Sunday, 14 August 2016

First Portrait of Chester

I don't know why I haven't painted him before, it isn't that he's not photogenic and I hadn't got any good photos. I just haven't got round to it.

The other night he was a very naughty puppy and pinched a crisp off hubby's plate! After being duly chastized he was sent to his bed and sat staring at his master for about 15 minutes when he must have decided enough of that and promptly turned his back on hubby and sat staring at the tv. I took this photo shortly after which is his "oh so loveable face" thinking how cute and naughty he could be at the same time!!

I had painted my grandpup Archie a couple of times but Chester's fur is a different colour and I wanted to use a different palette... well not so different but a different complimentary so I chose purple as my rich dark and also added a touche of UB and the other colours were burnt and raw sienna and alizarin crimson...

I drew the image (as many of you will know I don't always draw but with portraits when I am looking for a likeness I do), then I masked small areas... the highlights of the eyes, the whites below the eyes and a few whiskers here and there.

 I painted the first wash on the eyes and nose first then when dry randomly applied water around his face dropping in the paint using a mix of the colours above. I did try and colour match him as the photo came out slightly pinker than he is in the flesh so the colours you see in the painting are a little closer to his proper colour as he is golden brown, I kept chasing him round with colour swatches to see if I was close and the match to the photos was definitely not quite the right hue for him. It does make me think about when I am doing commissions and all I have is a photo.....I have never had anyone dissatisfied with the colour but maybe that is because I always use an accent of something different which makes the whole thing more colourful anyway.

I worked around the head using both smooth and rough brushstrokes to depict the nature of his fur and adding my darks (a mix of burnt sienna, aliz crimson and purple with a touch of Ub added in parts). I work on different parts of a piece so that areas can be drying as I continue to work and tweaking the likeness as I go along. Once I feel the painting is almost there I remove the masking and work more on the eyes as stark white is sometimes too much so I soften around the whites.

I was looking to get what we call his "spaniel look" where if he was wearing a pair of specs he would almost be looking over them!!

So here is the cheeky little cocker spaniel....... Chester

Monday, 25 July 2016

To Crop or Not to Crop?

I have been wanting to do two things recently... first have a change in the size of paper I normally use (usually 1/2 or 1/4 imperial) and secondly paint a waterfall.

Whilst in Malaysia we visited an Art shop where I bought 5 full sheets of Saunders and a pad f Daler Rowney CP Aquarelle. This isn't paper I would normally use but it was the size which attracted me, 8x16 and I thought I could do some different compositions with it.

I'd had every intention of taking it to Anglesey with me and guess what, I forgot it!! Almost ruined my holiday I was so mad!! Anyway for those of you who read my Anglesey Blog you will know that I heard there was a waterfall at the Hidden Gardens, Plas Cadnant, which we visited on out last day and you will find one of the reference photos on the blog.

I cropped the image to make it portrait orientation and to place the focal point in the top third and set to work this afternoon on it. I know waterfalls aren't easy but if you simply leave most of them white with a few darks streaks in them you are almost there... all you have to do is the rest then.

The difficulty with this was drawing the eye to the top of the waterfall while keeping the foreground loose to the point where I now wonder if the foreground is a bit superfluous? I didn't want to add too much detail there though one idea would be to create more of a flow from the foreground up through the reflections so the the eye is guided right from the bottom of the painting...anyway let me know what you think...

Saturday, 9 July 2016

The Flower Festival

I do get some interesting commissions and this was one of them. I was invited to paint at the Flower Festival at one of our local churches in fact the one where I hold my art group sessions... I suspect that's why they asked me (am such a sleuth!!) so although I knew I had a few busty weeks leading up to the event I was curious to see what I could come up with... no pressure then!!

I had intended to visit the church prior to the festival as I had an idea that I might paint a vignette of one of the windows incorporating some of the florals in the foreground but time ran away with me and before I knew it the festival was upon me and I had agreed to visit yesterday  and do my painting!! Yikes!!!

I have to say the floral arrangements were nothing short of stunning and I was overwhelmed by options from little still life fruit and veg arrangements

to modern minimal arrangements
Anyway I was inspired by this little arrangement which formed part of a huge display of longiflorum lilies which must have been 8 feet high

I liked this because of the rustic, natural feel and it also wasn't too complicated for me to complete in the afternoon. So many decisions and considerations for for my little brain!

I started with the log and worked my way across the composition which was another bonus as that was already really good and I didn't need to play around with it. I can see now this photo isn't quite the angle I painted at as I was able to sit in one of the pews so was more in front of the arrangement rather than to the side, so here is my finished painting

I brought it home to tweek it a bit. Unfortunately the light was very poor in the church and only when the sun came out (which only happened a couple of times) could I see it properly so rather than leave it with them I wanted to see what it looked like in good light and have made a few minor alterations and now I am rather happy with... another phew!!

Friday, 8 July 2016

Gay Paris

I have recently had a special birthday and some of you may know my hubby took me and my family for a weekend away to Paris. He knew that all I wanted to do was spend some time with my sons and partners as we rarely get time together as a family.  The venue was meant to be a surprise but I did know he would do his best to get us all together and he surpassed himself so the fact that he let the location slip on more than one occasion I forgive him!!

We set off last Friday afternoon with little puppy happily ensconced at his dog trainer and caught the train to Manchester Airport. Really quick flight just one hour and five minutes then a taxi to our hotel which was in the St Georges region, North of the city and not far from the Sacre Coeur. My son in Switzerland caught the train and arrived about 8.30 and we then went to have dinner in a lovely restaurant where we had a sort of French type Tapas where each course was a surprise. My other son had to catch a later flight due to work commitments but they joined us about 11.00pm where he finished off the left overs!!

Saturday morning was an early start and we headed up to Mont Matre and Sacre Coeur. Now I don't know how many of you have actually been there and braved the steps but as we approached them I simply prayed the two girls would see sense and head for the lift and I could then swiftly follow but noooo they just marched up to the steps and almost galloped up!! I could hardly then be the only one to take the lift so I gritted my teeth and hoped for the best! The men in my life are all quite fit and chatted happily and without effort as I gasped for breath and at times dear life and eventually had to hold on to the rail. As we approached what I thought was the top I thought it hadn't been too bad only to realise we were only half way up!!

Anyway it is really was worth every step as the Church is truly beautiful and the views spectacular

Am really hoping I have some paintable images from the photos I took. The whole city is an artist's dream with so many magnificent buildings....I am hoping to be spoiled for choice when I finally get round to looking at them all properly.

We then walked down towards the Seine passing the Moulin Rouge on the way. My daughter in laws' parents had bought us bus tour tickets for my birthday so we picked it up at the opera house, another wonderful building.

The weather was really pleasant especially in the morning and we were able to sit upstairs and take in the views of the city. Though we have visited quite a few European cities I have no idea why we have never been to Paris... I had been twice as a young girl but don't remember much and am not sure why we have never made it before as I absolutely loved it almost as soon as I set foot there. We passed the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Grand Palace and then a trip up the Champs Elysee to the Arc de Triumphe. We decided to stop North of the Eiffel Tower and found a lovely restaurant where we had French Onion Soup which was delicious washed down with the obligatory glass of wine and coffee.

We then walked down to the Eiffel Tower where we stumbled upon the "Fan Zone" for Euro 2016... well I think stumbled is stretching the truth a little. I think I would describe it as guided there particularly by my older son who seemed very interested in walking all the way round all the cordoned off areas to the point where we could actually gain access to this area. He sheepishly said no it didn't matter, he didn't want to go in,  after all it was my birthday and we had to do what I wanted, but as we were so close it didn't seem fair to deny him the experience so we all went in and as he said, the last person he thought he would experience Euro 2016 was his Mum and the last thing I expected to do on my birthday was watch a football match in the Fan Zone!!

The rains came while we were there so we headed back to the hotel to get ready for their Birthday Treat which turned out to be an amazing restaurant not too far from where we were staying. It was a secret and I was given all sorts of red herrings but we arrived for dinner at 8.00 at Restaurant Kei a lovely French/ Japanese Infusion restaurant. The food was really special and we and my younger son though it was the best food we had ever eaten. My older son and wife have been to a restaurant in Cartmel called L'Enclume which they felt was as good if not marginally better but it was a wonderful experience and a real treat for us all.

The following day we walked both to the Louvre and Notre Dame. Though I would obviously have enjoyed visiting the Louvre, we didn't have enough time to do it justice and I'm not sure my family would have relished the thought of spending several hours there checking out the paintings. I also wanted to spend my time with them so I'm sure we will take another trip in the future and perhaps spend a bit more time visiting the sights. We stopped for coffees and beers on the way round and sat in the lovely sunshine watching the Parisien world pass by

All too soon we had to make our way to the airport for our flight back to the Uk which actually arrived early!! I had the most wonderful time with my lovely family and can't thank them all enough for making this birthday such a special and memorable one!!

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

I must be Mad!!

I got a phone call over the weekend to ask would I stand in for someone at a local art group to do a demonstration and though I could choose my subject, the person I am replacing was doing florals. I am visiting this particular group for a workshop during the Summer and in November for a demonstration so I obviously don't want to do the same thing for any of the sessions.

So I wondered should I try a floral demo?  I have never done one before so would be stepping out of my comfort zone. I am used to doing workshops where I can usually get a full painting done in around 2 hours with the group usually completing during the time too so a demonstration needs a painting to take quite a bit longer. Usually in demos I concentrate quite a lot on how I paint and do some studies to illustrate the techniques and skills but as I have demonstrated at this group before I need to do something different.

I am finding that especially for florals I am much better at creating my own composition using one particular type of flower and since I saw the Jean Haines blog on how to paint roses I have enjoyed playing with them ever since...lots of my early practices were really not too good but I have now got more of a feel for them and have done quite a few rose paintings since.

It was my birthday on Sunday (a rather big one!!) and we had some friends and family to the house and my niece brought me a lovely bunch of flowers which contained some pinky/purply roses so I picked just one and as I have done previously, used it in different positions to provide me with a simple reference.

As for doing this at a workshop, well I think I may be a bit mad as working like this can be very haphazard and what you may have managed once, may not happen as easily a second time, but I do enjoy creating like this and certainly painting with Brusho has really helped me move on in this respect. You are thinking on your feet and you never know just what will need to be constantly assessing how things are progressing, constantly stepping back and reappraising so I think I will stand up for this one as it will make it easier for me to see... might even ask the audience if I get stuck!!!

So. apart from never having done a floral I am really stepping outside my comfort zone with the way I will be working... not sure if it's luck I need or medication!! Might need a stiff one when I get home!!

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Anglesey 2016

What a lovely little break this painting holiday is!! 18 like minded people painting plein air on a beautiful island just off the coast of North Wales. Organised by the lovely Joanne Boon Thomas this isn't a tutored painting holiday, but a fun way to watch others paint, for Joanne to be able to relax and paint with her friends and for those of us who tend not to do much plein air an opportunity to practice some much needed skills and for some feedback from some of the best!!

As we did last time the very gloriously funny Polly Birchall and I travelled together and we have this rule that she has to be very nice to me for the whole trip as I am her passport back to England and she can be as rude as she likes once I drop her off in the car park for hubby to collect where I transfer responsibility back to him and somehow........ she seems to manage it!!

This little sketch was "guess who" on the first day when we arrived for drinkies at our hotel... I cut her head off actually on purpose, two reasons, faces are hard to paint and I'd seen enough of her cheeky face all day!! Ooops sorry Polly!!

We arrived at the lovely little village of Moelfre mid morning and went straight for refreshments and bacon sarnies and then made out way onto the beach. The weather at this point was lovely and held for a couple of hours and I decided to do some little rock sketches as I remember that was where I struggled last time. This was my favourite and I used the colour scheme later in the holiday too

The weather then really turned. with thunder and lightening so we simply had to retreat to the pub, nothing else for it but not before I did a very quick sketch trying to capture the stormy atmosphere

 Joanne dressed for the weather!!

The plan for the following day was a stop at the cottages in Church Bay, North of the Island moving on to Camaes Bay so after a hearty breakfast Polly and I set off with our trusty easels and made our way there. They are a painters dream and Joanne wanted to paint some dilapidated cottages which I must say I also had my eye on but I was also interested in a shack which were conveniences at one time and I started there..

The shed was both corrugated iron and wood and I tried to capture some of the textures and the ramshackle nature of it.

I then moved on to the cottages and as Joanne was finishing her painting and I set  up behind her giving her a fright when she turned round!! This was my favourite painting of the whole time and I used the palette similar to the one for the rocks as I liked it and think it worked well.

We then moved to Camaes Bay where I have been before. the weather here was warm but dull so not unpleasant painting conditions in fact quite good for painting. One reason for painting in Camaes Bay would be the boats and Joanne did an interesting painting where she decided to paint a dark dramatic sky with just a couple of boats. I was a bit overwhelmed by all the vessels sitting in the harbour and couldn't see just where I was going to make a painting so decide to have a walk round and see if there was any other inspiration. I took lots of photos and certainly have enough material if I ever wanted to run a session on how to paint boats and eventually set up in the harbour and did some boat studies...I drew a few and then lost where they were as the tide was going out quite rapidly (this was a problem I had last time at Red Wharf Bay... I spent so long on the bg, the tide had gone out before I could paint the boat and reflections... you might think I would have learned!!)

Anyway these are my little studies

A very useful exercise to observe the reflections in real life.

Our last day was a new venue to the group...the Hidden Gardens and what a find that was... so many painting opportunities we were spoiled for choice. Organising a trip like this needs careful consideration, things like access, loos, refreshments etc and Joanne makes sure that everyones' needs are met at all the venues she chooses, so a lot of work and effort behind the scenes to make sure the holiday runs smoothly and everyone can make the best of the opportunities.

Joanne had her eye on a wonderful cottage in the grounds but I had spied a waterfall in the leaflet and really wanted to find that. I wandered down through the gardens and came across it but it wasn't a very suitable place to paint, it was a little too far away but I managed to get some photos then clambered over some rocks to get some a bit closer so a good opportunity and with a bit of artistic license the waterfall was as near to what I have been looking to paint as I think I could find.

In the meantime I had spotted a large house behind the garden wall... lots of difficult perspective lines etc but I quite fancied having a go at it so this is a WIP and I will probably complete over the next few days

I think this image has some potential and I may well try again from the photo as it is a challenge trying to get all the roof lines correct and this was a quick drawing with a few wonky bits!! At one time I avoided anything which was difficult to draw, not because I couldn't draw it but because the minute I added the paint I would ruin it then have to start drawing again!! Thankfully those days seem behind me now and I do feel I have gained a lot from my plein air experience this year and am beginning to get a feel for it. I know Joanne does a lot of sketching in charcoal and ink, it really helps sort out a lot of problems before the painting and to then work from the sketches is the next best thing to working plein air and something I would also much prefer to do... my problem is the same old one, all I want to do is paint and I know she would be tearing her hair (or her) out with me reading this so I might have to make it a bit of a mid year resolution and try to do a bit more sketching!! Polly does a lot of Sketching with the Liverpool Urban Sketchers and is loving every minute in fact is preferring it to full painting at the moment... check out Polly's blog as she may also do a review of our time on Anglesey.

Ps What have I learned about painting en plein air this time? Well, the main thing is not to be a slave to the scene before you....we say it about photos why not about the scene in front of you so I tried to be a bit more adventurous with colour, moved a few bits and pieces, omitted lots (that one is really important) and to do more sketching.....

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Review of Jean Haines new book "Paint Yourself Calm"

As I have been reading about the preparation and build up for this book the overall impression I have had is that it would be different and that is just what it is.... different!

Not the usual format of materials, techniques, step by steps.... there is a small section on materials where Jean talks about what you will need to get started and how good paper is the most important thing, but this book doesn't dwell too much on things mundane!! It does however dwell on the joy and happiness we can find by pursuing this lovely pastime, how painting somehow helps us find a special place unknown to us before we painted.

Since reading it I have been trying to think where it might fit into the painting population at large and I have come to the conclusion that although it isn't an instructional painting book per se it actually transcends all abilities and levels and I found myself once again inspired by Jean Haines, this time in a totally different way.

As I am a painter who teaches, sells my work and occasionally exhibits I have worked hard on the techniques I have been taught by Jean and a number of other artists to the point where I have more recently been finding my own way but decided that as I have all Jean's other books I "needed" this one to add to my collection. While it isn't a teaching book in the way her others are, it has some wonderful inspiration, some beautiful illustrations ( I do like pictures in a book!!) and it gives a "can do " message to its' readers which a lot of painters need.  I had read some of Jeans' blogs where she has talked about the book and how it was a departure from her previous publications and I honestly think this book is one which would be a fit for artists at any level including complete beginners.

I have always felt that painting is available to anyone and everyone and it is very encouraging to read Jean's conviction that anyone can paint, how painting can enrich lives beyond comprehension and that no-one needs any special talent or skill to start. Joy to my ears!

Art Therapy is known to have very beneficial effects and while we're not actually talking about that here Jean talks about aspects of colour and it's mood enhancing qualities, about the joy of creating, not for a finished masterpiece, but for the sole purpose of enjoyment and how painting for it's own sake can bring about a wonderful calmness and contentment. She very eloquently puts into words what a lot of us who are passionate about our art feel as we are creating and have the brush in our hand.

As for my own inspiration, I don't tend to spend as much time playing with my paint as I once did and have had some art work I want to do for my own home which has been on the back burner for some time. Having read this book and looked at some of the simple exercises Jean has put together to get people started I have had lots of ideas as to how I might go about creating this illusive work!! The exercises look quite simple but the end results in turn look so effective leading me to feel that the book is worth buying for these little studies alone.

I don't want to say anything frivolous about this book as it carries a more serious message beyond that of regular painting books. It talks about the mental benefits of painting, how we can escape to our little painting havens and become completely consumed and absorbed during the time we spend watching the paint and water do their magic on the paper. It also provides very persuasive arguments for allowing us to spend time painting...

Finally, I loved the quote

"It was only when I made a conscious decision to treat painting like eating, as part of my daily routine that my life and art career changed"

That really struck a chord and separates the artists from the wannabes and something I need to incorporate into my daily routine too, another snippet of inspiration.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Brushoing Up!!

I actually did 3 paintings yesterday and wasn't happy with any, yet today another 3 and I like them all. Now whether that is simply due to more practice or subject matter I have yet to discover... I have a feeling it is actually the subject matter and also having an idea as to how to approach something.

The first painting was an elephant (by ESP from Paint my Photo) which I have painted in watercolour many moons ago. As I am preparing for an animal workshop in May I am working on different types of animal and most people like elephants and it was a good image to choose as not too much drawing and not too difficult to draw either.

Working very loosely, I splattered the Brusho then sprayed, splattered a bit more then used the bleach to bring back some highlights. It actually bleached too much and I thought I had ruined it at this stage however once dry I went back in, splattered and sprayed a bit more and this is the result, 22x15 Bockingford extra rough 140lb.

Next I decided to try a hedgehog, photo by Max Hemingway from PMP. This has been on my to do list in watercolour for a while and it suddenly struck me it would make a great Brusho painting. I used colours which were fairly realistic, I also used masking fluid though not sure if it worked very well as I did use bleach afterwards.....

15x11 Bockingford extra rough 140lb

The final piece is one I have been wanting to do for over 2 years. A photo I took myself while we were on a family holiday to Anglesey. We were out walking when we came across these two standing on the hillside below the gorse.... I am not too convinced about my watercolour landscapes so again as I am working on an animal theme though it would be good to try this one in Brusho instead... the texture is so much easier to achieve than in watercolour... it just happens right before your eyes!! 22x15 Bockingford extra rough 140lb.

I will work on a few more before the workshop, as I have a one or two more images to tackle, Obviously there is a lot of preparation for workshops especially if it is one you haven't run before, many hours in fact, but I do hesitate to call it work as it is just a pleasure to do it!! Nevertheless it is time spent behind the scenes enabling me to run a good workshop which people will enjoy, learn from and hopefully gain some tools and skills to take home and practice with.....

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Back in the Brusho "Zone"

Well to start with this is my second go at this....lost my way with the first having not played with Brusho for a while. I am always torn by whether to use Brusho or watercolour and watercolour always seems to win unless of course I am conducting a workshop and I need to get some practice in.

I have done 3 paintings this afternoon, and 2 not so good until this one which I am quite happy with. The first two were like warm ups to get me back in the zone. I really do need to work more with Brusho, as it is just so satisfying when you get a good result, the challenge being that it is so unpredictable.

I started with a quick sketch and didn't realise I had his nose too long (more of that later) so I plodded on and sprinkled and sprayed to my hearts content!! I keep meaning to photograph these as to sho step by steps but also keep forgetting... one day!! Anyway I painted a few bits negatively and a few positively and it was when I came to the details on his nose, it wasn't working and then of course I realised his nose wasn't right so out came the bleach which I also used with gay abandon and wiped out the right side of his face!!

As the other painting is on the back I had nothing to lose and by working further on pieces the likelihood is you will learn more even if they still don't turn out. In this case I was glad I did as I really quite like the final result....just three colours, orange, brown and a teeny bit of black.

Next will be to try with a different palette and maybe do one or two more animals as the next workshop I am thinking will have an animal theme...can't wait!!

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Recent Trip to Switzerland

My son and his partner have been living in Switzerland for a year now and though we miss them terribly we are lucky that we have the opportunity to visit them often and spend lovely time with them. The weather is usually really good and so much better than the UK which when I realised how far South in comparison Switzerland is makes a lot of sense!! Not to be on this trip however as we had rain for virtually the whole time we were there. Which leads me on nicely to my painting efforts there.....that age old dilemma, plein air or not!!

So I painted from their house looking out into the courtyard with one of the doors slightly open.... now that's close...isn't it?

They have a magnificent magnolia tree which we were hoping would still be in bloom when we arrived and they had actually taken some close up photos of the individual flowers at it's peak so I didn't miss out and it was still looking good though the ground was full of petals with the rain and wind. This is the outlook showing the tree and their shed

Another view where you can just see Riehen Church in the background

A close up from one of the photos

and finally an intepretation of some gerbera from a floral arrangement ( have to admit this was inside!!)

I don't normally get chance to paint much in Basel as we go out sightseeing to the lovely areas nearby and in the past have visited France, Germany, Lake Lucerne and of course Basel and their lovely little village Riehen, but as the weather was so awful we were somewhat confined to barracks which for us was absolutely fine.....the reason for our visits is to see our son and partner so it really doesn't matter to us where we are!! Having said that, next time we visit we are hoping to go to Zurich, only an hour away by train and a lovely city... looking forward to it already!!