Thursday, 30 August 2012

Beating the Weather

Like most of us up here I'm tired of the poor weather as my opportunities to paint are usually falling on days when the conditions are anything but conducive to  painting outside. I'm afraid that I'm becoming a fair weather painter.

As I've reported here in the past I have an old school friend that I meet from time to time and we paint together. Another of these days arrived to be met with the usual torrential rain so paint inside it would be. Jed grabbed a few bits and pieces and created a grouping for a still life.

It's a while since I've done one of these and it made for a pleasurable couple of hours and kept the brushes wet. When we finished, the bottle contents seemed to evaporate. 

Still life - Watercolour on Not paper 16" x 12"

Monday, 27 August 2012

August Project

The latest monthly excursion for Peter Ward and myself. This is one from a photograph I'd taken a few days before the start of the month whilst walking in the Lakes. There seemed to be lots of foxglove pictures around particularly from the prolific Jean Haines. So it should be interesting to see the variation in approaches to this subject.

Foxglove - Photograph

Foxglove - Watercolour on Not paper 9" x 12"

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Annual Trip to BP Portrait Exhibition

Every year I make a trip to London to meet up with an old friend of mine and to visit the BP Portrait Competition that is hung at the National Portrait Gallery. I think it would be fair to say that my friend, Graham, and myself are  not short of some strongly held opinions and this exhibition usually gives us the opportunity to express them. In that respect this year's renewal was no disappointment.

Our routine is to independently view the pictures then meet up to share our feelings about what we have seen. This year there were a number of themes to our discussion. First of all is the matter of technique, there being a significant number of photo realistic works where evidence of a painter's hand was difficult to discern. Secondly, there was only one picture in the exhibition where the subject had even the semblance of a smile and thirdly the question of what constitutes a portrait.

Let's look at some of these issues. The first picture here is one that epitomises the technical issue. The quality of technique in this painting is jaw dropping in terms of paint application and drawing. Would that I could even conceive of acquiring such skill. The detail everywhere on this canvas is fabulous but it does pose the question of how does it differ from a well taken photograph?

Mr. Lascelle Barrow - Aurelio Rodriguez

The next picture again is another realistic piece but this one poses another question. The clue is in the title. Salmacis No. 3, tells us that this is probably one from a series of pictures. It also includes a name in the title that may or may not mean anything to the viewer. This was probably the reason that the curator felt the need to append a paragraph to the picture's label making reference to the Greek myth of Salmacis and Hermaphroditus. The question then became one of how did this picture convey issues arising from that myth? This is where it is easy to level the charge of pretension at the curator. To be fair to the artist I made a search on arrival home to find out if there was anything to substantiate the irritating text on the wall of the NPG. Here I found images which were part of the series indicated by the number in the title. Placed in that context the image began to make sense, something that didn't happen with the single image on the wall.

Le (Salmacis No. 3) - Ivan Franco Fraga

I am going to leave the rest of this post for the reader to think upon rather than visit the prejudices of Graham and myself upon you. This selection of paintings were ones that we found of particular interest, all of which show the hand of the painter in one way or another. I'll leave you with these and the question of what constitutes a portrait?

The Postman - Frances Bell

Portrait of Anita Bell in her studio - Agata Wojcieszkiewicz

Today You Were Far Away - Ian Cumberland

The Dialects of Silence (Portrait of Michael Longley) - Colin Davidson

Joachim - Nathan Ford

Paul Ruddock - Eileen Hogan

Jane - Leo Holloway

Tony - Elizabeth Thayer

Footnote: On retiring to the nearest hostelry we came to the conclusion that once again the judges had got it wrong and were deserving of our opprobrium for their selection of so many portraits that failed to move us.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Any Suggestions?

Can anyone help with this little problem?

I began another painting of an Iris using the book I found courtesy of a post on Yvonne Harry’s wonderful blog (

In the photograph I selected, in fact another picture of the variety that I painted for my last Iris picture, it was obvious that the front standard was in shadow but the rear standard had some light on it. This presented the obvious dilemma of getting the balance of values right and getting it to read so that the standards are correctly placed.

Attempting to solve the value problem has involved me in making a number of glazing passes and up to this point I don’t think I’ve succeeded. Here is where I would like a little assistance. Can any of you make suggestions as to how I might improve the balances in this painting? I didn’t help myself by putting in the variegated textured background without adequate planning.

Over to you.  

All the gear

Another Iris WIP - Watercolour on Rough paper 16" x 12"

Thursday, 16 August 2012

How Green is my Valley?

For a variety of reasons this has been a bad year for oils. All of the usual excuses apply, time, commitments and the rest. So I was sat musing the other day and thought I'd be just as well trying some sort of activity when I posed myself the question, 'How good are your greens?' Like lots of other artists I'm no great shakes when it comes to mixing greens, so having decided to try and improve my foliage I then asked myself, 'What to paint?'

I had also been thinking earlier in the day that it would be pleasant to return to Tuscany as it's a few years since I'd been there. One of the glories there is the range of greens, particularly in the spring. So I dug out a sketch book from my last trip there and lighted upon some sketches made around the area of Badia a Passignana. In passing, this demonstrated the importance of making sketches and holding on to them, they make the most wonderful source material.

My next task was to mix up a range of greens and as a base I took the advice I found on a YouTube video by Marc Dalessio. He talked of making greens with French Ultramarine, Cerulean Blue, Cadmium Yellow and Yellow Ochre. Each blue/yellow mix has its own distinctive hue and can be varied by proportions, addition of white or complementary red. Once the mixtures were made it was just a case of making the sketch and selecting which was appropriate and where.

This was not meant to be an attempt at a finished work but more as an exercise to mix colour and reacquaint myself with the feel of the hog brushes and the slippery oils. An enjoyable session.

Badia a Passignana - Oil on canvas board 12" x 10"

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

July Challenge

The next in the series of monthly challenge photos that I share with my friend, Peter Ward. (

Peter sent this photograph of a canal scene  and I puzzled for a while as to how to approach the subject. There were two main reasons for this. Firstly the scene is fairly cluttered and it was difficult to decide what might be the focal point or indeed whether to have one or not. Secondly the image doesn't easily fit into the style that I've been working on recently.

Canal Side - Photograph

Finally I decided to crop the image a bit and to make the people in the boat the centre of attention by increasing the size of that element in the picture.

Having left little time to complete this task before the end of the month I'm afraid i dropped back into some formulaic techniques to get through it and have left myself a little dissatisfied on that count having failed to adapt some of the style aspects I've been working on.  On top of that  I realise there's another failing and that lies in the relationship between the canoe and the barge on the right hand side, their relative sizes don't read right. Back to the drawing board.

Canal Side - Watercolour on Not paper 12" x 9"