Saturday, 31 December 2011

The best of 2011

As the year draws to a close I find myself reflecting back on my art journey over the course of 2011. There have been those successes I have been very pleased with and proud of, and there have been those that I have not been pleased with but have learned a lot from. That's one of the nice things with art ... even when we mess up we learn something, so it's a win-win situation most of the time.

Reflecting on my highlights I have pulled out a few pictures I'd like to share with you again. Firstly, the one and only painting I've sold in exhibition ... "The Steelworker". I got into a real mess with this one because I cleverly decided to try candle wax to create the water on the furnace floor. It was a huge mistake so I tried to overpaint it. That's not easy with watercolour. Anyway, long story short, I wrestled with the wax and created mud on top of mud on top of mud. I became as close as I've ever come to not finishing a painting, but in the end I got there.

2011 was also the year I attempted my first ever portrait. This graphite drawing of Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow was a major "dip the toe in the water" exercise. I didn't have proper blenders or tortillons and didn't really appreciate how they would be used, so I managed with some tightly rolled up kitchen paper. It was a learning curve of huge proportions.

This 'discovery' of being able to do realistic drawings in graphite led me on to trying various other subjects and one of my favourites of those is this Leopard, which I stupidly thought was a Cheetah. Duh! Still, whatever it was didn't detract from the enjoyment of gradually watching him come together, spot by spot.

I have always enjoyed drawing with Pen but haven't done any for a long while and these pencil drawings led me back to pen work, but at a new level. I experimented with cross hatching which I'd never tried before and confess to having a long way to go before I'm pleased with what I'm doing, but this drawing of Robin Hoods Bay didn't disappoint me.

But I felt that all of this very tight work was having a negative effect on my watercolouring (if that's possible - lol). So I tried my hand at sketching. I find it difficult to just 'let go' and let whatever happens, happen. But the more loose, free and easy, hurried sketching I did with my pens, the more I felt at one with the paper. Pen sketching and loose watercolours all came together for me in this very simple painting of the river at Staithes. A totally alien style for me, but one which I thoroughly enjoyed.

One of my 2011 highlights was to receive a request from a young couple who are getting married in April at Edinburgh Castle. They wanted to know if they could use my pen sketch on their Wedding Invitations. It is small moments like this that make you feel your work is appreciated for what it is, and that's important for us all.

I can sum up 2011 for me by saying it has been a milestone year. I conquered personal fears by stepping out and sketching in public and I've tried several different techniques and media. I have had the disappointments that have taught me lessons and the successes that have helped my confidence. Most of all, I have enjoyed sharing my journey with all of you, just as I have enjoyed following your own journey's. You are all an inspiration to me.

My goals for 2012? To consolidate on what I've accomplished in 2011 by trying to bring my new found confidence into my watercolour painting, to improve further with my graphite and pen work, and to try some serious work with Charcoal and Pastels. Most of all I intend to get out and about with my sketch book culminating in some watercolour painting en plein air. That is an ultimate goal.

Thank you for your support during 2011 and I wish you all the very best for 2012.
Happy New Year!!!

Friday, 23 December 2011

Oh no, Not again!!!

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

Candles were flickering, the light it was dim
The log fire was burning, the weather was grim
Outside it was fierce, with the snow and the ice
But inside was warm, cosy and nice.

When suddenly there came such a rattling clatter
Everyone startled … what was the matter?
Could it be reindeer on the pavements outside?
“He’s here, he’s here” the children all cried

But looking out through the cold frosted glass
T’was no sign of reindeer on pavement or grass
Yet the noise it continued it’s rat-a-tap-tapping
It wasn’t a hammer nor people clap-clapping

The mystery grew deeper, it wasn’t a car
Nor herds of horses, nor sheep going “Baah”
It was more like a woodpecker pecking a log
“Oh no, not again!!”,  it’s John on his blog.

  .... typing a sincerely, heartfelt THANK YOU to all my blog followers for the wonderful support and encouragement you've given me over the past year. You've helped me try new media and new techniques but most of all you've helped me see my own work through your eyes. My confidence has grown hugely during the last 12-months and that is largely down to you. 

Merry Christmas and a happy, peaceful and healthy New Year to you all.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Some basic Maths

I'm absolutely delighted to have been presented with The Versatile Blogger award by fellow bloggers Sandra, Renske and Michael. It is a requirement of the award that I pass it on to 15 other bloggers and that I also state 7 facts about myself. I'm going to do that last part, but not the first.

Think about this award for a moment and do some basic maths. One person nominates 15 blogs. Each of them nominates 15 more. so that makes 225. Each of those 225 nominate 15 more, so that is 3375. And each of them nominates 15, which makes 50,625. I've traced the award back over at least 6 levels, and if every recipient nominated 15 more blogs, then my award is just one of 11,390,625. You can see where this is heading .... the next round will generate in excess of 170 million awards. Also, to be quite honest, I would struggle to nominate 15 blogs that I follow that aren't already recipients.

I'm sure that this sounds as if I'm very ungrateful to have received the award, but nothing could be further from the truth. For me, the true award is being considered worthy to receive it by my peers. I don't need a fancy logo with a title ... just to be named in Sandra, Renske and Michael's lists is prize enough. Thank you all.

As to 7 facts about myself .....

1.  Well into my 60's now, I am working part time and about to retire fully very soon.
2.  I am a keen amateur photographer and I would have a photography blog if I had time for another.
3.  My favourite saying is "Don't let your past dictate who you are, but let it be part of who you will become".
4.  I am very shy and introvert which prevents me sketching/painting en plein air - but that is something I am determined to rectify in the new year.
5.  I hate the way other people's cats come into my garden to use it as their own personal toilet and kill the wild birds that I've encouraged down.
6.  I would love to spend Xmas in a log cabin in the mountains, snowed in with ample provisions and a roaring log fire.
7.  I'm an expert at taking some nice fresh watercolour pigments and turning them into mud.

Merry Christmas one and all.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011


Though some of my blogger friends are very confident about their art and themselves as artists, I know that there are many, me included, who are less confident. I also see a serious lack of confidence in the beginners and less experienced artists who join my art forum. Sometimes I try and find some words of wisdom that might help them be more confident in their work and I am continually trying to find ways of boosting my own confidence levels. (Yeh, I know ... I should practice what I preach).

One thing that has driven itself home to me recently is that you, my blogger friends, always seem to like my work much more than I do, and I have been giving this a great deal of thought. I've concluded that this is simply because you don't know what I was trying to achieve - what mood I'd wanted to create; what small detail isn't as accurate as I'd have liked; what colour has dried darker than I'd intended; what 'rescues' I performed during the painting process; etc, etc. You look at my work and see it as you find it, with no preconceived notions or expectations. I look at my work and compare it pixel by pixel (figuratively speaking) to the image that I held in my minds eye before I reached for my brushes. It seldom measures up.

So I now offer a new definition of the word 'confidence' ....

Confidence: the ability to see your work as others see it.

Changing the subject completely, which I can do because it's my blog, a while ago I decided to make my own Xmas cards this year. I even said so here on my blog ... like an idiot!!!

 I thought about it all through September and most of October and actually made a start around the end of October just before the auditors arrived. Remember them?

Anyway, during the time of the audit I was distracted from really important matters, like art, and my Christmas cards got put on the back burner ... again. So yet again this year, I rush headlong into the festive season with a long list of uncompleted good intentions.

As you know, I've been developing a growing passion for pen work and, just as an experiment, I wanted to see how effectively I could sketch a snow scene using black ink on white paper. I had just finished a watercolour of a 'made up' scene for a possible Xmas card, so tried it again in pen. Both are posted here. Initially I wasn't at all pleased with either version but coming back to them many weeks later I am seeing them through fresh eyes. I'm much happier with both of them but I have to say I was really very pleased with the pen version. I refer to my comments above about 'confidence'.

I'd like to offer both as cyber Christmas Cards to all my blogger friends, old and new. Throughout my blogging experience you've been a constant source of inspiration and encouragement and not once have you said "John, that's crap!!!"  I wish you the most wonderful Christmas ever and I hope good old Santa brings you plenty by way of new Art supplies.
Merry Christmas.

Friday, 2 December 2011

A lucky shot

As some of you know, aside from my art I also enjoy photography. When I was holiday in Yorkshire in October, I spent some time in Whitby and went 'walk-about' to get some photo's. Having conquered the 199 Steps I headed out along the harbour wall. As I strolled along taking the occasional shot of a passing Seagull  and considering the best viewpoint for a shot of the lighthouse, I suddenly became aware of the sound of an engine.

I glanced over my shoulder and saw this Jet-Skier travelling at a fair rate of knots. There was no time to think about the best settings for my camera, I just swung round and took the shot. Given the speed of the Jet Ski, and the instant in which everything happened, I felt sure the picture would be rubbish, When I looked at it later I was thrilled to find that my shot was actually quite good. A few weeks ago I did a small drawing of a surfer and enjoyed trying to create the spray of the breaking waves. This picture appealed for the same reason.

This is the first drawing I've done with some new leads I bought for my mechanical pencils. The lead is by Pentel and is called Ain Stein. It is made using a new process which Pentel claim makes the lead stronger and blacker than ever before. I have 2B leads in sizes 0.5 and 0.7mm and can report they were a joy to work with. Highly recommendable.