Monday, 28 April 2014

Drawn to Water!!

I played with my paint all Saturday afternoon and as everything was still out in my conservatory, the sun was shining and the garden is looking beautiful, I needed to carry on yesterday. I finished one of the landscapes I had been working on but they are very much practices and works in progress.. I need to stumble upon my way of painting them and though I am getting closer I am not satisfied with what they are looking like at the moment. I figure that the more I practice the more likely I am to create something whether intentionally or by chance that I will be pleased with and which tell me the direction I need to go in!!

In the meantime I was being drawn all the time to soak the paper and paint completely wet in wet as I did with the painting "Moving On." I don't know whether it is the challenge of working like this but wet in wet has never been how I paint... this isn't just like adding the sky wet in wet or painting small areas which I have done before, it is a whole new way for me at least... knowing just when the paper is at the right moment during the various stages of drying and then knowing how wet I need the paint to be to either to keep it flowing or get it to stay and in the meantime trying to manage a whole piece of wet paper!! Techniques such as  lifting off, to keep the whites, all the time trying to get the shape of my subject as in both cases I didn't draw, all different ways of working to my normal methods.

I had an image of a small white jug, and I used

Prussian blue
Alizarin Crimson
Burnt Sienna
Raw Sienna

I thoroughly soaked the whole page then started by dropping in a mix of colours to the bg and defining bits of the jug but didn't like what was happening so sprayed it all and started again...this is much more possible while the paper is soaking wet and the strange thing is that while everything is so wet, working in with the brush(though not too much)  is also possible without getting again I slowly added the darks and lifted out the lights..... the wetter the paper the stronger the paint needs to be to have the slightest chance of "staying put" and blue tends to move and run less than  other colours. Likewise as the paper dries, the concentration of paint can be slightly less to stay so these are things I am learning and trying to analyse...I am at the stage where I have a good idea as to just how wet or dry the paint needs to be and the more you practice the more instinctive it becomes.  I find I am drying the brush to various degrees depending on what I am looking to do and it is now a sort of inbuilt knowledge which if I am ever going to teach this way of painting I need to understand and be able to verbalise what is happening and why!!

So here is my little practice piece... Charla van Vlack has described it as "soft but powerful" which I think is hugely complimentary but also I think describes why I like this way of painting, still on my journey to create loose watercolours and using every tool at my disposal... let me know what you think!!

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Working Hard!!

It's a long time since I actually spent all afternoon painting and have really just played. I have a commission I'm working on which I am finding tricky... 2 children... got him fine but struggling with his sister's mouth.... am hoping I don't have to start the whole thing again as there is so much I like about it but if I haven't captured her properly I might have to!!! So I left it alone, finished off a giraffe I had done a short while ago and did some practice looking at's one of my aims to get to grips with them this year and I am going on a short painting break to Anglesey with Joanne Boon Thomas (Joanne loves to paint en plein air and we will be doing a fair bit of that weather permitting) and a party of her friends who go each year and I am also going with my family as well to Anglesey for a long weekend... have never been before and now I'm going twice in one year!!

I have seen a demo online  about how to make a sketch book, no sewing, just a bit of folding and cutting so suits me perfectly as one of the reasons I don't use a sketch book is I hate the cartridge paper in the cheaper ones and the watercolour paper ones are so expensive.... I've used half imperial and it makes a book slightly smaller than A5 size which is fine and because of the way it is folded all sides can be used...for this size it makes 16 sheets, so I will be making a few more to take with me. I know Joanne does quite a lot of charcoal sketching en plein air so I will be taking a leaf out of her book!!

So for now here is the giraffe, am image from PMP by George J Pateman. I really must get to Chester Zoo... my family took me there for my 50th as I love it and it's an excellent zoo but I haven't been since so could do with checking out my new camera there.

Very limited palette here... couple of blues and burnt sienna, no drawing.....still trying for most of the time to go straight in with the paint, not always easy but I don't usually find animals too tricky and all good practice!!

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

How to use Artistic Licence from a reference photo

When I first started painting, not having any idea at all, I would try and slavishly copy an image with little or no regard to whether the composition was ok, the colours were right and translated well, in fact with no idea at all!!

I didn't have either the courage or the know how to change anything and I think I had this belief in the back of my mind that I couldn't possibly do better than the image in front of me, especially if I was copying another artists work.... how could I improve on what they had done?

Anyway, some years later, lots of practice and disasters later, some more successes later and a lot more confidence, I no longer seek to produce anything like what I see in front of me and tend to use the image more as a clue if that makes sense?

I started to use black and white images so that I could use my own colours and not be influenced, I started to think about changing the "feel" of something so I could think about interpreting for example a sunny day into a Winter scene. I started trying not to include all the detail... especially backgrounds and especially if there are trees (!!!) and opting to just concentrate on my subject rather than trying to include everything and so my painting has evolved to the point I'm at today.

The next painting has been done from this photo by Ruth Archer on Paint my Photo and I think it illustrates most of the points above

I love this photo and may well do a more representational one of it but I had an idea I wanted to just do a dome, close up with the light falling upon it. I have lots of my own photos from Venice but not one as close as this so I chose to use Ruth's image as my starting point.

All I really wanted was the shape of the dome with the touch of detail below, nothing more and I wanted to do a bright sunny painting, so I decided to lose all the gondola posts, just give a faint ghost of an impression of the dome behind and add, in the larger painting a hint of water, in the foreground. I did a small practice piece which you will see on the poster for the Loosening Up workshops I am running at the Boonric Gallery in the Summer and liked what I was seeing so did a bigger version last week.

I like the freshness of this one and think I have capture the sunny feel but I also think it is bordering on sloppy and might need a touch of detail adding here and there but this was a very quick sketch just to give me an idea.

I think I might have tightened this a bit too much, possibly too dark on the shadow side of the building, have lost the feeling of light I had in the first and brought in too much of the building into the foreground rather than concentrating on the dome )and that really happened by accident as I started off painting the dome) and should have made it considerably bigger so that it became the focus. If I am being really picky I think the edge of the building directly under the dome needs losing, it looks too linear and regular and I may well do that or in fact paint another having got more information. I do like the colour and like the way it has translated into a sunny day and I like the little areas of detail in the building thought I thik thy may also be a touch dark.

As an aside... it is always good to try and critique your own work as above, rather than just say you don't like it, first try to understand why you don't like it, try and put it into words, if you don't like the colour say so and try to think what you don't like about the colour, likewise try and find something you do like and understand why....  if you have analysed what you have done it makes you more aware of the pitfalls for next time and essentially makes you a better painter

You can see I have only used the image as a starting point, basically to get the shape of the dome and a bit of detail to add to it... the posts and gondolas have gone, the other buildings have gone, the whole atmosphere has changed and I have added my own slant on the colours. In this case it isn't because I think I can do a better job on composition, colour, light etc, simply that I had something I wanted to try and the image fitted the idea I had in my head.

I hope you can see from this that it isn't rocket science and it is something anyone can do given a little time and practice.Why not try converting your images to B&W as a starting point and see what you can come up with when you're not locked in to the colours you are seeing... very liberating!!! I work both ways from photos... like this where I have an idea of what I want to do and find an image that suits, or alternatively see something I want to paint and then maybe change the colours, the bg, the composition whatever I think will work both in a painting and for me as a painter.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Setting the Record Straight!!

I was a bit shell shocked to find on facebook I was being accused of copying Jean Haines fact doing two direct copies of dogs from one of her books ( which I cannot find incidentally!) and passing them off as my own. If anyone is interested, these are the links to the paintings and my ramblings about them...... Holly and Boo.

I am very aware of this issue and as you will see in this post always try to give credit whenever I have used their ideas or if I have in fact used an image to copy from. I am not going to list links to all the posts in my blog but you will find paintings done from Jean's book, paintings done in Joanne Boon Thomas' workshops and also a blog where I state my views on copying from other artists in general...... so rest assured, it happens!!

I haven't heard anything from the person in question and don't suppose I will now but I am writing this blog as I was extremely offended and upset by the comment especially as those who follow me on here know that I work hard at my art and though I do follow and admire both Jean and Joanne's work and am influenced by them (there are many others too) I would never do a copy from them unless it was to learn something in particular and then I would more than likely post here and discuss what I've done. Apart from that I always produce my own work usually from images though my next aim is to work more from life and maybe do more plein air.

So although this was my idea for my next post I guess it also illustrates a point too!!

I was asked by one or two members of a group I visit to hold a small one day loose watercolour workshop for 6 of them where I could give more one on one tuition and they could really get to grips with some of the things I do in the bigger sessions at their group. They wanted to do some flowers and animals so I took some images, they took some of their own and armed with all sorts of examples and exercises I set off on Thursday to the session.

They were all experienced watercolourists, but as I hear all the time wanted to "loosen" up their style so we started off practising techniques of losing and softening edges doing roses and pinks. I try to keep hard edges to a minimum until I know I want one... they are much easier to add than get rid of so I don't commit too soon in a painting. You will see a step by step to some pinks in an earlier blog which demonstrates the sort of thing and I also did a blog about some roses back in 2012. So we practiced this for the morning, then moved on to animals for the afternoon session.

I have seen Jean do animals several times and the last demo in my previous blog blew me away and I thought I would have a go showing them how to paint an eye and move on to the rest of the features. I can draw fairly well and do a lot of work with no predrawing, but demonstrating this in front of a few people is a touch daunting! I have a lovely photo of a squirrel by Paul Sherman from Paint my Photo which I have used before and adapted to create an xmas card and as it has a good eye thought it would be suitable to try. I also had one of my little Grandpup Archie whose nose I demonstrated too!!

This is my effort

Not finished as you can see but as it is in on the corner of a piece of paper with all sorts of exercises and examples doubt it ever will be!! Eye looks a bit big but hey we were doing eyes so don't mind that!!

So, as I have taken this idea from Jean's workshop I would rightly mention that here, but what I would say is that this was done without reference to any of her work on the day, without having practised what she did and done from my brush and an image I had taken to the session so this is how I would paint it, yes with influences, ideas and some tips learned from Jean but nevertheless my brushstrokes, producing my work!! I also think Jean would be pleased to see me doing something like this as it is testimony to her skills as a teacher and just like Joanne, Jean has a mission to spread the love of watercolour to all those prepared to listen!!

Rant over!!

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Jean Haines Workshop and Trip to London

What an exciting few days I've had!! I set off on Tuesday morning to catch the train to Euston then the tube to meet my friend Helen with whom I was staying for a couple of nights as we had booked on a Jean Haines workshop.

We visited the RI watercolour exhibition at the Mall galleries in the afternoon which I have to say was not at all what I was expecting and maybe least said about it the better!! Helen and her husband very kindly took me out for dinner and we had a very pleasant walk back to their flat in what was a beautiful balmy evening.

After an early night we set off at the ungodly hour of 7.00 am to catch the the train from Waterloo to Winchfield in Hampshire for a 10.00 am start. Jean was already there when we arrived... I don't know what she's on but I could do with some, she is so full of energy and enthusiasm and the room was quickly filled with laughter and flowers!!

Jean began her session by showing us how she starts her day and as the workshop title was Spring fever,, challenged us to produce some little washes using Spring colours... greens, blues, yellows etc as our first short exercise and then went on to demonstrate a couple of florals and a sheep constantly sharing tips, hints and techniques, in fact it is difficult to remember everything she shares and I did notice some people taking notes which I should certainly have done, and will do next time!!

I had taken a reference I have attempted numerous times with little success, an image of a Lupin and I was hoping with a little of Jean's magic I could finally be pointed in the right direction!! I painted a wash  which both Jean and I were quite happy with (phew!!) and then I was a bit stuck for where to go next. Jean gave me some guidance and I am tempted to say I have almost cracked it.... I have overworked it this afternoon (well did it a bit at the workshop) but will certainly have another go.

A workshop with Jean is an experience and while good work may not be achieved on the day is full of learning and tuition and the learning experience continues for weeks and months after. As I found on the first workshop with her she has an enviable eye for subtle detail, she is a mistress of colour and how to make it sing across a painting.

Even though I have seen Jean demonstrate a few times now, I never tire of seeing her paint and this was no more evident than in her "cool down" piece which she did at the end of day. She was initially going to demonstrate how to paint the eye of a hare... again sharing quite a few tips of the trade, however as she was waiting for the eye to dry continued to paint the rest of the head..... this was just magical as the head started to appear, a delicate variety of brush strokes caressing the paper, beautiful colours, softly creating the form of the head, a lovely fresh painting which literally appeared from nowhere!! I was hypnotised and mesmerised by this final painting and although Jean said she wasn't too happy with it as her reference image had strangely small ears for a hare and a little artistic licence was needed, it was for me an unexpected highlight.... I wondered whether I would get used to seeing Jean paint having been lucky enough to have attended a few sessions now but having seen this demo I know I need not fear!!

When the workshop finished, Lindsay Berry joined us, someone I have known online for a while now but never met and she took us to the Frame gallery where an exhibition of Jean's work had just started. Lovely to see a collection of her work with a few red stickers already!! We then had supper at a really nice gastro pub with Esther, another new friend who stole the show at the workshop with 2 amazing paintings.

Helen and I then made our way back to London and got home just before 11.00pm tired but happy after our fun packed day!! I arrived back in Manchester the following day having nearly had a disaster when the train I was happily settled on was cancelled and we all had to catch the next train which was platforms away... not easy when you are carrying not only luggage but painting gear too!! We were only delayed 20 minutes in the end so not too bad. So a lovely few days ... a big thank you to Helen for putting me up and to Lindsay for chauffeuring us about in Hampshire, am really grateful as without their help I would struggle to get to a workshop like this. The last one I went to was the start of a short "road trip" where we stayed overnight then went on to see friends in London for the weekend. Otherwise it is a 2 night stay B&B somewhere local or a one night stay and a very long journey back in rush hour traffic on the dreaded M6!!