My Step-daughter’s eldest boy was distinctly despondent that I’d painted his baby brother’s portrait before doing one of him – so I’ve taken the step towards getting back in his favour – although I doubt a four-year-old would appreciate the loose painting technique used here.
An initial sketch (see bottom of page) is usually best practice to familiarise myself with the features of the subject.
In order to obtain some kind of likeness to the subject, the first details of my focus are always the eyes, lips and nose, painted with fine brushes.
Squinty eyes and flat brushes were used to block in the darkest values, using plenty of water. Once dry, the lighter washes were blocked in, leaving the lightest areas untouched.
Finally, using a higher ratio of pigment to water, I went back to re-establish some of the darkest values. I probably shouldn’t divulge the fact that his face was very red in the photograph due to a recent bout of tears, abruptly halted with the appearance of a chocolate pudding.
The resemblance isn’t quite as close as aimed for, so aspiring to meet with the high expectations of a four-year-old lad is sufficient motivation to do it one more time. Watch this space.
I have just, rashly, entered my artwork to the first round of what is the largest and most longstanding (since 1789!) open submission contemporary art show in the United Kingdom, namely the 2017 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, with its prevailing trademark chaos.
Let the nail-biting commence.
The selection Process:
- 12,000 digital entries will be accepted online – judging 16 March
- 4,000 of these entries will be short-listed for the second round – judging 18 May
- Approximately 800 works will be chosen for the exhibition – final hangings 27 May
I know, right?
Ah well, at least I know that my entry fee will contribute towards a good cause; the funds raised by the exhibition go to the Royal Academy School – ensuring tuition for their students is free.
For the very last time (promise) I created a final, final, FINAL, ink drawn portrait of my youngest step-daughter, Ruth. For once the image is large, so if you want to examine it closely, click it about three times.
Fingers crossed….you just never know! ^^
The Summer Exhibition 2017 at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, runs from 13 June to 20 August.
** I didn’t get in after all – but it was fun to have a go.
It’s been such a joy painting this adorable face – he made me smile throughout the process.
Unfortunately, despite visiting two different scanning shops and taking many, many shots over three days, this woefully poor photo is the best image I got, which doesn’t do it justice.
As predicted, the watercolour study has evolved to become the final piece; smaller portraits have their merit and I’m quite satisfied with the result.
A light touch and a soft palette of transparent colours was necessary to reproduce that wonderfully delicate freshness of the little man’s flawless, peachy-soft baby skin. Greatly diluted, these watery colours were carefully built up in layers until I felt I’d ‘captured’ him enough to please his parents.
Despite intending to paint loosely, unless the main features are detailed, it’s difficult to achieve a proper likeness of the subject. In an attempt to make it more ‘painterly’ some splashes were added and I purposefully tried to fade out at the edges so that he wasn’t overwhelmed by the business of his clothing. I do like a slightly unfinished painting, but on this occasion, it was mostly due to the fear of messing it up with overworking.
Now all I need is to stop “Baby face, you’ve got the cutest little baby face” from playing on a continuous loop in my head.
Before embarking on a portrait, making a preliminary study sketch can help to familiarise yourself with the subject – once you begin putting down marks on the paper a relationship starts to form. Taking that first step will help to reveal what is important as you closely investigate the details of their features. As the study is usually carried out in a free and spontaneous manner, it is common to prefer the sketch to the finished portrait.
I plan to make a few more studies in watercolour as well as in ink before starting the final portrait of my step-daughter’s youngest son. When drawing his sweet little face I got totally carried away, so have learned not to overwork it….something I do a lot.
Since (unbelievably) that clown Donald Trump is US President Elect, our world has been turned into a circus…and it’s not funny. So I thought I’d give you at least one reason to smile by sharing this little cutie with you. This was all done using watercolour crayons.
I make no apologies for painting yet another watercolour of the same image of my step-daughter, Ruth. Inexplicably, this particular image fascinates me and I may still do one final, very loose version. For art to work, it’s important to do what satisfies you and to keep doing it – not what other people expect or what may sell – you have to do your own thing because that is your unique voice.
Watercolour is often thought of as a light, delicate medium. Used correctly, however, it has wonderful, intense depth. In this painting I took my cue from an exercise I did in negative painting. I built up numerous layers, using the most transparent colours from a fairly limited pallet:
- Quinacridone Gold
- Burnt Sienna
- Alizarin Crimson
- Phthalo Blue
- Ultramarine Blue
Despite watercolour being a fast-drying medium, waiting for each thin layer to dry wasn’t easy. Still, it provided the opportunity to stand back from my work and view it from a distance in order to evaluate it. Turning a painting upside down, viewing it in the mirror or via a photograph are other ways to help seeing it through ‘fresh eyes’.
Fifty percent of my art is detailed thinking – sometimes days of repeatedly going over the process in my head before getting the paints out. That being said, once the painting begins, I don’t really know what I’m doing and have to put my trust in the paint…but that’s creating!.
For once I’ve uploaded a large image, but you’ll need to click on it about three times to get the largest version.
So six months of chugging away for my Zazzle store has felt mind-numbingly tedious. Not that the actual designing is boring, more the (necessary) cross-media broadcasting that accompanies each and every single item.
Anyway, the possibility of emigrating to sunny Portugal now totally preoccupies me. I’ve attended overseas property exhibitions, examined online, plots of land for sale, researched property purchasing regulations and everything about private swimming pools – it’s addictive and so much fun! If this does happen, it won’t be until 2018 after my son complete his university studies.
I’m itching to paint and draw again. At the risk of being boring, I’m considering revisiting an image of my youngest step-daughter, the composition of which, inexplicably, still stimulates my creativity. Already drawn in pencil and ink, painted with watercolour – twice. This time I plan using a mixture of media and may give pastels a go.
Here to prove that I haven’t totally given up, is the ink version, but this time with some minor digital modifications.
“I sit before flowers, hoping they will train me in the art of opening up,”
So says modern poet Shane Koyczan.
For five days I’ve been sitting in front of “a host, of golden daffodils” willing them to train me in the art of capturing their glory in watercolours.
“I gazed-and gazed” but found that yellow on yellow is really difficult! Keep it loose and there’s not enough definition – add detail and it looks overworked. Whilst the paint was still wet I went back in with a watercolour crayon which seeemed to work fairly well. Oh and on the vase I used a white wax crayon to (kind of) define the water line.
Although after reading the very talented artist Kate Osborne’s excellent post on “Cropping” I tried this….
…but decided that this one is probably best? Actually, surprisingly, cropping is also more difficult than I assumed it would be.
Frustration aside, I enjoyed using my paints again – a necessary change from designing for my ** Zazzle store.
Ever the optimist, I plan doing some cutsie watercolours of themes suitable for children, which eill be incorporated into designs for greeting cards and various other items…you guessed…for my ** Zazzle store!
“And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.”
With apologies to William Wordsworth.
** I closed my Zazzle shop in March 2017
I’ve always wanted to paint flowers but held back because for some nebulous reason I feared they would be too difficult. Sometimes you just have to go for it. Watercolour is utterly perect for painting flowers!
These Crocosmias (I had to look them up) were painted on dry paper using luscious, raw, thick watercolour paint, straight out of the tube. Before the paint dried, I went back in with a clean, damp brush to tease out the coloour. A brush handle dipped in the paint became a handy mark maker.
One of my biggest challenges is knowing when to stop; I’ve ruined so many paintings at the last minute – although on this occasion I managed to step back in time….just.
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.
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.
It is important to allow the paint to dry properly between each glaze…something I’m particularly bad at.
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.
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.
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).
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!
In keeping with the minimalist theme, I’ll end here and see myself out.
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.
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!
Drawing 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.
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?
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!
Are you a follower of rules?
I recently underwent an epiphany whilst devouring a rare treat of a book, focusing on the raw drawings and watercolours of Egon Schiele, the Austrian Expressionist. It was edifying to note that this influential figurative artist characteristically left the backgrounds of many paintings unadorned or simply washed parts in a thin, flat, monochrome. A master of fine line, he conveying much with a minimum of detail. He did not bow to societal dictates.
An all-but audible ‘thunk’ occurred as my soggy neural structures were permeated: the copious purist ‘rules’ underpinning traditional techniques are not to be interpreted as rigid instruction – they are merely principles to guide. Fine, mock all you like!
It proved impossible to get this A2 image scanned so my abysmal photograph will have to do – if you click the image a few times it looks better larger. There’s some artistic licence with the guitar which was a struggle to accurately depict and the body proportions look wrong – which is strange since I conscientiously measured scale and ratios for the first time ever.
This study was, however, brazenly created in the knowledge that nobody will punish me for leaving the subject floating untethered on the paper. I’m free to vociferously outline in ink or crayon. Do I dare highlight with white paint? Do I dare disturb the universe?
Suddenly, I feel vaguely unloosened.
It could be said that this post leans toward self-indulgence but it is written in the hope that other artists who recognise my dilemma may even glean a morsel of comfort from reading it.
Since my earliest memories I’ve been told and accepted that I could draw and I admit that the act of being creative has immeasurably enhanced my existence. My passion was cutting hair but, since being enveloped in the vice-like embrace of M.E., hairdressing became impossible – so for two years I’ve been attempting to rediscover my self-taught drawing skills.
Inexplicably, for most of this year my energies have focused on torturing myself with self-induced pressure, whilst my innards wrestled enthusiastically. The harder I urged myself to produce, the more paralysed my hands and brain became – my illustrations became as rare as those metaphorical hens’ teeth.
Last year a very thoughtful artist friend sent me “The Artists Way” by Julia Cameron, which did the trick – even though I consider the author to be slightly dippy. After revisiting the book this week my rather arthritic recovery seems to have begun once more. It feels like I’ve been given permission to enjoy being creative…scandalous!
This is not a book endorsement – it is merely an attempt to point out how easily we can become so goal-orientated that we forget to enjoy the process. So intently focused on becoming an Illustrator was I that I froze and became afraid of failing.
In addition, it is often hugely intimidating to observe the mass of incredibly talented individuals abounding on the internet – a glance at the work of some of my Twitter associates perfectly demonstrates my point.
Apparently my anxiety at feeling I have to produce something ‘great’ every time has blocked my creativity and the remedy is to take small steps rather than large leaps. I was setting impossible goals for myself.
Today, after a good mental slap, I treated myself. I sketched my son and muse solely for my own pleasure, without concentrating on best technique or medium. Don’t think I’m there yet but I hope to keep it up!