Friday, 29 January 2016

Summer in my dreams

bulldog snoozing in summer sun
A high key painting to brighten up another murky day in Devon when summer can feel like a long way away. High key, low contrast is more difficult to get right, I find. 
I think this is because the work of the Impressionists, whose paintings are usually high key, is a daunting example to have before you, compared with which the work is always going to fall short. 
The main thing is not to go too light too early or you run out of light values before the end.
Have a lovely weekend and thank you for looking at my paintings.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Greetings, Human!

A little 8"x6" oil study that rather looks as though it has been framed, but in fact hasn't.

I drew the frame on, making thin lines with a pointed round, a ruler and dilute, black paint: the lines to represent the internal frame, as well as the border about one third of the way in, and the corners. 
Then I waited for it to dry (overnight).
Using a mixture of Transparent Oxide Brown and Transparent Oxide Red (both by Rembrandt) with heaps of Liquin medium and a half inch synthetic flat, I wiped in the "wood".  
Because I am using gessoed board - which I gessoed myself, so it is to say the least less than perfect - the thin, transparent paint sits more heavily in the slight indentations and bumps of the gesso than it does on the top most surface and thus looks spookily like wood, even quite close up.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Head Studies - Elf

head studies of a chihuahua
These head studies were painted as much as anything for the technical challenge: the dog is a difficult colour and the heads are small - each about 3" x 3" - yet I wanted to capture personality.

I decided to place them against a pale blue and washed this colour over in acrylic just to get the tonal value roughly right before underpainting the heads. Here is the only WIP photo I remembered to take:
work in progress of chihuahua oil painting
As you can see, I got as far as the second head before deciding a background of that colour was perfectly disgusting. That is one of the advantages of oil. You can cover up anything. 

Someone has remarked to me that they dislike this little dog. It is true that the closest I have come to being thoroughly savaged was by an angry chihuahua. 
But I liked this one. I thought he looked like an elf. Possibly I over-dosed at Christmas on The Hobbit boxed set.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Cow skull tied to a post

cow skull on a post, western art
This is one of the paintings I had anticipated making and put a rough version on the wall in my New Year painting called Dreaming of Cowboys:
fantasy painting of cowboys in an art gallery
It is the one at the far end, bottom. The middle one I have already painted. The feature painting, of the rodeo - not yet. I am wondering how to tackle him. I would like to have a go at a full size trompe l'oeil and I am just figuring out how I could do something like that with this rodeo scene.

Meanwhile, I enjoy painting skulls for much the same reasons I enjoy painting statues - it is a technical challenge to model the form when it is so subtle. I have a nice collection of skulls, including a deer skull that we found in the woods. It was a bit mossy and green but easily cleaned up back at home in a bucket. Here it is arranged and lit by me for a possible still life
deer skull
I also found in the woods a very small fox skull, a cub I assume, and these two sit on the same shelf in my room as Yorick, the human skull (but he is a copy, not real, obviously). Here are my things on the windowsill this morning
the skulls in my studio
I don't know if you can make out, across the field, the sheep against the hedge. They have tiny lambs and are attempting to shelter them from the rain.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Anything for me?

palette knife painting of black and white dog
A little palette knife painting for today, worked entirely with a knife apart from the eyes. I like knife painting. It is easy to get it wrong and make a mess, but it is equally easy to swipe the offending paint off and start again. 
Because the paint application is much quicker and less fussing is involved, there seems to be less emotional investment to contend with when making corrections. 
am working hard all the time on applying the same principles to my brush work: think twice, apply paint once, do not fuss, do not "lick it down" etc and these are hard principles to follow. 
Using a knife more or less obliges you to adhere to these rules.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016


oil painting of a puppy playing peek-a-boo
This painting was really an exercise in painting many shades of white. I painted it in two passes, putting on the foremost fur and highlights when the rest was dry, using a combination of wet, flicking strokes and dry, scumbling (for the pillow).
Scumbling is not a technique I have used very much. Because I usually paint on board which I prime to be smooth as the proverbial baby's bottom, I had assumed the dry, scrubbing in of paint wouldn't work as there is no canvas texture for it to rub off on to. 
This was wrong, however. 
Provided I can wait patiently for my first pass at the painting to dry, I have found even tiny paint ridges will accept a scumble nicely - and what is more I can wipe it off again if I hate it or over-do it. 
The technique is very rough on brushes, but as I can't bear to throw knackered brushes away - they accumulate like so many dead flowers in jam-jars all around my room - I have lots of brushes I can use instead of my "best" ones.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Cat on the steps

oil painting of long-haired abyssinian cat sitting on steps
Here is my cat, Oscar posing in the polarised light just before dusk on my garden steps. He is seen here in full winter coat. Once the days start lengthening he will proceed to shed most of it and I will be collecting clumps of apricot fur from all around the house. 
Because this is a small painting, I had a struggle to achieve a realistic impression of Oscar's very thick coat. I painted it in 3 or 4 layers allowing each layer to tack up first. The main colours were Transparent Oxide Red (Rembrandt) and Yellow Ochre Deep (Michael Harding). These are probably my favourite 2 paints. Together they make a wonderful orange/apricot.
Oscar is a Somali - a long-haired Abyssinian. He will be 10 years old this year.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

On considering my New Year resolutions...

oil painting of a Dog snoozing in the sun
Here is a gentle painting to kick off the new year - wishing you all a peaceful 2016 with lots of opportunities for enjoying life's good things. For this painting, I used mostly yellow ochre and dioxine purple (together they formed the greys); a spot of black for the darkest darks - nose, shut eye, paw pads - and a spot of cad. lemon for the brightest lights. 

Did you make any New Year Resolutions? I have made a few. I am going to try and produce one portrait a week this year, even if it is only a tiny study. My portrait work is discussed on my other blog as some of you will already know. I have also resolved to work steadily on the two internet-based courses I have bought from Daniel Edmondson.

The other resolutions I think I will keep to myself for now, but somewhere in there is an unwritten one, to try and lighten up a bit about my work. I bewailed one big Painting Fail on James Gurney's blog at the back end of last year and he responded as follows:
Thank you, James, good advice as always. The Gallery Flambeau, incidentally, is a bonfire of your failed experiments. I had two last year and burnt dozens of paintings. Very liberating. To have the first bonfire of 2016 here in soggy Devon it will have to stop raining first!