Sunday, 24 November 2013

Portraits At AVA

I am writing this post in the spirit of 'warts and all'. This week at AVA we were painting portraits. Is there anything further outside my comfort zone than people or animals, especially when a likeness is required! I confess to not having a clue what I was about, but disciplined myself to look at the chosen image as just another set of shapes. Getting a likeness was not within my aspirations.....I just wanted a painting that looked reasonably like a human being.

I did have a quick look at some of the paintings in a book called 'The Figure In Watercolour: Simple, Fast And Focused' which is a lovely book for starting from, if you want to have a go at painting people.

I tried to keep the subject simple and the colours low key in the hope that any mistakes would not jump off the page, but I do apologise to Dave.. my daughters partner..for making him much less handsome that he really is!!

Thank goodness that is over for another year!

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Red Tulips

I must have a subconscious desire to bring a little warmth into the house now that winter seems to be fast approaching, and so have a bit of a 'thing' going on with red!
I came across a photo taken taken by a guy called Clay Perry  in a book on tulips. He is a great flower photographer and any gardening books with his name given as the photographer always finds it way to my bookshelf! I had no intention of painting a botanical replica, but I thought it was a useful starting point.

'From 'Tulip' by  Liz Dobbs
Photo by Clay Perry

I started with a simple line drawing of 3 tulips, using the photo as a vague guide. I began the painting by using Pyroll Red and Indian Yellow and lots of water to complete the three tulips.

The stems and leaves were painted using Apatite and Sap Green, with a little Indian Yellow in places, and the markings on the leaves were created whilst the paint was still quite damp, using a twig of Forsythia which has been sharpened to a point with a pencil sharpener.
At this stage I felt the painting was a little too tight, so using plenty of water and the same colour combination, I added patches of colour which I teased into less obvious tulips. I then needed to add the appropriate stems and some additional leaves.

All that remained, was to tackle the background. I erased all the pencil lines that I could, and then using combinations of Apatite Green Genuine, Indigo and Indian Yellow, I washed in parts of the background, keeping the colours strong behind the flowers in the middle and more varied around the edges.

I kept adding washes and darkening corners until I was happy with the strength of the background.
 I finally mixed a little Pyroll Red with a tiny amount of French Ultramarine Blue, and used this mixture to darken some parts of each tulip as shadow areas. This is not too evident in the photo but looks stronger in the original painting.

'Red Tulips'
Watercolour on Fabriano Artistico Extra White
300g Not.   35 x 50cms

Thursday, 14 November 2013


This weeks AVA group subject was 'Hats, Bags, Shoes'. As we have had this subject on the programme for several seasons, I have exhausted my supply of paintable objects as a still life study, so I decided to try something new.
I liked the idea of painting a person in a hat, but was quite anxious about the face as I do so little of that subject. So I chose to paint the young lady facing away from me, holding her hat against a light breeze maybe and looking out across a landscape.
To make the painting more interesting, I added a large poppy to the hat brim and I made the fields into poppy fields. I thought these two elements nicely linked into the red nail polish.

I did quite a careful drawing as I did not want the hands to look like bunches of bananas, which is so easy to do.
I masked out the stamen area of the poppy on the hat, but that is about all the preparation I did.

I painted all the elements in a traditional watercolour manner, adding a bit of splatter to the poppy fields to hopefully help the illusion along.
At the end I also added some browns to her hair as I realised that my mixture of Anthraquinachridone Blue and Burnt Umber was a little to uniformly 'black'.

For someone who rarely paints figures, I am quite pleased with the result!

Watercolour on Fabriano Artistico Extra White
300g  cold pressed paper

Friday, 8 November 2013

Misty Morning

This weeks topic at Avon Valley Artists Group was 'Misty Scene,.....Everything that is possible outside my comfort zone and no time for preparation or pre-drawing, with all that is going on.

I simply picked up my bag of tricks, a block of paper and about 4 photos which had some 'mistiness' about them.
Landscapes do not naturally get me too excited so I take very few photos of my own......I am usually peering over people's front gardens. But I was glad that I keep my resource material reasonably well filed so at least I was able to lay my hands on what few I had, pretty quickly.

I decided on a very simple early morning scene looking across a still lake with very lightly defined trees in the background and a bit more detail in the foreground.

I began with a simple wash, using lots of water and letting the colours merge into horizontal bands across the paper. I tried to keep the centre very light to suggest the emerging sun and you can see where I blotted out a circle with the sun in mind although I did not use it in the end.

I allowed the paper to dry a little and attempted to catch it at that stage when there is still a sheen of dampness on the surface. At this point I added the distant trees and hedgerows, adding a little more paint if the original brushstrokes bled into the wash too much. It was very much trial and error as I do this sort of thing so rarely.

When I was satisfied, I then filled in the foreground with much stronger colours and shapes, and finally stroked diluted white acrylic gouache across the 'mistiness' where water meets land.

I suppose it worked better than I had any right to expect, and some bits like the very pale central horizon and bits of the foreground are ok, but it it too 'chocolate box' for my taste and I think the RH and LH foregrounds are too far apart. I have tried adding a boat and wading birds, but didn't like what I pencilled in, so erased them, although I am sure it needs some point of interest on the water.

A case of need to try harder!!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Patty's Plum Poppies

Life has not been easy, with regards to family, of late. I felt a real need to immerse myself into a painting to try to get back my equilibrium. It has been such a joy to be able to forget for a little while all that is happening in my real world at the moment.

Looking for something really lovely to paint, well within my comfort zone, I found this photo of a beautiful clump of Patty's Plum poppies. They were just what I was looking for.

I decided to do the drawing first, as I needed to know where I was going to put the two separate washes. It is not something I like doing as the pencil lines cannot be totally removed once they are covered with paint.

Once the drawing was complete, I put on the top flower wash using Quinachridone Magenta and Anthraquinone Blue. I also added some Opera Pink to lighten the mixture. I let this dry completely before adding the green/blue wash so that the two sets of colours did not run into each other to give that slightly muddy colour you can get when mixing greens and pinks or reds together.

Working from the top, I painted in the flowers using the same colour range as the background wash, adding leaves and stems as I went along to make sure they would read correctly in the finished painting. I also tried to produce some lost edges in the top LH corner.

At this stage I began to be a bit concerned about the arrangement of the poppies as I could see that the RH one was going to be at the same height as the other two lower flowers. There was nothing I could do about it as the pencil lines could not be completely removed (a reason to do the washes first!) so I just had to go along with it and hope it worked ok.

I completed the flowers, and being careful not to hide too much of the original lower wash, which I really liked, I painted in the leaves using the same palette as the underlying wash. A few veins on the poppy petals and the lightest of splatters and I think it is finished.
Maybe the composition is a little top heavy, but I think I like it like that and for once I can honestly say that I am very pleased with the result.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Autumn Still Life/In the Kitchen.

I have had such a hectic three weeks, both family crisis, and house decorating, that I have not even had chance to finish the last two weeks studies done at Avon Valley Artists. Last night I finally found a couple of hours to myself, so instead of starting something new, I got out the two paintings and made a push to get them finished. I am pleased that I made the effort as I quite like both of them, although they are totally different. I share them here with you, without the usual step-by-step comments, just so that you know that I am still painting, although the blog has been quiet for a little while. I hope you enjoy looking.

Two weeks ago the subject was Autumn Still Life, and this piece is painted on the usual rough Fabriano Artistico paper.

Last week, the title was 'In The Kitchen' and I chose to paint from a photograph given to me by a 16 year old student of Photography, produced for her final Photographic Display.

Hopefully,things will get quieter, and I will find more time to spend in the studio.