Saturday, 29 January 2011

Salt and sand

I've been experimenting again.  My vision here was to create a piece of sand and sea using natural. The starfish are washed up on the shore, the water and life inches away. 

I printed a starfish and a sand dollar on a lightweight kozo papers that I had randomly torn.  Once it was dry, I added a layer of gesso to half of a piece of 200lb watercolour paper.  I left the surface of the gesso fairly rough as I wanted the texture to show through.   The gesso acted as the glue when I placed my printed kozo paper on top of it.  I patted it in place and started adding colour to it. 

Initial washes to confirm colours and follow torn paper line for water line

Following the torn line of the kozo paper, I used it as the tide line for the water and added washes of blues and turquoises, letting a little of the golds of the sand seep in.  Above the tide line, when the wash as wet, I added some salt.  This pushes pigment away from the crystals leaving lighter areas, almost like foam.  Directly below the tide line, I added fine sand.  Sand absorbs the paint but leaves a granular effect.  It doesn't push pigment away like salt does but seems to diffuse the colour.

Salt added to wet wash above water line and sand added below for texture

The starfish had random colours of sea and sand added to them in varying strengths with some sand added here and there for texture.  The sand dollars while there became too diffused in the process and aren't distinguishable as sand dollars.  I'll pretend they are half buried in sand.

Texture of gesso showing through kozo paper when watercolour is added
Detail of starfish and background colour and texture using sand

I spattered the same colours over the sand with a little extending into the tide line.  The piece is not completely dry in these images so will be a bit lighter and I'll likely add a touch of gouache to the tide line for highlights, then let it go.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

A variety of water

“No pleasure endures unseasoned by variety”
--Publilius Syrus quotes (Roman author, 1st century B.C.)

When trying to paint water I find the key for me is variety - using a lot of different mediums and ways to look at it. It's easy to get stuck in the same technique and not progress, wondering why you can't push yourself, or why this painting or this water seems different from the rest? It's a rut! Using a lot of different tools all contributes to the end result of my soft color field water paintings.

At the moment I'm working on a series of water surface paintings for a Venice exhibition, a bit of a change from my sea horizons. This means really focusing on the patterns and light on the water itself.

My studies are currently laid out on the floor, different sketches and practices that go back to last September in preparation for this new work. Only now that I have them laid out do I realise how many different approaches I've tried!

The large largest sketch (one of dozens) is a more literal charcoal line drawing of ripples. This kind of study had me looking really closely at the detail! The lines and how they met, where they travelled, the strange shapes they made that were completely unintuitive.

After that I used my pastels on smaller paper - the bottom right green study - to do some colour studies, just exploring the areas of soft light. This reminded me that to get the light I wanted I needed to focus again on my glazes and layers of pure colour.

Finally, I've been working on 100 small acrylic paintings on paper. A friend actually gave me some offcuts of wonderful watercolour paper that was great for working with acrylic with a watercolour approach. These brought home how the combination of what I learned doing the charcoal and the pastel could come together. I used the drawings of ripples first to put down a structure and underpaintings, then glazes over it with larger areas and washes of colour to bring out the light. This end lesson I could apply to the large canvases.

Mezzogiorno, acrylic on canvas, 80cmx80cm

None of these alone would have given me the tools for getting my new large paintings right. Each medium showed me something different about the water, because water is such a myriad of things: light and dark, surface and depth, flat and textured.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

A Saturday in January

Just got in from "road testing" my new prochade box.  I did the coast path from Sennen to Mill Bay and back, about 5 miles in total with lots of painting stops to thoroughly test the kit.
This is the first sketch, it was a very cold day but absolutely beautiful, clear sky and blue sea.  The cliffs round Lands End are high and very rocky with dramatic views of the sea below.  I could spend days painting there.
The prochade box was ordered on Wednesday and arrived on Thursday and I am most impressed with it.  It looks great and holds just the right amount of kit.  I have my old rucksack with another little kit for watercolours, gloves and waterproof trousers, flask etc.  All in all a great way to spend a Saturday in January, well it beats shopping!

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Whats so good about Plein Air?

Having been a devoted "painting a day" practitioner for over a year when I started blogging in 2006 and learning, through that, the benefits of regular "training" I have continued to paint on a very regular basis.  At the beginning of the year I made the decision that I wanted to shake my inner artist up a bit.
I like to keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone, for me it helps me to learn more and more about how and why I paint.  I want to be fluent and fearless, I want to improve my language of looking.  I really wanted to paint for the sake of painting.  So I settled on a challenge of painting one view as often as I could for this coming year.  I wasn't sure how much I would get out of painting the same view every day.  I wasn't sure how I felt about painting in all weathers, rain and cold included.  I wasn't even sure if I would be able to fit it into my working day.  But just over two weeks into the project I am already finding huge benefits.
This is the place that I am painting the series from.  A friend was walking and took this when she saw me working away, and this is the painting that I was doing.

I have managed to get here every day, usually on the walk with my dog, often after a long session of illustration work.  It is a glorious bit of time out, a quiet stopping off point, a little bit of stillness in the day.
I have found that even when it is pouring with rain I can paint, I put the actual painting inside my bag and make a tiny tent out of it, I get wet but the painting stays mostly dry.
This was the most rainiest one so far, you can just see the rain drops on the paint.  It is fascinating to see how much variety there is in light and weather.  It is good practice to try to distill shifting elements, to focus and work fast.  I have started looking at maps and weather forecasts, star charts and moon phases, watching how the wind plays on the water and trying, very hard, to translate that into paint.  I think I have a long way to go, I need more confidence, I need to feel happier with sunshine and blue sky ( I am not right now, more comfortable with rain and mist!) 
I have a small home made prochade box that I have used for years but am considering buying a proper wooden one. You see, it has been so good that I have fallen back in love with plein air painting, I want to do more.

I am planning a 24 hour marathon, painting the another view every two hours, I have my tent or my van and I am scouting the area for a good spot.

This is the location for the years worth of paintings.  Last night I got up at 3am, by design!  It was a full moon, the ice moon .  I wanted to try and paint the night.  It was wonderful to be out and about when no one else was.  The painting turned out well, it looks a bit dark here but in reality it is..well, a night painting!
So far there is nothing I wouldn't recommend about the practice of a small painting every day and even better one done out side, in the open air, it is proving to be a real tonic, my key to happiness!
When I have completed a month I shall post up a slide show, for now, if you are interested you can see them all on my blog. The Red Shoes

Sunday, 16 January 2011

A promise of calligraphic sea life paintings to come!

Shrimp calligraphy

Blue crabs, yellow plate


Poissonerie, Auray, Brittany, right side of sketch
I was so happy to see Ronell's recent scampi sketches----they reminded me of how much I love painting and drawing sea creatures and I couldn't wait to get to the fish market to find some models myself! I learned last Saturday that it is not the season for shrimp and blue crabs now. I'll just have to wait until spring, but spring will come.
In the meantime, to remind myself and you of what fun it is to paint these creatures, here are some paintings and sketches from the past two or three years. These are MY visions of sugarplums!

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Splash No. 1

This is the first of my series of water paintings that I intend to complete over the course of this year.  The final number has not been decided and I refuse to pressure myself.  They will simply happen.

This is painted on 10 x 14 canvas board in acrylics.  Mostly I am happy with it as I believe it gives a good impression of moving water and its impact on rocks.  A part of me thinks its a little too smooth or polished.

Getting the splash of the wave was challenging. I didn't want a mass of solid white and the intricacies of foam and water breaking up takes a fair bit of concentration to pull off in detail.  Here is a cropped version of water pouring over one of the rocks for those who like to see more detail.

Now to decide what the next water piece will be!

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Watercolor Koi studies.

I have been taken with all my hundreds of photos I took of these koi fish when we were in Hawaii last year. The idea was to come back home and use them in paintings. But true to my nature, procrastination took over and the Koi were admired only in the photo album. Browsing the album lately rekindled that idea and here are some studies, done from the computer screen. When working from photos I always cramp up in tight spasm and lose all spontaneity. so after doing about two or three, I grabbed for my earphones and the Piano concertos of Beethoven 4 and 5 andPiano a La Roque dAntheron to keep me loose. I think in study 3, one of the earlier of 7 studies you can still see the cramped up tightness.
With some more studying of the Koi and their movements and habits and play, I would like to move on to oil and maybe do a series. I efintely want MOVEMENT in the paintings, because Koi are so playful and almost mischievous and I want to capture that, rather than a perfectly painted Koi fish.

Also posted on Africantapestry

All these studies done in pen and watercolor on Fabriano Artistico watercolor paper, CP, 18x26cm.

..koi study 7..

...koi study 4..

..koi study 2..

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Smoked undyed cod loin

I was just about to cook my smoked undyed cod loin for dinner when I read Ronell's post about her scampi and prawns.  It had never occurred to me before that I could draw fish for watermarks - after all it's Jeanette who does the fish! ;)

Anyway I thought I'd have a go - but since it meant delaying dinner this was a very fast sketch!

I have to tell you that I now believe painting the flesh of fish ought to be part of every painter's training - in learning how to see colour and the subtlety of colour.  The colour changes are so subtle that I think anybody who mastered painting the flesh of fish would find painting flesh for portrait painting an absolute doddle!  Who knew?

This is a very imperfect sketch of my dinner - uncooked and on a pale duck egg blue plate - although I only had half for dinner!

Smoked undyed cod loin
coloured pencils
Katherine Tyrrell

Friday, 7 January 2011

A few Scampi and prawns

I had some scampi and prawsn that I started preparing for dinner and then I remembered that they are indeed water animals? So I put the rest back in the fridge and kept five out to sketch. Normally grey and translucent in color, I quickly sauteed one or two to get that lovely warm red color. Then it was pick up and turn around and upside down, look this way, count their magnitude of "pattes".. and attachments...and all the while they looked at me with those big black eyes.. I did some in a "plume pen" with sanguine ink from Sennelier and a wash which bled some of the ink, as well as my own watercolor washes and some were done in the same pen with sepia ink and a Grey wash. Blots and dots for some water suggestion and there you have it. Prawns and scampi.
..scampi and prawns.. watercolor, Sennelier ink and dip pen in watercolor sketchbook, 18x26cm...

Of course, afterward they were gently discarded of...I couldn't get to place them back with the others for our delicious dinner...lemon and butter, chopped dill, the felt too close to cannibalism...after all we did spend some hours or two up close and personal..
I was inspired by these Crustacea and then went for a walk by the Loire in my raincoat and hiking boots. It was actually lovely out...not cold except for a slight rain drizzling on my cape. On my way back I picked up (and nicked) some foliage and twigs and seeds, which I sketched in the warmth of my atelier, with my chickens by my feet.
All in all...a pleasant WATERMARKS day!

If you're interested, you can see the other skerches sketches in January 2011 Flora of the Loire I don't post them here, becasue they are more foliage than watermarks, even though they root in the Loire...

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

New Year Resolutions

Sketch more, draw more, paint more, work harder, look longer.
A new year always brings plans and projects.  I am, like Laura, not making any big promises to myself, I want to keep things fluid and to be able to jump ship, or catch the slow boat to China when necessary.  But, I have decided to give myself one small project.  As I pass this pontoon nearly every day while walking my faithful art hound Coco and as I am somewhat fond of seasonal records I have decided to use it as a constant spot to paint from during the coming year.
Here is the tiniest video to show you the panorama of this place. 
What I enjoy about a body of work from one spot is the changes written by the seasons, the weather and the times of the day.  I am also looking forward to learning more about the mediums that I work in, there is always such room for improvement.
Today, being the first day painting for a little while I warmed up with some scribbles,

and then got down to a bit more thoughtful painting.
A watercolour as it began to get light, with the big sky reflecting in the incoming tide and a little oil of some misty and still fishing boats.

I sail on this river, swim in its waters and walk its creeks and inlets. This is a place that I love and I hope that will come through in the paintings, it is also somewhere that I feel very privileged to be able to know so well and to enjoy in all its guises.  So with that, my small plan for 2011, I hope you all have a very successful and creative year ahead.

Of course I shall be painting other things as well...

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Plein air by the Loire...January

I wish you all a wonderful year with all the low points of last year turned into highlights this year!

Happy 2011

I wanted to start this new year off with a plein air painting, no matter what the weather circumstances were. And I did. I took off this morning with my painting stuff and a new pochade I haven't used before, to the Loire. The temperature read 2 degrees C. I only had running shoes to wear, because my daughter has my hiking boots in the mountains.

It was very took me ages to set up my things, I kept on slipping in the mud, my fingers were numb before I even started painting and I struggled to open the caps and squeeze out the oils. I found the little pochade extremely uncomfortable and clumsy and missed my French easel all the time. I couldn't open the Liquin bottle and had to run back home to fetch another. I found it comlicated to paint with the muffins and the scarf was choking me and I felt thick and uncomfortable with my sleeves in the way of the paint, constantly knocking over the mediums. I chose a difficult scene and had an uncomfortable spot in the mud and slighty up a hill. My eyes and nose were constant watery from the cold and I had to fiddle with tissues all the time, resulting in me arriving home with a face looking like my painting. After 2 hours I couldn't stand on my numb feet any more and I started doing nonsense on the canvas, getting so frustrated that I slung my brush way into the distance, in the mud! And then I decided that I should pack it in.

BUT!! I completed the study. Although I don't like the painting/study, and although it was an enormous struggle, I am very satisfied that I did it. It is one of my plans for the new year - to get out and paint even if the circumstances are challenging - and I WANTED to start today, on January 1st. Now I only need to get out there often to get used to these difficult winter plein air painting. In the end it is really gratifying and I now know I can do it. I can probably save this study in my atelier if I want to but it serves no purpose. I didn't get out there today to produce a masterpiece, although I would've liked it to be a bit better than it turned out...

..winter loire corner study 1..

..oil on linen, 34x23cm..

Also posted on Africantapestry...

Until next time... paint away!