Monday, 25 January 2010

Stage by stage, mixed media and collage - finished I think

Saltmarsh, detail of the bottom corner, showing the edges

I think this one is finished now - any tweaking will be minor.

The finished painting above against a white wall, showing the new dark edges, the deep sides of the canvas are also this colour.

The blue edge is gone. I realised that it was detracting from the painting, not setting it off and went for a cold dark bitter chocolate brown - lots of cerulean mixed into burnt umber. It echoes the drawing in it quite well. The dark colour needed to be narrower so the image has extended a little in each direction.

There is a little black in the form of charcoal but no black paint, simply very dark and varied mixes for the darkest areas.

I like the way that the metallic copper paint worked and the flashes of gold metallic tissue paper that flickers through in places. Sometimes it's fun to use unexpected materials.

You can see close ups of the textures and surface here and here.
The creases and buckling have been dealt with, Touches of metallic copper paint have been added to small patches of warmth and tip a little balance back to the left hand side.

The middle building has been pushed back. The house has gained a lean-to in order to extend the building a little.

stage 3 above The background has been altered to a mauvey blue to enhance the importance of the turquoise as it flickers through the painting but I'm still not happy with it.

There are creases from the buckling to deal with. With some I sliced the paper open and squished glue under and flattened the paper. With others I couldn't so I collaged more paper to cover the creases.

stage 2 above glued to the coloured canvas, with an additional piece of painted collage added at the bottom.

I decided to add more foreground and make this a portrait format painting to give more lead in and saltmarsh with wet pools and reeds. The background at this stage is a turquoisey blue.

I decided to lose the right hand buildings.

stage 1 above, working on paper with metallic gold foil, ink, charcoal, paint- the first rough marks

This was a nightmare to glue down onto the canvas (above) as it buckled and needed lots of sorting out - next time I won't play safe, I'll work straight onto the canvas from the start, collaging elements as I go.

Experimenting like this I have no exact image in mind when I start out - I have a rough idea of the mood and composition but they are subject to change. Once some marks are down the painting starts talking back - elements need to be lost, others pushed and pulled to emphasise, cause to recede, play with lost and found edges or reflections .... whatever evolves.

This is like jazz to photorealism's Bach! extemporise, change, don't follow the notes dictated :>)

I'm thinking about putting some lessons together for online teaching at some point soon - what do you think? about experimenting, loosening up .....playing with paint and the visual language of marks.

Sunday, 24 January 2010


Piana, Southern Corsica, France
Watercolour 6 x 12 

Studying islands, whether small rocks rising out of the ocean, or larger land masses supporting population and economy has an appeal.  There are islands in all regions of the world and I can think of a number of them off Newfoundland, some supporting life and others isolated outcrops in the Atlantic. Accessing them to draw or paint on site or even take photos could be a challenge, but it may be worth exploring.

I have been meaning to do a little sketch of a view in Corsica this month through The Virtual Paintout, but haven't had much time lately.  I've wandered around the island and it has many similarities to Newfoundland in terms of geography - well just not the weather perhaps.  Islands tend to be rocky outcrops with links to the sea and land for income. Corsica has the benefit of warm weather for citrus and olive crops and the fame of being Napoleon Bonaparte's place of birth to aid tourism.

To those who don't live on an island, island life seems idyllic and in some ways it is.  In other ways it is problematic with services not as easily accessible as on a mainland.   The isolation of an island creates unique cultures in the arts, whether visual, music, literary or theatre.  Islands usually have flourishing artistic communities and tend to be welcoming places to those who want to become involved.

I wandered through parts of Corsica and found this vantage point overlooking the Mediterranean.  The rocky outcrops of cliffs and the sea stretching out to the clouds on the horizon remind me that all islands are connected to each other no matter where they are.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Waterways Nostalgia

Calm Day
Oil on Canvas
7" x 12"

Well, this looks pretty strange amid all the elegant muted tones and startling snowy light of January. This has everything to do with Early November and the mad riot of color just before the light plunges into the dark. Winter is a lovely time to clear out the studio , organize all the paint pots and wind up unfinished business. So I'm sharing this little bit of nostalgia from the season past; I have several unfinished pieces to attend to. Brew up a fancy tea. Serve yourself a cup on fine china. Make friends with your unfinished business. Happy Winter.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Anatomy of Winter

Or... "Why I love winter"
It is very simple really, winter is the time to see the bones of the landscape.  Shape and form simplify, the way the hill tucks into its self, how the woods run along the ridge, blurring edges.  Sometimes the gift is even greater, the world goes black and white! (almost!)  The usual colours are leached from the landscape leaving a very limited pallet and highlighting some very unexpected splashes of colour.

I find that I go for many walks in the wind and rain, usually, the snow and ice when I am lucky.  Just recently we were blessed with snow, a rare event down in Cornwall.  So I was out armed with camera and sketchbook, little bits of watercolour paper and small gessoed cards.  I have mini versions of almost everything I might need, including a tiny flask of hot coffee.  I have a terrible old coat that smells but is made of waxed cotton and is long enough to provide instant protection from a wet bottom on most occasions.  The good dog Coco comes along as well.

One of the best features of these winter art forays is the lack of people.  Not having to explain what I am doing, or having someone looking over my sketchbook while I try to draw is bliss!

What I tend to do is scribble a lot, in different mediums.  Small watercolours to use as they are or to turn into larger ones back in the studio.  Little oils, which look like rubbish but provide essential colour refrence and are worked into later.  Here is one such oil, sitting in the studio awaiting its "makeover"!  Look at it tho, I dont think those greens in the water would be there any other way.

I often make the same walk, I like to see a place in different weathers, times of day, seasons.  To really know trees and places, like talking to your subject while making their portrait.

Watercolour sketches provide something different again, it seems to me that they are like poems where oils are like stories,the poems are smaller in length, often more consice and more about a feeling or one thought?

And then it snows again, it is irristible so out I go again and paint some more.Making the most of this stripped down landscape, trying to learn my winter anatomy.
Back at home, in the warm, long evenings, good things on TV provide yet another oppertunity...snoozing models!

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Project update - work in progress

Saltmarsh update - work in progress - Vivien Blackburn

Saltmarsh, work in progress, 20x16 ins on canvas. Vivien Blackburn

This is where the canvas now is. It's a collage with acrylic paint, charcoal, acrylic ink - some of the collage is metallic gold tissue paper that comes through in a few places. You can see the stage before this here. It's very loosely based on the sketch of the saltmarsh done plein air, but done mainly from memory and much edited.

I've sent that middle building back a bit, changed the colour of the border from a turquoise based blue to a mauvey one and introduced that into the painting.

I've brought the light colour into the sky to silhouette the trees.

I've collage a little more texture into the sand with tissue paper.

I've flicked little bits of paint for gravel and leaves.

I've worked on the way your eye follows the lines of the wet mud/sand etc through and up.

I've also been refining the 'some, a little and a lot' - making the turquoisey blue flicker throught the painting but covering a lot that was that colour - using more of the soft beige to bring light into the sky and elsewhere.

You can see stages and close ups below:

I'm thinking of adding the faintest traces of copper in the trees and the bush in front of the building on the left - just a hint of a warm colour.

I won't be able to work on it for a couple of days now as I'm teaching extra hours, so it can sit on my desk while I think about where next.

Any thoughts?

Monday, 18 January 2010

La Loire in January

...fresh snow in Touraine...

Of the whole wonderful year we are affered year after year, January and February are the most difficult months for for many others in the northern hemisphere. I am actually of opinion that the human was also meant to hybernate for the months of January and February, it will be an easy act for me! I have come to accept it now by, after fighting it for many years, and I know when March hits, it all changes; I wake up from my sleep, stretch out and move into the light. So you'll say I'm wasting two months? Probably. But then I do make up with gusto, the whole rest of the year!
In the meantime, life is still good, Beautiful. Especially the Loire.
This season we had exceptional snow and the Loire was spectacular, welcoming the opportunity to show off with swaggering flair.

...melting snow on a sunny day...


...gentle winter flow...


...blanket of snow on ice...

Saturday, 9 January 2010

New Year Project - thinking around ideas

Runswick Bay, Yorkshire, pen. Vivien Blackburn

A big local art group I belong to has an annual project which can be interesting to take part in. The work is then exhibited at the local museum - the topic is usually linked to work in their collection, though one year it was linked to the comedy festival.

We've been given about a dozen paintings and sculptures on show in the museum, by a range of artists from a range of eras, to look at to spark off ideas. Work needs to come from these, not simply be a reworking or copy. The 2 that interest me are a cottage by John Piper and a maquette by Moore. I need to go in and do some sketching from them and some research.

I've liked Piper's work for years, with their interesting marks and textures, so that appeals the most. I also like the sensuous curves of Henry Moore's sculpture - which I may/may not combine with marks and textures reminiscent of Piper. It's on a first-day-of-thinking-about-it stage of development just now. I'll check back in from time to time with progress.

The drawing above is one I considered developing in collage, charcoal, ink and paint.

I thought I'd work from some my old sketches -the information I need is there, they were done plein air but they languish in sketchbooks and need developing.

Links to just some of the work I might develop for this project - I'm undecided at the moment - any thoughts? I only need 3 paintings maximum.

The Crowns, Botallack - I wasn't happy with this and would like to do something more interesting

Sketch of the Crowns

The canal in the city

Canal boats at the marina

Charlestown harbour

Brancaster Staithe

..... back to sketchbooks and thinking .....

17th January - update here - I'll show the finished painting here as a separate post when it's done.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Northern lights for the new year!

I have our Jeanette of Illustrated Life to thank for the most, albeit coldest, fun I've had all year, all five days of it! Remember my Norwegian coastal voyage was in December, so that doesn't count! Jeanette's method of painting with ice crystals seemed so much fun, I had to try it. The weather here has been frigid, so the timing was right. I experimented with a few colors and then hit upon indigo and phthalo green, the frozen effects of which reminded me of... northern lights! Dancing around outside at 6am, in my pajamas, on two subsequent 17F mornings, I swashed water on paper and flung paints! And shivered, but hardly noticed, in my delight! Some results were better than others, but I think all of the following look northern lightish---don't you?Northern lights, swirls
This one is more purely wet on wet. The ice formed very little for some reason:
Northern lights, spires
The greens were too dark here, but I loved the crystalline swirls:
Northern lights, crystalline
Northern lights, green cross

Northern lights, cloudy moonlight
I'm not sure why this one granulated instead of freezing, but that's one of the fun things about this method---it is highly unpredictable!
Northern lights, dusky
Thank you so much, Jeanette, for sharing this method! It's the quintessential 'creating art out of water' technique!

Monday, 4 January 2010

Starting new, looking at the old!

As part of the new year, like many of us, I've been having a tidy up and a clear out. Mainly looking for work for my new year sale. Under my bed (yes, as cliche as that sounds!) I found a very old portfolio of sketches and drawings. It's always fun to look back at what you did before and this portfolio is specifically a selection of works for me to keep - a sort of archive of different time periods and styles.

And in it I found two sample books of pastel paper with sketches in, one was figure drawings but the other was sketches I did in a local park. I used to go out (it was a block behind the studio) and do sketches of the flowers, shrubs, or the pond. So these were a few studies of the water surface and reflections and ripples. (These are about 6-7" square each.)

What I love is how well pastel can be used to do studies like these. They let you imitate the short patches of light and colour, rather like the impressionists did with paint. But at the same time you can be quick and sketchy and try to capture directions and line of the way the water is moving, or where the light is coming from.

For 2010 I've joined a Flickr group for sketching (75 Ways to Draw More), these found sketches remind me to go out with the pastels as much as I use a pencil or marker too! And with the studio next to the river I could really have fun with more water drawings like this. Continually going back to basics should be a firm studio practice. In 2010 I just need to follow my own advice!

My other resolution is to get back to posting on Watermarks more often!

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Friday, 1 January 2010

Happy New Year

I'd just like to echo Sarah's comments and wish you all a VERY happy and productive new year :>)