It’s not what you do, it’s what you don’t.

Ta-daa!

It may be possible to detect a whiff of satisfaction since I’ve muffled that chattering inner critical voice.

I’ve realised that in order to appreciate my own work it is imperative that I wait a few days after completion to be able to stand back and look at it with fresh eyes…rather like getting used to a new haircut.

The fear of using watercolours is diminishing.  First using only transparent pigments mixed with plenty of water enables me to lightly ‘map out’ the image.  It allows for painting as many layers as I need to build up the impression of dimension.

Flat brushes instead of round were used in an attempt to introduce spontaneity, with charcoal and pastels for intensity.

I’m persevering with the same subject as before, my youngest step-daughter, Ruth.

  • The ink version was all about the lines; a clean, graphic quality being appropriate.
  • Although not exactly a whimper of a painting, I abandoned the watercolour portrait because, despite scribbling on it with pastels, it still felt too flat, rigid-as-a-stick and the edges were too similar.  It didn’t excite me – it lacked those extra ingredients of chaos and energy that I respond to and there was none of the fluidity that only watercolour can deliver.

With this simplified version, the ‘unfinished’ appearance is entirely intentional (assume your “Oh come OFF it” face here).

Ruth©watercolour

Pablo Picasso described art as the eliminiation of the unnecessary and Claude Debussy stated that “music is the space between the notes”.

Simplify, simplify, simplify!  Do more with less!

In this vein, I tried to embrace the blank spaces and make each mark count, obtaining a perfect image being less important than how the paint was applied.  And what was left out.  Yes, you guessed it, I’m making it up as I go along here.

This painting feels complete to me.  And there are edges; some soft, some sharp and I may have even managed to lose some!

Enough?

In keeping with the minimalist theme, I’ll end here and see myself out.

 

 

Someone Pass Me The Tranquilisers

I’ve just completed a superb online watercolour portrait course given by the amazingly talented professional artist and tutor, and all-round great guy, Mario A. Robinson from which I learned so much.

Between you and me, I secretly hoped the course would immediately turn me into a master portrait painter, that there’d be an orchestra playing in the background as I twirled around in front of you with my masterpiece in one hand, paintbrush in the other.  Patently, it’s very much a learning process and I concluded that painting layer upon layer of glazes isn’t quite ‘me’, preferring spontaneity and risk-taking for a light, fresh, painterly finish….Oh all right then, it was bloody difficult and I simply don’t have the patience so I gave up!

I did learn heaps of valuable techniques, not least how to paint with a brush in each hand – and my confidence has definitely grown, but clearly, dilligent practise is required.

It was interesting to learn that in all his work, whether portraiture, still life or landscape, Mario uses the Grisaille method of painting – a monochromatic under-painting, which is a useful and accurate process that establishes a map of the tonal values prior to adding colour and helps create the illusion of depth and form.

After deciding not to complete the painting, I had some fun with it using charcoal and pastels, then decided to put it up here anyway, maybe even start a trend for showing failed works?

Ruth©flop There are no watermarks on this, what you may be able to see are pencil lines which would have eventually been covered if I’d taken the layers to the end and finished the painting properly.

Rut©cutNot too daunted for once, I’ll have another go at the portrait, using the lessons I’ve learned, but with my take on them – watch this space.

Look out for a crazy grinning woman prancing madly around an easel waving her paint brushes with quite a lot of attitude – that loon would be me.

Ah the hell with it….Cue orchestra!

Improbable Quest

My head frequently bubbles with detailed artistic ideas, but actually accomplishing them isn’t always easy.

I’d like to create a series of paintings portraying likenesses of people I know, with their facial features and hands taking prominence.

You may wonder why I don’t simply call them “portraits”.  Well, have you ever tried to render the essence of an individual onto paper or canvas?  Obtaining a true recognisable likeness is staggeringly difficult.  Formidable, even.  Not least because the sitter is unlikely to view themselves in the same way that the artist does and there are always critics ready to pile huge lumps of vitriol onto the artist.

Clueless but undaunted, the first step was taken; I found a photograph that makes me want to to dust off my paints.

Ruth©InkThis preliminary ink drawing was to make me look hard at her features to familiarise myself with depicting them – also to decide which elements of the photograph to include and which to leave out in the composition.

ruth©pencilThe quick pencil sketch helped me ignore the myriad details and to simplify by considering the tonal values of her face that create form.  Squinting helps with this.

My lofty aspiration is to somehow infuse the painting with more personality than the merely flat one dimensional drawing (although I do quite like flat images).  To cultivate an intimacy that goes deeper than a mere likeness.  Ideally I hope to reveal something of what goes on behind her eyes.

If I manage to fulfil my heady blur of ambitious imagined plans, the next post should be the painting.  Any resemblance to the sitter will be an indescribable relief, but mostly I’m just happy to be doing some art again!

Now if someone could just sprinkle some fairy dust onto my paint brushes…..

Last Squeak of 2013

And so as Christmas creaks into view, with the nation reaching wearily for its winter woolies once again, lo – behold my latest offering before I totally disappear up my own festive fundament.

Portrait©FinalPersonally, I prefer a looser, more spontaneous and drippy effect to this overworked watercolour portrait, but I learned so much; primarily how to conquer my fear of a blank sheet of paper:

  • my pigments are not as translucent as those of the tutor
  • squinting to properly see tone, light, shadow and reflected light
  • identifying warm and cool colours
  • preparation – pre-mix enough paints
  • glazing – how graduated washes create many layers – first time using a mop brush
  • establishing soft and hard edges
  • lifting off damp as well as dried pigment
  • ability to look at watercolour paintings by other artists and decipher which technical aspects were probably used

I enjoyed this online course so much.

Herewith the various stages showing the process…

Portrait©MontagePortrait©Likeness…just don’t ask me to share the technical details – it took me a long time to complete and I am busy preparing for the impending fa-la-laaa fiasco.

Once they have had time to complete the course themselves and IF they decide to publish, I will be adding links here to posts by my good painting buddies, Leslie White and Carol King.

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.  Rum pum pum pum!

I’m not a slacker…I’m just surrounded by over-achievers!

I won’t lie.  Sometimes not very much art happens.  (What do you mean, you noticed?)

Yes, it’s been a while but here I am again – and thanks to this great online watercolour portrait tutorial I’m getting a kick out of painting again.

This image is merely an exercise in tonal values which I found compelling.  Agreed, it is undoubtedly overworked for what is supposed to be a simple study.

tonal©study

I find the tutor, Matt Rota, to be exceptional and easy to understand.  I haven’t even started the final portrait yet and I already feel I’ve learned more in a couple of hours watching his tutorials than ever before.

I’d forgotten what it’s like to be this motivated and giddy about painting…I feel like I could throw off sparks from my fingertips.  A new phase in my creativity is opening up and finally giving it some direction.  Seriously, I don’t know if I can take much more excitement!

Despite your suspicions, I’m not getting paid to drool enthusiastically about this course.

The Fun Never Stops

I hope this finds you dry.  I don’t mean that in an impolite way, it’s just that I live in the new monsoon kingdom of England where pretty much everything is soggy and damp at the moment.

In other news, I’ve started painting again…somebody alert the media!!!

The above two initial attempts at painting this friend of my son left me severely disheartened and frustrated by my dearth of technical skills.  At the end of the process I’d inevitably do something to ruin it.  Without formal training, making progress is difficult but, as someone once said; “Practice is the best of all instructors” so I’ve stopped sulking and here I am again.

Watercolour is one of the most challenging of painting mediums in that it is unpredictable.  The lack of control simultaneously thrills me and scares the pants off me.  Oh yes, I know how to have fun.

The following two studies taught me much about paint manipulation.  When attempting spontaneity and allowing the paint to do its own thing, it helps to be prepared for any eventuality.  Using a spray water bottle and kitchen paper allows for more control, as do loud yelps and sharp intakes of breath, although this does tend to startle the other people who live here.

With this first attempt, the darkest colour was painted first and when completely dry, lighter, transparent colours were glazed over.  This was in response to being educated by my friend Carol King on a fascinating process called Brunaille, except that this is in the wrong context and  I used blue instead of brown.  It was useful in helping me to appreciate the values of light and shadow.

The early stages look better than the finished version – the scanner makes it appear far muddier than the original and the poor girl appears to be in dire need of a shave.The second study below didn’t scan well either (honestly, not an excuse) – it is frankly clownish.Back to the drawing board.  I plan to paint numerous versions and strive to feel comfortable about giving a picture to the model; I can’t seem to quite ‘capture’ her.

Now if only I could channel my inner critic to help me perceive at what point to put the brush down and step away from the painting!  Less is more, stupid! So stop it.  I know you too are guilty of this.

You’re so glad you read this blog post, aren’t you? Admit it; I have enriched your life.