Sunday, 23 September 2012

October Banks

Oil on Board, 10 x 14 inches

I painted this one as a demonstration piece for the Oundle Art Group last Thursday, finishing it off back in the studio today.  It's an Autumn scene, a precursor of what will be on offer next month.

After the initial block-in with warn Acrylix brushes (there's no point using decent, expensive brushes at this stage), I used a Long Flat Hog brush to place in the simple sky and grass bank on the far right-hand bank, then employed my big 1" Household Paint Brush to re-establish the bulk of the trees and bankside vegetation, working from dark to light.  The two larger trees were re-drawn with a No3 Rigger and the water was placed in with Short Flat Rosemary Mongoose brushes, blending where appropriate to similate the water reflections. Then it was a case of tidying up all over the painting and pushing in the foreground bank with thicker impasto strokes and finally finishing with a few 'sky holes' through the trees and drawing some trunks and branches.  Voila!

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Trout Rise on the Windrush

Oil on Board, 10 x 14 inches

Just before sunset on the River Windrush near Burford, and there were clouds of mayflies everywhere, providing a feast for the Brown Trout beneath the surface.  The balmy stillness was punctuated by the swish of water as the fish rose, catching the hapless insects as they drifted downstream.

I actually painted this one back in June at Patchings Art Festival, only now completing it back in the studio.  Having mentioned how relatively simple it is to paint still water, this was more challenging, with quite a lot of movement breaking up the reflections, but I got there in the end, paying close attention to the colour shifts throughout and placing a ring of swirled water where a Trout rose for yet another snack.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Derwent Reflections

Oil on Board, 12 x 17 inches

This was a painting I did at Patchings Art Festival in June, finished off in the studio yesterday.

Running from Derwent Water along Borrowdale, this is a handsome river with crystal clear water threading through the rocky valley.  Painting still water reflections is relatively simple, merely replicating what is above the water.  Similarly, fast, turbulent water crashing down rocks is fairly straightforward with lots of 'white water', but swift running, clear water is a different kettle of fish altogether.  Reflections are broken by the fast moving current and you can see through the water to the river bed below to further complicate matters.

It was the small tree growing out of the rocks that caught my eye, appearing bright against the darker water and far shoreline, and I made plenty of the stark tracery of sunlit branches.

Satin and Lace

Oil on Board, 12 x 17 inches

This composition was a close-toned exercise in textures; the soft pastel shades of the bed linen, curtains and cushions, the shiny silky top and the cotton lacey knickers, contrasting with the subtle flesh tones of the model herself.

It was quite a challenge painting this in Oils, and on balance, I think I prefer Pastel for the job.  I've entered this and four others for the New English Art Club (NEAC) Annual Exhibition at The Mall Galleries.  Having never entered it before, I don't really know what the selection committee are after, but I shall find out tomorrow, Friday.  I got three accepted for the Royal Society of Marine Artists (RSMA) exhibition, but I'm not hopeful for the NEAC, but we'll see, you never know. 

Wednesday, 19 September 2012


Pastel on Pastel Board, 19 x 12 inches

Continuing with one more Pastel on my recent theme of painting from the female human model, I painted this smaller Pastel when she hit this pose quite naturally and I said "that's it!"  Getting an interesting pose when you have no preconceptions as to what you want is tricky, but the main thing I look for is how the light plays on the body.  In this instance, the light pouring through the window from the left, lit the right side of the model's features as she clutched her waist and turned her head towards the light, and the stretchy grey top perfectly described her form.

So, having got the pose, the picture came together quite quickly and I found a surprising amount of colour in the grey top, with warm reds and purples and cooler blues, greys and greens.  I made use of the lit model's right side and placed a relatively darker tone next to it, and conversely a lighter tone next to her darker left side in shadow, which is always a good trick to employ, called counterchange in artists' speak, to make the painting more interesting.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Across the valley, Stow

 Pastel on Clairefontaine Pastelmat, 19 x 27 inches

Just when you all thought I'd abandoned my default subject in favour of painting the female human form, I'm back with a landscape.  Just want to keep you guessing...

This is a view just outside the delightful Cotswold town of Stow-on-the -Wold.  Looking across a valley, there was a gorgeous feeling of spacial distance, looking into the sunlight.  I rather liked the downward slant of the puffy clouds, countering the upward slant of the field in the foreground, so I made use of that.  The ewes and their lambs provided a nice bit of life and interest and I placed them accordingly to enhance the composition.

The whole painting was composed of an eclectic mix of greens, richer in the foreground trees and getting progressively more blue into the distance.  Again, observation is the key, painting what you see, not what your brain tells you, ie., we all know trees are green in their summer garb, but if all the trees are painted green, even the ones across the valley far away, there will be no illusion of depth, of three dimensions.  

So, in summary, all realistic painting is, is painting what you see before you, easy peasy.  If I give out any more wisdom, I shall be out of a job, so please ignore the last sentence....make sure you paint all your trees, regardless of whether they're near or far, bright emerald green......

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey

Pastel on Clairefontaine Pastelmat, 19 x 27 inches

I was trying to think of a snappy title for this one...morning read, good read, lost in a book, etc., but none had the snappiness I was looking for...then I hit it...Fifty Shades of Grey, borrowing the title of the novel in vogue that has captured a lot of women's hearts currently.  Is that the book she's reading, is it a nod to the silky underwear she's wearing, or to all the subtle pastel shades of grey in the bed linen and cushions?  Clever eh?  

As far as the painting is concerned, I felt the composition would suit the softness of Pastel and I enjoyed crafting all the folds of material radiating around the model and on her silky top, and then concentrating on the subtle twists and turns of flesh colour of the model herself.  There's no short cut to getting the colours and tones of the human form right.  It's a patient trial and error, placing each stroke and slab of colour down, then comparing it to the colour and tone immediately surrounding it and the colour and tone surrounding that, and so on.  That's why you must never concentrate too long on one part of the painting, because if you isolate one part, then place the background next to it, the passage you've just spent valuable time on and are happy with, will immediately change.  It's all about comparing and balancing, until you reach the whole.  Have you got the subtle nuances of colour and tone right?  And with a relatively big painting like this, I always paint standing up, so that I can constantly keep stepping back, squinting and assessing.  If you sit down and never step back, you're too close to see the whole, and it's odds on that you will have made several errors of drawing and colour that you just can't see so close to the painting.  

Why I hand out these tips so freely without monetary recompense is beyond me.  Sometimes I'm just TOO nice for my own good.  If this rambling has touched you, please send cheques made payable to Peter Barker, at.......

Friday, 7 September 2012

Morning Repose

Oil on Board, 14 x 22 inches

A handbrake turn from landscapes for me......I haven't done any life-drawing since night school in the early '80s, so I really enjoyed painting from the model for a change. 

Human flesh colour is a joy to depict in paint; there are so many subtle tones and colours, shifting from warm to cool and back again.  I particularly like the colour shift on the curves of the model's buttocks, from the sunlit warm ochrey pink, to cool green, to a warm, reflected orangey tint in the shadows.  This defines the curves that we know are there, and is again an exercise in painting what we see, and not what we know.  The colours and tones are all there - we, as artists, just have to observe and translate what we truly see onto a flat, two-dimensional surface to give the illusion of three dimensions.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

LPS Exhibition

Just a note to say that the 13th Leicestershire Pastel Society (LPS) Annual Exhibition is starting tomorrow, Thursday 6th September, at the superb Brocks Hill Visitor Centre and Country Park on Washbrook Lane, Oadby, Leicester LE2 5JJ, with the Preview from 7pm - 9.30pm.  

The show will be officially opened on the night by Ann Wilkinson P.S., and the exhibition continues until Sunday 9th, Friday 10am - 5pm, Saturday 10am - 4pm and Sunday 10am - 3pm.

There will be about 70 paintings on show from members of the LPS, including three from yours truly (below), so please come along and enjoy the paintings with a glass of something and canapes in a very convivial atmosphere.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Autumn Cathedral

Oil on Linen Canvas, 20 x 30 inches  SOLD

I thought I'd better paint at least one Autumnal picture for my upcoming one-man-show, and this one is quintessentially that.  It's a view I've painted many times before, in all seasons and weathers, but in Autumn it really looks its best looking into the sun, when the foliage of the Oaks take on a cornucopia of jewelled greens, yellows, oranges, rusts and purples.  I really let myself go with a lot of colour and marks using a variety of brushes and palette knife. There is a lot of paint on this one, so you get value for your bucks!

I entitled the painting Autumn Cathedral because of the archway formed by the branches reaching each other across the road, and the patterns of the twinkling leaves appeared almost like looking through a stained glass window, but far more beautiful.