I'm not going to explain this except to say it's a preparatory sketch for a much larger work which I hope to work on soon. I could also add that it's unresolved in concept as I just couldn't finish it without that awful overworking. There was just plenty more detail that could have been included which I had to leave out because the format is too small. But again, I am appreciating more and more the need to do preparatory sketches for bigger works.
A pretentious title I know, but we are living in a heatwave at present so I am just being opportunistic; as opportunistic as I was when I began to use up the blobs of gouache left on the palettes I have scattered around. I am pleased with this one. It made me happy and that is all I am asking for right now. I have some annual leave coming up soon and I hope to be doing lots more work. In the mood somehow.
Gouache on Watercolour Paper - 10" x 10" (Approx.)
Another quick(ish)sketch. This is taken from a photograph of a shop window and I intend to paint it in oils on a much larger format at some stage, but I just wanted to work my way through it to see if I really liked what was going on in the photograph. I did. However, again like the previous post, I am working on a format that is just too small and the effects I want will only work in oil. One good thing is happening though with all these ultra-quick sketches and experiments is that I am seeing more opportunities than I did previously.
This is another quick 'sketch' done in about 30 minutes. It's from a photograph, not life, and some of the proportions are way out but I'll give myself some leeway here as I was doing this so fast. I was trying out some new brushes using a 'dry brush' technique in some places which works well for modelling the face. Only doing this in gouache picks up the paint underneath so I wasn't always getting the effect I intended. Acrylics for quick sketches like this might be my next purchase at the art materials store.
I haven't painted for ages and I'm not bothered about this for some weird reason but today I gave myself an small exercise which is helpful. The objective is to paint any photograph within 30 to 60 minutes as fast as possible and try to get it as close in essence to the photograph. Some of the effects of a blurred night shot in New York were captured but I made the mistake of painting on too small a format. If I had wanted to capture some of the minutiae of the scene I would have to double up in size.
"New York Blurred"
Gouache on Watercolour Paper - 5" x 5.5" (Approx.)
Lately I have become obsessed with a magnificent photograph I have of a procession in the Vatican and I am determined to paint it in oils, but as it is so different from anything I have attempted before, I decided to do a small sketch in gouache. Sketching is all well and good and I learned masses here but for some reason I hadn't worked out that the sketch should be the same size, or as close in size, to the intended final work as possible. Also, I should be painting on much finer paper but I did capture some of the essence of the event and as this is a much more complicated and scenic work than I have tacked for a long time, I think it shows the beginnings of something worthwhile. I have a lot to learn about proportion and process and I knew this even when I had sketched this out in a separate pencil sketch a few weeks ago. What I do know is that this scene can only be painted in oils; incense smoke cannot, I repeat 'cannot', be rendered with gouache! Please forgive the use of the word "equise" for sketch. I am going to use this for my work in oils and use 'sketching' for pencil, graphite or charcoal works. Fancy. Lots and lots to learn. As always.
This is a practice-run for an oil I have on the go for The Virtual Paintout. I am nearly finished this one and truthfully might not even bother to finish it because gouache is just not plastic or powerful enough to do what I want. However, believe it or not, I learned quite a bit from trying this portrait format which I am not in love with at the best of times. I might take this down tomorrow; it just depends on my mood. I do *love* the colours though.
I am in the process of doing a painting for this month's Virtual Paintout and the gouache sketch below is a detail of a glass display box in a novelty shop in Lido di Jesolo, which would have been the subject of one of my paintings had I not de-selected it. I rejected doing it in oils as a final work because I didn't think it strong enough compositionally and I eventually found a better source visual to work from which I am quite excited about. I only did this to have some free-wheeling time this afternoon as I was frustrated at not having done a complete work for a while and I have two on the go (with first coats drying) which I might be able to put up next weekend, time permitting. In a strange way this was quite challenging as I tried to get a luminous and transparent effect and find the exact greens to use. Nearly there, but doing this little sketch blew away some cobwebs and gave me a few ideas for future paintings.
Experimental Gouache - "Store Display - Lido di Jesolo"
After not having sunshine in London for six months I dropped all plans for much needed housework today, opened my paints and let rip with whatever came to mind. This is the result. Nothing at all special but feeling tired of not enjoying my gouache as the watercolour paper is just too thick. I also wanted to refine the architectural details of the cathedral dome with brown ink but couldn't find either the ink or the pens. I can't even remember whether I threw them away some time ago. The 'portrait' is a face from my imagination sketched out just to use some old black paint left on my watercolour palette. I feel better having splashed my way through these mediocre works, but the constant awareness of just how much practice I need before I produce good work and the knowledge that I just don't have this time is slowly angering me. Never mind - something's gotta give.
In an effort to get out of the slump I am in I decided not to push myself to hard and just do some sketching. I have tons of photographs of iconic London landmarks and today I honed in on a photograph I hadn't taken much notice of previously. I took this a couple of weeks ago at dusk. It was hellishly windy and the light had just turned a weird grey. I hoped to paint some of these in oils, but thought some warm-up sketches to familiarise myself with the scene and its structure would be beneficial. It was a good exercise just to get the objects in position and work on the values and try to get some semblance of the water of the fountain blowing in the wind. I did this in about 35 minutes and although many details have been left out intentionally, I am pleased that I have accurately rendered the values. The details I would like to have put in could only be shown in a bigger format but I loved working with a dry brush again. I do however prefer the tinted version and I'll have to work out why some time.
Gouache on Cartridge Paper - 12" x 10"
In the last post I promised to write a brief overview of my visit to see the Roy Lichtenstein retrospective at Tate Modern, but there is just so much to say and I cannot really add anything new to what has been written about this most influential 20th Century artist.
I decided to put on a 'keep it simple' hat while going around the vast exhibition - 13 rooms in all - and just respond personally without any questions as to relevance, meaning or historical context. That worked for me as I expected it to and I had a great time.
I loved and adored his early Pop Art which delved into and magnified the comic culture of the late fifties and early sixties, and 'Look Mickey' I think is my all-time favourite. Also in this genre is the work "Drowning Girl" which the Tate had put in the room titled "War and Romance". Yes, that sickly, overt rendering of drowned sorrows, true confessions and death by love and ecstasy were all magnified, even glorified, in large formats but their allure for me is pure nostalgia. In them I see a vibrant America, a happier America, with children and teenagers lost in familiar comic books like "All-American Men of War" and "Girls' Romances" with comforting, comic strip images and their evocative rendering of fantasies-too-far. A 'fantasy too far' would be the superb work "We Rose Up Slowly". (Immediately below). I could go on about this work, but it would take too much space. My 'true confession' is I didn't know such men existed.
"We Rose Up Slowly" 68" x 92"
"Compositions", although not a comic strip work, does link me to remnants of childhood in awful classrooms writing boring compositions and is another favourite; it's massive, starkly black and white, yet strangely comforting at the same time. Nostalgia in me again. The associative side of art has always interested me and while I admired his later works (shown below) with their triumphal huge formats, they didn't link me up personally with anything except probably "Blue Nude" which inverts, rather coldly, all presuppositions about the revered classical nude as an art form.
By the way, all these visuals below were photographed by me from the souvenir postcard book except the "Compositions" and "We Rose Up Slowly" which were taken at the exhibition by 'mistake'. Three visitors in front of me were taking photographs with their iPhones, so I gleefully thought "Yay, we're allowed to photograph!" until a security guard came up and told us not to take any more pictures. Okay, but it was a really good show and I am pleased I went as it cleared up some cobwebs, but not enough for me to open my paints this dull Easter Weekend. Here in the UK we are being punished with dark skies which, in my estimation, have been the dominant weather feature for the past 15 months. We're all depressed. Oh, before I go, did I say how much I hate the new Blogger? Posting in the old format was so much easier. Why fix what isn't broken?
"Look Mickey" 1961. National Gallery, Washington
"Drowning Girl" 1963. Museum of Modern Art, New York
"Blue Nude" 1995. 205.7 x 152.4 cm. Private Collection
"Interior with Water Lilies" 320.9 cm x 455.3 cm.
Douglas S. Cramer Foundation
I just can't wait to see the Roy Lichtenstein exhibition at the Tate Modern in a few weeks' time. I haven't been to a good 'blockbuster' exhibition for years it seems. I had somehow forgotten the artist as his images have become iconic and overexposed and ,to me, very emblematic of the sixties. Art historical dates aside, my resonance with the artist as part of the sixties is probably very incorrect and I don't want to go into this here, but looking through some images tonight I was taken back in time to the source of these paintings; those kitch, corny love book comic strips coming out of the United States that I wasn't allowed to read or buy as a kid. Oh no! These were not allowed in my home, but I do remember having access to some of them and memories of those times flooded back. Strangely enough, I could always draw these faces (and I drew many as doodles on the side of school notebooks) with waterfall tears falling out of heavy-lashed eyes, but trying tonight with a piece of charcoal (wrong tool - I should have used a simple pencil) I realised that I couldn't draw like this any more. The point I am making is that I should have been able to pull this off and it showed me just how much fluidity I have lost over the years and how badly I need to get back to drawing. My silly effort is posted below the 'real' Lichtenstein works - tinted, in the spirit of 'pop'. It's not even good enough to be a legitimate 'homage'. I shall report back in a few weeks a mini review of my experience at this exhibition.
Trees are difficult. The more you see, the more there is to paint and that is where the difficulties arise; for me at least. The format was too small for the subject, but I kept going and found huge frustration in trying to capture the blinding sunlight on the leaves and trunks as well as capturing form and depth of the foliage. Greens still not totally correct, but I learned a huge amount. I started with big washes and worked up to the detail in stages which made it slightly over-worked in the end, but it is acceptable enough to post here. I know it doesn't have to be a dead-accurate representation of the original photograph, but I did want to portray more than an interpretation.
Gouache on Watercolour Paper - 4.75" x 4.25" (Approx.)
I decided to celebrate the first day of 2013 with a gouache to hopefully set the tone for doing more paintings during the year ahead. I chose a detail from a wonderful painting by Henri Fantin-Latour (shown below) because I needed something to copy. At present I am not in the mood for doing anything original or challenging. This was challenging enough as the paper is too rough, but I am satisfied with it, so that's saying something!