Friday, December 21, 2007

The Gondolier

Click Image to see larger version in my gallery

8 x 12 in  -  20 x 30 cm     Acrylic     This is such a second rate execution of a painting that I nearly did not post it. But if I hide my poor results readers here will get to think I have some mastery over this medium.

Well what is wrong with it? Bitty, inconsistent in style and stoke. That the thumbnail looks good is because the overall tones are reasonable and the two nearly complimentary, main colours work well off each other. But if you look at the large version - lack of skill jumps out at you.

Enough said, at least now I can spend my time on the next painting.

The ref was taken in Venice back in April. For more pictures of Venice see the Photo side bar on the right in this blog.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Click Image to see larger version in my gallery

10 x 8 in  -  25 x 20 cm   Acrylic
My aunt Joan will in 80 in a few weeks time. This is a portrait of my uncle, her husband Peter. Joan and Peter have been the only aunt and uncle I have ever known my father being an only child and my mother having only one sister, Joan.

This portrait is my present to her. She has asked that she be given no presents on her birthday and that if you really want to give something then pick a charity or she will suggest one. However there has always been an exception to such family rules and that is, presents that you have made yourself.

I know it looks a bit like an 'Art School' painting from the 70's but then I am very unskilled so that not so surprisingly. I do quite like this. Ideally I would like in future to mute some (and I do meant some) of the colours. But most importantly I want to paint with fewer and fewer strokes. I can live in hope.

I took the ref a few years ago at a family gathering.


Here it is in a frame.

Now I need to varnish it. There is a first for everything.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Water and Birch

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8 x 12 in  -  22 x 30 cm     Acrylic     Another Challenge painting. My intent here was to try to use as large brush strokes as possible and to have them just about showing. So to that extent the image is OK but it could have succeeded much more. The rock does not "read" well but that is probably because I gave it the least thought.

The ref.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Duane and Banana Tree

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12 x 8 in  -  30 x 20 cm     Acrylic    
Another 2 hour challenge painting.

Ref shown here by kind permission of the photographer.

I used this one as a way of getting in to acrylic greens. Greens are never easy for any painter. There are so many varieties of green. The reason is all to do with our primate ancestors needing to distinguish one plant from another. This is especially important if you live by swinging from one branch to another.

The painting is on 3mm MDF on which I have stuck a fine open mesh cotton cloth. I stuck it down with "Acrylic Gesso". Acrylic Gesso is just runny white acrylic paint and normally the white is titanium oxide. This is the first and so far only example I have made and painted on.

As you can see from this crop of Duane's head, the weave picks up the paint, which is the whole idea. I can now see that there are areas in the leaves where the dark green is only on the surface and this leaves a speckled effect which I will have to be aware of when I do this in future.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Corner

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16 x 20 in  -  40 x 50 cm     Acrylic     This is a two hour challenge painting. Surprisingly, well it surprised me, I took just about all the time. I did not draw anything first and the sky was quick to do. I guess I must be slow mixing paint.

I am pleased with it as I looks reasonable and was quick to paint, especially when you compare it to the previous painting "Bob and Vanessa". It does come over as a bit bit 'Hopper' meets the 'colors of Dali'.

The Ref cropped slightly from that supplied.


This is just about the easiest painting in the world to frame.

The reason is simple as it is painted on the MDF backboard of a frame. If you look at the larger gallery image you can see a mark on the top and on the right, these are where the hangers pierce the backboard.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Bob and Vanessa

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8 x 12 in  -  20 x 30 cm     Acrylic     Bob and Vanessa are old friends.

The ref was taken in a very strong yellow light, probably tungsten. I don't like using flash and back when I took the photo I was not as skilled at setting up the camera to get the correct 'white balance' as I am now.

As for the painting itself. Well I have caught some of the Bob's likeness but not much of Vanessa's. This painting took many hours to complete. The early 'blocking in' was quick after that it was very slow. I have learnt a lot from this exercise. The main thing is that I have confirmed that I do not want to paint in a meticulous fashion. It's not for me. My aim is to be able to paint with bold strokes that can clearly be seen and yet look 'right' when seen from about 12 - 15 feet (3-4 meters).

This is, unsurprisingly, very like the way I want to paint in watercolour.


Here it is in a frame.

If Bob or Vanessa get to spot this post here in the blog - Hey you guys you are more than welcome to have the painting (sorry the likeness is not quite there) and you can have the frame as well.

The last time Bob had a painting off me, Copy of Vincent Van Gogh's - "Boats on the Beach" the poor fellow had to shell out £80 ($160) to get it framed.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Monet copy - La Grenouillère (fragment)

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16 x 12 in  -  40 x 30 cm     Acrylic
I started this as another practice at getting the water, reflections and waves to look reasonable. Of course with this example Monet has done all the hard work.

After a while I realised that I was just trying to copy Monet's shapes and not really thinking. In a way that was a good exercise. Colour mixing, attempt at patterns but it was not what I has set out to do.

The fragment I selected was painted at the same size as Monet's original. My reference image is lacking definition so it is hard to see what how much additional detail he has painted but anyway my objective was not to paint the detail it was to get some of the feel that he had achieved and to that extent I am pleased with it.

The same fragment from Monet's original painting

The full original. For a bigger version see this link

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Refelection Study

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7 x 8 in  -  18 x 20 cm     Acrylic     The purpose of this self invented exercise is to first of all paint the tones of the ripples in a reasonable manner. After that it was an attempt to sketchily copy the reflection shapes of the reference image.

Looking at the finished item one can see that the water should have been darker and that my attempt to glaze a darker zone on the body has resulted in a mess. Next time such over glazes will have to wait until the lower paint is dry/hard but that is normally only a few minutes so it should not be a problem.

This is a fragment from a photo I took in New York in late October. You can get to the photo gallery from the link in side bar on the right.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Man in Blue Shirt

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16 x 12 in  -  40 x 30 cm     Acrylic
This was another two hour challenge. Sadly I went way over time. I doubt there is more than two hours work on display but I spent many cycles trying to get colours on the face any way near presentable.

It is always said that the fast drying time is the biggest problem with acrylic paint. That may be the point of view of an oil painter but as a watercolourist I can assure you that my main issue is colour mixing.

I suppose if the drying times were longer one could mix/blend on the canvas or board. With watercolour one swoosh of the brush in a mixing area and two colours are mixed. With acrylic and I assume oil as well you have a gooey mess with streaks of colour embedded it in.

The worst bit for me is that the brush loves to pick up and hold tiny flecks of color and out it comes when you place a stroke. Yes, I have a lot to learn.

The ref


Here it is in a frame.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Woman on the Train

Click Image to see larger version in my gallery

5.5 x 3.5 in   -   14 x 9 cm
Went up to London today to the Tate Britain. On the journey a woman across the passage of the carriage was intently reading, eyes down not registering the rest of the world. I know she looks as if she might be sleeping in my drawing but that was how she looked.

While nothing special I am pleased with having done this is only a few minutes. No reference photo for obvious reasons.

The visit to the Tate was to visit the new Millais exhibition, the exhibition of Turner Watercolours and oils and possibly to visit the retrospective of all the past years of the Turner Prize. The main "Turner Prize" is being held this year in the Tate Liverpool to celebrate that city being the "European City of Culture" for 2008.

Millais to give you the quick summary. Child prodigy, ultra-meticulous painter until after the age of 30 after which he loosen up and did good work. Married Art critic John Ruskin ex-wife after she divorced Ruskin on grounds of 'non comsumation'. This as you might imagine caused quite a stir in Victorian England.

The Turners were as they always are interesting and intriguing. I have seen a good few hundred of his watercolours over the years. He did leave over 30,000 works mainly drawings and watercolours to the nation.

The Turner Prize review - not worth the extra £4 ($8) on the ticket. So we gave it a miss. When it was £1.50 ($3) then we would go for it. Don't get the idea that I am anti "modern art". The winners of the prize deserve much credit but I do tend to feel that they should be winning the prize for persuading some collector or institution to pay them large sums of money.

The people who sold the emperor his "new clothes" must be some of the greatest salesmen going and should be recognized as such. Their "art" objects are of course irrelevant to all this. We did get to see again Shed - Boat - Shed which won in a previous year and was too big to fit in the "pay-and-view" area.

Shed - Boat - Shed is an old shed that was spotted on the banks of the river Rheine (by a British 'Artist') taken apart and turned into a boat. 'Sailed' down the river for a bit and then turned back into a Shed. Last time we saw it you could go in and experience the vibe of being 'in an old shed'.

This time such an experience was not considered to be part of the "art" and so a sign saying "Private", in German and English had been put on its entrance.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Cuban Smile

Click Image to see larger version in my gallery

16 x 12 in  -  40 x 30 cm     Acrylic
The is my first acrylic of any real size and my first acrylic portrait. In some ways is it OK. I have so much to learn about getting acrylic to do as I wish instead of me having to fight it all the time.

I clearly have a lot to learn about color mixing with these paints. The final result reminds me of a quote attributed to John Singer Sargent -

"A portrait is a painting with something wrong with the mouth."

This photo fragment is much enlarged, the subject was caught in the corner of a photo I took in Havana Cuba, Nov 2005.

I wonder if she knows her scarf is an advert for a brand of ice cream? She may well do, either way I am sure she does not care.

This is an attempt at a drawing of the same image.

Click Image to see larger version in my gallery

5.5 x 3.5 in  -  14 x 9 cm

It sets a level from which I can improve.


Here is the painting in a frame

Monday, December 03, 2007

Barak Obama

Click Image to see larger version in my gallery

5.5 x 3.5 in  -  14 x 9 cm
Close but no cigar and even that description may be a bit generous. (Pausing for a moment) Emm yes, that is being a bit too generous.

The ref from his campaign site.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Caplet Tub - Just Playing

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9 x 6 in  -  23 x 15 cm     Acrylic
Still very much playing yes I can see such a lot of faults with this but the best way to improve is to practice, practice or to put it another way for someone at my stage - play, play.

Something like what I could see.

Night Cab

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6 x 3 in  -  15 x 8 cm     Acrylic    
This was just a play. I am not putting it forward as anything good. The headlight refelections are clearly too strong and not even in line.

One of the things that is near enough impossible to do in, transparent only, watercolor is a night scene. So I thought I would have a quick attempt to see how hard or easy it might be in acrylics. Guess what, it ain't easy, but it is, we be, do-able.

The ref, cropped from a larger image taken on my recent trip to New York.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

On the Beach nearing Twilight

Click Image to see larger version in my gallery
9 x 10 in  -  23 x 25 cm     Acrylic     This will be the last challenge painting of the weekend.

The two goals I set myself were to try to duplicate the muted colors in the reference and to 'get the feeling' of the scene. I think I have to put a tick in both those boxes. However, it is true that the beach is painted a little too dark.

Despite getting almost where I was trying to do, it's not really 'there' as a painting. This may be an example of a subject that would have been better suited to the mood creating effects of watercolor.

I am going to have to start painting larger acrylics or at least only paint subjects that require a minimal amount of detail while I work in this 9 x 10 inch size range.

Ref shown by kind permission of the photographer.

Blessing the Fleet

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2.5 x 3.5 in  -  6 x 9 cm   (ACEO size)   Acrylic    

As a picture this one is clearly better. However I have done a bit of backsliding and used a few watercolor techniques. It's now time to leave this little ACEO/ATC size alone for a while and return to a larger size of painting.

Ref shown with kind permission of the photographer.

Yellow Flower

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2.5 x 3.5 in  -  6 x 9 cm   (ACEO size)   Acrylic    

It is another challenge reference. I think this shows what happens when you try to paint small and do it quickly using brushes that are too large. Or perhaps it is just that I still have a lot to learn.

Ref shown with kind permission of the photographer.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Yellow Trans Am

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2.5 x 3.5 in  -  6 x 9 cm   (ACEO size)   Acrylic    

I know this one is not up to scratch. It is another challenge reference. I could have spent more time fixing the front wheel etc.

But that is not what I should be doing at the moment. I should not be sliding back in to watercolor techniques, even if done with acrylic paint. I should be learning to get to grips with real acrylic.

This was the ref.

Shown with kind permission of the photographer.

Cypresses and Flag

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9 x 8 in  -  23 x 20 cm     Acrylic
Still 'just playing' with the acrylics, the ref is a two hour challenge photo. I was clearly trying to be a bit to clever with the sky. My excuse is that I was 'just practicing' brush strokes.

The was the ref.

Shown with kind permission of the photographer.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Count the Strokes

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4 x 6 in  -  10 x 20 cm     Acrylic  -  In response to my question in the previous entry Larry Seiler has shown me this great exercise.

Take a small object, an old tube of paint is the classic one and paint it counting the strokes. The point of the exercise as Larry points out, is not to count the stokes. It is instead to make all the strokes count and have purpose.

Not counting the pre painted black background my tube was 162 stokes.

This was something like the view I had.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

It's a Flower

OK, I too can clearly see that its not a flower it's duck, more on this later. What I need is book or better still web reference that covers the real basics of painting with acrylics or even oils, as I am aiming for similar style of use.

Of course there are lots of places that claim to cover the basics. I am sure these sites believe they are covering the basics they aren't, they never even come close.

I expect that you the reader are now metaphorically scratching your head and saying what is the fellow on about. OK let me give an example. Acrylic/oil brushes come in different sizes and in four main shapes, round, long flat, short flat and filbert (after the nut of the same name) it is basically a flat brush with the corners rounded.

So what as a beginner I want to know is, how should each brush type best be used? What can I expect each brush type to do for me? What classic 'poor techniques' are there that I should avoid? How do things vary if I am using the paint thinly or thickly. I think many people will react to these question with mild incredulity and respond something like - "Well if you don't know and can't find the answer, just play with each for a bit and discover for yourself what each does best".

While this approach is great for most things at most times. It's not good here. Creating a representational painting is all about imagining the end result and getting there. Starting from an idea through turning that to a design/composition next the only way the painting comes about is by putting the paint from the palette on to the support (canvas/board/paper).

Let's take the example of a novice golfer. She may be able to imagine the where she wants the ball to go. What path she wants it to take. Yet her only way of achieving that outcome is by the single touch of the ball with her club head. No one would say it is reasonable to tell the golfing beginner to pick up a club and hit the ball a few times to get the idea and then leave it at that. So why is this reasonable with painting?

It isn't reasonable. The first person to make me see this was the painter Charles Reid. He has a wonderful book called Painting Flowers in Watercolor.

In it he covers exactly, and I do mean exactly, how to load the watercolor brush with paint. How to place the stoke. What the paint should do once placed. If it does something else you have too much / too little water or your brush is not good enough. With practice and effort you can get things to happen as he describes. If you take the trouble to lean his approach and then use it. Easy to say, hard to do. Much easier to fall back on to one poor "self discovered" techniques. But if you do follow his technique then I guarantee you that your watercolour paintings will jump forward in quality.

This brings me to my opening line of this post. The book, Charles Reid's book is not about painting flowers! It is about painting things that have lights/darks and colours. Yes the end result is that you are mainly painting flowers but realising they are just things, objects with shapes, light/dark and colour is a lot of the point.

So what is the first thing he wants you to paint and paint again, using his intimately described brush techniques? - Yes you guessed it, it's the duck.