Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Gila. Confidence Regained

Gila. Watercolour and coloured pencil on 300gsm Cotman Paper
I've been through a really bad patch with my paintings for the last few months. There have been times when I've looked at a blank sheet of paper and given up before I've started. Where I have started, I've given up before finishing the work, or ended up with something dull and uninspiring - way below what I wanted to achieve. I know that I am busy at work these days, and when there has been time to paint, there always seems something else that needs doing.

Yesterday, it all changed. I thought to myself 'No TV tonight, I'm really going to make an effort, loosen up and do a painting from start to finish; not worry about how good or bad it turns out!'

With this portrait of Gila, I've used a slightly different technique. Out has gone the pencil and eraser, and I've used a mid brown coloured pencil instead, sketching her face very loosely, leaving in all the unwanted lines. If you look closely, you can see initial lines that were were altered, as with crayon there is no rubbing out. I also used the crayon to enhance the shadows and darks initially, just to show a little form before adding watercolour. This has mostly been covered with paint except lighter areas.

The finished work has given me much more confidence, being a good likeness and by the way it has turned out. I feel like I have just come out of a deep depression and that I am getting back on form. Thank the Lord!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Visit to the National Gallery, London.

Canaletto: A Regatta on the Grand Canal

While I have been to many local art exhibitions and seen some fabulous paintings, it had been playing on my mind recently that I really ought to visit one of the art galleries in London. This in mind, I booked a couple of train tickets for my wife and I earlier last month. The extraordinary thing about train travel is, though fairly expensive, if you can book your journey off peak, a month or so ahead, you travel for peanuts in comparison. Our tickets from Market Harborough to London cost £17 each – the same journey bought on the same day as travel would have been near £90 each!

Regatta: (detail)
 Although it was October, the weather proved outstanding, with a lovely warm sunny day where we were all walking around in our summer clothes, but unlike summer, it wasn’t too hot and we weren’t looking around for somewhere shady to be comfortable. The great thing about London is that there is so much to see, and like Paris, much of which on a grand scale. Our chosen venue was the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square, a huge building with the most impressive portico elevated from the north side of the Square.  From this portico, the view across the Square was brilliant, dominated by Nelson’s column and those huge lions at the four corners of the statue, this set amongst the fountains, all rounded off nicely with Big Ben clock tower in the distance.

I learned later that the National Gallery houses well over 2000 of some of the world’s greatest paintings! More amazing though is the fact that entry to view these marvellous works is absolutely FREE! Having said that though, there is a large donation box as you go in, and as soon as I stepped inside the first hall and saw the magnificence of the work that greeted me, I realised that the note I dropped into that box was the best value for money I’ve had for a long time!

OK, I’ve seen some really old paintings at various historical houses we’ve visited over the years, but nothing could have prepared me for this. I was absolutely in awe of some of the works on display. So much so, that the amount of time it took me to take in various paintings left me way behind my wife in the viewing stakes! I was glad that we took advantage of the audio commentary, where we wore headphones, and just tapped in the painting number to hear the info on work and artist.

National Gallery, London (C)(Frank Bingley)
Some of the paintings were incredibly large, some taking up almost entire walls in these halls, which in themselves are huge affairs with sky high ceilings! This in itself had dramatic impact, but even more so was to see work by the likes of Monet, Renoir, Degas etc. close up and REAL – the actual work right before my very eyes. It is difficult to describe the effect of seeing a well-known painting in front of you rather than in a book or on the computer screen – just amazing!

A blogger friend of mine, Sandra, recently blogged of her visit to this place, where she was so taken by the works of Van Gogh. Well, I never got to see his work as it soon became very apparent to me that it would take considerably more than one day to see and appreciate everything on show in the National Gallery. I am very much a fan of Renoir, and I did get to see a number of his best known works, but the artist that I was so taken by was Canaletto. His huge works – vistas of Venice on a grand scale, were a marvel to behold indeed. His portrayal of all the buildings, canals and hundreds of people throughout his works was astonishing, and in such detail too. It must have taken him months, no years to paint these scenes. Incredible!

After we could no longer stand on our legs, a cup of coffee in one of the bars was a welcome respite. Here, there were lots of computer terminals where you could look up all the details and location of works on show. Again, free access – all the information readily to hand. Afterwards,  there were the (inevitable) gift shops, where one couldn’t resist coming away with a little souvenir of our day at the National Gallery, London.

This post duplicated on Market Harborough Art Club blog.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Nude Study

It's been 15 years since I did a nude study, or any type of life drawing. Not sure if this constitutes a life study, as I used a model from pixellovely gesture drawing, but it is the nearest I am going to get to a life study just now.

Goodness me, I'd forgotten how hard this can be! This should have taken me 30 minutes, but I spent a good hour on this, and went into too much detail (as usual). The medium here is Conte pastels, but being quite chunky sticks, I think it's impossible to get a lot of detail with them, and they are really, really messy!

This is on a large scale (A2) cartridge paper. My life drawing tutor from way back would not let us use any smaller than this, and I can see why, as with larger sheets you feel less restricted and end up with a looser drawing.

This has been an interesting little exercise, but I feel that I would have done a much better job if I'd have stuck to watercolour. The only point here being that, if I'd have used watercolour, I would have probably made the same old mistakes, whereas with pastel, I've managed to make a whole lot of NEW mistakes!

Monday, 14 November 2011

Foxton Locks

Foxton Locks

It’s been so long since I posted anything on here, that I should think most of you have deserted me!

To be honest, I really haven’t done a lot of art work over the last few months – there always seems something else that needs doing, and of course, you now the old saying about “a well-oiled rag” etc., well it really is true, because I am so very rusty that I may have to start all over.

This is a very quick sketch I did the other night of Foxton Locks. It’s a popular local attraction that gets very busy especially during the summer months, by both visitors and spectators alike. It consists of a staircase of ten locks, which raise or lower canal boats by more than 75 feet. The view is across the top two locks, and shows the upper side ponds, which save a lot of water that otherwise would be lost as the boats go through the system.

While this is only a rough sketch, intended for a proper painting that, well, may or may not get done, it has shown me how rusty I have become – something of a wake-up call really. If I am ever going to master this watercolour thing, I really have to buck up my ideas and get some practical work in!

Monday, 29 August 2011

The Inquisition

The Inquisition
Aquarelle pencil and wash.
Last year, I took a painting along to our local art club for evaluation by a professional artist. It was a busy scene at an outdoor cafe, and there were lots of people in the painting. While the evaluation was pretty good on the whole, our professional artist remarked that I had "seen too much", and that I should have concentrated on a small group rather than including everyone in the picture. Well OK, but that wasn't what I wanted to portray, I wanted to get the feel of all these people sitting at the tables and chatting away, an atmosphere.

This year, while in Wells, we walked around the busy market there. Camera in hand, I got a few pictures, mostly of the stalls and lots of people browsing around them. Now, a few months later, aqua pencil in hand and nothing much on the telly, I thought I'd have a go at sketching one of those market scenes. Looking at the photos, thinking about what a lot of work there would be in them, our professional artist's words came back to me, "seen too much"! This in mind, I centred my attention on a couple of women at one of the stalls. I was helped in this fact by having used a camera with 12,000 pixels, which allowed me to zoom in on the subject with little loss of definition.

The sketch above is what I came up with. I used an aquarelle pencil for the sketch and initial shading, followed a wetted no.6 paintbrush to pick out a few mid tones. It took me around a couple of hours, which is about my attention span for a drawing or painting A3 size. I do tend to lose interest rapidly after this time, so although it is not perfect by any means, it's as good as I want it to be. Is that the right way to feel about your artwork? Maybe, maybe not, but that's just the way it is.

The picture below shows the original scene. By taking the two women out of context, the busy market atmosphere is lost, but now the scene takes on a new feel. They are both looking inquisitively at something we can't see. Something that makes us wonder and think that they are definitely interested in something? In the original photo, they are both obviously looking at the market stall, but in the drawing, no matter how many times the viewer will come back to look, they will never know what.
Wells Market: Original scene
In a photo like this, there are lots of little scenes going on if you look around for them, so maybe I can get several paintings from this one photo, instead of painting the scene as a whole. Mr professional artist, maybe you were right after all!

Monday, 15 August 2011

Life In Miniature

A little while back, I saw three beautiful little frames at a car boot sale. Although they were small, the width of the frames was around three inches, and the finish was battered gold. As the stall holder only wanted a couple of pounds for them, and they were in excellent condition, it would be foolish to pass them by. The high cost of frames has prompted me to keep a lookout for second hand frames at such venues, although if frames are in a car boot, there's usually something wrong with them, but these were good.

This last week, I've done a couple of miniatures to fit the frames. Well, I say miniatures - the maximum picture size I could get away with in these is 14x8.5cm, which is the smallest that I have ever painted! Using small brushes is a must with paper this size, and I have to say really quite alien to me - I like nice big brushes usually.

The first painting was a simple landscape and I was fairly pleased with it, but I'll have to do it again, because in my rush to get it into one of those frames, a major faux pas occurred! I had cut the mount, which fitted perfectly, but on cutting the backing board, I hadn't noticed that my painting was underneath it. You guessed it, my lovely painting sliced in two! Bagger, what a plonker!

Any way, it might have done me a good turn, as some of the finer lines did look a bit chunky and I would never have been completely at ease with it.

The painting above is of a terrace in Bath, England. This is the back of a lovely terrace nestling beside a river - I knew instantly that it would be a good subject for a painting, though I would never have guessed such a small one at the time. Using pen and watercolour wash, I've completely ignored the lines in many places. The actual buildings were all shades of grey, but this would have looked a bit dull, so I added light tones of reflected colour liberally in places. The sky took on a mind of its own, as the French ultramarine I used ran back on itself, making branching patterns so typical of this colour. I'll leave you the viewer to judge whether this is a good or bad thing.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Journal 6/8/2011 - Kibworth Windmill, Live!

Kibworth Windmill
Armed with my trusty paintbox and a few of my Art Club colleagues, we set off for an 'en plein air' painting session to the Kibworth Post Mill. The journal tells the story, so I'll just say that it has been around 15 years since I did a painting outdoors on location! We were on private land and well away from public view, so onlookers were confined to club members and not at all unnerving really. Once I got stuck in to the job in hand, everything and everyone else faded from my mind while I sketched away!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Prabal and Brighton

Busy Brighton

A couple of weeks back, my wife and I went on a coach trip to Brighton on the south coast of England. The journey would normally have taken us around three hours, allowing for a break on the way, but the sun decided to do its best for us and it turned out to be a gorgeous sunny day – perfect. Maybe not so perfect though, as it was a Sunday, and anyone in England will tell you that if it is a warm, sunny day on a Sunday, chances are that half of London will decide to descend on Brighton, and this day they certainly did! This meant that the traffic jams while trying to enter the town added another hour to our journey. Never mind though, we still had around four hours to explore this seaside town.

I had never been to Brighton before, and I was little bit worried that it might turn out to be one of those tacky coastal towns with shops full of cheap, oriental tat aimed at the mass tourist fraternity, and a beach washed up with muddy looking seawater. Well, I have to tell you that I was pleasantly surprised. OK, there was a fair amount of tat about, and the beach was mostly pebbles making walking difficult, but the sea was at least clean and the atmosphere was fantastic. The pier, disputed to be the longest in the world, was full of interest, with shops and little seafood places along its length, and a fun fair at the end.

The seafood looked so inviting that we purchased a tray of freshly caught prawns, and boy did they taste good! I did however have a bit of a shock while eating them. We had little cocktail sticks to eat them with, and as I was lifting one into my mouth, a huge common gull appeared from nowhere, and grabbed the prawn as quick as a flash before the prawn even touched my lips! I’ve seen these birds do this before on TV, but you don’t realise how big they are, and how strong and agile too. There were hundreds of them, all soaring, weaving in and out of people, looking for some poor unsuspecting soul to grab food from.

At lunchtime, we decided to eat inside! It was at this little beachside café that we had the most gorgeous line-caught cod with chips that I have ever tasted in my life. Fish so fresh, and batter so light; mouth-watering.

There were rows of scooters on the sea front
Brighton, on Bank holidays in the 1960’s was a favourite target for mods and rockers. Rockers would wear leather gear and ride motorcycles, while the mods wore fashionable clothing and parkas, riding scooters adorned with lots of mirrors and spotlights. I must confess, that I fell into the latter, but never made it to Brighton, and just as well, as whenever the two sides met, fighting and chasing would inevitably break out between the two rival factors, causing headlines in the papers and riotous scenes on the TV next day.

Brighton Pavillion
The thing about Brighton is that it’s not just about the sea front. For those who would venture more into the town, there are some lovely parks, and the jewel in the crown is that famous pavilion. We caught a glimpse of it on the way in, but you have to be up close to appreciate the scale of this building, with its oriental architecture. My only regret is that we just didn’t have enough time to see inside – that will be an excuse to visit this lovely town again sometime.

Well, it’s about time I talked about the painting. Here I’ve done a sketch of a little part of the town that caught my eye. This is a pre-painting. It was Prabal who convinced me that a pre-painting was a good idea to practice before doing a painting for real. I have never thought of doing this, but it looks like a good idea, because now I know what works in this painting and what is not so good. The abnormality in this work is the fact that a pre-painting is normally smaller than the proper painting will be. This is the largest painting I have ever done, being A2, and is done on smooth, white cartridge paper. The work proper will be A3 simply because I don’t possess any watercolour paper in size A2! Being cartridge paper, it doesn’t hold the paint as well as knot 300gsm, and of course, the paper buckles.

Brighton Beach (before the crowds descended!)
It was my intention to keep the background buildings light so that the foreground figures will stand out well, and I think it’s worked pretty well here, and I like this part of the painting best of all. The sky isn’t at all correct though. It should be darker above and much lighter down towards the horizon. I’ve used French ultramarine here, blending in yellow ochre lower down, but too strongly.  The figures are a little out of scale, as a couple of their heads on the right are too large. I love the guy in yellow in the centre though, and the lady on the left. I think that I will need to do some squaring up when I do the painting for real, and improve the perspective a bit on the road.

This is also the first time I’ve used a ruler to guide me with those tall lamps and building columns. If you look at the sketch, you can see that I have not put too much detail in the buildings either, especially the windows. I’ve read that putting the detail in with the brush speeds up the drawing stage, and keeps the work looking loose. The time taken to do this work is 90 minutes sketching, followed by two more 90 minutes sessions adding the paint. So overall, around five hours, which for a painting this large and this detailed is pretty good.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011


Nasir. Pen and oil pastels on cartridge paper.
OK, just one more of these pen and oil pastel works, before I get serious again with watercolour. I nearly didn't buy these pastels thinking that I wouldn't use them. Now I'm glad I did, because it allowed me a brief foray into another media and I've loved it!

Again here, I've done an extremely fast outline of the character in ink before applying the oil pastels, and again not worrying too much about keeping within the lines - after all, we never stick rigidly to road markings when we are driving do we? This medium is fantastically fast, a little over half an hour to do this. I smudged the colours in places to blend more subtle light changes and two or several colours together, but for texture (as in the sweater), I've used the pastel sideways on lightly.

For Father's day, my daughter bought me a couple of watercolour painting technique books to study, so I am itching to get back to this medium, and try out some new methods in what is my very favourite method of painting.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Bath, England

Bath, Somerset
Oil Pastel and ink pen on Bristol Board A3
It's been a while since I posted here I know, but I have been busy on a large project, which I'll tell you about some other time.

On a trip to Bath in Somerset recently, I was just in awe of the abundance of Romanesque architecture on every street. Our trip was fleeting, but we have promised ourselves to go back again and spend some more time there, just to try to take everything in.

This is my first foray into oil pastels, and I have to say that it is a very exciting medium. I've tried to keep my work quick and spontaneous, starting first with an ink sketch. Some of the scale is a little adrift, but I just wanted to get the general shapes of the figures and buildings rather than being too accurate.

There are 36 colours in this box, and they are a joy to use, even more so, as I picked the box up second hand at our local car boot sale last weekend for £2 - what a bargain. I think that £2 is going to give me a lot of pleasure!

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

The last Painting?

Gloucester Docks
This is my last painting - well, the last one I will be doing in the art class because I quit!

The thing is, I don't think I am gaining any extra knowledge there. It's time I think to look for new horizons and maybe try another tutor to see if I can progress any more. At the moment, I feel that the work I am doing at class, could just as well be done at home, so this is the end of another chapter in my painting life.

The painting is of one of the warehouses at Gloucester Docks. The old docks have taken on a transformation over recent years, many of the huge warehouses have now been turned into art and craft studios and coffee houses etc.
The painting took quite some time to complete, more hours than I am comfortable with really. Even now, I am not that happy with it, and think I took on too much with all those windows - there are 60 of them. The next work of art is going to be something quick and simple I think, to give me a break and preserve my sanity!

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Luligirl for JKPP

Luligirl for JKPP by Frank B10
Luligirl for JKPP a photo by Frank B10 on Flickr.
Much as I love watercolour painting, sometimes a desire comes over me to just get a pencil and draw. In this case, it's portraiture again. For some reason, I've always had trouble getting long hair to look realistic, maybe it's because of the long continual strokes needed - I don't know. This time, I think I am getting somewhere near.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Self Portrait

It's been a while since I did a self portrait, 12 months in fact.

Self Portrait
Watercolour and 6B pencil on Bockingford paper.
I sat down this evening wondereing if I could just roll off a quick painting, when a self portrait came to mind. The only stipulation that I gave myself, was that it must be a realatively quick study. I grabbed hold of a smallish watercolour pad and a thick 6B pencil and started work straight away. Very quick measurements were used in the drawing stage, and I thought that I would use the pencil to embellish the dark areas, so that I could keep the paintwork light. In fact, some of my work has looked very restrained of late, so now came another stipulation - it has to be loose and fresh as possible.

I used quite a bit of water on the paper, and dropped slightly darker colours into the fleshtones as I went along on this one. As the pencilwork was so dark, I didn't use much dark coloured paint at all.

Overall, I am really pleased with this - the likeness is not too bad, and it has opened up my work a lot - my tight work has been broken I think. The only downside of using the heavy lead pencil, was that the paint wouldn't cover the pencil lines at all much, just rolling off on globules, but hey, it doesn't matter does it? All good experience.

Time taken; 75 minutes.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Art Class 2: Pointless

Watercolour: Pig's Puzzle

It's been a while since I blogged about the art class projects. There have already been four meetings, I missed one because of a family mini drama, and the other three have been taken up on one project. In this first assignment, we were simply told to cut images from magazines and stick them on an A3 piece of paper to form a collage. Then, using a 4x6 inch frame, move it around the collage to find the best segment, then square up the framed section onto A3 size watercolour paper, effectively enlarging the image by around five times.

My initial reaction was why bother? I know I have said in the past that it was good to see the tutor give us all the same project, because it gave us all the advantage of seeing how everyone else goes about the same task, and see their different interpretations of the same subject. But this time I think our tutor has lost the plot. Firstly, it was extremely long winded to find enough cuttings to fill an A3 piece of paper. In fact I gave up after covering about two thirds of it, in any case I just could not see the point. Why not just cover the 4x6 then enlarge it and save ourselves all that trouble?

Collage of magazine clips
Anyway, I have gone along with the project to give it a chance to grow on me, even though I thought the whole thing was pointless. On the collage photo you can see the red rectangle, which although there were numerous permutations that I could have chosen, was the section I decided to paint. Our tutor did say that we could do endless paintings from the one collage, simply by moving the rectangle around, but just doing this one had me pretty fed up by the end, so there was no chance of me ever doing another!

The finished painting looks like something, well not exactly abstract, more like something of a riddle for the viewer I guess. The pig was everybodies favourite - he does have a nice smiling face, and I like the sundial and probably the gargoyle, but to me, this whole thing is a bit of mish-mash. I haven't really enjoyed the project, but I suppose I've gained a little more knowledge in the art of watercolour painting in doing it. Maybe you the reader will see something in this that escapes my way of thinking, but  if something comes up like this next time though, I think I'll give it a miss!

Monday, 7 February 2011

A Trip Back in Time

1960's Panda car: watercolour
Last September whilst holdaying in Gloucestershire, we visited Littledean Jail. This is no longer in use as a jail, but now harbours the most extensive collection of memorabillia I have ever seen, especially stage and screen items. Among the many things on display that caught my eye, was a lifesize Spiderman, Darth Vader and a rather sexy looking Lara Croft from Tomb Raider. The walls were almost totally obscured by photographs and trivia of 20th Century celebrities many of whom are now departed.

My encounter with Spiderman!
One of the the things that really turned me off however, was a real stuffed calf with two heads! There were many other gruesome exhibits on display, which by time we had finished looking round, got to be a little bit much of a muchness, and it was with much relief that on stepping outside into the back yard we noticed the Quadraphenia Collection housed in one of the outbuildings. Having spent my teenage years in the 1960's era, this was right up my street! The whole collection was based around the film about mods. The place was filled with lambretta scooters, covered in spotlights and mirrors, parkas, badges and lots of photos from the film. I could associate myself with all this, being a mod myself at that time, having a Lambretta, the latest fashions etc., but I never actually possesed a parka.

Quadraphenia Display
In the yard outside stood a marvelous classic car - a police Panda car from the same era. A Morris Minor, fitted with what was then a high tech police radio, but now looked very antiquated! In fact, everthing about this car looked antiquated, but very nostalgic.

The painting was done rather quickly - I just wanted to get a feel for this lovely old car. Nevertheless, my attempt is fairly accurate I think and was quite a pleasure to do. The windscreen was a bit of a challenge, I have never painted one of these before, the different amounts of reflected light made it tricky to make out the interior. I just tried to paint what I could actually see.

Quadraphenia Display at Littledean Jail.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Zooming Out

I've done a lot of head and shoulder portrait work recently, so I thought for a change that I would zoom out a bit. Here I've tried to capture Jannis' beautiful holiday photo, which had marvelous sunlight and strong shadows to it. My wife thinks it's a little pale and she is probably right, but a lot of watercolour work does seem to turn out that way. Here I just wanted to catch the light. I also needed to work on the female figure a little too - I've done my best to capture her lovely shape.

Source photo here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/17968702@N06/4742267791/

Monday, 17 January 2011

After the Break

Back in the 1960's, when I passed my driving test, my licence duly arrived through the post. On inspection, I noticed that the expiry date was 2012. "Two thousand and twelve" I exclaimed, "that's a lifetime away!". Well I suppose it was, with me being only 19 at the time. But time has a nasty habit of passing you by or catching you out or playing tricks with your mind.

Now it's 2011 and that licence is about to expire. But where has all that time gone? I know that since being 19, I have got married, had kids, had grandchildren, spent so much time working, had two allotments, spent countless hours doing DIY on two houses, took thousands of photographs etc. The only thing I haven't done enough of is painting, but by 'eck, I intend to continue my quest to change that!

After a lengthy break from painting due to Christmas and New Year activities, as well as struggling to fight off three very bad colds in succession, I've done my first painting for 2011. Oh, happy New Year to all of you by the way! This was a portrait, but I'll post that another time, as just before Christmas I managed to find time to do a painting of two lovely young girls who belong to Debbie and Simon, who very kindly invited us over for Christmas. The painting was a present for our hosts, who saved us from a very plain stop-at-home Yuletide, and also for enabling us not to miss seeing our grandchildren, as they and their mum and dad had also been invited over some time earlier.

The pictures below show the painting at two earlier stages, but alas, time has played tricks on my mind as I have aged over the years, resulting in me completely forgetting to photograph the finished work, which is now many miles away in East Anglia! Oh well, you will just have to judge my work from what you see here.

I now find it easier to work with a photograph on my laptop in front of me these days. This has the added bonus that I can listen to music and even half watch a DVD at the same time! (Kylie Minogue in this instance) I don't however, have Facebook open at the same time now, as friends start distracting me with IM's. It's bad enough when the phone rings during painting, when often all I feel like saying to the person on the other end is, "You're stopping me from painting" LOL!

I wonder what all of you do, if anything while you are painting?