Friday, February 25, 2011

STILL LIFE CHALLENGE and Pentel brush pen with charcoal, still life

Still Life in willow charcoal, compressed charcoal and Pentel Brush Pen, 8x10 ins, Vivien Blackburn

In discussions with friends recently I was reminded how nice the Pentel Brush Pens are to use - so I treated myself to a new one. The old one has long since been mislaid.

It arrived this morning and so before doing all the stuff I should be doing, I had to have a play with it :>)

I used to really like combining the brush pen with charcoal for all the lovely tonal variations and marks possible. The nearest thing to grab to work on was the work in the recent still life series - so here is a monochrome version done in willow charcoal, compressed charcoal and the brush pen. What do you think?

The pen has a lovely fine point so it's possible to get a lot of line width/weight variation - finer than I remember. I bought the pocket sketching one - maybe that has a finer point than the regular one?

I have to say that much as I love colour, I also really enjoy working purely tonally in monochrome.

What do you think?



Do you fancy joining a challenge to look at still life objects in a slightly different way? Not necessarily the way I have, just not the usual arrangement of objects, done as-is.

If you look at this link to past still life posts you'll find links to contemporary artists who look at stil life in interesting and different ways. Feel free to add interesting artists you know in comments.

If you blog your work I'll add links in a summing up post at the end of the project - say the end of April? to give you time to experiment? Add the links in the comments section here and I'll round them all up at the end.

Anyone want to take part?

It's not a competetion or about being 'the best' - but about exploring, pushing the boundaries of our comfort zone and doing something different - experimenting and sharing work, thoughts, ideas, methods.

It's a purely experimental exercise for me as it isn't at all what I normally do - it's part of a challenge that I'm doing with a group of friends. All of us working alone but at our monthly meeting we'll show each other progress and discuss ideas. I'm actually really enjoying it though I want to get back to landscape/seascape to run parallel to this work.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

still life update


I worked a bit more into this one - I like using coloured pencils but sometimes the effect can be a little flat to someone who likes marks - so this one has more loose marks with the Caran d'Ache than the purely Polychromos coloured pencil one done earlier.

Here are some details to show the scribbliness. Is that a word? :>)

further detail

current progress

The A3 page in the moleskine as it currently stands - I think I'm going to add a purplish border - you can see the tentative start of it on the left of the page. What do you think?

another detail

James Gurney has an interesting article about the contents of his sketching bag today - interesting to see it's not too minimal! (as one who takes too much)

Billie I did harden some lines you'll notice :>) thanks

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Postcard Exchange - A Postcard from my Walk

My postcard from Martin Stankewitz - isn't it gorgeous?

I'm taking part in a postcard exchange, where the 14 members of the group paint/draw a postcard each month and send it on to another member. So the whole exchange will take 14 months.

This is the first card to arrive for me, a delightful wintry, rainy day in Germany by Martin. It's beautifully free and loose and expressive and I'm delighted.

This first month of the exchange we did a direct exchange - so Martin received this one from me. From now on the names are scrambled and so I don't know who the next one will be from - just who I'm sending to, I can't wait!

The whole thing was set up brilliantly by Katherine and Ronelle.

A Postcard from my Walk blog - you can follow our progress here if you want.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

still life with caran d'ache neocolor II

Experimenting with Caran d'ache Neocolor II in the A3 moleskine sketchbook - the paper tolerated me using water with these in the underlayers.

Friday, February 18, 2011

non traditional still life continued - another digital variation - and googleart

Digital variation, Vivien Blackburn

I fancy working from this one with scumbled paint over a coloured background. It needs to be either oils on canvas or pastel over paint I think. I love it when underlying layers of colour show through :>)

And google art is waaay too addictive Look at the close up you can achieve of paintings, like this one of Turners. It's a fantastic site - how else could I visit the Tate, the Hermitage, The Rijksmuseum and the Uffizi and see pictures by moving around the gallery, and then closing in for a better view, without moving from my chair?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

non traditional still life continued: experimenting in coloured pencil

Copper and Rose, coloured pencil, A4 folio moleskine, Vivien Blackburn

details close up:

Using coloured pencils I developed the digital experiment, not copying but making some alterations to shape, pattern and colour.

I wanted to develop the warm coppery, rosy glow in this one with the blue as a supporting element, not the main one.

It's in the large A4 folio sketchbook. I like the way coloured pencil behaves on the waxy paper surface. It may not allow quite so many layers as a paper with tooth but it allows quite a lot. The surface of the vase contains probably 10+ colours glazed over each other to change the warmth and colour balance across the surface. It also allows the Jakar battery eraser to lift the colour effortlessly for 'drawing' back in by removing colour.

I think I'll do some more of these in coloured pencil (as well as paint and pastel) as I've got a pastel society exhibition coming up and pencil is allowed :>)

feedback? what do you think?

I've decided that this year I'll be juggling 3 main themes - Local Landscape (incorporating the Waterways Project, which is a slow burner), The Coast continuing - and a new project on looking at Still Life in a different way for a project with a group of friends I meet up with once a month - we never do still life, so set ourselves a challenge to each find our own angle on it, to make it interesting to us and eventually have a joint exhibition of work done.

A big society I belong to are doing a project and exhibition on War and Peace to tie in with a large exhibition of major works planned of works in the museum's collection. I often take part in these projects but this year I'm feeling that juggling 3 themes is enough and I'm probably going to give it a miss unless some linking theme to my other work occurs to me (and time is short) - any brilliant thoughts on that would be welcome! It doesn't have to be taken absolutely literally but the ideas bounced off the theme. the only linking angle that I can think of at the moment is to take wartime objects as still life and work around that .......... do I want to? or not? ration books/gas masks, photos of sweetheart away at war kind of things? ........

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

non traditional still life variations and maybe a challenge?

Blue still life version 2, watercolour and mixed media with copper metallic Sennelier oil pastel, Vivien Blackburn

Another version from the same starting objects - playing with blue leaves from a vase pattern (top left) and green real leaves (top right), with the pattern of the cloth and plate floating, weaving in and out and elements used wherever I wanted them rather than where they actually were.

Hillary asked if I minded her doing a theme like this with her group and I suggested she leave a link to the work they did in the comments section .


Does anyone else feel like having a go? a challenge? I haven't thrown out one of those for a while.

Have a go at playing with still life items in a non-conventional way and then post a link in the comments on this post and later - about a month or 2??? - I'll do a post with links to everyone who took part.

For ideas and inspiration look at the list of artists on the earlier post and then find some others you know and like.

Monday, February 14, 2011

still life, non traditional approach digital manipulation

Copper and Rose, digital image, Vivien Blackburn

I experimented with the image from yesterday in the computer and this is one variation I came up with.

I love the colours in this one - I must do this as a large painting.

Still life is definitely starting to interest me!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Non-traditional still life - thinking through ideas

Blues, mixed media still life, 8,5 x 11 inches, Vivien Blackburn,
media: watercolour, oil pastel, caran d'ache neocolor II

The group of friends I meet up with once a month are doing a still life project. We've set ourselves this task to take ourselves out of our comfort zone and make us all try something different. Each has their own particular interests in subject matter - which doesn't really include still life. It was my idea ........ will I live to regret it?

We'll all be looking at it with our own particular viewpoint/angle/ideas. I'm working out what approach I'm going to take,

I don't want to do traditional set ups as they don't 'grab' me to do. I do like the way some contemporary artists play with the patterns, shapes and colours and that's the way it will interest me. This is my start on the project - ongoing work to be shown at next month's meeting.

There is more variety of blue in real life.

I've taken the patterns from vases and woven them across other objects, let shapes melt into each other and mixed pattern flowers with a real one.

I think this could definitely lead into further works in watercolour on a large scale, oils on canvas or watercolour and pastel on a fairly large scale.

(still ongoing are other projects: the local landscape and of course the coast,
then on slooow burn is the waterways project, a part of the local landscape project)

I'm getting interested in this still life project now .......

what do you think?

previous still life bits and pieces, studies and paintings

Just a few artists you may find worth looking at, who paint contemporary still lifes:

Elaine Pamphilon

Anji Allen I love the simplicity and layering of these

William Selby

Shirley Trevena - glorious colour and pattern and liveliness

Nicole Caulfield - I love her paper bags and red shoes

Paul Wright
- loose loose brushstrokes

John Brown

Elizabeth Blackadder

Janice Gray

Mary Fedden

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

catalogue design

Catalogue design in progress - my page

and the cover in progress

I'm busy at the moment creating an A5 catalogue for our small group for an application we are putting together.

We'll each have a page for a statement, one large image and 3 small, plus contact details/website (blurred here)

Text is grey. The grey squares will show the other members work when finished. I may change my images, it's yet to be decided.

I'm using Publisher

I think I may have it ring bound but haven't quite decided yet. To ring bind or staple? (and I haven't got a long arm stapler)

What do you think? I want to keep it clean and simple.

Comments welcome :>)

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Hoar Frost, Misty Morning: Mixed Media Painting

Hoar Frost, Misty Morning. Mixed media. 9.5 x7 inches. Vivien Blackburn

This was a beautiful early morning, with mist across the fields and all the dried foliage covered in a fine coating of hoar frost. I wasn't certain if I could catch it - so ethereal, so pale and cold, distant hedgerows floating in the pale green/whiteness but with the trees vibrant, the sap beginning to rise, glowing in the January landscape.

I worked initially in acrylic, with touches of coloured pencil and a little oil and my trusty tippex pen to catch the frosted vegetation against the deeper bushes and trees.

It's part of our postcard exchange and has now arrived at its destination - see here. I'm really looking forward to the postman arrived with my card :>). This time from Martin - but for the rest of the time the exchange runs (14 months) the sender will be a mystery until the card drops through my letterbox, exciting!

Incidentally - shooting in RAW is something I have to learn. Niels was right. Martin kindly sent me this file in RAW and it only took a little work to bring out the cool mint green of the grass shining through the frost in the middle distance field - I'd been really struggling with this in jpegs - not helped by shooting the final image under artificial light, givin it an amber cast. I was rushing and didn't take my time.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

scanner vs photograph Part 2 using a camera - the difficulty of copying coloured pencils in moleskine sketchbook and some solutions

Final stage - using levels and colour balance to regain warmth and correct tonal values

So - today is showing how I adjust the photograph in the same way as I did the scan and showing the stages.

I won't repeat the stages (see yesterday's post) but the effects of scans and photos are a bit different - sometimes I like one better, sometimes the other.

The warmth was put back into the image again using colour balance and the tonal values sorted out with Levels. (see yesterday's post)

stage 2 duplicating layers

A bit too dark in parts but this will be adjusted in levels and using the colour balance in the final version above. This has put back the darks and the pale colour in the sky that had been lost.

stage 1 - an untouched photograph taken in dull natural light

Much too pale and the paper much to cold and white, not the creamy colour of moleskine. I suppose I could take time to reset the white balance on the camera - but haven't actually investigated how to do that, other than glancing at the instructions! All the pale colours in the sky are lost and the darkness lost.

Hope this was helpful.

In the comments section yesterday Niels gave an excellent piece of advice

As I am also a photographer I do understand the problem with capturing your images digitally and having them display as you originally saw them.

The first problem we have is that no matter what lightning we are using (tungsten, incandescent , florescent or other) our eyes will always convert any white tint created with high-lighting to pure white.

Our camera tries to do this and this is why we ave light settings or cloudy, sunny, etc to compensate.
The other problem most people have is that they take their images in Jpeg, which set the White Balance (WB) at capture and for many cameras it also tends to make the colours more vivid.
I always recommend to use camera RAW if available or pick the best camera WB settings.
The scanner is an identical device as the digital camera except in a different case and different focusing abilities.

The scanner will for the most part perform better. With pastels if it is not all fixed will leave residue on the scanner glass.
Most plain white papers actually has a blue tint (optical brighteners) so using that in the image to set WB will produce warmer image (blue shifted to red end).

If you want better WB then use a photographic grey card at side of image and use this to set WB and crop for effect.

Also most people ahve the screen set way too bright (blue) changing your screen to a Wb of about 6,000k will produce images that seem more normal.
Please feel free to contact me with any camera or editing question.

Niels Henriksen

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

scanner vs photograph Part 1 using a scanner - the difficulty of copying coloured pencils in moleskine sketchbook and some solutions

stage 3: Final image using scanner with adjustments in Photoshop

I've been comparing scans and photographs of this little sketch of evening fields in coloured pencil in a moleskine sketchbook.

I find coloured pencil can be difficult to reproduce. Scanners or cameras can pick up the top layers of colour too strongly (And I scumble lots of layers). With cream coloured paper they make it too white, using the cream for their white balance and that makes the whole image cooler.

There may be better ways but this is the way I try to solve it:

With the Scanner
  • scan image into Photoshop or similar programme - I don't like to make the adjustments in the scanner if it isn't quite right, as photoshop has more options so I usually accept the scan as it is

  • in Photoshop duplicate the layer

  • look at options for the opacity of this layer - this one needed 100% opacity but this is variable. This intensifies the colours without distorting them and doesn't usually darken the pale colours overmuch.

  • Flatten the layers.

  • Look at Levels to see if any tweaking needs doing there

  • Now go to the colour balance, I adjusted the lights to add a lot of yellow and a little magenta to get closer to the creamy colour of the moleskine page and add the warmth back to the paler areas of the sky. It's now pretty close to the original.

Below you can see it at stage 2 with the layers duplicated and flattened but the levels and colour balance not yet done.

stage 2

Stage 2: It's too cold and white, losing the creaminess of the moleskine paper and the pale apricots in the evening sky - there in the original but not showing up.

stage 1: the original scan

Original scan: All too pale, too cool, missing the paler colours in the sky that are there in the original sketch.

Tomorrow I'll show the photograph and see which gave the best result.

I hope this is helpful.