Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Acrylic Break

Acrylic on textured canvas paper
For me, watercolour is the most exciting medium for expressing my artistic leanings. But like anything else in life, too much of any one thing is not good for us. In any case, a break is as good as a rest, so they say, and a break in my way of thinking is to do something like pick up a pencil and just sketch or, as in this case, get out those under used acrylic paints and having another go at something that didn't go too well the last time I tried it.

So with brushes in hand and a newly acquired pot of  'flow improver', I set about another portrait. The one thing I did learn from last time is that, unlike watercolour, an acrylic painting is not improved by leaving (either on purpose or accidentally) small pieces of white paper showing through the painting. This in mind, after the initial pencil sketch, I went over the whole canvas with a diluted wash of burnt umber before adding any other paint. Also, unlike watercolour, I've found it's best to paint darker areas first, working towards lighter areas last. This also seems true with regard to detail, just blocking in main areas of colour first, then working finer and finer in detail.

The main sanity saver with acrylics though is the fact that any wrong brushwork can be easily overpainted to correct it, whereas with watercolour you are more or less stuck with it. But the one big drawback with this medium is the fact that, even with flow improver, the paint will set rapidly, especially on the palette. This can be a headache when you want more of the same colour you mixed earlier, only to find it set hard and re-mixing another lot to the same hue can be almost impossible. I now take very great care in remembering what colours I mix together for a particular tone.

The finished painting I think is not bad but took really quite  lot of work - this not helped by the stripy garment Kate is wearing here. The trouble is that I am still learning quite a lot as I go along and have to redo things like her face for example; painted twice once I realised a better way to do it, which adds unnecessary time. Most of you know that I have to finish a painting fairly quickly so as not to get bored and shove it to the back of the wardrobe! Again I got fair hair far too yellow and chunky for my liking - what is it with me painting hair, it's like I get a mental block or something at the end when I do the hair - can't do it at the beginning as I need to flick it out over the background and suchlike.

Still, the learning curve for me with acrylics is steep but leveling. Don't know if I ever will master this medium though, especially when I think of how much quicker and easily I could have done this painting with my favourite medium, watercolour.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Southwold #2 The lighthouse.

Southwold Lighthouse
watercolour on 350gsm 140lb paper
In this painting I continue the view of Southwold  - two paintings from one photograph, that's a first for me. If you look at the photograph below, you can see that this scene is contained in the vertical red rectangle. The stone house on right here is the edge of the stone house on the left in painting one (see previous blog). These unfortunately, are not a pair as the viewpoint in the first painting is much closer. The girl on right is the same girl as in the first painting, but I moved her further into the scene to aid composition,

Originally I started this painting at art class, but only managed to do the drawing and first washes in the sky and the lighthouse. The first blue sky wash turned out to be too pale, so (horror of horrors) I had to add another blue wash, which gave me great difficulty in blending in with existing clouds, but I think I managed to pull it off fairly seamlessly. Another thing that I have found difficulty with are window panes. In the past I would just do grey or dark washes, but when you study them, with windows you can often see curtains and nets behind them. In others you can see reflections - especially of the sky. Here I think I have gone some way to make them look like they have curtains, but the scale is too small for reflections.
Two paintings from one photo
I have never painted cars before either so this is another first. The lady on the right appears in the first painting, but here she is facing the right way this time, where last time I had to turn her round. The lighthouse required much more shading than I first thought, even though it is white. I had to go really dark to make it stand out against the cloudy sky.

I have learnt so much in this work about washes, shading, perspective, windows and now cars. But that doesn't mean that I am going to get it right next time though! I know it isn't perfect - the scale goes a little wrong in one place and my overall work needs a little more saturation with colour and I also need to work more on my figure work, but this is I feel (though typical of my style of painting) is up to a new level for me. But having said this, I know the next painting could knock me right back down again. Such is the life of an aspiring artist!

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Make hay While The Sun Shines!

Still Life
watercolour on 140lb not paper
It seems to me that I have forgotten a lot of what I learnt about watercolour painting more than a decade ago when I painted this still life in art class. Studying my work here, it appears that I am re-learning techniques that I had already mastered back then, like dry brushwork (in the background here), and reflective colour (the red of the onions and brown pot in the brass kettle). The way I have captured the brassy look of the kettle and the dull shine of the pewter shaker, I'm sure that I would be hard pressed to replicate this so well now. The layering used in painting the onions is identical to the method I learned in class last week (see last blog).

I now realise that I have a lot of catching up to do and it's quite clear that the ten years or so that I put my brushes away, was one of the worst decisions of my entire life. Those years are what I now refer to as the "Dark decade" Being in the Autumn years of my life, by the time I have got back to this standard, I'm sure I will be about ready to pop off this planet! If I had continued to paint through those years, surely I would be showing and selling my work by now?

So there's a message to all you budding artists out there: never take a break, never give up and make hay while the sun shines. Now where's that sketch pad ...

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Art class 2: Layering

fig 1: Crab Apples
Yes, art class has started again after Summer recess. Julia our tutor has taken control of us and decided that we should all paint the same subject. Hurrah for that, but notice would have been nice as most of us are halfway through projects, never-the-less, I am all in favour as this is how I feel teaching art should be. It gives us all practice in the basic principles before we branch out with our own techniques. Also, seeing how everyone else perceives and translates the same subject is so interesting.

Julia arrived with a large bag full of crab apple twigs (amusingly complete with ladybirds which got taken away (I would have preferred to include these in the painting, but I guess it would have complicated things.)) Our task this time was to paint one twig each using the layering technique, being guided by our tutor at each stage.
Our first instruction was to very lightly and quickly draw the twigs, missing out (or erasing) the lightest lines. Next we had to make the lines in shadow a little bolder.

Now we came to painting and were instructed to pick out the lightest shade of the apples, mix the colour and apply a very light wash over all the apples. This apparently is called the "T wash". Then we applied the same technique to the leaves - the very palest green over them all, followed in the same way with the stalk. During the work, we were instructed to keep a colour chart, including the shades we didn't use (some of which I put a line though) - see diagram 2.
Next we applied the mid wash, which for my apples was the lightest red. Again we followed the same pattern with then leaves, but this time carefully leaving the t wash of the veins showing through. Eventually the darkest colours were added, then last of all some shading in the appropriate places.

A lot of us already knew something about this technique, but working this way was good practice and we all now have the basic fundamentals of layering.

fig 2: Palette
Summing up, in my mind this is a very good method for detailed or illustrative work producing neat, formal paintings. I would, however prefer to use it much more loosely, not worrying too much about keeping within the pencil lines, and I would definitely prefer adding a little wet-in-wet in places. A lot of people say they would wish to paint in a more loose style and I would agree with them up to a point though for me, I like to have some control over my washes at the same time.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Back in the Groove

Watercolour on 300gsm paper.

Time taken: 2 hours.
It's been a while since I did any painting, what with holidaying in Gloucestershire, laying concrete, building a new shed - oh and having grandchildren over for a weekend, not to mention holding down a full time job walking the streets of Kibworth delivering milk!
Yesterday it poured with rain so those planned jobs to do outside got put on hold and I actually thought that I might have a nice restful Sunday. But oh no, it didn't quite work out that way. Getting ready to go out for our usual Sunday morning trip to Aldi, when I got the car out, it didn't feel right. In fact it had a puncture on the rear wheel. So having fished out the space saving wheel from the boot and hauling the trolley jack out of the garage, there I was bending over in the pouring rain trying to free the wheel nuts! Once this was achieved, you would think that all that remained would be to take off the wheel and replace with spare. Yes, that would be right only the wheel remained stuck on the axel, and no banging, hammering or levering from me was going to get it off!
So I put the wheel nuts back on and all my stuff away after deciding to try to inflate the tyre enough to get me down to our local Kwik Fit, but getting enough air in the tyre while it was gushing out past the nail which had punctured it was a lengthy business. Good job I have an little electric pump that connects to the auxiliary point in the car. Down at Kwik Fit, I was told that the puncture was too near the edge of the tyre and could not be repaired - oh and the other rear tyre was almost down to minimum tread depth. End result - a very wet and disgruntled Frank forked out £200 for two new tyres, oooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!

Anyway, the only thing all this has to do with the painting, is that while it rained, I did find time to do this portrait of Kim. I am actually quite pleased with this, well up to a point. I suppose none of us is ever really pleased with our efforts. The source photo was quite hazy and smaller than I've done her here, so more of a challenge than usual. Also the light on her face was almost full on, so I kept the facial tones pale. As usual I struggled a bit with the mouth, taking three goes to get it something like. In fact I ended up squaring up the small area around it. I still haven't mastered hair yet either, but I'm getting there. The background in the photo is of green bushes but I thought this would clash with her blue top and eye shadow, so I used a neutral colour here - in fact it's a mix of all the colours used in the painting with a little grey added. Kim is a very pretty lady and I hope I have done her justice with this one.

One thing I know though, is that I am back in the groove as far as painting goes, and it feels great!