Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Boat on Bala Lake - 2

I wasn't disappointed with my first attempt at "Boat on Bala", but as all my artist friends well know, sometimes we just wish we'd tried something a different way ... a slightly different colour, a small difference in composition, a different technique. That is how I feel about the first painting. My attempts to create a 'foggy' scene were only partially successful and were not helped by how bold I had painted the boat.

So, I've had another go, this time applying the 'fog' in a different way and at a different time. Though I'm still not completely satisfied with all aspects of the painting, I am happier with the 'fogginess' (if there is such a word), and  experimenting with painting 'fog' was the sole reason for having a go at this one in the first place.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Boat on Bala Lake

I saw this lone boat at anchor on Bala Lake, North Wales. It was a very frosty winters afternoon and the sun was trying to break through the fog. The solitude of the boat was emphasised by the quietness of the surroundings, the stillness of the water and the eeriness of the freezing fog.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Artist Showcase

As my regular followers will know, I like to showcase artists and their work on my web site.

On this occassion I am delighted to be showcasing the work of an artist friend from my art forum. Ann Craig is a sweet lady from New Zealand who loves to paint English cottages. Her work is light and fresh and I love the way she includes a figure in each piece which causes each of her paintings to tell a story. The Showcase can be seen here ... Artists Showcase

If any of my blog followers would like to be showcased, please use this contact form to get in touch.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Then and Now

When I built my first web site 12/13 years ago, it never occurred to me that one day I myself would appreciate looking back at it. I was so thrilled at having discovered a new skill (though I use the word loosely) in my fifties that I started my 'website for beginners' with the aim of encouraging others to have-a-go. I hoped to pick up feedback and comments that would help me progress, but spreading the word that we can ALL paint was the main goal. But now my website has paid me back in a way I'd never expected. It has served the purpose of a first class chronology of my development (again, using the word loosely - LOL). For years, artists who have tried to help me have been nagging me about tonal values. "Push the darks" one would frequently tell me - "Push the darks". Would I listen? Yes, every time. Did I push in those darks? Nope. For some reason, probably confidence, I've just not been able to get 'heavy' with the tones.

More recently, as my confidence has improved, I've started laying in those dark colours but hadn't really noticed ... until now. The other day I was dealing with an issue on my website and it caused me to look back at one of my older pages. I was shocked as to how pale and insipid my art was back then. I currently have 6 pages of watercolours and stepping through them in order, it is only when I get to the last page that my work has any degree of contrast and tone. The difference in my work between pages 5 and 6 is very noticeable.

I know we can keep our paintings and arrange them chronologically, but how many of us do? Many of us have blogs, but how many of us look back at our early posts and compare those paintings to our present ones. However you store or record you paintings, have a look back at how you were painting several years ago. Will you notice a difference? I think most of you will.

Due to a full time job, a shortage of time for hobbies and a significant lack of talent, my development has been very, very slow. But seeing older work alongside newer work proves beyond question that development, as slow as it has been, has nevertheless happened ... and that makes me very happy. ;-)

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Castle Wall - Chester

Around the end of October we went on a late holiday to Cheshire. Early in the week we visited Chester itself and I was fascinated to learn that, although the castle no longer exists, the wall does. What is more, I discovered that it completely surrounds the city centre and it is possible to walk it's entire length. We didn't have time on that day, but on the last day of our holiday we returned to Chester and walked the 4.8 miles (I think) around the city centre on top of the wall. At places the wall comes down to ground level, and at others it's at the height of nearby rooftops. Views of the city, the racecourse, the river and many historic buildings were superb and my camera was running on overdrive. This pencil drawing is of the section at the rear of the Cathedral and is on Medium Surface Cartridge Paper.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Red Cliffs

Last summer we visited Torbay, the English Riviera. While there we went to Babbacombe and took the old Victorian Railway down the cliff face to the sandy beach of Babbacombe Bay. The railway was a wonderful experience. It is a pair of Victorian carriages joined by a cable such that when one is at the bottom, the other is at the top. The contraption is water powered and simply by filling tanks in the top carriage with water, while emptying those of the bottom carriage, one goes down as the other comes up.

When down on the beach we hired a couple of deckchairs and tucked into the picnic we had taken with us. The sand was soft, the sun was hot, the sky was blue and the sea was calm. Looking across the bay the tall, bright red sandstone cliffs of Babbacombe stood proud over the landscape, and the distant shore was littered with white houses bearing terracotta coloured roofs making it plain to see why the region is known as the English Rivierra.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

What are the chances?

Unbelievable? I would have thought so had I not seen it with my own eyes. This photograph is not contrived in any way. I was clearing fallen leaves in my garden yesterday when I spotted this one 'skewered' onto a spikey leaf on my Cordyline Australis. I can't imagine the odds of a leaf falling in just the right way for this to happen. Just had to share.

Barn in a field

For my birthday last month my wife bought me a book by James Fletcher-Watson. I love his work but sadly his books are no longer in print. However, my wife managed to get me a good condition second hand book off the 'net, so I'm in heaven.

I've only read a few pages of the book so far, but this very quick painting of a barn in a field was copied from his book to give me a feel for how this great artist approached his work. Mine is nothing like his (lol) but I know I'm going to learn a great deal from him.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Second attempt

Well here is my second attempt at drawing the white German Shepherd. This time I decided on a head and shoulders portrait as there are more tones around her ears and muzzle. I was desperate not to have to shade in a dark background in order to make her look white and I think I've achieved that to some extent, though there are some parts of her that I'm less pleased with. She's a very 'fluffy' dog and I found it difficult trying to capture the softness of her fur.

I again used Bristol Board and I have mixed views of it. It is heavy and very smooth, which makes it tollerant of the eraser, but it lacks 'tooth' which results in very pale tones. The jury is still out as far as I'm concerned and I'll reserve judgement until I've used it some more. The light tones could just be me trying hard to keep the subject white.

PS - I've just visited Crystal's site and looked at her Labrador on Bristol Board. Can't fault the medium there - it's wonderful.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

One that went wrong

Both my blog and my web site are aimed at beginners. Not because I think I can teach anyone anything when it comes to art, but because most beginners need a lot of encouragement. Beginners get things wrong and that can be soul destroying. I suspect many beginners have given up before they've even started, just because that first effort turned out poorly and they decided they weren't capable. I like to show beginners that it's ok for things to go haywire and that no picture is a bad picture, as long as we learn from it.

In that vein, here's one that went badly wrong. It is a graphite drawing of a white German Shepherd and so I decided a grey background was necessary to help the subject stand out on the paper. I decided to use Bristol Board for the first time. I'm not the bad workman blaming his tools and I make no excuse for the quality of the drawing, but for some reason I did have a lot of trouble shading the background and I just couldn't achieve the smooth, even tone that I was trying for. All of my horizontal pencil lines were clearly visible, so I decided to go over again with vertical strokes. These were also visible so I went over again with diagonals. The more I did, the worse it became, and in the end looked like the scribbled mess that 4-year olds produce (with apologies to 4-year old's).

Having decided the picture was ruined I consoled myself with a 15-year old malt. I pondered on my drawing and decided that rather than discard it I would think about how it might be salvaged in some way. Rubbing out the background didn't work as I couldn't get a clean enough canvas, so I decided to add 'scribble' on top of 'scribble' to create the impression of field and trees.

The end result is still awful, but it is better than it was. It's not good enough to give to the dog's owner so I shall start over and try and get it right next time. I learned as much about drawing, pencils and Bristol Board during the rescue process as I did before it all went pear-shaped. So my message to beginners is don't be afraid to attempt a 'rescue' when things go wrong; even if it can't be salvaged, find a way of finishing it off that adds to your drawing/painting experience; and don't be ashamed to show your effort to others, nor afraid of the feedback that may come as a result.

Now it's back to the drawing board to start over ... although I may attempt a head & shoulders portrait this time.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Sun setting in the Lakes

This painting is taken from a photograph I took in the Lake District a couple of years ago. It was autumn and we'd been for a drive through the lanes and passes that weave around the hills and mountains. Towards the end of the afternoon, just as the light was beginning to fade, I rounded a corner to see the most spectacular of views. Most of the landscape was in near silhouette and the sun was hidden behind a cloud, but it had powerful beams of light shining down on Buttermere Lake creating a breathtaking vision. Luckily I saw somewhere to pull over and jumped from my car with camera in hand. The water was still, there was no breeze, there was no sound. I took my photo and within minutes the vision had gone.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Trees, rushing water and an apology.

Firstly, to my fellow bloggers, an apology. I haven't had a great amount of free time of late and that hasn't only impacted on my time for painting and drawing, but has seriously affected my ability to get round all the blogs I like to follow. I have selfishly found a few moments here and there to post an old picture or two to my blog, just to try and keep things 'ticking over', but not the time for reading other blogs as much as I would like.

Thankfully that is changing now. I managed to get away for a nice break last week and my ever-tollerant wife (bless her heart) made sure I had plenty of time for my art. Though I could have painted all week long, I tried not to take too much advantage of her thoughfulness, but I did manage a few hours every day, hence the recent postings of the Coal Mine and Sherwood Forest.

Here is another watercolour I did last week. I confess to 'fiddling' with this one a lot as I just couldn't get the trees right - I'm just no good at trees. The subject is called "The Strid" and it is where the normally calm flowing River Whare in Yorkshire funnels through a narrow channel carved in the rocks.
My other big passion is photography and I took plenty of photo's on holiday, especially when we visited the zoo, so don't be surprised to see a few animal photo's posted in the near future.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Coal Mine - take 2

I enjoyed doing the pen & wash of the Coal Mine so much that I was just bursting to do it again. I've always been a huge fan of water-soluble ink. I enjoy the challenge of sketching with pen, which is so unforgiving, and I get a buzz when I take a brush full of clean water and make that ink run. I decided the soluble ink medium would be just right for this scene and I have to say that I like the result more than the coloured version.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Coal Mine

When in Yorkshire a couple of years ago I visited the National Coal Mining Museum. It was a fabulous day out and I can highly recommend it if you're in the area. As usual, I wandered around with my camera glued to the front of my face and took the usual scores of photo's. In particular I was looking for a scene that adequately summed up the colliery and that would make a nice painting. Of all the photo's I took AT the mine, the view I like the best is this one taken just after we'd left.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Sherwood Forest

To celebrate her 60th birthday, I recently took my wife away to a luxury hotel in Sherwood Forest. To share her weekend, and to make it even more special, my daughter and son-in-law were able to join us. Obviously we had to visit the Great Oak where Robin Hood and his merry men were reputed to hide, and though we'd had a wet start to the day, the sun came out for us just at the right time. We took an unhurried stroll through the forest on the way to the Oak, and the view I had of my daughter and husband walking arm-in-arm just had to be the subject of a painting.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Canal Cottages

I haven't had a lot of time for art just lately and I'm itching to get some quality time to get started on that dog portrait. Actually, quality time to get started on anything would be good. In the meantime, here's a small sketch using one of my favourite mediums (media? ). This was made with water soluble pen and a wet brush. The brush was one of those "aquabrush" refillable brushes - perfect for use outdoors. One mistake I may have made is with that door on the right hand side. It is so crooked that it grabs the eye and looks all wrong. The door really is like that, but this may be one of those times when artistic licence should have been used to make it more regular and therefore less obvious. We live and learn. ;-)

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Windscreen Warning

About 6 weeks ago, as I was driving to work one morning, a stone flew up from the vehicle in front and cracked my windscreen. I wasn't too concerned and contacted Auto Windscreens to come and fit a replacement for me. It was almost a week before they could attend. The fitter appeared to do a good job, not that I'd know if he didn't, and I signed his piece of paper for him happy that my car was as good as new ... or so I thought.

The first time I drove the car, it didn't feel like mine at all. It was noisier in every way ... wind noise, traffic noise, engine noise. My car, a Toyota Avensis Tourer, is of reasonable quality and one of the main reasons I bought it a few months ago, was the quiet ride. This wasn't MY car. Undeterred I contacted Auto Windscreens ... or at least tried to. If you're one of those rare people who like impossible menu systems, continual diverts and lots of piped music, give Auto Windscreens a call - you'll love it. I didn't. When I did finally succeed in getting through to someone I was told that poor gluing can create wind noise, but I must be imagining the other noises. I have no intention of detailing all the many phone calls and arguments I've had over this, just suffice it to say my mission has been challenging, my temper has been frayed, and my blood pressure has been high.

But cutting a very long story very short, let me get to the point. What I eventually discovered through internet research, and what has now been confirmed, is that some manufacturers use Acoustic Windscreens. These are glass screens with soundproofing properties specifically designed to minimise the amount of engine, road and traffic noise getting into the cab. They are of particular importance on Diesel engined vehicles, such as mine.

Finally today, after 6 exhausting weeks of battle, Auto Windscreens attended my vehicle and replaced the previously fitted screen with an Acoustic one. Hallelujah!!! I have my car back. My preference was to have a genuine manufacturers screen fitted but they refused to do that, and I can't be certain that noise levels are now down to what they used to be before that blasted stone hit my screen, but they are certainly an improvement on the last one.

And the reason for this rambling post is to let all my followers know that there are such things as acoustic windscreens. I was unaware - I had no idea - and I almost got taken for a mug. If you're unfortunate enough to need a replacement screen, make sure you get the real deal. Oh, and don't get it from Auto Windscreens.

The tree? Nothing special and certainly nothing to do with my story ... but this is primarily an art site so I thought I'd better include some art. ;-)

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Christmas is coming

For the past few years I've always had the serious intention of painting my own Christmas cards. Every year I am determined that this will be the year ... and every year I fail to get started early enough and finish up complaining that I've no longer got enough time to sit and do them.

Last year was the nearest I got and I actually painted a couple of scenes before running out of time to incorporate them into a card design and deal with the printing. This is one scene. I used a photograph I took of a shop front in the high street in Chipping Campden in the Cotswolds. It was a hot summers day and the sun was beaming down - a long way from the cold wintery scene I needed for my card. But some artistic licence soon converted the scene into a more festive one.

I used my Image Editing software of choice (Paint Shop Pro) to create a suitable 'card' design based around my painting, allowing me to 'frame' the picture and add a festive greeting. The result is a passable card though I'm hoping to do better with the rest. I intend to do about five paintings which will be incorporated into various designs and that should give me enough combinations to print off a reasonable quantity to send around my family and friends.

Anyway, this post was done as a friendly 'nudge' to all my cyber artist friends out there to say Christmas is coming and if you're thinking of making your own cards this year, it's time to get started.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Excited about this one.

I haven't enjoyed any art or posted to my blog for quite a while because I simply haven't had time. I had a long-overdue garden project to deal with that involved moving a concrete slabbed path, and I also got roped in for changing my daughter and son-in-law's bathroom suite. Throw on top of that my usual day-job and planning and arranging a special weekend for my wife's 60th birthday, and important matters like art just get pushed onto the back-burner. Whatever online time I've been able to find has been directed into trying to maintain some sort of presence in my art forum.

One piece of bad news is that my wife developed a rather nasty mouth infection leading to a massive absess just days before her special weekend. As a result we've had to postpone our trip, but it will still go ahead in due course. It won't be the same, not being on her birthday, but at least she will still get her treat.

While all this has been going on, a friend of my wife's has approached me to do a drawing of her brothers dog. I popped down to her house the other day to take some reference photo's and fell instantly in love. What an animal this is. A white German Shepherd, with hints of gold here and there, a fine brown nose and the bushiest bushy tail you could ever imagine. I have never painted an animal portrait before though have done reasonably well with graphite. Consequently I'd not thought of using anything other than graphite ... until I saw the dog. I took 66 reference photo's and have no idea which pose to use, but as soon as I saw the colouring I realised that graphite was never going to do justice to such a fine animal. I'm always happy to hear suggestions and advice so feel free to give me your views. In the meantime I'm in 'think' mode. I've often wondered about buying some Bristol Board and having a go with coloured pencils ... maybe now is the time.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

HDR photography

As my regular followers will know, my other main passion aside from art is photography. Today, while having a good rest following a few days back-breaking work moving a concrete path, I decided to mess with my camera and took a fairly poor shot of a flowering cactus on our kitchen window sill. Knowing that the light coming through  the window would make exposure difficult I took 3 shots, one under exposed by 1 stop, one over exposed by 1 stop, and one exposed normally.

As you can see from the first three photo's, if the cactus was correctly exposed, the outside was too bright, and if the outside was correct, the cactus was in shade. Even the third shot - the middle route - doesn't show much of the detail on the cactus.

It's at this point that I remembered that my digital imaging software of choice (Paintshop Pro) has an HDR facility. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and what that means in plain English is the ability to display exposures at either end of the scale.

HDR effectively merges these 3 photo's to get the best of all worlds and as you can see from the result in the fourth photo, the outside is properly exposed whilst the detail of the cactus has been retained. This isn't the best of examples and it certainly isn't the best of photo's, but it shows how effective HDR can be at making a good photo from poor conditions.

Fishing Boat

When in Torbay last year I came across this small boat laden with fishing paraphernalia. With grapling hooks and harpoons, I can't imagine what sort of fish it's owner tries to catch.

Watercolour - 12"x9"

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Irish Church

It's been a while since I last did a serious pencil drawing so I decided to put that right. I've always believed that Drawing helps us tremendously with our painting. Not only does it help us to outline our subject before picking up our brushes, but it teaches us a lot about tonal values. I also have to admit that I am much more 'at home' with a pencil in my hand, than a brush. I enjoy painting, but I always feel more satisfied with my drawings than my watercolours.

I found this ruined church as we drove along the narrow country lanes of County Kerry in Ireland. Looking through the open window revealed the pews still in place and the graveyard was still in reasonable order. It was an odd discovery.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Comfort Zone

I'm not sure I have a 'comfort zone' when it comes to watercolours, but if I do this painting certainly isn't in it. I've again decided to tackle something I've never tried before. I wanted to use what I learned making the heat and steam clouds in my Steel Worker painting, but in a different scenario, so I decided to create a war scene with troops deploying from a helicopter in a swirling cloud of desert sand.

Just like my previous painting, I didn't know where to start nor how to get the effects I was looking for. I had a significant problem with scaling part way through and the final painting is the result of a 'rescue' job. I'm not thrilled with it, but I'm not disappointed either given the learning curve I was on. And I certainly did learn a lot from doing it.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Having fun as a group!!

How's that for a subject title ... I wonder what you thought I meant. LOL.

It's been a while since my Art Forum ran what we call the 'Picture Puzzle' but we are again pooling our resources to contribute to another painting.

None of the artists have seen the photograph that the painting will be taken from. They have each been sent a small portion of the photo, which they will paint in their own way. Each painted segment will then be slotted into place on a blank template, and the complete painting will gradually take shape.

Although the main purpose of the 'puzzle' is to have some fun with our art, there is a serious side to it. The sides of each segment must be accuratey reproduced or the portion won't fit very well with it's neighbours. It's also a great way of appreciating the particular style of each artist. On this occassion we've thrown the picture open to any medium, including Digital Imaging, so the final result will be even more varied than it usually is. This image links to my main site so it will update automatically as new squares are completed.

Great fun!!!

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Steel Worker - Mark 2

Though being very pleased with the painting of the Steel Worker, my eye was continually being drawn to those horrible stark white lines in the bottom right hand corner. They were caused by my extremely poor application of candle wax, which I thought would be a good way to generate some highlights for the wet factory floor. I didn't think it through properly and hadn't appreciated just how bold white highlights would look against such a dark background.

Anyway, though trying to resist the temptation to 'fiddle', and despite my wife's protestations that I would ruin the picture, I eventually gave in and tackled the problem. It took several layers of muddy watercolour applied thickly and dried with a hairdrier between coats to finally cover the wax. Then I added a little texture by use of some greys and oranges mixed with a little white gouache. Though I'm not at all pleased with that corner of the painting, it is an improvement on what was there before.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Steel Worker

Here is something radically different for me. I wanted to experiment with lights and darks, in fact, I wanted to try and create 'dazzle'. This subject fitted the bill perfectly, though I usually back away from painting people. So this one proved to be a double challenge.

I have to say that I'm quite pleased with it in general. As always, there are things that didn't work quite as well as I'd hoped, and there are things I'd do different next time. But I guess that's the nature of our art. Are we ever totally satisfied? We certainly never stop learning.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Artist Showcase

As my regular followers will know, I like to showcase artists and their work on my web site. For the first time, I've invited an artist back to do a second showcase. It is my good friend Ingrid Ormestad and I'm delighted to be displaying a new selection of her work. I find Ingrid's excellent use of wet-in-wet quite inspirational and I know of nobody who does it better. To see Ingrid's showcase, click here ... Artists Showcase

If any of my blog followers would like to be showcased, please use this contact form to get in touch.

Sunday, 11 July 2010


This is something different for me, and I'm quite pleased with it.

Most of us have a favourite Rose, or a Rose that has a special meaning to us. Like many pet owners, when our beloved dogs pass on, we like to buy something for the garden as a token of remembrance. Our last pet was a brindle greyhound/sheepdog cross called Tess. Soon after she died we came across a rose at a garden centre called "Tess of the D'urbervilles" and we just had to buy it.

This Rose has no special meaning. It is just one of the Minature Rose varieties, but it's small size in no way detracts from it's beauty.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Gulf Challenge

A short while ago, Sandra included me in her Gulf Challenge. Here is my effort.

Lime Kiln - Mark 2

Well, I did the Lime Kiln in watercolour and I'm really glad I did. When I first chose this subject I had considered it to be an easy picture and when I found it more difficult than I'd expected I thought it was because of the acrylics. Having done it now in watercolour I realise that the picture was harder than it looked. I'm not sure which I prefer and there is less of a difference in them than I'd expected. The acrylic looks flatter somehow.

It's been an interesting exercise and quite eye-opening.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Lime Kiln

I decided to have a go with acrylics. To get the feel of them I wanted a simple picture and chose this view of an old abandoned Lime Kiln that I discovered in Yorkshire last year. I struggled to get a decent wash down for the background hills and found colour mixing difficult, although that applies to everything I do any way. I'm not pleased with the end result but don't know how much of that is down to my using a new medium so I will do this again in watercolour when I can, just to help me better appreciate the differences between the two mediums.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Gulf Challenge

One of my followers, Sandra, invited me to take part in the Gulf Challenge. I have agreed though available time is an issue. Still, I will get there.

In the meantime, I remembered this photograph I took a while ago of a Black Headed Gull. The Gull's expression says it all. Click on the photo to see a larger version.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Artists block.

It's been a while since I last posted art in my blog and that's because I haven't done any. There are many reasons ... very busy at work, jobs at home, family issues, other online distractions ... and there just aren't enough hours in the day. When I do find an opportunity to do something, I usually have only an hour or so and, to be quite honest, just can't seem to put my mind to getting out the stuff and looking for something to draw or paint.

I always believed 'artists block' was where an artist simply couldn't summon up suitable idea's in the same way as 'writers block' leaves an author devoid of words, but now I'm wondering if it's also a case of "can't be bothered". If you have any tips for getting the juices flowing again, let me hear from you.

This drawing was done a few years ago and is of a character created by a friend. It was a project to create a 3D image using computer software and he did very well. I couldn't resist getting it down on paper.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

World Cup Forecast

Back in 2002 I was wrestling with financial modelling and as an experiment and learning aid, I built myself a World Cup model that endeavoured to 'predict' the winner. I didn't do very well. In 2006 I built an improved model and successfully forecast 66% of the winners and losers. I've decided to have a go again.

This is only a bit of fun ... most of the scores won't happen as forecasted ... but the model 'learns' about the various teams' capabilities as the competition progresses and it's interesting (if you like that sort of thing) to see the forecasted results changing as the competition progresses.

If anyone is interested, I've built all of this into some web pages and it can be found here ..... World Cup Forecast

As I've stated on the web site, DO NOT rush out and place bets on the basis on this. I know absolutely nothing about football (other than kicking the ball into the other teams net counts as a goal and kicking it into your own net makes your team mates shout angrily). This is just a bit of harmless fun and if the actual results bare any resemblance to the predicted ones, it will be more by luck than judgement.

Enjoy the footie!!!!

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Looser still ?

Yes, the title is a question this time. I've had another go and set myself some distinct targets. I decided to do a sketch in my garden in the time it would take me to eat my lunch and have a cup of tea. So, with a sandwich in one hand, a pen in the other and my sketch pad balancing on my knee, I mapped out what I could see. I intended it to be really quick and loose, yet in many respects I failed. I did it in the time (30 minutes) and I've captured the essence of what I could see, but I still don't feel it is what we would call 'loose'. It wasn't until a friend pointed it out that I realised I'd drawn in the height-adjuster on the lawn mower. Duh!!! I was supposed to be dropping detail, not including it. LOL.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Loosening Up!!

My last several paintings have been fairly detailed and I've commented on more than one occassion that I feel my technique is becoming very tight. A few suggestions have been made as to how I can loosen up a bit and I shall be giving them all a try in due course as I try to find the style I know I'm looking for.

Yesterday, I decided to do a pen drawing. I'm rather partial to working in pen and it has been suggested that it is my best medium (though I'm not sure what that says about my watercolours - LOL). I only had about half-an-hour so grabbed an old photo of Edinburgh Castle to do a quick sketch of. I really enjoy this technique of using a soluble pen and then teasing out shadows using a brush and plain water. I can't say the end result is as loose as I would have liked but it is definitely a step in the right direction - and it was great fun.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

My First Exhibition

I've never entered any work in an exhibition before. This is partly because I never seem to find out about exhibitions until it's too late but mainly because I've never felt my work good enough to show. Positive feedback through this blog and from visitors to my web site and forum have all helped me reach a stage where I feel I am ready to put some pieces in front of the viewing public. .

Here in Northampton we have an annual "Art in the Park" exhibition. It is hugely popular and artists come from all around. Some time ago I made some enquiries through our local council who run the event, and a very nice lady took my name and address. I hadn't expected to hear any more but, a couple of weeks ago, details of the exhibition and Entry forms landed on my door mat.

Due to budgetry constraints and renovation works at the venue, the size of the exhibition has had to be cut back this year. The organisers are going to try and take one painting from each entrant on a first-come-first-served basis. If there is any room left over after that, they will take a second piece again in order of arrival.

So, after much thought I have decided that "nothing ventured, nothing gained" and so last night I sat and completed the Entry forms. I'm far from certain about what I ought to exhibit but I finally decided to put in my pen drawing of Northampton as my first choice and my watercolour of Pateley Bridge as my reserve second choice. Now all I have to do is get the forms into the right hands before the closing date (Friday) and that is today's mission.

I do lack confidence in my work so I'm quite nervous about taking this step yet at the same time I'm quite excited about it. Can't wait ..... I think!!!

Friday, 14 May 2010

Ringwood Hall

It's probably not a very intelligent way of trying to loosen up but I do enjoy working with pen so I thought I'd try a fairly quick sketchy painting and try not to be too fussy over straight lines and precise detail. I feel I was partly succesful but don't particularly like the end result. I would have been very happy if it was just a little more like the work of David Webster ( whose work I really like, though I do accept I'll never be in his league. LOL. Still, regardless of the end result, I really enjoyed doing this, and that's what it's all about, right?

Saturday, 8 May 2010

An exercise

When discussing my "Modern Home" painting with an artist friend I commented on how 'tight' I was feeling with my work and how I wish I could loosen up a lot more. My friend, an extremely accomplished artist, set me a simple exercise. He told me to do the same painting again but this time allow myself no more than 5 minutes for drawing a pencil outline and no more than 25 minutes for the painting. Given the detail in the original (which took me many hours over several days) this seemed like an impossible task. However, I gave it my best shot and although the painting is not one to be proud of, I am nevertheless quite pleased with how well it turned out. This is an exercise I will definitely repeat again from time to time because, despite the result, it was great fun not being so fussy about keeping within the lines.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Red Breasted Friend

While moving some conifers in my garden I was joined by my friend the Robin. An inquisitive little chap, he was forever getting under foot. Mind you, if I put down my spade and picked up my camera he would hop it. And so we played our cat and mouse game all afternoon. I would do some digging while he dodged my spade, then he'd hide in the trees while I held my camera. In the end I finished my digging and cleared away my tools ready to go indoors. My playmate then sat on a tree and sang and I like to think he was thanking me for a couple of hours of fun.

Friday, 30 April 2010

Ringwood Hall

Some time ago my daughter announced that she and her partner were to marry. We discussed various aspects of the proposed wedding and during that chat they asked me if I would do a watercolour of the venue that was finally chosen for the ceremony. I was obviously delighted and agreed enthusiastically. A few weeks ago the happy couple tied the proverbial knot by civil ceremony at Ringwood Hall near Chesterfield.

I don't wish to be unkind to Ringwood Hall but finding a suitbable viewpoint from which to make a presentable painting was not easy. I took dozens of photo's from all angles. Doing a painting of any part of the building wasn't going to be difficult, but making it a 'Landscape painting' rather than picture of bricks and mortar was a different matter.

After much deliberation I decided to try and recreate what the Hall might look like from a higher-than-normal viewpoint. This allowed me to pull in landscape from the surrounding countryside as well as include the wonderful relaxing and tranquil formal gardens. Getting my head round this 3-D object using only ground-level 2-D photo's was not easy but thank goodness for Google Maps. The satellite view of the Hall provided me with a wealth of useful information not only with regards to what was on the roof, but also the way the various parts of the building fitted together.
A lot of time was spent on preliminary pencil sketches and in drawing out the building itself onto the watercolour paper. Perspective was obviously going to be tricky.

At first I wasn't pleased with the finished result. One of my weaknesses is that I am too timid with colour, especially the darks. The 'finished' painting looked flat and disinteresting but some arty friends nudged me into getting some more darks in there and it has made a world of difference. Now I am very pleased with the painting. My daughter and Son-in-law haven't seen it yet and I'm keen to see their reaction .... just a tad nervous about it too.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Bellis Perennis

I've long been a fan of these wonderful little flowers but only recently have I noticed their flowering habit. They are the Daisy family and only grow 4" tall but put out masses of little flowers. What has fascinated me about the way the flowers form is how it gradually develops from a 'daisy' type shape to a pom-pom.

First they create a tiny yellow head that looks much like an unopened bud, but it is only a cluster of stamen (I think). Very soon the yellow stamen around the outside edge of the flower begin to open producing tube-like petals. From time to time a stamen will produce a flower 'out of turn', as in this shot.

Gradually more and more stamen convert to petals ....

... nearly all done ....

.... until finally all we have is a perfectly formed pom-pom. It is only through the eyes of the macro lens that we appreciate that the pom-pom consists of scores of tiny tubes.