Is Summer Over Already?

Where has the sun gone?

This Hydrangea sketch is my attempt to defy indications that the British summer has already bowed out.  It’s still July and I’m not ready to put my sandals and sunglasses away just yet.

Based loosely on the principles of negative painting, I worked around the petals and leaves to define their shapes and bring them forward.

Hydrangea©Watercolouri

Transparent colours were used as several layers of increasingly deeper tone are required to develop the shapes.

For quick reference I use a Winsor & Newton chart of hand-painted professional waercolours which has proved invaluable to me.  It not only clearly demonstrates what each colour looks like from intense to watery pale, but it also lists whether they are transparent, semi-transparent or opaque.  It also saves me the bother of making my own chart.

Colour-Chart-W&N.fw

It is important to allow the paint to dry properly between each glaze…something I’m particularly bad at.

Don’t Get Me Started; Embracing My Inner Grouch.

While you’re here I may as well rid my heaving bosom of something that still has me simultaneously wincing and fuming.

A recent television program documented preparations for an exhibition at the Leopold Museum in Vienna where some witless noodle made the sorry decision to show self-absorbed Tracey Emin’s gratuitous tosh alongside my favourite artist, Egon Scheile (cue audible ey-roll).  Really?  You just couldn’t make it up.  It was embarrassing.

Emin, as inebriated by her own suppurating ego as by the liquor she guzzles, is so trapped by her urge to shock that the outrage she strives for has become a cliché.  Her teeth-suckingly offensive ‘work’ has no correlation to art and I freely throw prejudicial cups of tea in the direction of those who confuse art with self-publication.

It’s hard to believe that people pay to stare at this excruciatingly crude fakery and that those who part with vast sums of money to own this pointless, ugly stuff are educated people.  The joke is on them.  It is freak art masquerading as originality.  Self-indulgent clap-trap and most of us have her sussed.

You can probably tell that I consider Emin and her ilk to have all the appeal of a flatulent dog in a lift.

I don’t have her millions nor her obtuse, fawning devotees, but I am confident that whatever I paint will always have more merit than anything Tracely Emin can do.

Deep breaths….

My husband is right – I do morph into curmudgeonly Victor Meldrew on this subject.

As an antidote to all that negativity – inspired by flower paintings by artist friends who make it look much easier than it is – herewith some sketches where I trusted the paint and allowed the water to do the work.  Marks were also made using the brush handle.

Roses©Pinks

Lavender©loose

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.

The Art of Wu-Wei & Coloured Pencil Bliss

Isn’t it always the way?  With this drawing of my son I didn’t try.  Really!  It was only a spontaneous sketch with barely any conscious thought…yet somehow, I effortlessly managed to accurately ‘capture’ my son and his mood.  He even likes it enough to use it on his website.

Composer©James

Striving for perfection and overthinking often sabotages creativity.  It’s a paradox!  This was only achieved because I was ‘in the flow’, in a ‘zone’; the usual self-inflicted pressure was off and I didn’t care about the outcome.  I was unleashed!

Composer©zoomDrawing with coloured pencils is extremely satisfying.  It’s just so very simple – all that is required is some paper, pencils and a sharpener.  And the results are gratifyingly fast…no drying time required.

I’ll have to cultivate this – in future, I’ll try not to try.

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…..

I’ve forgotten how to art

I’ve left it so long that I’ve forgotten how to paint; my neglected paintbrushes stare accusingly at me and I fear my paints will putrefy.

To remedy this I searched for a simple painting exercise and Google did not disappoint.  I chose a negative painting technique to try and capture something of the beautiful autumnal leaves before they disappear.

It was a surprise to find how much I enjoyed this technique, pushing the paint around without caring about the end result…it’s purely an exercise  It is one that I’ll use in future.

A bonus was that it also gave my brain an unexpected (much needed) workout.

My talented friend Carol King did some much softer, prettier versions, which I wish I’d found before I started mine.

Negative©Painting

Leaves©2014

  • Select three transparent colours and paint a light background wash using one or all.
  • It is important to allow each layer to dry completely.
  • When dry, draw some outline shapes of leaves (or whatever).  Then, in the negative spaces only, paint another wash, preferably in a darker tone.
  • Allow to dry completely.  The idea is to suggest shapes by painting around them.
  • Into these darker negative spaces, draw in additional shapes and continue with another wash into the negative spaces.
  • Continue building up these layers until you ae satisfied with the picture.
  • Try not to overwork it by losing some edges, softening with a water spray and facing towards the edges of the paper.
  • For better definition I refined the shapes with pastels and ink.

You are very welcome.

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!