Friday, 30 December 2011

Adieu 2011

Well at least I have some work 'on the go' is all I can say tonight. I have been on our annual Christmas Break for nearly a week now and I have only managed to get halfway with a few projects which is frustrating, mainly because I think I could have completed them. I have just been so mentally tired that chilling out became more important than creativity. I have another two weeks of annual leave ahead of me, and if I can get "my act together", some extra work should be on show here. A few weeks back I was seriously contemplating 'sequestering' this blog, until I had made up my mind about whether I even wanted to continue painting and drawing, but in the end, I decided that was just a passing mood and had nothing to do with reality. I am so constrained time-wise that I have to be more accepting of the fact that I cannot 'churn them out'. For weeks I had been genuinely upset that I hadn't painted as many paintings as I had done in 2010. However, I hope to complete this work in a few days and I also have a semi-finished work for Sherry's "Art History Challenge Blog" which is delightfully more challenging than any other 'challenge' blogs out there. If I don't post a work tomorrow, I would like to wish everyone, especially my blogging friends, Sherry and Charlotte, an absolutely magnificent, peaceful, healthy, creative New Year for 2012. That should keep y'all going for a while.

"Studio Table with Work in Progress"

Wednesday, 30 November 2011


A whole month has gone by without any work being posted on this blog. The reason is obvious - I haven't finished any work worth posting. I have been so incredibly busy at the day job that coming home to paint was just too much for me, coupled with the fact that when I did try to get some work done last weekend, it just didn't work out because I am 'out of practice'. The gouaches I had started ended up in the trash.  It's absolutely amazing that for each challenge I intend to do and end up not finishing, I feel enormous guilt. I can only assume this is a hangover from school or university with their penalties and demerits for not meeting deadlines, to the extent that those memories are ingrained in my DNA. However, I do periodically forget that I am challenged for time and I walk into an art materials store and come out with a 'little something' - shown below. So weak! I had also hoped to paint an Advent Calendar - one Christmas-themed work for each of the 25 days of Christmas, but again, I couldn't manage it. Next year maybe? I hope to have three weeks' annual leave at the end of the year which will give me a long stretch with daylight and that might make up for this tiresome hiatus on my blog.

Anne's Bargain Brushes

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Experiment 3.

Last night I was desperate for a reference to work from to continue my weekly experiments and I couldn't find anything inspiring from my recent photographs. I always keep my camera with me wherever I go and lately I have been taking really weak photographs, so I searched my Picasa files for a reference and found a Henri Fantin-Latour flower painting. Nobody can paint flowers like Fantin-Latour and I don't know what came over me but I thought I would try and copy this work. I feel most of the time this genre can go no further and no additional flower paintings are necessary, but I became totally absorbed with the technical challenges and forgot about any latent snobbery I have towards realism. Obviously I couldn't pick up many of the nuances in his work because I was working in gouache, but I adored the murky effects of the stems and foliage in the glass vase and I think this work of mine has turned out quite well. One thing I have noticed is that I haven't quite captured the elegant spaces between the flowers in the original work as mine are a bit too squashed together. It has been a revelation to observe how he captured flowers, a subject I have never had any ambition to paint, but even doing this small "Experiment" has taught me something important about placement of objects in space. I could add a few more brushstrokes here and there to lift it up a little, but I am leaving it in case I go too far and end up with mud.

"Sketch - Homage to Henri Fantin-Latour"
Gouache on Watercolour Paper - 8" x 7.5"

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Experiment 2.

I really don't know how I dare post this, but I am not in the mood to edit my work right now. I feel like showing what's coming off my shaky little production line as it goes along. I might delete all my mediocre work at the end of the year as a gift to myself but posting on my blog helps me in very strange ways. Long ago I promised myself I would do a sketch or small watercolour each night to keep the old elbow greased with the obvious goal of learning a little faster than I would if I only painted on the weekends when time, good lighting and 'studio' set-up was more conducive to supporting good work. Last night I started this homage to my favourite self portrait of Rembrandt. I had previously done it in charcoal and liked it apart from the fact that some of the proportions of his features were slightly wrong. In this much smaller work, the same problems arose in capturing his features accurately. I did a tracing and found that tracing marks do not take on watercolour paper very well and even though the face is much closer to the original portrait than my charcoal work, it is frustrating to discover that only a millimetre out of exactitude can totally destroy a work. I retraced over it tonight which improved it slightly and tried to hide some of the mistakes with pen and ink and pastel. It's a start, even though a little rough and tumble.

"Sketch - Homage to a Rembrandt Self Portrait"
Watercolour, Pen and Ink, Pastel on Watercolour Paper 6" x 7"

Saturday, 6 August 2011

History of Art Challenge Blog - July

Well, being a week late for my submission to The History of Art Challenge Blog is not too bad considering I chose a very difficult visual to paint. Why I do this I don't know. Well I do - it's because I fall in love with a photograph, or object or scene, and just want to render it myself or maybe pay some sort of homage to it. I love Byzantine Art and the one thing that shouts out for me from this period, is the use of gold and icons. However, gold is very difficult to portray and I struggled here with the massive gold doors, but managed, in the end, to replicate some of the mystery of the colour. The photograph was sent to me by a friend who found it on the internet, and I cannot find it anywhere so I cannot give it proper attribution even though I would love to. This is an interior of an Eastern Orthodox church, and judging from the interior, it would be very late Byzantine indeed, but the remnants of that long era are still present with the abundance of icons and gold. Very mysterious these churches, but totally enigmatic eye candy for this artist.

"Byzantine Church Interior"
Gouache on Watercolour Paper - 13" x 13"

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Morning Walk IV

At last, I have finished this series. In one way it was a chore because I am not good at landscape work yet, but with this last one I felt I was working more in the area of painting that I am used to. I need lessons in landscape painting and that is all there is to it, but this work with all the attention being on the surface, was interesting to me and I just love anything with reflections. However, it was a difficult and testing project with a lot of 'micro' brushwork. I wanted to do this in oils so I could emulate the very slow transitions and modulations of colour, but to do that I would need a surface at least 4 feet square and I just don't have the space for that. One day. In truth, the subject also needs a bigger surface to make it recognisable as a reflection in a river bank. Now I am going to have a bit of fun working out what to do next. As I said in last night's post, I have been so wiped out that I can't even remember what I was planning to do. Not a bad thing really as something surprising might come out of it.

"Morning Walk IV"
Gouache on Watercolour Paper - 11" x 11"

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Morning Walk II

I started a second layer on a difficult landscape I'd chosen from my "morning walk" a few weeks back and when that was complete, I had so much paint left over on my palette I found myself saying "I can't throw this away". I'm more careful with my oil paints than with food and I don't know why. So, I decided to use this paint to do an exploratory sketch of my next work in this little series as I am beginning to think I would be far better at these landscapes if I slowed down and really investigated what was required before tackling the main work. I have ended up with a 'sketch' that I am pleased with as it captures exactly what I wanted bar a few minor details which I am not going to take any further. It was so difficult with all the dappled light and intense greens, but for an alla prima painting, a rare occurrence for me, I am happy.

"Morning Walk" - Oil on Gessoed Board - 6" x 6" (Approx.)

Reference Photograph

"Still Some Leftovers"

Saturday, 30 April 2011

The Virtual Paintout - April 2011 Challenge

I think I'm all "challenged-out" - whatever that means. Lately, well in fact for almost two years now, most of my paintings have been for challenge blogs, fun - yes, but things are changing in my artistic life. I am feeling the need to investigate what has importance for me and this covers many things. Sending work into challenges is fun and I take it seriously in that I try to send in something worthy of the challenge, but I am not pursuing anything personal, conceptual or even technically challenging, and most of the work I am doing is done as quickly as possible to meet deadlines. I love both "The Virtual Paintout" and Sherry Massey's "History of Art Challenge" blogs but I have so little spare time now that I intend to send in work only when I have a free spot in the calendar and after I have done my own personal work. I loved doing this 'Japan' challenge and had two other works to send in as well but just couldn't complete them partly due to time limitations but also my mind was elsewhere painting different pictures and that situation doesn't work for me. I'm not sure what all of this means nor do I have fixed goals right now, but I'm going to take some time out from challenges for a while to see what that extra time gives me to work on other projects. Weird how things morph through time. It's time for me to relax somewhat and see what comes towards me for investigation instead of responding to others' visions, even though I am so grateful for them. Someone as independent as this writer needs to set her own challenges. I'll talk more of this later, I had better post this and send off my challenge for Japan to The Virtual Paintout.

"Wires above Shinjuku, Tokyo" - Gouache on Paper - 9.5" x 9.5"

Click HERE for street scene used.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Morning Walk I

Last week I went on an early morning walk in my local area and took some fabulous pictures hoping to find some scenic gems which could translate into paintings. I did find them a-plenty, but painting a gem is another story. I have said before I would love to paint a superb landscape but I know it's going to take a lot of groundwork, especially painting colours I am not attuned to. This is one of the better shots compositionally where I could at least show some depth and perspective and even though most of the greens were very close to one another in tone and value, I tried to show depth by texture and some minor adjustments to the warmth of the greens.

"Morning Walk" - Oil on Canvas - 8" x 8"

Friday, 22 April 2011

Local Trees

A few days ago I started, and thought I had completed, a small 'landscape' of a local park area next to a bus terminus, but when I got back to it this morning to make a couple of tweaks, I saw that it was far from being anything I could put up on this blog. I had used huge sweeping brushtrokes that couldn't describe the scene at all, so I went in and practically painted the whole thing again and it's much better but far from what I want.

I want to learn how to paint landscapes and local scenes, but find this genre very difficult. The composition of the photograph was undistinguished in itself and ended up being difficult to paint as there were no key landmarks or winding paths to make the picture easier to read. In addition, there was a huge wall of long grass and flowers in the foreground cutting the format in half. Why I started this work I don't know. I thought the red buses would add to it but my painting of them was so bad they looked pathetic so I wiped them out. I'm now going to try and finish a completely different work which has been defying me. Maybe I might post it later on today if I can overcome the obstacles.

"Trees on the Common" Oil on Gessoed Board - 6" x 6"

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Greens, and more Greens.

I am not sure about these two works. I enjoyed doing them, but I struggle so profoundly with greens. The photographic references I used come from a challenge blog, Daily Paintworks, and I am not sure whether or not to send them in. The photographs to work from were deceptively simple, and I knew that as soon as I saw them, but I responded to taking out the oils again after a long time and hoped for something better than I have produced here. I have been painting in gouache for a few months now and I notice that I have lost my "touch" with oils. Another annoying part of this process is that I just could not get the colour of the blue sky photographed accurately - it's much deeper. I think I'll just live with these for another day or so, and then probably make some adjustments here and there before taking the plunge and sending them in.

"German Landscape I"
Oil on Canvas - 8" x 8"

"German Landscape II"
Oil on Canvas - 8" x 8"

Sunday, 27 March 2011

History of Art Challenge Blog - March

This is my first submission to Sherry Massey's "History of Art Challenge" blog. The challenge was to portray, in any medium, a chosen image from Ancient Greece. I chose a very famous statue currently housed in the Louvre, Paris: "Nike of Samothrace", a marble statue from c. 220 - 190 BC, which depicts the winged goddess of victory in full flight. I am woefully untutored in the art history of this time even though I studied it at university. It was an interesting exercise for me as I was enchanted by the pose; the huge triumphant gesture and those delicious folds of drapery. However, to capture those in detail would require a larger sized paper and possible rendering in graphite pencil. Big congratulations to Sherry Massey for starting a challenge blog with an academic angle. I look forward to watching it grow from strength to strength.

"Homage to Nike of Samothrace"
Charcoal & Carbon Pencil on Paper - 16" x 12"

Saturday, 19 February 2011

The Virtual Paintout - February Challenge

I haven't been able to spend much time in front of the easel these past few weeks which is irritating when all I want to do is paint. However, I decided to skip any other chores this weekend and give this month's Virtual Paintout a try and take a trip along the roads around Romania to see if anything caught my eye. I found some great scenes in the mountainous regions of North East Romania, and this one especially appealed to me. It's a scene from a crossing, along a main road that runs right through the town of Piatra-Neam. What really caught my eye was the enormous puddle and the enigmatic reflections with the white stripes of the pedestrian crossing suspended across the whole format. Naturally, I added drama with deeper and more exciting colours, but I like the way an ordinary scene can come to life this way. It could be anywhere in the world and even though I like to somehow try and bring in the flavour of the particular city or country of the month's challenge, I just fixed on this one and had fun. This work took me four hours to complete, and there are some changes I would like to make to the composition, but I am leaving it as it is. Enough!

"After the Rain - Piatra-Neam, Romania"
Gouache on Watercolour Paper - 9" x 9"

">HERE for scene painted from Google Maps with their permission.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Boston Maybe

After I finished the second phase of my value sketch and felt it was successful enough to post again below, I felt the need to use this positive energy. I used this energy to finish a gouache I was having a few problems with i.e., the other painting I had finished for the Virtual Paintout 'Boston' challenge this month. There are a few things I could do to it but as the paint is on quite heavily, I don't think I'll add anything to it at this late stage. I quite like it for some obscure reason, well not obscure, I like the colours and the 'hot Summer afternoon' feel, but I don't think I'll send this one in. I don't know...I'm going out and I'll decide later.

"Boston in the Summer or Autumn"
Gouache & Pastel on Watercolour Paper - 9" x 9"

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Value Sketches for Portrait II - Redux

Last night I sprayed fixative on this sketch to seal the charcoal hoping to add another layer today to darken it to the point where the values of the photograph are at least matched. I thought I had succeeded but knew something was detracting from the strong contrasts and the sketch was 'off'. I noticed that I had outlined the side of her face nearest the light which was incorrect; the edge of her face almost merges with the light filled background. I couldn't eliminate the fixed charcoal line so I painted over it with white gouache and, even though this is obvious, it got the sketch as close to the photograph as possible. These little things make all the difference. I've also nearly completed my second Boston painting for The Virtual Paintout, but it's been another dark day with leaden skies, so colour photography is totally out of the question.

"FINAL Value Sketch for Melancholy Portrait Series"
Charcoal & Gouache on Cartridge Paper - 12" x 9" (Approx.)

"Value Sketch for Melancholy Portrait Series"
Charcoal on Cartridge Paper - 12"x 8" (Approx.)

(Adapted from a photograph by Margrethe Mather p.96 "Portraits" published by Thames and Hudson 1982, 1983)

Friday, 28 January 2011

Value Sketches for Portrait II

I have just ended a week of annual leave. Nice, but I had hoped to get some really good work under my belt and didn't due to mountains of personal 'admin' getting in the way. I completed most of my chores but feel a bit down not having been at the easel all week - in fact for two weeks bar a mawkish attempt at another Boston gouache for The Virtual Paintout. I had also planned to get a new work complete to send for submission to a show overseas, but the work I produced was just good enough for a 'sketch', so I ditched that project. I really needed more time to produce the quality of work I had in mind.

So tonight, I thought "anything" just anything to get the creative juices going, so I started on another charcoal sketch for a project of mine based on "Melancholy". Goodness knows what will emerge but I have faces in mind and beautiful photographs to work from but I have to overcome my impatience and get to grips with doing preparatory sketches on values. I don't often get them right, so I decided to do the work below to try and get accurate contrasts between the darks and the lights. It's nearly there, but the photograph is not good. I just don't have the right lens or lighting for caputuring charcoal work accurately. I chose the 'sepia' one (accidentally captured) to post here as it shows the darks with more depth. I might post a better photograph if the sun appears in London tomorrow, which is unlikely. The Winters are getting darker and colder here. A move southwards?

"Value Sketch for Melancholy Portrait Series"
Charcoal on Cartridge Paper - 12"x 8" (Approx.)

(Adapted from a photograph by Margrethe Mather p.96 "Portraits" published by Thames and Hudson 1982, 1983)

Sunday, 16 January 2011

The Virtual Paintout - January Challenge

It's good to be back on the "challenge" bandwagon again after a long hiatus and "The Virtual Paintout" is my personal favourite to enter each month. I had the usual trip around the city of the month, Boston, and I couldn't find any 'juicy' windows to paint, so I settled on boats of all things. The scene I chose here is not representative of Boston; it could be anywhere. I feel that with most of my past entries for this Challenge, my work has somehow evoked the character or feel of the city or place I am painting, but this grey scene, caught my eye. I think it was the challenge of the greyness of the water, the strip of boats across the centre and the potential to reduce it down to a brighter quasi abstract. I have another boat scene for Boston on the conveyor belt which might appear here in a couple of days, time permitting.

"Boston Boats - Interstate 93 - Boston, Mass., USA"
Gouache on Watercolour Paper - 9.25" x 8.5" (Approx.)

The screenshot from the Google Maps Scene

Click to see the scene directly on Google Maps ">HERE.

Painted from Google Maps with their kind permission.

Friday, 14 January 2011

A Salute to Ai Weiwei

I have been promising myself for months to go and visit the Ai Weiwei "Sunflower Seeds" exhibition at Tate Modern, and even though I work close to the gallery, I found it difficult to get there and back in a lunch time. So after work tonight I went determined to experience this very unusual work for myself. Let me say from the start I found it very beautiful. We are no longer allowed to walk on it because of the dust it generates, but even with that restriction it was very special to look at. Sadder still is the story of Ai Weiwei who was put under house arrest by the Chinese government shortly after the commencement of this exhbition and now I hear that his studio was destroyed on 11 January 2011. His bravery amazes me. His Wikipedia article can be found here if you are interested. How I would love to have been able to roll around in that sea of porcelain seeds, just for the sheer hell of it!

On the way to Tate Modern. The Tate is the large building

on the left with the 'light-box' on its roof.

The dome of the majestic St Paul's Cathedral in the distance.

View from the high balcony looking down at Ai Weiwei's Sunflower Seeds.

Walking under the high balcony towards the exhibition.

My favourite taken with a timed shot. The height of the seeds is about six inches.

A slightly out of focus close-up

View from the far end showing the height of the Turbine Hall.

Video recording room where visitors can video record their

responses to the exhibition which are then relayed to Ai Weiwei.

Near the exit. The view down the ramp towards the exhibition.

If you walk under the balcony you reach the exhibition.

This is such a dramatic vista even though it's dark.