Saturday, 27 February 2016

Journey's End

station platform, man and dog, oil painting,

This painting was one I worked a few month's ago for a blog competition and had forgotten to do anything with. I have no idea what the narrative is. It represents all the emotions I ever had, when I was a student hanging around on dark railway platforms, waiting for trains that did not come. When you see others doing likewise, you wonder who they are and where they are going, but you never find out, of course.
I enjoyed the opportunity this piece presented to play with light and dark and experiment with different coloured light.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Bull's-Eye - Oliver Twist (Dogs of Literature, No 4)

Oil painting of Bill Sykes' dog Bull's-Eye, Oliver Twist
A rather more sombre dog from literature today - the last of my little mini-series, at least for now. Bull's-Eye belonged to Bill Sykes, the out and out baddie in Oliver Twist. He is usually perceived as a symbol or emblem of Sykes' character being the outward manifestation of his inner, snarling viciousness.
Should the dog belong to someone of a different temperament, I think that now as then dogs such as Bull's-Eye would behave very differently. I was puzzled how to portray this dog - he is always growling and snarling in the book and I am frightened of fierce dogs. He was, however, often savagely beaten by Sykes. What has emerged I think is the face of a dog we sometimes see posted today by Rescue Centres, seeking a new home.
Bull's-Eye might have been an imaginary dog, but now he seems real to me.
Painted on paper from the novel mounted to board and prepped with two coats of clear gesso and a thin wash of raw sienna to give the appearance of ageing to the paper.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Toto, Wizard of Oz (Great Dogs of Literature No 3)

Oil painting of Cairn Terrier, Toto, Wizard of Oz
And here we have Toto, the Cairn Terrier in L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  Fitting in a small stretch of the yellow brick road was, I felt, essential.

The famous quote: "Toto, I have a feeling we are not in Kansas anymore" seems to originate in the film not the book. It is sometimes used now to express the emotions conjured up by any strange or unfamiliar situation. 
I get that feeling about half way through most paintings I make. You get to a tricky bit, it is not looking like the picture in your head, you try to put it right, that makes it worse and once again you realise you are not in Kansas any more.

Fortunately, like Dorothy I also have a little dog that performs the same service as Toto:

“It was Toto that made Dorothy laugh, and saved her from growing as gray as her other surroundings. Toto was not gray; he was a little black dog, with long silky hair and small black eyes that twinkled merrily on either side of his funny, wee nose. Toto played all day long, and Dorothy played with him, and loved him dearly.” 

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Montmorency (Dogs of Literature No 2)


Three Men In a Boat (not to mention the dog) by Jerome K Jerome
Published in 1889, this novel is a witty account of 3 men and a Fox Terrier called Montmorency, messing about in a boat for a couple of weeks on the River Thames. A good read for anyone in need of cheering up.
The painting was made using a couple of pages from my elderly and rather dog-eared copy of the novel, adhered to board and then primed with several coats of clear gesso. I painted the whole thing, when dry, with a very thin mix of raw sienna, with a few blobs that were a bit thicker to give the appearance of foxing. Because I wanted the whites of my dog to be clean, I let all this dry up before painting Montmorency.
One thing I have discovered is that clear gesso on book pages creates a surface from which it is exceedingly difficult to remove paint. You can paint over it, of course, but wiping back is almost impossible. It is not a very forgiving surface in that respect as mistakes are harder to get rid of.
Here is Jerome K Jerome on the subject of Montmorency:

“Fox-terriers are born with about four times as much original sin in them as other dogs are, and it will take years and years of patient effort on the part of us Christians to bring about any appreciable reformation in the rowdiness of the fox-terrier nature.” 
Jerome K Jerome Three Men in a Boat

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Nana - Peter Pan (Dogs of Literature No 1)

oil painting of Nana, the dog from Peter Pan
Where do artists get their ideas and inspiration from? This question has been bothering me since the turn of the year, as I have struggled a bit to maintain the momentum of painting every day. Sometimes the ideas pot seems empty.
The only answer I can think of is a combination of perseverance and serendipity. 
In an attempt to recover my mojo, I decided to paint a few still lives for a change. Half way through the first one, I found myself thinking: "I am not in the least bit interested in grapes. Or pots. Or even flowers. What I like is dogs. And books."

So here we have a dog on a book. I couldn't find a copy of Peter Pan to disembowel for my constructed background, so I downloaded a chapter from the marvellous Project Gutenberg, shrank the text and printed it out.
This painting is therefore made on a linen board, 'dressed' with a collage of Peter Pan text. It is then double-primed with clear gesso and (once dry) painted thinly with raw sienna (a transparent oil colour), deliberately coated as unevenly as possible. 
Nana was painted on to the raw sienna whilst it was wet using cobalt blue, black and white (plus a bit of brown for the eyes).
I think I might do a few more Dogs of Literature.

Mrs. Darling loved to have everything just so, and Mr. Darling had a passion for being exactly like his neighbours; so, of course, they had a nurse. As they were poor, owing to the amount of milk the children drank, this nurse was a prim Newfoundland dog, called Nana, who had belonged to no one in particular until the Darlings engaged her. She had always thought children important, however, and the Darlings had become acquainted with her in Kensington Gardens, where she spent most of her spare time peeping into perambulators, and was much hated by careless nursemaids, whom she followed to their homes and complained of to their mistresses. She proved to be quite a treasure of a nurse.” 
Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie

Friday, 12 February 2016

Evening Glow

oil painting of a sheltie
Painted on clear-primed linen, the natural linen colour looks slightly violet in the context of this dog's colouring, which was partly why the painting ended up with this title. 
I began by wanting to try and experiment with orange: such a difficult colour to mix, I find. My tube of Cadmium Orange is very nice but doesn't work for animal fur because it looks too chalky and ever-so-slightly artificial - like the orange sweeties in a box of Dolly Mixtures - that old childhood favourite. For those who don't know, they look like this:

dolly mixtures

So I tried various permutations of different reds and yellows, struggling with getting anything that looked like the colour in my imagination, with the additional challenge that it needed to be opaque: too transparent and the linen showed through making the colour mucky.

The result of my experiments was a triumphant cheer, with the discovery that Permanent Rose and Cadmium Lemon together make the most wonderful, clean, opaque and vibrant orange with no hint of chalkiness. I realise this discover is not exactly on the same level of as discovering gravitational waves - but I was every bit as happy.


Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Be My Valentine

French bulldog seated on a heart cushion, Valentine's Day painting
Well, here's a painting that doesn't really require any narrative.  I haven't attempted lace before and this seemed a gentle introduction. 
I used a 20/0 rigger brush by Langnickel. In the UK, these are easily obtainable on eBay and very inexpensive. I bought a job-lot and treat them as more or less disposable. The paint was thinned to a creamy consistency with Liquin.