Wednesday, March 28, 2007

caran d'Ache Neocolour II

I wish I could find my tin of Caran d'Ache - I was reminded of them recently when I was looking through some sketchbooks. I'd like to dig them out and use them again but simply can't think where I've 'safely' put them .

I was out sketching trees with a friend and did these of some birch tree trunks - I think the eyes are created when a branch is broken off or eaten by the deer? rabbits? - these particular trees were really quite spooky as the more you drew the more you were aware of these eyes all over them - watching! I haven't exaggerated them - this is really how they are.

At first sight I thought the Caran d'Ache would be a bit bright and unsubtle - but they are really lovely to use and you can get subtle colour mixes and washes. They are water soluble and look at first sight like childrens wax crayons, chunky and suitable for working on a large scale. This sketch book was an A4 - about 11x8.5 inches or something close to that.

I want to find them to try combining them with normal coloured pencils and see how that works - I think it would be rather interesting.

I played with the sketches in photoshop later and this is one of the results. They've not been used in paintings - I think those eyes staring out wouldn't be very comfortable!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Watercolours at the Mall Galleries and Monet at the Royal Academy

Todays trip to London was great

First was the Mall Galleries and the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours - an exhibition of contemporary watercolours. We met up with Katherine again.

Watercolour here includes acrylics and gouache and there was a great deal of mixed media work involving charcoal or pastel or oil pastel, ink or pencil. No hard and fast rules to stifle creativity here :)

Unfortunately they have no web site so it isn't possible to link here to images that were in the exhibition but where I can I've given links to see other work by artists I liked.

The work was wonderfully varied - from the super realism of Janet Skea, incredible paintings showing every fibre in fabrics, simple arrangements of delicate objects in a limited colour range, creating subtle and beautiful finished pieces, quiet and contemplative; to the luscious abstract paintings of Morocco by Leslie Goodwin, again with a severely limited palette but this time freely and boldy painted with the addition of body colour and oil pastel or vivid colourful abstracted landscapes by Jean Robinson and others and of course more traditional landscapes, portraits and still life.

Joanne Last lovely abstracted works

Jean Robinson showed some lovely abstract landscapes, reminiscent of John Blockley's work

Janet Skea showed incredibly finely detailed and beautiful works - realist paintings don't normally appeal to me as much but the sheer quality of these shines out - sadly the tiny reproductions don't begin to show the quality of the originals

Terry McKivragan

Anne McCormack - loose figures

Ronald Madox showed more images with an emphasis on pattern in the landscape Colin Kent
Felicity House showed some beautiful mixed media pieces - I'd really liked her work in the pastel exhibition a couple of weeks ago.

Cecilia Matson showed some beautiful work but I've only been able to find some drawings online.¤tdb=exhibitions&exhibition=The%20Long%20View Terry Watts, minimalist landscapes - very good - a very talented and innovative painter, who sadly died young last year. showed a wonderful calm, shining church interior, full of light.

one of the Monet pastels of the Thames

Then it was on to the Royal Academy, lunch in the friends room - delicious - and on to see the sketches and pastels of Monet. Most are in private collections so it was a rare chance to see them. The website says:

It offers a ground-breaking exploration of the role of draughtsmanship throughout the artist’s long career, overturning the conventional notion that Monet painted his impressions of nature directly onto the canvas. New light is shed on Monet’s working methods by presenting a significant body of his preparatory studies, finished drawings and pastels, alongside representative examples of his paintings. In demonstrating the relationship between his works on paper and in oil, Monet’s hidden talent as a draftsman is revealed, a gift that he publicly disavowed.

It was fascinating. There were brilliant caricatures of friends, studies for compositions of some of his well known paintings, early works done when he was 16, through to pastel studies of London - done because his canvasses hadn't arrived and he was temporarily unable to work in paint. Pastel was still regarded by many in the art world as a slightly second rate medium at that time. The pastels are fresh and contemporary looking and have stood the test of time well. His sketches and drawing showed excellent draftsmanship and, of course, keen observation.

Monet said of England 'This is not a country where anything can be finished on the spot, nothing is the same twice'
It's so true that nothing is the same twice here

Exhaustion set in at that point! we would have liked to have seen the Seago exhibition not too far away but there just wasn't enough energy left.

Katherine managed some sketches again, but though I took a sketchbook, all I did was write a couple of quotes I liked so that I wouldn't forget them!

I'm writing this up as I unwind and now I need to sleep :)

edit - I wrote this last night when half asleep! and forgot to put in a link to Katherines blog - where she'll write her report :)

and a link to Glen's work

Friday, March 23, 2007

last light, moleskine and coloured pencils

I should be doing lots of things instead but I wanted to draw - so I did :) ... and now I have to face the dirty dishes, pile of washing and tidying up :(
I did this from a combination of the sketches I did on the beach at sunset and memory. I've done a series of works from those sketches - in oil, pastel and digital images. It was interesting to see just how intense and dark it's possible to go with coloured pencils. I think they hold up well in comparison with other media.
I'm speeding up with them and can now imagine sketching more with them plein air. I think they'll feature more often in my sketchbooks in the future.
It was done with a mix of Polychromos, Lyra and cheapo Tescos coloured pencils and one Derwent. I like the heavier waxier Polychromos and Lyra - in future I'll know which to go for. Luckily I took the advice of expert CP users and bought quite a few polychromos - the Derwent is an old one, though it's good I don't like it as much.
The moleskine doesn't erase as cleanly as cartridge paper with these I notice.
Tomorrow I'm off to London to see the Watercolour Exhibition at the Mall Galleries with Glen and we will meet up with Katherine there. Then it's decision time - to see the Manet to Picasso exhibition nearby at the National Gallery or zip over to the Royal Academy to see the Monet drawings.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Kurt Jackson

image: Kurt Jackson

I mentioned yesterday that KJ has a new book out, with his paintings of the Thames, from its source to the sea. They look amazing. I've treated myself to the book and can't wait for it to arrive :D

Another book on my 'want' list is the one with his paintings of Cornish hedgerows. Do take a look. This is one example, not my favourite as a painting, but very typical of the quantity of flowers.

Cornish hedges are something very special. They aren't simple hawthorn+ hedges like a lot of the country but high stone walls with earth banked up and they are a mass of wild flowers, Do read the description of them on the page with the paintings. It explains them perfectly.

In Spring they are full of primroses, bluebells, wild garlic, campion and more. I lived in Cornwall as a child and loved them. The lanes are narrow, often only one car wide so they are 'up close and personal'.

So, the combination of one of my favourite artists and one of my favourite places is irrestible. I love his paintings of the coast there as well. He catches the place brilliantly.

He paints with passion and excitement, with bold marks and colours - but always controlled, though they are so free, catching the light, weather. mood and spirit of a place - just look at the light on the water in seascapes and rivers - dramatic and amazing.

I like the way he works in series - something I like to do as well. That way a subject can be explored in depth, looking at different aspects, times of day, seasons, weather, different scales - wide views to close ups of flowers or stones.

He also has a depth of knowledge about the plant and animal life of an area, its geology and history, all adding to the paintings, which often have writing on such as 'gulls calling, a fox passing' - things that happen while he's working - adding to the atmosphere to me.


ponds, pools and puddles

The Thames Project

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

charcoal pencil in that moleskine

I've got some very cheap charcoal pencils that I bought - a dozen for £1 ! - they are a bit waxier than a true charcoal pencil but I rather like them. They don't smudge quite the same as a true charcoal pencil. Some charcoal pencils can be a little scratchy and I don't enjoy using them. These are definitely not, they create lovely rich blacks.

This is a very quick sketch trying them out in the moleskine - the slight waxiness means that though normal charcoal doesn't work at all with the slightly waxy feeling paper, these do.

I considered sketching the tree in last Wednesday's post again yesterday, as I left work, as the leaves were now partly open and it was a haze of spring green, blowing in the icy gale from the north .......... which made me decide not to stop!

Kurt Jackson did a long series of small sketches of a little hawthorn tree. He took his daughter to her ballet lesson and didn't have time to go home before picking her up again - so he looked at this little tree every week at the same time in different weathers, watching it change with the seasons. It's a lovely series. It would be interesting to do something similar.

on the subject of Kurt Jackson - Katherine some of his books would be suitable for your sketchbook reviews. The Tinners Way for instance, following an ancient route and painting at intervals along it and there are others - exploring the mines, following a valley down to the sea and painting at regular intervals on the way.

Oh and he's got a new one out on 24th March - The Thames Project - it sounds good and right in your back yard! It's on line here and you can flick through the pages of the whole book :D - I shouldn't be spending - but I've ordered a copy. He seems to be following the whole length of the Thames, from small stream to the sea. I've always wanted to go round the coast of Britain doing a similar project.

Monday, March 19, 2007

moleskine, watercolour, coloured pencil, pencil - and seascape

I knew that people had said that moleskines didn't take watercolour - but I had to find out for myself :>)

I started off with a rough pencil sketch of a marsh harbour at Brancaster Staithe from the small moor on the hill above. It's a tiny area but real moorland with gorse and bracken and rocks.

The watercolour just rolled off its waxy surface and had to be scrubbed in quite drily to get it to stay on the paper at all! Definitely not one to try again - maybe gouache? or acrylic?

Then I used coloured pencils to reinforce colours, letting some of the watercolour that 'stuck' show through.

A mix of Polychromos, Lyra, Derwent and some cheap unnamed supermarket coloured pencils were used, reinforced with graphite pencil.

This is a view I'd like to do in oils some time, working plein air. It was done from a photograph taken when I sketched there last year. There's a wonderful view from the moor, known as The Common, of the harbour with its islands and twisting creeks, reed beds and salt marsh . Norfolk is generally fairly flat so it's lovely to be able to get a high viewpoint from rolling hills - North Norfolk is really a very nice area.

I'm disappointed that the moleskine doesn't like watercolour as I use it a lot in mixed media sketches - but it's so nice to use with drawing media that I'll buy another when this is full. I'd like to see them made double the size though.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


Later in the year I need some work for an exhibtion where the subject is reflections and I wondered if it was worth looking through my photographs to see if there was anything there I would want to work from.

As I've said before, I don't normally work from photos but I fancy giving it another go - I knew I had some images that I like and maybe .....

Anyway these are the images that I found quite quickly that would meet the brief. I love the coast so naturally a lot of them are to do with the sea :>)

I really liked these seagulls waiting for the incoming tide on a grey afternoon. I like the subtle limited range of colours - watercolour and CP???? Watercolour and pastel?

Then there is the boat lying beached on the wet mud with all the lovely sky blues in the reflection of the sky - something out of nothing.
Or the boat in the harbour with the lovely old stone walls - pastel and charcoal over acrylic or watercolour? It's the busiest of the images with all the people jostling along the harbour wall.
Or the contre jour image of the pools of water in a saltmarsh harbour - a colour photograph though it barely looks it. Again, like the seagulls, I'd keep the colours in a very limited range.
Or the image from the allotments series with its complex reflections in the windows of a shed with reflections of the surroundings and sky and things seen and half seen through the dirty peeling windows.
This one seems to need charcoal and a largish sheet of paper.

I thought maybe working from the image on the computer screen, rather than from a flat photograph - it worked quite well with the kitten sketch.

adding feedblitz and feedburner

Eureka!!!!!! I finally got there!

You would not believe how long I struggled to get feedblitz and feedburner to work .... first of all I'm not techie and second I was looking for something more complicated than I needed to - it simply needed pasting into a text box rather than the feed box, that I was attempting to use, expecting that to be the correct one for a feed - apparently not.

Anyway , anyone who would like to subscribe is now welcome to do so.

I can't believe how difficult I found that!

and thank you to Katherine, Diane and others who tried to help me out :)

Friday, March 16, 2007

sketch clubs and beaches and mixed media

I was asked to give a talk at a local amateur art group (small) and refused a straight talk but agreed to take work and sketchbooks to show and do a demo of some techniques, rather than finished work, followed by a workshop with help and advice - people love hands on don't they? and I wouldn't be comfortable talking for 2 hours about me!

So I did a couple of doodles to show how things worked with mixing media. This one was showing them how oil pastel as a resist with W'col is great - later I added CP and pencil to show the effects ....and finished it off this morning. 6x8 inches.
I hadn't actually intended it to be a finished piece, just a demo of techniques, but it was working reasonably well so carried on with it.
.... then another one throwing the same mix of media adding chalk pastels.
I paint plein air at the coast a lot so was drawing on memories of light and colour, wet pools and the colours of damp sand
These are much more finished than the group saw - I'm going to email the group leader a link here to see the finished pieces.
I do like mixed media, you've got all that extra visual vocabulary to draw on - all the different marks and potential of each medium.
I've also done a bit more work on the large seascape on canvas and will post progress on that another day.
.... and WHY does blogger lose your spaces between paragraphs as you publish? it is very very annoying!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

sunset in the shires

Done on the way to the evening class I was teaching, I had some spare time and the sunset was lovely.

I only had those skin tone Lyra pencils and Moleskine to draw it with, so I sketched with them, making colour notes and then added the extra colour later (blue, purple, orange, yellow and green) - using the coloured pencils in the art room at the college - they were nasty scratchy Verithins so not as nice to use at all.

It fixed the scene in my memory though.

I'm wondering whether our local pastel society allows coloured pencils in the exhibition - I have to have 3 for a show coming up and it would be nice to include a CP one if it was allowed - charcoals and conte are allowed - it's more about being a dry drawing medium - so I wonder? I'll have to make enquiries.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

moleskine, lyra pencils and kitten

I should be getting on with all sorts of other stuff but couldn't resist playing a bit more with the moleskine and lyra pencils.

This is from a photograph taken when this little monster was really tiny,

The colours of the skin tone set are perfect for her fur.

The moleskine is really nice to use with coloured pencils, I like the smooth surface and the ease of rubbing out to draw back into colours.

I don't use coloured pencils in the way that many people do, I'm not interested in creating a painterly smooth finish with no paper showing - I like to use them freely, in a scribbly way, more as a drawing medium, using the paper as another element.

Incidentally, she may look sweet but she was busy chewing my husband's fingers with very sharp little fangs!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

sketch of the crowd at the Renoir exhibition and a moleskine sketchbook

A quick sketch of the crowd at the Renoir exhibition - done at the time in biro and coloured later with those Lyra 'skin tones' set of coloured pencils - I really like them :>) - these are on loan from the college I work at but I must buy a set. They have a lovely range of colours from honey, through siennas, cool browns, dark browns, honey and an almost caput mortem - that dead purple (literally dead head in Latin from the colour of corpses!) that's ideal for some shadows.

The tiny lady with the bun at the front I just had to draw! She had so much character, She had a hunched back and this suit with incredibly wide shoulders and that lovely cottage loaf bun hairstyle.
I was exhausted by then, sitting listening to the headphones on the benches and trying work up the energy to move on :>)
Incidentally, this is my first sketch in a moleskine sketchbook - as people kept raving about them I thought I'd try one. On the first page I simply tried out scribbles of the different media I might want to sketch in to see how they worked. Most did. It's no good with willow charcoal though, far too smooth and shiny for it, which makes it scratchy. I decided pencil, charcoal pencil, ink and wash with very little water, ink pen, biro and coloured pencils all worked really well. So far I like it :>). I do like the way it opens so flat, the elastic band to hold it shut, the little pocket for bits and pieces - but a larger size would be nice as I don't usually work as small as even the larger moleskine. I don't like the price! they are rather expensive.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Renoir Landscapes at the National Gallery

Finally I manage to write a bit about this exhibition.

Renoir is not a favourite artist of mine, though I appreciate his work his good - his women are very simpering, shallow and sugary and having done some research for an art history assignment at uni, I found he had a very unpleasant attitude towards women, thinking women artists were an abomination and women should be in the kitchen or bedroom! He 'painted with his *****', he said. Some of his works, like the Bar at the Folies Bergere I do like, very much.

Anway, to the landscapes. I really hadn't seen many of his landscapes before so was interested to see them. It was noticeable straight away that, unlike Monet, he didn't look hard at the greens that were there, but used bluey-greens and generalised, choosing his own colour scheme, though in the example shown here the greens aren't so blue - probably because the water is very blue and it simply wouldn't have worked in this case.

The early landscapes were frankly not very good! but as time went by they got better and better - one large, and very free, late landscape really appealed to me and could have been done today. In it he looked at the pattern of a lane winding up a hill from an almost aerial viewpoint, the pattern of the lane and the trees being important in the composition. Unfortunately there is no trace of it online.

At various times he worked alongside Monet and Cezanne and their influence is clear in those works. The exhibition hung paintings of La Grenouillerie by both Monet and Renoir, from the same viewpoint, side by side. The differences in colour choice were huge - Monet had a wide range of greens, Renoir used his bluey-greens for all the foliage. Monet had figures on a jetty silhouetted dramatically against the shining water and an altogether better composition. The Renoir was good - but nowhere near as good as the Monet, which was wonderful.

Later he worked with Cezanne in the south and the change in his palette and paint handling under the influence of Cezanne is very noticeable.

I was really glad I'd seen it and the chronological hanging, with a really good and informative commentary on the headphones you can hire, added to it enormously. It was possible to see his development from shaky beginnings to some very assured and experimental works.

I'm planning to go down to the Watercolour Exhibition later this month, again at the Mall Galleries and this time I hope to see the Manet to Picasso exhibiton that will still be on.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Sketch clubs and artists talks

Tonight was a meeting of a sketch club I've belonged to for a long time, since before I did my degree. It has about 100 members, from keen amateurs to professionals, and meets once a month with crit nights and speakers, days out, studio days, demos and plein air trips. Other groups I belong to are by selection/election but this one is open to anyone keen, regardless of ability. Once a vacancy occurs, it's simply the next on the waiting list. It's a very nice friendly group.

Tonight was an artist's talk by Mikki Longley who has a background in illustration and has developed her own interesting quirky style, painting local towns and villages in heightened colours and skewed perspectives.

She was brilliantly prepared with a powerpoint slide show and projector and explained the ideas behind her work from the beginning, how and why she developed her houses and trees that lean confidingly in towards each other, encircling village squares or churches, how it has evolved and how she is now particularly interested in creating aerial views. She showed work by artists who have influenced her - including Anthony Green , Samuel Palmer, John Piper and Stanley Spencer

She showed her early work and traced the development of her increasing distortion of perspective, enhancing the cosy, wrapped around, feel of the villages and houses she paints.

She creates her aerial perspectives purely by working them out and imagining them for herself from a mixture of sketches and lots of photographs at ground level.

She showed the evolution of several paintings from preparatory sketches, through the various stages to completion. I always enjoy seeing how an artist works, how they think things through and develop them - it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening,

She had worked as an art director for major companies before moving away from London and having her family - so her marketing and organisational skills were excellent - I do wish mine were better :(

I'll try to write up the Renoir exhibition tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Pastel Exhibition at the Mall Galleries in London

One of my pastels to start off with as the post is about pastels - done plein air at local allotments (plots of land, rented to grow vegetables, home made sheds, recycled baths and barrels and all sort of 'useful' objects). The allotments were only half let - the one on the right of the grass path neatly tended and the one on the left running riot, nature reclaiming the land. I loved the tumble down sheds and junk being recycled and the contrast between the neat plots and the luxuriantly overgrown ones.
You can see a lot more of the work that I did there on my sketchbooks site in The Dying of the Day. Unison pastels are my favourite as they are lush and velvety but don't break easily - and they come in a great range of colours.

On Saturday the pastel society I belong to went to the Pastel Exhibition at the Mall Galleries. I try not to miss it as it’s usually a very good show. Glen a friend and fellow member, and I, met up with Katherine (who lives in London) again and we pulled in the Renoir landscapes at the National Gallery nearby as well – a busy and exhausting day, coaches are a very slow form of travel! It’s only 75 to 90 minutes to London by train but 180 by coach :( , still it does drop us off very close to the galleries.

(see Katherine's report on the exhibition here )

It’s always interesting to go to exhibitions with friends, drifting apart as we look at different paintings, crossing paths and comparing notes and meeting up for a very welcome coffee and cake.

I do wish they would do a full catalogue and not just a list of works with a picture on the cover.

On works that we thought were outstanding we tended to agree – sometimes one would think ‘very good’ to the other’s opinion of ‘brilliant’ and sometimes personal preferences and interests were clear in the choices – Katherine responding strongly to work involving line, Glen to strong portraits with real character and a bold handling, for me usually landscape with lost and found edges, a dramatic sense of light and place and interesting use of colour.

Victor Ambrus showed large beautifully sensitive full length portraits in line with touches of colour. He uses wonderful free flowing line, totally controlled but at the same time loose. He leaves lots of plain paper, quiet areas offsetting the active lively line work. Touches of pink blushed across cheekbones were delicately done and could so easily have become ‘twee’ but never did. They are very large drawings and seeing them in reproduction can’t do them justice sadly.

Sarah Bee showed trees and forests, light filtering through the trees, dissolving the edges and this one of standing stones

Jason Bowyer showed loosely drawn dynamic images of a blacksmith, full of movement and energy.

Cheryl Culver looked at pattern in the landscape, other works show it more strongly but this is the one online,

Susan Dakakni showed powerful charcoal drawings,

Anthony Eyeton showed a beautiful painting of a storm approaching on the beach in Rio,

Colin Slee showed lively, free charcoal drawings but I can't find any online :(.

Three Red Jackets by Felicity House was a beautifully balanced work - lots of space, some of the figures in line that tapers off, unfinished, with the 3 jackets of the title making a dancing pattern across the page, the figures relating to each other, spaced beautifully,

The outstanding image that stayed with me was by Mary Hackney – a life drawing of the back of a seated model It was painted in bold strokes of colour, the skin warm and the pose somehow slightly vulnerable. The background was a vivid fuchsia pink and lower down purple, vivid orange and ultramarine – yet with all these vivid colours it was soft and warm and vibrant, not loud. It looked much more vibrant in real life than on the website. A really beautiful image, simply and beautifully composed. I thought that it was the work of a young artist, it was contemporary, youthful, fresh and 'now' and was amazed to see that Mary was born in 1925. Artists stay young at heart :) .

I would have loved to buy this painting by Keith Roper - if I had any money! His work was full full of light and atmosphere and really gorgeous .

We discussed framing and presentation - some works were very badly framed, which let the work down. Katherine has discussed this in more detail and also subjects covered, so I won't duplicate the information.

Then we went to see the Renoir landscapes at the National Gallery - but that's for another post - I'm tired and I'm off to bed :)

Thursday, March 01, 2007

digital images

I've been feeling really yuk with this virus and my asthma making it last :( so I haven't been getting on with the big paintings. I also had to cover for a sick colleague and ended up working extra hours.

I did play with some photographs of trees and skies though and created these images by combining, layering, manipulating and generally playing with them :)

They may trigger ideas for paintings - watercolour? mixed media? I think I fancy using those and experimenting - a change from oils.