Showing posts from 2010

digital images and this years projects

This one started life as a digital drawing using Harmony and was then manipulated and combined with colour in Photoshop. I am still in love with the marks that programme can make!

I think I'll pursue developing paintings from digital beginnings a little more this year. Our little group have also decided on 2 major themes for future exhibitions - one to look at still life in our own particular ways, something we all rarely do, so a new challenge. Another is an exhibition with a theme and title worked out (secret as yet), that again we'll tackle in our individual ways - more on this later in the year.

I'm also planning to get down to Cornwall to do more plein air work and more plein air paintings locally.

New arrival

We had a new arrival over Christmas :>) My daughter had a little girl - after a scare with possible swine flu and a second emergency Caesarian.

I haven't been down to see her yet but hope to get down as soon as possible

Happy Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone :>)

interpreting digital images in traditional media

Of Thistles, coloured pencil, Vivien Blackburn

I'm up to my eyes in stuff to do but took time to work on this coloured pencil drawing based on some digital images I did using the mr doob programme, Harmony.

I wanted to see how the marks would translate into traditional media. It's something I think I'll experiment with further. This is just the first version in a moleskine folio sketchbook.

There is more subtlety in the colours than I can pick up in the photographs or scans :>(

Worth pursuing do you think? maybe in watercolour plus pencils? pastel and much larger?
Last Light, oil on deep canvas. 12 ins square. Vivien Blackburn

Not a great photo as it's shining - but one of the recent series of 12 inch canvasses.

I'm deep in Christmassy stuff and hopefully will catch up with the blog this week.

I've reopened my Etsy shop

I've made time to reopen my Etsy shop - link on the right.

I'll be adding items daily so please check in if you are interested. I've got some giclee prints that I'm going to add - including the one above - so some prices will be quite low :>)

mist and ice: photographs

Frosted leaf, Vivien Blackburn

It was -6C today and the mist and ice looked beautiful so I stopped going to work and coming home to take some photos.

The remnants of warmth in the leaf colours looked amazing contrasting with the coldness of the ice.
and the sun was setting as I came home - just after this I left the clear skies and drove into very very thick fog and grey-whitenout-ness.

You can see more here

and look at this excellent post by Adebanji Alade on his recent marathon, planning, pricing, comfort and more

exhibition update

Pictures from the exhibition ......

Table with some of my paintings and giclee prints - and the book too
On the left hand panel paintings by Ros Kite, on the right hand panel, mine

Setting up the show

Above shows the lovely old beams and wooden floor of the Old Grammar School built in the 1600's - there was another floor - you can see the holes for the joists on the far side. The headmaster and his family lived up there and this was the schoolroom.

and another look at the outside. The butter market would have been underneath on market days, to keep dairy products cool.

Some of the giclee prints I had done - when I've got a minute I'm going to put some new work in my Etsy store, including some of these prints. I'll reinstate the link when I get this done.

New year resolution is to get to grips with sorting out a paypal button for here too.

On Saturday I was frozen all day and ended up wearing my coat and scarf. Those non cavity insulation walls and high ceiling made the…

organising an exhibition part 1 venue, timing, opening hours, sharing the work and making ground rules

Approaching Rain, detail, oil on canvas, studio painting from plein air sketches, Vivien Blackburn

Organising an exhibition as a group:

This will depend on the type of group - I belong to large organisations who have committees, members voted in, who arrange and hang the shows. These may be juried and have a limit on the number of paintings that can be shown.

This group is a small group of friends, who meet up once a month. We are all graduates/post graduates and critique each others work, talk about or arrange visits to exhibitions and put on shows of our own work from time to time. Being small it's essential that everyone helps out with the organisation in our group and that ground rules are arranged in advance.


For this show I came up with the venue but asked 2 other members to check it out and book it, to make sure that we would all be happy with it. The price was right, the space was just big enough. We were able to book it for a time that suited us, aimed at the C…

the venue for the exhibition

This lovely ancient building -The Old Grammar School built in the 1600's, is the venue for our exhibition.

greeting cards for the exhibition

We had the last meeting to finalise arrangements for the upcoming exhibition last night. Posters and fliers (me) were approved and distributed. Now I have to get on and finish paintings and print cards.

I always sell cards as they tend to be good sellers and people can afford them when they can't afford the paintings. These are some of the images planned for the next batch.

They are digital playing with paintings in Photoshop and Corel PhotoPaint and don't exist exactly like these as originals .

I like the scratchy edges in the 'framing' options in Corel, that erode the edges and give a rough brush mark feel. Nicer than a hard square edge?
Now I'm off to do more work getting ready .............

exhibtion in market harborough

If you are in the Market Harborough area at the beginning of December - come and visit the show :>)

A painting by each of us is shown on the poster.

It's in the Old Grammar School right in the centre. It's a lovely ancient timber building, next door to the church. Car parking nearby.

Market Harborough is in between Leicester and Northampton.

Mawgan Porth, oil on canvas,. progress

Mawgan Porth, across the bay, progress maybe finished

This one may be finished now.

The others are on their way as well so there will be more to show soon.

It's based on a sketch done plein air - but I've used a lot of memories of being there and other sketches from the same place, to change things, move them around, adjust colour slightly and adapt it to a square format.

I'm also busy with designing the fliers and poster for the exhibition. I've already done the press releases. I'm going to do a post soon on organising an exhibition with a group - delegating tasks, publicity, venue etc

Mawgan Porth, across the bay, oil on canvas from plein air sketches

work in progress, Mawgan Porth, 12 inches square, deep sided canvas

This is one of the canvasses I'm juggling at the moment for the group show of small works (at the beginning of December).

I'm working from sketches I did plein air in various media and trying to keep the immediacy of them. They aren't exact copies of the plein air work - they are altered a little and memory feeds into them.

As I'm working in the studio (errrm much to himself's annoyance .... the kitchen for the best light) I can work wet over dry as well as wet in wet, scumbling scratching through etc

Any thoughts?

exhibition update, mission trails park, california

Here are that last series of paintings at Mission Trails Park in California - photo courtesy of Ester Roi who visited and did a write up on the show here. Her blog is well worth a visit. Thank you Ester :>)

It's interesting to see the different trends in framing in the US and here. American friends all seem to use these wide dark frames (Louise kindly framed our work for us). Here the trend is all for pale frames - soft neutrals, limed ash, white etc So it's interesting to see how my work looks framed so differently :>)

The purple wall also echoes the colour in several of them!

You can see the images better .....


and details of the venue ...


Kiln fused glass pendant

Night Beach, pendant in kiln fused glass, Vivien Blackburn

I said I'd show the work I did on the kiln fused glass workshop day - I haven't photographed the rest yet but this is the pendant I made that I'm really quite pleased with. It may not be brilliant for anyone who knows about glass - but it's my first attempt and I'm delighted!

It's supposed to be the beach at night, abstracted, with the moon and reflections in copper metallic particles. This was a metallic powder that I added. The deep blue glass is sort of glittery, frosted and the paler blue grey was little lumps of coloured glass and is supposed to be the light on the sea.

It's finished off using a bail stuck on with epoxy glue, a shoelace knotted with silver beads and Tibetan clasps to fasten it.

I really like dichroic glass and with the metallic elements fused in, this one has something of that effect. It would be great to have a go with some real dichroic glass. (it reflects colours differ…

New exhibition opening in California

The website showing the exhibition with friends that opens this weekend - at Mission Trails Regional Park Gallery in California (near San Diego).

Link to Ester Roi's write up the show

Anyone in the area please go and support us :>)

Taking part in reverse alphabetical order are:

Katherine Tyrrell - known to you all :>) - beautiful work with coloured pencils and a writer

Louise Sackett - our excellent organiser for this show and talented painter.

Gayle Mason - who does the most gorgeous, luminous-eyed animals

Nicole Caulfield - amazing portraits and still life in coloured pencil


3 artists in England and 2 in America, our 6th member is sadly (for us) too busy writing best sellers at the moment to do much artwork and so couldn't take part. Last year we all showed together in Virginia which was fun.

I'm looking forward to seeing photos of the show when it's hung.

This is where the series of trees and pools was headed :>)

It has been a year in the planning - Louise app…

watercolour techniques - more splattering with glazing and coloured pencil added

12x 6 inches, Autumn Fields, Watercolour and coloured pencil on Somerset paper

This one started out as a demo for another group and I carried on with glazes of watercolour and some coloured pencil to pull it together.

It's important not to let technique take over and produce formulaic pieces - use the technique that makes the marks you need and vary brush strokes and approaches.

I think I'll add more grasses at the front as that looks too symmetrical ....

gnarled branches, mixed media

Gnarled trees branch, mixed media, 15 x20 inches, Vivien Blackburn

This one is a mixed media study of a gnarled tree branch in acrylic, ink, a little charcoal and oil pastel. It's fairly textured with the paint quite thick in places. Done on a heavy watercolour paper.

I've asked my students to bring me any interesting branches they find - I hope they do. I'd like to do some more. One has promised to keep her eye open for a skull as she often sees animal skulls when walking her dog - fingers crossed for this :>)

I wanted to work larger and freer than the last one I did, which was also mixed media but much more restrained and smaller.

What do you think?

watercolour techniques - splattering and drawing with paint - and extra static pages added to the blog

A quick demo done for my class of splattering watercolour wet-in-wet and drawing through with the brush handle as a pen
One of my students, just starting watercolours, was doing some very heavy, one dimensional trees. This was a quick demo to encourage him to consider them as 3 dimenstional, with branches coming towards him as well as sideways :>) and to leave 'sky holes'; to consider colour variation, texture, light and shade and different intervals/areas of colour. It's very important not to let marks become same-y and standard sized.

Colours were splattered wet-in-wet by holding the paintbrush horizontally, only an inch or two above the paper and tapping it sharply with the forefinger of the same hand. This means the area that the drops land in is fairly controlled but with the lovely randomness of nature. 'Throwing' the brush Jackson Pollock style results in more directional marks - and more mess :>) and isn't always suitable for small paint…

Random sketches from observation

Random objects with peacock feather, Vivien Blackburn

Sometimes there is time for a quick sketch but not time for concentrating on more finished works - and sometimes it's relaxing to just practice observation in sketchbooks for no particular reason :>)

These are recent doodles.

Random objects with leaky tube of glue, Vivien Blackburn

I'm not usually interested in traditional still life set ups. I find them a bit static and just not interesting enough. I do like them when they have a twist that makes them exciting though - like the red shoes or glowing paper bags of Nicole Caulfield or the dynamic watercolour still lifes of Shirley Trevena. It's something I keep meaning to experiment with - maybe this winter?

you can see other still life sketches here

I have to get some stuff ready for an exhibition I'm taking part in with a small group of friends - more on that and planning for exhibitions coming soon ...............

how to unblock mechanical pencils?


Does anyone else have problems with mechanical pencils? Mine seem to have such a short life :>( One of them is at the top of this doodle.

I love them because you don't have to sharpen them and the eraser is part of the pencil and so they are ideal for minimal equipment sketching.

They always always seem to eventually get clogged or the mechanism fails. How to unclog them? a really fine needle isn't fine enough or strong enough it seems. Is there something I could soak them in ? like oil or something?

These doodle were done with a Kuretake pen - which I find a bit scratchy somehow. I'm not sure how much I like the feel of it in use.

Fun stuff

I just had to share this fun thing Jeanette has put on her blog! There is some really interesting stuff going on there artwise too :>)

They follow your mouse movements and a click feeds them :>)

Art Talks and discovering artists new to me

John Atkinson Grimshaw, Liverpool from Wapping

Last night I went to a really interesting talk by Sue Edwards on the stories behind paintings. She was not a painter but an art historian and so her slant was on the hidden stories, the significance of objects/settings, the social commentary, the background of the artist etc. And she really knew her subject. Fascinating. Some I knew some I didn't. It was a really interesting night.

This was one of the paintings she showed and it introduced me to an artist I didn't know, John Atkinson Grimshaw. The light in his 'moonlight' series was beautiful - here the warm colour from the lights on the right, it's security and safeness contrasting with the cool light and possible danger of the docks on the left. The glow reflecting off the cobbles and those difficult dusk/night colours, things disappearing into the gloom in the distance are all handled brilliantly. I'd like to go and see some of these in real life.


Autumn leaf in coloured pencil

Autumn, Vivien Blackburn, coloured pencil

I had my class of beginners working on autumn leaves this week - they did some really good work :>) and this is one of my demos.

I need to get hold of some sycamore leaves before they lose their colour - they are such a lovely shape.

Landscape from a flint stone

Landscape in a flint, watersoluble pen and coloured pencil

Another in the landscape from forms - this was from a flint stone. The dark areas and dips and planes all relate to marks and pits in the stone. There was no preliminary drawing of the flint 'as is' with this one. I just went straight in with a sketch moorland landscape using its features.

seascape from tree roots

Imaginary seascape from twisted tree root, watercolour, gouache, ink, oil pastel, coloured pencil

This is the seascape I did from the previous tree root sketch.

The curves of it suggested one of those arches of rock carved out by the sea.

I started out with free lines in ink, using a piece of thin wood as a pen. Then I just kept working into it, trying to keep some of the lines of the sketch. It's about 14x10 inches. I could certainly work further from it but it's staying as an experiment rather than a finished piece I think.

I'd swirl the lines a bit more in doing it again to regain the dynamic shapes of the wood, which have got a little lost here?

Later a small sketch that made a landscape from a flint stone ....

click here to see original post on the source drawing

gnarled root, drawing in charcoal, pastel and coloured pencil

Gnarled tree root, drawing in charcoal, pastel and coloured pencil, approximately 11 inches square

Drawn with Pitt charcoal/graphite mix pencil, with touches of pastel and coloured pencils on blue grey pastel paper. It was an amazing shape to draw, fluid and convoluted.

We were experimenting with creating landscapes from still life objects. I don't much like the piece I did from this so may rework it before showing it here.

I also did a very quick landscape sketch from a flintstone, this time without a preliminary observational sketch. I'll scan that later.

update on the trees

Winter: Blue skies mixed media
Another one in this series - this is the whole image at 13x16 but it will be cropped to 11x14.

Winter, collage, mixed media

I worked further on this one and this is how it looks now.

Looking at this one and listening to opinions and weighing them up (thanks) I've made alterations to this one - there's actually a little bit more intensity of colour IRL - but you can see I've changed the trees tonality and introduced a touch more water. I also added hints of scrubby bushes on the hillside.

Towards Dusk remains the same

and so does Still Pool.

So - that's the final 5 images. What do you think?

other work on trees can be seen here

paintbrush sketches in pencil, charcoal and biro

Sketches of some of my paintbrushes - in pencil, biro (ballpoint pen) and charcoal

Just some sketches done as demos or when time was short and I could just fit a quick drawing in.

More work on the trees series tomorrow.

Towards Dusk, another in the series

Towards Dusk, mixed media and collage, 11x14 inches

Another one in the series of birches. I've done more to the previous 2 and will show them when they are completed.

I was adding the dimension of time to this - hope it 'reads' to others?