Sunday, 30 May 2010

Art Class - Week #6

image: watercolour on 135gsm cartridge paper and pigment liner pen.

I missed week #6 at art class because my wife and I spent a few days in Shropshire. I borrowed my son's mobile home and we stayed in a lovely place in the country called Warf Tavern. However, a tiny sketch pad, a few brushes and my paint box came along for the ride! One quiet evening I sat at the window of the van and did this quick sketch of the tavern across the road. I didn't quite get the perspective right, and didn't have a small enough brush with me for the detail, but well, here it is for all it's faults!

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Looking Back

Looking back on some of my work of a decade or so ago, is making me think about where my artwork is going and if I am getting it right. Sometimes I think I am getting better and better, but when I come across paintings like the one of this French café, I begin to wonder. I know I am a lot more careful than I used to be and worry about getting my painting right. But looking at my style in this particular work (and one or two others in similar vein), I think maybe I am getting a little too careful, worrying too much about how my work is going to turn out, and worst of all, tightening up and getting stuck in a rut!
This painting was done at my last sessions at art school back in the late nineties. It’s my interpretation of a photo from a glossy French magazine. Here I’ve used cartridge paper, 135gsm and A3 in size (had to scan two halves). I started with a light pencil sketch, followed by watercolour, then picked out some of the detail with pen.  Looking at the minimal layering of the watercolour and the loose and casual way I’ve done the pen work, makes me think that maybe I’m trying too hard these days, and should just let myself go a little at times.
Yes, I’m going to have another go at something in this style, just to see if the old magic is still there!

Friday, 21 May 2010

Art Class - Week #5

A work in progress
I have become more ambitious. Our tutor wants me to spend more time over my work, and it looks like I have no choice in the matter considering my current project. Gone is the three hour time limit on my work, for this time I am embarking on a more elaborate piece of work.
When we visited Cotton Manor the other week, I took an interesting photo of the coffee shop, well, the outside part of it anyway, looking across all the tables where everyone sat in the coolish spring sunshine. Back home, looking at the photo on the computer I could see close up all the different groups of people at each table. At one, there was even a panda holding a baby panda, obviously a cuddly toy of some sort, but it made another interesting little spot in the busy picture.
Then I had the brainwave of wondering whether or not I could summon up enough skill to paint the scene. A lot of work would be involved its true, but what a challenge eh? Eventually I made the decision to do it. I printed the photo out A4 size and as I would be painting on an A3 size of paper, realised that I would have to do some squaring up. The squares on the printout would be 1 inch square and on the painting, they would be 1.25 inches square. One thing puzzled me a little here, me not being a mathematician, then why would the large size work out at over one-and-a-half times in size when I was only making the squares a quarter of an inch larger? 1.5625 times larger to be precise.  Well it soon dawned on me that if I had made the larger size squares two inches wide each way, the larger image would actually turn out to be four times the size, not two! Ok, I'll move on ...
In preparation for the art class, I had the paper stretched on the board and the squares laid out very faintly on the paper. When I got there, some people were gasping at the complexity of the photo I was going to try to paint! Immediately I started and got the first parasol drawn, then realised I had done it in the wrong blooming square. It was then that the tutor advised me to number the squares horizontally and vertically – doh, why didn’t I think of that?
I knew the drawing would take a long time, but by the end of the session, less than a third of the drawing was done, and I ended up taking it home and working on the rest there. The truth is, it took more than five hours to complete the drawing – a marathon for me!

I’ve just shown you a snippet of the drawing, and a small photo of what I am painting. I am not going to rush this one, but I hope the painting part doesn’t take as long as the drawing .

Wish me luck!

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Two more for the Portrait Party

As soon as I saw this pose from Marga Perez, I knew I had to paint it. Isn't it funny how when you are in to painting, you can be doing something very ordinary at work, around the house or in the garden and you see something interesting or beautiful, and the thought comes into your mind "I could paint that". It seems this is happening more and more these days.

The original photo of Marga is in black and white, and very contrasty, so not only did I have to guess some of the colours, but I also had to guess a few of the details as well. If you look at the original, I guess it's a fair likeness, but what I wanted to bring across in this painting, was a youthful smooth skinned woman with a hint of elegance and mystery. Hopefully I've achieved this by making sure that any colour changes were subtle and there were no hard edges to the face. I think I failed a little with the nose, as the layers of paint dried before I could smooth the edges out. I also wish I hadn't used the pen line on the bright side of her face, rather letting the deep yellow wash find the outline.

With Cecca (Franny B), I got a fairly accurate likeness and she was fun to do. I maybe got the eyes too large, but I'm happy with the finished work.

Both these paintings took me around one and a half hours from start to finish. This is how I like to work, slow with the sketch and fast with the paint. At the moment I think my big failing is adding too many layers and loosing some of the looseness the medium is best suited to. But no doubt, as I get more experienced, this should come more easily, well, lets hope so anyway!

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.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

More portraits for Julia Kay's Portrait Party

I am absolutely addicted to this group on Flickr! Here are just another couple of portraits I have posted. I've found it best not to paint large for this project (these are 10x7), and after the original sketch, work fast on the painting.

The Happy Painter (Donna) was immensely exciting to do, though I had a little trouble getting the mouth right in the sketch - I don't think it is quite right still, but I'm happy with the finished work.

Jerry Waese has done some lovely work on this project, his work is quite abstract at times and very minimal and spontaneous. He did a black and white of me, so I did a pencil sketch of him back. I think doing a full pencil sketch is a good exercise and helps you with light and form. I only had a thumbnail photo to work from with this one, so left it quite rough.
See Jerry here.

Friday, 7 May 2010

15 Minute Watercolour #1

Here's a little exercise I've set myself to do on an occasional basis. Try and do a watercolour direct to paper, without a preliminary pencil sketch. I'm giving myself a time limit of 15 minutes to try and keep it spontaneous.

In the first one, I've painted John's robin (see his blog here: ). Working without a sketch is very scary to me. I started with the eye and worked out the other measurements for his body from there, then quickly followed the tree top and finally the background wash.

It's no great masterpiece, but I think a useful exercise.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Art Class - week 3

image: Self Portrait. watercolour with pigment liner pen, cotman 140lb 300gsm not paper
Week 3 sees me delving into a bit of portraiture this time, after getting the bug painting 'Beth' at home. I already had the drawing stage completed beforehand, so that I could spend some time on the painting side of it, after quizzing our tutor on further watercolour techniques.

On arriving, I find our tutor sitting alone in the classroom and manage to grab a few minutes talk with her before it's time to get the the room set up. She tells me that I have potential and ought to be doing something with the skills I have. I know she is right and I certainly want to hear the things she says about me, but you know I am doing this for the fun of it and because it is so enjoyable and exiting. Ambition is something that never really interests me - I just like being a normal regular sort of guy I suppose.

During the painting, I learn from the tutor about a great way of getting a good likeness by drawing a grid over the photo to paint, and another grid on the painting. This way, by studing where, say an eye fits into the grid on the photo, we can place it acurately in the grid on the painting. This process can be extended when you need to enlarge an image, by simply drawing larger squares on the painting. Apparently some artists use this technique when painting huge images from a small photo, on something like a wall.

I managed to do all of this self portrait in the class, except for a couple of layers of wash on my jacket. Most of the work I am fairly happy with, and it is certainly a big improvement on anything I have done before. It is just a tad overworked, especially the shaping of my cheeks. Family members at home say they are too puffed up, so I think I got it a little too dark in the creases next to my nose. But at least it looks something like me, in fact, our tutor jokingly said it looks more like me than I do!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Norman C Mallrory for Julia Kay's Portrait Party

I've joined Julia Kay's Portrait Party group on flickr, where we draw and paint portraits of other members. It is quite fascinating to see everyone's interpretation of the same image. I tried to link directly to the image above on flickr, but it was taking ages, so here's the link:

I'm a bit new at this as this is my first attempt, so hope I've got things right.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Art Class - week 2

image: Autumn Tree
watercolour on Cotman 140lb, not, 300gsm

For the second week of the art class, we were asked to bring in a selection of magazine cuttings, photographs etc., and Miss would then look through them with us to decide which one to paint. As I like to do original work, I looked through some of my photos a few days before to see if I could dig up something worthwhile to paint. I printed a few of the best out on the computer at A4 size.

Once at the art class, I duly got out my paint kit and set up my board with paper stretched and turned to get my prepared photos. Do you know I couldn't think which folder I'd put them in and I was searching away when it began to dawn on me that I'd left them at home. 'Oh no' I thought, 'I'm not going to end up painting an animal again am I?' Well I wasn't, so the only thing to do was dash back home and fetch the printouts. I cursed all the way there and back! This made me late starting - again.

The subject we agreed on was a phone pic I took last autumn of one of the first trees I noticed changing it's foliage to lovely autumn colours. I gained time here, as a minimal pencil sketch was all I needed before getting to work with the paint. My main ambition with this picture was to try and keep my work loose and just let the paint flow around the paper. I remembered speaking to the tutor last week about wanting to loosen up a bit. She said that some people work tight and others work loose, but she didn't seem to worry about how we did it, just the result. I managed to finish the picture within class time, and the above is the result.

 After a bad start that evening, things took a turn for the worst, in fact, disaster! In my haste to get back home, I carried all my kit out to the car parked on the roadside and lodged everything against the car wheel while I unlocked it. Then I placed everthing on the back seat and drove home. On unloading the car, I couldn't find my painting kit anywhere, and another terrible thought dawned on me once again - yes, you guessed it, I'd left my paints behind somewhere in the road! I was frantic! All my brushes, pencils, paints and other kit must have cost me a few hundred pounds over the years, and now they were all gone. Again I rushed back in the car to see if they were still there where I had parked. As I turned the corner back at the venue, my heart jumped into my mouth as I saw the road was bear. GONE!

As it happened, a fellow artist had picked them up and taken them home for me. Phew what a relief, and I am now a deeply indebted man...

In conclusion, as far as compostion is concerned, this isn't much of a picture, though I suppose the tree is the main point of attraction. I think I worked pretty loose (well, for me anyway) and I like the way some of the colours mingled into each other. To make more of a picture of this, I think I would need to add a little more detail and get some more darks in there, but for this exercise, maybe I've done enough.