Friday, 30 April 2010

Portrait of Beth

Title: Beth.
Painted on Cotman 140lb/300gsm, not, acid free.
image © frank Bingley 2010.

Last night I thought that I would try my hand at a portrait, having seen some gorgeous work on the Internet. I know what your thinking - yes you look at some lovely watercolours and they spur you on to get out your paints and have a go yourself, only to end up dissapointed at your own dismal attempt! Well anyway, I had a go.

Beth is my daughter-in-law's sister's daughter. I took the original photo earlier this month at one of my grandson's 1st birthday party. Printing the image out A4 size gave me a better chance of getting the proportions right. Starting with a very minimal sketch, I really struggled to get a good likeness even though the proportions seemed correct. This I followed with an 07 pigment liner pen, using the pencil lines as a guide, then erasing the pencil marks. Using water colours, I started with applying the first wash over her face, adding more layers of colour and different shades to bring out the form. Next came the lips followed by the eyes. Not until the whole face was finished did I start on the her dress, hat and then lastly background.

Though I am fairly pleased with the work, and have learnt much in the process, it isn't as spontaneous as I had hoped, largely due to the fact that I used too strong a colour for the first wash. Beth has a very pale complextion, with beautiful rose tint to her cheeks, and I got the thing a little too dark, which made her appear older in the painting (she is 3+). The likeness isn't great, and I think another try would see me drawing her a little smaller to get the lovely hat in and more of her arms, blouse and dress. The image you see here is A3, but as my scanner is A4, you are missing some of the surrounding detail.


This quick little sketch of a freesia sprig may look fairly ordinary but, look closer. The colours used here are made from the actual freesia blooms themselves. I ground down the yellow and purple parts of the flower head and pressed my brush into the pulp to get the colours. A leaf was used for the green, but wasn't really strong enough. The yellow on the other hand turned out quite strong. I have no idea though how long the colour will last!

image:Freesia sprig, painted with colour from the catual bloom.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Art Class - week 1

Well the evening of my first art class in more than a decade arrived. For those of you who have just latched onto this blog, I must say at once that I am not the tutor, I am the student! After arriving early because a) I wasn't sure about the parking and b) didn't know where the classroom would be, I entered the front door of the buildings and immediately bumped into a young lady who turned out to be non other than the tutor herself. She led me through a door with a tiny piece of paper attached which said "Art Class" in very pale letters. Had I been on my own, I would never have read that!

The first job to do was to set up all the tables that had been neatly stacked away in the corner. By now, other members were arriving, and I with a terrible memory, was already struggling to remember their names, in fact even now I can only remember the names of two, but that is not to say that I will still have remembered them by next week! We all give our names to "Miss", and she starts by taking us through the basics about equipment and a few watercolour techniques. There is already an hour of the two hour lesson gone by now, so by the time I finish the initial sketch, there isn't a lot of time left for actual painting. But never mind, I did at least have time to lay in the first washes, the thrill of beautiful watercolours bringing the drawing to vibrant life in front of my eyes. It was no surprise that I was going to have to finish this one at home.

The subject I chose to paint was a photograph of a german shepherd dog. Portraits to me are the hardest things to paint, whether it's people or animals. This is probably because you have to get the proportions right if the finished work is going to look anything like your subject. I mean, if you are painting something like a tree, it doesn't matter if you get a branch slightly in the wrong place, but if it is something like someone's eye, it can be fatal!
I made sure my subject more than filled the paper as that would rule out having to think about the background. Most of the dog's coat was a subtle sand colour with almost black or dark brown areas. I struggled to get the sand colour, but this is where the tutor came to my rescue. She could see that I had a test piece of paper to try the colours out before commiting them to the finished work, which she approved of. "Miss" knew exactly the colours I needed to get the right shade, and gave me a useful tip to fold the test piece at the desired colour and place it up against the photo to check. She was spot on with the tone.

Back at home a couple of nights later, I added more detail to the work, starting with the eyes, which is something I knew I had to get right if anything else was going to work - I think it's the first thing you look at in a portrait. Fortunately the photo was very detailed and allowed me to reproduce them quite accurately. As for the dog's coat, I shuddered at the thought of painting every hair, which the tutor said she would do! As I am very much a fan of impressionism, this is what I opted for, and rather suggested hair strokes by adding just a few here and there. After another hour or so, I knew I had stop before the whole thing looked overdone and ruined.

In conclusion, I'm fairly happy with the work in general - especially the eyes, though I think I went a little wild with the coat by flicking the small brush a bit too much in places. The coat in the photo being really rather smooth.

So that's it, lesson number one complete. If you leave a comment, please be honest and don't pull any punches, as I am quite hard to offend these days!

images: (above) - finished work. (below) after initial washes at art class. Images © Frank Bingley 2010.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Back into the groove

When I was a little boy, I remember having these water painting books where the pages were full of pictures that were just the outline of simple everyday objects, but the white pages were impregnated with little dots. These dots, when you applied water to them with a brush, erupted into flowing paint. When I had painted everything with water, the pictures were really colourful.

Then when I got to move up to the higher class of the junior school, my new teacher took us out on a nature trip and we all had to pick a flower to draw, paint, crayon or whatever when we got back to the classroom. It must have been around this time of year, as I chose a bluebell. I also chose to draw the flower with pastels and colour it in. The thrill of recreating that little flower on paper with the lovely pastel colours, paying great attention to detail and feeling really proud of the finished work, has remained with me all these years. The teacher must have thought the work was good, as she pinned it up on the gallery wall, and only the special pictures got to go up on there! The thing is though; this was the very start of my fascination with all forms of art, and drawing and painting in particular.

My love of watercolour painting didn’t start until many years later, when in the mid 1990’s; I took up watercolour painting evening classes. It was here that my tutor Mary Rogers taught me much about how to use the medium and I am so grateful to her for that. My work got quite prolific for a couple of years or so until computers came along and gradually my painting dwithered to a halt as more technical hobbies took my interest. But by the end of the first decade of the 21st century, I have had much yearning to get back to watercolour painting. A year or so ago I actually painted a bunch of daffodils – it wasn’t great, but got me back into the yearning to paint a little more. Then earlier this year, I saw a great photo of London, taken by one of my online friends and I decided to paint a version of it
This week I have signed up for a ten week course of evening classes, and I am so excited about it. It feels so nice as the paint flows under my brush on the canvass. The way the bright, vibrant colours run down the work, sometimes mingling with other colours and shades. The way more layers add depth to the shadows, bringing the highlights forward in the picture is so satisfying.

Yes, I am now in full colour water painting mode, and it is fantastic!

images: (top) West country barrow; painted 1996
(below) London street scene; painted 2010

 The top painting of the barrow is one of my earlier works, shortly before moving on to other hobbies. The London street scene was the direct result of my yearning to get back into watercolour painting, and inspired me to join an evening class, which may be a little basic for me, but it will force me to get out my paints at least once a week and actually create something rather than putting it off for yet another day.