Friday, 29 October 2010

Mission Trails, California

detail from larger work

Katherine and I are taking part in an exhibtion in California in November with friends - details later.

At the end of this post is a slide show of the work I've done - there are 5 paintings, with close up details following.

The work is based around Mission Trails Park in California. I needed to work around how I was going to tackle painting an area that is so different from the usual land and seascapes I paint here, in a very different climate. Needless to say it ended up involving water :>) Unusually for me, I was working on painting a place I don't know personally - a friend had provided photos and I used Google streetview, which was really useful for getting a feel for the area and did lots of research. Still, it was difficult. I usually work plein air and learn the feeling of a place as I sketch.

I started with the coloured pencil drawing of a still pool, reflecting the trees behind, the dry landscape very different from England - but the rocks and trees and reflections all interested me. I was trying to get to grips with the landscape there, the aridity, the rockiness, the mood.

As I thought about it, I realised that I wanted to abstract the images a little, play with texture, time, and shape and colour, experiment and include collage. All the works except for that first one are mixed media, using whatever was going to make the kind of mark I wanted. The joy of collage is the ability to move elements around to work out the composition before finally sticking down.

This is the final version that the above detail is taken from

It went through several incarnations on its way and further work with scissors as it became rather overcrowded and needed room to breathe :>) I would have liked to have given it even more room but had to work to a specific size - 11x14 inches so that it would fit the frames at its destination.

Each tree is a separate piece of paper, with watercolour, monoprinting and drawing to create the bark. The background is also collaged and then painted and drawn into.

Each was pure experiment with only a loose idea of the final result, responding to the marks, moving the trees and background pieces around until I felt they could be fixed.

There is watercolour in there, coloured pencils, ink, acrylic, gouache, biro (ballpen) and charcoal pencil - maybe other things that I've now forgotten!

The dark background helped with the fragmentation of the image, the changes in time/viewpoint and linked to the black of the charcoal and biro. It isn't of a specific place but plays with a mix of elements from many sources and imagination.

The colours play with warm and cool neutrals against the blue of the sky and reflections - the touches of warm apricot tones glowing against the blue (I hope!).

The 'some, a little and a lot' guideline applies - with most of the painting in neutrals, the blue and purple becomes more important.

If I'd had Sarah's instructions on varnishing watercolours in time I would have tried it out on this one - I think it would work best without glass.

you can see earlier versions here

Towards Dusk

This one again plays with the idea of time and fragmenting the image. Daylight moves into dusk.

What do you think?

Sometimes you have to look long and draw fast!

Volissos Fishing Boat (Pastel 19.5" x 25.5")
I don't know if you've ever had a go at drawing boats but their 'architecture' and the way perspective works is a bit different to buildings!

I was reminded of this while accompanying Sarah Wimperis and her husband around the Royal Society of Marine Artists exhibition (see my REVIEW: Royal Society of Marine Artists - 65th Annual Exhibition 2010)

Listening to "Big Dave" tell me about which boats had NOT been drawn or painted by people who understood boats convinced me that we shouldn't try to "hack it" when drawing boats.  Just like wildlife or flowers we should always take some time out to work out how they are put together and what makes them work.

It seemed to me that careful observation is probably the key.

I was then reminded of an experience I had in Chios, a Greek island in the northern Aegean Sea, back in 1995.  I was staying in Volissos and we were drawing fishing boats down in Limnos harbour.  Or rather I was trying to draw fishing boats.  I was having one of those experiences where you gradually begin to understand this is a LOT more difficult than it looks and that I had attempted a subject I didn't understand - and I was making a complete pig's ear out of it.

Before lunch I decided I needed to do something to make sure that it hadn't been a completely wasted morning - and to see whether I'd learned anything. 

I took a complete sheet of what was known in those days as Rembrandt Pastel Card and drew just one boat "up close and personal" in pastels. 

The trick was I didn't think too much about what I was looking at but rather tried to observe closely and use what I'd learned in terms of the big shapes and proportions and basic structure of a boat.  I got it very nearly right (it bulges a wee bit too much on the right hand side!) and I think drawing on a big sheet also helped.

The drawing at the top was actually completed in 20 minutes - at the end of which I seemed to have produced a boat which was not immediately about to fall over and sink! :)  Honour was redeemed.  It would appear that the whole morning had not been a lost cause and that maybe I had learned something.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Varnishing Watercolours

 I have done it!  Varnished watercolours, there if a full explanation of the whole process over on my blog The Red Shoes for anyone who wants to give it a go.

But I have to dash now, got to make supper!