Thursday, August 28, 2014

August Window Work


After a period of relative inactivity on the rapid drawing front, I’ve had a bit of a burst during August, with quite a high success rate as well.

I’d got into the (bad) habit of not looking properly, so I made sure that I had my initial good look for an extra 3-5 seconds before making the first marks.

I’ve been using a Pentel Aquash waterbrush – it’s a watercolour sketching brush which has a reservoir of water in the handle. If you need a bit of water, you just squeeze and there’s a flow through the hair. It saves a bit of time, which is very valuable in these exercises. Some people fill them with a ready-mixed wash - a good idea which I haven’t tried yet. The hair is an artificial fibre, but it feels OK and the point is pleasantly flexible and responsive.

I’ve selected five sketches, but I could have included at least three more. They’re the usual size, between 10-5cm high, and in my regular Payne’s Grey. There’s a bit more dynamism in these ones – I’m quite chuffed with the twisting man. It’s the whole figure and I really didn’t have long, and I think I’ve got ‘im. The mother and baby is a partial figure, and the marks are a little bit style-over-substance, but I quite like it. I think the best one is the central man – he was just a guy going up the road, but he’s got a touch of the classical about him, and he did actually have that poise and balance. 

Nice to know that when I do get down and concentrate I’ve still got it.

Well, some of the time…

Friday, August 8, 2014


oil on canvas 61x51cm

Just for a change, here’s a painting that doesn’t rely on greens. It’s adapted from a found google view from way up in Northern Norway, where the landscape seems entirely composed of swathes of dwarf birch.

It’s finished now - with quite a nice surface - but, its production has been a good example of why working an ill-thought-through idea, and grinding it out without really knowing where it’s going, is not always Good Practice. The initial thinking was all about the colour and the raking light, and in the (too brief) compositional stage I added a running figure, and it all seemed like A Good Idea At The Time.

Unfortunately, I didn’t concentrate enough on my drawing at the very start (February!), which meant that I was constantly playing catch-up and correcting the forms from the word go – except for the distant trees, which were actually painted quite efficiently. After a while, I realised that the elements of my original source weren’t adding up very well. I had wanted a very positive, fresh atmosphere, but then I became aware that half of my foreground birches were dead, leafless, and skeletal – and had to be changed pronto. Unfortunately I replaced them badly from various sources, and finally ended up composing clumps of trees from some (summery green) birch trees in the park, and the pair across the road that I see every single day.

I had realised fairly early that the scale of the figure – the Runner - was problematic; because the trees were dwarf birches (and not drawn well enough to indicate that), the figure was reading as a giant, so there had to be yet more coming and going on that. His back was meant to be lit by the low sunlight, but the resulting shape was a very awkward diagonal, so I hid him in deep shadow and blurred him to a mere suggestion.

Despite all my hand-wringing and grief, there are actually some very nice bits of painting here. The ground is done quite well, especially the shadowed dip on the right that leads back to the little valley in the mid distance. I’m quite chuffed with the clear blue sky too – quite a mobile walnut/stand oil mix, applied and blended with a cloth-covered dabber. I wasn’t planning to have any clouds (I know… heresy) but the minor additions left and right do imply a further distance over the last line of trees. So that was good.

Summing this piece up positively, it has been very pleasant to work in yellows and reds again. I have another idea along the same lines primed and ready to go - much, much, much more considered this time – and working through this piece has probably been very valuable in organising and working that up.

And at last - having eased this out of my system - I can move forward, and concentrate on the more interesting stuff…