Sunday, 20 November 2011

An Almost Alla Prima

I am sorry not to have posted more or to visit any blogs for what seems like an age.  I have had a nasty virus that knocked me sideways as well as a lot of demands on my time. 

It is very frustrating when things conspire against me to keep me away from the paintings and makes it very difficult to get back into a painting.

The two was working on from old sketches are still being worked on in my usual layer by layer approach which suits the small blocks of time that I usually have available.  But yesterday I had a whole day free to paint and decided to retry one of them on a larger scale and in a looser way, with lots of paint and large brushes.

It is oil on board and is 16 x 16".  I was aiming to finish it in one session, but I had so much paint on it and it got so wet that I have to leave it to dry enough for additionall touches, particularly in the sky area.  Even today it is too wet!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Almost There!

Well, I thought I had finished this, but I hid it from myself for a while and then took a long, hard, critical look at it this morning.

I want to do a few more things to it (not much) and then call it done - it is on its way to the framers on Tuesday ready for exhibiting next month.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Two New Studies and Old Memories

I have made a start on two small studies (9 x 12") and if they work out how I want them to work out, I shall then go on to paint them larger.

Here they are on the easel with the preliminary drawings in my sketchbook underneath:

They have had a coloured wash and a bit of tone painted on since these photos and I am excited to get working on them now.

My current landscape had a lot of work done to it today and is nearing completion!

Last week, I found an old folder of some of my old student (pre university) drawings and it was a trip down memory lane for me.  We produced so much work during that time and I enjoyed reminiscing about the making of each piece. I am trying to decide whether they would be interesting to put on the blog or not.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

I am a Slacker!

Well, it appears to be so, but really, again, I have been very busy at work and around the house.

My painting has not progressed as fast as I would like and I am beginning to feel a bit under pressure to get this finished and several others that are now behind and have deadlines.

Fortunately, things are quieter, I have indoor daylight bulbs and will be working hard to catch up.

Our autumn isn't looking autumnal enough round here - we seem to have slipped rather quickly into winter missing my favourite season out altogether.  I want browns, oranges and reds in the landscape and shall get out there if and when it happens.

Meantime, work on the landscape continues...

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Another Progress Shot

Although I have only been able to work in small portions of time, a little progress has been made on my painting, I still have much to do.

Hopefully, I will find a bit more time at the weekend and get around your blogs too.

Friday, 30 September 2011

In 50 Years - Progress

I have had another busy time of it - mostly social, but also work-related.  I have worked some more on my painting and here is where I am at now, ready to start painting some more of the detail and establishing the light areas.
After Saturday's obligation is over, my diary will finally free up for some serious painting, which is just as well as I have many exhibtions and commitments to fulfill over the next 6 months.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

In 50 Years - let us begin

I have blocked in my next painting in the theme of "In 50 Years" - it is a local view that one day in the distant future may be developed with housing and/or windfarms.

It is another 3 foot wide painting, and I have just put in the larger blocks of colour for now.  Can hardly wait to develop it some more (although, oddly, I rather like it at this flat stage).

Saturday, 10 September 2011

One Finished and New Ones to Start

Since returning from my holiday to visit family, I have been busy at work (one always pays for time off, I find) and I have also had an unexpected visitor staying, so my painting time has suffered slightly.

I did manage to finish my Panorama landscape and it is up on my wall awaiting final touches and varnishing:

I hinted that I may be starting another big project and I have been quietly gathering my thoughts and resources, sketching out ideas and making Plans for this project.  It is to tie in with my Art Journal and the subject title is "In 50 Years".  I plan to do some landscapes on the subject of changes over the past 50 years and possible changes over the next 50 years (exploring threats to the environment, in particular).  The body of work is to include sketches, photos and paintings (maybe even some film/sound pieces) and I am very excited to get started on this proper.  I have some promised paintings and commissions to clear out of the way, but will begin to post my ideas on this blog soon.

In the meantime, autumn is beginning to happen here in Scotland and I know I shall have to get out in the countryside for some plein air painting as the colours will be irresistable.  

On this subject, I painted this scene from my back window in spring and feel I would enjoy painting an autumn scene now that the colours are changing.  This is a week ago and already the changes are beginning to show.
The rest of today, I shall be painting, but this evening I shall visit your blogs to catch up on your posts!

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Book Review - Painting Light in Oils by Peter Wileman & Malcolm Allsop

Painting Light in Oils
Peter Wileman & Malcolm Allsop
Hardcover: 128 pages
Publisher: Batsford 

Language: English
ISBN-10: 1906388725
ISBN-13: 978-1906388720
10.1 x 9.1 x 0.7 inches

This beautifully illustrated book arrived while I was away and was a great treat to return home to.

Peter Wileman shows his way of working and how he managed to get such beautiful light in his glorious paintings.

Here is a page showing how he pre-mixes his colours and places them around his palette.

It is a delightful and informative book and I can recommend it to anyone who wants to capture light.
The book is stunning and shows a mixture of landscape, seascape, portrait and even some still-life paintings.

Edited to add (Sun 28th Aug):  The Royal Institute of Oil Painters have a much better review on their blog with lots of clear photos of some of the paintings!

Friday, 19 August 2011

Gone Painting

Actually, in truth I will be away for a few days visiting family and celebrating my birthday and although my sketchbook will be coming with me, I am quite certain, not much art will get done.  I am even not taking my DSLR nor laptop!

I will take my new-fangled mobile phone with me which will keep me entertained during the (long) train journey when I shall be reading and commenting on all of your blogs.

I had intended to finish my panoramic landscape, but after a bit more reworking of the foreground fields it is too wet to finish the sheep I had painted in,  those few touches will get finished on my return.  I had intended to show you this image of the stages at the end, but thought I would post it now instead.

When I get back, I am going to start a big landscape project I have in mind, but I shall talk more about that in a future post.

See you soon!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Landscape Progress

Just a quick update and an apology to everyone for my slackness in replying and commenting on blogs - it has been very busy here these past few days and I am just beginning to catch up now.

I managed a little amount of time on my landscape and here is where I am at currently:
I still have the foreground fields to work on, a bit of reworking in the sky and some other highlights to be added.

It is nearing completion!

Thank you very much for stopping by my blog and for taking the time to comment, it really means a lot to me to have your encouragement.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Pittenweem Art Festival

I haven't much progress to report on my painting, I have been spending my time looking at other art instead!  Every year, a local fishing village holds a week-long arts festival and it is an amazing event. 

It seems that every cottage has a room/garage/garden/loft given up to an artist who showcases his or her paintings.  As well as those, there are invited artists who also have art on show.  This year, Helen Delerney who makes large life-sized sculptures of animals out of scrap metal.  They were placed on and around the harbour wall.  As you can see, the weather turned very wet, but it didn't stope everyone enjoying the art on display!
Indoors, there were a wide range of paintings to be seen, using many media, from watercolour, textiles, acrylic to oils and resin as well as collage and mixed media.  In fact, I was pleasantly surprised at the increase in collage over the years.  I can remember when it was very rare and rather looked down upon!
One of my favourite exhibits was by ceramicist, Craig Mitchell, who made these fantastic large ceramic sculptures with even larger-than-life character.  The above is over 2 feet tall and shows two Frenchmen frantically rowing out to sea on a French Fancy cake.  Stunning.  This other piece, Fisherwife Presenting the Jazz Prawn is just delightful.  He also had a man in a kilt, a flying Scotsman, a hunter, a fisherman and many others, each perfectly designed and made, full of quirky detail and humorous.

It was much harder to photograph the paintings, difficulties with crowds, lighting and shadows made it nearly impossible, but here is a small sample of some others I did manage to capture:

Above, the Lomonds by Josephine Gillespie - a very prolific and versatile painter with a wonderful sense of colour.

Underneath, a collection of almost abstract landscapes by Mairi Clark that really caught my eye, they seemed to say more about what is just in front of us, but also to suggest a feeling and emotion that the landscape invokes.

There were over 100 exhibits and I only managed to see a quarter of these - I am hoping to get back again next week to see some more, even if it cuts into my limited painting time.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

(Mostly) Fictional Novels Featuring Art or Artists - A List

Like many painters, I have many books about art techniques, art history and books about individual artists, but sometimes I like to indulge in a little fiction.  

I especially enjoy listening to audible books as I paint and if the subject matter is also about art, then that is even better!

Here is a list of novels that have an arty theme that I have enjoyed recently: 

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
The Stone Virgin by Barry Unsworth
Notes From An Exhibition by Patrick Gale
Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art by Laney Salisbury & Aly Sujo 

Other fictional novels with an art theme on my list that I would like to read:

The Passion of Artemisia: A Novel bySusan Vreeland
This author has several along this theme, so she would be worth checking out.

The Raphael Affair by Iain Pears
This author also has several on an art history crime theme.

The Forger by Paul Watkins
I love a good book about art forgery!

The Painting by Nina Schuyler
The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant
Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach
Another author that works in a series, I understand.
I Am Madame X by Gioia Diliberto
I have been intending to read this since it was published.
The Portland Vase: The Extraordinary Odyssey of a Mysterious Roman Treasure by Robin Brooks
I like me a bit of history too.
The Illuminator by Brenda Rickman Vantrease
The Painted Kiss: A Novel by Elizabeth Hickey
I Was Vermeer: The Forger Who Swindled the Nazis by Frank Wynne
Not strictly fiction - but another fascinating forgery story!
Loot: Inside the World of Stolen Art by
Thomas McShane & Dary Matera
This might be hard to find - or you could steal a copy!
The Painter by Will Davenport
The Serpent Garden by Judith Merkle Riley
Leonardo's Swans by Karen Essex
She also has others along a historical theme
Stealing Athena by Karen Essex
The Chrysalis by Heather Terrell

Pale as the Dead: A Genalogical Mystery (Natasha Blake, Ancestor Detective, Book 1) by Fiona Mountain
Rembrandt's Whore by Sylvie Matton
An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr
The Flanders Panel by Arturo Perez-Reverte, translated by Margaret Jull Costa 
The Tragic Muse by Henry James
The Art Fair by David Lipsky
Seek My Face by John Updike
The Botticelli Secret by Marina Fiorato
Sunflowers by Sheramy Bundrick

Phew!  That lot will keep me quiet for quite some time.  I have left out a few obvious ones like Dan Brown as well as Oscar Wilde, but if you have any you would like to suggest, I would be most grateful to hear from you.

Happy reading (and painting, of course)!

Monday, 1 August 2011

More Progress and a New One

Thanks for the lovely comments on my landscape piece, it is still coming along nicely and I am really enjoying working on it.  Here it is as of last night:
There is much more I need to do on this still.  As it is quite large, I am working from top to bottom rather than all over like I usually do and I still have much of the foreground to put in.  Once it has dried enough I shall work all over it again, refining it further.  

On Saturday, I was unable to work on it once I had got some colour in, so I began my next painting, here it is just sketched in with a burnt sienna wash:
As I don't like to use solvents or any other quick drying medium, just linseed if I need the paint to spread easier, drying time is a bit longer, so something else to work on may help my productivity.  

Having said that, I feel that having a larger piece may mean that I can work on different areas while the other dries. 

Sunday, 31 July 2011

A Bit More Progress

I managed a bit more on the landscape, I worked a fair bit on the sky but it still needs some attention, plus I blocked in some of the fields and trees.  It is now beginning to look a little less purple!
Tomorrow, I may post the beginnings of another similar format painting that I have begun to draw out.  I need something else to work on while the layers dry.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Panorama Landscape WIP2

Thankyou very much all of you who have left such positive feedback on my newest landscape.

Here is a bit more work on it, I completely changed the sky as I thought the clouds were a bit too pointy and unrealistic.
This is it just blocked in and I will add the lighter parts of the clouds in a day or two.  I am having great time working at this size and format - and on canvas, for a change!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Church Ruins

I haven't much to report on the progress of my latest painting as I have had a very busy week.  I have managed to redo the sky a little.  I hope to have more to show in a day or two.

In the meantime, here are a group of photos that I have taken over the years.  The subject of ruined churches appeals to me, especially the ones in a rural setting.  Part of me thinks that I would like to do a series of paintings of this subject, but on the other hand, the original photos are good enough to stand alone as they are.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

New Painting on the Easel

I have begun the next painting and got the underpainting all blocked in.  Once it is dry I can begin to get working on it straight away.
It is on canvas for a change and is 30cm x 100cm (1foot x 3feet).  I am using purple as the under colour so it shows through in the shadows (I hope).

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Bluebell Woods, Finished

I am so pleased to have this painting finished, it was a lot of work, with many twists and turns and a heck of a lot of learning in it!

The scene is of some beautiful traditional bluebell woods in Murthly, Perthshire, made famous by the pre-raphaelites, in particular, John Everett Millais who painted in Murthly.
And here it is in all its stages, missing out the scraped off, one step forward and two back, stages!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Bluebell Woods - Work in Progress Part 2

I am still working on my bluebell woods painting, it is taking a lot longer than I thought it would!  After a bit of a panic thinking I just couldn't cope with all those trees and all those bluebells, I think I am almost there.

This is where it was last night.  More has been done to it since, but I am beginning to think I prefer last night's stage better.  Hmm.

Hopefully, soon I will be able to post the final, finished version!

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Beeswax Collage Revisited

While looking for my bookbinding kit so I could get started on pimping my sketchbook (see previous post), I found this little beeswax collage that I had made (and not sold) many years ago.  I used to make these a lot and they were great fun.  You can see more in my Mixed Media page, here on this blog (link just underneath the banner).

They were very popular too and sold all over the world.  I used to enjoy using up those little bits of drawings, etchings, screen prints, found ephemera and papers by creating collages, using the beeswax as a binder instead of glue.  The benefit being that layers show through because the beeswax makes the papers transluscent.  Another benefit is that unlike glue, you can easily undo a mistake by reheating the wax if needed, to reposition an element.

I used locally sourced beeswax which made me feel connected to my community and I was always tempted to buy some jars of delicious locally made honey.  The smell of the wax melting in my wax pot was delightful.  I kind of stopped doing them when I began to paint seriously, I guess I needed the workspace and my pot got put away.  Maybe I should get it out again?

Friday, 8 July 2011

The Sketchbook Project

I am very excited to announce that my sketchbook arrived, much sooner than I expected too!

Here it is about to get a bit of a makeover - I shall rebind it with some extra pages, some watercolour ones and also some Frederix canvas sheets, so I am ready to work in whatever media takes my fancy.  Somehow, I don't think I will be working from page 1 through to the end, but dotting about here and there.

I also shall decorate the cover (being careful not to paint over the barcode, that is).  

So, next time you see this sketchbook, it will look quite different!

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Solvent Free Brush Cleaning

I suffer from very severe asthma and solvents really affect my breathing.  It took me a while to figure out why I was so ill at university where the studios were always full of fumes.  

I spent a lot of time in the printmaking studios and they too used solvents for cleaning up.   Once I began to figure out that inhaling vast amount of solvents every day was affecting my health I did a little research and discovered that some printmaking studios in Australia were pioneering a green method of using no solvents at all.  They just cleaned up with vegetable oil and soap and water!

It didn't take me long to realise that the same could be applied to oil painting as well.  

So now I paint almost entirely without solvents.  I do miss them slightly, in fact I love the smell of proper turps and used to love using a turpsy wash to establish the first layers, but it is well worth not using solvents to be able to paint in oils again after thinking I couldn't.

Having said all that, I do take solvents out with me when I do plein air painting because I hardly breathe any in out in the open.

But how do I clean my brushes, you may ask?

First of all, I wipe most of the paint off my brushes onto old phone book pages.

Then I wash the brush in one of those cleaning tanks filled with cheap linseed oil.  

I use proper artists linseed for moistening the paints if absolutely necessary.  Mostly, it isn't necessary and I use the paints straight from the tube.

After washing in the tank and wiping the excess oil off on paper towels or rags, the brushes are ready to be used again.

During the painting process I use a set of brushes for dark and another for light and most of the washing gets done at the end of the painting session.

To clean the brushes properly at the end, I put them through the tank, wipe off the excess oil onto a rag or paper towel, then plonk the brushes in a jar of Daler Rowney Water Washable Brush Cleaner or just simple liquid soap which I keep in a jar with a metal sink filter at the bottom to work the bristles.

I think the DW Cleaner is liquid soap and some kind of oil and that is what I will replace it with when it is all gone.  

The brushes are perfectly clean after this process and once dried they are ready for use the next day.

My lungs are happy, my brushes are happy and I am happy.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Bluebell Woods - Work in Progress

It has been a busy week here and little progress has been made on this painting, aren't these colours fun?
Here are the first few block in stages, I have worked a little on the background since this photo was taken and am now planning to work forward to complete the foreground.  There wa a set back with this during the week when I worked on the wooded area at the back and went to bed, thought about it and decided it wasn't right, so got up and wiped all that evening's work off!

I will be busy teaching tomorrow at my local guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers, but hope to get back to the painting on Sunday, bringing it to near conclusion I hope.

The piece is 12 x 12 oil on board.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Cycle Paint Cycle

I thought it was high time I did a plein air painting, so I packed up some essential supplies and got on my bike.  I had identified a site last weekend, not too far from home for my first foray, so I was able to waste no time selecting my spot.  

The weather was a bit dull and slightly damp this morning so the lighting wasn't perfect.  I sat down on the ground with my pochade box on my lap.  

My supplies were limited with only 3 brushes, 6 tubes of Griffin Alkyds, thinners and a tear-off palette.  I am used to sketching a lot before I even look at my paint, but decided to force myself to use a turpsy wash instead.  Because the scene was mostly green, I used cad red and alizarin for the wash.  The board is just 8 x 8" and I found it difficult not to have smaller brushes for any finer details.

Here is the result, which is far from perfect (I can now see a huge compositional error straight away), but not the disaster I was afraid it might have been.  I am encouraged enough to do it again and I really do not mind what the end result is, it is the process that is important to me.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011


At last I have a new painting completed and I am really pleased with how it turned out.  Finally, I am feeling more comfortable both with the oils as well as painting the landscape.  I have stopped wanting to chuck the oils out and paint still life in watercolour!

This is a scene of Lake Buttermere in the English Lake District, a very beautiful place with a lovely walk along its banks.

Never fear, I haven't forsaken Scotland - if the weather improves for the weekend, I intend to do some plein air painting locally when I can figure out a way to carry my gear on my bike.  Whether I show the results or not remains to be seen!

Saturday, 18 June 2011

The Sketchbook Project

Last weekend I signed up for the Sketchbook Project.  It is the first time I have taken part in this exercise and I am looking forward to receiving my sketchbook and getting started.

I used to be heavily involved in the world of altered books and decos, so this sort of thing isn't new to me.  

Also, throughout college and university we were encouraged to keep sketchbooks and the habit has remained, although sometimes my sketches are decidedly messy and not something I would wish to show anyone!
You can choose a theme and the one I chose is "In 50 Years" and I have two ideas to decide on.  One is about a 50 year- old person/s and the other idea is a continuation of the landscape theme I am currently working. A look at the changes in the landscape over the last 50 years with perhaps a hint of what may come over the next 50.

It is likely my sketchbook won't arrive until mid-July as the organisers are at exhibitions just now and post to the UK from the US probably won't be all that quick either.  It gives me plenty of time to consider my options anyway.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Keeping Paints on the Palette Usable Over Many Sessions

Because I tend to work on my paintings a little at a time most days, rather than in big blocks of time, I need a method to keep the oils on the palette from hardening. I like to squeeze out a decent amount and really do not want to throw any of it away after just an hour or so of painting.

Here is my solution to the problem.  I have a Daler Rowney Stay Wet palette intended for acrylics, which really doesn't see any acrylic action these days.  The well is 14 x 10", so I cut a board to fit inside the well and cover the board with freezer paper.  

Because the paper is bright white I wipe some burnt umber alkyd paint all over it to reduce the white and to help make colour mixing more accurate. It dries in a trice and in the meantime, you can draw out the composition.

When I finish the day's painting I pop the lid back on the palette and put it in the refridgerator and the paints don't dry up as quick as they would if they were just left out in my work area.  I have read that some people put a drop or two of clove oil on a cotton wool bud and pop that inside as well, but I don't find the need to do that.
The freezer paper can be cleaned off a few times, I tend to wipe up the centre mixing area, leaving the tube paint in piles, but eventually the palette needs a clean up.  Instead of scrubbing away at a traditional wooden palette like I used to, I now just throw away the old used freezer paper and put on a fresh one.  This works perfectly for my busy life.