Friday, July 31, 2009

Old factories along the canal in pen and coloured pencil on brown wrapping paper

Frog Island Factories and Canal, Pitt pen and coloured pencil on brown wrapping paper, Vivien Blackburn (crop 1)

I wanted to have another play with that brown wrapping paper sketchbook, so I worked from an old sketch that I'd done plein air.

I'd decided to limit the colours to browns - using the lovely Lyra skintones selection, along with a brown Pitt pen. At the last minute I decided to add a little icy blue in the sky, canal and reflecting slightly on the corrugated roofs - the coldness works well against the warmer colours I feel.

This is an area that is full of higgledy piggledy old factories and little overgrown branches off the canal to their old wharves - one is off under that cast iron bridge. Sadly it's ripe for development and further along there are new flats in place of the old mills. I don't suppose this quirky building has a long future.

Frog Island Factories and Canal, Vivien Blackburn (crop 2)

which crop works best do you think?

Monday, July 27, 2009

an interesting new sketchbook with brown paper pages - and hydrangea in coloured pencil

Hydrangea, coloured pencil on brown wrapping paper in A4 sketchbook, 6.5 x 5.5 inches,Vivien Blackburn

A friend, Daryl, kindly sent me this interesting sketchbook with pages that are brown wrapping paper. I rather like this paper to draw on so I thought I'd do a series of pieces in different media to see how they work.

It did quite well holding many layers of cp - the surface is fairly smooth and it worked much better than I expected. It's quite thin paper though, so wouldn't take a lot of rough handling. (Ignore the colour variations in the paper, that's my fault in the scanning/adjustment)

Now I have to try it with paint and other drawing media - I'll post some of these when I do them.

It's nice to work on a variety of papers, different colours, textures and weights.

Sorry about the absence and scarcity of posts - work is a bit hectic at the moment with a project going on and me having to work extra hours. Things should calm down next week. I also have to organise work for an upcoming show.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

sketching little boys playing football isn't easy!

Sketches of Sam playing football - from photos, he moves far too fast for me to attempt sketching this from life without a lot more practice! Biro in Moleskine sketchbook

I definitely need more practice. We had a family get together in Bourton on the Water, in the Cotswolds. A beautiful place but very very busy. The men and Sam played football on the Green by the stream and I got loads of great photos but the movement was too fast for me to try sketching from life. I need a lot more practice.

These started off a bit cartoony as I was thinking about making him a book about the day and I'm not quite sure where they ended up!

Sketching children isn't in my comfort zone and as I had 2 daughters, sketching little boys is a new area - clearly needing more practice.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Rocks between Sennen Cove and Lands End , watercolour and mixed media

Rocks between Sennen Cove and Lands End. Watercolour, biro and coloured pencil. 10x11 ins approx. Vivien Blackburn

Jeanette has issued a challenge for people to paint/draw rocks.

These are some-I-did-before plus a new one from today. I had to work from a photo for this new one as sadly I'm 320 miles away from Sennen Cove right now :>(

The figure gives the scale of those massive rocks though and gives me vertigo as well! I couldn't stand that close to the edge.

To see the stages as a work in progress go here

Why not join in and leave her a link to your rocks?

Exhibition at Mission Trails Regional Park in 2010

Trees, digital image, Vivien Blackburn

A friend, Louise Sackett, has arranged an exhibition in November/December 2010, for a small group of us, in the gallery at Mission Trails Regional Park - there were over 100 applications and only 12 exhibition slots - and we were chosen :>)

Taking part are: Louise Sackett, Nicole Caulfield, Gayle Mason , Katherine Tyrrell - and Vivien Blackburn.

So in November/December 2010, if you are near San Diego and the Mission Trails Regional Park you will be able to see the Park's very first exhibition of artwork by an international group of artists - us :>) It should be a good and very varied exhibition. And Louise is a heroine as she's arranging frames in the US, to keep the costs down for Gayle, Katherine and I who have to ship from England.

All that framing 8>O to do

Friday, July 10, 2009

Life Drawing with Channel 4

Life Drawing with Channel 4. Willow Charcoal, Vivien

Today I managed to catch the Life Drawing Class on Channel 4 - really interesting and hope they continue with the idea.

These aren't the best drawings! very quick and unfinished as they were relatively short poses so it was essential to work fast.

I like to work in tone and line, letting the background darkness define some of the edges and using the lost edges to unite figure and background.

The model was a dancer - a little androgynous, muscular and compact, interesting to draw.

The second pose was identical but seen from the back - even more unfinished!


- I need to practise more I think :>) I hadn't done life drawing in a long long time and never from TV.

There is a good site called ???Poser with male and female digital figures showing muscle structures from all sorts of viewpoints for those interested - ideal for those doing fantasy art. It's a Japanese site with quick and long poses.

Annie has kindly reminded me that it is Posemaniacs - thanks Annie :>)

Katherines sketches of this pose

Katherine's work from the last programme

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Roses: photographing artwork and problems photographing coloured pencil work

Blowsy Rose, mixed media, approx 11x9 ins, Vivien Blackburn

I find work in coloured pencil very hard to photograph or scan. The subtle paler marks tend to look faded and the white paper glares a bit too much. I don't like to burnish as I like the marks left, though I realise that would solve the problem.

I find that putting a folded paper tissue over the flashgun, if using flash, definitely helps with photographing any work. Often the results using this are better than I get with natural light.

This one is a mixed media piece with some watercolour underpainting with cp over. This, I find easier to photograph and actually prefer to work this way.

The top layer below shows the untouched photograph using flash, with next to it, the image adjusted in photoshop to match the original as closely as possible.

The second row shows the natural light photograph and its adjusted image.

The one in the top row is closer and has, in my opinion, made a better job of picking up the colours in this case.

flash vs natural light comparison

I adjusted it using Levels - tweaking the dark/midtones/light. Then I adjusted the colour balance, tipping the lights and the midtones a little yellower and the darks a little bluer and greener. This brought it very close to the original.

Sometimes I find it works better to duplicate the layer and multiply it, altering the percentage until it looks right. Then it may need brightness and contrast and colour balance adjusting a little.

Next decision - to crop as below or to leave the ragged edges - as at the top? what do you think?

Meanwhile ..... please keep work coming in for the tree challenge - a post linking to all participants at the end of the month :>)

................ and Jeanette has a rock challenge starting up - take a look and join in?

and Katherine has a very good post about adjusting for those using Elements here

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

David Hockney. review

Woods, digital experiment. Vivien Blackburn (old work)

Last night there was a fascinating programme, David Hockney: Imagine - did anyone else watch it?

He has been spending more time in his native Yorkshire and has fallen in love with painting plein air (how sensible! :>) ) and studying the changing light and seasons - exactly what interests me. I found myself agreeing with a lot of the ideas behind the work and thinking 'me too'. He articulates better though!

The programme concentrated, after a quick recap on his past work, on where he is now. He was shown working in the landscape in all weathers, faithful assistant setting up easels and canvasses and squeezing paint - oh how I'd like a faithful assistant!

He sometimes painted on multiple canvasses, stacked against easels to create one very large image. The largest of these was done for the Tate and is 40 feet long by 15 feet high, made up of 50 canvasses. He couldn't see the whole image until it was hung but got around the problem by photographing each canvas and looking at them joined up on the computer screen. Isn't technology useful?

It was of some trees and fields on a massive scale. The composition was great, sweeping lines, great shapes and tones - very striking. You can see it here and an article about it.

I find I often really like his compositions and the underlying thought processes - though his greens are sometimes too loud and unnatural for me - at other times they work beautifully.

He is happy to change his viewpoint slightly in his mind in the way of David Prentice. He will play a little with perspective, take a higher or lower viewpoint than in reality 'in your head you can be anywhere' he said - and 'it's important to be in it' .

He talked about Chinese scroll paintings and the Principle of Moving Focus - nothing like the concepts behind a lot of Western art. In Western art the traditional ideas of composition are about 'focal points' - somewhere that the eye rests and is drawn to. By contrast, the Principle of Moving Focus aims to take you on a journey, not stopping anywhere but constantly moving on. This is what I'm doing in some of my work - I often don't want a focal point, the work is about moving, travelling through. I need to look further into this concept.

I think my seascapes always work better with several hung - they then take you on a journey of changing light, seasons, weather, time of day. My Time and Tide series of tall thin canvasses were made to be hung grouped for this reason. He made the same comment about a series of his landscape canvasses when he saw them hung for an exhibition.

He revisited specific places through the seasons painting the changes - again something I like to do and something we are doing as a group on Watermarks

He quoted the Chinese as saying that Hand, Eye and Heart must all be engaged in a piece or it simply doesn't work. A simple sounding idea but so true. Without all 3, the work lacks that 'something' that makes it touch you.

I like the way he experiments, thinks in depth about subjects and tries unconventional methods as in his 'joiners' of the past. (These weren't mentioned on the programme but really interested me at the time)

The "joiners"

David Hockney has also worked with photography or, more precisely, photocollage.Using varying numbers of small Polaroid snaps or photolab-prints of a single subject Hockney arranged a patchwork to make a composite image. Because these photographs are taken from different perspectives and at slightly different times, the result is work which has an affinity with Cubism an affinity which was one of Hockney's major aims - discussing the way human vision works. Wickepedia

These joiners were about time with multiple images of, for instance, a figure, travelling from one place to another.

His book Secret Knowledge was a very thought provoking insight into the use of lenses by painters, long before photography.

Having said he'd 'never use a camera again', when he started the plein air series, he was now using one to help assemble his huge works. He quoted Sickert - 'never believe what an artist may say, only what they do' when challenged on the about face. :>)

He probably wouldn't be on my 'must have' list for when I win the lottery or find a rich billionaire to keep me in the style to which I'd like to become accustomed. But his work is interesting, challenging, constantly developing, exploring and has depth.

'You don't retire doing this' he said 'you just do it till you fall over' - so there will no doubt be more innovation to come.

Wikepedia on Hockney

You can read Katherine Tyrrells great review of the programme here