Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Waterproof Whizzers

Pastel on Pastelmat, 16.5 x 19 inches

Ducklings are like little clockwork toys, never still, whizzing about over the water, occasionally dipping in and bobbing up like corks with globules of water glistening on their downy feathers.  This is what I've attempted to capture in this painting, with the surface disturbed into marbled patterns and sparkling stars of sunlight. 

How do I decide what medium to use, I hear you ask ?  Well, this one yelled out "Pastel" to me - I find the ripples and mauvey sky reflections are a lot easier to depict in the dry medium than Oil - don't get me wrong, still incredibly difficult........and only I am capable of pulling it off....ahem.

Monday, 23 May 2011

English Bluebell Spring

Oil on Board, 14 x 20 inches

Yes, I know it's a bit twee, but Bluebells in a wood ARE one of the most spectacular sights of Spring in England.  This is from a wood local to me at Fineshade, part of the ancient Rockingham Forest. I wasn't after a pretty scene, so opted for my favourite angle of looking almost straight into the sunlight. 

The flowers had just about gone over when I went down there early one morning, so I had to embellish what I saw a bit, but I made good use of the back-lighting with lots of light and shade, with most of the painting done with my well-loaded 1-inch household paintbrush, apart from the tree trunks and branches anf=d the few impast dabs with a palette knife.

Highland Red

Pastel on Pastel Card, 19 x 24.75 inches

Highland Cattle are such benign looking animals, but you need to steer clear of those horns - they're made of cow-horn you know. In the words of Jonesey "They don't like it up'em Captain Mainwearing, they don't like it up'em !"

I had some fun with what we artists call counterchange (sounding clever again), ie dark passages against light passages and vice versa.  This is a trick employed to make the painting appear less flat, more three dimensional and generally more interesting. If you'd like to send a large cheque to me for divulging these secrets, please feel free - I won't be the least bit embarrassed.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Hazy Hills

Pastel on Clairefontaine Pastelmat, 19 x 26.75 inches

This was one of those lovely hazy summer days, when distant trees appear increasingly bluer the further away they are, because you are looking through so much atmosphere (sounds like I know what I'm talking about doesn't it?).  The cattle dominate, obviously, but did you spot the two rabbits I placed in the right foreground on the short-cut grass ?  A pastoral pastel don't you think ?

Another word for you other Pastellists; further to my comments about using Pastel Card on the 'Hitch-Hiker' post, I've just started using Clairefontaine Pastelmat, and it's wonderful.  To quote my friend and painting colleague Mary Herbert, "where has it been all my life?!"  Pastelmat is a deceptively smooth surface that really grabs the Pastel pigment, and is a joy to work on and I think once my current supply of Pastel Card has been used up, I shall be painting exclusively on Pastelmat.  

Ugly Ducklings

 Pastel on Clairefontaine Pastelmat, 19 x 26.75 inches

What is it about Swans with me ?  Those of you have seen my work in the past know that swans seem to feature quite a lot in my wildlife studies.  They are just the most beautiful birds, and being big and white, they do make wonderful subjects for painters.

I called this one 'Ugly Ducklings' after the Danny Kaye song, so often played on Junior Choice in the late fifties and sixties (that dates me)  Anybody under 40 probably won't know what on earth I'm talking about...who's Danny Kaye ?  Educate them everyone....oh, and sing the song !  I bet you'll be cursing me for the next couple of days - you won't get it out of your head will you...."with feathers all stubby and brown...............get out of town"

The Hitch-Hiker

Pastel on Pastel Card, 19 x 31 inches

You can just see the little guy cadging a lift from his mum while his four siblings are paddling furiously - there's always one rebel.

This is about as big a Pastel as I paint.  It was as much a portrait of the water as the Swans, and I had quite a battle to make the water convincing as a wind-ruffled surface, making the reflections very broken up.
For the Pastellists among you, I have used Pastel Card for some years - its gritty surface is made from thousands of cork particles, but many people don't like it because they find it too abrasive and you can't wet it because the surface lifts off. I've never seen the point of putting a wash over an already tinted ground, but if you accidentally get a bit of spit on the surface when you blow loose Pastel dust away, if you leave it to dry, there is no problem - just cover the offending spot with a little Pastel.  I, too, find the surface a little harsh, so I rub it with a piece of 240 grade Wetordry paper. You can be quite agressive with it, so that the resulting surface is fairly smooth, but it still grips a lot of Pastel. I use my fingers a lot with Soft Pastels, so it's a very tactile way of working and that's why I want a smoother grit.

Friday, 20 May 2011

The Culture Show

Well, what a surprise, the first of the new series of the Culture Show last night featured who else but Tracey Emin RA, y-a-w-n. Miss Emin makes good copy for the media in the same way Wayne Rooney does, in that you never quite know what they're going to do next, but it will most likely be controversial and foul-mouthed; the difference being that Wayne Rooney is really good at what he does. Their is no evidence of any equivalent artistic skill in Tracey Emin's 'work'.

Everything she does is autobiographical and because she has managed to pull the wool over so many contemporary art buyers' eyes for so long, she can 'do' anything, give a personal story to it and it's part of another voyeuristic exhibition.  A classic case, if there ever was one, of the Emporer's new clothes.

Do we really care what banal things she's done in her life, and do we really want to see an animated film of her drawings, rodgering herself, or her used tampons?  The Culture Show confuses me and I suspect the vast majority of the country's art-loving population with someone who gives a damn, but if the Saatchis of the world wish to further swell Miss Emin's vast fortune, more fool them. 

For Brian Sewell's priceless review of her exhibition, far more eloquent than mine, settle down with a cup o' tea and a dictionary and read it at www.thisislondon.co.uk/arts/review-23951482-terrible-tracey.do

If only the Culture Show would give similar air time to the other great exhibitions going on in London and the provinces all the time, by artists who can actually paint, like Ken Howard, Trevor Chamberlain, David Curtis or others too numerous to mention.  There is a fabulous one on right now in Bath at the Victoria Gallery by Peter Brown, link http://www.victoriagal.org.uk/exhibitions/future_exhibitions/peter_brownbath_between_snows/catalogue_page_1.aspx 
 All Peter's work is completed en plein air, in all weathers, together with some stunning interiors. What a breath of fresh air it would have been for the BBC to have done a 10 minute feature of Peter's work, showing him painting and talking about his work without the bullshit, backed by his grafting away for years to produce truly superb, honest, skilful paintings - a feast for the eye. Pete gets good money for his work and rightly so, but ironically he will never be a multi-millionaire like Miss Emin.  David Lee, Charlotte Mullins and Roy Bolton should go and have a look and see what real 'art' is, though I expect they'd dismiss it as unoriginal and derivative.

As my friend said to me yesterday in an email, I really should stop sitting on the fence and say what I really think !  Back to the bull...the portrait of one I'm painting in Pastels.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Show me the sodding Monet !

Words almost fail me, but not quite......on today's debacle of a show, David Lee pronounced Jamie Hageman's superb mountainscape (no mention at any time of the medium used) not good enough, whilst Charlotte Mullins and Roy 'the voice' Bolton were astonished that Jamie was self-taught and hadn't been to art college.  I would have been astonished if he HAD been to art college, producing that work !   

Unbelievable - they clearly know nothing about painting and how it is learned. Most really decent professional artists have developed their own way of working from studying and PAINTING, not going to art college and fannying about with dripping paint and freeing one's soul, abandoning draughtsmanship, design, perspective, tone, colour and brushwork. In the words of Inspector Grimm in 'The Thin Blue Line' (left) "there's far too much arty-farty, namby-pamby, hoity-toity, wishy-washy, lardy-dardy, sun-dried tomato eating, decaffeinated fannying about !"

Let's see what tomorrow's show coughs up........I may burst a blood vessel. 

Eagle Crag From Stonethwaite

Oil on board, 9 x 12 inches

This little painting was painted on site in March, on a beautiful early Spring day.  I was so warm lugging the painting gear around, looking for a good vantage point, that having found the view I wanted on a rocky outcrop by an old sheepfold, I pulled my wellies off and painted barefoot (risque - get me !)

The light changed quickly and by the time I finished two hours later, the sun had cleared off and it was pointless carrying on.  So, with the aid of a couple of reference photos I took after an hour into the painting, and the memory of the original light, I finished it off in the studio.  Eagle Crag itself was sunlit on one side, as were the foreground meadows, walls and bare trees, but the mountain in the middle-distance was thrown into dark relief in blues and purples.  I hope I've done it justice.

During the painting on site, the herd of Herdwicks were gathered up by the Stonethwaite farmer's sheepdog, running the full length of the meadow, right down to the far walls by the conifers - it was a joy to watch !

Show me the Monet

I felt I had to put my two-penny's worth on this BBC2 programme, presented by the cheery Chris Hollins, with three art critics (groan) selecting paintings to go into an exhibition at the RCA (Royal College of Art)

The selection process is bizarre and sadly, predictable for the BBC.  The oft-repeated mantra is that the work must be 'original', show good technique and evoke an emotional response. How sad it is that a well-painted picture is summarily dismissed as 'un-original' and painted so many times before.  So, if no-one had ever heard of Rembrandt and he offered one of his paintings, his would be dismissed for the same reason - "we've seen Van Dyck's work and this is very derivative"

Take Karl Terry on last Wednesday's show - Karl offered a fine painting done entirely on site in Rye Harbour : 
This was dismissed as being un-original, never mind the technical skill of Karl's brushwork and years of grafting in all weathers to catch those fleeting light effects. 

Then the three critics went mad over Caroline Thatcher's painting of herself as a child standing on a chair with a vulnerable look on her face. The painting was crude, technically awful, but this was swept aside because of the emotional response it evoked.  No light or shade in the painting, awful bright green monotone background (view at www.saatchionline.com/profile/152108). 

Then today's (Tuesday) show we had them fawning over Katy Sullivan's portrait of her daughter, (view at www.katysullivan.co.uk/portfolio.php) obviously painted (very well) from a flash photograph - no light and shade on the face at all, single colour and toned background, then David Lee of all of them rejecting Andrew Kinsman's brilliant portrait of a man blowing a bubble (view at www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=158100726686&set=a.158100031686.118698.157030626686&type=1&theater), saying he doesn't like paintings done from photographs !  Absolutely bizarre - obviously hadn't occurred to him that Katy's portrait had been done from a photo, a flash one at that as was evident if he knew anything about flash photography - it flattens and bleaches the features and leaves a white highlight in the centre of the eye. And how did he think the daub of the little girl standing on the chair was done ?

Whilst art is always going to be subjective, especially when chosen by critics who don't know enough about painting, it's such a shame that 'contemporary' always wins out in the media, like the annual Turner Prize joke.  Talent is not a prerequisite, in fact a positive drawback - just be different.  Put some excrement on a canvas - though I dare say Tracey Emin's already done that.

Such a pity the BBC didn't think it would have been a good idea to have at least one, preferably two artists on the hanging committee - proper artists who know how to paint and can see that a painting has been thought about, has good composition, good technique, an understanding of tone and colour, has meaning and not just paint daubed on randomly or crudely and the artists then waxing on about it with utterly meaningless drivel. 

The sad fact is, talentless 'artists' are coming out of college and are being told that they do have talent, further enforcing the myths in their deluded minds, thus assuring the longevity of the garbage offered up.  We in Britain are SO far behind the art produced in the U.S. and destined to stay that way unless and until the media give a voice to 'old-fashioned art'.  There are only two sorts of art - good and bad, and bad prevails in the media.  Wake up you idiots !!!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Line Of Enquiry

Oil on linen canvas, 20 x 30 inches

The last of my big oils for now, this one.  I've figured out a shorthand for painting shingle, but I still need therapy - see you all in a couple of years........
Fishing boats are such wonderful subjects - all that bit different, weathered from their hard work, each painted in jolly colours.  My favourite light again, looking straight into the sun, which is the most challenging task for the painter.  All the white cabins are thrown into a very subtle blueish silhouette, apart from the tops of them.  Tone is everything - colour is important of course, but if you get the tone of each object right, the painting 'reads' right in the eyes of the onlooker. 
The brightest part of the painting is the sea itself, which is catching the pure sunlight from the overhead sun - that particular intense light phenomenon you get looking at an expanse of water straight into the sun.   Usually the lightest part of a painting is the sky, but not here.  You can see I've painted the clouds very bright, but a tone down from the sea.  
I love dramatic lighting like this.  Yes, it's a portrait of boats on the beach at Beer, but it's more an observation of a light effect.  As I said tone is so important, but if you can get the colours right too....but to get that, of course, you have to be very, very clever...............cough.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Summer Grazers

 Oil on board, 10 x 14 inches

This painting was done as a demonstration piece to The Weldon Art Group a while back.  I've only just got round to finishing it.  It was originally painted from a reference photo taken in June by my local river, but I decided to change it to August with the colourful pink Himalayan Balsam and Purple Loosestrife adorning the vegetation.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Glorious Autumn

 Oil on Canvas, 20 x 28 inches 

There's an awful lot of texture on this painting that doesn't show on the two dimensional photo. I deployed my long, flexible palette knife combined with my big household paintbrush for much of the russet foliage and fallen leaves.  Generally speaking I'm a fairly lean painter, but you'll get real value for your money with this one - the paint's fairly sculpted on !

I put in the Fallow Deer stag with his harem at the suggestion of a friend and slightly re-arranged the perspective of the foreground logs to lead the eye to the focal point - dashed clever what, Jeeves ?  

I was painting late into the night in the studio under my two 5ft daylight fluorescent tubes, and it being a warm May evening, the windows were being bombarded by Cockchafer Beetles, commonly known (and less suggestively) as Maybugs, photo below. These are enormous beetles, nearly two inches long and if they collide with you when you're out at night, it's a bit like being hit by a little buzzy helicopter !  They don't mean to hit you, even though they look fearsome - they're just clumsy, blundering, harmless guys who've staggered out of the pub, a bit worse for wear, so if you come across one, just put him out of harm's way to stop him being squashed.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Cob and Pen

Oil on Canvas, 22 x 22 inches

You're thinking "he's lost it, he's giving his swans funny names now"....well, to the unitiated among you (sounding smug now) male and female Swans are called the Cob and the Pen, respectively. Nice looking Pen.

I usually paint animals and birds in Pastel, but on this occasion, I decided to do it in Oils, and I'm pleased with the result.  The greater bulk of the painting was done with 3 colours, my primaries, Cadmium Yellow Light, Permanent Rose and Cobalt Blue, plus white of course.  I always say in my demos that you can make any colour you want from just those 3, and I fail to see the point of buying four or five shades of each and every colour.  It just complicates the issue and only frightens those who are dipping their toe into the water of Oils. (bad analogy, oil doesn't mix with water, but you know what I mean)  The only additional colours used were Burnt Sienna, French Ultramarine and Raw Umber, but only tiny quantities of each.

The main brushes I used for this one were Rosemary and Co.'s (www.rosemaryandco.com) fantastic Long Flat Mongooses, which are just wonderful to use - great for the ripply water - they take a lot of pounding and keep their beautiful sharp, chiselled edge.  I can't praise these brushes enough - nothing else compares to them.  They're soft, but springy at the same time and you can put slabs of paint on sideways, turn them at right angles and get those gorgeous fine lines, or add tiny impasto blobs of highlights with the corners, all with a big No 6 brush.  

I bought some Langnickels from America a few years ago at great expense and the hairs fell out of 4 of them, then I discoverd Rosemary's Mongooses right here and they are miles better in quality - I've used them a lot and not one hair has come out and they just keep coming back for more and retain their shape beautifully.  But all you amateurs - you must look after your brushes - rinse them well in white spirit, dry them with a rag, THEN wash them with warm water on a bar of soap and rinse under the tap. 

Blimey, it's 1.40am - I can't stay up all night talking to you lot, giving away all my secrets !  I'm orf to bed.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Hard Frost

Oil on Canvas, 16 x 22 inches

This is a hark back to the big freeze in December before the snowfall.  The river was partly frozen over and everything coated with hoar frost - a bit like icing sugar on a doughnut, but tastier.
I love painting frost - an exercise in close tones, almost monochrome, with very subtle colour changes.  I love our country with all its glorious seasons.

Don't forget you can see a full screen sized image if you click on any image, and hone in more by clicking on that again.  Any comments will be gratefully received by clicking on 'comments' in the light blue box at the foot of any post. Thanks for looking !