Sunday, 23 August 2009

Koi paintings, begun at last, in progress.

I've learned something very valuable from this year's taking on all sorts of art and illustration projects: don't do this next year! Next year, I'm going to focus on painting and have only a couple of illustration projects going. And I'm going to be very selective about the nature of those projects, too!
What with the aforesaid overloading and the various health problems my family and I have experienced in our own personal annus horribilis, I've painted little and posted here less.
Here is a look at what I've just begun, though, and finally... my koi series. As I mentioned in another post, I don't like to post WIP, but sometimes that's all one can do, or risk being thought of as dead, dormant, or indifferent. I am none of those.

Koi wip
This is acrylic on gessoboard, 12" x 24".
Here's a shot of the current work-in-progress with some completed ones. I love the colors and freedom of movement of this subject compared to my other watery paintings. And I am so enjoying playing with levels of transparency and gestures. Of course, I have no idea where this painting will go, but I hope to keep the looseness and airiness of this early stage.koi wip at a distance

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Oil or Water?

Rain, Frenchman's Creek. Watercolour

Oil or water, obviously they don't mix, I know that! However what drives the decision to use which media, especially when depicting water in all her many guises?
I love watercolour, I am in love with watercolour. I think it is a difficult medium, it takes an almost sneaky type of control on the side of the artist. On the one hand you need to have some experience of what it will do, which colours will cause which reactions. Who will sit happily with who, who will repel and rebel. On the other hand you need to be able to let it go its own way, invite the "accidents" encourage the unexpected. Sometimes the place or mood that I am trying to capture seems to dictate the medium.
The picture above is watercolour. It was a damp, misty day but muggy and steaming too, then it began to rain. There was a cleaning property to the air brought on by the rain and the water in the river seemed to clear showing beautiful patterns of copper and yellow colour. I couldn't imagine catching that feeling in oils. It needed the transparent quality of watercolour.
I also love oils. I love the buttery feeling of the colours, the freedom that the addition of light right at the end of the painting gives you. I can paint and paint and then flick in some light and it is literally like switching on a light switch. All of a sudden the picture is transformed and brought to life. Magic! The picture below is oils. The day was sunny but very still. I was sitting above the small beach at the mouth of the river, where the river widens and meets the sea. Often here are loud and powerful waves but on that day, not a breath of wind. The water seemed almost oily, slightly thick but clear. As the sea slowly sucked out the tide the sand became silver and the pebbles shiny and bright. All I could think of was painting it in oils. Dabbling in all the rich greens and blues that were under the water, speckling on all the yellows and ochres and almost blacks that were the shore.

Ebb Tide, Oil.

Maybe I should stop worrying about being a watercolourist or an oil painter and just be ambidextrous.
I suppose they are a bit like cats and dogs.
Some people are dog people, they just like dogs (that's oils I think, don't you? Quite predictable, loyal but capable of doing tricks and performing very obediently. A dream companion in the right hands, a nightmare in the wrong hands!)
Some people are cat people. So this by rights must be watercolours: Haughty, independent. Make you feel great when they are purring and curled up on your lap but off like a shot for sardines from the house down the road. Startlingly beautiful, wild, free and proud. Or mangy, hissing and untouchable.
And some people are both. I think I must be, the nutty dog woman and the mad cat lady all rolled into one. I suppose one just has to "go with the flow" Try to listen to your emotions, find the feeling that comes from what you are wanting to paint and then reach for your cat or your dog!

Monday, 17 August 2009

I made it to the sea!

... I've been very silent here for the past two months... all the while sitting in sunny, hot and very lovely Berlin and all the water features I got to see were the occasional heavy thundery downpours. But they usually caught me by surprise and so weren't captured on (wet) paper.

But finally: in week six while in Germany I've made it to the sea - the Baltic Sea - and if you have been following my visit on my own blog, it wasn't just any old place on the Baltic Sea but CALIFORNIA. Well - not strictly true - it's Kalifornien, the German spelling, complete with a camping site called CALIFORNIA.

While my friend Ate was busy filming her final project for her art school degree (on the confusions between Kalifornien and California) I did spend a bit of time sketching among the assisting with sound, interviewing, generally keeping our camping van clean and proper and a lot of swimming in the sea.

This is what the Baltic Sea Kalifornien looks like:

And here some of my sketches at night, and one morning just as the seafog was going to lift.

Kalifornien Strand Nocturne
Kalifornien Nocturne No 1,
35x25cm, soft pastel on board

Kalifornien Strand
After the fog,
35x25cm, soft pastel on board

Saturday, 15 August 2009

North Norfolk Salt Marsh Harbours

Boat in the harbour, Brancaster Staithe. photograph: Vivien Blackburn

The North Norfolk coast is totally unlike the Cornish coast - unlike the wild seas, steeper beaches and coves, clean sand and rugged cliffs of the south western tip of England, the coast here is softer, gentler, muddier from the silt washed down from rich farmland. I have to admit I love the wildness of Cornwall more but this area has its own charm.

Photographs of Thornham creek and Brancaster Staithe, North Norfolk

There is a short section of cliff at Hunstanton but most of the coast is salt marsh. Inland are low hills that dip down to flat land, fields that were once marsh but have been drained, marsh and dunes.

The cottage I sketched recently on my blog was being thatched with reed from this area - just a little further along the coast at Cley.

The harbours have creeks that thread to the sea through channels - the sea only reachable at high tide.

You may recognise some of these places in sketches and paintings on my sketchbook site and main website

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Wave WIP - update

I've added more layers to the water, but its still not doing quite what I want yet. I have a broader base of colours now in the water and rocks and have blocked in the water behind the wave. However, I want the water behind to read flatter and calmer and its not that right now.

The close ups here show more of the detail of the development of the rocks and the water moving over them, leaving pools and rivulets in its wake.

The crest of the wave and the foam on top of it is basic and will be refined more, modeling the form of the wave as I progress.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Water in a Japanese Garden

My usual choice of watery subjects are rivers, estuary or sea. Here I have been drawn to water on another level altogether. A small koi pond in a beautifully peaceful Japanese Garden. The slow rhythm of a dripping bamboo spout, the perfect circles on the water and the fleeting flashes of Koi beneath the surface calm the senses. While the cool greens and mixed textures of moss and ferns sooth the mind. To watch such things bring a powerful feeling of peace, to paint them busies the mind but also smooths out the furrows.

A3 Moleskine sketchbook. Watercolour.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Water in Le Pescher

We are having a lovely spring and summer at Coin perdu in Correze. I have been back home in Montlouis for a week or two, just to do washing and check on the garden. The restoration on the house is very demanding and leaves little time for painting. And with us not having internet, I feel cut off from the brush and pen! I do steal some time to do some photography in the early mornings which I enjoy as much! Good news is that we have received our high speed internet and can you believe the excitement in our barn about a thing like intenet connection! We coeed over it like like over a baby in a cradle! So I am back in the land of the living and now I have to get back in the habit of doing some art too.

I have some photos I took in "LE Pescher", a tiny village close to us, where we buy our baguette and cheese from the mobile stall at noon. The people are as spontaneous as country folk can be and assisted me with my tripods, showed me secret corners in the village with more water and even further on hikes in the hills. We were a carnival of people strolling through the village, me with my camera and tripod and all the rest, each one indicating with flying arms where and how. At some stage the spotlight on me dimmed as their chatter started turning towards town stuff. And then they remembered they were actually on their way somewhere, leaving me with my camera and all the water. I chuckled. I loved it.

So maybe the water scenes here aren't so spectacular, but it reminds me of a community in love with their little town and surroundings, where the mobile cheese and meat caravan is the chance to catch up on the latest news and where a stranger who wants to take a pretty picture is warmly welcomed with flying gestures.

...the beginning of the canal in Le Pescher...

...the water canal...

...the same spot as above, just from the top with a slow shutter...

...the canal passing under the road going through Le Pescher...

...moving to la place in the centre of the village ...

...and finally continuing its course as a ruisseau through nature...

...and lastly....yet more water in a petit chemin...

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Waves in progress

Last weekend I drove to Pouch Cove and Bauline and watched the waves and whales off the coast, took some photos and came away inspired. Inspiration had to wait til this weekend to take form however, so is the fate of artists who have to work a day job too.

Last night I started a large (20 x 30) oil painting of one of waves breaking over the rocks in Pouch Cove. The movement is very hypnotic and the colours in the water are wonderful in terms of light and shape.

So far I have blocked in colour and am now starting to develop some shading to the water, rocks and the wave itself. I want a more impressionistic image than pure realism. I want to show the strength of the ocean and the gentle colours without it becoming a chocolate box lid, as so many seascapes are and what it looks like at this stage of the painting.

There is no sky in this piece, it will be all water which brings its own set of challenges. Waterscapes are so complex with lighting changing constantly on the surface and in the movement of a wave as it crests. Watching that movement and light over and over helps me know the anatomy of a wave and understand how the shape is formed and how the light shines through the thinner sections of the wall of water.

I'm lucky to have the ocean on my doorstep as a constant model to refer to.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Lake Michigan Paddle

Recently, on a very calm morning, Craig and I checked the marine report for Lake Michigan and decided to risk a paddle. I say risk because Lake Michigan's weather and conditions change often and quickly with sometimes disastrous results. Craig and I remember our adventures last summer in Northern Michigan when on one glorious calm morning we paddled on the big lake for a brief, thrilling adventure.

This trip was no less thrilling and as you can see, we were treated to some really beautiful sky conditions. Vivien has suggested a minimalist painting series based on these and I think I'll take her up on it.