Monday, 30 March 2009

Banks and shores and low clouds

... they are the characteristic features of my now frequent sketching location: the shores of Loch Lomond and the banks of the River Leven - and where they meet you'll get some fantastic views across the loch, towards Ben Lomond and the Arrochar Alps. Well: if you do get a view at all.

On my first visit, it decidedly looked like this here:

Loch Lomond in fog
Loch Lomond in Fog, Pastels on Board, 35x25cm

But I've been back a few times and discovered all these riches within such short reach: drowning boats, exposed tree trunks, trees in water, sandy beaches, and all amidst a bit of salty air from the sea, rain and wind in your face and the sound of seagulls and assorted other birds.

I really like this view here of where the River opens up into the Loch, plenty of bare trees in water - they are quite exquisite, don't you think so? That group in the distant, that singular tree far out in the water and the row just on the shoreline.



If I turn right and look across the river I'll get this myriad of little sandy beachers, exposed roots and grassy slopes - it needs further simplification but I'll be back, promise.

River bank, soft pastel on paper, 29x10cm

In case you wonder: I'm not here, I am away from the computer for the next few weeks, with some brief exceptions... listening to seagulls on the Pacific coast, watching flamingos in the Atacama desert (may try to sketch some); and looking out for penguins.

There should be some updates on my blog here;
Alternatively: here's some more photos of the Loch Lomond location

Cloudscape - Willow Pond

Cloudscape - Willow Pond
coloured pencils on Arches HP
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

My Ecology Park Pond series continues. I've been trying to get to grips with clouds lately and can now understand why so many of Monet's later paintings in the water garden at Giverny involved an awful lot of looking into water - and reflections and the deep dark depths of the pond.

The thing is drawing clouds in water isn't like drawing clouds in skies. The ones in the skies don't butt up against deep pools with weed underneath. Plus the trees which touch the skies don't have ripples in them.

Then there's the whole thing about getting water to look like water.

Plus avoiding your clouds from beginning to look just plain grubby!

If all else fails you can always turn the drawing upside down to check it out and whether it works. The problem is it sometimes looks better upside down!

Cloudscape - upside down!

Friday, 27 March 2009

Charnwood Forest

carbon pencil sketch, detail, Vivien Blackburn

This is a detail of a sketch of that flooded quarry shown in my last post - you can see the whole sketch here

Carbon pencil isn't something I use very often as it isn't easy to get soft greys. This image called for intense blacks though and it worked quite well. I don't know what I've done with my little battery operated eraser so none of the drawing is done by drawing back into the darks with an eraser - my normal way of working.

Because the water level is high (it's very deep) and the rocks off to the left were in shadow, it wasn't possible to see any detail in the rocks. I concentrated on the reflections, tangled patterns and the assymetric arrangement of lights and darks .

It's on a rich cream cartridge paper (A4) that's very hard to scan and colour match.

I like cream paper to draw on - it isn't as stark as white - how about you?

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

A Studio Boat Of My Own

Recently my painting activity has been water themed, sort of, with a big brush and a roller.
The sun is shining down here in Cornwall and we have made the most of the fine spring weather to sort out our new (to us) boat.

My half century is to be celebrated this summer and this is my present to myself, my very own studio boat. She was a bit shabby when we brought her but mostly sound, just in need of a little sprucing up.

Here she is at the top of the beach having all the "sheets and halyards" replaced with colour coded ropes so that I can literally "learn the ropes"

Her bottom has been scrubbed and de-barnacled ready for a distinctive new paint job, a studio boat must look the business.

The little cabin has been cleaned and painted out, there will be new cushions made so that "camping out" and catching the dawn light on the creeks and inlets will be a definite activity this summer. There are plenty of spaces to stow painting equipment as well.

The front (sorry bow, I must remember, pointy bit at the front is called the bow) is being decorated with a Celtic sea-horse, it is only in undercoat stage here, it will be cream and burgundy soon. The deck and cockpit have been painted creme to reduce the glare in the bright summer sun that we will have all summer.

And I plan to sit, Monet like, with my big hat and my painter smock, on the deck painting Cornwall from the sea, sipping a gin and tonic, watching the sun set, watching the heat of the day leave the land and thanking my lucky stars that I am old enough to have a studio boat of my own!

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Stiles Cove

Stiles Cove
oils 5 x 7

Once upon a time there was a tiny beach in a tiny cove with slate and granite walls towering vertically around it that was tucked far away from the average visitor. This tiny gem of a place is called Stiles Cove and is what prompted this little painting study.

This little shore of broken slate rock is quite near me but only accessible by foot. It was once part of a US military radar station during the war and a long ladder extended from the top of the cliff to the beach below. A few years ago, the military blasted the ladder as it had become unsafe as children and daredevils wanted to chance their luck on it.

Water tumbles down the rock face, spilling into the ocean from a small stream. Its like a miniature landscape with every element you could desire.

This photo by JohnW shows the cove from a different angle, I've only seen it looking down (much as I dare) straight down to the little beach below.

You can see the distance to Stiles Cove from my house (circled in red). The ocean is very close - two minutes by car and I am on the beach in Flatrock. The hike to Stiles Cove is about 600 metres from the end of Satellite Road, just north of my house. There is a hike along the East Coast Trail from Stiles Cove to Pouch Cove which is about 11km for the more adventurous.

Once the weather is better (it snowed all Saturday and last night), I will get out to the cliffs again and be able to do some on site drawing and painting. Til then, I'll have to make do with memories and photos to create some paintings with.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Birds of La Loire

We were bathed in sunlight this past week, which made Sunday a perfect day to pack my bike and sketch the birds of the Loire. Here is a photo of the protected islands in La Loire((Montlouis) where the birds come to nest in spring.
...a close up of the activities...
Two sketches; done from the riverbank, with the road passing right behind my back. I even had cars honking at me, not that I was anywhere near blocking them, so I can just assume it was encouragement!! I wasn't exactly sure how to capture all those birds. These sketches actually do look a little better in my sketchbook than here on the screen.
...les mouettes...
Sketches done in rotring pen and watercolour in sketchbook, 24x19cm.

Then I just captured two pages of some of the birds in flight. Most of the birds on this island are La Mouette melanoc├ęphale. They are white all over, like the normal mouette, but have a black head and red beak, as you can see on the first page of sketches. They are rare in France, but are found on this island here on the banks of Montlouis, where they share space with La Mouette rieuse, the normal loud mouths. away...
Sketches done with rotring pen, sizes 0.2 and0.7 in Fabriano sketchbook, 20x14cm.

The biggest surprise of the day, was having Hartman show up on his bicycle a while later with a backpack, stuffed with picnic goodies. We parked ourselves next to the Loire on a green patch of grass and shared in a bottle of Loupiac and baguette with cheese. I made a rapid sketch of le pique-nique,...and the effect of the Loupiac can clearly be seen in the sketch!

sketch with pen and watercolour in sketchbook, 24x19cm

My trusted bicycle, that takes me everywhere. Unfortunately, it doesn't have enough gears, so you'll always find me pushing and puffing on the uphills.
...push and pedal...
Back home I did some oil work from two photographs. These were done one after the other on Sunday afternoon along with a coffee one after the other.. In the second one I used some palette knives along with a broad flat brush.

...birds of the Loire 1...
Oil on canvas block, 20x50cm.

...birds of the Loire 2...
Oil on canvas block, 30x50cm.

It is days like this that I love being an artist. Being completely absorbed in what you're doing. Maybe not producing an "oohh, aahh!" painting, but being totally present in the moment of painting. So much so that you can feel yourself growing, changing and adapting to the demands of the moment.

Not any of these paintings/sketches I did today, is really notable as beautiful artwork and won't see the inside of a gallery. I see many areas which I could've taken on differently, areas where I could've been more patient, where I could've used more bolder daring colour, areas where I could've been more risky as well as areas I could've been less bold, but when I look back on them, I see my process, and that gives me a huge kick. I am already reflecting on how to take the process on in my next painting, using this past process as reference. We all know that to be an artist, is to have 99 percent of experiments and "failures" and 1 percent of finished presentable artwork! It is in the process that we artists find our happiness, no?

Sunday, 22 March 2009

First fishy forays!

I finally made it to my Mystery Destination yesterday! Jeanette was right---it's a fish farm, a  koi farm, to be exact,  and the owner has the most magnificent fish I've EVER seen--all sorts of exotic Japanese fish, many of them of the highest show quality. While I was there, someone bought a fish for $1600!! In this economy!
I spent three hours sketching and took over 250 photos. The only time I've taken that many photos was at Monet's gardens in Giverny, so you can tell how besotted I was! 
Here are a few sketches, all rough and exploratory---I am just beginning to get a sense of koi shapes and their way of being.

I can't wait to make paintings of the koi in their watery context. I'll mostly be using acrylic on board, but won't it be fun to experiment with Yupo paper and watercolors!
Finally, here's a photo of the kind of scene I had before me. You can see why I was so excited! Most of the fish are much larger than these, but this gives you an idea of the various colors and markings I saw. 
I have posted more sketches on my blog Laurelines----go and see!

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Old slate quarries in Charnwood Forest near Swithland Woods

Part of Swithland Woods and the old slate quarries

This aerial view flattens it but this is an area of steep hills, a really lovely area of higher land. I want to do some sketching here as the weather warms up and my work committments hopefully ease off a little. It's a beautiful area of ancient forest (woods and open land) pitted with flooded deep slate quarries. A lot are on private land or inaccessible but this one is ideal - I can park next to it and sketch leaning on the old drystone wall.

That means I can take heavier media like oil paints with me.

Flooded (deep) slate quarry near Swithland Woods. Photo Vivien Blackburn

Today the dried leaves from last autumn had a pinkish hue against the ivy and murky green water in the quarry - the bank has the pinkish hue but its reflection is deep murky greens, not what you'd expect if you didn't go to observe. It was a lovely Spring day and you can see the blue sky reflected in the water :>)

The ivy coloured building must have belonged to the slate mine - it looks like the turret of a medieval castle :>)

So some time soon this will be another phase of my Leicestershire Waterways project.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Look the to skies

Here's another tip for painting water - look up.

This sort of falls under the "paint was you really see rather than what you think you see" school of lessons. Many beginner painters look at lakes, ponds, puddles and want to paint the water. That flat (or not) area that surely is blue, right? Nope!

Water is reflective. How much will vary on:
  • the angle you're viewing from
  • the water activity (still or churning)
  • any materials in the water such as mud

So if you're a bit stuck on the colours you see in the water surface, then look at the sky. The water will always reflect the colours and tones of the sky to some extent.

Here's some easy ones to start:
First image, a clear blue sky with fluffy white clouds reflected in fairly still water. Then the same kind of weather reflected in water with bits of wave. So these need blue and white in the painting.

Here's a night example:
In the first image we see the dark blue tinge of just normal night light, with touches of yellow light from building windows (most normal lightbulbs emit a yellow wavelength of light). In the second, however, it is the reflected reddish lights from nearby buildings and Greenwich Pier reflecting on the surface.

How about a more subtle example? This is the same view in slightly different light and weather. First is a clearer day, second is an overcast day. Can you see the subtle difference? A stronger blue in the first one? (both were late in the day so there's a pinkish tinge from dusk approaching too)

Finally, about that angle of view. The first photo here shows a bit what I mean by the angle you view from and also what's in the water. While it was a bright day I was looking straight down, so didn't get a reflection from the light from the sky. The water is almost opaque because it's very near the shore and mud is being churned constantly by the waves - so this gives the water it's colour instead of the sky above. The second photo is from an angle looking outwards over the water, so there's much more reflection of the daylight on the water surface. In sea views this can be why the near water is a different colour than the distance - you're near enough the area where sand is being moved around creating an opaque area in the water while the further water is deeper without materials being churned around and your angle of viewing means you see the reflection of sunlight on the water. So sea paintings can have several colours changing as you move from shore to horizon.

So if you're ever in doubt, forget what you're looking at. Look up, see what the light is like in the sky, then look back at the water. Try and see where the light is reflecting strongly or not. Then start mixing those paints.

Hope you have bright sunny days!

All of these images can be found on my Wavemechanics photo project page, and all have Creative Commons copyright so you can use them to create your own paintings. While I haven't posted any new photos in a while I promise there are many on my harddrive just waiting for editing and adding later. :)

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Seeing spots

Trout in progress watercolour, pen & ink

Crop showing pointillism

Progress, watercolour and start of pen and ink overlay

When you have a fish with dark pigment on it what else could you call it but Spot? When you add pen and ink in pointillism it reinforces the name.

I have been submerged in fish lately from prints to paintings as well as other elements of life that have taken over a bit including a shoulder problem that's made painting a bit challenging this week.

This particular piece started out as a study for planned piece. I want to experiment with some watercolour pours and add either fish prints or paintings to the full sheet. So I was seeing how a painting of a fish would look and it seemed to take on a life of its own.

Trout are fairly covered with minute black spots and larger areas of darker pigmentation. I started out in watercolour but it didn't give me the detail that I wanted. I pulled out a .25 Rapidograph pen and started adding tiny dots to create shading and the pigmentation. This method of working is very time consuming but I greatly enjoy it and it becomes almost soothing to sit there dotting away for ages.

I also laid my hands on a few bottles of irridescent acrylic ink and added tiny touches of this to the watercolour wash. I don't want the piece to be completely shiny and artificial looking, just make the viewer wonder if its their eye or is it really a little irridescent.

This is a piece in progress as I haven't completed the ink or the watercolour layers yet and will continue to slowly build them.

A friend's pond full of expensive koi carp was hit by deep ice and cold and a number of the fish died and were presented to me half frozen in a bag one evening last week. I haven't had a chance to do much with them this week, but they look promising as the scale pattern is so pronounced on the carp. I took one print but the fish wasn't thawed enough so the ice melted a little even after drying the skin and interfered with the ability to get a clear print.

I've continued to work on the original fish prints that I made with a rainbow trout and am creating both cards and paintings with them.

They seem to bring out a looser side of me and using brighter colours and abstract shapes is very freeing, even if going back to detail always appeals to me.

Its another part of Watermarks that I am grateful for - the push to experimentation and exploration. Thank you!

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Sketch, print, draw... and repeat...

I've been moving between drawing and printmaking back and forth rather frequently since I first sketched the pond reflections. While I find it difficult to prepare linocuts meticulously, I nonetheless find moving between different media is helping me clarify composition, marks and value.

It is something that always intrigued me since I saw Otto Mueller's and other members of the Bruecke's woodcuts done on site in 1910s Dresden - the angular shapes of his, Schmidt-Rotluff and other's figures fascinated me, and once I had realised that part of their painting form was so strongly influenced by their woodcutting practice, I was curious to examine more closely how one medium's specific qualities and limitations can inform another medium and vice versa.

A page from my printmaking notebook.

I was compiling the material for the printmaking course I'm doing, and realised that I had done precisely that - not with nudes on the lakes in the surroundings of Dresden, but with the two scenes of pond reflections.

Pond reflections in colour
Pond reflections in Colour,
Soft pastel on Arches paper, 58x39cm

While the linocuts were done soon after the original plein air sketches [see my earlier post on one of them here], I then went back to delve a bit more into Wolf Kahn's Colorist palette and work with pastel, my favourite medium, in a different way: to draw rather than paint with the pastel sticks and to work on white paper (both things I had 'left behind' rather quickly when I stumbled into working with soft pastels).

Trees on Water, Monotype 2
Trees on Water, Monotype 2
20x15cm, Tosa Shi paper

From these pastel drawings I went back to printmaking - not relief cuts this time but monotypes in colour and monochrome. In colour first, using some of Kahn's favourite hues (notably cadmiums and ultramarine), and then to try monochromatic prints with a lot of wiping away, adding again,... to develop the composition further and see what abstractions it may yield.

Trees on Water, Monotype 4
Trees on Water, Monotype 4
20x15 cm, Tosa Shi paper

I am now going back to the next relief print - it's a different scene: there's no water in there, unfortunately, but have a look here for the first round of sketches and monotypes.

If you want to read up on my exploration of Kahn's palette and drawing marks: this tag assembles my blog's posts on Kahn.