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.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Now the Work Begins

If you want to, dare I use the word, 'master' a medium then last weekend's quick throwing together of a couple of paintings may be a fun start but it's no route to mastery.

So on Sunday night I sat at the computer and ordered some new paint and a few brushes.

Having only old paint is no reason to delay getting the skills together to command the medium as I want to.

In watercolor, a wash can, with a bit of skill, be mixed in seconds to show variation in both color strength (more properly called chroma) and tone (light - dark).

The tonal variation comes almost for free, in that, adding water makes the paint weaker which makes the white of the paper show through. In Acrylic (when used as here, like oil paint) things do not work like that. To go lighter you need to add white and to go darker you need to add black or something else that will do the job. For example a touch of green mixed into red will make it jump towards black.

So what you saw in the opening picture (repeated below) is my effort at trying to duplicate the Munsell colour 'PB'.

This is no place to go into the craziness of the Munsell color names those who want to study it should read. The New Munsell Student Colour Set.

The main point of the "book" is the sets of real painted coloured oblongs that you have to put in order. This teaches you about the variation of both tone and chroma (strength) for each given colour (hue). Here is the completed page for the Munsell colour 'PB' which I tried to partly duplicate in paint. (Yes - I know that there is red in my darks which should not be there - Oh the penetrating power of the camera flash).

I am not giving anything away by showing you this completed page because of COURSE the colors in my photo are not correct that is why you have to buy the book to see the REAL painted colour oblongs to get the benefit of the excercise.

The point is that I should be able to reporduce (make) a given colour almost without thought, as I can now in watercolor. So one day it will be see desired colour reach for ... Cobalt blue plus 'this much' white ... mix ... and ... volia.

We live in hope.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Grazer and Acrylic Church

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15 x 11 in  -  39 x 28 cm     Acrylic    
The ref cropped from a larger photo.

Shown with kind permission of the photographer Connie van Winssen.

Five years and some ago I decided to take up painting. After muddling around for a bit and doing what research I could, I picked Acrylics as the right medium for me. Ignorant ideas fluttered in my head like 'Acrylics are similar to oil, which means they are REAL painting, just without the smell'.

By this date five years back I had a goodly stock of the very latest acrylic paints, brushes, "Stay wet Pallets", etc. And could I paint? ... like **** could I paint. After a while I came to realise that I simply had no skill, no knowledge, no nothing.

After failing to find any help with acrylics from books or even 'out there' on the net I eventually landed in a net based watercolor forum. There was (and is still) a lot of help to be gained from such places. As help was available painting in watercolor and not for painiting in acrylic I decided to put away my acrylics and get to grips with the mountain via the watercolor route (the mountain, being 'representational painting'). The vague plan was once I had learnt all about color mixing, tones, composition, fill in your own list of beginners confused ideas, I would return to acrylics.

Of course it's not gone like that. But earlier this week I came to the realisation that the climb via my current watercolor route, had slowed. Yes I was higher, much higher but not getting anywhere fast.

So the new plan - back to base camp and try the acrylic route. Watercolour is not abandoned or even 'put away for a while'. The plan is just to scout out the mountain as seen from this new direction.

This weekends challenge photos had a couple that I could risk 'having a go' at -

My first effort was the church -

Acrylic Church
Click Image to see larger version in my gallery

11 x 8 in  -  28 x 20 cm    
This took very little time.

This is its ref.
Ref photo shown with kind permission of the photographer Connie van Winssen

Emboldened by the apparent simplicity of the church I blundered in to 'The Grazer' with which this post opened.

All I can say it that I will be much happier when I have some basic skills with this medium. Wash the Brush, Dry the Brush - please repeat after me - Wash the Brush, Dry the Brush.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Woman in the Street

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13 x 10 in  -  33 x 25 cm.    
I started out with high hopes for this one but they slowly sank or rather, settled lower than I wanted.

I think that adding in the coloured lights would have meant making a different painting. One that was darker. So leaving out the neon is not the problem. Yes you do get a sense of place but no sense of drama well at least not the sense of drama I had hoped for.

Any thoughts?

The reference photo is another one taken during the recent trip to New York.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Fruit Stall

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12 x 16 in  -  30 x 40 cm.    The photo that inspired this was taken in New York at the end of October.

In many ways this painting is a success in that it has come out well. But I do have a number of 'buts'. Amoung many other things, a good painting should make you believe that there is world beyond what is shown to you in the frame and this one doesn't.

There are a number of reasons why it doesn't happen. The biggest one is that while all the parts are OK in them selves they don't all work together. For example the vehicles don't feel, to me, as if they are in the same street.

Here is the photo that inspired the painting.


Here it is, in a frame.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Green of the Sea

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16 x 12 in  -  40 x 30 cm.    
The photo that inspired this was taken on the south coast of England in on a bright but hazy September day.

This is a try out of some large block paper Hahnemuhle 'Cornwall - Rough' pager. Having used it I am not keen on it principally because the roughness is artificial. The plain 'hot pressed' should be more to my liking. Its advantage is that it is very thick 450 gm so should hardly buckle and to that extent it works as it should.

For me this is a large painting but I again fell into the trap of painting in a very controlled style. I wanted to be looser. Well there is always tomorrow.

Here is the photo that inspired the painting.

Here it is, in a frame.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Empty Skyline

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14 x 10 in  -  36 x 25 cm.    
This was inspired by a photo I took on the trip to New York. You can see the whole of the New York photo set by following the link to RogerPf's Photos in the side bar.

I am pleased with this one, it's not how I want to paint, I prefer a lot more looseness, but it works and that counts a lot.

If anyone has not understood the title. I am not being ironic it is more what should have been there, at that spot, being the skyline.

This is the photo that inspired the painting.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Woman by the Window

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14 x 10 in  -  36 x 25 cm.    
This was painted a from an old photograph. My attempts at color correcting the photo left it a little on the yellow side. I decided that it was as good a way approach the painting as any other so the yellow stayed.

I don't know the date of the photo but the brown pattern of the cloth on her legs screams 1970's to me. Did that color scheme really spread all around the world to infect us all?

This is the reference photo. Shown with kind permission.


Click Image to see larger version in my gallery

10 x 7 in  -  25 x 18 cm.    
Time for some more drawing practice. It does not take more than a glance to see that is was far too tentative. 'Can do better' would be another way to put it.

This was roughly what I was seeing.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Barn in the Snow

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10 x 14 in  -  25 x 36 cm.     The challenge was to paint something cold. I picked a simple 'Barn in the Snow'. It is also a continuation of white barn rooves theme from the 'after Hopper' in the previous blog entry.

There is quite bit of white gouache in this, some pre mixed with watercolor paint but hopefully it is not too obvious.

This is the ref.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Abstracted Barn

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10 x 14 in  -  25 x 36 cm.     There is an unfinished Edward Hopper watercolor - Cobb's Barns and Distant Houses, 1931. I took a segment of it to use as the shapes at the center of this work. The intent is that you see the abstraction of the shapes while still getting the presence of the original barns.

It has turned out as I intended, which is not always the case with watercolor. I wonder if I should have enhanced the abstraction a little more?

Edward Hopper - Cobb's Barns and Distant Houses, 1931

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Waverly Restaurant

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16 x 12 in  -  40 x 30 cm.    
I started by wanting to do an Edward Hopper style watercolor of a Cape Cod scene but foolishly I reached for my recent New Your refs and picked this crop view. Click the image to go to the original uncropped photo.

This has way more in common with Hoppers oils like Early Sunday Morning. I did indeed take this picture on a Sunday morning and it's not that far for where Hopper lived in Washington Square.

As you can see getting myself derailed from a loose Hopper style watercolor to his tighter oil style (done is watercolor) was not a great success. The point of the picture is? The largest weakness is that I make the pink building too light and that is the key to the interest in the painting. Plus there is way too much "drawing with the brush" never a good sign.

Edward Hopper - Early Sunday Morning - 1930


Here it is, in a frame.

Friday, November 09, 2007


Click Image to see larger version in my gallery

10 x 14 in  -  25 x 36 cm.    
This was a two hour challenge. I went for using black watercolor paint, um. It could have been better but it could have come out a lot worse.

This was the ref
I chose to leave out the green, did I do right? I am not so sure.

Photo shown with kind permission of the photographer.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Potato Peeler and Garlic

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6 x 10 in - 15 x 25 cm. This one is not quite a good as others have been. I guess it comes from being away for a while and loosing the flow.

Does the white garlic in the painting still read like it might be white? umm...

Roughly what I saw while painting.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Looking North up Park West

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7 x 11 in  -  18 x 28 cm.     This was painted a little before we caught the plane back from New York to the UK. It was the only painting I managed to do in the 7 days we were there. For a 45 minute quickie it's OK, but it tells me I still have a long way to go.

This was roughly my view, although there were normaly fewer vehicles in the avenue when I was painting.

I have added a set on New York City to my photo gallery or use the main link in the side bar.

If you do view the photos, try the Slide Show option top right of that page