Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Chained to the Kitchen Table

Well the pot of flowers was still standing on the kitchen table so it seemed rude to ignore it and go out this morning, besides which Sheila was hatching plans to get me off to B and Q for Seniors Reduction Day. So, quick as a flash the water pot was filled and the paints laid bare. So here is today's effort.

My main point in learning while doing these still life pictures is the value of sound brushwork, particularly with regard to the softening of edges. Hopefully this is a skill that I'm beginning to improve.

Still Life August 25th - Watercolour on Not paper 12" x 9"

Monday, 23 August 2010

Still at the kitchen table

Another day of rain so back to the kitchen table with another bunch of flowers. I'm going to have to apologise for the photograph - no light outside in the rain. Consequently the image is not as true to the actual painting as usual.

The main flowers are white roses and I feel that I've not got them to stand out as well as they should. I thought of surrounding them with the darks of leaves but wanted to avoid the obvious framing that would result. There are other aspects of the piece that I find unsatisfactory, probably resulting from a lack of concentration. Still another enjoyable excursion with the wet stuff.

Still Life '23rd - Watercolour on Rough paper 12" x 16"

Sunday, 22 August 2010


Still struggling to get out with the oils but enjoying messing about with the watercolours at the kitchen table. It's really relaxing in the current humid conditions to sit rather than be carrying the plein air kit. Must be getting soft.

I find that watercolour can be a medium that frees you up if you let it. After recent struggles with tightening up splashing the water about is quite liberating and the results are fun, anyway Sheila likes them so maybe one or two others might find them interesting.

Watching the weather forecast, I must get out with the oils.

Sunflowers - Watercolour on Rough paper 16" x 12"

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Back to the Drawing Board

Well the flowers were still on the table top and as I looked at them from a different angle I thought why not? In this attempt I tried to lose a few more edges but I'm not sure how successful I've been in achieving that. Nevertheless another enjoyable couple of hours.

Still life August 12th - Watercolour on Not paper 12" x 9"

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Trying to Loosen Up

Regular readers will know that one of my constant struggles is the need to loosen up my application of paint and try to become more impressionistic. In some senses this is a reflection of my inability to produce photographic type images even if I wanted to. My years as a photographer had me understanding that if you want a photograph use a camera not a paint brush. Even though I have the greatest admiration for painters of great technical skill I find myself drawn to looser styles in other people's work. Hence my wish to move in that direction. The problem is the beginner's curse of trying to put too much into each painting and the subsequent tightening of stroke and line.

Below are two efforts from this week. The first is a plein air sketch done on the green outside Durham Cathedral. I was interested that after application of paint I felt the need to firm up a few lines with the pen.

Durham Cathedral - Watercolour Not paper 10" x 8"

The second is another table top still life.

Still Life August 10th - Watercolour on Not paper 16" x 12"

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Working on the Unfamiliar

This week has been consumed by travelling, visiting friends and family and catching the Picasso exhibition in Liverpool but also taking the opportunity to complete the task I had set myself along with painting buddy, Peter.

The painting task was to be based on the photograph Peter took on a recent trip to Bruges. For me this was to be a daunting task way out of my comfort zone, people and HORSES! Never having spent time drawing these beautiful animals I looked forward to pushing myself in a new direction.

Horse and Trap - Photograph courtesy of Peter Ward

As a start I decided to have an attempt at making a rough sketch as a way of making up my mind as to what I might need to do to try the painting. As you can see the sketch is all out of proportion and my first job was to be finding a way of improving that.

First draft sketch - Graphite on paper

I returned to the source photograph and did some measurement as a way of getting my head around the proportions that I would need to use to make it an accurate reflection of the source.

Getting to grips with the proportions - Graphite 0n paper

Using the measurements I drew up a grid in my sketch book and then proceeded to do a second draft.

Second draft - Graphite on paper

At this stage, feeling more confident about the proportions, I turned my attention to the other issues I felt needed to be addressed, the drawing and the difficult paint passages. The horse would be a major part of the picture so improving my confidence in drawing this would be a critical task.

Drawing the horse - Graphite on paper

The two main elements in the picture would be the horse and the driver so deciding on how they might be painted was the next job.

Driver - Watercolour on Not paper 10" x 8"

Horse - Watercolour on Not paper 10" x 8"

After the above preparations I'd reached the point where I had to commit to making the picture as planned.

Horse and Trap - Watercolour on Saunders Waterford Not 16" x 12"


This was a testing project that taught me the necessity of detailed planning. Without the planning I'd have got no further than the original, out of proportion, sketch. So from that point of view the result is an improvement. The area that was not as well planned, the background, could have had greater attention paid to it during the initial stages.

The other issue that arises is the way that the subject and my struggle with it drove me into a tighter way of working than I would have preferred. This is something that I need to think about prior to making another picture of this sort.

I got a lot of enjoyment from the project and feel that I made some progress in terms of drawing and planning as well as the application of paint. Lets hope the lessons stick.

Whilst the piece has numerous flaws it has provided me with valuable experience for future work.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Unexpected Hiatus

At the end of my last post, that seems like weeks ago, probably because it was weeks ago, I talked of picking up the brushes on the following day. It didn't happen. The last few weeks have been devoted to sorting out some necessary house maintenance issues and consequently I'm well behind with a number of painting projects, the main one being the production of a watercolour based on a photograph taken by my friend, Peter. Don't worry Pete it is now well in hand and will be the subject of my next post.

This week I had intended going across to Ireland to participate in Art in the Open, a plein air festival taking place in the Wexford area. A number of the very fine artists who post in the plein air forum of Wet Canvas will be participating and I really regret having to miss it, but it would be best that the house remains upright. Nevertheless I did find myself with a couple of days free of domestic duties and managed to head out and refresh my enthusiasm by looking at the work of others in a little trip to the capital. A phone call to a friend secured a bed for a couple of nights and so I headed south.

I was keen to see three different exhibitions and managed to catch them all. On arrival in London I headed for the Royal Academy where two of my selected were running. The first one was entitled Sargent and the Sea.

As readers will be aware, John Singer Sargent was a celebrated producer of exquisite society portraits and vibrant landscapes as well as beautiful loose watercolours. It's always a pleasure to get the chance to study his work. Having said that this exhibition is one that for the casual viewer may be disappointing, largely because it does not include a large number of paintings, the bulk of the exhibits are preparatory material, drawings and oil sketches with a few watercolours thrown in. However, that is why it is an important source of learning about Sargent's process and inspirational for the inexperienced painter.

En route pour la peche - John Singer Sargent

After the stimulation of the Sargent exhibition I headed downstairs in the Academy to tale in the annual feast for the eyes that is the Summer Exhibition. As is always the case, the Summer Exhibition, with over a thousand exhibits, contains things that excite and others that leave you wondering wherein lies the quality? This was no more evident as I stood in front of a canvas that consisted of a slogan and accompanying comment entitled "But I think I love you". During the few minutes that I stood there every person who passed by questioned the attraction or merit of the piece. The artist, Tracey Emin, the asking price, £125,000.

All I can say about the Summer Exhibition is that it is always great value as an event to see the widest variety of artistic endeavour, sculpture, print, drawing, architecture as well as a vast range of painting styles. A great day.

The following day I set of for the National Portrait Gallery to view the Annual BP Portrait Awards. This is another exhibition that is worth catching every year. Whilst it is much smaller than the Summer Exhibition, with just over fifty exhibits, it too always contains a few gems and it is interesting to compare your judgement with that of the judges. This year my pal, Graham, and I had no problem disagreeing with the judges. The first prize was awarded to the first of the pictures below.

Last Portrait of Mother - Daphne Todd

Both Graham and myself had a nagging suspicion that the winner was selected because of the brave choice of subject matter rather than the strength of the painting. There seems to be a fashion developing in the depiction of either disability or ageing and there were a number of exhibits on those lines. In many ways this trend is to be applauded because it creates positive images of less privileged members of society in an age where we are bombarded with identikit images of so called beauty. However, I take the view that the image must work as a painting first and foremost and this can come in many forms.

Consequently, I've posted a number of other entries for you to think about. All of these would have been higher up my shortlist than the actual winner.

Almus Quartet - Miguel Angel Moya

Sentinel - Lyndsey Jameson

My personal favourite is the above, a beautiful study of the joy of being a boy at play.

Gillian - Miriam Escofet

Paul - Nathan Ford