Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Herdwick Tup

Pastel on Clairefontaine Pastelmat, 13 x 19 inches

I must say, I really enjoyed doing this portrait of a Herdwick Tup, a member of that most handsome of sheep breeds that roam, and largely make the Lake District what it is today - beautiful.  With a thick coat and stout legs, these sheep are a joy to paint with that wonderfully multi-coloured fleece and white face. They have a very benign and cuddly look about them, which I hope I've captured. 

Soft Pastel is a particularly good medium to describe the woolly look, by applying the pigment and smudging with the thumb or finger, at least on the body. The head is another matter, with mostly hundreds of thin strokes with the edge of a Pastel stick with varying light tones over darker undertones

Simmental Bullock

Pastel on Clairefontaine Pastelmat, 19 x 13 inches

Another Bullock painting for this series of animal studies. The composition worked well on this upright sized format. I've said before that I don't like to see animal heads with a sharp cut-off on the neck, which make the painting look like a portrait of a severed head! It looks much better and less disturbing to fade the neck and body out to the edge of the painting surface.

The colours used for this portrait were predominantly based around the warm browns, oranges and yellows, similar to the Highland portrait. I liked the shaft of sunlight across the animal's left side of the face, and although there are a few white tufts of hair on the head, the only pure white used was on the side of the muzzle where the light caught it. All the other white parts were described with relatively darker tones of greys and blues; it's all about tones - never trust your brain that tells you there are white patches on the animal - look how the colours appear in relation to each other, that's by far the most important observation in order create a meaningul and convincing painting.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Beyond the Fringe (FILMED!)

Pastel on Clairefontaine Pastelmat, 13 x 19 inches

Continuing the theme of animal portraits, who can resist painting Highland cattle? They make great subjects as they are, but with the addition of those magnificent horns, oh, just a dream for an artist!

I actually filmed the entire painting of this, so watch this space if you want to see it - if it comes out alright, I'll publish it on Youtube, then go to the U.S. next year for the Oscars...

update! the film is now on Youtube, in 9 parts if you can soldier on through it all, in real-time over 1hr 53minutes. Here's the link for Part 1, and the subsequent parts should follow: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5lwcP2WZ6No

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Pastel Set-up

Above is a photo taken from a high viewpoint, standing on a chair (!) to show you how I set up my palette for Pastel painting. The sticks are placed in receptacles on top of a long board which is wedged into the easel's tray, so that I can see at a glance where my colours are. They are roughly from very light on the left, then the yellows, reds, greens, blues and browns to the right. That is then supplemented with four more trays of each warm and cool colours, on the top of a stool on my swivel chair. And in the bottom left of the photo you can just see the four more wooden trays of new sticks that I might need.

I find it the complete opposite to painting in Oils where I generally use only four or five colours for almost all my paintings. With pastels, although they can be smudged on the painting surface to mix the pigments a little, you really need a LOT of colours at your disposal in order to place all the subtle colours and tones that abound in any painting. I don't paint en plein air with Pastels for that very reason - it's just not practical to have so many sticks spread out in front of you on site, which, for me, out-weighs the advantage with the medium of the more direct way of placing dry colour on a painting surface.

Porcine Glance

 Pastel on Clairefontaine Pastelmat, 13 x 19 inches

The second in my current series of animal portraits, this one is of one of my favourite pals, a lovely Gloucester Old Spot sow that resides in her special meadow with lots of mud and old hat bales to snuffle through.

Because of the shapes of their mouths, pigs always seem to have a grin on their faces, and thus by their nature, make great subjects to paint. The hairy coats are a little more tricky to portray with Pastel sticks, and would probably be easier to paint in Oils, but in general, the pastel medium is sympathetic for animal studies.

In such paintings, I try to exploit plenty of counterchange - where the animal has a dark edge, I put a light background against it, and where the edge is light, I'll put a dark background next to it. This ploy isn't stuck to too ridgedly, and sometimes a 'lost edge' is good to include, but it is a useful device to give the impression of three dimensions and to add drama to the composition.

New Born

Pastel on Pastelboard, 15 x 11 inches

Yes, I know it's a bit twee, but a gorgeous subject to paint, nonetheless. With the sunlight behind the lamb, look at that crimson ear and the lovely highlighted fleece and the beard whiskers. This is another classic case of needing to observe the tones - we know the lamb is white, but because his body is mostly in shadow, it appears a much darker tone with lots of green, brown, pinks and mauves, and if that isn't judged correctly, the highlights won't sing at all.

The subject was a new born lamb I found on our trip to Skye last May. He and his mother were on the top of a rocky outcrop, next to the ocean. Here's a photo of the pair to give you an idea of the height they were:

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Quiet Morning

Oil on Board, 6 x 8 inches

This one isn't a demo painting! I have to get down to doing some new work - other galleries want some paintings, and so does PBFA!

This is one of my favourite spots down by the River Nene, where the course of the backwater twists and turns perfectly to make a lovely composition, with the backdrop of distant willows receding into the distance against a gorgeous, early morning yellowy-orange sky at the horizon - magic!

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Blinding Dawn Light

Oil on Board, 10 x 14 inches

I hesitate to say, but this is ANOTHER demo painting finished orf in the studio! I think this one was at Blaby Society of Artists. 

This was quite a complicated painting, in that there were a lot of subtle colour changes throughout, in the sky, water and the mass of trees. All done with just four colours plus White - Cad Yellow Light, Permanent Rose and Cobalt Blue. Some of the trees had more blue in the mix, some more red, some more green and some darker with less white, accordingly. 

The hook, of course, was the rising sun as it blasted into the morning landscape, and its corresponding dazzling reflection in the river. Such fun and so satisfying to depict with paint. To achieve the illusion of bright sunlight coming out of the painting surface, almost making the viewer squint the eyes to avoid damage to the retina, is the goal, and the only way to get it is to paint what you see - especially the diffuse colours around the aura.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Village Skyline

Oil on Board, 12 x 17 inches

I did this commissioned painting a couple of weeks ago, but couldn't post it in case the receiver saw it before Christmas Day!

It's a view in my village from a couple of years ago when we had a good snowfall, transforming the roofs of the barns and buildings into a lovely pattern of blue and white rectangles. Sunlight and shadows on snow is always gorgeous to paint, and with the yellowy sky punctured by the church spire, this was a perfect composition. The brick-red end of the barn provided a lovely touch of warmth too.

The recipient was very pleased with the painting, especially as it was a complete surprise!

Freshly-Cut Hay

Oil on Board, 11 x 16 inches

This is yet another demo painting, this one done last June when I was guest artist at Patchings Art Festival. I duly tidied it up here and there to bring it up to exhibition standard.

The riverside field on the right had just been cut for the hay, and provided a nice foil of dry, pale raw umberish colour next to the vibrant greens of the lush waterside vegetation. I placed two or three figures for added interest.

Eyebrook Summer

Oil on Board 9 x 16 inches

I'm forever digging out previous demo paintings that need 'finishing off', and here's another one I found after a studio tidy-up.

This is a view of Eyebrook Reservoir just down the road from the gallery. It's much smaller than Rutland Water, but it has a charm about it, and I have painted it many times. A view in June, looking straight into the light, with that piercingly bright sunlight glinting off the water was manna from heaven, transforming a fairly ordinary scene, with a few swans and ducks feeding on the water, into a smashing vista. 

It's that moment when the evening sun is low in the sky, just above the top of the picture plane here, and lights up the water beneath. This is great fun to depict in paint, to capture that diffused flare around the intense reflected light.