Friday, 23 June 2017

White Horses Study (No 1)

oil painting of white horses emerging from breaking waves and a foaming sea
White horses have a magical part to play in mythologies from around the world. In Greek mythology - the source of my inspiration - the sea god Poseidon had a son called Pegasus. A magnificent, winged white horse. Poseidon was also the creator of horses, making them out of the breaking waves.

One of the most famous paintings of Poseidon's white horses was by Walter Crane, an English artist and illustrator 1845-1915. Here is a study "Neptune's Horses" that he painted in 1892 (Neptune is the Roman name for the Greek god Poseidon - same bloke).

Walter Crane a study of Neptune's white horses

and a painting on the same theme from 1910. Walter made several pieces on the theme and I am going to try to do the same.

Walter Crane, Neptune's Horses, 1910

I was lucky enough to see this one - or maybe a version of it, I am not sure how many he painted - at an exhibition of animal art the other year at the Russell Coates in Bournemouth - easily my favourite Art Gallery/Museum.

I have had a go at painting a multiple horse version as well and will post that next week, hopefully. Have a lovely weekend and thank you for looking at my paintings.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Sheltie Study No 3

Oil painting of a sheltie, back view, looking up and waiting
This sheltie painting is a re-work of a previous favourite using a golden colour scheme.
I had a couple of other sheltie pieces lined up for this series but have decided to leave them for now and move on to something else, so for next week - expect something completely different!
Have a lovely weekend everyone and thank you for looking at my paintings.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Sheltie Study No 2

oil painting of a sheltie with his nose on his paw in golden colours

A little oil painting of a sheltie with his nose on his paw in golden colours. This is one of those pieces that I have photographed a number of times and still can't get a result quite as nice as the original. I started with a rejected board re-coated with  a gesso that I had coloured a soft pink, using burnt sienna. 

I painted the dog in two steps: all the darker fur, or at any rate all the fur that did not need white, then when that was dry - everything else. I twice attempted to paint him all in one go, but this combo of colours and long fur is still very hard for me to do in one pass and it resulted in wipers and frustration.
I would have had to settle for a much more impressionistic result in order to pull it off. 

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Sheltie Studies No 1

Oil sketch of two shelties, one facing forwards, one with her back to us, A4 size
Two studies of a Sheltie, front and rear view, painted in thin oil colour. 

After a difficult week or so when everything I touched went wrong, I have decided to go back to painting dogs for a bit! I love these dogs. 

My own dog is half sheltie although he doesn't look anything like these two.
My black and white sheltie, poodle mix breed dog

To make the painting, I wiped some very thin raw umber and olive green paint over the prepared surface. The surface is an A4 MDF board which I had previously primed with acrylic gesso, stirring a bit of burnt sienna acrylic paint into the gesso first.

This is something I do quite often - it provides a warm, lightly toned surface to paint on and it is a useful start for any subject which has a lot of warm browns or reds in them.

Or greens, come to that because red and green are complementaries so the two together "sing" more vividly than on their own.

The shelties were painted in two passes: a darker under painting - this was to capture the shadows that would subsequently show through the longer, paler fur and then, when this was pretty much dry, I put the lighter fur on top.

At the end of the first stage it looked rubbish. It is important not to dive in with the "correct" colours too soon, I find, or it all mixes up and makes a muddy mess. 

I dried stage 1 (ugly duckling stage) by turning the board to the wall. So I don't have to look at it. Less temptation to fiddle.

Speaking of dry, it is tipping with rain here in soggy Devon. A good day for painting, then.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Sunlit pasture

Oil painting of a white mare and her chestnut foal standing in sunlit pasture
Most of this small painting was worked with a palette knife. I used one in order to try not to over-fuss the piece. 
I decided on the colours beforehand and pre-mixed four colour/value chains, two for each horse: one to use for the light and one to represent the shade. Despite this precaution it was still tricky disentangling all those legs.
The legs presented the same conundrum as trees against the sky in landscape painting: do you paint the branches first or the sky first? The legs or the pasture? 
There is no right answer, of course. I did a combination of both.

Thursday, 1 June 2017


oil painting, still life with oranges and paint
A still life, this week, just for a change. Using my favourite paint - Rembrandt - and a set up on a large piece of blue velvet.
Painted with a brush and a palette knife, I used both the indirect method for the background, paint tube and brush (i.e. I painted it in layers, allowing each layer to dry) and the indirect method for the oranges (i.e. I painted these in one sitting).

Friday, 26 May 2017

The Stretch

An old friend, this painting - I am re-posting it in recognition of how hot it is at the moment. We are not used to this in Devon, being more accustomed to drizzle and mirk.

I have been busy working on a commission this week and have not had time to paint a daily painting. Here is a quick peek at the commission, although the client hasn't signed it off yet. So, I'll just post it small ... in fact it is quite big (for me) at 16" x 12"

I also worked on some air-dry clay models over the last few weeks. A couple made it to some sort of completion. A more ambitious one has ended up in the bin. Here are the two I am not going to throw away. They are models of dogs belonging to my friends.

I painted them with acrylics and varnished them. They are mounted on to a couple of timber slices that I bought off e-Bay, which were sold as "rustic canapé serving dishes" and cost £5. If I had bought something similar listed as a plinth for models it would have been £40! 
The models themselves are a bit 'rustic', frankly, but everyone has to start somewhere. I am trying to learn a bit more about air dry clay. I have had terrible problems with it cracking. I would love to use the real thing, but that requires a kiln which is not an option at present.

Have a lovely weekend!

Friday, 19 May 2017

Benjamin Bulldog

bull dog oil painting
I must admit Benjamin Bulldog is looking like I feel at the end of a long and busy week. 
Painted in one sitting on linen, resisting the urge to over-work and trying to be comfortable with ambiguity - specifically, all those dark, shadowy pools. You do not have to paint every hair in order to say "bull-dog". At least, I hope you don't.

Have a lovely weekend and I hope the sun shines where you are.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Two White Poodles

Oil painting on linen of Two White Poodles

Four years ago, when I had just started out with oil painting and painting full-time, the first dogs I was asked to paint were a pair of white poodles. I nearly had a breakdown over the job. It has got better with practise I am happy to say.
Here are my hard-won tips for painting fluffy white dogs (also work for fluffy white cats):

  • punch up the contrast in the reference photo as much as you possibly can, so that any shadows at all in the fur are exaggerated 
  • Start off on a mid-toned canvas. This one is clear-primed linen. If it had been white-primed linen, I would have painted it first -and let that dry - a colour like this
  • Paint the darks first. Here is where I was after first starting:

work-in-progress poodle painting

  • Postpone adding white paint as long as you possibly can and if you must use white, make sure it is not tube-white: I use Michael Harding's Warm White or else mix in some of the shadow colours. The shadow colours here were Raw Umber, French Yellow Ochre and Lamp Black.
  • Distinguishing between fur shadows in the light and fur shadows in the shade also seems to help. On these dogs, you can see that the shadows in the body colour of the left hand one are warmer than the shadows in the right hand one.
  • If it's not looking right, make the darks darker don't immediately try to make the lights lighter. 

If nothing works than wipe it off, take a break, have a large coffee and some chocolate and start again. White poodles and fluffy cats are both subjects that seem to benefit from regular breaks and chocolate.

Have a lovely weekend.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Grey Cat

oil painting of a long-haired grey cat
A beautiful long-haired cat painted in a palette of Prussian Green, Burnt Umber, Warm White (Gamblin) and Portrait Pink.With a dab of blue for his eyes. 
Once the painting was dry, I went back in to the shading on his coat - in order to "thicken up" the fur a bit more. I dry-brushed on a grey mixed from the blue of his eyes, the pink of his ears and the green from the background. I felt it made all the difference and pulled the painting together.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

The Watcher

The Watcher - an oil painting of a ginger cat in a window
This cat, watching from his vantage point in an abandoned building, appealed to me because of the contrasts: organic vs man-made, blue vs orange, dereliction vs life. It is also very typical of a cat, I thought, to find himself a nice discrete spot from which to survey the world. 
Painted on canvas board using an acrylic colour block-in as an underpainting, then in oils using a palette knife (except for the cat). My colours were limited to  blue, orange, black and white. You can make a lovely selection of greys from these colours. There was also a speck of lemon for the cat's eyes and a speck of alizarin (plus white) for his ears.

Friday, 21 April 2017


oil painting of Hound dog on a red cushion

A rare moment of contemplation for this hound dog, reclining in splendour on her red sofa. Warm shadows and cool light on the form of the dog. I enjoyed painting the curve of her body, pretending I was stroking her back as I applied the paint.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Bring Me Sunshine (2) and Happy Easter

painting of hound dog in play bow

Happy Easter! Here is a bonus painting for this weekend. I have been on a bit of a roll for the last week and completed 5 paintings. This one is on A4 MDF board - I bought a multi-pack from a new supplier on eBay and I am very pleased with it. I have gesso'd it myself with 3 coats of acrylic gesso.

Here are the two work-in-progress shots I remembered to take:
work-in-progress hound dog painting

The one on the top is the first stage: a rough drawing of the main features, position etc. Then I did a colour block-in. I am using watery acrylic paint for this: black, ultramarine, quinacridone nickel azo gold, burnt umber and sap green.

Once this was dry I started tidying up and adding a bit more detail. I used cadmium green pale and portrait pink to see if those colours would capture bright sunshine and concluded they did. I am still using acrylics at this point.

Once this had dried I switched to oil paint. For the sunshine I used lemon yellow, transparent oxide red, cadmium green light and a particularly virulent portrait pink from Daler Rowney, as well as white. For the shadows I used burnt umber, dioxine purple and ultramarine blue but pretty thin: lots of liquin.

Hope you like my playful dog -  have a playful Easter weekend yourselves. Thank you for looking at my paintings.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Bring me Sunshine

This painting of a tortoiseshell cat started off as an experiment. It was an experiment that ended well, a bit to my surprise. 
I used a previously toned board - it was a sort of peach-y colour - and I started drawing in the placement of the cat using a brush and some watery Raw Umber acrylic paint. Then I used some watery white and lemon acrylic to mark the patches of sunlight hitting the cat. 
Then I picked up an old friend I haven't used for a long time: Quinacridone Nickel Azo Gold, by Golden. This is the most luminous, fiery, coppery gold colour. You can see it in the cat's left eye and cheek in this painting. I have not been able to find a match in oil colour despite trying: much trial, all error thus far.
Anyway, having got to this point I began deeping the colour and adding more colour notes, thinking I would "finish" with oil paint. But I didn't. 
So this is the first acrylic painting I have made since switching to oils 4 years ago. 
I am not sure I could have done this painting in oils, not in a single sitting anyway. The acrylic dried so quickly on what was a very warm Spring day, I could start layering up immediately. Colours could also be placed side-by-side without creating mud. The corollary was that blending was very difficult. I had to either blend on the palette or create the colour I wanted by layering (glazing).
It is apparently possible to buy extenders that stop acrylic paint drying so fast. But since this was the property I actually enjoyed, I probably won't. 

Friday, 7 April 2017


Oil painting of a shepherd and lamb
You have two paintings for the price of one today. This is the second version of a painting I made of Henry in the lambing sheds. I made the setting less abstracted and more realistic, zoomed in on his lovely, hard-working face and totally invented the colour harmony of the lighting. 
I imagined this is what the lambing sheds might look like in early morning sunlight (or late afternoon). At the time I was in the sheds with him, we hadn't seen any sun for weeks and everywhere was dull and olive green.
This painting has just won a Special Merit Award from Light, Space Time Gallery in Florida USA 😊

Here is the first version of the painting. This one is a 12" x 16" on linen:
Oil painting of a shepherd and his lamb
This cool colour harmony is a more realistic rendering of the actual scene. There is more of the figure and also, of course, more of the lamb. In this one, I like the fact you get all the lamb's gangly legs. Bless him.
Maybe what I need to do is paint a 3rd one that brings together the elements of these two that I most like. What do you think?

By the way, if anyone also follows me on Facebook, I am presently taking both a personal and a professional holiday from Facebook, having unpublished both my page and personal profile. 
I might switch them back on, I might not. 
Facebook engulfs both time and mental energy. I was also getting rather too many weird visitors and comments. This, combined with endless demands from FB to hand over money to promote myself, decided me to take a holiday.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Horse study in gold

oil study of a horse
This was an exercise to see what would happen if I used the smallest number of colours and the smallest number of brushstrokes possible. Could I model form without fussing over detail? Could I make something striking with 3 or 4 colours not including white?
I'll leave you to decide. 
Colours used were Rembrandt Cadmium Orange and Cadmium Yellow Deep and Winsor & Newton Cadmium Yellow Medium and Raw Umber.  The depth of darkness in the raw umber was achieved by applying two or three layers of colour, allowing each to dry in between. 
For brush work, I used a small soft angled shader for the fiddly bits (legs, face, ears, whiskers) but for mostly everything else, I used my fingers or a cotton bud/Q-tip.
I did not use white, realising that white is a false friend and often kills the effect I am trying to achieve. 
Like most people, I tend to assume white is the lightest and thus the brightest colour on my palette. In fact, the illusion of brilliance can also be achieved by careful contrast and using high chroma pigments. Adding white to any colour automatically cools and dulls it, which is often the opposite effect to the one you are trying to achieve.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

David Hockney on "Splash"

David Hockney and Splash - a piece of fan art
Here is a portrait of Hockney emerging from a vague copy of one of his more famous paintings from his early Los Angeles period, "Splash". 
There is a large retrospective on at the Tate just now in London of Hockney's work which I should love to see but it isn't really practical or feasible at the moment (train services to London from where I live being poor, lengthy and very expensive). Feeling a bit put out about this, I painted myself a Hockney instead. I enjoyed making this painting hugely.
I learnt how much he worked at this period with flat, pure colours and found this very difficult. I think he painted "Splash" in acrylics and that would have made it a bit easier due to the super-fast drying time. I was working in oils of course and to colour-match Hockney's blue I found I had to use a Pthalo Blue. Pthalo Blue is to a painting what red dye is a to a load of white laundry. I had blue finger-nails as well as fetching strands of blue hair in my fringe. It is a fabulous colour but a pig to work with.
For the vivid peach/pink/orange Hockney used, I struggled to achieve a match. In the end, I used lavish amounts of Portrait Pink - a quite dreadful dolly-mixture pink that I don't normally use - and added some cadmium orange. In real life, these colours are quite eye-ball rotting. Love 'em.

Hockney is my hero among contemporary artists. He follows no fads, he takes no crap from anyone - he just does his own thing and always has. He can also speak fluently about his work and every word is interesting, of value and never, ever pretentious. I love the honesty of his work.

Friday, 24 March 2017


oil portrait of Mahatma Gandhi
Well, I bet this one surprised you. It certainly surprised me.

It started off life as a 10"x8" gessoed MDF board. I laid in a dark background of black, Paynes grey, blue and white and started to add in sheep in lambing pens etc. Unsure how it was going, I left it for a few hours, by which time the alkyd oil paint had partially tacked up. On checking it, I hated it, so wiped off as much of the paint as possible to begin again and left the board - a nasty bruised mess - to dry up in hopes of recycling it.

For some reason, I decided to have a go at doing the sheep again, but this time pretending there was sunshine in the lambing pens, and I wiped over the "bruised" surface a goodly coating of Indian Yellow, a rather transparent and rich yellow paint.

Immediately, it didn't look like the interior of a Devon lambing pen at all, but something else entirely.

I sat there, brooding on whether to toss the entire board into the bin, and reflecting on the mystery of Indian Yellow. It is a strangely beautiful colour, but very hard to work with, as it dislikes being mixed with most other colours. 

Nowadays, it is a chemically created colour. Its name is said to come from its original formulation: the urine of Indian cows fed entirely on mangoes. No idea if that is actually true.

Reflecting on this story, however, I thought of India. Meanwhile, various news outlets were reporting the phrase "an eye for an eye" in various contexts both political and religious.

Mahatma Gandhi said
         an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind

and suddenly his face seemed to appear faintly in the colours on the board. So I painted him. 

The colours used, apart from Indian Yellow (and a disastrous prior attempt at sheep pens in blue and black) were: Burnt Umber (the Michael Harding one) and Lead White substitute, also by Michael Harding. This latter is a new one to me: the only downside is it takes forever to dry. Otherwise it is my new favourite tube of paint. Love it.

Have a lovely weekend, everyone.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Wedding photos

An oil painting of Wedding photos or an Interior with a Jack Russell

An oil painting of wedding photos, other wise known as "Interior with a Jack Russell". The interior is real enough - it is part of a room in my house - but the Jack Russell is imaginary. 
My little dog would not be best-pleased with a JRT. Too feisty for him - he is a famous wimp.
I painted this set-up as part of my continuing attempt to practise more complex settings. 
In terms of method, I constructed the composition using both pencil and paper and a computer. I have simplified it somewhat in the rendering as there are a lot of edges to cope with here and a lot of different shades of brown. 
It was important to pull the dog "out" of his background, but not so far out that he didn't look part of the scene. 
That was the main challenge, in fact - and not over-fussing it. I think have just about pulled it off, but it is a near thing. I needed someone to slap my hand and order me to stop twiddling.

I am going to have to think about the challenge of flowers. I have read a couple of artists who describe painting them as "easy". Or even "real easy".  Humph.

Have a lovely weekend and thank you for looking at my paintings.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Still life with elephant

oil painting of embroidered indian fabric and an elephant

This still life with elephant was painted solely to provide an excuse for breaking out the cadmiums - orange, red and deep red. Such fun! MY goal whilst painting was to keep the colours pure and luminous whilst still creating the illusion of fabric folds.
 Painted about 85% with a palette knife - the hints at embroidery and sequins are added with a liner brush after the paint had about 24 hours to tack up. 
It was still very squidgy in parts and I deliberately did not wait longer because I thought it would stop me fiddling and faffing about: I told myself to HINT at the embroidery, not attempt to re-sew it with a brush...
The elephant is carved from an African hardwood - acacia, we think. His tusks are not ivory. He is quite large: about a foot tall and slightly more on the length. He weighs 5 kg (11 lbs). He was my mother-in-law's elephant and this is his new home since she passed away. The fabric is a huge piece of embroidered Indian quilt I bought a few years ago. 
Indian, African, whatever - the elephant didn't mind.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Stormy Eagle

painting of a bald eagle in a stormy sky
An American Bald Eagle in a stormy sky. Looking mad as hell. Interpret that however you will.

Worked almost entirely with a palette knife. Attempts to paint the picture I had in my head with a brush all failed. The picture was not a tidy picture, it was wild and ragged and brilliantly coloured. I found it impossible to create with a brush because a brush was simply too tidy.

This was good fun: I am always thrilled to find a reason to break out the Cadmium Orange. Just love that colour.

Have a lovely weekend everyone.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Skye, walking

This painting of a foxhound was one I first tried last year. There have been three versions, all consigned to the Galerie Flambeau (...bonfire). This one was all that was left of those attempts: it began life as a sepia and white study on a 14"x6" piece of canvas off-cut.
I tidied up the off-cut edge and mounted the whole piece on to a primed 16" x 8" board, hoping that the layering would add depth. And then I painted over the initial sepia study, using a limited palette of black, transparent oxide red, cobalt blue and white with a touch of cad yellow.
The composition is an imaginative construct. I took the photograph of my friend's foxhound and a photograph of my kitchen doorway and superimposed the two. To achieve the correct scale and proportion, I asked my friend to measure the dog's height in inches from the tip of her paw to the top of her head whilst standing in this upright position (I used a separate measurement for the tail).
Happily, the height of my kitchen chair + its back was the same as the dog's height so I used that to scale the proportions of the dog in the doorway. 
Unfortunately the kitchen floor tiling is also imagined and getting the perspective distortion of the floor tiles correct was the single biggest challenge in drawing out the composition. 
I always admired Salvador Dali's chequered floors and those of other surrealists - it is a common motif in surrealism - and wanted to do it myself. It is ever so difficult.
In the end, I positioned a black and white chequered table cloth on a board to create a scaled down construct of the floor and then drew it out and scaled it up in the tedious, old-fashioned way with ruler, protractor etc. 
I am not doing another chequerboard floor in a hurry.

Most of these ideas for building a painting from imaginary or partly imaginary subjects and settings I got from James Gurney's book Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn't Exist which is absolutely fabulous and I recommend it totally. Full of good ideas, even if you don't want to paint dinosaurs or fantasy creatures like he does.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Winter walk

Winter walk, a Bernese Mountain dog, oil painting
A Bernese Mountain Dog, painted in the forest, using a very limited selection of colours. It was important to get the values right on this one and also to work quickly and with the minimum of fuss, in order to avoid my black and white and ochre pooling into mud. 
I used a No 6 and No 4 ivory flat (apart from the eye) and did my level best to put a bit of paint down of the right colour and right value in the right place and to then leave it alone.
I used to have a postcard pinned up on the wall beside me saying "are your darks dark enough?". I took it down and replaced it with a handwritten note: "Darken all the darks!!".
The darks are never dark enough. Perhaps one day I will get there.
This was an experiment on placing a portrait in a more complicated setting. I felt I needed to push back at that boundary. So this one is an exterior setting. Tomorrow I will post an interior setting. It is difficult to get the composition right, I find. Avoiding too artificial a composition is the difficulty I have.
There are lots of inspirational examples from art history. Here is one by John Emms (1844-1912, British). He has used a not-too-specific setting - it is obviously a barn or stable, but it isn't over-elaborate - and he has very cleverly used props which are the right size relative to the animals. I will try and learn from this.
John Emms, dogs in the barn

Thursday, 23 February 2017

German Shepherd

oil painting, portrait of a German Shepherd
A beautiful German Shepherd, looking pensive. I painted it to try and maximise his thoughtfulness as well as his quiet dignity. 
Painted in one sitting with a No 4 Ivory flat and a palette of Transparent Oxide Red, black and white. A touch of Alizarin Crimson to achieve the cooler pink notes in his ears.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Sleepy head

an oil painting of a sleeping basset hound

Here is an oil painting of a sleeping basset hound pup, completed in one sitting using a large flat, bristle brush.

For no particular reason, I began with the left closed eye (his right) and worked outwards, but completing the left side first because I am right handed. As with my two previous low-key square portraits, I blocked in the black background first using acrylic paint, but this was later re-painted in oils. Here we are after one hour's work on the face:

work-in-progress photo of oil painting

The rest of the painting took about 3 hours. Getting that squidgey little face on the outstretched paw correct was quite tricky, as was the perspective on his paw.

I think he looks like a sweetie, but possibly nearly as tired as me after this busy week. Have a great weekend everyone and thank you for looking at my paintings.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Pointer portrait

Portrait of a pointer, an oil painting
Well, I think he is a pointer - he might have a bit of something else in the genes. He is only just emerging from the black paint, as you can see.
In answer to a question in the comments on the last-but-one painting of a Blue Heeler, I begin by marking out a few lines with whatever is to hand - often, a pastel pencil. In the case of dog portraits, I only need to make sure the eyes and nose are correctly positioned. The more complicated the painting, the more lines I need.
Then, in the case of these dark paintings, I brush in the background in black acrylic paint, because it dries quickly. It is difficult to get the values right if I don't put in the darkest darks. Looks like this:
pointer portrait - work in progress

Then, I paint everything except the whiskers in one pass. I always begin with the eyes and work outwards, like so:
pointer portrait - work in progress

Occasionally, I might come back in and put an extra layer of fur when the first pass has dried, but not in this case because he is a smooth-coated dog and it wasn't necessary. I re-work the background in oils at the same time as painting the parts of the dog that are adjacent. 
Whiskers and signature will follow next day or whenever the paint has dried. This is so I can wipe the whiskers off if needs be without ruining the work - blobby whiskers are obviously not a good look.
In response to the specific question about whether I use Raw Umber to do the underpainting, the answer is not on small, daily paintings like this one. For larger paintings with more difficult compositions, then yes. Any piece where I might get in a muddle with the values, basically.
Thank you for looking at my paintings and have a lovely weekend.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Bald Eagle - disconcerted

oil painting, Head studies of an American bald eagle

Something a bit different for you today. I have enjoyed painting these head studies. I worked hard to maintain loose brushwork. 
If bits started to get muddy or over-fussed, I wiped the area off and started again. I like working on board for that reason - it makes starting again much easier.
I used a No 4 flat bristle for the entire thing apart from the eyes, those little line thingies on the beaks and my signature. This is way bigger than I normally use for detail e.g. the tongue of the right-hand bird. 
For that, I just used the corner of the brush and blobbed paint on, pointillist style, of the right colour and value until it looked right.
The other technique I tried, to achieve the illusion of feathers, was to wait for the paint to semi-tack up and then drag the brush at an angle and - well - feathered it.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Blue Heeler

oil painting of a blue heeler, pet portrait
This is a lovely Blue Heeler - a breed from Australia originally, which was created by breeding herding dogs with domesticated dingoes. 
It was painted in two passes. I put the background in with straight, black acrylic paint and also used splurges of black acrylic to indicate the nose and edges of the ears. Once this was thoroughly dry,  I worked the eyes and the yellow ochre fur. 
He looked distinctly odd at this point, but I let the paint tack up for 3 or 4 hours whilst I started on a separate painting. Then the rest of him was completed using black, ultramarine and white. 
To achieve the 'speckled' effect, particularly on his muzzle, it is important to apply the lightest possible brush pressure. Any accidental mixing -  creating a very unconvincing sky-blue colour in the case of this dog - needs wiping off with cotton buds before re-applying.
I have learnt the hard way that when overlaying light fur on to dark fur, any over-zealousness with the brush cannot be corrected: the mistake must be wiped off and re-painted. 

Friday, 27 January 2017

I am innocent. Honest.

A dear little poodle to end another week. Painted in Transparent Oxide Brown and Transparent Oxide Red with white. And a touch of black for his nose.
Have a lovely weekend and thank you for looking at my paintings.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Cat on the Mat

oil painting of a black and white cat

A black and white cat with beautiful yellow eyes, painted on linen. This is the fourth cat painting I have produced since last week but the first that hasn't ended up in the bin. I don't know what it is about cats, but I have found that with almost any other subject, if it is a struggle at first, it will come right if I persevere. With cats, it is either right from the get-go and they paint themselves, or it is a great, big, mucky, muddy mess.
This one painted itself.
The process: I put in the background first, although once the whole thing was complete and dry I glazed some of it with Raw Sienna to warm it up a bit.
The cat was painted in two hours flat, finishing-as-you-go, beginning with the eyes.
If you take into account the wipers and 'binners', this cat took about a week and a half, 4 palette loads of paint, four lots of brush wiping sessions, 3 lots of tissues (for mopping up the tears) and I don't know how many hours of time.
Under the circs., I do hope you like it 🤣

Friday, 13 January 2017

No dogs On This Sofa

oil painting of a chocolate labrador, on a sofa, with a cushion

An orange-brown and a warm (cobalt) blue, plus black and white, made all the colours in this painting. It was a bit tricky, I cannot deny. 
Have a lovely weekend everyone and like this gorgeous boy - chill out. Not all rules are worth worrying about.

Thursday, 12 January 2017


Head Study of a Pointer, an oil painting

A simple head study for today. This lovely dog painted himself and so quickly I didn't have a chance to take any photos. I used a very simple palette of Transparent Oxide Red and Ultramarine Blue, together with black and white.

With animals that have spots or blotches, it is always a dilemma where to start: paint the white fur and add the spots afterwards or paint the spots and add the white fur round them?
Both approaches work. Both approaches can also fail. The key thing is to work with the spots using a very gentle touch on the brush so that the edges merge seamlessly into the main fur colour without getting mucky.  
Whether this works or whether it results in a "wiper" seems to me to be in the lap of the gods. Today it worked.

Friday, 6 January 2017

A Woolly One

a woolly one - an oil painting of a black, standard poodle
Having decided in late 2012 that I wanted to learn how to paint in oils, and picking up a tube of oil paint for the first time - and looking at it suspiciously - the first subject I attempted to paint (after the usual apple and banana) was a lovely, woolly poodle.
What a disaster that was. 
Very nearly put me off oils for life. Even now, 965 oil paintings later, not counting a roughly equal number that have been put on the fire, I took the precaution of painting this lovely doggy before my annual "burning of the failures". 
The bonfire idea of getting rid of hopeless duds belongs to James Gurney. He calls it the Gallery Flambeau. I call mine the same.
I held the Grand Opening of my Gallery Flambeau up the garden the other day. My little dog - a black poodle mix, incidentally - was Head Steward and Guide. He rushed around woofing whilst 47 duds burnt.
This wasn't one of them. I like him.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Hot Lab

black labrador on an orange background
A nice chilled-out painting to ease into the first full working week of 2017. I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and New Year and thank you to those of you who worked over this period and didn't have a holiday at all.

This thank you was prompted by the kind staff of the out-of-hours emergency dental clinic who had to attempt to rescue me on New Year's Eve from toothy anguish.

The year can only get better after a start like that.

Here is the start to the painting. Gessoed MDF board, painted over with orange and allowed to dry:
work-in-progress photo of labrador oil painting
I wanted the orange to show through. The objective was that the painting would "look like" a labrador when viewed from a reasonable distance, but would appear to be growing organically out of the board from close-up
work-in-progress photo of labrador oil painting
The surface marks you can see on these two close-ups are the brush marks from the gesso underneath the orange paint. Sometimes I smooth the gesso out, or even sand it when dry, sometimes not. Last work-in-progress:  
work-in-progress photo of labrador oil painting
Once the dog was complete and dry, I went over the top half of the painting (including the dog's back) with Transparent Oxide Orange and a lot of liquin to deepen the orange at the back (top) of the painting and to integrate the dog better.