing Day Meet
It is a tradition that goes back many years to hold the Fernie Hunt opening Meet on the village green in Great Bowden, Leicestershire. I try to attend this yearly event whenever I can, mainly to see my favourites, which are the hounds. This must be one of the few days in the year that the hounds are treated like pets with all the patting and stroking from the onlookers and especially the children and the animals just seem to lap up all the attention!

I've used acrylic paint on 16x20 inch stretched canvas for this one, which took two months from start to finish. The video below shows how the work came to fruition with each stage of the work.