Showing posts from June, 2007


image on poster is a large sculpture by Peter Carter
I finally got to see the Picasso ceramics exhibition today with a friend and the Picasso Explored exhibition by the LSA, a collection of paintings inspired by Picasso. link to the museum website
I enjoyed the ceramics but his work just doesn't reach me in the way that more painterly works do. They were playful, fun, crudely painted, the combining of form and image was interesting - I've seen cave paintings using the same technique of simplification and using the form of the support (rocks in their case) to enhance the swell of muscle and form of the subjecgt - but better and painted in a much more interesting (to me) way by the cave painters! Standing in front of the cave paintings and seeing the subtle and clever use of colour and form and sheer life of the animals is an emotional experience - the Picasso pots simply didn't have that effect - simply an 'oh yeah, interesting…

Time and Tide ... and there's more

I've been painting intensively, teaching and being a 'visiting artist', talking to a lovely friendly sketchclub - which is why there has been no update for a while.

I've been living surrounded by the seascapes - they are hanging or stacked all around the living room ( my husband has grown tolerant of it - finally!) that way I can mull over where they are going next and what needs doing.

I decided this one needed a far headland to carry the eye round. It's now finished :)

all images copyright Vivien Blackburn

I love the coast on grey and subtle days as well as the blue skied sunny ones and so the next canvas is about all the subtle brown/grey colours and reflected light of winter. I enjoy working with these subtle colours just as much as the vivid ones.

The one below isn't quite finished. This is based on a section of the coast where pine woods come down to the beach and stabilise the dunes - a wealthy local family who owned most of the area, planted long stretches o…


Leicester museum and art gallery were planning an exhibition of Picasso's pottery in 2005, that was going to be loaned to them by Richard Attenborough, actor/director,who lived in Leicester when he was young. His brothers were born here.

Then his daughter and grandaughter were killed in the Asian tsunami and everything was put on hold - he has now, incredibly generously, donated the collection in their name.

I let the intial rush die down and hope to get in to see it this week. Here is a link to an article about the show with images

Tomorrow I'm planning to spend the day painting :) and in the evening I am going to talk to a local art group about my work and mixed media etc

Time and Tide ... progress

I've had an intensive 3 days finishing off canvasses that were in progress and starting new ones. This one is now finished. It's based on a cold afternoon sitting sketching on the beach, watching the tide coming in along with the gulls. Colours were pearly and muted and silvery.


These two are also finished

and I got out 2 canvasses with paintings on that I didn't like (24x30 inches) and painted over them. It's often nice to do that because you can use the colour underneath, letting it show slightly through the overpainting or scratch back to it. I like this ratio of 4:5, it's squarer than the European 'A' sizes and I much prefer it. These will have a very little bit more done to them when I have chance to decide what! but they are very nearly finished. The shine is from the wet paint. Blue Day Hazy Day I've got some more stretchers made up (by husband) but need to stretch the canvas and my heavyweight stapler has died. Of course I haven't got any st…

Time and Tide continued .....

all images copyright Vivien BlackburnThese were the original paintings in the Time and Tide series - done some time back and all gone now but this shows how I hang them - higgledy piggledy with different widths and heights. There have been others since in this ongoing series.

The idea came from my sketchbooks. I paint regularly at the coast plein air, working on cryla paper - when the paintings are framed there are strips of paper that are cut off the edges. These show the colours of the day and so I'd stick them in my sketchbook. You can see them here I loved these pages and other people always commented on them - it added the dimension of time - the tide ebbing and flowing, the weather changing from blue sunny days to misty, to cold winter days with muted colours to stormy and wild as your eye travelled across the strips.

It needs, I feel, to be done on this scale - the paintings are all quite big 42inches to 54 ins tall. It does…

seascapes: Time and Tide

I've been able to get on with the paintings :>)

On the left is the first one I did this afternoon - it's 8 inches wide and about 3ft 6in tall. It's on one of the new canvasses my husband has been busy making up for me :>).

I got him to make the canvasses a different way. It's one that I have used in the past but not for a while. He attached hardboard (masonite in the US, mdf would do as well but is a carcinogen to work with) - we'd had B&Q cut it to size on their nice big machine. Then the stretcher bars are attached, lining them up perfectly, and then the whole is covered in canvas, stapling it at the back. It gives me a firmer surface to work on. It's a bit heavier with the hardboard but of course also stronger. The sides are quite deep as I don't frame them, so they need to look good as they are. I really enjoyed working on the firmer surface and I'm going to get him to do some more :>)

They were very difficult to photograph - I just used…

watercolour and coloured pencils

This week one of my gifted students, Jenny, brought in a superb book by Shirley Trevena (you can see some of the work in it on her website) - an artist I really admire. One of the techniques she uses is rubbing watercolour pencils with sandpaper, over damp watercolour washes, giving a speckled effect - and it looks wonderful. take a look at her gorgeous work :)

Jenny lent me her pencils to have a go - so this is a very quick demo for the class - a play on cartridge paper with watercolour, watercolour pencils and sandpaper :) and ordinary coloured pencils (my own). We went on to discuss drawing with the 'wrong' end of the brush through damp paint to get those veins in the leaves and putting soft patches of normal coloured pencils in areas to enhance and push colours. They've all been used in this demo piece.

I'm sold! I have to get some water soluble coloured pencils :) I think graphitints would be good for this as they are supposed to dry w…

macro and close up flowers

images copyright: Vivien Blackburn 2007

My macro lenses haven't arrived yet but I took some close ups today anyway :) I was hoping to get some good pictures of the wild roses on the way home from work but it was just too windy to get a clear photo - I got a good selection of blurred ones which have been dumped :>( .

So I went out to the garden and took some pictures of some gorgeous fuchsias, a poppy and some roses against the light. The roses are a bit out of focus but I quite like the old fashioned look to their colouring.

I'll be able to work from some of these and others I took. I do like flowers with interesting centres.
I've got some timber to make some more stretchers for the long thin canvasses I need and I'm hoping my husband will make a start on them tomorrow so that I can finish the series of seascapes.
It's cold and rainy so I didn't even think about sketching by the canal on the way home :>(
Youngest cat is in disgrace. Twice recently he's made…

playing with watercolours and coloured pencils

This is a page of watercolour studies of pansies, not intended to be 'a painting', I did a while ago that I came across.

It's a grey rainy day and the light isn't good to get on with the canvasses so I decided to try to pull it together as a composition. I used a bit more watercolour and coloured pencils and cropped it and added the soft blue green background to cool it down a little - the colours felt too hot. The deep dark pansies were really velvety and intense and maybe not the colour scheme I would have set out to use with the orange and pale yellows - but the background helps to knit them together. Bringing the soft mauves into the darker flowers also helped.

I also took another look at a mixed media woodland that was unfinished and worked a little more on that.

It has a little oil pastel in the early stages, watercolour and then coloured pencils.

finished ...... I think

40 inches square, mixed media on canvas, copyright Vivien Blackburn

I worked a bit more on this today, resolving the sky and the gaps between the branches, reenforcing the brightest snow in places - and I think it's done. I am in two minds as to whether to lighten the main tree slightly in places - first I think I will and then decide not to ...... so the decision it's finished is subject to change without notice :)

There is a lot more variety of colour than shows here - the image is too big for the camera to pick them up accurately. There's a much wider range of blues and blue-greys and very small touches of other colour in the grasses and foreground tree. I gave close ups of a lot of this in earlier posts so I won't duplicate them but if you missed them you can see them here or if you look at the 'rocks' tags.

It seems to have taken forever as I kept working on other things at the same…

my daughters macro flowers

NB all pictures copyright C Blackburn

My daughter is, I think, a very talented photographer - she's got a good 'eye' and good technical photographic skills.

These are just some of the gorgeous macros of flowers she's done - I got her to download them onto my computer for me, as I've discovered that though I hate working from photographs, I can work from images onscreen sometimes - I think it's to do with the light, it's more like 'real' light than a flat print is. Somehow the 3D-ness comes through better as well. So I'm hoping to work from some of these eventually.

it's such a gorgeous time of year for flowers, taking some more macro photos myself is on the to-do list. Apart from the fact that she can focus to 1cm anyway with her camera, she has a set of those macro lenses that screw on like filters. I used to have them for my old SLR - they are very very much on my must-have list now! I love the narrowness of the depth of field and the wa…

abstracted flower or rescuing disasters

images copyright: Vivien Blackburn

I came across a disastrous watercolour flower abstraction when I was sorting through some paperwork and sketchbooks and stopped to work on it with coloured pencils and try to pull it together.

It could now be the basis for a large canvas, playing with fluid paint, glazing and line - or of course a large watercolour/mixed media.

I do like mixing media for the bigger range of marks available.

Another thing on the 'to do' list - more watercolour/mixed media work.
and ..... played with in Photoshop

I want to paint

I was all set to spend the day painting but got a phone call from college and ended up going in to cover for a colleague :( so my painting day went west.

This is all the artwork I got out of the day! a quick doodle of some pansies I picked from the college garden on the way in, they are those lovely small pansies - heartsease.

And tomorrow (Saturday) is a meeting of county tutors - which nicely messes up that day as well :( - luckily there are only a couple of these meetings a year. I had a phone call asking me to take in a piece of my work ....... what do I take? maybe a canvas and throw a sketchbook in my bag in case? I expect I'll decide on the way out of the door in the morning. It will be interesting to see other tutors work.

working back and forth continued :)

Lindsay asked: Vivien, thanks so much for this detailed explaination. I like how you are discussing the back and forth part. I feel that with charcoal too but never thought about it with oil paint. Oil Pastels can't be worked this way because the lights look muddy on top of the darks. I can't wait to start in oils.You probably did answer something just like this earlier. I was still thinking more along the lines of drawing rather than painting. I am finding painting requires a much different way of thinking. So your information probably zoomed over my head.Few more questions? Are you using black or mixing your darks from complements. Its hard to tell in the winter scape.And are you using a flat brush or rounds or both?Again, many thanks for such an in depth,multi media answer.

so .... here goes, I'm answering here because it follows on from the last entry

.... I don't use black to darken colours - virtually never ever. I use complements like alizarin crimson with viridi…

trees and 'sky holes'

I was asked about how I paint/draw trees and deal with the 'sky holes' - it was asked in the comments section and it related to an older post - and I can't find it! so apologies if I'm not answering the question right!

all images are copyright

The answer isn't simple because it depends on what medium I'm using.

This one was done plein air, in oils, over a couple of hours maximum. So wet in wet paint. The sky was painted back in between the leaves and branches as in the studio painting below.

Oil paint is the simplest, because I can work backwards and forwards. I will probably roughly sketch in the branches and/or foliage but then I'll go back in with the sky colour, sometimes while the paint is wet, to get soft blurred edges and sometimes later when it's dry to keep the colour clean. It give more organic, less hard edged shapes to the branches and twigs and enables me to get finer lines for the highest twigs and have lost and found parts, the way that the …

studio spaces

I came across photos of my old studio space when I was looking for something else (which of course I haven't found yet)

my old studio space at an open studio day

I rented a studio space when I finished my degree. It was in an old Victorian school, which had 2 floors divided by cobbled together partitions into individual spaces, no heating, holes in the roof - and was bitterly cold. In Spring and Summer it would be much warmer outside than in there. We had one portable gas heater per floor which was usually out of gas. If it had gas left then someone who'd got there before you had usually hogged it and was sitting working right next to it with an open dish of turps - how they didn't blow the place up I'll never know!

After a while I realised that though it was lovely to have the room to be messy and pour and splash paint as much as I wanted, I hardly went in. If it was warm I generally wanted to work plein air and when it was cold ... it was like getting dressed for an Arc…

A rose for Rosie!

copyright Vivien Blackburn coloured pencil
another study of those overblown roses in coloured pencil - this time in the moleskine. It's very hard to scan without it looking washed out. I had to layer it and photoshop it to get it like the
original. The scanner also expects white paper so I have to add yellow as the moleskine is a rich cream and it throws the colour balance.
I got to the Pastel exhibition this afternoon and there was some good work there - ooh!! they've put my tree paeony on the front page bless them :)

Tonight is a meeting of our small group of friends - we'll have a post mortem on the group exhibition and chat. I hope someone takes some work as I'm too tired to bother! our group website

I think belonging to groups like these is good - the Pastel Society have introduced some plein air days this year and are having a second exhibition late…