Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Today's additions

Managed to do some work on my painting today. I've started to bring the clouds down on the left and begun to insert one or two crepuscular rays with attendant highlighting on the water. I've also toned down some of the foreground and lightened some of the grass. The one thing I am learning from this piece is the way that stretching the tonal range is a great technique when you want to get a feeling of light. Having pushed the tonal range I am starting to detect a feeling of light that lets the colours start to glow. Hope my next efforts don't spoil that aspect of the work. Watch this space.

Oil on stretched canvas 40" x 30"

Monday, 23 March 2009

Study Session in Norfolk - WIP

A week ago I headed off to spend a couple of days at the Norfolk Painting School. The School is run by Martin Kinnear who is a fine oil painter, specialising in wonderful atmospheric landscapes using techniques of the Masters. The structure of his courses mixes theory, practical techniques, demonstrations and intensive painting time. The focus of this particular course was to be planning studio works concentrating on Composition, Tone and Colour. We were introduced to all three elements by looking at works by Turner, Van Ruisdael, Constable, Monet, Whistler and Seago. What was it about their use of the three elements that made their painting work?

We then decided on a source photograph for our main work and began to make decisions as to how we might tackle the subject. We had to make our own decisions about composition and support them with sketches, first of all in graphite then after making decisions about colour to produce a small oil sketch as preparation. However, before commiting to the oil sketch we had to decide what tonal range to adopt and most difficult of all which artist's work we would look to for inspiration. This gives me the excuse to gratuitously insert a few of my favourite images at the end of the piece. (Apologies for splitting the infinitive).

The first picture is the current state of the piece I returned home with. My source had been a photograph of some of the creeks on the North Norfolk coast, my inspiration quite clearly the great Turner. Having decided on an approach that would seek to produce a dramatic work with wide tonal range whilst incorporating layers of subtle sky colour I had to take time to build up layers of transparent colour, hence the work is still in progress.

Work in Progress - Oil on stretched canvas 40" x 30"

There is much work left to do. I intend making use of Turner's tendency to produce vortices as a compositional device by bringing the cloud across and down the left of the picture, then working over the water to produce appropriate light and shade. The introduction of crepuscular rays and highlights in the sky should complete the work. I will post the results when complete.

The following pictures all demonstrate the vortex compositional device that tends to produce violent and vibrant life to these works.

Shade and Darkness - the Evening of the Deluge - J. M. W. Turner

Light and Colour (Goethe's Theory) - the Morning after the Deluge - Moses writing the Book of Genesis - J. M. W. Turner

By the way, Goethe's Theory plays an important part in a special Turner exhibit at Tate Britain with interesting 'hands on' experiments. Go see it if you can.

Snow Storm: Hannibal and his Armey crossing the Alps - J. M. W. Turner

Snow Storm - Steam -boat off a Harbour's Mouth making Signals in shallow water, and going by the Lead. The Author was in this Storm on the night the Ariel left Harwich -
J. M. W. Turner
All of the above pictures are part of the Tate collection.
Whilst Turner was a genius with the brush it is evident from his titles that he found it a little more difficult to distill his thoughts in words.
Norfolk Painting school can be found at www.norfolkpaintingschool.com and Martin's paintings at www.makinnear.com

Sunday, 15 March 2009

More galleries

The last month or so has provided a little time to take advantage of Senior discounts on the rail system. First to Kelvingrove in Glasgow to view the Scottish Impressionism exhibition. Wonderful, instructive and best of all the time to browse the other exhibits and it is of them that I want to speak. On the ground floor as we wandered to the stairs to the feature exhibition I glanced through a door and was immediately drawn in. The two paintings below, along with a wealth of other wonders were displayed. I had my first introduction to the Glasgow Boys. Painters who bucked the trend in the UK who were early in embracing the revolution that was taking place across the Channel. The Scots were aware and appreciative of the shift that became known as Impressionism largely because they had gallery owners and collectors with the foresight to see the quality of the work being produced in France. Scottish painters were exposed to works from abroad, some of them travelled and many of them absorbed the ideas of composition, paint application, subject matter and technique. It was impossible to leave without spending a small fortune on books that cover the works of these masters.

Hard at It - James Guthrie

Old Willie - James Guthrie

Having travelled to Glasgow it seemed insulting not to grace Edinburgh with our custom and the following week we set out for the Scottish capital with the intention of visiting the National Gallery of Scotland. Another peach of a gallery but my focus rapidly narrowed to one room. There on the wall, 10ft x 8ft, was one of the most stunning pieces that you could see. Worth the trip on its own. Church, a member of the group of painters known as the Hudson Valley artists and whose only work exhibited in Europe is the picture below. It is almost as breathtaking as the sight of the Falls in the flesh. I was nothing short of mesmerised by it. Frantic searching for posters left me frustrated until I discovered a book that depicted many of the works of Church. There was no other move but buy it. Another search initiated, for the American Sublime.

Niagara from the American side - Edwin Church

Not to be outdone, we do have our own masters in the UK and it was a wonderful juxtaposition of images to have the Constable below on a wall alongside the Church. Another worth the journey by itself.

Dedham Vale - John Constable

Not so far afield, we have interesting galleries the North East and one of them, the Laing, has regular travelling exhibitions. The images below are from the recent touring exhibition of paintings by Stanley Spencer, an artist with a very distinctive vision of the world. All of these paintings include the artist himself and show very different views and times in his life. The outstanding brushwork and use of canvas in this exhibition is a real treat as is his rendition of the human face and form.

The Artist and his Wife - Stanley Spencer

Self Portrait - Stanley Spencer

Self Portrait - Stanley Spencer

Back to my own painting next time and a report on my latest session of tuition.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Another strange mixture

Last week I was talking about a strange confluence of events and this one has proved to be in a similar vein. Sheila and I took the opportunity to go to our caravan in the Lake District for a few days - beautiful, then on Sunday we joined the rest of the family for another baptism - our granson Oliver Joseph. In between times a lorry attempted to total me and reduced the car to something less than it had been. All in all the opportunity to paint has been somewhat lacking, but I have managed a little.

The first piece was something I did late last year after watching a DVD by E. John Robinson and I heard last week that he had passed away so I place it here as a small thankyou for the stimulus he gave me to look at the sea with a clearer vision.

Wave Study - Oil on canvas board 12" x 10"

Tuesday night is life class and after posting an oil last time I decided to listen to the exhortation of WC contributors and spend some time concentrating on drawing and this piece resulted from our last session. I found the pose extremely difficult to draw. Lots of problems with perspective and proportions. The page shows evidence of the many restatements required to get the drawing to its current state. I need to work even harder at this.

Hannah - Graphite stick on paper (touch of watercolour) 20" x 15"

An occasional indulgence of mine is to open a book that I treasure. It is a bound book of watercolour paper that I reserve for images drawn from a holiday that we took in Venice. I have the Venice tourist's compulsory cache of photographs from that glorious week and I use them from time to time to inspire a watercolour sketch. This one is from last week.

Venice - Watercolour 12" x 10"

Hopefully, this next week will yield something more substantial in terms of painting as I am travelling down to Norfolk to attend a two day workshop with Martin Kinnear who I'm sure will give me plenty of guidance in terms of the next stages in my development. I'm looking forward to reporting on it next time I sit in front of the computer.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Mixed Week

The last week has been a strange one. Two funerals and a baptism. Lots of people from family, school days, college days and working life as well as good friends picked up along the way. A mind seething with memories, events and expectations. Maybe the emotional roller coaster has had an impact on the picture making. The main work of the week was the painting of St. Mary's Island but not the only art in my life. Tuesday is life class and the last one was problematic. I started my laying a ground that was a greeny blue for no reason that I can remember, planning in a haze. Having knocked in my drawing I began to mix some flesh tones and applied a stroke or two of my usual mix and stepped back. It was not going to do. Then began a search for colours that didn't offend my eye too much when placed in combination. The resultant melange is shown below.
I've posted this in the Wet Canvas Figure forum and been inundated with quality detailed advice that is going to take me some time to process. I'll maybe get back literally to the drawing board and hone the draughtsmanship before launching into colour again. Nevertheless there are some interesting value and colour relationships in the picture from which I can learn. The model does show one of the difficulties that we have in the current working space, that being the range of different light sources meaning that it is difficult to avoid placing highlight and shadow in the expected places.

Fiona - Oil on canvas board 12" x 10"

After the palette adventures at life class there was a goodly range of paint left on my board so I decided to use it in a quick still life exercise - the result is below. Forty five minutes entertainment that distracted me and sent me to bed feeling better than I had all day.

Still Life - Oil on canvas board 10" x 8"

Monday, 2 March 2009

Clearing Storm - Part Two

Source photograph for the painting.

Did a bit more work on this today. Some improvement made but I'm not sure if I'm there yet. I probably need to sit on it for a couple of days (although given my weight that won't do it a lot of good) and try to look at it with a fresh eye. Anyone viewing this, please feel free to offer any suggestions as to how it might be improved.

Oil on Canvas Board 20" x 16"

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Work In Progress - Clearing Storm, St. Mary's Island

This post is breaking away from the thread that I've been following, outlining the journey I have been on with my painting. This piece has been on my easel this week and I am at the stage where I need a little input from another pair of eyes. I've posted it on WC but as yet only elicited one comment. My own feeling is that the sky needs a little finishing with the addition of some crepuscular rays to provide some highlighting on the lighthouse. The sea needs some work as does the rocky foreshore. My biggest dilemma is whether or not to include the stretch of beach that was visible when I did my original sketches or run the sea up to the rocks. At the moment the halo of sand doesn't work so changes are necessary.

Oil on Canvas board 20" x 16"