Thursday, 13 May 2010

Art Class - Week #4

I was the first to arrive at art class this week, owing to the fact that I was dropped off by my wife who needed the car. It seemed strange looking at the darkened empty room, which I have been so used to seing full of students working on their masterpieces. Immediately I switched on the lights and set to work putting out the tables and chairs and then sat waiting for the others to arrive.

Our tutor arrived almost last this week - very unusual for her, and looked somewhat surprised that we were all ready for her. Last weekend my wife and I visited Cotton Manor - just in time to see the bluebell wood in all it's spring glory, and I took quite a lot of photos, some of which I had printed out on A4 as possible subject matter. In the end I chose a photo of ducks, which we'd met along the way.

I'd just drawn the first outline of the main duck when Miss came along to inspect my work. She noticed some proportions weren't correct and pointed out my mistakes. But hang on a minute, these were my initial lines and I knew some were not right at this stage! She looked at me and made sure she had my attention before explaining how to get things in the right place by say, how many times the head would fit downwards into the body and how long the beak was in the photo compared to the head. You see, it's all a case of how large one part of the subject is in relation to another, and how some features line up vertically and horizontally. Then I got told to "Sharpen" my pencil. I felt put in my place, but didn't mind at all because our tutor knows how much I like doing potraits, and how her instruction will help me get a good likeness when I need it.

It took a long time for me to get the main duck right, and I had to result to squaring up in parts around the head. The smaller ducks in the background were there in the photo, only higher and I thought they would look good included in the painting. As I worked on the drawing, Miss walked by some distance away but glanced in my direction and booming across the room came the words "Sharpen your pencil Frank"! That was so funny!

By the time the sketch was finished there wasn't a lot of time for paint, and I only got some shadows on the feathers and the orange beak done. Back at home the next day, I worked some more on the painting, finishing the main duck, then working on the others in the picture. It looked OK at this stage, but when I added the background, the main duck merged into it and it was clear that I added a little too much shading to the duck and made the background too similar a colour. To rectify this, I used ink to bring detail to the duck and a lot of the foreground, which gave more form to the bird. In the original photo, the gravel he is standing on is very dark and makes him stand out really well. This makes me think that if I applied a lot darker wash using another colour, he may stand out better than he does at present. But then the whole thing is likely to look overworked, and I am already past my comfortable time limit on this painting, so have decided to leave it for now.


  1. Frank, I love these weekly lessons. You have a way of taking us into your class with you and it's extremely enjoyable. If you ever fancy joining a forum mine for Beginners would absolutely love to follow this.

    I can see your dilemma with the background colouring. I've been trying to imagine how the duck looked before you added the pen. I often make the mistake of adding another wash and then regretting it because it looks overworked so I think you've done the right thing with this one. It's a lovely simple understated piece and I like it very much.

  2. Thanks for the constructive comments John, you've helped settle my mind a bit about the background. Trouble is, once you've put another wash on, there's no taking it off if it doesn't work. I think if you are going to be bold with watercolour, you have to do it first stroke.

    I've been looking at your forum and may take you up on your offer once I've seen how it all works.

  3. Oh Frank, I just love your stories! They never fail to amuse me! John is right; you do have a way of taking us along with you.
    Baring in mind that I am not qualified to give anyone advice, I think you have made the right decision to leave it right where it is. I almost always over work things and regret it! And besides, I love it just as it is. I would be delighted if I had painted it!

  4. Your duck looks so pleased with itself ! and the background ducks have 'attitude'.... it's great the way it is - with the light background... had it been dark, I think the whole lighthearted feeling that it gives would be gone.

  5. Sandra - I consider myself an amateur artist, so you have every qualification in giving me advice. You have been there and 'overworked' that, so I am listening when you say 'leave it right where it is'.

    Alice - I never twigged the 'attitude' thing with the background ducks, I think you are right, especially the one on the left who is really strutting his thing! Thanks for the advice on leaving it light.

    All - the overwhelming advice is clear, a light background it is.

  6. This is great Frank! As you know I love my geese and ducks and I certainly love yours .. super!

  7. Thanks Ingrid, hope you like hens, as they are in line for a painting!

  8. Had to come back to this as I've just enjoyed reading your post again. Might look out some of my many geese and duck photos, you've inspired me Frank. Nice to see Alice's post ... I do miss her lovely smiling face. I often wonder why she had to leave us ...

  9. Nice to think that I have inspired someone to paint, Ingrid. I have been busy doing other things lately instead of blogging, so I hadn't realised that Alice had gone. I'm sure she'll be back someday soon.