Friday, October 31, 2008

Feather in coloured pencil

Feather in Coloured Pencil. Vivien Blackburn approx 5 ins square

A friend gave me some beautiful feathers and I couldn't resist drawing one. This is in coloured pencil, a mix of Lyra and Polychromos.

If you like it enough :>) I've just added it to my Etsy shop - as I enjoy drawing feathers I thought I'd do a series for the shop.

A good idea do you think?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sennen Cove , detail, Vivien Blackburn
I think this would work as a large canvas - what do you think?

I haven't had time to do much painting for the last few days due to an awfully heavy workload and an exciting new project I'm involved in.

I had an idea and a name for a group project and talked to Katherine Tyrrell and Lindsay Olson - the idea is now escalating due to the technical knowledge of Katherine and is really getting exciting - a lot of very talented people are going to be involved. Watch this space!

Friday, October 24, 2008

a bit of digital manipulation

digital collage - Vivien Blackburn

This is a very simple digital collage, combining some of the rocks from the long panoramic view of Sennen Cove with the marbling *analogue* collage shown earlier, made using my marbling experiments.

I used the clone tool and multiple layers to add to blank areas and change things a little. Then the burn and dodge tools to lighten and darken areas for emphasis and the eraser to delete unwanted areas and redefine rock shapes with new edges.

Finally I flattened the layers.

I could possibly develop this into an abstract in the future, on a large canvas. moving it on not simply copying it, so when my printer recovers from its nervous breakdown I'll print it off and put it in my sketchbook for future reference.

I thought the patterns went quite well together. What do you think?

Monday, October 20, 2008

panoramic view of Sennen Cove in mixed media - to crop or not to crop?

Sennen Cove, Rainy Day, mixed media painting, 19.5 x 7.5 inches, Vivien Blackburn

For some reason I don't enjoy working on panoramas in this format - turn it to vertical and I love working on a long thin canvas or paper - horizontal? - no :>(

So I may well crop it to something like this and maybe get a further small painting cut out from the right hand side. What do you think? to crop or not to crop, that is the question.

possible crop?

detail of foreground rocks

detail of the sea

The photograph of the whole piece loses detail and texture so these are close ups of sections of the painting. It's a gloomy rainy day now and it was photographed with flash - never a very good idea, natural light is so much better.

other potential crops?

so ........ to crop or not to crop?

Friday, October 17, 2008

moleskine exchange update and more seascapes

Moleskine exchange, Sennen Cove, surf on the rocks, Vivien Blackburn
These are the 2 recent pictures in the moleskine sketchbook exchange, done in Lindsay's book with its theme of maps and destinations. Lindsay, Lorraine and Brian had concentrated on the maps/aerial view side and David had taken us into outer space. I decided to give his spaceman a nice place to splash down on his return :>) and look at destination
You can see the spaceman and other pages here:

the next day, wild surf and rain, subtle colours replacing the vivid blue of the previous day

That's a harbour wall under those waves, quite a tall wall and this wasn't even a gale! That large rock reef outside the harbour helps break the force of the waves as they come in

This book is currently with Gesa and I'll be interested to see where she takes it next :>)

Casey (Klahn) have you got my book? I'm dying to see what you do with it.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Lanyon Quoit, Penwith, Cornwall, charcoal and coloured pencil. Vivien Blackburn

I decided to work further on the charcoal sketch of Lanyon Quoit with coloured pencils - the mix of coloured pencil over charcoal is a recent discovery and I really like it for moody images.

The green is a little more moorland coloured and the reds glow a little more - it was hard to get a photo with the colour balance right. The clouds aren't quite that dark and the grass is a bit darker. There is a haze of purple about the clouds

Below is the original sketch.

better? worse? what do you think?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

marbling with shaving foam

Melanie emailed with a great description of using shaving foam for marbling and it looks a really interesting alternative to try.

I harassed her to write a blog post as she'd written it up so well for me :>D and here it is:

Do go and look. She has some lovely sanples of works she has done and a clear and funny description of the process.

Thank you again Melanie :>)

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

marbling - I've been learning how

Edge of the Waves, marbling, collage and coloured pencil, Vivien Blackburn

(unfinished work in progress)

I've been learning how to use marbling techniques to create gorgeous papers - I've got a lot to learn but it was fun! I wanted to use the papers in collage and my first experiments are here.

They are done with torn and cut marbled papers, some watercolour and a little coloured pencil.

Tides Edge, marbling, watercolour, collage, Vivien Blackburn

Oily inks were dripped into a large tray of water, they float on the surface and I swirled them with the end of a paintbrush, breaking up the globs of ink and creating swirls and drifts of colour. Then a sheet of paper was dropped in, sometimes lifted out without dragging and sometimes dragging it to create extra movement of the swirls. I used watercolour paper and cartridge paper, for the effects I wanted the cartridge paper worked better, the ink continued to move for a little as you lifted the paper out. With the watercolour paper it gripped and stayed.

I've got several sheets to experiment with :>)

I wonder if it would work with oil paint and Liquin or Linseed oil? has anyone tried that? any suggestions on managing with the materials I already have?


Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Morning, Sennen Cove, watercolour using photos and plein air sketches

Across the Bay, Early Morning, Still Day. watercolour, approx 8 in sq, Vivien Blackburn
One of my classes had been piling the pressure on to do a painting as a demo, explaining whys and hows. This is the one I did, based loosely on the photo below, with colour from memory of sketching and observing while I was there. 15 people watching closely ........... no pressure! not.
Cameras simply don't show the subtle colours in greys, Though I like this image as a photograph with its steely colour, in reality there was far more colour than that. Soft gentle jades and lavenders and colours in the rocks.

The accuracy of Cape Cornwall and the Brisons isn't very good in my painting - they are too pointed! I was working fast and talking to the group and not looking hard enough at the shapes of the Cape and rocks - that's my excuse anyway!!! it was more from memory than from the photograph - but I really liked the cloud formation and light and took some of it into the work.
I used watercolour very loosely and while it was still damp drew into the wet washes with the end of the paintbrush along the horizon and a watercolour pencil in the rocky foreshore.
When it was dry I glazed small areas with soft coloured pencil - polychromos, not watercolour pencils. Watercolour pencils don't work well dry and polychromos is great over watercolour, melding with it so that it's hard to know where it has been used.
Below is the whole image. When painting something I know will be cropped to a square-ish format I tend to carry the image on beyond what will be its final edges - the gestural marks then stay free in the final crop.

I'm not a photorealist painter and don't want to copy a photograph - I like the 'language' of the various media, the marks of the paint itself and I'm trying to catch the feel of the light and the place.
The painters I like most are also about this - artists like Turner, Monet, Cezanne, Ross Loveday, Kurt Jackson, Whistler, Steve Slimm, Pissaro or David Tress - they create a strong sense of place and light with beautifully painterly marks.


Sunday, October 05, 2008

Sketchbook exchanges - how do they work? was it worth it? was it fun?

Nina's work in my sketchbook in the FPP exchange :>)

I was lucky enough to take part in two sketchbook exchanges [ one is now coming to an end :>( and I'll really miss it!] and I've had a lot of queries about them - how they work, timings, what type of sketch books etc etc etc etc so I thought it might be a good subject for a post here.

Above is a great example of one of the major benefits - you get lots of lovely work from people you like and whose work you like :>) to keep! and lots more passes through your hands on their travels - you get to see the work in real life and not simply on screen.

One of the challenges in my book was to draw/paint a feather - and just look at this lovely subtle and original take on it - I can't wait to see the rest of Nina's images, but won't see them until the book gets to the next person in the chain, my friend Glen. But just look at the masterly use of watercolour, and an idea I wouldn't have come up with, involving her lovely way with people in watercolour along with the super large feather - and that shadow on the arm from the other feather - wonderful.

Another is the interesting conversations about the work and friendships that develop. Seeing the work of people in real life is fascinating and the different ways in which they tackle the themes.

It makes you tackle other ideas and break out of your comfort zone :>)

Both started off with a clearly designed and very flexible set of 'rules' on how we'd run it - not organised by me, I can't take any credit, but very well run by Stephanie for the Moley project and Lindsay for the Flying Pictures Project. My only input at this stage was being part of the initial discussions and suggesting that with the FPP one we didn't make the entire book before sending it, but let each person add their own pages (it gave some space for mess ups that were safely binned!)
I have to say they have been terrific fun and as we relaxed into them they made us all experiment and play as we bounced off the ideas of the book originator and the other members who had worked in the book, each very different. We also did some of 'what we do normally' woven into the theme - as that's why we were invited in the first place, because the organiser/group liked our work and heavy hints were dropped!

the books used:

  • a small concertina fold moley for the moleyX
  • and a larger 26 x18 cm hand made one for the FPP, instructions on Lindsay's site
    that we added pages to as it travelled (I liked this method and the size )

  • we started a book each and that would finally be OUR book, returning to us at the end. So 7 Flying Pictures Project books travelling round the world and 8 moleskines ...
  • Making the books as they travel means different papers for different media and a lively vibrant , ever changing book - colourfix/watercolour paper/cryla paper ..... anything! I put black pages in one book in my section, cryla paper in another and watercolour paper in several. The larger size also gives more room for maneoevre.

'Rules' were the same for both exchanges (=guidelines, agreed method)

  • Size/type of book is decided and all participants use the same size
    - the moleskine concertina fold for one exchange
    - the hand made book for FPP

    - Most made their books landscape format in the FPP as in Lindsay's original instructions on how to make the books - but a couple used the format portrait style it was totally optional. See Lindsay's blog , link below, for instructions on making the sketchbooks we used in the FPP or search on the sketchbook exchange tag in the right hand column for a link there or to see other posts done here on the exchange.
  • Books start their journey with a front cover attached (back cover unattached optional (- it needs to be attached at the end when you can see how thick the book has become!)
    and the book owners starting pages - 3-4 pages approximately (this is for the FPP - obviously moleys were complete from the beginning and we all just bought the same one and did 4 pages each)
  • We set a theme for our book that others related to in their own way - and the ways have been very very different at times, making it really interesting.

    The themes need to be open ended enough that a variety of styles and subjects can be bent to fit

    - David's theme in the moley exchange for example, was Dance - He started it with some wonderfully sexy, passionate Tango dancers - I did dancing flowers in the wind after a lot of thought and suddenly seeing the wind flinging the flowers in the garden about in wild abandon - and there was my idea, Gesa did an abstract of footsteps and rhythm, Stephanie did sketches of dancers at a show she went to, very quick loose sketches .... it could be fitted to a still life with a dance music cd/record/sheet music or even high heeled shoes, or animals active, leaping whatever ? there's always a way to twist a theme to fit your work and experiment.
  • Look at the websites, where you can see all the work in the exchanges and you'll see how different the work is within each theme.
  • The theme is explained at the beginning of the book
    - this is open with a lot of potential to twist is to suit the individual and come up with different ideas, media, etc As I said - the others are NOT compelled to follow it - but everyone has in these 2 exchanges and just given it their own twist :>)
  • About 3.5 -4.5 pages is an ideal amount for each person to fill. The last half-page has a beginning of something and is left uncompleted for the next in line to work into and change in their own way - this was fun but didn't always happen as people forgot or were shy to work on someone else's work. It IS a fun element though.
  • A time scale for sending books on was set but was flexible, allowing for pressures of life
    - but we found that people enjoyed it so much that books actually often travelled faster than arranged - again flexible and good humoured :>) One was 2 weekly, the other monthly send-ons.
  • We designed our own covers for the FPP and some people requested that others added to theirs - again optional.
    With the moleskine exchange some people decorated covers and Lorraine has designed a pencil holding sling for the moleskine and kindly made us all one :>) as our books arrive in Belfast she attaches them
  • The FPP exchange also has a private discussion thread as well as the public blog with many a conversation about the necessity of chocolate to cope with following some of the great work we'd received ;>D. This is a good idea. In fact one of the sketchbooks travelling, Robyn's, actually involved enclosing a bar of chocolate to ease the nerves of the next recipient - a great idea!

Taking part made me experiment and play with new ideas and triggered ideas for my own work. There were interesting conversations and discussions. I've really really enjoyed it and the interesting work and ideas of my fellow conspiritors :>) - that spelling looks weird - is it right? or am I just tired?

Our books travelled through England, Scotland, France, Sweden, Italy and the US picking up ideas and artwork as they went .

- and at the end there is the fact that you have this lovely book of original art by people you like :>) - it's been a really good experience. It was all very good humoured and positive, supportive and tolerant .

I'm dying to get mine back! My FPP is on its way to Glen who lives locally and is the last one to add to it :>) it'll be fabulous and a little sad. The group are keen to do another joint project after a break :>) and I'm IN!


Flying Pictures Project

FPP website:

Lindsay the organiser and instigator :>) :

Ronell :

Casey C :




and me! here and

The moleskine exchange:

group website:

Stephanie, organiser and instigator:






Casey K:

and me!


Saturday, October 04, 2008

collage and experimenting in sketchbooks

collage and mixed media in sketchbook, swirling surf at the sea's edge. Vivien Blackburn

It's fun to just play and experiment sometimes - new ideas develop that way.

The sketches above are a mix of collage - marbled paper, some brown and olive green paper, a torn up small painting and a touch of coloured pencil, biro and tippex (typing correction pen)

I like using collage and really ought to use it more often in larger work.

This was done in Lindsay's sketchbook in the FPP sketchbook exchange.

Do you use collage?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Cornish seas: changing colours, more photos

Fishing Boat at Sennen Cove, photograph: Vivien Blackburn
I half feel like doing a painting of this - and half think that the photo already says it all. It's one of my favourites for its simplicity.

looking across to Cape Cornwall and the Brisons, blue day, photograph: Vivien Blackburn
Cape Cornwall is the hill on the headland and off to the right on the horizon the rocks called The Brisons. Above in blue skied sunny mood and below with beautiful swirling clouds and steely blue-greys. The rocks here and at Porthcurno round past Lands End to the right are quite pale unless they are covered in seaweed but at Priests Cove (see lower down) at Cape Cornwall are very very dark.

looking across to Cape Cornwall and The Brisons, rainy morning, photo: Vivien Blackburn
Priests Cove, dark rocks and steely colours, a bit misty, Cape Cornwall, looking back towards Sennen Cove, photo: Vivien Blackburn

People on the beach at St Ives, pearly light, photo: Vivien Blackburn
Isn't it lovely the way the light changes and the sea becomes pearly and opalescent or steely or vividly blue?
Not to mention the changes in the surf - in all of these the sea is calm and tranquil with little surf but just look at the earlier post of the breakers crashing over the harbour wall to see how quickly this can change too :>)