Thursday, 27 July 2017

Strawberries and Cream!!

I know the title might make you think of Wimbledon and in fact I have been this year and had my strawberries and cream but that isn't what this title is all about!

We have a lovely hydrangea bush which has cone shaped flowers and teeny petals and when they first appear they are cream... slowly over a week or two they change colour to a lovely pink, starting at the tips until the whole flower has changer colour... really weird!!

Anyway I really do love both phases but have a leaning towards painting white (cream) flowers... they can be challenging but also freeing as you can add in whatever colours you like for falling and cast shadows, and of course you can create gorgeous leaf colours, but I find I do have a preference for a cooler palette though when the pink phase arrives I may do another piece in a completely different palette.

Colours used in this were

Green Gold
Pthalo Turquoise
Purple

One of my favourite trio of colours....

I did a quick sketch outside to get a feel for the colours and used a touch of pink which I think warms everything up but decided to stick with just the 3 colours when I came to work on my painting. This was the sketch ( more about sketching on another blog!!)


I began to work on a value plan for this painting using my own composition, the idea being that I work entirely from the plan for my painting... only allowing myself the odd glance at a reference photo for some details of the flowers. Working without a photographic reference is not new to me as I have always enjoyed creating a composition from nothing, in fact often worked completely blind and just created on the paper. But as Beverley Wells  keeps telling me "Fail to Prepare...Prepare to Fail"something I have always talked to my children about but not always applied to myself!! So.....more value plans for me!!

As an aside I am now the proud owner of an ipad... never had one before and I have also got an apple pencil which is how I am hoping to do my value plans in the future. Bev uses black watercolour paint and to be fair spends a lot more time on her value plans than I do ( more lessons I need to learn from her!!) but I think using the ipad will help me get a feel for doing them  as I can quickly erase what I've done if I don't like it

This was the plan I started using

What I am learning from this is that it isn't sacrosanct that I stick rigidly to the plan, but it is meant to guide me. I have already decided the values work in my plan so are likely to work on my painting.

I need to use a different programme to get the mid tones but I am working on that too!! Bev felt it needed a few more darks and as I came to work them in around the painting I found some areas weren't working as well so I have tweaked it. One of the reasons for that I think, is that the drawing may not be a complete replica of the plan. I know Bev works her sketches full size whereas I am working ipad size so if I feel I need to change my way of working I will. Any planning is better than none for me at this stage!

Working to a plan like this does strange things to your way of working and I started this by adding the darks first??? Why... I have no idea and for the future I will work in my normal way, which is to build up to the darks. I think normally I don't know where the darks are going until I am getting further on with the painting whereas working from a plan I kno0w before I start so just went for it!

As a result I ended up with an unfinished painting with only dark and light tones

I needed to lose a lot of the intensity while adding other areas of depth, so a couple more sessions or working on it and here is the finished piece

You can see lots of softened edges compared to the earlier stage and some deviation from the plan though not too much. I think this is my most successful painting to date using a plan which hopefully means some of Bev's invaluable help is sinking in!!











Saturday, 27 May 2017

Figures in the Landscape

Am not sure if this was a wise decision but no backing out now as my All Day Figures in the Landscape workshop takes place in just over a week and a half!!

I have run a half day workshop for a lovely group called Paint Pots in St Helens where we did a lot of preliminary work on figures, proportions and how to place them so that they follow the rules of perspective...often the heads or shoulders will all be at the same height depending on where your eyeline is and it is the feet which move up or down making the figures larger or smaller thereby p;acing them more in the distance or closer.

We will also be doing some gestural drawing which is a really fun exercise..... well at least I enjoy doing it!!

However I then had to come up with a plan for pulling it all together and placing some figures in a landscape!! Easy......nooooo! The problem has been that any image I have found with suitable figures in have had a rather complicated bg's maybe with buildings with lots of issues of perspective or other images have had people sitting at cafes and again would be rather complicated to translate into just an afternoon session so I have done quite a few "practice" pieces thinking I had found a good image only to realise they may be too tricky for workshops. So I do have a few unfinished pieces at the moment which I may at some time come back to. Anyway I have finally stumbled across a beach scene (by Max Hemingway) which looked perfect and also a street scene (by John Melhuish) which I have cropped a bit to eliminate some of the bg. I am swaying towards the beach scene as it shows some of the principles quite nicely and I am worried that the street scene will prove a bit too difficult. If it has taken me a while (I am a fast drawer and painter) it will take the students longer and we may not have time to complete.

I have found from running workshops all over the place that there is a vast variation in the speed at which people work especially when drawing and in the main we have to go at the slowest pace so that everyone has a chance of completing. I remember going to workshops myself and could often do 2 paintings in the time and I often work with more than one piece on the go at any one time (I have been working on 3 this afternoon!!). so I know am not the barometer on which to gauge how quickly we may do something!!

Here is the first painting. I have tried to show the principle of using a "halo" around the figures which has worked well as the light is coming from the large window ahead and is casting shadows behind the figures allowing me to silhouette them and so not be caught up in too much detail. Looking at this I can see there is a perspective issue mid left with the tops of the canopies... they should be at a more acute angle which I will probably alter on the painting before the workshop.So there you have one of the problems.....if I'm not getting right I can hardly expect the students to!!


This is the second image which I think is probably more suitable as the bg isn't as difficult but what I will probably do is take a selection of images for people to choose from and though most will choose the one I am demonstrating for those who work a bit quicker or who want a bigger challenge there will be a choice.


As you can see from this one there aren't as many figures though we can add as many as we want and as well as using the image for reference they will be able to work from the quick sketches they have done earlier in the day. Part of the earlier session will include painting a selection of figures of different sizes and in different modes of walking and at different distances away all of which can be incorporated into their final piece.

So wise decision or not, I will be there on Wednesday the 7th June ready and waiting for everyone to arrive and have another fun filled (and I hope informative) day!!

Monday, 17 April 2017

Spot the Mistake

More work with my value plans. Still trying to get the idea that I need the plan... any plan and then I have to fit the subject within the lights and darks of the plan... tricky!!

So as I do tend to paint in the seasons I was trying yet another daffodil composition and was becoming somewhat disgruntled with what seemed to a be a boring lacklustre painting!!

Here it is

All a bit smooth and uninteresting partly I think because I am so wrapped up in placing my darks and keeping my lights!!

Anyway, I talked to  Bev Wells whose support and input in this journey has been invaluable and we agreed the composition was a bit tedious but I also felt I was becoming a little restricted by staying within the plan and as Bev pointed out the painting is the same... I need to use all the tricks up my sleeve, the only thing I am doing any different is having some idea as to where I might place the lights and darks beforehand.

So, my colour choices, my brushstrokes, paint techniques all stay the same and I need not be restricted  just because I have some plan to start with and I think the penny dropped again.... lots of penny's need to drop I think before I get the whole thing but I am determined to get to the point where I can incorporate this planning into my natural way of painting.

So I set to again over the weekend and added a few more touches which I do feel have transformed the piece but again having spoken to Bev there are things I could have done to improve it.... I wonder if any of you can come up with some compositional ideas? I have decided not to alter this one as I don't think it would be that easy and while I am not usually precious about paintings and certainly agree with the premise that we should take our paintings to the final point even if we ruin rather than leave not quite finished, I really quite like this one as it is. One day I may look at it and if I ever get to do a workshop with Bev I will take it and maybe work on it with her... let me know what you think


Wednesday, 15 March 2017

New Value Plan Painting

As some of you may know I have been benefiting from the wisdom, skill, and mentoring from the wonderful artist Bev Wells and she is pushing me to work hard with my value plans, offering me such valuable critique at every stage. She has guided me to completion on several paintings so far but this is the first she has actually had little to say about and the suggestion she offered was to simply try something to see it if worked......in the past there have been very definite ideas as to how to improve something and areas where I have been weak.... connecting shapes, leaving too much space have been problem areas and as soon as Bev has pointed something out, I have kicked myself and thought "Now why didn't I see that it is soooo obvious!" Anyway maybe I am beginning to get the hang of it!

So once again I started my value plan. The idea is to simply create a plan regardless of subject, then you paint your subject according to the lights, darks and midtones you have created in your simple plan.....easy hey? No not easy at all and I am finding it difficult to not consider my subject as I start my plan. I think the solution will be to simply play with the plans in my sketch book when I am not painting and create a library of value plans.Then, as I come to paint a subject I will look at my plans and see which one I feel will work best. As many of you know I often only use my reference as a clue and build up a composition from the starting point (especially with florals) so I'm not afraid to alter my reference almost to the point it is unrecognisable and that is how I need to work with the value plans. Take my reference as inspiration only and once I have drawn it or got an idea as to placement of subjects, simply refer then only to the plan. So I get the theory, now for more practice!

This was done from a value plan where I then placed my reference on top. I used a photo of a sunflower and then painting according to my plan. The point about painting like this is that because I have done some preparation I now have an idea as to where the darks are going to go before I start. I have created my plan with a view to a pattern of lights and darks throughout the painting which I feel works so it has taken the guesswork out of it. Now I'm not saying that all artists need to work this way but I have been wanting to improve my compositional skills for a while and this is the first method which has truly resonated with me.


Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Line and Wash

I have been practicing my line and wash exercises ready for the workshop I am running in a fortnight. I have done a few and need to decide which of the reference photos we will be doing... whether I can paint it isn't really the issue (though it certainly helps lol!!) but it has to be something which is achievable for the group too. I have posted a few paintings on fb to judge reaction and one lady who is attending the workshop felt one would take her much too long to complete.  That is a problem when running workshops.... I have to make sure the ones who take a bit longer have the time while still keeping the faster ones engaged. Maybe 2 images is the answer so I am considering that as well.

In the meantime these are a few I have done. The first 2 are from photos taken by my brother in law John Robinson                                                     











This is the one which may take a bit too long as lots of windows 
and foliage but I do like how it turned out and liked the colours. The house was hidden on the banks of the river Lune and we only happened to see it by chance as we looked back.











This is certainly an option as it isn't too difficult to draw and not too many fiddly details


Next, this one was painted from one of my own photos taken at Anglesey during our painting break last year. I think these are some derelict old toilets and there was an old bike parked at the front but thought that was pushing it a bit as they are most definitely not the easiest things to draw... but hey artistic license, leave it out!! This is another possibility and quite a fun one to do.





Another of my own photos of the church in Ingleton (North Yorks)... I do think this one lends itself to line and wash but there is a bit of tricky perspective on the church tower which might prove difficult



Finally I have painted this a couple of times both in Brusho and watercolour and is from a photo of a beautiful house in the centre of Rivington, a tiny village about 3 miles away from where we live... typical tiny little village with a few houses, used to have a post office, 2 churches, a tea room but not even a pub!!



The lovely thing about pen and wash is you don't have to worry about the paint....if you go over the lines it doesn't matter because that's what the pen is for... to define the drawing. A lot of artists use the line after the painting and that will often rescue a piece and can certainly improve a painting but this way is done with intent to make a line drawing then paint it and can really encourage a looser approach as you can paint where you like, let wet paint run and none of it matters!! Just how I like it....





Thursday, 23 February 2017

It's getting hard!!

For some time now I have talked about looking at composition and it always seemed so hard. Now I have always believed that any of us on our artistic journeys become receptive to more complex information as our knowledge and skill sets grow but some aspects of composition still seemed to elude me namely that of creating pathways for the eye to follow.

Compositional tools like using the rule of thirds, focal points, contrast, variety are all becoming clearer but I have know that if I want to move on I need to understand more about creating better design and pathways in my work. I have read that pathways are created whether we are aware or not but they are not always good pathways so for example we may create a line which leads the eye out of the composition without realising we have done it. The other problem is we don't all see direction in the same way and I struggle to see it at all in a finished painting!!

So...I was chatting with my lovely friend Beverley Wells (click on the link to take you to her website) who is a formidable woman and known for her forthright approach (which suits me perfectly as I need to know exactly how it is!!) but an exceedingly generous, knowledgeable and hugely talented (and I rarely the word talented!!) woman too, and we were discussing composition and I aired my inadequacies.

Well as fast as I could say value plan she had me working!! And over the last few days she has mentored me unreservedly and given me so much guidance that I have to say (very quietly confidently) that the penny is dropping!! I am now beginning to understand how to actually create a path for the eye to follow and I have to say it is how I have wanted to paint for a long time but I have been winging the composition part of it and not really following any plan, relying on a very unreliable eye to guide me. Bev uses the phrase "Fail to prepare... prepare to fail!" something I used to drum into my 2 sons when they were younger. But in my case I was at a bit of a loss as to what to prepare... well now I know!!!

So I have to start with a value plan and that is first the hard bit creating a pleasing sort of pattern from scratch with values of 1-9. Once you have a plan, any subject can be placed on it but for the time being I will be sticking to flowers. Then the next heard bit transposing the value plan into a painting!! I thought that would be fairly easy... wrong!!!  I realised I need to at least start fairly closely to the plan but it can be tweaked as the painting progresses but not as easy to rub out paint as pencil!!

Anyway here is the first effort which I knew wasn't right but didn't know what else to do

I felt I had gone in too heavy with the darks and though I could see the plan was reasonable there was something missing.....Bev knew immediately and here is the finished piece

Just the addition of some lighter values above the roses has given it an extra dimension....thank you so much Bev!!

BTW Bev runs workshops and classes and I am sure they would be fabulous if you get chance to attend!!


Saturday, 28 January 2017

Have I deserted?

No I haven't deserted my blog but it is over 2 months since I posted which is a long time for me. I haven't been painting much but over the xmas period we were very busy with visitors from the far East arriving on the 16th Dec for 5 days and my son and new fiance for 5 days after xmas. Then all the usual entertaining, blah blah blah, we've been away for a few days, I've been running workshops and organising my new All Day Sessions and a new course at Sunshine House in Wigan so I have done some painting but not much to chat about or post.

Anyway for the last two sessions at my group we have been doing portraits. The first class we took a full face portrait, folded in half and taped to their paper and they had to paint a mirror image of that half. It's an exercise I did as a student many years ago and I had forgotten about it but I remember it was a really good exercise in looking at skin tones and also it isn't too difficult to draw as they only have to do half an image which is a lot easier. There were some excellent results and I was so pleased with what they had achieved.

Last Thursday we did a full portrait so I took an image along to demonstrate. I found that a lot more difficult than anything else and I realise I work very instinctively with portraits and when I had to paint and try and get my thoughts in order for the class it was really tricky. I didn't get very far with mine but I did promise I would finish it for them and take it next time.

I do portraits to commission so it never crossed my mind to practice before I ran the workshop. As many of you will know I always practice my pieces before so that I  know I can deliver so as I have done many portraits I thought it would be fine. I decided to do an Afro Caribbean child and I have only painted a couple a dark skin tones before so next time I would certainly practice beforehand as there was a lot a variation in her skin and I felt rushed trying to find the colours and tones. The sessions is only 2 hours and I wanted them to spend time on their own portraits while I was there to help them, rather than watch me so I maybe spent only 15 minutes on mine and a portrait will take me between 3 and 4 hours if I include drying time!

Here is the piece so far. I usually look at them for a day or two and maybe tweak a little but don't think I will be doing much more to this



Thursday, 17 November 2016

Negative Painting....Aaaaarrrggghhhh!!!

I teach this concept at every class I do and though it was something I grasped in the early days, I never grasped when best to use it so it was a tool at my disposal which I promptly forgot about. It wasn't until I really started to improve that I began to understand the significance of what an important technique this is.

Good painting is about having a variety of aspects so colour, tone, shape, line etc (and having repetition as well) and of course edge. Edges can be soft, lost, found, positive and negative.

Here is a definition I found from Craftsy

"Negative painting is a simple technique that involves applying pigment around an subject to give it definition. You'll add paint to surround the person, place or object, making it stand out because it appears lighter than the background"

which is pretty much what I would have said about it too. However you don't need to use the technique to make the whole subject appear.... you can just reveal part of it. I mentioned lost and found edges, well it is the found edges which can be created both positively and negatively... the lost edges simply aren't there.  

Will give you some examples......

In the leaf below at the base of the leaf you can see some hard edges formed negatively to reveal the edge of the leaf. Opposite another area of negative painting. The tips are mostly lost and there is a bit of a soft edge towards bottom right. Other areas have been painted positively where I have painted the body of the leaf and created the edge from inside. But the whole subject has a mix of all the edges and not all the subject has been defined.



In the the following example the heads of the sheep have been created by painting the background behind them using a build up of quite dark paint. I have also left a little "halo" around the heads which also helps the idea of pitching light against dark while still allowing me to give some of the sheep dark heads and faces.The bodies have in contrast been "lost" into the foreground and the details on the faces have been painted positively.



In this final example (a Brusho hydrangea) I have again used a variety of edges. Some of the form of the bottom of the flower head has been created negatively if you check out the stem it is clearly painted negatively as it is paler than the bg, and also some of the petals inside the flower. You can also see a little touch of yellow almost in the centre of the painting which just create a teeny bit of form and likewise if you follow the edge anticlockwise to just before "o'clock" you can see another tiny bit of yellow. Those touches just finish the shape physically and our eyes do the rest. If you look carefully at this painting you will see the full variety of edges though fewer positively created shapes than negatively, as hydrangeas tend to be lots of petals hidden behind others so lots of darker shapes


Would appreciate any comments to let me know if this has helped and if you would like another blog with some more examples... I didn't want to bombard everyone with too much information at once?

Monday, 14 November 2016

Did it Work?

I have been to the lovely Westhoughton Art Group this morning or WAG as they are affectionately know and they wanted me to do a Brusho workshop so I happily obliged. Joanne Boon Thomas had taken a lovely photo of some poppy seed heads which I have used a couple of times and I also have one from Richard Long on PMP so I used them both for reference.

I asked them all to select their palette first as I find with Brusho it is very easy to get muddy colours and a little time spent before is time well worth spending as it is so easy to get the colour choices wrong. Just 3 and at most 4 colours.

I did a quick drawing....I don't often draw with watercolour but find it more important with Brusho so I have some idea as to where to sprinkle the crystals.

I used lemon, purple, leaf green and turquoise... it's a combination I use quite a lot... first because I like it, second because I know the colours work together and third I felt it would suit my subject.

One of the members of the group had been doing his homework and told me of another way to apply the Brusho which he had researched yesterday on the internet and I have to confess I have seen this done but not tried it so today was the opportunity to give it a go. It involves lifting the lids off which doesn't sit well with me, then, using a dry brush, scoop up some Brusho using your brush to sprinkle onto the paper,  I have to admit you could certainly position the Brusho better on the paper than sprinkling from little holes on the tops of the pots, my two hesitations are unless you replace the lids IMMEDIATELY you risk tipping the pots over and getting Brusho everywhere and unless you use a different brush for each application, you risk contaminating the different pots.....

My piece is still a WIP but I have to say I thought it worked well and I think I will go back to this one and just add a few finishing touches...... something I rarely do with workshop pieces. But this one has promise, it needs a bit more in the bg I think but I hope it will be a lovely painting when it is finished..... what do you think?


Sunday, 6 November 2016

An Update on my Colour Planets (and other things too)

I have had a lot of questions recently about my colour planets (click for the link to the blog post) and though the blog post remains true to this day I thought I might update it with a bit of extra information.

As many of you know when I come to choose my colours I simply have a look at my palette, sometimes think which colours haven't I used for a while and what might go with them and what will make  a nice combination that might look good with my subject. So very unscientific to say the least!!

I don't always use my planets now but if I find I am losing my way with colour choices or a bit uncertain I go back to them and they ALWAYS make a difference.

When looking at my options I always choose one (or sometimes more) colours which will give me the darkest tonal value... all paints will give the lightest values simply by adding more and more water but  not all colours will give the darkest values and even if it is only for the slightest touches, some really good darks will make your work sing. Colours such as Indigo, prussian, Ub, purple, burnt/raw umber etc.

So I start by adding my prospective colours fairly wet but quite concentrated to my paper (usually in a circle hence the name planets) adding more water to allow the the different colours to mix (water is the transporter so paint will only flow where the paper is wet). I start usually with 3 colours and then may decide I need another one or at most two more. Once the paint is on my paper I watch it mix and mingle and judge the effect I am getting....the colours produce the mood and atmosphere so it is clear very quickly if I like or if I think they will suit my subject.

Once I have chosen my colours I use only those choices. This helps in two ways, first to harmonize colour around the painting and second it takes away any decisions you might have to make mid painting when you may be rushing and you may not make good choices... you know which colours you are using as you have already decided so all greens are made with what you have chosen, all oranges, purples and everything in between all from your initial choices. I often find it helps me to work only with tone once I have chosen my colours and simply apply the paint in darks, mid tones and lights as I see them in my reference. Here is an example

This was a dull Autumnal day with not much light but I liked the gate which is sort of hidden along a private road close to where I live. I didn't want to paint exactly as I saw and decide to try an unusual colour scheme of Turq, purple and burnt sienna and all my colours were mixed with these 3 colours... this was the painting

As you can see the colours bear no resemblance to the reference but I like to think it is an attractive piece in it's own right and maybe has added something to the original photo.

Here is another example...a photo I took of a chocolate box cottage in the Lake District. I have painted this subject many times but each time adds a new dimension as I choose a different palette


This first example is an xmassy theme using purple, burnt sienna and green gold... lovely cool feel to this one and exactly the sort of atmosphere I was looking for

The next example was done in Brusho and I think you can see has a completely different atmosphere but still only limited colours, Turquoise , purple, yellow and emerald green (I think, it's a while since I did this one but you get the idea...)


And finally a painting of my friend's dog Holly a gorgeous Shitzu cross

I can't actually find the reference for this but basically it was a B&W photo which I interpreted with colour... indigo, translucent orange, opera pink and raw and burnt sienna. Colours placed randomly around the face paying attention only to tonal value.
 
2 things I am trying to get across here.

First is that you don't need many colours to create a good painting and the more colours you use especially when you are in the early stages of your journey the less likely you are to get a good result. But the secret of choosing a good colour scheme is to try it our BEFORE you start and one way to do that is to use a colour planet.

Second you don't need to be a slave to your photograph in fact have the confidence that you can steer away from it and actually improve the image and give it an added dimension.  I have to say this one took a while to sink in with me as I never thought I could improve on the information a photograph gave me... after all that was nature and that's what it was like... so wrong and now the last thing I want to do is create a photographic representation so even if I decide to recreate my subject as close to life as possible I will always play around with a different background and add colours and tones which will enhance my subject, pitching light against dark and placing complimentary colours together. these tricks will all help to enhance the image, will add another dimension and create truly individual work.

As many of you will know I mix paint on my paper so by using the colour planets it gives me a really good idea of how my painting will look and how the paints interact together.