Tuesday, December 23, 2008

How to create a pen/ink/wash drawing 2

I now start working with the pens establishing and building up the details of the buildings.

To increase the depth of tone, I apply the technique of cross hatching. At other times I stipple or print with either a tissue or sponge dipped in ink.
The Edding pens create a line of uniform width which can look somewhat mechanical if overused. To counterbalance this I also use a brush pen or even a very fine sable brush dipped in ink. The dark timbers on the buildings were created with these.

Monday, December 22, 2008

How to create a pen/ink/wash drawing 1

Materials used will be drawing pens (Edding) of various sizes, from 0.1 to 0.4, a brush pen, tissues, and a sponge as well as watercolour paper, and watercolours. Initially, I quickly sketch in the composition with a 2B pencil

This will be a drawing of Lavenham in Suffolk, with its beautiful old medieval buildings. At this first stage, I am simply getting the basic proportions and checking perspective. (It has to be said, however, that some of these buildings seem to defy the normal rules!) When I am fairly happy with this , it is time to move on to working in ink.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Painting a head and shoulders portrait in oils.

Sometimes, the most successful portraits are the simplest. It is very easy, particularly on a commissioned work, to get carried away with backgrounds, clothing , pose or symbol to explain who or what the person is.
This is a portrait of "Mary", a lady I have painted on many occasions. I felt that focussing in on her head, her expression and her gaze, captured her essential dignity and strength of character. To add anything else would have been a mere distraction.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Painting a landscape in acrylics - part 4

The finished painting.

Find out more about our Painting Holidays in Menorca

Painting a landscape in acrylics - part 3

I am now working at building up the detail and establishing the perspective of buildings and boats in the painting. I try to capture the play of light and cast shadows, and begin to strengthen the colours. Thin transparent glazes are overlaid in certain areas, and Flow Formula is added to the paint where more precision is required.

Painting a landscape in acrylics - part 2

At this stage of the painting, I am blocking in some of the darker tones, and beginning to construct the various buildings. I am using stiffer pigment and building up the texture of the painting. I do this in different ways. I may stipple with a stiff hogs hair brush or sponge, use a palette knife, or print materials down. There are lots of different mediums that can also assist in this process.
e.g. sand texture gel, glass beads texture gel, heavy structure gel.

Painting a landscape in acrylics - part 1

This is a painting of the small village of Alcaufar, one of the places we visit in Menorca on Inspiration Holidays.

Initially, I do some quick compositional sketches in either pencil or charcoal. I am looking at the main masses, at the rhythms and lines running through the painting and how this all relates to the picture frame. I check for the Golden section (or Rule of Thirds) and patterns of light and shade. I find it invaluable to do all this preliminary work, to think about what I am painting and why, rather just sitting down and hoping for the best! On the Holiday, I encourage students to get into this way of working.
Moving on to the painting, I quickly establish the main masses of the composition. I do not do any preliminary drawing with pencil or charcoal, but go straight in with the brush. I am working in acrylics, but at this stage the paint is very fluid, almost like a watercolour.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Acrylic/oil portrait painting 5

The finished portrait of "Val and Betty". It was published in Artists' & Illustrators' Magazine and was judged the "most popular painting " by the public at the Autumn Exhibition of the Cambridge Drawing Society in 2007.

Acrylic/oil portrait painting 4

Now I have started working in oils. In places, the pigment is solid and opaque. In other parts, I use scumbling or glazing techniques, allowing the original acrylic painting to show through and act as a foil.

acrylic/oil portrait painting 3

Out of the chaos, order gradually emerges. Details of clothing, the table and objects on it, and the window gradually appear. I am still working in acrylics and the process so far has taken around two hours.

Acrylic/oil portrait painting 2

Here, I am still working in acrylics. I now begin to feel my way into the composition. The figures are roughly drawn in, as is the basic perspective of the background setting. I establish a cool green underpainting for future warm flesh tones.

Using acrylics as an underpainting for oils

The previous oil portrait was done in a traditional manner. This time I am using acrylics as the underpainting. The reason? It dries extremely rapidly so layer upon layer can be built up quickly prior to adding the oils on top. It is spontaneous and can be great fun, as can be seen from the somewhat colourful and apparently chaotic illustration on the right. But the colours I am using are chosen very deliberately to pick up those in the subject.

The finished portrait painting in oils

Over a number of sessions, the details in the head and hands was built up. This involved various techniques- glazing, scumbling and the use of body colour. At times stiff pigment was used, at others the paint was diluted with medium. I favour a stand oil, dammar varnish and turpentine mixture. The background was added during this process as well as details of the chair and clothing.
The background was painted over the edges of the hair . When this was dry, the hair was dragged back over it and a sable rigger used to establish some of the finer wisps.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Charcoal sketch to portrait painting in oils

Having decided on the finished preparatory sketch, I now prepared to do the oil painting. I chose to work on a fine linen canvas which I had stretched before applying two coats of size and two coats of oil primer. I then stained the canvas with a transparent wash of raw umber. This gives me a very useful mid tone on which to build my lights and darks.
I drew the figure in with a brush and fluid paint ( lots of turpentine) before moving on to the blocking in stage. All this time, I am checking angles, proportions, rhythms through the figure, and ,of course, position on the canvas. There is nothing worse than painting a fine head only to discover it's in the wrong place!
The accompanying illustrations show the painting in various stages of development. The head is well under way, the hands are just rapidly sketched in , and there are still large areas of the original staining. In my next blog I will show how the portrait was developed further.

Friday, November 28, 2008

How to create a charcoal portrait 3

Thanks Simon for your comments. These are usually fairly quick exploratory sketches, not worrying too much about either likeness or expression - they are mainly about pose and composition. If I did however, chance to get the "perfect expression", I would hope to recognise it and be able to replicate it in the final painting. The client and I both agreed that sketch 2 was not the "correct" one; the sitter is a very lively 92 year old who despite her physical frailty is mentally very alert, enjoys talking to people and is very aware of what is going on in the world. We both felt that sketch 3 expressed this better.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

How to create a charcoal portrait 2

This drawing is another preliminary sketch for the finished painting. The materials and techniques used are the same as in my previous blog. Here, I have gone for a three-quarter length sketch as her arthritic hands were an interesting feature. Altogether I felt this pose produced a more reflective portrait.

Monday, November 24, 2008

How to create a charcoal portrait

This is one of a series of charcoal studies done in preparation for a finished oil portrait.

Materials: Smooth cartridge paper, willow charcoal, medium and soft charcoal pencils, compressed charcoal, black conte stick, soft cloth and a putty rubber.

Method: After establishing an initial outline, the area of the head was rubbed over with willow charcoal and smoothed with the cloth. The position of the main features was established before softening and lightening the mid-tones. The details in the eyes and mouth were built up using charcoal pencils. For the darkest tones, I used a combination of either conte crayon or compressed charcoal. The highlights were lifted out with a putty rubber.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Painting in Menorca October 2008

Well, this is my very first blog post, so I hope you will be forgiving if it takes me a little while to get to grips with all this hi-tech stuff. The truth is, I didn't even know what a blog was until very recently. My aim is to help inspire you to enjoy your painting even more, to pass on a few tips, and then, hopefully, you'll feel the need to join me on one of the wonderful painting holidays in Menorca - and soon in Scotland's famous Artists' Town, Kirkcudbright. I have just got back from Menorca and thought I'd get things rolling by posting this very short video of one of my students enjoying her painting in what can only be described as an idyllic setting. If you'd like to know more about any of my painting holidays, there's lots of information at http://www.inspiration-holidays.com/