Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Wolf Head Drawing finally finished!

I can't believe I started this way back in July! I kept doing other things then coming back to it, which can be a useful approach as there is nothing worse than being so bored of something you lose any sense of creativity and it becomes a chore just finishing a piece.
This is the finished drawing although not a great photographic reproduction as it is a beggar trying to eliminate glare back!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I've tried a few new techniques (for me) and have concentrated on varying my edges to try and get some movement into the piece. I've put edges in, taken them out with an eraser and smudged almost to the point of sanding down my finger ends!
I also got to the stage where I stopped looking at the reference photo I had of the wolf as I wanted to play around with shapes, values and more importantly the flow of the piece. I do think if you try and follow your reference too closely you can limit your creative side and to be honest it is much more fun to explore an image and try and get a 'feel' of the piece, however it has taken me many years to realise this!!

I'm quite happy with the finished picture but wish I could photograph it properly to show the subtleties, I will trust my photographer friend to try and get a proper copy before it goes into a frame!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Holiday in the USA

I have just returned from a lovely holiday in the USA where I visited my good friend Libby for her birthday. It had been a rather event filled and not enjoyable few weeks prior to my visit to the US so I was looking forward to a break and thankfully it didn't disappoint!

I made the journey to Boston with my sister and her boyfriend and one of the first things we got to do was see an American football game, New England Patriots v Dallas Cowboys. A great event especially as we went tail-gaiting too, ie shooting the breeze with lots of other people, eating a picnic and drinking beer before the game...great fun. The gang below wearing very large football shirts!

On the 6th day there I had arranged a trip to Virginia to see the fall foliage. I managed to find a beautiful place to stay, Blueberry Hill Farm in the Shenandoah Valley where the accommodation and views were just fantastic, thank you Jean and Franklin (our hosts).
I did have plans to do a bit if sketching from the veranda but to be honest we had such an action packed few days all I managed in the evenings was to eat chips and dips and enjoy the view! I did take plenty of photographs though to paint later, here are some of them...

Stella the family dog also put in plenty of appearances throughout the four days we were there!.....

We did quite a bit of exploring around the region, even visiting Walton's mountain! The views really were lovely and I can't recommend it enough.

On returning to Boston for the final few days of the holiday I made sure to visit the Museum of Fine Arts and the Isabella Gardner Museum, plenty of John Singer Sargent paintings to keep me happy!

On a sadder note, I mentioned that the weeks before my holiday had not been enjoyable, due to the fact that a dear friend of mine tragically lost his life. Shaun my framer who framed my last three exhibitions and had been framing for me for so many years that he became a friend sadly was killed in a collision on his motorbike. Not only was he an excellent framer but also a talented artist, Shaun Malkin all who ever had the great fortune to have met you will miss you loads.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The value of values

I have been working outdoors recently doing the occasional workshops but also getting out to do my own studies. 

One of the things I really enjoy doing is loose 3 value studies to work on the design and balance of my painting. Limiting the values really forces you to concentrate on the larger shapes and not get too drawn into detail which is useful for quick studies, needed outdoors, and also forces me out of my too tight illustrative ways!

Too many values can also lessen the strength of the composition and confuse the eye. The following were done using a large mop brush and Payne's Grey watercolour paint, the landscapes were done outdoors and the bird and animal studies in the studio. 
I like to do this to build up the shape and design of a painting first and think about what edges I will use, if it works in black and white hopefully it will work in full colour!

Monday, 22 August 2011

Hitting the outdoors!

I've been making the most of my 'free from teaching August' by taking the chance to get outside and do some painting.
First stop was the lovely Lake District of course! I stayed with my friend in a camper van at Coniston Old Hall campsite where over the course of two days I spent the time painting at Tarn Hows and Church Beck in Coniston, very lovely views  and extremely relaxing!

The Langdales from Tarn Hows

This little guy wandered up to see what was going on!
 This past weekend I was again outdoors teaching a workshop at Bardsea, brollies at the ready once again, good job we are hardy souls in the North of England!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Wolf Head Drawing

I've almost finished teaching my art class commitments for this year so will be having the entire month of August free to work on my own projects. I've made a start on a new drawing, just trying a few new techniques, for me anyway! 
I'm lucky enough to be sponsored by Derwent pencils so am using one of my favourite Derwent pencils on this drawing which is the sketching pencil but I'm also using the Derwent Onyx Dark which gives me the required 'blackness' in certain areas. 
I'm enjoying working on this aside from the fact that I look like I have spent the day down a coal mine by the time I have finished!
I always find Graphite quite difficult to photograph because of the glare back but here is the drawing in it's present stage the best I can photograph it!

Hopefully off to spend this weekend painting in the Lakes, I have my brollie at the ready!

Saturday, 16 July 2011

NEWA- National Exhibition of Wildlife Art

I have had all three of my submitted paintings accepted for NEWA, which is one of the largest Wildlife Art Exhibitions in the UK.
The Exhibition previewed on Thursday night and the dates of the show for those of you interested are:

15th -31st July 2011
Gordale Garden Centre, Burton, Wirral

'The National Exhibition of Wildlife Art is an open annual exhibition based in the North of England.
NEWA was conceived in 1994 by a group of artists interested in depicting wildlife, with conservation as one of their underlying concerns. A donation from the exhibition is made each year to wildlife causes.
The aims of the exhibition are to promote and display outstanding examples of wildlife art from both professional and amateur artists.
The huge interest generated by the exhibition among wildlife artists proved that there was a pressing need for this kind of event.

The exhibition is staged at Gordale Garden Centre in a specially constructed gallery space which attracts a constant stream of visitors, over 15,000 to the 2009 show. The new website attracts an equal number of visitors and sells to buyers both in the UK and abroad.'

The paintings I submitted were the following:

Very pleased to say the 'Young Rabbit' affectionately known as 'Buggs' sold at the preview night, fingers crossed for the other two!

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Colour Studies

I've had a busy month, unfortunately I don't really have any worthwhile artwork to show for all my extra hours but pretty certain I have learned an awful lot!

I have been reading a lot and digesting the views of others on the merits of wildlife art, especially those bloggers from the Society of Animal Artists and have come to my own conclusions from the points put forward. It's really made me look at my own work and see the areas where I want to change and a direction I want to follow, this has led me to study art history a lot more particularly those past artists I admire already but also to finding new ones. 

Amongst other things, I've also been exploring my own palette and playing around with some new colours, I'm therefore producing colour charts like those below, most colours are predictable to me but some are quite surprising and will feature in my work from now on. I've also been doing them with a palette knife which was fun but made me realise how clumsy I am with this particular device at the moment! 

I think sometimes you have to take a step back from what you are doing and ask yourself why you are producing what you are producing even if you have been painting professionally for a lot of years, the discussion by fellow bloggers the last few weeks about Wildlife Art has certainly done that for me!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

New Painting - part 2!

Now I have come down from the high of visiting Paris and all it's wonderful paintings, I thought it about time to settle down and do some painting of my own!
I'm still working on the painting mentioned a couple of posts earlier but have moved it on a few stages. Here is the painting currently....

As I said in the last post, I wasn't sure how the burnt sienna background would pan out but I've got to admit I do like the warmth it has given me in the shadows, kind of works out for me although I will have to work to cover the cool highlights which will need quite a few layers.
I'm trying to keep the fluidity of my brushstrokes too, with varying degrees of success! Sometimes there is nothing for it other than to wipe out a few hours work if I start returning to my 'illustrative' ways, bit soul destroying sometimes but worth it in the end!

Below is a close up view of my 'looser' brushstrokes, only the first layer but I will make sure the later layers keep their fluidity.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Paris visit

I’ve just returned from a short visit with my mum, sister and her boyfriend to the most beautiful city of Paris!

 We stayed at a lovely hotel just off the Tuilerie gardens on the Rue de Rivoli, which if you know Paris is extremely close to both the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay.
 We were blessed with exceptional weather as you can see from the photographs however as I did spend most of my time in the art galleries it didn’t really affect me!

I have been to the Louvre before although then, much to my dismay, the Dutch wing was shut, this time however it was not so I did get to see two fantastic Vermeers, ‘The Lacemaker’ and ‘The Astronomer’. Another favourite for me was Holbeins Anne of Cleeves portrait, you see she looked lovely in Holbeins painting but clearly old Henry wasn't impressed with the real thing!

The highlight of my trip however was the Musee d’Orsay as it contained paintings from the movement I particularly like which is the Naturalists. No John Singer Sargents were there but a lovely portrait by his mentor Carolus Duran was on display.

The current exhibition at the Musee is the Manet Exhibition, which I enjoyed thoroughly and was particularly interested in seeing a painting of the above-mentioned Carolus Duran. The painting was framed but clearly was only the under-painting so it gave a little insight into his technique, which I found very informative.

I do confess to getting a little irritated by some peoples indifference to the paintings, maybe it was just me who was besides herself at the joy of standing in front of Whistlers mother! Ah well, the good thing about that was whilst most people were falling over themselves to see the Van Gogh’s and Degas (which were lovely) I could enjoy the experience of marvelling at the Bouguereaus in relative peace!

I loved ‘Cast Shadows‘ by Emile Friant and Léon Lhermitte’s ‘Paying the Harvesters’ but I think the highlight of the exhibition for me, just edging the Buguereaus, was ‘Haymaking’ by Jules Bastein-Lepage (above), just a wonderfully simple but naturalistic painting!

Paris was wonderful and I will certainly return!

Saturday, 16 April 2011

New Painting

I have just returned to an oil painting I planned about a year ago but then abandoned because I felt I really wanted to work on a slightly different oil technique. After having spent some time on much smaller oil paintings and sketches I now feel sufficiently confident to return and try again on the larger canvas. 

Unfortunately I had already drawn out the image and started with a burnt sienna Acrylic ground which was the style I first started with, I would now do this very differently by not having such an extensive under-drawing and would use lean washes of the actual colours rather than a sienna ground. I am stuck with this base however but who knows it may work out to my advantage as a orange/red ground can work well with a predominately green covering, we will see!!

Well, first areas laid in using quite loose brush strokes. You can see where the shaded pencil work is showing through ground so it looks quite dirty at the moment but that will eventually be covered up, proved to myself that I really don't need this wasted stage!

A bit further into the process of blocking in. I'm still trying to keep my brush strokes quite fluid and loose, concentrating on a variation of edges and establishing tonal and colour values, these could be slightly adapted once the whole thing has been blocked in however.
I will carry on working on the block-in to see how the overall composition looks so best get back to work!!

Thursday, 31 March 2011


I've been playing around with watercolour landscapes recently but thought it high time I returned to the oils for a little while!

The last couple of days I've been working on these two little 7x5 inch oils, one is a commission and the other for my amusement only. I've based them on a couple of photos I took on a days watercolour painting workshop at Wastwater last February.
I hope you can get a feel of the weather that day from the paintings, It's hard to believe that they were both taken on the same day! The day started with a blizzard then cleared to reveal glorious views of Wastwater before starting to snow again late afternoon, I've never painted watercolours in the snow before, it certainly gave a whole new meaning to the term wet on wet!

For those of you who don't know Wastwater it is on the Western side of the English Lake District and has the most jaw-dropping views of Haystacks, Great Gable and as shown here, the Wasdale screes.

Wastwater is also the deepest lake in the Lake District so if you see it on a wintery day such as the day I was there it looks almost navy blue it is so deep.
The second little oil below depicts the same scree but a little later when the sun came out. It is still not quite finished in the foreground, I worked on this last night and just didn't get my values right, the light maybe and not concentrating?, however I've wiped out the wrong values and will re-paint the foreground.... why I love oils!

Little Sophie on the day doing a spot of sunbathing before the snow returned!

Sunday, 6 March 2011

'Wolf oil sketches'

I mentioned in my last post that I was going to continue with my little, 7x5, wolf oil sketches, well, here they are! They are by no means finished but they have moved on a stage from last time so hopefully it will give you some idea of the stages involved to produce them.

I am still trying to keep the 'looseness' of my brushstrokes and am not above wiping away sections if I think they are looking a little stiff, actually sometimes I achieve more in a couple of seconds of wiping away than in the previous hour of work!
I will have to wait a while for them to dry before adding to them however I have plenty of other paintings to get on with. I suppose that is one of the joys of oil painting in that you are forced to wait for them drying, this not only affords the joy of working on a few paintings at once to keep any boredom at bay but allows a fresh eye to appraise the work on returning for completion, boy, the things you didn't spot first time round!!

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Watercolour challenge!

Well, it's getting around to the time of the year for me to get out and about and produce some landscape 'en plein air' paintings so I thought I should get a little bit of practice in!

I am trying to stop myself from 'fiddling' around too much with detail on my landscape paintings, especially those painted outdoors, as it can make the work look overworked but more importantly it also takes time, a commodity not afforded in rapidly changing light. With this in mind, I set myself a little watercolour challenge of producing small (credit card size) watercolour studies but did keep my reasonably sized brushes for working with. 
I think I had varying degrees of success trying to suggest some areas with a sweep of the brush and others affording a little more attention. I can't wait to carry the technique forward to slightly larger sized paintings produced outdoors, better get the woolies ready to hit the Lake District!

I also thought I would give a plug for the brush company I use as I think they produce excellent quality brushes at a very good price. The brushes I used on the little watercolour samples are shown below and are by Rosemary & Co whom I order from on the internet, they are extremely prompt with delivery, usually next day, so I can't recommend them highly enough!

The watercolour brushes shown above are a sable blend round and rigger, a red sable small and a squirrel hair mop. I also use this company for my oil brushes and like the Shiraz range of filberts and rounds which I will be using this afternoon to work on my wolves.

Anyway, off to do more painting, will post next time on my oil wolves and my outdoor adventures in the Lake District painting a few permitting!!

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Drawing Practice & paperwork!

First of all, I can't believe we are already into February, where did January go?! I realise that my last post was in December but I have been busy with a lot of things since then, honest!
The first task of 2011 was to take down my exhibition from the Dock Museum, plenty of lifting and packaging involved before loading the bus in lovely gale force winds and rain so I must say a big thank you to my little crew of helpers. I then had to get paintings out to those who had purchased and get all my paperwork from the exhibition in order.
Speaking of paperwork, the centre where I teach my weekly art lessons has just experienced the joys of an ofsted inspection and all the blooming paperwork involved! I also had to take a safeguarding course so January for me has been very little about being an artist but plenty of being an administrator!
Thank goodness February is allowing me to return to being an artist so I thought I would post one or two of the little things I have been doing in amongst all the paperwork!
I set myself a challenge at New Year of going to drawing practice each morning for 30 mins, well, I haven't always achieved it but it is helping with my speed and ability to produce freehand sketches. See below one page of  my sketchbook with 10 to 30 min studies and then 3 little wolf oil sketches in their preliminary stages. In the second, I've drawn freehand sketches and then put very loose lean oil over the top to get the basic shape and colour relationships which I will work over with fatter transparent and opaque oil.
Well, that's pretty much as far as I have got but looking forward to working them up soon!