Lead Shot Tower, Bristol. Acrylic 12 x 16 inches. £140 plus postage
Not much writing for this post; too many other far more important concerns ongoing. This painting is in the same style as Bristol Bridge, using the same palette of clours. I have a third one in progress on canvas-board. Both this and last week's pictures are available through me or Original-Art-Under100.com
Bristol Bridge Skyline; acrylic 16x12 inches.£140 plus postage
My playtime over the past few weeks has been most productive. For a long time I have battled to find suitable subjects to use acrylic paint for. Many years back I was using it for large flower abstracts, but was never fully satisfied with the outcomes. I have always felt that acrylic is not suited (in my hands at least) to "natural" subjects; the paint is plasticky and tends towards hard edges. However, I may have now solved some of the puzzles. Following several sessions of watercolour painting, I had accumulated a few botched sheets of paper and decided to gesso over the failed work. On top of this, I decided to paint some buildings and pulled out the acrylic paints to use.
The main picture above is on canvas, but the one below was the first "exploratory", on a sheet of 140lb NOT paper (can't remember if it was a sheet of Bockingford or a Daler Rowney finegrain...). The picture I worked from was available on a Lenovo tablet beside me; a photo I had taken a couple of years ago. One or two of the buildings in the photo had already been subjects for me earlier in the year, just general drawing and outlines on cartridge paper, so it wasn't a totally unfamiliar scene. Anyway, I reckoned on working this picture out carefully, based on flat shapes and a bright colour scheme. The buildings really are that colour, especially in bright sunlight.
I was surprised at the fact that most of the painting was completed without much pencil drawing; I restricted the palette to black, white, cadmium red, thalo blue and cadmium yellow, plus a small amount of ultramarine blue. The watercolour paper tends to absorb paint, providing a somewhat matte finish to the image. I used a little polymer medium but not too much, because it can make the image look shiny and plastic-like. I aimed to not overwork the piece and finally stopped after about two and a half hours. It was as a result of this effort that the second version on canvas was painted; again, the same colours and same block-like simple approach to the buildings. This time the colours remained clearer and more satisfying, since a little polymer medium was used but not absorbed into the surface, as was the case with the paper.
I probably spent most time on the bridge, since this required some colour-mixing work to get a range of shades for the stonework. The bus and cars were all added with smaller brushes, keeping mainly to the same colour-scheme. The water was actually brighter but I kept it toned down so as not to distract from the busy skyline. In the end I was very pleased with this piece, especially it being in a medium that I don't often use. I have some other ideas now for more urban pictures; my plan will be to sketch them out first, to see if they will "shape up" as suitable themes. The other interesting aspect I discovered was the return to canvas; I have for some time been preferring solid panels and boards, especially for oils. The canvas tooth on this particular panel was sufficiently low-profile to avoid interfering with the painted image; but enough to allow for some "scrub" techniques.
Resting Up; watercolour 15x11 inches approx.
I'm in the mode of not producing much serious completed work at the present time. I have been pretty much flat out at creating work since April 2020 and the energies are low; so for a while I'll be experimenting with new ideas and methods, to see if anything can be incorporated into my usual subjects. If something new is added to any of the gallery pages then I'll post; or else an occasional, casual post just on here. These playtimes involve a lot of seemingly wasted paper, scribbles, half-finished scenes and re-purposed old canvas-boards. They mean nothing to anyone else, but are necessary to explore. Today's picture is one such exploration; a very simple picture (in terms of content).
It has been extracted from a fairly so-so photograph of boats in the small harbour at Minehead. You can see the photo below.
There isn't a huge amount of detail, the colour is a bit bleached out and the boats themselves are quite simple constructions (in terms of drawing, not mechanics). What is to hand, however, is tonal contrast, something which I think, in watercolour especially, is important to have. The photo allowed me to draw the outline of each boat on a fresh sheet of Langton Prestige watercolour paper, using a watersoluble graphite pencil. Once these outlines were satisfactorily in place, I could begin painting the wet sands around them.
I was fortunate to hit on a satisfying combination of raw sienna and ultramarine blue, and using sepia for the darker areas; with occasional input from Paynes Grey. While various areas dried, I started on the boats; the larger white one had a nice contrast of bright light and shadow. The upper boat was facing away from the sun and was a lot darker in tone. Sticking with the same colours as the sand, I painted in the hull lightly with raw sienna, then various mixes of sienna, blue and paynes grey applied to get the darker shadowed parts. It is a rather comical boat when viewed at this angle, with its flat top and little windows, but there are countless numbers of this kind all round the coasts.
A little more paint added to the beach areas and then the picture was left to dry till the next day, when white gouache was used to place in the boat's letters and numbers. A touch of viridian green along its roofline, a little outlining of the windows with a coloured graphite pencil. Finally the placement of rope and a couple of long chains. I stopped at this point. I think the white boat could be given more contrast between its roof and the rear of the cabin, but sometimes you have to just stop messing with things (especially in watercolour). This version is actually the second one; the first attempt was done in acrylic inks on the reverse side of an old watercolour sheet. The ink spread everywhere because the sizing of the paper wasn't very good on the back-side, but it allowed me to do a very rough exploration of the subject. I am estimating that I shall be doing this quite often....that is, drawing and painting a subject more than once; maybe using different media. One such subject is ongoing now, as I put this article together, so it may well be the topic for the next post, if I can get it finished.
K&A Canal, near Crofton; watercolour 15x11 inches approx (unfinished)
painting was scanned in two halves.
Hot weather has kept me out of the work-room for quite a number of days. With a website pretty much now full up with paintings, I have not been so pressed to complete anything of substance. With exhibitions still a distant memory and unlikely to restart any time soon without the idiocy of social distancing and full-blown PPE, the reluctance to keep "producing" has been quite considerable. Most of my paintings reflect places that I have visited deliberately, for the purpose of painting; or else have called to me to be done, from the sketches and photos collected on a more casual basis. I have sometimes looked through scribbly drawings from several years back, to discover a possible painting. A recent drawer clear-out revealed a few watercolours that might be revisited....to be used as the starting-points for a fresh painting of that particular subject. Right now, I am in an "open" mode, open to any medium, any direction.
Last time I said I had discovered some interesting effects on the wrong side of a watercolour sheet. Today's image was painted on the wrong side of a sheet of Langton Prestige cold-pressed (140lb). The "correct" side had got blemishes from storage and although I did use it for an experimental exercise, I gave it up partway through; deciding to turn it over and start something else. The picture itself was first drawn a few years ago in coloured graphite on cartridge paper; I used it as the mental start-point for this second version on the watercolour paper. Having put in a few guiding outlines, I started painting....only to find that the paint was travelling all over the place, diffusing from one area to another. It was like painting on white sheets of PastelMat card, which has a similar tendency to allow colour to spread everwhere. I kept going with the addition of more paint, but it was clear that the work was going to do its own thing. I therefore kept the shapes simple, added colour on top of colour and just hoped that something sensible would come out of it all.
It finally reached a point where the image had, in fact, captured a considerable amount of the "green" atmosphere and gentle edges of the vegetation, plus calm water. Once the canal boat was marked in, I decided to stop. The water should have been a few shades darker; given the unpredictability of this paper, I decided not to chance it.
I am learning that my method tends to be very wet-on-wet; subsequently I am steering towards rougher paper in future, also heavier-weights of 200lb and upwards. Langton Prestige paper (on the right side) has a nice "tooth" that I have rather liked in the past, while using a small watercolour pad; I prefer it to Bockingford.
My small abstracts project has come to a halt for the time being; the work-room needs to be a bit cooler before returning to the oils. I am wondering what mileage there might be in watercolour (or watermedia) abstract ideas; they generally work best in larger sizes. I have an art book from the 1970's that covers a lot of watermedia abstracts and the possibilities are enormous. Being mindful of supplies shortages and delivery problems, I intend to keep my work at modest dimensions.
Purton Wrecks; watercolour 15 x 11 inches approx.
I have been "re-training" myself on watercolours. It is a medium which depends quite a lot on good quality paper and this is an area where I have technical knowledge but not enough practical hours under the belt. Much also depends on what I currently have in my paper "stock" to use. Today's picture is on 140lb cold-pressed Fabriano Artistico; cut from a full-sized sheet so that I knew which was the "right" and "wrong" side. These past couple of weeks I have worked on the wrong side of sheets of paper, before realising that the paint-handling was not going the way I expected it to. Result; give up, turn the paper over and re-stretch.
Today's subject is one that I have had in mind to do for some while. This is probably why it virtually painted itself from start to finish; despite my lack of time spent with the medium, the paper accepted the washes beautifully and it all formed itself within a couple of hours (session 1). The sky went in, using Payne's grey and a smidge of blue, using one major wash and a couple of smaller ones. The grass-covered boats were painted directly with very little pre-drawing (I was lucky there!) and grassy banks extended up and to the right. The next session saw the completion of sand, rough grasses and ridge-top trees. I rather surprised myself with this one and it has given me some confidence to move on and try more. The wrecks are scattered all along the line of the River Severn, in the Purton/Sharpness area, Gloucestershire. There is a website dedicated to their history if you are interested in reading more. My own painting was done from photos, I have taken quite a lot in this area and plan to go back at some time in the future, for more.
Hoping to try out a few other makes of watercolour paper in the coming weeks, to get a feel for what I might be comfortable with. At the moment I think it'll be my native paper, Saunders Waterford...I was born only a couple of miles from the mill. I re-stocked with Sennelier watercolour tubes, so have plenty enough to get on with. The "wrong" sides of watercolour paper can usually be painted on, but there is no doubt that the resulting images can be unexpected. Next time I'll post an example of this. Next time will be some time in August, all things permitting.
Willows and Rainstorm; oil, 12x12 inches approx.
While dabbling around with watercolour, I also prepped myself up for another oil painting on paper. I returned to the oilbox as the weather cooled down somewhat and made my workroom a bit more habitable. The early stages of this piece were brushed in with a two-inch wide bristle brush, emulating the streaky curtains of rain from the cloud-base. Background hills and then flat fields were added, making the stage for the willow trees. These were painted in by brush, but I also resorted to the use of an oil-pastel crayon for some of the tree-trunks. A square-edged bristle brush was used for a number of the upright branches; thicker paint added for the leaves, including some scrapings from a pale yellow waxy oil-bar. The foreground grasses and growth were applied using oils with some cold wax, worked into and over with an oil-bar, to give more texture and bring it forward in the picture.
I now have a small gallery showing at www.onlinegallery.art. I don't know how this one will go for me, to be honest, but it gets a lot of visitor-traffic and isn't too costly to be a member of. It is also very wide-ranging in its imagery, so some of my more "out there" pieces will fit in quite well. During July I have a lot of other commitments which will cut across my usual painting time, so there may not be another finished piece until later this month. I've now replenished the watercolour stocks and I'm hoping this will allow me to start exploring its possibilities further, especially with regard to time available....oils consume quite a bit of time, and on occasions I wish to produce some more lightweight, sketchy kinds of paintings that don't take quite so long. They can also be looked upon as exploratory with a view to producing an oil or pastel, based on them, later on.
Somerset Waters; watercolour 13 x 9 inches approx.
After a few weeks of very hot weather, my little attic work-space has pretty much overheated and therefore I have stopped my oil-painting for a short while. The small moorland scene has progressed a bit but will wait now for a cooler spell. I can't decide on my next pastel, being torn between a woodland scene and a floral. It may come down to a toss of a coin. Meanwhile; today's picture is a little unusual because it's a watercolour. I have been looking at a particular water-scene photo for some time now and have simply not been able to decide what medium to paint it with. It didn't feel "pastelly" and didn't have the character of an oil painting; so just for once I prepared up a sheet of Fabriano paper and hauled out the watercolour storage box.
The medium involves working light to dark, which I hardly ever do when using oils or pastel. It seems to need a gentle and careful start, lightly, then building colour and tone towards the darkest darks. Getting rid of mistakes isn't always straightforward, though I have less fear these days of handling that; dabbing with tissue or heading for the cold-water tap sorts out most. This particular scene was a stretch of water on a bird reserve, with cool overheading lighting and a good deal of greenery. I started it without any pencil-drawing, going in for the sky straight away and trying to get a blue-grey that was varied but not too heavy-looking. The background hill went in next, with light red and ultramarine. Three groups of quite dark trees were indicated by using lighter greens and then continuing the tree-line both left and right with the same colour.
I have tried to use a limited number of colours; the greens were made from ultramarine, aureolin, gamboge yellow and a little cobalt blue now and then; mixed and varied somewhat intuitively. For the darker greens I tried to use burnt umber with blue, but discovered that the burnt umber tube was solid. My only alternative was a sepia brown; not ideal, but I watered it down and played around awhile to see what could be done with it. The reed bed on the right began with aureolin and then a wash of raw sienna here and there. Moving on down the sheet, the water and reeds were left till the end; my initial blue-grey wash dried lighter than hoped for, and was redone the following day. After this, reflections for the distant trees, and addition of a reed clump. A damp tissue helped to soften some washes that had acquired hard edges.
Watercolours are easy to overwork. I could have continued in some areas but knew that such approaches often lead to total ruin. This one was ok, apart from the fact that I didn't initially take the sky washes right to the edges of the paper and found it near impossible to do it afterwards. I need to review my watercolour storebox because I am missing a couple of key colours; if I am going to push on with another picture then I shall need them.
Floodwater, by Andersea: pastel on pastelmat card 12x12 inches approx.
It's not often I use a very grainy pastel-card for my pictures because these surfaces eat up a lot of pastel. In the case of today's picture I wanted to emphasise the very luminous sky and sometimes a slightly rougher paper does the trick. The Somerset Levels offer miles and miles of flat land with endless lines of trees and this scene is no exception. But add a little floodwater and things become more interesting. With a low horizon, sunsets here can be long ribbons of colour. The trees become almost (but not quite) black and floodwater mirrors the sky. Reeds and grasses are almost always in the picture.
Despite being away from my pastels for some months, the latest pieces have gone along quite well and I am now contemplating the next few. I have a small moorland oil painting still ongoing and at the time of writing I am sorting out how to handle the tangled tree in its foreground.Any visitor coming here looking for floral paintings will see I haven't done much with them for some time; I have felt that flowers have been less popular on online galleries in recent times and with no physical exhibitions to aim for I have been lacking interest. The garden hasn't been very productive either. However...some daisies are on their way now, so if I can find myself an interesting container, there might well be a new subject forthcoming.
One disappointment this week, the discovery that Unison pastels have discontinued some of my favourite colours. It means I have to go hunting around other brands to find close matches for what I need. Fortunately there are enough of them, so things should be fine, but it doesn't give me a lot of confidence to support one maker if they keep cutting out colours. They can't be mixed together like oils; a certain amount of blending is possible but there are limits. I have never relied solely on one brand but this incident just goes to show that you shouldn't.
Cheddar Gorge Walk: pastel on pastelmat card 18 x 13 inches approx. Update: now available £125 plus £15 postage.
I've had an acrylic project on the go for a number of days but have reached a frustration point with it and now set it aside for a while. The poor weather has deterred me from getting out and around for new insights and, subsequently, I have fallen back on photos and sketches from earlier months. Today's image is a pastel painting...finally, after some months of inactivity on the pastel front! I have had this scene in mind for some while, after walking the route during the middle of last year. Having hauled out the pastel boxes, I then sorted through my papers; initially selecting a sheet of Sennelier pastel-card to work on. Despite getting a good start with the underpainting, I found a flaw in the textured surface after about an hour's work....rather surprising, since it is normally a very good product. I set it aside, with the plan to start again the next day on a new sheet.
And so...off again, this time with a PastelMat sheet measuring 20 x 14 inches. This is rather large for me, so I was surprised to find that in fact my work was progressing quite nicely. I used what I had learned the previous day; colour selection in particular. I wanted the impression of a clear blue sky with bright light to the left, along with some heat haze (pink). This view was especially interesting, taking the eyes down towards sunlit rock faces, contrasted on the other side of the gorge with shadowy masses of dark trees and bare rock. Then on again, into the far distance across the wide-spreading moors. These areas were pastelled first and established. Having spent three hours, I deferred to the following day, when the bulk of work was carried out on the foreground grass and scrubby brackens. I added in one of the Mendip's typical straggly trees, which was conveniently positioned to point the way to the distant rock faces.
You won't see it in the picture, but all the bracken on the left was originally quite detailed...too much so, too much of a detraction. I brushed it down to soften the lines. Another three hours spent...enough. Set it aside. It is easy to overwork. I will look over it once more before committing it finally to the website.
Blue and White: oils on gessoboard 12x9 inches approx. £110 plus £12 delivery(UK).
You can enquire and reserve this work by visiting my Contact pagefor details.
Today's painting has been set aside for several weeks. It started life as a photo of daisies and blue crane's-bill flowers; was interpreted several years ago as a miniature oil 4x4 inches; and then used as the sketched-out base for a watercolour that never happened. I pulled it from storage some weeks back and decided to create it again, this time aiming to plonk down more paint on the panel and give it some "body". It was painted during and after the short run of 6x6-inch still life set-ups that appear in the blog earlier on. I kept the range of colours restricted and worked on a smooth gessoed panel that allows thicker paint to really stand out (although I found afterwards that it tends to dry back somewhat).
It's been a long and somewhat stressful month, with an ear and eye infection late April sapping my energy and painting focus. I've spent far less time trying to complete paintings, preferring to experiment with materials and take a long time thinking about how I might develop my landscape subjects. Quite a few artists are exploring various elements of the landscape in a much more "broad" manner, dealing with the effects of light rather than getting down exact likenesses and forms. I have two canvases in progress, in this style, but they take a long time to dry and won't be visible yet.
I will keep such paintings for my abstract section...I don't want to pull away from all representational work, but I find that more detailed subjects are better done on smaller panels; and they will be here, whatever the medium. Larger panels aren't my usual thing, BUT....they do lend themselves better to the broader abstracted directions. I am thinking of spinning off the abstracts pages as a separate website. There is never a good time to do anything; especially now, considering the world's state. But if not now, then when.... So there's a plan there.
The playtime has also included a return to my box of somewhat ignored acrylic paints. I am a sucker for the metallics and the unusual colours. Trying to use acrylics for representational work has not often played out well in my hands; I find them much more suited to textured decorative surfaces and experimental brushwork. During my "downtime" I have refurbished a few canvas stretcher bars with new canvas and begun a more earnest approach to using colour and texture simply for themselves....no subject matter...just paint for its own sake. Many artists are committed to one style, one medium...I can't do that. There is just too much out there to play with. Two pieces I did complete are on my gallery at Original-Art-Under100.com.
Mustard: oils on canvasboard 8x8 inches approx. £70 plus £10 postage within the UK.
You can enquire and reserve this work by visiting my Contact pagefor details.
Update: Sunday 25th. I'll be taking a break during May, probably doing very little painting, due to other tasks; and also due to facing a session of dental appointments, none of which I'm exactly looking forward to. So, next post MAYBE towards the end of May.
A third still life painting, focusing on a bright yellow mustard tin. This picture almost failed to complete, mainly due to other domestic interruptions, but it finally pulled together. At present I don't have another still life subject in mind but if the right objects show themselves then I'll grab them up. A floral painting is now sitting aside, drying, and I have to decide whether I need to add more work to it or not. Over on the experimental/play front, I have discovered a few unusual properties of dioxazine purple, a rather powerful reddish-purple that is also transparent in application. Don't know whether I can get these to work in terms of creating a painting, but it seems rather effective in abstract mode and also with a little cold wax medium.
As ideas for oil paintings slow down a little, I turn again to potential pastel subjects and have earmarked three as suitable material. I may well get one of these underway in the coming days. We face another year of no art exhibitions "live" and therefore I won't be spending time or money framing anything up. Having said that, I do have one or two pastels in my long-term ownership that will probably never be exhibited but could benefit with being safely behind glass.
Some updates at the abstracts sub-domain.The flow of ideas for these continues in the imaginary-urban style, although a little slower at present. I am also playing around with bright blended colours in oils, these will take some while to dry so won't be appearing on the pages just yet.
Break from Routine: oils on canvasboard 6x6 inches approx. £65 plus £10 postage within the UK.
Here is the second 6x6 inch painting, dry enough now to handle. Again, my aim was to complete the work in a short time-span and I did manage to achieve that; probably about two hours on the first work-session and another half hour on the second, which consisted primarily of a final look-over and minor alterations. Even this is quite long, however the main challenge here was the elliptical shape of the mug top; and it took me a while to get it placed and shaped to my own satisfaction. If I had gotten it right first or second time of asking, my work-time would have been faster. Nonetheless....it did what I wanted and I am now feeling more confident again about speeding up my processes.
As is often the way, I am now hindered by a recent wrist injury...strained the tendons during gardening...so it's good that I've got a few completed paintings to keep on hand for this news update. While pondering my next small work, I am also playing around with my experimental stuff, it means I have something "on the go" all the time. These paintings are quite abstract and imaginary, yet I've realised that quite a few of them are actually based on objects and places that I've seen and experienced before. The small abstracts such as Twilight Time (posted 21st March) where buildings are featured seem to have their roots in a few industrial sites around my locality. Now, I realise such places are perhaps not always the sort of thing folk wish to hang on their walls, but painters look at shapes, effects of light and lots of other elements in order to create a painting. And it doesn't have to be a faithful representation of the actual place, but perhaps certain features are taken and used in a more imaginative manner. It is rather different from sitting down in front of a glass bowl of fruit and aiming to depict the textures therein.
Pepper and Cut Lettuce: oils on canvasboard 6x6 inches approx. £65 plus £10 postage within the UK.
You can enquire and reserve this work by visiting my Contact pagefor details.
I've now completed two small six-inch paintings, and am close on completing an 11x9 and an 8-inch square one. Today's piece is not quite dry enough to post out (needs another week) but with the others all still so sticky, it was the best choice for this post.
It is some time since I have tackled a still life. This red sweet pepper was posing in the fridge and I was able to set it up again in my work-room, with the same slant and positioning of the stem. The cut lettuce wouldn't have been my first choice for a complementary green object, but it provided texture as well, so it joined the pepper to make a twosome. The painting progressed and completed itself remarkably quickly, with a fair percentage of time spent on working out how to paint the lettuce. I made use of small blobs of Liquin impasto medium for this, mixed with the greeny yellow paint.
Arranging a still life can take longer to do than the painting itself...I stick to a few objects and make the best of it. I also don't have the room to display anything much more than three or four objects and get them suitably lit. Natural daylight is really best, so when the weather improves I would like to go outdoors, using the little 6x8-inch pochade box. This allows me to handle up to an 8x8 inch board; and possibly even a 10x8 in portrait format although I haven't tried that. No easel legs to set up, just rest box on table or else hold, or place on lap.
An interim message to inform of updates to the Contact page. No, I haven't gone anywhere. It's just to clarify the process for reserving and buying a painting. I realised that the original wording was rather vague, so I have done a simple five-point procedure at the head of the page; most information that comes below it is pretty much as before.
Many artists are including full pricing in their blogs for their paintings, under each picture; since it seems that their readers are more inclined to just follow the blog rather than visit the static website. I'm an internet old-school type, having started online in the late 90's and have maintained a "static" website throughout. I've resisted the idea of converting the website to a rolling daily blog simply because I do not post every day. However; to compromise a little, I will give full pricing details of each new painting as they get put up, with a link to how to reserve and buy. Some years ago I used to have Paypal buy-now buttons on many artworks, but the complexity of configuring postage for a variety of countries gave me a head-ache, so I just stopped and now work simply by providing an invoice to prospective buyers.
I've worked down through a number of previous postings and added extra detail.
Another new post soon, when my new pieces have dried enough to handle and photograph.
Twilight Time: oil and cold wax on board 6x6 inches approx. £55 plus £10 postage within the UK.
You can enquire and reserve this work by visiting my Contact pagefor details.
Today's painting is another semi-abstract styled on an urban environment. The paint is applied thinly to start with, then after a little drying time a painting knife is used to add more, mixed with some cold wax and a blob of impasto medium. The composition is worked out intuitively, but based on past results and experimental applications.
A further sale of a small abstract has confirmed my inner convictions that painting smaller and less tentatively is the way I need to go, at this point in time. There is an assumption that artists aren't really artists unless they can paint yacht-sail size canvases. I was once asked to paint some flowers on a huge panel that would have been around four feet, or 1.2 metres across. I turned it down, because I knew that this wasn't my "thing". My painting doesn't "hang together" at large sizes, and certainly not florals, where the resulting image would be many times larger than the original subjects. In the past, I have gotten away with something like a coastal-scape on a 2 foot (60cm) panel, because such scenes are filled with light, pattern and not a great deal of actual subject.
Even with a small panel, I have often spent several hours working it out, when I should have really been finishing it within two. My "failing" is that I am often too tidy; fiddling around with things that don't matter and with things that most buyers probably wouldn't even notice. In all these instances I am talking about using oils, by the way. There is a movement of daily painters who paint small and often. I have been most impressed by many of their creations and continue to follow several websites where they are active. I used to be on one myself, a few years back, but was unable to cope with the regularity of daily input. Nonetheless, I realised that they were onto something with this business of "small and often", because it prevents the painter from getting hung up on ONE piece of art for weeks on end. This is mind-numbing.
The good thing about small paintings is that you can have several ongoing and move from one to the other during a work-session. It doesn't, unfortunately, mean that all the paintings work out successfully. From, say, five on the go, there might be one really satisfying result; two others might look decent; one might require extra thinking and re-organising; and the fifth goes to scraping-down and a start-over. And thus, only one (or maybe two) will make it onto the website or online gallery.
Pastels have rarely been more than sixteen inches (40cm) one way. Small ones have been most successful as eight or occasionally six inch squares (20 or 15cm). I do find, though, that they require more attention, due to the chunky nature of pastel sticks. Two square works in particular have become favourites for me; both are now with their new owners in America but I have a digital print of each one for myself. They help to remind me of what IS possible when I have a good day.
View to Crook Peak, Somerset: oil on board 7x5 inches approx. £70 plus £10 postage within the UK.
You can enquire and reserve this work by visiting my Contact pagefor details.
This is a small scene on Ampersand gessoboard, a lovely white-surfaced panel that takes oil paint very well and allows areas like skies to look full of light. It was completed in a little over two hours, still rather long for a small panel but that is my usual rate. I was determined not to fiddle too much with this piece and managed to lay in the skyline, tree-blocking and foreground colour in session one; followed by tree and foreground completion in session two; and the final spurt then to add the bare trees and ensure the distinctive crook of the skyline was evident, by using a tiny brush with a miniscule paint blob.
This past week I have completed the painting above and revisited the oils and cold wax combination. There are currently five small abstract pieces set aside for drying; allowing the cold wax to "set up" before applying more. I have been thinking through how to use this medium combination for pictures that are a little more recognisable as "something", rather than just patterns and colour-blocks (although one might argue that all subjects are just shapes and colour-blocks when reduced to their most basic level). For those wondering what cold wax actually adds to an oil painting; it thickens the paint, making it spread like butter and allows impasto-style. It also adds a degree of translucency to the colour. Wax allows the artist to scrape through layers to reveal colours below, if desired. Colour-blending is enhanced and effects are possible with it that may not be so easy to achieve through other means. I also use an impasto gel medium at times, this also gives body to the paint but is a different material.
The final picture has a more "matte" look, rather the usual expected shiny surface of oils; and the work cannot be varnished. However this is not a negative; many artists don't varnish their normal oil paintings at all. Pictures with cold wax content may remain a little soft for quite a while, on the surface, but the ones I've completed so far (from last year) are quite firm.
I find smaller sheets and boards (12 inches or less) much more satisfactory in their outcome, in terms of composition. I tend to work quite close-up, rather than be an arm-swinging, wide sweeping mark-maker. Occasionally....just occasionally...I might manage a larger one.
Portmeirion Village: gouache on paper 12x12 inches approx. £110 plus £10 postage within the UK.
You can enquire and reserve this work by visiting my Contact pagefor details.
Gouache painting finished; small oil painting completed; a few more small oil abstracts in play. I am always slow to get underway after the start of the new year, this year especially so. I find the North Wales Italian-style village at Portmeirion a helpful tool for creativity when feeling low in energy. Having visited it twice I have accumulated a lot of photos; the landscaping there is rather ornate but I find it relaxing. Today's painting is in gouache on hot-pressed watercolour paper. Lots of awkward angles, fancy shapes and viewpoints, so the whole thing had to be drawn out first before applying any paint. The final image doesn't quite fill the 16 x 12 inch sheet, in fact it is rather more square at 12 x 12 in (30x30cm approx). I felt that the softer, more matt gouache colour was appropriate for the colour of the buildings.
Another small oil abstract has made its way to a new home and I'm rather pleased that what started off as a casual project has actually been fruitful. I'm setting up a few more; it has been some months since I completed the last one, so I will have to see what develops for this second round.
Pastels....no I haven't been active with them. There are a couple of landscape subjects that I've earmarked as possibilities, though; and both of them would work equally as well in oils, so...we shall see.
Street in Port Isaac, Cornwall: sepia technical pen on cream paper 11x9 inches approx.
With a hint of warmer weather as we crawl towards springtime, my unheated "messy" attic workspace is feeling a little more habitable. This is a small room where messy stuff like oils, sticky bottles and spray varnishes are stored and used. It is also where I tend to do most oil painting. In the coming weeks I'll be assessing some ideas for a few more small-scale paintings on board. Meanwhile the line-drawings continue. This week's image is on tinted Ingres paper. I am not sure whether it will ever go forward into a painting; sometimes it is enough simply to work out how to draw the houses and all the windows. It is also a rather complex scene for fitting onto a small oil-board.
Another reason for this "drawing drive" is to try and sharpen up my observation work when outdoors. I am rather disorganised when it comes to working in sketchbooks; I try to draw too much and too large, instead of being more selective. I also spend too much time fiddling with unnecessary details and have ruined many a reasonably good sketch. Shouldn't be telling you this! But it happens, and is simply a part of personal development. It is rare for me to fully complete a painting on-site, especially with pastels, which are not particularly well geared for lugging around town or country; and their dusty, somewhat vulnerable nature makes them prone to accidents before I've got them home. Oils are a bit easier, using a pochade box; I have one that takes boards around 6 x 8 inches; and of course the same box can be kitted out with watermedia instead, if needs be.
Another two paintings have found new homes this month; View to Uphill, and Clouds and Floodwater. These are now on the Sold page. Next post will be early March.
Glass Bottles. Pencil on paper 10 x 7 inches approx.
A quiet period, but with several pieces completed before February and one in progress that is being painted in gouache. Just for a change, here is a small still life drawn in pencil. It is a pair of (possibly) old scent bottles found in the garden and rescued. I thought they would make interesting subjects, one with patterned glass and the other with a smooth round shape. I will own up here and say that it was started many months ago, being finished just in the past month. At the time I was reading some books on using pencil for highly realistic drawings; not wishing to be brave and starting on a large object I chose smaller ones; even so, I have lost count of the hours spent on them. This intensity of observation is tiring and I can just about do a couple of hours at a time. Pencil can be coaxed into creating some intensely realistic work, but even if that isn't the main goal, it takes a while to blend the graphite into a range of tones. I think I prefer to do something like this alongside a less intense piece using ink or pastel; then I can move from one to the other for a "break".
Variety of drawing pens
An interim update on changes to the website. Firstly, the Archive page will be ended in the next week or so. It appears to be attracting a lot of spam and the numbers of visitors are way out of step with the reality of what the website stats are showing. There are a few other issues as well, no point in going through them, so this section of the website will go. The albums contained therein will be retained by me but since some of the work is quite dated I probably will not be displaying them any longer. Drawings will be incorporated into the main site, and the small abstracts project has already got its own section.
Secondly, the blog page is running ok but the RSS feed seems very reluctant to deliver images. Well, that's the case on the feed-reader I'm using, unfortunately I don't have time to test out all the others. I avoid using Big Tech platforms such as Facebook Instagram and Twitter for obvious reasons. I will never go to them. For now I will continue with my own rss-feed and make it just a brief paragraph, no images; and ask readers to click the hyperlink provided, which will take them to the full News2 page and the images. Hopefully that will work better.
Now, I thought I would do a short bit on where I hope to go with the drawing. Pictured are some of the pens I play around with. I've mentioned Sakura and I'm using sizes 003,005,01 and 05 for most of the ink-work; both black and sepia. I also have some Derwent fine-liner pens; the black comes in 005 and 05 sizes (plus others); the sepia seems to be only available as 05. There is also a rather nice graphite-grey colour ink, again only in size 05 (I think!). The Derwent ink in the pens is not waterproof; the Sakura inks are. This makes a difference as to which ones I might select for a drawing if there is to be additional wash-work added. I also have some nibs for dip-pens but have not as yet tried using those for drawing. I am finding comfort with buildings using these pens; I can get the lines I want and also the small things like doors and windows, plus any other stone or brick features. Adding tonal or colour wash on top of the ink lines is something I have rarely done but now I am exploring it. I would like to continue this approach with floral subjects when we finally get some spring and summer flowers. The resulting pictures are far more sketchy than my standard pastels but I am finding this to be a good thing.
Portmeirion; Clifftop View: ink, 15 x 11 inches approx. £85 plus £10 postage within the UK
You can enquire and reserve this work by visiting my Contact pagefor details.
I have always found the Italianate village of Portmeirion in North Wales to be full of delightful views. There is a drawing and photo to be had on virtually every corner, out of every window and porthole. For this week's drawing, I used my reference photos to position and feature key buildings, such as the tall bell-tower and the Domed Building. The pastel colours of the buildings are also a feature here, but these would have to be the subject of a separate painting, not combined with pen and ink. In this exercise it is the building details that I am looking for, along with supporting vegetation.
I use a Sakura Micron pen size 005 for virtually all the drawing. The buildings are of course formal shapes, but the background trees are worked as flowing curly lines, spacing them out and moving them together to create light and dark areas. The trees below the buildings are worked in a similar manner, but varying the marks so that some are curly lines and others sharper, straight ones. The topiary tree in the centre section is made with tightly-packed looped lines, allowing them to create dark regions and then open out a bit to catch the light.
One or two areas had to be corrected; for this I used carefully placed dabs of opaque white gouache, applied with a 00 brush. Once dry, I was able to redraw the required details on top. Since I was using white paper, the gouache became virtually invisible. On tinted paper I would have to be rather more creative and colour the gouache to get it to blend with the paper colour. By carrying out the drawings I learn what is there in the scene, in detail; at a later point I may move on to do a colour work. The Village has many potential scenes and I shall be doing some more in due course.
I am having a rethink about the Archive section, where I keep examples of aceo cards, experimental pieces and so on. I have noticed that it is attracting "hits" on images and giving totals for visitors that are not reflected in the main monthly web-stats. I can only assume that a lot of it is spam/bots/similar. It does not help me to assess how the site is doing overall; so I may terminate the whole Archive section quite soon. The drawings, which also appear under the Archive portal, are gradually being brought in to the main site, so that's another reason for a re-think. This might happen during February, while I tidy the website up a bit.
With no prospect of physical art exhibitions yet again this year, I am detaching myself from the processes of mounting-and-framing my work. I have little difficulty storing oil paintings, but pastels have to be kept in a box, interleaved with either newspaper or glassine sheets. Now that I have drawings as well, I shall be needing to plan storage for those.
Church Window and Tree: pencil, 16 x 12 inches approx.
While I finish off another ink-line drawing, here is one that I have worked on in pencil since before Christmas. I am finding that these works in pencil take more time than ink-line...fairly obvious, really, due to the shading and blending required. This one is still not really completely finished, but I chose to stop because I was getting tired. It is 16 x 12 inches but has been cropped by the scanner a little, because I can't take it outdoors to photograph.
The window is a feature seen on St Nicholas' Church, Bristol; and in my line of sight was a tree-trunk, which I decided to include because it was smooth in comparison to the details of the window. The drawing is on white cartridge paper; I thought about tinted paper for a little while but decided not to use the type that I currently have (laid paper with horizontal lines). Now, it is true that I did not stand outside the building for hours trying to draw it; I would have been run over by traffic. This is something that has to be done quietly at home with reference material; and even then I did not manage to collect all that I required.
Using a H grade pencil I began drawing the window arch and working out where the various "folds" of stonework needed to go. Having got that in place finally, I moved on to the very dark areas and curly stonework. With this positioned, I took a break and started marking in the outline of the tree. Different grades of pencil were used to add shading to the stonework; moving gradually down the work and shielding it with a sheet of paper. The very dark parts of the window were 7B and 8B grade pencils. All this was done over several working sessions, a couple of which were six hours each, so at a guess I think the whole thing took around 20+ hours. During this time I also used paper torchons to rub the graphite....I have not done much of this technique before so it has been the start of a learning curve.
Finally the lower ledges of the window and stain marks on the stonework. An A3 size sheet is more than enough for me, for pencil work like this. Maybe something smaller next time!
At the time of posting this, the new ink drawing is finished and will go up next time. A second ink drawing is near completion also, in fact this one has been drawn twice...the first one got damaged, but the experience of having drawn it once was invaluable in getting started on a replacement.
Bossington Tearooms: sepia ink-line 8x8 inches approx.
Really pared down to basic tools at the moment. Not much enthusiasm for more involved painting. Hands cold, workroom cold. So I am working "simple" with line drawings or pencil. Today's image is on tinted Ingres paper, using a Derwent sepia Line-Maker pen. Bossington is a little hamlet in Somerset, near Minehead and Porlock. I never did get into the tearooms for a cake; I wonder now whether I ever will and whether it has survived. I began the drawing by doing a freehand pencil sketch on thin layout-paper, working from my photo as reference. Once the sketch was done, I transferred it to my tinted paper, using carbon-transfer. This is sometimes problematical because it creates dark lines that are hard to disguise with media such as watercolour; but in this case I would be using sepia ink.
I do not transfer every tiny detail or line; the main shapes are enough. I will have already worked out the finicky bits in the freehand pencil drawing. From here on I inked in the building, starting with the chimney and working downwards. Vegetation was drawn with tightly-spaced random scribble, relaxing the spacing in areas where more light was present. The cottage walls required some subtle shadows, especially on the right-hand corner; I could have used carefully placed fine dots for these, but in the end took a reddish-brown Graphitint pencil and lightly shaded those areas.
I may use a copy of this drawing as guideline for a painting in the future.
Christ Church Chalford: conte pastel and ink-line 12x12 inches approx.
Beginning 2021 with a new drawing, "Christ Church Chalford", on tinted Ingres paper, 12x12 inches (approx 29x29cm). I often find it difficult to get started again in the new year, so this post's drawing was actually started before Christmas and completed afterwards. It was laid out in pencil first, then the building was inked in sepia ink to bring forward the details; before moving to hard conte carre pastels for the surrounding vegetation and roof colouring. Highlights with white conte pastel. I was tempted initially to leave colour out of this picture, but eventually decided that some was needed on a soft, subtle level. This building is in Gloucestershire, viewed from the Stroud Canal. It actually stands on a main road with no vegetation in front of it; but from my position it was softly framed all round with winter trees and undergrowth.
Buildings often demand a rather rigid, architect-style approach to their depiction, but I prefer to combine this with a "human hand" element; a few verticals ever so slightly out of line, or shading or colouring to temper any harshness. Bright white paper doesn't always feel good to me, for these subjects; a warm white or tinted surface isn't as brutal.
This year I will be letting the subject tell me what medium to use, rather than trying to create "pastels", "oils", etc as categories. As a result, I suspect my output will be more mixed than it has been. We shall see. Personal projects....I'd like to do more local buildings as drawings. I also have a coastal project in mind, much of which may be done with oils and oilbars. Flowers? yes, maybe more drawn this time than painted. I am giving myself more freedom than I have done in the past. Ideas pop up in my mind all the time and I have to write them down. My pictures have never been large and this will continue; small is fun to do and easy to post. I was pleased to see a 7x5 inch work find a new home just before Christmas; now displayed on the updated Sold website-page.
email chris [at]christinederrick.com