As we approach the end of another year, I find myself wondering where this website is heading and what to do with it. Even in amongst all the end-times turmoil, artists and crafts-people still paint, draw and make things; it was the same in the Depression years of the 1930s. The bulk of my pictures has been in pastel and I'm not intending to cease using them; they provide my main route to realistic landscapes and floral subjects. I do however find an equal pull towards experimental work (in any medium) and I'd like to find a way of doing and including more of that. This invariably means reshaping the website somewhat, to get a balance.
Doing landscape work obviously requires being out there in it, but this is not happening so much for me these days and I can rarely get an opportunity to simply sit, at my leisure, to paint or draw something "live". My approach relies much on recall, and taking home a general "feel" for the day and place, plus photos. Sometimes a painting will emerge, sometimes not. To balance this, I tackle some abstract-colour exercises. These don't require being on any location and call on the inner imagery of the painter instead, using shape, colour-schemes or mixed materials.
I would normally have one more post this year, around the middle of December, but my output has now slowed almost to a standstill, so I think this will be it for a while...into 2024 .
Urban Night ; acrylic on paper 5 x 4 inches inches approx.
Have abandoned plan to put pictures on Ebay; I do not like the system they use to add people's banking details for selling items/receiving payments. They want you to log in to your bank account through a third-party interface, using your confidential passwords...mmmm...
So....small aceo-size paintings have been added today to the Small Paintings section; that is, 2.5 x 3.5 inches. Here is one of them, on oil-paper:
Farne Island lighthouse; oils on oilpaper 2.5 x 3.5 inches (62 x 89mm approx).
Due to technical problems with Ebay I've had to delay my plan to post up ACEO cards. Another week or two and I should have it sorted. Not much else being done on the new painting front in terms of traditional scenes; I am feeling a need for change, for a while; something exploratory, abstract even, or imaginary.
Moored Up at Pontymoile: pastel on pastelmat card 14 x 10 inches.
A quiet scene on the Monmouth and Brecon canal, just past Bridge 51. The canal winds deep into the shaded woodlands, while sunlight strikes the flowered foreground and more distant treetops. The boats, to my mind, never seem to move; I have now walked through here several times and they always seem to be in exactly the same place.
I am giving some consideration to placing small artworks over at Ebay. Having lost a gallery membership last month due to its closure, I am now short on options. They are likely to be ACEO -sized cards (3.5 x 2.5 inches), and will vary somewhat in medium and subject. These small cards can, if wished, take ages to paint and that is actually what I DON'T want to do, because they tend to retail at low prices. However, their size is very easy to manage on a worktop or in a pochade painting-box; and especially useful when the artist might be reduced to painting by candlelight or battery-torch when the electricity fails this winter.....and it will, believe me.
I already have a small number of "minis" that have been sitting around for two or three years; and a few more are in mind, as potential creations. I'll be keeping the more time-consuming larger work for local exhibitions later in the year. What I will do is (probably) put a note over at the Small Art page when any little pieces are posted at Ebay. They will be oils, I think; maybe gouache, depending on how quickly I want things to dry.
Severn View Industrial Park Buildings, Gloucs: gouache on cartridge paper 12 x 8 inches.
Have spent a little time playing with gouache on cartridge paper; as well as finishing a new pastel and starting two very small oil paintings. More on those next time. Today's picture explores the use of gouache on paper that is not generally used for watercolour painting, but appears to be fine if it is carefully stretched before use. The subject is a rather iconic building on an industrial park, alongside the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal. I have photographed it many times. It is a prominent white building, very box-like; a regular perching point for pigeons, and a loading-bay for lorries.
The composition was drawn lightly in pencil, without too much detail. The expanse of sky was broken up by the shape of the building, so this was the starting-point to put in sky colours. Rather than slavishly follow Nature's grey-coloured sky for that particular day, I elected to use an underwash of pink gouache, followed by strokes of blue-grey over the top. Some of the pink wash found its way to other areas. Working gradually downwards, the building was defined in similar colours (later to be worked over in pale-yellow-white); the side buildings pretty much drawn in with the brush, in grey-blue and brown shades; warmer colours for the righthand side buildings. The lower half of the picture presented more challenges; especially marking in the positions and shapes of the lorries, subjects that I don't recall ever attempting to paint in my lifetime. Below that, the canal water required colour, but not too much; and ripples, but not too many. A semi-mirrored effect was the goal.
The end result has a slight "poster" effect, which I find rather interesting, and seemingly suited to sharp-edged subjects such as buildings. The cartridge paper (around 150gsm weight) performed surprisingly well, being quite absorbent but not dulling the colours too much. Even the wrinkles settled out on their own. There are heavier-weight cartridge and drawing papers which will no doubt perform even better. I hope to try this again if I can decide on a new scene. I noticed, after scanning this picture, that I had left out the windows at the top of the building; I'll have to add them in carefully now!
George Inn, Laycock, Wiltshire: Pastel on Canson paper 11 x 8 inches.
Although a lack of actual finished work, I have been idling along playing with ideas for pictures. Today's piece is on Canson Mi-Teinte paper, one which I don't use much these days, preferring the grittier card that holds more pastel. In this case, though, I was using harder pastels and pastel-pencils from the Conte range and also Carbothello. The honeycomb pattern on the paper's "wrong" side (or right side, depending on your point of view) helps create some texture. This old inn is part of Laycock village in Wiltshire. I liked the steep roof and white frontage. I would like to do this again using gouache paint and see what happens.
Path to the Topiary: Pastel on Pastelmat card 6 x 12 inches.
The hot weather tends to drain most painting energy, however I've completed a few small-scale works and this is one of them Derived from a line drawing, photo and recollections of a sultry afternoon, this garden scene is actually just a section of the original view. I was mainly interested in the path leading towards sculptured hedges in the middle distance.
I am sorry to learn that the Original-ArtUnder100 gallery is being closed down in the near future. It has been good being a member-artist there. I have enjoyed placing affordable works there, but nothing in life is permanent so I've forwarded my best wishes to the team and must now move on (as they say). I shall continue to post a new piece here as and when it is complete, just as I have always done...all things allowing. I have slacked off my oil-painting at present (too much heat) and am dabbling around with watercolour; a medium that still interests me especially for sketchy work and imaginative ideas. It is also very demanding and not as simple as amateur magazines make out.
Finally, before I forget; at some point I'll be combining two of the landscape painting pages into one; pages titled available2b and available 2c will be merged and be re-titled as archive. This allows some older work to drop off, and others to be kept on view for a bit longer. This will be done in the next week or so, so don't be surprised if you get a 404 error page---I'm still here.
Summer Flowers, Stroudwater Canal: Pastel on Pastelmat card 14 x 10 inches.
Another scene from the Stroudwater Canal area in Gloucestershire. This one began as a large tree with most focus on the distant bridge; but as it developed I realised there would be a lot of work trying to create the huge mass of flowers in the foreground. The whole array has been worked on a ground of magenta-coloured pastel, most of which is now covered, but it has left tinges of pink in the greenery and stems.
Right, now the rest of June is very busy for me so not much painting will get done, in terms of finished work; some date in July probably will be the next post from me. I hope to have some work on show at Backwell, North Somerset at the end of July, although I haven't as yet decided which pictures to put in. Exhibitions can be troublesome at times because people might "expect" you to display certain themes; and I have certainly gone off on some tangents this past twelve months. However, art can be a selfish thing and I choose generally to satisfy my own interests over and above what is "expected"; the recent floral display in a blue jug is one of very few that I've done in that genre over many months; that's the way it goes. Sat in the wings at present is a small coastal oilpainting; and a slim vertical garden-theme pastel. By the time of my next post I will have hopefully added to that.
(In Progress)Little Blue Jug: Pastel-pencil on Pastelmat card 8 x 10 inches.
Today's piece is a fairly small floral study, done mainly with pastel pencils and finished off with a small amount of softer pastel medium. This particular card takes pastel-pencil very well due to its smooth surface. The jug is only a few inches high in reality, so has been a bit enlarged in this particular portrayal. Sometimes thick pastel sticks can be a bit clumsy for little flowers; by starting with the pencils and then adding more powdery softer pastel, the flowers can be built up gradually. It's almost finished; just the shadow to sort out.
I am having a huge tidy-up in my work room and a total re-organisation of my kit. I am boxing things up as ergonomically as I can, in terms of ease of access as well as space. There are two large boxes of oil-paints, they're fairly well organised and will remain as they are. Framed work that remains unsold..., well, most of them are "keepers" so they won't be going anywhere, but the frames can be re-used if desperate. I have created a second large cardboard sliding box for storing my completed pastels that are awaiting assessment for frames.
I've bought a second-hand wooden storage box with two drawers; this will hold all my pastel-pencils and one of the drawers will hold my new Toison d'Or pastels. It will probably sit on the floor; I have only space for one table and that is already well-populated with stuff. Why does all this need doing? It is necessary to de-clutter every now and then; in such a small room it is easy to trip over something and at my age I can't afford to do that too often, if at all.
Pastels need slightly specialised and prepared paper (a modest gritty surface). Oils can be done on oil-paper, gessoboard, canvas, mdf board, even hardboard; similarly so can acrylics. It means these are rather more versatile than pastel, in terms of surfaces to work on. I have favoured oils or acrylics for very small work; sadly in recent times I haven't been doing as many as I would like. During my tidy-up, I found a whole pile of pre-cut boards which are instantly available for small paintings. I really ought to get on with it!.
Runway: In Progress; oils on paper.
Getting work actually finished is proving to be slow and laborious, due to unexpected property problems and being dragged away from home to do other work. I usually like to paint in the morning, just before lunchtime; or if not, then just after, when I am least disturbed. Not, however, during the second half of this month, which has robbed me of many painting sessions. However....hence the reason for a work-in-progress image. This picture is on oil-paper and is taking shape reasonably well. The swans have a woodland backdrop here, since they live on a large parkland lake. The intention is to have them zipping along the water surface in take-off mode. When it will get finished I don't know...
I have a small group of mini-abstracts on the go; I like to do these as a contrast to realistic scenes, where colours can be played with, placed alongside each other, removed and re-positioned. One is near done now. The others have cold wax in them and will take a lot longer, but I have other projects to keep me going. Recently added a set of new, slightly harder, pastels to my work-box calld Toison d'Or. Irritatingly they don't seem to be available as single sticks, so when they run down I might be stuck for replacements....but we shall see. Everything is headed for being in short supply, I am future-proofing myself to be honest. Next month will see me on a sizeable spend-out...pastel paper especially. When the world's finances finally hit the fan, I'm not going to be caught out with no materials.
Old Warehouses, Trent & Mersey Canal; oil-pastel 12x9 inches
A very experimental work, this scene has been created on black paper. The oil-pastel has been applied in traditional style. Black paper (actually thin card) tends to dull the darker colours because they can tend to be a little translucent. Conversely, the lighter colours really stand off the page. In this instance it worked well enough for these old buildings, encountered several decades ago while travelling by canal-boat. I have no idea whether the buildings are still there or not. The photo I took at the time was on slide-film; the slide was scanned into the computer in recent years. I've actually painted the view a couple of times, though not totally successfully. This very gloomy atmosphere however seems to suit the buildings (and it was pouring with rain at the time the photo was taken).
A small oil painting has been started last week; nothing to show as yet. I have had a few days of experimenting with media and methods that tend to only be seen in the realm of children's art, which is a pity because the potential for interesting large abstracts in the "grown-up" world is considerable. Sometimes you don't get an instruction-book, you have to make it up as you go along. Devising one's own methods takes time and a fair amount of sitting around thinking, coupled with messing up lots of sheets of paper.It is, however, a balance against the often highly-strung thinking processes of producing a "pure" pastel or oil work.
At the time of putting this post up, I'm somewhat the worse for wear, healthwise, so haven't done any work at all for a few days; hopefully it will pass and I can get on with something again. I need to post up one or two recent works to the for-sale pages but just haven't got round to doing it; Boathouse and St Cyr's will go there in due course.
High Summer, Lady Farm Gardens; pastel 14 x 10 inches
Another pastel completed, this one of a garden which is open to the public during summer months. It is a long time since I visited it, I took quite a few photos at the time as well as some sketches, but didn't have the confidence to turn them into full paintings. However, this one materialised as the result of reading some of my old books on Impressionism. I liked the way that trees were often constructed from many patches of colour. It's rather tricky to build layers with dry pastels, but I aimed for some broken colour and tried not to indicate every last leaf.
Experiments with oil pastels are ongoing; I am working on a 14x10 inch sheet at the moment and realising that it uses up an awful lot of oilpastel sticks. I think smaller works will probably be best for these; having said that, the experts create large pieces so it's not impossible. It's also a case of deciding what kind of subjects are suited to this medium; simplified, not over-detailed, impressionist, would be a good way to go.
St Cyr's Church, Stroudwater; pastel 14 x 10 inches
It's a month since my last update; just too much going on. I have a few small projects materialising themselves but they aren't anywhere near ready as finished paintings.
Today's picture started off as a sketch of the church, then this was transferred to Pastelmat card. Although pastels are a bit soft for architectural features, I've managed to get near enough to the type of warm summery final image I wanted. There may be more of similar subjects in due course.
St Helen's, Lundy; pen and oil-pastel 8x8 inches
I have a liking for technical fine-line pens. In my drawing-box I have several sizes of Sakura Micron pens; I choose these because they offer two very fine nibs, coded 005 and 003. The slender lines possible with these are excellent for small drawings and details.
It is some while since I spent time on line-drawing but several ideas that I have currently for pastel work will require a reasonably decent drawn-out foundation....so I need to get on with it and practise. Today's image isn't aimed at being painted, but it might form an idea in the future. The drawing was started lightly in pencil on cream-tinted Ingres paper, before inking over using black technical pens.
Ingres paper isn't ideal for heavy application of soft pastel---it just dusts off---so I used white and blue oil-pastels instead, for the sky area. About ten years ago I had quite a lot of oil-pastels, but never managed to really find a technique for myself, so I eventually sold them off. However; I'm now feeling a lot more confident about my ability to experiment and explore media, so I've bought myself a group of 30 oil-pastels and plan to start again with them.
Finally; I've made a new drawings page with a few small examples; it is not as yet linked up properly with the main website, however. I'll add to it as and when something new has been completed.
The Boathouse, Llanover, Wales; pastel 14 x 10 inches (35x25cm)
This is an old house with a "docking station" once used for a boat.
I'm not doing a lot at the moment. A few pen and ink drawings; a prototype webpage with small drawings on; a pencil sketch of a small church, being prepared for a pastel work about the same size as today's image. It's too cold in the work room to concentrate much, even with the heater on. The simple line drawing work can be done in a warmr room, though. Maybe one or two more by next post.
We And Our Shadows; pastel 6x6 inches (15x15cm)
At the end of last year I had a few pictures in progress. One project started off as a small oil painting of fruit, leading to a pastel of the same grouping.Working with fruit, like flowers, can be tricky when the said objects decide to wilt or go soft. My pear and apple were both looking decidedly wrinkled after a ten-day pose perched on a couple of flat canvas-boards. I took a few photos of them before they reached this state.
The main picture today is just six by six inches (15 x 15cm) and came about as the result of a "technical breakdown" of its predecessor (picture 2 below). Painting 2 successfully created the apple and pear, plus base...and then things went astray. The smaller pastel took its cue from what I learned in the first effort; apple and pear were created within an hour, leaving me to decide the colours for the background which was originally a dull brown. The use of a dark blue-ish purple and dark magenta, intermixed as fairly wide strokes, seemed to solve the problem.
Painting 2 broke down as I put, to begin with, a much lighter background in order to display the shadows. I didn't like the result and proceeded to brush it off; having filled the tooth of the paper I painted clear gesso on top, to provide new tooth. This normally dries quite quickly but for some reason remained tacky in places. Being reluctant to scrap the work altogether, I wiped the gesso away, left it all to dry, then applied oil paint with a palette-knife. Now, the pastel-paper was Colorfix and does have some ability to take oils on its surface...but I am unsure about whether it is technically sound. In any case, having somewhat ruined the piece, I had elected to turn experimental with it....so just pushed on to see what would happen. Sometimes you have to accept a loss, and then play around with it.
We And Our Shadows II ; pastel with oils 8x8 inches (20x20 cm)
The third image....there isn't one....yet... is an oil painting of the same fruit, done on an mdf panel. I have wished for some time to make myself get more paint into the image construction, by way of using either liquin impasto or cold wax; I have to overcome my tendencies to be a skinflint when quantities of paint are involved. Liquin plus paint dries quite quickly; cold wax does not, and can be worked for a long time, it also gives a matt finish to the painted surface. Which to choose? I haven't decided yet.....this one will be a while before completion.
Start of 2023 newspage. Last post from 2022 is below. Minor changes on the website: pricelist has been discontinued, due to reduction in the number of paintings shown. 2021 newsletter now replaced by the 2022 equivalent. Next update here around the end of first week in January.
Bridge 85, Mon and Brec Canal, Wales 14 x 10 inches
What to do for what is probably my last post of 2022? Taped to their respective boards are two completed pastel pictures, both depicting a scene along the Monmouth and Brecon canal. Recently finished also is a small sketch of a green pear on more traditional Canson paper. Across the room is an oil-board, in the early stages of a small fruit still-life. Alongside it is the outline sketch, in white pastel on paper. Finally, sat inside a pochade box is a little 4x3 inch oil-painting which may, or may not, make it successfully to completion. I do not have just the one work ongoing, at any time; there is always at least one other.
There is little doubt that a dry medium has many advantages. No water, oils or turps to tip up all over you. Everything contained safely in a box or two. This applies whether you're indoors or out. The main disadvantage is in having to have a sizeable number of pastels to hand, AND be able to carry them around. I have occasionally taken with me a "reduced box" of colours, only to find that actually the ones I really needed for the scene that day had been left at home. In recent years I have made a lot more use of my camera as a sketch-tool, as well as doing pencil drawings. When I say camera, I mean a proper one, not a smartphone snapper. The resulting photos remind me of the day and place and various details, but at the same time I find it important to make mental notes of light quality, inner sensations, state of the mind etc that related directly to that place and the reason I was there. These latter elements are things that a camera cannot record, but are essential to try and lift the resulting painting up from being merely a depiction of the place, and make it into something more special.
In today's picture, the canal was quiet, flowing silently below autumn-coloured trees; not filled with sunlight but rather dimmed due to the density of the trees. I was on a twelve-mile walk, no time to stop and paint. After taking photos, a period of time was spent mentally absorbing the feel of the area, like a sponge.
Back home, some days later, the picture was started with hard pastel-pencils and conte carre hard colour sticks. There is virtually no soft pastel in this one at all, which will explain why it looks more muted than my usual offerings. The dark shady areas were laid in first using many hundreds of cross-hatched lines, of dark blue, purple, deep red....mainly the deep dark colours. The bridge was placed with a white pencil early on, to get the picture balanced and allow all the other areas to be laid down. Paler greens and ochres were added in more sunny areas to assist with contrast and then develop the darker regions where required. Towards the end the sunlit edges of the bridge were added; fixative used on the really dark regions to permit further colour overlay. The end result is intended to be one of contrasts; quiet shaded tree-dense banks set alongside sunlit edges and patches. Hard pastels have a tendency to dull down somewhat when fixative is applied; the use of some soft pastel on top helps to revitalise colour where needed. I may yet add some to the right, where shadows were very dark but the leaves clearly visible as tan-gold colour.
That's it for 2022. With many thanks to all who have made purchases this year, I hope you are still happy with them. The new write-up for 2023 will start around...well, probably end of first week in January. Delivery of any purchases will be via other couriers, I won't be using Royal Mail until their backlogs have been cleared. So happy Christmas to all, have a good New Year and will see you in '23.