Thursday, 9 May 2019

Blue Zebra

2/5/2019 Last month saw us  taking the grandchildren to Twycross Zoo and I just loved the zebras.
Dusted off my box of acrylics for this one. Good start with the drawing, but gave up trying to draw the stripes - just a nightmare trying to work out what should be black and what should be white! In the end, I started painting the stripes directly from source. Haven't made up my mind about the background yet, want to keep it a bit surreal and colourful for a more contemporary look.

7/5/2019 I've learned to my sanity, painting a zebra with all those stripes is a major headache! Wish I'd have continued with drawing them, as it would have made the painting stage easier. Today's session saw all of the black stripes in place, and a lot of the whites. Thing is, it's not just black and white, and while there is always form to think about in painting, there is also anatomy with this painting - the way the stripes flow over the bones and muscles. I will need to re-iterate this more in subsequent layers

 9/5/2019 In the end, I decided on a very muted background so that the zebra remained the point of focus in the painting.

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Rip Up Your LP's!

Back in the early 1960's, like most other teenagers, I quickly developed an interest pop music played on the radio. I would listen to Radio Luxembourg which was one of the few radio stations that played non-stop pop music of the day, even though the signal would fade in and out significantly. One of the bands (we used to call them groups back then) that I really liked was The Beatles. I was a bit young for the very early stuff and came in on their second album With The Beatles. At that time, I’d just started a Saturday job in a grocery shop and saved up enough money to buy a record player and this set me off visiting record shops in the nearby town of Market Harborough. After buying a number of singles (first of which was Chris Montez’s Let’s Dance) I eventually bought my first LP, which was entitled With The Beatles. I thought then (and still do now) that this was the best band in the world! I played the album over and over, much to the annoyance of my parents! Some time later, I lent it to a friend, along with a couple of other albums, which he (unknown to me) lent them on to someone else. Needless to say, I never saw any of them again. A year or two back, the same album came out on CD in a cardboard sleeve, which I bought and now everything is right with my music world again!

My creativity here sees me recreating that album cover using ripped and cut magazine pages stuck onto board with PVA glue. It’s a technique I learned from Danielle Vaughn (of Sky Portrait Artist of the Year fame) but is only the second foray into this type of work. If any of you have looked at my website, you’ll have seen a Common Gull, which was my first attempt.

 It was started in a workshop with a number of fellow artists, in which we had less than three hours, including setting up and clearing up afterwards. Whilst a number of our group roughly finished their work, mine was too intricate a task to complete in this time – see fig1. Another session at home saw significantly more added but nothing like a good likeness. The final session saw improvement in the faces but still not the best likeness, and here it will have to stop.

As our tutor mentioned, that with ripped paper work it’s easier to start with a large board than fiddle around with tiny slithers of paper – this I found to my peril, it’s nigh impossible to handle small pieces when there’s glue on them! For some very small pieces I resorted to using scissors and tweezers, with certain facial features built up separately, then glued to the main body of work ‘en masse’.

Second stage
Creating pictures using this medium is very addictive, and I guarantee that you will never look at a magazine again without see colours and patterns and thinking how gorgeous bits of this and that would look in a ripped paper picture!

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

For The Love Of Portraiture

This is my first post for 2017, and I've started the year working (mostly) on portraits. I seem to have an endless passion and fascination in painting people. Whether it's just a head, head and shoulders, full figure or even groups of people, it gives me such a buzz working it all out.
Like many artists, I never quite get everything right; OK, I think I'm improving, but there is so much to think about and so so much that can go wrong. From the contours of the face to the shape of the lips, the distance between the eyes and if the eyes are looking in the right direction, the placement of the nose etc, it all needs careful attention and observation.

Then there's the tonal qualities to think about and mixing the exact colour for all the different skin tones. All this has to be spot on in portraiture if we are going to get a good likeness.

With the oil painting of "Lina", I'd drawn it on the board and applied the acrylic ground (yellow ochre and burnt sienna mixed) in one evening. The following morning, I started to paint with oils and it was completed in 3-4 hours - sort of alla prima style. This was unusually fast for me. I'd been reading about how the Old Masters painted and the earthy colours that they used (often using pigments that they produced themselves) and tried to apply some of their techniques to this work with some success I think.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Over the Sea to the US

One of my portrait paintings has winged it's way over the Atlantic to be with its new owner.

This is the second portrait that I have done of Janna.

She tells me that she and her family love it - so nice to have your work appreciated.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Painting the Show

Sheep Judging at the Leicester County Show - 400x300cm Oil on board
This year saw the revival of the Leicester County Show, which was held at Airfield Farm just to the North of Market Harborough. Having spent my earlier years in farming, I really love looking round agricultural shows and this one was a cracker!

Original photo: things were moved around or left out
in the finished work in order to aid composition.
Here I've painted a scene based on the sheep judging from my own photo, though I've moved things around to get a better composition.

Working on 6mm MDF, unusually for me, I didn't lay down a base colour over the board - just went straight in with my pencil. After spending some time on the sketch, the result looked quite complicated so I used a loose mixture of phthalo green and yellow ochre to pick out the areas of grass, which immediately made more sense of the scene.

Here the thinned phthalo green glaze clarified the work

Working my way around the figures and sheep, the painting started to take shape, but was slow going as I want add enough detail to make it look convincing, but not too much to make it look like a photograph. Fascinating work though.

Painting straight lines has always been a challenge for me, especially when they need to be thin! For this reason, the lines for the railings looked a bit wobbly, but does it really matter?

After adding the sky and distant parts, I worked my way
the figures one by one.
Sooner or later I knew that I would have to get around to painting the grass proper, but the thing is that painting every blade was going to take forever, so I used dry brush, wet brush, multiple colours on one brush and scratching out with a palette knife to get some variety and texture in the base green, though I don't quite know if I succeeded or not on that one.

Overall, this work took around one month to complete working around two sessions a week, mostly at painting groups that I attend regularly - somewhat longer than is usually the case.

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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.