Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Arundel Castle - Acrylic on Canvas

This was a perfect painting day - no wind, hot, few clouds, a whole day to paint and good company. I stayed with friends who are based just outside Arundel. They know it so well and Pauline was the one who showed me this unusual view of the castle. It was a real challenge but absolutely fabulous. I loved the way the castle loomed above the trees. I do have a thing for turrets, and then there was an almost separate scene consisting of the boathouse, restaurants, boats and water in the foreground. A valuable section as it broke up the greens and added extra interest to the picture bringing movement and people into the scene.

I decided to use Acrylic as it is a fast drying pigment. It is not usually my first choice of medium, but I got on so well with it that it has re inspired me to use it on other plein air adventures.

The Lovell's then bought this painting which was a great achievement and I am thrilled to bits.

Thanks for a super day!

Bright Botanical


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This is another one of my 'pouring' exercises using irises and of course the tulip, which provides the valuable pink that breaks the overall purple colour way. I used a bit of clingfilm in the background to enhance the texture. The colours are bold and powerful. I tend to paint these sort of paintings at the start of Spring.

Woodland


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Trees are on my list of favourite subjects to paint as some of you know. This is an unusual grouping of colours bordering on warm undertones. There is a slight acidic feel to the greens. But overall, it creates its own magical atmosphere. I used quite a bit of gouache alongside watercolours in this painting.

Magical Forest


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This painting started off as a pouring exercise, which means that the 3 primary colours (soft yellows, pinks and blues) are literally poured over the paper to create the light source and ethereal atmosphere before one even puts brush to paper. Watercolour layers are then added to create more form and then the whites are rescued using white gouache and watercolour combinations. The effects are always strong and dramatic. Love it!

Bill Bellsey - A Portrait in Oils

I was commissioned to paint Bill a few years ago. It was one of those paintings that came together quickly and made sense from the beginning. I enjoyed the colours and I loved the pose.

Eileen McHugo - Portrait in Oils

I loved painting this portrait. I had known Eileen for about 7 years when I painted her. She had been coming to the Tatsfield Art Group and I had been tutoring her for that time. I loved her wise face and colouring. She was incredibly feisty - she had many stories to tell so painting someone like her is always fascinating. I was entering the BP portrait award competition so I had asked Eileen if she could sit for me and I did not realise that she would pass away soon after the painting was finished so her family now have the painting.

Sheila Saunders - A Portrait in Oils

Sheila used to come to my watercolour and oil classes. We became good friends and she sat for me a few years ago. She always wears bright colours and she wore beautiful scarves.

Sophia Loren in Pastels

This woman is quite beautiful. I made use of the tone of the paper to achieve her skin tones, so it is less layered than some of my other pastel commissions I have done. I enjoyed making use of the complimentary orange and blue pairings. Hints of green, pink and purple provide the discord colours and the earthy tones of her hair and shadows provide the overall balance.

Vera Livera - A Portrait in Oils


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The influence of my Florence Academy Course is very evident here. I painted this portrait with my oil painting students during the 10 week term. It was very rewarding and I think we all got a lot out of it. I used my limited palette of white, cadmium yellow, yellow ochre, cadmium red, cobalt blue, and black to mix the incremental tonal values to achieve the correct shades of each colour group.

This woman is a member of the Eveni, one of 26 indigenous peoples spread over Siberia and the far north of the Russian Federation. She spends most of the Arctic summer in a fishing camp with here extended family filleting salmon caught in the Vyvenko river after the long run form the Sea of Okhotsk.

Pencil Portraits of the Sisters Vicky and Sophie


This is another example of a pencil commission - black and white drawings can be so effective and expressive. These two girls were lovely and quite different in looks and personality and extremely close. I really enjoyed it. Their mother had commissioned this piece for their father's 40th birthday.

Namibian Landscape


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It is rare for me to do landscapes without a building in it, but this one worked rather well. I do love the Namibian landscapes - strong earthy tones and blue skies - one can make use of dramatic effects and techniques. It is a dream of mine to revisit Namibia and paint there for a long period of time.

Elephant Walking into the Sunset


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This image has appeared on various wildlife magazines. It was too good not to paint in watercolours. I will paint elephants until my dying day. Again, it is about the shadows and generally an elephant can be broken down into 3 basic tonal groups. The simpler the breakdown, the slicker the painting. The colours were definitely exaggerated, but an elephant would look good in anything provided that the colour grouping is harmonious.

Ballet Shoes


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It always helps to paint what one is passionate about. Old point shoes. What a pleasure. Fabric, form, shadows, texture and smell - it's all there. I was a ballet dancer in my youth and still admire a beautiful ballet pose which tapers to a glorious point. I will most definitely be painting more ballet and dancing themes. Once could use any medium for the task. The painting above is a pure watercolour interpretation working with wet-in-wet and wet-on-dry washes.

Gondola


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I do love gondolas. They cast such wonderful shadows in the water and they are almost architectural to me. Strong angles, patterns and colours make this an exciting subject. This is a small painting but strong in value and contrast.

The Arsenale in Venice


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This loose interpretation of the Arsenale in Venice was painted with a big brush based on shapes and suggestions only. I abandoned the idea of drawing first as I felt in can sometimes complicate things. I focused on the archway and worked outwards. The main complimentary pair is orange and blue. When time is of the essence keep the process as simple as possible.

Seed Pod


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My mother sent me a picture of this plant from South Africa. It made a wonderful reference. I have illustrated it and painted it. I used a few tricks here. The texture on the seed pod was created using clingfilm which is left over the wet paint until the paint dries. Very useful for subtle effects. I also dropped salt onto the background whilst the paint was wet of course. This results in fantastic 'star bursts'. It is always tempting to use more salt than you need. A few grains will do the trick.

Irises


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I do love Irises. I never get tired of painting them. This is a watercolour painting using a fair amount of wet-in-wet. I also dropped water into the paint on the petals to create the highlights. It works a little better if you want to hold onto the stronger values. I then used a mask (tracing paper) to cover everything except the background and finished the painting by spraying a fine layer of white gouache using a very hold soft toothbrush.

A Green Frog


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Okay, I just put this in as a little bit of fun. My class wanted to explore greens in more detail. The frog made the perfect subject as he offered us a choice of light yellowy green hues and subtle blue/green shadows. Green warmed up with a little permanent rose provides the complimentary and the deep dark muddy green created the important contrast found in the background. He is rather sweet don't you think?

Pitti Palace Florence


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I have always loved doors and windows and when there is peeling paint and all sorts of interesting shadows over a surface then a scene is quite irresistible. I do enjoy painting these little 'snapshots' of a place.

Capricorn in the Pitti Palace Gardens


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This was such an unusual find in the Pitti Palace Gardens. This statue was one of many that surrounded the big pond. Believe it or not, it was the pillars that got my attention not the actual statue. It was strange to paint with watercolours as it had been more than a month since I had worked with a water soluble medium. I was painting with one of my fellow Florence Academy students who was so grumpy because a million and one pigeons suddenly descended on us and he was hot and tired. The poor man had been staying in a flat between two of the main churches, whose bells tolled relentlessly. He was also missing the cooler Irish temperatures. Despite his mood, he made me laugh so much. Needless to say, he did not get much painting done.

Sculpture at Pitti Palace Florence


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I had an extra week in Florence once my studies had come to an end and it was super just to slow the week down and find interesting subjects to paint outside the studio. Pitti Palace offered plenty of mouthwatering nooks and crannies and this view was one of them. I used a limited palette and I 'drew with my paintbrushes' focusing on shadow shapes. Another really hot day, so I had all sorts of interesting edges forming on the painting.

Junior Choir from Rome


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I do think that my experience with this choir was the highlight of my stay in Lucca. Whilst I was painting in the San Michele Piazza, I was approached by a group of children who were handing out leaflets for their concert that evening. I gratefully took hold of one as I was in Lucca on my own and needed to have something to do in the evenings.

I made my way back to my B&B and saw that the Choir had assembled in the square behind San Michele. They were rehearsing for that evening's performance. What an opportunity! I quickly pulled out my paints and paper and proceeded to capture them playing their instruments. It really is a painting full of dabs and splashes as there was so much movement. As a result, some of the children came up to see what I was doing and I was able to chat to them.

I attended their concert that evening and it took my breath away. Such talent amongst the group and the music was so beautiful. I recognised the children I had been chatting to that afternoon and I just could not believe what they were capable of doing. It was a magical night.

San Michele Church in Lucca


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This is a small sketch of part of the San Michele Church. I loved this building - all those whites, which means quality shadows. I pushed the saturation of the colours here and made use of the purple and golden, earthy yellow combination. After my disciplined stint in Florence with the representational oil painting, I just wanted to paint loose shapes. I remember it being an extremely hot day.

The Napoleonic Square in Lucca


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I loved this particular square in Lucca. An open elegant space. I spent a good part of a morning sitting on a bench painting the scene in front of me. I was attracted to the shadows of the archway and the contrast it created next to the umbrellas and trees. I love trees anyway, so to have shadows and trees in one view is a treat. People obviously come and go so one makes the best of shapes when they are stationary. I was entertained by children running across the square blowing bubbles and the odd curious passerby. I remember it being a rewarding experience.

Sienna in August 2008

I had been given some beautiful, heavy weight, handmade watercolour paper to take to Italy last year and I used it whilst on location in Sienna. What a wonderful town it is and the buildings are quite unusual. I sat quietly for the day and painted happily. It is a delicate painting whereby I started painting straight away. The surface texture of the paper did not make drawing with a pencil easy, so I did without that stage. The weather was quite unsettled and fortunately I managed to finish it before the heavens opened. This did create and opportunity for me to sketch figures huddling together sheltering from the rain. Never a dull moment for an artist.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Medieaval Sculpture Room in the V&A


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This painting started off as a watercolour. Half way through, I got bored with it and decided to rethink the process. I wanted something more dramatic and expressive, so I decided to use the first watercolour layer as the underpainting and apply other mediums on top of it. A bit of a risk because I had already spent a fair amount of time on the painting.

But, it is important to stretch oneself, so I sketched over some of the surfaces with watersoluble graphite to loosen it up and then I dusted off my box of soft sennelier oil pastels, rolled up my sleeves and went for it.

If I was to analyse this painting, I could say that the colours I used, especially the reds and oranges, definitely reflect how I feel when I see something that gets me so excited and the adrenalin pumping so much that I have to paint it. I think most people have the opinion that painting is a calming, relaxing, slow pastime... well it aint. It is definitely therapeutic and rewarding but the process keeps me on the edge of my seat.

Ink Sketch of the Orangery


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This image was a little tricky to photograph so I will try and describe the process as clearly as possible.

The Orangery is situated behind Kensington Palace - it is a beautifully proportioned, elegant building and a must if you love painting architecture. Once again, being a perfect day, the shadows were dramatic by mid afternoon and having found a shady spot I got stuck in.

I used a sheet of tinted canson pastel paper and a fine dark brown ink pen to do most of the artwork. I put down a few construction lines in light pencil and then went in boots-and-all with the ink. Once again, if you focus on the shadow shapes and not necessarily the outlines then something complicated can be achieved. I made sure that I kept my eyes on the subject and the pen in constant contact with the paper so that the flow remains uninterrupted.

I loved this exercise. I have been drawing for such a long time and I still get such a lot out of it. The only stress I had was trying to dodge pigeon droppings from time to time.

When I got home, I decided to apply a touch of colour using coloured pencils being careful not to affect the balance of the piece.

Painting at Kensington Palace


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Yes, that's me with the toothy grin! What a great day it was. I joined my sister on Thursday last week to paint and sketch in London. You could not ask for a more perfect day. The sun shone (yes, believe it) ALL DAY. I loved the location and I could easily go back to do a few more studies.

I have been fretting a lot about the light quality this summer and it has been difficult to paint in the studio, so to have a day out in bright light is a real treat.

We had friendly folk coming up to chat to us during the day which was fabulous. This particular painting was done in watersoluble graphite pencils (2B, 4B and 8B) with a small amount of graphitint to add subtle hints of colour. I wanted to push the boundaries a little, so I applied peat brown ink over the top of the illustration using my sable liner brush. Rather fun actually, especially when I decided to flick ink all over the place.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Ethereal Light


As the painting that follows this one uses gouache, I thought I would publish this post to make a comparison. This painting has also been sold - the owner was drawn to the colours and light in the painting. It is a wonderful way to use watercolours to their full potential. I enjoy painting 'soft' scenes, but strong, bright colours make me feel a whole lot better.

I absolutely love trees so I try and capture their 'personalities' from time to time. This painting was achieved using the pouring technique, whereby one literally pours the three primary colours over the white paper before beginning the painting stage. Daunting and exciting at the same time. The yellow represents the lightest values, red, the midtones and blues, the shadows. The atmosphere is there from the start. It frees you up to paint with more expression.

The darker forms are then painted so that the actual picture starts coming to life. Because there is so much colour on the paper, it is necessary to incorporate some gouache for highlights. (The purists can avoid this by pouring lighter washes and lifting highlights straight away).

The tints were applied using gouache straight out of the tube using mainly scumbling, which enables the background to show through. I wanted a dappled effect.

If you have become too careful or precious about your painting then I strongly recommend you try this to re-jig your methods.

The Baptism of Christ - Florence

This painting has recently been sold to the Butlers, who I now regard as my patrons. They are the proud owners of six Adie Parkers.

The Florentine Painting was quite an involved process. Wonderfully tactile due to the use of tissue paper and gouache, a chalk based watercolour pigment.

Some History
The three marble and bronze sculptures above the Gates of Paradise symbolise The Baptism of Christ.

The *Florence Baptistry* or *Battistero di San Giovanni* (Baptistery of St. John) is a religious building in Florence (Tuscany), Italy, which has the statues of a minor basilica.

The octagonal Bapistry stands in the Piazza del Duomo, across from the Duomo cathedral and the Giotto bell tower (Campanile di Giotto). It is one of the oldest buildings in the city, built between 1059 and 1128. The architecture is in Florentine Romanesque style.

The Baptistry is renowned for its three sets of artistically important bronze doors with relief sculptures by Lorenzo Ghiberti . These doors were dubbed by Michelangelo "the Gates of Paradise" because of their beauty, and they were said to have begun the Renaissance.

The Italian poet, Dante Alighieri and many famed artists and leaders of the Renaissance, including members of the Medici family, were baptized here. Until the end of the 19th century, all Catholic Florentines were baptized in this Bapistry.

Method
I started by applying a light to mid tone wash over the background using permanent rose and quinacridone gold. I think I added some blue to it as well. One must use a pre-stretched paper or heavier weight, so I used a 640gms Saunders Waterford Paper. Once bone dry a layer of watered down PVA glue is applied to the surface of the paper. It does dry to a clear finish. The white (matt) tissue paper which has already been scrunched up and re straightened is then stuck down using a roller. It obviously has many creases in it and that is the joy of going through these processes.

I then started to paint the shapes of the fa├žade and made use of negative spaces and shadows to suggest form. I find it easier to leave out the drawing stage as it becomes fiddly. Once all the watercolour layers are finished, I then focused on the statues. I used gouache and watercolour combinations to achieve the 'whites', and gouache was also applied to other areas that needed it. One must always be aware of balance and not overdoing a medium if one doesn't have to.

I do love unfinished edges and the power of suggestion, so I was really thrilled with this painting.

Monday, 3 August 2009

The Restoration of the Italian Sculpture Room at the V&A


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Trust me to choose such a complicated theme! This was certainly a challenge from the start, but I wanted to get my teeth into some detail.

Whilst researching my new chosen venue for a workshop in July, the one and only Victoria and Albert Museum, I made a beeline for the Sculpture Rooms and discovered to my dismay that the Italian room was closed for renervations. On closer inspection, I got quite excited to see various areas of tonal contrast created by the plastic sheeting draped all over these masterpieces. Believe you me, only an artist would understand.

One is not allowed to use watersoluble materials in the museum so I had to work from a photograph. I started by doing a detailed line drawing and then I used masking fluid to block out the important 'whites'.

I don't always like using masking fluid as it leaves a hard edge. Those of you who know me, will understand my love for 'invisible' edges. Once these stages were completed, I filled a number of spray bottles with tinted water covering a choice of primary colours and began to indicate the light source using yellows, pinks and blues.

A lot of fun I might add, and for those of you who are intensely worried about my cream carpet in my studio (Mom and I), I had a plan in the form of a large dust sheet which I draped all over the place. Not a far cry from the room in the V&A I was trying to paint.

I then proceeded to paint and paint and paint. It was quite a mammoth task as I had to apply layers of pigment and then bring out the highlighted areas using white gouache and a degree of scratching out using a sharp scalpel. Yes, some blood was spilled during this process.

I finally finished this painting and am now tackling a 'looser' watercolour approach of yet more selected subjects. Please offer me some feedback if you have time. Your opinions out there are most valuable.